Marvin Lewis joins Mike Florio to talk about how the Bengals can improve upon their 10-6 record from a year ago, and Lewis says it all comes down to finishing games and calling the correct football plays. Lewis also breaks down Cincinnati’s tough competition in the AFC North, and who is on his list of top three QBs.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: It’s all about finishing games for Bengals
The annual meaningless game played for an even more meaningless trophy of Snoopy often sees its participants behaving like the dog’s owner.
Over the years, the annual preseason intra-stadium game between the Jets and Giants has led to some unusual decisions and unfortunate injuries, as detailed a year ago by Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. From former Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn tearing an ACL while returning a kickoff in 1998 to current Giants quarterback Eli Manning being made to look like an extra in The Walking Dead in 2010 to former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that ended his career in New York, the teams all too often play the role of Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy’s football.
Decker was the emergency replacement for a concussed Jeremy Kerley, and coach Todd Bowles instructed Decker to call for a fair catch every time. Decker muffed the second punt, however, and then the Jets turned to Walter Powell. Powell responded by returning a punt 54 yards for a touchdown.
Which means that Powell should have been returning punts in the first place, not Decker. Whatever the alternatives to Decker, it never should have been Decker. In a meaningless practice game, it should have been no one before it was Decker.
But at least the Jets got lucky, this time. They may not have gotten lucky with rookie defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
Regardless, the Jets and Giants will continue to play an annual meaningless game. Before the next one, they’ll get together for one that counts during the 2015 regular season.
Don’t expect Eric Decker to be fielding punts in that one.
Maybe. But Bengals receiver A.J. Green isn’t too worried about it.
That’s not to say Green isn’t aware. Green told the Cincinnati Enquirer that his agent called him yesterday to discuss the deal Jones signed. Green’s agent wouldn’t be doing his job if he weren’t keeping tabs on the other wide receiver contracts around the league, and keeping Green apprised about where things stand. But Green said that for himself, the primary focus remains on the field.
“It’s good for him,” Green said of Jones’s contract. “We will see. If it happens, it happens. If it don’t I’ll go out there and play. We’ll see.”
Green and the Bengals will likely reach a long-term deal at some point, and probably for about the same money that Jones got from the Falcons. Green will let his agent worry about the details.
In January, Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice said he used to put stickum on his gloves. Now that the gloves are so good that the stickum is already on them, the NFL may be talking a look at whether the built-in stickiness has gone too far.
“I think it’s time to go back and look at the gloves and see if, with what’s going on here with sports science in the past 10 years, if there isn’t too much of an advantage being gained,” recently-reinstalled Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.
It sounds like it’s a look that’s long overdue.
“No one looks at those gloves,” Hall of Fame coach and legendary broadcaster John Madden told Farmer. “I saw them when I was at a meeting in Indy. They passed them around and somebody made the comment that, ‘Pretty soon, these gloves are going to be able to catch a ball without a hand in them.'”
Those gloves also may be able to throw the ball without a hand in them.
“You know something’s up when guys like Tom Brady and Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning are wearing gloves to throw a football,” former NFL quarterback and 2002 league MVP Rich Gannon told Farmer. “You’re starting to go, ‘Wait a second here. . . .’ Guys for years dreaded bad weather, cold weather, and they didn’t want to have anything that would take their hands off the football. Now guys are like, ‘These gloves are better than the human skin.'”
And to that many will say, “So what?” With the following of the sport dramatically enhanced by fantasy football, fans want to see passes caught, not dropped. And another Hall of Famer thinks one of the best catches in recent years wouldn’t have been possible without the gloves.
“You have to be careful about the way you analyze that play because you don’t want people calling you a hater or whatever,” Tim Brown told Farmer regarding last season’s three-fingered grab by Odell Beckham Jr. “But you can’t make that play without those kind of gloves. It’s just impossible.”
It will be impossible for the NFL to build on its momentum as the must-see sport if it reverses the advances that have occurred right under the league’s nose.
“I think if they took the gloves completely away from the guys, including the quarterbacks at this point, it would have a major impact on what the game looked like on the field,” former NFL receiver and Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth told Farmer. “And not for the better. . . . Every Sunday we say, ‘Oh, my goodness! Look at that!’ That’s a good thing. It’s an entertainment business. Why not make it as entertaining as possible?”
By paying no attention to the development of gloves, the NFL has allowed the game to become as entertaining as it is. It would make no sense for the NFL to suddenly declare that it has allowed the gloves to go too far.
Nike, the company that pays the NFL a lot of money to make and market the gloves, would probably agree.
The Giants likely lost another safety for the season late last week when Nat Berhe had calf surgery, but they may be getting some relief in the form of a familiar face in the next few days.
Stevie Brown was released by the Texans on Saturday and Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports that the Giants are trying to get Brown in for a physical. Brown spent three years with the Giants from 2012-2014, playing 16 games twice and missing the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL.
Brown’s agent Blake Baratz said he’s working on getting Brown and the Giants together for a meeting while adding that “a number of teams” are in the mix to land Brown’s services.
Brown signed with the Texans this offseason when they offered him more money than the Giants, but it doesn’t appear he was close to making the Houston roster given the timing of his release from the team.
Said Bengals WR A.J. Green, “We feel good, but we still have a lot of work to do. Not just a little. We’re the same team that got our butts kicked Monday night in Tampa. We have to keep our head down and keep grinding.”
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley thinks his offensive line has a chip on its shoulder.
The Titans could add another running back to the roster.
The first round of Chiefs cuts shouldn’t feature any tough decisions.
The Raiders cornerbacks figure to be tested against the Cardinals.
The Bears defense had a tough time with the Bengals.
Injuries have taken an emotional toll on the Packers.
The Falcons have offensive line issues to sort out.
Players on the Saints roster bubble are running out of chances to impress coaches.
Special teams play was a lowlight for the Buccaneers against the Browns.
Cardinals G.M. Steve Keim’s hometown team won the U.S. little league title on Saturday.
In a general sense, the Rams are deep in the backfield.
But specific to the regular season opener, they might be a little thin.
With rookie Todd Gurley not expected to play in the opener after tearing his ACL last November, that could stretch the depth there.
The Steelers lost their second kicker in four preseason games on Saturday night, and it’s now looking like they’ll need another kicker for next Thursday night in Foxboro.
Garrett Hartley injured a right hamstring during the game, and he’ll have an MRI on Sunday.
Coach Mike Tomlin told reporters after the preseason game against the Bills that “it doesn’t look positive” for Hartley being ready for Week One against the Patriots.
That could be positive for Jay Feely, a free agent who matched Hartley field goal for field goal at a Heinz Field Gong Show Kick Off after Shaun Suisham was lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered at the Hall of Fame Game. Per a source with knowledge of the competition, both missed from 53 yards and made everything else.
Fifty-three becomes the operative number, if the Steelers sign Feely or another kicker. If Hartley can’t kick come Week One, will they carry Hartley on the 53-man roster, or move on? Having two kickers would mean keeping one less player at another position, and that may not be something the Steelers want to do.
It took a long time for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to complete a pass on Saturday.
Kaepernick’s first completion came with less than a minute to play in the second quarter after a half that saw him sacked twice while leading the 49ers to one first down and no points on their first four possessions. Kaepernick followed that first completion with one to Torrey Smith, the first time that’s happened all postseason, and the 49ers kicked a field goal to close the first half.
Kaepernick, who was 2-of-5 for the game, was forced to scramble a couple of times on that drive and ran for big gains after getting flushed from the pocket and was asked after the game if he was concerned about the play of an offensive line that’s still unsettled outside of left tackle Joe Staley and left guard Alex Boone.
“No, there’s not any concern on this team,” Kaepernick said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s what the preseason’s for — to work those things out and see who we have at different positions. That’s what we’re doing, and we’re working to make sure we’re ready for the regular season.”
Coach Jim Tomsula didn’t share that exact opinion, saying that the offensive line had a “little bit of a struggle” with the Denver defense and, acknowledging that others are concerned about the unit’s play, that they’ll get it “cleared up” this week.
With notable exceptions, like Joe Buck, it seems that many in St. Louis don’t have strong opinions regarding whether the Rams stay or go.
On Saturday night, in what was both the preseason home opener for the Rams and the most important of the three meaningless exhibition games, the fans showed their current feelings — by not showing up.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted at Twitter that he’s been to every preseason game since the Rams moved from L.A. in 1995, and that Saturday night’s crowd for the game against the Colts was “easily the smallest crowd I’ve seen.” Thomas estimates that 25,000 people were present for the game; he also says that only 37,460 tickets were distributed for the contest.
The local nonchalance comes at a time when politicians are trying to finagle a new stadium for the Rams, presumably in order to avoid being blamed if the Rams return to L.A. If blame is going to come, it may not be from local business leaders; Tim Bryant of the Post-Dispatch reports that plenty of corporate executives declined to comment or failed to respond when asked about their support or lack thereof for the proposed stadium.
Joe Buck hasn’t declined to comment. He recently launched a Twitter tirade against the circumstances, saying the situation would have been “100 percent better” if Shad Khan had been able to purchase the Rams in lieu of Stan Kroenke, who exercised a right of first refusal to make his minority share a majority interest after the passing of Georgia Frontiere — and after Khan had cobbled together a bid that her estate had accepted.
“Kroenke not only has the chance to cash in on L.A., but punch a great city that at one point he seemed to enjoy,” Buck said via Twitter.
Buck’s theory seems to be that the current level of local apathy wasn’t accidental: “Suck the life out of a team, run it down, raise prices, then say it isn’t supported and leave. Great example for the NFL to celebrate JOKE!”
Buck has elaborated, with more than 140-character chunks.
“We’re about to lose the NFL for a second time,” Buck told Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch. “I don’t know how the story is going to turn out. There are myriad possibilities. It’s been really quiet from St. Louis’ standpoint, but this ball has been rolling for a long time . . . longer than people realize, longer than I initially realized.”
Buck fears that tires eventually will be rolling, too.
“The way this is going, at some point we’re going to wake up and there are going to be moving vans outside Rams Park,” Buck said.
He believes, via Strauss, that the “fix was already in” when Kroenke bought the team; “I would be hard-pressed to believe that this L.A. plan was dreamed up only when St. Louis wasn’t ready to play ball,” Buck said.
But Buck won’t blame the fans for not currently being willing to watch the team play ball.
“I have a tough time with the notion that fans here don’t support the NFL,” he said. “The team has not performed for a long time now.”
On that point, he’s absolutely right. Since the Greatest Show on Turf went to the Super Bowl for a second time (a loss to the Patriots), the Rams have had one winning season — in 2003. From 2004 through 2014, the Rams went 8-8, 6-10, 8-8, 5-11, 2-14, 1-15, 2-14, 7-8-1, 7-9, and 6-10.
Still, there should be greater engagement in 2015, especially since the Rams are perceived to be ready to make a run at the postseason, with a stellar defense, an improving passing game led by new quarterback Nick Foles, and the possibility of a strong running game led by rookie Todd Gurley. But potential can only do so much when the performance hasn’t been there, and it’s even harder for fans to not emotionally detach when it appears that the franchise already views the fan base as fungible.
At a certain point, not giving a crap anymore becomes a mechanism for avoiding the ultimate disappointment of seeing the relationship end. There’s a good chance that’s one of the main reasons why only 25,000 people showed up last night.
There’s a good reason the Eagles have kept Sam Bradford in bubble wrap, pulling him after one series and some hard hits against the Ravens, and limiting his work last night against the Packers.
When he’s been on the field, he’s been practically perfect.
Via Reuben Frank of CSN Philadelphia, Bradford has played four series in the preseason, and each ended with an Eagles touchdown. Last night, he was was 10-of-10 passing for 121 yards and three touchdowns, and 13-of-15 for 156 yards for the preseason, without a turnover.
“I’m sure I missed a lot of things tonight, but just continue to work timing and rhythm in the passing game,” Bradford said, being modest. “I felt like it was better than last week, but it’s by no means perfect. We have two weeks before we play Atlanta, and just continue to work with the guys on that chemistry.
“But I think tonight was a big step. I think we played well, but we’re going to look to build on this.”
Mostly, he got out of there healthy, and coach Chip Kelly admitted he didn’t want to push it with his quarterback coming off a pair of torn ACLs.
“Sam played well,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “He really located the football. I thought he played very well. He had the three touchdown drives and we didn’t see a reason to keep him out there any longer.”
Now, it’s a matter of him holding up for 16 games, when he’s going to have to stay out there.
A week after losing Jordy Nelson for the season with a torn ACL on the first drive of a game, Cobb left Saturday’s game against the Eagles after three plays with an injury that he thought would knock him out for an extended period of time. Cobb said after the game that he thought he broke his collarbone, but tests revealed that the injury wasn’t that serious.
“I just caught the ball and was going down to the ground, and I had a guy land on top of me,” Cobb said, via ESPN.com. “I was just jogging off the field at the end of the series, and I could feel the pain. I didn’t know exactly what it was. It was discomfort, and I let Doc check it out and we went back and got X-rays. It’s not what we think it could’ve been.”
While that was a “silver lining,” Cobb’s not sure about whether he will be well enough to play in Week One against the Bears. There will be more tests on his shoulder on Sunday and their results will give the team a better idea about who Rodgers will be able to throw to when the regular season gets underway.
Julio Jones got paid like the other top receivers in the market, more in fact.
But the fact he said so much less than the others might have been a factor in that.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he appreciated the decidedly polite tone Jones kept through the process — including vowing to not hold out — prior to giving him a six-year, $81.426 million deal yesterday.
Agent Jimmy Sexton even told Jones to take his cell phone on the field with him during warmups (Joe Horn approves) because the deal was close to being finished last night.
“I figured out and knew for sure that it was done was when Mr. Blank got here,” Jones said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He came on the field and gave me a big hug. He was like ‘congratulations.’ He said he was very proud of the way I handled this. … by keeping the team first.”
“He came to work and worked hard,” Blank said. “It was never an issue. There was never a question. He knew that we’d eventually be able to pull something together that would be acceptable to us and to him. We were able to do that. It’s a credit to him personally. It’s a credit to our organization, guys like Nick Polk, Thomas [Dimitroff] and others who have worked on this deal.”
“From Atlanta’s standpoint, he’s a major anchor for us in our offense going forward.”
Now they just have to hope he stays healthy, and continues to provide the level of play they anticipate, and have paid for, so he’s not just an anchor to their salary cap.
Washington coach Jay Gruden is not ready to name a starter, and he sounds like he’s getting worn down by the criticism about his ongoing quarterback saga.
After Saturday night’s game, in which Kirk Cousins started after Robert Griffin III was denied medical clearance just hours after Gruden claimed he’d already been given medical clearance, Gruden said it’s not fair to the team to suggest that they don’t know what they’re doing.
“We’re all as confused as you are, and people have to understand this has nothing to do with the Redskins. I know people want to make it out that we’re incompetent but we’re not. This has nothing to do with us. It was totally independent doctor, a verbal thing he said with our doctor, and then all of a sudden the written statement was different, the written report was different so we followed proper course and did what we thought was right for Robert,” Gruden said.
Asked if there’s a quarterback controversy on his team, Gruden said there isn’t.
“I’m not going to announce anything. There’s no controversy,” Gruden said. “As far as who’s starting at every position, we’re going to evaluate that as a staff. I’m not going to make any announcements right now, that’s for sure.”
But the mere fact that Gruden won’t announce his starter is why there is, in fact, a quarterback controversy. And the fact that there’s a quarterback controversy after a long offseason in which Gruden insisted there wouldn’t be a quarterback controversy is why the team looks incompetent.
Leonard Williams left Saturday night’s preseason game against the New York Giants after suffering a knee injury in the first half.
However, it appears as though the injury isn’t all that serious for the New York Jets’ first-round pick.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, X-rays came back negative on Williams knee. The thought is Williams suffered only a bone bruise but he will still have an MRI on Sunday.
Williams was considered by some as the best overall player in the 2015 draft class. With Sheldon Richardson set to miss the start of the season to suspension, Williams will be a pivotal piece in the Jets defensive line rotation.
Lost in the ejection of Ravens receiver Steve Smith and Washington cornerback Chris Culliver for fighting was the fact that Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Washington coach Jay Gruden exchanged verbal pleasantries in the first half of Saturday’s game.
The exchange appeared to include Harbaugh angrily directing a four-letter, F-driven profanity at Gruden as the two yelled at each other on the field.
The two coaches simply shook hands and moved on, with no further fireworks or F-bombs. Unfortunately, the two teams won’t play each other again this season unless they meet in the Super Bowl.
Yeah, I was giggling as I typed that, and not because of the quality of the team Harbaugh coaches.
Meanwhile, we’d pay a lot of money to see a tag-team match between Jay and Jon Gruden and John and Jim Harbaugh. Hopefully with everyone keeping his shirt on.