Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew speaks with the media following an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor works the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) passes against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
CINCINNATI (AP) A so-so showing against the Saints threw a little cold water on Minshew-mania. The rookie with the distinctive `stache has a chance to re-ignite it against one of the NFL's two winless teams.
Quarterbacks tend to have big games against these winless Bengals.
Gardner Minshew looked very ordinary during the Jaguars' 13-6 loss to New Orleans. Jacksonville (2-4) was held to a season-low 226 yards and a pair of field goals. Minshew threw for only 163 yards with an interception.
The sixth-round pick became an overnight sensation after Nick Foles got hurt in the opener. He leads all rookies with nine touchdown passes in six games and a passer rating of 97.5. A little of the luster came off in that ragged showing against the Saints.
Asked if it'll be easier to play at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday without the mania, Minshew smiled and said, ''I don't listen to it much anyway. It's about the same.''
The past three quarterbacks who faced the Bengals had career days.
Cincinnati fell to 0-6 for the first time in 11 years when Lamar Jackson ran for a career-high 152 yards last Sunday in Baltimore's 23-17 win . A week earlier, Kyler Murray ran for a career-high 93 in the Cardinals' first win. Pittsburgh's Mason Rudolph had a good time during a 27-3 win the previous Monday night.
And things are only getting worse in Cincinnati. The Bengals are last in the league at stopping the run, and they're expected to be without their top two cornerbacks on Sunday.
The previous time the Bengals opened 0-7 was 2008, when they dropped their first eight under coach Marvin Lewis. As October starts to wind down, first-year coach Zac Taylor is still looking for that inaugural win.
''It's one of those things where we didn't expect it to look like this coming into the year, but it's where we are,'' quarterback Andy Dalton said. ''You still go to work, and you still love this game. It has been tough, though.''
Some things to watch Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium:
The Jaguars dealt top cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Rams for three draft picks Tuesday, parting ways with a two-time Pro Bowl player who wanted out. Ramsey had requested a trade and missed the past three games with a back injury. Coach Doug Marrone addressed it with players as he got them focused for Cincinnati.
''We did a good job not letting that distract us,'' cornerback A.J. Bouye said. ''Now we just have to move forward.''
RUN TO DAYLIGHT
Nobody stands a better chance for a big game than Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, who is second in the AFC with 584 yards rushing and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He'll be facing a defense that has allowed 5.3 yards per rush - worst in the league - and has already allowed three opponents to rush for more than 250 yards. Cincinnati has by far the worst run defense in the NFL, allowing 184.5 yards per game. Jackson had his big day in Baltimore's win last Sunday even though the Bengals focused on stopping his runs.
''When you've got a minimum of two guys on the guy and they don't make the plays, it is disconcerting,'' defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said.
Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III are expected to miss the game with injuries, leaving the Bengals in a tough spot at cornerback. Slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard returned to practice this week after being sidelined since knee surgery in March. Even though he hadn't played a snap in practice since last year, he's likely to see a lot of playing time.
''I'm kind of an even-keel guy,'' Dennard said. ''A lot of these games have been like roller coasters - high emotions and lows and all that type stuff. So I'm going to keep everybody calm.''
RUN THE BALL
Not only have the Bengals been unable to stop the run, they haven't had much of a running game themselves. They're also last in the league in that category, averaging only 56.5 yards per game. The lack of a running game has forced Dalton to throw the ball 243 times, third-most in the league. Joe Mixon will be going against a Jaguars run defense that ranks only 25th in the league.
HOW MANY WILL WATCH
After three straight losing seasons, the Bengals have struggled to sell tickets. Only 50,666 were distributed for their home opening loss the 49ers, and 46,012 were distributed for the second home game against the Cardinals. Paul Brown Stadium hasn't been much of a home-field advantage.
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.
The New England Patriots have yet to reach out to impending free-agent quarterback Tom Brady about a new contract. The Patriots still have time to discuss re-signing Brady, but it's a noteworthy development during the scouting combine this week. Meanwhile Brady's agent, Don Yee, is meeting with quarterback-needy teams at the combine this week. There are rumblings that Brady is likely to land with another team this offseason, with the Titans, Raiders and Chargers being the most likely destinations. For obvious reasons, Brady's free-agent storyline will be the biggest to follow in the coming weeks. He was lacking aerial weapons in 2019 and his arm strength isn't what it used to be, but he could bounce back in 2020.
Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera said that linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and offensive guard Brandon Scherff are both in the team's plans for 2020. The Redskins have also started contract talks with Scherff and his representation. If a deal isn't struck with Scherff, the franchise tag is a possibility. Kerrigan wasn't able to play in a full season for the first time in his career in 2019, playing in 12 games and recording career lows in tackles (25), sacks (5.5) and forced fumbles (one). He's had double-digit sack totals each of the previous three seasons and could bounce back if he stays on the field in 2020. Scherff was the fifth overall pick in 2015 and graded out as one of the top guards in the NFL in 2019.
The Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants are among the teams that could have interest in Seattle Seahawks impending free-agent pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, according to sources. Clowney has a long history of injuries in his six-year career, playing a full season just once in 2017 with the Texans, but he's among the most talented and feared pass-rushers in the league when he's healthy and hitting on all cylinder. The 27-year-old had 31 tackles (21 solo), three sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a touchdown in 13 games for Seattle last year. Both the Colts and Giants have a serious need for pass-rushing help.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan Jr. (core) underwent core muscle surgery in Philadelphia, according to his agent, Jack Bechta. Tonyan was bothered by the injury all year and wasn't able to run the same. In his second season in the NFL in 2019, he had just 10 receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown in 11 games played. Even with Marcedes Lewis a free agent, Tonyan is behind Jimmy Graham and Jace Sternberger on the tight end depth chart and won't have much fantasy appeal heading into the 2020 season.
The Kansas City Chiefs will use the franchise tag on defensive tackle Chris Jones, according to sources. The Chiefs view him in their long-term plans and want to keep him paired with Frank Clark on the defensive line for years to come. The 25-year-old is an excellent run-stuffer up the middle and helped the Chiefs win the Super Bowl in his fourth season with the team after being a second-round pick in 2016. Jones finished with 36 tackles (23 solo), nine sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 13 regular season games in 2019. He'll be due around $15.5 million under the franchise tag in 2020.
ESPN's Jeff Darlington said on GetUpESPN that he'd now be surprised if New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady re-signed with the team in free agency. "Im now at the point where I would be stunned if Tom Brady went back to New England," Darlington said. The two teams being discussed with the best chances of landing Brady seem to be the Titans and the Raiders. If Tennessee goes after Brady, it means that they will let Ryan Tannehill walk in free agency. The Raiders have soured on Derek Carr and are looking to make a splash in their first year in Las Vegas. The Chargers could be a dark-horse candidate after they moved on from Philip Rivers. Brady is at the end of his career and probably shouldn't be drafted as a QB1 in fantasy, especially if he lands with the run-first Titans.