NFL stars looking to rebound from a rough 2018

Whether it was due to injury, age or just subpar play, many NFL players are looking to rebound after disappointing 2018 seasons. Here’s a look at 25 players hoping to bounce back.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, free agent

Ansah had an injury-plagued year in 2018, likely his last in Detroit. He played only seven games, recording four sacks, and he struggled to find a market as a free agent this offseason due to a shoulder injury.

Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons

Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016, but that production looks more like a fluke after his last two seasons. He had only five sacks in each of the last two seasons and also had just 20 tackles last year as a situational pass rusher. Atlanta desperately needs a rebound from him this year.

Randall Cobb, WR, Cowboys

At one time Cobb was Aaron Rodgers’ top receiver, but he’s struggled in Green Bay over the last three years. After playing only nine games due to injuries last season, he signed with the Cowboys to replace Cole Beasley as the team’s slot receiver.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals

Dalton’s last winning season as a starter was 2015. Last year he went 5-6 in 11 starts before a season-ending thumb injury. He also threw 11 interceptions during his time on the field. Bengals fans hope new head coach Zac Taylor can help Dalton take a step forward.

Joe Flacco, QB, Broncos

The writing was on the wall for Flacco in Baltimore after the team drafted Lamar Jackson. Despite adding several new receivers, Flacco went 4-5 as a starter with just 12 touchdown passes before giving way to Jackson due to a hip injury. Denver traded for Flacco in the offseason, but he’s in a similar situation after the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

Jacksonville’s return for selecting Fournette fourth overall in the 2017 draft hasn’t been great thus far. He had more than 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season but averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. Last season was worse, as he played only eight games mostly due to injuries and had a terrible 3.3 yards per rush attempt. Fournette also had minor legal issues during the offseason.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

Freeman has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons and played only two games last year due to foot and groin injuries. He’s still young enough to rebound going into his age 27 season, and the Falcons need him to be healthy after Tevin Coleman left in free agency.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers

Green Bay expected big things from Graham after signing him last offseason, but he was a relative disappointment with only 636 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Graham deserves credit for gutting out a thumb injury late in the year, but the expectation that he’d replace Jordy Nelson’s production didn’t come to fruition.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

Green has missed significant time in two of the last three seasons, sitting out seven games last year due to a toe injury. For the second straight year, Green’s production when he did play was also down significantly with only 77 receiving yards per game after averaging at least 80 yards from 2012-2016.

Full 25

By: Seth Trachtman

 

Winners and losers from NFL Week 15

There was a ton of really weird stuff going on around the league during NFL Week 15, both positive and negative, as teams battled for a playoff berth.

One of the hottest teams in the NFL was shut out in stunning style. With a convincing win over the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears won the NFC North. The Cleveland Browns — of all teams — are still alive for postseason play, for crying out loud.

Heck, one player forgot which team he played for and facilitated a touchdown for the opposing team.

These are the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 15.

Winner: Philip Rivers has ice water running through his veins

Dec 13, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night’s game in Kansas City seemed to portend doom for Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers. He threw an interception on his first pass attempt of the game, severely under throwing Tyrell Williams.

It didn’t take long for the Chiefs to build up a 14-0 lead. Then in the second half, they went up by two touchdowns once more midway through the fourth quarter. It appeared Patrick Mahomes and Co. were on their way to an easy win. Then, Rivers woke up.

The veteran quarterback led two consecutive touchdown-scoring drives in the final eight minutes of the game, capping it all off with a gutty two-point conversion to Mike Williams (watch here), who had a monster game while Keenan Allen watched due to an injury.

Now at 11-3, the Chargers have a chance to claim the AFC’s No. 1 seed in the final weeks.

Loser: Vance Joseph has got to go

Situational awareness is a critical element to being a good head coach in the NFL — or really any level of play. Vance Joseph does not have a healthy dose of that. He proved it once more on Saturday at home against the Cleveland Browns.

Down by four points, with just over four minutes left in the game, his offense on Cleveland’s six-yard line on a 4th-and-1, Joseph called for a field goal. He was booed heartily by the home crowd in Denver, and social media was brutal in its assessment of his awful decision.

Not surprisingly, the move backfired. Cleveland won the game by one point. In a must-win situation, Joseph retreated into his shell and cost his team the victory. There’s no way John Elway can keep him now. He’s got to go.

Winner: Josh Allen came up big 

The Buffalo Bills were down their two top running backs before Sunday’s game against Detroit even began. Both LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory were ruled out, leading many to wonder just where any offense was going to come from.

Rookie quarterback Josh Allen — whose play is always an adventure — answered the call. His shockingly nifty touchdown run in the first half (watch here) put the Bills up by a point. Then, in the fourth quarter, his 42-yard laser strike to Robert Foster proved to be the game-winner.

Loser: Oakland managed to make Cincinnati look good

We’ve been harping on how bad the Oakland Raiders are all year. One lucky win against an unmotivated Pittsburgh Steelers team in Week 14 did nothing to change that, as everyone found out just one week later in Cincinnati.

The Bengals dominated Sunday’s game. Oakland’s defense had no answer for Joe Mixon, and, despite a poor outing from backup Jeff Driskel, the Raiders just couldn’t make key stops when they needed it.

Derek Carr had a rough outing throwing the ball, and both he and Jalen Richard lost fumbles — the second of which led to the first score of the game for Cincinnati.

The bottom line is this: When you’re making the Bengals look good, you’ve hit rock bottom.

Winner: Tremendous team effort nets Pittsburgh a huge win

Dec 16, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) meet at mid-field after playing at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

From the moment Tom Brady stepped onto the field for warm-ups in Pittsburgh, he faced adversity. When the game tipped off, it was clear that the Steelers were not going to let him connect with Rob Gronkowski or Josh Gordon. They did just that, as the two top New England playmakers combined for just three catches for 40 yards.

The coup de grace for Pittsburgh’s defense came in the fourth quarter when Joe Haden made a tremendous leaping interception with two Patriots draped over him for what proved to be the win-sealing play (watch here).

Big Ben Roethlisberger had a rough night with two bad interceptions but was buoyed by the rest of his offense. Jaylen Samuels did his best Le’Veon Bell and James Conner impersonation by racking up 172 yards on 21 touches, and the Steelers walked out with a 17-10 win over the mighty Patriots to remain atop the AFC North.

Full Article

By: Jesse Reed

Matt Patricia To Become Lions Head Coach

Written by Edward Lewis at NFL.com

Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions officially have a new head man.

The team announced Monday that former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will be tasked with turning around a Lions team that hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1991 season. The Lions are slated to introduce Patricia at a news conference on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET.

“This position comes with great responsibility, and I will commit every ounce of my energy to this football team, starting today,” Patricia said in a statement. “My family is excited to become part of this wonderful city that displays so much passion for their teams.

“I can’t express enough appreciation to the entire New England Patriots franchise, particularly Robert and Jonathan Kraft and their entire family. I will truly cherish these last 14 years as a member of this incredible organization.”

Patricia’s hiring comes just one day after the DC fell to Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. It wasn’t the finest performance from Patricia’s unit, through Sunday’s outcome was more outlier than the norm for Patricia-led defenses.

The 43-year-old has been Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator in New England since 2012. In those six seasons, Patricia has never ranked outside the top 10 in scoring defense, winning two Super Bowl rings in that same time frame.

“On behalf of me and my family, I would like to congratulate and welcome Matt Patricia to the Detroit Lions as our new head coach,” Lions owner and chairman Martha Firestone Ford said. “… I was most pleased with how we handled all the interviews and I am confident that we have found the right man to lead our football team.”

“When we launched the search for our next head coach, I wanted to find a leader that could take us to the next level and I am confident we have found that in Matt Patricia,” Lions general manager Bob Quinn added. “He has been preparing for this opportunity his entire career, and he’s ready for the responsibility and its challenges.”

Before his time as Pats DC, Patricia coached safeties, linebackers and offensive line (as an assistant OL coach in 2005) in New England. Patricia, who’s been on the Pats’ coaching staff since 2004, has never been a part of an NFL team that has won fewer than 10 games.

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Bears Lose to Lions as Detroit Stays In Playoff Race

Written by Ryan Wilson at CBS Sports.com

The Lions needed a win on Saturday, and while it was far from exciting, that’s exactly what they did against an overmatched Bears outfit, 20-10. Matthew Stafford was an efficient 25-of-33 passing for 237 yards and two touchdowns and no turnovers, and Marvin Jones led all receivers with 85 yards on three catches. In case you’re wondering, Theo Riddick led the Lions with 49 rushing yards, which keeps the team’s streak of games without a 100-yard rusher since Thanksgiving Day 2013, when Reggie Bush (who appears ready to retire) ran for 117 yards against the Packers.

But there was no need for a running game against the Bears, whose offense sputtered early and never really was a threat to mount a comeback after trailing 20-3 early in the third quarter. As has been the case all season, Detroit’s offense goes through Stafford, who passed Tony Romo in all-time passing yards in the win. Needing 197 yards coming into the game, he bested that by 40 and now has 34,223 yards for his career. Next up: 30th on the list, Steve DeBerg, who has 34,241. Stafford’s two passing touchdowns also tied him with Matt Hasselbeck and Terry Bradshaw for No. 33 on the all-time list.

Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky showed glimpses of why he could be a special player — he was 31 of 46, and many of those 31 completions were thrown accurately into tight windows, and on time. Unfortunately, he also had three interceptions, including one that came in the red zone and another that killed Chicago’s final drive.

Detroit moves to 8-6 on the season and will need to keep winning to have a chance to pass the Seahawks and Falcons for the final wild-card spot. The Bears, meanwhile, fall to 4-10. It’s the third straight season they’ll lose at least 10 games — all during the John Fox era (though it’s worth noting that the team went 5-11 under Marc Trestman in 2014).

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Lions Get Back Into Playoff Race With Win Over Packers

Written by Dave Birkett at Detroit Free Press.com

Now this is what an offense with the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL is supposed to look like.

One that moves the ball at will. One that dominates time of possession. And most importantly, one that puts barrels of points on the scoreboard.

Matthew Stafford threw for 361 yards and two touchdowns and Golden Tate and Marvin Jones each topped 100 yards receiving as the Lions dominated the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, 30-17.

The Lions, who did not punt in a game for the first time since 1971, snapped a three-game losing streak with the victory and evened their record at 4-4 at the midpoint of the season.

“We went into this game thinking that this needed to be a statement game,” Tate said. “We needed to click collectively and I think that’s what we did for the most part. It felt good to just have things rolling, especially on the road in a very tough environment.”

Tate caught seven passes for a game-high 113 yards and Jones added seven catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns as the Lions came away with points on six of their eight offensive possessions.

After struggling to sustain drives early in the season and failing to score a touchdown despite five trips to the red zone in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, the Lions were methodically unstoppable Monday.

They held the ball for nearly 14 more minutes than the Packers, and five of their scoring drives covered nine or more plays.

“I think we executed well tonight,” Stafford said. “We weren’t perfect, left some points out there, turned it over. But our guys showed up and played really well. The offensive line did a great job blocking. Our guys on the outside were winning and making plays.”

Stafford opened the scoring with the 200th touchdown pass of his career, a 25-yard strike to Jones, and the Lions held the Packers (4-4) to just three points through the first three quarters

Brett Hundley, who made his second career start in place of Rodgers, the two-time MVP who’s likely done for the season with a broken collarbone, finished 26 of 38 passing for 245 yards for the Packers, but most of his damage came on what Lions safety Glover Quin called “a couple cheap drives” late.

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Falcons Barely Beat Lions 30-26

Written by David Birkett at Detroit Free Press.com

One minute he was strutting around the end zone, staring into the stands, the look of a stone-cold killer in his eyes. The next, Golden Tate was tossing his helmet to the ground in a fit of frustration, stunned – like most everyone else in Ford Field – at what he’d just heard.

The Detroit Lions had a win stolen from them in the cruelest of fashions Sunday, when Matthew Stafford appeared to throw the game-winning touchdown pass to Tate with 8 seconds left, only to have the score overturned on replay and the game ended by a mandatory 10-second clock runoff.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the replay decision was correct – Tate was touched on the back of his shoulder by Atlanta Falcons safety Brian Poole as his knee hit the ground with the ball inches short of the goal line – and officials applied the runoff properly, too.

But that didn’t make the sting of a 30-26 loss to the defending NFC champions any less agonizing for a Lions team that once again was on the wrong end of an innocuous rule.

“Real tough,” Lions safety Glover Quin said. “Never saw one like that.”

“It’s crazy,” added defensive tackle Akeem Spence. “It’s just, it sucked the life out of me because I was up there jumping up cheering, our offense scored the game-winning drive and just to lose it like that on a 10-second runoff. Not knowing the rule is kind of, ‘Ah, that sucks.’ But I mean, the rules are the rules.”

The Falcons, the only undefeated team left in the NFC, led the entire game Sunday. They scored the first 10 points and led 17-3 late in the second quarter, but the Lions’ opportunistic defense intercepted three Matt Ryan passes and gave them three late chances to win.

The Lions went three-and-out on their first two of those drives, before driving the ball to the brink of the end zone on the game’s final 11-play, 85-yard, penalty-filled possession.

Stafford completed a pass to Marvin Jones at the 2-yard line with just over a minute to play, but that gain was called back on a holding penalty by fill-in offensive guard Zac Kerin.

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Lions Fan Has Season Tickets Taken Away For Racist Posts

Written by Michael Rothstein at ESPN.com

The Detroit Lions fan who posted a racist Snapchat after two African-American fans sat during the national anthem on Sunday against Arizona has turned in his tickets and will no longer be welcome at Ford Field, the Lions confirmed to ESPN.

His banishment was first reported by the Detroit News.

The fan posted a photo of two fans sitting during the anthem and wrote the phrase “Ignorant N—–s” underneath the post. The post then made its way to Facebook and was sent to various media outlets, including ESPN, eventually becoming public Wednesday.

The Lions initially declined comment on the specifics of the incident Wednesday before reversing course and saying the fan was no longer welcome Thursday. The Lions’ initial statement said part of the team’s conduct policy was to respect all fans.

“Providing our fans with a safe and enjoyable experience at all Ford Field events is of the utmost importance and an absolute priority for our organization. A core component of our guest conduct policy is the expectation that all fans are respectful and considerate to each other regardless of their personal beliefs or differences,” the Lions said in a statement. “With respect to the issue in question, the Detroit Lions and Ford Field do not comment on specifics related to any alleged guest incident(s) or altercations at games or other stadium events.”

Head coach Jim Caldwell supported the team’s decision. “I think it was handled appropriately and I think those things happen sometimes,” Caldwell said.

Defensive end Akeem Spence was asked if it bothered him that this still happens in America, “Yeah, it’s crazy, man, but we all weren’t brought up the same way,” Spence said. “We all weren’t brought up to have the same beliefs. I feel like we’re all equal no matter what skin color or race. Some people, that’s not their beliefs. I can’t fault them for that and they can’t fault me for the way I believe. But let’s all get along.”

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Lions Make Matt Stafford Highest Paid Player In NFL History

Written by Dave Birkett at USA Today.com

Matthew Stafford’s deal is done, and the Detroit Lions quarterback is – for now, at least – the highest paid player in NFL history.

Stafford and the Lions agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $135 million on Monday, a person familiar with the contract told the Free Press. The person requested anonymity because the deal hasn’t been announced by the team.

Exact terms of the deal are not yet known, but Stafford will make an average annual salary of $27 million over the life of the contract, more than Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr ($25 million) got on the five-year extension he signed in June.

The Lions opened negotiations with Stafford around the NFL combine in March, and they bridged what one person familiar with the talks described as a “significant” gap in recent weeks.

Stafford said in April that he would “love to” sign a long-term extension with the Lions, his third contract with the team that made him the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, and Lions general manager Bob Quinn had long pointed to the summer as the time he expected a deal to get done.

Stafford, 29, already holds most franchise passing records including yards (30,303), completions (2,634), attempts (4,285) and touchdowns (187), and he’s coming off arguably his best season as a pro.

Last year, Stafford, playing for the first time in his career without Calvin Johnson, led a NFL-record eight come-from-behind victories as the Lions finished 9-7 and made the playoffs as a wildcard for the third time in his nine NFL seasons.

The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, and Stafford is 51-61 in his career as a starter, including 0-3 in the postseason.

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2018 QB Market; Who Is In A Pickle?

Written by Albert Breer at SI.com

Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo were separated by 26 picks in the 2014 draft.

This fall, Carr will make $25 million. Garoppolo will make less than $900,000.

“I don’t think about it too much,” Garoppolo said, when I asked him about it the other day. “I’m happy for Derek. I know him from playing in the Senior Bowl and going through the draft process. It’s tremendous. He deserved it. It’s just one of those things. You’ve gotta go about your business.

“You start thinking about those things, you’ll get your head all twisted up worrying about the wrong things. When that time comes, I’ll approach that and go about my business that way.”

What’s uncertain is what’ll happen when that time comes at the end of this season. And that part is complicated, which is our lesson for this week: There are a number of teams facing tricky franchise-tag situations with veteran quarterbacks for 2018.

Here’s a rundown …

• Patriots: New England could effectively kick the long-term QB decision can down the road for another year by tagging Garoppolo at about $22 million in 2018. The issue there? Tom Brady is slated to make $15 million. So, to make this work, does New England have to give Brady a raise in the neighborhood of $8 million? And even if you got that worked out, and were willing to allocate $45 million to two players, would Garoppolo be OK with sitting another year while the team waits to see what a 41-year-old Brady looks like? It seems more likely this is an either/or proposition.

• Vikings: Both Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater are in contract years, and there’s only one franchise tag between them. When I asked GM Rick Spielman about it, he said, “We haven’t made any decisions yet. But I know through our roster planning and our cap planning, we have plans in place to have that position taken care of.” If Bridgewater sits out the year and his contract tolls—there could be a dispute over that down the line—Minnesota may be able to delay a long-term decision another here. At least for now, it seems that chances would be that one or the other will be a free agent.

• Saints: Drew Brees is in a contract year, publicly says he’s not worried about getting an extension done now, and has a no-franchise-tag provision in his contract for 2018. So in a way, New Orleans will have to prove to him that it’s still the right place for a quarterback who will be 39 years old when the free-agent gates open in March. And Sean Payton’s future beyond this year probably will play into that call, too.

• Redskins: This one’s been well-covered. It’d cost Washington a market-busting $34.47 million to franchise Cousins again, and $28.73 million for the team just to retain matching rights (with no compensation coming back if he leaves) via the transition tag. Meanwhile, Cousins knows he’ll have one natural landing spot (San Francisco) and might have two (Los Angeles, depending on Jared Goff’s play).

• Lions: Matthew Stafford is the other big quarterbacking name in a contract year, and by far the least likely guy on this list to change addresses. Detroit will get something done with him, but Stafford’s franchise number is high ($26.4 million), because his expiring deal has a big cap number for 2017. That, on paper, gives him the leverage to ask for close to $30 million per (2 tags = $58.08 million). Or he could give a little back there and ask for more cash to be guaranteed. Either way, he’s in a good spot.

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Armonty Bryant Suspended For Third Time In Year

Written by Carlos Monarrez at Detroit Free Press.com

Detroit Lions defensive end Armonty Bryant has found trouble again and has been suspended for the first four games this season for violating the NFL’s policy for substances of abuse, the league said Tuesday in a released statement.

Bryant, 26, will be eligible to return to the Lions’ active roster Oct. 2. He is allowed to participate in all of the team’s preseason games and practices.

The Lions declined to comment on Bryant’s latest suspension.

The latest suspension is the third in a year for Bryant, whom the Lions claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns in October.

He served a four-game suspension last season while he was with the Browns for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Bryant then served a three-game suspension midway through the season while with the Lions for violating the league’s policy on drugs of abuse, which stemmed from a 2015 arrest on a misdemeanor charge for attempted drug possession.

Shortly after Bryant joined the Lions, he said he spoke with front-office personnel about cleaning up his act.

“Quite a bit,” he said. “That’s my goal. Clean up my act a little bit. But that’s just the past. I’m just here to help the team win.”

Despite Bryant’s troubled past, the Lions signed him to a one-year deal for $855,000 in March after he showed good production, registering three sacks and a forced fumble in five games last season.