Browns rookie Myles Garrett placed in concussion protocol

Myles Garrett could resume his stint on the sidelines.
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League executives had spent that morning as they had the previous four weeks: grappling with a series of events the league and owners could not control, unleashed by President Donald Trump’s harsh criticism of the decision by a handful of players to kneel during the national anthem.

The winless 49ers clawed their way back, but Cousins eventually finished them off, scoring on a 7-yard read-option in the fourth quarter, the exact kind of play Griffin used Cyrus Jones Authentic Jersey to run with transitory brilliance. I’m happy for him, Gruden says. He’s done a good job. He’s going to keep doing a good job, either here or somewhere else. Hopefully it will be here. That’s what our plan is, anyway.

The fog isn’t an excuse for the Falcons, who haven’t scored a single point since the first half of their Week 6 loss to the Dolphins. But Sarkisian being in the booth might be part of the problem given the foggy conditions.

Now that we’re almost halfway through the season, we have a good idea of which young defenses have taken that leap forward, and which have not. We know which veteran defenses are still playing well, and which are not. And we know which teams have put unknown names together and somehow made it all work better than anyone expected.

Below, we’ve ranked the 10 best defenses in the league so far, measured by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. DVOA takes every single play during the season, rates the success based on down and distance and then adjusts for both situation and opponent. (It’s explained further here.) Let’s look at what’s making these defenses good in 2017, where they are strongest and weakest and whether early success is likely to continue in the second half of the season. You can find ratings for all 32 teams here.

Cam Newton abruptly leaves weekly press conference

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton cut his press conference short on Wednesday after opting not to respond to a question from a reporter.
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The Associated Press’ Steve Reed shared video of the exchange:

He took an astounding 21 sacks but averaged a solid 7.1 yards per attempt and was picked off only twice. Kessler is unlikely to develop into a great passer, but he should be an upgrade for a team that had seven passing touchdowns and 16 interceptions on 272 dropbacks by Kizer and Kevin Hogan.

Ingram comes up the middle totally unblocked. He hits Siemian in the chest and pulls him to the ground.

After Newton discussed the team’s recent offensive struggles, The Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person asked Newton, Have big plays, big chunk plays been good to get that energy that you’re talking about — does this offense, I know Draymond Green Jersey you had several at Detroit and New England, do you think you guys have the wherewithal to do that consistently, week in and week out?

Next question, Newton replied before pausing and then leaving as another question was being asked.

In the weeks he was active during his first four years with the team, Bernard averaged a 56 percent snap share, 39 percent carry share and 13 percent target share. Those marks are 37 percent, 16 percent and 10 percent, respectively, this season. Fantasy’s No. 40 scoring running back shouldn’t be in lineups.

What’s your top upset pick for Week 5?

We all know about quarterback Derek Carr being out for two to six weeks with a transverse process fracture in his back and that rookie cornerback Gareon Conley is still working through a shin injury. But right guard Gabe Jackson sitting out practice with a foot issue on Wednesday was a surprise, as was defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. missing with a back injury. Jackson worked in a rehab pool with Carr on Wednesday, and Edwards has had an issue with injuries in his brief career. Some good news? Receiver Michael Crabtree returned to practice after missing last week’s loss at Denver with a chest injury. — Paul Gutierrez

Our NFL Insiders predict Week 5’s biggest upsets and fantasy flops and sleepers. Plus: Should you buy the Bills or Rams as legit playoff contenders? Which 0-4 team will get its first win? And what’s with the AFC South?

Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Texans over Chiefs. The script shouldn’t change much with quarterback Deshaun Watson and that Houston game plan. Throw the quick game, use play-pass concepts and feed the ball to DeAndre Hopkins. And the Texans can move Hopkins to multiple alignments to get the best matchups against the Chiefs secondary. But I’m also looking at Watson’s ability to make off-schedule plays. That’s key against an aggressive Kansas City defense. Get to the edge of the pocket, extend plays and attack the middle of the field. Paired with a Houston defensive front that can pressure Alex Smith, I like the Texans at home to knock off the NFL’s only undefeated squad.steelers_122

You’re starting your Sunday at least $400 in the hole hours before the game even begins.

Once you get there and spend another $50 or more to park your car, you have to make it through the parking lot without someone vomiting on you, stabbing you (if you’re going to a Niners game) or, worst of all, telling you how great their shitty brisket is (wow, you grilled some meat, awesome.)

Don’t forget to put all of your crap in the clear plastic bag!

And then you’re finally inside. Weave through the throngs of sweaty humanity touching you, sneezing on you, coughing, being loud, until you find your seat. Oh, look, the man in front of you isn’t wearing underwear beneath his sweatpants, so now you’ve got to look around his hairy ass just to squint at tiny little specks moving an even tinier little speck around the field.

Watkins put together an explosive 2015 despite battling nagging injuries all season. If he can find a way to stay healthy, he could be the missing piece in the Bill Buffalo offense. With free agency looming, that would be a major win for both the Bills and Watkins himself. One big season is all it would take to reward Buffalo’s draft faith in him while setting the stage for a massive contract.

The first question any team will ask when it comes to Watkins next spring is whether or not he can stay healthy, and 2017 may be his last chance to prove he can. If the young receiver can fulfill the massive potential he’s displayed in flashes over three seasons in the league, this season could be the best of his life.patriots_116-180x180

His last first-round NBA playoffs loss came in May 2012

To be fair to Anthony, he has made adjustments to his game in an attempt to keep up with the times. He has had some very good seasons as a 3-point shooter (37.9 percent in 2012-13, 40.2 percent the following year), but some bum years, too (34.1 percent two years ago, 33.9 percent last year). He attempted 5.7 3-pointers per game this year, second-most in his career, and made just about the league average, 36.0 percent.

Front-office executive: “To me, there are two great coaches in the league, and that’s Pop (Gregg Popovich) and Rick Carlisle. That’s it. After that you have some very good coaches, guys who you would trust like Steve Kerr, Dwane Casey, Doc (Rivers), Thibs (Tom Thibodeau), I think Terry Stotts falls in that category now, Scotty Brooks. There is that tier of guys.

I like Bud (Mike Budenholzer) a lot, too, I would probably have him behind Spo. Then I would say Stevens, third in that group, and guys like Quin Snyder, Ty Lue and Billy Donovan after that. I think David Fizdale and Kenny Atkinson could be guys like that in time, and maybe Luke Walton.”

His last first-round NBA playoffs loss came in May 2012, with James playing for the Heat against the Knicks. With Cleveland completing a 106-102 victory over the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, this became the fifth consecutive season in which his team won four consecutive first-round games; that’s never been done before. “Great coaching,” Cleveland boss Tyronn Lue said with a laugh.

It was quite obvious a sweep was very much a part of the plan for Cleveland against Indiana because Lue nearly kept James on the floor for every single minute. He came out for 85 seconds at the end of the first quarter — Lue had to call timeout to get him a break there — and then just short of two minutes at the end of the third.
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Drew Pearson says Roger Goodell ‘encouraged’ his Eagles trolling at draft

Drew Pearson was urged to troll Eagles fans at last week’s NFL Draft in Philadelphia.

The former Cowboys wide receiver told PFT Live on Monday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell encouraged his comments before announcing Dallas’ second-round selection of Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie on Friday.

Here’s why that’s awkward: Kelly once threatened a bouncer in a Buffalo, N.Y., bar saying he would “go to my car and get my AK-47 and spray this place.” He was charged with disorderly conduct, reaching a plea deal in January of 2015 and performing 50 hours of community service.

The incident occurred in 2014, when Kelly was still an Ole Miss commit fresh out of East Mississippi Community College. He then led the Rebels for two seasons, going 14-8. Kelly threw for 5,800 yards and 50 touchdowns to only 21 interceptions during that stretch, but several character concerns caused the NFL to not invite him to its combine — and for him to drop to the final pick of the NFL Draft.

Regardless, this will likely result in an awkward meeting at NFL Network studios. In giving up this year’s No. 32 pick to the Saints for Cooks, who was the No. 20 overall pick in 2014, the Patriots get someone who can give their current offense some of the best elements they had in Moss and Welker.

Cooks was not the go-to guy in New Orleans. That will change in New England, as his speed, quickness and versatility will be used to create mismatches Brady can exploit. Julian Edelman and Hogan can help Cooks enjoy a more high-target, amoebic role.cubs_1665

Offensively, Nurkic has shown himself to be a heady basketball player who makes plays for both himself and his teammates.

He helps organize Portland’s offense, pointing teammates in opportunistic directions and signaling the guards when a potential cut presents itself. While Lillard garnered a boisterous applause for a gorgeous dime to a cutting Maurice Harkless on this March 2 play, it was Nurkic’s screen that created an open lane.

When the Thunder attempted to trap McCollum after denying a pick, he found Nurkic, who could have easily had his way with the undersized Alex Abrines. Instead, Nurkic made an immediate touch pass to Noah Vonleh.

In just eight games in Portland, Nurkic is averaging three and a half times more assists per game than at any point during his three seasons in Denver. That’s a small sample, but could be a sign of what’s to come.

Hopson inherited a team that actually had expectations again. The nine-win 2015 had enlivened the fan base, and heading into 2016 I saw a schedule that featured only one sure loss.

USM is projected 72nd in S&P+ and plays only one team projected higher. The trip to LSU is a likely loss, games against Kentucky, Marshall and perhaps Louisiana Tech are tossups (with a coin slightly weighted in USM’s favor), and the other eight are likely wins. But those are based on Monken’s work. A coaching change always threatens progress.

A brief step backward is on the table if the offense isn’t quite as good on third-and-long and the defense isn’t as good at forcing third-and-long.
The Golden Eagles went 3-0 in those three “tossup” games (though Marshall’s collapse made that anything but a tossup) and lost to LSU. If you had told me that 12 months ago, I’d have assumed they finished about 10-2. Instead, they fell to 7-6 with losses to Troy, UTSA, Charlotte, ODU, and North Texas.
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File under Weird ’80s Stuff: John Elway in a bathrobe

I work out of a cubicle tucked in the far northwest corner of the NFL Media newsroom. On my desk sits a television that is tuned to NFL Network pretty much all the time unless there’s a televised police chase taking place in the greater Los Angeles area.

Based on this news, the franchise tag will not be an option for the 2014 Pro Bowler.

The Patriots and Bennett have a “mutually respectful” relationship, Rapoport added, but it will be quite a challenge for the two sides to find common ground on value once the new league year begins on March 9.

As we pointed out after the Pats’ Super Bowl LI victory, the one financial constant of the Belichick era is a steadfast refusal to set the market for any player — a policy that now leaves Bennett on the outside looking in.

The team is understandably unwilling to pay any tight end more than Rob Gronkowski’s $9 million annual figure.

Soon after trading for Bennett last offseason, New England offered him a new deal worth $7 million per year, Rapoport reported early this month. Bennett promptly rejected that offer.

At this time last year, Bennett was available to 31 teams for the bargain-basement cost of a fourth-round pick. After transforming his reputation from clubhouse headache to selfless Super Bowl champion, he’s now counting on one of the remaining 30 teams to overpay for his services.

While we marvel at the feats of a nearly 40-year-old Tom Brady, don’t forget what Harrison has accomplished — and the havoc he continues to wreak — in Pittsburgh. The player and team remain a perfect match, much to the disdain of the AFC North.

Renner notes that nearly half of Pryor’s receiving yards came in just four starts

The Gamecocks actually signed more four-stars in this recruiting cycle than Tennessee did, but the Vols had three more commitments and landed five-star tackle Trey Smith, boosting their class just a touch above South Carolina’s No. 21 class. The Gamecocks had an player star rating of 87.02, while the Vols edged them out at 87.14, according to the 247Sports Composite. That’s a negligible difference.

The schools have similar geographic challenges, given the fact that they don’t have lots of talent in state and have to fight with just about everyone in the conference and outside of it to get the best players.

But on the flip side, because of that location, it’ll be a bit easier for South Carolina to get prospects than the bottom-tier recruiting teams in the division, Kentucky and Missouri. The Wildcats traffic consistently in the low 20s and 30s. Mizzou’s 50th-ranked class follows up a No. 43 ranking in 2016, and the days of Gary Pinkel seem far gone.

Both those teams fight battles on different fronts in different regions though: Missouri in the Midwest and Kentucky in the Ohio River Valley. Vanderbilt remains a bit of a recruiting outlier unto itself because of the academic standards of the program and how much the administration cares about sports. The key for South Carolina is figuring out where it best fits, then executing.

But none of that is what’s critical now. Best wishes to Key on getting through whatever has sidelined him.

Renner notes that nearly half of Pryor’s receiving yards came in just four starts. Cleveland didn’t have much continuity at the quarterback position last season, which could be a contributing factor.