Film Study: How the Lions found their ground game

Film Study: How the Lions found their ground game

It took long enough, but the Lions’ investment in improving their running game is paying off in Detroit.

Adding first-round guard Frank Ragnow and second-round back Kerryon Johnson this season has worked wonders in the latest overhaul by the Lions. Second-round pick Ameer Abdullah and a high-priced offensive line weren’t enough to do the trick in recent years.

A mauler at Arkansas, Ragnow made Dolphins defenders’ lives miserable on Sunday in Miami, mashing defensive tackles and clobbering linebackers in the hole.

Pulling from his left guard spot, Ragnow nailed linebacker Kiko Alonso in the hole to spring Johnson for a 71-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. On a 12-yard run by LeGarrette Blount later in the quarter, Ragnow rode defensive tackle Davon Godchaux a full 10 yards downfield before planting him in the turf, clearing a chasm of a hole to the right for a run designed to go left behind pulling right guard T.J. Lang.

Ragnow, center Graham Glasgow and fullback Nick Bellore capped the drive by paving a huge lane for Blount — known for powering his way through bodies across the goal line — to waltz into the end zone untouched from 2 yards out.

Tackles Taylor Decker and Rick Wagner each had their moments too, as the Lions racked up 248 yards — their highest single-game total since Barry Sanders’ penultimate season — on 35 carries (7.1-yard average). Taking out two Matthew Stafford kneeldowns and five runs that merely killed clock on the final drive, the Lions averaged 8.7 yards per tote (28 for 243).

Johnson was the star of the show. He displayed the same punishing style that helped him star at Auburn. Johnson dished it out twice to Alonso (who had a rough day), slamming him on his back with a stiff-arm after catching a screen pass and later knocking his helmet off after lowering his shoulder on a thunderous 4-yard carry.

But Johnson also showcased the game-breaking ability he has flashed often as a rookie, a level of explosiveness that wasn’t always evident at Auburn. The hole on his 71-yarder was ample, but his burst to and through it erased pursuit angles for Raekwon McMillan and Xavien Howard, forcing Reshad Jones to chase him down and prevent a 91-yard touchdown. Johnson tallied six other runs of at least 8 yards, including several where he bounced outside of Miami’s defensive ends and exploded upfield.

With average measurements of 6-foot-6 and 261.3 pounds, Detroit’s tight ends are known more for their blocking than receiving, and they certainly delivered on that reputation Sunday. On one play, all three aligned on the same side in a wing set to spring Johnson for an easy 18 yards. Each impressed in other ways as well.

Michael Roberts — who also had three grabs for 48 yards and two scores — battered defensive ends one-on-one and washed them down the line on double-team blocks. Levine Toilolo latched on and used his length to box out defenders, including a key seal on Johnson’s 71-yarder. Detroit employed Luke Willson several times as part of a full-house backfield, teaming him with Bellore for a pair of lead blockers.

With so much success on the ground, the Lions played off their run looks for explosive throws off play-action, including Roberts’ first touchdown (15 yards off a bootleg) and a 22-yard crossing route to Kenny Golladay.

Absent a true rushing threat for so long, Stafford is suddenly carrying a much lighter burden. His 22 attempts in Miami were his second fewest in a full game across his entire 10-year career, one game after he threw just 26 times (fifth fewest). He looked downright giddy on Sunday, pointing a finger to the sky with a goofy smile on his face anytime a Lions runner found even the slightest seam.

Detroit’s ground game has had some hiccups (2.6 yards per carry in Week 1, 3.4 in Week 5), but it now ranks well above average (4.9 average, fifth in NFL) after dominating a Dolphins unit that entered 11th in the NFL (4.0 average allowed). If the newfound success sticks, the Lions might just make some noise in a standing-room-only NFC North.

–Bama Boys putting the D back in D.C.

Washington hasn’t had a defense in ages.

The unit hasn’t ranked better than 13th in yards or 17th in points since 2009, and it has finished top 10 in both categories just once since 2005.

But through seven weeks, this year’s group ranks fifth in yards (325.7 per game) and seventh in points (20.2), thanks largely to the team’s last two first-round picks. Jonathan Allen (17th overall in 2017) and Da’Ron Payne (13th overall in 2018) have graduated from terrorizing SEC opponents at Alabama to hounding the NFL’s best O-line on Sunday.

Massive and country-strong, Allen and Payne apply their tools more effectively than most young players, consistently maintaining leverage with low pad level. While agile enough to shoot gaps, they both show excellent discipline in the run game, a credit to defensive line guru Jim Tomsula and their coaches at Alabama. They play through blockers (rather than around them) and simply discard them when the ball carrier nears. That brings fewer splash plays but translates to fewer holes and more clean-up tackles for linebackers.

The duo stifled the Cowboys’ league-best run game (5.2 yards per carry entering Week 7) all day on Sunday, allowing 73 yards on 22 carries (3.3-yard average), with 24 yards coming on two scrambles and 7 on an end-around to cornerback Jourdan Lewis, of all people. Ezekiel Elliott came in averaging 5.0 yards per tote but totaled 33 yards on 15 carries (2.2 average). After ranking in the bottom six in yards per carry each of the past three years, Washington is now up to seventh best (3.97).

Payne’s get-off and heavy hands repeatedly put center Joe Looney — who has actually impressed in relief of Pro Bowler Travis Frederick — two yards deep in the backfield after the snap. Allen shed blocks quickly throughout the day and rag-dolled any tight ends unlucky enough to draw him as their assignment.

But neither player is one-dimensional.

Both can affect the quarterback, a must for any interior D-linemen taken in the first round in the modern NFL. Allen leads the team with eight QB hits and is tied for the lead with 3.0 sacks, while Payne has four and 2.0, respectively. Even better, both players push the pocket when they don’t get there, which is how most of the team’s sacks have been created this season.

Allen is an excellent technician who rarely gets stuck on blocks. He picked up a sack off a stunt on Sunday, but spent much of the rest of the game haunting left guard Connor Williams. The Cowboys rookie dragged Allen down twice in the first three quarters to prevent sacks or QB hits, but avoided a holding penalty. He wasn’t so lucky early in the fourth, when he was forced to tackle Allen to avoid a sack, with the hold nullifying a third-and-4 conversion. Ryan Kerrigan strip-sacked Dak Prescott and Preston Smith recovered for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead on the next play.

Payne didn’t notch a sack but was arguably more impressive. He set up sacks by Kerrigan and Ryan Anderson by bulling blockers into Prescott’s lap, first going through Looney and then through Williams despite Looney’s help. Payne also looked like he belonged against Zack Martin, the NFL’s best guard. He backed Martin into Prescott on a few occasions, including one where he tipped a pass for a near-interception on the first play of Dallas’ final drive.

Supplementing the Allen and Payne duo inside is unheralded third-year man Matt Ioannidis, who has 3.0 sacks and four QB hits in just 181 snaps (48.3 percent). The 2016 fifth-rounder from Temple is more of a bull in a china shop who mashes right through blockers, but he also flashes craftiness, like on a hand-swipe, rip move for a strip-sack (and recovery) in Week 1.

Despite a lack of sacks (19th in sack rate), Washington’s defense ranks 11th in yards per pass allowed. But with this interior trio pushing pockets, it’s only a matter of time before the team’s edge rushers really get going. After entering with just two sacks all season, the outside linebackers combined for three on Sunday alone. Kerrigan, Anderson and Smith will get more chances as the season goes on, and this defense could be terrific if they can manage to get home.

–Fledgling stars shine in Santa Clara

You might have missed it as Todd Gurley piled up numbers in a 39-10 rout on Sunday, but the other side of the ball featured an excellent matchup of budding young studs.

By now, most know 49ers tight end George Kittle, whose stats (32 grabs, 527 yards, two scores) have him squarely on the fantasy map. While Kyle Shanahan’s scheme is certainly a big help, Kittle is well on his way to stardom.

The second-year pro is blazing fast (4.52 40-yard dash) and explosive (11-foot broad jump) for his size (6-foot-4, 247 pounds), and already flashes the craftiness to defeat man coverage as a route runner. His hands aren’t the most natural, but Kittle compensates with excellent run-after-catch ability, a weapon he can employ often with Shanahan springing him wide open. Just as important, he’s borderline dominant as a blocker — which he showed at Iowa — regularly stymieing defensive ends and driving smaller defenders into the turf or off the screen.

Two of the Rams’ unsung heroes — strong safety John Johnson and linebacker Cory Littleton — drew Kittle in coverage much of Sunday, and the ensuing battles were fantastic.

Kittle wound up leading all receivers with five grabs for 98 yards and a score, sneaking behind Littleton’s zone coverage a few times, including on a 35-yard gain late in the second quarter. He also used a crafty release, juking in and out before cutting back inside on a crosser to beat Littleton’s tight man coverage for 21 yards late in the third.

Against Johnson late in the second, Kittle got free with an inverted pivot route (a double move faking a quick out before breaking back in) to beat man coverage, but couldn’t corral a high throw from C.J. Beathard. One play later, he found paydirt in a zone pocket against Nickell Robey-Coleman, but Johnson would turn the tide after halftime.

On third-and-1 midway through the third, Kittle ran a crosser off of play-action and appeared to have a step on Johnson’s man coverage, but the safety broke hard to get a hand on the ball as it arrived. It tipped off both of Kittle’s hands and began to settle into his left before Johnson snatched it away for an acrobatic interception.

Johnson got a hand on the pass in part because Beathard couldn’t quite get enough on it, thanks to pressure from — you guessed it — Littleton. It was the second week in a row the duo teamed up for an interception, after Littleton carried a seam route in Denver and tipped the throw up for Johnson to corral.

Johnson, a 2017 third-rounder, and Littleton, in his third year after going undrafted, have quietly starred for Wade Phillips’ defense. They lead the team in tackles (43 and 58, respectively) while stuffing the stat sheet with a combined five tackles for loss (four for Littleton), four interceptions (three for Johnson) and 15 passes defensed (eight by Littleton). Littleton also had two sacks and blocked a punt on Sunday, his fifth (!) since the start of 2017 (one of the five, two weeks ago in Seattle, was not officially a block, as it traveled five yards beyond the line of scrimmage).

Rams coaches showed how much they value both players by pulling them for a rest in the fourth quarter Sunday, which they also did in a 34-0 win over Arizona in Week 2. Otherwise, neither player has missed a snap this year.

Aaron Donald (4.0 sacks, six QB hits on Sunday, plus one soul-snatching strip of Matt Breida) rightfully dominates headlines, while Ndamukong Suh and Marcus Peters are next in line for attention. But Johnson and Littleton are two pieces that tie the whole unit together, and their futures look awfully bright.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

Report: Jaguars to hire DeFilippo as OC

Report: Jaguars to hire DeFilippo as OC

The Jacksonville Jaguars have chosen John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator,

Report: Jaguars to hire DeFilippo as OC

The Jacksonville Jaguars have chosen John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“Doug Marrone took his time with such a key hire, but when the deal gets done, he’ll have his guy,” Rapoport tweeted Wednesday morning.

Marrone, the Jaguars head coach, also interviewed former NFL head coach Mike McCoy for the job, according to reports on Tuesday.

DeFilippo, 40, spent 2015 with the Cleveland Browns as offensive coordinator, then was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia in 2016-17. The Minnesota Vikings hired DeFilippo as offensive coordinator just days after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, then fired him after a 21-7 loss to Seattle in Week 14.

Early in his career, he was in charge of offensive quality control with the New York Giants, working under head coach Tom Coughlin, who now is the Jaguars’ vice president of football operations.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Broncos close to hiring Scangarello as OC

Report: Broncos close to hiring Scangarello as OC

Report: Broncos close to hiring Scangarello as OC

The Denver Broncos are close to hiring San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello as their offensive coordinator, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday.

Scangarello interviewed with new head coach Vic Fangio on Tuesday and returned for more talks Wednesday.

“Sources say his interview with Vic Fangio and others went well. The expectation, barring a snag in talks, is that he becomes the new #Broncos offensive coordinator,” Rapoport tweeted.

Scangarello, 46, has never been a coordinator at the NFL level, but he held the OC position in the college ranks at Wagner in 2016 and at Northern Arizona from 2012-14.

He was the quarterbacks coach on coach Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers staff the past two seasons. He earned praise for his work with rookie quarterback Nick Mullens and second-year signal-caller C.J. Beathard after starter Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 3.

Scangarello’s lengthy resume also includes stints as an offensive quality control coach with the Oakland Raiders in 2009 and the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.

–Field Level Media

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Bills sign LB Alexander to one-year extension

Bills sign LB Alexander to one-year extension

The Buffalo

Bills sign LB Alexander to one-year extension

The Buffalo Bills signed veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander to a one-year contract extension on Wednesday.

Alexander, 35, played in all 16 games in 2018 and registered 6.5 sacks, 74 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and a career-high two interceptions. He was set to become a free agent.

He originally signed with the Bills in 2016 after nine seasons with the Washington Redskins (2007-12), Arizona Cardinals (2013-14) and Oakland Raiders (2015). Buffalo re-signed him to a two-year, $9 million deal in March 2017.

Undrafted out of Cal in 2005, Alexander has been an incredible success story. He made the Pro Bowl in 2012 and again in 2016, when he was named the game’s Defensive MVP.

Earlier this month, the team captain expressed his desire to remain with the Bills.

“Obviously, I’m invested,” he told the media. “I’ve been here three years, I’m invested in the community. I’m invested in this team and this organization. I would like to be able to continue to play here and be able to retire here.”

–Field Level Media

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Patriots dialed in for Chiefs, championship game

Patriots dialed in for Chiefs, championship game

Patriots dialed in for Chiefs, championship game

in 2014, the last time the Patriots traveled to Kansas City, apoplectic reaction went to parts unknown: speculation whether Tom Brady was finished and if his Lombardi-hoarding coach had lost his touch.

Two Super Bowl victories later, New England is again on rarely traveled ground, packing for another AFC Championship game as the underdog at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

“They’re a well balanced, disciplined team. We’ll need our best game,” Belichick said Wednesday in Foxborough, Mass.

The Patriots need one win for their ninth Super Bowl appearance since 2000. Sunday will mark the eighth consecutive year New England has reached the conference title game. No other team has appeared in more than five in a row.

“I love to play in a championship game,” Belichick said, shrugging off a question about preparing for gametime temperatures forecast to be at or below freezing. “Schedule it wherever you want. We’ll be there.”

The most recent forecast calls for a daytime temperature of 19 degrees.

Belichick has won a championship at the expense of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. New England won Super Bowl XXXIX over the Eagles, with Reid as Philadelphia’s coach, following the 2004 season. The Patriots have 18 takeaways in eight games and a 6-2 record when Belichick opposes Reid.

Overall, Reid is 1-4 in championship games. Kansas City hasn’t won the Super Bowl since 1970.

For all the playoff experience Brady and Belichick boast, not often has New England been asked to go on the road to earn a Super Bowl ticket. New England is 3-4 in postseason road games featuring Brady behind center.

“We’re going to have to stop the whole offense, not just one player,” Belichick said. “We’re going to have to play good team defense.”

Belichick is 8-4 in championship games and has 29 postseason wins as a head coach.

Kansas City was first in the NFL at 35.3 points per game in 2018. New England was fourth at 27.2.

Recent games have been shootouts. The Chiefs beat the Patriots 42-27 to open the 2017 season, and New England knocked off K.C. in October of the just-completed season, 43-40.

“They have a great offense, they have a great set of players,” Belichick said. “Andy does a great job of forcing you to make choices, and spreading the ball around based on those choices. … They lead the league in everything.”

As for any lasting memories of the bloody Monday night in 2014 – a 41-14 loss in which New England trailed 27-0 and 41-7 – the Patriots are employing their usual short-term memory.

This week, they’re on to Kansas City.

–Field Level Media

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Tiger to open season next week at Torrey Pines

Tiger to open season next week at Torrey Pines

Tiger to open season next week at Torrey Pines

It’s official. Tiger Woods will make his 2019 PGA Tour debut next week at the Farmers Insurance Open at his beloved Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.

In addition to his seven Farmers Open titles, Woods also won the 2008 U.S. Open there — the most recent of his 14 major championships.

His entry had been expected, but the tournament received official word from the tour headquarters Wednesday morning.

“It’s fantastic, exciting,” tournament director Peter Ripa told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Players have choices for where they want to play, and for Tiger to choose San Diego … we’re going to be the center of the sports universe next week.”

Woods, 43, is No. 12 in the official world golf rankings. He last played at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas from Nov. 29-Dec. 2, finishing 17th in the 18-man field.

The Farmers field also includes defending champion Jason Day, world No. 1 and reigning FedExCup champion Justin Rose, 2017 winner Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman and Jordan Speith.

–Field Level Media

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Seahawks DE Clark: ‘I got no elbows’

Seahawks DE Clark: 'I got no elbows'

Seahawks

Seahawks DE Clark: ‘I got no elbows’

Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark said he played the final three games of the 2018 season at 60 percent due to torn ulnar collateral ligaments in his elbows.

“I wouldn’t lie to you guys. I played the whole season at 60 percent,” Clark wrote on Twitter Tuesday night. “Trust me I hit it well. Two torn UCL’s in one season. Both against the Minnesota Vikings.”

Clark was first on the injury report with an elbow injury in Week 2. The Seahawks played the Vikings in the preseason and again Dec. 10.

He said via Twitter on Tuesday, “I ain’t have no elbows mane.”

There was little sign of a slowdown from Clark, a player head coach Pete Carroll said last month would not be let out of Seattle as he approaches free agency in March.

“He is a Seahawk,” Carroll said on ESPN 710 Seattle. “He ain’t going anywhere. We aren’t losing him.”

Meeting with reporters later Monday, Carroll added, “We’ve got to figure [Clark’s contract situation] out somehow. It’s a big issue.”

Clark, a 2015 second-round pick, is having a career season in the final year of his rookie deal. He has career highs of 13 sacks and 25 QB hits.

The 25-year-old told reporters in October there’s no place he’d rather be than Seattle. Those comments came two days after Clark’s agent told ESPN his client was in no hurry to sign an extension, as the defensive end planned to maximize his earnings on his next contract. As part of the patient approach, Clark has an insurance policy to guard against injury.

If the two sides are unable to reach a long-term deal before spring, the Seahawks will likely use the franchise tag on Clark, which would give him a one-year salary around $19 million. The sides would then have until mid-July to hammer out a long-term extension, or else have Clark play the 2019 season on the tag.

Clark has made about $3.7 million total over four years on his rookie contract.

–Field Level Media

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49ers’ Buckner replaces Eagles’ Cox in Pro Bowl

49ers' Buckner replaces Eagles' Cox in Pro Bowl

49ers’ Buckner replaces Eagles’ Cox in Pro Bowl

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is Pro Bowl-bound for the first time in his three-year NFL career.

Buckner was selected to take the place of Philadelphia defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who is out due to a right foot injury that limited him Sunday in the Eagles’ 20-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a divisional playoff game.

A 24-year-old Hawaii native, Buckner finished this season with a career-high 12 sacks plus 67 tackles and three passes defensed. He started all 16 games for the 49ers, and he has missed just one start in his pro career. Buckner has 21 career sacks.

The 49ers selected Buckner with the seventh overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Oregon, where he was the 2015 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Buckner joins two San Francisco teammates, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and tight end George Kittle, in the all-star game to be played Jan. 27 at Orlando, Fla.

Cox, 28, had been elected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth year in a row in his seventh NFL season. Starting every game for the defending Super Bowl champions, he notched 10.5 sacks, 46 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass defensed. He had five tackles (one for a loss) in two playoff games this month.

A Mississippi State product, the Eagles made Cox the 12th overall selection in the 2012 draft. He has 44.5 career sacks.

–Field Level Media

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Arians: Steelers WR Brown has become ‘diva’

Arians: Steelers WR Brown has become 'diva'

New Tampa

Arians: Steelers WR Brown has become ‘diva’

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians used to have a close-up view of Pittsburgh star wide receiver Antonio Brown when he served as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator.

Now his view is from afar, and he isn’t so impressed with Brown’s actions or behavior.

“There’s too much miscommunication, too much … diva,” Arians said Tuesday on The Adam Schefter Podcast. “I’ve heard so many stories — I like Antonio — he plays as hard as anybody on Sunday and he practices hard.

“He’s just gotta make better decisions off the field, be on time, do some of those little things.”

Arians was around for Brown’s first two seasons in Pittsburgh. The Steelers drafted Brown in the sixth round out of Central Michigan in 2010 and Arians was impressed with his hunger to become good.

“He was the hardest working,” Arians said. “He and Emmanuel Sanders. Boy, they went after it because (coach) Mike Tomlin used to tell them, ‘two dogs, one bone.’ And at that time we had Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, I mean we had a pretty good run for one of them to get on the field. By the end of the season, they were both winning for us to go to the Super Bowl.”

Arians left the Steelers following the 2011 campaign to become offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts. He served as interim head coach for most of 2012 while Chuck Pagano was battling cancer, was the Arizona Cardinals head man from 2013-17 and sat out the 2018 season before becoming head coach of the Buccaneers.

Meanwhile, Brown’s future in Pittsburgh is uncertain after his Week 17 antics infuriated the organization. Brown reportedly skipped meetings and practices and didn’t return Tomlin’s calls.

When Brown showed up for the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tomlin informed him that he wouldn’t be playing.

Last week, team president Art Rooney II said it would be “hard to envision” Brown being part of the team when it opens training camp in July.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Falcons DE McKinley sent for mental evaluation

Report: Falcons DE McKinley sent for mental evaluation

Atlanta Falcons

Report: Falcons DE McKinley sent for mental evaluation

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley was undergoing a mental evaluation Tuesday after being detained by police in Los Angeles, according to TMZ Sports.

He reportedly was involved in an undisclosed incident at a hotel, and a friend who was with McKinley became worried and called the police.

TMZ reported McKinley was not arrested. Instead, police encouraged him to seek help, and he agreed and went with police.

“We were recently made aware of the situation involving Takk in Los Angeles earlier today,” head coach Dan Quinn said in a statement. “Any time a situation occurs that is or could be related to mental health issues we take it very seriously. We will do everything we possibly can to support and assist Takk, as our players’ mental and physical well-being are always our top priority.”

McKinley, 23, was the No. 26 overall pick by the Falcons in the 2017 NFL Draft. A UCLA product, he agreed to a four-year, $10.2 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons, which included a $5.6 million signing bonus, according to Spotrac.

In 31 games over two seasons, he has recorded 42 tackles, 13 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen missed several games this season as he dealt with a mental health issue.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles’ Jenkins added to NFC Pro Bowl roster

Eagles' Jenkins added to NFC Pro Bowl roster

Eagles’ Jenkins added to NFC Pro Bowl roster

Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins was named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, replacing New York Giants safety Landon Collins, who will miss the game after undergoing shoulder surgery.

It will be the third Pro Bowl appearance as a member of the Eagles for Jenkins, 31, after a season in which he had 97 tackles, a sack, an interception and three forced fumbles.

Jenkins will join Eagles tight end Zach Ertz in the Jan. 27 game at Orlando, Fla. Philadelphia guard Brandon Brooks and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox were also named to the NFC team but are being replaced because of injuries.

Jenkins, in his 10th season out of Ohio State, has 17 career interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and six touchdowns.

Collins, 25, in his fourth season out of Alabama, had 67 tackles in 12 games and a forced fumble. He has eight career interceptions, three forced fumbles and a touchdown.

Other Giants players who will participate in the Pro Bowl include running back Saquon Barkley, linebacker Olivier Vernon and kicker Aldrick Rosas.

The defending champion Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs after a loss Sunday at New Orleans. In two playoff games, Jenkins recorded 15 tackles.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos hire Bears’ Donatell as DC

Broncos hire Bears' Donatell as DC

The Denver Broncos agreed Tuesday to hire former

Broncos hire Bears’ Donatell as DC

The Denver Broncos agreed Tuesday to hire former Chicago Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell as defensive coordinator, the team announced.

Donatell has been one of new Broncos head coach Vic Fangio’s top assistants since 2011 in San Francisco. He also had two previous tenures in Denver as the secondary coach, from 1995-99 as part of two Super Bowl-winning teams and a one-year stint in 2010.

“Ed’s been an integral part of top-10 defenses for six of the last eight seasons in two different places, and he’s a great fit to be our defensive coordinator,” Fangio said in a statement. “Having worked very closely with him for a number of years, Ed has a strong understanding of the entire defense from the front end to the back end with the defensive backs being his specialty.”

Donatell, who turns 62 in February, interviewed for the Bears’ coordinator position after Fangio left for Denver, but that job went to Chuck Pagano. The Bears wanted him back as DBs coach, but Donatell was free to leave as his contract expired.

In Denver, he will have the coordinator title for the fourth time in his career, though Fangio plans to call plays on Sundays. Donatell was last a coordinator with Washington in 2008, after previous stints running defenses in Green Bay (2000-03) and Atlanta (2004-06).

The Broncos announced earlier Tuesday they have hired former Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley for the same position in Denver, after he spent two years under Fangio in Chicago.

Per 9News Denver, the Broncos are continuing to interview San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello on Tuesday for their opening at offensive coordinator, after beginning the process Monday.

There have been no other reported candidates for the offensive coordinator position. Gary Kubiak was expected to fill the role before philosophical differences disrupted the plan, and he has since been hired by the Minnesota Vikings.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Broncos hiring Bears’ Donatell as DC

Reports: Broncos hiring Bears' Donatell as DC

The Denver Broncos agreed Tuesday to hire

Reports: Broncos hiring Bears’ Donatell as DC

The Denver Broncos agreed Tuesday to hire former Chicago Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell as defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports.

Donatell has been one of new Broncos head coach Vic Fangio’s top assistants since 2011 in San Francisco. He also had two previous tenures in Denver as the secondary coach, from 1995-99 as part of two Super Bowl-winning teams and a one-year stint in 2010.

Donatell, who turns 62 in February, interviewed for the Bears’ coordinator position after Fangio left for Denver, but that job went to Chuck Pagano. The Bears wanted him back as DBs coach, but Donatell was free to leave as his contract expired.

In Denver, he will have the coordinator title for the fourth time in his career, though Fangio plans to call plays on Sundays. Donatell was last a coordinator with Washington in 2008, after previous stints running defenses in Green Bay (2000-03) and Atlanta (2004-06).

The Broncos announced earlier Tuesday they have hired former Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley for the same position in Denver, after he spent two years under Fangio in Chicago.

Per 9News Denver, the Broncos are continuing to interview San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello on Tuesday for their opening at offensive coordinator, after beginning the process Monday.

There have been no other reported candidates for the offensive coordinator position. Gary Kubiak was expected to fill the role before philosophical differences disrupted the plan, and he has since been hired by the Minnesota Vikings.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Eagles still committed to Wentz

NFL notebook: Eagles still committed to Wentz

Philadelphia

NFL notebook: Eagles still committed to Wentz

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson didn’t waste any time putting an end to speculation about the team’s quarterback situation next year.

“Carson Wentz is the quarterback going forward,” Pederson said at a press conference Tuesday. “And in Nick (Foles’) case, listen, we’d love to have everybody back throughout the roster, but as I’ve said many times, it’s not about one guy, it’s about the team, and we’re going to do what’s best for the team.”

Foles, 29, led the team in the postseason each of the past two years with Wentz out injured. The Eagles hold a $20 million option on Foles for 2019, but the quarterback can buy it out for $2 million to become a free agent, barring a franchise tag.

–The New York Jets will hire former Cleveland Browns interim coach Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator, ESPN reported.

ESPN adds the Washington Redskins — whose defense Williams coordinated from 2004-07 — also pursued Williams, but the Jets had more interest. Washington still has Greg Manusky under contract as defensive coordinator, but reports have connected the team to various other options.

–The Denver Broncos agreed to hire former Chicago Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell as defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports.

Donatell has worked under Vic Fangio since 2011, when they were both in San Francisco. He also had two previous tenures in Denver as the secondary coach. Fangio is still expected to call plays on Sundays.

–The Arizona Cardinals are interviewing former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter for the same position, ESPN reported.

According to multiple reports, the Cardinals also interviewed John DeFilippo — who has also interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ opening — on Sunday.

–The Jaguars are interviewing former Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy for the same position, ESPN reported.

McCoy, 46, was fired by the Cardinals in October, marking the second consecutive season in which he was fired midseason. The Broncos let him go midway through 2017.

–The Indianapolis Colts parted ways with offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, while assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson is leaving to take the lead job for the Buffalo Bills.

The Colts allowed an NFL-low 18 sacks in 2018, but DeGuglielmo is out after just one year because head coach Frank Reich wants to hire his own guy, NFL Network reported. DeGuglielmo was hired by Josh McDaniels last year before the latter backed out of the Colts’ head job.

–The Dallas Cowboys will keep Marc Colombo as their offensive line coach full-time.

Colombo took over for Paul Alexander — who was fired just seven games into his first year with the Cowboys — at the end of October.

–The Browns are hiring Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Chris Jones, per multiple reports. TSN reports Jones will serve as senior defensive specialist.

Jones and new head coach Freddie Kitchens have a relationship dating back to 1997, when Jones was a graduate assistant at Alabama in Kitchens’ final season at quarterback for the Crimson Tide.

–The Kansas City Chiefs activated right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from injured reserve and waived safety Ron Parker.

Duvernay-Tardif landed on IR after sustaining a spiral fracture in his fibula in Week 5, an injury that required surgery.

–The New Orleans Saints signed free agent defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker, per multiple reports.

Walker, 28, began his career in New Orleans as an undrafted free agent and played 23 games with the Saints from 2013-14. He’ll help replace Sheldon Rankins (IR, Achilles).

–Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley was undergoing a mental evaluation after being detained by police in Los Angeles, according to TMZ Sports.

He reportedly was involved in an undisclosed incident at a hotel, and a friend who was with McKinley became worried and called the police. TMZ reported McKinley was not arrested. Instead, police encouraged him to seek help, and he agreed and went with police.

–The NFL announced the Los Angeles Chargers’ and Dallas Cowboys’ staffs will coach the Pro Bowl in Orlando on Jan. 27.

–Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will replace injured Chargers QB Philip Rivers in the Pro Bowl.

Other Pro Bowl replacements announced Tuesday included Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams (for Geno Atkins), 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (Fletcher Cox), Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (Luke Kuechly) and Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins (Landon Collins).

–John Parry will be the referee for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, his second Super Bowl as referee and third as an official.

–Longtime NFL coach Mike Smith announced on Sirius XM radio he is retiring to spend more time with his family.

–The San Francisco 49ers are hiring former Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods as their passing-game coordinator, per multiple reports.

–New York Giants rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta pleaded guilty to a disorderly persons offense stemming from an October incident, ESPN reported.

–Field Level Media

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Panthers weighing options for QB Newton

Panthers weighing options for QB Newton

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper

Panthers weighing options for QB Newton

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has not ruled out the possibility that quarterback Cam Newton might miss the 2019 season as he recovers from a right shoulder injury.

Tepper spoke Tuesday with reporters at Bank of America Stadium about the state of the Panthers, who finished their regular season at 7-9. Newton missed the final two games of the season because of a sore shoulder, which was surgically repaired two years ago.

A reporter asked Tepper to compare Newton’s injury situation with that of Andrew Luck, who sat out the 2017 season because of a shoulder injury and came back strong this season.

“If you told me he took a year off and could recover and be fully recovered and everything else, and that’s what it took, an extra year, why wouldn’t you do (that)?” Tepper said. “Now, we would have to do other things, right? We’d have to go out and get another quarterback. If you could find me some more cap space, I’d appreciate that.”

Newton, who will turn 30 in May, is a three-time Pro Bowl selection who has passed for 182 touchdowns and rushed for 58 more in his first eight seasons with Carolina. In 14 starts last season, he passed for 3,395 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while rushing for 488 yards and four scores.

If Newton opts for another surgery or simply decides to rest his arm, the Panthers could choose from several veteran quarterbacks to help fill the void. Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick could be among the options.

“Hopefully, Cam’s shoulder is fantastic, right?” Tepper said. “And we’re hunky dory, all fantastic. If it’s not, you may need more cap space. You may need to go out and find somebody. If you don’t, you guys are going to be writing what a dope we are here. … You want to put yourself as best you can in a position to win, and I’m talking for the long term.”

–Field Level Media

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Cowboys LB Vander Esch replacing Kuechly in Pro Bowl

Cowboys LB Vander Esch replacing Kuechly in Pro Bowl

Cowboys LB Vander Esch replacing Kuechly in Pro Bowl

Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is headed to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement for Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, the Cowboys announced Tuesday.

Vander Esch, who turns 22 in February, set a Cowboys rookie record — by the team’s measurement — with 176 tackles despite starting just 11 games. (The NFL officially credited Vander Esch with 140.) He filled in for injured linebacker Sean Lee and then kept the starting job when Lee returned, chipping in two interceptions and seven passes defensed.

Drafted 19th overall last April, Vander Esch becomes the seventh rookie from the 2018 class to earn a Pro Bowl selection, joining running backs Saquon Barkley and Phillip Lindsay, guard Quenton Nelson, cornerback Denzel Ward, safety Derwin James and punter Michael Dickson.

Kuechly was not known to be dealing with an injury, but the NFL does not hold players to high standards to skip the Pro Bowl, which will be Jan. 27 in Orlando, Fla. The 27-year-old missed just one practice all season, a veteran rest day leading up to Week 16.

–Field Level Media

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Colts part ways with OL coach DeGuglielmo

Colts part ways with OL coach DeGuglielmo

Colts part ways with OL coach DeGuglielmo

The Indianapolis Colts parted ways with offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, the team announced Tuesday, despite his unit being one of the best in football this past season.

The team also announced assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson is leaving to take the lead job for the Buffalo Bills.

The Colts allowed an NFL-low 18 sacks and graded out second in pass blocking and fourth in run blocking by Football Outsiders, but DeGuglielmo is out after just one year because head coach Frank Reich wants to hire his own guy, NFL Network reported.

Indianapolis gave up a league-high 56 sacks in 2017.

DeGuglielmo was the only offensive coach hired last year by Josh McDaniels before the Patriots’ offensive coordinator changed his mind at the 11th hour to pass on the Colts’ head-coaching post. The Colts went on to hire Reich, who led the team to the playoffs as a wild card in his first season, in large part because of the revamped O-line.

Further, there were reports that Reich and DeGuglielmo weren’t on the same page. However, NFL Network reports Reich is recommending DeGuglielmo to others.

DeGuglielmo has been an assistant coach for 13 years, including previous stops in Miami, New England and with the New York Giants, the latter two resulting in Super Bowl titles.

Johnson will be in his second stint in Buffalo, after serving as assistant offensive line coach from 2010-11.

Whomever Reich hires in Indianapolis will inherit a group of young linemen led by All-Pro rookie left guard Quenton Nelson, rookie right tackle Braden Smith and former first-round center Ryan Kelly.

The Colts were ousted from the playoffs by the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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Cowboys retain OL coach Colombo full-time

Cowboys retain OL coach Colombo full-time

The Dallas Cowboys will

Cowboys retain OL coach Colombo full-time

The Dallas Cowboys will keep Marc Colombo as their offensive line coach full-time, the team announced Tuesday, after he impressed during the second half of the 2018 season.

The Athletic reports the Cowboys gave Colombo, whose deal had expired, a three-year contract.

Colombo took over for Paul Alexander — who was fired just seven games into his first year with the Cowboys — at the end of October, and the line improved despite nagging injuries to left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zack Martin, as well as the absence of center Travis Frederick. Hudson Houck, a former Dallas O-line coach who returned in an advisory role after Alexander’s firing, told The Athletic he will not return to the team.

Some speculated the Cowboys could have a tough time retaining Colombo if the Miami Dolphins’ expected next head coach, current New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, wanted to hire him. Flores and Colombo were teammates at Boston College from 1999-2001.

Colombo, 40, played offensive tackle for the Cowboys from 2005-10 as part of a 10-year NFL career. He joined the Cowboys’ staff as an assistant in 2015 and was promoted to assistant offensive line coach in 2016.

–Field Level Media

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Browns reportedly add CFL head coach to staff

Browns reportedly add CFL head coach to staff

The Cleveland

Browns reportedly add CFL head coach to staff

The Cleveland Browns officially announced on Monday a list of assistant coaches to work with new head coach Freddie Kitchens, but they apparently have another name to add.

According to multiple reports Tuesday night, Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach and general manager Chris Jones is leaving his position and will join the Cleveland staff.

Davis Sanchez of Canadian sports network TSN said Jones will serve as senior defensive specialist.

Jones and Kitchens have a relationship that dates back more than 20 years. Jones, a Tennessee native, was a graduate assistant at Alabama in 1997, which was Kitchens’ final season at quarterback for the Crimson Tide.

Jones, 51, began coaching in the Canadian Football League in 2002 and was a part of four Grey Cup-winning teams. He was the CFL Coach of the Year in 2018.

The Browns have not confirmed Jones’ hiring, but they did confirm the following members of Kitchens’ staff on Monday: Todd Monken, offensive coordinator; Steve Wilks, defensive coordinator; Mike Priefer, special teams coordinator; James Campen, offensive line/associate head coach; Jody Wright, special assistant to the head coach; Ryan Lindley, quarterbacks; Stump Mitchell, running backs/run-game coordinator; and Jim Dray and Tyler Tettleton, offensive quality control.

The team is also reportedly interviewing former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Al Holcomb for a spot on Kitchens’ staff.

Holcomb, 48, spent five years as the Carolina Panthers’ linebackers coach before getting his first coordinator job last year.

–Field Level Media

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McIlroy commits to Farmers Insurance Open for first time

McIlroy commits to Farmers Insurance Open for first time

McIlroy commits to Farmers Insurance Open for first time

Rory McIlroy will tee it up at Torrey Pines next week at the Farmers Insurance Open, tournament organizers announced Tuesday.

This will be the first appearance in the San Diego-area event for the world No. 8 player, who noted his focus in 2019 will be on the PGA Tour. McIlroy recently finished in a three-way tie for fourth at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii, which also was a new event for the Northern Ireland native. While at Kapalua, McIlroy told reported he wanted to play once more before the Genesis Open in Southern California in mid-February.

The 29-year-old McIlroy has won 14 PGA Tour titles including four majors. His most recent victory was at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla., last March.

McIlroy joins a field that includes defending champion Jason Day, FedExCup champ Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. Tiger Woods, who has played the event 17 times and won seven of them, has yet to commit to the Jan. 24-27 event.

The commitment deadline for the event is Friday at 5 p.m. ET.

–Field Level Media

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Giants QB Lauletta pleads guilty to disorderly persons offense

Giants QB Lauletta pleads guilty to disorderly persons offense

Giants QB Lauletta pleads guilty to disorderly persons offense

New York Giants rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a disorderly persons offense stemming from an October incident, ESPN reported.

Lauletta also admitted guilt to tickets for an improper turn and disregarding an officer’s instructions in a proceeding at Hudson County Court in Jersey City, N.J. Another disorderly persons charge and an eluding police charge were dropped.

All charges will be dropped if Lauletta remains out of trouble for the next 12 months.

Lauletta was arrested Oct. 30 at approximately 8 a.m. ET as he was driving to the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J.

The Weehawken Police Department said in a press release that day that Lauletta was observed operating a 2017 Jaguar “in a dangerous manner in heavy traffic” and nearly struck an officer while attempting to evade him.

“Upon being directed by an officer to continue in his marked lane, Mr. Lauletta attempted to evade him, making an illegal turn and continuing towards Route 495, almost striking the officer,” the statement said in part. “Mr. Lauletta was subsequently stopped by another officer and refused various instructions to provide his driving credentials and exit his vehicle.

“He was then arrested and charged with eluding police, a third-degree crime, obstructing administration of law, and resisting arrest, which are disorderly persons offenses. Motor vehicle charges are for reckless driving, disregarding an officer’s directions, improper turn in marked traffic lane, and failure to remain in a marked lane.”

The police statement said a 2017 Jaguar registered to Lauletta was involved in a similar incident the previous day in the same location and didn’t stop at the scene.

The Giants reportedly fined Lauletta for the incident.

The 23-year-old Lauletta appeared in two games this season. He was 0-for-5 passing with an interception against the Washington Redskins on Dec. 9 and didn’t attempt any passes in his other appearance against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 30.

Lauletta was a fourth-round pick out of Richmond.

–Field Level Media

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