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The new extra point rule had a small but noticeable impact on the preseason.
With the 2015 preseason now in the books, kickers went a cumulative 196-for-210 on the new longer extra points, meaning they made 93.3 percent of their kicks. That’s down significantly from recent numbers in the regular season: During the 2014 regular season, kickers made 99.3 percent of extra points, and NFL kickers have made at least 98 percent of extra points every season since 1994.
But kickers will probably do better in the regular season because the worst kickers in the preseason are going to get cut. Eagles kicker Kip Smith, for instance, missed a league-high three extra points, but he won’t be the Eagles’ kicker during the regular season.
The new rule changes extra points from the equivalent of a 20-yard field goal to a 33-yard field goal. For an NFL kicker, a 33-yard field goal is still an easy kick. So when the regular season starts, the vast majority of extra points will be successful. But the conversion rate just might fall below 98 percent for the first time in two decades.
We’ve heard of good cop/bad cop. When it comes to the ESPN tag-team of legal analysts, the better term may be bad cop/worse cop.
Two weeks ago, we outlined the many flaws in Lester Munson’s insistence that Tom Brady would not win the case that, a day ago, he won. In the aftermath of that decision, Roger Cossack interviewed NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith — and Cossack went after Smith on the decision to give Commissioner Roger Goodell final say over cases like Brady’s.
The exchange between Cossack and Smith was transcribed by SportsBusiness Daily.
“You guys agreed to a process that I didn’t even call an arbitration, because an arbitration as I’ve always understood it is a neutral, impartial person,” Coassack said. “Agreeing to let Roger Goodell, the enemy, be the arbitrator as well as the person who reviews and is the appellate reviewer of his own decision was a way I thought of saying, ‘We know we’re not going to get a fair hearing, and we’ll live with it.’”
“The thing you said earlier is idiotic, because you and I both know as lawyers that there are arbitration proceedings that take place all the time,” Smith said. “We aren’t in a world where any party agrees that an arbitrator can be unfair.”
“De, what did you think Roger Goodell was going to be good for you guys?” Cossack replied. “Did you think he was going to be fair, or did you think he was going to represent the National Football League?”
“If an arbitrator can be unfair, then Paul Tagliabue could not have reversed Roger Goodell,” Smith said, in reference to the Saints bounty suspensions.
“So you’re saying to me that you agreed to let Roger Goodell be the arbiter and the reviewer of his own decision, but implicit in that decision was that he was going to act fairly?” Cossack replied. “Come on.”
“If you are confused, I would urge you to open the cases about industrial due process,” Smith said.
“And I have, Judge Berman agrees with you, I’ll give you that,” Cossack said.
“Well you don’t have to give me anything, Roger. Read the law,” Smith said. “We didn’t let Roger Goodell do this.”
Smith is clearly right, and Cossack is clearly wrong. What’s amazing is that Cossack seems to know he’s clearly wrong, but he nevertheless pushed this goofy point that, when the union agreed to allow the Commissioner to have final say over matters regarding conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game, the union agreed to give the Commissioner a license to do whatever he wants to do in cases like this, regardless of fairness, due process, or any other applicable legal requirements.
Giving the Commissioner the power to be, essentially, a judge doesn’t mean giving him the power to do whatever he wants to do. With the power comes the obligation to do it properly, and if it’s not done properly, it’s subject to a separate challenge.
So, yes, the union gave the Commissioner final say over these matters (in 1968), but the union retained the ability to appeal those decisions if those decisions were not made properly. Even with the very high bar that the court system has put in place when reviewing arbitration awards, the NFL went so far that a federal judge threw out the decision.
It’s not an NFLPA problem. It’s an NFL problem. The NFL thinks it can do whatever it wants to do, and nothing has managed to penetrate an echo chamber in which either those around the Commissioner are telling him what he wants to hear — or they’re telling him what he needs to hear, and he’s ignoring it.
Certain types of actual or apparent dysfunction can’t be avoided. Other types can be.
That’s today’s lesson, kids, thanks to the Washington Twitter account.
Via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, the team periodically has been posting countdown-to-kickoff messages, with the remaining days until the first game provided by number on a jersey worn by a player.
And with 10 days to go, they didn’t skip it. No, they simply typed in “10” in the message and posted a photo of tackle Trent Williams, who wears No. 71.
It’s an awkward reminder of the cloud still hanging over the franchise due to the status of quarterback Robert Griffin III. And it’s a completely unnecessary reminder; no one would have noticed that the team skipped day 10 in the countdown to kickoff. Now, plenty will notice that the team went out of its way to avoid showing a picture of the franchise quarterback turned hot potato.
Texans punter Shane Lechler hit the enormous video board at Jerry World with a booming punt in last night’s preseason game against the Cowboys.
Lechler admitted after the game that he was aiming for the video board and had a wager with teammates about whether he could hit it with a punt during the game.
“I think I’m going to win multiple dinners,” Lechler said. “I had a little wager going with some guys. I hit it twice in warmups. I felt good about hitting it on that punt, but not good enough to tell everybody not to run down the field. That’s the first time I’ve had a do-over for hitting a scoreboard.”
Although “do-over” is usually associated more with backyard games than pro sports, that’s exactly what happens in the NFL if a ball hits the video board (or other objects, like cameras on cables above the field). The play doesn’t count, the clock is re-set and they do it again.
Punters have had a little fun with aiming for the video board in preseason games, and this is the third time someone has done it. The board has only been hit once in a regular-season game, when Cowboys punter Chris Jones hit it in a game against the Saints last year.
Coach Rex Ryan said the Bills did “some of the stupidest things” he’s seen in football on Thursday night.
Tight ends coach Brian Daboll called the plays for the Patriots offense on Thursday.
Bengals LB P.J. Dawson had a good showing in the preseason finale.
The Steelers sat nine defensive starters on Thursday.
The Chiefs went undefeated in the preseason and went to the Super Bowl the last two times they pulled that off.
The Raiders backup quarterback competition extended into Thursday’s game.
What will the Chargers do at kicker?
How many Phil Emery draft picks will remain on the Bears after the cut to 53 players?
Did the Falcons make mistakes with their roster moves on the offensive line?
Injuries could make some roster decisions more difficult for the Panthers.
A last projection of the Saints’ 53-man roster.
The Patriots aren’t inclined to alter their position that the punishment imposed against the team for #DeflateGate won’t be challenged via the appeal rights available to the team. There are good reasons for that, beyond the reluctance of the Patriots to go back against their word.
First, the deadline for filing an internal appeal has come and gone. If an appeal were filed now, the NFL quickly would dismiss it as untimely.
Second, teams, coaches, owners, etc. don’t enjoy the same protections as players. The players have a union, who have crafted a Collective Bargaining Agreement with a wide range of rights and obligations and protections. Those protections applied to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after the NFL, in the opinion of Judge Berman, abused its powers under the labor deal.
Without those same protections, the Patriots would have been stuck with the outcome of the internal appeal process. Even if the Patriots would have sued, the chances of winning would have been slim, because the Patriots don’t enjoy the benefit of the labor-law principles that ultimately delivered a win for Brady.
The best example of the differences in protections comes from the Saints bounty scandal of 2012. After the player suspensions were scrapped by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in his role as the arbitrator of the internal appeals, coach Sean Payton remained suspended for a year, and he received no refund on the millions in salary that he lost.
So the $1 million that the Patriots lost along with the two draft picks won’t be coming back, even if the Patriots pursue an appeal and then file suit in federal court. Even before Judge Berman or Judge Doty, the deck would be firmly stacked against the Patriots, given the absence of a CBA.
The Texans had to wake Ryan Mallett up, and send him back into a game he wasn’t planning to play in.
According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Texans third-string quarterback Tom Savage left last night’s game at Dallas with a shoulder injury, and will be tested further today when they get back to Houston.
The injury happened in the fourth quarter when he was drilled by defensive tackle Davon Coleman, so Mallett had to go back in to finish last night’s game against the Cowboys.
Afterward, Savage was holding his right had against his chest to alleviate some of the pain, and needed help getting dressed before talking to reporters.
“Just a hard hit,” Savage said. “I guess we’ll find out [the severity] when we get back [to Houston]. Obviously, any kind of injury, you’re always a little worried, but I’m going to go back and do whatever coach [Bill O’Brien] wants me to do.”
The Texans were expected to carry three quarterbacks anyway, as they think Savage could eventually develop into a starter. But depending on the severity of the injury, they might now have an extra roster spot to deal with this weekend.
The Seahawks came into the final preseason game with no touchdowns from their starting offense this summer, but they were able to change that early in the first quarter with the help of a player who hasn’t had any trouble finding the end zone recently.
Russell Wilson’s first pass of the night went to third-round pick Tyler Lockett, who had beaten Raiders corner Keith McGill easily on the play, and Lockett jetted 63 yards into the end zone. It was Lockett’s first offensive touchdown of the preseason to go with his scores on kickoff and punt returns and it’s further reason why he’s in line for a role with the Seahawks in both those phases during his rookie season.
“Obviously, the amount of plays that [Lockett] touched the ball and what he did when he had the ball in his hands was enormous,” coach Pete Carroll said, via the team’s website. “It just added to all of the information that we’ve been gathering. He’s as hard working of a guy as we have in the program. I’ve been extraordinarily impressed with his consistency and his work ethic. Just like the guys we love that are on our team.”
The only place where the Seahawks have found lacking this summer is his dancing ability. Lockett showed off his moves after Thursday’s touchdown and teammate Doug Baldwin called them an “embarrassment” to the wideouts and Lockett’s family. If Lockett’s production continues at anything close to this rate in the regular season, he’ll get chances to polish his dancing.
Falcons linebacker Brooks Reed missed much a lot of time this summer with a groin injury suffered during spring work and his absence from the lineup is going to stretch into the regular season.
Coach Dan Quinn said earlier this week that he was concerned about Reed’s condition and that the linebacker was soliciting further medical opinions. Those opinions pointed in the direction of surgery and Quinn announced Thursday night that Reed, who signed with the Falcons this offseason, had an operation.
Quinn didn’t offer an expected return date for Reed, but it’s a good bet that he’ll miss at least the first month of the season while he recovers. If it’s expected to be a longer absence, Reed could be a candidate for injured reserve with the designation to return.
O’Brien Schofield and Kroy Biermann are candidates to fill in for Reed in the starting lineup on a defense that was hoping his arrival would help move things in a better direction than they went last season.
Speculation about wide receiver Dwayne Bowe’s future with the Browns revved up on Thursday when Solomon Wilcots, who calls the team’s preseason games on television, said that Bowe needed “to show up tonight to be a part of the 53-man roster.”
Bowe then played into the third quarter against the Bears, which is usually a time when the field is filled with players angling for spots on practice squads and not those who signed two-year contracts with $9 million in guaranteed money. Bowe had one catch for eight yards in the game, which coach Mike Pettine said wouldn’t be Bowe’s last with the Browns when asked by reporters after the game.
“Dwayne? No,” Pettine said, via Cleveland.com. “He just needed to work, so that’s why he was out there.”
Bowe missed time this summer with a hamstring injury and said he wasn’t surprised by his playing time because he wanted to shake off some rust. He also shrugged off speculation about his roster spot, saying that everyone needs to deliver to make the team.
The Browns showed with defensive tackle Phil Taylor that they are willing to cut players owed a chunk of money. When you add the overall makeup of the receiver position with the Browns to the money, however, it would be surprising to learn that Pettine was being anything but honest about Bowe’s standing in Cleveland.
It’s possible that former first-rounder Josh Freeman played his last NFL game last night.
And while it wasn’t necessarily one to remember, he said afterward he’s not giving up his dream of making it back to the NFL.
Freeman threw a pair of late interceptions last night, which ought to seal any doubt about his chances with the Dolphins.
“It was a shame to see it end the way it did,” Freeman said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “But I thought all the guys at the end were really battling. I want to keep playing, no question. I love playing football. At the end of the day, I’m going to give it all I can until I exhaust every option.”
The Dolphins might only keep two quarterbacks anyway, and if they keep a third, McLeod Bethel-Thompson will probably be the guy.
Freeman finished the preseason 23-of-48 passing for 331 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions (43.0 passer rating), looking unlike the former Buccaneers starter who played competently at times before meltdowns that didn’t seem to be football-based.
“It’s definitely been a very humbling experience in a lot of ways,” Freeman said. “A learning experience. Talking with older guys and guys out of the league [about] what they miss most, it’s the camaraderie. It’s being with the guys in the locker room.”
It’s expected that he’ll have to look again soon, and with former Bucs exec Dennis Hickey being the one to bring him in this time, he may have run out of lifelines.
The difference in their post-game quotes was nearly as vast as the game’s they turned in last night.
The two alternated quarters last night for the Eagles as they competed for the third quarterback job there, and Tebow had a decidedly better night on the stat sheet.
“I think I’m getting more and more comfortable,” Tebow said, via Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com. “More and more comfortable with the offense. Getting into more of a rhythm, especially on first down, kind of getting things going, getting the first first down, which is big in this offense, and trying to get it rolling a little bit.”
And asked about the possibility of returning to the league after two years out of it, Tebow shrugged it off.
“That’s not up to me,” he said. “I just try to go out there and do what I’m coached and try to improve every day and compete.
“I’ve said this a lot of times to you guys and I really genuinely mean it: I’m not going to worry about what I can’t control. It’s a blessing being able to come out here and play the game I love. It was a lot of fun out there tonight. I had a blast.”
For Barkley, not so much. He played well in the opener, but hasn’t matched that as the preseason wore on, going 15-of-32 for 159 yards and an interception the last three games. He also grumbled a bit about alternating quarters (“I never liked it”), but said that wasn’t the reason for his only putting up three points to Tebow’s 17.
“I don’t know if tonight was the deciding factor,” Barkley said. “We’ll see if that’s what it comes down to, but over the course of this camp I’ve shown that I can play quarterback for this team.
“Over the course of this whole camp, through training camp, practices and preseason, I think it’s hard to really say [we’ll make a decision] out of those preseason games because it’s really a small sampling and what I have shown through practices I think I’ve done a good job and improved in a lot of areas. I’m happy with how I’ve played throughout camp.”
If cut, Barkley will likely get a chance elsewhere. But after watching him play better as the preseason wore on, it’s looking more and more like the Eagles want to give Tebow a chance there and now.
The Titans needed to see something in a hurry out of their offense in general, and Marcus Mariota in particular.
So when they delivered quickly Thursday night, the second overall pick in the draft was able to escape to the safety of the bench.
Via Jason Wolf of the Tennesseean, Mariota played a single series in Thursday’s preseason finale, but it was a good one.
His first touchdown pass as a Titan was a 59-yarder to Harry Douglas, allowing him to leave the game and the exhibition season on a positive note.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of this offense,” Mariota said. “Guys are continuing to get better, and I feel that we built a solid foundation throughout the preseason. Now it’s time to go.”
Now he has nine days to get ready to face No. 1 pick Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers, after a solid enough showing in four games.
Mariota was 21-of-30 passing for 326 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 102.9 passer rating. It was solid enough showing, though it lacked a signature moment until last night.
“We accomplished what we wanted to do,” Whisenhunt said. “We got our guys in there, we eliminated that bad taste in our mouth from last week, and we did some things we really like doing. It was a good start for us.”
Most other starting quarterbacks didn’t take part last night, but Mariota still needed the reps. And by closing on a positive note, sends the Titans into the season feeling more hope than they’ve had in years.
When Lions running back Zach Zenner arrived in Detroit as an undrafted rookie in May, he appeared to be a long shot to make the roster. Zenner was an excellent college player, with three 2,000-yard seasons, but that was at South Dakota State, which isn’t exactly known for producing NFL talent.
But the way Zenner has played in the preseason, it would be tough for the Lions to justify cutting him — and he probably wouldn’t clear waivers if they tried to stash him on the practice squad. Zenner finished the preseason as the NFL’s leading rusher, with 183 yards on 35 carries.
In last night’s preseason finale, Zenner scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, and he said afterward that he sees his preseason performance as proof that he can make it in the NFL.
“Every preseason game is very important, especially for a guy like me as an undrafted free agent,” Zenner said, via the Associated Press. “Those opportunities, not everyone gets them.”
One person who isn’t surprised by the way Zenner played in the preseason is his fellow Lions rookie running back, Ameer Abdullah. South Dakota State played Abdullah’s Nebraska team in 2013, and Zenner finished that game with 21 carries for 202 yards and two touchdowns, plus a 21-yard reception. Although Abdullah ran for 139 yards in that game and Nebraska won in a blowout, he said he and his teammates left that game with a lot of respect for Zenner, and when Abdullah found out they were going to be NFL teammates, he figured Zenner was going to prove himself on the next level, too.
“I expected it,” Abdullah said. “We played South Dakota State in 2013 and his first run was like a 50-yard touchdown. I think he ran for like 220 on us. At that point, I knew what kind of player he was going to be.”
Abdullah was ahead of the curve: Most people didn’t know what kind of player Zenner was until this preseason. Now everyone who’s been paying attention knows that Zenner is for real.
The Terrelle Pryor Experiment finally made the game stage Thursday night as the Browns closed the preseason in Chicago.
After missing the first three preseason games and much of camp due to a hamstring issue Pryor, who’s trying to convert from quarterback to receiver and make the 53-man roster, played quarterback.
Really. He played wide receiver, too, in the second half, but he got in the box score only on read-option plays as a quarterback. He ran for five yards on the first and four on the second. He didn’t have an opportunity to catch a pass, was flagged for an illegal formation penalty when he covered up a tight end while lining up out wide and played on the punt team.
Pryor might make the Browns because he’s big (6’5) and fast and is worth some patience and lots of work in making him a receiver. Given the lack of explosive playmakers the Browns have, his ability to come in at quarterback and other positions, too, can challenge defenses. He’s probably not ready to play wide receiver right away, but the Browns might keep him this weekend when they trim the roster to 53.
“We had a list of things we wanted to take a look at with Terrelle,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said after the game. “There were a couple times that we had some routes called for him and whether it was protection or the quarterback came off too fast, we didn’t get a chance to see him make a play.”
Now, he’ll play the waiting game before knowing if the experiment will continue with the Browns.