The Daily Briefing Wednesday, November 1, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

QB TEDDY BRIDGEWATER may be active soon, but that doesn’t mean he starts ahead of on-a-roll QB CASE KEENUM.  Chad Graff in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:

 

As the Vikings enter their bye week atop the NFC North standings, coach Mike Zimmer said he is “prepared” to activate quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from the physically unable to perform list, the first step in ushering back their 2014 first-round draft pick after a 14-month absence.

 

Even with a 6-2 record and six surprisingly effective starts from Case Keenum, the Vikings could welcome Bridgewater to their starting lineup as soon as their next game, Nov. 12 against the Redskins in Washington D.C.

 

“We’ll take it one day at a time, though, and see,” Zimmer said. “We’ve still got a few more days to figure it out.”

 

Indeed, the Vikings have until Wednesday, Nov. 8 to decide whether to activate Bridgewater or leave him on the PUP list for the remainder of the season. But it seems like a foregone conclusion that Bridgewater will be activated and placed on the 53-man roster before that deadline.

 

The 24-year-old quarterback has been practicing since Oct. 18, his rehab from a dislocated left knee now complete.

 

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, Bridgewater seems likely to get a shot under center given Sam Bradford has missed six of the team’s past seven games because of his own knee injuries and Keenum, despite his success this season, still has a career record of 13-17.

“We’ll continue to take it one day at a time,” Zimmer said of Bridgewater’s status. “Just see where he is at, where the team is at, how Case is doing and … how (Sam) is doing.”

 

Vikings players left Winter Park on Tuesday and don’t have to report back until Monday, the perk of their bye week.

 

By then, Bridgewater could be sharing snaps with Keenum.

 

“I think it’s great,” Keenum said of the Vikings potentially activating Bridgewater. “He can sling it. I’ve watched him on film a long time, but watching him in person is a whole other story. I’ve really enjoyed watching him sling the ball around. I think it’ll be great.”

– – –

And, this is different, the Vikings are okay with playing in London.  Chris Thomasson of the Pioneer-Press:

 

So much for the sleep specialists the Vikings brought in to provide advice.

 

Wide receiver Jarius Wright had been looking forward to going to London. But after Sunday’s 33-16 win over Cleveland at Twickenham Stadium, he admitted it didn’t quite go as well as expected.

 

“It was cool, but I didn’t really get to sleep here in London,’’ Wright said. “The time (difference of six hours) really messed me up. It messed me up big time.’’

 

The Vikings left Wednesday and arrived Thursday morning. The week before, the Vikings had brought in sleep specialists to provide tips to the players.

 

“I did (listen), but it didn’t work,’’ said Wright, who didn’t catch a pass Sunday while being targeted just once.

 

So what was Wright doing when he couldn’t sleep?

 

“Just looking at my phone the whole time,’’ he said

 

Reviews were better from most of the other players about the trip. Defensive end Everson Griffen enjoyed the atmosphere.

 

Still, Griffen said he doesn’t see an NFL team ever coming to London.

 

Defensive tackle Linval Joseph said a highlight was simply hearing the locals talk.

 

“Just listen to everybody’s accent, you know, it’s great,’’ Joseph said.

 

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said his players conducted themselves well overseas. He pointed to what he heard at the team hotel.

 

“It really was an amazing few days that we had here,’’ Zimmer said. “Just going to brag on my players for a minute. Over at the hotel that we stayed at, (there were) four teams stay there (this season).

 

“And they came up to me and said, ‘This is the best, most well-mannered group they have ever had. They sit together, they eat together, they hang out together, say please and thank you.’ So that made me feel good. And they won (Sunday), so that made me feel better.’’

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

No changes say the Cowboys, just because the New York judge sided with the NFL and upheld the suspension of RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Things will obviously change for the Cowboys without Ezekiel Elliott.

 

But they have to say they won’t, regardless.

 

While their star running back remains in legal limbo (his six-game suspension is on for the moment, pending appeal), the rest of the team is going to carry more of a burden

 

“It really doesn’t,” right guard Zack Martin said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “We’re going to run the exact same plays. Everyone is going to know what we’re running and it’s just whether or not we can execute for these guys to make plays.”

 

That’s fine to say, but there’s obviously a dropoff from Elliott to guys such as Rod Smith and Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden, whether they want to acknowledge it or not.

 

“We’ve got some good backs in our room,” Smith said. “We’re still confident, our team is confident. We’re going to go out there and do what we do. If one guy goes down, it’s next man up. That’s how you’ve got to look at it. You hate to see your boy going through this, but we still have his back, still support him. He wants us to keep the ball rolling so we’re definitely going to do that. . . .

 

“We ain’t worried about that. We’re going to do the same thing we did last week, just a different number.”

 

And perhaps different results, though they can’t acknowledge that part of it now.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

CB JANORIS JENKINS was a knucklehead before he played in the NFL – and it looks like he still is.  Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com:

 

The disaster of a season continues for the New York Giants. They suspended a starting cornerback Tuesday for the second time in three weeks after Janoris Jenkins failed to return from the bye week on time.

 

Jenkins is suspended indefinitely. He will miss the game Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.

 

“As a member of this team, there are standards and we have responsibilities and obligations,” coach Ben McAdoo said in a statement. “When we don’t fulfill those obligations, there are consequences. As I have said before, we do not like to handle our team discipline publicly. There are times when it is unavoidable, and this is one of those times.”

 

Jenkins was one of three players that were not at practice Monday. Running back Paul Perkins and Eli Apple were the others. McAdoo said they were excused for personal reasons.

 

But the Giants had not spoken to Jenkins and he didn’t arrive at the facility until the following day.

 

“At that point, neither myself nor any of the coaches had heard from Jackrabbit,” McAdoo said. “I did not speak with him directly until Tuesday morning.”

 

Jenkins’ suspension is the second for the Giants in recent weeks. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was also suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules after he was told he would be benched for his actions late in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and then eventually walked out of a team meeting.

 

The Giants (1-6) are in the midst of a disappointing season where they have dealt with multiple suspensions and the loss of a good chunk of their receiving corps. Star wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall are out for the season.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

The Eagles fortified their backfield at the deadline.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

The NFL’s top team upgraded their bullpen ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline, adding a potential closer.

 

The Philadelphia Eagles acquired running back Jay Ajayi from the Miami Dolphins, both teams announced.

 

Miami receives a 2018 fourth-round draft pick in return.

 

Ajayi moves to the one-loss Eagles, helping solidify a backfield led by LeGarrette Blount. Before acquiring Ajayi, the Eagles owned the NFL’s fifth-ranked run offense, earning 129.2 yards per game on 30.8 rush attempts per tilt (fourth most).

 

Ajayi continued his boom-or-bust play this season in Miami. The 24-year-old put up two games with 120-plus yards this season, but was held under 55 yards in four contests.

 

Ajayi’s final game in Miami was particularly disappointing. Last Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens, the power back dashed for 21 yards on his first attempt of the game. He earned two total yards on 13 carries the rest of the way, including a bevy of negative plays for 1.8 yards per carry average.

 

After the game, Dolphins coach Adam Gase criticized the running back without mentioning him by name:

 

“We’ve got to stop trying to hit home runs all the time,” Gase said. “It’s on the running back. Do your job. It’s not hard to do.”

 

Gase has criticized his disappointing offense repeatedly this season. Now the Dolphins backed up those stormy words by shipping the workhorse out of town. Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake are the top backs remaining in Miami.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer looks at GM Marty Hurney’s reasoning for sending his most productive receiver to Buffalo for a future pick in the middle of a playoff race – and approves:

 

The Carolina Panthers are 5-3 and in the playoff hunt, but they have not scored nearly enough points this season. Yet they just did something a team in their predicament rarely does: They traded away their No. 1 wide receiver Tuesday.

 

It sounds ridiculous.

 

But I like it.

 

Trading Kelvin Benjamin in midseason is the sort of bold move that a guy with the word “interim” in his title rarely makes, and I’m as shocked as anyone else that Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney actually pulled the trigger on it.

 

“The thinking for us is just to get more speed on the field and a better diversity of skill sets on the field,” Hurney said in our phone interview.

 

As for whether this “for the future” sort of move means he has been promised he will become the team’s permanent GM once this season ends, Hurney said it did not mean that and that he doesn’t know what will happen after this season.

 

“This is not related to the length of time I will be in this job at all, whatever amount of time that is,” Hurney said. “You just do the job the best you can while you’re in it.”

 

Hurney will get ripped for doing this in many quarters, both privately and publicly. Panthers players certainly reacted poorly to the move on Twitter. And I can’t imagine that quarterback Cam Newton is very happy.

 

It was less than 48 hours before this deal went down that Newton said, unprompted: “When you want people in your foxhole, Kelvin Benjamin is the person that you want.”

 

In fact, I’ll bet Newton is privately furious.

 

Benjamin was perhaps the quarterback’s closest friend on the team. Newton apparently had no advance warning about this and was blindsided by this move just like the rest of the Panthers team was. (Hurney said he did talk to Benjamin Tuesday after the deal with Buffalo was completed, but he wouldn’t relay specifics of the conversation).

 

If the Panthers go 1-7 in the second half of the season because of this and score six points a game while Benjamin leads Buffalo to the Super Bowl, it will go down as one of the worst trades in Carolina history. And Hurney probably won’t be around anymore, either.

 

But I don’t actually think it will work out like that.

 

No matter how you slice this, though, the Panthers just sent one of their best players to Buffalo and former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, whose surprising Bills are 5-2. And the Panthers won’t get anything back for Benjamin until 2018 (when they receive third- and seventh-round draft choices from the Bills).

 

But before you start spouting 100 reasons why Benjamin getting shipped to Buffalo is a horrible idea, let me remind you of one thing: Carolina’s offense in 2015 didn’t have Benjamin for a single second. And that was the one season since Carolina drafted Benjamin that the Panthers’ offense was almost unstoppable.

 

So this may be “addition by subtraction” in one sense, and it’s also to get rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel on the field more. But most of all it’s because Hurney — and coach Ron Rivera, who certainly would have had to approve of this move — decided that having identical big, tall and not-very-fast receivers in the same starting lineup was not ideal. Remember, Dave Gettleman drafted both Benjamin and Devin Funchess. They aren’t Hurney’s guys.

 

Of course, the Panthers could have just traded Funchess instead. Hurney wouldn’t address why he traded Benjamin instead of Funchess – and in fact Hurney declined to answer many of my questions about Benjamin in general and wouldn’t touch talking about any of Benjamin’s off-field issues with me.

 

So here’s my guess based on observing Benjamin for a long time.

 

The Panthers obviously think Funchess has more speed than Benjamin. They threw him three deep balls Sunday against Tampa Bay, although none were completed. Funchess also doesn’t cost as much (Benjamin would have counted $8.5 million against the salary cap in 2018; Buffalo has to guarantee him that money now while Carolina can spend it elsewhere).

 

And there’s this: Benjamin is a high-maintenance player who is not a natural leader. He could be a prima donna at times. This is almost part of the job description for NFL wide receivers, and in no way am I saying Benjamin approached the Terrell Owens bar.

 

Had Benjamin reached his ceiling?

 

So what, you say? After all, Steve Smith could be a prima donna, too.

 

That’s true, but there are some big differences between Smith and Benjamin. For one, Smith was far more productive. For another, Smith practiced harder. For another, Smith never fought on-and-off weight problems like Benjamin did.

 

Smith and I had our arguments over the years. But he was always a professional on the field and you could never, ever question his work ethic. Benjamin was a professional – sometimes – and you could question his work ethic.

 

In my mind, Benjamin has reached his NFL ceiling. That ceiling will make him millions, but I’d be surprised if it ever makes him a truly great NFL receiver. He’s a big receiver who’s good on slants and near the goal line – he caught a 25-yard TD pass against Tampa Bay Sunday by boxing out a smaller defensive back.

 

Benjamin will end up with 900-1,000 yards receiving in seasons when he stays healthy (and he’s still having some lingering knee problems right now, which is what made him walk suddenly off the Panthers’ practice field two weeks ago in a curious incident).

 

Absurd? Or bold?

 

Of course, that’s still good productivity, and Carolina didn’t have to trade him. If the Panthers were so enamored with having different “skill sets” on the field, they could have just benched No. 13. Believe me, though — that could have turned into a major distraction in the Panthers locker room.

 

So the Panthers have shipped Benjamin out, and now they have one less weapon on a mediocre offense that has averaged only 10 points in its past two games. It sounds absolutely absurd when you first hear it.

 

In reality, this trade is not absurd in the least. Hurney and Rivera are trying to do something to a team that needs some help, even if it is 5-3.

 

I applaud the boldness. I don’t actually know if trading Benjamin away will work out or not. Nobody does, really, no matter how loud that person shouts at you in the next 24 hours.

 

But I get the logic behind the move.

 

And ultimately, it makes a convoluted kind of sense.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

The Cardinals are 3-4 coming off their bye this week and with reasonable health, they would still be viewed as in the playoff race.  But their QB and ace RB are out with injuries, and Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic has a gloomy prognostication for their return.

 

The Cardinals’ hopes for running back David Johnson and quarterback Carson Palmer to return from injuries this season have dimmed, and the team is proceeding on the assumption no one is coming to its rescue.

 

Johnson is still wearing a cast on his left wrist, which was dislocated in the first game of the season. Palmer underwent surgery last week after suffering a broken left arm against the Rams in London.

 

Both players are on injured reserve but could return eight weeks after they were placed on that list. For Johnson, that means he could have started practicing this week and played against the Seahawks next week. Palmer is eligible to play the last two games of the season.

 

But the team is not planning on either player returning.

 

“We originally thought it was going to be eight to 10 (weeks),” coach Bruce Arians said of Palmer’s injury. “Then he and his doctor thought he could get back in six. After surgery, it’s eight to 10, just like we thought.”

 

It’s also doubtful running back T.J. Logan (dislocated wrist) will come off injured reserve this season, Arians said.

 

“D.J. still got a cast on,” Arians said of Johnson. “T.J. is out of a cast, but he still has at least two weeks before his hand has strength in it.”

 

Asked if he expected Johnson and Logan back, Arians replied: “You’d have to ask the doctors. Right now, I doubt it.”

 

General Manager Steve Keim said there too many “moving parts” to predict if Palmer will be able to play again this season.

 

“There’s a chance he could heal faster and be back,” Keim said on his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Tuesday. “Some of that depends on how we’re playing as a football team. We want the best for Carson and don’t want to put him in harm’s way, either.”

 

If the Cardinals (3-4) continue to struggle, there would be little incentive in playing Johnson and Palmer again this season.

 

The Cardinals didn’t make a deal by the NFL’s Tuesday afternoon trade deadline, so if they are to turn around the season, it will be with the current roster.

 

The Cardinals were active in trade talks, Keim said, but he added that deals are difficult to put together.

 

“Everything has to line up,” he said, including trade compensation and players’ contracts.

 

“Very rarely do teams pull the trigger because of one thing or another,” he said.

 

Two NFC West rivals, however, completed trades on Monday. The 49ers acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots in exchange for a second-round pick. The Seahawks sent cornerback Jeremy Lane and draft picks to Houston for left tackle Duane Brown.

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The 49ers traded CB RASHARD ROBINSON to the Jets on Tuesday before the deadline.  They are reported to get a 5th-round pick back.

– – –

Meanwhile, QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO shows up in Santa Clara, pleased as punch to be a Niner.  Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com:

 

As San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch sat down to offer opening comments at quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s introductory news conference on Tuesday, he stopped in his tracks.

 

Before Lynch was even settled in his seat, Garoppolo already was speaking, asking local media members how they were doing, thanking the Niners for bringing him to the Bay Area and offering gratitude to the New England Patriots for giving him his first chance in the NFL.

 

When Garoppolo’s remarks were done, Lynch smiled and tossed in his two cents.

 

“I think [coach] Kyle [Shanahan] will tell you a great quality in a quarterback is taking charge,” Lynch said, a smile creeping across his face. “I thought I was starting.”

 

And so began the relationship between the 49ers and Garoppolo, the player whom the team believes can be its long-term answer at the game’s most important position.

 

After the introductions, the attention turned to just how long the relationship is going to last. The Niners sent a second-round pick to the Patriots for Garoppolo because they viewed him as a solution for the present and the future.

 

But Garoppolo is set to be a free agent after this season, and although the Niners have the franchise and transition tags at their disposal, neither side seems to be in a hurry to get a contract extension completed.

 

With Garoppolo’s representatives in the crowd, Lynch outlined the plan for dealing with Garoppolo’s future, citing that the first order of business is to get him in the playbook and to allow him to begin meeting his teammates.

 

“I can tell you, second-round picks are very valuable in this league, particularly where we are at as an organization,” Lynch said. “And so, this is a guy we wanted and were willing to give what we thought was a very valuable commodity and exchange for him. So, we’re excited moving forward that he’s going to be a part of our future.

 

“We believe very much that Jimmy is going to be our quarterback of the future, and we’ll let everything else play out from there.”

 

Garoppolo struck a similar tone when asked about his prospects for staying with the team beyond 2017.

 

“I guess we’ll see what happens, type of thing,” Garoppolo said. “You know, [I’m] thrilled to be here. I mean, just got here this morning. I couldn’t be happier. But you know, we’re just — got to take it week-by-week right now. I’ve got a whole playbook to learn. The terminology, I mean, it’s going to be like learning a different language. I’m looking forward to the challenge and enjoying the process.”

 

While the Niners and Garoppolo are preaching patience in the long term, they were more revealing when it came to what will happen in the near future. Shanahan confirmed that Garoppolo isn’t likely to play this week and didn’t want to put a specific target date on when Garoppolo could debut as a Niner.

 

With key offensive players such as left tackle Joe Staley (eye) and receiver Pierre Garcon (neck) dealing with injuries and a complex offensive system for his new quarterback to learn, Shanahan indicated the Niners won’t rush Garoppolo into action.

 

“We’ll look at that week-to-week,” Shanahan said. “It’s a huge challenge. You know, Jimmy coming here, never playing in this offense before. I know it’s a completely different terminology from what he had in New England and college. That takes a lot of time. I know Jimmy is going to come in here and do everything he can to get ready. I know we are too, but by no means are we trying to rush the process.

 

“I would definitely not expect it this week. We’ll look at it each week and when we feel that he’s comfortable and has a chance to go in there and have some success, with the time he’s put in and the reps that he’s got in practice, then we’ll decide when that time is right.”

 

As for how the trade came together, Lynch said the Patriots and Niners agreed not to go into too much detail about the machinations behind it. Lynch did, however, acknowledge that the 49ers inquired about Garoppolo in the offseason and the Patriots quickly rebuffed them.

 

Despite that, Lynch said he and Shanahan continued to study quarterbacks who might be available in 2018, including Garoppolo, so when the opportunity to acquire him came about, it wasn’t a tough decision.

 

“We thought about it for about 10 minutes and said this is too good of an opportunity to not take advantage of, and so we jumped at it,” Lynch said.

 

Meanwhile, Garoppolo repeatedly emphasized his excitement to finally have a chance to start. While he said he never reached a breaking point with the Patriots, he did say that he was thrilled to get the call that he had been traded on Monday night.

 

Soon after that call came, Garoppolo began receiving text messages and phone calls by the hundreds. Included in those reaching out was New England quarterback Tom Brady, who Garoppolo credited for helping him learn and answering any questions he had.

 

From there, Garoppolo packed as much as he could and got on a plane for the Bay Area on Tuesday morning. He arrived, took his physical and then met with the media. He even got a first look at his No. 10 jersey, a number vacated earlier in the day by receiver Kendrick Bourne, who switched to No. 84.

 

When the interviews and photo sessions were completed, Garoppolo walked off to begin his new occupation as the Niners’ franchise quarterback, a promotion more than 3½ years in the making.

 

“I’m eager to get out there and show what I can do on Sundays,” Garoppolo said. “This league, it’s tough, it really is, so when you get your opportunities, you have to take advantage of them because you don’t know when you’re going to get another.”

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

DE JOEY BOSA is doing great things for the Chargers.  Jeremy Bergman at NFL.com:

 

Lost in Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers’ cross-country defeat to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday, a battle between two aging quarterbacks, was a record-breaking performance by the best young player on either team: Joey Bosa.

 

The Chargers’ second-year defensive end sacked the immortal Brady in the second quarter, bringing his career total to 19 sacks. Bosa’s takedown gave him the most sacks by any player in NFL history over his first 20 games, besting the likes of Aldon Smith, Clay Matthews and Von Miller.

 

Bosa, alongside Melvin Ingram, makes up the most feared pass-rushing duo in the league and, so far this season, the most prolific. Through nine weeks, the pair’s combined 17 sacks are the most by any two teammates.

 

 

If you turn on your regular cable sports channel — ahem, try NFL Network — you likely won’t see analysis or constant praise of Bosa, as the two play for a 3-5 team with home-field advantage issues. But the Chargers lynchpin is rightfully earning respect from the people who matter in the places that matter.

 

“His athleticism is unbelievable now,” Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve not seen a guy his size and weight, and have the athleticism that he has. It’s very, very natural to him. Things come fast.”

 

Bosa has also earned high praise from those outside the building, specifically those who will one day enter a revered building in Canton.

 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick orrated a 287-word love letter to the Bolts end ahead of last week’s matchup, saying in part, “He’s really just good at everything but he’s got a great motor so you’ve got to deal with him every play. You can’t run away from him; that’s not the answer because he’ll chase down plays.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

The Browns can’t even make a trade properly.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

When the first report of a near-trade that would have sent quarterback A.J. McCarron from the Bengals to the Browns broke on Tuesday, word was that the two sides came “close” to agreeing on the deal but couldn’t get it finalized before the deadline.

 

It appears to be a bit more complicated than that. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Bengals believed the deal was done five minutes ahead of the 4 p.m. ET deadline and notified the league of their intent to send McCarron to their division rivals. Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Bengals were set to receive 2018 second- and third-round picks.

 

The Browns did not do the same, however. Per Schefter, their notification of the trade came moments too late — shades of Elvis Dumervil and the fax machine of doom in 2013 — and the league did not approve the deal. The Browns protested that ruling, but the NFL did not agree to put the deal through so McCarron remains with the Bengals.

 

Browns coach Hue Jackson reportedly wanted Jimmy Garoppolo, who was dealt to the 49ers on Monday, and presumably was a driver in a bid for McCarron after coaching him for two years with the Bengals. At the moment, though, the quarterbacks in Cleveland are still DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan.

 

Sean Wagner-McGough of CBSSports.com:

 

Only the Browns could fail so spectacularly at executing a last-second trade. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Panthers and Bills completed their Kelvin Benjamin trade at 3:57 p.m. ET — three minutes before the trade deadline — and neither team had any issues getting the deal approved by the NFL. So, this really is a “only the Browns” kind of moment.

 

And the fact that the trade was not consummated is sure to mean that at some point, with the Browns curse now in place, in the near future McCarron will be starring for another team.

 

As we go to press – Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has details as to what happened, including the Bengals not seeing an email from a Sashi Brown surrogate:

 

On Tuesday, the Bengals spokesperson told cleveland.com that they never received the email from the Browns in the minutes before the trade deadline.

 

Ultimately, one came in at 3:54, but it did not come directly from Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown, who was working on the trade, and therefore it was not immediately seen.

 

It came from an assistant of Brown’s, director of football administration Chris Cooper, a name the Bengals did not immediately recognize. The email was sent to Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin, who had been dealing with Brown on the trade.

 

The Bengals were in the process of emailing their own paperwork to the NFL when the email came in, and they were not monitoring emails at that time, the spokesperson said.

 

They had minutes to get their documentation into the league, and they assumed the Browns were doing the same.

 

After Brown and Tobin agreed on the compensation — and event that took place somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes before the 4 p.m. trade deadline, the Bengals were of the understanding that both parties were hanging up and getting the paperwork to the league.

 

The Bengals quickly sent the necessary documents to the NFL — and copied the Browns — but the Browns only sent theirs to the Bengals and not to the NFL.

 

A source with knowledge of the Browns’ sequence of events told cleveland.com that they sent their signed document to the Bengals with the expectation that the Bengals would also sign it and forward it on to the league.

 

A source also told cleveland.com that if the Browns had simply copied the NFL on the document they sent to the Bengals, the trade would have gone through.

 

One high level NFL personnel man said “it would be crazy for the Browns to expect the Bengals to send the Browns paperwork to the NFL. They know they have to notify the league themselves.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

The Texans actually received a decent haul for disgruntled T DUANE BROWN.  That haul changed on Tuesday as CB JEREMY LANE was deemed to be damaged goods.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Cornerback Jeremy Lane failed his physical with the Texans, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, altering their trade with the Seahawks.

 

The Texans, who were supposed to get a fifth-round pick in 2018 and a second-round pick in 2019 and Lane in return for Duane Brown and a fifth-round pick in 2018, now receive a third-round pick in 2018 and a second-round pick in 2019. The Seahawks still get Brown and the fifth-rounder in 2018 as well as the return of Lane.

 

Lane missed two games a groin injury but returned Sunday to play six of 71 snaps in Seattle’s victory over Houston. While he was out with his injury, Lane lost his job to rookie Shaquill Griffin at right cornerback opposite Richard Sherman, with Justin Coleman playing the nickel.

– – –

Good to know that QB TOM SAVAGE is an admiring realist about his relationship with rookie sensation QB DESHAUN WATSON.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Tom Savage was, for some reason, the Texans’ starting quarterback in Week One. But he was benched at halftime for Deshaun Watson, and Watson has been the starter ever since — a move that even Savage seems to realize was the right one.

 

During Watson’s incredible performance in Seattle on Sunday, Savage was in awe as he watched Watson from the sideline. As shown on Inside the NFL, NFL Films caught Savage’s discussion with Watson after Watson did a 360-degree spin and dodged two Seahawks before throwing a touchdown pass, and Savage acknowledged he never would have made that play.

 

“That’s incredible, man. I don’t know how you do it. I really don’t,” Savage told Watson. “I would’ve pulled every muscle and both of my groins if I tried to do that.”

 

Watson has been incredible as a rookie, but he might have been better still if he had been working with the first-string offense all through training camp and the preseason, instead of being behind Savage on the depth chart. Even Savage knows he can’t do what Watson does.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

The Bills go big, literally at the wide receiver position, with a last-minute trade with the Panthers.

 

The NFL had one more big trade left in it before the close of the deadline.

 

The Carolina Panthers traded receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a 2018 third- and seventh-round pick, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

 

 RapSheet

The #Bills deal for #Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin came together at 3:57 pm — 3 minutes before the trade deadline.

 

ESPN first reported the news.

 

Buffalo later confirmed the trade. The team released running back Joe Banyard to make room on the roster for Benjamin.

 

It’s a chips-in-the-middle for the 5-2 Bills, who are in prime position to bust through their 17-season streak of missing the playoffs.

 

The Bills brass knows Benjamin well. Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane was in Charlotte when the Panthers made the receiver the No. 28 overall pick in 2014. Bills head coach Sean McDermott was defensive coordinator in Carolina from 2011-2016.

 

“Size and experience. When he’s covered, he’s still open,” Beane told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday. “He’s tough. He’s big. He’s got great hands. He knows how to run routes. He can block. He’s going to be way bigger than the corners he faces, so he can help in the running game there.”

 

Benjamin provides quarterback Tyrod Taylor with a needed big target and red-zone threat. In three seasons played (Benjamin missed 2015 with a knee injury), the 6-foot-5 target has compiled 2,424 yards on 168 receptions and 18 touchdowns. Through eight games this season, Benjamin earned 32 catches for 475 yards and two scores.

 

The trade immediately upgrades a Bills receiving corps that has been without a go-to target since trading Sammy Watkins before the season.

 

Taylor has been winning games this season tossing to a band of second-fiddle receivers. Running back LeSean McCoy leads the Bills in receptions with 38, and tight end Charles Clay, who has missed the past two games, leads in yards with 258. Before the trade, Taylor’s top wide receivers were Jordan Matthews (15 catches, 193 yards), Andre Homes (11 for 97) and rookie Zay Jones (10 for 115). Bills wide receivers have caught just five combined touchdowns this season.

 

Adding Benjamin will give Taylor a big-bodied receiver who can win on the outside and should help open more holes for the running game, especially in the red zone. The wideout, however, comes with injury risk and was dealing with a sore knee earlier this month.

 

 

MIAMI

Neither a vicious hit nor a strangulation will earn a suspension for a Dolphins defender.  Barry Jackson in the Miami Herald:

 

The NFL will not suspend Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso for his hit that knocked Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco out of last Thursday’s game and into the league’s concussion protocol system.

 

The NFL also said that Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh won’t be suspended for putting his hands around Ravens backup quarterback Ryan Mallett’s neck late in that game.

 

But Alonso and Suh still might be fined.

 

Alonso delivered a shoulder to Flacco’s head late in first half, drawing a 15-yard penalty. He said after the game that there was “no way” he could have avoided hitting Flacco, based on the situation.

 

“That’s the target,” Alonso said. “When a guy slides, and his target is very small, I just think it’s like a second late, which is why I hit him, to be honest with you. At first I was anticipating him, I thought he was going to slide. And then, I had to hit him, because he slid too late. It was bang-bang. I don’t know what else I could have done.“It was a bang-bang play. I thought if maybe he slid a second sooner, I was anticipating him sliding, and not hit him. But I think it was a second late; that’s why I hit him.”

 

Suh said he has no regrets about putting his hands around Mallett’s neck because he was merely protecting himself after he felt threatened.

 

RYAN MALLETT “threatened” Suh?  Please.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Dan Wetzel of YahooSports.com reads the tea leaves after the departure of QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO:

 

Ever since Jimmy Garoppolo led New England to a couple of victories to start the 2016 season, the debate about what the Patriots would do with him whipped through NFL front offices and filled empty hours of Boston talk radio.

 

Tom Brady is the Pats’ starter and legend. He’s also 40. Garoppolo, a promising talent who turns 26 next month, is a free agent at the end of this season. Due to salary-cap realities, New England can’t sign them both going forward, so one was going to go. Not even Bill Belichick could – let alone would – dump Brady for Garoppolo.

 

Right?

 

He couldn’t, or at least didn’t. Instead, up against a 4 p.m. Tuesday trade deadline, Belichick awoke Monday morning, looked over his 6-2 team and found a deal for Garoppolo, sending him to San Francisco in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft. That selection is likely to fall in the mid-30s overall since the 49ers are currently 0-8. It’s a nice deal for the 49ers, who were desperate for a quarterback of the future and had no assurances they could land Washington’s Kirk Cousins via free agency this offseason.

 

There is still time for Belichick to move the pick elsewhere in the league for a part he believes the Patriots require to win the Super Bowl this season. In Foxborough, the goal is singular – the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Patriots have won it five times under the stewardship of Belichick, including two of the past three years.

 

The needs are there. The defense is still seeking its footing, trying to duplicate the strength from last year. A pass rusher is coveted. A replacement for injured linebacker Donte’ Hightower is too.

 

Or maybe Belichick can’t find anything he wants and sits on the pick, which can’t help him until next season but is still an important asset considering Brady’s longevity.

 

Mainly, though, this was a day that had to come. Belichick held out as long as he could, using Garoppolo as a security blanket in case Brady went down during the first half of the season. At this point, Garoppolo would be an expensive backup, and the Pats would miss out on a high second-round pick, or whatever they can fetch and get on the field this season.

 

Much of this is about Brady’s ability to remain healthy. Every quarterback is one hit away from having his career end, but even at 40, Brady looks and moves as well as he ever has. He is vowing to play until his mid-40s. Who knows.

 

New England is all in on that. Belichick traded third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to Indianapolis before the season for wideout Phillip Dorsett, who, with just four receptions, hasn’t panned out in Foxborough thus far. Brissett is Indy’s starting quarterback, at least until Andrew Luck returns.

 

New England is expected to sign Brian Hoyer as a backup. The Niners released him to make room for Garoppolo. Hoyer is a former Brady backup and would fit in well.

 

For Belichick, this move likely came down to two calculations. Either, that the drop-off from Garoppolo to Hoyer either isn’t that big or that the drop-off from Brady to anyone is so great it doesn’t matter who the backup is. Essentially, this was an example of Belichick looking at a flawed team and figuring the Patriots can win it all only with Brady at his best and anything else is doomed anyway, so why clutch onto Garoppolo and then watch him walk out the door after the season.

 

Belichick has built an empire in New England by making those bold decisions better than anyone. It’s not that he doesn’t misjudge talent or impact (Dorsett, among others, prove that from a bad 2017 offseason). It’s not that he doesn’t make bad draft picks or trades.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets have shored up their defensive backfield with a trade with San Francisco.  The AP:

 

The New York Jets have acquired cornerback Rashard Robinson from the San Francisco 49ers for a pick in next year’s draft.

 

A person with direct knowledge of the deal tells The Associated Press that New York traded a fifth-rounder to San Francisco on Tuesday.

 

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because neither team announced specifics of the pick involved in the trade.

 

Robinson was a fourth-round draft pick last year out of LSU. He had 61 tackles, two interceptions, 15 passes defensed, a forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 22 games with the 49ers.

 

It was unclear if Robinson would be available for the Jets’ game Thursday night against Buffalo. He provides depth — and a potential starter — for New York.

 

Morris Claiborne is dealing with a sore foot and Buster Skrine is in the league’s concussion protocol.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

KAEP AND THE ANTHEM

Rumors that Colin Kaepernick will get a contract to stave off his collusion grievance.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Colin Kaepernick continues to be unemployed, but his lawyer continues to think that will change.

 

Appearing on The Adam Carolla Show, attorney Mark Geragos said he believes Kaepernick will sign with another NFL team soon.

 

“I think within the next 10 days somebody will sign him,” Geragos said, via BleacherReport.com. “I think somebody’s gonna sign him. I think the NFL has to come to their senses, and realize every day that goes by just proves the collusion case even more.”

 

Though Geragos didn’t predict when Kaepernick would be signed during a Saturday visit to the PFT PM podcast, Geragos did explain that the collusion that first manifested itself in March continues since Kaepernick remains unsigned. The clumsy effort in Cleveland to trade for Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron arguably provides the latest evidence of it, since it shows that the Browns — who were interested in trading for Kaepernick a year ago but who have plunged their heads in to the sand about him in 2017 — aren’t sold on their current quarterbacks corps and hope to upgrade on the fly.

 

But instead of signing Kaepernick, the pick-hoarding Browns were going to send a second- and third-rounder to Cincinnati. And now that they didn’t get McCarron, the Browns apparently are going to continue to ignore Kaepernick.

 

Or maybe they won’t. Maybe the current Commissioner will offer the 2019 draft to Cleveland in exchange for bringing the collusion case to an end. That’s what the last Commissioner would have done.

 

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr adds his two cents.  Scott Gleeson of USA TODAY:

 

“Oh, he is being blackballed. That’s a no-brainer,” Kerr said. “All you have to do is read the transactions every day, when you see the quarterbacks who are being hired. He’s way better than any of them. But the NFL has a different fan base than the NBA. The NBA is more urban, the NFL is more conservative, and I think a lot of NFL fans are truly angry at Kaepernick, and I think owners are worried what it’s going to do to business.”

 

Kerr said the spotlight that Kaepernick would draw is not something to ignore, making the comparison to Tebow’s fan base.

 

“If you are a general manager, you do have to worry about the circus that would erupt if you signed Kaepernick,” Kerr said. “That’s not justifying not signing him, but it’s understanding what you’re getting into.”

 

One might guess that the league office types who were proposing a grand social justice alliance with the activist players are getting some traction from owners who sense this won’t go over well with the customers even as it placates the media.  So Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com says the members of the Players Coalition are getting antsy:

 

No meeting date. No well-defined agenda. No official invite list. And no shortage of frustration.

 

The drive to progress between NFL owners and protesting players – celebrated and embraced by both sides only two weeks ago – now lacks a map. And worse yet, neither side can seem to agree on the direction or what the final destination is supposed to look like.

 

A spate of problems has developed between the league and the NFL Players Coalition representing athletes protesting for racial equality and social justice reform, two sources familiar with talks have told Yahoo Sports. Those problems are part of what led the league to decline what one source framed as a “last minute” invitation from players to a meeting this week, which was ultimately canceled. Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said the NFL and owners “didn’t accept” the invitation to a meeting with players in Philadelphia, which was originally slated for Monday. A source familiar with the NFL’s decision said the invitation didn’t give the appropriate time for the league to pull together the required audience for talks. The source also said that Jenkins’ statements to the media have been “misleading at best” when it comes to the efforts of the NFL to continue talks.

 

 “You can’t send out a letter and just expect everyone to drop what they’re doing and run to [Philadelphia],” the source said. “These are people with schedules who are doing this in good faith. It’s a good faith dialogue. And making it sound like [the NFL] just flatly refused to meet – Malcolm Jenkins knows that’s not true, and frankly, saying it like that is just disingenuous.”

 

Three sources familiar with the talks said multiple issues are creating problems between the two sides. Chief among them …

 

Who is responsible for officially bringing Colin Kaepernick into the fold

While the NFL has said it welcomes Kaepernick’s involvement in talks, the league has sent a message that his invitation is up to The Players Coalition. Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association – which is being kept on the peripheral of the talks – has also deferred the Kaepernick invitation to the coalition. Kaepernick has had players urge him to join talks, but as of Monday had received no official date of any meeting, no time, no location and no agenda to be discussed, said sources close to Kaepernick. Nor had he seen a list of attendees produced by The Players Coalition that included his name on it. The sources said that even the letter released to the media over the weekend – which solicited Kaepernick’s involvement – first came to his attention in internet reports.

 

The truth is, Kaepernick’s involvement has been a lot of drama in the process. The issue of his invitation – or lack of one – during the first round of talks produced a lot of finger-pointing over who was responsible. Kaepernick wanted to be there but was told by someone (allegedly the NFLPA) that he couldn’t attend because the NFL hadn’t agreed to him being a part of the talks. Whether that’s true has been a matter of behind-the-scenes debate. Where it ultimately led was Kaepernick’s legal team coming to one conclusion: that someone from The Players Coalition like Jenkins needed to formally invite him into the process. Especially now that the NFL has said publicly that it welcomes him to the table.

 

One source close to Kaepernick also said the quarterback isn’t interested in being “used” as a public relations pawn in the meetings. More specifically, if Kaepernick is going to be involved, he wants to know who will be attending and what the specific agenda is, including the goals that are to be achieved at the sit-down.

 

“Colin wants to take part,” the source said. “But he wants to know that this is going to be for the purposes of getting something accomplished – not just so the NFL can say he was welcomed into the talks.”

 

How to deal with Houston Texans owner Bob McNair

The goal is to have McNair present at the next round of talks, even after his comments about “inmates running the prison” became a flashpoint for those who found the reference as demeaning to protesting players. A source said that McNair’s potential presence in the next round of talks is drawing mixed reviews from players, some of whom would like to confront him over the remarks, and others who believe he should be excluded as a “bad actor” in the process. Meanwhile, the NFL has been left to grapple with whether McNair would be a positive or negative influence in the process going forward. It already eliminated Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones from previous talks because of his potential to spark discord between the two sides. Now the NFL must decide whether McNair falls in that category.

 

Who is “The Decider” for The Players Coalition

Malcolm Jenkins has become the de facto voice for The Players Coalition, but NFL owners are looking for the players to empower someone to make a decision. And Kaepernick’s involvement could complicate who is leading the coalition. Thus far, the players have tried to let everyone have their voice and their concerns heard, but that creates a lot of noise in the room when it comes to specific goals and an agreed-upon plan of action. If the players’ union isn’t going to take the lead in this – and thus far it is primarily an observer in the process – then someone needs to become the primary decision maker for the coalition. Nothing gets accomplished without someone taking responsibility for a decision.

 

Getting down to the business of actually negotiating a deal

Sources familiar with the talks said this point might be one of the biggest long-term issues blocking significant development between the two sides. The NFL has been reticent to come out and request a trade-off with players. But the reality is that is what owners expect. If the league commits money, power and resources to player activism, the owners want players to agree to a stoppage of protests during game day – and most especially, protests during the national anthem. Right now, the league knows it’s not popular to simply ask for a trade in plain terms. But that is indeed what the league seeks when it advances potential moves forward.

 

Conversely, the players have not offered a straight-up tradeoff for involvement for one simple reason: The Players Coalition is representing a lot of different voices and viewpoints and it can’t guarantee 100 percent participation. And some of the things that certain players want may be out of reach. For example, if the Seattle Seahawks intend to continue to kneel during the anthem until Kaepernick has an NFL job, that group of players may never be on board with agreeing to an anthem compromise.

 

Agreeing on the long-term relationship

For the league, ending the anthem protests would be a natural end to the current round of dialogue. And for The Players Coalition, establishing a set of criteria for the league to meet on social activism engagement would also signal a natural completion of the current talks. But there is another pressing matter of where all of this goes beyond this season. Does the NFL see The Players Coalition as a new staple for the league to engage and keep abreast of player issues – separate from the NFLPA?

 

Will there be annual talks, or does this new territory exist for only this season? And for The Players Coalition, is this a group that will continually renew itself, with new players and ideas? Or is the current collection being brought together for one special purpose and then essentially disbanded afterward?

 

Sources said the two sides haven’t really considered these questions yet, largely because nothing has been accomplished and the whole viability of this new engagement isn’t known at this point. But if some sort of success and fresh engagement is achieved in the coming weeks and months – improving the lines of communication between ownership and players – there could be some exploration of what that could mean down the road. If both sides ultimately see this whole affair as being a good thing, it could mean a continued relationship for years or more.

 

But that won’t happen without first agreeing on the basics – things like location, invitation and agenda. That map doesn’t exit at the moment, leaving owners and players parked in frustration for at least one more week.

 

 

BEST ROOKIES

At the near midway point of the season, William Moy of ProFootballFocus.com ranks the top rookies.  He says there are three who are doing better than Texans QB DESHAUN WATSON:

 

1. MARSHON LATTIMORE, CB, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS  PFF Grade: 94.5

PFF Elite Stat: Lattimore has surrendered a mere 0.56 yards per coverage snap so far this season, the seventh-lowest rate among cornerbacks.

 

Marshon Lattimore – a rookie let me remind you – is currently our third-highest graded player eight weeks into the season. Not our third-highest graded rookie, nor our third-highest graded corner, our third-highest graded player in the entire league. Lattimore is yet to surrender more than 38 receiving yards in a game – and it took Detroit throwing at him nine times to eek out those 38 yards – and opposing quarterbacks have just a 33.3 passer rating when targeting him in coverage, the second-lowest rating among qualified corners.

 

2. KAREEM HUNT, RB, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS   PFF Grade: 91.4

PFF Elite Stat: Hunt ranks second among RBs with a 100.5 elusive rating.

 

Just a little bit of a slide for Hunt this week – in terms of overall grade, he still maintains his No. 2 spot on this list – after arguably his worst performance of the season on Monday night, finishing that game with just a 45.7 overall grade. Even still, he leads all running backs in terms of overall grade through eight weeks of the season and continues to be the only running back to rank within the top-five in both rushing and receiving grade.

 

3. TRE’DAVIOUS WHITE, CB, BUFFALO BILLS  PFF Grade: 88.9

PFF Elite Stat: 28 corners have seen at least 40 targets into their coverage, among that group, White ranks third by allowing just one catch per every 14.3 snaps spent in coverage.

 

White joins Lattimore as being one of our five highest graded cornerbacks after the first eight weeks of the season and he’s one of just four corners to rank within the top-10 in terms of coverage grade while also ranking within the top-30 in run defense grade. One theme with White so far this season has been his ability to get his hands on the football, he leads all cornerbacks with nine pass breakups and his 22.7 playmaker index (pass breakups and interceptions / targets) ranks seventh among 114 qualified cornerbacks.

 

4. DESHAUN WATSON, QB, HOUSTON TEXANS   PFF Grade: 75.1

PFF Elite Stat: Watson leads the league with 30.3 percent of his attempts coming off play action, his 121.5 passer rating on those throws ranks fifth.

 

Eight weeks into the season and the rookie quarterback from Clemson begins to make his ascent up this list. While Watson’s grade may stick out a bit here, two things: A). He’s a quarterback and there is always going to be a slight bump for QBs; B). If you remove his disastrous grade from Week 1 (remember he did not start that game but came in midway to relieve Tom Savage) his overall grade sits at 81.2, which would rank 10th. Watson leads all quarterbacks with an 87.1 run grade, and although he’s had flaws as a passer, it’s tough to deny the skills he has shown, along with the production he’s earned. His 124.1 passer rating on throws coming from a clean pocket leads the position, his 47.5 adjusted completion percentage on deep passes ranks eighth (and his 40 attempts are the fourth-most) and his 8.3 big time throw percentage is nearly double the league average of 4.5 percent. Watson earned an 86.0 overall grade in Week 8 against Seattle and he’s finished three of his last four games at 78.0 or better. If he maintains his current level of play we may be seeing him crack into the top-3 sooner rather than later.

 

5. AARON JONES, RB, GREEN BAY PACKERS   PFF Grade: 86.7

PFF Elite Stat: Jones is one of just three RBs who have carried the ball fewer than 70 times this season to have at least five runs of 15 yards or more.

 

Jones drops down a spot within this race following the Packers’ Week 8 bye. He ranks third among all running backs in terms of overall grade, sixth with an 85.8 rushing grade and second with an 85.4 pass blocking grade. Jones is one of just six running backs to convert his carries into either a first down or a touchdown at a rate of at least 25 percent (27.4 percent, ranks fourth) and he’s surrendered just one pressure in pass protection.

 

6. DESMOND KING, CB, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS   PFF Grade: 84.0

PFF Elite Stat: King is one of just two cornerbacks to record at least 10 stops in coverage who have also not missed a tackle in coverage yet this season.

 

King makes his debut on this list following a Week 8 performance in which he earned a 90.5 overall grade against Tom Brady and the Patriots. King now ranks 17th among cornerbacks this season in terms of overall grade while his 83.7 coverage grade also ranks 17th. King ranks second among all corners with 16 total stops on the season.

 

7. DALVIN TOMLINSON, DI, NEW YORK GIANTS    PFF Grade: 83.3

PFF Elite Stat: Tomlinson leads all rookies with nine stops in run defense.

 

Tomlinson ranks 25th among all interior defenders in terms of overall grade and his 86.2 run defense grade ranks 14th. While Tomlinson hasn’t necessarily stuffed the stat sheet his consistent play in run defense has nicely replaced the void left by Johnathan Hankins’ departure this offeseason: Tomlinson ranks 20th among 73 interior defenders who’ve seen at least 200 snaps in run defense by receiving a positive grade on 23.3 percent of his run defense snaps while also ranking 11th among that group with just 7.8 percent of his run defense snaps resulting in a negative grade.

 

8. CARL LAWSON, EDGE, CINCINNATI BENGALS     PFF Grade: 82.7

PFF Elite Stat: Lawson ranks third among edge defenders with a 14.8 pass rushing productivity.

 

Lawson ranks 24th among edge defenders in terms of overall grade, bolstered by an 85.2 pass-rushing grade which is good enough for 10th. There have only been two passing plays in which Lawson has been on the field and not rushed the opposing quarterback and the results have been fruitful, he’s tallied multiple pressures in every game of his career to this point.

 

9.  LEONARD FOURNETTE, RB, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS    PFF Grade: 82.3

PFF Elite Stat: 36.1 percent of Fournette’s rushing yards this season have come on runs that went for 15 yards or more, the 10th-highest rate among RBs.

 

Fournette’s overall grade still ranks ninth among HBs following Jacksonville’s Week 8 bye and he joins Kareem Hunt and Melvin Gordon as being the only backs to possess a top-10 rushing grade while also owning a receiving grade over 75.0. Fournette has finished three of his last four games with overall grades of 80.0 or better, he’ll look to continue that trend after the mid-season week off.

 

10. EDDIE JACKSON, S, CHICAGO BEARS     PFF Grade: 81.2

PFF Elite Stat: Jackson has surrendered a catch just once for every 36.8 snaps he’s spent in coverage, the 11th-lowest rate among safeties who’ve dropped back in coverage at least 200 times.

 

Jackson ranks 22nd among safeties in terms of overall grade and he’s one of 11 safeties to rank within the top-30 in both coverage grade and run defense grade. There have been 68 safeties who have allowed at least five catches into their coverage this season, among that group Jackson ranks third by allowing just 16 yards after the catch.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

John Johnson III, S, Los Angeles Rams – 82.6 overall grade

Ryan Ramczyk, T, New Orleans Saints – 76.7 overall grade

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams – 78.3 overall grade

Jordan Willis, edge, Cincinnati Bengals – 78.5 overall grade

Zach Cunningham, LB, Houston Texans – 77.3 overall grade

Shaquill Griffin, CB, Seattle Seahawks – 78.8 overall grade

T.J. Watt, edge, Pittsburgh Steelers – 77.5 overall grade

Takkarist McKinley, edge, Atlanta Falcons – 77.1 overall grade

Charles Harris, edge, Miami Dolphins – 76.2 overall grade

 

 

DVOA

 

Here are this week’s DVOA Ratings from Football Outsiders with the Steelers and Rams 1-2 for the second straight week.  Philadelphia moved ahead of the Chiefs and the Cowboys bumped up 5 spots by beating the Redskins.

 

Week 8

Team

 

Last Week

1

PIT

29.40%

1

2

LARM

27.40%

2

3

PHI

22.30%

4

4

KC

21.60%

3

5

NO

21.50%

5

6

MIN

19.00%

6

7

JAC

18.00%

8

8

HOU

17.90%

7

9

DAL

14.30%

14

10

BUF

13.30%

11

11

SEA

13.10%

10

12

BAL

11.60%

15

13

DET

11.50%

12

14

WAS

8.50%

9

15

NE

8.40%

13

16

CAR

8.40%

17

17

GB

3.50%

16

18

DEN

1.90%

23

19

OAK

-1.40%

19

20

TEN

-3.70%

20

21

ATL

-4.20%

21

22

LACH

-4.90%

22

23

CIN

-5.90%

18

24

TB

-12.00%

24

25

NYG

-20.30%

26

26

NYJ

-22.80%

25

27

CHI

-23.90%

27

28

ARI

-28.50%

29

29

SF

-31.20%

30

30

CLE

-34.30%

31

31

MIA

-34.70%

28

32

IND

-37.60%

32

 

And how does the above translate to prospective chances of making, then succeeding in the playoffs?  Well, there is a 34.4% chance the Lombardi Trophy is heading to Pennsylvania with 20 teams still deemed to have a slight chance of winning the Super Bowl.  We note that the defending champ Patriots, despite their division lead, are down to 10th in SB Win probability.

 

Team     Conf App               Conf Win               SB Win

PIT          58.7%                   36.3%                    20.3%

PHI         49.4%                   27.2%                    14.1%

KC          44.5%                   22.2%                    11.2%

LARM     34.2%                   19.0%                    10.1%

NO          29.9%                   15.0%                      7.4%

MIN         30.3%                   14.8%                      7.3%

JAC        25.7%                   11.9%                      5.7%

SEA        23.3%                   10.9%                      5.1%

BUF        23.5%                   10.2%                      4.6%

NE          22.7%                     9.7%                       4.3%

CAR        11.4%                     4.6%                       2.0%

HOU       8.1%                        3.5%                       1.7%

DAL        8.3%                        3.6%                       1.7%

BAL        8.1%                        3.3%                       1.5%

DET        5.9%                        2.4%                       1.1%

TEN        4.1%                        1.3%                       0.5%

ATL         3.3%                        1.1%                       0.4%

DEN       2.3%                        0.9%                       0.3%

WAS       2.2%                        0.9%                       0.3%

GB          1.4%                        0.4%                       0.1%

 

And here are the teams leading the way for early picks.

 

Team     Top Pick Top 5 Pick

CLE        57.0%    98.1%

SF           31.4%    94.2%

IND         5.7%       84.0%

NYG        4.5%       60.9%

ARI          0.7%       42.9%

NYJ         0.1%       28.6%

TB           0.3%       23.2%