September 13, 2018 / 2:31 AM / 9 months ago

FLM All 32: Team-by-team notes

AFC East

Sep 9, 2018; Baltimore, MD, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to throw during the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore Ravens defeated Buffalo Bills 47-3. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills: On Wednesday, coach Sean McDermott turned to 21-year-old Josh Allen — taken by the Bills with the No. 7 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft — to be their starting quarterback. He’s a rarity on the roster. According to the Buffalo News, the Bills have the lowest number of players they drafted or signed out of college on their roster: 19 of 53. They also are the seventh-oldest team in the league, with an average age of 26.47. Buffalo is moving in the right direction, though. To start the season last year, the Bills had the second-oldest roster in the league. Cincinnati has the most homegrown players on its roster with 46. Cleveland is the youngest team with an average age of 25.19.

Miami Dolphins: Jakeem Grant ran back a kickoff for an impressive 102 yards on Sunday and was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, but he wasn’t all that impressed. His said he can perform better. “I wasn’t even running full speed,” Grant said. “I was actually three-quarters speed, and when I looked up at the speed meter, and it said 20.9 (mph), I was hurt. That’s slow, man. ... I didn’t have to do anything. I didn’t get touched and I didn’t have to run for my life. Because (of the blocking), I could just use 75 percent to run past those guys.” Grant also had five receptions for 38 yards in the game.

New England Patriots: Not even opinionated Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey can get notoriously tight-lipped Patriots coach Bill Belichick to say much. Ramsey has spoken ill recently of some of the best players in the NFL, including New England tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots travel to Jacksonville on Sunday. “We know when the game starts,” Belichick said. “I’m sure they’ll be ready to go, too. We’ll see what happens. Right now, we’re focused on our preparation for the game. We have a lot of respect for coach (Doug) Marrone, their coaching staff, their players, their team. Hopefully, we’ll be ready to go.”

New York Jets: A big road win and a stellar debut from a rookie quarterback has left the CEO of the Jets excited for the rest of the season. After the Jets beat Detroit 48-17 in the season opener behind QB Sam Darnold, Christopher Johnson said he’s trying not to dream too big. “I’ve been working since then to keep my enthusiasm level ice, man,” he said of the Monday night victory. “It was a great game, but it was one game. Trying to keep that in mind.” And his thoughts on Darnold? “He’s wise beyond his years. Certainly his decision making to this point has indicated so. He’s very steady. I’m really impressed with the way he has handled himself. This is a tough town. A lot of good and bad will be thrown his way. I think he’s unique in his ability to handle the pressures of New York.”

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: Cornerback Marlon Humphrey circled the Week 2 date with the Cincinnati Bengals when the NFL released the schedule, anticipating the opportunity to match up with wide receiver A.J. Green in a primetime duel. Humphrey was the third-highest rated cornerback in Week 1, according to Pro Football Focus, assuming the No. 1 cornerback role that Jimmy Smith (suspended four games) typically fills. “It’s always a good test when you’re going against a guy that’s probably going to be wearing a gold jacket one day,” Humphrey said. “With (Smith) out, I try to pick up the slack to try to match what he’s done in the past.”

Cincinnati Bengals: Year 2 is off to a strong start for wide receiver John Ross, a 2017 first-round pick who did not catch a pass as a rookie. Last year, he was targeted twice, inactive for eight games and on injured reserve for the final four games. Ross caught a TD pass against the Colts in the opener Sunday. Thursday he gets his first taste of the division rivalry with the Ravens. “Consistency is what we needed to see from him in games, as far as his routes, his depths and his speed,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “I was pleased with that. He has to keep going out there and playing in the games, making sure he is in the right spots so he’s in position, based on the coverage, to have the opportunity to make the play. His touchdown was very effective, and those are the things he can do. He needs to continue to grow.”

Cleveland Browns: Wide receiver Josh Gordon started in the opener due to a “miscommunication” with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but he showed up in a big way with a highlight-reel TD grab. Gordon and quarterback Tyrod Taylor have not worked together much, as Gordon was in rehab and then missed time with a hamstring injury. But that’s about to change. “Josh, when he is going like we know he can, is going to have an opportunity to make plays,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “There were some chances, and there were some chances where we have to do a better job of running the routes — not just Josh, I think all of our receivers — as an offensive unit, it is a thing that we have to continue to work through, and understand that when the opportunities present themselves, we have a chance to make those plays.”

Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive guard David DeCastro said team medical personnel is still constructing a brace for his fractured right hand, but he’s not as certain as he was Sunday that he can play against the Kansas City Chiefs this week. DeCastro said the injury is more serious than he initially thought. “It’s just how your body reacts, you’ve got to ask your doctors,” DeCastro said. “Adrenaline is pretty powerful. At the end of the day, you just want to be out there with the guys. Tape it up, gas it up and go.” The two-time All-Pro missed just two games in the previous five seasons. B.J. Finney, who has started seven games over the past two seasons, would start if DeCastro cannot go.

AFC South

Houston Texans: Veteran cornerback Shareece Wright was signed after the loss of starting cornerback Kevin Johnson (concussion) for at least eight weeks after the Texans placed him on injured reserve. Wright is in his eighth NFL season, and coach Bill O’Brien sees him as a good fit in the secondary. “Size, experience, he’s got a lot of snaps in the league, a good guy,” O’Brien said. “All reports on him being a real good teammate. Glad we were able to get him.” When it came to losing offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson with a season-ending ankle injury, the Texans stayed in-house and promoted Roderick Johnson from the practice squad to be a backup.

Indianapolis Colts: Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is progressing well from the hamstring injury that caused him to miss the opener against the Cincinnati Bengals and is on track to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Castonzo missed the entire preseason because of the ailment, so being back on the football field is therapeutic for his mind-set. “Feeling good,” Castonzo said. “I’m excited to have a full week of practice and get out there and play.” Running back Marlon Mack (hamstring) also missed the opener, and his status is less solid. Rookie Jordan Wilkins (40 yards on 14 carries) is expected to get most of the practice repetitions and likely will make his second consecutive start.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Running back Leonard Fournette will test his injured hamstring Friday, according to coach Doug Marrone, and possibly could play in Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots even if he misses the week’s workouts. “He’s done a good job. He has worked really hard,” Marrone said. “I would be comfortable with him (playing). If it was a rookie, maybe ... depending on the situation or position or things of that nature I might not be as comfortable.” Marrone will not be coy about Fournette’s status to toy with the Patriots. “If guys are ready to play, they play, and we’ll get him out there,” Marrone said.

Tennessee Titans: Quarterback Marcus Mariota participated in practice Wednesday, and his throwing elbow is no longer prompting concerns. “I am feeling pretty good,” Mariota said after the practice. “I am kind of taking it one day at a time, but I was able to go through practice today and felt pretty good. For me, I just went through practice and felt it went fine.” Titans coach Mike Vrabel liked what he witnessed and is counting on his signal-caller being ready for Sunday’s game against the Texans. “He had some rest Monday and Tuesday, so he was able to get through and do everything and really looked OK,” Vrabel said. “I would say barring any setbacks that Marcus is going to be good to go on Sunday.”

AFC West

Denver Broncos: The Broncos didn’t sign Case Keenum with three-interception outings in mind, but coach Vance Joseph was impressed with his new quarterback in the opener, all things considered. “After the interceptions, he had his best drives, so that speaks to his confidence,” Joseph said Wednesday. “I was really impressed with Case on the sideline — he didn’t go in the tank at all, he kept his teammates going and obviously moved the ball for us after the mistakes.” Keenum kept firing and finished with 329 passing yards (8.4 yards per attempt) and three scores, including the game-winner. “No matter what’s happened, we’re still in the game, we’re going to run our offense, we’re going to be in attack mode,” Keenum said.

Kansas City Chiefs: It’s safe to say the Patrick Mahomes show got off to a strong start, as the second-year quarterback was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday after going 15 of 27 for 256 yards and four scores against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. Even after the blistering start, coach Andy Reid says his pupil is just scratching the surface of what he can ultimately be. “Plenty of room to grow,” Reid told reporters of Mahomes. “A ton of room to grow. And he knows it and he just attacks it. He has a unique personality. And everything is not going to be roses. He is a young guy. But if he keeps that attitude, he is going to be fine.”

Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers’ defense finished third in scoring defense (17.0 points per game) last season while allowing just one opponent to reach 30 points in a game, which might be why coach Anthony Lynn isn’t panicking the team after allowing 38 in Week 1. “No, our defense is fine,” Lynn said when asked about possibly changing things up. “Everybody’s got to execute and do their job. Gus Bradley’s a fine defensive coach. We’ve got a great defensive staff, so we’re not going to change anything up on that defense.” It would sure help to get defensive end Joey Bosa back, but he appears unlikely to return soon as he prepares to see a specialist regarding his foot injury.

Oakland Raiders: Oakland’s roster churned more than any in the league this offseason under Jon Gruden, and that continued after Week 1, with the team adding defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Clinton McDonald while bringing back wideout Martavis Bryant, who was among the team’s final cuts just four months after being acquired for a third-round pick. Asked why the team brought Bryant back, Gruden said he thinks the receiver is “in a good place right now” after struggling with illness and injuries during camp. “I think he’s healthy, I think he’s ready to go,” Gruden added. “I’m sold on that. We’ve been in contact with him since he’s been away, and as I said when we made the trade to get him, when he’s right, he can be a difference-maker.”

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: Coach Jason Garrett heard the criticism of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan following the Cowboys’ 16-8 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday but stated he has full confidence in him. Linehan called the game from the booth Sunday, leaving the confines of the sideline, and he plans to stay there. “People will tell you when you’re up above, you see the whole game better,” Garrett said. “You see all 22. When you’re down on the field, maybe you have a better opportunity to connect individually with the players, (but) you don’t have as good a vision on the game when you’re on the field as you do when you’re up above.”

New York Giants: Former Giants running back Tiki Barber holds the single-season team record for rushing yards with 1,860. Barber told TMZ Sports that he’d be happy to see rookie Saquon Barkley break that record. The Giants selected Barkley, an All-American from Penn State, with the No. 2 overall selection in the April draft. “I hope so,” Barber said of the possibility of Barkley breaking the record. “That means good things for the New York Giants. If he breaks my record, then (that) means good things. Records are made to be broken.”

Philadelphia Eagles: Brian Westbrook spent eight seasons at running back with the Eagles, and during that span from 2002 through 2009, his team had a lot of success. But they never won a Super Bowl, and he told Bleacher Report that Philadelphia can handle having a target on its back as defending champs. “You go from the hunters to the hunted,” Westbrook said. “Two things they have going for them: The first is Carson Wentz will be back soon. He was destroying the league before he got hurt. The other thing is this team brings back a lot of players. They are really deep.”

Washington Redskins: After all of the injuries to Washington running backs in the preseason, quarterback Alex Smith couldn’t have known how good the rushing game would be. He saw it in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals, when the Redskins gained 182 yards on the ground. “I think as a quarterback when you’re throwing the football, anytime you have a run game like that, a defense has got to defend it,” Smith said. “It opens up a lot of opportunities for us on the edge, in the perimeter, whether it’s play-action pass, just spacing the field. A lot of favorable matchups I felt like we had (was) because of the run game going so well.”

NFC North

Chicago Bears: Rookie first-round pick Roquan Smith did not start at Green Bay last week, but the linebacker said he’s ready for “one quarter or an entire game,” whatever his coaches decide. Smith is “on the right track,” according to linebackers coach Glenn Pires. After a holdout that went into August, Smith was used sparingly in preseason — partly because of a tight left hamstring — and received only eight defensive snaps in Week 1. “He had a good week last week, had a good start, and we’re just gonna build from there,” Pires said.

Detroit Lions: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay was the brightest spot on the stat sheet and stood out on the field even in a 48-17 loss to the Jets on Monday. “He played at a high level,” coach Matt Patricia said Wednesday of Golladay, who had a seven-catch, 114-yard night. “I think he went out and made some really big plays, and I think he showed that he can play big and strong, compete very hard.” Patricia said it was clear this summer that Golladay, who emerged a player to watch during 2017 training camp, advanced in his “education process.” Golden Tate was targeted 15 times — compared to 12 for Golladay — but caught only seven passes.

Green Bay Packers: In injury-report parlance, questionable means quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a 50-50 chance of playing Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. While Rodgers worked on the side with trainers in the Packers’ first practice of the week, coach Mike McCarthy put added focus on taking care of the ball. The Packers were minus-2 in turnover ratio Week 1 — DeShone Kizer lost a fumble and threw a pick-6 to Khalil Mack — while Minnesota had four takeaways in a win over the San Francisco 49ers last week. “You can’t play quarterback, period, if you can’t take care of the football,” McCarthy said. “DeShone needs to learn from those two plays.”

Minnesota Vikings: Safety Harrison Smith was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for tallying a sack, an interception, two tackles for loss and fumble recovery against the 49ers. Preparation for Green Bay is muddled slightly by Rodgers’ questionable status, but Smith and teammates watched the Packers rally to beat the Bears on Sunday night. Smith didn’t see a limited QB. “He’s so good and can really put the ball wherever he wants, from any position on the field whether he’s moving right, moving left or staying in the pocket, buying time for his guys, he can make any throw that you can imagine,” Smith said. “That’s what makes him so difficult.”

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: Devonta Freeman (knee) missed practice on Wednesday, and coach Dan Quinn said the running back’s status is day-to-day. Freeman sustained the injury during the season-opening game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 6, and the belief was that he would be fine for this Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers. But Quinn said Freeman is bothered by soreness even if his injury doesn’t fall into the serious category. Atlanta is concerned enough that it promoted running back Brian Hill off the practice squad. Hill, a fifth-round pick by the Falcons in 2017, rushed for 37 yards on 11 carries last year for the Cincinnati Bengals, who recently released him.

Carolina Panthers: Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner (concussion) is in jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game against the Falcons, which would rate as another blow for the offensive line. Left tackle Matt Kalil (knee) is on injured reserve and will miss the first eight games, and right tackle Daryl Williams (knee) was placed on injured reserve after getting hurt in the opener against the Dallas Cowboys. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of the possibility of missing three top linemen: “You do get concerned about it, but I feel comfortable in the depth we had. We did some things consciously in the number of offensive linemen we kept on the roster when we initially set it.”

New Orleans Saints: Receiver Cameron Meredith didn’t play in the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because coach Sean Payton didn’t feel he was up to speed. Meredith, who turns 26 next week, missed the entire 2017 season after sustaining an ACL tear in the preseason, and he has been playing catch-up this summer. “I think, more than anything else, it had to do with just the reps he was behind coming off training camp,” Payton said. “We’ll see how he’s doing this week. I think from a health standpoint, he’s doing good. It’s just getting him up to speed from a timing element and getting him the reps he needs to be ready to function and go in and play consistently.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves’ season is over after the team placed him on injured reserve due to a shoulder injury. Hargreaves was diagnosed with a torn labrum, an injury confirmed by noted surgeon James Andrews. Hargreaves, 23, sustained the injury when he dived to break up a pass during the fourth quarter of the opener against the Saints. It made for a rough ending for Hargreaves, who struggled last season and worked hard with the defensive coaches in the offseason to improve his skills. The first-round pick in 2016 has just one interception in 26 NFL games.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: Arizona’s defense got great news Wednesday with the return of defensive end Markus Golden return to practice, his first session since tearing his ACL last October. “You just feel like a ballplayer again,” Golden said of getting back in action. “After I walked off the field, that’s what I said: ‘Man, I feel like a football player again.’ I’m excited. I just want to keep it going. I can’t wait to get on the field and play in a game.” Golden led the Cardinals in sacks (12.5) in 2016 despite starting just three games next to Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell, but he didn’t tally a sack in four games last season. It’s unclear if he will make his debut Sunday at the Los Angeles Rams.

Los Angeles Rams: L.A.’s vaunted special teams could take a hit over the next eight weeks with Pharoh Cooper — a Pro Bowl returner in 2017 — headed to injured reserve due to an ankle sprain. The Rams promoted wideout JoJo Natson to take Cooper’s place on the roster and likely fill the return-specialist role as well. Natson led the NFL with 14 kickoff returns in the preseason, averaging 24.4 yards, and he also had nine punt returns for 100 yards, including a 29-yarder. Last year with the New York Jets, however, Natson averaged just 20.3 yards on 16 kick returns and 2.4 yards on 16 punt returns.

San Francisco 49ers: After Jimmy Garoppolo took his first loss as a starter and threw three interceptions on Sunday, coach Kyle Shanahan hasn’t seen any change in the quarterback’s demeanor. “No, it’s been the exact same,” Shanahan said. “I’d be disappointed if it was different. Jimmy tries his hardest every week. I know he didn’t have his best game last week, but he doesn’t need to come in here and make stuff up.” Shanahan also noted Garoppolo’s pick-6 was the correct play by the quarterback, as wideout Kendrick Bourne ran the wrong route when the Vikings blitzed. “You don’t have time to sit and look to see if they’re running the right route,” Shanahan said. “You have to let it rip and trust the guy is going to do it.”

Seattle Seahawks: Coach Pete Carroll didn’t rule out the possibility of linebacker K.J. Wright returning to action Monday night against the Bears, just a few weeks after a knee ‘scope. “He’s had a really clean rehab in the short time he’s had,” Carroll said. “He’s very positive about it, but I can’t tell you what that means for the weekend.” Rookie fifth-rounder Shaquem Griffin started for Wright in Week 1 but was phased out late in favor of Austin Calitro. “Griff, he had some problems on some stuff,” Carroll said. “There were some things that happened to him that wasn’t quite as clean as we would like. Got fooled on a couple things, but he played hard and played tough and all of that. It’s just his first game trying to figure it out.”

—Field Level Media

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