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Against Rams in 2016, Dak Prescott showed he was more than a backup – Dallas Cowboys Blog

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FRISCO, Texas — On Aug. 13, 2016, when Dak Prescott walked into the Los Angeles Coliseum for the first time, he was already envisioning what’s coming on Saturday.

Prescott was a fourth-round pick then, trying to show the Dallas Cowboys he could be Tony Romo’s backup, but the big picture was always on his mind. He was confident he would be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He was confident he would be in a position to take a team to a playoff game, as he will Saturday (8:15 p.m. ET, Fox) against the Los Angeles Rams.

It wasn’t something he dreamed; it was something be believed.

“I guess I couldn’t imagine it being back in the Coliseum against the team I started off my career,” Prescott said, “but I’ve always talked about the confidence I’ve had in myself and this team. Nothing has changed.”

The Coliseum was abuzz on that warm August day. It was the Rams’ first game back in Los Angeles. The stadium was full of fans and the game was nationally televised, with ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew calling the action.

Prescott was starting because Kellen Moore, who is now the Cowboys quarterbacks coach, had suffered a broken ankle 10 days earlier and, as a veteran, Tony Romo was not going to play in the first preseason game.

Jason Witten didn’t play, but Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams did. Tyron Smith didn’t play, but Travis Frederick and Zack Martin did. Ezekiel Elliott was kept out because of a hamstring strain, but three-time 1,000-yard runner Alfred Morris played.

“We were playing that game with the idea that we wanted to see what we had,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “It really was probably everybody’s first glimpse of what Dak’s about.”

Prescott had only a couple of practices with the first-team offense during training camp in Oxnard, California, with Romo resting every third day. He did not take first-team snaps during organized team activities and the minicamp in the spring. Back then, the Cowboys just wanted him to get better at taking a snap from center.

When he joined the first-team huddle in camp, a future Hall of Fame tight end (Witten), three All-Pro offensive linemen (Smith, Frederick and Martin) and the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown catches (Bryant) were staring at him.

“Immediately off the bat, you could tell he was born to be a leader,” Frederick said. “And knew exactly what he was doing and what he wanted to be doing. He never struggled with calling the plays or you never saw him feel like the game was too big for him, even when you looked around the huddle and saw those guys that were there.”

So maybe it was not surprising to many that Prescott flourished against the Rams. He completed 10 of 12 passes in the first half for 139 yards and had touchdown throws of 10 yards to Bryant and 32 yards to Williams. He had a 14-yard run, too, and completely outperformed the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft and his counterpart Saturday, Jared Goff.

After Moore’s injury, the Cowboys had considered trading for Josh McCown and had talks with free agent Nick Foles to be Romo’s backup. Prescott’s performance ended those discussions.

“At the end of the day, it was so much better than we thought it would be,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

Twelve days after his debut against the Rams, Prescott became the Cowboys starting quarterback when Romo suffered a compression fracture in his back.

Prescott has started every game since, winning 33 games, including his first postseason game against the Seattle Seahawks last Saturday in the wild-card round. He has a Rookie of the Year award on his résumé as well as a Pro Bowl appearance.

“I’m not saying I always knew he was going to be where he is now,” Linehan said, “but I think we all had a gut feeling that he was going to be a hell of a player in this league.”

Now he has the Cowboys in position to advance to their first NFC Championship Game since 1995.

When he walks out on to the Coliseum turf on Saturday, his mindset will not be too different from the one he had when he took the field on Aug. 13, 2016.

“I don’t ever just go out to play the game,” Prescott said. “When I go out, I go out to play the game, I go out with the mindset to win, like I’m the No. 1, like I’m the guy whether I was then or not. It’s just kind of the way I have to approach it all. It all worked out.”

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Manziel to play for Singletary on AAF’s Express

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Johnny Manziel is headed back to the United States to play football, and it will be in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Alliance of American Football announced Saturday night that it signed the quarterback and that he was claimed on waivers by the Memphis Express after the San Antonio Commanders relinquished his rights.

The AAF, in its first season, said Manziel will report Sunday to Memphis, which lost to Salt Lake 22-9 on Saturday to fall to 1-5. The former first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns could be the fourth quarterback to play for the team this season. Christian Hackenberg started the Express’ first three games but was relieved by Zach Mettenberger, who was injured Saturday and replaced by Brandon Silvers. Silvers completed 23 of 37 passes for 242 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions against Salt Lake.

“We are pleased to welcome Johnny Manziel to Alliance of American Football, which we’ve always described as a league of opportunity for talented players to launch or revitalize their pro football careers,” league co-founder Bill Polian said in a statement Saturday night. “We completed extensive background work to determine whether it would be appropriate for Johnny to play this season, and after consulting with many people familiar with his situation, we concluded that it would be good for him to resume his pro football career here at The Alliance.”

Polian said he believes Manziel will benefit from “the coaching and mentorship” of Memphis coach Mike Singletary. A corresponding roster move was not immediately announced, but the league’s waiver rules stipulate that the team would have to make a move with a quarterback.

San Antonio had the rights to Manziel because he played college football at Texas A&M. But in a statement Saturday night, general manager Daryl Johnston said he was content keeping the Western Conference-leading Commanders as presently constructed, so the team relinquished Manziel’s rights. San Antonio quarterback Logan Woodside has completed 82 of 150 passes for 1,025 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions.

“One of the most important things I have already learned is when there is an opportunity to get better … you get better,” Johnston said. “The challenge is finding the balance in what I know and what I have learned and finding the best solution to get better as a team. I truly believe that the moves necessary to add Johnny to our roster do not make us better at this time.

“I wish Johnny all the best with the Alliance of American Football, and we look forward to competing against him in the future.”

Manziel was available to the AAF after the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL released him earlier this month and then said he could not play for any other team in their league.

He immediately becomes one of the biggest names in the AAF as one of its few former NFL first-round picks, notably among them Birmingham running back Trent Richardson. Other than Orlando, which has Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, most AAF teams have had some issues at the position.

Standard AAF contracts are for three years and $250,000. Players can earn more in incentives.

Manziel previously said on Barstool Sports’ Comeback SZN podcast that he was intrigued by the prospect of playing in either the AAF or the XFL, which begins operation next year.

“It’s great for football. It’s great for the guys who need more opportunity, need more film and time to play,” the quarterback said.

Manziel has dealt with several off-field issues. In 2016, a domestic assault charge against him in Dallas was dismissed after he took an anger management course and participated in the NFL’s substance abuse program. In a recent interview, he said he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has stopped drinking.

He was taken by Cleveland with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. But following two tumultuous seasons, the Browns released him in March 2016 after he posted a 2-6 record as their starter.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



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Patriots influence across NFL creates challenge for team in free agency – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH. Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. With more coaches and general managers across the NFL who have strong Patriots ties, Bill Belichick has said in the past that is has helped facilitate trades, in part because there is an inherent trust and understanding in those conversations.

While that has been positive, such as when Belichick and his former director of college scouting Bob Quinn struck a deal that brought linebacker Kyle Van Noy from Detroit to New England in 2016, there is a negative side to it, too. With such Patriots-specific influence across the NFL, it means more competition for the same types of players on the open market in free agency.

Consider:

  • The Patriots would have liked to re-sign defensive end Trey Flowers, but the Lions — with head coach Matt Patricia running a New England-based defense and seeing Flowers’ value in the scheme — upped the bidding to $18 million per season. That was beyond the level New England was willing to go.

  • Slot receiver Adam Humphries was a top target for New England, which found itself competing against the Titans, led by head coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson. Vrabel, of course, knows the value of a slot receiver from his time as a player in New England (Troy Brown, then Wes Welker), while Robinson came up through the Patriots’ scouting ranks and elevated to director of college scouting.

  • The Patriots then checked in on slot receiver Cole Beasley, who said his final decision came down to staying in Dallas, joining New England, or signing with Buffalo. Beasley chose Buffalo, where former Patriots receivers coach Brian Daboll is offensive coordinator. The Bills, not surprisingly, were also an aggressive suitor for Humphries.

  • It’s unknown how the Patriots viewed a potential reunion with slot receiver Danny Amendola, but once the Lions were willing to offer $4.5 million, that possibility quickly went off the board.

  • Though the Patriots and tight end Dwayne Allen left open the possibility of his return after he was released for salary-cap purposes, that never came close to materializing as former New England defensive playcaller Brian Flores, in his first year as Dolphins head coach, saw the value in bringing him to Miami (two-year deal, maximum value of $7 million).

  • And on Saturday, valuable swing offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle was signed to a one-year deal by the Bills. The Patriots had kept an open dialogue with Waddle to possibly bring him back, but the Bills were ultimately willing to up the bidding to a higher level than the club was comfortable going.

It’s a dynamic Belichick and the Patriots have been challenged with in the past, such as when Romeo Crennel became head coach in Cleveland (2005), Eric Mangini with the Jets (2006) and Josh McDaniels with the Broncos (2009), but one could make the case it has never quite been as prevalent as it is this year.

2. For a franchise that takes pride being on top of the smallest details, it was surprising to me how things unfolded with the Patriots and Humphries. The Patriots were willing to offer more than what Humphries signed for in Tennessee, according to league sources, but that offer didn’t come until after Humphries had verbally committed to the Titans. Humphries grew up in South Carolina, attended Clemson, and landed in the NFL because Titans general manager Jon Robinson vouched for him after he took part in a rookie tryout with the Buccaneers when Robinson was Tampa’s assistant GM. Because of that, coupled with Tennessee not having state income tax, the Patriots had to know they had some geographical/football-roots/financial factors working against them in their pursuit of Humphries. But they seem to have realized it too late, as they didn’t come with their best and most aggressive pitch until after Humphries verbally committed to the Titans. Humphries acknowledged to Tennessee reporters that, as tough of a decision as it was after the Patriots came back to him, he wasn’t turning back once he gave the Titans his word. In the end, Humphries still might have signed with the Titans, but at least the detail-oriented Patriots would have known they gave themselves the best chance to land one of their top targets.

3. A few follow-up thoughts on the Patriots’ aggressive pursuit of Humphries:

  • It is an acknowledgment that the receiver position needs an upgrade.

  • Humphries checked off all the boxes in terms of the team’s willingness to make a big financial investment — age (25) and NFL experience, style of play, scheme fit. After he was off the board, it was Beasley (29) and Golden Tate (31) as top slot options, and my sense is that the Patriots didn’t seem to be as enthused at the same financial level.

  • If they landed Humphries, it’s hard to believe it wouldn’t have coincided with an adjustment/increase for Julian Edelman. So I wonder if that could still be on the radar.

  • Hello, Braxton Berrios. Could the 2018 sixth-round pick from Miami be the next Humphries? He spent his rookie season on injured reserve and has a nice opportunity ahead of him in New England.

  • Similar to how the Patriots missed out on receiver Marvin Jones (Lions) in the offseason leading into their 2016 Super Bowl championship season, not landing their target doesn’t mean the team can’t recover and win big. As Belichick often says, there are multiple ways to acquire players (e.g. trades, free agency, waiver wire), and the first game that counts isn’t until early September.

4. When the Browns acquired receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants early last week, the immediate reaction was that a Patriots-Browns season opener (probably on Sunday night) would have more appeal. I thought the Browns were a top candidate for that spot before the Beckham trade, but now I wonder if that game would have too much appeal to be the pick. The thinking is that the opener is going to draw a huge audience regardless of the opponent so the networks might prefer to save it for later in the year. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if a Patriots-Jets game picks up more momentum for that spot, especially with Le’Veon Bell landing in New York.

5. With the Giants trading Beckham, and then signing Tate to a four-year, $37 million deal, it sparks a question as to their future plans with receiver Sterling Shepard, who enters the final year of his contract. Shepard is a Patriots-type receiver. Perhaps the Patriots could entice the Giants with a second-round draft pick, and then take the money they were going to invest in Humphries and direct it to a Shepard extension one year before he hits the market. Just thinking out loud on a potential win-win-win scenario for the two teams and player involved.

6. It would be a great story if receiver Josh Gordon is ever reinstated to the NFL, as it would mean his rehabilitation went well, but that isn’t something the Patriots can count on from a team-building perspective because of the fragile nature of the situation. So even though the team made him an original-round tender as a restricted free agent, and is willing to take a $2 million salary-cap charge for it, the smartest approach for the Patriots is to build their pass-catching corps with the expectation Gordon isn’t part of it, almost viewing it as a $2 million insurance policy.

7. The Patriots have five of the first 102 picks in the 2019 draft (32, 56, 64, 98, 102), and with Flowers (Lions) and Trent Brown (Raiders) signing big deals in free agency this year, the club is projected to receive two third-round compensatory picks (per OverTheCap.com) in 2020. So that means the Patriots will have five picks in the first 100 or so slots in two straight drafts. That’s significant ammunition, serving up a reminder that they are well positioned to keep feeding the pipeline while also acknowledging they need to be on the lookout for a potential heir to Brady and have draft capital to package if they find a target they want to pursue.

8. From the media department: Unlike many clubs across the NFL, who hold news conferences to tout big free-agent signings, the Patriots take a different approach by forgoing them all together. The players might be available on a conference call in future weeks, which is a low-key, no-frills approach reflective of the team’s head coach.

9. When Gregg Williams became Browns defensive coordinator in 2017, run-stuffing defensive tackle Danny Shelton wasn’t viewed as a solid fit for his scheme, which was a catalyst for the Patriots to acquire Shelton last offseason. Now that Williams has moved on to the Jets, big-bodied defensive tackle Mike Pennel wasn’t viewed as a solid fit for his scheme and didn’t have his option picked up in New York, which led the Patriots to make him a free-agent priority. While things didn’t work out as well as the Patriots hoped with Shelton, they’ll try again with Pennel, as the back-to-back examples highlight how the club targets players whose value has lessened to their prior teams because of scheme changes.

10. The Patriots’ locker room seemed like a good one in 2018, which was highlighted in public remarks by two players who landed elsewhere this offseason:

  • Brown (introductory Oakland news conference): “I think what took my game to the next level, because I was playing pretty well in San Fran, was just going to an organization who believed in me, a locker room full of guys that believed in each other, pushed each other, we worked hard as a team every day, no egos. My confidence shot through the roof.”

  • Allen (via Sirius XM NFL Radio): “The fun in this game comes in winning, but it also comes with the people you have around you … When you have something special in the locker room, where the guys love each other, where the guys care for one another, you’re able to go out there with great coaching and accomplish feats like that, going on the road to beat a Kansas City team and then going to the Super Bowl and going up against a team that everybody picked would be in that game, and beating them; the locker room is so special, full of guys that love the game of football, that love going to work, and that love each other.”



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Green day: Jets’ blockbuster trade with Colts still resonates a year later – New York Jets Blog

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It started with beers in Mobile, Alabama, and it ended two months later with one of the most important trades in New York Jets history. It happened on St. Patrick’s Day 2018. Fifteen minutes before the holiday’s annual parade commenced on the streets of Manhattan, the Jets announced their blockbuster trade with the Indianapolis Colts — a stealth move that was bold, unconventional and shook up the top of the NFL draft.

One year later, it wouldn’t shock anyone if the decision-makers at One Jets Drive hoist a pint of Guinness to celebrate the anniversary of the trade that begat their franchise quarterback.

“We feel very good about Sam Darnold and, obviously at that position, we feel we have a very good young player to work with going forward,” Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said at the recent NFL scouting combine.

The trade was gutsy and somewhat reckless, yet brilliantly conceived. Does that make sense?

The Jets paid a premium to move up three spots in the draft, not knowing which quarterback would be available with the No. 3 overall pick. In a way, it was a blind leap, but they felt comfortable in making the move because of the intel they had gathered on the top quarterbacks and the top quarterback-needy teams. Their best-case scenario unfolded, as Darnold — the No. 1 player on their draft board — fell to them at No. 3.

In retrospect, the trade might have saved Maccagnan’s job. It also has factored into the team’s aggressive spending this offseason because, without the three second-round picks that went to the Colts, they felt compelled to buy starting-level talent in free agency. Let’s be clear, though: Then and now — and 15 years from now — the trade will be graded on Darnold.

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