NFL ROUNDUP: SAINTS SNEAK PAST CHIEFS IN FINAL MINUTE
Kyle Phillips snagged an interception with one minute left in regulation to set up Blake Grupe’s game-winning 31-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the New Orleans Saints over the visiting Kansas City Chiefs 26-24 in a preseason game on Sunday afternoon.
The Chiefs trailed 17-7 at halftime, but Shane Buechele completed touchdown passes to Justyn Ross and Kekoa Crawford during the third quarter to put Kansas City ahead.
It was 24-17 until Saints rookie quarterback Jake Haener found Ellis Merriweather for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 1:20 remaining in the game. New Orleans failed to score on a 2-point conversion.
But Chiefs QB Chris Oladokun tried a screen past left and Phillips, a defensive lineman, tipped it down to himself to give the Saints the ball in field-goal range.
Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr each started and played one drive for their respective teams. The Saints started with the ball, and Carr led his new team on a 12-play, 80-yard drive punctuated by a 4-yard touchdown to Keith Kirkwood. Mahomes went 2-for-2 passing for 15 yards.
Raiders 34, 49ers 7
Rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw for 141 yards and a touchdown as host Las Vegas broke away from a tie just before halftime to blow out San Francisco.
O’Connell played the first three quarters and went 15-of-18 passing. His 9-yard pass to Keelan Cole Sr. with 34 seconds left in the second quarter put the Raiders ahead 14-7.
Running back Sincere McCormick scored two touchdowns in the second half. His 2-yard run expanded the Raiders’ lead to 24-7 late in the third quarter, and after Daniel Carlson’s second field goal of the game, McCormick caught a 2-yard pass from Chase Garbers to close the scoring.
Quarterback Trey Lance played the first half for the 49ers and completed 10 of 15 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Sam Darnold and Brandon Allen followed, each going 5-of-8 passing, with Allen intercepted once. San Francisco’s lone score came on Lance’s 9-yard toss to Ross Dwelley. It tied the game at 7-7 with 8:29 left in the second quarter.
FALCONS CUT 2022 STARTING LINEBACKER MYKAL WALKER IN SURPRISE MOVE
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The Atlanta Falcons waived 2022 starting linebacker Mykal Walker in a surprise move Sunday.
Walker started and had four tackles in the Falcons’ 19-3 preseason win at Miami on Friday night. Falcons coach Arthur Smith did not play most of his projected starters against the Dolphins.
On Sunday, the Falcons signed linebacker Frank Ginda, the 2023 USFL defensive player of the year.
The Falcons did not announce an injury to Walker in Friday night’s game, but the 2020 fourth-round draft pick apparently was unavailable for the remainder of training camp. Smith said several players were held out Sunday with soft-tissue injuries.
Smith indicated Walker may have been unavailable the remainder of training camp.
“The thing you have to do in training camp, going through 90 guys, when we’re working guys out, if a guy is going to be out the rest of camp you’ve got to make decisions on him, so there’s a lot of things going on,” Smith said when asked about Walker.
Walker had a career-high 107 tackles with two interceptions and one sack in 16 games, including 12 starts, in 2022. He was fighting for his starting spot on the revamped Atlanta defense in training camp.
Walker posted a thank you to the Falcons on social media for his three years with the team.
“Allowed me to achieve my dreams, I’ve meet brothers for life, and brought my son into this world. My journey is far from over excited for what comes next!” Walker wrote.
The Falcons could have as many as six new starters on defense. Linebacker Kaden Elliss, a free-agent addition, has been working with Troy Andersen in the middle of the defense, ahead of Walker. Lorenzo Carter and Bud Dupree may have the lead in the competition at the outside linebacker spots.
Falcons rookie cornerback Clark Phillips III returned to practice on Sunday. Phillips was carted off the practice field with a leg injury during Tuesday’s joint practice with the Dolphins.
Smith plans to play his starters, including quarterback Desmond Ridder, in Friday night’s home preseason game against Cincinnati.
Smith said cornerbacks Mike Hughes and Cornell Armstrong, wide receiver Frank Darby, running back Cordarrelle Patterson could miss “maybe a week or so” with what the coach described as “soft-tissue” injuries.
“We’ll just take it and be smart with it,” said Smith when asked about Patterson. “Nothing we’re concerned about long term.”
REPORT: VIKINGS SIGN FREE AGENT LB TANNER VALLEJO
The Minnesota Vikings signed free agent linebacker Tanner Vallejo, NFL Network reported Sunday.
Vallejo, a noted performer on special teams, declared free agency in March after playing three-plus seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
A sixth-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2017, the 28-year-old has 114 tackles over 82 career games (eight starts) with the Bills (2017), Cleveland Browns (2018), Washington (2019) and the Cardinals. He has three forced fumbles, including one last season, and recorded 2.5 sacks.
Vallejo was on the field for 82 percent of the Cardinals’ special-teams snaps last season, and participated in 859 special-teams snaps with Arizona over 45 games going back to 2019.
COMMANDERS SIGN FORMER GIANTS TIGHT END KADEN SMITH
The Washington Commanders added to their depth at tight end on Sunday by signing former New York Giants player Kaden Smith.
Smith, 26, played from 2019-21 for the Giants, totaling 52 receptions for 413 yards and three touchdowns in 33 games (22 starts).
A sixth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2019, Smith was waived that September and claimed by the Giants, who waived him in March 2022 after he failed a physical. Smith signed with the Indianapolis Colts in May and was waived on Aug. 1.
The Commanders sought another tight end with veteran Logan Thomas sidelined by a calf injury. Thomas, 32, has battled a series of injuries in his career, including to his calf that cost him three games last season.
The Washington roster also includes tight ends John Bates, Cole Turner, Curtis Hodges and Brandon Dillon.
In a corresponding move, the Commanders released punter Colby Wadman, who signed with the team last week while longtime punter Tress Way dealt with a back injury. Wadman, 28, punted four times for a 45.5-yard average in the preseason opener Friday at the Cleveland Browns.
EAGLES’ SPECIAL TEAMER SHAUN BRADLEY (LEG) OUT FOR SEASON
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker and special teams standout Shaun Bradley will miss the 2023 season, he confirmed Sunday on social media.
He sustained a lower leg injury on Saturday in Philadelphia’s preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and multiple outlets reported he sustained a torn Achilles.
“(N)ot how I wanted the season to end for me,” he posted to Instagram, continuing, “I will be back better than i ever was … i can promise that.”
Bradley, who played collegiately at Temple, was taken by the Eagles in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s appeared in 45 games (one start) and has 45 tackles. He’s played 878 snaps on special teams, including 80 percent of all special teams plays in 2022.
The 26-year-old New Jersey native was carted off and into the locker room Saturday in the 20-19 loss.
DOLPHINS SIGN WR KEKE COUTEE, DB JAMAL PERRY
The Miami Dolphins signed wide receiver Keke Coutee and defensive back Jamal Perry on Sunday.
In corresponding moves, the team waived cornerback Mark Gilbert and wide receiver Freddie Swain.
The New Orleans Saints released Coutee, 26, on Friday, so he wasn’t out of work long.
A fourth-round pick by the Houston Texans in the 2018 NFL Draft, Coutee has played in 33 games (10 starts) with 85 catches for 966 yards and four touchdowns. He has added five carries for 14 yards and a touchdown, as well as 24 punt returns for 200 yards and five kickoff returns for 97 yards in his career with Houston (2018-20) and the Indianapolis Colts (2021-22).
Perry, 28, played in 31 games (seven starts) with the Dolphins from 2019-21 and spent part of last season on the practice squad. He has 86 tackles, one interception and two passes defensed in his career.
The Dolphins signed Gilbert, 26, on Aug. 4. He has played in eight career games, all with Detroit in 2021, and most recently was with the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL.
Swain, 25, signed with the Dolphins on March 15. A sixth-round draft pick by the Seahawks in 2020, Swain spent two seasons in Seattle before splitting the 2022 campaign between the Dolphins and Denver Broncos. In 37 career games (10 starts), he has 42 receptions for 576 yards and six touchdowns.
TEXANS ADD WR ADAM HUMPHRIES, QB E.J. PERRY
The Houston Texans signed wide receiver Adam Humphries and quarterback E.J. Perry to contracts on Sunday.
Terms of the deals were not disclosed by the Texans, who also activated tight end Teagan Quitoriano, released cornerback Kendall Sheffield and waived running back Xazavian Valladay.
Humphries, 30, did not play in the NFL last season after recording 41 catches for 383 yards with the Washington franchise in 2021.
He totaled 320 receptions for 3,314 yards and 13 touchdowns in 96 games (32 starts) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2015-18), Tennessee Titans (2019-20) and Washington (2021).
Perry, 25, spent time with the Texans this offseason before playing with the Michigan Panthers of the USFL. He was on the practice squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2022.
Quitoriano, 23, had seven catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns in nine games (six starts) last season with Houston. He missed the start of the season with a knee injury.
Sheffield, 27, notched 101 tackles and two forced fumbles in 38 career games (20 starts) with the Atlanta Falcons (2019-21).
Valladay, 25, rushed for 1,192 yards with 16 touchdowns in 12 games last season with Arizona State.
REPORT: RAVENS QB TYLER HUNTLEY HAS MINOR HAMSTRING INJURY
Baltimore Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley is nursing a minor hamstring injury, NFL Network reported on Sunday.
Huntley exited in the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ 20-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday after completing 8 of 11 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 13 yards. Huntley began the second half in place of Josh Johnson, who got the start with starting quarterback Lamar Jackson sitting out the preseason game.
Anthony Brown relieved Huntley for the Ravens, who have won 24 consecutive preseason games.
Huntley, 25, signed a one-year, restricted free-agent tender worth $2.63 million in April.
He appeared in six games (four starts) for the Ravens in 2022, throwing for 658 yards and two touchdowns against three interceptions. He also rushed 43 times for 137 yards and a touchdown and earned the first Pro Bowl selection of his career.
Huntley is 3-5 as a starter across three seasons in Baltimore.
SAINTS ROOKIE RB KENDRE MILLER (KNEE) TO UNDERGO MRI EXAM
New Orleans Saints running back Kendre Miller will undergo an MRI exam after injuring his knee during Sunday’s 26-24 preseason victory over the visiting Kansas City Chiefs.
Miller injured the knee in the third quarter and didn’t return. Coach Dennis Allen said he believed Miller injured his right knee.
If so, that is the same knee Miller injured while playing for TCU in the College Football Playoff semifinals against Michigan on Dec. 31. The injury forced Miller to miss the ensuing national championship game against Georgia.
Miller was a third-round pick (71st overall) by the Saints in April’s draft.
If Miller is seriously injured, it will further deplete the Saints at running back. New Orleans will be without star running back Alvin Kamara for the first three weeks while he serves a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
In addition, Eno Benjamin is out after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a recent practice.
New Orleans worked out Kareem Hunt last week but didn’t sign the former 1,000-yard rusher.
Offseason free-agent signee Jamaal Williams is slated to open the season as the starting running back. He had 28 yards on nine carries against the Chiefs.
Williams is coming off a career-best season for the Detroit Lions in which had rushed for 1,066 yards and an NFL-leading 17 rushing touchdowns. Only Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers (18) scored more total touchdowns.
Undrafted free agent Ellis Merriweather gained 24 yards on nine rushes and also caught had two catches for 17 yards against the Chiefs. One of the receptions was a 2-yard touchdown.
Overall, New Orleans rushed for 93 yards on 28 rushes against Kansas City.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: CLEMSON
2022 Record: 11-3 overall, 9-0 in ACC
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney, 16th year: 161-39
Clemson is still amazing, everyone.
The program didn’t make the College Football Playoff over the last two seasons and all of a sudden it’s doom and gloom, and the game has passed Dabo Swinney by, and Florida State is about to take over the ACC, and …
Clemson was one decent fourth quarter drive away from going to the CFP.
I got into a few friendly debates about this, but had Clemson been able to hang on/get BT Potter in field goal range in the 31-30 loss to South Carolina, and assuming it would still go on to throttle North Carolina 39-10 for the ACC title, no way, no how, NO CHANCE does the College Football Playoff committee leave out a 12-1 ACC Champion Clemson.
Not only that, but Clemson almost certainly would’ve been the 3 seed vs Michigan – TCU, who lost the Big 12 Championship, would’ve been 4 vs Georgia – and then take your guess on whether or not the Wolverine team that showed up against the Horned Frogs would’ve played the same way vs the Tigers, and then …
Clemson would’ve likely been annihilated in the national championship against Georgia, just like it couldn’t push past Ohio State in the 2020 season’s semis, and just like it got throttled by the epic 2019 LSU team in the title game – but now we’re dealing with first world college football program concerns.
Again, Clemson was almost certainly two points away from seven playoffs in eight years. Instead, it suffered the indignity of losing to the hated rival, and went on to look totally outclassed by Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.
And that’s going to be the issue going forward. Clemson can win 11 games, go unbeaten in conference play – not counting losing to Notre Dame – win the ACC title, and go to a fantastic bowl game, and it all seems like a – it’s the wrong word, but okay – failure because of what Dabo Swinney has created.
But his style and stubbornness needs to prove his way really is the right way.
The guy who supposedly was going to quit if college players got paid – but has a contract worth well over $100 million – is still around even though Clemson has joined the world of NIL, too. That’s fine – he’s hardly alone among coaches in his NIL thoughts – but what Swinney hasn’t relented to is the transfer portal.
It’s so crazy it just might work. Part of the success at Clemson was the continuity, especially in the coaching staff, and Swinney has vowed his teams would be built from within. There’s something to that – more of a sense of loyalty, less stress when it comes to making a mistake, more of a one-of-us feeling that the players really are part of something. It’s actually a terrific selling point.
That’s fine, but as the South Carolina game – and others throughout the season – showed, Clemson might have been one reliable healthy deep threat and one extra veteran playmaking defensive back away from maybe playing for the national title. So this year, all of that in-house talent had better be the stuff, because this is it. There is no going the free agent route to do any upgrading.
It all needs to lead to 12-1. Next year in the expanded College Football Playoff, Clemson should have a permanent residence as long as it keeps the losses to two or fewer every year.
To take that extra step, though, and be back in the national title picture – and God forbid Florida State really does rise up and rock the ACC and/or it’s a third straight year without a CFP appearance – this needs to be the season that proves Dabo right.
Clemson Tigers Preview: Offense
TCU’s offense hit the downfield shots Clemson’s O struggled to come up with last season. The Horned Frog attack was balanced, explosive, and very, very clutch, and now it’s up to its former offensive coordinator Garrett Riley to reboot the Tigers.
Clemson was hardly awful – 410 yards and 33 points per game, great on third downs, solid at running the ball – but there were too many turnovers, not enough big passing plays, and the whole thing was too inconsistent. And now …
You don’t have DJ Uiagalelei to kick around anymore. He was better than he got credit for considering the receivers had an okay season, but he wasn’t Trevor, Deshaun, or Tajh, and he wasn’t Cade Klubnik. Now Uiagalelei is an Oregon State Beaver, and all the pressure is on Klubnik to play up to his superstar recruit status.
He was amazing in the ACC Championship – 20-of-24 for 279 yards – but even with the 320 yards in the Orange Bowl against Tennessee, he struggled a bit. The talent is undeniable, the next level passing skills are there, he can run, and now the gig is all his. But …
Not to position shame, but again, the receivers – who were hardly bad – weren’t always amazing. Uiagalelei wasn’t always great, but he didn’t get a ton of help, either. Like everywhere else on Clemson, there’s a ton of potential star power in the receiving corps, but it needs to shine through.
That starts with getting the deep shots on the outside from Adam Randall – who should be amazing now that he’s healthy; more on that in the Key Player blurb – Beaux Collins has to show off that NFL upside even more after averaging 17 yards per catch on his 22 grabs, and leading receiver Antonio Williams has to build on a solid 56-catch season with 604 yards. The pieces are there, and that includes 25-catch TE Jake Briningstool to work as more than just a safety valve for Klubnik.
Will Shipley is a great all-around back – 1,182 yards and 15 scores, 38 catches – and 230-pound Phil Mafah added 515 yards and four scores. Between these two and Klubnik, the ground game will be strong behind a line that was decent at keeping defenses out of the backfield and good enough for the ground game.
The interior with guards Marcus Tate and Walker Parks along with C Will Putnam will be among the best in the ACC, and now it’s up to the young sophomore tackles Blake Miller and Tristan Leigh to take over as steady mainstays.
Clemson Tigers Preview: Defense
Yes, the secondary needed to do a bit more against the better passers considering the pieces in place, and yeah, the run defense was a bit concerning in the loss to Notre Dame and fight against Florida State, but the pass rush was among the best in the country, overall the run D was great, and talent-wise, this group is LOADED and deep. It starts with
The tackles. What’s the difference between the SEC and everyone else? No one has the 300-pound guys inside who can move like that conference gets. Clemson is obviously not in the SEC, but it’s one of the reasons it’s been able to compete at the highest of levels in the Dabo Swinney era – the tackles are always phenomenal.
The combination of Duke Orhorhoro and Tyler Davis is right there with the best in the country. The proven depth is way thin, but the two main guys are killers, and now …
The ends have to come through. Xavier Thomas has been fine, but he hasn’t been up to his 5-star super-recruit potential quite yet, and it’s asking a ton for Justin Mascoll to be another Myles Murphy on the other side.
The same issues with developed depth are there with the linebacking corps, too – cost of doing business if you don’t dabble with the portal – but the starting three is potentially devastating. The 1-2 punch of Jeremiah Trotter inside and Barrett Carter outside will get to everything – 161 combined tackles last season with 13 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, four picks, and 13 broken up passes. Wade Woodaz is a great looking outside linebacker taking over for new Baltimore Raven Trenton Simpson.
The talent is there in the secondary, but now the big plays have to come. Nate Wiggins is a future NFL starting corner with 12 broken up passes last season with an end-to-end pick six in the ACC title game against North Carolina, but that was his only interception. Sheridan Jones has been around for forever and has NFL tools, but he has just two picks and four broken up passes in four years. They’re both great, but again, they need to come up with more game-changing plays.
S Jalyn Phillips was second on the team with 74 tackles, and Andrew Mukaba is a Swiss army knife who can play anywhere and produce. RJ Mickens is a good safety in the mix – he led the team with three picks to go along with 47 tackles.