Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) scrambles as Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) pursues during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) and quarterback Kyler Murray (1) wear a "WVB" patch in memory of the Cardinals' late owner William V. Bidwill prior to an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
New England Patriots linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, right, hits New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones after he released a pass in the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones passes under pressure from New England Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise, left, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy, right, in the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, center, throws a touchdown pass to Golden Tate in the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) There were some who questioned the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants for taking quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones, respectively, in the first six picks of the NFL draft.
Murray too short. Jones had a losing record at Duke. A lot of critics and fans had their opinions.
Six games into the season, the Cardinals (2-3-1) and Giants (2-4) are very happy with the picks and the rookies will be on display Sunday when Arizona comes to MetLife Stadium to face New York.
Murray, the No. 1 overall, has started every game and has the Cardinals on a two-game winning streak. He is an exceptional athlete who can beat teams with feet or his arm.
Jones, the sixth pick, replaced Eli Manning after New York lost its first two games. While not as much of a runner as Murray, he energized the offense with his ability to extend plays and throw accurate strikes. The Giants won their first two games with him starting and lost the next two to Minnesota (4-2) and New England (6-0).
But the vibes are positive and both teams are looking to the future and getting back into the playoffs at some point.
The previous matchup featuring two rookie starting quarterbacks selected in the top 10 in the common era of the draft was last year when Sam Darnold of the Jets (No. 3) faced Josh Allen of the Bills (No. 7).
Giants offensive coordinator Mike Shula said coaching staffs are simply trying to get quarterbacks to avoid mistakes.
''You watch around the league, even some of the best quarterbacks are trying to do things maybe they shouldn't be trying to do,'' he said. ''That's the beauty of the position. It's one of the most unique positions in all of sports because you have to make split-second decisions with guys trying to take your head off.''
That's what Jones and Murray will have to deal with on Sunday.
Five things to watch in the game:
The biggest question mark in the game. Last season's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has missed the past three games with a high sprain to his right ankle. The running back is expected to play after practicing all week. He adds an ability to score on any play to an offense hit by injuries recently. Tight end Evan Engram (33 catches with two TDs) also is expected back.
The Cardinals have developed a versatile and productive two-man backfield with David Johnson and Chase Edmonds.
Johnson's success was expected. The 2016 All-Pro has had at least 100 total yards in each of his past three games and has developed into an excellent run/pass threat. His 30 catches for 315 yards both rank second on the team. His three receiving touchdowns rank first.
Edmonds, a second-year player, is a surprise. He's run for 161 yards this season - a 6.7-yard average - and caught eight passes, including one for a touchdown against the Falcons last week. Coach Kliff Kingsbury is playing them at the same time more often to pressure defenses.
Former Cardinal Markus Golden is having a comeback season with the Giants. The linebacker has a team-high five sacks, with a least a half in five consecutive games. He scored his first career touchdown on a 42-yard fumble return against the Patriots. Golden is looking forward to facing Arizona left tackle D.J. Humphries. The two were drafted by the Cards in 2015: Humphries in the first round, Golden in the second. Golden had 2 1/2 sacks last season after missing the 2017 season with a knee injury.
The Cardinals welcome back star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who missed the first six games after violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancers.
He should help a secondary that's leaned on several rookies, including cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. and safeties Deionte Thompson and Jalen Thompson. The Cardinals are giving up more than 281 yards passing, No. 30 in the league.
The Cardinals hope Peterson's presence allows them to move around other players to better cover opposing tight ends. Falcons TE Austin Hooper was the latest to dominate Arizona's defense, catching eight passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinals are excellent on special teams. Kicker Zane Gonzalez leads the league in scoring with 58 points while Andy Lee is third overall in punting with a 44.8-yard net average. The Giants gave up a touchdown on a blocked punt against the Patriots. Kicker Aldrick Rosas has not had much work, hitting on four of five field-goal attempts.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are strongly considering using the franchise tag on defensive end Shaquil Barrett if the two sides can't work out a long-term deal, according to a league source. If the Bucs use the tag on Barrett, they wouldn't be able to use one on quarterback Jameis Winston. Barrett had 14 sacks in his first four seasons with Denver before exploding for 19.5 sacks in his first year in Tampa in 2019. Was last year an outlier for the 27-year-old or will it become the norm? That's what Tampa must figure out, as well as fantasy owners in IDP leagues considering using a high pick on him for the 2020 season.
The Dallas Cowboys are meeting with the representatives of cornerback Byron Jones on Friday, according to the Dallas Morning News' Calvin Watkins. Owner Jerry Jones said it's "not a given" that Jones has priced himself off the roster, but it'll be tough for Dallas to keep him from hitting the market as they try to retain both quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper. A first-round pick in 2015, Jones has two interceptions in 79 career starts and none in his last 40 starts, but he should get around $15 million per season on the open market. It might be inevitable at this point that Jones leaves the Cowboys, which will be a blow to a Dallas secondary that is already nothing special.
Arizona Cardinals impending free-agent running back Kenyan Drake is seeking a deal that will pay him $8-10 million per season if he reaches the open market, according to sources. Drake excelled after being traded from the Dolphins to the Cardinals last year, running the ball 123 times for 643 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. The eight scores were a career high in just eight games to close out the season. He's looking to cash in on that small sample size. The Cardinals would certainly like him back, especially with David Johnson's health now a question, but he may prove too expensive for their taste. If Drake is playing somewhere that he is the unquestioned lead back, he proved in 2019 that he can have RB1 upside.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear that he wants to re-sign tight end Jason Witten. I feel strongly he wants to play and I think he can play, Jones said. I would hope that he would not ever be anything but a Cowboy. Its meaningful. Hes in the tops right there. I do think he can play. As I sit here right now I think he can make a real contribution to the Cowboys. Witten played 75 percent of the offensive snaps last year and had 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns. But Witten is slow on the field and is getting in the way of Blake Jarwin, who is expected to have a bigger role in 2020. If Witten returns, he'll have to accept a lesser role. Even if he lands somewhere else, the aging veteran is nothing more than a low-upside, touchdown-dependent TE2.
The Indianapolis Colts are a likely landing spot for free-agent safety Eric Berry, who sat out all of last season. Berry is a former All-Pro with the Chiefs, but he's played in just four games in the last three years, including the playoffs. The veteran safety tore his Achilles in the first game of the 2017 season. Berry was released by the Chiefs last offseason. He "did have offers" to play last year, but he wanted to ensure he was fully healthy. "I've seen tape of him, and he looks great," Trotter said. At this point in his career with all of his injuries, Berry is no sure thing for any team. He probably won't be an every-down player anymore either.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (knee) played through a torn meniscus in his knee last season, which he recently had trimmed. Winston also played through a broken thumb in 2019 but didn't miss a single game, throwing for an NFL-high 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns. But he also had a league-high 30 interceptions and has struggled with turnovers his entire career. The 26-year-old former first overall pick in 2015 will be a free agent next month, but there's a chance the Bucs keep him around on a short-term deal. If he stays in Tampa with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as his top two receivers, Winston will be a high-end QB1 in 2020. You'll just have to live with the turnovers.
New England Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (ankle) will need to undergo surgery on a high ankle sprain that plagued him throughout last season, according to a source. Sanu was hoping to avoid surgery, but his injury failed to heal in the offseason. It also helps explain why his production tailed off late last year with the Patriots. After coming over to the Patriots from the Falcons in a trade, the 30-year-old had 26 catches for 207 yards and only one touchdown in eight games in New England. He wasn't the solution for an underwhelming Patriots receiving group outside of Julian Edelman. With quarterback Tom Brady's future with the Pats in question, Sanu probably will go undrafted in most standard-size leagues this fall.
The Chicago Bears are planning to pursue Atlanta Falcons impending free-agent tight end Austin Hooper, according to a source. The two-time Pro Bowler will not receive the franchise tag from the Falcons and will hit the free-agent market next month. Spotrac projects Hooper's value at $50 million for five years, which would make him the league's highest-paid tight end in 2020. However, the Bears are a long shot for Hooper with $26 million in salary cap space and other needs to address. The Bears have Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen, but neither were able to stay healthy last year and Hooper would be a significant upgrade over them both. Hooper set career highs across the board in 2019, but his high-end upside would be in question with quarterback Mitch Trubisky throwing him the football.
The Green Bay Packers are scheduled to meet with running back Aaron Jones' agent, who is interested in starting talks on a new deal for his client. Jones is heading into the final year of his contract and was the third-highest scoring running back in fantasy in 2019, behind only Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry. He ran for 1,084 yards and scored 16 rushing touchdowns, tied for the most with Henry. Whether Jones receives a new deal this summer or not, he'll be a first-round running back in fantasy drafts this fall.
The Green Bay Packers, who are intent on adding a pass-catcher in both free agency and the draft, plan to make a run at Atlanta Falcons impending free-agent tight end Austin Hooper. Hooper won't come cheap and is likely to reset the tight end market when he reaches free agency next month. The 25-year-old missed three games last season and still managed to post career highs in catches (75), receiving yards (787) and touchdowns (six). The Packers are expected to move on from the aging Jimmy Graham, and Hooper would be a really nice fit with quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing him the pigskin. Hooper should be a high-end TE1 wherever he winds up.
The Los Angeles Rams have spoken with free-agent tight end Jordan Reed, according to a source. Reed is training in Miami and wants to continue playing despite missing all of the 2019 season with a concussion he suffered in the preseason. The former third-round pick in 2013 just recently was cleared from the concussion protocol and has had seven documented concussions in the NFL. He's never played in a full season because of a long list of injuries, but his talent has never been in question when he's been on the field. With Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett already in the mix in LA, Reed would have a tough path to playing time if he chose the Rams. His main concern will be staying healthy wherever he goes.
The Indianapolis Colts are taking a hard look at Los Angeles Chargers impending free-agent quarterback Philip Rivers this week during the scouting combine. The Colts have also denied engaging with New England Patriots impending free-agent quarterback Tom Brady's camp, according to a league source. Indy was put in a tough situation with the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck right before last season, and Jacoby Brissett didn't exactly inspire confidence as his successor in 2019. That's why the Colts are expected to be in the QB market, and head coach Frank Reich has a history with Rivers when he worked with him with the Chargers. Rivers, 38, certainly looked his age last year, but he could benefit from a strong offensive line if he signed with the Colts. Still, he'd merely be a QB2 with experience heading into 2020 for fantasy purposes.
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had some nice things to say about quarterback Derek Carr on Thursday. "I love what Derek Carr did, love what he brings to our team and anxious to continue to build around him," Gruden said. "I really think Derek is a heck of a player and I got a lot of respect for what he has done with some tough circumstances." Carr's future with the Raiders is in question with rumors connecting Las Vegas to Tom Brady, who will become a free agent next month. Carr had a career-high 70.4 completion percentage and threw for a career-high 4,054 yards with 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2019. Still, that might've been more of a ceiling for Carr, and the Raiders would love to make a splash in their new home with Brady. If Carr remains the team's QB going into 2020, he'll serve as a low-ceiling QB2.
New York Giants tight end Rhett Ellison (head) is considering retirement after missing the last six games of the 2019 season because of a concussion, according to three NFL sources. The 31-year-old has 67 catches for 674 yards and four touchdowns in 40 games with the Giants and also spent five years with the Vikings. He has a $7.18 million salary cap hit in 2020 with $5 million in savings and only $2.18 million in dead money if he's released or retires. Ellison's contract will need to be reworked if he decides to continue playing. A blocking-first tight end, Ellison is unlikely to have much fantasy appeal next season if he decides against hanging up his cleats.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) is "100 percent in my eyes." Vander Esch is expected to be a full participant by the start of training camp this summer after having his 2019 season cut short due to neck issues that required surgery. It's great news that LVE is progressing nicely, but we'll keep an eye on his progress this spring. If healthy, he's a game-changer in the middle of the defense for the Cowboys, as he proved in his rookie year in 2018. Vander Esch will come at a discount in IDP leagues this fall and could be a nice value pick if he stays on the field.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (foot) remains in a walking boot after having surgery in late December. The Giants must decide by May whether to pick up Engram's fifth-year option for the 2021 season. He's expected to be sidelined until training camp and has missed 14 games due to injury in his three seasons in the league. The 25-year-old played in just eight games in 2019 and had a career-low 44 catches for 467 yards and three touchdowns. He has high-end tight end potential when he's healthy, but his injuries make him a high-risk, high-reward fantasy selection moving forward.
The Dallas Cowboys met with wide receiver Amari Cooper's representatives on Thursday night, according to a source. The Cowboys want to reach long-term deals with both Cooper and quarterback Dak Prescott. Talks with Cooper should intensify before the start of free agency on March 18, but the transition tag is likely off the table. If the Cowboys use the franchise tag on Prescott, who is the bigger priority, there's a good chance that Cooper reaches the open market. He was a top-10 fantasy wideout in 2019 despite fighting through nagging injuries for much of the season. If he stays with Prescott in Dallas, Cooper will remain a strong WR1.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that defensive end Robert Quinn is "the real deal" and is "hopeful that we can do something to keep him." Quinn's contract is set to expire on March 18. The 29-year-old had 11.5 sacks in his first year in Dallas, but there's a good chance he'll reach the open market. He was a Pro Bowler in 2013-14 and was a first-team All-Pro for the Rams in 2013 when he recorded a career-high 19 sacks. The Cowboys have other pressing business in trying to re-sign both quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper to long-term extensions.
Updating a previous report, New England Patriots impending free-agent quarterback Tom Brady doesn't have an offer from the Patriots, but it's not a huge surprise without a new collective bargaining agreement at this time. However, Brady is in the Patriots plans for the 2020 season. Brady's agent is in Indianapolis this week and is talking with other teams, too. If the Patriots don't work something out with the future Hall of Famer, the Chargers and Raiders are expected to make a run at him, with the Titans also a potential landing spot. Where Brady lands will be the biggest storyline of the offseason. He looked his age in 2019 with a mediocre supporting cast on offense, and fantasy owners can't count on him as a surefire QB1 moving forward, regardless of whether he leaves New England.
The Washington Redskins have had good conversations with left tackle Trent Williams, but the team's attempt to bring him back in 2020 is an ongoing process, according to head coach Ron Rivera. Williams is heading into the last year of his contract and has told the team that he either wants his contract redone or to be traded, according to sources familiar with the situation. The 'Skins have pushed the situation to the backburner with the draft and free agency approaching, so it's still possible that Williams won't be back with Washington in 2020 and beyond. The 31-year-old seven-time Pro Bowler would be a huge asset on the blind side for developing quarterback Dwayne Haskins, but it remains to be seen if the two sides can work something out.