Monthly Archives: August 2016

Rank’s 11 Sleepers: Seriously consider Marcus Mariota

Well I suppose summer vacation is over. One intrepid tweeter told me the other day, “enough with the summer fluff pieces on Stephen Gostkowski and time to get into some really fantasy seriousness.” And he is right. I’m kind of ready to get to fantasy football too. My summer has been a haze of watching reruns of “How I Met Your Mother,” “Tangled” (which is the baby’s favorite), and the wheel of “Bachelor” shows.

That’s right. I take no great pride in watching “The Bachelorette” but I blame Petros Papadakis. (One half of the famed “Petros and Money” radio show out here in Southern California. And if you are unfamiliar, yes, that’s Money as in Matt “Money” Smith of “NFL Fantasy Live” fame. Though to people out here, PMS is like the biggest deal ever, and oh yeah, he does that fantasy show.)

So, one morning Aaron Rodgers highlights were on “Good Morning Football” and one of the trainers at my gym took notice.

1) 49ers quarterback: Blaine Gabbert vs. Colin Kaepernick

It was not a great sign for Gabbert that he hasn’t locked up the job despite Kaepernick missing all of OTAs and San Francisco’s first two preseason games. Gabbert’s preseason efforts could be described somewhere between nondescript and discouraging, depending on whether or not your glasses are tinted metallic gold. Still, Kaepernick had too much ground to make up before the third week of the preseason and his relatively brief appearance didn’t help.

2) Rams quarterback: Jared Goff vs. Case Keenum vs. Sean Mannion vs. Jared Goff

Goff was listed twice in this space back in July because he was battling expectations. He’s losing. While the No. 1 overall pick has shown flashes of talent, he hasn’t been proficient enough at the finer points of his position. He’s struggled with fumbles, play calls and lining his team up in time. He also had to leave two of his three outings early after taking big hits. Keenum, meanwhile, has exceeded expectations with a clean month. It would be a big surprise at this point if Keenum isn’t starting in Week 1.

3) 49ers No. 2 receiver: Lots of players you don’t know

Coach Chip Kelly is being asked to perform miracles with this offense, although slot receiver Bruce Ellington has plenty of potential. Quinton Patton has held off a rag-tag field to start on the outside, although Ellington could wind up earning more snaps if he recovers from a hamstring injury suffered in the third preseason game. Offseason fascination DeAndre Smelter could join CFL import Eric Rogers on injured reserve.

4) Panthers cornerbacks: Life after Josh Norman?

This was a potential battle in more innocent times. A groin injury kept Cruz off the field for the first two preseason games. After an uninspiring showing in practices before that, Cruz needed to show something down the stretch of the preseason just to make the team. He took a big step forward by playing in the third preseason game without incident, although he only had one catch for four yards. New York’s absolute lack of depth at the position should help his chances.

5) Seahawks running back: Thomas Rawls vs. the field

Christine Michael’s Awakening has been one of the stories of training camp. Michael’s emergence allows coach Pete Carroll to bring Rawls back into the lineup slowly. It looks like Rawls will not take any preseason snaps, but he will be ready for Week 1. That’s good because Seattle’s rookie trio (C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks) have mostly failed to make an impact in August for various reasons.

6) The entire Seahawks offensive line

The Seahawks re-shuffled their entire line before camp, then kept moving pieces around in August. Rookie first-rounder Germain Ifedi and left guard Mark Glowinski are starters, while Justin Britt looks good at center. An experiment to move Garry Gilliam to left tackle was short-lived, so he’s back on the right side with Bradley Sowell protecting Russell Wilson’s blind side. This group looks better than a year ago, but we’d still expect Wilson to be scrambling too much to escape pressure off the edge.

7) Cowboys defensive line: Who fills in for suspended players?

The Cowboys are no closer to knowing who will start in place of suspended defensive ends Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. Benson Mayowa, signed from Oakland, has a chance to start once he fully recovers from knee surgery. Shaneil Jenkins came out of nowhere to make noise in the preseason, but then he was also hurt. No one has particularly stepped up out of Ryan Russell, Jack Crawford and David Irving.

8-9) Cowboys backup quarterback and running back

Oh, late July. Back when we were dumb enough to criticize the Cowboys for not building up their quarterback depth. The only remaining question with rookie Dak Prescott is whether his NFL MVP award this season will be unanimous or not. Unfortunately, now the Cowboys need to find a backup for Prescott.

Should Rams’ Todd Gurley play at all in the preseason?

IRVINE, Calif. — Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley waited more than seven months to get into an actual, real-life game, and it finally happened last Saturday. He was on the field for the offense’s first six snaps, received four carries, ran 20 yards, scored a touchdown … and then he was finished.

“It’s kind of like a teaser,” Gurley said.

Gurley doesn’t necessarily buy into that.

Dalton was on track to have one of his best statistical seasons last year prior to the injury.

“If you go back and look at what he was doing before he hurt his hand, if he’s not the top, he’s at least in the top three,” Jones said. “He’s stepped up tremendously man, leadership, he’s got the guys in here, he makes sure they’re in the right spot. He’s not careless with the ball. That’s the biggest thing, if it’s not there, throw it away or check it down. He’s done a great job.”

Dalton completed 66.1 percent of his passes last season for 3,250 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions before the injury. He was replaced by A.J. McCarron for the final three regular-season games and the playoffs.

Asked specifically why he took to Twitter to “trash-talk,” Thomas quickly responded: “It wasn’t trash. It was speaking fact. I don’t got to talk trash. It was just speaking fact and I got tired of it, so I just said something.”

Earlier this month in an ESPN The Magazine story on Norman, the cornerback took a swipe at several opposing players, including Thomas.

Playing for the Carolina Panthers, Norman faced Thomas in Super Bowl 50 and covered the Broncos receiver plenty. Thomas finished with one reception for 8 yards in that game. Quarterback Peyton Manning went 13-for-23 passing in the game for 141 yards and an interception.

“Can’t remember the specific runs, honestly,” Elliott said. “When I go out there, it’s kind of a blur, so.”

Elliott drew an unnecessary roughness penalty on Chancellor a play after powering through him. After a Dak Prescott pass fell incomplete, Chancellor shoved Elliott in the back. Elliott was not afraid of talking back to several Seattle defenders.

Derek Carr invites Usain Bolt to ‘run a go-route’ with Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Jack Del Rio chuckled and then looked off in the distance.

Derek Carr gasped before letting out an, “Oh my goodness.”

“When he’s jogging or running out there and he’s ahead in the race, it’s just astonishing to me to have a guy in a world-class event look over and, ‘Oh yeah, oh, I need to go a little faster,’ and win the race.”

And while Del Rio demonstrated Bolt’s look, here’s a picture of it:

When Del Rio was playing in the NFL, Ron Brown made the transition from Unites States Olympian to kick returner for the Los Angeles Rams and returned three kicks for touchdowns in 1985.

Renaldo Nehemiah, who was an Olympic hurdler, played three seasons for the San Francisco 49ers and Willie Gault, who was a sprinter on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that boycotted the Moscow Games, carved out an 11-year NFL career, five with the Chicago Bears and six with the Raiders in Los Angeles.

“It’s a difficult transition, depending on whether they played in high school or not,” Del Rio said. “We have guys that can run in our league, and they know technique and they understand the game. So the learning curve is huge.

“But if a guy can flat-out fly and he wants to play and he’s got a little toughness to him, yeah, why not?”

“I haven’t put much thought into it. It’s been busy with the practices and so forth, and we still have a couple of important weeks for this training, for this phase of the season. I want to put all my efforts and thoughts into this week and next week, and try to go out and play in a couple good preseason games, and see if I can get some of that game action,” he said.

“We’ll deal with those four weeks when they come.”

Brady’s remarks came in a news conference in which he explained his excused absence Sunday and Monday by saying he “had to take care of something.” He didn’t divulge more details. Brady also explained what happened to him before last Thursday’s preseason game, saying that slicing his right thumb was a “silly mistake.”

A few other soundbites from Brady, who is itching to play in the preseason:

Does he feel he needs preseason reps? “I don’t think any of them hurt. You just do the best you can do. We’re preparing a lot of guys to get ready to play. I fit into that, but so do a lot of other guys. I’m just taking the advice of Coach [Belichick] and whatever he wants to do, I’m going to do everything I can to be ready to go when I am called upon. It’s what my responsibility is and that’s what I’m preparing to do.”

The difference between training-camp practices and games: “You’re getting hit [in games], so just the spatial awareness and guys around you, and ball security and things like that. For whatever the last 30 practices, quarterbacks aren’t touched. [In games], just stand there in the pocket, holding the ball, knowing that they’re coming to get the ball and knock it out of your hands, and hitting the ground and so forth, those type of things are important. So I just have to feel those things out, and the game is really the only place to get it because it’s regular speed. You don’t know what’s coming.”

NFL Preseason Blitz: Jared Goff upstaged by … Dak Prescott?

By any measure, you can’t have less experience or less draft pedigree at backup quarterback. Well, I guess there’s Heaps’ one preseason incompletion last year, so it’s technically possible to have less experience.

Boykin came in after Russell Wilson’s one drive on Saturday and mostly wasn’t impressive throwing the ball. In the second and third quarters almost all of his passes were at the line or barely past it, and he was way off when he tried to go deep. Boykin completed 10 of 18 passes for 66 yards, for a low 6.6 yards per completion before giving way to Heaps. The Seahawks put Boykin back in late in the fourth quarter and he played better. He had a nice 25-yard completion on third-and-10. He completed a couple more passes and a Hail Mary in a two-minute drill at the end, which made his final numbers (16-of-26, 188 yards) look a lot better. The Seahawks beat the Kansas City Chiefs 17-16 by running in the two-point conversation with no time on the clock.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Matt Ryan tried not to dwell on it. You know: Out of sight, out of mind.

By chance, the dreadful memories of a 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 NFC Championship Game resurfaced for the Atlanta Falcons quarterback. Ryan hadn’t watched the game in its entirety since before training camp of 2014. But in October, a Showtime documentary about former teammate Tony Gonzalez incorporated clips from the gut-wrenching defeat.

“I saw a little bit of it,” Ryan said. “Obviously, yeah, there’s disappointment that goes along with that.”

Ryan no doubt wondered what might have been had he found an open Gonzalez on a fourth-and-4 from San Francisco’s 10-yard line late in regulation, or what might have been had the Falcons sustained the momentum of a 17-0 start.

“It’s like any game, right? It’s not just one thing,” Ryan said. “There are a handful of opportunities that come up throughout a game. Certainly, we had our chances when we were in the tight red zone. I think we had four opportunities from inside the [20]. You’d like to have any one of those back where you could make that play. But that’s the nature of the game when you fall short, right? You wish you did some things differently.”

Critics might have viewed Ryan differently had he guided the Falcons to the Super Bowl that year. Instead, the skeptics see a player with a 1-4 playoff record and no Super Bowl appearances entering a crucial ninth year. The talk of “Matty Ice” being among the elite quarterbacks has cooled, at least outside of the Falcons organization.

A recent ESPN survey conducted with 42 league insiders placed Ryan in the bottom half of 13 second-tier of quarterbacks behind first-tier quarterbacks Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger.

Antonio Brown’s mouth almost got him ejected from practice – yes, practice

According to reporter Mark Kaboly, Antonio Brown told Terry Brown, “You had a free lunch and you still haven’t made a call today,” among other things.

In a game situation, Terry Brown would have flagged Antonio Brown for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“We’re here to enforce the rules,” Terry Brown said. “This is their practice. He will do it here and get away with it. But if he thinks he can do that and get away with it in a game, he’s got another thing coming. I’m still going to report it to the league.”

Terry Brown said Antonio Brown made disrespectful comments to him, and Terry Brown told fellow Pittsburgh receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, “better get [Antonio Brown] under control or I’m going to throw him out. He’s not going to push me; I’m a veteran, 11 years … I’m not going to tolerate it.”

Added A&M chancellor John Sharp: “We are obviously pleased to have in place the new agreement with the Seattle Seahawks that serves to control and minimize any use of Texas A&M University’s trademark ‘12th Man’ by any entity other than Texas A&M or its authorized licensees.”

Seattle will continue to pay an annual royalty fee to the university as it shifts its focus to the use of “12” or “12s.” According to ESPN, the Seahawks have trademarks for “Spirit of 12,” “12,” “The 12s” and “We Are 12s.”

We are proud to continue the legacy and history of the 12th MAN in Seattle.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) August 11, 2016

Ladarius Green was supposed to replace Heath Miller as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ tight end, but an ankle injury has kept him out of training camp.

At least we all thought it was the ankle injury keeping him out.

NFL Media’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reported that it’s recurring headaches, and not the ankle, keeping Green off the field. That’s some frightening news.