Thu Oct 17 10:27pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
In this June 11, 2019, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey walks to the field for an NFL football practice in Jacksonville, Fla. Ramsey is expected to return to practice two days after seeing a back specialist. The Jaguars host New Orleans on Sunday, Oct. 13. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Thanks to two injures and a couple of major trades, the Los Angeles Rams will be without three regular starters in their secondary this weekend in Atlanta.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips realizes that's not the ideal way to face Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Matt Ryan and the NFL's second-most prolific passing game.
Not even if one of those new starters turns out to be Jalen Ramsey, who is optimistic he will make his Rams debut at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
''(The Falcons) have probably the top passing offense in the league, so it would be a challenge whether we had all the same people or different ones,'' Phillips said Thursday. ''It's a challenge for whoever you have out there.''
The Rams' defense is spending the week in frantic preparation for its new lineup against the Falcons. Starting cornerback Marcus Peters was traded on Tuesday, while safety John Johnson and cornerback Aqib Talib went on injured reserve earlier this week.
Ramsey went through his first full practice at the Rams' training complex Thursday, two days after the Rams acquired him from Jacksonville in an even bolder trade. Wearing the No. 20 jersey he got from new teammate Troy Hill, Ramsey looked loose and happy during the workout.
''We're going to do what's smart for myself and the team, but I hope (to play Sunday), Ramsey said. ''I hope I can go contribute to a win, somehow, some way, whether it's limited or whatever, or a couple of plays. It doesn't matter.''
After requesting a trade last month, Ramsey missed the Jaguars' last three games with a back injury. Although he must learn the Rams' defense and get back into full game shape before he'll feel comfortable with his new team, Ramsey thinks he is on his way.
Ramsey said the defensive system ''fits me very well,'' and he called Phillips ''a legend'' in their first meeting.
''I love challenges like that,'' Ramsey said of the Falcons. ''They've got elite receivers, Julio especially, arguably one of the best receivers in the league. Definitely I love that challenge, and if I'm able to perform well, I would like to be out there.''
The only remaining regular starter in the Rams' secondary is safety Eric Weddle, who joined the defending NFC champions in the offseason. The veteran actually sounds eager for the challenge facing the Rams' suddenly inexperienced secondary.
''That's why you have me, quite honestly,'' Weddle said. ''I've been through this many a time. Revolving door, whether it's safeties, corners, it's my job to get everyone on the same page and play at a high level. There's no excuses in this league, and it's my job to get those guys going.''
But there's no denying the fact that the Rams must figure out how to win without two of their three busiest defensive players this season. Only linebacker Cory Littleton has taken more defensive snaps than Peters or Johnson for Los Angeles, while Talib is seventh despite sitting out last week with the rib injury that now threatens his season.
Hill is almost certain to start at cornerback for the Rams. If Ramsey doesn't play extensively, the Rams are expecting to give significant playing time to Darious Williams, a second-year pro who hasn't played a defensive snap this season and has one career tackle.
The coaching staff is high on Williams, who went undrafted in 2018 after playing two seasons at UAB. Those two seasons were in 2014 and 2017, separated by two years of training without games after the school dropped football and before the program was reinstated.
The Rams claimed Williams off waivers last October and kept him on the roster this season, but he played only four snaps on defense last season and none in six games this year.
There weren't many snaps available at cornerback recently with Peters and Talib playing extensively along with Nickell Robey-Coleman, one of the NFL's most effective nickel backs against slot receivers. Snaps are suddenly in abundance, but the Rams aren't shaken by the upheaval.
''We're just going to hold strong,'' Robey-Coleman said. ''We're going to fight and battle with the guys that we've got. Having Jalen on the defense now, we don't have to worry about one half of the field, I know for sure. That made everybody's job a little easier.''
NOTES: Ramsey was listed as a full participant in practice, while RB Todd Gurley's participation was limited. Coach Sean McVay is optimistic Gurley will play after missing last week's game. ... Gurley's backup, Malcolm Brown, missed his second straight practice with an ankle injury. McVay hasn't ruled out Brown for Sunday, noting that ''sometimes these things end up turning the corner pretty quickly, so we'll use our time on this.''
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (hamstring) will undergo an MRI exam on his hamstring in the next day or so, according to a source. At that point they'll have a better idea for a timeline. Hill missed both of his targets on Monday night against the Chargers before leaving the game and never returning, so it was a tough pill to swallow for his fantasy owners. The good news is that the Chiefs are on their bye in Week 12, so Hill may not end up missing any games as long as his MRI yields positive results. If he's forced to miss time, Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson would once again be attractive flexes in deeper leagues behind Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (hamstring) was not seen at the portion of practice open to the media on Tuesday. The Cardinals are going on their bye in Week 12, so Edmonds will have another week to rest up. He's been out since Oct. 27 against the Saints. In the meantime, the Cardinals signed Kenyan Drake, and he has now leaped an injured David Johnson on the running back depth chart. Edmonds could get some run in Week 13 if he's ready and DJ is still slowed by his injuries, but Edmonds is still unlikely to have any standalone value the rest of the way. He can be left to the waiver wire in most leagues.
Free-agent TE Orson Charles (Broncos) re-signed with the Denver Broncos on an undisclosed deal Tuesday, Nov. 19. FB Andy Janovich (arm) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (calf) can play Thursday, Nov. 21, if he receives medical clearance from doctors and clearance from the team, according to head coach Frank Reich.
Fantasy Spin: It's still pretty questionable with the short week. Hilton would be a WR2 against the Houston Texans.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he's "excited about the potential return" of rookie running back Benny Snell Jr. (knee) for Week 12 against the Bengals. Snell has missed the last two games and will be evaluated in practice this week. The 21-year-old has 28 rushing attempts for 118 yards in five games this season. He could have a role in the team's backfield if he returns this weekend if James Conner (shoulder) remains sidelined, but Jaylen Samuels would still likely see most of the touches as Pittsburgh's lead back. Snell is only worth stashing in deeper leagues if you own either Conner or Samuels.
Retired tight end Rob Gronkowski won't rule out a return to football in the future, but he has no plans to come back in 2019. If he had planned to return to football this season, Gronk would have to do so by Nov. 30, per league rules. The Patriots offense could surely use Gronkowski on the field this year, as they predictably haven't gotten much production from the tight end position without him. The combination of Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo and Benjamin Watson has left a lot to be desired. The veteran Watson has become the primary pass-catching tight end of late, but he's a low-end TE2 for fantasy purposes. It looks like the Pats will continue to roll with Watson for the foreseeable future.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (knee) is expected to play in Week 12 against the New England Patriots. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones himself is the source here, who said he expects his top wide receiver to play in a huge game against the 9-1 Patriots. Cooper played on just 55 percent of offensive snaps in Week 11, but Jones stating this early in the week that Cooper will play could be good news. Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on practice reports this week to see how limited Cooper is leading up to Sunday.
The Miami Dolphins waived running back Mark Walton on Tuesday morning. Walton was already suspended for violating the league's personal conduct policy, but the Dolphins were, "made aware of a police matter earlier this morning regarding Walton" according to Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier. Kalen Ballage will continue as the lead back for the Dolphins presumably for the rest of the season. Walton, still only 22 years old, may already be running out of chances in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns FS Morgan Burnett (Achilles') was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Los Angeles Chargers kicker Michael Badgley took advantage of the thin air in Mexico City and drilled a 49-yarder, the second longest good kick of his career. While Badgley did barely miss a 40-yard shot in the first quarter, he was able to make kicks from 27, 26, and 49 yards on the night. Badgley's leg kept LA in the game since their offense sputtered terribly once they were staring down the goal line, but unfortunately, the Chargers fell to the Chiefs anyway. Badgley has made 80% of his field goal tries and all of his extra points since he returned from a severe groin injury. He's not a superstar or Mr. Dependable, but he's getting the job done well enough for an LA franchise that struggled with kicking woes for years.
Los Angeles Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins made a slashing leap in front of a Chiefs receiver to snag his third interception of the year on Monday night. The pick was just the second one of the season for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and LA is the first defense this season to hold Mahomes under 200 yards passing when he played a full game. Unfortunately, failures on the offensive side of the ball cost the Chargers the game even though the defense held KC to just 24 total points. While it looks like the season is a wash for LA, their defense can still be useful if they can play like that more often.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen finally ended his touchdown drought. In the third quarter of Monday night's loss to the Chiefs, Allen was able to snag a quick pass and dive his way through a couple of defenders to get the score. It was Allen's first touchdown in eight games, and his 71 yards receiving are the most he's posted since Week 3. After a monster start to the year, Allen has become a ghost. While it's easy to blame it on Allen, it's starting to look like the problem originates with Philip Rivers instead. Rivers appears to be getting real old real fast, and that could explain why Allen, traditionally the team's outside man, has gotten lost in the shuffle.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry tacked another 69 yards onto his season total in Monday night's loss to the Chiefs. He's now either tallied 60+ receiving yards or a touchdown in six of the seven games he's played this season, and he's still averaging 12.5 yards per reception this season. Henry has been in a constant struggle with his health, but he seems to be fully healthy now. When he's at the top of his game, Henry is arguably the best tight end in the NFL, and he's proving it this season. Even with a quarterback who has been struggling, Henry is putting up a fine season.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was the man to beat on Monday night, but even he couldn't will the team to a victory. Ekeler carried the ball five times for 24 yards and caught eight of 12 passes sent his way, tallying another 108 yards. Unfortunately, the moment that will get the most attention was the game-ending interception Philip Rivers threw Ekeler's direction. There's no question that the pick was purely Rivers' fault, but his performance really overshadowed what should have been a star-studded Sportscenter appearance for Ekeler, a backup running back who happens to be incredibly valuable. Unfortunately, the unpredictability in Ekeler's touches from week to week limits his dependable fantasy value.
With the game on the line and 75 yards to go, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams picked a huge moment to make a phenomenal catch. Having only caught one pass so far in the match, Williams launched himself up and hauled in a bomb from Philip Rivers to get his team just outside the red zone. Unfortunately, Rivers would throw a game-sealing pick a few plays later. The big play at least gave Williams a respectable fantasy performance, and he now has a reception of 43+ yards in each of his last four games. He's also caught at least one pass for 20 or more yards in his last nine games, and he's become a regular fixture in the Chargers passing attack.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers put up a couple of nice numbers on Monday night as he completed 28 passes for 353 yards and a touchdown, but he also only completed 53.9% of the passes he threw and tossed four interceptions including a game-ending pick in the end zone. Rivers has now moved into sole possession of second place in the league in interceptions with 14, and he's only posted a QB rating over 85 in two of his last seven games. He still has the ability to sling it on occasion, but for the most part, it looks like time has caught up to Rivers. He just can't make the throws anymore, and his decision-making hasn't accepted that fact yet.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon rushed the ball 14 times for 69 yards and caught three passes for 21 more yards in Monday's loss to the Chiefs. Averaging 4.9 yards per carry, it was surprising LA didn't lean more heavily on Gordon's ground game, especially with Philip Rivers throwing interception after interception. However, Gordon still topped 90 scrimmage yards, even if he didn't get to hit the end zone on any of his touches. With Rivers looking like a shell of his former self, Gordon could be in for some greater use over the team's remaining games. He remains one of the most potent parts of the Chargers offense.
Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker has been one of the more reliable fantasy kickers all season. In most games Butkler has been able to connect on multiple field goals, but Week 11 was not one of those games. It wasn't his fault, Butker hit a 41 yard field goal in the victory over the Chargers. That was his only field goal attempt of the game as the Chiefs won 24-17. The Chiefs head into a bye week in Week 12 so fantasy owners who don't have a lot of depth might consider dropping Butker. The Chiefs offense is strong and Butker gets plenty of chances each week. It's not wise to drop Butker for the upcoming bye week, unless you have no other options.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins was expected to have a solid game after having reliable performances the last few weeks. Instead, Watkins was only able to haul in two of three targets for 26 yards in this one. Tyreek Hill (hamstring) left after the opening drive, but Watkins wasn't able to capitalize. The Chiefs were able to get the win in Week 11, but Watkins didn't do much to help that. Kansas City has a bye week in Week 12, but then has a strong matchup against the shaky Raiders secondary. However, at this point in the season it's tough to trust Watkins. Fantasy owners should consider him a WR3 going forward.