The Ravens tight end pushed aside the perception that he wasn't fully recovered from a surgery no one will talk specifically about and reinserted himself into the conversation as a playmaker for this team.
"He’s a sneaky athlete," coach John Harbaugh said. "You want to think that he’s not athletic and all of a sudden he starts running people over and breaking tackles. That’s what we’ve been looking for from him since we drafted him. That was really fun to watch."
Williams was never the most fluid runner, even when the Ravens made him the first true tight end drafted in 2015. But in this year's training camp, Williams was slow coming off the snap and couldn't get separation in routes.
This was the result of a knee surgery 10 months ago that the team described as complicated and rare. Harbaugh said it's the first time an NFL player has had this surgery then returned to playing.
What made this surgery so unique? Team officials say it's up to Williams to discuss it, and Williams has declined to explain.
What Williams will say is he had to stay off his feet for 10 weeks and didn't begin running again until the middle of June.
"I use the analogy that someone had ACL surgery first," the 23-year-old said. "So when I got my surgery first, I'm just the lucky one that had to do it. Hopefully, if it works and I play great, someone else might need to do that. Hopefully this can change careers after me."
Williams' career hasn't gone exactly as he envisioned. The Ravens traded up in the second round to select Williams with the No. 55 overall pick.
He immediately showed promise in 2015, when he broke franchise rookie records for receptions (32) and receiving yards (268) by a tight end. His second season, however, was cut short. Williams was placed on injured reserve after four games (and no catches) because of a cartilage issue in his knee.
Because of the long layoff from playing football, it was important for Williams to make an impact again, even if it was a preseason game. He finished Thursday with two catches for 48 yards.
“It’s the best I’ve felt mentally," Williams said, "just proving to myself that I can get back and play."
The Ravens' tight end position appears to be up in the air behind starter Nick Boyle. Williams is competing against Benjamin Watson and Larry Donnell for the No. 2 spot, which could lead to plenty of snaps considering how senior offensive assistant Greg Roman likes using multiple tight ends.
That's why Thursday night not only represented a big step for Williams in terms of the depth chart but also one for his confidence.
"You always wonder every day [about returning to form]," Williams said. "I’ve been through it. I had major surgery. I’m not going to take anything for granted anymore. I realize how fast something like this can be taken from you and how special it is to be in the NFL."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The “training camp” portion of the summer is officially over. New York Giants camp broke Tuesday when veterans were allowed to check out of the hotel and return home.
Now, they’re into the preseason portion of the summer. With it comes three games in 11 days before final cuts and preparations for the regular-season opener Sept. 10 against the Dallas Cowboys. First up is the Cleveland Browns this Monday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN).
Some other training-camp awards:
Underdog who has a legit shot to make roster: DL Jordan Williams
He’s more than just the awesome first name. Williams has been a play-wrecker this summer. He’s flashed a quick first step and strong pass-rush ability. This is what the Giants' defense needs, a lineman who can provide pass rush from the interior. Williams has a legitimate chance.
Williams, 24, was undrafted in 2015 out of Tennessee. He has spent parts of the past two seasons with the Dolphins and Jets. He dropped weight this offseason and “feels faster.” It’s showing on the field. He had three tackles and a sack in the preseason opener, when he thought he looked more comfortable. He’s a player to watch as the preseason progresses.
Solid and steady 1: QB Eli Manning
It has been a good summer for the Giants' starting quarterback. Manning has “been consistent ... been productive,” according to coach Ben McAdoo. It’s somewhat expected from the two-time Super Bowl winner, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Manning’s arm has looked fine; the 36-year-old's velocity isn’t anything special. Most impressive has been the lack of turnovers. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago when McAdoo arrived with his new offense and Manning was throwing two interceptions a day in practice. He’s thrown three (according to my unofficial stats) this entire summer. That's a big positive.
Solid and steady 2: G Adam Gettis
The second-team guard doesn’t receive a ton of notoriety. He doesn’t have the pedigree or size of offseason signee D.J. Fluker, but it doesn’t seem to matter. If one of the Giants’ starting guards was injured right now, Gettis might be the first choice to step into that role. He’s been among the most consistent offensive linemen this summer, even if he did miss a practice earlier this week with an eye problem and left practice early Friday with what appeared to be a minor ankle injury.
Quiet but effective: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Even with the contract situation hanging over his head and last season's playoff flop barely in the rearview mirror, we haven’t heard much from Beckham since he arrived at training camp. The only chatter seems to be about the big plays he’s made on the field and the spectacular one-handed grabs. This has been a smart approach for the enigmatic wide receiver, who claims to be in a better place right now than ever before. There is no reason to believe he's not in for another monster season.
Look out for ... No. 1: WR Darius Powe
No Giants player was busier at training camp than Powe, the second-year receiver who spent his rookie season on the practice squad. He caught more passes during team drills than any other player. It’s obvious Powe made his mark, working his way up the depth chart and into some first-team reps (even if it was in part because of injuries). Powe dropped weight this offseason and appears a step faster. He’s used his big body -- 6-foot-2, 218 pounds -- and strength well to create space and make tough catches in practice. Powe is pushing Roger Lewis and others for a roster spot, even if he’s been slowed in recent days by a hamstring injury.
Look out for ... No. 2: LB Calvin Munson
The opportunities have been there this summer at linebacker with veterans Mark Herzlich (stinger) and Keenan Robinson (concussion) missing chunks of time. Munson seems to have made the most of the chances; the rookie from San Diego State is active and moves well, and has really made an impact on special teams. That is where his bread is buttered. Munson’s best chance to make the team is as a backup middle linebacker and core special-teams player. He’s done well so far, working with the starters on special teams.
Made the jump: DT Jay Bromley
The summer began with Robert Thomas working alongside Damon Harrison at defensive tackle. But Bromley has played his way into the driver’s seat to start with a strong summer. The fourth-year pro is playing lower to the ground, with improved footwork and quickness off the line. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul also believes Bromley isn’t just running around anymore: He understands the game better, and is reading his blocks in order to make plays. Whatever it is, it’s working.
Good for a leaping catch a day: TE Matt LaCosse
Yes, offseason acquisition Rhett Ellison has caught the ball well, first-round pick Evan Engram flashes that athleticism and second-year tight end Jerell Adams made a significant jump and is having a strong summer. But it seems every day in practice LaCosse is making an impressive, leaping catch over a defender for a big play, a good skill to have. It will leave the Giants with some tough decisions at the tight end position.
Don’t forget: S Nat Berhe
It’s evident when Berhe is healthy, and on the field he can play. He’s a natural strong safety who plays with power and speed despite his small frame (5-11, 195). He’s a quality special-teams contributor. After missing most of the second half of last season, this summer has served as a reminder that Berhe can still play at the NFL level. The Giants have depth at the safety position.
Quality starts: LB B.J. Goodson and S Darian Thompson
Goodson and Thompson stepped into starting roles this summer, working almost exclusively with the first-team defense. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said he was “encouraged” by what he saw from them at training camp. Goodson’s thumper middle-linebacker mentality and Thompson’s ball-hawking skills could help take the defense to the next level. All positives on both ends this summer.
OAKLAND,Calif. -- While Derek Carr and other starters are expected to play in the Oakland Raiders' preseason home opener against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night, EJ Manuel has taken a lead over Connor Cook in the competition to be Carr’s backup.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said the race to be the Raiders’ No. 2 quarterback remains open, though.
“I think the time we had here and the first game the other night, I think [Manuel] has done a little more, done enough to be in the second slot,” Del Rio said after the Raiders broke camp in Napa, California, on Thursday.
“I think they’ll continue to alternate reps and both get opportunities to show us," Del Rio said. "I’m pleased with both of the guys. I thought both guys operated pretty darn well the other night.”
With Carr sitting out Oakland’s 20-10, preseason-opening loss at the Arizona Cardinals last Saturday, Manuel started and played the entire first half before giving way to Cook, who went the rest of the way.
Manuel completed his first six passes and ended 10-for-12 for 107 yards and a passer rating of 103.8.
“I just wanted to focus on playing a mentally error-free game,” Manuel said. “I just wanted to go through my progressions, take what was there, and not try to do too much. Obviously as we progress in the season, especially in the preseason, I think more will be able to come out as far as my own play.”
Manuel, who spent his first four NFL season with Buffalo after the Bills drafted him No. 16 overall in 2013, said his “comfort level” was growing by the day.
“Each rep I get with this team, I’m extremely excited to be here,” he said. “I’m very fortunate they brought me in to continue to help this team get better and win. We have a great quarterback room and Derek was extremely supportive from the sideline even though he didn’t play. He was right there on my hip as soon as I came off the field, so that made me feel great too.”
Cook, in his second season, has received the same treatment.
He finished just 10-for-21 for 82 yards and a passer rating of 58.0 at Arizona.
Del Rio, meanwhile, said the rotation should remain the same between the two.
And as far as the starters’ workload this time out after 11 projected starters -- Carr, C Rodney Hudson, LG Kelechi Osemele, RG Gabe Jackson, TE Jared Cook, WRs Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, RB Marshawn Lynch, FB Jamize Olawale, DE Khalil Mack and OLB Bruce Irvin -- sat out in Arizona, Del Rio said “some” of the front-line players, including Carr, would play against the Rams.
“How much? Not really set on that yet,” Del Rio said.
“Typically, you go into the second quarter, maybe even deep into the second quarter. We’ll see how it’s all going. Kind of a play total in mind in terms of conditioning that I think we need to get. We’ll adjust as we need to, but that’s the plan.”
“I can’t right now, brother,’’ Newton told fans wanting a moment of his time Thursday. “I’m working. I’ve got to keep my lights on. I’ve got to keep my bills paid. You know what I’m saying?’’
Newton didn’t do much to pay the bills during Wednesday and Thursday practices as he continued to rehab his surgically repaired shoulder. He threw some in individual drills and 7-on-7 drills but didn’t participate in team drills.
He won’t play in Saturday's 3 p.m. preseason game at Nissan Stadium, where the 2015 NFL MVP introduced the world to the dab two years ago.
But there are plenty of other things to keep an eye on as the Panthers try to run their preseason record to 2-0. Here are five things:
Offensive consistency -- Coach Ron Rivera used the word “terrible’’ to describe all of the bad plays made Thursday. He wasn’t happy with the rhythm, the dropped passes and the fundamental mistakes. Even without Newton and several other stars, Rivera told players that if they expected to be great, “you’ve got to be great every day.’’ He says that even if it’s backup quarterback Derek Anderson running the offense and lesser-known receivers catching passes, as was the case Thursday. There are no guarantees Newton will be ready for the opener, even though that is the target. So it’s imperative the offense look sharp with Anderson & Co.
What’s next, McCaffrey? Rivera wasn’t the only one unhappy with Thursday’s practice. Even rookie Christian McCaffrey said the Panthers have “higher standards.” McCaffrey set the bar pretty high for himself in the preseason opener, rushing for 33 yards on seven carries. He almost broke a couple of runs. What he didn’t do was catch a pass, one of the big reasons he was selected with the eighth pick in the draft. While the Panthers don’t want to show their entire game plan for McCaffrey before the opener, they’ll want to see what the former Stanford star can do in the passing game against an opponent other than his own defense. Getting him one-on-one in the open field will be a big part of this offense no matter who is playing quarterback.
One-game wonder? Damiere Byrd made a strong case for a roster spot in the preseason opener, catching four passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns. With Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard and second-round pick Curtis Samuel (yes, despite the hamstring injury that has kept him out of training camp) locks, there are only one or two spots left at receiver. The Panthers could go with just five because of McCaffrey’s dual-threat capabilities. So Byrd can’t take anything for granted with Brenton Bersin also a factor.
Safety net -- Depth at safety behind starters Mike Adams and Kurt Coleman, plus backup Colin Jones, is arguably the biggest concern on this roster. The Panthers are looking for L.J. McCray or Dezmen Southward to consistently step up. There’s still a good chance the fourth safety will be a player not on the current roster.
For kicks -- Veteran Graham Gano still appears to have the edge over seventh-round pick Harrison Butker based on practice, but it’s not a lock. Butker made a good impression with a 51-yard field goal in the preseason opener. Gano missed a 50-yarder that hit the left upright. Gano’s price tag -- $4 million against the cap -- also could be a factor if it’s close. The Panthers would save $3.25 million in cap space by releasing him. They could apply that to one of several players seeking extensions, including tight end Greg Olsen, guard Andrew Norwell and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone announced after Thursday night’s preseason loss that there would be an open competition to determine the team’s starting quarterback, he essentially started the countdown to the end of Blake Bortles’ time in Jacksonville.
Maybe he will beat out Chad Henne -- and Brandon Allen, though Marrone made it pretty clear that it’s a two-man race -- and will retain the job he has had since Week 4 of his rookie season. If that’s the case, then Bortles could still have a future with the team that drafted him third overall in 2014.
But if Henne -- as expected -- wins the job, the Jaguars have to figure out what to do with Bortles.
The Jaguars could keep him on the roster to give them an experienced backup familiar with the offensive system in case Henne were to be injured. That presents an expensive problem, though.
The Jaguars picked up Bortles’ fifth-year option, which would pay him $19.053 million in 2018. That amount is guaranteed for injury only, meaning that if Bortles were to suffer an injury that made him unable to pass a physical next year, the Jaguars would have to pay him that amount even if he cannot play.
If the Jaguars keep him to back up Henne, there’s a chance that could happen. He could get injured during a game in which Henne was unable to play. That’s a huge risk, one that isn’t worth taking. The Jaguars could still keep him and Allen on the roster but opt to make Bortles inactive each week and have Allen be the No. 2.
That’s not a good look, though, and it takes up a roster spot -- and based on what we saw Thursday night against Tampa Bay, the Jaguars can’t afford to waste a spot on a third quarterback. They need help in a lot of other areas, particularly on the offensive line, in the secondary and at linebacker.
The other option would be to cut Bortles. Once the Jaguars sit Bortles for Henne, there’s no turning back. Bortles would no longer be a part of the team’s plans and there’s no benefit to keeping him on the roster. Eat his guaranteed $3.24 million in salary in 2017 and eliminate the possibility of him getting hurt and being potentially on the hook for more than $19 million.
That might be the best thing for Bortles, too. Allow him to get a fresh start elsewhere in a backup role where he could eventually compete to become a starter.
IRVINE, Calif. -- On June 6, 2016, Jared Goff, a Northern California native and lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, stood on the field at Dodger Stadium to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. Wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers cap and jersey, he waved for the video board, then walked to the pitching rubber and fired a baseball to Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers outfielder Goff once derided on Twitter.
How did his Bay Area friends take it?
"Oh, not good," Goff said. "It was brutal, man."
Fourteen months have passed since then, and a lot has changed. Goff, the 2016 No. 1 overall pick and the Los Angeles Rams' starting quarterback, is now part of the fabric of Southern California sports. And the Dodgers are really good, with 85 wins in their first 119 games and a real chance to capture their first World Series title since 1988. Goff's Giants, champions after three of the previous seven seasons, have faded into the background.
Goff is starting to warm up to the local team.
"I've somewhat adopted them as my second team now, as hard as that is to say," Goff said of the Dodgers after a recent practice. "It's really hard to say."
Goff returns home Saturday to face the Oakland Raiders in a preseason game that begins at 7 p.m. PT. He grew up in Novato, California, roughly 30 miles north of Oakland. He expects "a bunch of my friends" to attend the game, several of whom are displeased with his latest baseball loyalties. He wants to make one thing clear.
"Any time the Giants are playing, I'm rooting for them," Goff said. "But yeah, the year the Dodgers have had has been exciting for the entire city of L.A. There are a couple guys on the team that I am friends with. I'm rooting for them. If their team wins, I'm excited."
Goff has become friends with Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson. Goff's father, Jerry, spent parts of six seasons in the major leagues as a catcher, so Goff grew up with the sport. He played it up until his senior year of high school, before he graduated early to attend Cal. So, yes, Goff kinda, sorta likes the Dodgers now. If it's Giants-Dodgers, he's still rooting for the Giants. But he keeps tabs on the Dodgers and wants to see them win it all, blasphemous as that may sound.
One problem: He, like so many others in the L.A. area, can't watch their games.
"I have DirecTV, so I don't get it," Goff said. "I don't have Time Warner."
Our New York Jets question of the week focuses on a topic that surely will gain momentum as the season progresses: Todd Bowles' job security.
Should jets brass give Bowles job security so he can focus on player development instead of getting 5-7 wins and not rebuilding #jetsmail
— Noah Kirschner (@nkirschn) August 18, 2017
@RichCimini: Five to seven wins? You're mighty optimistic, Noah. Here's the deal: No matter what happens over the next few months, Bowles is rebuilding and the focus will be on player development. What choice does does the Jets head coach have?
Except for the inevitable tinkering on cut-down day, the roster is set, and it screams, "Rebuilding!" The Jets charted their course in late February, when they started dumping veteran players. They can't turn back now. They have only four players over 30, including the long-snapper, so it's not as though they have a glut of older guys impeding the progress of young, promising players. Every young player with upside will have a role.
Ah, but there is one caveat: The quarterback position. That's where the issue of now versus the future likely will come up.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked Bowles if the quarterback decision will be based on which player gives the team the best chance to win.
"Always," he said matter-of-factly.
That's a slippery slope, because there probably will come a point where Bowles will have to turn to Christian Hackenberg even if he's not the "best" option. In other words, at what point does he look to the future at quarterback?
A coach fighting for his job might wait longer than a coach with built-in security. A year ago, Bowles waited until the Jets were 3-9 before handing the keys to Bryce Petty. There's no way he can wait that long before turning to Hackenberg, assuming he doesn't win the job in the preseason.
Maybe Hackenberg will make it a no-brainer by overtaking Josh McCown, who is hardly entrenched in the starting role. That would make it easier on everybody. If not, it'll be a dicey decision, because the downside to a win-first approach is the Jets might actually win a few, hurting their draft position.
Ownership will evaluate Bowles after the season, deciding whether to part ways or extend him beyond 2018 (his final year) because a lame-duck situation wouldn't be good for anyone. Could Woody Johnson give him a contract extension now? It would be unusual, coming off a 5-11 season, but, hey, it's his money. It's not as though it counts against the salary cap. I suppose Johnson could make a verbal promise to retain Bowles beyond 2017, but ask Eric Mangini about Johnson's verbal promises.
In the end, if Bowles can get five to seven wins out of this team, he'll deserve a multi-year extension and a place in the Ring of Honor.
Quarterback Sam Bradford was given more time to throw, which allowed him to push the ball downfield for several explosive plays, including a 39-yard pass to top receiver Stefon Diggs that set up a field goal. Rookie starter Dalvin Cook showed off his explosiveness on several breakout runs, picking up a total of 40 yards on just seven carries. While the starters didn’t put up an impressive point total in three drives, the Vikings accomplished one of their biggest goals by showing progress on offense.
QB depth chart: Bradford played the Vikings’ first three drives and finished 7-for-11 with 95 yards. Minnesota’s offensive line did a much better job protecting Bradford than it did in the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills, giving up zero sacks and providing time for the QB to work.
Backup Case Keenum was solid for the second straight week. After entering the game late in the second quarter, the first-year Viking went 12-for-18 for 70 yards on mostly dink-and-dunk throws. Minnesota managed only a field goal with Keenum in the game.
Once again, third-string quarterback Taylor Heinicke struggled at first, throwing an interception and several inaccurate passes after entering in the fourth quarter. But the former Old Dominion QB rebounded late in the game by tossing a touchdown pass to tight end Bucky Hodges.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Vikings looked : Uneven. On the offensive side, the Vikings’ first team did not score, but it moved the ball effectively both on the ground and through the air. Bradford and Diggs have not missed a beat since gaining instant chemistry last season. Bradford went 4-for-5 with 65 yards when throwing in Diggs’ direction. Cook also impressed in the starters’ third series with a 15-yard carry and two 9-yard rushes.
Coach Mike Zimmer will not be thrilled with the performance by his defensive starters. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson finished the night with 206 yards and two touchdowns and completed all four passes he threw to Doug Baldwin, his No. 1 receiver, for 69 yards. The Vikings’ defense was missing several starters in the secondary as cornerback Trae Waynes and safety Andrew Sendejo did not dress.
One reason to be concerned: The Vikings’ starters will regret the end of their first drive when they took two penalties inside the red zone. A false start on tight end Kyle Rudolph moved the Vikings back from the 12- to the 17-yard line, then they took a delay-of-game penalty to set up third-and-20.
Scoring in the red zone has been an issue for Minnesota during the Zimmer era, especially last season. In 2016, the Vikings ranked 29th in the NFL in red zone percentage. If the Minnesota offense is going to improve from last year, it will have to finish quality drives.
That guy could start: In the preseason opener, Nick Easton started at center and third-round draft pick Pat Elflein came in with the second team. On Friday night, Elflein got the call with the first team and Easton started in place of injured Alex Boone at left guard. The former Ohio State star has split first-team reps throughout training camp and may be in the lead to open the season at center.
Rookie watch: Once again, Cook was the centerpiece of the Vikings’ first-team offense. After getting nine touches against Buffalo, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur dialed up seven runs for Cook, which resulted in 40 yards. The former Florida State standout also caught one pass for 10 yards.
Former Michigan linebacker Ben Gedeon has been gaining steam recently in training camp and received the starting nod at weakside linebacker against Seattle, recording four tackles.
Defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson, a fourth-round pick, found himself in the Seattle backfield often on Friday night. He picked up two tackles for losses and five total tackles. Johnson may have gained headway in the battle for an interior defensive line spot.
After an impressive preseason opener, seventh-round selection Stacy Coley had a quiet follow-up performance, grabbing two catches on five targets for 17 yards.
Hodges had his first flashy play of the preseason, catching a 33-yard pass from Heinicke and nabbing a 21-yard touchdown.
Rookie defensive lineman on the rise: At the beginning of camp, defensive lineman Tashawn Bower was a long shot to make the team. Now, he’ll be tough to keep off the 53-man roster. The undrafted free agent from LSU has been one of the Vikings’ standouts on defense in both preseason games. He picked up his second sack in as many contests and consistently beat his man to pressure Seattle's quarterbacks.
SEATTLE -- After two preseason games, it appears that this might be the best group of pass-catching weapons Russell Wilson has ever played with.
Wilson was sharp Friday night in the Seattle Seahawks' 20-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. He hit his usual targets such as Doug Baldwin but also might have found a new weapon in Kasen Williams.
QB depth chart: Wilson looked good, completing 13 of 18 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. So far in the preseason, Wilson is 16-for-22 for 247 yards. Two of those incompletions were throwaways. And two more were drops. Wilson is having a fantastic summer and appears primed for a monster, bounce-back season. Trevone Boykin didn't play much, going 5-of-8 for 55 yards. And Austin Davis closed the game out.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Seahawks looked ... impressive. The offense had a chance to score on three of four possessions. Blair Walsh just missed a 53-yard field goal that hit the crossbar. Baldwin caught all four of his targets for 69 yards. Defensively, the Seahawks gave up some plays, but Earl Thomas once again looked to be operating at 100 percent.
One reason to be concerned: Left tackle George Fant went down with what looked like a right knee injury in the second quarter. Fant was in pass protection when Justin Britt, who was on the ground, rolled into the back of his legs. Fant was on the ground for several minutes before getting carted off the field. If the injury is serious, it'll be Luke Joeckel or Rees Odhiambo filling in at left tackle.
That guy could start: Williams. Well, maybe not start. But he's certainly playing like he's worthy of a roster spot and a role. Williams caught two passes for 28 yards and a touchdown. Both were contested catches, one on a fade from the 1-yard line. Last week, Williams caught four balls for 119 yards. Williams' ability to win 50-50 balls down the sideline is a unique skill. After two preseason games, he looks to have a great chance to make the team.
Rookie watch: Chris Carson rotated with Eddie Lacy on the Seahawks' first-team offense. Carson carried six times for 27 yards. He also had a 17-yard catch-and-run on third down. And on special teams, Carson forced a fumble on kickoff coverage. The seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State has had an impressive summer and looks like a lock to make the roster. The only question now is: How big of a role can he earn between now and the regular season?
Walsh's revenge: OK, maybe that's a step too far. But the Seahawks' new kicker nailed a 52-yard field goal and then pointed to the sideline of his former team. Later, he hit another 52-yarder and again gestured toward the Vikings sideline. That time, Richard Sherman joined him on the field. Entering camp, the kicking game seemed like a huge question mark. And Walsh still has to prove himself in the regular season. But so far, so good.
Injury updates: In addition to Fant, defensive end Frank Clark left the game with a hand injury. And wide receiver Amara Darboh was being tested for a possible concussion. Graham, Thomas Rawls and Prosise were among the Seahawks who did not play in Friday's game.
Selected in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Los Angeles Chargers, Te’o spent four seasons with the team but never fully reached his potential.
However, Te’o made lifelong friends along the way and spent time with some of them before joint Saints-Chargers practices, including defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and defensive ends Tenny Palepoi and Jeremiah Attaochu.
“He’s like a big brother to me,” Palepoi said ahead of Sunday's meeting between the teams at StubHub Center. “He and Eric Weddle took me under their wing when I first got here. I got nothing but love for him.
“I really miss the guy. He put a lot of blood and sweat into the defense that we created and the personnel we have. So it was good to see him out here and be able to have him around for a little bit. When he stays healthy, there’s tape out that shows what he can do. Hopefully he can stay healthy and do what he always does.”
Te’o also paid a visit to Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman, who showed up to practice for the first time after having ankle surgery this week.
“I just called him to make sure he was OK, that his family was all right,” Te’o said about Perryman. “That’s somebody that, I’m going to raise my kids with his kids. We’re going to go on vacations together. That’s my brother. I’m glad to see him out there today.”
After four injury-plagued seasons with the Chargers, Te’o looked for a new beginning in free agency and found one with the Saints, signing an incentive-laden, two-year deal that could be worth as much as $7 million.
He’s listed as the starter on the depth chart at middle linebacker, where one of the attractions was working with linebackers coach Mike Nolan again. Nolan coached Te’o in 2015 while serving in the same role with the Chargers.
“I see a guy that’s every bit like he was before,” Nolan said. “He’s always been dedicated. He’s always gonna work hard. All those intangible things, Manti’s always been great at it.
“The thing that I would think that’s most important for him is transitioning in with this group he’s with now. And I think he’s doing a great job with it. He’s always been a great communicator. ... I think he’s transitioning well.”
Te’o, 26, still calls San Diego home and trained there during the offseason with teammate Drew Brees. The Notre Dame product missed 26 games due to injury during his four seasons with the Chargers.
The latest setback for Te’o was a torn Achilles tendon during a Week 3 contest against the Indianapolis Colts. The injury was disappointing for Te’o because he was playing well at the time, serving as a defensive co-captain and defensive playcaller for the Chargers.
“The offseason was long for me,” Te’o said. “It was a very long process, but I took every day and I did my best every day to get me here.
“I feel great out there right now. I’m moving like how I want to move. I’m getting more familiar with how I want to move, and responding when my mind wants me to respond and do things. So all the hard work and the patience that I had to exercise while I was out is paying off, and it’s been a long road, but one that has really shaped and molded me to the guy I want to be.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants seem to know what everybody else already does about their team this season: They're going to be only as good as their offensive line allows.
The Giants struggled badly to score points last season, finishing 26th in scoring. They were 29th in rushing. Their offensive line was a major part of the problem.
General manager Jerry Reese added weapons (wide receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Evan Engram) this offseason but brought back the same five starting offensive linemen. It was a calculated risk.
The Giants were able to make the playoffs last season with an offense that couldn't score points and an offensive line that didn't run block well and struggled to protect off the edges. They didn't win a playoff game.
Like the rest of us, the Giants seem to be aware they must improve in order to do any serious damage this season. They can go only so far, no matter how well the defense plays, if quarterback Eli Manning doesn't have ample time and there aren't holes for the running backs.
"All of the offensive line are determined. We know we're going to go as far as the offensive line goes," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "There has been improvement. We're not where we want to be but we have shown some progress and we're excited to take the next step."
The pressure is on. The Giants offensive line, which has been a weak spot for year, must take its game to an improved level.
The summer has been filled with ups and downs. The Giants starters had decent pass protection but ran for just 8 yards on six carries in the preseason opener. The interior, which is supposed to be the strength of the line, struggled in that contest. Left tackle Ereck Flowers performed adequately but has struggled badly at times this summer.
Flowers is a legitimate concern, as is the entire line and its depth. The Giants ran for 3.2 yards per carry and allowed seven sacks last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's not as if there are quality options waiting in reserve if Flowers falters. The backup tackles are an undrafted rookie and a sixth-round pick. There are reasons to be skeptical about the unit's potential, most notably when considering last season with the same five players.
But the Giants think they have made progress this summer. Right tackle Bobby Hart has looked improved in his third year with the team, and the group has another year of experience together.
"I'm excited about the direction that we're headed in," starting left guard Justin Pugh said. "Just watching the game film, we're doing some good things. It has to transition to the games, though. I'm excited about going out there this week and getting some game action."
There is plenty of room for improvement from last year. Pugh was injured and missed five games. Even when he returned, he wasn't at 100 percent. He's had better years. Center Weston Richburg played through a hand injury and didn't have his best season, either, while Flowers and Hart struggled as pass protectors on the outside.
As a result, the Giants see potential for the line to be exponentially improved. Flowers in particular has the most room to grow, and the team insists he's making gains. The Giants have gone to great lengths to make it known he's doing better.
"Ereck, I thought, was a bright spot in the game versus the first opponent we played," coach Ben McAdoo said. "I think he got his hands inside, had a couple nice strikes and punches. I thought he was bending pretty well, and I look forward to him taking a jump this week."
Sullivan also praised Flowers' performance. He noted a specific play at the 10- or 12-yard line on which Flowers' pass protection was picture perfect. The young tackle followed that up with some rough practices earlier in the week.
But the Giants (at least publicly) have remained confident that Flowers is improving. It has been the same for the offensive line, likely in part because the team is aware just how integral the unit will be to the overall success this season.
A long-lost and priceless artifact from Cleveland Browns history has been found.
All it took was for Duke Johnson to dig through his backpack. Johnson has the backpack with him at all times, and he consented to dig through the backpack for a video on the team's website.
The results are insightful and humorous. Very, very humorous.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 18, 2017
Fans may remember the Great Lakes Classic, the preseason game between the Browns and Lions dubbed the GLC in 1999. The winner of the game received a donation to the team's foundation or charity from the loser. But the real prize was the trophy commissioned by Carmen Policy that has come to be known as "The Barge." Since the GLC faded away, The Barge's location has been a mystery.
Until Johnson started digging through his backpack. The nerve of the guy to keep such a storied piece of Browns lore that way.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Reading the tea leaves about what the Denver Broncos want to see before coach Vance Joseph names a starting quarterback has been a popular summer activity for the team's faithful.
Folks have tried to decide how much experience will matter, how much arm strength will matter, how much practice will matter, how much the preseason games will matter. There are some who believe it only matters that one quarterback was selected in the first round -- and the Broncos moved up to do it -- and the other was not.
But as the Broncos try to decide if 2016 starter Trevor Siemian or 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch should be first string, the team's top football decision-maker, John Elway, let the cat out of the bag -- at least a little bit -- after two days of joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers this week.
"We'd like the decision made by itself," Elway said. "We've talked about that decision being made by itself. We want one of them to take the reins and take over; it would be the ideal situation. We're getting through this game and we'll go from there, see what happens."
This is not the first time Elway has hinted at this or even offered it as the key piece. But Thursday afternoon, Elway knew exactly what he was saying. As the second preseason game approaches, Joseph is headed toward a decision and he and Elway are on the same page on this, so anything Elway said publicly this week is no surprise.
It's clear that Lynch's arm alone won't be enough for him to win it, and Siemian's timing and consistency won't be enough for him to win it. The Broncos will name a starter, possibly as soon as next week, if they see what they want to see Saturday night against the 49ers. Or they could just get tired of waiting, so they might pick one and hope for the best.
But the Broncos are still waiting for one of the two quarterbacks to quit deferring to their more veteran teammates and show some willingness to push to the front of the line. That doesn't mean they can throw interceptions and manufacture a collection of three-and-outs. That won't get either one the job.
And it doesn't mean the guy who yells the loudest, pumps his fist the most or runs around celebrating a good play the longest is "taking the reins." It does mean the guy who plays the cleanest Saturday night in Levi's Stadium, while also showing a little swagger along the way, can win the job.
There is an overriding frustration inside the Broncos complex that both Siemian and Lynch tip-toe too much. That's not surprising because it's difficult to face your teammates the way a starter would when you're not the starter, especially at quarterback.
And players have no patience for false noise coming from other players they don't believe play well enough. So it's natural for these second- and third-year quarterbacks to tread lightly as they wrestle with learning their second offense in the past two seasons.
Even Thursday, when Lynch had one of his better practice days, both Elway and Joseph offered the same nugget.
"Like we said, he's making progress; they're all making progress," Elway said. "But I think what you saw in Paxton [Thursday] is he played with a little more confidence than he has in the past. I think any time he does that, he's a lot more successful. That comes with youth, too. You have your ups and downs as youths and the consistency is not there where you want it to be. That's why you continue to practice, continue to work and continue to get better."
"His best day? I'm not sure," Joseph said after the workout. "He made three or four big-time throws [Thursday]. He looked relaxed. Hopefully that carries over to Saturday."
Elway has said both quarterbacks have what they need to succeed "talent-wise" and Joseph has said he wants to see "separation."
That means they shouldn't make mistakes, but should rebound if they do and be the guy who doesn't just have the job, but can handle the job. And if the Broncos aren't positive about which one can handle the job, they'll pick the guy who gets the closest.
Quincy Enunwa is optimistic about next season.
The injured New York Jets wide receiver, scheduled for surgery next week to repair a bulging disc in his neck, provided an update on social media. Along with a photo taken of him watching practice on Thursday, Enunwa wrote on Instagram:
"Smiling because they can never keep a real one down for long. Appreciate all the love and support. I'll be back strong in '18."
Enunwa, who declined interview requests after practice, won't play this season after injuring his neck Aug. 5 in a noncontact drill at the team's intrasquad scrimmage. After seeking a second opinion, he decided to have surgery. The rehab time will be at least six months, according to coach Todd Bowles, who said doctors don't consider the injury career-threatening.
Enunwa is due to become a restricted free agent after the season. He led the Jets with 857 receiving yards last season and was slated to be their No. 1 receiver this year.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It wasn't easy, but Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians listened to his doctor and committed to a vegan diet for 27 days for health reasons recently.
Arians, who had kidney cancer last year, avoided meat and dairy, and even started the regimen with a five-day stretch of a raw diet.
"I feel really good," Arians said. "It's kind of crazy being a vegan for a while. I'm not a vegan anymore. I finally had meat again."
The first meat Arians, 64, reintroduced to his diet was a grass-fed beef burger. Doctors are slowly bringing animal-based protein back to Arians' diet, he said.
Looking back at his stint with a plant-based diet, Arians is still surprised he did it, and for as long as he did.
"I was shocked I could even stick to it," Arians said. "I was kind of proud I did for 27 days."
Arians admitted he cheated on his diet once, with brussels sprouts from one of his favorite Phoenix steakhouses. When he told his doctors he ate the vegetable, they were happy. However, Arians left out one key part.
"I snuck out and got them, but there's a whole lot of butter and bacon in those babies," Arians said with a smile.
Arians was asked what he liked about his temporary diet.
"Nothing," he said.
Final Baltimore 31 Miami 7 Final Buffalo 16 Philadelphia 20 Final Tampa Bay 12 Jacksonville 8
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4:00 PM ET Atlanta Pittsburgh 8:00 PM ET New Orleans Los Angeles