JIMMY GAROPPOLO CLEARED TO OPEN TRAINING CAMP WITH THE RAIDERS, AP SOURCE SAYS
HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo passed a physical on his injured left foot and will begin training camp with the Las Vegas Raiders, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made.
Training camp opens Wednesday.
Garoppolo did not participate in organized team activities because of the foot injury, but coach Josh McDaniels expressed confidence from the beginning the newly signed quarterback would be ready for camp.
“We’re always going to err at this time of the year on being smart,” McDaniels said at the time. “We don’t play a football game for 3 1/2 months, so try to rush (players) out there in May, it’s a poor decision.”
Garoppolo signed a three-year, $72.75 million free-agent contract on March 17. His deal was announced a day later than others because of concerns about the foot.
He reportedly signed a waiver rather than take a physical, which gave the Raiders flexibility in case Garoppolo – who has a history of being hurt – wasn’t ready to go.
He was injured late last season while playing for the San Francisco 49ers.
BROWNS’ NICK CHUBB AMONG SEVERAL STAR RUNNING BACKS TO DISCUSS DEVALUED POSITION ON ZOOM CALL
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (AP) Nick Chubb established himself long ago as a special player, a stunning mix of speed, power and precision. A threat to score for the Browns every time he touches the football.
These days, Chubb is even more unusual among his peers.
He’s well paid.
With a trend of NFL teams devaluing their position, Chubb and a few fellow star running backs Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey – along with some young ones – took part in a Zoom call on Saturday night to discuss their options in a dwindling market for ball carriers.
“We’re definitely in a tough situation,” said Chubb, who is under contract through 2024 but has no guaranteed money next season. “Next year it could be me.”
Normally reserved and sometimes painfully quiet in interviews, Chubb opened up to reporters following Cleveland’s practice to discuss this growing trend of teams either underpaying or lowballing running backs.
This subject was near and dear to Chubb.
“There’s really nothing we can do,” he said Sunday following practice. “We’re kind of handcuffed with the situation. Our production hurts us the most. If we go out there and run for 2,000 yards with so many carries, the next year they’re going to say you’re probably worn down.
“That’s the biggest thing that I took from it (the call). It’s just tough. It hurts us just to go out there and do good. It hurts us at the end of the day.”
Unable to come to terms on a long-term contract from the New York Giants, Barkley threatened last week to sit out training camp in protest. The Giants offered the 26-year-old the $10 million franchise tender for running backs.
Josh Jacobs is in a similar situation with the Las Vegas Raiders and hasn’t signed his tender after failing to get a new deal.
Chubb, who rushed for a career-high 1,525 yards last season with 12 touchdowns, feels fortunate. He signed a three-year, $36 million deal in 2021 with Cleveland – the last running back to secure more than $10 million per season.
The four-time Pro Bowler understands the business side of the game, but that doesn’t offset seeing colleagues penalized.
“I got another year (under contract),” said Chubb, who has rushed for 6,341 yards in five seasons. “So I mean it’s easy for me to say it’s not a big deal, but next year it could be me in the same situation. But for right now, I do got one more year. I’m here. I’m all in. I’m ready to work with my guys.”
The Browns would expect nothing else.
Chubb is one of the team’s unquestioned leaders, a throwback of sorts due to his business-first demeanor and an unparalleled work ethic.
Not only do the Browns value Chubb, they see him as perhaps their most valuable offensive player with perhaps an even larger role this season.
“Nick’s a huge part of our offense, obviously, handing it to him, throwing it to him,” said coach Kevin Stefanski. “He’s been adept at both where we go as you evolve, and maybe different run types for him. We have very good empirical data on what he’s good at, and it’s tried and true.
“I don’t know if there’s limits to him as a player. He’s a schematic fit, really, in anything you do.”
Chubb said his representatives have not approached the Browns about another contract extension.
General manager Andrew Berry acknowledged the NFL’s evolution from a run-dominant sport to more passing has changed how teams allocate their finances. Chubb’s production made it a no-brainer to sign him for multiple years.
“When we made our decision at running back, we felt like we had a superstar who embodied everything that we wanted within the organization,” he said. “So we didn’t overthink it. It’s Nick Chubb, right?
“And so for us it was a pretty straightforward decision because those difference-makers are hard to find.”
Before training camp, Chubb posted a video on social media of him squatting 600 pounds. With spotters flanking him on both sides, Chubb powered up the weights as the bar bent across his broad shoulders.
The image made Berry both proud of Chubb and nervous.
“He’s a freak of nature,” Berry said.
NOTES: WR Amari Cooper left the field late in practice with an unspecified injury. Berry said Cooper had a “minor tweak” but provided no other details. Cooper underwent surgery to repair a core muscle in February. … Rookie OT Dawand Jones sat out with an illness. He was on the field for Saturday’s first workout at The Greenbrier Resort. … LBs Sione Takitaki (knee) and Anthony Walker Jr. (quadriceps) took part in individual drills before doing condition work to the side during the team portions.
DAN CAMPBELL: HYPE AROUND LIONS ‘OUT OF CONTROL RIGHT NOW’
As his Detroit Lions opened training camp on Sunday, coach Dan Campbell cautioned it’s time to start work and tone down the buzz around his team.
Fueled by a combination of their appearance on “Hard Knocks” last preseason, a charismatic head coach in Campbell and a young roster than won eight of the final 10 games in 2022, the Lions have become a fan favorite across the country as the new season approaches.
Even the sports books have bought into the Lions, with BetMGM offering Detroit at +2000 to win Super Bowl LVIII. This time of year, there’s usually another “0” at the end of that betting line.
“I think as always, the thing that’s gonna worry you is the hype train,” Campbell said at camp in Allen Park, Mich., per ESPN. “I mean, as with most coaches, this thing is just taking off and it’s out of control right now and that’s fine, as long as we stay focused on the job at hand and the work. I just keep going back to that. We’ve got to put the work in and earn it.”
The Lions won four NFL championships, the last of them coming in 1957, but are one of just four teams — the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars the others — never to play in a Super Bowl. Since 1993, they’ve made the playoffs eight times and lost in the wild-card round each year.
But this year, they are the betting favorite to win the NFC North. Campbell said it’s his job to remind the Lions they have work to do.
“I think you just keep the message consistent, and you call it what it is, and it just goes back to the work,” Campbell said. “And when you see it not going that way or we have some guys that are deviating a little bit, or they think they’ve arrived and they haven’t, you call them out on it.”
Quarterback Jared Goff, who played in Super Bowl LIII with the Los Angeles Rams, said Campbell is good at keeping the locker room humbled and that the attention surrounding the team hasn’t been earned. Yet.
“I think it’s funny to me that like you go 9-8, you don’t make the playoffs and now you’re all of a sudden the favorite,” Goff said, per ESPN. “Of course, we’ve got good players, we’ve got good coaches, we’ve got a good team, but we haven’t done anything.
“We have a lot of work to do. Minnesota won 13 games last year, Green Bay’s won the division a handful of times in the last handful of years, so we’ve got some work to do to put the stamp on who we want to be and are nowhere near that yet, but are on our way.”
The Lions will be put to the test immediately when they open the season Sept. 7 on the road against the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. It’s the first of four games for the Lions in prime time, in addition to their annual Thanksgiving game.
LIONS PLACING CB EMMANUEL MOSELEY ON PUP LIST
The Detroit Lions are placing cornerback Emmanuel Moseley on the physically unable to perform list.
Head coach Dan Campbell confirmed the news on Sunday prior to the start of training camp.
Moseley, 27, is still working his way back from a torn ACL in his left knee, sustained last October.
The Lions signed Moseley to a one-year, $6 million deal in free agency in March.
He played in 45 games (33 starts) over five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, registering four interceptions and 162 tackles.
CHIEFS WR KADARIUS TONEY INJURES KNEE PRIOR TO PRACTICE
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney “tweaked his knee” while catching punts prior to Sunday’s training camp practice, head coach Andy Reid said.
Reid did not provide any other specifics on Toney, who did not participate in the session.
Toney, 24, had 16 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns in nine games split between the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs last season. The Chiefs acquired Toney from the Giants on Oct. 27 in exchange for a compensatory third-round pick and a sixth-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Toney has totaled 55 receptions for 591 yards and two touchdowns in 19 games since being selected by the Giants with the 20th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
NFL PREVIEW: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Nobody was a bigger Cinderella last year than the Seahawks.
Seattle, picked by many pundits to finish with one of the league’s worst records, went 9–8 behind a stunning Pro Bowl season from quarterback Geno Smith. Although the Seahawks were handled in the wild-card round by the 49ers, there’s reason to believe Seattle has found its next contention window.
Last offseason was highlighted by the trading of star quarterback Russell Wilson, but the real treasure was the draft. Seattle landed one big talent after the next in 2022, including offensive tackles Abraham Lucas and Charles Cross, corner Tariq Woolen, and running back Kenneth Walker III.
This spring it appears general manager John Schneider might have done it again. The Seahawks had two first-round picks as a result of the Wilson deal, and they used them on corner Devon Witherspoon and receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, arguably the best prospects at their respective positions.
Factor in a fruitful free-agency period, which saw the additions of safety Julian Love, defensive end Dre’Mont Jones and linebacker Bobby Wagner, and Seattle is primed to make a real run at San Francisco for the NFC West title.
Biggest gamble this offseason: Giving Geno Smith a multiyear deal
By signing Smith to a three-year deal, Schneider gave himself the ability to sign free agents, as the cap hit was smaller than a franchise tag would have been.
However, Smith is now tied to Seattle for three years and $75 million, including $40 million guaranteed. The deal isn’t one that could hurt the franchise if Smith regresses to his previous form, but Seattle is still paying out cap hits of $31.2 and $33.7 million in 2024 and ’25, with dead money totaling $26.1 million if he’s released.
Schneider is showing his faith in Smith, who, at 33, has seemingly found himself. And if that’s the case, the Seahawks have a Pro Bowl quarterback on a cheap deal. However, should Smith revert, Seattle is locked into meaningful money without any young option behind him.
Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 12 to 15
The Seahawks might have the toughest four-game stretch in football.
Seattle has an early bye in Week 5 and then will run through a majority of the AFC North before arriving at Thanksgiving, when it will square off with the 49ers at Lumen Field. The next Thursday, Seattle travels to face the Cowboys before a mini-bye and subsequent return engagement with San Francisco, this time at Levi’s Stadium. Finally, it’s a date with the NFC-champion Eagles at home before finishing up with three winnable games.
Seattle could be determining whether it’s a wild-card team or a division winner within those four weeks.
Breakout player to watch: DE Darrell Taylor
Few NFL fans would be able to tell you which team Taylor plays for, but that should change soon.
In two years with the Seahawks, the 2020 second-round pick from Tennessee has totaled 16 sacks, including 9.5 last year, despite playing less than 50% of the team’s defensive snaps in both of his campaigns.
With Jones, Taylor and Uchenna Nwosu to account for, the Seahawks should have a wicked pass rush, allowing both to tee off without consistently facing double teams. Look for Taylor to break through and have double-digit sacks, pushing for his first Pro Bowl berth.
Position of strength: Receiver
It’s hard to argue that more than a few teams can compete with the Seahawks on the perimeter.
Seattle is loaded with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf on the outside, who combined for 174 receptions, 2,081 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. They’re now joined by Smith-Njigba, who starred for the Buckeyes in 2021 with 95 catches for 1,606 yards and nine scores. However, he was limited to only three games last season due to a hamstring injury.
If Smith-Njigba stays healthy and assimilates well to the offense, Seattle will have an elite combination of dynamism and size for any quarterback to target.
Position of weakness: Interior offensive line
If there’s one area of the roster that can derail hopes of a postseason push, it’s the guard-center-guard combination on the inside.
Seattle did a great job to find Lucas and Cross at the tackle spots, but questions abound regarding guards Damien Lewis and Phil Haynes, and center Evan Brown. Schneider added competition and depth this offseason, drafting Anthony Bradford and Olu Oluwatimi along with signing undrafted free agent Kendall Randolph.
Among all those bodies, Seattle must find a trio that can keep Smith from facing inside pressure while opening running lanes for Walker and rookie Zach Charbonnet.
X-factor: The 2023 draft class stepping up
After seeing last year’s rookie crop make such an impact for Seattle, it’s hard not to wonder about what the Seahawks have this year, led by the aforementioned Smith-Njigba and Witherspoon.
Seattle is poised to make a deep postseason run in the wide-open NFC, but only if the rookies can contribute to a meaningful degree. While Lockett and Metcalf are phenomenal, getting a third weapon going in Smith-Njigba would greatly increase the odds of Smith having another terrific season.
Defensively, Witherspoon has a chance to be part of a special tandem with Woolen. Factor in the safety duo of Love and Quandre Diggs, and the secondary could be something very impactful.
Sleeper/fantasy pick: RB Zach Charbonnet
I fully expect the Seahawks to keep Walker atop their backfield depth chart, but Charbonnet could put a slight dent into his touches. The rookie was drafted in the second round, and while that doesn’t guarantee him a big role, Charbonnet is talented enough to have stand-alone flex value. —Michael Fabiano, SI Fantasy
Best bet: Take the over on Walker’s 950.5 rushing yards
I’m not out on Walker because I don’t think Pete Carroll is, either. Take the over on 950.5 rushing yards. Walker would only need to average 56 yards per game to clear this, and even with Charbonnet taking some touches, that is very achievable for the talented second-year back. —Jennifer Piacenti, SI Betting
Final record: 12–5, second in NFC West
AFC EAST PREVIEW
DAN FLAHERTY: SPORTS NOTEBOOK
There’s a sense of urgency surrounding most every team in the AFC East. Is the window to win a Super Bowl closing in Buffalo? Will the Jets’ all-in on move on Aaron Rodgers pay off? Can Miami make a move while they still have Tua Tagovailoa on his comparatively low rookie contract? And will Mac Jones revive himself in New England and prevent Bill Belichick’s career from ending with a dull thud?
When I chose The Notebook Nine as the title for this Substack, it was just a reference to the parent site at TheSportsNotebook.com and my own desire for alliteration with all the “Ns”. But it works out pretty well for this NFL divisional previews. The format for this, and all the future division run-throughs will be basic—a couple talking points on each team, both their offense and defense. And a wrap-up look at the betting numbers. Off we go in the AFC East…
*I’m not really buying into the whole “Buffalo’s Super Bowl window is closing” storyline that seems to have considerable traction. I do get where it’s coming from. The Bills have to be feeling frustrated and there are some key players—notably Von Miller—who are getting older. But as long as they have Josh Allen, they have the centerpiece to build around. Buffalo’s bigger problem isn’t the size of their window, it’s the fact Patrick Mahomes is in their conference. Now you can add Joe Burrow to that list, and Trevor Lawrence is in the rearview mirror. To that end, I’m more focused on whether Allen can become a more efficient passer. The two-threat capability he offers is dynamic, but he can be mistake-prone. A 2.5% interception rate is too high in today’s game.
*Head coach Sean McDermott is going to re-emphasize his defensive roots by taking on play-calling duties. I don’t have a problem with this per se, but it could have some unintended consequences. Namely, who’s going to handle game management oversight? Are we going to be having a lot of Monday discussions talking about how the Bills lost a game they shouldn’t have because the clock or timeouts were mismanaged? In a league where so many games are decided by a field goal, this is no small thing. For years in Green Bay, Mike McCarthy was a fine offensive playcaller, but game management suffered, and so did the Packers. For McDermott’s sake, I hope he has a plan.
*I think the Jets are going to have problems offensively. I know Aaron Rodgers’ struggles last season can be attributed in part to playing with bad ribs and being in a situation that had grown tense. Being healthy and happy can make a big difference. But are we supposed to completely overlook the fact he’s 39-years-old? This seems even more pertinent in that he joins a team whose offensive line is a mix of too young, too old, and too injury-prone. They can’t run the ball. Rodgers has a good group of receivers, starting with Offensive ROY Garrett Wilson. For the 28-year-old version of Rodgers, that would have been enough. I’m not so sure about now.
*The good news for Jets fans is that will only take mild improvement from the offense to make a difference in the W-L column. Their defense also had a Rookie of the Year. In fact, Sauce Gardner became the first rookie to be a 1st-team All-Pro selection in over 40 years. The last man to do it? Ronnie Lott, with the 1981 San Francisco 49ers, who ushered in the Joe Montana Era. Gardner is the best part of what is a deep secondary and there’s also a good pass rush. Even with Rodgers in tow, the defense is still what will have to carry this team into the playoffs.
*The franchise that seemed to be perpetually knocking on the door finally got into the playoffs, going 9-8 and picking up the 7-seed in the first year for head coach Mike McDaniel. Tua, even with missing four games, seemed to come into his own. The acquisition of Tyreek Hill to lead up a group of speedy wide receivers paid dividends, as Tua’s yards-per-attempt was a solid 8.9. The offensive line looks pretty good. As long as Tua stays healthy—admittedly, a pretty big if—the Dolphins will be putting points on the board.
*The city of Miami is on a nice sports run right now. The Heat and Panthers made the Finals in basketball and hockey. The Marlins could follow suit in baseball. Whether the Dolphins join the parade ultimately depends on their defense. And the front office clearly understands that, acquiring Jalen Ramsey for the secondary. The All-Pro will join Xavien Howard in giving the Fish a good cornerback duo. They have a solid interior of the defensive line. Whether Miami’s D can really emerge will ultimately depend on whether new coordinator Vic Fangio can generate a pass rush on the edge. With the ability of his corners to play man-to-man, and his defensive tackles to tie up blockers, Fangio can certainly feel free to bring the heat.
*As a resident of Massachusetts, the Patriots are who I watch and root for each week. And I think the locals are too down on Mac Jones. From casual conversations with family members, friends and even the random observer at Fenway Park, everyone’s ready to go to Bailey Zappe. I’m not there yet. Mac’s struggles last year are far more likely to be the product of dealing with injuries, having serious instability on the offensive line, and seeing Bill Belichick lapse into temporary insanity when he hired former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to run the offense. The Patriots added some veteran help to the offensive line. They hired Bill O’Brien as the coordinator. And they already had a good running game. I believe Jones will turn it around. And if he doesn’t, at least there will be no excuses this time around.
*New England’s defense was good last year, ranking in the top five for much of the season and ending a respectable 11th. The retirement of Devin McCourty will cost the D some leadership, but I like the first-round draft pick of Cristian Gonzalez. A big corner, Gonzalez can open up more room to bring pressure. And the pass rush, led by Matthew Judon, is already a good one. Last year, Judon’s 15 ½ sacks were the third-best in franchise history. The only two seasons that were better came from the great Andre Tippett, who keyed the Patriot defense that went to the Super Bowl in 1985.
THE MARKET REPORT
Buffalo is the favorite, and at 9-1 to win the Super Bowl, they rank behind only Philadelphia and Kansas City league-wide. But I’m surprised that the Bills are as tight as a favorite as they are within the AFC East. The (+130) line simply to win the division is a good sign of how much respect the market has for the competition—at least the Jets (+250) and Dolphins (+290). Only New England, at (+750) is considered a non-threat to finish in first place and get at least one home playoff game.
I think that’s overrating Buffalo’s competition. Miami is good, but they are 5-seed kind of good. New York is overrated for the reasons noted above. I hope I’m not going with my heart in saying New England is underrated but even allowing that, they aren’t in Buffalo’s class. The Bills cleared the field by 4 ½ games in the AFC East last year. I don’t see any reason to assume that much ground will be made up in one year.