With the 2018 scouting combine kicking off this week, NFL Nation reporters take a closer look at the positions of need for all 32 teams and which players will be closely evaluated.
Click the link after each team to view the full post.
There were signs Ryan Tannehill could be on the rise when Miami extended him in 2015, but last season’s knee injury cast doubt on his long-term future with the Dolphins. It would be wise for the Dolphins to explore their options in the draft to potentially upgrade from Tannehill over the long haul. Read more.
The Patriots need a strong off-the-line linebacker. On offense, there will be some intrigue as to whether the team can find “the next Jimmy Garoppolo” at quarterback, that is a high-upside developmental prospect. Read more.
Let’s make it easy and list the positions that don’t need to be addressed: free safety and strong safety (Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams, respectively). The Jets are open for business everywhere else, which tells you why they won only five games last season. Read more.
Baltimore has to upgrade the supporting cast for quarterback Joe Flacco and improve the NFL’s No. 27 offense. The Ravens desperately need to draft a wide receiver because their top two (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin) could be gone and Breshad Perriman has been a bust. Read more.
The Bengals must make their offensive line their first priority after allowing 80 sacks in two seasons. The Bengals don’t have much stability at that position with center Russell Bodine potentially becoming a free agent and their two tackles remaining big question marks. Read more.
The Browns will focus on quarterbacks, obviously, but they also need to be sure about two other players they will consider drafting: running back Saquon Barkley and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. This draft is too important to miss on any opportunity. Read more.
This process starts with inside linebacker, where the Steelers were depleted last season after a severe spinal injury to Ryan Shazier and a shoulder injury to backup Tyler Matakevich. The Steelers will have options here and should capitalize on them. Read more.
The Texans’ biggest offseason need right now is to upgrade their offensive line. The group gave up 252 total pressures, the second-most allowed by a team in any of the previous 12 seasons. Read more.
Pass-rusher or running back first? Will the Colts surprise everybody and go with an offensive lineman in the first round? That’s just the start for the Colts, who also need to add depth at receiver behind T.Y. Hilton because Donte Moncrief and Kamar Aiken are headed to free agency. Read more.
Interior offensive line and tight end should be the Jaguars’ top two priorities at the combine. The Jaguars finished the regular season as the NFL’s top rushing team (141.4 yards per game), but their production dropped off significantly over the final six games. Read more.
The Titans’ pass-rush pipeline is barren as 2016 second-round pick Kevin Dodd is looking like a bust and 32-year-old Erik Walden is a pending free agent. Depending on what happens with pending free agent Avery Williamson, inside linebacker could be a big need, too. Read more.
After a 5-11 finish, it’s clear the Broncos need plenty of things, but a solution at quarterback certainly leads the way. Read more.
With one of the league’s worst run defenses last season, the Chargers need to add more athletic bodies who can make an impact defensively in the run game. That means players who can create havoc up front and rangy athletes at the second level of the defense who can cover and tackle. Read more.
The Cowboys need linebacker, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, safety and tight end help either in major or minor ways. It is always worth remembering a draft is not just about the current year but the future. Read more.
New general manager Dave Gettleman has made it a priority to rebuild the offensive line — his “hog mollies” as he likes to say. The Giants can use guards and tackles. Maybe even a center. They won’t discriminate. If you’re an offensive lineman, you’re in play. Read more.
The Eagles need to bolster their linebacker corps. Besides lacking depth, there are question marks around each of the 2017 starters: Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and has had difficulty staying healthy, Nigel Bradham is a pending free agent, and Mychal Kendricks has requested to be traded in the past. Read more.
The Bears’ top offensive need is at wide receiver, as the team had only one receiver crack the 50-catch mark in 2017 — Kendall Wright (59), who is an unrestricted free agent. The Bears are still holding out hope that former first-round pick Kevin White will pan out, but White has played in only five regular-season games since the Bears drafted him No. 7 overall in 2015. Read more.
The Lions are set at some positions, including receiver and quarterback. But don’t be surprised if this draft ends up heavy on linemen. Read more.
When Dom Capers took over in 2009, then-GM Ted Thompson finagled his way into a pair of first-round picks and turned them into nose tackle B.J. Raji and linebacker Clay Matthews. They became cornerstones of a defense that won the Super Bowl. Mike Pettine needs that kind of talent influx as he implements his defensive system. Read more.
Aside from figuring out who the quarterback will be in 2018, the Vikings’ other biggest need this offseason is to add pieces to the offensive line. The unit struggled to protect Case Keenum in the playoffs and has a number of question marks. Read more.
The Falcons likely will prioritize the offensive and defensive lines because coach Dan Quinn always emphasizes winning the line of scrimmage first. Read more.
The easy choice is wide receiver. The Panthers traded No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo last season and promoted Devin Funchess into that role. Funchess, who was dealing with a shoulder injury late in the season, never proved worthy of the promotion. Read more.
The biggest needs are defensive end (since last year’s standout starter, Alex Okafor, is a free agent and coming back from a torn Achilles), a pass-catching tight end and an athletic outside linebacker. Read more.
Look for the Buccaneers to make upgrades on defense, with both their pass rush and their back end. Read more.
The Cardinals don’t have a projected starter at quarterback on the roster and might address the position in free agency, but the draft might be where Arizona finds a long-term answer. Read more.
The Rams did a fine job fixing the offense last offseason, and now it’s time to focus on the defense. Cornerback stands out as their most glaring need. Read more.
Top needs are edge-rusher, cornerback and interior offensive line. The Niners also could use a game-breaker at receiver or running back, but with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in place, those positions aren’t as pressing. Read more.
The Seahawks have varying degrees of need or potential need at as many position groups as they have areas that are currently solidified. Such is life for a team with 16 unrestricted free agents and uncertainty with several other starters. Read more.
Buffalo Bills beat Baltimore Ravens, advance to first AFC Championship Game since 1993 season
Sparked by cornerback Taron Johnson‘s record-tying 101-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, the Buffalo Bills defeated the visiting Baltimore Ravens 17-3 on Saturday night to advance to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since the 1993 season.
If the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs win, the Bills will travel to Arrowhead Stadium for the game next Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET.
If the Browns win, the AFC Championship Game will be played in Orchard Park, New York, next Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET.
The last time the Bills played in the AFC Championship Game was Jan. 23. 1994. They beat the visiting Chiefs in that game to earn their fourth straight trip to the Super Bowl (a game they would lose for the fourth straight year).
The Bills’ return to prominence under fourth-year head coach Sean McDermott has had Western New York buzzing, with Saturday night’s game played before approximately 6,700 fans at Bills Stadium that sounded more like 67,000 on NBC’s television broadcast. The stadium had been closed throughout the regular season due to COVID-19, but state and local officials put together a plan for the postseason that allowed attendees who registered a negative COVID-19 test to attend.
Johnson’s 101-yard interception return of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson – which tied the NFL’s record set by Green Bay’s George Teague in 1993 — helped break things open on a windy Saturday night.
Just as it appeared the Ravens were driving for a potential tying touchdown on a march that lasted more than eight minutes, Jackson didn’t seem to see Johnson cut underneath on third-and-goal from the 9-yard line.
Johnson, a third-year cornerback from Weber State, raced untouched 101 yards, with NFL Next Gen Stats clocking him with a max speed of 20.39 miles-per-hour on the play. Not even the speedy Jackson, who was clocked with a max speed of 20.66, could catch him.
On the Ravens’ next drive, Jackson was knocked out of the game after taking a hit and having his head bang against the turf. The Ravens announced he was in the concussion protocol, and the Bills closed things out against backup Tyler Huntley.
It was much tighter in the first half.
The Bills’ pass-first plan- when the teams went to halftime tied at 3 after normally reliable Ravens kicker Justin Tucker missed two field goals – was an outside-the-box approach.
Buffalo didn’t call a rushing play in the first quarter. According to Elias, the Bills are the only team in the last 60 postseasons to have no rushing plays in the first quarter of a playoff game.
Buffalo ended the half with three total rushes — one on a scramble by quarterback Josh Allen on a designed pass play, and another coming with Allen’s kneel-down on the final play.
The three rushes tied for the fewest in the first half of a playoff game over the last 70 seasons, joining the Green Bay Packers (2016 NFC Championship Game), St. Louis Rams (1999 divisional round) and Houston Oilers (1990 wild card round).
The Bills notably turned to the run on their opening drive of the second half, which produced the game’s first touchdown — a 4-yard catch-and-run by receiver Stefon Diggs, who became the first Bills player with a receiving touchdown in consecutive playoff games since Pro Football Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas (1995-96).
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson suffers concussion in loss to Buffalo Bills
The Ravens went on to lose 17-3.
On the final play of the third quarter, Jackson’s head snapped back and hit the turf in the end zone of Bills Stadium after throwing the ball away and taking a hit from Bills defensive end Trent Murphy. Jackson immediately grabbed his helmet with both hands after hitting the ground. He then threw his hands up in frustration as he headed to the locker room with a trainer.
Jackson was flagged for intentional grounding on the play.
Jackson’s injury came two plays after he threw just the second pick-six of his career. After driving down to the Buffalo 9-yard line, Jackson stared down tight end Mark Andrews and was picked off in the red zone for the first time in his career.
Taron Johnson outran Jackson and returned the interception 101 yards for the score. Instead of potentially tying the game, the Ravens fell behind by two touchdowns.
Jackson finished 14-of-24 for 162 yards passing and managed just 34 yards rushing on nine carries. It was his third-fewest rushing yards since taking over as Baltimore’s starter in the middle of the 2018 season.
Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald hampered, emotional in loss to Green Bay Packers
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald stood on the sideline at Lambeau Field and was unable to hold back tears as the clock wound down to a 32-18 loss to the Green Bay Packers in a divisional-round playoff.
Rams coach Sean McVay and defensive line coach Eric Henderson tried to console Donald, who played Saturday only a week removed from suffering a significant rib injury in a wild-card playoff win.
“I love Aaron Donald, it means a lot to him,” McVay said after the game, “and it’s unfortunate that he wasn’t at full strength today.”
Before Saturday’s game, Donald said he felt good, strong, and would be ready to play. But the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was clearly limited against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Wearing protective padding on his ribs, Donald played only 55% of the snaps, down from his season average of 85%, though McVay said he was not on a snap count.
“Aaron is able to sub himself,” McVay said. “The plan going in was seeing how he feels, he’s kind of always got the ability to tell us how he’s feeling.”
Donald was doubled-teamed on 15 of his 21 pass rushes and failed to record a pass rush win — beating a block within 2.5 seconds — for only the second time since 2017, according to ESPN metrics powered by NFL Next Gen Stats. He recorded one pressure against Rodgers, however the Packers’ quarterback completed a 33-yard pass to tight end Robert Tonyan on the play.
Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers expressed disappointment for Donald after the game.
“Hard for a guy like that to work as hard as he does to put in everything that he does,” Brockers said, later adding, “[I] just got to talk to him, let him know, ‘Man, that’s not on you, that’s not on you — there’s no reason you have to feel that way, [that] you feel like you failed or anything like that. You gave us everything you had and you’re the reason why we’re here.'”
Donald finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the NFL with 13.5 sacks and added two more in the 30-20 wild-card win over the Seattle Seahawks.
The Rams’ defense finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the NFL in efficiency, yards allowed per game (281.9) and points allowed per game (18.5).
However, Rodgers and the Packers piled up 484 total yards of offense and kept the Rams’ defense on the field, dominating the time of possession, 36:12 to 23:48.
Prior to Saturday, the Rams had not let an opponent this season score on its first three drives, but the Packers scored on five straight to open the game, including a 14-play, 84-yard touchdown drive that was prolonged when Donald — in apparent frustration — picked up a penalty for unnecessary roughness when he grabbed offensive lineman Elgton Jenkin’s facemask.
Donald was not made available to reporters after the game.
NFL6 days ago
LeBron, Magic, OBJ and more react to Cleveland Browns ending playoff drought
NFL5 days ago
What to watch for in 2021 free agency
NFL5 days ago
Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider signs extension through 2027 NFL draft
Soccer4 days ago
Man Utd recognise what they must do to win Premier League as they overtake Liverpool
Cricket4 days ago
Recent Match Report – Thunder vs Sixers 38th Match 2020
Cricket4 days ago
England in Sri Lanka 2020-21
Cricket6 days ago
Recent Match Report – Stars vs Strikers 36th Match 2020
Soccer6 days ago
Man Utd urged to complete Wayne Rooney-style transfer to solve long-term problem