Offseason changes see varied results in preseason action

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL Writer
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Carson Palmer’s career ended with an interception — and a broken arm.

On the surface, it seemed fitting a team that struggled to protect Palmer would see its starter knocked out for the season when it failed to pick up a blitz. Ironically, though, a running back (Adrian Peterson) missed the block that sent Palmer to the ground, where he suffered the broken arm that ended his final season in the NFL.

No matter the culprit, one of the offseason priorities of the Cardinals was improving the offensive line. A remake of the unit has changed the 2017 Week 7 lineup of D.J. HumphriesAlex BooneA.Q. ShipleyEarl Watford and Jared Veldheer to a new five of Humphries, Mike IupatiMason ColeJustin Pugh and Andre Smith. Continue reading

What we learned from Saturday’s preseason games

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL Writer
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Saturday brought us another small plate of NFL preseason action, with three new quarterbacks to watch, including Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins, Denver’s Case Keenum and Arizona’s Josh Rosen (and Sam Bradford, too, we guess).

Here’s what we learned from Saturday’s Week 1 preseason games:

Minnesota Vikings 42, Denver Broncos 28

 

The fate of the Broncos, like many teams, will begin and end with the performance of their offensive line.

That much was evident in a short preseason debut for quarterback Case Keenum, a star for a very successful 2017 Minnesota Vikings team who saw a bunch of familiar faces lining up against him on Saturday. His new teammates didn’t do the greatest job of giving him time to throw.

Lulls in between plays not included, you could watch Keenum’s entire performance in the same amount of time it would take you to heat up that low-calorie frozen dinner (don’t forget to cut a vent in the plastic and stir the contents!). Keenum opened the drive with a quick out to Demaryius Thomas, who made Vikings linebacker Ben Gedeon miss before picking up the majority of his 5-yard gain. A false start on the next play erased that gain and forced Keenum into a third-and-7, which resulted in an incomplete pass intended for Courtland Sutton and a punt. Continue reading

Josh Rosen shows signs of potential in first NFL action

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL Writer
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Josh Rosen had to wait until Sammy Sleeves completed his one drive before Rosen got his first crack at NFL competition.

He didn’t set the world on fire in the Cardinals‘ 24-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. But he showed some small signs Saturday that he might have a productive career in his future.

Playing with the second-string linemen for the majority of his stint, Rosen was subjected to constant pressure, but rarely crumbled. The rookie felt and evaded pressure, escaping the pocket before resetting and completing his best pass of the night, a 21-yard strike to tight end Gabe Holmes. Continue reading

Kirk Cousins sharp as advertised in brief Vikings debut

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL Writer
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Kirk Cousins‘ playing time on Saturday night was short, and boy, was it sweet.

The anointed man under center looked every bit as advertised in his lone drive versus the Denver Broncos, completing all four of his pass attempts for 42 yards and a touchdown for the Minnesota Vikings in their 42-28 win. The yards and perfect completion percentage don’t quite jump off the page, but the tape will, length aside.

Cousins was confident, precise and looked as comfortable as a new quarterback will ever look. Buoyed by two 20-plus-yard runs by Latavius Murray, Cousins was free to test things out with Stefon Diggs, and all three worked out. Cousins first found Diggs for six yards to open the drive, and then made a key completion, connecting with Diggs on a perfectly placed pass over the shoulder of Bradley Roby for a 28-yard gain. It was the first throw that showed why Minnesota handed the keys and a fully guaranteed contract to Cousins. Continue reading

Break convention in case of emergency: A look at swing linemen

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL Writer
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A great offense begins with a reliable, effective offensive line. That cannot be overstated.

The offensive line serves as the first line of defense, of protection and of action. The front five open holes for running backs, protect a quarterback, provide adequate time for receivers to get open and for passers to deliver the ball on time and on target.

But what about when one of those five is forced off the field by injury? What happens when a once-impassable wall shows a crack?

As it goes in football, next man up. The first sign of weakness is what separates the good from the forgotten. In 2017, we received one of the best examples.

Let’s dive into the unheralded but vital role of the swing lineman: The sixth man who approaches each week ready to contribute, to step up when another goes down, and to contribute in a role that lacks notoriety but becomes just as important when called into action. Continue reading

Jamal Adams: Jets gave the ‘bare minimum’ in 2017

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL Writer
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The Jets surprised many in 2017 by winning five games when they — not the Browns, who ended up winless — were expected to be the league’s worst team.

A standout youngster says that even with those victories, New York did it by going through the motions, not by giving the maximum effort.

Everybody was used to losing,” Jets safety Jamal Adams told Bleacher Report. “You can always tell that vibe. I came in, and it was like everybody wanted to do the bare minimum. They didn’t want to go above and beyond. They didn’t want to take that extra step.

“They didn’t want to be uncomfortable, [but] to be great, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to be willing to sacrifice and willing to do the little things. And the team, the organization, just wasn’t doing those things.” Continue reading

Cleveland Browns move Joel Bitonio to left tackle spot

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL Writer
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A week after dancing around the idea of sending Joel Bitonio out to the edge of the Browns‘ offensive line, Hue Jackson has committed to the change.

Thanks in part to right guard Kevin Zeitler‘s early exit from Wednesday’s practice, Cleveland trotted out a left-side lineup that offensive line coach Bob Wylie termed on July 29 as “Option Z“: Bitonio at left tackle and rookie Austin Corbett at left guard. And according to Jackson, it’s here to stay.

Jackson told reporters Wednesday “it’s full speed ahead with Joel” at left tackle, per the Associated Press’ Tom Withers, explaining moving the excellent guard to tackle gives the Browns their best five up front. Continue reading

Steelers GM Colbert defends Mike Tomlin’s approach

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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Despite leading a perennial contender in Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin has become a target of sorts for critics of the Steelers.

Last season’s near-constant drama helped to amplify the thought, as did Pittsburgh’s stunning playoff exit via a home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. (The latter eventually cost Todd Haley his job as offensive coordinator.) But Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert took it upon himself Friday to strongly back his coach, no matter how out of control things might have appeared in 2017.

“There’s no concern whatsoever about our team’s attitude, discipline, all that other stuff that gets talked about,” Colbert told reporters at Saint Vincent College, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Absolutely no concern.” Continue reading

Hall president on Terrell Owens: ‘He felt disrespected’

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL Writer
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Terrell Owens won’t be in Canton, Ohio, next week with the rest of his fellow 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement class members — and as a result, his name will largely be a footnote during the weekend’s festivities.

Owens will be on the banners hanging around the Hall’s campus and on the video boards of the main stage. He’ll go down in history as one of eight to be inducted in 2018 into football’s most hallowed place, the home of gridiron immortality. Merchandisers will likely sell plenty of gear with his likeness on it during the weekend. But in terms of the event, that’s about where his time in the spotlight will end. Continue reading

Joe Thomas: Austin Corbett is a guard, not a tackle

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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I was wrong.

Last week, in the return (!) of Behind the Offensive Line, we broke down some key offensive line battles across the league. I mentioned how the Browns would approach replacing future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas. Being a big believer in guards with potential, I listed No. 33 pick Austin Corbett as a contender for the left tackle position with veteran Shon Coleman.

Then I sat down with Thomas and chatted about his career, offensive line play and the situation at his old post in Cleveland. Continue reading