Skip to content

PFT’s Week Three Picks

Ben Getty Images

Last week, I had my chance to pull even with MDS.  Thanks to a Panthers defense that was playing not to lose and a blown coverage at the goal line that guaranteed it, I had prevailed in the only disagreement of the day.

But then came the night game.  And I was one of the “ignorant idiots” who thought the 49ers could beat the Seahawks in Seattle.

The result was a push for the week, with both of us getting 12 right and four wrong.  For the year, I’m 23-9, and MDS is 24-8.

This week, all hell will break loose, Breaking Bad style.  We disagree on SIX of the games.  For all the picks from Week Three, scroll baby, scroll.

Chiefs at Eagles

MDS’s take: Can Andy Reid return to Philadelphia and get his team to 3-0? It would be a great story, but I don’t see it happening: Chip Kelly’s offense will put too many points on the board for Reid’s more conservative offense to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Chiefs 27.

Florio’s take:  Week Two helped everyone make better sense of Week One.  And it appears through both games that the Chiefs doing what coach Andy Reid wants them to do, and that the Eagles are still a work in progress under Chip Kelly.  This may be Big Red’s only chance to win another game in Philly.  It’s unlikely he’ll squander it.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Eagles 20.

Texans at Ravens

MDS’s take: The defending Super Bowl champions just haven’t looked particularly good on either side of the ball this season, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. J.J. Watt is going to make life miserable for Joe Flacco as Houston wins a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Texans 17, Ravens 9.

Florio’s take:  Both teams are banged up a bit, and each has struggled.  Give the home team the edge — even though Ed Reed could end up making the difference for Houston.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Texans 21.

Packers at Bengals

MDS’s take: I like the way the Bengals’ defense is playing, but I like the way Aaron Rodgers is playing more. Expect Rodgers to have a big game as the Packers improve to 2-1.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take:  Green Bay’s defense is better, and its offense at times is unstoppable.  The Packers offensive line has been holding up well enough to let 2011 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers play like a serious contender for 2013 NFL MVP.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Bengals 27.

Giants at Panthers

MDS’s take: I viewed both of these teams as playoff contenders heading into the season, but the loser will be 0-3, and it’s awfully tough for any team to dig itself out of a hole that deep. Both teams have offensive problems that need to be corrected, and I have more confidence in Tom Coughlin and his staff to figure out a way to cut down on the turnovers than I have in Ron Rivera and his staff to find a way to get Cam Newton making big plays again. So I’m leaning toward the Giants in a close one.

MDS’s pick: Giants 21, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take:  Last year in Week Three, the Giants blew out the Panthers in their own building.  And the Giants still didn’t make the playoffs.  This year, it won’t be as ugly against a Panthers team that has been playing not to lose — and that has no one to cover Victor Cruz.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Panthers 17.

Rams at Cowboys

MDS’s take: I’m not really sold on either of these teams as NFC playoff contenders, although the NFC East looks so weak that the Cowboys just need to hang around .500 all season to stay in the race. I see the Cowboys getting above .500 with a close home win over the Rams.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 21, Rams 17.

Florio’s take:  The all-time series is tied at 11-11 in the regular season, and 4-4 in the postseason.  The easy pick is the Cowboys, who held serve (finally) against the Giants in Week One to start the season.  But the right pick could be the Rams, who held off a Cardinals team that beat the Lions — and who rebounded from a deep deficit against the Falcons to make a game of it on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 24, Cowboys 23.

Browns at Vikings

MDS’s take: I was tempted to pick the upset before the Browns traded Trent Richardson because I thought Richardson could move the ball effectively against the suspect Vikings run defense. But I just can’t pick a team to win on the road with Brian Hoyer as its starting quarterback and no running backs who have carried the ball a single time all season.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 20, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, Bernie Kosar.  It doesn’t matter.  The Trent Richardson trade puts extra pressure on the passing game against a Vikings team playing the first game of its final season in the Metrodome.  Adrian Peterson will show the Browns what they hoped they were getting when they traded up with Minnesota to take Richardson.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 27, Browns 14.

Buccaneers at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Bucs have played better than their 0-2 record suggests. The Patriots have played worse than their 2-0 record suggests. This is a close game, but in the end the Patriots will pull it out at home.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Buccaneers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Pats are 2-0 and could be 0-2.  The Bucs are 0-2 and could be 2-0.  But New England is the team with the franchise quarterback and the coach with enough pelts on the wall to justify antisocial behavior.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 20, Buccaneers 10.

Cardinals at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints have started 2-0 without their offense really breaking out yet. Week Three will be when we see Sean Payton’s offense shine.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Cardinals 10.

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals are better than anyone thought they’d be.  And that will serve them very well.  But not in New Orleans against the Saints, who also are better than anyone thought they’d be.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 31, Cardinals 24.

Chargers at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans’ defense is a lot better than it was last year, and I think Gregg Williams deserves a lot of the credit. Before he was known for Bountygate, Williams was known for devising aggressive schemes that gave opposing quarterbacks fits, and that’s what he’s doing in Tennessee this season. His defense will give Philip Rivers fits on Sunday as the Titans improve to 2-1.

MDS’s pick: Titans 20, Chargers 10.

Florio’s take:  The franchises that squared off in the first two AFL title games get together, with both so far looking like potential playoff teams.  Flip a coin, throw a dart, light a match.  What the Chargers did in Philly was more impressive than what the Titans did in Pittsburgh.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 28, Titans 25.

Lions at Redskins

MDS’s take: I’ve gone back and forth on this one: When Washington has the ball, I could see Robert Griffin III having his best game of the season against a suspect Lions secondary, but I could also see a talented Lions line making life miserable for Griffin. When Detroit has the ball, I could see Matthew Stafford putting up huge numbers against a defense that has looked terrible this year, but I could also see the Lions struggling if Reggie Bush is at less than 100 percent. Ultimately, I think the story of the game will be that Washington still doesn’t have its defensive problems fixed.

MDS’s pick: Lions 31, Redskins 30.

Florio’s take:  The Lions have never ever ever never ever never won in D.C.  The Redskins have never ever ever never ever never won in 2013, dating back to January.  Though we don’t know whether No. 21 will be available, it’s time for Detroit to end an 0-21 road streak that dates back well before the commencement of the Curse of Bobby Layne.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Redskins 20.

Falcons at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Dolphins’ defense is good against the pass and bad against the run. Unfortunately for the Falcons, with Steven Jackson out they can’t take advantage of Miami’s biggest weakness. The Dolphins will improve to 3-0 with a low-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 17, Falcons 13.

Florio’s take:  Could the 13-3 Falcons plunge to 1-2?  Yes they could, thanks to an improving Dolphins team that has started the season with a pair of road wins.  Injuries aren’t helping matters for the defending NFC South champions, who’ll need to help their offensive lineman in order to ensure Matt Ryan doesn’t join the list of the limping.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 24, Falcons 20.

Bills at Jets

MDS’s take: It’s billed as the battle of AFC East rookie quarterbacks, but neither Buffalo’s EJ Manuel nor New York’s Geno Smith will be able to do much in a game that will be dominated by defense. I’m picking the Jets to win by a field goal.

MDS’s pick: Jets 9, Bills 6.

Florio’s take:  This battle of rookie quarterbacks will overshadow a far more intriguing subtext relating to the return of former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to face his former boss, Rex Ryan.  The road team simply has the better overall talent.  Which means that, at least for now, the servant becomes the master — and the Bills become the third-best team in the division.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 20, Jets 17.

Colts at 49ers

MDS’s take: Last year the Colts got a lot of good breaks on the way to a surprising playoff run. This year the Colts are getting all kinds of bad breaks, and they’re crashing back to earth. The 49ers will rebound from Sunday’s loss in Seattle and beat the Colts easily.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Colts 10.

Florio’s take:  It’s a Stanford reunion, with Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh and Coby Fleener and Pep Hamiltion reminiscing about their mutual dislike of Pete Carroll and Cal.  After, of course, the 49ers take care of business against a team that saw five of its six total losses in 2012 come when playing away from home.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 35, Colts 20.

Jaguars at Seahawks

MDS’s take: In one of the most lopsided games in recent NFL history, the question isn’t so much who will win as by how much. I think it’s the Seahawks by a lot.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 38, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  The CBS affiliate in Orlando will be apologizing again.  If the Seahawks can beat one of the best teams in the league by 26 in Seattle, this one could be historic.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 45, Jaguars 6.

Bears at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers’ offense has been dismal this season, and the Bears’ defense isn’t going to make things any easier. The Bears improve to 3-0 and the Steelers drop to 0-3.

MDS’s pick: Bears 24, Steelers 10.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers rarely are on the mat.  When it happens, they find a way to get up.  Eight years ago, they were left for dead after a loss to the Bengals, and the Steelers sparked a run that resulted in a Super Bowl win by beating the Bears at Heinz Field.  Though it’s way too early to even think about playoffs in Pittsburgh (except for the baseball team), it’s not too early to envision a proud franchise mustering enough punch to bring the 2-0 Bears back down to earth a bit.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Bears  16.

Raiders at Broncos

MDS’s take: This is going to be a more competitive game than most people think. The Raiders aren’t quite the doormats that people were expecting them to be. Still, with Tyvon Branch injured, I don’t see any way the Raiders keep Peyton Manning in check, and it’s going to be tough for Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders’ offense to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Raiders 23.

Florio’s takeRyan Clady or not, the better-than-expected Raiders still aren’t good enough to hang with the Broncos in their own building.  Look for another big night from Peyton Manning, who knows his supply of prime-time opportunities is dwindling.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 45, Raiders 20.

Permalink 41 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, Rumor Mill, Top Stories
yo

No major changes expected in Steelers defensive scheme

Keith Butler AP

The Steelers kick off organized team activities this week and they’ll be getting to work without Dick LeBeau for the first time since 2003.

The longtime defensive coordinator is in Tennessee now, leaving longtime Steelers assistant Keith Butler in charge of the defense. This week’s work will be the first chance the Steelers have had to run team drills under Butler, but defensive end Cam Heyward said that no one should expect any radical differences from what the team ran with LeBeau calling the shots.

“I don’t think there are going to be too many changes,” Heyward said, via the team’s website. “It’s going to be the same details. We will have a couple of new wrinkles, but we won’t share them now.”

Without any major schematic shifts to figure out, the Steelers should have plenty of time to focus on integrating young players into key roles on a defense that’s changed a lot of personnel of late. The team has drafted 10 defensive players over the last two years to replace departing veterans and they’ll need several of them to step up this year if the defense is going to make any meaningful rebound from last season.

 

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Adrian Peterson still wants out of Minnesota

Peterson Getty Images

The agitation through his agent ended when the draft came and went without the Vikings trading running back Adrian Peterson. The motivation to no longer play for the team reportedly lingers.

According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, Peterson still wants out of Minnesota.

Per Robinson, Peterson will skip the entire offseason program, not just the first week of Organized Team Activities. Which means that Peterson will forfeit a $250,000 workout bonus.

The next question becomes whether he’ll skip a mandatory minicamp, which runs from June 16-18. If he doesn’t show, Peterson can be fined $12,155 for missing the first day, $24,300 for missing the second day, and $36,465 for missing the third day — a total of $72,920.

Given that he’ll already lose $250,000 by skipping voluntary workouts, what’s another $72,920? However, Peterson has been careful not to say or do anything that would directly indicate to the public that there’s a real problem, relying instead on the words of his agent and/or Peterson’s father, along with a stream of leaks to the media, with the latest coming from a “longtime Peterson confidant.” Failing to show up for mandatory minicamp would become the first tangible action from Peterson himself that a significant problem exists.

The news that Peterson still wants out is a bit of a surprise. The leaks regarding his desire to leave had ended with the draft. And agent Ben Dogra had openly accepted that the Vikings want to keep Peterson.

But Dogra also said he wants a “commitment to make him retire as a Viking.” Appearing earlier this month on PFT Live, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman declined to comment on any talks or efforts to upgrade Peterson’s contract, which currently carries no guaranteed money over the final three years. (As a practical matter, though, he’ll get his full salary of $12.75 million for 2015 if he’s on the roster as of Week One.)

It’s hard to reconcile Peterson’s desire to leave Minnesota with his desire to get more guaranteed money to stay. If he truly wants out, more guaranteed money shouldn’t matter. Robinson reports that it is a “far more personal issue” between player and team, and that it “has never been about the money.”

Which likely means it’s always been about the money.

Whether it’s about the money or not (it is), the Vikings aren’t about to trade him — absent an offer that would give them no choice but to do it. With the 2015 draft over, it will be harder for an interested team to pull it off.

Recently, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones mused that his desire to win now could induce him to give up a 2016 first-round pick to get the right player. While Jones wisely didn’t mention Peterson, who else would they need at this point? Still, it’s unlikely the Vikings would take only a 2016 first-round pick at this point.

And so the impasse about money or something other than money (money) will continue, until mandatory minicamp arrives and either Peterson accepts that the Vikings won’t be trading him or he calls the Vikings on their not-so-subtle “play for us or play for no one” stance and fails to show up.

The stakes are fairly high. With $12.75 million in base salary due for 2015 and $2.4 million in unearned signing bonus payable back to the Vikings, the $322,920 he’ll lose by not showing up for the offseason program or minicamp is the tip of a $15,472,920 iceberg.

So look for Peterson to eventually show up. At some point, he’ll work through the anger-denial-bargaining-depression and accept that he has no leverage here. The harder his agent, family, and/or unnamed confidants try to paint Peterson as a victim, the worse he’ll look.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Monday morning one-liners

Emmanuel Sanders, Jason Verrett AP

A look at the Bills safeties heading into OTAs.

Said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin of the team’s new wide receivers, “So the biggest thing from a coach’s seat is let’s get these guys out on the field, let’s get them as many reps as we possibly can, as many looks and as many different coverages as we can so we can prepare them to play fast and decisive.”

Patriots QB Tom Brady has a new dog.

Where does LB Lorenzo Mauldin fit on the Jets Defense?

Some questions for the Ravens to answer as OTAs get underway.

The Bengals have gone for two after touchdowns three times in the last four years.

Breaking down some storylines for the next phase of the Browns offseason.

C Maurkice Pouncey is becoming more of a leader for the younger Steelers.

Texans DE J.J. Watt took in what much of the world calls football during a visit to London.

Colts QB Andrew Luck was in attendance for the Indy 500.

Will RB Toby Gerhart make the Jaguars this season?

Titans CB Tre McBride comes from a military family.

Vance Walker brings versatility to the Broncos defensive line.

95-year-old Edward Burnham took part in a 5K run sponsored by the Chiefs.

DE Justin Tuck likes what he’s seen from Raiders rookie Mario Edwards Jr. thus far.

A closer look at Chargers CB Jason Verrett.

A scouting report on the Cowboys Offense.

Measuring the offseason improvement of the Giants.

WR Nelson Agholor says he feels comfortable doing anything the Eagles ask of him on offense.

What work do the Redskins need to do at cornerback?

The Bears need production from Jared Allen and Shea McClellin at linebacker.

Grading the Lions’ offseason moves.

Vonnie Holliday reminisces about playing next to Reggie White on the Packers defensive line.

Previewing the start of Vikings organized team activities.

The Falcons’ running back competition should be heating up.

Do the new PAT rules give the Panthers an edge?

A look at the Saints’ kicking competition.

The Buccaneers defensive coaches are more comfortable in their second season with Lovie Smith.

Cardinals CB Jerraud Powers thinks Justin Bethel will step into a bigger defensive role this season.

The Rams website takes a look at QB Sean Mannion.

Is LB Lance Briggs still a possibility for the 49ers?

The Seahawks expect more from CB Tharold Simon in 2015.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl hopes could hinge on renovation deal

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 29:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer talks with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before Goodell announces a $1 million donation to the Tampa Bay YET Centers during a presss conference at Mort Park on January 29, 2009 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images) Getty Images

Technically speaking, Tampa is in the running for Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020.

But unless the Glazer family comes up with a plan (i.e. money) to upgrade Raymond James Stadium, those bids might not go anywhere in the face of new and renovated buildings elsewhere.

Via Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune,  the Buccaneers are “currently negotiating” with the Tampa Sports Authority and Hillsborough County officials on plans to refurbish the 17-year-old stadium. Team COO Brian Ford is described as “confident” those plans will materialize soon.

Without them, the Bucs may have a hard time landing the big game.

The NFL has long used Super Bowls as both carrot and stick to leverage new stadiums and upgrades to existing ones.

Atlanta figures to be a shoe-in for building a brand new retractable roof facility next to the Georgia Dome, and with Los Angeles entering the mix for a title game soon, competition is going to be tough. That’s why Dolphins owner Stephen Ross just poured in $400 million to improve Sun Life Stadium.

“We got invited this time because basically Mr. Ross committed to make all the renovations,’’ Rodney Barreto, the chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee said.

So unless the Glazers are willing to make (or find someone to make) a similar investment, it might be some time before the Super Bowl returns to Central Florida.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Gary Kubiak sees NFL teams signing two-point specialists

Denver Broncos Introduce Gary Kubiak Getty Images

Does the NFL’s new rule moving extra point kicks back 13 yards make much of a difference to how teams assemble their rosters?

It does according to Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, who sees NFL teams signing players specifically for their ability to score on two-point conversions.

“I think there [are] going to be two-point specialists from the standpoint of how you go about doing it. Coaching, those are things that you work on,” Kubiak said, via Lindsay Jones of USA Today. “You probably practice those things during camp. It’s not very much and, all of a sudden, it becomes part of the game. That’s a big part of practice. It’s going to change the way you go about doing things. I know that.”

The player most often named as a potential two-point specialist is Tim Tebow, whose presence on the Eagles’ roster has some thinking that Chip Kelly must have some two-point conversion tricks up his sleeve. But if Tebow had some great ability to score consistently from the 2-yard line, why was he out of the NFL for the last two years? The ability to score on two-point conversions and goal line plays has always been valuable in football. Moving the extra point back doesn’t make it much more valuable than it already was.

If the Eagles’ proposal to move two-point conversions up to the 1-yard line had passed, that would have caused a significant change: Some teams would have started to go for two as the “default” position, and those teams would have assembled their rosters with that plan in mind. But the reality is, a 33-yard extra point kick isn’t much harder for an NFL kicker than a 20-yard kick, and so teams aren’t going to go for two much more this year than they did last year. Those two-point conversion specialists may be coming to the NFL eventually, but only if the extra point rules change more in the future.

Permalink 23 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Adrian Peterson skipping start of Vikings OTAs

Peterson Getty Images

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he had an idea when running back Adrian Peterson was going to show up for work.

At some point this week, someone can ask him if he knew it wasn’t going to be soon.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the less-than-gruntled running back won’t be on hand when the Vikings begin OTAs Tuesday.

The Vikings have said they weren’t interested in dealing Peterson, and with the draft come and gone, any realistic window for moving him is closed.

But now, the absences become costly for Peterson, who has a $250,000 workout bonus that hinges on his appearance at 90 percent of the team’s OTAs and minicamps.

Whether he shows up this week and in time to collect remains to be seen, but the current plan is for him to not be there Tuesday.

Of course, losing a quarter of a million is one thing for most of us, but Peterson’s set to make $13 million this year. So whether this is just posturing, it’s at least the latest sign he’s not happy in Minnesota.

Permalink 72 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Rally to support Tom Brady draws about 150 people outside Gillette Stadium

Fans Attend "Free Tom Brady" Rally Getty Images

On Sunday, we learned something: if you hold a rally supporting a star quarterback suspended due to allegations of deflated footballs, they will come.

Approximately 150 people attended Sunday’s “Free Tom Brady” rally outside of Gillette Stadium, the Boston Globe reported, citing Foxborough, Mass. police for the crowd estimate.

Brady, the Patriots’ four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, has been banned for the first four regular season games of 2015 by the NFL. He is appealing.

The demonstration, per a Facebook page advertising the event, was intended to “protest the unjust football arrest of half God half man Tom Brady.”

According to media reports, the demonstration included a recently married couple that is not honeymooning in Bermuda in solidarity with with the Patriots after Brady’s four-game suspension.

“We want to be here to support our Patriots, and until that ban is lifted we’re not going on our honeymoon,” said Paul Goodrow of Watertown, Mass., according to the Boston Herald. “Our whole house is like a man cave.

“The NFL debacled this so-called Deflategate. It’s just ridiculous. It’s all because of fans from other states who hate us because they ain’t us. I believe that he is innocent. This is just a smear campaign against the Patriots.”

There was no indication any Patriots staff were present for the rally.

New England begins its organized team practice activities on Tuesday.

Permalink 141 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

All but one team will hold OTAs this week

The New England Patriots Workout In Foxborough, Mass. Getty Images

In less than four weeks, all NFL clubs will have wrapped up their organized offseason workouts.

Not surprisingly, then, the upcoming week will be a working one around the league.

Thirty-one of 32 NFL clubs will hold organized team practice activities (OTAs) between Tuesday, May 26 and Friday, May 29. Only the Rams will not be holding any club-overseen workouts this week.

OTAs are non-padded, non-hitting practices in which coaches can instruct players. Players can wear helmets, and full team drills are allowed, per the CBA between NFL teams and players.

The majority of clubs will have OTAs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before calling it a week. However, others will mix in a day off. The Patriots, for instance, are set to work on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Here are the days in which teams will hold OTAs this week:

Arizona: Tuesday-Thursday.

Atlanta: Tuesday-Friday.

Baltimore: Tuesday-Thursday.

Buffalo: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Carolina: Tuesday-Thursday.

Chicago: Wednesday-Friday.

Cincinnati: Tuesday-Thursday.

Cleveland: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Dallas: Tuesday-Thursday.

Denver: Wednesday-Friday.

Detroit: Tuesday-Thursday.

Green Bay: Wednesday-Friday.

Houston: Tuesday-Thursday.

Indianapolis: Tuesday-Thursday.

Jacksonville: Tuesday-Thursday.

Kansas City: Tuesday-Thursday.

Miami: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Minnesota: Tuesday-Thursday.

New England: Tuesday; Thursday-Friday.

New Orleans: Tuesday-Thursday.

N.Y. Giants: Wednesday-Friday.

N.Y. Jets: Tuesday-Thursday.

Oakland: Tuesday-Thursday.

Philadelphia: Tuesday-Thursday.

Pittsburgh: Tuesday-Thursday.

St. Louis: None.

San Diego: Tuesday-Thursday.

San Francisco: Wednesday-Friday.

Seattle: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Tampa Bay: Tuesday-Thursday.

Tennessee: Tuesday-Thursday.

Washington: Tuesday-Thursday.

Permalink 18 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Kris Durham worked out for Saints and Cowboys

Kris Durham, Dwayne Gratz AP

Veteran free agents trying to catch on with a team before the end of offseason work are running short on time, but they can be heartened by the fact that teams are still taking a look at who’s available on the open market.

Wide receiver Kris Durham was a guest on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Zig Fracassi and said that he’s had workouts with both the Saints and Cowboys recently. Durham played for the Titans last season.

The Saints recently added Josh Morgan to their receiving corps and Drew Brees has talked up the chance to see Nick Toon and Seantavius Jones get more looks behind Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks during the 2015 season. Throw in Joe Morgan and Durham would likely have a tough route to playing time in New Orleans.

Dallas has a bit less depth with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley backed up by a group of players short on experience and Durham played for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in Detroit. Mickey Spagnola of the Cowboys website adds that the team also worked out former 49ers first-round pick A.J. Jenkins and reports there’s a good chance the team adds a “somewhat veteran” wideout in the coming weeks.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman likely to split reps in Atlanta

devontafreeman AP

Steven Jackson is out after two years as the Falcons’ top running back. At the moment, the plan is for last year’s fourth-round pick and this year’s third-round pick to split the job of taking Jackson’s place.

Devonta Freeman, who had 65 carries for 248 yards as a rookie last year, and Tevin Coleman, a rookie from Indiana, will be in a two-back system with equal reps, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.

Whether Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan sticks with a two-back system throughout the season remains to be seen. Both Freeman and Coleman will get the opportunity to separate himself during training camp. But it will be an equal opportunity for both players.

It also remains to be seen what the Falcons will get out of Antone Smith, who played very well in limited action last season before breaking his leg. Smith has played very sparingly so far in his career, but when he has had the ball in his hands, he’s been fantastic: He has averaged 9.9 yards on 29 carries and 15.5 yards on 15 catches. A trio of Freeman, Coleman and Smith may make the Falcons better at running back without Jackson than they were with him.

Permalink 9 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

ESPN says NFL lawyers “recommend” Goodell handle Brady appeal

Lawyers

There’s apparently a little-known principle of journalism that goes like this: Fool me once, shame on me. Now fool me again!

Four months after allowing itself to provide the primary catalyst for #DeflateGate via a false report that sparked a frenzy, ESPN is currently helping to boost artificially the perception that there are no problems at all with the decision of Commissioner Roger Goodell to personally handle the appeal of the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Appearing as of this posting on the front page of ESPN’s NFL page is this headline: “Lawyers endorse Goodell hearing Brady appeal.” With no explanation of which lawyers to which the headline refers, it isn’t clear who exactly is endorsing the decision. Which prompted me to click on the story. Which made the link pretty good click bait.

So I clicked. And I was greeted with this headline: “Lawyers recommend Roger Goodell hear Tom Brady appeal.” Which is actually a little stronger than “endorse.” Which prompted me to read more than the headline, in order to find out who was doing the recommending.

Here are the first two sentences of the article: “Attorneys for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have recommended that Goodell reject the NFLPA’s request that he recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension. While Goodell still could step aside as arbitrator, he would be doing so against the advice of his lawyers.”

Which apparently makes it all OK.

The article then says nothing more about who made the recommendation or why the recommendation was made or whether Goodell relied on the recommendation in making the decision to handle the appeal. It cites no sources, named or unnamed, for the report that Goodell’s lawyers made the recommendation, and it credits no reporter until the very end of the story, where it adds in italics, “ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

In all, it looks and feels like an effort to artificially legitimize Goodell’s decision to handle the appeal to a potentially skeptical public. The clear takeaway isn’t that Goodell is intent on handling the appeal personally; it’s that the lawyers advised him to do it. So he’s not doing what he wants to do in order to ensure that he decides the matter in light of the broader business interests of the league or because he simply wants to control everything, he’s simply doing what the lawyers have told him to do.

Which apparently makes it all OK.

It’s a distinction without a difference, since: (1) the lawyers work for him and will be inclined to tell him what he wants to hear; and (2) the lawyers presumably are moving in lock step with Goodell on his intent to make the decision without deferring to anyone truly neutral and independent, who would then have the power to scuttle the findings and conclusions that Ted Wells charged the league millions of dollars to reach, possibly at the direct or indirect behest of the league.

As NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Friday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, “The Wells report delivered exactly what the client wanted.” And that’s a common dynamic in American business. Lawyers routinely provide an “independent analysis” that gives credence and credibility to the thing the client wants to have credence and credibility when judged by someone else.

It’s still unclear whether that’s exactly what happened as to the findings of the Wells report. It’s very clear that’s what happened as to the “recommendation” that Goodell personally handle the Wells report. And it’s abundantly clear that ESPN has gone out of its way to help sell to the public the notion that the decision has a degree of credence and credibility that ultimately is meaningless — even though it was ESPN that undermined its own brand by passing along blatantly false information in the early days of #DeflateGate that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs measured at two full pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum.

ESPN’s ongoing willingness to carry water for the league on this topic is surprising in light of the lie it was told. Then again, with hardly anyone wagging a finger at ESPN for allowing itself to be so grossly manipulated, it’s easy for ESPN to react to the situation like Kevin Bacon taking a paddle to the ass in Animal House.

Permalink 81 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Lane Johnson puked his way through brutal offseason workouts

Wild Card Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson wasn’t interested in rest and relaxation this offseason.

Johnson spent five weeks early in the offseason doing a workout routine based around mixed martial arts principles and devised by Jay Glazer and former UFC champion Randy Couture. Johnson said it was the most brutal thing he has ever been through, but when it was time for Organized Team Activities to start, he surprised himself with how much he had improved.

“The first couple days, I was puking non-stop,” Johnson said. “It was terrible. Going into OTAs now, I’m in the best shape of my life. I notice now I’m a lot quicker with my hands and a lot stronger with my hands. I don’t have to really think about it. It comes naturally.”

Johnson thinks these workouts are going to take him to the next step in his career.

“I want to be elite at my position in the NFL, and I felt that this would help me get there,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of confidence about what’s ahead of me. I think I’m getting close to being elite. Last year was a big stepping stone from my rookie year and I just have to be more aggressive and more violent going into Year 3.”

If Johnson can develop into an elite offensive tackle, all that puke will be worth it.

Permalink 25 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

49ers want to “cause confusion” on defense this season

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Among the many changes to the 49ers this offseason is the decision to hand the reins of the defense to coordinator Eric Mangini after they parted ways with Vic Fangio.

Fangio has been followed out the door by linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive end Justin Smith and others from last year’s defense and the holdovers will be utilized in a different fashion by Mangini. Safety Antoine Bethea said that the defense is moving away from Fangio’s fairly straightforward approach as Mangini, whose move from tight ends coach back to defense may have confused some during the 49ers’ offseason upheaval, tries to keep offenses guessing about what the 49ers will do.

“Coach Mangini, his thing is we’re going to cause confusion,” Bethea said, via CSNBayArea.com. “The opposing offense isn’t going to know what we’re going to be able to do each down. It could be bringing the pressure. It could be dropping eight into coverage. But it’s just keeping the offense on their heels. However, you want to look at it, I think it’s going to be a good deal for our defense.”

Bethea said that “everybody has to know what everybody else is doing” in the defense, something that could cause some confusion for the 49ers if a team with shifting personnel doesn’t have things nailed down come the regular season. Bethea and coach Jim Tomsula both said that the team would use OTAs to see what new wrinkles work and which should be discarded when the team gets to training camp, but the end philosophical change offers more proof that 2015 is going to be about new directions for the 49ers.

Permalink 51 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Army vet Daniel Rodriguez trying to make most of chance with Rams

Daniel Rodriguez AP

Memorial Day weekend has its fair share of gatherings around the grill, swimming in sunny weather and other fun, but none of that should get in the way of remembering that the holiday honors those who have given their lives in service to the country around the world.

Rams wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez doesn’t need that reminder. Rodriguez did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was wounded during the Battle of Kamdesh, while in the Army and his football career began with a promise to a friend who was killed in combat. Rodriguez went to community college, worked on his game and landed as a walk-on at Clemson.

“It was just one of those things where I felt that if I had any purpose in life, I needed to make sure that I kept my word to a friend, and live my life in a way that honored those who had died,” Rodriguez said, via the Rams website. “I needed to make sure that I represented myself well on behalf of my friends who were killed. And that was just trying to live through a promise.”

Rodriguez, who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device for his service in Afghanistan, wasn’t drafted, but met with Rams personnel at the postseason Medal of Honor Bowl and his pro day and got an invite to try out at the rookie minicamp.

“When they invited me, I was like, ‘Heck yeah, I would love to try out. I’ve got nothing to lose,'” Rodriguez said. “They flew me out here and I thought I was only going to be here for a two-day trial. And they said I had a pretty good workout, made some plays, and they offered to have me stay. It was one of those things that I couldn’t really believe happened, and it was all a whirlwind. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had invitations to other minicamps down the road, and I was just trying to take advantage of every one. And this one was the first one and it stuck. Honestly, it was a blessing in disguise.”

Rodriguez has a long way to go to make the Rams’ 53-man roster, but he overcame long odds to get this far and it’s a safe bet that he’ll have plenty of people rooting for him to continue his stay in St. Louis well past this summer’s cutdown day.

Permalink 40 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Brooks Reed may miss start of OTAs

Baltimore Ravens v Houston Texans Getty Images

Linebacker Brooks Reed may miss the first set of organized team activities with his new team.

The Falcons signed Reed to a five-year deal as a free agent in March and is expected to be a starter for the team in the fall, but Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports that Reed may be on the bench as the team moves into the next phase of workouts this week. Reed reportedly suffered a groin injury during the team’s recent veteran minicamp.

McClure describes the injury as a minor one, but the Falcons don’t have much reason to push it toward being something more significant at this point in the offseason. O’Brien Schofield is expected to take Reed’s reps with the first team.

The Falcons may have several offensive linemen on the sideline when they start OTAs as well. Left tackle Jake Matthews, center Joe Hawley, tackle Sam Baker and interior lineman Peter Konz are all on the way back from injuries, as are safety William Moore and running back Antone Smith.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top