The Daily Briefing Wednesday, June 7, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
NEW YORK GIANTS
WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. is staying away from OTAs to try to convince the Giants to give him a raise. ESPN.com:
Odell Beckham Jr.’s absence from the New York Giants’ organized team activities is directly related to the wide receiver’s desire for a new contract, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Beckham has been one of several Giants players who have missed the voluntary offseason workouts over the past few weeks. He does not have a financial bonus tied to attending the workouts this offseason.
On May 25, Beckham told the NFL Network that “I love my team and am excited about the season,” adding that he would “for sure” report to the Giants’ mandatory minicamp, which begins Tuesday.
A source confirmed to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan that Beckham is expected to be at minicamp.
Beckham is scheduled to make $1.8 million this season under the terms of his rookie contract. The Giants recently picked up his fifth-year option for 2018 at what is likely to be around $8 million.
Co-owner John Mara said Tuesday at a team town hall that he wants Beckham to finish his career with the Giants.
The 24-year-old Beckham has been back and forth between New Jersey and California this offseason. He has been working out primarily with his trainer Jamal Liggin, who trains a host of NFL players.
Beckham, a three-time Pro Bowler, had 101 catches for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He also was fined at least six times for a variety of infractions.
Adam Schefter of ESPN.com is told that things are going pretty well towards a long-term deal for QB KIRK COUSINS.
While it doesn’t mean there will be a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline, there has been an improved, encouraging tone in the contract talks between the Washington Redskins and quarterback Kirk Cousins, league sources told ESPN.
One reason for the positive outlook is that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has gotten involved, making it known how much Washington wants to re-sign Cousins.
At last month’s owners meetings in Chicago, Redskins president Bruce Allen and Cousins’ agent, Mike McCartney, had their first face-to-face meeting in the two years since Washington first used the franchise tag on the starting quarterback, sources said. It was the first of two face-to-face meetings between the two sides, as they continue to negotiate a long-term deal.
Now there is a belief that even if a deal doesn’t get completed before the NFL deadline for franchise players next month — and it still will be challenging, even with the thawing between the two sides — that one could be struck after next season, keeping Cousins in Washington long term.
“There’s no doubt it’s been more positive lately,” said one source familiar with the talks who requested anonymity. “Everything has been much more positive in the past several months.”
Scott Barrett at ProFootballFocus.com wants you to know the name WR CARLOS HENDERSON:
On Tuesday I briefly mentioned my process for scouting college prospects. With each prospect, I’ll spend hours looking at tape, statistical production, and athletic measurables. Athletic measurables are typically the thing I’m concerned least with. On Tuesday, we highlighted one such statistic – Speed Score or the weight-adjust 40-yard dash. Today, we’ll talk about two of my favorite production-based statistics for wide receivers, and the incoming rookie who dominated them.
Missed tackles forced per receptions
At PFF, we chart and grade every player in every game on every play. One of the many perks of my job is that I’m allowed access to this data and to unique statistics no one else has – or rather data that only fellow PFF employees and subscribers have access to. One such metric is missed tackles forced per reception – how many missed tackles a player forces per catch.
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Yards after the catch per reception
Another statistic I’m particularly fond of is yards after the catch per reception. Among all 116 wide receivers and tight ends with at least 50 targets in 2016, Travis Kelce led the league in yards after the catch per reception (7.67).
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Louisiana Tech wide receiver Carlos Henderson was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the NFL draft. I remember this fondly, because I already had several shares of Henderson in dynasty leagues, I loved the landing spot, and I shrieked in excitement like a little kid when he was selected higher than most anticipated.
I have so many dynasty shares of Henderson, mostly because of how efficient he was in both of these statistics last season. Denver’s wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert seems to be aware of this as well, saying, “his run after the catch, making guys miss, was the best in college football.”
Although strength of schedule is something that isn’t factored into this data, and the competition in the C-USA division isn’t particularly strong, he did dominate statistically by such a degree that it’s almost shocking.
Among all 35 charted wide receivers with at least 75 catches last season, Henderson led the league in forced missed tackles per reception (0.59). He didn’t just lead the league, he victory-lapped all other players, more than doubling the next-closest wide receiver. This was the highest rate among all wide receivers with at least 25 targets since we began charting college games in 2014.
Henderson was no slouch in terms of yards after the catch per reception (9.57) either, ranking behind only Biletnikoff Award winner Dede Westbrook last season.
When looking at both metrics, Henderson appears to be in a league of his own.
Over the last three seasons, there are 186 instances of a wide receiver recording at least 100 targets in a single season. Henderson’s 2016 season is the one all the way at the top right.
What makes Henderson’s ranking here so remarkable is that he actually ranked quite highly in average depth of target. Of the aforementioned 35 wide receivers with at least 75 receptions, Henderson ranked second-highest in average depth of target (15.26.)
Of course, Henderson also ranked highly in a number of more traditional metrics. He led the league in touchdowns last season (19, tied with Corey Davis) and ranked sixth in receiving yards (1,530). He ranked seventh-best among all 149 wide receivers with at least 75 targets last season in yards per route run (3.55), 11th-best in yards per target (11.17), and 28th-best in drop rate (4.65.) He never fumbled in his college career. He was also our highest-graded kick returner last season, returning two kicks for touchdowns and ranking third-best in average kick return (32.3) among all 77 players with at least 20 kick returns.
What does this mean for fantasy?
Over the last two seasons, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas each saw at least 130 targets, with the next-closest Denver receiver coming away with fewer than 35. This season, Mike McCoy replaces Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator in Denver, which could mean a more egalitarian target distribution going forward. Throughout their careers as offensive coordinators, Dennison’s WR3 (by fantasy points per game) averaged only 4.3 fantasy points per game, while McCoy’s WR3 averaged 7.4. Still, I think it’s unlikely Henderson is a serious fantasy contributor in his rookie season, but he is one of my favorite dynasty stashes (ADP player No. 37 in rookie drafts).
RB MARSHAWN LYNCH explains why he came out of retirement. Kevin Patra at NFL.com:
Marshawn Lynch joined his hometown team in Oakland to great fanfare this offseason. The running back brings a connection to the community as the Raiders stare at a move to Las Vegas down the road.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since putting on an official Raiders jersey, Beast Mode was asked when he decided he wanted to unretire to play for Oakland.
“When I found out they were leaving,” Lynch said.
Barring a delay, the Raiders are scheduled to move to Las Vegas in 2020.
Lynch knew what his return to the NFL to play for Oakland would mean to the community.
“I mean, there’s been always something to, being from Oakland that, you want to play at home and have the opportunity,” Lynch said. “I mean, you’d understand why it’s so big for me to come and play. But knowing that they was leaving, a lot of the kids here probably won’t have the opportunity for most of their idols growing up, being in your hometown no more. With me being from here and continuing to be here, it was my opportunity to get to see somebody that actually did from where they from and for the team that they probably idolized.”
Lynch in a Raiders jersey spurs the belief that Oakland is ready for a championship run.
“I got the whole town, you feel me though, riding with me,” Lynch said. “So, that’s good but, I think that going on with all that good [expletive] you just said [about the offense] … But I got a whole new Oakland behind me though. The way we feel just about where we from and why we represent where we from so hard is because we know what the struggle is and how we get down. So every home game that I get to come to this [expletive], I’m probably going to be riding with the whole town. So when you go into something like that, knowing that you got a whole, like it ain’t like I’m saying ‘I’m coming to y’all’s city and riding with y’all.’ This is actually like born and raised and bred and pissin’ in them hallways and running down them alleyways and I really did that, right here. Now I get the opportunity to play here. All that you said is great and that’s good, but it’s more for Oakland.”
The move from Oakland will be difficult for Raiders fans and the community over the next few years. The presence of Lynch, and a Super Bowl-caliber team, might help to soften some of the hard feelings.
Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com thinks the Ravens should turn their attention to WR ERIC DECKER (see JETS) who is soon to be available.
Decker or Maclin?
A look at how wide receivers Eric Decker and Jeremy Maclin have fared over the past five seasons:
Games 65 58
Receptions 335 285
Yards 4,535 3,799
Avg. 13.5 13.3
TDs 43 27
The Ravens are waiting on whether free-agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will sign with the Buffalo Bills or make his visit to Baltimore on Wednesday.
As strange as this might have sounded a few days ago, does it even matter?
Another receiver unexpectedly became available Tuesday, when the New York Jets confirmed Eric Decker will be released in the coming days if he can’t be traded. Decker is the red-zone threat and model of consistency that quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ passing attack desperately needs. He lives up to the label of “complementary receiver,” which is the type of wide receiver that general manager Ozzie Newsome has wanted since the end of last season.
Decker’s ability to reach the end zone is a big selling point for the league’s No. 21 scoring offense. Only four players — Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas — have totaled more than Decker’s 43 touchdown catches since 2012.
He’s one of the most consistent receivers in the NFL, which would be huge for a Ravens offense that has only one player (Mike Wallace) who’s ever produced a 1,000-yard receiving season. In 18 of his last 19 games, Decker has either caught passes for more than 80 yards or scored a touchdown.
Decker doesn’t have the same speed as Maclin. He’s not as good of a route runner and won’t get as much separation. But the Ravens have enough players to stretch the field with Wallace and Breshad Perriman.
What Decker does best plays off the skill set of Wallace and Perriman. He’s a big-bodied target (6-foot-3, 214 pounds) for Flacco who isn’t afraid to go over the middle. He repeatedly fights his way off press coverage. He eats up defenses on slant routes. And he plays like a power forward inside the 20-yard line.
When Flacco needs to convert that critical third down or get the ball in the end zone in the fourth quarter, you can envision Decker stepping up and battling for that contested catch.
There could be some hesitation on the Ravens’ part because of Decker’s injuries. He was limited to a career-low three games last season because he underwent hip and shoulder surgeries. Decker has been participating in the Jets’ offseason practices and has been medically cleared. Still, with what has happened to Perriman and tight end Dennis Pitta, no one would criticize the Ravens for being concerned about investing in a player coming off those injuries.
After his regime has worked with QB BLAKE BORTLES for a couple of months, Tom Coughlin sees improvement. Kevin Patra at NFL.com:
Blake Bortles’ throwing motion in 2016 looked like something out of an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics reel. The elongated motion added to the quarterback’s struggles with turnovers.
The 25-year-old spent the offseason working with quarterback guru Adam Dedeaux to help improve his mechanics. Thus far through offseason workouts, coaches have had good things to report on Bortles’ improvement.
Add executive vice president Tom Coughlin to the chorus pleased with Bortles correcting the issue. When asked on The Rich Eisen Show what he saw in Bortles that led the team to pick up the fifth-year option on the quarterback, Coughlin cited improved mechanics as part of the equation.
“Two years ago, he had an outstanding year, had a lot of yards, over 4,000 yards. I won’t say outstanding because the team didn’t do outstanding, but he certainly was much more productive.” Coughlin said. “This past year, a lack of production, if you will, turnovers, too many. And, so, he’s a talented young man. Had some flaws in his throwing motion that he did a nice job of working on in the offseason and pretty much correcting. So, we’ve seen some good things there.”
Since being drafted No. 3 overall in 2014, Bortles has thrown 51 interceptions in 46 games. Last year he threw 16 INTs to 23 touchdowns with 3,905 yards, a steep drop from his 35 TD-to-18 INT, 4,428-yard 2015 season.
The Jaguars believe improved mechanics, along with an upgraded run game in rookie Leonard Fournette, can help stabilize the enigmatic Bortles. On paper in June, Jacksonville is a solid quarterback away from playoff contention.
Coughlin reiterated to Eisen that the team gained flexibility by utilizing the fifth-year option, which is guaranteed for injury only.
“The whole thinking there is we thought it was a good business decision, a good decision for the club, a good decision for Blake and his team as well,” Coughlin said. “Obviously, we have very good business people here and the thought was it was a good move. It’s an opportunity for us to keep alive the various tags — the franchise tag, the transition tag — to utilize on other players if we need it. Also, the negotiating point would be from the option. So, we thought it was a good move.”
With Bortles on the books, receiver Allen Robinson sits as the most obvious candidate on the Jags possibly targeted for franchise tag in 2018. Reading between the lines, Coughlin’s comments about the fifth-year option on Bortles freeing up the tag to be used elsewhere could be an indicator that the Jags are prepared to wait out the year before locking down their biggest weapon. Robinson is already on record saying he’s “earned” a new contract.
As for Bortles, the Jaguars believe the risk of potentially paying a teeter-totter quarterback $19.05 million in 2018 is worth it to push other decisions further down the road.
Will WR JEREMY MACLIN ever make it to Baltimore and beyond? Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com:
Receiver Jeremy Maclin may still travel to Baltimore on Wednesday, but he won’t be there on Wednesday morning.
Via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, Maclin’s visit with the Bills has extended to a second day.
The news first came from running back LeSean McCoy, who posted video of Maclin in the team’s weight room on Wednesday morning with the caption, “Signing players daily.” The video was later taken down, but it could just be a matter of time before we hear that Maclin is a Bill.
A team source separately told Carucci that Maclin has remained in Buffalo overnight.
Bill Belichick gets asked if TOM BRADY had a concussion as Gisele Bundchen claimed.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick shed no light Tuesday on the possibility quarterback Tom Brady suffered a concussion last season.
“We file injury reports every week,” Belichick said in response to the question as the entire team convened for a mandatory three-day minicamp. “So I’m not sure when the next one’s due, probably sometime in September, but we’ll have one for you then.”
Pressed a second time, he added: “We file our reports in compliance with league guidelines.”
Belichick later cited the time he’s personally spent devoting to improved player safety but underscored he’s not a medical expert.
“You know, our medical staff really handles the injury situation with players,” he said.
“Players don’t come to me and I don’t treat them for injuries. That’s not really my job. That’s what we have medical staff for.”
Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, said on CBS This Morning last month: “I just have to say, as a wife, as you know (the NFL) is not the most, let’s say, unaggressive sport. Football, he had a concussion last year,” she said in the interview. “He has concussions pretty much every … I mean we don’t talk about it. But he has concussions and I don’t really think it’s a healthy thing for your body to go through. You know, that kind of aggression all the time, that cannot be healthy for you. I’m planning on having him be healthy and do a lot of fun things when we’re like 100 I hope.”
Brady was never listed on the team’s injury reports last year with a concussion, data that was also cited by the NFL in its response to Bundchen’s claim.
Two days after Bundchen’s interview, Brady’s agent, Don Yee, also said the quarterback was never diagnosed with a concussion in 2016.
The key word in Yee’s denial, of course, was “diagnosed.”
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QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO signals he’s willing to stay in New England. Mike Girardi of CSNNewEngland.com:
Walking off the practice field as a steady rain continued to tumble down, Jimmy Garoppolo smiled widely as he approached the media horde. It seemed a perfect metaphor for where the 25-year-old is right now: a wanted man with a bright future, a future that for now has him remaining in a Patriot uniform, with various outlets even debating whether Garoppolo would sign an extension that will keep him in Foxboro beyond this season.
“I would entertain any possibility,” Garoppolo said when asked, “but I’m really not thinking about that too much with OTAs and training camp right around the corner.”
Instead, Garoppolo is making sure he continues to work toward his ultimate goal – being the guy – while understanding how fortunate he is to be a member of this organization.
“A very fortunate situation,” said Garoppolo. “To come into a place, get drafted here, there’s just good people all around the building, from support staff to the lunch ladies and everything. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s just a good group of people. It rubs off on everybody.”
Most assumed Garoppolo would be a goner this offseason, traded to the highest bidder for a cache of draft picks. But Bill Belichick never entertained the notion, leading at least one prominent NFL insider to use the word “successor” when talking about the Patriots quarterback situation with Garoppolo and the GOAT, Tom Brady.
“It’s awesome,” he said of the QB room, including Jacoby Brissett in the mix. “It’s very competitive, I’ll say that. Whatever it is, arguments break out and it gets competitive. That’s how quarterbacks are I guess. It’s great being around them.”
But for how long can they all co-exist? Brady has made his intentions to play on until at least his mid-40’s, Brissett is a third-round pick from a season ago and Garoppolo is entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract.
“Obviously I want to play,” said Garoppolo. “That’s the competitor in me. I think everyone out here wants to play. I think we come out here and compete for that opportunity, and if you go out there and earn it, it’s yours.”
“Nothing is going to be given to you, especially here. If you’re going to be the starter, you’re going to have to earn it.”
Garoppolo got his taste a year ago, subbing for the suspended Brady to start the season. But after less than six quarters, he was felled by a shoulder injury and only got the occasional mop-up duty once Brady returned. That opportunity to start though was invaluable.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “You learn how to prepare. You think you know being rookie sitting on the bench and everything but you don’t know till the bullets are flying around you and you get to experience it. So, it was an experience that I’ll carry with me for a long time.”
Sooner or later, Garoppolo will get to decide his own future, but until then, he’s wisely absorbing all the lessons that can be learned with this coaching staff and with TB12 ahead of him on the depth chart.
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets are in the process of purging two of the few recognizable players on their roster – LB DAVID HARRIS and WR ERIC DECKER. Rich Cimini of ESPN.com:
The New York Jets continued their massive roster overhaul Tuesday, parting ways with wide receiver Eric Decker and linebacker David Harris.
Harris was released after 10 seasons with the Jets, who confirmed a report by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Decker will be released in the coming days if a trade can’t be facilitated.
“We advised Eric that if a trade doesn’t happen, we’ll move forward without him,” Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said.
By dumping David Harris and Eric Decker, the Jets show strange judgment and sharply undercut Todd Bowles’ chances of succeeding.
Jets won’t punish Lee; NFL looking into incident
The NFL is investigating a weekend incident involving New York Jets players Darron Lee and Leonard Williams at a music festival in New York.
Decker, 30, underwent hip and shoulder surgery last fall, but he is healthy and has been practicing. In fact, both players practiced Tuesday before receiving the news.
The moves continued a stunning offseason purge by the Jets, who already had dumped several veterans, including Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Brandon Marshall and Calvin Pryor.
By cutting Harris and Decker, the Jets will save $13.75 million in cash payroll and cap space.
Maccagnan insisted the Jets aren’t giving up on the season.
“It’s going to be a competitive roster,” he said. “There will be a lot of opportunities for a lot of players on this roster. We are doing things that we feel that are going to help this organization both short- and long-term.”
Because of injuries, Decker was limited to three games last season. In his three seasons with the Jets, he caught 163 passes for 2,183 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com is among those smelling an NBA-like tanking:
So what are the New York Jets thinking? Many think they’re thinking about positioning themselves to “earn” the No. 1 overall pick in the draft by tanking for the full season.
As noted by Charean Williams on Tuesday, G.M. Mike Maccagnan denies that. But what else is he going to say?
“Sure, we know we’re not going to compete for a playoff spot this year, so why not compete for the top spot in the draft?”
Tuesday’s moves feel like they were driven by ownership. Why else would a team dump two key veterans this late in the offseason, clearing $13.75 million in cash and cap space that likely won’t be spent this year?
That’s the other benefit for 2018. In addition to enhanced draft positioning, the Jets will carry that extra cap space into 2018, along with (per NFLPA records) nearly $9 million they currently have in 2017. So they can sign free agents and draft players higher in the process and hopefully (for them) turn around a team that has fallen for the upcoming season about as low as it could.
As noted by Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, owner Woody Johnson made the decision to cut Harris and Decker in order to save money in 2017. It also necessarily enhances the team’s position in 2018. Especially if it allows them to get the first overall pick and, in turn, perhaps their first franchise quarterback since Joe Namath.
THIS AND THAT
Through the passive aggressive retweeting of comments on Twitter, Colin Kaepernick signals his disgust with being unsigned and the excuses being bandied about. Frank Schwab at The Shutdown Corner:
You’ve seen the disclaimer on Twitter profiles: Retweets don’t equal an endorsement.
So we can’t be sure exactly why free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick retweeted the following five tweets. But let’s assume he agrees with the common thread of these messages:
Seahawks, Kaepernick aren’t apart on money | ProFootballTalk http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2017/06/05/seahawks-kaepernick-arent-apart-on-money/ …
11:36 AM – 5 Jun 2017
In the aftermath of the decision of the Seahawks to not sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick, some have suggested that the inability to get the two sides together results from the fact that the two…
The story that Kaepernick isn’t being signed because of his salary demands is a lie. It’s a straight up lie.
KnowYourRightsCamp ✔ @yourrightscamp
‼️‼️ @shannonsharpe: The Seahawks NEVER intended to sign @Kaepernick7
3:37 PM – 5 Jun 2017
KnowYourRightsCamp ✔ @yourrightscamp
Via @TheYoungTurks: @Kaepernick7 is now treated worse than wife beaters, drunk drivers, dog fighters, and sexual abusers (Part 1)
KnowYourRightsCamp ✔ @yourrightscamp
Via @TheYoungTurks: @Kaepernick7 is now treated worse than wife beaters, drunk drivers, dog fighters, and sexual abusers (Part 2)
Again, those five tweets were all shared from Kaepernick’s verified account. Draw your own conclusions.
This has to be a frustrating time for Kaepernick. The Seattle Seahawks brought him in for a visit, then signed Austin Davis, who didn’t take an NFL snap last season. Davis has 13 career touchdowns; Kaepernick had 16 touchdowns last season on a woebegone San Francisco 49ers team. Even Kaepernick’s biggest critics would have a very, very tough time arguing Davis is a better quarterback than Kaepernick. Kaepernick is clearly better. Davis got the job.
Most of the possible reasons Kaepernick is unsigned were already debunked, but the Seahawks passing on him feels like a much different chapter in the story. It’s a team with an offense that fits his skills, was very familiar with him from NFC West battles, gave him his first known visit during free agency and still passed.
Was it money? NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported the sides were “apart on money,” then clarified that no offer was ever made by the Seahawks. Pro Football Talk reported the two sides weren’t apart on money, and make what you will of Kaepernick retweeting that report. It certainly appears as if Kaepernick was telling the world that money wasn’t an issue.
Was it just football reasons? In other cases of inferior quarterbacks getting signed this offseason – Blaine Gabbert signing with the Arizona Cardinals or Mark Sanchez signing with the Chicago Bears for a couple examples – one could at least argue those players fit those teams’ schemes better. It’s hard to buy the Seahawks passed for football reasons. They decided to interview Kaepernick, a player they already knew very well, and still signed a worse quarterback. Even Pete Carroll said he thought Kaepernick was a starting-caliber player. The notion that the Seahawks didn’t want Kaepernick because he’s a starter and the Seahawks have a starter in Russell Wilson makes no sense. That excuse doesn’t hold any water from any team, but especially for a Seahawks team that preaches competition every day.
Was it because the Seahawks wanted to avoid a “media circus?” While the “media circus” notion is entirely overblown – Richard Sherman wouldn’t screw up a coverage on Sunday because he was asked a Kaepernick question in the locker room Wednesday – and doesn’t exist in reality (Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier poked all the holes in it), some NFL teams buy that nonsense. But the Seahawks? They’re the most outspoken team in the NFL and they encourage player expression.
There are plenty of unanswered questions after the Seahawks passed. What happened between the time the Seahawks agreed to bring Kaepernick in for a visit and him leaving without an offer? Did Kaepernick blow the visit? Did his agents let the Seahawks know what kind of deal it would take to sign him (hence, Garafolo’s first “apart on money” report) and that was a deal breaker? Was there pressure on the Seahawks to pass, and if so, from who? Does it really have to do with Wilson somehow? Whatever happened, there has to be a reason the Seahawks brought Kaepernick in for a visit and then decided to sign a lesser quarterback shortly after. It makes no sense for the Seahawks to bring in Kaepernick for a visit, and invite all the attention they knew was coming, if they had no plans to sign him. There’s a missing piece of the puzzle somewhere.
Either way, Kaepernick is unsigned, at this point probably waiting for an injury to open up a spot. There aren’t any obvious options left for him after Seattle passed. And, based on his retweets, he seems confused and/or frustrated. But last August, he predicted this.
“I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed,” Kaepernick said when he started his national anthem protest. “If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Jump ahead to early June, and Kaepernick indirectly venting through the retweet button. Even if he has no regrets, maybe he didn’t believe he’d be passed over this offseason as a free agent, often for much lesser talents, with the growing possibility his NFL career could be over at age 29.
For now, Kaepernick waits. There are plenty of unanswered questions, and even Kaepernick is probably curious about the answers.
Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com on how unusual Kaepernick’s situation would be if he didn’t have the self-inflicted baggage/the NFL wasn’t overreacting to his social justice sensitivity.
A quarterback in his prime is a scarce commodity the NFL, and so quarterbacks at age 29 or 30 are always in demand. With the exception of Colin Kaepernick.
Last year, in the season he turned 29 years old, Kaepernick completed 196 of 331 passes for 2,241 yards, with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. This year, Kaepernick will turn 30 years old, and he can’t find a job. That’s not just rare, it’s unprecedented.
According to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, Kaepernick is one of 144 quarterbacks who have thrown 200 or more passes in the year they turned 29. The other 143 could all find jobs in the year they turned 30. Only Kaepernick can’t.
In other words, if you’re good enough to play quarterback at all when you’re 29 — even if you don’t play well — the NFL is going to find a roster spot for you at age 30. Quarterbacks are just too valuable to ignore one who can play. Which makes Kaepernick’s continued unemployment all the more interesting.
Rives McCown of Football Outsiders, writing at ESPN.com. has some thoughts on disparities between Las Vegas over/under wins numbers and those of Football Outsiders for 2017:
One of the most interesting elements of constructing a statistical projection is trying to figure out where your outliers are and how they got there. While Football Outsiders labors over our annual NFL forecast, sometimes even we think the projections are a bit off. Then again, sometimes when they look off, they turn out to be pretty right on. This time last year, we were writing about how low we were on the Carolina Panthers, how high we were on the Tennessee Titans and how we thought the Detroit Lions had a chance at the NFC North.
So, in that spirit, let’s look at the four teams for which our projections differ the most from the conventional wisdom. These are the four teams that sportsbooks in Vegas have given win total over/unders that are more than two wins removed from our projections.
Even though we think the consensus overshoots two of these teams and undershoots two others, there’s a common factor between the teams: the difficulty of forecasting when a bad quarterback will be merely bad and when he’ll be a disaster.
Los Angeles Rams
Over/under: 6 (as low as 5.5) | Our projection: 8.2
This starts with a simple fact: Wade Phillips’ defenses have a long, historical trend of improving immensely in their first season. We would have already projected the Rams’ defense to rebound a bit anyway because it finished fifth in DVOA in 2015 before dropping to 15th in 2016. But with Phillips on board, the system sees even more reason for optimism. Phillips’ defenses have improved in his first year by an average of minus-18.3 percent DVOA. (Negative DVOA is the preferable direction for defenses.) There’s probably some rightful concern on a pure scouting level about whether the Rams have good enough cornerbacks to hold true to that promise, but our system has bought in.
Obviously, quarterback Jared Goff was terrible last year. Honestly, terrible barely does it justice. But between the improvement we expect from a highly drafted quarterback, the acquisition of left tackle Andrew Whitworth from the Bengals and general regression toward the mean, we expect the Rams to be better on offense than they were in 2016. Factor in their great record of special-teams play — Johnny Hekker broke our record for punt value last year — and our system sees the makings of a surprise contender.
Over/under: 8.5 (as low as 8) | Our projection: 6.2
The problem with the Texans is one of perception. From the outside, you see a team that won the AFC South two years in a row and that has finished above .500 every year of the Bill O’Brien era despite no real quarterback play. But statistically, this team was awful last year. The Texans finished 29th in DVOA despite winning the AFC South, and opponents outscored them by a total of 49 points. Had Marcus Mariota not broken his leg in Week 16, the Texans easily could have missed the playoffs.
So our projections for the Texans are basically unchanged. The defense is still good. Special-teams play is still projected to be dead last, a position they’ve held in back-to-back seasons. And the offense is projected to be near the bottom of the league as well. If you believe Deshaun Watson at quarterback is talented enough to pull them out of the doldrums, you should happily hammer the over. Just know that over the course of history, unsettled quarterback situations with young players like Watson and Tom Savage don’t tend to have happy endings. At least, not right away.
Over/under: 6.5 (as low as 5.5) | Our projection: 7.7
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the AFC South, the Jaguars were shackled to a parade of Blake Bortles interceptions that masked just how good their defense became last year. The development of Jalen Ramsey into a star cornerback over the second half of the season raised the tide for everyone else on the field. Not only will the Jaguars add corner A.J. Bouye from the Texans, they’ll also break in young linebacker Myles Jack with a full-time role. The system doesn’t see much reason to expect a decline with all the talented youth on hand. In fact, it looks at a unit that was last in turnovers per drive last season and expects improvement. Keep in mind, the Jaguars underperformed their Pythagorean wins last year by 2.8 and went just 2-8 in one-score games.
Furthermore, with Leonard Fournette in tow, the Jaguars may have a shot at the offensive identity former head coach Gus Bradley always wanted. Our projection for their offense falls somewhere between last year’s disaster and 2015’s low-key breakout. And the cherry on top of it all? We have the Jaguars with the second-easiest schedule in the NFL next season.
But, again, betting on the Jaguars to beat their win total is a bet on Bortles to not be a complete disaster in 2017. If 2015 was a total mirage rather than something the Jaguars’ passing game can aspire to repeat, our projection might look silly in a few months.
Over/under: 8.5 (as low as 8) | Our projection: 6.4
This projection is mainly about how hard it is to maintain an otherworldly pass defense and how regression-based projections are always going to take it cautious on something like that. The Broncos have had far and away the best defense in the NFL the past two seasons. But over the course of history, it’s essentially unprecedented that an NFL team stayed at that same height of pass defense three years in a row. Then you add the departure of Phillips, who was replaced by longtime secondary coach Joe Woods in his first defensive coordinator role. These are some of the reasons our system speculates that the Broncos’ defense may merely be very good next season.
And, of course, there’s little about Denver’s offense that can raise its projection. The Broncos signed guard Ronald Leary away from Dallas to help bolster their worst unit. But absent Trevor Siemian taking a big step forward or Paxton Lynch taking the job with his own huge leap in development, there aren’t many reasons to believe in a big offensive boost for the Broncos. Stuck in the AFC West with a slew of other good teams, our system is not optimistic about the odds that Denver will make the playoffs unless the Broncos can once again field one of the best defenses of all time.
RYAN BROTHERS SHENNANIGANS
In the wake of a viral video, Rex and Rob Ryan have had a formal complaint filed against them with the Nashville PD.
The video of fraternal-twin former NFL coaches Rex and Rob Ryan involved in a Nashville kerfuffle on Sunday apparently has resulted in a former accusation of assault.
Via TMZ, Matthew Havel of Colorado has filed a simple assault report against the Ryan brothers after an incident at the Margaritaville bar on Saturday.
The accusation presumably arises from the video posted on Twitter over the weekend, unless of course the Ryans were involved in two different altercations in Nashville. Which wouldn’t really surprise anyone.
The filing of a report doesn’t mean either Ryan brother will be arrested or charged. It nevertheless shows that there an alleged victim who is motivated to see them brought to justice.
Rex and Rob coached together last year in Buffalo. Rob is currently out of football; Rex has been hired to work for ESPN.
The dynamic duo also crashed a Bachelorette Party in the Music City and Ryan’s rumored enchantment with the female foot cropped up according to this report in the New York Post:
Rex Ryan is a man who knows what he likes.
During his eventful outing over the weekend at Margaritaville in Nashville, in which he and twin brother Rob Ryan scuffled with young patrons, the former Jets and Bills coach allegedly also got flirty with a member of a bachelorette party by making a very specific compliment.
“He told me I had nice feet,” the woman, Jess, told Busted Coverage of her encounter with Rex Ryan, who is married.
“We had no idea who he was at first he walked over to me and started talking to me and my 2 friends and then we came back with the rest of group and got that picture,” she told the site in an Instagram exchange.
The photo in question features Rex and Rob serving as bookends between the ladies. Rob has his hand on Jess’ waist. Before heading their separate ways, Rex requested the photo for himself.
“When we were leaving he winked at me and said u know what I like,” Jess recalled.
The world knows what Rex likes after he and his wife appeared in a foot fetish video on YouTube that was unearthed in 2010 during his tenure as Jets coach.