Monthly Archives: August 2016

Final 53-man roster projections for all 32 NFL teams

Will the Broncos part ways with veteran Mark Sanchez and keep just two quarterbacks? What will the Giants do with Victor Cruz? Is former top-10 pick Justin Gilbert on his way out in Cleveland? NFL Nation reporters answer these questions and much more as they take their final crack at projecting the 53-man rosters for all 32 teams.

Click the links after each team’s description to view the full posts.

Arizona Cardinals: Within the past few weeks, Mike Jenkins has made a push at cornerback. There isn’t a clear-cut starting corner opposite of Patrick Peterson.

One saving grace in light of what has been an injury-filled August is fourth-round pick Dak Prescott, who has been one of the breakout players of the 2016 preseason. Among quarterbacks with 25 attempts or more this preseason, Prescott leads the league in passer rating (137.8). He’s third in completion percentage (78.0 percent), fifth in yards per attempt (9.1 yards per throw) and has thrown for five touchdowns without an interception. Toss in two rushing touchdowns and Prescott has arguably been the offensive MVP of the preseason.

Still, the questions for the Cowboys are everywhere.

What have the Cowboys done to put themselves in this situation? Can they work their way out of it? And is their 2016 season doomed before Week 1? I watched Prescott’s preseason tape, ran through some numbers, and found some echoes from bad Cowboys decisions of the past still haunting them years later. Let’s attempt some answers.

Romo is hurt, but Prescott has looked great so far. So should the Cowboys be worried about their offense?

Yes, the Cowboys should be worried. Obviously, there’s no reason to feel worse about things with Prescott playing well; you would much rather have your rookie quarterback look precocious in the preseason than overwhelmed and underprepared. I just don’t know how much Prescott’s preseason performance means and how well he fits in the offense the Cowboys have run over the past few years.

There’s no real history of preseason performance by rookies (or players in new places) having any meaningful value in projecting their immediate NFL futures. I wrote about this very topic in regards to Blake Bortles in 2014 after the then-rookie got off to a sterling start in August. Bortles was a mess during the same regular season. In 2015, Bortles’ preseason performance was worse, and yet, he was a much better quarterback during the regular season. During that same 2015 preseason, Sam Bradford was so incredible during a 15-pass preseason that he turned down a four-year, $72-million contract extension.

Raw rookies can look great in the preseason for a number of reasons. One, they’re often playing against the opposing team’s backups with the second and third strings. Second, the schemes they are running are simplified and nowhere near as complex as the responsibilities they’ll be forced to run when the games count. And even more important, the same is true of the defenses they’re up against: Preseason defenses are less likely to blitz and regarded as far more vanilla than the stuff they’ll show to the opposition during the regular season.

Thanks to Romo’s injuries even before this past week, Prescott has spent some time during this preseason with the Dallas ones. He has exhibited all the tools you would want from a modern quarterback, showing off arm strength, a quick release and the speed to get out of the pocket when things get hairy. You can see why Dallas drafted him despite less-than-impressive efficiency numbers at Mississippi State.

Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley Jr., the eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft, has to elevate his game after a disappointing preseason. Maybe the switch from end to strong-side linebacker has been too much.

Baltimore Ravens: Michael Campanaro gets the nod over rookie sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds for the slot receiver/returner job.

Buffalo Bills: Undrafted rookie Glenn Gronkowski saw some action with the first team, and coach Rex Ryan did not rule out the possibility of keeping two fullbacks. It’s hard to see the Bills managing that, however.

Carolina Panthers: Why keep a third quarterback when Cam Newton has missed only two starts in five seasons and Derek Anderson is a reliable backup? Simple. Joe Webb can play quarterback, wide receiver and on special teams.

Barkevious Mingo trade adds to Browns’ growing 2017 draft-day pile

The Cleveland Browns received a fifth-round pick in the trade that sent linebacker Barkevious Mingo to the New England Patriots.

They have the same ability to maneuver in the 2016 draft.

When Jimmy Haslam made the most recent front office and coaching staff overhaul, he kept emphasizing he wanted “smart” people. Snickers soon followed when the Browns added Harvard guys.

Smarts, though, do not come from a diploma or place of education. They come from how one’s talents are applied.

This regime has taken an approach to build through the draft. It has committed to it and it has stuck to it. It seems at this early point to have drafted well in 2016.

The Browns will try to win as many games as they can this season, but building this way may take time. The more picks the Browns acquire, and the better they use them, the sooner the turnaround — in theory at least. Looking back and calling traded picks a failure is easy; looking ahead to sort out the plan may matter more.

Trading Mingo to add another pick to the pile was a smart move given the plan in place.

While that doesn’t yet mean that Siemian will be the team’s starter when the Broncos open the season Sept. 8 against the Carolina Panthers, he will get the last best look with the starters before coach Gary Kubiak makes the call.

“Trevor will start the game this week,” Kubiak said Monday. “They’re all going to play, and the biggest thing I have to take a look at, too, is how I’m going to play our starters as far as how I get the rotation going. … It’s down to the nitty-gritty here. … I’m going to make a decision next week, and we’re going to go to work.”

Kubiak didn’t say whether Mark Sanchez or rookie Paxton Lynch would follow Siemian into the lineup against the Rams on Saturday, but he added he was still considering how long the starters would play in the game. In the past, Broncos starters have played into the third quarter of the third preseason game.

It would be significant if Lynch was the second quarterback into the game against the Rams. It is expected that Kubiak will give the exact order after Siemian later in the week.

Siemian was also getting treatment on his right shoulder Monday after falling hard trying to tackle San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, who returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown this past weekend. That throw, as it turned out, was Siemian’s only mistake, as he finished 10-of-14 for 75 yards and was 10-of-11 passing at one point.

Siemian also led the offense on a 10-play, 86-yard touchdown drive to open the game. His body of work was enough for Kubiak to give Siemian the start.

“I think Trevor did a good job the other night. Obviously he has one play he’d like to have back, or it probably would, it would have, been as good as it could be,” Kubiak said. “So, I’m going to go back and give him a chance to do that again.”

Report: Seahawks’ Russell Wilson moved wedding due to North Carolina law

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings will play at U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time on Sunday afternoon when the team hosts the San Diego Chargers in their nationally televised third preseason game. But while it’s the first time the $1.1 billion stadium will stage an NFL game for its main tenant, it’s already the fourth major event inside the facility’s walls this month.

The law, enacted earlier this year, requires transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates.

The law applies only to bathrooms in government buildings, public schools and public universities. It does not apply to private universities, and private companies are allowed to implement any policy they choose.

Opponents of the law argue the measure limits anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people.

If Siemian holds serve and is named the regular-season starter — and if, after Saturday’s game, the Broncos think they’ve seen enough from Lynch to make him the No. 2 quarterback — it’s unclear what it would mean for Sanchez. If he was the No. 3 and remained on the roster he would be the team’s highest-paid quarterback and a game-day inactive.

If the Broncos decide on a Siemian-Lynch depth chart, they could also try to trade Sanchez. He is set to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, so a team would only be taking on the last year of his current contract.

“He probably won’t be in there a whole lot, but he’s scheduled to play,” Ryan said. “I think he had a good day today [in practice].”

Watkins has participated in the majority of training camp practices since being taken off the active/physically unable to perform list Aug. 8, although he was held out of both of the Bills’ first two preseason contests.

The third-year receiver underwent foot surgery this offseason that kept him out of organized team activities, mandatory minicamp and the first week of training camp.

While Brady was scheduled to start in the team’s second preseason game Aug. 18 against the Chicago Bears, he sliced his right thumb on a pair of scissors before the game, according to a source, and was held out. After the game, Belichick said, “I made the decision for him not to play tonight.”

With Brady not at practice, it left just Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.

Chiefs activate LB Tamba Hali off PUP list

Six NFL quarterbacks in need of improved accuracy

Because we care only about whether or not the pass was completed with this stat, dropped passes can be accounted for favorably for the quarterback. Once we have the drop-adjusted plus-minus total, it can be divided by the number of passes to get an adjusted rate we denote as C%+.

A quarterback’s C%+ is how many percentage points better or worse than average he was at completing passes.

1. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers

C%+: minus-4.4 percent

Kaepernick started off his career in 2012 with a great C%+ (7.3 percent) in a vertical offense, but he has declined every year since. Always more of a “thrower” than a precision passer, last season was especially bad as Kaepernick struggled to locate receivers, let alone deliver accurate passes. The most troubling fact was that his average pass distance dropped to 7.7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage after being in the 9.5-9.8 range in the previous three seasons. So even though his passes were shorter, he was worse at completing them. Now you can start to see why he may be benched (again) for Blaine Gabbert in San Francisco.

Following the Seattle Seahawks’ 17-16 preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday in Kansas City, Pete Carroll provided some clarity on where the team’s running back situation stands.

Christine Michael rushed seven times for 44 yards (6.3 YPC) on the first two offensive drives. He has had a good camp, and the coaching staff seems to view Michael as a contributor.

“He’s an NFL football player,” Carroll told reporters. “He really has made it clear to us that he’s serious about the work. He’s serious about the consistency. He’s taken great pride in the way he’s brought it day in and day out all throughout the offseason and into camp and all of that. And he’s an explosive, dynamic athlete. So we’re just going to keep going with him.”

Thomas Rawls (ankle) returned to practice last week but did not play in the game. Carroll has not yet decided whether Rawls will see any action in the preseason.

“When Thomas gets back out there, those two guys give you a little one-two punch that we’re excited about,” Carroll said. “And then we’ll see. C.J. [Prosise] is going to come back this week. We’ll see where he fits into it also. I thought Christine did really well. I really liked what he did.”

Baker: Josh Norman brings ‘nasty attitude’ to Redskins

Baker is optimistic the defense won’t remain the Redskins’ crutch, noting Norman’s addition as a major boost for the entire defensive unit, including the defensive line.

“It’s gonna help (the defensive line) out a lot. People are gonna have to look away from Josh because they’re going to be scared to throw to him and try to go to the other side with Breeland, and he’s just as good,” Baker explained. “That should give us another second, maybe two to get after the quarterbacks and hopefully we can rack up a lot more sacks this year.”

A second or two is vital for a team that was positioned No. 26 in sacks last year with 27.

Baker admitted he has a goal of “at least” 10 sacks this season. The seventh-year defensive end had six in 2015.

If a little bit of nasty is the jolt Washington’s subpar defense needs to improve, the Redskins should like their chances in the NFC East.

Football players (and players on many teams, for that matter) often say they’re family. And as you probably remember from last Thanksgiving at your nana’s, families don’t always get along.

Today’s exhibit: Alex Boone and Terrelle Pryor.

Boone, now a guard for the Minnesota Vikings, and Pryor, a quarterback-turned-receiver for the Cleveland Browns, were teammates at Ohio State for one season, in 2008. That was Boone’s final season with the Buckeyes and Pryor’s first.

And from the sounds of it, that was more than enough for Boone.

During an interview with radio station KFAN from training camp, Boone talked about the Ohio State quarterbacks he blocked for – he was left tackle for Troy Smith’s Heisman Trophy-winning season – and he brought up Pryor.

Detroit Lions

Tight end Eric Ebron was on the practice field Monday, but he wasn’t doing any practicing. He was in his jersey and a bucket hat, walking around and trying to help out undrafted rookie Cole Wick. Wick will likely see a lot of work while Ebron recovers from what a source told ESPN’S Adam Caplan is an ankle sprain. That likely includes this week’s joint practices Tuesday and Wednesday with the Steelers in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and the preseason opener Friday against the Steelers. Expect the Lions to be cautious with Ebron during his recovery; he is the team’s top tight end and is expected to be a key offensive contributor this fall. — Michael Rothstein

Tony Dungy: Teams not ‘following the spirit of’ Rooney Rule

He has words of support for anyone seeking coaching opportunities.

“Don’t ever allow anyone to make you think you can’t do something,” he said. “You can’t let history stand in your way. Stay encouraged.”

It was only two years ago that Montee Ball was preparing to start at running back for the Denver Broncos. He probably went pretty high in your fantasy draft.

Ball’s fall was swift. He played his way out of the NFL, got in trouble off the field and now is going to jail.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Ball pleaded guilty to two charges of disorderly conduct and one charge of battery as part of two domestic abuse incidents. He pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement and was placed on 18 months probation and sentenced to 60 days in jail, the Journal Sentinel said.

In February, Ball was accused of throwing his girlfriend into a table after an argument. A month later, Ball was charged with strangulation and suffocation, substantial battery and disorderly conduct after a previous girlfriend said she was assaulted by Ball in 2014, the Journal Sentinel said.

The new Pro Football Hall of Fame member said Friday that he doesn’t believe teams are “following the spirit of the rule now.” The rule, designed by and named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, requires teams to interview minority candidates for coaching and front-office positions.

“What it was designed to do is slow the process down and for teams to investigate candidates,” said Dungy, the first black coach to win a Super Bowl. “Then you can look at the whole sphere of candidates.

“Teams still want to get a coach [quickly] and fill a staff. People who do their homework will unearth good coaches if they investigate everything.”

San Diego Chargers

1 to 10 percent: Keenan Allen produced Brown-esque numbers before getting hurt last year. Health is also a skill.

Philip Rivers was traded for Eli Manning on draft day, but he’s sort of the anti-Eli in terms of respective Hall of Fame cases. Rivers has a much better statistical track record and has made it to five Pro Bowls. He’s also 4-5 in the playoffs. Rivers is a better quarterback than Eli in a vacuum, but Manning has had the context to produce a better story. It would take something special from the 34-year-old Rivers over the next couple of years to improve his résumé. 35 percent

Over the past few seasons, Antonio Gates hasn’t been the sort of game-changing playmaker he was at his peak, but that’s just fine. It has been four years since Gates made a Pro Bowl, but he made eight consecutive trips there from 2004 to 2011. The chances of a skill-position player with that sort of history missing out on Canton are slim.

Finding the Fits: Cowboys hope to tap potential of long-armed Sooners DE

The Cowboys also reportedly attempted to trade up early on Day 3 for Connor Cook, whom the Oakland Raiders moved up to land with the 100th overall selection. The quarterback the Cowboys did land — former Mississippi State dual-threat weapon Dak Prescott — has the arm and athleticism to develop into a quality apprentice for Romo. The Cowboys did not coach Prescott at the Senior Bowl. Jason Garrett and the Cowboys staff worked with the North squad, while Prescott played for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the South. While most teams sent their scouts and coaches home following the week of practices, the Cowboys were on hand to see Prescott win MVP honors in the prominent all-star game itself. Prescott was named MVP of his final game with the Bulldogs as well (Belk Bowl). Lynch and Cook, on the other hand, struggled in bowl game losses to cap their college careers.

We are fast approaching the quarter point of the 2016 season, and, to date, no team has improved their postseason odds more more than the White Sox.SportsLine gave them a 1.8 percent chance to make the playoffs on Opening Day. Those odds have improved to 82.8 percent following their 24-14 start.

The White Sox come into Tuesday 4 1/2 games up in the AL Central, which is a nice lead at this point of the season, but it’s far from safe or comfortable. There is an awful lot of baseball remaining. It is no surprise then the club is ready to make a big move to further improve their chances of playing October baseball.

Even though the trade deadline is still more than two months away, teams are always discussing scenarios and keeping tabs on their possible targets. The smart teams are ready to pounce right now, too. The sooner you make that big pickup, the more games that player can help you win.

The White Sox figure to show plenty of urgency this trade deadline because they currently have the game’s fourth-longest postseason drought. They haven’t played October baseball since 2008. Only the Mariners (2001),Marlins (2003), and Padres (2006) have longer postseason droughts. The time to win is right now, while Chris Sale and Jose Quintana and Jose Abreuand Todd Frazier are in their primes.

So, with GM Rick Hahn indicating he is ready to make a big move, let’s look over the team’s needs and also what they have to offer in a trade. Consider this a White Sox trade deadline primer.

What Do They Have To Offer?

Not only is he still striving to be better than last season but AP also plans on playing a pretty long time. While he told King he may not make it to age 40, he said he’ll get pretty close. “I can, but will I? Honestly, I don’t think I will,” Peterson said. “Mentally, I don’t know. Once I get to 38, I don’t think I’ll have the same love of the game. Sometimes I get tired of training camp. I think I can endure five more [camps], but after that, I don’t know.”

Peterson has previously stated a desire to play until he is 38 years old. He told the Pioneer Press last summer that he planned on staying in the game that long, to aid his quest to break both Emmitt Smith’s career rushing yardage record (18,355 yards) and Eric Dickerson’s single-season record (2,105 yards).

He told King that while he is still focused on those goals, he doesn’t so much care about single-year rushing titles anymore. “I don’t spend too much time thinking about [winning another rushing title],” Peterson said. “But it’s a seed planted in my brain, and it’s sticking there. Everything in me is championship, championship and then breaking records. It’s a part of me. I am pushing myself to the max to win a Super Bowl, and then to break Emmitt’s record and Eric Dickerson’s [single-season rushing] record. It is my everyday life, what I think of every day. Mostly it’s that Super Bowl. Then the whole world will remember you.”