Bengals expect Jonah Williams to miss season

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The Bengals are expected to lose their first-round draft pick for the entire 2019 season.

Cincinnati announced today that rookie left tackle Jonah Williams had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and is likely to miss the year. He was injured during a practice this month.

“We look forward to Jonah being a major contributor in the future, and know that he won’t let this injury deter him from still being an important part of this team,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “We’re confident in our offensive line personnel as we head into training camp, and we believe they can do their part in helping this team achieve its goals.”

Williams was an All-American at Alabama last season and the Bengals took him with the 11th overall pick in the draft. Cincinnati was expecting Williams to be a starter from Day One, but now that will wait until Day One of the 2020 season.

Eric Bieniemy hopes “input” in Chiefs offense helps him in future

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There aren’t many offenses in the NFL teams would more like to copy than the Chiefs’.

So even though he doesn’t call all the plays — head coach Andy Reid handles that — Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said he’s still an integral part of what they do, which should qualify him for future head-coaching opportunities.

“Here’s my response about the playcalling: coach Reid has always done it his way, and that’s how historically he’s done it because he’s coach Reid,” Bieniemy said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN. “He has a beautiful mind, and we all work hand-in-hand together. And he gives me the green light to do a number of things. I have input. I do scripts. I get the install. There are a number of things that I do.”

Bieniemy’s role in the offense should help him, at a time when teams are leaning toward hiring coaches from that side of the ball. Working with any offense which includes Patrick Mahomes only helps. But in a cycle in which eight jobs changed hands, only one minority coach was hired (Brian Flores in Miami).

Bieniemy interviewed for that job as well, along with the Jets, Buccaneers, and Bengals. He said he was grateful for the opportunities, and hopes they position him well for future interviews. But he didn’t agree with the perception that his lack of control of the offense, or his non-quarterback background (he’s coached running backs) made him less viable.

He was on hand this week at the NFL Quarterback Coaching Summit hosted by the league and Black College Football Hall of Fame, so his status stood out. He and Byron Leftwich of the Buccaneers are the only minority coaches in offensive coordinator positions.

“I’ve been an offensive coach my whole entire life,” he said. “People think just because you coach running backs you don’t understand the pass game. Well, when you’ve played the position, and you’re involved in coaching the position, you’ve got to make sure guys understand the entire game plan, meaning you’re very much involved in the pass game. You have to understand protections. You have to understand route concepts. You have to understand how defenses are structured going against you.

“Do we need more [minority] coaches on the offensive side of the ball? Yes. How do we go about doing that? We have to make sure there’s a plan for guys of helping guys get into that quarterback room and into quality-control positions so those guys can add that knowledge and learn how to deal with the quarterbacks, learn the language and speak it.”

And then to convince people they’re able to speak it to the entire team.

Jakeem Grant over “mental hump” in return from leg injury

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Wide receiver Jakeem Grant made an impact on both offense and special teams over the first 10 games of the Dolphins 2018 season.

Grant caught two touchdown passes and joined Andre Roberts as the only players to return both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns last year. A lower leg injury meant that Grant wasn’t able to add to those totals over the final six games, but he’s aiming for more this year.

While the initial fear that Grant tore his Achilles was misplaced, the wideout said the injury still “kind of messed with me mentally” as he worked to get back for this season. He believes he’s “over that mental hump” and ready to pick up where he left off last year.

“I feel like last year I kind of made a big name for myself in the return game I want to be the best returner in the league,” Grant said, via the Palm Beach Post. “And I want to be one of the top receivers in the league. I’m going to continue to play the best I ever can.”

Grant is set for free agency once the year is out and hitting either of those goals will set him up well for another contract.

John Parry: Pass interference review opens Pandora’s Box

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John Parry retired as an NFL referee after officiating Super Bowl LIII, so he won’t ever work a game that includes a replay review to determine whether a pass interference foul occurred during a play.

Parry’s final game featured an incomplete pass to Rams wideout Brandin Cooks while he was covered and contacted by Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. No flag was thrown on the play, but NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron has said that it would be a foul if reviewed under the rule adopted this offseason.

In an interview with Jonathan Jones of SI.com, Parry agreed there was contact but doesn’t believe it significantly hindered Cooks’ ability to catch the ball. He also doesn’t seem to believe that the move to a rule that would turn the play into a penalty is a step in the right direction.

“What do I think of it? I’ve wrestled with this since late February from being involved with the competition committee, and I don’t think a day goes by where I wonder is this good? Could this be done differently? Is there a better way? I have tried to convince myself that where we’re headed is good. I can’t get there, I just can’t get there. I’m struggling with it. . . . People talk about sky judge, well both teams have five to eight assistants in a booth with video. They’re the best sky judges we have. So we kind of already have that but no one talks about it in that way. Then you get to what do we look at? Pass interference or player-safety fouls or what? It’s Pandora’s Box that they’ve opened.”

Parry will be working for ESPN as a rules analyst this season, which means we’ll likely be hearing from him about this rule several more times before the year is out.

What changes to Hard Knocks would you like to see?

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The NFL reportedly is considering changes to the Hard Knocks series. And that news provided us with a piece of low-hanging fruit as it relates to our daily PFT Live draft.

What changes should be made to the HBO series?

Simms and I picked three each, with the conversation sparking plenty of on-the-fly ideas. (Translation: We hadn’t really prepared all that much.)

Check out our thoughts, and then share your own. And, as always, tune in for PFT Live every weekday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET, with the final two hours simulcast on NBCSN. These next three shows are the final episodes for four full weeks.

Tom Dundon wants his $70 million back from the AAF

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Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon is having a case of buyer’s remorse. But it could be too late for Dundon to get a refund.

Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com reports that Dundon has filed a claim in the Alliance of American Football’s bankruptcy case. Dundon alleges that his investment happened due to “misrepresentations,” and he seeks a full refund of the $70 million he paid to keep the league afloat for five or six weeks during its only season, before Dundon shuttered it.

“Even though AAF executives told [Dundon Capital Partners] its contribution would get the AAF through the first season, those executives knew at the time of the execution of the Term Sheet that the AAF would likely need an additional $50,000,000 (including League revenue) on top of [Dundon Capital Partners’] investment of up to $70,000,000 to get through the first season,” the document alleges. “The AAF and its executives never disclosed this information to [Dundon Capital Partners].”

In other words, Dundon claims that the AAF led Dundon to believe that an infusion of $70 million would get the league through its first season, but that the AAF knew that in reality $120 million would be required. More specifically, Dundon claims that the AAF led him to believe that an amount considerably less than $70 million would be needed to finish the campaign.

“The AAF further represented that it could survive the season with only $55,000,000, leaving substantial capital to prepare for the following season,” the document contends. “During the weeks following the execution of the Term Sheet, [Dundon Capital Partners] learned a number of alarming facts that revealed that the AAF was not forthcoming with Dundon and [Dundon Capital Partners]. [Dundon Capital Partners] learned that, in addition to not having the funds to pay salaries after the first week of the League’s games, the AAF also had accumulated more than $13,000,000 in unpaid debts and commitments. The AAF did not disclose these unpaid debts or commitments to [Dundon Capital Partners] prior to the execution of the February 14, 2019 Term Sheet.”

Dundon also contends that the AAF failed to disclose the existence of “ongoing threatened litigation from a past associate who claimed to be a co-founder of the League and who was suing to obtain a 50% interest in the AAF.”

With precious few assets available to be distributed to the AAF’s many creditors, Dundon’s filing feels like the first move in a fresh game of chess/checkers/chicken against those who lured him to pump millions down what ultimately became (and possibly already was) a dry hole. Dundon could be trying to ensure that creditors won’t target him personally, he could be trying to lay the foundation to target personally those who lured him into the business, and/or he could simply be trying to ensure that the record is clear and unambiguous in the event the pending legal proceedings eventually take a southerly turn from the civil justice system.

Abrupt 2015 trade from Saints sparked a career low for Akiem Hicks

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Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks has become a dominant force for Chicago. He landed there as a free agent, after his rookie contract expired while with the Patriots. He landed in New England in a less conventional way.

Yes, a trade sent Hicks from the Saints to the Patriots early in the 2015. The trade reportedly was sparked by an incident between Hicks and Saints coach Sean Payton.

As explained by Dan Pompei of TheAthletic.com, Hicks was benched for an undrafted rookie during a loss to the Panthers. This triggered a “heated exchange” between Hicks and Payton.

Hicks supposedly refused to return to the game, a contention that he denies. Later that night, Payton and Hicks exchanged “[m]ore heated words” by phone. The following week, Payton informed Hicks that he’d been traded to the Patriots.

The move stunned Hicks.

“It was the absolute lowest point of my life,” Hicks told Pompei. “At 14, I fell in love with the game, watching clips from NFL Films. When you are all in, with your entire self, chasing a dream, pushing aside everything that can get in the way including friends and family, it becomes you. So when I got to that point when I was traded, I felt like, it wouldn’t happen. I suck. I’m not a good player. I’m going to be forgotten. I felt like it was over. I’m not what I thought I was all these years. . . . It’s not a good place I was in.”

Hicks finished the season with the Patriots, before signing with the Bears in 2016. And Hicks has gotten better and better during his three seasons in Chicago, proving his assessment of his own skills accurate — even if it took a little while for him to reach his full potential.

Everette Brown finding joy in coaching Brian Burns

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The Panthers selected Florida State’s Brian Burns in the first round of this year’s draft with the hope that he’ll develop into a standout pass rusher for them in the years to come.

That plan didn’t work out for them in 2009. That’s when the Panthers drafted Everette Brown out of Florida State, but Brown was cut after recording six sacks in two seasons in Carolina. Brown bounced around the league until 2015 and now finds himself back with the Panthers trying to make sure things go better for Burns.

Brown was hired as the team’s assistant linebackers coach earlier this year and getting Burns ready for his rookie season has been one of his chief tasks in his first months on the job. Brown, who interned with the Panthers last year and coached at a Charlotte high school, said it has been enjoyable to be back with his former team.

“I wouldn’t say unfinished business with me personally,” Brown said, via Joseph Person of TheAthletic.com. “I was OK with where I was at in life, and I’m OK with how my career went and very thankful for the opportunities that I had. But when it comes to coaching, I do find joy. I find a lot of joy. And the biggest joy that I find is being able to take the experiences I had and my testimony and being able to help guys that are in the path now — a go in the NFL fulfilling their dreams.”

Brown and Burns had met before the draft because of their shared Florida State ties and the rookie said it’s been helpful to have a “familiar face” helping him with the transition. If that leads to better results than Brown got on the field, his second NFL act should be an extended one.

Former Shark trying to become a Jet

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With OTAs being the non-padded, non-contact events they are, Jets rookie Valentine Holmes still felt like a rugby player.

It wasn’t until he had to pose in a full uniform for team photos that he realized things were very different.

“To wear the full suit — the tight pants, the jersey, the pads and the helmet — it was pretty cool,” Holmes said, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. “To see my name on the back of a New York Jets jersey, that was pretty cool, too. It’s something I’ll hold close.”

The Australian rugby conversion is still getting used to a new game, beginning with all the pads. He’s their allocation through the league’s international pathway program, which places foreign players on teams, with a chance at a free practice squad spot.

That’s quite a departure from his stardom in the National Rugby League in Australia, where he was a big-name player for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, and his departure angered some fans.

“I feel like I want to challenge myself as a person and as a player and as an athlete,” Holmes said. “There’s no better way than to compete over here in America in the NFL. It’s the pinnacle of sport in America. I’ve always been watching it since I’ve been in high school. The opportunity arose for me and I was toward the end of a contract at that time, and I kind of fell into it. There were a couple of clubs that were keen on me and wanted to get me over for a tryout.

“It kind of worked its way out. I’m young and I don’t like to live with regrets. If it doesn’t work out or I don’t like it, or if I’m not good enough, I can always go back and try rugby again.”

He was making $720,000 in Australia last season, and would make (everything’s relative) just $129,000 if he spends the year on the Jets practice squad. His speed has the Jets giving him a look as a running back and a returner, and he’s hoping he can learn enough to hang around on their 53-man roster.

When will the Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott do another deal?

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With the Cowboys currently intent on extending quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver Amari Cooper, both of whom have contracts that expire after the season, the Cowboys don’t seem to be thinking at all about negotiating a new contract with running back Ezekiel Elliott.

It’s fairly obvious that the Cowboys aren’t making Elliott a priority for a 2019 re-do, and it’s equally obvious that Elliott won’t be clamoring for his second contract this year. The question becomes whether the Cowboys will extend Elliott prior to the 2020 season, which will be the last of his rookie deal.

Dan Graziano of ESPN recently speculated that the Cowboys may wait until after Elliott’s rookie deal expires, opting to sign him to a new contract with application of the franchise tag looming or opting to keep him for a sixth (and perhaps final) season under the tag. These possibilities, however, fly in the face of comments previously made by Cowboys COO Stephen Jones.

“Certainly we’ve got a couple years there with Zeke to get that done,” Jones told the #PFTPM podcast in the days after the 2019 draft. “We certainly want to get him done. He’s the straw, if you will, that stirs our drink. He’s a key part of what we’re about. Those things take time to get done. They don’t happen overnight. Certainly he’s a priority in terms of ultimately getting him signed. There hasn’t really been a timetable put on this.”

While Zeke may be the straw that stirs the drink now, the Cowboys possibly will be stirring the drink with a new straw, if the offensive focus shifts from banging the ball into the middle of the line of scrimmage with Zeke to developing a stronger passing game, fueled by Amari’s 2,000-yard aspirations. If, after a 2019 season that could, in theory, see more Dak and less Zeke, maybe Zeke becomes less of a priority.

Then there’s the possibility that a coaching change is coming for the Cowboys after the 2019 season, and a new coach may feel differently about a Zeke-centric offense.

Maybe, eventually, Zeke will get the DeMarco Murray treatment. Murray set the franchise’s single-season rushing record in 2014. His reward? A trip to the open market, and a one-way ticket out of town.

It’s currently difficult to envision the Cowboys reaching the same conclusion about Elliott, especially since the franchise used the fourth overall pick in 2016 to get him. Still, quality running backs are easier to find, and are far cheaper, than quality quarterbacks. With plenty of star players on the payroll who have been or will be paid, there’s a chance someone will be holding the bag. Until Elliott gets a second contract, there’s a chance it will be him.

Elliott seems to be content with the reality of not getting a new contract in the near future. Given the possibility that the team may never give him one, Elliott should revisit his position on whether now is the time to draw a line in the sand and demand more.

Jalen Ramsey: I’ll still talk trash this season

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Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey has not been shy about sharing his opinions on or off the field over his first three NFL seasons, but he took a different path during a recent interview.

Ramsey slammed many of the league’s quarterbacks over the course of the 2018 offseason, but he passed on the opportunity to offer further reviews while talking with Adam Schefter of ESPN. Ramsey used the time to rattle off his positive feelings about the arrival of Nick Foles in Jacksonville while adding that he’s “growing” as he heads into his fourth season.

That answer was noted as being a mature one on Twitter and the response caught Ramsey’s eye when it rolled across his timeline. Ramsey wrote “lol don’t get it twisted” and used a poop emoji to convey his plans to resume his old ways once the Jaguars are on the field this season.

Assuming Ramsey continues to play the way he has over the last three years, keeping that part of his game in place should be OK with the Jaguars.

Frank Reich on Rock Ya-Sin: You can see him progressing

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It’s hard to imagine the Colts will be able to repeat the draft success from last year that saw guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard wind up as All-Pro selections after their rookie season.

For one thing, they don’t have a first-round pick to follow in Nelson’s footsteps. For another, it’s rare for any rookie to hit the league with that kind of impact although one member of this year’s class could get a shot.

Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin was the second pick of the second round and he has a shot to play alongside Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore when the team takes the field in September. Ya-Sin spent the spring familiarizing himself with the Colts defense and getting tutored on how to use his size and strength without drawing flags that will hurt the team. Head coach Frank Reich liked how Ya-Sin did on those fronts over the course of the offseason.

“He understands the techniques that we are asking him to play,” Reich said, via Stephen Holder of TheAthletic.com. “You can see him progressing.”

Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston are also on hand at corner, but the Colts have shown they’re willing to turn a lot over to rookies if they show they’re ready to play. That should bode well for Ya-Sin if training camp goes as well as the offseason program.

Joe Theismann advocates sitting Dwayne Haskins for the full season

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Storyline No. 29 on the list of 2019 stories we’re watching at PFT focuses on when, and if, new Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins will play this year. Former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann’s suggestion is this: Don’t play Haskins at all.

“To me, the best scenario for Dwayne would be . . . to sit this year, Case [Keenum] plays, Colt [McCoy] comes back, is healthy enough to be able to be in competition and/or a part of the ball club . . . and give Dwayne a chance to process everything,” Theismann told 106.7 the Fan in D.C., via the Washington Times.

Theismann definitely wouldn’t start Haskins from Week One, given an early-season schedule that includes games against the Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, Giants, and Patriots.

“To put him out there early against those teams, it’s just a formula for disaster for the team, for Jay [Gruden], for the fans and everybody else,” Theismann said. “I think the young man is our future, and let’s protect the future, instead of throwing it out there right now and saying, ‘Okay, go get ’em.’ The schedule we’re playing is not a ‘go get ’em’ schedule.”

Another factor in the analysis, as previously mentioned, is Gruden’s desire to remain employed beyond 2019. Starting the season with Haskins under center could make it hard for Gruden to achieve enough to survive. Starting with Keenum or McCoy could trigger better results — especially in light of that “go get ’em” schedule.

Also, it would (will) be easier to bench Keenum or McCoy for Haskins than to bench Haskins for Keenum or McCoy. Once Haskins is playing, the team needs to let him keep playing. And if Keenum-or-McCoy approach results in Washington fading from playoff contention, Gruden can hope that Haskins shows enough late in the year to persuade the organization to choose continuity for 2020.

Dolphins think they found a coach for the new generation of players

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New Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is only 38 years old, and that may have helped him get the job.

Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier says Flores is a coach who understands the current generation of players, what motivates them and how to help them grow.

“For me, it wasn’t a matter of offense or defense,” Grier said, via Jarrett Bell of USA Today. “It was a matter of finding the right guy that we felt was going to be a leader of men, that was going to interact with this generation. This generation is different. When I grew up, I couldn’t talk back to my mom and dad. These kids, you see it out on the field, they’re talking back to coaches. It’s a different world. It’s a hard job, coaching these kids.”

The Dolphins’ roster is not in great shape, and it’s probably going to take Flores some time to build a young team into a winner. But the Dolphins think they have the right man to lead that young roster.

Dan Quinn: Takk McKinley “lighter, faster and more explosive”

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The Falcons have several key players returning to the lineup after major injuries in the 2018 season, but hopes for improvement don’t hinge entirely on getting back to health.

There’s also the hope of improvement for some of the team’s younger players. 2017 first-round pick Takk McKinley is in that group and has spent the offseason working off the edge as both a defensive end and a linebacker in the Atlanta defense.

He’s slimmed down to go through that work and his efforts impressed head coach Dan Quinn over the course of the offseason program.

“I think he’s lighter, his speed and versatility seem ramped up,” Quinn said, via the team’s website. “For him to go through his first offseason, as you know he missed with his left shoulder, his second year with his right shoulder. To see him lighter, faster and more explosive, that to me was someone who jumped out.”

Quinn is running the defense this season and a breakout year for McKinley would go a long way toward making that a winning decision for Atlanta.