Thu Jul 18 1:53pm ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, file photo, Denver Broncos president Joe Ellis speaks during a news conference at the team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo. Ever since soon-to-be Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen stepped down from his daily duties as owner of the Denver Broncos, team president Joe Ellis ran the team in a "What would Pat do" sort of way. With Bowlen's death last month, that's no longer the case. Ellis tells The Associated Press it's time for the Broncos to establish a new identity. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Ever since soon-to-be Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen stepped down from his daily duties as owner of the Denver Broncos, team president and CEO Joe Ellis ran the team in a ''What would Pat do?'' sort of way.
With Bowlen's death last month, that's no longer the case.
Ellis told The Associated Press that while the team will always honor Bowlen's memory, it's time for the Broncos to establish a new identity.
''I got to thinking about that,'' Ellis said Thursday from the sideline as the Broncos became the first NFL team to open training camp . ''I think it's a fair question at this point because he's no longer with us. He was with us (the last five years) even though he was not out here. I got to go see him and I always sort of felt his presence. And I think Pat would want us to move on from him a little bit, you know? I don't think we're going to be able to do that totally because of what he's provided all of us ...
''But it's time to buckle up your chin strap here and do things the Broncos way,'' Ellis said. ''Yeah, we want to make Pat proud. We're going to honor him. It's a subtle honoring with the decal on the helmet and he'll always be in the back of my mind. But you know what, we have to act independently now in some fashion. I hope you can make sense of this.''
Bowlen died June 13 at age 75, nine weeks shy of his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When Alzheimer's forced him to step away five years earlier, Bowlen entrusted Ellis to operate the team with full authority and represent the Broncos in league matters until one of his seven children was deemed ready to take over. Ellis drew on his working relationship with the notoriously publicity-shy Bowlen that spanned nearly three decades to continue operating the team as Bowlen would have during those five years.
Ellis said he doesn't want to look back anymore.
''There's been so much talk about Pat and his excellence and everything that he's done and it's all well-deserved and it's well-acknowledged - he's going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,'' Ellis said. ''But I know if he were here and he were advising me, he'd say, `Listen, you know, your job is to get everybody in the organization to pull together and do this for our fans and do this for themselves and each other, players, coaches. And do what I always wanted to do and not make it about me, make it about them, make it about yourselves, make it about the fans. Make it about winning. Let's focus on that. Let's not focus on me anymore.'''
Ellis noted the Broncos have to change the way they do things to reverse their recent slide that includes back-to-back double-digit losses for the first time since the 1960s.
Even with those 5-11 and 6-10 seasons, the Broncos have as many Super Bowl appearances - seven - as losing seasons during Bowlen's ownership that began in 1984.
''We need to establish our own identity,'' Ellis said. ''So much of our identity the past several years has been based on the success of Pat in some ways, right? And people talk about the Pat Bowlen era. Even if a child were to take over, it's not the Pat Bowlen era anymore. So, this is kind of in some ways this is Year 1 of establishing a different identity as an organization. Never forgetting everything that was Pat.
''No one's ever going to forget what he did. We'll remember him. We've got the decal on the back. His name is on that field house. His father's name is on this facility's front here at UC Health Center. So, he will continue to be honored and remembered, but I do know that he would want us to put our own stamp on this program. I just know that in my heart.''
Ellis said he'll meet with Brittany Bowlen, who is hoping to take over the franchise, next week about returning to the team to gain more front office experience. She's currently working for global consulting firm McKinsey & Company in Denver. Ellis said her role would be generally focused on the business side.
''She's going to come here and work hard. She's got to prove herself,'' Ellis said. ''There's more pressure on her than any other employee. And then we'll see. If that works out, then there's room for growth. Pat always said, `Listen, I'd love to be able to keep it in the family if I can and have a child run it, but if that's not the case, then the team will be sold.' And so we're not there to assign anybody that role yet.''
Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has been a top-five fantasy option for the last five years and holds the crown as the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history. "I think we've got an if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it type of situation going on here," Tucker told the media after Tuesday's practice. Drafting a top kicker in your leagues might not win you the championship, but drafting one who has made 89.7 percent of his field goals in his seven seasons will obviously help. If you happen to catch the run for kickers at the right time in your drafts, Tucker is the best kicker you should be looking to target.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had another solid practice Wednesday as he prepared for what will likely be his last preseason action Saturday vs the Saints. Darnold completed 10 of his first 11 passes in team drills Wednesday and also threw four straight touchdowns in red-zone drills, a major area of weakness in his rookie season. Head coach Adam Gase said the starters will play the first half plus one series in the team's third preseason game Saturday so this is the best look fantasy owners will get at the sophomore QB before drafts. Darnold has been having a strong camp and has higher upside than a lot of the other quarterbacks expected to be drafted as backups in fantasy.
Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell has had the cards stacked against him this preseason. After hitting just 13 of 20 field goals and only 43 of 48 extra point attempts in 2018, head coach Mike Tomlin was very vocal that he was going to test Boswell this preseason. However, the fifth-year kicker knows there's nothing wrong with a challenge. "It does bring out the best in everybody. Well see where it goes, he said. The team brought in rookie Steven Wright from UCF to challenge Boswell this preseason. However, the incumbent has answered all doubts, hitting both field goal attempts, including a 47 yarder, along with all three extra point attempts. If your fantasy league utilizes kickers, you can leave Boswell in the player pool on draft day, but if he proves he is capable of hitting the necessary kicks, he could be a solid streamer after the first few games.
New York Jets kicker Taylor Bertolet is making a strong first impression on his new team. Bertolet was signed only a few days ago after Chandler Catanzaro abruptly retired but has already made an impression on the team. Bertolet went 4-for-4 on field goals during team drills connecting from 44, 40, and twice from 33 yards away. Bertolet won't be one of the top kickers drafted, but if he keeps this up could be worth a look on a Jets team that finished 30th in the NFL in red-zone conversion rate last season.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier has been impressed with rookie linebacker Devin Bush, who the Steelers traded up to get with the 10th overall pick. "I think he's going to make a lot of splash for us. He's going to be a big-time player for us," Shazier said. Shazier continues to make progress in his recovery from a spinal injury he suffered in 2017, but he will not play this year. Bush is the inside linebacking presence that Pittsburgh needs in order for their defense to return to the elite ranks among the NFL. They have the potential to become fantasy relevant this year, but fantasy owners can probably wait and see.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald won't be the full-time tight end, according to offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. In an interview with Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports.com, the Steelers' OC said "He's never going to play the full game. That's never going to happen." Of course, this could be coach talk and McDonald ends up sees the majority of the time at tight end. His only real competition at the position is Xavier Grimble, who was undrafted out of USC and has just 22 career receptions. Don't look into this too much as the veteran McDonald is without a doubt the top dog at this position in Pittsburgh. His ADP has jumped up into the 7th round, which is fair for a player who should command 80-plus targets this year.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jordan Wilkins (foot) missed his sixth straight practice on Wednesday. Wilkins represents a change of pace from the two running backs, Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines, that are in front of him. Mack is an explosive player that's developing into a 3-down player, and Hines has firmly established his role as a pass-catcher. Wilkins can find his way on the field, but the team's running back is getting crowded which drags his stock down.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri (knee) has been resting for much of the preseason and training camp. That remains true, but he is expected to be ready for Week 1. Vinatieri remains one of the top kicking options in fantasy. He plays on an elite offense, and he is arguably the best kicker in NFL history. The Colts should give Vinatieri plenty of opportunities to score this season as long as he remains healthy.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Parris Campbell (hamstring) is still being held out of practice after he suffered a setback last week in his recovery from the injury. The third-round pick can bring an exciting and explosive dynamic to this offense. The longer he's on the sideline though makes it more difficult for him to build chemistry with quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett. His stock continues to fall with every day that he misses practice.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Trey Quinn (thumb) will not play in the preseason game on Thursday against the Falcons, while wide receiver Paul Richardson (quadriceps) will "probably not" play either. Richardson played in just seven games and caught 20 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns in his first year in D.C. He continues to be bothered by injuries and can be left alone in standard-sized leagues. Quinn, 23, had nine catches in three games in his rookie season. He is slightly more attractive in the slot in PPR leagues with quarterback Case Keenum likely to be the starter, but Quinn is no more than a late-round deep sleeper.
The Detroit Lions agreed to a one-year, $11 million extension with defensive tackle Damon Harrison on Wednesday. Snacks Harrison won't do much in the sack column -- he has just nine total sacks in his six years in the league -- but he's most known for being an elite run clogger up the middle with his size (6-foot-3, 353 pounds). The Lions run defense was much improved after they acquired Harrison from the Giants at midseason last year.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Marcus Kemp (knee) is done for the season after suffering a torn ACL and MCL. Kemp suffered the injury during the second preseason game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. He was great for the Chiefs on special teams last season, so losing him will hurt the team. He wasn't going to make an impact in fantasy leagues, but this will hurt the special teams unit for Kansas City.
The Arizona Cardinals released wide receiver Kevin White on Wednesday, according to a source. White was a former first-round pick with the Bears and had recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out the last week. It remains to be seen if another team will take a chance on the oft-injured wideout. His release is good news for rookies Andy Isabella and Keesean Johnson behind Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk on the depth chart.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri (knee), who has missed the first two preseason games and the last six practices, said he expects to return to practice on Thursday. Rookie Cole Hedlund has made four of his five kicks in Vinatieri's absence this preseason. The 46-year-old Vinatieri doesn't need many repetitions to be ready for the regular season at this point. On a Colts team that could be even better offensively, depending on the health of quarterback Andrew Luck, Vinatieri should have fantasy appeal as a low-end starting kicker if he's completely healthy.
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said that rookie tight end Noah Fant (ankle) will be ready for Week 1 after he suffered a minor ankle injury in the preseason game against the 49ers on Monday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. That's great news for the Broncos, as they drafted Fant in the first round hoping that he could make an immediate impact in his rookie season alongside Jeff Heuerman and Jake Butt (if healthy). Fant easily has the most pass-catching upside of the group, but temper your expectations in Year 1 despite the fact that quarterback Joe Flacco often leans on his tight ends. Fant is a low-end TE2, at best. He's much more attractive in dynasty formats.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that rookie wide receiver D.K. Metcalf's knee surgery showed minimal injury, and he's listed as week-to-week as the regular season approaches. Metcalf could miss a game or two to begin the regular season, which drops his fantasy value some, but when healthy he's expected to be a starter across from Tyler Lockett and has considerable upside in his first season. The hype is real and his size and athleticism are off the charts, but be careful not to overvalue him in fantasy drafts. The lost time this preseason could easily cause him to start out slow in his rookie year. RotoBaller has Metcalf ranked as the No. 64 fantasy wideout. Take a chance on him in the later rounds.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald has never played a full season in his six-year career, and the team doesn't plan on using him extensively in order to keep him healthy. McDonald played a career-high 564 snaps last year and split time evenly with Jesse James, who is now with the Lions. "He still won't," offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said of McDonald's playing time increasing substantially this season. "He's never going to play the full game. That's never going to happen." That means that the Steelers plan to use Xavier Grimble quite a bit as the No. 2 tight end. While McDonald is still worth an investment as a low-end TE1, his production could be spotty and inconsistent.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said that wide receiver Mike Evans (quadriceps) will not play in the third preseason game against the Browns on Friday. He has been out all week with what is believed to be a quadriceps injury. Evans' injury isn't believed to be serious, but the Bucs are playing it cautious with their No. 1 wideout. It's unlikely he'll see any preseason action in the final week of exhibition games, so we probably won't see Evans again until Week 1. He's a strong WR1 choice in Arians' aggressive offense and is ranked as the No. 18 overall fantasy player at RotoBaller.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said that quarterback Drew Brees will start in the preseason game this weekend against the Jets. Brees is unlikely to play more than a half in the team's third preseason game. The 40-year-old hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, throwing for 3,992 yards and 32 touchdowns in another Pro Bowl season in 2018. While Brees should be solid once again this year in an explosive offense, the Saints could be more running-back centric to take some of the pressure off of him, which gives him a much lower ceiling as he nears the end of his career. The future Hall of Famer is still a QB1, but don't expect gaudy numbers week in and week out.
Denver Broncos LB Todd Davis (calf) is a bit behind schedule in his recovery from a calf injury, according to head coach Vic Fangio.