J. Michael joins Mike Florio on PFT Live to discuss the Ravens’ take on the Media Day circus. While John Harbaugh will tell the public his team is happy to take part in Media Day, behind the scenes some players are starting to get fed up with the shenanigans. Michael also discusses if Joe Flacco will see more pressure in the pocket, and if he’s a $100 million man.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Flacco the next $100 million man?
The Lions are going to start the regular season without second-round pick Kyle Van Noy in the lineup.
Van Noy had surgery to repair a core muscle injury on Thursday and Tim Twentyman of the team’s website suggests that it could be an extended absence for the rookie. Twentyman writes that when the Lions are setting their initial 53-man roster this weekend they will have to decide whether “they’ll look at it week-to-week or place him on injured reserve with the designation to return.”
Van Noy played in the first two preseason games for Detroit, recording two tackles, before going out with the injury during the week leading up to the third game of the summer. If he’s going to be out for anything more than a few weeks, there’s a good chance that the Lions will avail themselves of the ability to bring him back from injured reserve because they’ll need the roster spot at some point in the early part of the season.
Tahir Whitehead started at strong-side linebacker for the second straight game on Thursday night. His 11-tackle, three-sack performance against the Jaguars last week was a pretty good audition for a regular role.
Bortles continued his strong preseason performance today in the preseason finale against the Falcons, completing four of his six passes for 86 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie Marqise Lee. That touchdown pass was a thing of beauty: Bortles stood in the pocket with pressure in his face and threw the ball about 50 yards in the air, right into Lee’s hands.
Overall, Bortles is now 32-for-51 for 521 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, in the preseason.
So why isn’t that enough for Bortles to earn the starting job? Because Jaguars coach Gus Bradley has said all along that there’s nothing Bortles can do to earn the starting job, at least as long as Henne is healthy. The Jaguars have stuck to their plan of giving Bortles a year to learn, while Henne plays.
But if Henne struggles, that’s going to be a difficult plan to stick to. Bortles looks too good to ride the pine. Unless Henne makes the Jaguars a surprise playoff contender, expect Bortles to start as a rookie. Even if it won’t come in Week One.
The Arizona Cardinals won seven of their final nine games last season as they made a late-season push for a playoff spot in a difficult NFC West. The defense finished the year ranked 6th in the league and Carson Palmer passed for over 4,000 yards.
They’ve lost some significant pieces to that defense this offseason and the offensive line continues to have some questions despite the addition of Jared Veldheer at left tackle.
The NFC West looks imposing once again and the Cardinals are looking up at Seattle and San Francisco for bragging rights in the division.
Here are five questions that could ultimately determine whether the Cardinals can rundown the top of the division this season:
1. Have the Cardinals lost too much defensively?
The Cardinals defense was one of the best in the league last season. However, they’ve lost three major pieces from that unit this year.
Karlos Dansby left in free agency for the Cleveland Browns, Daryl Washington was suspended for the season due to repeated substance-abuse violations and Darnell Dockett suffered a torn ACL in training camp.
That leaves a major void that the Cardinals may not be able to fill through the middle of their defense.
2. Is Carson Palmer able to limit turnovers?
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 4,274 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. The problem with those numbers is that they came along with 22 interceptions and three lost fumbles.
With the continued emergence of receiver Michael Floyd, the Cardinals passing offense became a more dynamic unit last season. However, Palmer turned the ball over too many times and it came back to cost Arizona all too frequently.
Palmer is still a capable quarterback but the turnovers have to come down this season. With the defense looking potentially weakened due to the losses we already detailed, the Cardinals will need to maximize every opportunity they have to possess the ball.
One thing that would help Palmer?
3. Can the offensive line hold up to allow the offense to function at a high level?
Veteran Eric Winston is gone, leaving the right side of the Cardinals offensive line again in doubt.
Arizona’s offense has weapons. With Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn and John Brown at receiver and Andre Ellington in the backfield, the potential for a strong offense is there. But the offense line must be able to perform to give their skill players the opportunities they need.
4. Is Arizona capable of dethroning Seattle and/or San Francisco in the NFC West?
Coming off their Super Bowl victory, the Seattle Seahawks look to be as strong as their title team from a season ago.
However, the San Francisco 49ers don’t look nearly as untouchable.
San Francisco’s first-team offense has struggled mightily this preseason to produce points. NaVorro Bowman will miss a sizable chunk of the season. Glenn Dorsey is out for the year and nothing appears to be in sync right now for the 49ers.
Arizona finished 2013 as one of the hottest teams in the league and is the only team in two years to win a game in Seattle. With the strength of the NFC West, it’s likely Arizona will have to supplant either Seattle or San Francisco to find themselves in the postseason this January.
5. Can Andre Ellington carry the rushing attack?
Andre Ellington proved to be a terrific change-of-pace option for the Arizona Cardinals at running back last season.
Ellington carried 118 times for 652 yards and three touchdowns last season as a secondary option to starter Rashard Mendenhall. Now with Mendenhall gone, Ellington will get his chance to be the lead back for the Cardinals.
Ellington started just one game last season as a rookie but posted an impressive 5.5 yards per carry average in the chances he received. Will he be able to duplicate that production with an expanded role?
There will surely be moments this season where the Chicago Bears look like contenders — legit contenders. They will look this way because of their offense, which is loaded with top-tier talent at quarterback (Jay Cutler), tailback (Matt Forte) and wide receiver (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery). In fact, the Bears may look their very best when they are behind and it’s time for Cutler and Co. to pass Chicago back into the game.
Assuming the 2014 Bears stay healthy on offense, they are going to have more than enough highlights for the annual NFL Films season-review video. But can the Bears do enough in the other phases to be a playoff team? Are they going to be a lamentable 8-8 or a you-don’t-want-to-face-them-in-January 10-6 or 11-5?
Here are five questions to weigh about these intriguing Bears:
1. Will Jay Cutler be named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career?
We hear you: The Pro Bowl doesn’t matter, you say. Look at some of the recent rosters — the game has lost luster being moved a week before the Super Bowl, which precludes players from the conference winners playing in the NFL’s all-star affair. And what’s the deal with the new captains system? Why not call it the “Rock N’ Jock Football Jam” and get it over with?
Well, in the case of Cutler, a Pro Bowl selection would be a big deal. And we’re talking about a selection right off the bat, not an addition to the roster because of injuries/defections at the position.
Here’s why this would be notable:
It means he played all or nearly all of a full season. Considering he’s missed at least five games in two out of the last three seasons, 16 Cutler starts would be a welcome development for Chicago.
It means the Bears’ offense likely would have met the high expectations set for the group entering this season. There haven’t been many, if any, Chicago offenses with this much talent. If Cutler shines, the Bears’ skill position players should stand out, too.
He would have beaten out several other capable quarterbacks along the way. Consider the NFC’s depth at the position: Aaron Rodgers. Drew Brees. Russell Wilson. Colin Kaepernick. Nick Foles. Tony Romo. Cam Newton. Matt Ryan. Matthew Stafford. Robert Griffin III. Eli Manning. If Cutler is one of the NFC’s top three initial selections at the position, he likely will have had a monster year.
2. Was the Bears’ preseason debacle at Seattle an aberration — or a chilling hint of where the club fits in the NFC’s pecking order?
In the third preseason game for both clubs last Friday, Seattle converted all seven third-down attempts in the first half, running out to a 31-0 halftime lead on Chicago. Yes, it was just an exhibition, but it was the most important of the preseason games — the closest to a real dress rehearsal. And under the somewhat-bright lights, Chicago wilted. At best, it’s a throw-out performance, one not to be taken at face value. At worst, it’s a loss that suggests Chicago’s ceiling isn’t at high at all.
3. Is Chicago’s defense materially better than a season ago?
It better be. The Bears’ run defense was the NFL’s worst a season ago — and the pass defense wasn’t much better, frankly. Chicago spent big in free agency to improve the defensive line, signing defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. Then, in the draft, the club added secondary help in Round One, selecting Kyle Fuller.
The moves were a nod to the obvious — the Bears needed to get deeper and more talented on defense. If indeed the Bears have succeeded in this regard, it should show up early in matchups against the Bills (Week One) and Jets (Week Three) — clubs without much offensive punch.
4. Will the special teams be a weakness?
For years, the Bears’ special teams were a major strength, but entering 2014, they are, at best, a question mark outside of steady kicker Robbie Gould. The Bears’ coverage units are worth monitoring; Chicago really struggled in his regard at Seattle. The Bears also need a returner to emerge to replace Devin Hester. And Chicago is untested at punter and long-snapper, too.
5. Can the Bears survive their first nine games?
After beginning their season at home vs. the Bills on Sept. 7, the Bears then play 6-of-8 away from Soldier Field, with road trips to the 49ers (Sept. 14), Jets (Sept. 22), Panthers (Oct. 5), Falcons (Oct. 12), Patriots (Oct. 26) and Packers (Nov. 9). This will be a test of the Bears’ resolve and their readiness. They probably will have to shake off some adversity and perhaps steal a road game or two early to give themselves a chance to make the most of having five of their last seven at home. If the Bears are truly playoff contenders, they can emerge from these first nine games with a winning record. However, if they start slowly, it’s probably unreasonable to expect a strong stretch run.
With the NFL introducing a new domestic violence policy that includes the possibility of a lifetime ban for a second offense, an obvious question arises regarding Ravens running back Ray Rice.
Does Rice’s first offense, which was handled so badly that the NFL had to tear up the entire policy, count as a “first offense” under the new policy, putting him in line for the far more serious penalties that apply to a second offense?
Via Clifton Brown of CSNBaltimore.com, the league has declined to respond to that question.
“We are not going to address that,” an NFL spokesman told Brown. “Each case will be addressed individually on its merits.”
The NFL spokesman also declined to address whether Rice’s suspension could be increased from two games to six under the new policy.
The notion that each case will be addressed on its merits represents another way of saying, “We’ll decide what we want to do in each given case.” And that’s a subtle but real difference from the adherence to “precedent” that the NFL cited in initially defending the decision to suspend Rice for only two games.
The Dallas Cowboys have issued no comment in response to the comments from owner Jerry Jones to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, reportedly in response to Peterson’s stated desire to play for the Cowboys after his time with the Vikings ends.
But while the Cowboys currently are saying nothing, don’t be surprised if Jones addresses the topic at tonight’s preseason game against the Broncos.
Also, don’t be surprised if Jones points out that he didn’t initiate the call, and that he was merely being courteous to Peterson, out of respect for the man and the player.
And don’t be surprised if the NFL, which has issued a “no comment” in response to the revelation, quietly investigates the situation.
Finally, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys face some scrutiny for failing to immediately notify the league office of Peterson’s stated interest in joining the Cowboys, since the tampering policy clearly and expressly contemplates a report to the NFL if/when a player under contract with one team contacts another team.
NFLPA on domestic violence penalties: If we believe due process rights are violated, we’ll intervene
The NFLPA has weighed in on the letter sent by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to team owners on Thursday concerning the increased penalties for domestic violence.
The union knew that the league was planning to put a new policy in place under the existing personal conduct policy and their statement shows no sign that they will fight against its implementation generally, but that they will step into individual cases if they feel that the due process rights of their members are at risk.
“We were informed today of the NFL’s decision to increase penalties on domestic violence offenders under the Personal Conduct Policy for all NFL employees. As we do in all disciplinary matters, if we believe that players’ due process rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will assert and defend our members’ rights,” the statement reads.
The NFL’s letter lays down a firm line against domestic violence that the NFLPA would look bad fighting against in general terms. It is left unclear what would constitute a violation and when Goodell would issue a punishment under the revised policy, however, and that grey area is one where the NFLPA could get involved during specific cases in the future. How much their involvement would matter with the league retaining the right to hear appeals is also unclear, but that hasn’t stopped the union from registering their complaints in the past.
When Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III burst onto the scene with a spectacular rookie year in 2012, he was like nothing the NFL had seen before: A good enough athlete that he could have been an Olympic hurdler, playing the quarterback position.
But when Griffin’s rookie year ended with a major knee injury, and he looked like something less than an Olympian when he tried to run in 2013, many questions were raised about whether Griffin really had the fundamentals to be an NFL quarterback. There were questions about Griffin’s footwork as a passer and questions about his ability to read through his progressions, although many of those questions came from people who lack the credentials to question an NFL quarterback’s passing fundamentals.
Say what you will for Ron Jaworski of ESPN, but he does have the credentials. And Jaworski says that Griffin looks fundamentally flawed as a passer.
“He’s still developing,” Jaworski said on ESPN Radio, via the Washington Post. “We’ll see what Jay Gruden and this new offensive staff can do for him. But clearly he’s got to learn to play from the pocket. His mechanics have regressed, by the way. They have regressed in the fundamental way of throwing the football: his throwing slot, his footwork, his inability to remain consistent in that. When you and I talk all the time, the word that comes up a lot in my mind is consistency. And we see a lot of players in this league, they make great throws. They can make a great play. But you have to do it on a consistent basis. That’s what separates the great players from the guys that have short careers.”
Griffin declined across the board as a passer last year: His passer rating, completion percentage, passing touchdowns and yards per pass were all down, while his interceptions were up. And his performance in the preseason hasn’t done anything to assuage the concerns of those who think the 2013 version of Griffin is the version we’re going to see going forward. If what Griffin really needs is work on his mechanics, then there’s no more important priority for Gruden in his first year in Washington.
The NFL issued on Thursday a new policy regarding domestic violence, which calls for a six-game suspension in the aftermath of a first offense and, possibly, a lifetime ban for a second offense.
The NFLPA has no comment at this time on the revised penalties.
The league informed the union that a new policy was coming. Because the domestic violence penalties are covered by the personal-conduct policy and because the league already has full discretion to impose penalties for off-field misbehavior, the NFL believes it has the latitude to revise the conduct policy.
The NFLPA apparently won’t be challenging that change as a general matter. It’s possible that arguments regarding the unilateral changes to the policy will be made within the context of specific incidents of player discipline. With the league retaining the power to resolve all appeals, however, it may not matter much.
And while it’s never popular to defend domestic abusers, a potential lifetime ban for a second offense could, in some cases, be a bit on the strong side. Especially for a league that saw fit to suspend Ray Rice only two games for knocking out his then-fiancée.
The NFL had no comment on the report that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson told Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that he wants to play for the Cowboys after his tenure with the Vikings comes to an end, but Peterson was willing to address it on Thursday.
In a statement released in tandem with one from the Vikings, Peterson admits that he spoke to Jones but says that he never told the Cowboys owner that he wants to leave Minnesota.
“This was a casual conversation between NFL colleagues in which I never indicated I wanted to leave the Vikings. I have always said I understand the NFL is a business but that I would love to retire as a Viking,” Peterson said in the statement.
The Vikings’s statement said they were focused on the 2014 season and, as they have “consistently communicated,” they consider Peterson to be an “integral” part of the organization.
Peterson is signed through the 2017 season in Minnesota, so it will be a while before Peterson can choose to play anywhere else unless the Vikings decide to move in a different direction. It would take a pretty severe drop in production for that to happen, which will make this a non-issue unless the league decides the conversation between Jones and Peterson crossed a line.
The NFL was roundly criticized for suspending Ravens running back Ray Rice two games under the personal conduct policy after Rice was charged with assaulting his then-fiance and current wife during an incident at an Atlantic City hotel in February.
The league was also criticized for being tone deaf in their response to the criticism, but it seems someone in the league office was paying attention. According to multiple reports, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to owners on Thursday outlining much stiffer penalties for domestic violence and making the rare admission of fault by saying he screwed up when disciplining Rice.
“My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right,” Goodell wrote, per Albert Breer of NFL Media.
Under the new policy, which falls under the personal conduct policy overseen by Goodell, players would be suspended at least six games for a first offense and would face a lifetime ban for a second. The letter also specifies that the new penalties apply to all NFL personnel, not just players.
There’s still some questions to sort out about what will qualify as a first offense (and whether it will apply to cases already in progress before the adoption of the policy, like the one involving Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy) in regard to the way charges are handled in the legal system, but it’s a quick and significant turnaround from the league’s previous attempts to defend Goodell’s decision on Rice and one that brings penalties for acts of domestic violence closer to where many feel they should have been all along.
When the Patriots didn’t re-sign receiver Wes Welker in the aftermath of quarterback Tom Brady’s team-friendly deal (with a paltry $30 million to sign), someone close to Brady reportedly was enraged. This time around, with left guard Logan Mankins abruptly traded to the Buccaneers fewer than two weeks before the start of the regular season, Brady reportedly is “very upset.”
Indeed Brady is, per a source familiar with Brady’s thinking on the topic.
While Mankins arrived after the Patriots won their third Super Bowl title, he had become one of the most important veterans on the team. His departure makes the offensive line a little bit worse, which in turn puts a little more pressure on Brady to make it all work.
The trade arose in part from a reported unwillingness of Mankins to take a pay cut. Mankins’ refusal, as one source has speculated, possibly traces at least in part to contentious contract negotiations between the Patriots and Mankins in 2010 and 2011, which at one point included Mankins making comments about owner Robert Kraft’s integrity and the team reportedly conditioning a new contract on a public apology, which never was made.
While “The Patriot Way” routinely includes moving on from key players a year too early in lieu of doing so a year too late, a few players get the benefit of doubt. Mankins didn’t.
Brady eventually may — unless he makes too big of a stink about key players like Mankins being dumped.
In response to the report that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson talked about Peterson playing for the Cowboys when his time with the Vikings ends, PFT contacted both teams and the league office for comment.
The first comment has arrived. And the first comment is that the NFL has no comment.
Often in cases of potential rules violations, the NFL will say that the matter is being investigated. While that may be the case as to the Jones-Peterson conversation, the league isn’t saying so. The league isn’t saying anything.
And before anyone suggests that the league will look the other way because Jones is one of the more influential owners, keep in mind that Jones received a $100,000 fine in September 2009 for talking about the CBA talks. Also, Jones’ team lost $10 million in cap space for treating the uncapped year of 2010 as uncapped.
The Bills are reportedly willing to listen to clubs interested in making a deal for a receiver who’s started the majority of Buffalo’s games over the last two seasons.
The 25-year-old Graham has caught 54 passes for 683 yards and three TDs since joining Buffalo in 2012. He has appeared in 31 games, making 17 starts. However, Graham is currently listed as one of Buffalo’s third-string wide receivers.
Graham (5-11, 188) has excellent timed speed; he was clocked at 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. A third-round pick of the Bills in 2012, Graham has two years left on his contract and would be subject to waivers if Buffalo released him.
NFL clubs must reduce their rosters to 53 players by Saturday afternoon, and Graham surely isn’t the only player who has been made available. It will be interesting to see if any clubs can get deals done in the next two days, whether they are player-for-player swaps or trades involving a low-round conditional draft pick.
The Cowboys waived linebacker DeVonte Holloman this week because his neck injury led doctors to advise against continuing his playing career, but there was no medical reason why they waived another member of their 2013 draft class on Thursday.
The team announced that they have waived fourth-round cornerback B.W. Webb. Webb’s spot on the roster will be taken by running back Phillip Tanner, who the team is likely only re-signing for Thursday night’s preseason game.
Webb had 16 tackles in 15 games for the Cowboys last season, but his most memorable moment in a Cowboys uniform probably came this summer during a joint practice with the Raiders. An on-field scuffle wound up near the fans watching the session and one of them took a swing at Webb with a helmet, causing the cornerback to react with a punch back in the direction of the helmet-wielding fan. Webb faced no discipline as a result of the altercation.
It’s not a great sign that a team as needy on defense as the Cowboys have decided they don’t want Webb, but he’s young enough that he’ll likely draw another look on an active roster or practice squad this season.