Sat Aug 4 10:54pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Sports Writer
New York Jets quarterbacks Sam Darnold, left, Josh McCown, center, and Teddy Bridgewater stretch during practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Florham Park, N.J., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Sam Darnold got plenty of work in the spotlight - and under the lights - in the New York Jets' annual scrimmage.
And the rookie quarterback didn't disappoint.
Darnold got the bulk of the snaps in team drills at Rutgers' High Point Solutions Stadium on Saturday night, practicing in front of the general public for the first time. He was 9 of 11 for 89 yards during five possessions, showing off his arm strength and also nifty playmaking ability with his legs. He fumbled and took three ''sacks,'' but it was an overall positive performance for the No. 3 overall draft pick.
''He got a lot work with the third group,'' coach Todd Bowles said. ''That was our plan to play a lot of the young guys tonight. That was part of catching him up to speed. So, we'll look at the film and we'll see what happened, but he's grasping the offense pretty well and we'll go from there.''
Darnold sat out the first three training camp practice because of a contract impasse before signing a four-year, $30.25 million deal Monday.
The former USC star is competing with Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job and was a bit behind because of the early absences. But Darnold is making up for the lost time with each day.
''It's only been barely a week for him,'' Bowles said. ''He's getting better every day.''
On a third-and-2 on one possession, Darnold took off as the defense closed in on him and scrambled for 9 yards - punctuated by a nice slide.
''Some of the things he did in college as well - extending plays,'' Bowles said. ''And it's good to have good feet in this league as well as an arm.''
Darnold also is impressing his teammates, including wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who could end up on the receiving end of lots of the young quarterback's passes at some point this season.
''He's an athletic guy,'' Kearse said. ''He's just as accurate on the run as he is in the pocket, so that's something he'll utilize to his advantage and it'll help to extend plays. When there's a situation where he gets forced out of the pocket, it allows us to find areas to get open. He keeps his eyes down the field, so that's a good thing for us.''
Darnold is still behind McCown and Bridgewater on the depth chart, but will be given every opportunity to claim the No. 1 spot by the time the Jets open the regular season at Detroit on Sept. 10.
''He's just got to keep his head down,'' Kearse said, ''and keep try to learn as much as can and make the most of the opportunities that he gets.''
McCown went 3 of 3 for 69 yards and a touchdown to Bilal Powell, who took a short pass and took it 52 yards for a touchdown. It appeared that Brandon Copeland might have ''sacked'' McCown - there's no contact on quarterbacks in practices - but the refs ruled the play a TD.
Bridgewater was 7 of 7 for 63 yards with no TDs or interceptions, but took four ''sacks.''
Darnold wasn't the only rookie to have a good night on the field. Running back Trenton Cannon, the team's sixth-round pick out of Virginia State, continued a strong camp with runs of 18 and 14 yards while flashing terrific speed. Tight end Chris Herndon, a fourth-rounder out of Miami, had four catches and could end up being the starter at the position.
Early in team drills, the Jets provided a cool moment for 6-year-old Gio Toribio. The Ossining, New York, native is cancer-free after being diagnosed with Stage 3 anaplastic large cell lymphoma two years ago. Toribio was brought onto the field, took the football from McCown - with the crowd cheering ''Gio! Gio!'' - and the Jets escorted him 50 yards all the way to the end zone before getting high-fives from the players. Linebacker Darron Lee had invited Toribio and his family to attend the practice after previously meeting them.
Bowles said LT Kelvin Beachum is ''week to week'' with what the coach called ''a sore foot.'' Beachum was in a walking boot on the sideline. He was replaced on the first-team offense by Ben Ijalana. ... Other players to not practice included: WR Quincy Enunwa, WR Terrelle Pryor, S Marcus Maye, NT Steve McLendon, TE Jordan Leggett, WR Charone Peake, OL Austin Golson, DL Deon Simon, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, S Kacy Rodgers II, CB Jeremy Clark and CB Parry Nickerson.
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The Jets had more than 60 former players in attendance, including Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons, Freeman McNeil, Wesley Walker and Wayne Chrebet.
A source close to retired tight end Rob Gronkowski places his potential for unretiring at 40 percent in 2019. Gronkowski isn't thinking of football right now and is enjoying his retirement, but he could decide to return once the season starts. If quarterback Tom Brady makes an appeal to Gronk, the future Hall of Famer could come back. Gronkowski has said that he's lost only 18 pounds since retiring, and it's believed that head coach Bill Belichick wouldn't stop Gronkowski if he wanted to return. This is probably still more of a long shot, but it shouldn't be ruled out. Gronk battled injuries throughout his career and seemed to slow down in 2018, but his return would send shock waves through the fantasy industry. He had 47 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last year. You'd be better off using a roster spot on someone else this fall, even if it's intriguing to think about.
The Atlanta Falcons and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett agreed to a four-year contract extension on Monday. The contract is expected to be worth $68 million with $38 million guaranteed, according to a source. He was initially set to receive the $15.209 million franchise tag if a deal wasn't worked out by Monday. The team can now move on to extensions for receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Deion Jones. The Falcons and Deion Jones' representation will meet face-to-face on Wednesday. Jarrett, a fifth-round pick in 2015, has been a top defender for Atlanta and had 53 total pressures in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. He also had six sacks, three forced fumbles and a team-high 16 QB hits.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon will look to improve after a solid 2018 season. After accruing just 626 yards on the ground during his rookie campaign, Mixon eclipsed the millennium mark last season to finish with 1,168 yards to go along with nine total trips to the end zone. Though it has been argued that he isn't a top-five back, he will begin his first season under the tutelage of new head coach Zac Taylor, who served as an assistant under Sean McVay. Taylor, who will mirror some parts of the Rams' playbook initially, will utilize the same packages that helped running back Todd Gurley become a fantasy success. As a result, Mixon has a better chance than most to have a dominant season despite being behind a weaker offensive line, and as long as he can remain healthy.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Alfred Blue is the 'frontrunner' for the No. 2 spot behind RB Leonard Fournette, in the opinion of The Florida Times-Union's John Reid.
Fantasy Spin: There are some other recognizable names on the depth chart, including Thomas Rawls and rookie Ryquell Armstead, but Blue has been penciled in as RB2 since he signed with the Jags. He remains a decent late-round handcuff for Fournette owners.
Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, in the opinion of Titans Online's Jim Wyatt. Tight end Jonnu Smith (knee), whose season ended in Week 14, isn't a lock to be ready after having missed all of the offseason workouts. Walker could be on the Physically Unable to Perform list during training camp, but the veteran should be ready for Week 1. The 34-year-old is more of a risk now than ever as a TE1, but he could come at a nice value later in drafts if he can stay healthy. After all, he has had at least 800 receiving yards since 2014 if you take out last year's injury.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) said he's "definitely not going to be full-go from the jump" at the start of training camp. He will gradually work into full activities and wants "to be ready for Week 1." It's no lock that the 32-year-old will be ready for Week 1, so that definitely makes him a risky fantasy proposition going into the 2019 season. Sanders started his Denver tenure with three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-16, but he's underwhelmed since. He bounced back some with 71 receptions for 868 yards and four touchdowns in only 12 games last season. Sanders hasn't played in a full season since 2016 and will obviously have injury concerns again this year.
Denver Broncos TE Jake Butt (knee) was limited to individual drills for most of the offseason as he continued to recover from surgery on his torn anterior cruciate ligament. He believes he will do more 'team things' at start of camp while the team slowly works his reps back to where they were, according to Aric DiLalla of the team's website.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been impressed with the tempo of new head coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense. The Cardinals ranked 20th in the league in pace (time between plays) in neutral situations last year, but that is expected to change drastically in 2019. Fitzgerald said the new offense contains less verbiage that when Bruce Arians was the head coach, and players are expected to process pre-snap adjustments faster. It means that Arizona's skill players should see more bulk this year, which is good for their fantasy value. The offense will ebb and flow based on how rookie quarterback Kyler Murray fares, but the early returns are very promising.
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, a second-round pick, remains the only unsigned rookie on the team. Offensive guard Drew Risner, who was selected a pick before Lock at 41 overall, signed a deal worth $7.14 million on Tuesday. According to multiple sources, Lock's representatives are seeking a "quarterback premium." There is hope that he'll sign before the team's first meeting on Wednesday and first practice on Thursday, but there's also the chance that Lock isn't present for the start of training camp. The Broncos made assurances to Risner that Lock won't receive a richer contract. Lock has long-term upside in dynasty/keeper leagues, but he won't have much redraft value as the expected backup to veteran Joe Flacco to begin the season.
Chicago Bears WR Javon Wims is a player who 'probably deserves more attention' after performing well during offseason workouts and appears primed to compete for a role on offense in training camp, according to Larry Mayer of the team's website.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry ran for 625 yards and eight touchdowns on 97 carries in five December games last season. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith intends to ride Henry in 2019, according to Jim Wyatt of the team's website.
Fantasy Spin: Henry is entering the final year of his contract and has a solid offensive line in front of him, which may be the two most important reasons why the Titans may not care about running him into the ground. Other reasons may include Smith not knowing if Marcus Mariota can hold up his end of the deal. If Smith stays true to his word, Henry has as good of a chance to lead the league in carries and rushing yards as any back.
Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota needs to earn a long-term commitment from the team as he enters the fifth-year option of his rookie deal in 2019, according to head coach Mike Vrabel. 'I think everybody has a contract, and we're very aware of players who are in the last year of the deal. Marcus is obviously one of those,' Vrabel said. 'When you make a commitment to the QB you want to make sure that this is going to be your guy for the next 7-10 years when you look at the percentage of the cap quarterbacks are driving. Nobody is more proud of what Marcus has done in the offseason than me. He's come back stronger, bigger, with greater understanding of what we're doing offensively, being able to communicate it to players the field. I don't look at the lack of a long-term extension as a negative, though that's what people try to make it. I know Marcus's demeanor and that won't change whether he's on a 10-year contract or its up after the season. He's that type of person. So I know it'll work because of how he is.'
Fantasy Spin: Extra motivation could very well boost Mariota's fantasy numbers in 2019. The 25-year-old has completed 63.2 percent of passes over his 56 games (55 starts) with 69 touchdowns against 42 interceptions. He has scored at least two rushing TDs in each of his four seasons. After receiving plenty of hype last offseason, Mariota is worth a flier for those deploying a late-round quarterback strategy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones 'received only raves' from the new coaching staff, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, who noted his standout spring came without pads.
Fantasy Spin: Jones has been among the most hyped players this offseason and is reportedly tipping the scales at 221 pounds after playing around 208 as a rookie last season. Owners still need to remain skeptical he will break out in 2019, but the talent is there and Peyton Barber isn't the most impossible obstacle to overcome if Jones can carry over his performance from spring workouts to training camp and beyond. For the moment, owners should view him as a high-upside flex option.
Free-agent DE Robert Ayers announced his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday, July 16.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott "might actually be the front-runner" for the final spot on the Eagles running back depth chart. Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, and rookie Miles Sanders are all locks assuming health, so Scott, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams could all be competing for one final spot. Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia believes that Scott has "a much more complementary collection of skills" including his ability to play on special teams. Scott could be interesting if given a chance to play on offense, but it would likely take two injuries ahead of him for him to earn any significant offensive snaps.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is looking to bounce back to his previous MVP form this season. Last season was the first season since 2008 where the Packers have missed out on the playoffs when he played 16 games. Rodgers played through the season with a significant injury, with a tibial plateau fracture and sprained a medial collateral ligament. Rodgers has been working hard to learn the new offense, the first time in his entire career. Surrounding Rodgers with coaching talent is one thing, but in order to bounce back, he will hope that the surrounding skill players on the roster are able to also be looking to bounce back to being one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Minnesota Vikings running back Roc Thomas has been suspended three games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Thomas had just eight carries during his rookie season and is buried behind Dalvin Cook and rookie Alexander Mattison on the team's depth chart, so the suspension doesn't really mean much for his already nonexistent fantasy stock. Thomas remains at best the team's third back and at worse a preseason roster cut, though in that scenario the suspension will make it harder for me to latch onto another team's roster.
Green Bay Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis is looking to expand on his blocking role this season. Lewis is currently one of the team's most senior players on a young roster and was the only one of the 11 unrestricted free agents the Packers re-signed this offseason. New head coach Matt LaFleur said earlier this offseason that the team wants to expand the role he plays in the offense. Lewis will be unlikely to be a player with fantasy value. However, fantasy owners should monitor the situation as it may impact the value of fellow tight end Jimmy Graham.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones is likely to be the team's bell cow running back this season. The Packers invested in the running back position, selecting Dexter Williams in the sixth round, but that is unlikely to impact the opportunity that Jones is going to be given this season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers commented in the spring that it was important to have a positive run game, all of which points to Jones being given the opportunity to be the lead back. One concern will be the health of Jones, having three knee injuries in his first two years in the league, finishing both seasons on injured reserve. If he is able to stay healthy there is no reason why Jones shouldn't be able to record his first 1,000 yard season for the Packers.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham has been working hard to learn the new system being brought in by new head coach Matt LaFleur. Graham battled through injury last season (to both his knee and hands) but was able to catch 55 passes for 636 yards and two touchdowns. Graham has only finished with that touchdown total one other time in his career- his first season in Seattle. Graham disappointed for fantasy owners, due in part to the lack of touchdowns that he was able to score. Graham has also been working with new position coach Justin Outten to fully absorb the offensive system, that will look to free Graham as he was in Seattle in 2017 when he recorded double-digit touchdowns.