Boom or bust? QB Murray leads list of 10 risky picks

Boom or bust? QB Murray leads list of 10 risky picks

NFL scouting departments fight to find hidden gems in the late rounds and undrafted free agency. But striking out on top picks often determines whether a team succeeds or fails.

Teams cannot avoid risky players entirely.

Obviously, every player comes with some degree of risk. Going from college to pro is a projection game for scouts and general managers. No player is going to be asked to mirror the role he played in college and the leap in competition is incredibly steep. As informative as the athletic, psychological and medical testing performed at the Combine can be, there is no exact, scientific predictor which players will work even harder after depositing their first NFL paycheck.

This top 10 list of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft zeroes in on a handful of prominent prospects, but the rundown could be all-encompassing.

In each case, the prospect could blossom into the coveted All-Pro who makes an immediate impact and turns your favorite team into a Super Bowl contender. Or, in many cases, the same players could be colossal busts, the kind of failure that results in a reset at the position in just a few years – quite possibly a new general manager, too.

Players are listed in their projected order of selection.

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma, first round: There is no greater boom-or-bust prospect in the 2019 draft. His talent is undeniable and at no time in NFL history has the league been more accommodating to a dual-threat quarterback. Yet, I’ve always been leery of quarterbacks who were only successful for one year at the major college level, were protected by a phenomenal offensive line, threw to future NFL star wide receivers and were aided by an innovative play-caller. Murray checks every one of those boxes.

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU, first round: Williams is an exceptional athletic talent worthy of being selected in the top 10 – so was Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State, Cleveland Browns). The problem? Williams didn’t show NFL production and very little in terms of technical progress in his two starting seasons at LSU. His lack of competitiveness in run support last season is troubling. Talent is there, but it would not shock me to see Williams fall out of the first round entirely.

Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson, first round: Full disclosure, I’m higher on Ferrell than most. His size, physicality and use of hands all translate well to the next level. But edge rushers get drafted in the top 10 or earn Pro Bowl nods based on their ability to affect the quarterback and Ferrell simply does not possess the quick-twitch explosiveness to consistently threaten NFL offensive tackles with his speed. I have a hard time imagining a player with his size, competitiveness and production falling too far on draft day. Some wonder if he’s a bit of a “parasite player,” who fed off attention opponents gave Clemson’s stud defensive tackles.

D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi, first round: The team that hits on Metcalf could have the second coming of Calvin Johnson, who some forget was also very much a boom-bust prospect when he left Georgia Tech’s triple option offense. Of course, Johnson became one of the most dominant forces in NFL history. For all of Metcalf’s exceptional abilities, his lack of the most important one – durability – is frightening.

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington, first round: Murphy, too, struggled with durability over his short college career, a fact made more disconcerting given his physical playing style. Scouts are aware that recent former Washington cornerbacks have largely struggled to play with the same effectiveness in the NFL after leaving DB guru Jimmy Lake and the Huskies. And as any redshirt sophomore, Murphy has to convince scouts that he has the maturity to handle the responsibilities of the NFL – a concern only enflamed with his post-Combine decision to switch agents.

Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State, first round: Dillard is an easy first-round talent from an athletic perspective. He possesses the best feet of any offensive lineman in this draft, which translates beautifully to a pass blocking offense, like the one he played in with the Cougars. Few NFL teams rely on passing the ball as much as Mike Leach; I was stunned Dillard labored significantly during a relatively easy positional workout at his Pro Day. He looked out of shape, raising questions about how seriously he is taking this process.

Deionte Thompson, FS, Alabama, first-second round: Despite his exciting range and ball skills, no player has dropped further on my board than Thompson since the end of the college football regular season and that includes recently injured prospects Jeffery Simmons (Mississippi State) and Kendall Sheffield (Ohio State). Thompson struggled on the field during the playoffs, especially the national championship game loss to Clemson. Thompson raised some eyebrows at the Combine by opting not to run or jump at the Combine due to a right wrist injury and two Pro Days later, he still has not run the 40-yard dash for scouts, leaving some questioning his competitiveness and true athleticism. Thompson comes with character red-flags following an April 25, 2017 charge of felony aggravated assault in which he and three former high school teammates allegedly beat a man severely.

Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State, second round: I am as intrigued by Butler’s exceptional height-weight-speed combination (6-5 3/8, 227, 4.48) as anyone and he does have some phenomenal one-handed catches to ascend to highlight reel royalty. Unfortunately, there are a fair number of two-handed drops that show up on the real tape, a significant counterbalance in the overall evaluation.

Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State, second-third round: There is no denying that in this below-average running back crop, Sanders’ prototypical 5-11, 211-pound frame, lateral agility and proven 4.4 speed stands out. Just as catching the ball is the single-most important component to playing wide receiver, hanging on to the ball is most important at running back. Given that he was only Penn State’s one season after backing up Saquon Barkley, the fact that Sanders fumbled the ball 10 times over his career (losing seven) is alarming.

Jachai Polite, DE/OLB, Florida, second-third round: Disappointing 40-yard dash times at the Combine (4.84) and his subsequent Pro Day (4.88-4.95) have generated a ton of negative publicity for Polite since the end of the season, when he notably led the country with seven forced fumbles. I believe 40-yard dash times for defensive linemen mean very little, especially for a player with Polite’s exceptional initial burst off the line. I am concerned that Polite’s slow times could mean that the poor conditioning which plagued his early career at Florida may be a lasting worry, raising plenty of questions about how hard he will work once those NFL game checks starting coming in.

–By Rob Rang, Field Level Media

Gilbert outduels Brissett, Browns clip Colts

Gilbert outduels Brissett, Browns clip Colts

With

Gilbert outduels Brissett, Browns clip Colts

With both starting quarterbacks sitting out, Cleveland Browns backup Garrett Gilbert threw for 151 yards and two scores to outduel Jacoby Brissett in a 21-18 victory Saturday afternoon over the host Indianapolis Colts.

Gilbert, a standout in this spring’s Alliance of American Football, completed 13 of 19 passes, including a 4-yard score to Jaelen Strong and a 6-yarder to D’Ernest Johnson. Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and the Browns’ other starters did not play, after two productive joint-practice sessions with the Colts during the week. Beckham has yet to play in the preseason.

Brissett played three series, going 8 of 10 for 100 yards and a 12-yard touchdown to Eric Ebron. Deon Cain, a 2018 sixth-round pick who missed all of his rookie season with a torn ACL, had seven catches for 80 yards, both game highs.

Andrew Luck sat out for the Colts as he continues to work back from a left ankle injury, but he did warm up pregame, moving laterally through bag drills and throwing several passes.

–Field Level Media

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Thomas fires 61, seizes 6-shot lead at BMW

Thomas fires 61, seizes 6-shot lead at BMW

Thomas fires 61, seizes 6-shot lead at BMW

Justin Thomas tied the course record with an 11-under-par 61 to surge to a commanding lead of the BMW Championship in the third round Saturday at Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill.

Thomas moved to 21-under 195 through 54 holes, good for a six-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round.

Tony Finau (who shot 68) and Patrick Cantlay (68) are tied for second place, followed by South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini (67), who holds fourth alone at 14 under.

Thomas, 26, began the round with birdies on the first five holes. His lone blemish came with a bogey on the par-4 sixth, but he bounced back with a birdie at No. 8.

Thomas scorched the backside in 6 under, aided by a pair of eagles. At the par-5 10th, he hit a 259-yard approach to just three feet for a tap-in, then holed his 180-yard approach on the par-4 16th. He also used a chip-in for a birdie at the par-5 14th and rolled in a 6-footer for birdie at the par-3 17th.

Thomas entered the tournament — the second of three tournaments in the FedEx Cup Playoffs — in 15th place in the FedExCup standings.

If Thomas wins the BMW Championship, he’ll move atop the standings.

Finau had an eagle on the fourth hole — holing out from 119 yards on the par-4 — and was 4 under for the round until a bogey at No. 9. He played the backside at 1 under.

Cantlay had his only bogey of the round on the 16th hole. He closed with a birdie on the final hole.

Spain’s Jon Rahm (66) is alone in fifth place at 13 under. He had the fourth-best round of any golfer in the field, but the gap grew between him and Thomas.

Brandt Snedeker (67), Lucas Glover (69) and Canada’s Corey Conners (69) share sixth place at 12 under.

Second-round leader Hideki Matsuyama of Japan shot 73, falling to a ninth-place tie at 11 under alongside Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

–Field Level Media

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Tiger keeps Tour Championship hopes alive with 67 at BMW

Tiger keeps Tour Championship hopes alive with 67 at BMW

Tiger keeps Tour Championship hopes alive with 67 at BMW

Tiger Woods kept his hopes of qualifying for next week’s Tour Championship alive by shooting a 5-under-par 67 on Saturday during the third round of the BMW Championship in Medinah, Ill.

Woods finished the day at 7-under 209 through 54 holes at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago, tied for 31st after finishing Friday tied for 48th. He needs to place 11th or better to advance and defend his Tour Championship next week at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

“I figured I (was) going to have to do something in mid-60s for two straight days there,” Woods said afterward. “Left myself pretty far behind after the first two rounds. At least, I’ve got a shot at it.”

He sits four strokes back of four players who are tied for ninth.

The 43-year-old put together his first bogey-free round all season, birdieing the fourth and seventh holes on the front nine and Nos. 10, 14 and 16 on the back. Woods hit 12 of 18 greens and 10 of 14 fairways, needing just 27 putts to complete the round.

He had totaled seven bogeys and nine birdies through two rounds to start the week, scoring 71 in both.

“Basically, the only difference between today and the last couple of days, I was able to clean up the card,” Woods said. “I didn’t have any stupid mistakes where I made bogey from bad spots or from easy spots I converted a nice up-and-down on five. I did the little things that was able to keep the momentum going and made a couple putts here and there.”

The score was Woods’ lowest since the final round of the Memorial Tournament in early June and tied for his lowest since the second round of the WGC-Mexico Championship in February. The event is only his fourth since the Memorial, including a missed cut at The Open Championship and a withdrawal from The Northern Trust last week due to an oblique injury.

The injury wasn’t enough to keep Woods out this week, and he said he felt considerably better during Saturday’s round.

“It’s just one of those things where some days I feel better than others, but also, then again, it’s what I do with the golf club, too,” he said. “Able to swing the club properly. Body feels better.”

–Field Level Media

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Flores: Fitzpatrick will ‘probably’ start Miami’s third preseason game

Flores: Fitzpatrick will 'probably' start Miami's third preseason game

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores said veteran quarterback

Flores: Fitzpatrick will ‘probably’ start Miami’s third preseason game

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores said veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will “probably start” the team’s third preseason game on Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Flores made the announcement after Friday’s 16-14 loss at Tampa Bay, when Josh Rosen got the start and completed 10 of 18 passes for 102 yards.

Flores has said he wants Miami’s third preseason game to be a “dress rehearsal for what game No. 1’s going to look like” in the regular season, according to Yahoo Sports.

If that’s indeed the case, the 36-year-old Fitzpatrick appears to be on track to start the Sept. 8 opener against the Baltimore Ravens.

“I’m here,” Fitzpatrick told the Miami Herald. “Whatever coach wants me to do. Whenever he wants to put me in or not put me in, I’m ready to play. Whatever he wants, I’m here for.”

Fitzpatrick has started six season openers for four different NFL teams: 2011 and 2012 with the Buffalo Bills, 2014 with the Houston Texans, 2015 and 2016 with the New York Jets, and 2018 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Dolphins signed Fitzpatrick to a two-year, $11 million contract in March.

Miami acquired Rosen, 22, in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals in April.

–Field Level Media

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Report: No charges for RB Elliott in Vegas incident

Report: No charges for RB Elliott in Vegas incident

Authorities in

Report: No charges for RB Elliott in Vegas incident

Authorities in Las Vegas have decided not to bring charges against Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott over a May 19 incident, according to TMZ Sports.

Security guard Kyle Johnson had pressed charges against Elliott over an incident at the Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Elliott’s camp accused Johnson of extortion in a statement released to the NFL Network after the charges were made.

TMZ has aired video footage of the incident in which Elliott is seen leaning against a security guard, who fell to the ground when the metal railing behind him toppled over. Elliott was handcuffed and briefly detained by Las Vegas police around 3 a.m. before being released.

The gossip site reports that police and prosecutors decided against bringing charges after reviewing the incident together, citing police documents.

The NFL announced on July 3 that Elliott will not be disciplined for the incident. Commissioner Roger Goodell determined there wasn’t a violation of the personal conduct policy, the league said.

Johnson was displeased with the NFL’s decision so he filed charges in mid-July.

Elliott has had personal conduct issues in the past, most notably receiving a six-game suspension in 2017 due to allegations of abuse made by a former girlfriend.

Elliott, who turned 24 on July 22, rushed for a league-leading 1,434 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games last season. He also caught three touchdown passes.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Chargers’ James to have surgery, miss 3 months

Report: Chargers' James to have surgery, miss 3 months

Los Angeles Chargers All-Pro safety Derwin James will

Report: Chargers’ James to have surgery, miss 3 months

Los Angeles Chargers All-Pro safety Derwin James will have surgery on his right foot and be sidelined approximately three months, NFL Network reported Saturday.

James suffered a stress fracture in his fifth metatarsal during practice Thursday and was in a walking boot Friday.

The three-month timetable leaves open the possibility of James returning from Injured Reserve for the end of the regular season and the playoffs.

He recorded 105 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions last season after being selected with the 17th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The 23-year-old earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors and was the first rookie in franchise history to eclipse 100 tackles.

“His production, his intangibles, we’re going to miss him a lot,” head coach Anthony Lynn said Friday. “But we’re a team. I think we have a good team, and we have guys that will step up, and we’ll be fine.”

James excelled in his final season at Florida State in 2017, collecting 84 tackles (5.5 for loss), two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 11 pass breakups.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers honor late coach with helmet decal

Steelers honor late coach with helmet decal

The Pittsburgh Steelers are honoring the memory of Darryl Drake,

Steelers honor late coach with helmet decal

The Pittsburgh Steelers are honoring the memory of Darryl Drake, their late wide receivers coach, with a helmet decal.

The yellow decal with the initials “DD” will debut in Saturday night’s preseason home game against the Kansas City Chiefs and will be worn throughout the 2019 campaign.

Drake, 62, passed away suddenly last Sunday, one day after reportedly complaining of chest pains.

Drake joined the Pittsburgh staff in 2018 following stints as a receivers coach with the Arizona Cardinals (2013-17) and Chicago Bears (2004-12).

“I only knew him for a year and a half, but I think in that year and a half he meant more to me than some people I’ve known my whole life,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, per the team website.

–Field Level Media

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Belichick says he’ll ‘evaluate’ WR Gordon

Belichick says he'll 'evaluate' WR Gordon

New

Belichick says he’ll ‘evaluate’ WR Gordon

New England coach Bill Belichick made no commitment on Saturday as to the role wide receiver Josh Gordon will have when he returns to the team.

Gordon, the talented but troubled receiver whose career has been thrown off course by substance abuse issues, was reinstated from suspension on a conditional basis by the NFL on Friday.

“For the past eight months, Josh’s situation has been entirely a league matter. When Josh returns to our program, we will evaluate the entire situation and do what we feel is best for Josh and the team,” Belichick said in a statement released by the team on Saturday.

Gordon was suspended on Dec. 20 for violating the terms of his previous reinstatement under the NFL substance abuse policy. He will be able to rejoin the Patriots on Sunday and is eligible to play in the regular season.

After breaking into the NFL with the Cleveland Browns in 2012 and making the Pro Bowl after the 2013 season, Gordon missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons due to suspensions related to substance abuse.

Gordon played in five games in 2017 after being reinstated. He played one game for Cleveland last year before being traded to the Patriots in September.

In 12 games last season, Gordon caught 41 passes for 737 yards and four touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars WR Lee off PUP list, returns to practice

Jaguars WR Lee off PUP list, returns to practice

Jaguars WR Lee off PUP list, returns to practice

Almost one year suffering a gruesome knee injury during a preseason game, Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee returned to practice Saturday.

The Jaguars removed the 27-year-old veteran from the physically unable to perform list.

Lee suffered a torn left ACL during the Jaguars’ third preseason game on Aug. 25, 2018 against Atlanta. Falcons safety Damontae Kazee hit him low at full speed and was flagged for lowering his head.

Lee was the Jaguars’ leading receiver in 2017, catching 56 passes for 702 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games. In his first four seasons, he had 171 receptions for 2,166 yards and eight scores.

Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone said last week that the team was preparing to start the regular season without Lee and injured left tackle Cam Robinson.

“I don’t know if they’re going to be ready for the season,” Marrone said. “They’re working hard, the trainers are working hard, everyone’s working hard, but we just can’t get them over the hump, so we’ve got to start preparing to play without them.”

–Field Level Media

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Eagles lure QB McCown out of retirement

Eagles lure QB McCown out of retirement

Eagles lure QB McCown out of retirement

Josh McCown was lured out of retirement to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.

McCown announced his retirement and joined ESPN as an NFL analyst, ending a 17-year career that spanned 10 teams. But he’ll make it 11 when he officially signs with the Eagles, a team that can’t seem to keep a backup healthy this preseason.

Nate Sudfeld suffered a broken wrist in the preseason opener, and his audition to be the No. 2 quarterback behind Carson Wentz was derailed by surgery. Sudfeld could be ready to return in mid-September, head coach Doug Pederson said.

No. 3 quarterback Cody Kessler was diagnosed with a concussion following a hit in last week’s game.

Enter McCown, who turned 40 on July 4 and was last a starter in 2017.

Pederson did not directly answer questions posed last week about the Eagles’ interest in Colin Kaepernick, but the move to McCown indicates there was likely no interest.

–Field Level Media

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Reid kneels before preseason loss, rips Jay-Z deal again

Reid kneels before preseason loss, rips Jay-Z deal again

Carolina

Reid kneels before preseason loss, rips Jay-Z deal again

Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid kneeled in silent protest before a 27-14 preseason loss to the Buffalo Bills on Friday night.

Afterward, he took another shot at the partnership between the NFL and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, who said during an introductory press conference this week “I think we’re past kneeling … I think it’s time for action.”

“For one, when has Jay-Z ever taken a knee to come out and tell us that we’re past kneeling?” said Reid, per ESPN. “Yes, he’s done a lot of great work, a lot of great social justice work. But for you to get paid to go into an NFL press conference and say that we’re past kneeling? Again, asinine. Players Coalition 2.0, he got paid to take the bullets that he’s taking now because we’re not having it.”

Reid, who joined the Panthers three weeks into the 2018 season, kneeled before every game last year, although no Panthers teammates joined him.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Reid’s reason for kneeling is to “protest racial inequality and social injustice in America.”

Reid is close friends with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick from their days as teammates with the 49ers. Kaepernick is well known for his protests during the anthem. Both players settled a collusion lawsuit with the NFL last year.

“Jay-Z made a money move. He’s capitalized on this situation. Nobody to my knowledge talked about social justice before Colin started protesting,” said Reid. “That was not a topic of the NFL off the field. For Jay-Z to come in and partner to address social justice, do it behind Colin’s back, get paid to do it … I don’t have words.”

Reid also suggested the NFL is using Jay-Z as cover for Kaepernick still not having an NFL job.

“The (injustice) that’s happened to Colin, they get to say, ‘Look, we care about social justice, we care about the black community because we’re with Jay-Z,'” said Reid.

“Jay-Z is doing the work for them. We all know that it’s unjust that Colin isn’t in an NFL locker room, the way he lost his job. But they get to pretend they care about social justice.”

Reid, 27, ended up starting all 13 games he was in uniform for the Panthers last season. He was sixth on the team with 71 tackles with one sack and one interception. In six NFL seasons, five with the 49ers, the former No. 18 overall selection in the 2013 draft has 398 career tackles and 11 interceptions.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Bucs GM Licht signed 5-year extension

Report: Bucs GM Licht signed 5-year extension

Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager

Report: Bucs GM Licht signed 5-year extension

Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht received a five-year contract extension earlier this year, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The deal came just days after he lured Bruce Arians out of retirement to coach the team.

Licht is now under contract through 2023, which coincides with Arians’ contract with the team.

Just a year ago, Licht had been rumored to be on the hot seat after the team missed the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.

The ensuing 5-11 season led to the firing of coach Dirk Koetter, but Arians reportedly insisted on Licht staying in the job before signing on.

Licht, 48, is in his sixth season as the GM after stints in the front offices of the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. His 2015 draft class produced starters with the first four picks (QB Jameis Winston, OT Donovan Smith, G Ali Marpet, LB Kwon Alexander), but he also was responsible for trading up in the second round in 2016 to take kicker Roberto Aguayo, who didn’t make it out of his second training camp with the team.

Licht used his top pick this year on inside linebacker Devin White out of LSU. He also signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as a free agent this offseason after allowing DT Gerald McCoy to walk away.

If Licht serves the duration of his contract, he’ll become the longest-tenured GM in club history.

–Field Level Media

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Manning, Daniels solid in Giants’ win over Bears

Manning, Daniels solid in Giants' win over Bears

Manning, Daniels solid in Giants’ win over Bears

Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his heir apparent, rookie first-round pick Daniel Jones, each threw a touchdown pass, and New York routed the Chicago Bears 32-13 on Friday in East Rutherford, N.J.

Manning hit all four of his pass attempts for 42 yards before exiting, with his 10-play, 79-yard drive ending with an 8-yard touchdown to wide receiver Bennie Fowler.

Jones then came in for the Giants (2-0) and connected on 11 of 14 passes for 161 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to wide receiver TJ Jones, but he fumbled twice. Running back Saquon Barkley was held out for the second straight week.

Chase Daniel threw for 103 yards for the Bears (0-2), and Tyler Bray chipped in with 53 yards passing as Mitchell Trubisky sat out. Javon Wims hauled in five passes for 64 yards to lead Chicago. Kerrith Whyte Jr. produced the Bears’ only touchdown on a 1-yard run in the third quarter.

–Field Level Media

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Allen leads Bills to victory over Panthers

Allen leads Bills to victory over Panthers

Allen leads Bills to victory over Panthers

Josh Allen threw for 102 yards and directed a pair of scoring drives, and Kevin Johnson returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown as the Buffalo Bills beat the Carolina Panthers 27-14 on Friday night in Charlotte, N.C.

Allen completed 9 of 11 passes and led the Bills (2-0) to 10 first-quarter points, with Stephen Hauschka kicking a 30-yard field goal and LeSean McCoy capping the next drive with a 1-yard run up the middle.

Matt Barkley also produced for the Bills, completing 8 of 10 passes for 110 yards and one touchdown, a 9-yard strike to Duke Williams in the second quarter. Cole Beasley led the Bills with five catches for 44 yards.

The Panthers (1-1) couldn’t get going on offense without Cam Newton, who sat out for the second straight game. They were held to 258 total yards. Taylor Heinicke hit 8 of 12 passes for 78 yards and one touchdown, and Will Grier threw for 75 yards with one interception.

–Field Level Media

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QB Griffin tops 200 yards as Bucs beat Dolphins

QB Griffin tops 200 yards as Bucs beat Dolphins

QB Griffin tops 200 yards as Bucs beat Dolphins

Backup quarterback Ryan Griffin threw for 201 yards and one touchdown as the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers edged the Miami Dolphins 16-14 in a preseason game Friday night.

Griffin threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to first-year tight end Tanner Hudson with 3:35 left in the game to give Tampa Bay a 13-6 lead.

The Dolphins (1-1) came back behind quarterback Jake Rudock to go 51 yards on seven plays in just over 1 1/2 minutes, capped by an 8-yard pass from Rudock to rookie running back Patrick Laird. Rudock completed the two-point conversion on a pass to Trenton Irwin to give Miami a 14-13 lead.

Griffin marched Tampa Bay (1-1) down the field in the closing seconds, setting up Matt Gay’s 48-yard field goal with six seconds left for the game-winner.

Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen played the first half, hitting 10 of 18 passes for 102 yards. Jameis Winston played only the Buccaneers’ first series, completing 2 of 4 passes for 24 yards.

–Field Level Media

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QB Griffin tops 200 yards as Bucs top Dolphins

QB Griffin tops 200 yards as Bucs top Dolphins

QB Griffin tops 200 yards as Bucs top Dolphins

Backup quarterback Ryan Griffin threw for 201 yards and one touchdown as the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers edged the Miami Dolphins in an NFL preseason game Friday night.

Griffin threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Tanner Hudson with 3:35 left in the game to give Tampa Bay a 13-6 lead.

The Dolphins came back behind quarterback Jake Rudock to go 51 yards on seven plays in just over 1 1/2 minutes, capped by an 8-yard pass from Rudock to rookie running back Patrick Laird. Rudock completed the 2-point conversion on a pass to Trenton Irwin to give Miami a 14-13 lead.

Griffin marched Tampa Bay down the field in the closing seconds, setting up Matt Gay’s 48-yard field goal with 10 seconds left for the game winner.

Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen played the first half, hitting 10 of 18 passes for 102 yards. Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston played only the Buccaneers’ first series, completing 2 of 4 passes for 24 yards.

–Field Level Media

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Matsuyama grabs BMW lead with course-record 63

Matsuyama grabs BMW lead with course-record 63

Japan's Hideki

Matsuyama grabs BMW lead with course-record 63

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama grabbed a one-shot lead at the BMW Championship by setting a course record with a 9-under-par 63 at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago on Friday.

Scoring conditions weren’t quite as favorable on Medinah’s No. 3 course as they were when Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak tied the course record with 65s on Thursday, but that didn’t slow Matsuyama, who sank seven putts outside of 10 feet in carding nine birdies.

He holds a one-shot lead at 12-under 132 over Tony Finau (66 on Friday) and Patrick Cantlay (67). Thomas is another shot back at 10 under, with a half-dozen players another shot off the pace: Lucas Glover, Chez Reavie, Xander Schauffele, Canada’s Adam Hadwin and Corey Conners and Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka managed only a 1-under 71 on Friday and is seven shots back in a tied for 25th at 5 under. However, he is still projected to hold the No. 1 spots in the FedEx Cup rankings entering next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta, where the top-seeded player will hold a two-shot advantage and begin the tournament at 10 under.

Patrick Reed, who won last week’s The Northern Trust, is also at 5 under and projected to fall three spots to No. 5, with Matsuyama projected to vault to No. 2, followed by Cantlay and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who is tied for 11th at 8 under at the BMW.

Tiger Woods saw a promising round derailed by a pair of late bogeys. He shot a second consecutive 71 and is tied for 48th at 2 under. Likely needing to finish 11th or better to qualify for East Lake and defend his title at the Tour Championship, Woods is currently projected to drop seven more spots to No. 45.

Other big names who currently sit outside of the top 30, the cutoff to qualify for East Lake, include Jordan Spieth (No. 48), Phil Mickelson (No. 51) and Australia’s Jason Day (No. 55). Reigning FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose of England is tied for 40th at 3 under and is projected to drop to 15th.

Matsuyama birdied his first hole of the day en route to his lowest round of the year. He made the turn in 5-under 36, then poured in four more birdies on the back nine.

“It seemed like every time I had a birdie chance today that I made the putt,” Matsuyama told the Golf Channel through his interpreter. “You add it up, and that’s what I got.”

Matsuyama has fallen to No. 32 in the world rankings and is without a victory since 2017, when he ended the year No. 5, but he has posted a third and four other top-10 finishes in 20 events this year while missing only two cuts.

Cantlay has been going the other direction, breaking into the world’s top 10 for the first time in his career with a victory at the Memorial following ties for third at the PGA Championship and RBC Heritage and a tie for ninth at the Masters.

He had five birdies on a bogey-free card Friday, including salvaging par after driving it into the water on the par-4 15th hole.

“I played really solid today,” Cantlay said. “I don’t think you can play your way perfect around this place. Eventually, you will have to get up and down, just because it’s long and if you get out of position you need to leave yourself fat side.”

Finau, who is searching for his second PGA Tour victory, also had a bogey-free card that included four birdies over a five-hole stretch on the front nine.

“I mean, I feel like a win is around the corner. I felt that way all season,” Finau said, per Golfweek. “Coming off the Ryder Cup, I feel like I got some great experience there. Had a couple good looks at majors this year and haven’t got it done, but one of these times I know it’s going to be my turn. And hopefully that’s Sunday.”

Finau is also currently projected to move from 10th to No. 8 in the Presidents Cup standings, bumping Bryson DeChambeau to No. 9. The top eight following this week will automatically qualify for the United States team captained by Tiger Woods.

Woods also will have four captain’s picks.

–Field Level Media

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Tiger’s charge fizzles in second 71 at BMW

Tiger's charge fizzles in second 71 at BMW

Tiger’s charge fizzles in second 71 at BMW

Tiger Woods was unable to keep a mid-round charge going Friday and will have to rally over the weekend at the BMW Championship in order to qualify for next week’s Tour Championship.

Woods traded a pair of birdies and bogeys over his first nine holes at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago to make the turn in even par for the second round. He then reeled off three birdies over the next six holes and was in prime position in the fairway on the par-4 16th hole.

However, Woods left his approach shot in the bunker and was unable to get up and down to save par. He then bogeyed the 17th hole to fall back to 1-under for the day and went on to card his second consecutive 1-under round of 71.

“Left quite a few shots out there,” Woods told reporters after the round, adding that he was unable to capitalize on better ball striking than his first round.

At 2-under par entering the weekend, Woods is well off the pace entering the weekend and needs to finish in 11th place or better to advance and defend his Tour Championship. His inconsistent round on Friday included five birdies and four bogeys while hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens in regulation.

The telling statistic was successfully scrambling in just one of five attempts while also needing 30 putts to get around Medinah’s No. 3 course.

Woods has been unable to capitalize on a course softened by heavy rains of late. Meanwhile, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama set a course record of 8-under 63 playing just a few groups behind Woods.

Woods said he thinks it will take “something in the mid-60s” to give himself an opportunity to compete with the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings at East Lake in Atlanta next week.

–Field Level Media

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NFL conditionally reinstates Patriots WR Gordon

NFL conditionally reinstates Patriots WR Gordon

Troubled wide receiver Josh

NFL conditionally reinstates Patriots WR Gordon

Troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon was reinstated on a conditional basis by the NFL, the league announced on Friday.

Gordon will be able to rejoin the New England Patriots on Sunday and is eligible to play in the regular season.

Gordon was suspended on Dec. 20 for violating the terms of his previous reinstatement under the NFL substance abuse policy.

“We are all rooting for Josh to succeed, both personally and professionally,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Everyone shares in that hope and will continue to support him to every extent possible. But as Josh acknowledged, ultimately his success is up to him.”

The NFL said that Gordon won’t play in New England’s Aug. 22 preseason game against the Carolina Panthers because he hasn’t had “sufficient conditioning and practice.”

After breaking into the NFL with the Cleveland Browns in 2012 and making the Pro Bowl after the 2013 season, Gordon missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons due to suspensions related to substance abuse.

Gordon played in five games in 2017 after being reinstated. He played one game for Cleveland last year before being traded to the Patriots in September.

In 12 games last season, Gordon caught 41 passes for 737 yards and four touchdowns.

Gordon has played in just 52 NFL games while battling substance-abuse issues. He has 220 receptions for 3,826 yards and 19 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Titans sign Smith, waive fellow LB Folston

Titans sign Smith, waive fellow LB Folston

Titans sign Smith, waive fellow LB Folston

The Tennessee Titans signed Joshua Smith and waived fellow linebacker James Folston on Friday.

Smith is a local product, having grown up in Murfreesboro (Tenn.) and playing collegiately at Vanderbilt.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Smith joins undrafted free-agent defensive back LaDarius Wiley as the former Commodores players on Tennessee’s roster.

Smith registered 61 tackles, including eight for loss and 3.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in 12 games during his final season with Vanderbilt. He collected six sacks during his collegiate career and finished with 92 tackles in 40 games.

Folston’s stint with the Titans was a short one.

The 23-year-old, who signed with Tennessee on Monday, was undrafted out of Pittsburgh in May.

Folston recorded 47 total tackles and 1.5 sacks in 43 career games with the Panthers.

–Field Level Media

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