Thu Jan 17 8:30pm ET
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) dances to music while stretching during practice at their NFL football training facility in Metairie, La., Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. The Saints will host the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC Championship Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) dances to music while stretching during practice at their NFL football training facility in Metairie, La., Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. The Saints will host the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC Championship on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
METAIRIE, La. (AP) Marshon Lattimore and the Saints' secondary no longer look - or sound - haunted by the ''Minnesota Miracle'' touchdown pass that stunningly ended their playoffs one year ago.
''We don't panic. We don't do none of that,'' Lattimore said. ''We adjust well.''
Lattimore backed that up with his late-game interception against Philadelphia last weekend - his second of the game - securing the Saints' trip to Sunday's NFC title game.
Now the question is whether a Saints defensive backfield that ranked 29th against the pass this season is prepared to do what it takes to slow down the potent Los Angeles Rams with the Super Bowl bid on the line.
''We're ready,'' said Saints cornerback Eli Apple, who was brought in via trade to help shore up a New Orleans pass defense that was shaky early this season.
''We've just got to continue to be persistent in these meetings with our questions, everybody get on the same page and learning, just applying it on the field and going hard.''
New Orleans gave up an average of 268.9 yards per game this season, but Lattimore said part of their unflattering ranking as a pass defense stems from a couple of poor performances early in the season, starting with a 48-40 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 1 and a 43-37 Week 3 overtime victory at Atlanta .
''We had a big hole to climb out of at the beginning of the season. We don't really worry about that though,'' Lattimore said. ''We're winning. So, we're good.''
Lattimore said he also has improved individually since struggling some at the beginning of the season and might be playing his best now.
''I'm just making plays that come my way,'' Lattimore said. ''I have to be the one to make those plays. It's a bigger stage right now. So, I have to come up and do the job for my team.''
Saints nickel back P.J. Williams said the Saints' poor ranking against the pass is misleading because New Orleans ranked first most of the season against the run before finishing second. Meanwhile, Drew Brees and New Orleans' high-powered offense have staked the Saints to a lot of leads.
And when teams fall behind, they tend to run less because it takes too much time off the clock.
''They can't run the ball. You got to pass the ball. You're playing from behind,'' Williams said. ''So a team might get 300 or so passing yards, but at the end of the day, they're trying to come back.''
Williams said the Saints are more concerned with opposing QBs' completion rate than how many yards they allow. On that front, New Orleans ranked somewhat better, at 23rd, allowing a 66.5 percent completion rate.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff completed 28 of 40 passes for 391 yards and three TDs the previous time he played in the Superdome.
Whether he'll be as productive in the rematch depends on how Los Angeles decides to attack the Saints, and how New Orleans responds.
The Rams often favor the running game, and rushed 48 times for 273 yards in a playoff victory over Dallas last week.
But Los Angeles largely abandoned the run during its midseason meeting with the Saints after New Orleans raced to a 35-14 lead in the second quarter. The Rams wound up rushing just 19 times in a 45-35 loss.
Lattimore said if the Rams abandoned the run again, New Orleans' secondary will have to be prepared for heavy doses of receivers Brandin Cooks, whose speed makes him an elite deep threat, and Robert Woods, who lines up all over the field.
And if the game is close, it could be up to the Saints' secondary to close out another high-stakes affair.
Last year, that scenario ended with the Vikings' Stefon Diggs making a leaping catch near the sideline and running free to the end zone as time expired after safety Marcus Williams missed a tackle and took out teammate Ken Crawley in the process.
This year, the Saints' secondary has closed out one playoff victory and sounds confident it will rise to that challenge again, if needed.
''We've done a great job finishing games, making adjustments, playing fast, physical, making great plays on the ball, just got to keep it going,'' Apple said. ''Something we always talk about is closing games. We want that on our shoulders and that pressure that comes with it.''
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has agreed to a four-year, $43 million extension that will keep him with the team through the 2023 season. Boyd enjoyed the best season of his career during the 2018 campaign, finishing with 76 receptions for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns. With A.J. Green entering the final year of his contract, along with his history of injury-plagued seasons, Boyd has the potential to emerge as the featured target in Cincinnati, especially if Green is dealt before the trade deadline.
Buffalo Bills rookie tight end Dawson Knox showed some promising potential at spring practices and could be in line for some serious playing time to open the season. Knox was a third round pick by the Bills out of Ole Miss. His path towards playing time this year became a lot more clear when Tyler Kroft broke his foot in May. Knox caught just 15 passes his junior year at Ole Miss in 2018, but averaged an impressive 18.9 yards-per-catch. Kroft opened camp on the PUP list and will likely miss time to start the season. Knox, meanwhile, will be competing with Jason Croom, Lee Smith and fellow rookie Tommy Sweeney for the top tight end spot on the team.
The Athletics Matt Barrows expects San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman to lead the charge in 2019. Having formerly worked with head coach Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, Colemans incumbent role shouldnt be a surprise after his signing this offseason. The dual-threat Coleman tallied 1,076 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns in 199 touches last season but was a relative disappointment when handed the opportunity to be the lead dog. In San Francisco, hell compete with Jerick McKinnon (knee) returning from a torn ACL and Matt Breida, amongst others for snaps. Based on his history and the personnel, its conceivable Coleman wont work as a typical lead back as each players skillset is optimized. Considering the clogged playing situation, the Niners running backs are fairly bunched in RotoBallers rankings at 29th (Coleman), 32nd (McKinnon) and 40th (Breida).
The Buffalo Bills placed running back Frank Gore on the Non-Football Injury list to start training camp. The injury is considered to be minor and the team doesn't expect him to miss much time. Gore is 36 years old so the last thing you want to hear coupled with his name is the word "injury" at this point as even something minor could really hamper him going forward. With a crowded Bills' backfield led by LeSean McCoy and also including T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary, Gore doesn't present much fantasy intrigue at this point.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones (hip) and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (shoulder) were both placed on the Active/PUP list. Neither player is expected to do much if anything during Cowboys training camp, but as of right now both players are fully expected to be ready for Week 1 against the New York Giants. Both are key pieces of the Dallas defense, and Jones is entering his contract year.
Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick will not need to be placed on the Active/PUP list to begin training camp. Frederick missed all of the 2018 season because of Guillain-Barre Syndrome but is now "ready to go" according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The Dallas offensive line took a noticeable step back without Frederick anchoring the middle of it, so his presence should be a boost for the entire Cowboys offense, but especially for running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (ankle) didn't participate in the team's offseason team activities, but Kelce is expected to be a full go for training camp. Kelce has three-straight 1000 yard receiving seasons to his name and caught 10 touchdowns last year in Kansas City's prolific offense. He's set to be the first tight end off the board in all fantasy drafts this year, and for now it appears that the ankle injury shouldn't factor into any fantasy decisions that you make.
Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner is expected to show up for training camp on time Wednesday, July 24, but he may not put himself 'in harm's way' until a contract extension gets done, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Ronald Darby was officially placed on the Active/PUP list. Darby playing in Week 1 still seems like a "legit possibility" according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, but it's far from a sure thing at this point. Darby has looked like a difference maker in the secondary when he's been on the field, his issue has been how rarely he is actually on the field. He's appeared in just 17 games over the past two seasons, and hasn't played since Week 10 last year. He'll be a boost to the Philly defense if he can stay healthy.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (ankle) reported to camp Tuesday, July 23, after he was held out of organized team activities and minicamp following offseason ankle surgery. Kelce is in camp three days early so he can get some extra work in before the rest of the team reports on Friday, July 26.
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (knee) wants to play the 2019 season at 218 pounds after playing most of his career around 224 pounds, according to NFL.com's Steve Wyche.
Fantasy Spin: The drop in weight - even though it is only six pounds - figures to be good for his ailing left knee. The narrative about Gurley's career being somewhat in jeopardy appears to be changing a bit as the offseason progresses, as the Rams continue to preach confidence and optimism in Gurley's health. Even though he comes with substantial risk and may be a surprise inactive from time to time, he is shaping up to be an extreme value pick for any owner lucky enough to get him in the second round of fantasy drafts.
Green Bay Packers CB Kevin King (shoulder) is expected to be active and healthy to begin training camp, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Philadelphia Eagles CB Ronald Darby (knee) is expected to start training camp on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list as he continues to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. However, there is still a 'legit possibility' he will be active Week 1, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson compiled a passer rating of 113.6 against the blitz in 2018 - the third-best mark in the league for a quarterback with at least 50 pass attempts - according to Pro Football Focus.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees compiled a passer rating of 120.0 against the blitz in 2018 - the second-best mark in the league for a quarterback with at least 50 pass attempts - according to Pro Football Focus.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes compiled a league-best passer rating of 124.6 - minimum 50 attempts - against the blitz in 2018, per Pro Football Focus.
Free-agent CB DeShawn Shead (Lions) worked out for the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, July 23.
Updating previous reports, free-agent WR Allen Hurns (Cowboys) was asked by the Dallas Cowboys to take a $4 million pay cut in 2019 before he declined the offer and was released Tuesday, July 23. Hurns was scheduled to make $6 million in 2019, including a $4 million base salary and $2 million in incentives, but the Cowboys wanted a restructured deal worth $2 million total with Hurns coming back from his fractured fibula/ankle suffered in the postseason.
The New York Jets have waived running back De'Angelo Henderson. After adding Le'Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery in the offseason, Henderson was always a long shot to make the team's final roster, so cutting him now allows him time to latch on somewhere else. The problem is that while Henderson was a popular dynasty sleeper pick two years ago, he's now had just 11 total touches through two seasons with two different teams. Henderson doesn't look like a guy who'll be able to earn significant snaps on a team in 2019.
The Dallas Cowboys have released wide receiver Allen Hurns, who broke his fibula in a playoff game last season. It's unclear if Hurns was going to be ready to go for the Cowboys when training camp began, but he was expected to play this season. He'll have a chance to latch on somewhere else, but it would be a stretch to expect Hurns to be a fantasy relevant player in 2019. His departure from Dallas might help Tavon Austin see the field more, but Hurns wasn't a threat to compete for snaps with Dallas' top three wideouts.