Mon Jan 21 3:04pm ET
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
In this Sept. 9, 2018, file photo, New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores watches his team warm up before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Foxborough, Mass. Flores team is headed for the Super Bowl, and the Miami Dolphins must wait another two weeks before they can seal a deal with the New England Patriots defensive play-caller to become their coach. The Dolphins decided nearly two weeks ago to offer the job to Flores, who has been a Patriots assistant for 11 seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
MIAMI (AP) While the 2018 NFL champion has yet to be crowned, much of the league is already looking ahead to the 2019 season, and so far the Miami Dolphins are in last place.
Las Vegas oddsmakers recently made the Dolphins a 300-1 choice to win the Super Bowl in Miami a year from now, by far the league's longest odds.
And because Brian Flores' team is headed for the Super Bowl, the Dolphins must wait another two weeks before they can seal a deal with the New England Patriots' defensive play-caller to become their coach.
The Patriots sent the Dolphins' wait on Flores into overtime by beating Kansas City in overtime Sunday in the AFC championship game.
The Dolphins interviewed Flores on Jan. 4, targeted him as their choice for the job on Jan. 11 and are expected to meet with him this week. But no agreement can become final until after the Patriots play the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
Also on hold are the Cincinnati Bengals, the only other team still with a vacancy among the eight NFL teams making coaching changes.
The Bengals are interested in Zac Taylor, the Rams' quarterbacks coach. It has been three weeks since Cincinnati fired Marvin Lewis after his 16th season and third consecutive losing record.
Flores has begun work to assemble a staff, and front-runners include former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell as assistant head coach and Packers assistant Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator. Some Dolphins assistants are expected to be retained.
But Miami will be without a head coach to help assess prospects this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and his evaluation of the roster in preparation for free agency and the draft will be delayed.
The Dolphins went 7-9 last year under Adam Gase, who was fired after three seasons and then hired as coach of the New York Jets .
Flores and Miami general manager Chris Grier both started their NFL careers as Patriots scouts. Flores has spent his entire 11-year coaching career with New England, and he took over defensive play-calling a year ago after the departure of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
''Obviously he has done a great job,'' safety Patrick Chung said last week. ''He's definitely a good coach and he likes to mix things up. It keeps guys off-balance.''
The Patriots allowed 5,746 yards during the regular season to rank 21st, but ranked seventh in points allowed. The Dolphins ranked 29th by allowing 6,257 yards, the most in franchise history.
Expectations for Miami in 2019 are low partly because owner Stephen Ross has said the franchise will abandon its win-now approach to build with the long term in mind and end a cycle of mediocrity. The Dolphins have finished with six to eight wins nine times in the past decade.
Houston Texans tight end Jordan Thomas recently suggested that Houston will use a committee approach at tight end with Thomas, Jordan Akins, and rookie Kahale Warring, but Thomas is expected to be the leader of that committee and the player most likely to be a weapon in Houston's passing game. Thomas caught four touchdowns last season, but he saw his snap percentage fade as the season went along. Even if Thomas gets the most snaps, quarterback Deshaun Watson doesn't target tight ends at a rate that would make Thomas a sustainable fantasy starter.
Washington Redskins LB Josh Harvey-Clemons is expected to serve as the team's nickel linebacker this year, after bulking up in the offseason.
Washington Redskins LB Mason Foster is expected to be used as a starter at one of the team's inside linebacker spots, although it remains uncertain if he will appear in nickel sets.
Former Washington Redskins LB Preston Smith had attracted interest from the Indianapolis Colts during free agency before he ultimately signed with the Green Bay Packers.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (knee) is expected to be completely recovered from his torn anterior cruciate ligament in time to play against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller missed the entirety of spring workouts and figures to be limited at best early in training camp, but he will be roughly 10 months removed from surgery by the time the Texans visit the Saints on Sept. 9. Of course, his biggest challenge will be staying on the field - something he has struggled to do as a pro. He's a high-end WR3 who owners need to have a backup plan for, as he has missed 17 of a possible 48 games in his three-year NFL career.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill could be traded early next season if a contract extension can't be worked out, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
Fantasy Spin: Hill should be headed for another year of WR1 production as one of the main weapons in Kansas City's high-powered offense, but his ceiling could change dramatically if he switches teams. The trade talk is just speculation for now, but it is one more reason to try to acquire Mecole Hardman in keeper formats.
Seattle Seahawks WR Jaron Brown will likely enter the 2019 season as a starter in three-receiver sets, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Seattle Seahawks WR Amara Darboh could 'steal a roster spot' if he can build on his performance from OTAs, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Seattle Seahawks WR David Moore will open the season as a top-three receiver, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Fantasy Spin: Tyler Lockett is likely to be the top target in the passing attack, but the pecking order is wide open from there. With Seattle looking to replace Doug Baldwin, Moore could be worth a flier as a WR5.
Houston Texans RB D'Onta Foreman's performance this year will be a 'season-long audition' to show he deserves to be the lead back in 2020, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Spin: Lamar Miller enters 2019 as the starter, but he is also in a contract year. Foreman is a high-end handcuff in redraft leagues for now, but his upside in keeper formats is enormous. By next season, he could be the featured back in a potent offense.
Houston Texans TE Jordan Akins said he is prepping to play a variety of positions this season. 'I would say slot receiver,' Akins said. 'Special teams as well, up-back, punt return as well as fullback.'
Denver Broncos RB Royce Freeman could see a 'bigger market share of carries' this season, specifically near the goal line and in short-yardage situations, according to Benjamin Allbright of 104.7 FM Denver.
Fantasy Spin: It sounds like Freeman could essentially serve as a power back, giving him some value in touchdown-only formats. Overall, Phillip Lindsay is still the Denver back to own, but his owners should target Freeman as an insurance policy.
Denver Broncos QB Kevin Hogan was 'overshooting open receivers on multiple occasions' during practice Saturday, July 20, according to Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com.
The battle to be the backup quarterback rages this offseason for the Seattle Seahawks, but Geno Smith is getting a lot of compliments from the coaching staff so far. Head coach Pete Carroll made specific mention of Smith's comfort with handling the huddle and making adjustments at the line, and he compared Smith's savvy to that of longtime backup Tarvaris Jackson. That's high praise from the coach since it's incredibly rare that a backup QB is held in high a regard as Jackson was, but Smith has to win his competition with Paxton Lynch first. Lynch signed with Seattle early in the offseason, but the coaching staff hasn't made any indications about who is winning the job yet. For now, it looks to be a battle that will go on throughout all of training camp.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaron Brown filled a red-zone niche for the team last year, but head coach Pete Carroll seems to already be scheming for him in 2019. Carroll told reporters that he felt the team had "underused" him last season and expects to get more out of his this year. Brown only caught 14 passes last year, five for touchdowns, but he's still incredibly fast. With D.K. Metcalf in the mix, Brown could see more utilization in a dual deep threat type of set, and fantasy owners shouldn't forget that Russell Wilson is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league on deep balls. If Carroll is telling the truth about the team's plans, Brown could be a surprise star in Seattle.
The Seattle Seahawks see big things in wide receiver Tyler Lockett, even if he's not very large. With the retirement of their steady No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin over the offseason, Seattle will be trying to fill big shoes in the passing game. It all begins with Lockett. Lockett had a breakout season in 2018 as Baldwin dealt with injuries that would eventually end his career, and it looks like the torch can be passed in most ways. Both are small, quick receivers who run excellent routes and have steady hands, so the feel of the offense shouldn't change dramatically. The real question will be how much use Lockett will get, even if he is the go-to guy. Seattle is notorious for spreading the ball around and not letting Russell Wilson do too much of the work, but there's no clear-cut No. 2 receiver behind Lockett, so he will likely see the vast majority of the looks, especially on third down.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver David Moore burst onto the scene in 2018 by making a host of acrobatic, highlight-reel catches to announce his presence. Unfortunately, he slowed down with time, and it turned out that his acrobatics covered up for the fact that he struggled to get open on a consistent basis. His highs have been outstanding and stick in peoples' minds, but he also fades into the background during most games. Entering camp in 2019, Moore will be competing against Jaron Brown and D.K. Metcalf to try to lock up the No. 2 spot in the wide receiver pecking order. His competition is talented, but all three receivers have their warts. If Moore can improve his ability to get separation on a regular basis, he could easily run away from the others (metaphorically speaking).
Arizona Cardinals TE Charles Clay (knee) was placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Saturday, July 20.
Fantasy Spin: Clay has a good chance to be the starter for the Cardinals this season but may not have a big role in the passing game. He probably can be avoided in most leagues.
Arizona Cardinals DT Robert Nkemdiche (knee), OT Max Garcia (knee), LB Brooks Reed (hip) and CB Brandon X. Williams (back) were placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Saturday, July 20.
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.