Monthly Archives: August 2016

Trevor Siemian named as Broncos’ starting QB

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Trevor Siemian will start at quarterback for the Denver Broncos in the Sept. 8 season opener against the Carolina Panthers, coach Gary Kubiak announced in a team meeting Monday morning.

Kubiak made the announcement just before the players broke off into position-group meetings.

“I think he’s earned the right to be our guy,” Kubiak said. “I go back and look at the body of work throughout the course of the offseason, watch training camp, throughout the preseason, how far he’s come. I watch how much he’s improved in my opinion, the grasp that he has with what we’re doing, to me he’s earned the right to go out there and be our starter.”

It is the next step in Siemian’s staggering offseason journey. The 2015 seventh-round pick — whose lone snap on the field last season was a kneel-down just before halftime in the Broncos’ Dec. 20 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers — will now succeed Peyton Manning.

The last time Siemian started a game, it was for Northwestern on Nov. 22, 2014 at Purdue.

“I need to get my ass out there on that field,” Ebron said Monday in his first comments since suffering a right ankle injury Aug. 6. “‘Cause I’m not a huge person that’s [into] watching. I like action. I like to be in action. It just sucks being on the sideline, man. It’s not my lifestyle. I wasn’t born for this. I wasn’t bred to do this, but I got to right now.”

Ebron said he and the Lions are taking things slowly as he recovers. That includes Ebron likely not playing in the preseason finale Thursday against the Buffalo Bills. Asked whether he would be out there in a game primarily used for backups and those trying to make one last roster push, he said, “Is Matt [Stafford] going to play on Thursday? You ain’t going to see Ebron if you don’t see Matt Stafford.”

The Panthers had been trying to hold Scifres out as he rehabbed offseason surgery on his left knee.

The Browns traded Lee three days after coach Hue Jackson jumped the 13-year veteran on the sideline for a lack of effort on trying to stop a return that went 73 yards for a touchdown.

“[It was] his pursuit. Let’s be very honest,” Jackson said after the game. “We’re out there to play. If there’s another guy that has the ball, your job is to go get it. The second time [on a long return] he did that, so that was improvement.

“That’s something to build on. The first time he understood in his conversation with me that’s not how we pursue it, and he made amends for that. So on we go.”

On Monday, the Browns moved on from Lee. And the Panthers found a huge missing piece to a puzzle they hope will result in a second straight trip to the Super Bowl.

Lee ranks sixth in the NFL all time in gross punting average (46.2 yards), eighth all time in net average (39.5) and ninth all time for punts inside the 20 (325).

He set Browns single-season records with a 46.7-yard gross average and 40.1-yard net average in 2015.

In 2011, Lee recorded the NFL’s second-best single-season net punting average (44.0). In 2007, he had 42 punts inside the 20, tied for third-best season in NFL history.

Lee also has ties to the Carolinas, growing up in Westminster, South Carolina, before playing collegiately at Pittsburgh.

We could be watching the greatest class of defenders … ever

The NFL can seem like a world dominated by quarterbacks, but did you notice who won the Super Bowl last season? It was the Broncos, who had Peyton Manning in name alone; the future Hall of Famer threw nearly twice as many interceptions (17) as touchdowns (nine). The Broncos were led to that Super Bowl by their defense, which dominated the regular season and held three of the league’s best offenses to a combined 44 points in the playoffs.

You can make the case that this is an offensive era. Enlightened by college football, it’s a pass-heavy league with tempo everywhere. Offenses averaged 22.8 points per game last year, the fifth-highest figure in NFL history.

But … Denver’s run to the Super Bowl with some of the league’s worst quarterback play tells us again just how impactful a team with several star defenders can be. Offenses are better-schemed and better-coached than ever, but a great defense can still rip their plan to shreds. And the class of 2011 has delivered more world-class, game-changing, opponent-destroying defenders than any other draft in 30 years.

The plan is for Cruz to be back out at practice Wednesday and to play in Saturday’s preseason game against the New York Jets. It would be his first game in 22 months.

Cruz’s teammates were impressed.

“He came out, looked fresh [Tuesday],” wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “Again, the biggest thing is just Sept. 11. I know he would definitely like to get some preseason in. It’s been a little minute since he’s played.

“In my opinion, he looked great.”

Cruz hadn’t made it through a full practice in more than two weeks because of the groin injury. He did dress for Saturday’s preseason contest against the Buffalo Bills and ran through pregame warmups.

There were more positive signs at Tuesday’s practice, when Cruz mostly worked alongside Beckham and Sterling Shepard as the first-team receivers. He caught all his passes from quarterback Eli Manning.

There was one play in particular where he shot off the line and made a quick juke to the inside to beat cornerback Donte Deayon. It opened some eyes.

“He’s quick,” said Deayon, an undrafted rookie out of Boise State. “I didn’t think he’d be that quick off the line right now. But he came off the line real quick and he got me. … He shook and he shot across the field. He has his step back, he’s quick and he’s a veteran, so he knows his game.”

U.S. Bank Stadium will elicit oohs and aahs, but at first, maybe some sighs

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins is expected to make his preseason debut Friday at the Washington Redskins, coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday.

Using the light rail was a sticking point for many of you who went to the initial events, and there figures to be plenty of foot traffic going to and from the light rail platform. Metro Transit will release its plans for Vikings game later this week, and it also plans to provide buses to several light rail stops other than the one outside the stadium. The Vikings app also has information on how to use Metro Transit on game days. Should you want to wait out the crowds somewhere other than a bar, the Downtown East Commons park to the west of the stadium has alcohol-free, family-friendly events on game days.

It’s also a good idea to reacquaint yourself with the NFL’s stadium baggage policy, which limits fans to clear tote bags or one-gallon Ziploc bags inside the stadium. And while we understand the glass doors make for a good photo opp, maybe you should limit the selfies for a few weeks to help with traffic flow. Your Instagram followers will still love you.

Ryan also expects outside linebacker Manny Lawson (pectoral) to make his preseason debut Friday.

The Bills could be without wide receiver Marquise Goodwin in Friday’s game after he left Tuesday’s practice with trainers and was placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Starting right tackle Jordan Mills (knee) and cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman (quad contusion) also left Tuesday’s practice, putting their status for the game in doubt.

Preseason game or not, that’s impressive.

Perhaps more impressive is that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott didn’t even play in the game.

That changes Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks.

“I love him,” Dallas receiver Dez Bryant said of the Cowboys’ first-round pick. “I love the swag. He’s fierce, and I know he seems like he’s all chill and stuff, but he’s ready to get out there. He’s ready to go. He’s fired up. I’m ready to see him play. I’m ready to block for him because I know he’s going to do some amazing things for us. I’m ready to see that boy do his thing.”

Perhaps that is why Elliott has not been available for comment Sunday or Monday.

Karlos Williams returns to practice, cuts red meat out of diet

Williams says he has changed his diet in an effort to lose weight, cutting out red meat and eating smaller meals throughout the day. He also has stopped eating larger meals late at night.

“I’m eating a lot of chicken, being very strict,” he said Monday. “The running backs actually went out a couple times and I chose to stay in. I can’t go to a restaurant and see something on the menu and I won’t eat it.

“So I chose to stay back. Just trying to be really strict on myself. Be very disciplined. It’s very hard, it’s part of the process, part of the growing pains and something I’m willing to do to get back on the football field.”

Williams spent minicamp and training camp until Monday training with the Bills’ strength and conditioning staff. He made headlines in June when he attributed his conditioning to his then-pregnant fiancee’s pregnancy food cravings, saying he would eat when she ate.

In eight games last season, new Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler put together a pedestrian stat line: 10 TDs, six interceptions and a below-average Total QBR of 48.8. And the film meshed with those numbers. It was OK, even underwhelming at times, as Osweiler managed the system under Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, with the NFL’s best defense taking the pressure off the quarterback. Quick throws, boot action and limited shots over the top.

However, since the Texans are restocking their offensive talent and adding more speed to complement the smooth skill set of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, is Osweiler in a position to produce better numbers with Texans coach Bill O’Brien? Let’s discuss how the Texans can accelerate the development of Osweiler after giving him $37 million guaranteed after just seven NFL starts.

Team USA won’t know who it faces in Wednesday’s quarterfinals until after Monday’s final round of games in Group B, but France looms a potential semifinal opponent.

With Parker surely back at the controls.

And let’s not even start with the stuff about all the various studs back home who, for whatever reason, either couldn’t be here or chose not to. There certainly are several top American stars who aren’t here, but it should be an official IOC rule: No one who plays, coaches or roots for Team USA is ever allowed to complain about what the roster might be missing.

Hall of Fame Game stadium turf will be replaced

The change in turf was previously planned by the Hall of Fame and was not a reaction to Sunday’s game problems.

The main issues that led to the game being called off concerned the painted logos at midfield and in the end zones. Those areas were hard, slick and uneven and considered potentially dangerous, according to team officials and Hall officials. The field was brought to the Hall from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where the surface was used for just one season.

Fans who purchased tickets for the game will be offered full refunds, according to Hall of Fame President David Baker.

The Arizona Cardinals are going to squeeze every drop out of quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald, who will turn 33 on Aug. 31, and Palmer, who will be 37 on Dec. 27, were each given one-year extensions by the Cardinals. Palmer is now signed through 2018, when he’ll turn 39, and Fitzgerald is signed through 2017.

Palmer’s extension is worth $24.35 million, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said, and his 2016 and 2017 salaries are now fully guaranteed.

Denver Broncos

Cornerback Aqib Talib was back on the practice field for the Broncos on Monday for the first time since he suffered two wounds in his right leg from one gunshot in early June. Talib took part in the first 35 minutes of practice. The Broncos’ plan for the Pro Bowl cornerback is to gradually work him back to full speed with a little more work on the practice field each day. Coach Gary Kubiak said “all our work is toward him getting ready to play” in the regular-season opener Sept. 8 against the Panthers. But Kubiak said there is a chance Talib could play a smattering of snaps Aug. 27 against the Los Angeles Rams in the Broncos’ third preseason game. — Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Outside linebacker Dee Ford is one of the players the Chiefs are eager to see in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Seahawks. Ford, Kansas City’s first-round pick in 2014, looms as the Chiefs’ best hope for a potent pass-rusher. They have been practicing without Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, their two top pass-rushers. Hali could return in time for the start of the regular season, but Houston’s return would come some time after that, if it comes at all this season. — Adam Teicher

Bears LB Danny Trevathan proves football players can smell good

“He’s one of those guys that kind of have an aura about him,” Long said recently. “He walks in and he’s got his chains on and he looks sharp every day, like he just left a video shoot or something. You see him on the field and you block him and he smells good. He wears cologne. But then you get caught up in the aroma and you get hit under the chin.”

Cincinnati Bengals

1-10 percent: Andy Dalton didn’t earn a Pro Bowl nod during his breakout season in 2015; he would need to keep up his new level of play for another decade or so to sniff Hall consideration. … Andrew Whitworth has gotten better with age and might be one of the best offensive linemen of the decade, but he’s turning 35 and has two Pro Bowls to his name.

Geno Atkins had his progress stalled by a torn ACL, which cost him half of 2013 and sapped him badly in 2014, but he returned to form with an 11-sack campaign in 2015. The list of defensive tackles with two first-team All-Pro appearances across their first six seasons has a whole bunch of Hall of Famers: Seven of the 12 previous post-merger eligible defensive tackles who pulled that off, by my count, made it to the Hall. Atkins’ numbers will be discounted some as interior pass-rushers accrue more sacks, but he has a better shot at Canton than most would otherwise expect. 30 percent

A.J. Green is perennially compared to classmate Julio Jones, and while Green doesn’t have Jones’ freakish peak season numbers, he has been far more consistent and stayed healthier, which bodes well for his future. Green has started his career with five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (averaging over 1,200 yards) and five uninterrupted trips to the Pro Bowl. Here’s the list of guys who have pulled that off since the merger: A.J. Green. That’s it. The last pass-catcher to start his career with five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, to put this in context, is Mike Ditka. It would be a major surprise if Green didn’t pick up a gold jacket down the line. 80 percent

There was a point in time where Brett Favre would be retired one week and unretired the next. It was a running joke amongst NFL fans that eventually turned into a hilarious ESPN commercial, mocking his indecisiveness.

Favre is now six years removed from football and is about to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But wait! The Cowboys are in desperate need of a backup quarterback and could use someone like Tony Romo who runs around and slings the ball.

Would Favre consider another comeback?

“You know what? Being around, walking in this Hall and stuff, it kind of gives you an itch,” Favre said Friday on Good Morning Football. “The only problem is I can’t get hit. Can they promise I won’t get hit?”

Would Sam Bradford really play the retirement card? It’s been done before

That quarterback was Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid wanted to sit him until he was ready to start. So he signed … wait for it … Doug Pederson to bridge the gap.

Carson Wentz is the modern day McNabb, Chase Daniel is the newer version of Pederson and the same guy who served as the bridge to the future is the coach of the team trying to bridge a new future.

It’s also possible this is a really slow, low-stakes game of chicken.

I don’t believe Bradford is going to retire. Just trying to leverage preferred outcome. A trade.

— Joe Banner (@JoeBanner13) May 6, 2016
Which also falls in line with the Palmer situation. Walk away and refuse to play until you get sent to a team that actually wants you.

Or wants you more than whatever $22 million guaranteed is worth.

Once again I am going to point out that Sam Bradford signed a two-year contract with a huge pile of guaranteed money and is being fairly ridiculous by getting upset about the Eagles drafting a young quarterback.

Yes, they could have used their draft capital to bolster the talent around him and give themselves a better shot at winning this year. But Bradford could also just suck it up, play football and try to convince someone else he’s worth another absurd contract.

The 2013 NFL Draft basically stunk.

Except for a few picks in the final third of the first round, there was little value, and even attempts at being “safe,” looking for left tackles or pass rushers early, look pretty risky and unfruitful in hindsight.

With the verdict being in this week on which of their fifth-year options were being executed — more than a third of the teams making picks in 2013 essentially saying, “No thanks,” to them — I couldn’t help reflecting on this draft class in the wake of the 2016 selections last weekend. As my man Pete Prisco is finding out as he attempts to re-grade the messy 2013 board, there wasn’t much out there in the first round.

Even players who flashed early, like immediate breakout star Sheldon Richardson, have regressed and suffered significant setbacks off the field that are jeopardizing future earnings. Dion Jordan seems pretty intent on running himself out of the league before ever making an impression, and even the No. 1 overall pick — heck, the first three picks — still have plenty to prove. Eric Fisher started turning the corner for the Chiefs last season, but this guy had trouble beating out Jah Reid for the right tackle spot not too long ago.

Of course, it’s not all ugly.

Ezekiel Ansah, Tyler Eifert, Kyle Long, DeAndre Hopkins, Des Trufant and Travis Frederick have done quite well for themselves; Star Lotulelei has been a solid piece of the Panthers defense.

But that’s about it.

Still, it seems like for every one of them there are three Bjoern Werner’s or Matt Elams or Dee Milliners or, gulp, Barkevious Mingos. And while a good number of these kids have pretty much told us who they are and we can feel fairly strong about projecting what they will or — in most cases — will not become, I believe there are still a few potential gems.

“Yeah, man, I thank those guys for that,” Hopkins said, per the Houston Chronicle. “Last year, there were a couple of pieces of the puzzle that we needed that could’ve helped us get over some games. It’s the NFL and other teams get paid, too. I think they brought some guys in that are going to push me, myself and everybody in there.

“When you bring in two wide receivers, it makes everybody say, ‘OK, all right, there’s a little more competition in this room, which is good. It’s going to help out the team. I’ve heard good things about them so far. Everything I’ve heard about them has been positive.”

He’s also apparently thrilled about his new quarterback Brock Osweiler, who — even if he doesn’t live up to his massive contract — should be a big improvement over Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.

“I’ve been very impressed with Brock’s leadership role so far,” Hopkins said. “He brought guys to Arizona to go out there and train when he didn’t have to. It was voluntary, but he also demanded our best when we were out there. The way he’s leading guys, just little things like that, you can tell he wants to be great.”