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Kirk Cousins proving to be ‘real deal’ as new leader of Vikings

“I was surprised by how much my teammates gave me that license to lead quickly,” Cousins said at the start of training camp. “I thought they were going to want to have me prove myself a little bit longer than maybe I had to. They were very supportive and said, ‘No, man. It’s your show. Let’s go.’”

Cousins’ personality doesn’t always lend itself to him being the most vocal person on the team. At times, he says he’ll speak up and share his opinion if he feels compelled to, but Cousins considers himself more of a “reluctant” leader.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Two weeks ago in Philadelphia, Cousins was given a chance to step outside of his comfort zone. Prior to the Vikings’ rematch of the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, a locker room leader and captain, asked Cousins to break down the pregame huddle.3

It was a responsibility the Vikings had rotated among several players over the first four games but had often been the job bestowed upon Everson Griffen. The Pro Bowl defensive end excelled in playing off raw emotion and expletive-laden passion to get his guys ready to run through a wall, a la the speech he delivered ahead of the Vikings’ win in Washington last season, a game he missed because of a foot injury.

With Griffen away from the team dealing with issues related to his mental health, the opportunity became Joseph’s. And he passed the baton to Cousins.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“It was important because Linval asked me to, and you don’t say no to Linval,” Cousins said.

Cousins, whose fiery personality is seen often by his teammates but seldom in public, dove into an impassioned pregame speech, emphasizing finishing every block, every tackle, every play, and above all else, the need to “finish the damn game.”

How the Chiefs coached the recklessness out of Patrick Mahomes

One of the third-quarter throws that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes made recently against the Denver Broncos broke a lot of the NFL’s unwritten rules for a successful pass.

The right-handed Mahomes was drifting to his left. He threw the ball late to the middle of the field. The pass was made across his body.

But Mahomes still made it work. Tight end Travis Kelce was open and the Chiefs got a 29-yard gain on the play and, eventually, a field goal on the drive.

This was a case, and there have been others this season with Mahomes, when the Chiefs have benefited from letting their quarterback use his uncommonly strong arm.

“They never encourage that,” Mahomes said of coach Andy Reid and the other offensive assistants. “As long as you complete it and you get the first down, they’re fine with it. At the same time, you have to know when not to do that.
Mahomes has yet to get himself or the 5-0 Chiefs into trouble with any of his daring passes. The Chiefs have tamed Mahomes, who arrived with a reputation for making some reckless passes, without taking away the qualities that attracted coach Andy Reid to him in the first place.

That’s a big reason why Mahomes, in his first season as a starter, has 14 touchdown passes with only two interceptions heading into Sunday night’s game against the Patriots in New England.

“Most guys are told not to do that,” said fullback Anthony Sherman, who was referring to the Kelce pass but could have been talking about other unconventional Mahomes passes. “He goes out there and executes it and it’s like, ‘OK, I guess you can do that.’ … Coach Reid gives him the ability that if he thinks he can get it there, throw it and get it there. He knows he’s going to have to get the ball into some tight windows, but he trusts his arm enough.

Raiders CB Gareon Conley may lose spot in starting lineup

And while Conley has been relatively healthy — he came back earlier than expected from a strained hip suffered in the first practice of training camp — and has been a mainstay on defense this season, his snap total dropped off dramatically last weekend. And with Daryl Worley returning from an NFL-mandated four-game suspension last week, Conley is in jeopardy of losing his starting gig at right cornerback.nike replica nfl jerseys

Besides, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Tuesday that Conley is “basically a rookie player” and a “work in progress” for a defense still trying to find its identity heading into this weekend’s game in London against the Seattle Seahawks.

“He is learning a lot of things,” Guenther said of Conley. “Unfortunately, he gives up the one play off the goal line and we are in a pretty good call to stop it.”1

Late in the third quarter of Sunday’s 26-10 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers, one snap after Derek Carr’s end zone interception, the Raiders had the hosts on their own 4-yard line. But Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams blew by Conley down the left sideline and Philip Rivers hit him in stride for a 48-yard gain.

“I don’t want to give (Conley) too much right now,” Guenther added. “If we can give him little by little by little, just like a normal rookie player, that’s how I’m viewing Gareon. He really only played one-and-a-half games last year and he sat out pretty much through the offseason. It’s no different than a young player. He’s a work in progress.“replica nike nfl jerseys

After playing 57 defensive snaps (90 percent) in the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams and then tying for the defensive lead with 64 snaps (97 percent) in Denver in Week 2, Conley played 31 snaps (70 percent) at Miami and 55 (68 percent) against the Browns.

But against the Chargers, Conley had just 12 snaps (19 percent), behind fellow corners Worley (49 snaps), Rashaan Melvin (40 snaps), Leon Hall (39 snaps) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (19 snaps).

“Worley played good,” Gruden said Monday, when asked if Conley’s lack of playing time was related more to his struggles or to Worley playing well.

“Worley is a good player. Gareon had a couple of struggles … (and we’re) trying to find a right mix, trying to find a right mix at a lot of positions. Daryl Worley is a good player. I think he was second on our team in tackles. He earned a right to be out there.”

Josh Allen’s ‘clear mind’ in road test should encourage Bills

As Josh Allen stood on the sideline at U.S. Bank Stadium preparing to take the field with the Buffalo Bills’ offense Sunday, the circumstances alone of making his first career road start could have been overwhelming.

The rookie quarterback was playing without his top offensive playmaker, LeSean McCoy, and for a reeling team considered 17-point underdogs.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

More rattling, though, could have been the synchronized “Skol” chant performed by Minnesota Vikings fans seconds before the opening kickoff.

“It’s intimidating to come out and hear the ‘Skol’ chant,” Allen said. “[It was] extremely loud, and it was continuous through practically the entire game. There are some good fans here.”

Perhaps their Scandinavian salute to good fortune was accidentally applied to the wrong quarterback.11

Allen, the No. 7 overall pick in April’s draft, presented himself in the Bills’ 27-6 victory as more polished and unfazed than Kirk Cousins, who became the NFL’s highest-paid player when he signed a fully-guaranteed $84 million deal in March.

If Allen can maintain his impressive composure longer than the Vikings retained their perceived advantage Sunday, the Bills might actually fare a chance as their brutal early-season schedule continues with three road trips in the next four weeks.

“[Allen] was decisive early and that’s important,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “It looked like he played with a clear mind, which is also important for our young players.”cheap official nike nfl jerseys

The environment Sunday — where the Bills’ blue and red merely dotted the sea of Vikings purple among a crowd of 66,800 — was almost entirely foreign to Allen. He was raised in a farming town of about 8,000 people outside of Fresno, California and, after not receiving any Division I offers, made his mark at Reedley College. The Tigers play their games at a high school stadium where out 350 people witnessed a Reedley win Saturday.

Allen played in front of a larger stage at Wyoming, but only two of his road starts — both blowout losses to Big Ten foes Nebraska and Iowa — came in front of more than 36,000 people.

Will Broncos’ Royce Freeman be an every-down back and fantasy threat?

The Broncos, in fact, haven’t had a running back top 250 carries or an average of a rather pedestrian 15.63 per game since Reuben Droughns had 275 in 2004. As a result, the football world, real or fantasy, might cast a skeptical eye on rookie starter Royce Freeman in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks.

“He can carry the load from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “ … That’s what he showed at Oregon. He was their main guy. He had a lot of work, and he stayed healthy through the work. That’s an issue for most young backs. Can they carry the load for 16 weeks? I think with his background, his body type, he should be able to carry the load for 16 weeks.”cheap authentic stitched nfl jerseys

When the Broncos trimmed their roster to 53 players this weekend, they kept three running backs in addition to fullback Andy Janovich, and two of them — Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. — were rookies. That was one fewer than a year ago, and it speaks to what Freeman presents.9

Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway hinted as much during the draft in April, when he said “it’s been a while” since the team had a back like the 6-foot, 229-pound Freeman, who ran 4.5 in the 40-yard dash in his pre-draft workouts. While some in the league took a pause at Freeman’s college workload before the draft — 947 carries in four seasons at Oregon to go with 79 career receptions — the Broncos saw it as a career compliment.

“I think they thought I had to be on the field, in the lineup, every week to have those carries,” Freeman said. “… That when my number was called, I was there.”are the nike nfl jerseys stitched

Freeman led the team with three rushing touchdowns in the preseason — he didn’t play in the preseason finale — and flashed both elusiveness and grind-it-out efficiency. It was clear two weeks into training camp, as the Broncos consistently rotated him with the starters, that he was on track to be the starter.

Now, it remains to be seen what that means in a Broncos offense, with Bill Musgrave calling plays. Musgrave called plays for the final six games last season after Mike McCoy was fired, but the Broncos came down the stretch in a hodge-podge of what they had been doing with McCoy and things Musgrave wanted to do.

This year’s playbook is Musgrave’s, and while Joseph has made it no secret he wants a team that can pound the ball, the Broncos’ biggest offseason investment came at quarterback, with the signing of Case Keenum.

Best of ‘Hard Knocks’: The human element of the Browns’ final cuts

The bulk of the show dealt with four players fighting for a job: Defensive linemen Nate Orchard and Carl Nassib, tight end Devon Cajuste and quarterback Brogan Roback. The stories humanized all the players, showing Orchard with his two young children, Roback with his girlfriend and Cajuste with his father.

Orchard actually got some instruction at one point from second-year end Myles Garrett, who marveled upon discovering that Orchard had different stances for run plays and pass plays.

“You ever try just having the same stance for both?” Garrett said.

“I haven’t,” Orchard said. “I should try it though.”8

When Orchard admitted it might take him a little longer if he had a run stance for a pass play, Garrett opined he only had 2½ seconds to get to the quarterback.stitched nfl jerseys cheap

Cajuste’s heartwarming story of the close bond with his father was central to the story. Gregory Cajuste could not make the trip to Detroit for the team’s final preseason game because of his heart issues. But he watched intently on TV.

Cajuste got off to a good start against the Lions, but late in the first half he rolled both of his ankles. It had to affect him, as he did not finish as strong as he started.

The impact of making the team or getting cut was evident, as Gregory Cajuste lived and died with each play. Likewise, Roback’s girlfriend, Ally Goff, wept at the sight of his touchdown pass.

Orchard did not make the team despite returning an interception for a touchdown in the preseason finale. Roback had an impressive scoring strike, but he also was released in the first wave of cuts. Nassib forced a fumble and made the initial cut, but when the Browns picked up another player at his position on waivers, he was released. Cajuste was released in the final cuts.

Players handled their release with class. All said they would stick with it and continue to pursue their dream of playing in the NFL.

When Mayfield told Cajuste on their way to the field in Detroit with Haley to “treat the ball like one of your rocks,” Haley chimed in with: “Block like you’re blocking for one of your rocks.”

During the game, Haley paced the sidelines and said: “Pray to the rock gods.”cheap authentic stitched nfl jerseys

It was good, but not as good as Haley earlier in the series telling Zane Gonzalez after a field goal: “Nice job, you f—ing kicker.”

Twinsies? Melvin Gordon says fans in L.A. mistake him for Todd Gurley

During a conversation with Adam Schefter on his ESPN podcast last week, Gordon said that he got into an argument with a Rams fans who did not believe he was not Gurley.

“She thought I was Todd,” Gordon said. “I kept telling her no, and she got into an argument with me because she really thought I was Todd. She thought I was lying, and I’m like, ‘This is getting out of control.'”

Asked after practice on Monday if he had ever been mistaken for Gordon, Gurley said with a chuckle, “Nah, never.”

While Gordon does not like to be mistaken for Gurley around town, one area he would like to be similar to the Rams’ running back is contract status. Gurley recently signed a four-year $57.5 million deal that includes $45 million in guaranteed money.

Gordon is scheduled to make $1.9 million in the fourth year of his rookie contract, with the Chargers picking up his fifth-year option for $5.6 million in 2019.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“You could call me Todd all day, for real,” joked Gordon, when asked by Schefter about Gurley’s contract.

Asked about the possibility of new deal, Gordon told Schefter on the podcast that his focus is on football.10

“You can’t really think about it,” Gordon said. “It is what it is, and you kind of just have to let it come. If you think about it too much, it can mess up your game. Right now, I’m just focused on me and the team, really, and doing what we need to do.”

Gordon and Gurley were part of the same 2015 draft class. The Rams selected Gurley at No. 10 overall, while the Chargers gave up their first- and fourth-round selections in the 2015 draft and a fifth-rounder in 2016 in order to move up two spots and take Gordon at No. 15.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Since they entered the league, Gurley is second in the NFL with 3,296 rushing yards, while Gordon is No. 8 with 2,743 rushing yards.

Heading into his fourth NFL season, Gordon said he’s in good shape and ready to improve on his best season as a pro last year, in which he finished with 1,581 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns.

Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn has mentioned that he would like to find a complementary running back to share the workload with the Wisconsin product — and second-year pro Austin Ekeler — to help keep Gordon fresh for the backstretch of the 2018 season.

 

Packers lose Jake Ryan, Kentrell Brice to injuries

What looked like a standout practice for the Green Bay Packers’ burgeoning defense — which picked off Aaron Rodgers three times — turned into an injury-filled disaster.

Two potential starters — linebacker Jake Ryan and safety Kentrell Brice — were carted off the field Monday with injuries. And that was after defensive tackle Mike Daniels dropped out.

While Daniels appears to have avoided anything serious, Ryan and Brice might not have been as fortunate. One source said the Packers fear Ryan sustained a significant and potentially season-ending injury to his right knee. The injury occurred during an 11-on-11 drill late in practice. Ryan pounded his fist on the ground as he received medical attention.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

Ryan was slated to start at inside linebacker next to Blake Martinez, who tied for the NFL lead in tackles last season.

“He was just devastated,” Martinez said after practice. “Obviously, he was super-excited about the season. He’s been putting a tremendous amount of work in. He’s been awesome throughout OTAs and these past four practices. It’s been good for him. It’s just really tough.

“I talked to him right after I got off the field. Basically, told him if he needs anything, I’m here for him. I obviously don’t know the extent of it. Obviously, everybody will know when they know. I’m just praying for him and hoping the best for him. I know he’ll come back even stronger.”12

This could accelerate the need for rookie third-round pick Oren Burks to play a bigger role on defense. Also, defensive back Quinten Rollins has worked at inside linebacker in the sub packages, and the Packers are high on undrafted rookie linebacker Greer Martini of Notre Dame.

Meanwhile, Brice also had been working with the No. 1 defense and was perhaps the leading candidate to replace Morgan Burnett, who signed with the Steelers in free agency. Brice missed the final nine games of last season with a right ankle injury. It was unclear if Monday’s injury was related.

“I think he’s definitely having one of the best offseason programs,” McCarthy said during the June minicamp. “The thing that goes unnoticed, and rightfully so from our perspective, is his communication skills. I love the way he plays. I think the ability to get past the injury and be here the whole time, having him full-go in the strength and conditioning program, you can see he’s really comfortable out there with the adjustments and the communication. I would definitely be shocked if we’re not sitting here after the season thinking that he’s definitely taken a big jump, because I’ve seen it throughout the offseason.”cheap nfl jerseys nike china

 

NFC East Q&A: Who is on the hottest seat in the division?

Who is on the hottest seat in the NFC East? It could be a player, coach or front-office executive. See who our NFL Nation reporters select.

Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. Can we go by process of elimination when it comes to the coaches? Doug Pederson is coming off a Super Bowl season. Pat Shurmur is in his first year as head coach. That leaves Jay Gruden and Jason Garrett. If you’re talking players, there’s Eli Manning and a revamped offense. Dak Prescott, who needs a big season to get the big-time contract after 2018.nfl cheap nike jerseys Carson Wentz is coming back from a knee injury, but his seat isn’t hot even with what Nick Foles did last season. Manning is on the hot seat to a degree. I’m going with Garrett. He is entering his eighth season, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been remarkably patient. Garrett is signed through 2019, as are all but one assistant coach, so it’s a big year for the coaching staff. Garrett has been able to respond to this type of pressure season before. In 2014, he was in the final year of his deal and the Cowboys finished 12-4 and made it to the second round of the playoffs after three consecutive 8-8 finishes.12

John Keim, ESPN Washington Redskins reporter: Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Both Jason Garrett and Jay Gruden will be sitting on hot seats if their teams don’t make the postseason. But there was no chatter about getting rid of them in the offseason. There was talk about whether the Giants should draft Manning’s successor, and a lot of wondering about what he had left. Manning must prove the Giants right for bypassing one of the top quarterbacks in the draft to stick with a 37-year-old coming off consecutive lackluster seasons (a combined 45 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions). New York’s offense has been hit hard by injuries, particularly last season with receiver Odell Beckham Jr.. His return, as much as the addition of running back Saquon Barkley, will help Manning. But the veteran passer still has to show he can compete at a high level. If he doesn’t, and if quarterbacks New York bypassed do well, it’ll be a bad look for Manning and the Giants (unless backups Davis Webb or Kyle Lauletta emerge).

Tim McManus, ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter: Redskins president Bruce Allen. Washington has just one 10-win season since Allen took over as a top decision-maker in 2010, finishing last in the division in four of those eight seasons. The Redskins are coming off a 7-9 season and arguably downgraded at quarterback with the 34-year-old Alex Smith under center and Kirk Cousins now in Minnesota. Two playoff appearances and zero playoff victories over eight years is a tough pill to swallow for a rabid Washington fan base. The heat’s gotta to rise to the top eventually.

Jordan Raanan, ESPN New York Giants reporter: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. Eli Manning could qualify here because he’s 37 and the Giants could get out of his contract rather harmlessly if he struggles this season. nike nfl jerseys cheap china But Manning has two Super Bowl titles, the organization loves him and just recommitted to him after changing coaches and general managers. Garrett doesn’t have two Super Bowl MVPs. In fact, entering his eighth full season as head coach and his résumé includes just two playoff appearances and one postseason win. How much more patient will Jerry Jones be if the Cowboys fail to make the postseason again? Probably not very. Pressure is on Garrett and the Boys this season. They have to produce or else that team is bound to be torn apart next offseason.

Eli Apple starting to show Giants signs of being a top-10 pick

There was a play during Monday’s OTAs when New York Giants cornerback Eli Apple ran stride for stride into the end zone with wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Apple turned his head around in time, located the ball and knocked it to the ground.cheap nike jerseys nfl

After a brief celebration, Apple returned to his position for the next snap. There were more splash plays to come. Apple later knocked down a pass intended for wide receiver Cody Latimer at the goal line. It capped off another strong practice in what has, so far, been a spring of redemption after a disappointing second season.11

“He’s just out here making plays,” safety Landon Collins said. “That’s not the only play. He’s doing his thing. I’m happy for him. He’s growing up, doing his thing and playing great ball.”

It’s quite the turnaround after a disastrous 2017. Apple struggled badly as he dealt with on- and off-field struggles. It led to multiple benchings, a suspension to end the season and an uncertain future.

But the Giants stuck with Apple — in part because of his talent and the cost of their investment — in an offseason in which they reshaped their roster. They’re banking on him to play a significant role.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

Apple has worked with the first-team defense this offseason, and he’s expected to start at cornerback opposite Janoris Jenkins. The Giants don’t have a lot of proven depth behind them.

The pass breakup on Shepard was the latest validation that the Giants might be OK with Apple playing a prominent role.

“Yeah, that was a good play,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “Then we saw [Jenkins] make a nice interception in the back of the end zone. The ball was thrown well, everyone was in a good position and he made a nice play on it. That’s a good thing.”