Welcome to the NFL, rookie.
Kyler Murray learned how the other half lives Thursday against the Raiders, who blitzed the No. 1 overall pick and made him look uncomfortable. But it wasn’t all bad for the youngsters as Week 2 of the preseason started, as Dwayne Haskins showed off his arm with a big touchdown pass against the Bengals.
We have all that and more in the biggest takeaways and fantasy football nuggets of the preseason’s second week from NFL Nation:
Carson Wentz should not touch the field this preseason. The QB injuries are piling up for Philadelphia. Cody Kessler was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion, one week after backup Nate Sudfeld went down with a broken wrist. Coach Doug Pederson has been ratcheting up the intensity at practice to give the first team quality work in a controlled environment. He should continue on that path and keep Wentz out of harm’s way until the regular-season opener against Washington. The Eagles will probably have to add another arm this week with Kessler in concussion protocol. — Tim McManus
QB Gardner Minshew needed a bounce-back performance after really struggling in the preseason opener and delivered: 19-for-29 for 202 yards in three quarters despite being under pressure from the edge pretty much the entire night. Minshew did lose a fumble after getting hit (RT Leonard Wester got beat badly) and also had a TD pass called back because of a block-in-the-back penalty by TE Ben Koyack. Minshew also put together a solid two-minute drive at the end of the first half that resulted in a field goal, giving the Jaguars their first points of the preseason. Minshew was clearly much more comfortable than he was last week. He was decisive and got the ball out quickly, which are encouraging signs for the Jaguars — who again sat the majority of their starters — because they’re counting on him to be the backup to Nick Foles. His performance Thursday night pretty much cemented that. — Mike DiRocco
Sam Darnold links up with Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson before Ty Montgomery plunges in for a 1-yard TD run.
Playing behind a makeshift offensive line, QB Sam Darnold opened with a TD drive for the second straight week. The tempo was fast and Darnold was in command. It’s early, but he seems to have a firm grasp of the new offense. Big concern: RT Brandon Shell injured his knee in warmups, becoming the third offensive lineman to go down with an injury. Chemistry will be an issue in Week 1.— Rich Cimini
There has to be concern about the offensive line during Matt Ryan‘s first appearance this preseason. Ryan was sacked three times and threw under duress too much while completing 10 of 14 passes for 118 yards. Ryan absorbed some good hits, something you never want to see in the preseason. Right tackle Ty Sambrailo didn’t look like a starter, and backup center Wes Schweitzer had some issues, among others. The Falcons are playing without two injured players who were thought to be on track to start: left guard James Carpenter (quad) and rookie right tackle Kaleb McGary (heart procedure). Jamon Brown could start at left guard and McGary, if healthy, should surpass the struggling Sambrailo at some point. — Vaughn McClure
Rookie Ryan Finley made a strong case to be Cincinnati’s No. 2 quarterback this season. The fourth-round pick out of NC State followed up his preseason debut with another strong performance. Excluding a spike at the end of the first half, Finley was 20-of-25 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns. The rookie steadied the Bengals after a start riddled with miscues. He led Cincinnati’s second unit on a 12-play, 93-yard drive that took 7:36 off the clock in the first half. From there, the entire team found its rhythm, as the visitors scored 23 of the final 30 points. Halfway through the preseason, the rookie is completing 75 percent of his passes for 259 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.— Ben Baby
The Redskins hoped the preseason would identify their No. 1 quarterback, but after two preseason games that hasn’t happened. Colt McCoy can’t yet play because of issues with his leg and Case Keenum has been ordinary in two starts. He’s still adapting to the offense and getting in sync with his receivers. But being in a competition makes it tougher to build that chemistry. And rookie Dwayne Haskins shows more big-play potential — as evidenced by his 55-yard touchdown pass to Robert Davis. He’s not afraid to challenge down the field, but he also hasn’t shown enough to seriously challenge more experienced players. But with what those players have shown, it’s hard to believe Haskins won’t be used at some point this season.— John Keim
It might be too soon to say the Packers have a serious problem with their run game — after all, neither Aaron Jones nor Jamaal Williams (both have hamstring issues) have played a snap in the preseason — but the installation of new coach Matt LaFleur’s outside-zone oriented scheme has been a rough go. The Packers totaled just 7 yards rushing on seven attempts in the first half a week after they had only 38 yards on 13 carries in the first half against the Texans. That’s 45 yards on 20 carries when the opponents were playing starters or key backups. Any hope that sixth-round rookie Dexter Williams could serve as a change-of-pace back looks bleak given his inability to hang onto the ball (he dropped a pass and couldn’t secure a handoff in which a fumble was charged to the quarterback). Tra Carson has been the starter in the absence of Jones and Jamaal Williams, but he’s averaging just 1.7 yards per carry. As much as LaFleur’s offense centers around the run game and what it can do for play-action, he needs to know if the lack of production is because he doesn’t have his top backs or because the scheme hasn’t taken hold. — Rob Demovsky
Lamar Jackson breaks free for an 18-yard touchdown, but it is nullified because of Willie Snead IV’s illegal blindside block.
Lamar Jackson continues to improve as a passer, but — as the Ravens’ starting quarterback showed and said Thursday night — he’s still at his most dangerous when running with the ball. On third-and-10, Jackson saw his receivers covered and took off, faking out Tramon Williams in the open field before leaping over Jaire Alexander to reach the end zone. The spectacular 18-yard touchdown run was nullified by Willie Snead‘s illegal block, but that doesn’t erase another highlight-reel moment that will keep defensive coordinators up at night. “The four-man rush gave me a lane,” Jackson said, “and I just did what I do best.” Jackson finished 6-of-10 passing for 58 yards, leading the Ravens to field goals on both of his drives. — Jamison Hensley
The Raiders defense, with a cast of new characters headlined by middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, looks much improved. At least it did in this second exhibition for both teams, with Oakland harassing No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray into a 3-for-8 passing night for 12 yards and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner sacking the nimble Murray for a safety. In four series, the Raiders starting defense only let Murray run once, for 4 yards. In fact, Joyner’s safety came on the third straight blitz dialed up by defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. At one point, the Raiders had outgained the Cardinals 231-12 in total yards. Also, rookie Josh Jacobs looks primed to be the Raiders’ feature back, starting and carrying the ball four times for 21 yards on their opening touchdown drive with Derek Carr under center, as the Raiders’ starting offense played just one series. — Paul Gutierrez
Thursday night was one to forget for Kyler Murray. The rookie quarterback went 3-for-8 for 12 yards with a 4-yard run and looked out of sync in the four possessions he played, which went into the second quarter. He was flagged twice for false starts because of his clap snap, once for delay of game and went down in the end zone to avoid a sack for a safety. While, yes, it’s still the preseason and the Cardinals are running a vanilla offensive scheme, there were still some issues that Murray and the Cardinals need to clean up. — Josh Weinfuss
Browns expect Jarvis Landry to be ready for season after hip surgery
Landry had the surgery Feb. 4. A team source said Landry is expected to return at some point during training camp. The team said he is expected to make a full recovery for the 2020 season.
Dr. Chris Larson performed the surgery in Minnesota.
Landry, who was selected to his fifth Pro Bowl, caught 83 passes for 1,174 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2019. He didn’t miss a game, but was limited in practice on the injury report for most of the season.
Landry said in a video he posted on Instagram that going into the Pro Bowl, he thought he could work with doctors to “formulate a plan to manage me again throughout the year” without the surgery.
He changed his mind after the Pro Bowl.
“I realized how much pain I was in,” he said. “… I was kind of happy I went to Pro Bowl, because that was more of an indication that I needed the surgery.”
How the Bengals can set up Joe Burrow to succeed as a rookie – Cincinnati Bengals Blog
CINCINNATI — What happens with the first overall pick in the NFL draft should be cut and dry.
Since the Cincinnati Bengals secured the top slot, everything has pointed toward the selection of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner who led the Tigers to a national title and posted one of the best passing seasons in college football history.
In an interview with “The Dan Patrick Show” before the Super Bowl, Burrow said he wants to play for a franchise committed to pursuing championships. Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991 despite a stretch of five straight postseason appearances from 2011-15.
Here are four things the Bengals can do to set Burrow up for success in his first season and beyond.
Secure a big-play wide receiver
A.J. Green‘s franchise tag designation is almost a foregone conclusion at this point. Green has repeatedly said he’ll begrudgingly play on the tag, worth around $18.4 million, and the Bengals are unwilling to part with him in 2020. Green makes a massive difference. During quarterback Andy Dalton‘s nine seasons in Cincinnati, he lost 20 of his 26 starts without Green, with 13 of those coming last season. With Green on the field, Dalton was 64-41-2. When Green is healthy, he’s still, even at 32 by the start of next season, one of the best offensive weapons in the league.
If the situation with Green somehow falls through, the Bengals could target the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper, who is set to become a free agent. After he was traded from the Raiders to Dallas in 2018, Cooper helped Dallas make the playoffs. Last season, Cooper, who will be 26 by the start of the season, was eighth in the league in receiving yards (1,189).
Of course, if the Cowboys don’t tag Cooper and let him walk, there will be several teams interested in him. But the Bengals need another dynamic receiver to pair with Tyler Boyd to help Burrow’s transition to the NFL.
Make a big free agency push in the trenches
This could answer two of the biggest criticisms surrounding the franchise. The Bengals rarely spend big money on free agents from other teams. Cincinnati also struggled on both sides of the line of scrimmage last season.
New England Patriots left guard Joe Thuney could change both of those trends. In 2019, Thuney was ranked second in Pass Block Win Rate, an ESPN metric powered by NFL Next Gen Stats. To put that in perspective, rookie left guard Michael Jordan was the highest-ranked Bengal at No. 31. But after Thuney, there’s a considerable drop-off in pass-blocking interior lineman who will be available on the open market.
Then there’s the other side of the line of scrimmage. Although the Bengals’ pass rush was resurgent at the end of the season, they need to give defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and defensive line coach Nick Eason more with which to work.
The Steelers’ Bud Dupree and the Ravens’ Matthew Judon, two edge rushers who would be good fits in Anarumo’s 3-4 scheme, could warrant long-term investments. Even if Cincinnati doesn’t land a big name, making a push for a quality player is a good sign for the franchise.
Be proactive with roster moves
Cincinnati needs to maximize its expendable resources before the draft. That means shedding offensive tackle Cordy Glenn‘s contract and ending an untenable relationship for both sides by cutting or trading Dalton. Being proactive not only provides a little clarity during a pivotal offseason, but it also shows Cincinnati is willing to make changes to end a four-year playoff drought. That also means giving running back Joe Mixon a contract extension before the season and avoiding the drama that surrounded Green last season. If Cincinnati wants to shift the national perception, those three moves are a good place to start.
Build an indoor practice facility
This offseason is all about proving the Bengals will be more dynamic about how they operate. One simple way to make it happen: develop a plan to build an indoor practice facility, which is increasingly common at every level of football. Last year, weather forced the Bengals to practice inside Paul Brown Stadium on multiple occasions. Meanwhile, the University of Cincinnati, which doesn’t operate with the budget of a Power Five program, has a bubble for their fields in Clifton, Ohio.
In college sports, upgrading facilities shows coaches and recruits a commitment to pursuing a winning program. That same philosophy applies to the Bengals, who were recently called out by their former quarterback Carson Palmer as an organization that didn’t want to win at the highest level. Costs may vary depending on the specifics surrounding the construction of a facility in downtown Cincinnati, where the stadium and team facility sits, but it shouldn’t be an issue for an NFL franchise.
How Ravens’ tag decision on Matthew Judon shapes their offseason – Baltimore Ravens Blog
Can they truly afford, financially, to keep their Pro Bowl outside linebacker?
That’s the dilemma facing a Baltimore team that lacks pass-rushers and salary-cap space. The window to use the franchise tag is from Feb. 25 to March 10, and the Ravens’ decision on whether to apply it on Judon will affect their free-agency game plan like no other.
If Baltimore puts the tag on Judon, over half of its projected $33 million in cap space is gone. That would severely limit the Ravens’ ability to add another pass-rusher, a proven interior offensive lineman and a playmaking wide receiver in free agency, all of which is needed for Baltimore to overtake the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
If the Ravens don’t use the tag, Judon is likely gone in free agency and the defense is left with its biggest void at pass-rusher since the franchise’s inaugural season. This puts extreme pressure on Baltimore to sign a premier edge rusher because the remaining players — Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson — have a combined 10.5 career sacks.
At the end of the season, coach John Harbaugh was asked how much he wanted Judon back and how hard it would be to keep him. His response: “Very much and pretty hard.”
Here are the Ravens’ options with Judon:
Tag him: This is the expected move. The next question is how much will it cost. The Ravens will want to tag him as an outside linebacker, which is projected to be $16.3 million, according to OverTheCap. Judon will want to get tagged as a defensive end, which is projected to be $19.3 million. Baltimore faced this same situation with Terrell Suggs in 2008, and he eventually was designated as a defensive end-outside linebacker and received the difference between the two tags. If that’s the case with Judon, the price will be $17.8 million. That would leave Baltimore with roughly $15 million in cap room, and only nine teams currently have less. This would hinder the spending power for a team that could use a proven wide receiver like A.J. Green or Emmanuel Sanders and a pass-rusher like Arik Armstead, Calais Campbell (if cut) or Ryan Kerrigan (if traded).
Don’t use the tag: It would be a surprise if Baltimore lets Judon hit the open market after last offseason, when Za’Darius Smith left for the Green Bay Packers in free agency and recorded a career-high 13.5 sacks. Allowing another young pass-rusher in his prime to walk a year later would be a tough sell to fans, especially after the Ravens finished No. 21 in the league with 37 sacks. But an argument can be made there is more value in Baltimore not tagging Judon and using that $17.8 million in cap space on getting a couple of top-notch pass-rushers who can help on the interior and on the edge. If the Ravens go this route, they need to have a better backup plan than last year. After losing Smith, Baltimore signed Pernell McPhee (three sacks before getting injured after seven games) and Shane Ray (cut before regular season) in free agency and drafted Ferguson (2.5 sacks as a rookie) in the third round.
Sign him to a long-term deal: The Ravens have traditionally used the tag to buy time to get a long-term deal done. The last five players franchised by Baltimore — cornerback Chris McAlister (2003 and 2004), Suggs (2008 and 2009), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (2011), running back Ray Rice (2012) and kicker Justin Tucker (2016) — eventually got contracts that made them among the highest paid at their positions. Those who believe Judon has earned a big-money contract say he’s already a great pass-rusher who has yet to reach his peak at age 27. His 33 quarterback hits last season ranked fourth in the NFL, and he’s one of 16 players to record at least seven sacks in each of the past three seasons. Others contend Judon isn’t in that same class of Chandler Jones, J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan, all of whom average between $16 million and $17 million per season. Judon has failed to produce double-digit sacks in a single season and he didn’t make a sack as part of a four-man rush last season (all 9.5 sacks came off Baltimore blitzes). His current market value is $16.3 million per season, according to Spotrac.
Tag Judon and then trade him: This scenario was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter last month, and it makes a lot of sense if Baltimore can find an interested team. The Ravens can get an immediate, upgraded return for Judon (unlike a third-round compensatory pick next year if he signs elsewhere in free agency) and they don’t have to invest a huge chunk of their cap space in one player. Last offseason provided the template for the tag-and-trade of pass-rushers. The Chiefs got a second-round pick from the San Francisco 49ers for Dee Ford, and the Seattle Seahawks got three picks (first- and third-round picks in 2019 plus a second-round pick in 2020) from the Chiefs in exchange for Frank Clark and a 2019 third-round pick.
If Baltimore can pry a second-round pick from a pass-rush needy team such as Seattle or Atlanta, it would represent another win for general manager Eric DeCosta. He has excelled in the trade market from dealing quarterback Joe Flacco for a fourth-round pick and kicker Kaare Vedvik for a fifth-rounder to acquiring Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters for a fifth-round pick and linebacker Kenny Young. With an additional pick and more cap space, the Ravens have the resources to rebuild their front seven to make another championship run.
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