Mon Sep 17 6:45pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Denver. The Broncos won 20-19. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Coach Jon Gruden was in no mood to rehash Denver's final drive that handed the Oakland Raiders a second straight defeat to open his tenure as coach.
Case Keenum and the Broncos were able to move the ball down the field with little pressure in the heat and altitude of Denver and get a 36-yard field goal from Brandon McManus in the closing seconds of a 20-19 victory Sunday.
A second straight game with no consistent pass rush raised an obvious question for Gruden about whether the decision to trade edge rusher Khalil Mack, who was holding out, to Chicago for a package of draft picks was a wise move.
''It doesn't make me regret,'' Gruden said Monday ''We made the trade. We made the trade. There has got to be hindsight, 50-50, all that stuff. We would have loved to have him here and I'm not going to keep rehashing this. I would have loved to (have) coached him, loved to have him here, but he's not here. Somebody's got to step up.''
That hasn't happened through two games so far this season as Oakland has just two sacks combined in losses to the Los Angeles Rams and Broncos in the opening two weeks.
Bruce Irvin, who used to be nicknamed Robin to Mack's Batman, has been unable to deliver with the bigger responsibility of being the top pass rusher. He had one sack in the opener against the Rams but didn't provide much this past week.
He committed a personal foul that extended a touchdown drive for the Broncos after Oakland had appeared to make a third-down stop and looked gassed on the final drive when Keenum moved the ball from his 10 to the Oakland 18 with under two minutes remaining.
''Well obviously we need to get more out of our captain,'' Gruden said. ''He's put in some tough spots, certainly. He's a good player. He's had some really good snaps. We need more and more from him. I know he's giving us everything he has and it's tough on him, certainly, because we do have a lot of new guys around him upfront. We're happy he's here.''
The Raiders also hoped to get a boost from three rookie draft picks in end Arden Key and tackles P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst. Key excelled in the preseason but has looked overmatched at times now that the regular season has started.
Hurst had the team's only sack Sunday and Hall played on an injured ankle for much of the opener before missing the game against the Broncos and likely a little more time.
The lack of a pass rush has played a role in Oakland struggling in the second half the first two weeks. The Raiders led both games at halftime but have been outscored 43-7 in the final two quarters for the worst second-half scoring margin in the league.
They had chances to close out the Broncos even before the defense allowed the game-winning drive. Early in the fourth quarter, fullback Keith Smith dropped a pass from Derek Carr on fourth-and-1 from the Denver 33.
Instead of the Raiders going in for another score to extend a 19-10 lead, the Broncos took over and drove for a touchdown.
Oakland got the ball back with less than six minutes to go and a chance to ice the game. The Raiders got two first downs but a double pass interference call against Denver's Bradley Roby and Oakland's Amari Cooper wiped out a 29-yard gain to Cooper.
Then a false start on second-and-4 by tight end Jared Cook helped stall the drive and led to a punt that set up Denver's winning drive.
''This is the National Football League. You have to be able to finish the game,'' Raiders cornerback Rashaan Melvin said. ''That's something we haven't done as a team and we really need to focus on doing.''
Arizona Cardinals LB Thurston Armbrister was waived Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst (foot), who was the 25th overall pick in last year's draft, said an X-ray showed he is now 100 percent after he had a screw removed from his foot. Hurst went down with a stress fracture in August and played in 12 games in his rookie season, catching only 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams will be free agents, so Hurst and 2018 third-round pick Mark Andrews could compete for playing time in 2019. Hurst is only 25 and has pass-catching upside, but he's still probably only an asset in dynasty/keeper leagues to begin next season. He could become a waiver wire pickup if he sees considerable playing time and proves he's healthy.
There is word on the street that Pittsburgh Steelers impending free-agent running back Le'Veon Bell is up to around 260 pounds after holding out for all of 2018. His playing weight is listed as 225 pounds. Bell may have lost a lot of that extra baggage now, but the Jets and other teams may be concerned about what kind of shape he's in. There's also concern about how much the 27-year-old has left in the tank after his 1,635 touches in five seasons. Bell is believed to be looking for a deal that nets him $48 million in the first three years of his next deal. He is arguably the best dual-threat running back in the last decade and should still be an RB1 in his new home.
Free-agent RB Le'Veon Bell (Steelers) reportedly weighed around 260 pounds during his year off from football. The Jets are fairly concerned about the shape Bell is in after he played at 225 pounds in 2017. New York is considered to be one of the front-runners to sign Bell this offseason. Despite the weight issue, the Jets will add him for the right price. The Jets currently boast the second largest salary cap heading into the offseason behind the Indianapolis Colts.
Fantasy Spin: Running back will be even more of a need if Isaiah Crowell is not retained. Bell would make a nice fit in green and white but is an RB1 candidate wherever he lands, assuming the weight won't be a big issue.
Carolina Panthers LB David Mayo (hernia) recently underwent surgery for a sports hernia, according to The Athletic's Joe Person. Mayo is rehabilitating and is expected to make a full recovery.
New York Giants impending free-agent SS Landon Collins is expected to be pursued by the Indianapolis Colts in free agency, according to The Herald Bulletin's George Bremer.
The Chicago Bears are expected to release tight end Dion Sims, according to a source. He was due $6 million in 2019, so he'll become a salary cap casualty. The 28-year-old played in just 22 games in his two years in Chicago and caught only 17 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown over that span. Sims is mainly a blocking tight end and won't have a huge market for his services this offseason.
Chicago Bears impending free-agent TE Dion Sims is expected to be released, according to a source. Cutting Sims saves the Bears $6 million in salary cap space.
New York Giants impending free-agent SS Landon Collins cleared out his locker and said goodbye to teammates Wednesday, Feb. 20, indicating he does not expect to return to the Giants this year.
Free-agent WR Jaelen Strong (Jaguars) was signed to an undisclosed deal by the Cleveland Browns Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Updating an ongoing saga, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell will not be the recipient of the transition tag, according to general manager Kevin Colbert, Wednesday, Feb. 20. Bell will hit the open market in March.
Fantasy Spin: This isn't a big surprise. Gamers will have to wait to see where he ends up to get a true valuation, but Bell will remain in the RB1 ranks, albeit with risk, for 2019.
Los Angeles Rams running back C.J. Anderson said Todd Gurley's knee injury was worse than the team originally thought when they signed Anderson to take over for Gurley for the final two regular season games. "Yeah, he'd never really tell me. It was tough. I would say sprained knee," Anderson said. "Obviously, it's the same knee injury he's had before in his career." Head coach Sean McVay and the Rams were calling it knee inflammation. Gurley has taken a pounding and no player in the league has had more touches than him since the start of 2017. He had just 14 carries in the conference championship and Super Bowl combined, so something was clearly not right with the star back. Gurley has gone over 1,000 yards on the ground in three of his four seasons and had 21 total touchdowns in 2018, making him the league's premiere running back. Despite ending the year hobbled in the playoffs, Gurley is a no-brainer first overall fantasy selection in 2019.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team will attempt to trade wide receiver Antonio Brown this offseason, but they will not give him away. If the trade doesn't benefit the Steelers, they will not trade him. Both sides are ready to move on, but the Steelers are unlikely to get a ton for the star wideout. Brown has rubbed many in the organization the wrong way despite putting up six straight seasons of 1,000 yards and 100-plus catches. While he's still the cream of the receiving crop, Brown is heading into his age-31 season and will likely do so in a whole new offense. He'll remain a high-end WR1, but Brown will come with more risk than ever before.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team will not place the franchise or transition tag on running back Le'Veon Bell. "LeVeon is still a great player. We cant afford to use any other type of tags. LeVeon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year," Colbert said. Bell held out for the entire 2018 season after the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him. He'll be free to sign any other club next month and is not expected back in Pittsburgh. The versatile back has 1,000-yard seasons in three of his five years in the NFL and is also one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league. He's likely to remain a strong RB1 wherever he goes next, but his upside will depend on the offense that he's in.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen's agent, Blake Baratz, thinks his client and two-time Pro Bowler could reach an extension with the team this offseason. Thielen signed a four-year deal worth $19.246 million in 2017 that will pay him around $8 million in 2019. He has outplayed his contract after setting career highs in catches (113), yards (1,373) and touchdowns (nine). Thielen just keeps improving season after season and has become a strong WR2 in point-per-reception leagues. It helps that he'll be working with quarterback Kirk Cousins again in 2019.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker is believed to already be gone and wideout Danny Amendola is iffy to be re-signed as well. Even Kenny Stills could be at risk with a $4 million salary cap savings if he's cut. The Dolphins have been wanting to move on from Parker for a while, so that is no secret. The former first-round pick in 2015 has been a flop and had just 24 catches (47 targets) for 309 yards and one touchdown in 11 games in 2018. He has just two scores the last two years and has never played a full season in the NFL. Amendola was much more reliable for a stagnant Miami offense and had 59 receptions for 575 yards and a touchdown in 15 games in his first season in Miami. He's getting long in the tooth, though, and isn't a lock to find a prominent role on the open market.
Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen's agent recently expressed optimism that his client and the team are committed to hammering out an adjusted contract that will make Thielen one of the more highly paid receivers in the league. Thielen is about to enter the third season of a four-year, $19.246 million base deal.
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (knee) was 'more hurt than we thought' and could have been dealing with a sprained knee as opposed to knee inflammation, as head coach Sean McVay and the team indicated during the season, according to comments made by C.J. Anderson on Fox Sports 1's 'Undisputed' on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 'The injury was a little bit more than what everybody in the building thought, including himself. ... Yeah, he'd never really tell me. ... I would say sprained knee. Obviously, it's the same knee injury he's had before in his career. Obviously, I had surgery on my meniscus and once you have a knee, you always have a knee. So it aggravates and if he was getting a lot of touches earlier in the year -- obviously him being one of the best backs, that probably was the case,' Anderson said.
Fantasy Spin: Gurley's lack of usage down the stretch suggests either he or McVay did not feel the back was not anywhere close to fully healthy. While Anderson admits he has no way to know for sure, a sprained knee can be a serious enough injury to keep Gurley from being able to or wanting to handle a full load. The 24-year-old should be able to enjoy a normal offseason - even if did suffer a knee sprain - and figures to be a fantasy stalwart again in 2019.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) said that he wouldn't restructure his current deal. "It aint happening. No way Jose," Sanders tweeted. The 31-year-old tore his Achilles in practice on Dec. 5 and is schedule to count $12.94 million against the salary cap in 2019. If Denver exercises his 2019 salary before March 12, he'd be guaranteed $1.5 million. The Broncos would save $10.25 million by cutting Sanders, leaving only $2.687 million in dead money. Before the injury, Sanders was the team's best receiver, catching 71 passes for 868 yards and four touchdowns while also throwing a TD and running one in. It remains to be seen if Sanders will even be ready for the start of next season, although his production has been fine when healthy. If the Broncos move on, Courtland Sutton would be the unquestioned No. 1 receiver going into his second year.
Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achillies') is sheduled to count $12.94 million against the salary cap in 2019, but he appears to have no interest in restructuring his contract entering the final year of his deal. Denver has until March 12 to exercise his 2019 option, which would trigger a $1.5 million guarantee of his salary. In the event they choose to release him, the Broncos will save $10.25 million against the cap.