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NFL Insiders predict – Does Ndamukong Suh give Rams the best defensive line?

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Ndamukong Suh is headed to the Los Angeles Rams, and he’ll unite with Aaron Donald to form a powerhouse duo of interior linemen for the Rams.

How does the defensive line in L.A. measure up to the rest of the league, and which team is the favorite to win the NFC West in 2018? Our panel of ESPN NFL Insiders weigh in:


Which team has the league’s best defensive line?

Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Eagles. Adding Suh will generate hype in L.A. when the veteran pairs with All-Pro Donald on the interior of the Rams’ defensive line. However, the Vikings look pretty salty up front after landing Sheldon Richardson in free agency, and the Eagles have the NFL’s most complete defensive line. With multiple edge rushers, Fletcher Cox inside and proven depth, Philadelphia can throw fresh legs on the field to shut down the run game and hit the quarterback.

Mike Clay, NFL writer: Eagles. The Rams made up a ton of ground. The trio of Donald, Suh and Michael Brockers is as good as imaginable, but an Eagles group that includes Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan and Haloti Ngata inside and Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Derek Barnett and Chris Long on the edge gets, well, the edge. Only the Chargers and Patriots allowed more yards per carry than the Rams last season, so expect this unit to improve that mark drastically, especially if the Rams add an impact off-ball linebacker.

Mina Kimes, senior writer: Eagles. Philadelphia’s line depth was such a common talking point during Super Bowl week that it became a bit of a running joke — but it was a talking point for a reason. While the one-two punch of Suh and Donald is absurd, the Eagles’ army of top-flight pass-rushers puts them over the top.

Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Eagles. Suh is a luxury addition to the Rams and a questionable scheme fit until we hear specifics from defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. A former general manager said it wouldn’t be a shock if Suh finished with four to five sacks playing 60 percent of the snaps.

Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Vikings. This answer partly adds variety to these responses. But it also recognizes that in Sheldon Richardson, coach Mike Zimmer has added a major interior disruptor to a group that includes nose tackle Linval Joseph along with defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. Joseph and Griffen were Pro Bowlers in 2017, while Hunter has 19.5 sacks the past two seasons.

Field Yates, NFL Insider: Eagles. While the Rams project as a dominant force with the best interior defensive lineman in the game (Donald), the NFL remains a league of depth, an area in which Philly shines. Even with the departures of Beau Allen and Vinny Curry this offseason, the Eagles are stocked with talent that runs two layers deep at essentially each defensive line spot. When facing offenses that run high-octane, up-tempo attacks, that depth pays off in the fourth quarter or decisive moments, as we saw in the Super Bowl.

Are the Rams the clear favorites to win the NFC West in 2018? Who is their biggest challenger?

Bowen: Yes. The Rams are the early favorites to win the NFC West, given the matchups they can create in Sean McVay’s playbook and a defensive system under Wade Phillips that will feature a revamped, ball-hawking secondary. The Seahawks should still be in the mix to challenge the Rams, and we shouldn’t sleep on Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers. With Jimmy Garoppolo locked in to a new contract and the scheme-fit additions of veterans Richard Sherman and Jerick McKinnon, the 49ers could surprise out West.

Clay: Yes. Absolutely. Not only are the Rams the favorites to win the NFC West, but they’re also right there with the Eagles and Patriots as Super Bowl favorites. In addition to their league-best group of interior defenders, the additions of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib (along with Nickell Robey-Coleman) supply them with the league’s best cornerback trio. This defense is loaded with top-end talent. The Seahawks’ roster has taken a major step backward this offseason, the 49ers are on the upswing but still have plenty of holes to fill, and the Cardinals are in the running to pick first overall in the 2019 draft.

Kimes: Yes. The Rams addressed one of the few areas of concern on their roster this offseason by reloading their secondary. Now that they’ve added Talib and Peters while holding on to Lamarcus Joyner and Robey-Coleman, I fully expect L.A.’s defense to take another leap forward. As far as a challenger, I’m torn between picking the Seahawks and the 49ers. Although Garoppolo looked like a world-beater last season, I’m not fully sold on the offense San Francisco has built around him.

Sando: Yes. The Rams are the early favorites. Seattle can factor if the Seahawks can fix their running game, which should be the team’s No. 1 priority of the offseason. San Francisco will be a sexy pick as a team on the rise, but the team could need additional time to get its defense going.

Seifert: Yes. They won’t sneak up on anyone after their 2017 division title, but they did a nice job addressing their secondary this spring, and none of their NFC West opponents made a sizable enough leap to be projected above the Rams. The next-best team is the 49ers, who have busily tried to assemble a contender around Garoppolo.

Yates: Yes. The Rams have a year of synergy under their belt with McVay and Jared Goff as two primary pieces, but there is also balance on this roster that should not be overlooked. With a remade secondary, a scary-talented defensive line and the league’s best running back in 2017, the Rams are the favorites, with Seattle clinging to the second-best roster just ahead of San Francisco.

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Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones to play against Detroit Lions despite hamstring

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Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who was limited in practice time this week with a hamstring injury, will play Sunday against the Detroit Lions, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jones returned to the lineup last Sunday and had eight catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons’ 40-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

After sitting out the Falcons’ Week 3 loss to the Chicago Bears, he played just 15 snaps in Week 4 and did not play in Week 5 with the same hamstring injury.

Jones sat out practice Wednesday before being a limited participant Thursday and Friday.

He has 23 catches for 350 yards and two touchdowns this season.

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Arizona Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins expected to face Seattle Seahawks

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Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins, listed as questionable for Sunday night’s game against the Seattle Seahawks due to an ankle injury, is expected to play, a source tells ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Hopkins was held out of practice this week due to the injury, which has plagued him much of the season. Despite regularly appearing on the injury report, Hopkins hasn’t missed a game and leads the NFL with 47 receptions for a league-leading 601 yards and two touchdowns.

Hopkins had two receptions for 73 yards in Monday night’s win over Dallas. He’s missed just two games due to injury in his eight-year career.

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Las Vegas Raiders activate offensive linemen Kolton Miller, Denzelle Good, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson off COVID-19 list

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HENDERSON, Nev. — The Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday activated four starting offensive linemen who had close contact with right tackle Trent Brown earlier this week.

Left tackle Kolton Miller, left guard Denzelle Good, center Rodney Hudson and right guard Gabe Jackson came off the COVID-19 list Saturday but must still test negative for the virus on Sunday morning in order to play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

None of the four players have tested positive since going on the COVID-19 list this week as “high risk” close contacts to right tackle Trent Brown, who did test positive on Wednesday morning.

The four players were with Brown at practice on Monday. According to league protocol, as high risk contacts, they had to test negative for five consecutive days, plus the last day of contact.

Safety Johnathan Abram had contact with Brown on Tuesday, so there is not enough time for him to finish the protocol and play against Tampa Bay.

Brown was not wearing his tracking device, as mandated by NFL protocol, on Monday, so practice film had to be scoured to see who Brown had been close to that day.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Friday that Brown, who remains on the COVID-19 list, was feeling better.

With Miller, Good, Hudson and Jackson in self-isolation and joining the Raiders virtually this week to prepare, Las Vegas practiced with an offensive line of Brandon Parker, John Simpson, Andre James, Patrick Omameh and Sam Young. Left guard Richie Incognito remains on injured reserve.

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