NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE NEWS
NFL TRANSACTION ROUNDUP: QBS COLT MCCOY, TRACE MCSORLEY RELEASED
The Cardinals released veteran QB Colt McCoy, who started six games for them over the past two seasons. With Kyler Murray not expected to be healthy to play Week 1, Arizona will start either rookie QB Clayton Tune or recently acquired Joshua Dobbs. The Cardinals also released safety Sean Chandler and cornerback Nate Hairston.
The Ravens confirmed seven moves, waiving DB DeAndre Houston-Carson and cutting DT Trey Botts, DT Kai Caesar, WR Dontay Demus Jr., G Jake Guidone, CB Corey Mayfield Jr. and OLB Kelle Sanders.
Cleveland acquired K Dustin Hopkins from the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for a 2025 seventh-rounder. The Browns also terminated the contract of G Wes Martin and placed G Drew Forbes on the reserve/non-football illness list.
Green Bay Packers
Veteran punter Pat O’Donnell was released after nine NFL seasons, eight with Chicago and one with Green Bay. The Packers will turn to rookie Daniel Whelan at the position.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams waived LB Kelechi Anyalebechi, WR Braxton Burmeister, DB Timarcus Davis, DB Tyon Davis, DB Vincent Gray, WR Tyler Hudson, DB Tanner Ingle, DB Jordan Jones, G Sean Maginn, WR Lance McCutcheon, TE Camren McDonald, TE Christian Sims and DT Taron Vincent. They also waived LB Ryan Smenda with an injury designation.
Miami released T Geron Christian, WR Keke Coutee and LB A.J. Johnson. The team also waived LB Mitchell Agude, QB James Blackman, DT Josiah Bronson, DE Randy Charlton, WR Chris Coleman, LB Aubrey Miller II, LB Garrett Nelson, S Keidron Smith, T James Tunstall, DT Jaylen Twyman and DT Jamal Woods.
The Vikings waived DL Calvin Avery, CB Kalon Barnes, CB C.J. Coldon Jr., T Christian DiLauro, CB Jameson Houston, LB Wilson Huber, WR Garett Maag, RB Abram Smith, OL Josh Sokol, QB Jordan Ta’amu, TE Colin Thompson and T Jarrid Williams. LBs Jake Gervase and Tanner Vallejo were released, and CB Tay Gowan was waived with an injury designation.
New England Patriots
Trace McSorley, who made one start (six appearances) at quarterback for Arizona last season, was released, leaving Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe and rookie Maalik Cunningham at the position in New England. The Patriots also released punter Corliss Waitman.
New York Giants
Guards Jack Anderson and Wyatt Davis and DB Zyon Gilbert were waived with an injury designation, while TE Chris Myarick was moved to injured reserve.
New York Jets
The Jets placed CB Jimmy Moreland on IR and released OL Greg Senat, LB Pita Taumoepenu and LB Nick Vigil.
The Eagles signed CB Isaiah Rodgers, who is suspended for at least the 2023 season due to a gambling policy violation. The team also waived DT Noah Elliss with an injury settlement.
Pittsburgh released OL Le’Raven Clark, OL William Dunkle, S Jalen Elliott, RB Darius Hagans, CB Lavert Hill, DL Manny Jones, QB Tanner Morgan, LB Tanner Muse, LB Toby Ndukwe and S Kenny Robinson.
Tennessee placed RB Hassan Haskins on injured reserve.
Washington placed T Braeden Daniels on injured reserve. The team also released WR Zion Bowens, LB Milo Eifler, CB DaMarcus Fields, LB Ferrod Gardner, S Joshua Kalu, WR Marcus Kemp, DT Isaiah Mack, DT Anthony Montalvo, T/G Aaron Montiero, RB Jaret Patterson, DE Joshua Pryor and CB D.J. Stirgus.
CARDINALS RELEASE QB COLT MCCOY, LEAVING POSITION IN FLUX AS REGULAR SEASON APPROACHES
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Less than two weeks before the start of the regular season, the Arizona Cardinals are searching for a starting quarterback to man the position while Kyler Murray continues his recovery from a knee injury.
The Cardinals released their expected starting quarterback Colt McCoy on Monday, throwing the position into flux as Week 1 approaches against the Washington Commanders on Sept. 10.
The most likely options are rookie Clayton Tune or the recently acquired Joshua Dobbs, who came to the Cardinals in a trade with the Cleveland Browns last week.
“Every spot is open competition,” first-year Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good plan in place, but I want to see them both go through the next two weeks.”
Veteran David Blough has also received considerable playing time during the preseason.
The 36-year-old McCoy had a 3-3 record in spot starts as Murray’s backup over the past two seasons, and was expected to take the snaps this fall while Murray recovers from a torn ACL suffered last season. McCoy was 9 of 12 passing for 45 yards in limited time during two preseason games.
Gannon said there wasn’t one performance that led to McCoy’s release, just the realization over time that the team needed to move in a different direction.
“Colt’s awesome, he’s a true pro’s pro,” Gannon said. “You know they care, they put a lot of hard work and sacrifice into their craft. But ultimately, if you’re honest with them, they appreciate that, and they know that we’re going to do what we have to do for what’s best for the team.
“But, yeah, these are tough days.”
It’s unclear how much of this season Murray will miss.
Gannon said it’s possible the franchise quarterback – who signed a $230.5 million, five-year deal in 2022 – could start the season on the PUP list, meaning he’ll miss at least four games, but Gannon didn’t have many updates on Monday.
“He’s doing great,” Gannon said.
McCoy’s release was a surprise, but there were clues it might happen. Gannon declined to announce a starter during training camp and the arrival of Dobbs last week signaled that the Cardinals wanted more options under center.
The 28-year-old Dobbs should have some familiarity with the Cardinals’ system. Arizona’s new offensive coordinator Drew Petzing was the quarterbacks coach in Cleveland before coming to the desert.
Dobbs started two games for the Titans in 2022, losing both.
“He’s a mobile guy who understands the system,” Gannon said. “He can make throws, play in the pocket or play outside the pocket.”
Tune – a fifth-round selection out of Houston – has flashed some potential, but is still in the very early stages of his development.
In other Monday moves, the Cardinals also released safety Sean Chandler and cornerback Nate Hairston. They also placed offensive lineman Pat Elflein on injured reserve.
McCoy has played 12 seasons with five teams, mostly as a backup. He’s thrown for 7,975 yards and 34 touchdowns in his career and has a 11-25 mark in 36 starts.
REPORT: AGENT FOR DE DEREK BARNETT SEEKING TRADE OPTIONS
The agent for Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett is seeking trade partners, ESPN reported Monday.
Barnett, who tore his ACL in Week 1 of the 2022 season, now finds himself behind a slew of young and talented defensive linemen in Philly and is looking for an opportunity for more playing time, per the report.
The Eagles, however, are planning to keep Barnett, per ESPN.
Barnett has been a full participant in training camp.
Barnett, 27, has 21.5 sacks in 65 games (45 starts) in six seasons with the Eagles, who selected him No. 14 overall in the 2017 draft.
The Eagles restructured Barnett’s contract earlier this summer, and he’s set to make $3.5 million this season.
Barnett is listed behind starter Josh Sweat at right defensive end. Brandon Graham is the Eagles’ starting DE on the other side. The Eagles also have Haason Reddick and rookie Nolan Smith.
JAGUARS LOSE ROOKIE LINEBACKER VENTRELL MILLER FOR THE SEASON WITH A RUPTURED ACHILLES TENDON
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars rookie linebacker Ventrell Miller will miss the season after rupturing his right Achilles tendon in the team’s preseason finale against Miami.
Coach Doug Pederson made the announcement Monday, one day before the team has to pair its roster to 53.
“He’ll be missed,” Pederson said.
A fourth-round draft pick from Florida, Miller had been battling Shaq Quarterman for a backup spot behind starters Foye Oluokun and Devin Lloyd. But now Miller will spend the year rehabbing on injured reserve.
It’s the third consecutive season Miller has dealt with a significant injury. He had surgery in late December for a broken bone — a Jones fracture — in his right foot that prevented him from participating at the Senior Bowl, the NFL scouting combine and Florida’s pro day.
The Jaguars still chose him 121st overall, a somewhat surprising move considering they spent first- and third-round picks on inside linebackers Lloyd and Chad Muma in 2022 and have veteran Oluokun under contract for at least two more seasons.
But Jacksonville felt Miller was worth a low-risk gamble even though he missed most of the 2021 season with a torn biceps and played nine games last fall with a broken foot. Miller said he took weekly pain-numbing shots to stay on the field for the Gators.
Miller finished the 2022 season with 74 tackles, including 8 1/2 for loss, and was by far Florida’s best defender. He ended his college career with 240 tackles, the kind of production the Jaguars envision translating to the next level.
But he’ll have to wait to show it.
Also Monday, Jaguars defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton returned to the facility after missing more than a week with a back injury sustained away from football. Pederson said defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi (foot) is expected to return to practice this week while backup offensive linemen Josh Wells (abductor) and Cooper Hodges (knee) are considered week to week. Hodges, a seventh-round draft pick from Appalachian State is “not close yet,” Pederson said.
COMMANDERS’ ROBINSON FEELS ‘NIGHT AND DAY’ A YEAR SINCE BEING SHOT IN AN ATTEMPTED ROBBERY
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Brian Robinson Jr.’s introduction to the NFL a year ago was humming along smoothly, with his training camp and preseason performances putting him on course to be the Washington Commanders’ top running back.
Then, on a Sunday evening, that trajectory stopped in an instant. Robinson was shot twice in the right leg as part of an attempted robbery/carjacking in the city.
Robinson was hospitalized, underwent surgery and recovered so quickly he played football six weeks later, finishing his rookie season with nearly 800 yards rushing in 12 games. A full year removed from the shooting, Robinson is finally feeling himself again, and his role in Washington’s new offense under Eric Bieniemy has him primed for what could be a breakout season.
“I feel night and day from like last year,” Robinson said. “There wasn’t one time I felt like Brian Robinson, so that’s night and day from then to now. People should expect a lot great things to come when you compare all the things I did while I was limping around all year last year.”
Robinson, now 24, said he feels more like himself every day — free from some of the lingering issues he dealt with in his right knee and hip from the shooting.
Incredibly, the bullet that struck his knee missed all the bones and ligaments in it, allowing him the possibility of getting back on the field, but that didn’t mean he was pain free.
With Antonio Gibson also on the roster, the coaching and medical staffs were patient with Robinson, putting him on the non-football injury list and ruling out a return in the first four weeks of the season. The 2022 third-round pick out of Alabama got a chance to ramp up once he made his pro debut, splitting carries with Gibson before taking over as the No. 1 back.
A bruised thigh derailed the end of his season, just after Robinson started to find a groove.
“I think he is coming in with a whole different perspective,” coach Ron Rivera said. “Last year, he was a wide-eyed rookie and went through a very traumatic situation very early and just never really got a chance to enjoy it and show his personality to who he really is. …
“Now, folks are going to get to see who he is.”
Robinson looks to be one of the keys to Washington’s offense, with unproven second-year pro Sam Howell installed as the starting quarterback and a remade line he’ll need to run behind. Bieniemy likes what he has seen so far, and that goes beyond rushing.
“Not only can he run it, but he for sure can catch it — and on top of that, he does a heck of a job stepping up in protection,” Bieniemy said last week. “We want the most complete football player … at every position to be their best. It helps tremendously when you have a player and a person like that that’s willing to do it all.”
Rivera this summer has noticed a more mature version of Robinson than a year ago, acknowledging there’s still room for growth.
“He’s still learning,” Rivera said. “But there’s a lot of promise. There’s a lot of excitement right now.”
Robinson said he can do anything in the playbook, including catching the ball out of the backfield. He considers the next step in his progression to be breaking off game-changing runs of 50-plus yards and getting into the end zone after just two touchdowns last season.
“I just don’t want to be one-dimensional and I don’t want to be just a power back: I want to be able to run routes, run down the field, catch the ball with soft hands and continue to grow my game,” Robinson said. “(There are) no limits on what I can do.”
BROWNS’ COMMITMENT AND CONFIDENCE IN CADE YORK APPEARS MORE SHAKEN AFTER KICKER’S LATEST MISS
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cade York may no longer have a powerful leg to stand on with the Browns.
York’s struggles this summer have eroded Cleveland’s confidence in him and coach Kevin Stefanski’s failure to commit to the second-year kicker for the season opener has raised more questions about his future.
Despite York’s misses in exhibition games, the Browns had been adamantly supporting York, a fourth-round draft pick who had an underwhelming rookie season in 2022.
That changed Sunday.
After York missed an extra point (it was nullified by penalty) and had a late field-goal attempt blocked (it looked low) in a 33-32 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Stefanski was asked if the 22-year-old will be Cleveland’s kicker in the Sept. 10 opener against Cincinnati.
He didn’t say yes. He didn’t say no.
“We always keep those internal as we get through this week,” Stefanski said on a Zoom call. ”But I’ll reiterate I think Cade is very, very talented.”
Talent has never been the problem with York. Accuracy is the issue.
While York has looked as good as ever in practice, he’s not carrying it over into games. He went just 4 of 8 on field-goal tries in Cleveland’s four preseason games and missed potential game-winners the past two weeks.
On Saturday, York, who briefly left with a shin injury in the first quarter, had his 43-yarder with 57 seconds left deflected by Chiefs defensive tackle Phil Hoskins at the line of scrimmage. Stefanski was vague in pinpointing what went wrong.
“Obviously didn’t hit it like we wanted to and that’s something I know we want to be able to finish there as a team, so it was disappointing,” Stefanski said. “But it doesn’t change our mentality that each one of our players is going to continue to work at this thing and get better.”
That’s been the company line for weeks as York’s situation has spiraled further off course. The Browns’ stance is that he’s like any player working on his craft in the runway up to the regular season.
However, York’s inconsistency last season — he went 24 of 32 on field goals — along with the team’s attempts to protect him from outside criticism, seem to point to there being deeper complications.
During the TV broadcast, Browns general manager Andrew Berry, who used a precious pick on the former LSU standout, reiterated his supported and indicated the team was prepared to begin a critical 2023 season with York.
But that endorsement came before the latest late-game failure, and now Berry may be forced to sign a veteran or at the very least have one on standby as a backup plan in case York continues to be off the mark.
Veterans Robbie Gould and Mason Crosby headline a group of proven kickers available to the Browns. There could be others for Berry to choose from this week as NFL teams trim their rosters to 53.
To his credit, York has remained confident in his ability and that he’ll turn things around.
“I want to be a weapon,” he said in Kansas City. “I know how good I am. That’s been the most frustrating thing the last month, struggling with that.”
York also grew testy with a reporter when he was pressed about why he’s not performing as well as hoped.
Stefanski said he understood York’s frustration.
“He works very hard, wants to come through,” Stefanski said. “So of course he’s going to be frustrated. I’ve been in that situation when you have to answer some questions when you’re frustrated, so we have to be pros in that situation. But these are human beings, so we do sometimes let frustrations get the better of us.”
Cleveland thought its long-term kicking situation was solved when it drafted York.
At the moment, that seems short-sighted.
BROWNS REPLACE KICKER CADE YORK, TRADE PICK TO CHARGERS FOR VETERAN DUSTIN HOPKINS, AP SOURCE SAYS
CLEVELAND (AP) With kicker Cade York struggling badly, the Cleveland Browns acquired Dustin Hopkins in a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers, a person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press on Monday.
The Browns sent a seventh-round pick in 2025 to the Chargers for Hopkins, said the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the teams are waiting for the trade to be cleared by the NFL.
York could be released by the Browns after a rough exhibition season. He went 4 of 8 on field goals and had a potential game winner blocked in the final minute on Saturday in Kansas City. York had an inconsistent rookie season after being drafted in the fourth round in 2022.
The 32-year-old Hopkins gives the Browns a reliable kicker to start the season. He spent seven seasons with Washington and the past two in Los Angeles.
Hopkins has made 190 of 224 of his field-goal attempts.
PATRIOTS ACQUIRE OL VEDERIAN LOWE FROM VIKINGS
The New England Patriots acquired offensive lineman Vederian Lowe from the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.
Terms of the deal were not announced. The transaction is pending the result of a physical exam for Lowe, 24.
The Vikings drafted Lowe in the sixth round in 2022 and the 6-foot-6, 320-pound rookie played in four games.
LIONS QB NATE SUDFELD TORE ACL IN FINAL PRESEASON GAME
Detroit Lions backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld tore his ACL in his only series played in Friday’s final preseason game, ESPN and the Detroit Free Press reported Monday.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell declined to say Monday if Sudfeld indeed tore his ACL, saying only that it’s serious and that he’s getting a second opinion.
“If it is the deal with Nate it’s awful, and I hate that for him,” Campbell said. “That’s tough, cause Nate’s given us everything he’s had and he came in last year and brought something to us, and somebody we were very comfortable with, enough to sign him back. So I hate that if that’s the way it goes here.”
Sudfeld, 29, was relegated to QB3 when the Lions signed Teddy Bridgewater earlier this month to be the primary backup to Jared Goff. However, the Lions were considering keeping Sudfeld on the 53-man roster.
Sudfeld completed 26 of 51 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown against three interceptions in three preseason games.
Sudfeld joined the Lions at the end of camp in 2022 and was Goff’s primary backup last regular season, appearing in two games.
Sudfeld has appeared in six career NFL games, throwing for 188 yards and a TD and INT for the Philadelphia Eagles and Lions. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2016 draft by Washington.
TEXANS TAP ROOKIE C.J. STROUD TO START WEEK 1
Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is set to begin the 2023 season as Houston’s starter.
Head coach DeMeco Ryans said the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft proved himself ready during training camp and capped a preseason test run with 3-yard TD pass in Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Saints.
Stroud said the designation was “definitely earned,” but doesn’t change anything immediately.
“I’m still going to work the way I’ve been working, even more now. Blessed enough to be a starter so young in this league,” Stroud said, “which isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I know my coaches have trust and faith in me. So I’m going to go out there and try to do my best.”
The Texans open the season on the road Sept. 10 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Stroud had a passer rating of 62.3 in three preseason games, completing 11 of 20 pass attempts for 89 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Stroud unseated Davis Mills for the starting job. Mills will begin the season as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.
Texans linebacker Will Anderson Jr., the No. 3 pick in the draft, will also be a starter when the Texans face the Ravens in Week 1. Anderson was one of the highest-graded rookies in the preseason according to Pro Football Focus.
WINNERS AND LOSERS OF THE PRE-SEASON
The 2023 NFL preseason is finally in the books, and this year’s exhibition slate once again provided exciting and head-scratching moments for each team.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from the preseason:
Winner: Rookie QBs
What more could you want from a young group of quarterbacks in their first NFL action? Each of the first-round signal-callers looks the part heading into their first regular-season game, with Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson easily winning starting jobs with the Panthers, Texans, and Colts, respectively. Growing pains are to be expected, but it’s easy to see why these three flew off the board on draft night.
It’s not just the top picks making early impressions, either. Sixth-round pick Tanner McKee is already outplaying Marcus Mariota in Philadelphia. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-round selection out of UCLA, ran away with the backup job in Cleveland. Raiders fourth-round pick Aidan O’Connell looked like a seasoned vet in his extended preseason action. And the Packers were so confident in fifth-rounder Sean Clifford as a reliable backup from Day 1 that he never even faced veteran competition. There’s also Bears undrafted free agent Tyson Bagent, who beat out P.J. Walker to serve as Justin Fields’ understudy after two seasons as the starter at Division II Shepherd.
It’s only preseason, of course, but might this quarterback class end up proving to be deeper than anyone could’ve imagined?
Loser: Kyle Shanahan/John Lynch
Trey Lance being traded to Dallas for a fourth-round pick is a colossal disaster for the 49ers. Nobody can argue against the aggressiveness in pursuit of a franchise quarterback, and perhaps this story would’ve had a different ending if injuries and a pandemic hadn’t limited Lance to 132 pass attempts across three seasons (one in college, two in the NFL) so crucial to his development. The results are what they are, though, and this one stings.
Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch spending three first-round picks on a quarterback that provided zero impact has the potential to be the difference in whether this team can capitalize on an extended Super Bowl window. Maybe the stroke of genius (read: luck) in finding a capable starter in Brock Purdy at the end of last year’s draft eases the pain a little bit. But the long list of All-Pro talents drafted shortly after Lance, and even at San Francisco’s original No. 12 slot (Micah Parsons), makes it easy to dream of what could’ve been.
Winner: Steelers’ offense
Don’t look now, but Kenny Pickett and Co. are coming. With Pickett under center, the Steelers’ offense was virtually unstoppable this preseason while producing several big plays. Pickett, a first-round pick last year, completed 13 of 15 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions this preseason. Pittsburgh scored a touchdown in all five drives with the second-year passer on the field.
Pickett isn’t the only Steelers second-year player who looked good, as 2022 second-round receiver George Pickens also turned heads. Two of Pickens’ three catches this preseason were for 30-plus yards, including a 33-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Granted, it’s just preseason. But the Steelers bolstered their offensive line and are expecting a lot from Pickett in Year 2 after an inconsistent rookie season. A solid passing attack could make Pittsburgh and its solid defense playoff contenders in 2023.
Jonathan Taylor was one of the many running backs upset with his contract situation this offseason. Much like the others, his team doesn’t seem all that inclined to address the matter with a long-term deal. But this saga features a truly special level of weirdness, thanks in large part to some bizarre public comments from Jim Irsay. The Colts owner weighing in on the running back market, and seemingly downplaying the concerns of top runners league-wide, appeared to have increased bubbling tensions with his own superstar playmaker. Taylor requested a trade out of Indianapolis days later, and the organization has since granted him permission to seek out a deal.
It remains to be seen whether he’ll find another team willing to both surrender premium draft picks and give him the contract he desires. One thing is certain, though: the Colts, and Irsay specifically, have really messed this one up. Laugh at the idea of running back contracts all you want, but there’s something to be said for keeping your best player happy. Taylor is still just 24. And, if ever there were a team that could justify guaranteeing three years of a new running back contract, it’s the notoriously cap-rich Colts, who now have a rookie at quarterback. Just pay the man.
Winner: Jets hype train
It’s hard not to be excited if you’re a Jets fan. Few teams were as active as New York this offseason, and the team’s aggressiveness resulted in the arrivals of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and running back Dalvin Cook, among others. Suddenly, the Jets – who missed the playoffs for the 12th straight season in 2022 despite boasting a top-five defense – are thinking about the Super Bowl.
The already sky-high offseason expectations became even higher after Rodgers – in his first preseason start since 2018 – tossed a perfect touchdown to Garrett Wilson on Saturday to cap his second and final drive during his preseason debut with the team. Rodgers is happy in New York after almost two decades with the Green Bay Packers, and his connection with Wilson has been hot throughout training camp. New York’s O-line still has question marks, but Rodgers, surrounded by one of football’s most promising receivers and an elite defense, could be the answer to most of the Jets’ problems.
Loser: AFC bubble teams
Our limited exposure to clubs throughout the preseason has provided some confirmation that the AFC is unfathomably loaded. We know all about the top dogs: the Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals are the class of the conference and, once again, bona fide Super Bowl contenders. But how the other playoff spots get sorted out will be one of the most interesting stories of the upcoming season.
The Jets, as discussed above, are a potential powerhouse. And with the Dolphins still on the rise and the Patriots unveiling a professional offense after last year’s mess, every AFC East team has playoff aspirations. The same can also be said for the AFC North, with a new-look offense potentially pushing the Ravens over the top, Pickett’s development boosting the forever competitive Steelers, and the Browns having constructed a wildly talented roster around Deshaun Watson. Even if you consider the Jaguars, Chiefs, and Chargers the only playoff-caliber clubs from the remaining two divisions, that’s 11 contenders for seven spots. There won’t be any bad teams sneaking into the bottom of the AFC playoff picture this year.
Winner: Trevor Lawrence
Lawrence finished this year’s preseason with 13 completions on 16 attempts for 128 yards and one touchdown against one interception. But he isn’t on this list necessarily because of his stats. The 2021 No. 1 pick, who broke out last season and led Jacksonville to the playoffs, should particularly be happy with what he’s seen from Calvin Ridley. The Jaguars acquired Ridley from the Atlanta Falcons last year while the wideout was still suspended. After not playing at all in 2022, the now-reinstated Ridley turned heads at training camp due to his speed and route-running ability.
The Jaguars bolstered their offensive line and drafted tackle Anton Harrison in the first round in April and have done a solid job improving Lawrence’s supporting cast in recent years. Ridley, a former first-round pick who earned a second-team All-Pro nod in 2020, could help Lawrence take his game to another level.
Loser: Russell Wilson
It’s still early to judge the 2023 Broncos, but things haven’t looked good for Wilson and Co. There are a lot of expectations surrounding Denver, as the team brought in Sean Payton as head coach after a disappointing 2022 campaign. The club’s hoping Payton, one of the brightest offensive minds of his generation, can help put Wilson’s game back on track. However, this year’s preseason suggests it could be another long year in Denver.
Wilson looked far from impressive in two appearances this month, and the team’s lack of points with him under center pushed Payton to play the nine-time Pro Bowler and other starters until midway through the second quarter in their first preseason game. Wilson also saw two of his top receivers go down with injuries. Jerry Jeudy is reportedly expected to miss several weeks due to a hamstring injury, and Tim Patrick is out for the season after suffering a torn Achilles. Finally, quarterback Jarrett Stidham, whom the Broncos signed in the offseason to back up Wilson, played well in his last two preseason games this year. He helped the team beat the Los Angeles Rams 41-0 on Saturday, completing 17 of 28 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS
MICHIGAN SUSPENDS OC SHERRONE MOORE FOR SEASON OPENER AGAINST EAST CAROLINA
Michigan offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore will join head coach Jim Harbaugh in serving a suspension for the Wolverines’ season opener as part of the university’s self-imposed punishment.
Harbaugh, as previously announced, will miss the first three games, penalized by Michigan for NCAA recruiting infractions.
Moore, also the offensive line coach, will miss the home game Saturday against East Carolina, with quarterbacks coach Kirk Campbell calling plays.
Both will be able to coach and participate in team activities during the week but won’t be present at the game.
Michigan had announced on Aug. 24 the delegating of game-day duties with Harbaugh’s absence on Saturday, on Sept. 9 against UNLV and Sept. 16 against Bowling Green.
Moore will be in charge for the Bowling Green contest. He also was to split the second half of the UNLV game with run game coordinator and running backs coach Mike Hart. Instead, Hart has sole duties for the second half, with the special teams coordinator, Jim Harbaugh’s son Jay, in charge in the first half.
Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter is the game-day head coach this Saturday.
Jim Harbaugh had earlier designated his father, Jack Harbaugh, as assistant head coach and added associate head coach to strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert’s titles.
Michigan has tried to get ahead of NCAA-issued penalties after an NCAA investigation had concluded there were infractions in recruiting, coaching time and roles — Level II violations. The NCAA also alleges that Harbaugh misled its investigators — a Level I violation.
The governing body was in the process of suspending Harbaugh for a negotiated settlement of four games (all at home), but it was put on hold this summer after the NCAA’s committee on infractions denied the proposal, according to reports.
The settlement had included one-game suspensions for Moore and tight ends coach Grant Newsome, who is not expected to receive a self-imposed punishment.
While Harbaugh denies he lied to investigators, claiming he didn’t recall specific details, athletic director Warde Manuel said that Michigan levied the suspension “in an attempt to further” the NCAA investigative process.
Harbaugh is set to return for Michigan’s Big Ten opener Sept. 23 against visiting Rutgers.
Moore is in his sixth season on the Michigan staff and first as the lone offensive coordinator. He was tight ends coach from 2018-20, offensive line coach since 2021 and co-offensive coordinator from 2021-22.
BIG 10 FOOTBALL WEEK 1
• The 127th season of Big Ten football will commence this week as Minnesota welcomes Nebraska at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
• Michigan State will make its debut on Friday, Sept. 1, with the Spartans playing host to Central Michigan at 7 p.m. ET on FS1. The remaining 11 schools will begin the 2023 campaign on Saturday and Sunday, highlighted by a pair of conference matchups. The complete opening weekend schedule appears to the right.
• The conference announced its 12th annual football preseason honors list, a group which featured nine returning All-Big Ten selections. A media panel selected the 10-member preseason list, with five representatives each from the East and West Divisions. The full list of honorees can be found on page 3.
• The 2023 campaign will feature 99 All-Big Ten honorees (first-, second-, third-team or honorable mention) selected by either the coaches or the media last season, with Ohio State leading the way with 16 all-conference returnees. The East Division welcomes back 56 all-conference players, while the West returns 43. Illinois is the only West team with double-digit all-conference returnees with 10, while each team has at least one All-Big Ten performer returning.
• The National College Football Awards Association announced the 2023 watch lists July 31-Aug. 14, with 83 different Big Ten players featured for expected on-field performance. Thirteen schools are represented with Michigan and Ohio State leading the way with 14 honorees each, followed by Penn State with 10 and Iowa with eight. The full list of Big Ten standouts featured on the 2023 NCFAA watch lists can be found on page 2.
• The Big Ten welcomes four new head coaches to the sidelines for the 2023 campaign in in Nebraska’s Matt Rhule, Northwestern’s David Braun, Purdue’s Ryan Walters and Wisconsin’s Luke Fickell.
• The Big Ten finished last season with three teams ranked in the AP Top 25, tying for the third-most of any conference. All three teams finished in the Top 10, marking the second straight year that the conference had three top 10 teams at the end of the season. The 2023 AP Preseason Poll also featured five Big Ten teams in No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 7 Penn State, No. 19 Wisconsin, and No. 25 Iowa, while Illinois and Minnesota are both receiving votes.
• Michigan was crowned 2022 Big Ten Champion after its 44-22 win over Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game presented by Discover on Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It was the Wolverines’ conference-leading 44th Big Ten title and their second in as many years.
• Last season, the Big Ten posted the fifth-highest single-season attendance total in conference history with 6,333,196 fans attending home games. Excluding 2020, this marked the ninth consecutive season and 10th time in 11 seasons that more than six million fans have attended Big Ten home football games.
• Michigan and Purdue will look to repeat as division champions this season, as the Wolverines finished 9-0 to win the East Division and the Boilermakers finished atop the West Division standings at 6-3 in conference play.
NEW-LOOK NO. 1 GEORGIA EAGER TO EXTEND WINNING IDENTITY
Carson Beck debuts as Georgia’s starting quarterback on Saturday when the No. 1 Bulldogs open defense of their latest national championship on their home field in Athens against Tennessee-Martin.
Beck, officially named the starter by coach Kirby Smart on Aug. 19, handled every test the coaching staff put in front of him since Stetson Bennett’s storybook stay at Georgia ended with the second of the program’s back-to-back national titles in January.
“Carson is very knowledgeable, very intelligent,” Smart said of the promotion. “One of the smartest quarterbacks I’ve been around.
“He did the best job.”
Beck said last month he “was just not ready” to be the No. 1 quarterback when Bennett jumped him on the depth chart just before the opener in 2021. Smart asked Beck to share with the entire locker room his experience, which the coach described as a “missed opportunity.” But Smart said the end result to date is that Beck learned how to prepare, and he is ready for the moment this time around. The junior threw for 310 yards with four TD passes in 2022.
“He’s different, the players really enjoy him, they rally around him,” Smart said. “He has a way with the skill players, calm, cool and collected, and poised in the pocket. People point to the fact he hasn’t done it in a game, but around here we value practice, and a lot of times the practice is more valuable than the game in terms of who you are going against.”
Smart doesn’t want most of the roster to revisit the past, or put any weight into the narrative of being a team chasing a three-peat as back-to-back defending champs without a loss in the Southeastern Conference regular season over the past two years.
In addition to Bennett, the Bulldogs have a bevy of key players now playing their craft professionally. Among the All-SEC honorees Smart had to replace on the depth chart are top-10 pick Jalen Carter (Philadelphia Eagles) and two other first-round picks in offensive tackle Broderick Jones (Steelers) and linebacker Nolan Smith (Eagles).
UT-Martin (0-0) went to Tennessee last season and lost 65-24 but the FCS power has “the football character to compete,” said coach Jason Simpson, whose son, Ty, spent the summer competing to be the starting quarterback for Alabama.
“I’m waiting for these guys to say something about being picked third,” Simpson said of his team in the preseason Ohio Valley Conference poll, which now includes the Big South.
The Skyhawks have won consecutive OVC titles. Like Smart, Simpson spent the summer reminding his team that 2021 and 2022 hardware means noting in 2023.
Simpson doesn’t have the benefit of the top-ranked recruiting class in the country to lean on when attempting to replace 14 All-OVC players from the 2022 roster. He does have a defense that is expected to rate near the top of the OVC-Big South, led by defensive end Daylan Dotson, defensive tackles Giovanni Davis and Jay Rogers, safety Carson Evans and linebacker Tevin Shipp.
Kinkead Dent, an Ole Miss transfer, takes over at quarterback in a backfield that returns 2022 OVC Freshman of the Year Sam Franklin.
“The biggest challenge is getting the new players caught up to speed to play winning football,” Simpson said. “It all hits at different spots and it will all come together at some point, but you just wish you could speed it up.”
HURRICANES SEEK FRESH START FACING OTHER MIAMI, THE REDHAWKS
The Miami Hurricanes have a lot to prove.
Coming off a disappointing 5-7 season in their debut under coach Mario Cristobal, the Hurricanes will open their 2023 season at home on Friday night against the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The Hurricanes, favored by 17 points, are led by quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who is back for his third season as the starter. Slowed by injuries last year, Van Dyke for his career has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 4,766 yards, 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 21 games (17 starts).
Henry Parrish Jr. is the Hurricanes’ top running back. He had a career-high 616 rushing yards last year, averaging 4.7 per carry and was voted to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference third team.
Slot receiver Xavier Restrepo is Van Dyke’s top target, but there’s also emerging talent Colbie Young on the outside.
Watch out for wide receiver Nathaniel “Ray Ray” Joseph, one of several true freshmen who figure to contribute to the Hurricanes this season. That list also includes starting right tackle Francis Mauigoa, offensive tackle Samson Okunlola, running back Mark Fletcher Jr., tight end Riley Williams, defensive end Rueben Bain Jr. and cornerback Damari Brown.
“This freshman class has over a dozen guys who don’t flinch,” Cristobal said. “They don’t sit back waiting to inherit a job. They want to go win one.”
The Hurricanes also added some key transfers, including center Matt Lee, who started 36 games at UCF; left guard Javion Cohen, who made second-team All-SEC at Alabama in 2022; linebacker Francisco Mauigoa, who was a standout at Washington State; and cornerback Davonte Brown, who started 31 games in three seasons at UCF.
In addition, the Hurricanes may have the ACC’s best safety duo in James Williams and 2022 first-team All-American Kamren Kinchens.
Meanwhile, the RedHawks finished 6-7 last season, losing starting quarterback Brett Gabbert due to a broken collarbone but still rallying to reach a bowl game.
The RedHawks lost to UAB 24-20 in the Bahamas Bowl.
Gabbert, who has 31 games of college experience including four starts last season, is back for his fifth year with the RedHawks. His career completion percentage is just 58.8 percent, but his touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio is impressive at 45-14.
The RedHawks, though, lost three key offensive players to transfers: running back Tyre Shelton (Louisiana Tech), second-team All-MAC center Rusty Feth (Iowa) and left guard Caleb Shaffer (Oklahoma). The RedHawks also graduated their top receiver in Mac Hippenhammer (54 catches, 769 yards and nine touchdowns), a second-team All-MAC selection.
On the plus side, the RedHawks gained transfer wide receiver Gage Larvadain, who caught 95 passes for 1,252 yards and seven touchdowns in two years for an FCS program, Southeastern Louisiana.
The RedHawks also brought in two other potential starters from the transfer portal: ex-Notre Dame receiver Joe Wilkins Jr. and former Kentucky center John Young, who will join three returning RedHawks starters on the offensive line.
Defensively, the RedHawks return seven starters from a unit that led the MAC in fewest points allowed (22.6). The biggest loss was starting cornerback John Saunders, who bolted to Ole Miss. He could be replaced by Southern Cal transfer Jayden Williams.
“We have a chance to be a really good football team,” RedHawks coach Chuck Martin said. “We’re excited about our first opportunity, playing one of the most storied programs in college football.
“This will be different for our kids to go across the country to play an opponent we’re not familiar with.”
REPORT: ACC NEARING VOTE ON EXPANSION EFFORTS
The Atlantic Coast Conference is nearing a decision about adding Stanford, Cal and SMU, ESPN reported Monday.
ACC officials were said to be organizing a conference call of the league’s presidents and chancellors on Monday morning to potentially vote on the issue.
A source told ESPN that expansion efforts are “trending in the direction of happening” but cautioned that nothing is finalized, and the additions are “only in pencil.”
Expansion requires the approval of 12 of the 15 existing ACC members, however four schools — Clemson, Florida State, NC State and North Carolina — have expressed their dissent. One of those programs would need to change its vote, “and there’s an expectation that will happen this week,” per the report.
If approved, all three newcomers would be expected to join the ACC in all sports for the 2024-25 season.
Stanford and Cal reportedly agreed to accept a smaller share (approximately 30 percent) of league revenues if they join the ACC, while SMU reportedly would be amenable to getting zero broadcast money for its first seven years in the league.
Cal and Stanford are looking for new homes after the disintegration of the Pac-12 Conference over the past year. UCLA and Southern Cal kicked off the exodus last summer by announcing their move to the Big Ten. Last month, Colorado moved to the Big 12, and Arizona, Arizona State and Utah soon followed.
Oregon and Washington then relocated to the Big Ten, leaving just Stanford, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State still in the Pac-12.
The ACC last changed its membership in 2014, when Louisville arrived as Maryland exited. Notre Dame is one of the 15, though it maintains independence in football despite playing multiple ACC opponents annually.
UCLA WILL START ETHAN GARBERS AT QB, BUT MOORE AND SCHLEE WILL ALSO SEE PLAYING TIME
LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA will go with three quarterbacks during Saturday’s opener against Coastal Carolina.
Coach Chip Kelly said before Monday’s practice that Ethan Garbers will get the start but that Collin Schlee and Dante Moore will see playing time during the game.
Other than Garbers taking the first snap, Kelly said they will figure out how to divide the snaps later in the week. It’s also the first time in Kelly’s 29 years of coaching in college that he has gone into an opener without a clear starter.
“It is a unique situation, but they deserve to play. It’s the only fair way to do it,” Kelly said. “They all competed at a high level. We said it was going to be authentic and organic and this is what it is right now.”
Garbers, a redshirt junior, has seen action in 11 games over the past two years. His lone start came in a 2021 loss at Utah.
The Newport Beach, California, native started his career at Washington before transferring to UCLA in 2020.
Schlee made 11 starts for Kent State last season before transferring to the West Coast. He passed for 2,109 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions last season.
Moore is the first five-star recruit Kelly has landed since coming to Westwood. He was an early enrollee and participated in spring drills.
Kelly said he has been pleased with Moore’s accuracy and decision-making in practice but wants to see it during a game.
KANSAS QB JALON DANIELS, THE PRESEASON BIG 12 OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR, TO START OPENER
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels, the preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year, is expected to start the Jayhawks’ opener against Missouri State on Friday night after dealing with a back injury that limited him in fall camp.
Jayhawks coach Lance Leipold made the announcement Monday while revealing the team’s first depth chart of the season.
“We just released the two-deep, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now and where we’re going,” Leipold said. “He hasn’t practiced a lot, but he went through everything today, and yeah, we’re planning on playing everyone who is available.”
Daniels generated some Heisman Trophy buzz while leading Kansas to five straight wins to start last season. But he hurt his shoulder the following week against TCU, sidelining him the next four games and putting a halt to that momentum.
Daniels returned to lead the Jayhawks to their first postseason game since 2008, a 55-53 triple-overtime loss to Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl. He threw for 544 yards and five touchdowns while running for another score in the game, once more showcasing what made him one of the most entertaining players in college football early in the year.
Daniels finished with 1,014 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and four picks while running for 425 yards and seven scores.
He was limited throughout spring football by the shoulder injury, then the back tightness popped up in fall camp. Leipold said it didn’t prevent Daniels from practicing entirely, but it was enough to limit his reps ahead of backup Jason Bean.
After the Jayhawks open against Missouri State, they face a significant step up against Illinois. But the risk of aggravating Daniels’ injury against a team from the Football Championship Subdivision that Kansas is heavily favored to beat apparently was not enough to dissuade Leipold and offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki from sitting him Week 1.
“That’s the balancing act we have to do here,” Leipold said. “We’re getting him as much work as we can, as many different ways as we can. He’s been getting work; he’s been doing things. To make it sound like he’s never practiced the last two weeks is not accurate, either. We’re confident. Unfortunately for him, it’s something he’s gone through before, getting little reps and where he is at, but I think we’re in a good spot with him.”