The Cleveland Browns' tradition of change continues, as a team source told ESPN.com Thursday that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains will not return next season.
Shanahan resigned and Loggains was fired, according to a league source.
Sources familiar with the situation said the split was caused because the pair did not see eye to eye with the front office about quarterback Johnny Manziel. The front office wants Manziel to be the starter, and the source said the coaches do not believe they can win with him.
Shanahan felt the decision to start Manziel was forced on the coaching staff, and that the yearlong insistence to play him when he wasn't ready wore on Shanahan, the team source said.
It's interesting to hear that Manziel's future was the reason for the divorce. Despite the Browns' offensive struggles down the stretch, Shanahan is a hot name around the league and won't have a problem finding employment for next season.
Dirk Koetter, 55, agreed to terms on a two-year deal with the Buccaneers with an option in 2017. He interviewed for the job last week and brings familiarity with the NFC South. Before coming to Atlanta, he spent five seasons as the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, following stints as head coach at Boise State and Arizona State.
During his three seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons ranked eighth, 14th and eighth in total offense. The Falcons' Matt Ryan posted the three highest passing yardage seasons in franchise history under Koetter, as well as three of the four highest completion percentage seasons.
That's important because the Bucs have the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft and are in position to select either Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon junior Marcus Mariota, who has yet to declare.
Koetter runs a pro-style offense that is heavy on the passing side, which could be a fit for Winston. But he also has a strong connection on the Mariota side — Oregon coach Mark Helfrich was Koetter's quarterbacks coach for eight years, at Boise State (1998-2000) and Arizona State (2001-05).
This looks like a good hire for whomever the Bucs tap to be quarterback in 2015.
Seattle has held Cam Newton to one touchdown in three games since 2012. What has been the key to that?
Seahawks beat writer Terry Blount: Newton shouldn't feel too bad. The Seahawks have made a lot of very good QBs look bad the past couple of years -- Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl and Aaron Rodgers this year in the season opener, to name two. But the biggest thing is they've done what I'm sure the Panthers want to do to Russell Wilson -- cut off his running lanes and force Newton to beat them throwing. Newton had 12 carries for only 24 yards in the game at Charlotte earlier this season. Forcing any QB to beat them just by passing is a chore against the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL, which has three Pro Bowlers in Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas.
Newton has averaged 146 passing yards and 35 rushing yards in his last three games against Seattle. He has thrown one touchdown pass and one interception (total) in those three games. Daily fantasy players should look elsewhere for a strong quarterback play.
The Ravens have only allowed five touchdowns to tight ends in the regular season, and they held Jimmy Graham to 47 yards receiving. Do the Ravens have a chance of slowing down Rob Gronkowski, or do you throw out those numbers because he is on a different level?
Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss: They can definitely slow Gronkowski, but it will come at a cost. One of the most impressive things about Gronkowski’s season to me is how his 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns hardly tell the whole story. It’s plays like touchdown catches by Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen against the Broncos on Nov. 2 that highlight his true value because there were three to four defenders swarming around Gronkowski in the end zone, creating those one-on-one opportunities for Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen. That was pretty commonplace this season with Gronkowski, who is a pure combination tight end in the sense that he can also dominate as a blocker when he wants; it's not just catching the ball. So I’d be surprised if the Ravens can slow Gronkowski consistently with just one player like safety Will Hill. But if they want to devote extra resources to it, they can probably dictate the ball going elsewhere, and the Patriots have shown the ability to capitalize when that happens.
Thursday, January 8, 2015, 6:24pm
Panthers WR Philly Brown hurt his shoulder late in the playoff win against Arizona last week, and his status is uncertain enough that the team could make a roster move to replace him, as the linked ESPN story details, possibly adding Stephen Hill, a former second-round pick of the Jets.
One the NFL’s most-penalized defenders, New England Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner, could cross paths Saturday with the league’s most prolific receiver in terms of drawing pass interference penalties, Torrey Smith.
Smith led the NFL with 11 defensive pass interference penalties drawn for 229 yards during the regular season, according to Football Outsiders, and added a 12th for 29 yards against the Steelers in the wild-card game. The next closest receiver, Green Bay Packers star Jordy Nelson, drew six flags for 129 yards.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but again, it’s part of the game,” Smith said this week. “I don’t want to be known for a guy that’s just getting held all the time, but it just happens. If I knew why it kept happening … I guess most times it’s because I’m moving pretty good, and it kind of surprises them a little bit, so they grab you.”
Browner, a physical corner signed from the Seattle Seahawks in the offseason, has played just nine games for the Patriots. He was called for five defensive pass interference penalties this season, and 15 penalties overall.
Unfortunately, pass interference penalties don't count in fantasy football.
Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray hasn’t suffered any setbacks with his surgically-repaired left hand. The NFL’s rushing leader doesn’t expect to do anything different when he prepares for Sunday’s game in Green Bay. He’ll use the same padded glove he’s used the previous three games.
“It’s been good,” Murray said Thursday. “It’s a lot better than any other injury I’ve had. It’s not bad. I’m blessed.”
“I’ve worn the same thing, because it feels comfortable for me. I haven’t changed anything. I’m not going to change anything now, because it’s working for me.”
Has Murray’s hand been a factor in terms of his workload the last couple of weeks?
“No, it really hasn’t,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said. “If practice is any indicator of how the game is going to get played out, he’s certainly proven that. When he goes to practice he’s catching it, he’s running it, he’s doing everything he needs to do as a back, so I don’t think there’s any hesitancy whatsoever on our part or his part, putting him in there whether it’s protection or whether it’s in the passing game as a receiver, or we’re just running the ball.”
Murray saw 22 touches against the Lions in the Wild Card round, which accounted for 55 percent of his team's touches. On the season, he has handled 53.7 percent of the Cowboys' total touches. Even though his raw touches were down against Detroit, that was more about the opponent than how OC Scott Linehan was calling the game. Expect another big workload against Green Bay this week.
Mark Kizla of the Denver Post: I'm not certain Thomas will be 100 percent healthy until given the offseason to heal.
"We don't always get the opportunity to let things recover the way a doctor would want you to," he said. "When you know you're this close to our goal and you've worked all year to be in this place, you tell yourself: 'Man, we have three games left. Can you get through it for three games? Can you do whatever you can?' "
Thomas was tied in standard fantasy points with Rob Gronkowski through 10 weeks. From Week 11 on, he managed just five catches for 66 yards while appearing in four of his team's seven games.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers returned to the practice field for the first time since re-injuring his calf on Dec. 28 against Detroit, and during the team’s 11-on-11 work on Thursday, he took 50 to 60 percent of the snaps, according to Mike McCarthy.
“Aaron practiced in the team periods. He looked good,” McCarthy said. “He went down and did everything we asked him to do today. It’s always a better practice when he’s out there.”
The 50-60 percent was the target McCarthy set for Rodgers. He was officially listed as limited on the injury report.
According to Adam Schefter, Rodgers is dealing with a "slight tear" in addition to a "significant strain" in his calf. While it is worrisome that Rodgers hasn't practiced until today, he should be able to play at a high level against the Cowboys since he finished the game against the Lions and has 10 days of treatment and rest for his sore calf.
The Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows reported Tuesday that Kaepernick will spend the spring at EXOS in Phoenix with Warner and quarterback coach Dennis Gile.
Kaepernick is looking to rebound after a disappointing 2014, and Warner will be there to help. According to the report, Warner will focus on film study and 7-on-7 drills with Kaepernick.
Kaepernick finished as the #15 QB in standard formats. He rushed for 641 yards, which was second-most among quarterbacks, but only rushed for one touchdown. We're expecting better fantasy numbers from Kaepernick in 2015.
When New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman takes the field in Saturday’s divisional-round playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, it will mark his first game in almost a month. No one is more excited about that than Edelman, although quarterback Tom Brady probably isn’t far behind.
The two are working overtime to re-establish and fine-tune the connection that helped Edelman produce a team-high 92 receptions before he was shut down during the final games of the season with a concussion.
“We’ve been practicing the last week and a half or something; I know Tom a little bit here now, these last few years. He knows me. There’s a foundation,” Edelman relayed in his first remarks to the press since Dec. 14 following a victory over the Dolphins. "But even if whatever happened didn’t happen, we still have to continue to try to get better. That’s what we’re trying to do -- staying after, throwing a couple extra routes, bouncing ideas off each other. Like any other week, I guess, but the stakes are a little higher.”
Edelman should hit the ground the running against a shaky Baltimore secondary. He was the #13 WR in PPR formats before missing the final two games with a concussion.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, dealing with an injured left calf, will be examined by Packers physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie on Wednesday. The Packers expect Rodgers to be cleared for at least limited participation in practice on Thursday, the most important day of the week for the offense.
Coach Mike McCarthy is not concerned about Rodgers not having a full amount of practice time this week. In 2008, his first season as a starter, Rodgers played despite not practicing for a month because of a shoulder injury. Since then, McCarthy said, Rodgers has been able to prepare despite missing practices.
Rodgers has played pretty well in the last two games after he put up a "stinker" against Buffalo in Week 15. That loss has put the Packers in a situation where they may have to go on the road (to Seattle) for the NFC Championship Game, but they have to beat a hot Dallas Cowboys team first. Rodgers should be ready to go after getting nearly two weeks of rest.
Browner is one of the biggest and most physical corners in the NFL at 6-feet-4, 221 pounds. His style is based on roughing up wide receivers.
And Torrey Smith expects to see plenty of Browner during an AFC divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium instead of Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis is expected to line up against Steve L Smith most of the time.
Revis has been significantly better in coverage than Browner this season, so this is good news for those owners hoping to use him this week. He has been the #13 WR since Week 6, and has scored 11 touchdowns in his last 12 games.
HC Mike Tomlin said that QB Ben Roethlisberger may have offseason surgery to clean up his knee.
This is not ominous news given the timeframe. Roethlisberger should be fine for minicamp/OTAs if he's simply having his knee "cleaned up."
Vikings WR Charles Johnson turns 26 on Feb. 27 and, unlike the feeling for Cordarrelle Patterson, the assumption by the team is Johnson will continue to improve. In just 12 games (six starts) this season, Johnson finished third in receiving yards (475) on 31 catches as he morphed from “who’s that guy?” to “he’s the No. 1 receiver on the team.” Johnson’s two touchdown receptions tied for second on the team, while his 15.3 average per catch was No. 1 among players with more than nine catches.
When the Vikings lost Adrian Peterson after Week 1, they struggled for weeks without an offensive identity. OC Norv Turner said it wasn’t until after the Nov. 16 Bears game that the Vikings established an identity with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater running a spread-it-out offense over the final six games.
“Part of that was we started playing Charles Johnson, which gave us a different guy on the outside to attack,” Turner said. “It created some differences in how people defended us. I think we became a much more efficient offensive football team and put ourselves in position to win games. We won some and there were some that a year from now, put in the same situation, we’ll be ready to handle it and be ready to win.”
“Next year will be my first year to actually get my first full year to play in the NFL and two years in a row of practicing and playing in the same system,” said Johnson, who was with Turner in Cleveland in 2013, but was rehabbing his knee the whole season. “Even Norv said the first season in this system is all right, but the second season is always better.”
Johnson also said he expects to be physically stronger and faster next season. And, remember, this was a guy who ran a 4.39 at the 2013 combine.
“I’m going to be a little bit more comfortable because I am coming off ACL surgery,” Johnson said. “I can say that I’m coming off ACL surgery and not fully confident in myself. training this offseason is going to be important for me. I look forward to it.”
Johnson started playing significant snaps in Week 11, and over the final seven games of the season, he averaged 3.6 catches for 59 yards and 0.29 touchdowns. He was the #31 fantasy receiver in that span. He should continue to have plenty of opportunity to grow in Turner's offense. His ADP will likely land in the 9th-12th rounds of 12-team leagues, depending on what the Vikings do at receiver this offseason.