Sat Dec 15 9:47pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, back, sacks New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) avoids a hit from Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during the second half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) runs with the ball as Houston Texans defensive end D.J. Reader (98) tries to stop him during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) tries to avoid a sack from Houston Texans nose tackle Brandon Dunn during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Sam Darnold nearly pulled off another one.
Six days after leading the New York Jets to the first fourth-quarter comeback victory of his young career, the rookie quarterback almost did it again - falling just shy in a 29-22 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday night.
''To go out there against a good Texans team, it would've been awesome to be able to get that win,'' Darnold said, ''but we just came up short.''
Things looked promising after Darnold and the Jets (4-10) took their first lead of the game on Elijah McGuire's 2-yard touchdown run with just 5 minutes left.
The No. 3 overall pick made plays with his arm and legs during the impressive 15-play, 73-yard go-ahead drive as he converted three third-down plays and a fourth-down opportunity.
''He played a gritty ballgame,'' coach Todd Bowles said. ''He played tough and made some throws.''
On third-and-10 from the 19, Darnold took off for 14 yards - and a holding call on Aaron Colvin put the ball on the 2. After Darnold was stopped for no gain on a quarterback draw, he handed the ball to McGuire who pushed up the middle - surrounded by a surging mass of blockers who helped shove him all the way into the end zone for the score.
It set off a wild celebration by the Jets.
But Deshaun Watson and the Texans - whose nine-game winning streak was snapped by Indianapolis last Sunday - weren't going down for the second straight game. Watson threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 2:15 left, lifting Houston to the victory.
''We've just got to finish the game,'' Darnold said.
A holding call on cornerback Morris Claiborne on third down prolonged the Texans' winning drive, and Watson completed passes of 20 and 3 yards to Demaryius Thomas and 7 yards to Hopkins to get to New York's 14.
''This is how I feed my family,'' Claiborne said of the penalty call. ''When you make calls like that, you mess that up for me.''
Watson then found Hopkins streaking down the left sideline and launched a pass that the receiver somehow came down with despite being tightly covered by Claiborne.
''The holding call hurt us, obviously,'' Bowles said. ''That got them down the field and the guy made a heck of a catch at the end. Mo had him covered great. He's a great receiver and he made a heck of a play.''
Darnold and the Jets had two more chances to pull off a stunner.
On fourth-and-14 from the New York 21, Robby Anderson couldn't come down with Darnold's throw - and the Jets turned it over on downs.
''It was just a little bit of bad judgment by me,'' Anderson said. ''I came a little bit too much under it and it hit right off my fingertips.''
Moments later, Ka'imi Fairbairn's 40-yard field goal - his fifth kick of the game - made it 29-22 with 54 seconds left.
Darnold and the offense came out again with 75 yards between them and a tying touchdown. But after two incompletions and a sack, Darnold faced a fourth-and-18. He threw a short pass to McGuire, who gained 16 yards - 2 short of a first down, sealing the game.
''It's frustrating to lose the ballgame,'' Bowles said. ''We could've finished it a bunch of different ways. Whether it's offense or defense, we didn't finish it. The penalties cost us at the end.''
Darnold's overall performance, however, was a glaring bright spot for the Jets - who have had few things to feel good about this season.
He was 24 of 38 for 253 yards and touchdown passes to Anderson and Andre Roberts , and also ran six times for 35 yards in arguably his best game of the season. That would mark two straight solid outings for Darnold, who missed three games with a strained foot before returning against Buffalo last Sunday.
''He's just comfortable,'' Bowles said. ''He's just playing his game. He's not trying to be perfect. He's just trying to play football. He's just enjoying playing football. That comes with game by game, having success.
''You sit out a while, you get to step back and you come back and you learn a little bit. It looks like he's learned quite a bit.''
Darnold's teammates are also noticing a more confident playmaking quarterback on the field.
''He played phenomenally,'' safety Jamal Adams said. ''He's a bad man and the future is bright for him.''
The overall outlook for the Jets appears uncertain with Bowles likely to be looking for a new job when the season ends, and general manager Mike Maccagnan not a lock to return.
But one thing New York might be able to count on is the fact it has a young quarterback who is progressing each week.
''Yeah, I mean, I feel comfortable getting experience and I feel like I'm seeing the field a lot better,'' Darnold said. ''I feel like our whole offense is really starting to click a lot better, getting in and out. But, it comes down to wins and losses. We want to get out there and win the game. That's the whole point of playing, you want to win.''
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill could be on his way out of KC, according to Mike Florio. Hill has been cleared of his suspension, but the team is not close to an extension with Hill. The Chiefs have some depth at wide receiver, so losing Hill would not be the end of the world. There's a possibility of a tag-and-trade next offseason, but Hill will likely remain in Kansas City this upcoming season. The two sides may continue to talk extension, but it doesn't sound like either side is close at all.
With the onslaught of new talent brought in by the Oakland Raiders this offseason, running back Jalen Richard could find more success despite being further down the list of the teams top offensive weapons. Richard will primarily work once again as a pass-catching back, limiting his playing time to third downs and spelling off rookie Josh Jacobs. In 2018, Richard finished seventh among running backs in receptions (68) and targets (81) while picking up 607 receiving yards in the process. With the more dynamic players on the offense creating more space for him to maneuver, he could be the right change-of-pace back the team needs in certain scenarios especially with his proven chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr. Richard is a player to watch as a potential handcuff to Jacobs, and could find value in PPR leagues if he finds more work in the red zone.
Joining the new offensive formula for the Oakland Raiders this season, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow hopes to be a part of it in a big way in 2019. The fifth-round rookie has his eyes on the job for the teams starting slot receiver, sandwiched on the field between fellow newcomers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. Battling Ryan Grant and JJ Nelson for the position, Renfrow has a dynamic skill set that forced GM Mike Mayock to trade up for him at this years draft. His 510 frame, reliable hands, and excellent route-running abilities give him the proper skill set, but hell have to prove hes the right man for the job during training camp and the preseason. Renfrow is a name to watch out for in the buildup to the regular season and is solely on the dynasty league radar until we know more about his role going forward.
Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray was impressive during offseason workouts, and he is getting ready for his first training camp with practice starting July 25. He is expected to get the starting nod in Week 1 ahead of veteran journeyman Brett Hundley, and he has impressed early on. "I was impressed with how smart he is, how determined he is. His future is extremely bright," future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after the rookie's minicamp showing. Murray is already moving up the pre-draft cheat sheets, and he is considered a borderline low-end QB1 or top-end QB2 in most fantasy formats, while having considerably higher value in long-term dynasty formats.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been impressed by the quick learning by rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and his familiarity with the offense. "I know him running (Oklahoma head coach) Lincoln Riley's offense is very similar to what Coach Kliff (Kingsbury) runs," Fitzgerald says, "but on the first day he's calling audibles and getting us in plays that are favorable to the offense. So I was really impressed by his ability to take a leadership position first day at the offense." Fitzgerald also remarked that the Arizona offense will be much faster in tempo, with players expected to process pre-snap adjustments considerably faster. Fitzgerald is getting a little long in the tooth, but the up-tempo style should keep him rather productive heading into 2019. He's a reliable WR3/4 or flex fantasy option in most formats.
The Eagles are bringing back running back Darren Sproles for one more season. After playing in just six games last year, it looked like Sproles might be done in the NFL, but the Eagles decided to bring Sproles back to an already crowded backfield that features Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, and Miles Sanders. Clement might be in the most trouble from the Sproles signing, but overall it's looking more and more like this is a running back committee that fantasy owners should stay away from. This move does almost guarantee that either Josh Adams or Wendell Smallwood are cut before the season opens.
The Denver Broncos have signed running back David Williams, who the team originally drafted in 2018 before letting go. Williams was a Jaguar last season, but carried the ball just eight times for 36 yards with Jacksonville. It's hard to imagine a situation where Williams has fantasy value in a Broncos backfield that already has Royce Freeman and Phillip, but stranger things have happened. He's not draftable in any format, but a good training camp could put him in the mix for some of Devontae Booker's snaps as the number-three back.
Free-agent DE/LB Connor Barwin (Eagles) told Sirius XM NFL Radio during an interview Friday, July 17, that he has spoken with general manager Howie Roseman about re-signing. Barwin indicated the Eagles want to take a look at their younger players for a few weeks in training camp first but suggested the two sides will reconvene after that.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams is poised for a stellar season in his debut year with the Silver and Black. Lining up across the field from Antonio Brown, Williams will serve as the deep threat for the offense and will undoubtedly get his share of targets with Brown drawing most of the attention from opposing defenses. The 6-foot-4 wideout is a boom or bust player on a weekly basis but has the potential to surpass his value on his current 156 ADP. Williams caught 41 balls for 653 yards and five touchdowns with the Chargers last season despite being nearly non-existent in the second half of the year. He does own a 1,000-yard season under his belt, so he has sneaky potential on a team lacking a depth of weapons. As the bonafide number two receiving option for quarterback Derek Carr, Williams is a good late-round target, but the week-to-week consistency is a question mark.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Justin Watson worked 'extensively' in the slot this spring, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic.
Fantasy Spin: As Auman states, there has been a lot of offseason talk about Chris Godwin working in the slot. Godwin will still get plenty of time inside and probably be the primary slot option in Tampa Bay, but he won't be the only one that spends time there. Owners can continue drafting Godwin high because he is poised to break out regardless of where he lines up, but Watson is a name to remember as a highly athletic player capable of becoming what Godwin turned into last season.
Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett led the league with a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeted 20 or more yards downfield (minimum 15 targets) in 2018.
Fantasy Spin: Lockett will be counted on to be much more than just a deep threat this season with Doug Baldwin now out of the picture and should be valued as a low-end WR2.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (ACL) is expected to be ready to go for the start of the 2019 season. Fuller's played just 17 games over the past two seasons, but when he's on the field he's one of the NFL's best downfield weapons and has developed great chemistry with quarterback Deshaun Watson. Even with serious injury concerns, the upside is too great with Fuller to pass up on him in the middle rounds of the draft. He has 11 touchdown catches over the past two seasons and with DeAndre Hopkins playing across the field from him, defenses aren't able to double Fuller, allowing him to get open deep on a routine basis.
Houston Texans running back D'Onta Foreman had a disastrous 2018 season, rushing for negative yardage on seven carries while adding two catches for 28 yards and a touchdown. Recovering from an Achilles tear, Foreman appeared in just one regular season game, playing 31 snaps in a loss to the Eagles. Foreman is expected to play a much bigger role this year now that Houston's long time backup, Alfred Blue, is gone, and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle expects 2019 to be an audition of sorts for Foreman in preparation for Lamar Miller's impending free agency, with Foreman seeing a decent amount of work this season. Foreman makes sense as a late round pick for this reason, though questions about how he'll play after the Achilles injury loom large.
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (knee) received a vote of health and confidence Thursday, July 18, from head coach Sean McVay, who was a guest on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. 'I think he's feeling great,' McVay said on the show of Gurley. 'I think, you know, one of the things about Todd is (he's a) great competitor. I think he's earned the right to be able to have the plan that we had this offseason. Can't wait to get him back going. I know he's ready to go and it's going to be fun for the Rams this year.'
Fantasy Spin: Of course, we've been hearing this for months regarding Gurley, and no one is really going to know until the games begin for real on Sept. 8. In the meantime, hedge your bets as best you can and value Gurley as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 with ample risk/reward involved.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill issued his own statement Friday, July 19, after the league announced he will not be subject to a disciplinary suspension or fine at this time. In part, Hill wrote: 'To the Kansas City Chiefs, Clark Hunt, Brett Veach, Coach Reid, the entire organization and the Chiefs Kingdom: you gave me a home when everyone doubted me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you all. I can assure you that I will continue to work to be the person, player, and teammate that you envisioned me to be.'
Fantasy Spin: Surprising as it may be, Hill returns to WR1 consideration in fantasy until further notice.
Buffalo Bills SS Rafael Bush announced his retirement Friday, July 19.
Free-agent FS Kurt Coleman (Saints) signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills Friday, July 19. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
The NFL will not suspend Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill for violating the league's player-conduct policy. Hill was under investigation for an incident in which his son's arm was broken. With Hill cleared to be on the field, the Chiefs wideout is once again on track to be one of the league's top receivers thanks to his speed and the prolific passing of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Hill's a second-round fantasy pick at worst now, and will be a huge value for fantasy owners who drafted early and took him at his lower offseason ADP.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill is unlikely to resume contract talks for several weeks or months with the team.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not be suspended by the NFL as the league found that he did not violate the personal conduct policy. He will be able to attend training camp and participate in all team activities.
Fantasy Spin: The news has a big impact on the fantasy landscape as Hill immediately returns to WR1 status with the cloud clearing over him. Hill had an 87-1,479-12 breakout last season, and talks on a long-term deal could also rekindle.