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Green Bay Packers have depth at running back but no clear starter yet – Green Bay Packers Blog



Mike McCarthy keeps a depth chart on his office wall. Next to each name is the player’s picture and a tally of his playing time.

That’s the statistic the Green Bay Packers coach values the most.

He probably doesn’t know what to think when he looks at the running back group.

Last season, Jamaal Williams played the most snaps (441 or 42.1 percent of the offensive plays) and led the team with 556 yards rushing and four touchdowns, yet fellow rookie Aaron Jones (236 snaps, 22.5 percent) — who got his first chance after Williams sustained a knee injury in Week 4 — was the most productive with a 5.5-yard average and matched Williams with four touchdowns despite a pair of knee injuries. Then there’s Ty Montgomery, the converted receiver who won the starting job in training camp but succumbed to rib and wrist injuries after just 275 snaps (26.2 percent).

“Play time is really the reflection of availability,” McCarthy said earlier this offseason. “None of our running backs this year were available for the whole season. So that’s the first hurdle, the first challenge that they need to meet.”

No wonder McCarthy has no interest in naming a starting running back.

“I just want them all to stay healthy and continue to grow,” McCarthy said this week at the NFL annual meetings in Orlando. “Whoever starts, that’s really up to them. That’s the way I present it to the players. I’m for all of them starting. That’s the competition you want.”

One thing appears certain: new general manager Brian Gutekunst should not have to address the position this offseason. His predecessor, Ted Thompson, drafted three running backs last year: Williams in the fourth round, Jones in the fifth and Devante Mays in the seventh. Mays played just 14 snaps as a rookie and carried only four times (fumbling on each of the first two). Thompson did so after letting Eddie Lacy leave in free agency and cutting James Starks.

“Really like the backfield,” McCarthy said. “They’re young. The thing I like most about them, they’re all in Year 2, the young guys.

“I thought Ty Montgomery did a heck of a job coming out of training camp and going into the season and gave us a real bell cow there. Then he went through his injury battles. Then, so was Jamaal ready? Was Aaron? Jamaal was ahead of Aaron, so we went with Jamaal, then he got hurt. Then Aaron went in there. That was a real challenge. I thought [running backs coach] Ben Sirmans did a heck of a job. I think the fact now that they’ll have a whole offseason it will be one of our more competitive positions.

With the emergence of Jones and Williams, perhaps the Packers would be tempted to move Montgomery back to receiver full time. But McCarthy shot down that idea when asked about it earlier this month at the scouting combine and reiterated as much this week at the NFL meetings.

“Ty’s a running back,” McCarthy said. “He’s a damn good one. He gives us a lot of ability to play schematically any way we want to play because of being able to displace. He’s been there every day too, he’s in there working out. Looks great. I know [strength and conditioning coordinator] Mark Lovat is excited about where he is. I think you’ll see a bigger, stronger Ty Montgomery this year.”

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Patrick Mahomes against Lamar Jackson and other highly anticipated quarterback matchups of the past 70 years



Monday Night Football’s Week 3 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the host Baltimore Ravens features a matchup within the matchup: Patrick Mahomes versus Lamar Jackson.

Mahomes won MVP in 2018 and followed it up with a Super Bowl MVP last season. Jackson is coming off his own MVP season, in which he rushed for 1,206 yards. And both former first-round quarterbacks are still very early in their respective careers.

The game itself promises to be exciting — it holds the ninth-highest regular-season matchup rating from ESPN Stats & Information (94.7) since the metric was created in 2008 — and these two quarterbacks are a big reason why. How does Mahomes-Jackson 3 (they have played twice, both Chiefs victories) stack up against other highly anticipated QB matchups in the history of the NFL? Let’s take a quick look at the best of the best in QB showdown intrigue, going back 70 years (ordered by date).

Headline: Matchup of past two MVPs
Date: Sept. 28, 2020

This game checks off every box. It’s the first meeting between former MVPs age 25 or younger in NFL history, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It’s also a matchup between the reigning MVP (Jackson) and Super Bowl MVP (Mahomes). Mahomes had 50 passing touchdowns and 5,000 passing yards in 2018, while Jackson broke Michael Vick’s single-season QB rushing record in 2019.

They own the two longest active regular-season win streaks among starting quarterbacks in the NFL; Jackson has been the victor in 13 straight, while Mahomes is riding an eight-game streak. Both are capable of making jaw-dropping plays, from throws on the run to highlight-reel spin moves, on center stage on Monday Night Football.

Headline: First matchup of 40-year-old QBs
Date: Sept. 13, 2020

Don’t forget the Bucs-Saints season opener. It was Brady’s Buccaneers debut and the first time we’ve seen two 40-year-old QBs face off in NFL history. Brees and Brady entered the game first and second, respectively, in all-time touchdown passes. The previous game between the top two touchdown passers of all time had been in 1949, between Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman. Brady’s Bucs debut didn’t go as scripted, though, as he threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, in the 34-23 loss.

Headline: An overdue first matchup
Date: Nov. 30, 2014

This was the long-overdue first meeting between Brady and Rodgers. Brady was “just” a three-time Super Bowl winner and two-time MVP at the time, and Rodgers was a Super Bowl MVP and NFL MVP. It was also hyped as a Super Bowl preview and battle for MVP, as they entered tied for the best Total QBR (79.6) in the NFL. The Packers won 26-21 after a late Brady drive stalled. Rodgers went on to win MVP, but Brady won another Super Bowl.

Headline: Favre’s first game against the Packers
Date: Oct. 5, 2009

This might have been the most hyped grudge match ever. Favre, a three-time MVP winner, entered his first game against his former team and the QB who replaced him, Rodgers, on Monday Night Football in Minnesota. Favre threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions, while Rodgers was sacked eight times. The Vikings improved to 4-0 by defeating the Packers 30-23. And with the victory, Favre became the first quarterback in NFL history to beat all 32 teams.

Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning

Headline: A battle of the unbeatens
Date: Nov. 4, 2007

Hyped as the biggest regular-season game of all time, it featured the 8-0 Patriots and 7-0 Colts and perhaps the greatest quarterback rivalry ever. Brady and Manning ranked first and second in Total QBR, respectively, entering the game. Brady, a three-time Super Bowl winner, was halfway to a historic season, and Manning was the reigning Super Bowl MVP. It lived up to the hype, as New England overcame a 10-point deficit behind two fourth-quarter touchdowns from Brady. Pats win 24-20.

Steve Young vs. Joe Montana

Headline: Montana’s only game vs. 49ers
Date: Sept. 11, 1994

Montana was traded to the Chiefs after winning four Super Bowls and two MVPs with the 49ers, while Young, who won NFL MVP in 1992, was still in search of his first Super Bowl. That was the stage for the only grudge match between Montana and the 49ers. Montana tossed two touchdown passes in the Chiefs’ 24-17 victory.

Dan Marino vs. John Elway

Headline: The first meeting of two stars
Date: Sept. 29, 1985

Alums of the 1983 NFL draft class, Marino and Elway met for the first time in 1985. Like Mahomes and Jackson, they were two of the biggest faces in the game. In 1984, Marino shattered NFL records for single-season passing yards and touchdowns en route to an MVP and a Super Bowl appearance. Elway and the Broncos were coming off a 13-3 season. The Dolphins won 30-26 behind 390 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions from Marino.

Terry Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach

Headline: Super Bowl rematch
Date: Oct. 28, 1979

Bradshaw and Staubach went head-to-head nine months after the Steelers beat the Cowboys 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII. This game featured the previous two Super Bowl-winning QBs, and Bradshaw was the reigning MVP and Super Bowl MVP. Staubach was also in the midst of his final season, when he’d throw 27 touchdown passes. The Steelers won this game, though, 14-3.

Bart Starr vs. Johnny Unitas

Headline: A pair of MVPs and Super Bowl champs
Date: Nov. 5, 1967

It doesn’t get much better than Starr against Unitas, especially given the circumstances in 1967. Starr was the reigning MVP and Super Bowl MVP. Unitas was the NFL’s all-time passing yards leader, a two-time MVP and two-time champ. The Packers had also eliminated the Colts from championship contention late in the 1966 season. This time Unitas got revenge by throwing a touchdown pass to Willie Richardson in the final two minutes to help the Colts win 13-10 and stay unbeaten.

Otto Graham vs. Norm Van Brocklin/Bob Waterfield

Headline: NFL championship rematch
Date: Oct. 7, 1951

This was a rematch of the 1950 NFL championship game, won by the Browns on a late field goal. There was more intrigue, though, with three Hall of Fame quarterbacks now in the mix: the Browns’ Graham against the Rams’ QB committee of Van Brocklin and Waterfield. Van Brocklin had thrown for 554 yards in his previous game, which still stands as an NFL record. Graham was on his way to 10 consecutive championship game appearances, and threw for four touchdowns in the 1950 NFL title game win. On this day, Graham and the Browns came out on top 38-23.

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Panthers turn up pressure, give Matt Rhule first NFL win – Carolina Panthers Blog



Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule lowered his head, paused for what seemed like eternity, and then went into a four-minute explanation for why you couldn’t blame the lack of a pass rush the first two games on coaching, scheme or personnel.

“It’s a very complex question,” Rhule said this past week. “That’s why I’m taking my time on it. It’s never any one thing. It’s a complex thing that we’ll improve on and hopefully at some point it won’t be a story.”

The Panthers improved in a hurry, getting two first-half sacks in Sunday’s 21-16 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers after having none in the first two games and collecting 19 pressures after having a league-low six during an 0-2 start.

Because of that and an efficient offense playing without star running back Christian McCaffrey for at least the next three games, the story now is about Rhule getting his first win as an NFL coach and how a team left for dead might have reason for hope.

And, oh by the way, ending a 10-game losing streak dating back to Week 9 last season.

The Panthers (1-2) actually were more confident after watching the Las Vegas Raiders beat NFC South rival New Orleans on Monday night, understanding the Saints are one of the best teams in the league and knowing they took the Raiders to the wire in the opener.

Players and coaches realized that if they tightened up a few things, didn’t panic after the loss of McCaffrey to an ankle injury and began pressuring the quarterback they could win.

On pressures, check. The two sacks in the first quarter led to field goals and set the tone for the day.

On not panicking without McCaffrey, check. Mike Davis had 46 yards rushing on 13 carries and caught eight passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady did a nice job of blending in wide receiver Curtis Samuel as a running back, getting him four carries for seven yards.

On tightening things up, check. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had no turnovers after having three the week before and the team had only two penalties for 15 yards.

Now, can the Panthers beat Arizona next week at home to even its record to 2-2 and become the playoff team McCaffrey and several other players said they could be this past week?

“We’re getting better,” Rhule said. “It’s Week 3 of figuring out who we are. It wasn’t perfect, but the pressure allowed us to be in the game.”

Season changing: It’s too early to tell, but considering the Panthers had a chance to win their first two games and won this one, anything is possible.

QB Breakdown: The question posed all week was whether Bridgewater was a game-manager or game-changer. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady insisted Bridgewater was more than a game-manager. Bridgewater insisted his goal was just to win games. He did that without being a game-changer, completing 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps consistency counts toward being a game-changer.

Troubling trend: Missed tackles. The Panthers ranked fourth in the NFL, according to CBS, with 20 in the first two games, and continued to give up big plays with missed tackles on Sunday. The perfect example came on Austin Ekeler‘s first-half touchdown. You can argue whether it was a great move or missed tackle, but three defenders had Ekeler surrounded and he scored on a 12-yard run. Further evidence of why this is troubling, the Panthers allowed 194 yards after contact in the first two games. They allowed 63 in the first half on Sunday.

Pivotal play: The Panthers were about to settle for another Joey Slye field goal in the first half when the Chargers were called for an illegal formation for lining up over the center on the field goal attempt. Carolina took the first down and on the next play scored on a 13-yard catch by Davis for a 15-7 lead instead of 12-7.

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Eagles, Carson Wentz’s stock free-falling following troubling tie with Bengals – Philadelphia Eagles Blog



PHILADELPHIA — It’s officially time to be concerned about the Philadelphia Eagles and their leader, quarterback Carson Wentz.

Wentz made some plays late in regulation to force overtime but had his third shaky outing in as many starts in a 23-23 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Wentz completed 29-of-47 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, as the Eagles move to 0-2-1. Wentz now has six picks on the year — one less than he had all of last season.

A microcosm of his struggles came late in the third quarter, as he failed to find a wide-open John Hightower on a rollout to his left, and followed that with a misplaced ball to Zach Ertz that resulted in his second turnover of the game. With that interception, Wentz became the first Eagles QB with multiple interceptions in three straight games since Ron Jaworski in 1985. That was the season the Eagles drafted Randall Cunningham in the second round, signaling the beginning of the end of Jaworski’s time in Philadelphia.

The Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round in April and gave him his first snaps at quarterback Sunday, with mixed results.

Philadelphia is committed to Wentz, who signed a four-year, $128 million extension last summer. It’s premature to think a changing of the guard is at hand. But there will be plenty of chatter about inserting Hurts this week, as a dismayed fan base searches for ways to save a season heading off a cliff.

Up next is a trip out West to play the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

Troubling trend: The injuries continue to pile up. The Eagles lost DeSean Jackson (hamstring), Dallas Goedert (ankle) and Avonte Maddox (ankle) Sunday. With Jalen Reagor sidelined with a UCL tear in his thumb, Wentz was down to the bottom of the depth chart at receiver, as he was for much of last season. Darius Slay (arm) left briefly but returned to the lineup.

Silver lining: The defensive line feasted on Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow to the tune of eight sacks and 18 QB hits. Fletcher Cox recorded his first sack of the season in overtime.

Buy a breakout performance: With the offense down multiple skill position players, Greg Ward led the way with eight catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. Ward doesn’t do anything flashy, but he’s reliable and has earned Wentz’s confidence.

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