Category Archives: NFL

Rams part ways with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips

The Los Angeles Rams had a disappointing post-Super Bowl season, and that has inevitably led to a coaching shakeup. Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times reported that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will not be retained for next season, which Phillips confirmed on his own Twitter account.

Phillips, 72, joined the Rams in 2017 as part of head coach Sean McVay’s staff. McVay was just 30 at the time and had experience as the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, but had never been a head coach. McVay handed the defensive keys over to the more-experienced Phillips and the move paid off in a big way.

The Rams made it to the wild-card game in 2017, and then all the way to the Super Bowl in 2018. With the Rams’ battles in 2019, it makes sense that McVay and GM Les Snead would want to make a change or two.

A 9-7 record might be good enough to win the NFC East, but it’s a huge comedown for a team that was so successful just a year ago.

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The Rams are Phillips’ 10th NFL team, and he’s had an impresive career. He started with the Houston Oilers in 1976 when his father was the head coach, and has been steadily employed in football ever since.

He’s been the defensive coordinator for eight different teams and had head coaching jobs with the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys — and that is not counting his three stints as an interim head coach.

As Phillips said in his tweet, he’s not done. He still wants to coach. McVay has talked about him in glowing terms in the past, which will only help his résumé despite the end of his Rams tenure.

“He’s always had a great perspective based on his experience, whether it be as a head coach or as a coordinator,” McVay told the OC Register in late December.  “But it’s never pushed on you. He’s always willing to share. [Players] love him. He’s got a consistency that you can’t help but appreciate.”

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Kirk Cousins delivers for Vikings in Overtime to pick up first playoff victory

It will be the Minnesota Vikings, and not the New Orleans Saints, moving on to the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.

After letting the Saints to tie up the game late in the fourth, the Vikings were guided down the field by Cousins and stunned the home crowd with walk-off touchdown to Zach Rudolph.

Cousins, who has been criticized throughout his entire career–including during his tenure in the nation’s capital–for not being able to deliver when the team needs him most, booked the Vikings a trip to San Francisco for a date with Jimmy Garappolo and the San Francisco 49ers. 

The 31-year-old Cousins lost his only previous playoff start — during the 2015 campaign with the Washington Redskins — and came up short of a playoff berth in the Vikings’ final game last season.

He also struggled in a handful of other high-profile matchups in prime time in 2019, but he delivered in Minnesota’s first road playoff victory since Jan. 9, 2005, when the Vikings defeated the rival Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the wild-card round.

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“I’m just happy we won,” Cousins said. “It was a great, great game, two good football teams.”

New Orleans fans surely begged to differ after seeing the NFC South champions’ season end in overtime at home for a second straight year.

The latest disappointing end for the Saints (13-4) came the year after they lost in the NFC championship game to the Los Angeles Rams in a matchup marred by blatant penalties not being called against the Rams late in regulation.

This time, replays on video boards showed a possible push-off by Rudolph against defensive back P.J. Williams moments before he jumped to snag the winning catch.

NFL president of officiating Al Riveron said the league reviewed numerous replay angles, and though officials saw contact by both players, “none of that contact rises to the level of a foul.”

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Redskins hire Ron Rivera as new head coach

Over Daniel Snyder’s time as the Redskins’ owner, Washington is where good coaches land to die. Since 2000, when Snyder made Norv Turner the first coach he fired, not one coach has left Washington with a winning record. Even coaches with great résumés like Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan and Steve Spurrier couldn’t do it.

Rivera is up next. The two-time NFL Coach of the Year with the Carolina Panthers agreed to be the next coach of the Redskins, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Rivera’s career with Carolina started slowly, but he eneded 76-63-1 as Panthers coach. He won NFL Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2015. In 2015, his 15-1 Panthers made the Super Bowl, only to come up short versus the Denver Broncos. Rivera was fired during the 2019 season as the Panthers slumped without quarterback Cam Newton.

Rivera’s abilities as a leader might give him an opportunity to succeed in Washington. He was a great representative of the Panthers franchise, especially during the Jerry Richardson scandal that led to the Panthers’ founder selling the team.

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When Snyder announced he had fired team president Bruce Allen, he said Washington would “reevaluate our team leadership, culture and process for winning football games.”

If anyone can reshape that in Washington with Snyder still owning the team, maybe it’s Rivera. It’ll be a big job, and he’s reportedly going to bring in the big guns to get it done.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Rivera is expected to target Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator, who has proven results in defensive improvements when he was the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos.

Washington went 3-13, which wasn’t fun, but it means they get the second pick of the 2020 draft. Expect that to be Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young, who looks like a phenomenal prospect. The rest of the roster has a few interesting players. A key is if 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins can develop at quarterback.

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Seahawks LB Mychal Kendricks out for rest of season with torn ACL

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed Monday that strongside linebacker Mychal Kendrick tore his ACL in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers and will miss the playoffs.

Kendricks suffered the knee injury in the third quarter of the game. He came up gimpy after a blown coverage on Niners fullback Kyle Juszczyk down field, which ended in a 49-yard gain and eventually led to a San Francisco touchdown drive.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported earlier Monday that Seattle believed Kendricks had a torn ACL, even before his MRI results came in.

“Mychal looks like he’ll need surgery,” Carroll told reporters. “He’s going to be out for a while.” Losing the eighth-year linebacker is a huge blow for the Seahawks’ defense as it gears up for the postseason.

The team already has little margin for error on that side of the ball — with the blown coverages and breakdowns that seem to happen a handful of times each game for Seattle’s D. Losing Kendricks doesn’t help that cause.

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The former Cal standout played a critical role in the Seahawks’ heavy dependence on 4-3 base defense this campaign.

He was one of the team’s more athletic players, and Carroll was confident in his coverage skills — indicative in the fact that he’s frequently kept on the field for passing downs over nickelback options.

Kendricks finished the regular season fourth on the team with 71 tackles and tied for third with three sacks.

With Kendricks out of the picture for January (and potentially February), rookie third-round pick Cody Barton is the starter at SAM backer moving forward. The Seahawks could also look to employ more sub packages on third down.

Kendricks is the fourth Seahawk in the last four weeks to suffer season-ending injuries. Running backs Chris Carson (hip fracture) and C.J. Prosise (broken arm) were lost for the year in Week 16 versus the Arizona Cardinals, while tailback Rashaad Penny (ACL) got hurt vs. the Rams on Dec. 8.

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Ravens set record for rushing yards in season

The Ravens ran their way into the record book Sunday.

Baltimore set the NFL single 16-game-season team rushing record, breaking a mark that had stood for 41 years. The 1978 New England Patriots rushed for 3,165 yards, during an era when running the football was much more prevalent.

Baltimore needed 93 yards Sunday to set the record, and players and coaches entered the match aware that the mark was within reach.

Running back Gus Edwards set the tone, exploding for a 38-yard run late in the first quarter, and Baltimore ended the first quarter with 89 yards rushing, just four yards short of the record. Then early in the second quarter, Edwards broke the record on a 9-yard rumble up the middle.

In today’s NFL, a team rushing for over 3,000 yards in a season is unheard of Nobody had come close to the Patriots’ record in the years since.

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Baltimore’s rushing attack and the innovative schemes used by Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman are also unique.

The Ravens had two players who rushed for over 1,000 yards, Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram II. Jackson set the NFL single-season rushing record for a quarterback (1,206 yards), running behind an offensive line that featured two Pro Bowlers in left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right guard Marshal Yanda.

The Ravens also have a Pro Bowl fullback (Patrick Ricard) and one of the league’s best blocking tight ends in Nick Boyle.

Jackson, Ingram, Stanley and Yanda were all inactive versus the Steelers on Sunday, but Baltimore’s rushing attack kept rolling. Sunday was the latest example of why Baltimore’s rushing attack is one for the ages, and the best in the NFL by a wide margin.

The Ravens entered Sunday’s match averaging 204.9 yards rushing, more than 59 yards ahead of the next best team, the San Francisco 49ers.

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Steelers to play starters with shot at No. 1-2 seed

The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up at least the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs by defeating the Houston Texans on Monday.

Pittsburgh will have a bye to the divisional round of the tournament and can still earn the No. 1 seed by defeating the Cleveland Browns and by having the New Jets beat the New England Patriots.

But Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he won’t let the fact the No. 1 seed in the AFC is still in play factor into his decision-making on who he will dress for the Browns game.

“I’m undecided as I stand here right now,” Tomlin said Tuesday afternoon at his weekly news conference. “It’s obvious those discussions are in play. We’ll do what’s best for us short-term and long, and we won’t look back.”

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The Steelers-Browns game kicks off at 1 p.m., the same time the Patriots-Jets game starts.

There is a scenario where Tomlin and his staff can watch the scoreboard to see if there is a chance the Patriots could be upset, but that would require Tomlin to play his starters for at least one half and perhaps more if that game is close.

“We have no control over that,” Tomlin said. “We better take care of the business in our stadium. We better focus on the challenges in our stadium and take care of the business that’s in our control. That will be my mentality as we prepare this week and as we walk into the stadium.”

Regardless of whether Tomlin decides to sit or play his stars, the Steelers have an oportunity to go undefeated in the AFC North for the first time since the 2008 season.

Tomlin said there were no significant injuries to come out of the Houston match. He did not have an update on wide receiver Antonio Brown, but he did rule him out for the Browns game.

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Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch out for season due to neck injury

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch suffered a neck injury during Sunday’s match versus the Philadelphia Eagles and will not return.

Vander Esch recorded three tackles before exiting, raising his season total to 54.

Injuries were a topic surrounding Vander Esch entering the 2018 NFL draft. He was limited to just six games as a redshirt sophomore at Boise State as he dealt with a concussion and a neck injury.

His agent told the Idaho Press his client passed all medical checks during the predraft process.

Dallas was impressed enough by his film and skill set that it took him with the 19th overall pick. He went on to record 140 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass breakups as a rookie en route to the Pro Bowl. He was also voted second-team All-Pro.

Vander Esch was the first to make contact with the opposing ball carrier on 15.1 percent of his defensive snaps in 2018.

That put him well ahead of his peers, as no other off-ball linebacker with at least 400 defensive snaps finished above 12.6 percent.

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He wound up playing all 18 games (including the postseason) in his first year as a pro, though he missed the start of organized team activities in May this year with a pelvis injury. 

Vander Esch was, however, ready for the regular season.

Losing him for any period of time would be a blow to the middle of the defense. The linebacking corps still features the likes of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, though the Cowboys will have a hard time replacing Vander Esch.

For his part, Vander Esch has made it clear he plans on playing “12 years” in the NFL and “not four”, indicating he’s totally fine with how the Cowboys are approaching the situation.

In his stead, veteran linebackers Sean Lee and Joe Thomas have taken up the mantle on the weakside.

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RB Chris Carson´s hip injury might end his season

Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson suffered a hip injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s game versus the Arizona Cardinals, and his playing status for the rest of the season is now in jeopardy.

After the 27-13 loss, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll confirmed Carson will miss Week 17’s pivotal clash versus the San Francisco 49ers. Carson underwent additional testing, and team doctors informed Carroll the injury appeared to be season-ending, per ESPN’s Brady Henderson. Carson had eight carries for 40 yards before exiting. 

Carson took over as the starting running back in 2018 and proceeded to run for 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games. He ended 12th in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) among running backs with at least 100 carries, per Football Outsiders.

Through 14 matches in 2019, Carson had 1,190 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

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Outside of selecting DK Metcalf in the second round of the draft, the Seahawks did little to upgrade the offense, largely due to the fact they didn’t have much salary-cap space with which to make significant additions.

Seattle also lost Mike Davis, the team’s second-leading rusher during last season, after he signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Chicago Bears.

Carson’s injury comes two weeks after Rashaad Penny suffered a season-ending torn ACL.

C.J. Prosise injured his arm Sunday night as well and will miss Week 17, leaving rookie Travis Homer as the last active option. 

Carroll was asked how the Seahawks will rally, given all the attrition.

“We are going to figure out a way,” he said. “We are going to use all of the same tools that we use all the time mentally to make sure we can be disciplined about it and turn the focus on the next challenge. Our guys do a remarkable job of doing that. So people who question their ability to do it can’t believe when we do it. We’ll try to show you and prove it.

“The 49ers look awesome. They’re playing great football. They had a great win last week. It will be as great of a test as we could play. I’m disappointed we didn’t go into [the 49ers game] with momentum, but we’re going to re-create it here during the week.”

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Jaguars fire Tom Coughlin

The Jacksonville Jaguars have informed the firing of executive vice president Tom Coughlin, just two days after the NFL Players Association went public with a breathtaking number of grievances filed against the team’s front office since the former coach’s hiring.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan explained the decision Wednesday, claiming that he had been planning to part ways with Coughlin after the season, but reconsidered and decided to make the change immediately. Given what the NFLPA was claiming, it’s hard to blame him for changing the timeline.

In its letter, the NFLPA stated a combative relationship with Coughlin’s front office over the Jaguars’ insistence, to the point of $700,000 in fines against former Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., that injured players rehab with the team during the offseason.

That was a clear violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

The conduct of Coughlin’s front office was reportedly so toxic that more than 25 percent of player grievances filed in the past two years have been against the Jaguars.

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The letter finished with an ominous warning: “You as players may want to consider this when you have an option to select your next club.” Essentially, the players union was warning players against signing with a specific organization, a move rarely seen in today’s game.

Coughlin has gained a reputation over the years as one of the NFL’s harshest taskmasters, and it appeared that his desire to control players was great enough to ignore their CBA-backed rights.

That approach predictably made him unpopular in the Jacksonville locker room, to the point that Fowler and former Jaguars star cornerback Jalen Ramsey took victory laps on Twitter after the NFLPA went public with Coughlin’s conduct.

Coughlin is now 73 years old and was unpopular enough on his last team that the NFLPA felt the need to swing its full might against his tenure.

Any team that wants to bring him on in any kind of executive role is going to have to publicly explain the decision, and any player on that team would have the upper hand if he went public with a grievance.

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Giants place TE Evan Engram on Injured reserve

The Giants entered training camp excited about their collection of offensive ballhandlers that included Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Evan Engram. But when Engram was placed on injured reserve today, it not only ended his season, it guaranteed that the team will not play one match this year with all four of them on the field at the same time.

Engram, the third-year tight end, missed the previous five matches with a foot injury. He at one point seemed close to returning to the field, but the injury didn’t sufficiently improve, and the Giants decided he would not be well enough to return to the field this season.

Wide receiver David Sills was signed off the practice squad to take Engram’s place on the roster.

Tackle Nate Wozniak was signed to the practice squad. Engram, the Giants’ first-round draft choice in 2017, played in eight games, one year after injuries limited him to 11 games. He caught 44 passes for 467 yards and three touchdowns.

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In the Giants’ season opener in Dallas, Engram ended with career-high totals of 11 receptions for 116 yards, including a one-yard touchdown. Two weeks later, in the team’s first win at Tampa Bay, he caught six passes for 113 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown on a throw from Daniel Jones that was the longest by a tight end in Giants history.

Engram missed the Oct. 10 Thursday night game in New England with a knee injury, returned to play in the next three games, but hurt his foot versus Dallas on Nov. 4.

Sills, 6-3 and 211 pounds, has spent the entire season on the Giants’ practice squad. He has not played in an NFL regular-season game, but is now eligible to debut on Sunday, when the Giants will be in Washington.

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