Thu Jan 17 8:39pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh addresses the media during an NFL football press conference Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The Rams face the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship on Sunday. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Ndamukong Suh earned multiple All-Pro honors, Pro Bowl selections and tens of millions of dollars during his first eight NFL seasons.
The imposing defensive lineman had never won a playoff game, let alone a Super Bowl. When he was free to choose his next team after the Dolphins released him last March, Suh decided he would try to fill that gap in his resume.
After speaking at length with the New Orleans Saints and other suitors, he decided to join the Los Angeles Rams . They hadn't won a playoff game since the 2004 season, but they appeared to be on the verge of something big after going 11-5 last season.
''I felt this team had some of the right pieces, and I would be a good addition to it,'' Suh said. ''A lot of conversations that we had with the coaching staff and the front office on my visit were (about) playing well in the season and being prepared for the postseason.''
Nearly 10 months later, the payoff has arrived for Suh's leap of faith to Los Angeles.
After the Rams went 13-3 for the best regular-season record of Suh's career, he had likely his best game for his new team last weekend when Los Angeles beat the Dallas Cowboys 30-22 in the divisional round. The Rams head into the NFC championship game at the Superdome on Sunday with a shot at the 32-year-old Suh's first trip to his sport's biggest stage.
''It would mean a lot,'' Suh said. ''I've been in this league for nine years. (This is) my first NFC championship (game), and that would be my first Super Bowl. I get chills thinking about it, so I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it.''
Suh's thoughts are echoed across the Rams' locker room, which is filled with accomplished NFL players who have never accomplished much in the postseason.
Many key players remain from the team that went 4-12 in 2016 during the franchise's 13th straight non-winning season, from Jared Goff and Todd Gurley to Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers.
Several of the veterans that Los Angeles has added in the past two years also lacked playoff credentials - including 37-year-old Andrew Whitworth, the dominant left tackle who finally got his first postseason win last weekend.
''Honestly, we feel like we've been through it,'' Whitworth said. ''There's really not much adversity we haven't seen all year long. I think we kind of feel like we were born for this moment and this opportunity.''
Indeed, the Rams likely don't have the collective playoff experience of their fellow conference finalists, but they have a firm bond forged during a season of upheaval.
They had to stick together in November when the suburban area around their training complex was rocked by the double impact of a mass shooting at a bar and two wildfires that forced several players and coaches to leave their homes as a precaution. The Rams also had to adjust to a schedule change when their game against the Chiefs in Mexico City was moved back to Los Angeles on six days' notice.
None of it has shaken the team led by coach Sean McVay, who became the youngest coach in NFL history to win a playoff game last weekend.
McVay acknowledges no concern about his inexperience on the sport's highest levels when compared to the likes of New Orleans' Sean Payton, who has a Super Bowl ring.
That's because McVay has assistant coaches with experience in conference championships and Super Bowls - particularly defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who has done and seen everything the NFL can offer.
While a conference title game in the deafening Superdome is a new experience for most Rams, Brandin Cooks is an exception on several fronts. The veteran receiver won't even be surprised by the Superdome din.
Cooks played three years with the Saints - albeit without making the playoffs - before moving to the Patriots last season. He played in the first quarter of the Super Bowl before incurring a concussion that kept him out of the rest of New England's loss to Philadelphia.
Cooks was traded to the Rams, but he agreed to a five-year contract extension before he had even suited up in a horned helmet. He says he hasn't regretted his decision, although he didn't dare to imagine he would have a chance to play in two straight Super Bowls for different teams.
''When I got here, I knew we had something special,'' Cooks said. ''But (I knew I shouldn't) get ahead of myself. Take it one game at a time, just build throughout the weeks, and if we have the opportunity, then we're blessed. Don't think about it too much, is what I should say.''
NOTES: WR Robert Woods also got his first career playoff win last week. The six-year veteran admits that last years' experience in the Rams' postseason loss to Atlanta helped them. ''Just learning from that experience, our win last week was about situational football. Just executing, and protecting the ball.'' ... For the second straight day, the Rams had no players on their injury report. Although they've lost key receiver Cooper Kupp for the season, the Rams have been otherwise remarkably healthy this season. ... The torrential rains that have hit Los Angeles over the past three days abated by midday Thursday, allowing the Rams to practice on their normal outdoor fields. The team erected an enormous temporary tent on the parking lot next to their training complex if they needed it, but so far it hasn't been necessary to go indoors.
Houston Texans tight end Jordan Thomas recently suggested that Houston will use a committee approach at tight end with Thomas, Jordan Akins, and rookie Kahale Warring, but Thomas is expected to be the leader of that committee and the player most likely to be a weapon in Houston's passing game. Thomas caught four touchdowns last season, but he saw his snap percentage fade as the season went along. Even if Thomas gets the most snaps, quarterback Deshaun Watson doesn't target tight ends at a rate that would make Thomas a sustainable fantasy starter.
Washington Redskins LB Josh Harvey-Clemons is expected to serve as the team's nickel linebacker this year, after bulking up in the offseason.
Washington Redskins LB Mason Foster is expected to be used as a starter at one of the team's inside linebacker spots, although it remains uncertain if he will appear in nickel sets.
Former Washington Redskins LB Preston Smith had attracted interest from the Indianapolis Colts during free agency before he ultimately signed with the Green Bay Packers.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (knee) is expected to be completely recovered from his torn anterior cruciate ligament in time to play against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller missed the entirety of spring workouts and figures to be limited at best early in training camp, but he will be roughly 10 months removed from surgery by the time the Texans visit the Saints on Sept. 9. Of course, his biggest challenge will be staying on the field - something he has struggled to do as a pro. He's a high-end WR3 who owners need to have a backup plan for, as he has missed 17 of a possible 48 games in his three-year NFL career.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill could be traded early next season if a contract extension can't be worked out, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
Fantasy Spin: Hill should be headed for another year of WR1 production as one of the main weapons in Kansas City's high-powered offense, but his ceiling could change dramatically if he switches teams. The trade talk is just speculation for now, but it is one more reason to try to acquire Mecole Hardman in keeper formats.
Seattle Seahawks WR Jaron Brown will likely enter the 2019 season as a starter in three-receiver sets, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Seattle Seahawks WR Amara Darboh could 'steal a roster spot' if he can build on his performance from OTAs, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Seattle Seahawks WR David Moore will open the season as a top-three receiver, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Fantasy Spin: Tyler Lockett is likely to be the top target in the passing attack, but the pecking order is wide open from there. With Seattle looking to replace Doug Baldwin, Moore could be worth a flier as a WR5.
Houston Texans RB D'Onta Foreman's performance this year will be a 'season-long audition' to show he deserves to be the lead back in 2020, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Spin: Lamar Miller enters 2019 as the starter, but he is also in a contract year. Foreman is a high-end handcuff in redraft leagues for now, but his upside in keeper formats is enormous. By next season, he could be the featured back in a potent offense.
Houston Texans TE Jordan Akins said he is prepping to play a variety of positions this season. 'I would say slot receiver,' Akins said. 'Special teams as well, up-back, punt return as well as fullback.'
Denver Broncos RB Royce Freeman could see a 'bigger market share of carries' this season, specifically near the goal line and in short-yardage situations, according to Benjamin Allbright of 104.7 FM Denver.
Fantasy Spin: It sounds like Freeman could essentially serve as a power back, giving him some value in touchdown-only formats. Overall, Phillip Lindsay is still the Denver back to own, but his owners should target Freeman as an insurance policy.
Denver Broncos QB Kevin Hogan was 'overshooting open receivers on multiple occasions' during practice Saturday, July 20, according to Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com.
The battle to be the backup quarterback rages this offseason for the Seattle Seahawks, but Geno Smith is getting a lot of compliments from the coaching staff so far. Head coach Pete Carroll made specific mention of Smith's comfort with handling the huddle and making adjustments at the line, and he compared Smith's savvy to that of longtime backup Tarvaris Jackson. That's high praise from the coach since it's incredibly rare that a backup QB is held in high a regard as Jackson was, but Smith has to win his competition with Paxton Lynch first. Lynch signed with Seattle early in the offseason, but the coaching staff hasn't made any indications about who is winning the job yet. For now, it looks to be a battle that will go on throughout all of training camp.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaron Brown filled a red-zone niche for the team last year, but head coach Pete Carroll seems to already be scheming for him in 2019. Carroll told reporters that he felt the team had "underused" him last season and expects to get more out of his this year. Brown only caught 14 passes last year, five for touchdowns, but he's still incredibly fast. With D.K. Metcalf in the mix, Brown could see more utilization in a dual deep threat type of set, and fantasy owners shouldn't forget that Russell Wilson is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league on deep balls. If Carroll is telling the truth about the team's plans, Brown could be a surprise star in Seattle.
The Seattle Seahawks see big things in wide receiver Tyler Lockett, even if he's not very large. With the retirement of their steady No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin over the offseason, Seattle will be trying to fill big shoes in the passing game. It all begins with Lockett. Lockett had a breakout season in 2018 as Baldwin dealt with injuries that would eventually end his career, and it looks like the torch can be passed in most ways. Both are small, quick receivers who run excellent routes and have steady hands, so the feel of the offense shouldn't change dramatically. The real question will be how much use Lockett will get, even if he is the go-to guy. Seattle is notorious for spreading the ball around and not letting Russell Wilson do too much of the work, but there's no clear-cut No. 2 receiver behind Lockett, so he will likely see the vast majority of the looks, especially on third down.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver David Moore burst onto the scene in 2018 by making a host of acrobatic, highlight-reel catches to announce his presence. Unfortunately, he slowed down with time, and it turned out that his acrobatics covered up for the fact that he struggled to get open on a consistent basis. His highs have been outstanding and stick in peoples' minds, but he also fades into the background during most games. Entering camp in 2019, Moore will be competing against Jaron Brown and D.K. Metcalf to try to lock up the No. 2 spot in the wide receiver pecking order. His competition is talented, but all three receivers have their warts. If Moore can improve his ability to get separation on a regular basis, he could easily run away from the others (metaphorically speaking).
Arizona Cardinals TE Charles Clay (knee) was placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Saturday, July 20.
Fantasy Spin: Clay has a good chance to be the starter for the Cardinals this season but may not have a big role in the passing game. He probably can be avoided in most leagues.
Arizona Cardinals DT Robert Nkemdiche (knee), OT Max Garcia (knee), LB Brooks Reed (hip) and CB Brandon X. Williams (back) were placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Saturday, July 20.
The Eagles are bringing back running back Darren Sproles for one more season. After playing in just six games last year, it looked like Sproles might be done in the NFL, but the Eagles decided to bring Sproles back to an already crowded backfield that features Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, and Miles Sanders. Clement might be in the most trouble from the Sproles signing, but overall it's looking more and more like this is a running back committee that fantasy owners should stay away from. This move does almost guarantee that either Josh Adams or Wendell Smallwood are cut before the season opens.