Skip to content

Week Four Friday 10-pack

It’s Friday morning.  And since the news flow often slows down on Friday morning, we need to fill space.

So we fill space with 10 story lines emanating from the upcoming slate of games.

It’s harder with two or three storyline-worthy teams on a bye, but we eventually found a way to milk the cow this week.


1.  Jets could soon be soaring.

After a disappointing Monday night loss to break in their half of the
New Meadowlands Stadium (it’s sort of like Fred and Barney sharing a
swimming pool
), the Jets have won two in a row against their primary
division rivals.  And they’ve done it with cornerback Darrelle Revis and
linebacker Calvin Pace injured, and with receiver Santonio Holmes on
suspension.

So what happens when those guys come back?

The Vikings could find out on Monday, October 11, when Holmes definitely
be back — and when Revis and/or Pace could be dressed and playing, too.

Considering the level of play that the Jets have achieved without them,
the Jets could be poised to run away with the division.  Until then,
they won’t even have to switch to missiles to shoot down the Bills.

2.  Last chance for Mangini?

The Browns have been competitive in each of their first three games.  But they’ve lost each one.

After this weekend’s visit from the Bengals, the Browns play the Falcons, Steelers, and Saints.  Then comes the bye week.

As a result, a loss to Cincinnati on Sunday would make an 0-7 start
likely, and team president Mike Holmgren could decide to part ways with
coach Eric Mangini.  And so Sunday’s game could be Mangini’s last and
best chance to preserve his job beyond October 31.

If the Browns don’t win in Week Four, and in turn don’t pull off an
unlikely upset of the Falcons, Steelers, or Saints, there’s a chance
that, when the Jets come to Cleveland on November 14, coach Rex Ryan
could be looking across the sideline at his identical twin, Browns
defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

3.  Running back injuries confirm 18-game season concerns.

With Colts president Bill Polian sparking a belated debate regarding the
wisdom of an 18-game season, one of the primary concerns is (or at
least should be) the impact of two additional games on the short-term
and long-term health of the players.

Indeed, with seven running backs (Steven Jackson of the Rams, Pierre
Thomas of the Saints, Jahvid Best of the Lions, Ray Rice of the Ravens,
Cedric Benson of the Bengals, Fred Taylor of the Patriots, and Knowshon
Moreno of the Broncos) already dinged up after only three games and
Reggie Bush of the Saints out with a broken leg, the league and
the union need to be very concerned about the potential consequences of
additional games on the players who take the brunt of the punishment in
the 16 games that already are played.

Though the move from 14 to 16 games in the ’70s occurred without much public discussion or debate, the three-channels television universe and the absence of talk radio and the Internet fueled that outcome.  Besides, players continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger.  When they hit each other, the bones and ligaments we all possess are at more risk than ever before.

4.  Team of destiny wanted.

Last year, it was obvious after three weeks that the Saints and Colts
were headed for big things.  New Orleans hung 45 on the Lions, winning
by 18, and 48 on the Eagles, winning by 26.  Held under 30 by the Bills,
the Saints still won by 20.

The Colts started more slowly, beating the Jags by two and the Dolphins
by four.  By Week Three, however, the Colts had taken down the defending
NFC champions (the Cardinals) by 21.

This year, none of the three remaining undefeated teams have rolled over
their opponents consistently.  The Steelers and the Chiefs won close
games in Week One and Week Two before notching 20-plus point victories in
Week Three.  The Bears have won by five points, seven points, and three
points.

The absence of a team that clearly and definitively is taking care of
its business has reinforced the sense of parity that could be laying the
foundation for a playoff run with plenty of teams still alive, and a
postseason in which anything can happen.

For now, the Steelers are the team most likely to emerge as the team to
beat, but first they have to beat the Ravens on Sunday.  If the Steelers
can’t — and if the Bears lose on the road against the Giants — the
off-this-Sunday Chiefs could be the only undefeated team left after four
weeks of action.

Somewhere, Pete Rozelle will be smiling broadly.

5.  Time for Texans to prove themselves.

When the Texans toppled the Colts to open the season, the team that has
played eight years without a playoff berth seemed to be destined to
finally bust through to the postseason.  But then the Texans struggled
to beat a Redskins team that suddenly has inherited the stink of the
Rams, and the Texans lost fairly convincingly to in-state rivals who
were on the ropes, in danger of being punched through.

So are the Texans a contender, or did they merely give the first game of the season the Daytona 500 treatment?

Beating the Raiders won’t mean conclusively that the Texans are legit,
but losing will mean that Houston isn’t ready to hang with the likes of
the Colts and the Titans in arguably the best division in the
conference, if not the league.

6.  Desperation shifts from Dallas to New York.

Last week, a strong sense of desperation emerged in Dallas, where the
Cowboys had lost their first two games — and faced falling to 0-3 at
the hands of an upstart team from Houston that had started the year 2-0.

The Cowboys found a way to push the dark cloud away last week, and it
now has settled in New York, over the Rubble half of the Fred-and-Barney
pool.  (That’s the third Flintstones reference of the day.  And it’s not even 1966.)

The Giants, after beating the Panthers (who have turned out to be
toothless, de-clawed, malnourished house cats), have been spanked by the Colts and
Titans in successive weeks.  Only 14 days after losing decisively in
Indy, the Giants cannot afford to be embarrassed again before a national
audience.  (On NBC.)

With their backs firmly pressed against the wall and the Bears
overachieving their way through two of their three wins, look for the
Giants to get their act together, if only for a night.

And who knows?  Three years ago, the Giants lost their first two games
and gave up 80 points in the process.  More than four months later, they
only won the Super Bowl.

7.  Fins, Pats face “must” wins.

Yeah, it’s only Week Four.  But with the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots
getting an early start on their round-robin routine, neither the
Patriots nor the Dolphins can afford to drop to 0-2.

The Dolphins need it even more; they play the Jets in New York on
December 12 and the Pats in New England on January 2.  Already in danger
of being swept by the Jets, the Dolphins can’t afford to lose at home
to New England, if the Dolphins have genuine designs on winning the
division.

The Patriots need this one, too.  But they still get the Jets and the
Dolphins at home.  For the Dolphins, the season could potentially be over less than a
month after it began.

8.  Loss to Browns could help the Bengals in the long run.

The Bengals, despite their 2-1 record, don’t project the same vibe as
they did a year ago.  With a good defense (Week One at New England
notwithstanding) and a capable running back, the Bengals have relied too
heavily on the passing game.

Though T.O. has thrown the offensive line under the bus without overtly
throwing the offensive line under the bus, questions persist regarding
quarterback Carson Palmer.  Whether he has lingering elbow issues or he
simply has lost his zip on the ball, the Bengals seem to be in the same
style of denial that plagued the Panthers in 2009, when they refused to
face reality regarding quarterback Jake Delhomme.

And so a loss to the Browns could help jar the Bengals into facing
reality.   Eventually, they need to ask themselves whether Palmer
truly represents the future of the franchise at the quarterback
position.

With a base salary of $11.5 million due to Palmer in 2011, we’ve got a
feeling that, win or lose on Sunday, the notoriously frugal Bengals will
think long and hard about paying that much money to a guy who has no
career playoff wins, and whose best days may be fading far behind him.

9.  Snyder’s biggest test could be coming.

For more than 11 years, Daniel Snyder has owned the Redskins.  And for
most of that time, Snyder has been impatient when it comes to the men
who are coaching the team.

After two years, Norv Turner was dumped.  (A playoff appearance likely
saved him in 1999.)  Marty Schottenheimer lasted a season.  Steve
Spurrier made it for two.  But for his resume and Hall of Fame bust, Joe
Gibbs may not have made it four years.  Jim Zorn lasted only two.

And throughout most if not all of Zorn’s final year, Snyder was wooing
(or at least planning to woo) Mike Shanahan, the presumed savior of the
franchise.

In Week One, it appeared to be a brilliant move, thanks to an unexpected
win over the Cowboys.  But after blowing a 17-point lead against the
Texans and somehow losing by 14 against the Rams, the Redskins face what
could be a very long day at Lincoln Financial Field.

It gets no easier with the Packers and Colts coming to town, followed by trips to Chicago and Detroit.

Yes, Detroit, where the Lions managed to beat the Redskins in 2009, for
their first win in 22 games.  After a bye, the Redskins have the Eagles
again, the Titans, the Vikings, the Giants twice, and the Cowboys
again.

It all easily could add up to a losing season.  Though the outcome may
be better than 4-12, it easily could be yet another two-digit collection
of losses.  And then Snyder will have to find a way to resist the urge
to act, and to instead commit to staying the course.

Given the open and obvious salivating for Shanahan, there’s no way
Snyder can make a change after only one year.  Based on his history,
however, Snyder surely will approach 2011 with questions swirling in his
mind as to whether there might be another guy out there whose name
Snyder should pencil onto the top of the latest version of his wish
list.

10.  Rams have a chance to make some noise.

Based on their pattern of three wins in 2007, two in 2008, and one in 2009, the Rams were on track to go 0-16 in 2010.

Already, they’ve blown that trend out of the water by climbing to 1-2.

This weekend, the Rams have a chance to break a 10-game losing streak to
the Seahawks, a string that dates back to 2004, when St. Louis took
three games from their division rivals, include two in the usually
impenetrable Qwest Field.

If they can — and if the Cardinals lose in San Diego — the Rams will
find themselves in a  three-way tie atop the division after four weeks.

With three of the next four games against the Lions, Bucs, and Panthers,
the Rams could be on the right side of .500 at the bye.  And that could
give them the confidence they need to make a serious run at the
division crown and the postseason home game that goes along with it.

Sure, they likely won’t win the division.  But the fact that they won’t
be dead in the water with 25 percent of the season in the books is
nothing short of stunning.

Permalink 31 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Features, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Rumor Mill, Seattle Seahawks, Top Stories, Union, Washington Redskins
yo

Broncos release journeyman tight end Richard Gordon

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 3: Richard Gordon #89 of the Kansas City Chiefs makes a catch against Bryce Hager #54 of the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter during a pre-season game at the Edward Jones Dome on September 3, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos didn’t draft any tight ends last weekend, but they deemed one expendable Wednesday anyway.

The team announced they had waived tight end Richard Gordon, who made a cameo appearance for them last season when they were short at the position.

Gordon’s a blocker by trade, who will turn 29. He’s spent time with six different organizations, with stints with the Raiders, Steelers, Chiefs, Titans, Chiefs again, Broncos, Ravens and Broncos again. He has four career receptions, none since 2013.

He played five snaps in the one game he appeared in last year, before being cut when they needed safety help. He was re-signed this offseason, but they parted ways today.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

NFL V.P. of security Jeffrey Miller resigns

15940746-mmmain-1 Getty Images

The man who has been charge of NFL Security for nearly a decade is moving on.

Per multiple sources, NFL V.P. of security Jeffrey Miller has resigned. The NFL has confirmed that Miller is leaving.

“He informed the league last month that he was going to take a job on the West Coast with a private security firm,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “He worked the draft, will work at the league meeting and subsequent training session. He will leave the NFL next month.”

As one source put it, the move has nothing to do with performance, and it wasn’t initiated by the league. “This guy is awesome, really competent,” the source said.

Miller has taken a position that will allow him to move to the West Coast. He joined the league in 2008, after serving as Pennsylvania’s state police commissioner.

Plenty of scrutiny came Miller’s way in 2014, after the Ray Rice elevator video surfaced the day after the regular-season opener. The Associated Press reported in September 2014 that the video had been sent to Miller before it surfaced at TMZ.com. An independent investigation found no evidence that Miller or anyone else had received the video.

The NFL has not decided on a replacement, according to one source with knowledge of the situation.

For clarity, the Jeffrey Miller who is leaving the NFL runs security. The Jeff Miller who serves as executive V.P. of player health and safety remains on the job.

Permalink 6 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Falcons, first-rounder Keanu Neal agree to terms

Zz1iMWM3ZDlhMTI0NmRmNDAyMDVhMDFhZmRiNzM4ODdmOQ== AP

Four 2016 draft picks are now under contract. Only one was a first-round pick.

Falcons safety Keanu Neal, the 17th overall selection in the draft, has agreed to terms on the standard four-year deal, with a fifth year option to be exercised by May 3, 2019. The contract will be signed Thursday.

Per a league source, Neal told the Falcons he wanted to focus on getting ready to play football and not on negotiating a contract. So the two sides got the deal done quickly, and Neal is now under contract for all offseason activities.

The move proves that all draft picks can — and should — be signed before they report for offseason workouts. Otherwise, they’re working out for free.

Neal played college football at Florida, entered the draft after three seasons of college football. At age 20, he’s one of the youngest players in the entire draft class.

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Vikings get Mackensie Alexander under contract

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 28:  Mackensie Alexander #2 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after breaking up a pass against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings were the first team to sign its entire draft class in 2015 and they are pushing to finish first in 2016 as well.

The latest pick to agree to terms is cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who, per multiple reports, will formally sign his contract with the Vikings on Thursday. Seventh-round defensive end Stephen Weatherly is also expected to sign Thursday and the team has already agreed to deals with their other seventh-rounder and both of their sixth-round picks.

With those five players done, the Vikings only have to wrap up deals with first-round wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, fourth-round offensive lineman Willie Beavers and fifth-round linebacker Kentrell Brothers to have the entire class under contract.

Alexander got some buzz as a potential first-round pick after wrapping up his career at Clemson, where he played with Vikings seventh-round pick Jayron Kearse. He lasted until the 54th overall pick, however, and the Vikings are expected to start him out as a backup to slot corner Captain Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn can be a free agent after the season, which should leave Alexander wit the job if he earns the staff’s trust as a rookie.

Permalink 12 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Teammate says Blaine Gabbert is taking control of 49ers’ offense

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 08:  Blaine Gabbert #2 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after being tackled close to the goal line during the first half of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Levi's Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. The ball was ruled down on the 1-yard line and the 49ers scored on the next play.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick is throwing again in the 49ers’ offseason program, but that doesn’t mean he’s the guy running the show in the offense.

Instead, it’s Blaine Gabbert, who usurped Kaepernick as the 49ers’ starting quarterback last season, who has taken charge.

He’s definitely taking control,” tight end Garrett Celek said of Gabbert, via CSNBayArea.com. “Whoever’s at quarterback needs to take control and be our leader out there. And he’s definitely doing that. He’s making good decisions on the field. I think he’s definitely developing more and more as the days go on. But, right now, we’re all in the same boat learning this offense.”

Despite widespread talk of a Kaepernick trade, from all appearances he will remain in San Francisco and compete with Gabbert for the starting job. Last year Gabbert finished the season ahead of Kaepernick on the depth chart, and while Kaepernick eases back into work following multiple offseason surgeries, he may have a hard time moving back ahead of Gabbert and into the starting job.

Permalink 16 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Manziel’s college coach sees lack of contact as “a little unnerving”

GettyImages-166513926_dd1rve Getty Images

Some have suggested that quarterback Johnny Manziel’s best chance of getting back into the NFL would happen only if his former coach at Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin, were to jump to the next level. But Manziel could be burning that bridge, too.

Sumlin recently told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM in Phoenix that he has been unable to contact Manziel.

“I had texted him a couple of times and given him a call but haven’t got a return back,” Sumlin said. “So from that standpoint it’s a little unnerving. But there’s gonna come a time where he’s ready to communicate. . . . Our concern is for his well-being, and has nothing to do with football and has everything to do with life. It’s important that he knows that.”

Sumlin said he last saw Manziel at former Aggies teammate Mike Evans‘ wedding, in February.

Manziel has, by all appearances, changed nothing since being cut by the Browns and then fired by agent Drew Rosenhaus. Last Friday night, Manziel fired off a defiant rant on Twitter, making it clear that he has no intent to make the changes that many close to him believe are necessary.

Permalink 18 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Rams draft pick Tyler Higbee scheduled to be arraigned Thursday

BOWLING GREEN, KY - DECEMBER 5:  Tyler Higbee #82 of the WKU Hilltoppers catches a pass while being defended in the first half by Devonta Foster #15 of the Souther Miss Golden Eagle at Houchens-Smith Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams will open their rookie minicamp on Friday, but one of their draft picks has a little business to conduct in a Kentucky courtroom on Thursday before getting on the field with his new team.

Tight end Tyler Higbee had his name called in the fourth round last Saturday despite an arrest earlier in April on second-degree assault, second-degree evading police and public intoxication charges. Higbee is set to be arraigned on those charges Thursday and his lawyer Brian Lowder told USA Today that his client will be pleading not guilty.

“He’s in good spirits and is excited about the opportunity to play with the Rams,” Lowder said.

Higbee, who went to Western Kentucky, struck Nawaf Alsaleh outside a Bowling Green club on April 10 and knocked him unconscious. Higbee admitted hitting the man, but, per the police report, said “the victim had been getting close to his girlfriend and getting close to him and stuck his head in Higbee’s face.”

Higbee’s lawyer has said they plan to argue self-defense and also denied that his client used racial taunts before striking the other man, although he told police he said “watch out, Haji” after hitting Alsaleh.

After the team picked Higbee, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, via ESPN.com, that the team researched the incident and wouldn’t have picked Higbee if “we had some concerns that it was going to be a problem down the line.”

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Linebacker Michael Wilhoite re-ups with 49ers for another year

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Fullback Kyle Juszczyk #44 of the Baltimore Ravens is tackled by inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite #57 of the San Francisco 49ers after a five-yard catch during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on October 18, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 49ers might have plenty of uncertainty at quarterback, but they’ve quietly put together a very solid defensive front seven, and they got part of that group under contract.

The team announced that restricted free agent linebacker Michael Wilhoite had signed his one-year contract.

The 49ers found him playing for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL in 2011, and he’s gradually worked his way up from the practice squad to have become a regular part of the rotation, breaking into the lineup because of injuries but performing well once he got the chance.

With first-rounders spent on linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner the last two years, they’re building a solid group up front on defense.

Of course, now that they’re playing for Chip Kelly, they’re going to have to be deep, as they’re going to play a lot more snaps than they have in the past.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

McCloughan: Vernon Davis is still an “explosive,” “genetic freak”

Zz1iMmE0YTk3ZTAyY2NlNWU2ZTljY2ViNzFhMTM5OTgzNw== AP

One of the more overlooked moves of free agency came when one of the more overlooked veteran players reunited with the guy who was involved in drafting him a decade ago.

Former 49ers (and Broncos) tight end Vernon Davis signed with Washington, where former 49ers V.P. of player personnel Scot McCloughan now serves as General Manager. Appearing earlier this week on PFT Live, McCloughan explained the thought process behind adding Davis to the team’s offense.

“I brought him in to sit down and just talk with him,” McCloughan said. “Make sure he still had the passion and the energy to play. I wish you could see him on the practice field because Phase Two [of the offseason program] started [Monday]. He’s the same guy, he’s explosive as all get out, he’s smiling, he’s gonna be all right and he’s back home. He’s from here he’s very excited. He’s a genetic freak. He’s one of those guys that’s never been hurt, he’s 32 and he looks like when I drafted him, the same guy. I mean, he’s ripped. It’s amazing. He’s got his speed and quickness still. People downplay it, but he’s a good blocker, too.”

With ascending young tight end Jordan Reed on the roster (who seems to be open on almost every play) Davis will give the Washington offense a powerful extra piece if he plays like he did during his best days with the 49ers.

Still, McCloughan’s assessment of Davis makes his disappearing act in Denver even more confusing. He had one catch on December 20 against the Steelers and, thereafter, not a single reception through the final gun of Super Bowl 50.

Permalink 24 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians: “This will be my last job”

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 09:  NFL coach Bruce Arians (L) and NFL player Larry Firzgerald attend Muhammad Ali's Celebrity Fight Night XXII at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa on April 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night) Getty Images

Part of the reason Bruce Arians seems to be enjoying himself so much is that he’s been liberated from worrying about the future.

Having been through so many moves and coaching changes in his career, the 63-year-old Arians has a rare sense of self-awareness about his current situation, which allows him to appreciate the moment he’s in.

“You never know how long this will last,” Arians told Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “There’s the old saying, there’s two kinds of coaches, ones that are fired and others who are going to get fired. You just enjoy every day. Right now, it’s the highlight of it.

“There will be lowlights, we know that. But I’m enjoying every single day. This will be my last job.”

Arians could probably retire to Vegas and do two shows a night whenever he feels the urge, but for now, he’s enjoying the work that got him to this point, which cranks back up with a rookie minicamp this weekend.

“I love this weekend because there’s going to be two or three surprises of undrafted rookies or guys we invited for a tryout,” Arians said. “Last year, we signed three guys who were tryout guys. [Quarterback] Phillip Sims made it all the way to almost our football team. That part’s really fun. Then slide them in with the vets next week.

“It seems like we just stepped off the practice field. But, man, there is a different sense of purpose in watching our players come to work every day. We’ve always had great participation. We’ve always had fun doing it, but there’s a sense of purpose, in the weight room, the meeting room. Even Buddy Morris, our strength coach, said, “something’s different.” You can feel it.”

Arians’ own “cool uncle” style is doubtless part of the reason they’ve been able to create that feeling, but the wins on the field have helped turn around a franchise that’s now among the most stable in the league.

Permalink 20 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Vikings sign two more draft picks

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 10: Jayron Kearse #1 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after making a tackle during the game against the Georgia tech Yellow Jackets at Memorial Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wide receiver Moritz Boehringer became the first member of the 2016 draft class to sign a contract when he agreed to his four-year rookie deal with the Vikings this week, but the first player drafted directly from Europe will not be alone for long.

The Vikings have also agreed to deals with two of his teammates less than a week after they were drafted. According to multiple reports, sixth-round tight end David Morgan has agreed to his deal and Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press reports that seventh-round safety Jayron Kearse’s contract is also done.

Morgan had 85 catches for 1,104 yards and eight touchdowns during his career at Texas-San Antonio, but his likeliest path to playing time in the short term will come as a blocker. Kearse, who is the nephew of former Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse, was a starter for two years at Clemson and, like most seventh-round picks, will have to do well on special teams to stick on the roster.

The Vikings have five other draft picks to sign and the current CBA is structured so that they shouldn’t have much difficulty getting any of the deals done.

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Reggie McKenzie: DeAndre Washington more than just a third-down back

Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington (21) steps out of a tackle by Texas defensive back Duke Thomas (21) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas) AP

Running back Latavius Murray ran for 1,066 yards last season and went to the Pro Bowl, so it’s fair to say that his first full year as the lead back in Oakland was a successful one.

One thing that the Raiders would like to improve is keeping Murray’s production at a high level across the entire season. After rushing for 4.8 yards per carry in the first half, Murray dropped to 3.3 yards per carry in the second half of the year. They boosted the offensive line by signing guard Kelechi Osemele, which should help the entire offense, and General Manager Reggie McKenzie believes the team got a back in the fifth round who can help keep Murray fresh.

DeAndre Washington is built similarly to Darren Sproles and was used frequently as a receiver at Texas Tech, which seemed to put him on track for a role on third downs in the NFL. McKenzie thinks Washington can do more, however.

“We think he’s a complete back, and when he gets out in space, he can make you look silly.” McKenzie said on 95.7 The Game, via the team’s website. “He can catch the ball, but he can run between the tackles as well as well as bouncing it outside. We think he’s the total package as a runner. We really like him.”

Taiwan Jones, Roy Helu and George Atkinson are the other backs on the roster and none of them proved to be a complement for Murray last season, so the team may need to look outside should Washington fall short of McKenzie’s expectations in the coming months.

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bills say they’re “very comfortable” with Manuel as their backup

EJ Manuel

It’s been a rough year for Bills quarterback EJ Manuel: He came in third in the training camp battle with Tyrod Taylor and Matt Cassel last year, the Bills went 0-2 in the games Manuel started, the team declined to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract, and he got more competition when Cardale Jones was drafted.

But the team still says it’s confident in Manuel if he has to play this season.

Bills General Manager Doug Whaley says he’s “very comfortable” with Manuel, adding that Manuel is one of the league’s top backup quarterbacks, according to the Buffalo News.

By waiting until the end of the fourth round to draft a quarterback and taking a project like Jones rather than a quarterback viewed as ready to play right away, Whaley has shown that the Bills appear comfortable going with Manuel as No. 2 behind Taylor on the depth chart. Last year, the games when they had to turn to Manuel didn’t work out too well. Perhaps this year will be different, but the Bills have to be hoping right now that Taylor will start 16 games.

Permalink 25 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Former Tunsil business manager/financial adviser becomes main suspect in hacking case

Zz00NmU1ZTBmMmU0NDA2MjE1OWE0ZWMxOTAwMzdmNjAxZg== AP

The true villain in the Laremy Tunsil draft-night free fall continues to be the person who accessed his social media accounts and posted damaging information with the obvious intent to spark a slide. Tunsil’s camp eventually could figure out who did it.

Via ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Tunsil’s attorney and agent are investigating a former business manager/financial adviser to determine the role, if any, that he had in the smear campaign.

Per the report, Tunsil hired the business manager/financial adviser in October 2015. Among other things, the person scheduled agent meetings with Tunsil and potential agents.

Tunsil later fired the person after learning that he wasn’t registered with the NFL Players Association as a financial adviser. The man, who was not named by ESPN, reportedly gave Tunsil a new phone in October. Persons close to Tunsil think the former business manager/financial adviser may have accessed Tunsil’s account by using Tunsil’s old phone.

Criminal charges and/or a civil lawsuit haven’t been ruled out. An FBI spokesman in Mississippi told ESPN that his office has not yet been contacted to investigate.

Under the Stored Communications Act, the person who accessed Tunsil’s social media accounts could face up to 10 years in prison, along with more than $7 million in liability arising from the slide that occurred after the Ravens reportedly decided not to select Tunsil due to the video.

Permalink 44 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Justin Tuck to sign one-day deal so he can retire a Giant

Justin Tuck AP

The Giants are going to sign another impact pass-rusher, but this one isn’t going to get a giant signing bonus.

According to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com, longtime NFL defensive end Justin Tuck will sign a one-day contract with the Giants and retire as a member of his original team.

Tuck spent the last two seasons in Oakland after a cash-grab there, but announced his retirement in February.

The ceremonial deal will bring his career full-circle. He had 60.5 sacks in nine seasons with the Giants. His two years in Oakland were less productive, and a torn pectoral muscle contributed to his decision to step away.

Permalink 45 Comments Feed for comments Back to top