A Comparison of 2018 NFL Draft Grades

Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re an Arizona Cardinals fan, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. is your go-to source for NFL information. You were probably a bit frustrated when he gave your team a C+ for their overall 2018 draft grade. You call your neighbor to tell him the bad news, but he tells you that Gennaro Filice of NFL.com gave the Cardinals an A. You hang up the phone, pondering the question: “How can two experts assign such different grades?”

This is just one example of how a reader’s perception of their team can be skewed by the sites they favor. The goal of this data visualization is to compare draft grades from five notable websites (ESPN, Yahoo, Sports Illustrated, CBS, and NFL.com) and see just how much their results can vary based on the same information.

Some teams, like the Chargers, stayed consistent across all the sites. Others, like the Saints, proved pretty divisive.
Use the dropdown lists to compare different media outlets. The darker the circle, the greater the grade difference. Play around with the data and see what interesting conclusions you can draw about your favorite team, or your favorite analyst.



Sources


Martin is a data analyst that has been applauded for his ability to make the complex simple. He grew up on a farm in northern Vermont and spent his summers helping his mom lead llama treks at Smugglers’ Notch Resort.

Martin graduated from University of Vermont with a degree in Mathematics. After graduation he left Vermont to work for an educational nonprofit called City Year for two years, and followed that up by attending the data science immersive program at Galvanize in Denver. He is an avid Green Bay Packer fan, and spends his free time playing football and soccer.

For Bears, handling success is unfamiliar territory

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — With a tighter grip on the NFC North, the Chicago Bears are in unfamiliar territory and facing a different kind of challenge as the season heads toward its final stretch.

Learning to handle success.

"We have to make sure that we just continue to keep those blinders on,

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — With a tighter grip on the NFC North, the Chicago Bears are in unfamiliar territory and facing a different kind of challenge as the season heads toward its final stretch.

Learning to handle success.

“We have to make sure that we just continue to keep those blinders on, keep the earmuffs on, don’t listen to anything and just keep playing our football,” coach Matt Nagy said.

The Bears sure look as if they’re serious about winning the division after a 25-20 primetime victory over the second-place Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

The defense dominated, with Khalil Mack leading the way. Cody Parkey bounced back from a miserable performance to make all three of his field goals. And the Bears (7-3) came away with their fourth straight win.

It’s quite a change for a franchise with four consecutive last-place finishes. For the first time in years, managing success is an issue for the Bears.

“When it’s the other way, and people tell you how bad of a coach you are, how poor of a player you are and you should be cut and you should be fired, we don’t listen to it,” said Nagy, in his first season as a head coach. “So it’s the same thing when you’re having success. You don’t listen to it. You understand both sides, but we worry about what’s said in this building.”

There are plenty of good things to say about the Bears at the moment.

They’re heading toward their first playoff appearance since the 2010 season. They’re on their longest win streak since a six-game run in 2012. They beat division opponents the past two weeks after dropping 10 in a row against them. And they could make it three over the NFC North in a 12-day span with a victory at Detroit on Thursday.

The Bears beat the Lions 34-22 at Soldier Field on Nov. 11 , with Mitchell Trubisky throwing for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns. Chicago also jumped out to a 26-0 lead and sacked Matthew Stafford six times in that game.

The victory over Minnesota was a sort of validation for Chicago after beating teams with losing records the previous three games, including the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.

“It shows that we can battle with the best of them,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “It shows that we are still getting better and that we haven’t reached our ceiling yet. Only we can decide what our ceiling is.”

The Bears are looking good at the moment, with a defense ranked third overall through Sunday. They were allowing league lows in yards rushing per game (77.8) and per carry (3.5), and had more interceptions (18) and takeaways (27) than any other team.

“I think our offense is doing a great job with having the first possession and putting points on the board,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said.

“Our offense is really getting things going, so it makes it a little bit easier for the defense because now we know the opposing team’s offense needs to get going and start passing more to get points on the board.”

Mack had a sack against Minnesota, giving him three in the past two weeks and eight in eight games this season. And Eddie Jackson returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Parkey also got some redemption after hitting uprights four times while missing two field goals and two extra points against the Lions. But he didn’t attempt an extra point on Sunday.

Nagy opted to go for two after each of their two touchdowns. And he acknowledged Parkey’s struggles the previous week factored into those decisions. He also insisted his own aggressive nature and a belief the plays would work were big reasons.

Chicago converted both times, with Trubisky passing to Josh Bellamy in the second quarter and Adam Shaheen in the fourth.

“It worked,” Nagy said. “It doesn’t always work. And you’ve got to make sure that you get two out of every three.”

Nagy said he discussed the plan with Parkey and wasn’t worried about how it would impact his confidence.

“Whenever you’re honest with people, it’s so easy to do what you do because you’re real with them,” Nagy said. “You tell them exactly what you’re feeling and everybody knows the plan.”

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Chargers look to regroup after loss to Broncos

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers remain in strong position for a playoff spot at 7-3, but injuries on defense and special teams struggles are concerns for coach Anthony Lynn.

Los Angeles lost a defensive starter for the second straight week when Corey Liuget suffered a season-ending knee injury during the

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers remain in strong position for a playoff spot at 7-3, but injuries on defense and special teams struggles are concerns for coach Anthony Lynn.

Los Angeles lost a defensive starter for the second straight week when Corey Liuget suffered a season-ending knee injury during the second quarter of Sunday’s 23-22 loss to the Denver Broncos. He is the third starter who will be headed to injured reserve, joining linebackers Kyzir White and Denzel Perryman.

Liuget missed the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancers but bolstered the pass rush in the six games he played. Darius Philon, who started the first seven games and has 2.5 sacks, will move back into the starting spot and rookie Justin Jones will see more snaps.

Lynn said he was pleased with how defensive end Joey Bosa played in his first game. Bosa, who missed the first nine games due to a bone bruise to his left foot, played 31 of 56 snaps. The plan going into the game was for Bosa to see 20 plays.

“For his first game back I thought he looked good. He had good speed and explosion plus he came out of it healthy,” Lynn said.

The Chargers’ struggles on special teams will require more shuffling. They allowed a fake punt for the second straight week, which Lynn said was unacceptable. Kicker Michael Badgley made all three field goal attempts but missed an extra point. Los Angeles has missed six PATs this season. Caleb Sturgis missed five before being released.

One possibility to prevent another fake punt is to leave the defense out there with Desmond King as the returner.

“We ran punt safe some yesterday. The one time we didn’t we got faked on. There’s some things we’re going to do differently there,” Lynn said.

Los Angeles had 14 penalties Sunday, which was the team’s most in Lynn’s two seasons as coach. He said a lot of the penalties early were offensive linemen trying to get a jump on Denver’s pass rush.

The Chargers — who had a six-game winning streak snapped by the Broncos — have a two-game lead over Baltimore for the first wild card. They host Arizona on Sunday before a challenging December stretch that includes Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Kansas City and the Ravens.

“It was a game we could have and should have won. It was definitely a wake-up call for us,” Lynn said.

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Wilks mulls unspecified changes after Cardinals’ ugly loss

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — A bad season got much worse for the Arizona Cardinals with a home loss to Oakland.

Embattled first-year coach Steve Wilks is mulling some changes, although he didn't say what they were, and there's only so much the Cardinals can do considering their injuries and the overall state of

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — A bad season got much worse for the Arizona Cardinals with a home loss to Oakland.

Embattled first-year coach Steve Wilks is mulling some changes, although he didn’t say what they were, and there’s only so much the Cardinals can do considering their injuries and the overall state of their roster.

“Right now, being 2-8, you’re open to a lot of things from a standpoint of personnel changes, things that you think will give us an opportunity to be successful and win a football game,” Wilks said at his Monday news conference.

Sunday’s 23-21 loss left three teams tied for the worst record in the NFL: the Cardinals, Oakland and San Francisco. And the remaining schedule is formidable for the Cardinals.

They play at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, followed by a trip to Green Bay the following week. There are also games at Atlanta and the season finale at Seattle. Arizona has only two remaining home games — Dec. 9 against Detroit and Dec. 23 against the Los Angeles Rams.

The Cardinals’ chances for many more, if any, victories seem slim, especially if play doesn’t improve.

“It’s not playing smart, just beating ourselves,” veteran safety Antoine Bethea said after the game. “That’s the most frustrating thing about it. Week in and week out, it’s just like the same thing.”

A positive aspect of the mistake-laded Arizona effort was the continued resurgence of David Johnson.

The dynamic back rushed for a season-best 137 yards, 53 of them on a run that set up Josh Rosen’s 5-yard TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald that put Arizona up 21-20 with 5:02 to play. Johnson had a 57-yard touchdown run called back by a holding call against tight end Ricky Seals-Jones.

It was one of several Arizona mistakes in the game’s final minutes. Jermaine Gresham was called for unnecessary roughness and Josh Bynes dropped an interception.

The Cardinals allowed Oakland, with no timeouts, to drive 63 yards in the final 1:53, setting up Daniel Carlson’s decisive 35-yard field goal as the game ended.

Rosen threw for three touchdowns — two to Fitzgerald — but was intercepted twice, both picks leading to first-half touchdowns. Rosen had only nine completions in 20 attempts for 136 yards.

“I think a lot of it is just the mental errors across the board on offense and defense,” Rosen said of the team’s performance. “I know I had a bunch. Just little mental errors that aren’t a part of the game plan. Dumb little things we just have to clean up overall.”

Why is a team making those mistakes 10 games into a season? Nobody seemed to have a good answer.

“That’s why it’s an issue that was brought up because it’s very late in the season,” Rosen said. “That’s a good point.”

It’s been a rough introduction for Wilks to life as an NFL head coach.

“No. 1, you have to learn how to persevere,” he said. “It’s tough. You have to learn how to hit the reset button and not linger on things because, once again, one loss can turn into two. I try to pull out the positives and try to learn from the negative stuff and try to get those guys to see the big picture.”

Wilks said he knew it would be a tough job when he was hired.

“Did I expect to be where we are? No, but again you have to learn how to persevere” he said. “You have to learn how to continue to push and be that example. I am not going to quit. That’s what I just told the guys, and neither are they. We’re going to find a way to get on track and win a football game.”

Arizona was last 2-8 in 2006. That team finished 5-11 and coach Dennis Green was fired.

Notes: The Cardinals released kicker Matt McCrane, who had been signed Saturday and was active for the Raiders game in place of Phil Dawson, who had been bothered by a hip injury. Dawson is fine and will be back this week, Wilks said. … Wilks said LB Deone Bucannon sustained a chest contusion in the game and it’s not known how much time he might miss.

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Texans look to push streak to franchise-record 8 games

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texans became the first team since 1925 to win seven straight after starting 0-3 with a victory over Washington on Sunday.

They go for a franchise record for consecutive wins when they host AFC South rival Tennessee next Monday night. Despite their streak, they know that they have plenty

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texans became the first team since 1925 to win seven straight after starting 0-3 with a victory over Washington on Sunday.

They go for a franchise record for consecutive wins when they host AFC South rival Tennessee next Monday night. Despite their streak, they know that they have plenty more work to do to get to where they want to be.

“We’ve done a great job of digging ourselves out of a hole, but we don’t want to be known for a record that was set in 1925,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “My point is we haven’t done anything. We’ve got a very, very difficult opponent coming in here on Monday night that beat us earlier in the season. We’ve got to get back to work because in the end, what have you done?”

Houston’s 23-21 win over the Redskins on Sunday was its second straight win by two points after the team beat the Denver Broncos 19-17 on Nov. 4 before its bye week. The Texans did some good things in Sunday’s win, but also committed three turnovers to underscore O’Brien’s point they need to continue to improve if they hope to continue winning.

O’Brien likes to remind his team of the competitive balance in the NFL and how close many of Houston’s games have been this season.

“It’s been a slim margin,” he said. “I think guys have improved in their individual play, I think that we make more plays now in critical moments than we made earlier in the season, I think we’re coaching better, but I think … our guys understand (that) if we don’t continue to work, put the time in, understand the detail of each play, the situation that we’re in, then we’re going to be back where we were.”

Houston has been able to pile up so many wins in part because so many players have made big plays. Sure, stars like J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney have had their share of important plays over the last seven games. But the Texans have also gotten key contributions from their lesser knowns.

On Sunday that player was third-round pick Justin Reid, who returned an interception 101 yards for a touchdown. It was the second-longest interception return for a touchdown in Texans history and longest since a 102-yarder in 2004. The play also tied for the second-longest interception return for a touchdown by a rookie in NFL history, trailing a 103-yarder by Pete Barnum in 1926.

Watson loves that so many different players have been contributing during the streak.

“It’s top-notch,” the quarterback said. “Somebody is going to step up and make a play. It’s what got us to seven wins in a row, so it’s pretty incredible.”

Reid’s long return was the talk of the stadium on Monday.

“I haven’t been around too many pick-6s for 101 yards or whatever it was, but they’re exciting plays,” O’Brien said. “You can tell right away that it’s going to go because you can see it kind of open up and it’s coming toward you. That’s a pretty cool feeling if you’re the coach of that team.”

Along with looking for ways to limit their mistakes and improve this week, the Texans will try to give receiver Demaryius Thomas a bigger role. Sunday was the veteran’s second game with Houston after being traded from Denver on Oct. 30. Thomas had three receptions for 61 yards in his debut, but didn’t have a catch on two targets Sunday.

“He did some good things,” O’Brien said. “He ran some good routes. The ball just didn’t go his way. We’ll continue to work with him. I think he’s a great teammate, he understands, he just wants to win, but I think we need to work at really getting him more involved in the offense. No doubt about it.”

While O’Brien spent most of Monday talking about needed improvement, he did acknowledge that cleaning up little things is way easier when you’re winning.

“When you’re winning, you’re able to stand up in front of your team, put the film on and say: ‘Look, this is good, but this still is not very good, and if it doesn’t get better, it’s not going to be very good on Monday night,'” O’Brien said. “So, I think that that’s a big thing, and they’ll look at the tape … and they’ll say: ‘Yep, we do need to improve on that. We can’t do that again.'”

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Broncos’ win takes Vance Joseph off hook for non-challenge

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Vance Joseph's decision to tuck his red challenge flag back into his pants pocket loomed large until the Denver Broncos pulled off a last-second win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Still, the failed 2-point conversion early in the fourth quarter of Denver's 23-22 last-second win highlighted a loophole in

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Vance Joseph’s decision to tuck his red challenge flag back into his pants pocket loomed large until the Denver Broncos pulled off a last-second win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Still, the failed 2-point conversion early in the fourth quarter of Denver’s 23-22 last-second win highlighted a loophole in the NFL rule book that Denver’s coach said Monday he’d like to see closed.

Line judge Jeff Seeman ruled Case Keenum came up short on a 2-point draw following Phillip Lindsay’s touchdown run that put Denver ahead 20-19 with 12 minutes left, and Joseph said one of the officials told the quarterback his team should challenge the call because it was so close.

Replays appeared to show the nose of the football crossing the goal line just before any part of Keenum’s perpendicular body hit the ground.

While CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore, a former NFL referee, said during the broadcast that he expected the league would have reversed the on-field ruling if the Broncos had challenged, Joseph said his staff upstairs in the press box wasn’t so sure.

“So, in my opinion it was more important for me to keep that timeout there without having clear evidence,” Joseph said. “Now, if it was clear, absolutely we challenge that. But it wasn’t clear to our guys upstairs.”

And if his assistants couldn’t say with certainty that the call would be reversed, Joseph figured a challenge was unlikely to meet the league’s standard of “clear and convincing” evidence to overturn the call on the field.

Joseph said on a close call, it would behoove everyone if the officials ruled in favor of the offense because all scoring plays are reviewed by league headquarters, providing a safety net in case they’re wrong.

There are no such protections for coaches who lose one of their timeouts if a challenge is unsuccessful.

“I couldn’t risk the timeout without clear evidence from our guys upstairs if it was a score or not,” Joseph said. “Case was told by the official, ‘You guys should challenge this because it’s fairly close.’ I would prefer those guys to call it a score so if it’s looked at, we can get it right without risking something from me. Right? Because he has no risk. He has no risk. It’s built in to get it right.

“So, if it’s close, they should call it a score so we can look at it — without anybody risking anything. We just simply get it right. But for me to get it right, there’s consequences.”

Joseph settled for the one-point lead and kept his three timeouts, all of which he used on the Chargers’ final possession, helping his offense get the ball back with 1:51 left, trailing 22-20.

Keenum drove the Broncos to the Chargers’ 16 and Brandon McManus kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired.

Joseph said he decision not to challenge on the 2-point conversion play was reinforced when he watched the coaches’ video Monday morning.

“I’m telling you, it can go either way, in my opinion,” Joseph said. “It wasn’t clear. If it was, he probably would have called it a score.”

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Titans hope Mariota plays vs Texans; Pees to return to work

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans need the extra day off before their next game both to allow injuries to heal and figure out what went wrong in their worst loss this season.

Marcus Mariota is recovering from a stinger that knocked him out of the Titans' 38-10 loss to the Colts,

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans need the extra day off before their next game both to allow injuries to heal and figure out what went wrong in their worst loss this season.

Marcus Mariota is recovering from a stinger that knocked him out of the Titans’ 38-10 loss to the Colts, not the elbow injury announced during the game. Coach Mike Vrabel said all tests were positive on defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who returned to Nashville on Monday. Pees spent a night in an Indianapolis hospital after an issue forced him from the coaches’ box early in the game.

Vrabel also said he is hopeful Mariota will play when the Titans visit Houston on Nov. 26 and Pees also will return to work, even his boss plans to limit the coordinator to banker’s hours of 9 to 5.

“I just want to make sure that he’s getting plenty of rest and that we’re not rushing anything,” Vrabel said. “We do have an extra day with the Monday night game.”

Whether Mariota misses his third start this season depends on how quickly he recovers from what Vrabel called a bad stinger with a hit to the head. Mariota was hurt when sacked for the fourth time late in the first half, and he did not return with what was announced as an injury to his elbow. Mariota was forced from the season opener after hurting his right elbow.

Mariota was hit in the head, and Vrabel said the independent neurologist evaluated the quarterback and cleared Mariota.

“Like a lot of players, he got a bad stinger,” Vrabel said. “So, we’ll have to see where he’s at.”

Vrabel said that may include Mariota getting a second opinion. Mariota did not speak to reporters after the game because he was receiving treatment, and the quarterback was not in the locker room Monday when it was open to the media. Vrabel said a stinger can leave some numbness down the arm, and Mariota dealt with some numbness in his fingers after his elbow injury.

His coach hopes Mariota will be available against the Texans. Mariota missed the first game between these teams in Week 2, a 20-17 win by the Titans and backup Blaine Gabbert.

“We’re hopeful that he’ll check out and feel good enough to play on Monday,” Vrabel said. “Just being less than 24 hours after the game, some of these things take a little bit of time to cool down and really just treat and diagnose.”

Vrabel said he told Pees, 69, not to come to work once back in Nashville. Vrabel thanked the Colts and Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard for checking on Pees and his wife while the Titans flew home Sunday.

“Everything that would be really worrisome has been ruled out from the neurologist in Indy,” Vrabel said.

The Titans (5-5) have to figure out what went wrong against the Colts, a surprise after routing the Patriots 34-10 the week before. They now trail Houston (7-3) by two games in the AFC South, and this is the first of three games in an 11-day span for Tennessee. They host the Jets on Dec. 2 and then the Jaguars on Dec. 6.

Vrabel said the Titans aren’t finished yet this season.

“We’re still in this race as bad as it was, and it was bad,” Vrabel said of the loss to the Colts. “Put it all on me. I’ve lost five games and the players have won five. So, I have to do a better job of not losing them and they have to do a better job of winning them.”

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Redskins turn to McCoy as starter, sign Sanchez as backup

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Colt McCoy knew exactly what his teammates needed to hear.

In the aftermath of a gut-wrenching two-point loss and the sickening season-ending injury to Alex Smith, McCoy stood up in the Washington Redskins locker room and addressed the group.

McCoy "told us we were in good hands," running back

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Colt McCoy knew exactly what his teammates needed to hear.

In the aftermath of a gut-wrenching two-point loss and the sickening season-ending injury to Alex Smith, McCoy stood up in the Washington Redskins locker room and addressed the group.

McCoy “told us we were in good hands,” running back Chris Thompson said. “We had no doubt about that from the jump. We lost the game, but I will say Colt talking to us afterwards really had the dudes hyped up and we’re ready to get to Dallas.”

Washington signed Mark Sanchez on Monday to serve as the new backup, but this is McCoy’s s how now after Smith broke his right tibia and fibula in gruesome fashion. McCoy will start Thursday when the Redskins visit the Dallas Cowboys in a Thanksgiving showdown that will go a long way to determining who wins the NFC East, and the 32-year-old has the full confidence of the coaching staff and players to take over for the rest of the season.

“I just feel very comfortable with Colt and always have,” coach Jay Gruden said. “It’s been a luxury to have him as a backup quarterback and now it’s a great opportunity for him to take the reins. I know he’s excited about it. He’s a guy that knows the system, he’s a competitor, accurate with the football, understands where to go with the football — we assume — but we’ll see on Thursday.”

Until Sunday, McCoy hadn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2015. The Cowboys game will be his first start since 2014, the same season he beat Dallas on the road on Monday night.

That was ages ago in NFL time, but there’s a reason McCoy has been on the roster since Gruden came to Washington. His knowledge of the offense was evident even to Houston Texans players when McCoy seamlessly took over for Smith.

“He’s been here for years,” Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. “He understands the offense well. There’s been a point in time where they were talking about him being the starter. So it’s good to have two guys that can come in. As soon as he came in the game, it was like they never dropped off from where they were.”

Whether backing up Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins or Smith, McCoy has developed a reputation among teammates for being ready to play in a heartbeat. Center Chase Roullier said McCoy treats each day leading the scout team in practice as his Super Bowl, and no one has ever said the former University of Texas star was unprepared.

“Even last year when he didn’t I think get a single snap all season, he prepared like he was the starter then,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “To have that mentality and to be that consistent with that mentality really speaks volumes to him as a professional.”

McCoy, who started for Cleveland and San Francisco earlier in his career, has only appeared in nine games over the past three-plus seasons with Washington. Practice is one thing, and McCoy realizes game action is a different animal.

“I’ve still got to knock a little bit of rust off and get ready on a short week,” McCoy said after going 6 of 12 or 54 yards and a touchdown Sunday against Houston. “It’s tough. It’s not ideal. I think for me I’ve been here a little while. Haven’t taking reps with these guys in three of four years, so I think there will be a little bit of a transition there but probably more for me than for them.”

It’s a tough turnaround for Sanchez, but Gruden said the Redskins signed him because of his NFL experience and familiarity with offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Donnell from his time with the New York Jets. Sanchez got the nod over Kellen Clemens, T.J. Yates, EJ Manuel and Josh Johnson after all five worked out at the team’s facility Monday.

“He’s won some playoff games, has got a lot of experience,” Gruden said. “I think this time of the year you need somebody who’s taken some meaningful snaps with a lot of experience, and Mark’s done that.”

NOTES: Gruden said Smith’s surgery went well and expects the QB to make a full recovery in six to eight months. … RB Chris Thompson, who has missed the past three games with injured ribs, said he’s feeling “a whole lot better” and hopes to be a game-time decision. … CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) and LT Trent Williams (thumb) are possibilities to return at Dallas.

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Ravens look for QB Lamar Jackson to run less, throw more

BALTIMORE (AP) — In a league that relies heavily on the forward pass, the Baltimore Ravens have gone old-school in their bid to reach the NFL playoffs.

With quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the way , the Ravens rushed for 265 yards Sunday in a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Jackson ran 27

BALTIMORE (AP) — In a league that relies heavily on the forward pass, the Baltimore Ravens have gone old-school in their bid to reach the NFL playoffs.

With quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the way , the Ravens rushed for 265 yards Sunday in a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Jackson ran 27 times for 117 yards, Gus Edwards garnered 115 yards on the ground and both rookies rushed for seven first downs.

There’s a good chance Jackson will start for the injured Joe Flacco again Sunday when the Ravens (5-5) host the Oakland Raiders (2-8). If Jackson is the starter, it’s unlikely he will again slither, slide and scramble with the ball 27 times.

“Yeah, you don’t want your quarterback getting hit that much,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “It’s not going to last that way. So, that’s pretty self-evident.”

That said, Harbaugh mocked those people concerned about Jackson’s workload.

“Oh, he had 27 carries,” Harbaugh said. “You know what he did? He won the game. He played his tail off. Celebrate that, and move on.”

Whatever it takes to win.

“It’s not what we’re going to be shooting for by any stretch, but if it takes that many, Lamar will do it,” Harbaugh said. “But, no, he took some hits. I think they knew the quarterback was going to run the ball. They were going after him a little bit, as you would expect. That’s something that we have to look at going forward.”

Selected 32nd overall in the 2018 draft, Jackson was thrust into the starting lineup because Flacco has a right hip injury that has been slow to heal and could keep him sidelined against the Raiders.

“He has a chance,” Harbaugh said, without much conviction.

Jackson ran 655 times at Louisville and won the 2016 Heisman Trophy for his ability to carry the ball, not throw it. On Sunday, his carries accounted for more than a third of Baltimore’s 73 offensive plays, and the Ravens finished with 54 rushing attempts compared to 19 passes.

Harbaugh bristled when someone asked him about Jackson’s ability to throw the football, and where that fits into the game plan moving forward.

“Yeah, we’re going to throw the ball more down the road,” Harbaugh insisted. “All this veiled stuff, ‘Is he really a thrower?’ I got news for you: He’s a thrower. He’s a quarterback. I don’t appreciate the insinuation of the question. Lamar Jackson is a quarterback.”

He’s a quarterback with 256 yards rushing — second on the team behind Alex Collins — and 237 yards passing. Collins scored a touchdown against the Bengals, but his playing time was sheared by Edwards, an undrafted rookie free agent who got 17 carries and played most of the second half.

Edwards, who scored his first NFL touchdown , got the call because of the way he’s excelled in the days leading up to game day.

“He’s been practicing great,” Harbaugh said. “It has been a goal to get him more carries before this.”

Baltimore’s 265 yards rushing against Cincinnati was tied for the fifth most in franchise history, and it marked the first time in NFL history that a team had a rookie quarterback and rookie running back each top 100 yards rushing.

After he was done, Jackson made one final run — after the referee to snag the game ball.

“However you move the ball is good. You do it based on your personnel,” Harbaugh said. “You want it to be a mix, but in the end, the players deserve the credit for running the ball so well.”

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Kelly’s injury could force change on Colts’ offensive line

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts are trying to figure out how much time, if any, center Ryan Kelly will miss after injuring his knee in Sunday's victory over Tennessee.

Kelly left early in the fourth quarter of a 38-10 win and limped to the bench.

Coach Frank Reich told reporters during a

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts are trying to figure out how much time, if any, center Ryan Kelly will miss after injuring his knee in Sunday’s victory over Tennessee.

Kelly left early in the fourth quarter of a 38-10 win and limped to the bench.

Coach Frank Reich told reporters during a conference call Monday that the team is still evaluating the injury. Reich said Kelly could “miss a little time.”

Evan Boehm would get the start against Miami if Kelly is out.

Indy’s offensive line has not allowed a sack in five straight games and quarterback Andrew Luck wasn’t even hit Sunday.

Reich was more optimistic about defensive lineman Margus Hunt, who injured his right knee Sunday.

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Now what? Fourth loss in 5 games leaves Bengals in free fall

CINCINNATI (AP) — Head coach Marvin Lewis fired the defensive coordinator and installed himself in a dual role. Bengals players talked about their trip to Baltimore as a pivotal moment in the season, almost a last-stand opportunity. They wound up getting run over.

Now what?

A 24-21 loss in Baltimore on Sunday dropped

CINCINNATI (AP) — Head coach Marvin Lewis fired the defensive coordinator and installed himself in a dual role. Bengals players talked about their trip to Baltimore as a pivotal moment in the season, almost a last-stand opportunity. They wound up getting run over.

Now what?

A 24-21 loss in Baltimore on Sunday dropped the Bengals (5-5) three games behind Pittsburgh in the loss column for the AFC North lead with only six weeks left in the season. Their fourth loss in five games put them in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the third straight season.

A shakeup of the coaching staff didn’t make enough of a difference. Cincinnati is relegated to hoping that some of its injured players return and salvage a season that’s gone from promising to unsettling.

“Everyone is frustrated,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Monday. “Everyone’s nerves are a little frayed right now. Everyone is searching.”

Lewis decided to fire defensive coordinator Teryl Austin after the Bengals gave up 500 yards for the third straight game, a first in the Super Bowl era. He took over the coordinator’s duties and hired fired Browns head coach Hue Jackson to help on the sidelines during games.

It didn’t go well in Baltimore.

The Bengals ended that streak of 500-yard games, holding the Ravens to 403, but they were on the wrong end of more defensive history.

Cincinnati allowed 265 yards rushing, the most during Lewis’ 16 seasons as head coach. They’ve given up more than 200 yards rushing in back-to-back games — the Saints ran for 244 — and three times overall this season, also the most under Lewis.

Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 117 yards in his first start, and rookie Gus Edwards ran for 115 and a touchdown. They’re the first set of rookie quarterback and running back teammates to run for at least 100 yards in the same game in NFL history.

“You give up 200 yards rushing, I’m not going to be happy with that,” Lewis said.

Lewis was satisfied with how his first game on the sideline unfolded, although he felt “somewhat a little handicapped” by having so many responsibilities.

“Hopefully it will become more and more comfortable,” Lewis said.

Part of the reason for Austin’s firing was the confusion on defense, which repeatedly had coverage breakdowns. The Bengals had a different type of challenge on Sunday with a rookie quarterback who ran a lot.

Lewis simplified the game plan, but the defense still struggled against the run.

“He made us play fast,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “He put us in situations where we didn’t have to do a whole lot of thinking.”

The Bengals were in control of the division after a 4-1 start. Now they’re trying to make up a lot of ground on the Steelers, who won at Paul Brown Stadium to start Cincinnati’s free fall.

They’re one of five teams at 5-5 in contention for the second wild card spot. The Chargers have the edge for the first wild card at 7-3. The Bengals host the Browns (3-6-1) on Sunday.

“It’s a race now, and that’s what we’re here for,” Lewis said after the game. “That’s the thing: Now it’s a race to the finish.”

A race they once led, but that’s now getting away from them.

BURFICT BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict played with a sore hip that sidelined him the previous week. He was on the field for 36 of 79 plays, showing the effects of the injury — he had only four tackles. He also was involved in an altercation with guard Marshal Yanda after a play, part of a scrum on the ground involving several players. The officials didn’t penalize anyone. Lewis said on Monday that the coaches’ film doesn’t show what happened in the altercation.

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John Mara, Herm Edwards recall The Fumble 40 years later

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Every NFL fan of every team has that unforgettable moment.

Pittsburgh's Immaculate Reception. Dallas' Hail Mary. Tennessee's Music City Miracle.

For New York Giants' fans, there is The Fumble .

Not quite the legacy you embrace.

On Monday, the 40th anniversary hit of what might be the most

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Every NFL fan of every team has that unforgettable moment.

Pittsburgh’s Immaculate Reception. Dallas’ Hail Mary. Tennessee’s Music City Miracle.

For New York Giants’ fans, there is The Fumble .

Not quite the legacy you embrace.

On Monday, the 40th anniversary hit of what might be the most infamous moment in the history of one of league’s oldest franchises.

It was on Nov. 19, 1978 in the waning seconds against the Philadelphia Eagles. New York, which was going through tough times, had a surprising 17-12 lead.

With the Eagles void of timeouts, all the Giants had to do was run out the final minute on the clock. Joe Pisarcik, a young quarterback, botched a handoff with veteran Larry Csonka with less than 30 seconds to play, and cornerback Herm Edwards picked up the loose ball and ran it into the end zone, giving the Eagles a stunning win.

Eagles fans call it “The Miracle at the Meadowlands.”

For Giants fans, it was one of those moments you never forget what you were doing. For some, it still stings.

Giants co-owner John Mara says it might be his least favorite play and the low point in franchise history, which dates to 1925. He was in his third year of law school at Fordham and was working the game for CBS at Giants Stadium in the broadcast booth as a spotter for play-by-play man Don Criqui.

“I remember it happening,” Mara said. “I remember thinking we had the game won. It should come as no surprise to you, I remember slamming my fist down on the table and, back then, they had the actual microphones on the table instead of the headsets they wear now, and I think the microphones ended up falling all over the place.”

Mara never worked another game, assuming that CBS didn’t want him back.

“That’s probably the last place I should be, in a broadcast booth during a game,” Mara said, laughing. “It was a pretty miserable feeling for quite some time.”

It only got worse the next day, sitting in the library at law school.

“I felt like the world had just ended, and I had a professor at the time, he was my evidence professor. He was a wise guy and walked in the library and looked at me. He was about 20 feet away, and he pointed at me and just started laughing. I wanted to kill him. If I didn’t have one of my closest friends trying to calm me down, I might have. It was the wrong moment on the wrong day.”

Four decades later, Edwards says he was just in the right place at the right time with the Eagles in an all-out blitz.

“For me personally, you’re always going to be subject of that play,” said Edwards, who now coaches Arizona State. “There’s kind of an irony to it all because all of a sudden, you play in the league for as long as I played, never missed a down, never missed a start, and that’s kind of the play that defines my career. Then again I look at it, too, it was a good play and not a play that’s not so good. In my position, you could be on the bad end of some of those plays, you know?”

Edwards, who was beaten on one of Pisarcik’s two touchdown passes earlier in the game, still hears stories about the game.

“One guy told me, ‘My dad was watching it when he saw it, he threw his television and broke the television.’ You get all kinds of stories like that,” he said.

Giants fans have tons of stories, too.

Terry Reddington, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, didn’t blink when asked the significance of Nov. 19, 1978 when asked before Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

“Pisarcik,” the 66-year-old accountant answered.

Reddington has missed only seven games since becoming a season ticket holder, and he was at that one with Kevin Kolmer, a former classmate at Villanova. They had a $20 bet on the outcome.

“I’m sitting with him and he’s an Eagles fan. He hands me $20. Right! The game was over,” Reddington said. “All the sudden I see the thing go right in front of me. I am looking around in disbelief. I had a Styrofoam cooler. I crushed that, and now I have to give him $40. It was something else that day.”

Tony Mancuso, who shares season tickets now, wasn’t at that game. He was a corrections officer finishing a hospital duty shift. He was paying at toll on the Tappan Zee Bridge and listening to Jim Gordon doing the play by play on radio when the fumble happened.

“I just sat there and I got yelled at by the guy in the booth because I was just sitting there screaming at the radio,” said Mancuso, a 68-year-old who now lives in Goshen, New York.

Henry Pontilione, 87, of Rutherford, New Jersey, was on the escalator leaving the stadium when the groans started.

“We tried to get back to take a look at what happened and all I could see were the Eagles getting ready to kick the point after,” he said. “I would have never thought they could actually fumble the ball and lose the game. All they had to do was take a knee. It was incredible. I’ve been asked so many times, too many to count, if I was there for The Fumble, and I have to tell people that I was. As a lifelong Giants fan and season ticket holder, I was never more embarrassed. It was actually sad.”

And painful.

“It was like getting kicked in the gut,” said Kathy Dunn of Montvale, New Jersey, who was at Sunday’s game with her husband, Ken.

Anthony Cardino, 72, of Hoboken, New Jersey, was getting ready to leave the stadium. Suddenly, the ball was on the ground, Edwards was sprinting toward the end zone and “all hell broke loose.” It turned Giants fans against the organization. Some burned their tickets. Others refused to go to games.

“Unfortunately, Pisarcik’s legacy will always be that play,” Cardino said. “There was the ball, sitting on the ground. I still can’t believe it happened.”

Jim Scully of Freehold, New Jersey, wasn’t at the game but he remembered it while sitting in the parking lot at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. His grandfather was hospitalized in Jersey Shore Medical Center on the day of the game. One of his nurses was Pisarcik’s aunt.

“She was heartbroken,” said Scully, a, retired member of the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office. “I remember her telling me, her dad, his grandfather, had tears in his eyes.”

The play had its fallout, too.

The Giants fired offensive coordinator Bob Gibson the following day. He was old school and didn’t believe in taking a knee. So he called a running play to Csonka. There was talk in the huddle of changing the call, but the play was run and the fumble happened.

In the aftermath, taking a knee became an accepted norm in the league.

After the season, the Giants did not renew the contract of coach John McVay and released Andy Robustelli, the team’s director of operations.

With co-owners Wellington and Tim Mara feuding, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle worked out an agreement for them to hire George Young as general manager for the 1979 season. New York won its first Super Bowl after the 1986 season.

“Some people claim it (The Fumble) was the best thing that ever happened to us,” John Mara said. “For those of us who were there and experienced that, it’s pretty hard to accept that.”

Edwards said the win catapulted the Eagles to the playoffs and then a Super Bowl appearance in January 1981.

“We had a heck of a playoff run the next four years,” Edwards said. “It was the play where it looks like we’re not going to win, another tough loss and … I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. You move on, and that season and the following seasons, we start making plays, winning close games.”

No Fumbles required.

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AP Sports Writer John Marshall and AP freelancer Jim Hague contributed to this report.

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Report: Bucs turning back to Winston as starter

Report: Bucs turning back to Winston as starter

Report: Bucs turning back to Winston as starter

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will re-install Jameis Winston as the team’s starting quarterback in Week 12 against the San Francisco 49ers, the team confirmed Monday.

Head coach Dirk Koetter told reporters earlier Monday that he knew who would be starting, but he declined to announce his choice because he hadn’t yet informed the quarterbacks.

Winston came on in relief of Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday for the second time in seven weeks, after first doing so in a Week 4 blowout loss in Chicago, and Koetter described his play afterward as “fantastic.”

Winston entered trailing the Giants 24-7 in the third quarter, but he led four consecutive scoring drives to cut the lead to three points on two occasions. He ended the day 12-of-16 passing for 199 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, which came on a last-ditch effort to rally with 23 seconds left, allowing the Giants to hang on and win 38-35.

Fitzpatrick had been pulled after throwing his third interception, this one in the end zone, leaving him 13 of 21 for 167 yards and no touchdowns.

Winston, 24, was previously benched midway through a Week 8 loss at Cincinnati after throwing four interceptions. He missed the first three games of the season because of an NFL suspension before entering midway through Week 4 against the Bears.

Fitzpatrick, who turns 36 on Saturday, has 2,366 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season. Winston has 1,380 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Winston is in the fourth year of his rookie contract since being taken No. 1 overall in 2015. Tampa Bay previously picked up his fifth-year option for 2019, which is guaranteed for injury only.

Koetter told reporters last week that he understood the arguments in favor of starting Winston in order to evaluate him over the rest of the season, but argued that the Bucs still had an opportunity to contend in the NFC wild-card race.

Sunday’s loss dropped Tampa Bay to 3-7, leaving the Bucs 2 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot and ahead of only two teams in conference.

–Field Level Media

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Redskins’ Gruden a ‘believer in Colt McCoy’s ability’

Redskins' Gruden a 'believer in Colt McCoy’s ability'

Redskins’ Gruden a ‘believer in Colt McCoy’s ability’

Dallas Cowboys: Owner Jerry Jones told Bloomberg that the team isn’t for sale. But he added if he had to put a price tag on them, the Cowboys would be in the Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates stratosphere. “If I had to sell the team tomorrow I wouldn’t accept anything less than $10 billion,” said Jones, who bought the team for $140 million, which then was a record purchase price, in 1989. “But, I don’t want to imply that I would take $10 billion for them. The Cowboys are just not for sale. They’re a long-term asset and my immediate family — which has been a part of making them what they are today — they’ll own the Cowboys long after I’m gone.” The 76-year-old added: “I don’t say $10 billion just to say a ridiculous number. I just think you really have to go on what people would pay. I don’t want to say at least $10 billion, but I certainly think you can justify a $10 billion value.”

New York Giants: Saquon Barkley has had a solid rookie season for the Giants, but he said he listened to coaches tell him they wanted to see more power, more fight for those final few yards toward the goal line. It turned into a career-best 142-yard performance Sunday in New York’s 38-35 win over Tampa Bay. Barkley ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for another. “You take that as a challenge,” Barkley told reporters. “You take it personally. You know that they brought you in here for a reason and you have to get better. That’s how I take it. The same way that I took it was to still stay who I am. I hadn’t really changed anything [Sunday] besides my pace. I just got a feel for the running game and the offensive line, and I think I found a pace that I liked. They challenged me to do that and I did that [Sunday].”

Philadelphia Eagles: Coach Doug Pederson and the Eagles undoubtedly want to forget Sunday’s 48-7 embarrassment at the hands of the New Orleans Saints — and probably no one more than quarterback Carson Wentz. It was his first three-interception game since Dec. 4, 2016, and his first game without a touchdown pass since Dec. 18, 2016. On Sunday, he was 19-of-33 passing for 156 yards and a career-worst passer rating of 31.9. “I’ve played a lot of football games in my career, and this is one of the worst losses I’ve ever been a part of,” Wentz told reporters. “It’s frustrating all the way around … We have to be better and it starts with me.” He added: “I definitely take a lot of [responsibility] on my plate, on my shoulders. I have to come out better.”

Washington Redskins: The Redskins are 6-4 and sit at the top of the NFC East, but with starting quarterback Alex Smith lost for the season with a devastating leg injury, is is now veteran backup Colt McCoy’s team to lead. Coach Jay Gruden said Monday he isn’t worried about putting the offense in the hands of the 32-year-old McCoy. “I have confidence in Colt, always have,” Gruden told NBC Sports Washington. “I’m a big, firm believer in Colt McCoy’s ability to play football in the National Football League. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for him. I know he would like it in different circumstances but things happen for a reason.” McCoy’s last stint as a starter came in 2014, when he was 2-3. His most recent win in the starting role came Oct. 27 of that year against Dallas — Washington’s opponent on Thursday. In relief of Smith on Sunday, McCoy was 6-of-12 passing for 54 yards and a touchdown.

–Field Level Media

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Titans coach says QB Mariota suffered a stinger

Titans coach says QB Mariota suffered a stinger

Tennessee

Titans coach says QB Mariota suffered a stinger

Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered a stinger in Sunday’s game in Indianapolis and his status for next Monday’s game against the Houston Texans will be determined during the week, Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.

Mariota left the 38-10 loss to the Colts during the second quarter with what was announced as a right elbow injury, but Vrabel clarified his condition Monday.

“He is getting treatment, and it’s really not even the elbow,” Vrabel told reporters. “He got a stinger. When the guy hit him in the head, he got a stinger.”

Vrabel said the fourth-year quarterback was evaluated by an independent neurologist and was not placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

“We’ll have to see where he’s at,” Vrabel said of Mariota’s availability for the game at Houston. “It may include, like a lot of injuries, getting a second opinion and making sure he is OK to play.”

Mariota was tended to by trainers on the field after getting hit by Colts defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis with 16 seconds left in the half.

When it was originally announced as an elbow injury, many feared it was the same injury that caused him to miss two starts earlier in the season. That injury had caused nerve issues and affected his grip, forcing him to wear a two-fingered glove on his throwing hand until two weeks ago.

“When you have a stinger, there is numbness — it goes from your neck and down your arm,” Vrabel said. “When you get your neck twisted and you suffer some inflammation, that is what happens.”

Mariota finished 10 of 13 for 85 yards against the Colts with one interception. Backup Blaine Gabbert completed 11 of 16 passes for 118 yards with one touchdown and one pick.

–Field Level Media

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Titans DC Pees returns home after health scare

Titans DC Pees returns home after health scare

Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees was

Titans DC Pees returns home after health scare

Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees was returning to Nashville on Monday after spending the night in an Indianapolis hospital for observations.

Pees, 69, left Sunday’s game against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium for undisclosed medical reasons, but the team said tests revealed nothing serious.

“Everything that would be really worrisome has been ruled out from the neurologists in Indy,” coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. “All the tests came back very positive.”

Vrabel thanked Colts general manager Chris Ballard and other members of the Indianapolis organization for helping out during the health scare.

“They went over and checked on him as we were getting on the plane last night,” Vrabel said. “I thought that was a really classy move.”

Vrabel said he expects Pees to resume coaching duties soon. His unit ranks No. 2 in the league in scoring defense, allowing just 18.9 points per game.

“Dean loves this team. He loves his players,” Vrabel said. “He wants to come in — he is not coming in today. He is going to go home and rest. I told him to work banker’s hours for the rest of the week — come in at 9, and make sure you are out of here at 5 o’clock. But I do see him coming back shortly. But I want to make sure he is getting plenty of rest, and we are not rushing anything.”

The Titans (5-5) have an extra day to prepare for a Monday night game at the Houston Texans.

“When Dean feels good enough to be here an extended amount of time, he’ll be here plenty. We’ll make sure he has everything he needs at home,” Vrabel said. “He is trying to come in this afternoon, and we have the security guards making sure he doesn’t come in here.”

Pees announced his retirement at the end of the 2017 season after six seasons as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, but he joined the Titans after Vrabel was named head coach. Pees coached Vrabel from 2006-08 when both were with the New England Patriots, and Vrabel hired Pees’ son, Matt Pees, as a quality-control coach for the Titans in January.

–Field Level Media

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Film study: Time to ride Lamar Jackson?

Film study: Time to ride Lamar Jackson?

Football coaches are notoriously tightlipped. But

Film study: Time to ride Lamar Jackson?

Football coaches are notoriously tightlipped. But they will tell you how they feel about players in the way they use them.

Cagey and evasive last week, John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive staff spoke clearly with Sunday’s game plan against the Cincinnati Bengals: Right now, they trust Lamar Jackson the runner far more than Lamar Jackson the passer.

The Ravens totaled 54 rushes — 27 by Jackson, most by a quarterback in a game since 1950 — on 75 plays, despite being tied or trailing for 37 of 60 minutes. Marty Mornhinweg didn’t call a pass play until the team’s 13th offensive snap, and Jackson didn’t attempt a throw until the 14th. The rookie finished with 19 attempts, two sacks and four or five pass plays that turned into scrambles.

Not surprisingly, Jackson’s unique mobility became the fulcrum of an extremely diverse collection of run designs.

Baltimore already had a widely expansive run scheme, featuring man- and zone-blocking and many wrinkles stemming from the creative use of tight ends. On Sunday, it blended in a slew of different formations — most from shotgun or pistol — and added myriad concepts to highlight Jackson’s legs: zone-read, jet sweep, option, QB draw, QB sweep, inverted veer and more.

The Ravens split their offensive tackles wide on one play, ran a funky delayed reverse flip to John Brown off play-action on another, and even used Robert Griffin III as a jet-sweep decoy in short yardage. There were four QB draws, including two in a row at one point, and a total of nine runs on third down, six when needing at least 4 yards to convert.

Baltimore’s exceedingly run-heavy approach was understandable for a QB making his first NFL start, and the number of designs tailored specifically to Jackson’s skill set showed the Ravens are prepared to someday build the offense around him. But the plan still stood as an indictment of Jackson’s development as a passer, especially against an awfully exploitable Bengals defense.

When the Ravens did throw, they simplified reads with play-action — including a number of bootlegs — about half of the time and mostly relied on quick, short routes between the numbers.

Jackson’s mechanics as a passer were encouraging, especially his wider base — he threw with his feet far too close together in college — promoting a more consistent and accurate delivery. His ball placement often set receivers up for yards after the catch, including on a few sidearm flicks. He also made a pair of outstanding off-schedule plays while scrambling right: A 23-yarder to Brown set up a long field goal just before halftime, and a 19-yard bullet to Mark Andrews (Jackson’s best play of the day) converted a third-and-7 early in the fourth quarter.

But the double-edged sword cut both ways, justifying the tepid game plan. Jackson went sidearm unnecessarily several times, doinking guard Alex Lewis in the back of the helmet on one such attempt. More concerning, he threw carelessly into coverage twice while scrambling, once on his second attempt of the game — linebacker Jordan Evans dropped it — and again early in the third quarter, when safety Shawn Williams picked him off from an underneath zone.

Despite improved mechanics, Jackson often played unsettled in the pocket, holding the ball too long on straight dropbacks and juking wildly to escape pressure rather than sliding or stepping up to throw. The 32nd overall pick was comfortable processing pro-style, downfield route combinations under Bobby Petrino at Louisville, but he rarely processed anything quickly enough on Sunday to turn it loose on-time beyond 10 yards.

Such issues are normal for rookies, as was the Ravens’ approach to hide them on Sunday. But the exceedingly short leash on Jackson also suggests — assuming nothing changes this week or next — that Joe Flacco will reclaim the starting job when he’s healthy.

You can make a compelling case to roll the dice and stick with the rookie. Jackson helped the Ravens snap a three-game losing streak. He needs live reps to develop, and the team could lean on his legs to mitigate growing pains in the meantime. An extremely juicy slate of defenses — Raiders, Falcons, Chiefs, Bucs — awaits over the next four weeks.

But Harbaugh knows he won’t be able to run 50 times a game. Jackson will face a double-digit deficit at some point and be forced into obvious passing situations. With more tape on the youngster, defenses will dial in on Baltimore’s schematic wrinkles and unveil several of their own.

Right or wrong, the Ravens played Sunday’s game like they were forced to start Jackson, not like they wanted to. That’s reasonable — the same is true anytime a backup quarterback takes the field — and Jackson doesn’t need to take the reins full-time right now. When he does, it will come with a complete philosophical shift on offense from which there will be no turning back.

For now, Harbaugh appears set on sticking with what he knows. Still in the thick of the AFC wild-card race, he’ll go with the veteran Flacco, rather than a quarterback whom he doesn’t yet trust to run the full playbook.

–Jalen Ramsey reminds everyone he’s unique

Whether he was assuring the Jacksonville Jaguars they should never trade him, or trying to catch the eye of suitors for his services, Ramsey was showing off on Sunday.

Hours after reports (which the team refuted) that the Jaguars could eventually trade him, Ramsey shadowed Antonio Brown for most of the day and all but locked him up. Brown made just one (very) meaningful grab versus Ramsey’s coverage: a 25-yarder on third-and-10 in the final minute. To be fair, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger failed to see Brown after he beat Ramsey on a double move in the second quarter, but Brown’s 78-yard touchdown was purely on free safety Tashaun Gipson. Otherwise, there were a few short completions and a slew of misses.

Most impressively, Ramsey created three interceptions on throws targeting Brown — one where his tight coverage forced a high throw to safety Barry Church, and a pair that Ramsey snagged himself for two of the best picks you’ll see.

Ramsey made both look remarkably easy. The first came despite Brown being his secondary assignment, as his primary job in Cover-3 was to play any vertical route by Ryan Switzer, who aligned outside as Brown moved inside to the slot. But when Switzer ran a 1-yard hitch, Ramsey went inside looking for work and undercut Brown’s seam route.

Roethlisberger never expected Ramsey to factor on the play because most cornerbacks wouldn’t come close — he was playing off-coverage several yards outside of Brown, who peeled to the inside. But Ramsey used every bit of his elite speed and length to close 5 yards of separation in a blink and snare the throw, hanging on for a fabulous grab as he tumbled to the turf.

On the second interception, Ramsey matched Brown in press coverage out of Cover-3 and mirrored him beautifully on a slant to the end zone. But Brown still had inside leverage, and Roethlisberger put a laser on Brown’s upfield shoulder so the wideout could shield with his body.

No matter for Ramsey, who leapt early, reached his hands up and around Brown’s helmet and got both paws on the ball. After it hit Brown’s helmet and squirted out of Ramsey’s hands, the corner managed to corral the ball with his right as he and Brown fell, stifling a Steelers scoring chance.

Yes, Roethlisberger ultimately wormed his way into the lead, handing the Jaguars a brutal loss, but that shouldn’t take the shine off of Ramsey’s performance. The brash 24-year-old had already said enough through his play.

Just one question, Jalen: Why the heck did you need a balaclava on a 75-degree day in Jacksonville?

–James Bradberry and the fickle nature of NFL cornerbacking

You probably don’t know a ton about Bradberry.

A second-round pick from Samford in 2016, he might be best known as the guy the Carolina Panthers reached for because they desperately needed cornerbacks after removing the franchise tag on Josh Norman. He has an unremarkable four interceptions in 39 games and plays in a zone-heavy scheme that has survived with unheralded cornerbacks for years.

But Bradberry has had a terrific season opposite plucky rookie Donte Jackson. The 6-foot-1, 212-pounder is long and physical, but he also moves extremely easily for his size, with a buttery backpedal and lightning-quick transitions to break forward or sideways. He reads routes shrewdly, often winning at the stem, and he’s comfortable playing either side and occasionally in the slot, often matching opponents’ top receivers.

In Week 9, Bradberry erased top Bucs wideout Mike Evans, limiting him to one catch for 16 yards. But in the two weeks since, the pendulum has swung the other way, and not through any major fault of Bradberry’s.

The Steelers burst the cornerback’s bubble on their first play from scrimmage in Week 10, baiting him with a route combination specifically designed to exploit Carolina’s coverage rules. James Washington ran a curl route outside at 8 yards, just far enough vertically to make Bradberry, assigned the deep third of the field in Cover-3, match him. As Roethlisberger pump-faked, JuJu Smith-Schuster — who came from a nasty split (tight to the formation) far away from Bradberry — snuck by on a slot fade for a 75-yard touchdown.

Bradberry could have handled that play better, but most corners would have done the same. His luck worsened Sunday against the Lions, as Kenny Golladay wound up the hero in Detroit despite getting mostly the same treatment Bradberry gave Evans.

The Panthers had Bradberry shadow Golladay all day, except in the slot out of zone coverage, and he blanketed him throughout. Golladay tallied gains of 9, 5 and 11 yards underneath Bradberry’s cushion, and he had two grabs for 20 yards in other defenders’ coverage against zone, but the corner gave him major issues in press coverage.

Bradberry routinely jammed Golladay at the line and threw off the route’s timing. That was the case on four incompletions from Matthew Stafford that had little chance, including a pair of fade routes on which Bradberry squeezed Golladay perfectly to the sideline. He also mirrored well from off-coverage, rarely giving Stafford much of a window.

But that wasn’t enough against the 6-foot-4, 213-pound wideout.

The Lions’ first touchdown drive should have ended in an interception, or at least an incompletion. On third-and-7, Bradberry disrupted Golladay’s release and broke perfectly on his out route, undercutting Stafford’s throw. Caught cleanly, it was likely a pick-six, but Golladay’s mitts reached over and wrenched it away. The leaping, contested catch was so mesmerizing that two officials (and Ron Rivera, on his own sideline) failed to notice Golladay’s right toe came down out of bounds.

Golladay struck twice more when it mattered most, on the Lions’ game-winning drive. On third-and-15, Bradberry was all over Golladay’s curl route at the sticks, but Stafford broke contain for a sandlot-style 36-yard throw to Golladay, who had ad-libbed and drawn a holding flag on Bradberry before making the grab.

Two plays later, the cornerback blanketed Golladay’s deep out to force a wide throw, but Detroit ran a nearly identical play the next snap on third-and-10. This time, Stafford compensated for Bradberry’s airtight coverage by lofting a tear-drop — delivered perfectly despite pressure in his face — where only Golladay could get it. The wideout somehow snagged it with his fingertips while leaping backwards at full extension, and with Bradberry raking at the ball on the way down, for the game-winning 19-yard score.

That’s just life as an NFL cornerback.

The rules are stacked against you, and the quarterbacks and receivers are good enough to beat perfect coverage. Even at the top of your game, something will eventually go wrong.

For Bradberry’s sake, let’s hope the pendulum swings back.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

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NFL confirms return to Mexico City in 2019

NFL confirms return to Mexico City in 2019

NFL confirms return to Mexico City in 2019

The NFL confirmed Monday that it will return to Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium in 2019.

Poor field conditions at the stadium prompted the league to relocate Monday night’s game between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs to L.A.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met Monday in Mexico City with Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and they confirmed that the third game of the existing agreement signed in 2016 will take place in 2019, according to a statement from the league.

The date and time of the game and its participants will be determined when the NFL schedule is released next spring.

–Field Level Media

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Redskins sign Sanchez as backup QB

Redskins sign Sanchez as backup QB

The Washington Redskins signed journeyman

Redskins sign Sanchez as backup QB

The Washington Redskins signed journeyman quarterback Mark Sanchez after losing starter Alex Smith to a season-ending leg injury, coach Jay Gruden told reporters on Monday.

Sanchez was one of several candidates who worked out Monday for the Redskins, including Kellen Clemens, Josh Johnson, EJ Manuel and T.J. Yates.

Colt McCoy will be the Redskins’ starter on a short week after Smith broke his right fibula and tibia in Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans. Washington plays at Dallas on Thanksgiving.

Sanchez’s familiarity with the Washington offense was certainly a factor. Redskins offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh was the quarterbacks coach with the New York Jets from 2009-12 while Sanchez was the starter. Washington passing game coordinator Kevin O’Connell was a backup quarterback with the Jets for part of Sanchez’s tenure.

“We had a workout today; looked pretty good,” Gruden said of Sanchez. “But based on his past experiences with Coach O’Connell and Cavanaugh; he’s won some playoff games, he’s got a lot of experience. I think this time of the year, you need somebody who’s taken some meaningful snaps, a lot of experience, and Mark’s done that.”

Sanchez, 32, spent part of last season with the Chicago Bears and hasn’t been with a team this season. He last got into a game in 2016 for the Cowboys when he was 10-of-18 passing for 93 yards and two interceptions at Philadelphia.

Sanchez’s best season was in 2011 when he passed for 3,474 yards and 26 touchdowns. But he also tossed 18 interceptions that season, one of three campaigns in which he threw at least 18 picks in his four seasons with the Jets.

Still, Sanchez guided the Jets to the AFC Championship Game following the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Sanchez also started 10 games over parts of two seasons with the Eagles (2014-15).

Overall, Sanchez has thrown for 15,219 yards and 86 touchdowns against 86 interceptions since breaking into the NFL in 2009. The Jets drafted him fifth overall out of Southern California.

Gruden also said that Smith’s surgery on Monday went well. Gruden said Smith didn’t suffer any ligament damage and that the recovery period will be six to eight months.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Redskins signing Sanchez as backup QB

Reports: Redskins signing Sanchez as backup QB

The Washington Redskins are

Reports: Redskins signing Sanchez as backup QB

The Washington Redskins are signing journeyman quarterback Mark Sanchez after losing starter Alex Smith to a season-ending leg injury, multiple outlets reported.

Sanchez was one of several candidates who worked out Monday for the Redskins, including Kellen Clemens, Josh Johnson, EJ Manuel and T.J. Yates.

Colt McCoy will be the Redskins’ starter on a short week after Smith broke his right fibula and tibia in Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans. Washington plays at Dallas on Thanksgiving.

Sanchez’s familiarity with the Washington offense was certainly a factor. Redskins offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh was the quarterbacks coach with the New York Jets from 2009-12 while Sanchez was the starter. Washington passing game coordinator Kevin O’Connell was a backup QB with the Jets for part of Sanchez’s tenure.

Sanchez, 32, spent part of last season with the Chicago Bears and hasn’t been with a team this season. He last got into a game in 2016 for the Cowboys when he was 10-of-18 passing for 93 yards and two interceptions at Philadelphia.

Sanchez’s best season was in 2011 when he passed for 3,474 yards and 26 touchdowns. But he also tossed 18 interceptions that season, one of three campaigns in which he threw at least 18 picks in his four seasons with the Jets.

Still, Sanchez guided the Jets to the AFC Championship Game following the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Sanchez also started 10 games over parts of two seasons with the Eagles (2014-15).

Overall, Sanchez has thrown for 15,219 yards and 86 touchdowns against 86 interceptions since breaking into the NFL in 2009. The Jets drafted him fifth overall out of Southern California.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Lions RB Johnson (knee) won’t need surgery

Report: Lions RB Johnson (knee) won't need surgery

Report: Lions RB Johnson (knee) won’t need surgery

Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson will be week-to-week after leaving Sunday’s victory against the Carolina Panthers with a sprained left knee.

The rookie limped to the Detroit bench after being tackled by two defenders late in the third quarter and did not return.

Tests Monday confirmed the initial diagnosis of a sprain and Johnson will not require surgery, according to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport.

The Lions will likely be without their leading rusher for one or two games. Detroit (4-6) hosts the NFC North rival Chicago Bears (7-3) on Thanksgiving Day.

A second-round pick from Auburn, Johnson has rushed for 641 yards and three touchdowns and added 32 receptions for 213 yards and one score. He has two 100-yard games: 101 vs. New England in Week 3 and 158 at Miami in Week 7.

–Field Level Media

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