Cleveland's beleaguered secondary gets a taste of another elite quarterback when the Browns host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns, on a four-game skid, are 2-6-1 and spiraling toward their 11th straight losing season when Matt Ryan and the Falcons come to town.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes against the Browns on Oct. 28. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes directed an offense that put up 499 yards of offense last Sunday in a 37-21 romp. He threw three touchdown passes and passed for 375 yards.
Ryan is on fire for the Falcons. He threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-14 victory over the Redskins last week.
Facing Ryan and dangerous Falcons receivers Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley plus Mohamed Sanu would be a task under normal circumstances, but the Browns are decimated with injuries.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey (hamstring) and cornerback E.J. Gaines (concussion) were placed on injured reserve Wednesday with injuries incurred against the Chiefs last week. Starting cornerback Denzel Ward (hip) was injured playing the Chiefs.
Safety Damarious Randall was inactive against Kansas City because of a groin injury, linebacker Joe Schobert missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury and starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell, on injured reserve (wrist), will miss his sixth straight game Sunday.
Schobert and Randall practiced Wednesday. Ward and linebacker Jamie Collins (ankle) did not practice Wednesday, but interim head coach Gregg Williams is confident both will practice Thursday. Getting Schobert and Randall back should at least slow the bleeding.
"We have another explosive offense coming in here this Sunday," Randall said Wednesday in the locker room after practice. "They have explosive weapons with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley and Sanu. They have a nice little running game and a former MVP at quarterback."
That, coupled with the injuries, is going to make playing man-to-man defense against the talented Falcons receivers difficult, so the Browns will be forced to play more zone defense than usual. Ryan has completions of only six passes of 40 or more yards, but he has 34 completions of 20 or more yards. The Browns' defensive backs will have to react quickly Sunday or that number for Ryan could increase by five or more.
To make matters worse for the Browns, the Falcons' beleaguered defense is about to get a boost.
The Falcons signed veteran defensive end Bruce Irvin to boost the team's waning pass rush and announced that middle linebacker Deion Jones has returned to the practice field.
Irvin signed with the team after being released by the Raiders. He reported to camp and will start on Sunday. Jones isn't ready for game action, but he's getting closer.
Quinn was an assistant coach at Seattle when he worked with Irvin and was happy to be reunited with the Georgia native.
"No. 1, it was an opportunity for us to add another pass rusher into our group," he said. "I've had experience with him and (it's great) to have that familiarity with the scheme and how we want him to play and the style and attitude that we love to rush with."
Quinn said Irvin would be featured as a pass rusher within the group. The Falcons have only 17 sacks, with Takk McKinley (six) and Jack Crawford (four) the team leaders. Vic Beasley Jr., who led the league in 2016, has one.
Irvin has three sacks this season. He had a career-high eight last year.
"We know the groups that we're facing and every single chance that we have to add to our pass rush, we certainly are going to," Quinn said. "We are at our best when we have a big number of guys that we're going to try to feature in a number of ways like we've done over a few years. We're really pumped to have him here with us."
Jones was hurt near the end of the season opener, a game that saw him have nine tackles and an interception. The foot injury required surgery and forced him to the injured reserve list.
"We're really pumped because he's worked extremely hard to get back, so this is the next step for him, beginning the practice portion of his recovery," Quinn said. "We're really fired up to have No. 45 back on the field."
After scheming for a stationary quarterback in Washington's Alex Smith, the Falcons face another young mobile guy in Cleveland's Baker Mayfield. The No. 1 draft pick has started three games and has thrown for 1,768 yards and 10 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He's been sacked 22 times but rushed for 91 yards when scrambling. In last week's loss to Kansas City, Mayfield threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns.
"He throws a really good deep ball and he has the confidence to throw it into tight windows," Quinn said. "He has a quick release. When there is pressure there, it does not take a long time for the ball to get out."
The Falcons will want to negate the running game, led by former University of Georgia star Nick Chubb, and apply heat to Mayfield.
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.
Rival teams believe the Buffalo Bills could release someone from the group of RBs LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon, according to MMQB's Albert Breer, who notes that McCoy is set to earn far more money than Gore or Yeldon.
Fantasy Spin: Barring injury, Devin Singletary is going to make the 53-man roster. Beyond that, training camp will sort things out, though Yeldon seems the most like casualty at this stage.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is now the top receiver on his team but still has to prove to some that he belongs among the league's elite. After finishing top six in the NFL last year in both receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,426), the third-year pass catcher is in a position to repeat his breakout season. Without Antonio Brown in town, Smith-Schuster will be Ben Roethlisberger's first look. In half-PPR mocks, he's been going in the early-to-middle of the second round. The talent and opportunity are certainly there for the 22-year-old to be considered a top eight receiver in fantasy drafts.
Denver Broncos TE Troy Fumagalli spent time with the first-team offense during training camp Thursday, July 18.
Oakland Raiders RB Jalen Richard could lose a 'good chunk' of his snaps on receiving downs to RB Josh Jacobs, according to Vic Tafur of The Athletic.
Fantasy Spin: Richard's value was already limited to PPR formats, and now that Jacobs is in the mix and potentially headed for an every-down role, Richard is slipping into handcuff territory. Meanwhile, Jacobs looks like a RB2 candidate as a rookie.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones remains unsigned with one week remaining before training camp opens. He is one of five first-round picks yet to agree to terms with his organization. Jones is still scheduled to arrive to training camp on Monday when all rookies and select veterans report. He is expected to sign a four-year, $25.5 million contract, with a $16.6 million guarantee, when he arrives, or even shortly before. That is the financial slot for the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. Last season RB Saquon Barkley signed a day before he arrived at camp, so there isn't cause for alarm with Big Blue.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Demarcus Robinson will be expected to take over the role that Jacksonville Jaguars WR Chris Conley filled for the offense last season.
Fantasy Spin: Conley finished last season with 32 catches for 334 yards and five scores while Robinson logged 22 grabs for 288 yards and four scores. Combine those numbers on top of a potential suspension for Tyreek Hill, and Robinson could be worth a late-round flier as a WR5.