NFL Training Camp Latest Buzz: Dallas Cowboys Face More Questions After WR Injury
Going into the second week of training camp, NFL teams are bringing out the pads for more intense practices. As coaches install game plans and schemes, they also want to avoid injuries with the regular season about five weeks away.
While teams ramp up practice sessions, some high-profile players are continuing to work out contract negotiations with their clubs. As noted last week, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson made headlines with his strategy to hold in for a new deal, which means showing up to training camp but skipping certain drills.
Over the weekend, another star wideout signed an extension, which makes him one of several receivers who joined the $20-plus-million (annual) club this offseason. Johnson can only hope that he’s next in line.
Meanwhile, a star offensive tackle has yet to get a new contract, but he’s going to report to camp and play on the franchise tag. That's good news for one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
And early Monday morning, disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson delivered the verdict on Deshaun Watson, providing clarity for his 2022 outlook.
NFL Suspends Deshaun Watson for 6 Games, Jacoby Brissett Set to Start
On Monday morning, disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson decided to suspend Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for six games for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Her verdict stems from a case that involved 30 allegations of sexual assault and misconduct from women who provided massage services to Watson.
Late Sunday, the NFL Players Association released a statement saying that it would not appeal the decision and wants the league to take the same stance. The league said it is reviewing the decision to make a “determination on next steps.” The collective bargaining allows the NFL and NFLPA three business days to appeal Robinson’s decision, though the appeal period could be extended if both parties agree to it.
If Watson’s six-game suspension holds, Jacoby Brissett will start for the Browns until mid-October, head coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed last week.
“Jacoby [Brissett is] our backup quarterback. If Deshaun [Watson is] unavailable, Jacoby’s our starter,” Stefanski said, via The MMQB’s Albert Breer.
Behind Brissett, the Browns have Joshua Dobbs and Josh Rosen on their depth chart.
Brissett has far more playing experience than the Browns' other backups. He started in 15 games for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 as a fill-in for Andrew Luck, and he served as a short-term replacement (15 contests) following the four-time Pro Bowler's retirement in 2019. Last year, with the Miami Dolphins, Brissett took over the huddle for an injured Tua Tagovailoa for five outings.
For his career, Brissett has thrown for 7,742 yards, 36 touchdowns and 17 interceptions with a 60.2 percent completion rate. He’ll have four-time Pro Bowl wideout Amari Cooper and tight end David Njoku on the perimeter along with arguably the league’s best running back duo in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt behind him.
Over their first six games, the Browns will play only one team that made the playoffs last year (the New England Patriots), and that game will be at home. Brissett could keep them afloat in the playoff race until Watson returns.
Orlando Brown Reports to Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp
Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown didn't show up to training camp on July 26 with the rest of the team's veterans. Last week, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported he wouldn’t report to training camp for “quite some time,” and his Week 1 status seemed unclear.
However, the Chiefs received good news on that front Monday. Per ESPN’s Robert Griffin III, Brown will join the team for camp and play under the franchise tag that he’s yet to sign amid his standoff with the club.
Though Brown’s representatives and the Chiefs failed to reach an agreement on a new deal before the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players, general manager Brett Veach plans to pick up negotiations next year.
“The agency has advisors around him, and we respect his decision,” Veach said, via Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star. “And it’s not going to limit our pursuit of him next year. We’re gonna continue to try to get him locked up.”
Last offseason, the Chiefs acquired Brown from the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for 2021 first-, third- and fourth-rounders along with a 2022 fifth-rounder. They also received a 2021 second-rounder and a 2022 sixth-round selection in that trade.
Because the Chiefs gave up premium draft capital to get Brown, they probably won’t let him walk away as an unrestricted free agent without a strong offer next offseason. He played a key role on Kansas City’s much-improved offensive line last season, allowing four sacks across 1,127 snaps, per Pro Football Focus.
Giants Rookie Safety Dane Belton Breaks Collarbone
Already thin at safety, the New York Giants took a blow at the position after rookie Dane Belton broke his collarbone Monday, according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.
The rookie fourth-rounder made a “real strong impression” at camp, Raanan added. The team hopes that he can recover before the start of the regular season.
For now, safeties Xavier McKinney and Julian Love project as starters for the Giants. Andrew Adams, whom Big Blue signed last week, has 35 career starts and may take more reps going forward as well.
The Giants waived third-year pro Jarren Williams with an injury designation and signed Jarrod Wilson in a corresponding move. Wilson has 33 career starts in six seasons. Undrafted rookies Yusuf Corker and Trenton Thompson will have a chance to make some noise at the position, too.
As an early Day 3 pick, Belton isn’t a big name, but his absence could influence the Giants to call another notable veteran such as Tashaun Gipson to strengthen the unit.
49ers, Deebo Samuel Find Middle Ground in Contract Negotiations
Two more wide receivers broke the bank in recent days.
The Seattle Seahawks came to an agreement on a new three-year, $72 million deal with DK Metcalf on Thursday (including $58.2 million guaranteed). Three days later, the San Francisco 49ers agreed to a three-year, $71.6 million extension with Deebo Samuel (including $58.1 million guaranteed).
Coming off an All-Pro and Pro Bowl campaign with 1,770 yards (1,405 receiving and 365 rushing), 14 touchdowns from scrimmage and a league-leading 18.2 yards per catch, Samuel got a new deal that’s commensurate with his contributions to the 49ers offense. His contract ranks eighth in both average annual value and guaranteed money among wide receivers, per Over the Cap.
Samuel was reportedly dissatisfied with his sizable rushing workload last year, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, but San Francisco might have solved that issue by drafting rookie third-rounder Tyrion Davis-Price and re-signing Jeff Wilson Jr. According to ESPN’s Nick Wagoner, the team will feature those two and Elijah Mitchell on the ground.
“Ideally, Davis-Price offers short-yardage and goal-line help with Mitchell handling the bulk of the work," Wagoner wrote. “But injury concerns about Mitchell are real, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Davis-Price and Wilson involved early and often even if Mitchell hangs on to the starting spot.”
Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the 49ers added incentives to Samuel's contract if he surpasses certain rushing thresholds. If head coach Kyle Shanahan features him on the ground, the dynamic wideout will see a notable boost in his yearly payout, which is a win-win.
Bears Engaged in Trade Talks That Involve OT Teven Jenkins
The Chicago Bears already may be willing to part ways with second-year offensive tackle Teven Jenkins, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Mike Garofolo.
The Bears’ previous regime moved up from No. 52 to No. 39 to select Jenkins in last year’s draft. Slated to play left tackle through his rookie campaign, he missed significant time after undergoing back surgery last August. The Oklahoma State product didn’t suit up until Week 13 and took his first snap at tackle in Week 14.
As a rookie, Jenkins committed seven penalties and allowed two sacks in 160 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. During mandatory minicamp in June, he slipped into a backup role behind rookie fifth-rounder Braxton Jones and 2021 fifth-rounder Larry Borom. Last week, Chicago also signed 11th-year tackle Riley Reiff, who has 139 career starts and experience on both sides of the line.
The Bears' new regime may try to capitalize on Jenkins’ perceived potential via a trade. If he's far behind in the battle for either tackle position, general manager Ryan Poles should try to get the best deal available for him.
The Tennessee Titans didn’t tender right tackle David Quessenberry, which allowed him to become a free agent this offseason. Dillon Radunz might win the starting job, but he’s unproven going into his second year. Jenkins could compete with him for the open spot.
Dallas Cowboys WR James Washington Carted Off with a Foot Injury
The Dallas Cowboys needed some reinforcements at wide receiver after they traded Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns and let Cedrick Wilson Jr. walk in free agency. They may have to take another look at the pool of free-agent wide receivers after cornerback Trevon Diggs landed on James Washington’s lower leg during Monday’s practice (h/t Bobby Belt of 105.3 The Fan.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t provide an update after practice but said he’s "concerned" about the team’s new veteran receiver. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the team is worried Washington might have suffered a Jones fracture.
Washington hauled in 114 passes for 1,629 yards and 11 touchdowns over the past four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Averaging 16.7 yards per reception in his most productive campaign (2019), he has the ability to stretch the field as a complement to CeeDee Lamb on the perimeter.
If Washington has to miss extended time, rookie third-round wideout Jalen Tolbert could open the season in a starting position. Wide receiver Michael Gallup, who's recovering from a torn ACL, recently said it isn't "a reasonable possibility" for him to suit up in Week 1, per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News.
If the Cowboys want a vertical threat on a modest deal, they should consider Will Fuller V. He’s injury-prone, having missed 42 games in his six NFL seasons, but the 28-year-old has averaged at least 15.1 yards per reception three times.
Mack Hollins Is Becoming a Team Favorite with the Raiders
This offseason, the Las Vegas Raiders acquired star wide receiver Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers. Many expect the two-time All-Pro to rekindle a connection with quarterback Derek Carr, his former Fresno State teammate, though another incoming veteran wideout has impressed the team.
While at the Raiders' training camp, NFL Network’s James Palmer said he “kept hearing” Mack Hollins’ name. The 6’4”, 221-pounder will compete against Keelan Cole and Demarcus Robinson for the No. 3 wide receiver position after the Raiders traded Bryan Edwards to the Atlanta Falcons.
The Athletic’s Vic Tafur believes that among those three, Hollins has secured spot on the roster.
“Hollins, meanwhile, has been one of the stars of the offseason workouts and training camp for the Raiders,” Tafur wrote. “... He is really the only one of the three veteran newcomers who is a lock to make the roster.”
Carr praised Hollins as a jack-of-all-trades, per Tafur.
“Mack, he’s someone that does everything,” Carr said. “He’s a big body. Obviously, he’s made a great career playing some special teams and being able to play all the positions at receiver. I try to tell guys all the time, and Mack is an indication of that, try to learn it all.”
Over the last two years, Hollins took on a big role within the Miami Dolphins’ special teams unit, but he also caught four touchdown passes in 2021. He should get looks inside the 20-yard line, where the Raiders struggled last season, ranking 26th in red-zone touchdown percentage.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.