Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims will be game-time decisions for Jets

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The Jets played without wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims in Week Two and they’re not saying whether either of them will be in the lineup for Week Three.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh called both players game-time decisions at his Friday press conference, although there are different reasons why they’ll be Sunday calls. Crowder is trying to return from a groin injury while Mims was a healthy scratch last weekend.

“We’ll see how it all works. I’m pumped for Denzel and the week he’s had,” Saleh said, via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.

If Crowder does play, it’s hard to see how Mims would be in the lineup. He didn’t play last week and there’s no obvious reason why the team would make a different choice with Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, and Jeff Smith this time around.

Mims was a second-round choice last season and started eight games as a rookie, but it would seem the change in coaching staffs hasn’t worked out well for him.

Emmanuel Sanders named this week’s NFLPA Community MVP

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Bills wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has been named the NFLPA’s Community MVP for this week.

Sanders relaunched his charitable foundation at an event at the Harriet Ross Tubman School in Buffalo this week. He donated $20,000 to the foundation, which focuses on mentorship, education, and healthy living for children from financially disadvantaged families.

Sanders also became a spokesperson for the Field & Fork Network and will work with the group to address healthy eating, food access and child hunger.

“When I entered the NFL, I knew I wanted to give back because so many people gave back to me when I was growing up,” Sanders said in a statement. “Along with the other Community MVPs, the mission of my foundation will offer support and opportunities for many deserving kids.”

The NFLPA will donate $10,000 to Sanders’ foundation or a charity of his choice and he will be eligible for the Alan Page Community Award at the end of the season.

 

Jaylon Ferguson tests positive for COVID-19

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It looks like the Ravens won’t have one of their depth pieces at outside linebacker in Week Three.

According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN, Jaylon Ferguson has tested positive for COVID-19. Jeff Zrebiec of TheAthletic.com was the first to report there was at least one positive test among Baltimore’s 53-man roster with contact tracing ongoing.

If an unvaccinated player is determined to be a close contact, he will have to go on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That would make the player ineligible for Sunday’s game against Detroit.

Ferguson is in his third season out of Louisiana Tech. A third-round pick in 2019, Ferguson appeared in 14 games in each of his first two seasons. He played 10 defensive snaps in Baltimore’s season-opening loss to Las Vegas but just one in the victory over Kansas City last week.

Report: Jaycee Horn likely facing 2-3 month recovery with broken bones in foot

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The Panthers had several players go down with injuries in Thursday’s victory over the Texans and there’s a little more clarity on what one of them is facing for his recovery.

According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Carolina fears cornerback Jaycee Horn broke multiple bones in the metatarsal area of his foot. Surgery is an option for Horn and he’s likely looking at a two-to-three month recovery period. That would put Horn back on the field either late in the season or the injury could be season-ending.

Head coach Matt Rhule had said after Thursday’s game that the fear was Horn broke “a couple of bones” in his foot. But at that point, the head coach was unsure of Horn’s potential recovery time.

The Panthers selected Horn with the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft and he has lived up to the billing. The cornerback played nearly every defensive snap of Carolina’s first two games before playing 67 percent of them in last night’s contest. He left the game early in the third quarter.

Running back Christian McCaffrey and safety Juston Burris also had to exit Thursday’s game with injuries, though it’s currently unclear how much time they’ll miss.

Stepen Ross should do the deal he wants to do for Deshaun Watson

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Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants Deshaun Watson. Even with 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct and 10 criminal complaints, Ross wants Watson. (And Ross is not happy, we’re told, that word has trickled out regarding his desire to land Watson.)

Ross and his team haven’t pulled the trigger on the trade not because of the uncertainty over Watson’s legal situation but because of the asking price. Presumably, three first-round picks and two second-round picks.

The Texans have remained entrenched in their position, content to trade him now or later, given that the draft picks they get won’t be used until April 2022, anyway. The Dolphins and others seem prepared to wait until March, assuming that the price will still be the price, either in late September or the middle of March.

But will it? Once the dust settles on the current season, some teams will decide to find new quarterbacks. That could result in more teams joining in the bidding for the balance of Watson’s contract. And that could make the price even higher than it currently is.

For now, only the Dolphins want Watson. For now, the Dolphins have no competition.

So just do it. Give the three first-round picks. Although some teams treat unused first-round picks like a treasure map with a money-back guarantee of buried booty, plenty of them end up having fewer compelling contents than Al Capone’s vault.

The Dolphins, for example, had — and used — three first-round picks in 2020. Tua Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson, Noah Igbenoghene. Would the Dolphins send those three players to the Texans for Watson right now? Hell yes. So why not send three future first-round picks in exchange for a sure thing?

That’s what the Rams have done, with multiple players. At the most important position in the game of pro football, and given Miami’s chronic inability to find a franchise quarterback dating back to Dan Marino, it seems like a more than reasonable price to pay for Watson.

Like most owners not named Jerry Jones, Ross insists that he doesn’t directly meddle in football decisions. He doesn’t have to. Those who work for him (and who hope to continue to do so) should be smart enough to figure out what he wants without him having to order a Code Red.

So go ahead, Steve. Say whatever you need to say to send the message to G.M. Chris Grier to break the impasse and get the guy you want. Nice things are expensive. And it would be very nice for the Dolphins to finally have a franchise quarterback.

Even the most ardent member of the Tua Mafia would have to admit that the Dolphins don’t have one. With a phone call, they can get one.

Panthers’ Cam Erving: We’re a team, not the Carolina Christian McCaffreys

NFL: SEP 23 Panthers at Texans
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If Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey misses significant time with the hamstring injury he suffered on Thursday night, the rest of the team is ready.

That’s the word from Panthers left tackle Cameron Erving, who said after the game that they’re bigger than any one player.

“We’re a football team. We’re not called the Carolina Christian McCaffreys,” Erving said.

Last year McCaffrey missed 13 games and the Panthers had a bad season, but his absence was hardly the only reason: They went 0-3 in the games McCaffrey played in 2020 and 5-8 in the games he missed. This year the Panthers are 3-0 with McCaffrey, and they may have to prove they can keep it going without him.

Brett Hundley: I’ll be ready if called upon

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Practice squad quarterbacks don’t usually have to prepare to actually play in a game. Or talk to the media.

But such is not the case in Indianapolis this week, where Brett Hundley is reportedly taking first-team reps with starter Carson Wentz dealing with a pair of ankle sprains.

Hundley joined the Colts early on in training camp and didn’t play much in this year’s preseason, attempting only 12 passes. But it seems like there’s a good chance he’ll at least have a role in Sunday’s matchup with the Titans — and that role may be starting.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Hundley described his mentality as, “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”

“Honestly, I just take it one week at a time every week I’ve been here — learning the offense, getting things down more than I had the day before,” Hundley said. “My preparation hasn’t changed at all. It’s Year Seven for me so I sort of know how to roll with things.”

Hundley last appeared in a game in 2019 for Arizona. But he hasn’t made a start since 2017, when he filled in for Aaron Rodgers for nine games. Green Bay compiled a 3-6 record in that span. That year, Hundley completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,836 yards with nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Hundley said he learned from that experience that things change fast in the NFL.

“With the NFL, with football, it’s one of the biggest things, especially being a backup quarterback,” Hundley said. “You just have to be ready and sometimes that means being ready in any given situation.”

It’s been a while since he played in that Green Bay scheme, but Hundley said some of the elements translate to what he’s doing now with the Colts. And that’s helped his comfort level.

“I feel good with this offense,” Hundley said. “You learn it and you take it one day at a time and no matter what happens, each day it’s just figuring it out and I’ll be ready if called upon.”

That the Colts would even give Hundley practice reps says a lot about what they think of Jacob Eason and how the second-year quarterback likely doesn’t give Indianapolis the best chance to win. Whatever this team does at QB in Week Three will give the matchup with Tennessee an extra dose of intrigue.

Matt Rhule: Royce Freeman, Chuba Hubbard just have to be starting NFL running backs

NFL: SEP 23 Panthers at Texans
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The Panthers don’t know how long they’ll be without running back Christian McCaffrey as a result of the hamstring injury he suffered on Thursday night, but they do know who will be filling in while he’s out of action.

Royce Freeman and fourth-round pick Chuba Hubbard took over in the backfield after McCaffrey left the game in the second quarter. Hubbard got stuffed on a fourth down a short time later and the Panthers were only up one at halftime, but things began to open up for them in the second half.

Head coach Matt Rhule said both players stepped up and he made it clear what he’s looking for from the duo while McCaffrey is out of action.

“Yeah, I think they just have to be starting NFL running backs, and Royce has done that before,” Rhule said in his postgame press conference. “I told Chuba at halftime, ‘That’s why we drafted you, man.’ I thought Chuba was outstanding. At the end of the half, we didn’t give him a ton of chances, but I thought he got in there at the end and made some key runs. When we can line up in four-minute offense and run and get the first down on two plays, especially versus that stout defense, that’s a credit to the offensive line, credit to the tight ends and full backs. I thought those backs hit it, and the minute Royce got in he made that nice run, cut the ball back on a dual play, which that’s a veteran-run. That’s a guy that’s played a bunch and saw it. Those guys stepped up for us.”

Hubbard had two carries for 26 yards to set up the team’s final touchdown and two carries for 12 yards to help run out the clock on Carolina’s final possession. The coming weeks should bring more opportunities for the rookie to show that he’s able to be what Rhule is looking for in the offense.

Davis Mills on his first start: There’s obviously a couple plays I would like back

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Making your first start on a Thursday as a third-round rookie quarterback is not an ideal situation.

Davis Mills made a few plays in Houston’s 24-9 loss to Carolina, but not nearly enough. The signal-caller finished Thursday’s game 19-of-28 passing for 168 yards with a touchdown. That he didn’t turn the ball over is a clear positive. But the Texans were just 1-of-9 on third down.

After the game, Mills quoted the adage, “It’s never as bad as you think and it’s never as good as you think it was” to describe his thoughts on his performance.

“There’s obviously a couple plays I would like back,” Mills said in his press conference. “But I’m going to come in tomorrow and watch the film and see what we can improve on, but also see what we did well to move forward.”

The one situation where Mills excelled was the two-minute drill at the end of the first half. Factoring out the spike to stop the clock, Mills completed all five of his attempts for 60 yards en route to Houston’s only touchdown of the night.

“I think we felt like we … got in a really good rhythm once we were out there pushing the tempo and kind of spreading the ball around because, honestly, at the end of the drive, I felt like the defense was a little tired and we were able to attack them and find plays,” Mills said.

Mills noted that even without seeing the film, he “definitely” knows some of the things he’d like to work on. And despite the circumstances of taking over the role of QB1, he’s grateful for it.

“Unfortunately, Ty [Taylor] went down and, I mean, never wish injury upon anyone,” Mills said. “But I think moving forward this is a place I want to be. I’ve always dreamed of being a starting quarterback in the NFL, so I think moving forward just trying to improve each and every day is what I’m going to try to do.”

Kadarius Toney: I feel pretty good about my role with Giants

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Giants first-round pick Kadarius Toney made an Instagram post after last Thursday’s loss to Washington that many took as an indication that he was unhappy with a role that called for him to play 19 snaps without touching the ball.

On Thursday, Toney opened up his press conference by saying the post was about an unspecified “personal matter” and not about his role in the offense. Toney lost two yards on two catches in the opener, but said he feels “pretty good” about his role in the offense at this point in the season. He repeated that when asked if he’d like to be on the field more often and that “if you all don’t see the progression or whatever coming along by now, I guess you all won’t ever see it.”

“Yeah, a play would be pretty good,” Toney said. “As far as me taking that [as] the first thing on my mind as soon as I wake up, not really. I wake up every day, come in, do my job, do what I can every day to increase my role, increase my ability every day. I don’t really need justification from everybody about what I’m doing because I understand what’s going on.”

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said Toney will “be a piece of what we’re doing” against the Falcons this weekend, although it’s unclear if that will be a bigger piece than it has been during their 0-2 start to the season.

Matt Rhule: Jaycee Horn “broke some bones” in his foot

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A report on Thursday night indicated Panthers first-round pick Jaycee Horn broke his foot during the team’s 24-9 win over the Texans and head coach Matt Rhule confirmed the nature of the cornerback’s injury after the game.

Rhule said that Horn “broke some bones” in his foot and that doctors would do a “full workup” to determine the extent of the injuries. Rhule said he doesn’t believe that Horn suffered a Lisfranc injury, but that he was unsure about any recovery timeline at this point.

“I have no idea,” Rhule said. “I honest to goodness have no idea.”

The Panthers also had safety Juston Burris go down with a muscle pull and Rhule said he was also in the dark about how long he’ll be out of the lineup. The Panthers also had running back Christian McCaffrey leave with a hamstring injury, so it sounds like they’ll need every minute of their extra time off before facing the Cowboys in Week Four.

Zach Wilson: I don’t think it’s challenging to be safer with the football

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After Zach Wilson threw four interceptions in last Sunday’s 25-6 loss to the Patriots, head coach Robert Saleh said he wanted Wilson to embrace playing boring football at the expense of swinging for the fences with every throw.

On Thursday, Wilson said that he has embraced his coach’s directive heading into this Sunday’s game against the Broncos. He said he knew there would be challenges in his transition to the NFL and that there were “things I’d have to adjust and keep getting better at” in order to develop into the quarterback the Jets want him to be.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily challenging, it’s just being smart with the ball and understanding those situations in games like that,” Wilson said, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. “There weren’t check downs on some of those interceptions, right? It’s not just, hey, check the ball down. It’s being smart with the ball. How can you throw it away or get rid of it? That’s what I’m applying for this next week.”

The Broncos made life miserable for first overall pick Trevor Lawrence in last weekend’s win and the defense won’t make it easy on Wilson as he tries to right the ship in his third professional start.

Cameron Erving: We got a good one in Sam Darnold and he’s only going to get better

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Losing running back Christian McCaffrey to injury last season helped sink the Panthers’ season, but it didn’t sink them on Thursday night against the Texans.

The Panthers improved to 3-0 with a 24-9 win fueled in large part by the play of quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold went 23-of-34 for 304 yards and ran for a pair of touchdowns and his play was strongest in the second half of the game. He was 10-of-14 for 146 yards while leading the Panthers on three straight scoring drives before running out the clock at the end of the game.

Linebacker Haason Reddick called Darnold “a flat-out baller” and left tackle Cameron Erving thinks he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do in the offense.

“We got a good one, man,” Erving said, via the team’s website. “We’ve got a good one, and he’s only going to get better. It’s always hard playing without one of your best players, but Sam stepped up and did a tremendous job tonight.”

It’s unclear how long McCaffrey will be out, but Darnold’s play gives reason to think that the team will weather his absence more easily this time around.

Christian McCaffrey has hamstring strain, Panthers don’t yet know the severity

NFL: SEP 23 Panthers at Texans
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Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey exited Thursday night’s game early with a hamstring injury, and the team doesn’t know whether he’ll miss any additional time.

Carolina coach Matt Rhule said after the game that McCaffrey will undergo additional testing.

“Christian strained his hamstring. I don’t know the severity yet,” Rhule said. “The minute it happened they said ‘He’s out for the game.’ I just saw him, he’s moving around, but we’ll have an MRI or something to see what the severity is.”

Rhule indicated that if McCaffrey misses time, it could affect the Panthers’ passing game more than their running game.

“Christian can kind of do everything. I think the biggest thing with him is they have to account for him in every passing route,” Rhule said. “Christian’s amazing in his ability to win one-on-ones.”

McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million contract extension with the Panthers last year but played in just three games last season because of ankle and shoulder injuries. Now another injury has the Panthers concerned about McCaffrey missing time.

Nick Bosa hoping 49ers can make Aaron Rodgers uncomfortable

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers
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Nick Bosa faced Aaron Rodgers twice during his rookie season in 2019. In those two games, San Francisco sacked Rodgers a combined eight times with Bosa picking up a pair of the sacks himself in a pair of blowout victories, which included a 37-20 win in the NFC Championship.

With Rodgers and the Packers coming up again this weekend, Bosa is hoping the 49ers can recapture the level of play that helped keep Green Bay’s offense in check two years ago.

We just want to get off to a good start and have him feel the pressure overall,” Bosa said, via Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area. “In 2019 obviously, we made him uncomfortable. If he’s comfortable, it’s going to be a long day for anybody.

“So we’re just trying to close the pocket on him and make him get off his normal routine, drop and then once you start taking him down you just want to make him pick himself up as many times as you can.”

The 49ers sacked Rodgers five times in a 37-8 regular season romp before getting him down three more times in the playoffs. Finding a way to pressure Rodgers was one of the keys to keeping him in check two years ago. While the members of the 49ers defense have changed somewhat since then, Bosa is back from his torn ACL last year and already has three sacks in two games.