The Daily Briefing Wednesday, September 20, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

The insurrection against DeMaurice Smith is over before it began.  The NFLPA’s board has the power to call off an election by all members, and that’s what they have done.  Mark Maske of the Washington Post:

 

NFL player leaders voted Tuesday to retain DeMaurice Smith as the union’s executive director and extend his contract without him having to face opposition from competing candidates during this election cycle.

 

The unanimous vote to keep Smith was taken by a 14-member selection committee established under a new set of election procedures.

 

The outcome of the vote was confirmed by Eric Winston, the veteran offensive lineman who serves as president of the NFL Players Association. Winston said in a written statement: “Congratulations to De and we know there is more work to be done.”

 

Under those procedures, all 14 members of the committee needed to vote to keep Smith for him to be retained without the issue being presented to the players who serve as team-by-team union representatives.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Browns T JOE THOMAS, who as we recounted earlier this week really knows how to lose while becoming a “walk-in” Hall of Famer, has some advice for RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Much has been said by many about Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s lack of hustle following the Chris Harris Jr. interception on Sunday, from wagging fingers to making excuses to many things in between. Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, appearing on PFT Live, had the best (and perhaps only) explanation regarding the reasons for Elliott’s lack of hustle: Elliott hasn’t learned how to play when his team isn’t playing well.

 

“[T]he problem when you’re a young player and some people will take this the wrong way but you have to learn how to lose,” Thomas said. “Because in college a lot of times these guys come from programs where they didn’t lose a lot, and so as soon as things are going poorly it’s easy for those guys to just throw in the towel, and I think we saw that with Ezekiel. Obviously they had a tremendous season last year. He came from an organization in college at Ohio State that hardly ever lost, and if you find yourself in a situation where you’re losing sometimes those guys don’t know how to handle it and they don’t understand you have to play at the highest level and give everything you have on every single play no matter what the scoreboard says because that’s your job and that’s what you owe to your teammates.

 

“I think for young players it’s difficult sometimes because they just don’t know how to handle it and it takes sometimes, you know, public shaming like Ezekiel’s getting right now to learn that just because you’re losing a game doesn’t mean it’s time to go quit because you’re quitting on your teammates and you’re quitting on the game. In the NFL, that’s not acceptable and that’s not how you play and hopefully he’ll learn from that situation.”

 

Joe is absolutely right. For Elliott, losses have been rare. Decisive losses have been even more rare. In an age of Madden “rage quits,” where it’s easy to pull the plug on a lost cause and start over, Elliott assumed the demeanor of a kid who threw his controller down and stormed off to the kitchen for another juice box. Part of the maturation process for Elliott and any teammates who have may slid into that same mindset is to understand that they owe it to the game to keep trying until the game is over.

 

Even if they already want the game to be over.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Ben McAdoo’s skills as a play caller got him the Giants head coaching gig.  Now, with the attack floundering, he is pondering relinquishing them.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

When a team gets beaten handily twice to start a season, the head coach starts to ponder making early changes to give his squad a spark before fading too far into the darkness.

 

That’s the scenario New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo is facing. Following Monday night’s flop against the Detroit Lions, McAdoo said he’s considering making significant changes across the board.

 

“We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. That’s insanity,” he said on a conference call Tuesday, via the New York Daily News. “It’s not working so we’re going to look to make some more changes this week like we did last week. Maybe a little more drastic.”

 

Perhaps the first change could be stepping away from play-calling duties. McAdoo has been calling plays since he took over as New York’s offensive coordinator in 2014, and hung onto them after being promoted to head coach in 2016.

 

“That’s something we’ll look at and talk about,” he said of possibly giving play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.

 

The Giants’ offense has been putrid for more than just the last two games — in which they scored a combined 13 points. New York has scored fewer than 20 points in eight straight games, dating back to last year, including playoffs. It’s the longest streak of ineptitude for Big Blue since Jimmy Carter sat in the White House and the Giants went 17 games with fewer than 20 points from 1978-79.

 

Perhaps a change in play-calling will kindle improvement, but the Giants have major personnel problems that aren’t likely to get solved by changing who sends plays into Eli Manning’s headset.

 

“Personnel jobs are won in this league,” McAdoo said when asked about making changes. “They’re not given away. Somebody’s got to win a job to get a job.”

 

Therein lies the problem. New York’s backups aren’t better than the current cast on the field.

 

The Giants’ offensive line couldn’t block a troll on Twitter right now. Eric Flowers has become the epitome of poor offensive tackle play, but New York has no better option. Manning’s lack of mobility makes him a sitting duck in the pocket. The Giants have zero running game. And when given a chance, receivers like Brandon Marshall have flopped.

 

Changing playcallers might be a wakeup call for the offense, but the Odell Beckham-or-bust operation is far from a one-change fix.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

DE CHRIS LONG is playing for more than a third of the season for as yet unidentified students in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.  Vaughn Johnson at Philly.com:

 

Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long will donate his first six game checks of the season to fund a pair of seven-year scholarships to middle school students in his hometown of Charlottesville, Va., the Eagles announced Tuesday in a news release through the Chris Long Foundation.

 

The scholarships will be administered by Long’s alma mater, St. Anne’s-Belfield School, which will award them to two members of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Virginia.

 

Long said in a statement that the white supremacy marches held in Charlottesville during the summer spurred him and his wife Megan to set up the scholarships.

 

“In August, we watched people fill our hometown streets with hatred and bigotry,” Long said in the news release. “Megan and I decided to try to combat those actions with our own positive investment in our community.”

 

“We want these scholarships to be reflective of what the ‘Cville’ community is really about — supporting one another, social equality and building up those in our community who need it,” he added. “We hope our investment will change the lives of the students who receive the scholarship and in turn, those students can positively impact others.”

 

 

WASHINGTON

It is Robert Griffin III’s turn as former WR Santana Moss counters RGIII’s initial counter.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Santana Moss says he’s just trying to level with Robert Griffin III.

 

After a war of words erupted between Moss and Griffin, Moss went on CSN Mid Atlantic and said that Griffin needs to understand that his inability to work with coaches Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden is the reason he’s no longer in the NFL.

 

“This guy, I think, can still play this game. He might not be a starter, but he still should be able to play. But when you have those situations that occur with coaches,” Moss said.

 

Griffin, for his part, claims that his problem with Mike Shanahan was that Shanahan never wanted him to quarterback his team in the first place. Now there are 32 coaches who don’t want Griffin to quarterback their team, and so Griffin is out of football at age 27.

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

CB RICHARD SHERMAN politely says his offense stinks, by playing up how good the defense is.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

It’s a new season, but the Seattle Seahawks’ winning formula remains the same: A smothering defense leading an offense that does just enough.

 

Through two games, the Seahawks allowed just two touchdowns — with one of those coming after its offense turned the ball over on the 6-yard-line — while the offense has scored just 21 total points. In Sunday’s 12-9 victory, Seattle’s D kept the 49ers out of the end zone long enough for Russell Wilson to make his magic.

 

It’s nothing with which Richard Sherman and the defense aren’t familiar.

 

“We’ve got a lot of highly paid guys on our side of the ball, a lot of guys who played the game at a high level. And there’s a certain standard that’s expected,” Sherman said after the win, via The News Tribune.

 

With Wilson and the offense taking almost eight quarters to score their first touchdown, averaging 4.2 yards per play (29th in the NFL) and 258.5 total yards per game (26th), Sherman said the Seahawks’ defense expects itself to carry the load.

 

“We expect it from ourselves,” Sherman said. “We expect that, regardless of what happens on the other side of the ball.

 

“At the end of the day, it’s really on us.”

 

The offensive/defensive dichotomy in Seattle was cause for offseason controversy, with an ESPN report stating that some members of the defense were miffed at how the offense was treated differently. The report was publicly criticized by players, but you could understand how constantly carrying the offense over the years could weigh on longtime defensive players.

 

As for this season, the Seahawks’ cast of defensive stalwarts runs as deep as any in the NFL — Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark and newly added Sheldon Richardson.

 

A group without a glaring weakness understands it must be the rock until the offense gets its legs. It’s a burden from which they won’t shy away.

 

“It’s not any tougher for us, or anything different we think about,” Sherman said. “We think we hold ourselves to a high standard. You’ve got guys like Mike Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, Kam, K.J., etcetera, etcetera, down the line, Earl, myself, rookies playing lights-out football.

 

“We expect to get stops like that.”

– – –

RB EDDIE LACY, a Week 1 inactive, “opens up” about his struggles to stay svelte.  Kevin Van Valkenberg of ESPN.com with a long piece excerpted below:

 

As Lacy speaks in an affable baritone, he holds the towel gently in his thick hands, occasionally massaging it like he wants assurance it’s still there.

 

Eventually he explains that he gets nervous when he does interviews, and he sweats when he gets nervous. So he came prepared today.

 

Lacy had to think long and hard before agreeing to meet up and talk like this. There is a good chance, each of us concedes, that this interview will just give his trolls a fresh batch of ammunition. Social media has done wonders in recent years to bridge the gap between fans and professional athletes, but increased intimacy comes with drawbacks, and nobody understands that better than Eddie Lacy.

 

“I could pull up my Twitter right now and there would be a fat comment in there somewhere,” he says. “Like I could tweet, ‘Today is a beautiful day!’ and someone would be like, ‘Oh yeah? You fat.’ I sit there and wonder: ‘What do you get out of that?'”

 

When the internet turns one of your most personal flaws into a meme, how the hell do you possibly escape it?

 

Ever since his weight became a public topic during his four years in Green Bay — which included two 1,100-yard seasons — Lacy had read those kinds of comments and brooded in silence, convinced he couldn’t win. Responding would only give his tormentors a smirk of satisfaction, knowing they’d wounded him. If he worked hard, got back in shape through yoga and P90X, maybe then the jokes would fade.

 

Except they didn’t fade. If anything, they multiplied.

 

And while he lost weight — albeit slowly — getting down to where he wanted (around 240 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame) and keeping it off was a miserable slog during his Packers years. In the meantime, people photoshopped pictures of Lacy’s stomach to make it seem like he had a Santa Claus physique. Someone searched through his Twitter account and noticed that back in college he had an affinity for Chinese food, and he loved tweeting about it. They screenshotted every tweet and made a collage that quickly went viral.

 

“I always called it China food,” Lacy, 27, says with a grin. “There is no way around it, I love sesame chicken and shrimp fried rice so much. It’s awesome.”

 

He chuckled at first, but the collage also stung. It kept showing up in his feed, an endless cycle of snark, rebooted each day. “It sucks,” Lacy says. “It definitely sent me into a funk. I wish I could understand what they get out of it.”

 

When Lacy left the Packers in free agency and signed with Seattle, agreeing to periodic weigh-ins as part of a one-year contract laden with incentives, his fight to shed the pounds he’d put on after ankle surgery became something of a recurring national joke. He stood to make $55,000 every time he hit a weight goal, but at some point he started to feel indifferent about the money. Instead, the monthly ritual of turning his weight into a public spectacle began to feel a bit like a public shaming.

 

He assumed the weigh-ins would stay private, between the team doctors and Seahawks coaches. But the first time he weighed in, he remembers the result getting out within 20 minutes. Even his agency tweeted it out when he passed the first two weigh-ins, despite the fact that its client was hardly thrilled to share the news.

 

“I hate that it has to be public,” Lacy says. “Because it’s like, if you don’t make it, what happens? Clearly you don’t get the money, but whatever. I don’t really care about that. It’s just more the negative things that are going to come.”

 

It’s uncomfortable for Lacy to delve into all this, to put his struggle into any kind of context that feels relatable. In part, that’s because he stopped opening up to people when he was in high school, shortly after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his house in Gretna, Louisiana, upending his family’s life and leaving him with no emotional anchor, no real place to call home. It took years for him to sort through the impact of that upheaval. The recent hurricane disaster scenes opened up some of those old wounds.

 

“It pretty much brought back everything that happened to me,” Lacy says of Hurricane Harvey. “Nobody’s life will ever be the same there. It just sucks.”

 

He agreed to chat, however, in part because he knows he’s talking to a kindred spirit. We’ve both stared in misery at a chicken breast and a salad, reluctantly fighting off the urge to add french fries. We’ve both learned to dread looking down between our toes and seeing the cold, hard numbers stare back from the scale, almost taunting us. We’re both around 6 feet, 245 pounds, and don’t look fat per se, but we sure as hell ain’t skinny. Guys like us don’t garner much sympathy. There’s no backlash when we’re the butt of sitcom jokes. It’s easy to look at us and assume a lack of willpower, a weakness in our character. And in our darker moments, we can’t help but wonder: “Are those people right?”

 

The difference between us, though, is that I wrestle with my fried-food demons mostly in private. Lacy is bombarded with insults every time he opens an app on his phone.

 

“You just can’t shake it,” he says. “And no matter what, you can’t say nothing back to them. You just have to read it, get mad or however it makes you feel, and move on. I could be 225 and they’d still be like, ‘You’re still a fat piece of s — .'”

– – –

LACY WAS NEVER lazy as a kid growing up in the New Orleans suburb of Gretna. He was always moving, always on his bike zooming around the neighborhood. He wouldn’t even sit still long enough to watch sports on TV. He got bored. He preferred to be out in the yard playing sports. He and his friends did everything- — football, basketball, baseball. (One of Lacy’s closest childhood friends, Joe Broussard, is a Triple-A pitching prospect for the Dodgers.) “I used to be small and skinny, and I had braids like Allen Iverson,” Lacy says. “I really thought I was going to be like AI.”

– – –

Everything changed, though, at the start of Lacy’s freshman year of high school in 2005. With Katrina looming, the Lacys escaped to Beaumont, Texas, to stay with family, leaving behind their three-bedroom brick house in Gretna. They watched the news footage from afar, wondering when — then if — they’d return. It would be weeks before that was possible, and when they did come back to collect what was left, they wore masks because the stench was so strong. Their home was destroyed, most of their stuff looted. They stayed in Texas until the money ran out, then moved in with Lacy’s aunt in Baton Rouge for a spell. Ten people shared a house with three bedrooms and one bathroom. Eventually, they moved into a tiny trailer in Geismar, a small town 30 minutes south of Baton Rouge. “I honestly just shut down,” Lacy says.

 

Wanda and her husband, Eddie Lacy Sr., knew their son was hurting, that he wasn’t making friends and was angry at the world, but there wasn’t much they could do. The whole family was just trying to survive. The football field became an outlet for Lacy. He ran with anger, unleashing his frustration on poor defenders, eventually earning a scholarship to Alabama.

 

Wanda was a big believer in therapy, but Lacy didn’t want to talk to anyone. So she asked him one day if he’d at least be willing to scribble down his feelings and frustrations in a journal as a form of release. He agreed, but he also had a request.

 

The ceiling of Lacy’s childhood bedroom had been covered with glow-in-the-dark stars. Every night, he lay awake in the trailer, staring at the dark ceiling, missing his old bedroom. Was there any way, he asked, she could find more of those stickers? It took Wanda several weeks, but eventually she spotted some in a Winn-Dixie in Baton Rouge. While he was at school, she covered his ceiling and walls with them. Lacy was so happy, the happiest he’d been in months, maybe years. “I look up and I feel like I’m in the sky,” Lacy told his mom. “Everything seems OK when I’m looking up.”

 

If there was one other thing that made him feel safe and back to normal, it was gathering with his family for home-cooked meals. Even though his mom was going to nursing school up in Baton Rouge, she made it home every day to prepare dinner.

 

“It was southern Louisiana cooking, so nothing healthy,” Lacy says. “No vegetables to speak of, I’ll tell you that. Typical dinner might be fried chicken, red beans and rice. Or pork and beans. Fried pork chops. Everything that is not good for you that tastes good, you know? Crawfish too. That was probably my favorite. I could eat crawfish literally every day.”

 

Looking back, he can’t help but wonder whether his eating habits might have been different if he’d grown up someplace where healthy eating is more widely emphasized. But his family was in the same classic trap as so many families struggling to feed a big group on a small budget.

 

“It was all bad stuff, but it was cheaper, so we didn’t have to spend a lot of money on it,” Lacy says. “Even if we had gone the healthy route, how long could we have sustained it? Maybe a couple weeks, or maybe a month. Everything we ate, my mom made us eat bread with it because she knew it would fill us up and we would feel less hungry later. She had to feed us, and she did the best she could.”

– – –

Looking back, he concedes he could have done a better job of pushing to stay closer to his ideal weight. But at the same time, he was succeeding. He was the NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2013. He ran for a combined 2,317 yards his first two seasons, rolling downfield like a bowling ball but with the feet of a dancer. To watch him lower his shoulder into a defender, then pirouette into a balletic spin move, was like seeing a work of football art. At times, he looked like a reincarnation of Jerome Bettis, the Steelers running back who rumbled into the Hall of Fame.

 

The Packers, though, didn’t see it that way. They were initially supportive of Lacy’s fight to keep his weight down, but their patience eroded. When Lacy’s production dipped in his third year, coach Mike McCarthy made it clear in a season-ending news conference that Lacy could either lose weight or lose playing time. “He’s got a lot of work to do,” McCarthy said. “His offseason last year was not good enough, and he never recovered from it. He cannot play at the weight he played at this year.”

 

The two cleared the air in private, with McCarthy expressing regret for calling his running back out in a news conference, and Lacy insists now that no hard feelings lingered. He says he was ultimately motivated by the whole thing.

 

But the fat jokes mushroomed. No one saw him as a charming-if-chubby wrecking ball like Bettis. “I don’t get it,” Lacy says. “[Bettis] is a Hall of Famer. I guess times are just different. They really don’t have big backs anymore.”

 

Lacy showed up for the 2016 season in excellent shape, having dropped 22 pounds in the offseason by doing P90X workouts, and he declared he was done talking about his weight. There were no complaints about his play either, as he averaged 5.1 yards a carry through five games. But when an ankle injury in October led to season-ending surgery, all his hard work was quietly erased.

 

“I literally couldn’t do anything for months,” Lacy says. “I obviously just got bigger. I can’t do nothing about it. All you can do is lay down and eat. What are you supposed to do?”

 

He decided a change of scenery might be good for everyone and told the Packers he’d explore free agency after the season. When he began visiting teams and a few of them asked him to step on a scale, even Lacy was a bit surprised at what he saw: He weighed 267.

 

“Sometimes I wish I was a person with high metabolism who could just eat whatever they want and can’t gain a pound,” Lacy says. “You’ve got certain teammates who are like, ‘Man, it don’t matter what I eat, I can’t gain weight.’ And I’m like, ‘It don’t matter what kind of diet I’m on, it’s super hard for me to lose weight, and it’s so easy for me to put it back on.'”

 

On one hand, a professional athlete’s body is the engine that drives his economic value. If you can’t maintain that engine, it doesn’t make you a bad person — more than a third of Americans are overweight — but professional sports will be a challenge. Most of us don’t follow sports to see people we can relate to. We expect peak physical excellence. There have been exceptions — golfer John Daly comes to mind — but very few. Even Babe Ruth was frequently ridiculed for being out of shape.

 

On the other hand, it’s not like Lacy isn’t trying. He’s lost more than 20 pounds since signing with the Seahawks. He doesn’t see how weighing less will make him more effective, and 245 is as low as he needs to be, according to his contract.

 

Still, during every team dinner, Lacy dutifully grabs a grilled chicken breast and a salad and tries to ignore his teammates as they pile chicken wings and spaghetti and ice cream onto their plates. Lacy says he hasn’t had Chinese food in “forever,” so long ago he can’t even remember. Yet every single day this offseason, someone was happy to remind him of that old life, the days when he could eat whatever he wanted.

 

“People are always tweeting at me stuff like: ‘I’m about to go get China food, shout out to Eddie,'” Lacy says. “Or, ‘Hey, Eddie, this China food is why you weigh 260 pounds.’ You want to say, ‘Dawg, that was five years ago. How is something that happened [then] still relevant?’ But nobody cares. The negativity is always there, whether you’re doing good or you’re going through a funk.”

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

The Broncos are 2-0 without S T.J. WARD.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Broncos’ defense has played well after cutting safety T.J. Ward just before the start of the season, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t missed him.

 

Broncos cornerback Chris Harris said on PFT Live that playing without Ward has been difficult.

 

“It’s still hard,” Harris said. “Not being able to take the field, he just brought a Tasmanian Devil’s mentality to our defense, high energy, great leadership. He’s definitely missed, man. I wish he could still be here.”

 

Harris said the Broncos’ secondary hasn’t always been on the same page without Ward’s veteran leadership.

 

“We’re still working. There are still some communication areas that we’re having. We haven’t build that chemistry,” he said.

 

Ward is now in Tampa Bay, where he hasn’t been fully integrated into the defense yet, playing less than half the snaps in the Buccaneers’ first game on Sunday.

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

Mike Tomlin explains why he felt he didn’t need DE JAMES HARRISON for a single snap on Sunday and chides us not to make too much of it.  Conor Orr of NFL.com:

 

The NFL’s official game book confirmed an occurrence that puzzled some Steelers fans Sunday: James Harrison logged no snaps in the club’s 26-9 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

 

Head coach Mike Tomlin did not treat that as an indictment of the 39-year-old’s skill level, instead complimenting 2015 sixth-round pick Anthony Chickillo. Chickillo had two sacks and five tackles over the team’s first two games.

 

“Is [Harrison] dropping [on the depth chart] or are other guys ascending?” Tomlin told reporters Monday. “Bud [Dupree] missed some time in Week 1, [Anthony] Chickillo was able to start. Chickillo produced two sacks. Respect those contributions. T.J. [Watt] got hurt in Week 2; wanted to leave the hot hands in there. Chickillo being that hot hand. We appreciate James. We know what James is capable of. James will ready himself.

 

“There will be a time in the season where we’ll call on his services, and he’ll deliver and he’ll deliver in a big way. Much like he did in the latter part of 2016. In the meanwhile, man, we’re going to continue to roll people and play guys that we see fit and not do a real good job of maybe describing our mindset or outlining our intentions because part of it is gamesmanship and part of it is it will define itself as we move forward.”

 

For reference, Tomlin played Harrison in 50 percent of the team’s snaps in Week 2 of the 2016 season, and nearly 80 percent of the team’s snaps during their final game of the season — a playoff loss to the New England Patriots.

 

Because Tomlin trusts Harrison and has three of the league’s best skill position players on offense, he has the luxury of making moves like this. The Steelers seem to draft an outside linebacker in the first round of every draft, so the regular season can act as a time for players like Chickillo, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt to develop. Then, Tomlin has a largely untapped resource ready to unleash at the end of the season.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

The Saints defense is in its customary disarray, but that didn’t stop the Dolphins from sending a 5th round pick to New Orleans for LB STEPHONE ANTHONY.  Herbie Teope at NoLa.com:

 

The Saints used a first-round draft pick on Anthony in 2015 and he went on to lead the defense in tackles with 112 on 990 total defensive snaps during his rookie season.

 

Anthony, however, took a big step back in 2016 after moving from the middle linebacker position to the strong side, where he struggled in the transition and couldn’t garner enough playing time.

 

A year after leading the team in tackles, Anthony appeared in just 10 games with three starts and totaled 16 tackles on 133 defensive snaps.

 

His 2016 season came to end with two games remaining in the regular season after the Saints placed him on injured reserve.

 

There was hope the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Anthony would experience a rebound in 2017 with a new position coach in Mike Nolan.

 

Anthony, 25, drew first-team repetitions early in training camp as part of the linebacker rotation, but then suffered an ankle injury that has caused him to miss both regular-season games.

 

With Anthony gone, the Saints are down to A.J. Klein, Manti Te’o, Nate Stupar, Craig Robertson and rookie Alex Anzalone on the active 53-man roster. The team also has Adam Bighill, who was active for Week One, on the practice squad.

 

The Dolphins have a need for a linebacker with LB LAWRENCE TIMMONS suspended.

 

The Miami Dolphins suspended starting outside linebacker Lawrence Timmons indefinitely, the team announced Tuesday.

 

Timmons went AWOL from the team unexpectedly this past weekend and did not play in Sunday’s 19-17 road victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.

 

Timmons signed a two-year, $10 million contract in March, but he has not played a regular-season game.

 

ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported that Dolphins coach Adam Gase is still upset with Timmons for abandoning the team without notice Saturday night, and he is not yet satisfied with any of the explanations he has received.

 

So while the Dolphins have decided to suspend Timmons indefinitely, sources told Darlington that they have not made any more firm decisions beyond that, in terms of how long the suspension will last. The collective bargaining agreement allows teams to suspend a player for up to four games for detrimental conduct.

 

That doesn’t mean Timmons will miss all four games, a source told Darlington.

 

The Dolphins have been quiet on details about why Timmons left the team over the weekend. Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Timmons was dealing with “a personal matter” and was scheduled to meet with doctors on Monday to try to figure out what is wrong.

 

Backup linebacker and special-teamer Chase Allen started in place of Timmons and had four tackles against the Chargers.

 

However, the most likely in-house replacement moving forward is veteran linebacker Rey Maualuga, who signed last month but reportedly joined the team overweight.

 

Maualuga, who was an eight-year starter for the Cincinnati Bengals, is close to working himself back into football shape.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

DVOA PLAYOFF ODDS

At FootballOutsiders.com, it is never too early to calculate a team’s playoff chances.  But do the Ravens and Lions really have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than New England or Atlanta?  Are the two top Super Bowl favorites really in the same division, especially when one of them is almost certain to play all their playoff games on the road?  We realize they have a great chance of a strong records with four games against Ohio that others do not, but still…

 

This report lists the odds of each team

 

Reaching the Conference Championship Game

Winning the Conference Championship Game

Winning the Super Bowl

 

Team    Conf App           Conf Win           SB Win

PIT       49.5%               32.4%               20.3%          

BAL      29.4%               16.0%                 9.0%  

DET      28.8%               15.7%                 7.2%

NE        25.8%               12.4%                 6.9%  

KC        25.4%               11.9%                 6.4%  

SEA     24.3%               12.9%                 5.9%  

OAK     23.4%               10.7%                 5.8%  

CAR     25.0%               13.0%                 5.7%  

ATL      23.7%               12.3%                 5.5%  

GB       19.0%               10.0%                 4.7%  

DAL      16.8%                 8.4%                 3.9%  

TEN      16.9%                 7.0%                 3.4%  

LARM   14.8%                 7.2%                 3.2%  

PHI       12.4%                 5.7%                 2.4%  

TB        10.5%                 4.7%                 1.9%  

WAS      8.9%                 3.9%                 1.6%  

DEN       9.3%                 3.2%                 1.4%  

MIN        5.2%                 2.2%                 0.9%  

ARI         5.4%                 2.0%                 0.8%  

BUF        5.4%                 1.9%                 0.7%  

MIA        4.4%                 1.4%                 0.6%  

JAC        3.8%                 1.1%                 0.5%  

LACH      2.7%                 1.0%                 0.5%  

NYG       2.3%                 0.9%                 0.3%  

HOU       2.3%                 0.6%                 0.2%  

CHI         1.2%                 0.4%                 0.2%  

NO         1.1%                 0.4%                 0.1%  

 

There are five teams that do not appear on this list – the two from Ohio, NYJ, SF and IND.  But they are on the list for the race to the top pick.

 

 

Team    Top Pick           Top 5 Pick

CLE      18.2%                  58.4%

IND       17.3%                 56.9%

NYJ      16.3%                 56.8%

SF        12.1%                 48.2%

CHI         5.9%                 34.0%

NO         5.9%                 33.2%

CIN         4.7%                 29.0%

NYG       4.0%                 26.0%

 

Pittsburgh vs. Seattle at 4.3% is the single most likely Super Bowl match-up.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Here is why former NFL CB Charles Tillman isn’t on TV this fall.  Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com

 

Former NFL All-Pro cornerback Charles Tillman is training to become an FBI agent, sources confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday evening.

 

The Chicago Tribune first reported the news.

 

According to multiple ESPN sources, Tillman is currently at the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

 

Tillman, 36, earned a criminal justice degree from Louisiana-Lafayette. His father, Donald Tillman Jr., was a sergeant in the Army.

 

Tillman’s interest in possibly joining the FBI after football dates back to his playing career, during which Tillman — according to another source — occasionally observed and worked alongside law enforcement officials during offseasons.

 

One of the greatest defensive backs in Bears history, Tillman played 12 seasons with Chicago, earning two Pro Bowl nods and being named the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2013. He also won the NFL’s Salute to Service award in 2012.

 

Tillman played his final season with the Carolina Panthers in 2015 but signed a one-day contract to retire as a Bear in July 2016.

 

He spent his first year out of football working as an NFL analyst for Fox Sports.

 

 

 

 

2018 DRAFT

After watching some games, Todd McShay of ESPN.com has his list of the 32 top prospects at the moment.  The only 3 QBs are in the top 7.  The DB will bet you donuts that more than 3 go in the 1st round.

 

The 2018 NFL draft will be here sooner than you think, but with at least two games under most teams’ belts it’s a good time to update my prospects ranking.

 

Note: Underclassmen are marked with an asterisk.

 

1. Sam Darnold, QB, USC*

Grade: 95 | Preseason rank: 1

Darnold has made a couple questionable decisions throwing the football this season (two INTs in each game so far), but it hasn’t changed my evaluation of him. He has made some big-time throws in the clutch, helping keep USC undefeated. His delivery still needs to be cleaned up, but his accuracy is phenomenal. He is the most complete quarterback in college football and a potential franchise signal-caller.

 

2. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming*

Grade: 94 | Preseason rank: 2

Allen was a relative unknown coming into the season outside of scouting circles, as he didn’t have a single Division I scholarship out of high school. His two appearances in the national spotlight (at Iowa, versus Oregon) haven’t gone well, but it’s not all on his shoulders. He has an elite arm and frame (listed at 6-foot-5, 233 pounds), and can make every throw. Darnold has been better so far this season, but the USC quarterback also has much more talent surrounding him.

 

3. Arden Key, DE, LSU*

Grade: 93 | Preseason rank: 3

The more I watch Key play, the more he reminds me of Miami Dolphins great Jason Taylor. Key missed spring practice for personal reasons and made his first appearance in 2017 this past week (shoulder surgery) against Mississippi State, notching half a sack. I look for his production to increase as he gets healthier.

 

4. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State*

Grade: 94 | Preseason rank: 5

Barkley hasn’t played terrific competition, but he has continued to look like the best running back in the nation this season. With good balance and terrific lateral agility, he can run away from the defense when he gets to the second level. And his 85-yard TD catch against Georgia State shows what he can do as a receiver. He’s a complete player.

 

5. Derwin James, S, Florida State*

Grade: 93 | Preseason rank: 6

James has had only one opportunity to display his skills this season (in the opener against Alabama), but I was impressed with what I saw. He’s one of the most versatile players we’ve ever evaluated. A third-year sophomore, James tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee in the second game of 2016 and received a medical redshirt.

 

6. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama*

Grade: 93 | Preseason rank: 8

Fitzpatrick played 14 of 15 games as a true freshman in 2015, started all 15 in 2016 (collecting a team-high six interceptions) and has started all three in 2017. Fitzpatrick has an intriguing skill set and I need to see more of him against good competition. A strong 2017 season could land him in Round 1.

 

7. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA*

Grade: 92 | Preseason rank: 7

Rosen had a terrific 2015 season, becoming the first player to start at UCLA as a true freshman and throwing for 3,668 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. A shoulder injury cut his season short in 2016, and he has been solid through three games this season, throwing at least four TDs in every game (13 total). Rosen still needs to improve his decision-making under pressure, but he has shown tremendous poise with so much of the offense reliant on him.

 

8. Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College

Grade: 92 | Preseason rank: 4

Landry led the nation with 16.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles last season. I still have concerns about his size (listed at 6-3, 250), but he should be an every-down player in the NFL and teams will value his versatility. He has only one sack through three games in 2017.

 

9. Connor Williams, OT, Texas*

Grade: 92 | Preseason rank: 12

A true junior who has started all 23 games in which he has appeared coming into this season, Williams is a scheme versatile blocker. Unfortunately, he suffered a sprained MCL and PCL in his left knee, along with a meniscus tear, against USC on Saturday. There is no timetable for his return.

 

10. Mo Hurst, DT, Michigan

Grade: 91 | Preseason rank: 9

Hurst is a quick and powerful one-gap penetrator who is highly disruptive against the run. He has a powerful upper body and disengages quickly. His production hasn’t been there yet this season, but he is still causing issues for opposing defenses.

 

11. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU*

Grade: 91 | Preseason rank: 10

Guice has topped 100 yards rushing in two of LSU’s three games and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He isn’t Leonard Fournette, but he has great quickness and the ability to stick his foot in the ground and get upfield. He has four rushing TDs through three games so far in 2017.

 

12. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Grade: 91 | Preseason rank: 11

Ridley doesn’t get a chance to showcase his full potential in Alabama’s run-heavy offense, but he has averaged 14.6 yards per catch this season. He also has scored two TDs. A player with outstanding foot quickness and a nightmare in the open field, Ridley also has good acceleration.

 

13. Christian Wilkins, DE, Clemson*

Grade: 90 | Preseason rank: 32

A disruptive run defender with the foot speed and quick hands to slip blocks rapidly, Wilkins is a high-motor guy who does a great job of getting his hands up in passing windows. He had 140 tackles (17.5 TFLs) and 5.5 sacks over the past two seasons, and he already has 2.5 sacks in 2017. That’s why he’s my biggest riser.

 

14. Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama*

Grade: 90 | Preseason rank: 13

A big-time high school recruit, Scarbrough came on strong the final three games of 2016 before suffering a broken leg in the title game against Clemson. He runs behind his pads, and his body control and balance are outstanding. With only 33 carries so far in 2017, Alabama is easing him back into action, coming back from injury.

 

15. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State*

Grade: 89 | Preseason rank: 16

A former safety and linebacker who switched to end before the 2015 season, Hubbard has a quick first step with the speed to threaten the edge. He is a disruptive presence and his versatility and work ethic are why he is a potential first-round pick. He already has 2.0 sacks in 2017.

 

16. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Grade: 89 | Preseason rank: 17

In 2016, McGlinchey moved from right tackle to the left side vacated by Baltimore’s first-round pick Ronnie Stanley. An above-average zone blocker, he plays angles well and gives good effort. He has first-round potential, but I need to see it on a more consistent basis this season.

 

17. Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State

Grade: 88 | Preseason rank: 18

A two-year starter, Nnadi is coming off his most productive season (49 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, six sacks). He is an outstanding run defender and consistently displays a low center of gravity to occupy multiple blockers.

 

18. Vita Vea, DT, Washington*

Grade: 88 | Preseason rank: 19

Listed at 6-foot-4, 346 pounds, the former high school running back is a space-eater in the middle of Washington’s defense. I’ll be curious to see how many snaps the Huskies give him as the season progresses.

 

19. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M*

Grade: 88 | Preseason rank: 14

Kirk hasn’t been running an NFL route tree at Texas A&M, but he’s a solid all-around player and dangerous punt returner. He already has two TDs this season, though A&M hasn’t faced the toughest of competition.

 

20. Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame*

Grade: 88 | Preseason rank: 20

Nelson is a road grader with the size (listed at 6-foot-5, 325 pounds), strength, polish and toughness to start immediately in the NFL.

 

21. Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

Grade: 87 | Preseason rank: 25

 

McFadden still needs to fill out his frame a bit (listed at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds), but he’s at his best in press. He has the length to disrupt receivers and the top-end speed to run with most receivers.

 

22. Malik Jefferson, OLB, Texas

Grade: 87 | Preseason rank: 21

Jefferson is an athletically gifted player with a high ceiling who had 8.0 sacks and 15.5 TFL in his first two seasons. Listed at 6-3, 240, he’s not a true edge rusher, though, which makes his sack numbers more impressive. I’d like to see more physicality from him this season, however.

 

23. Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State*

Grade: 86 | Preseason rank: 23

Sweat amassed 82 tackles (16 TFLs) and nine sacks while starting in 19 of the 25 games he appeared in, coming into this season. He was disruptive in Florida State’s only game this season, notching a sack.

 

24. Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama*

Grade: 86 | Preseason rank: 24

Harrison is player who really grew on me during film study. He has some tightness when playing man-to-man and his ball skills need to improve, but he has the potential to be a starting free safety in the NFL. He already has been extremely productive this season, with 2.0 TFL, a sack and an INT.

 

25. M.J. Stewart, CB, North Carolina*

Grade: 85 | Preseason rank: 22

An instinctive cover corner, Stewart has average size (listed at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds) but plays fast and has good recovery speed.

 

26. Trevon Young, DE, Louisville

Grade: 85 | Preseason rank: 26

Young is still a bit of a mystery after redshirting in 2016 as a result of a fractured hip. He is just OK as a run defender, but he has outstanding speed and athleticism as a pass-rusher. He has 1.5 sacks in three games and has should continue to produce as he gets healthier.

 

27. Billy Price, OG, Ohio State

Grade: 85 | Preseason rank: 27

An experienced three-year starter at guard heading into his senior year, he’s a plug-and-play NFL starter who should be steady in the league. He’s playing center for the Buckeyes in 2017.

 

28. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma*

Grade: 85 | Preseason rank: 28

The son of the late Orlando “Zeus” Brown, the younger Brown is a better fit at right tackle in the pros, though he has played exclusively at left tackle in a run-heavy Oklahoma scheme. He is part of an offensive line that was extremely impressive in Week 2 against Ohio State’s stout defensive front.

 

29. Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

Grade: 84 | Preseason rank: 29

A two-year starter and 2016 team captain, Chubb ended the 2016 season ranked fourth in the nation with 22 tackles for loss. He isn’t an elite pass-rusher, but he has a good first step and bends well for his size. He’s another player who has been very productive, with 5.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks already.

 

30. Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech*

Grade: 84 | Preseason rank: NR

I’ve been impressed with Edmunds so far this season. He has been flying around the field, with 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in three games. Edmunds had 18.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2016.

 

31. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU*

Grade: 84 | Preseason rank: NR

My fifth-ranked wide receiver coming into the season, Sutton is a smooth route runner who has the ability to make the first defender miss. His production has dipped a bit this season, with only 11 catches for 185 yards through three games, and TCU shut him down in his last game.

 

32. Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State

Grade: 84 | Preseason rank: 30

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding Rankin, who is a juco transfer and has only one year of SEC experience. He has the length to handle speed off the edge and the athletic ability to mirror inside pass-rushing moves. I want to see how he does against SEC competition throughout the season, including two big games coming up (at Georgia, at Auburn), but he has performed well so far.