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Sources: Barkley unlikely to play vs. Patriots

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is unlikely to play Thursday night against the New England Patriots despite returning to practice late last week, multiple sources told ESPN. He had been eyeing this week’s contest as a potential return date.

There’s also a real chance the Giants will be without tight end Evan Engram, who is dealing with a sprained MCL and faces a challenge to be healthy enough to face New England, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Engram is on pace for a career year with 33 catches for 373 yards and two touchdowns.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Barkley has been dealing with a high ankle sprain suffered Sept. 22 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is slated to practice again later Tuesday but is not expected to be cleared medically in time to handle the rigors of game action yet.

Coach Pat Shurmur said Monday that the Giants would do what is best for the team and Barkley would return when he’s able to play at a high level and protect himself. It’s almost certainly not going to happen Thursday. Sitting Barkley against the undefeated Patriots gives him another 10 days to get cleared for their Week 7 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.6

Not having Barkley available Thursday leaves the Giants (2-3) short-handed against the league’s top-ranked defense. Running back Wayne Gallman and wide receiver Sterling Shepard also are going to miss Thursday night’s game. Both have concussions.

Undrafted rookie running back Jon Hilliman and fullback Elijhaa Penny, a converted tailback, are expected to shoulder the load without Barkley and Gallman. Austin Walter also is likely to be elevated from the practice squad. An outside alternative would be difficult on such short notice.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

The original reported timeline for Barkley was four to eight weeks. It has been 16 days since the injury.

It appeared Barkley was going to beat the timeline when he returned to the practice field early last week and began running and cutting at near full speed on a side field with a trainer. He improved as the week progressed and even sneaked in some scout team work on Friday.

Barkley was listed as a limited participant in Monday’s projected practice report with the Giants on a short week.

“He’s doing great,” Shurmur said Monday, before adding that Barkley was closer to returning than he was last week.

Shurmur said there was a possibility that Barkley could return against the Patriots. It just seems highly unlikely. Barkley would have to be cleared by doctors, and the long-term risk in this case outweighs the short-term reward.

Jets’ Darnold cleared, to start against Cowboys

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was cleared for contact and will start Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, the team announced.

Darnold, diagnosed four weeks ago with mononucleosis, had been dealing with an enlarged spleen — a residual effect of the illness. He said he felt well enough to play last week, but there was still some swelling in his spleen, the team said.

Darnold, speaking Monday afternoon in his weekly radio spot on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York, said: “I feel good. Energy is awesome. Just looking forward to playing this week, but have to wait for doctor’s orders.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

His return should provide an emotional boost for the reeling Jets (0-4), who have scored only two touchdowns on offense. The tension in the locker room prompted a players-only meeting on Monday. Players said they called the meeting in an attempt to remain unified.

Also returning is tight end Chris Herndon, who served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Herndon hasn’t yet been added to the roster; he has an exemption.5

The good news for Darnold is that he had two full days of practice last week. He and the team were so confident he’d be cleared that he worked exclusively with the starters on Wednesday and Thursday. Late Thursday, he was ruled out after an ultrasound and blood test.

Scrambling, the Jets had to start Luke Falk for the second straight week. He was manhandled in a 31-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He was sacked nine times and committed three turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

Fearing a concussion, the Jets pulled Falk after his ninth sack. They inserted David Fales, their fourth quarterback of the season. Falk cleared concussion protocol, the team said, and is available this week.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Jets, off to their worst start since 2003, hope Darnold can galvanize a punchless and mistake-prone offense.

“It’s probably more than just Sam getting out there — we’ve got a lot of other things to clean up — but Sam is able to hide things sometimes for us,” Gase said. “If we make a mistake, he covers it up. We just need to do a better job as a group, making sure we’re all on the same page.”

Giants not worried about Janoris Jenkins’ rough start

The numbers against Janoris Jenkins so far this season are scary. It’s problematic in that the New York Giants cornerback is supposed to be their best and most accomplished defensive player.

Not that there is much competition.

But what is defensive coordinator James Bettcher supposed to do if his best player on a talent-bereft unit can’t cover anyone? He’s in even bigger trouble than anticipated.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

That is where Bettcher and the Giants stand entering Sunday’s matchup with the Washington Redskins (1 p.m. ET, Fox). They haven’t even been able to count on their top cornerback to limit opposing receivers each of the past two weeks.

Imagine this: Jenkins is ranked 108th out of 111 cornerbacks with at least 45 snaps played this season with a 31.0 grade against the pass, according to Pro Football Focus. He has allowed 14 first downs and nine passes that have gained 15-plus yards, most in the NFL in both categories. His three touchdowns allowed is the second most of any cornerback.6

The Giants don’t see that, though. That’s why Jenkins has stunningly remained in New York even as the rest of the 2016 free-agent class was exiled. Even through these recent struggles, the Giants’ confidence in him hasn’t wavered.

“Honestly, I don’t have concern,” Bettcher said. “I don’t have concern about any of our players, as long as they are working the process. I think Jack is doing that. I think he is coming to practice — I saw it today — he’s diving to knock balls away. He’s competing. He’s working on fundamentals and techniques in individual [drills]. He’s all-in on fixing what he needs to fix.”cheap nfl nike jersey
“I mean, when you got time and get no pressure, I can’t cover nobody for 10 seconds. Who can cover anybody for 10 seconds?” Jenkins said after the Buffalo game. “Go look at within the first five seconds of the route. He’s not open. If he scrambles and there is no pressure, what do you want me to do? I can’t cover this side and that side. Come on, bro. We have to play football around here.”

The Bucs didn’t need 10 seconds on Sunday. Almost all of Evans’ damage came in one-on-one coverage against Jenkins, who also struggled the prior week as the Bills completed seven passes on seven targets for 75 yards when Jenkins was the nearest defender.

The Giants insist they’re not going to shy away from using Jenkins against No. 1 receivers moving forward. He’s still by far the best of what they have right now. Rookie DeAndre Baker is one of the few cornerbacks graded lower (28.2 overall) than Jenkins this season, even though he played better Sunday against the Bucs.

So whether it’s Adam Thielen, Amari Cooper or Larry Fitzgerald in future weeks, expect Jenkins to follow.

“Sure.” He’s out there and he’s going to compete,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s going to be involved [against top receivers] when we play zone and when we play man. We expect that when he’s out there, he is going to play at a high level, which he’s done for a long time.”

James Conner, Steelers’ running game struggling to help ailing offense

The key to a successful offensive game plan for a first-time starting quarterback is generally simple enough.

Run the ball.

With quarterback Mason Rudolph starting for the first time, the Pittsburgh Steelers entered Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers with the intention of leaning on third-year running back James Conner.

The 49ers loaded the box early and often with eight defenders, trying to force Rudolph to throw. Pittsburgh, however, couldn’t get anything going in the passing game, settling for short throws barely past the line of scrimmage. And with the 49ers’ stacked front, the Steelers couldn’t run the ball effectively, either, creating a lackluster offense in Rudolph’s starting debut.cheap nfl nike jersey

Conner ran the ball just once on the first two drives before opening up the third drive with back-to-back carries. He got the ball once more on the drive, one that ended in a punt just before halftime. That capped off a half in which he carried the ball seven times for 18 yards. His longest run went for just 5 yards.6

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Conner finally had a double-digit run, picking up 10 yards to open a drive that ended with Rudolph’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson.

It was the kind of run the Steelers needed from Conner all afternoon but got just once.

When his number was called again in the fourth quarter to milk the clock after the 49ers’ fifth turnover, Conner ran for 5 yards and then fumbled it away two plays later, giving the 49ers the ball just outside the red zone.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“That never happens to James,” Rudolph said of the fumble. “James is an unbelievable player. We were still being aggressive in that situation and mixed the run with the pass.”

Those were Conner’s final three carries of the afternoon, and the only three carries of the fourth quarter.

Conner finished the game with 45 yards on 13 carries — the most he’s had this season. But it’s a far cry from his standard a season ago.

Last season, he had only three games in which he carried the ball fewer than 13 times, and the Steelers went 1-2 in those games. The Steelers were 7-2-1 last year when Connor rushed at least 13 times.

Through three games this season, Conner is averaging an anemic 2.9 yards per carry. He has rushed just 34 times for 97 yards — far from his numbers through three games a season ago. In the 2018 three-game opening stretch, Conner rushed for 213 yards on 54 carries and scored three touchdowns. He has just one this season.

Next step: 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo delivers under pressure

Jimmy Garoppolo prefers to keep his secrets to himself. But there was nothing Garoppolo could do Sunday afternoon when cornerback Richard Sherman stepped to the podium following the San Francisco 49ers’ win against the Pittsburgh Steelers and revealed a surprise about the Niners’ quarterback.

“He likes getting hit, I don’t know why,” Sherman said. “Not every quarterback likes it. It kind of wakes him up.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

About 30 minutes later, Garoppolo would confirm Sherman’s assertion, noting that he has been told before that he seems to enjoy taking hits. If that’s the case, there’s little doubt that Garoppolo had a grand old time in Sunday’s 24-20 win against the Steelers at Levi’s Stadium.5

Making his third start of the season and third since returning from a torn left ACL suffered last September, Garoppolo felt more pressure Sunday than he had in the first two weeks combined — in more ways than one. Garoppolo had been sacked once and hit just twice in the first two games.

With the 49ers starting rookie Justin Skule at left tackle and their general preference for dialing up pressures, the Steelers made it clear they intended to throw everything they had at Garoppolo. By the time it was over, Garoppolo had been sacked just one time, but unofficial press box statistics had him taking eight hits. It seemed like many more.

Despite the pressure, Garoppolo didn’t flinch, sometimes even shaking loose from would-be tacklers and either making a play down the field, scrambling for a gain or throwing it away to preserve down and distance.cheap nfl nike jersey
Garoppolo’s toughness served as an example on a day when just about everything that could go wrong did. The Niners turned the ball over five times, including four in the first half. Two of those were interceptions charged to Garoppolo and he had his hand in two botched center/quarterback exchanges. Three of those turnovers came with the 49ers inside Pittsburgh’s 30, turning a game that could have been far more comfortable into a nail-biter.

After a third-down miscue on a snap that hit motioning receiver Richie James Jr. that the Steelers recovered at their 7, Garoppolo was visibly frustrated.

“I was upset,” Garoppolo said. “But the defense, when they’re playing like that, it gives you such confidence on the sideline. So it was just more about getting our guys ready for the next series. They make huge plays like that on defense, it sets us up for success.”

Shoutouts are mandatory for Texans and their ‘fine commissioners’

As Dylan Cole discusses an important role he has on this Houston Texans team, he pulls out a notebook.

On the inside of the back cover, Cole has a chart with tally marks that indicate the number of team violations each fellow inside linebacker has committed and the corresponding fines.

Cole is one of the team’s few unofficial “fine commissioners,” which also include outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett, nose tackle Brandon Dunn and guard Greg Mancz. The rules and different categories vary between position groups, but the linebackers and offensive line agree on one fine: If a player is doing an interview and doesn’t shout out at least two of his teammates, he gets put down into a fine category.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Players have different techniques they use when talking about their teammates during interviews, including everything from getting it over with in the first question to relying on their teammates yelling at them to remember.

The worst offender?7

“I’m going to go with B-Mac [inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney],” Cole said. “He has the same thing that he says every time, and then he forgets. I don’t know what lines he says, but he says the same lines every single time and then he forgets about us.

“Can’t forget about your teammates. That’s the most important thing. This is a team sport. It’s not individual. We’re not playing tennis out here.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

The outside linebackers are more laid back about fines than the inside linebackers, Scarlett said, but the OLBs do have one violation that will be given a fine every time.

“We have one strong rule: no snitching,” Scarlett said. “If you snitch, it’s a fine. If you tell on your brother, it’s a fine.”

The defensive line doesn’t observe rules for not shouting out a teammate, but the D-linemen do have a long list of fine categories that position coach Anthony Weaver keeps track of in an Excel spreadsheet. If a player is late to a meeting, he is fined $250. Dunn says the “disrespect fine” of $50 applies mostly to rookies. And the biggest fine levied to date was for $500, for farting in the meeting room. Nose tackle D.J. Reader said that has happened only once, by a player who is no longer on the team. “We don’t play around with that,” he said.

Tom Brady Says Antonio Brown Has ‘A Lot to Learn’ After Joining Patriots

Tom Brady is understandably excited about the New England Patriots’ signing of Antonio Brown, but he acknowledged there is work to be done for the seven-time Pro Bowler to get acclimated.

“There was a lot of positive emotion when it happened,” Brady told NBC Sports’ Peter King, “but you know, everybody says, ‘Whoa, this is what it can be, and what potential they have.’ But you know, the teams I’ve been on, they go to work.”

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“The NFL’s a competitive place. Lots of moving parts. Lots of adjustment, constantly. Week to week, a guy gets hurts, a guy gets picked up you don’t know, you’re constantly manipulating your team. We lost our right tackle [Marcus Cannon, with a shoulder injury] tonight for who knows how long. Like, oh s–t, that’s a big deal. Now we’ll add Antonio, and he’s got to … there’s a lot to learn. … The point is, it’s one thing to talk about; it’s another thing to go do it. Let’s go do it. That’s what my attitude is.”8

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk said on the Sunday Night Football broadcast that Brady is already going all out to get his teammate acclimated to New England, offering to allow Brown to stay with him while he gets settled.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft told NBC’s Al Michaels that Brady is “a million percent in” on the Brown signing.

“Kraft also told me that when he broke the news to Tom Brady yesterday, Brady initially said, ‘I’m a hundred percent in.’ Two minutes later, Brady came back and said to Kraft, ‘I’m a thousand percent in.’ Then he came back two minutes later and said, ”I’m a million percent in,'” Michaels said on the broadcast.

Brady told reporters that he and Kraft had a “private conversation” and expressed excitement about adding “great football players.” King described Brady as not being “giddy, or overly bubbly” at the prospect of playing with Brown but would “describe him as pleased that the Patriots went out on a limb and invested millions” in the talented wideout.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

While many have questioned Brown’s antics in recent months, his on-field production isn’t a concern. He’s the first player in NFL history to post six straight 100-reception seasons; he also had 121 more receptions than any other receiver between 2013 and 2018.

Brown is the best receiver Brady has played with since Randy Moss from 2007 to 2010. Provided Brown is able to fit into the “Patriot way,” this should be a seamless fit that gives the Patriots their best receiving corps since their undefeated 2007 season.

Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott on Win vs. Giants: ‘Obviously, I Was a Little Rusty’

Some rust was to be expected for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott after he held out for all of training camp and the preseason, and that is exactly what he said happened during Sunday’s 35-17 season-opening win over the New York Giants.

“I felt about the same. Obviously, I was a little rusty,” Elliott said, per Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. “I didn’t play the best game. I have a lot I can improve on. But that’s going to take time, and it’s about getting more reps and being out there longer.”nfl cheap jerseys nike

The Ohio State product finished with 13 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown, and he added one catch for 10 yards.

Williams noted the Cowboys intentionally limited his workload against the Giants in an effort to avoid soft-tissue injuries upon his return.5

The strategy paid off thanks to quarterback Dak Prescott, who finished 25-of-32 for 405 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Dallas receivers consistently found themselves open in the Giants secondary, and Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup each eclipsed the century mark for yardage.

While Dallas didn’t need Elliott at his best to defeat New York, Sunday made clear it will need him as the season progresses. Tony Pollard impressed at times in the preseason, but he struggled on his way to 13 carries for 24 yards in Sunday’s contest.

There was a clear talent dropoff at the position when Elliott was sidelined.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Fortunately for the Cowboys, Elliott’s track record suggests plenty of production is to come. He has been in the league three years and has already reached two Pro Bowls and led the league in rushing yards two times. One of those times was last season when he finished with 1,434 yards on the ground.

He was still solid even while rusty in Week 1 and only figures to improve as the season continues.

Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro faces what might be NFL’s most unstable job

The Chicago Bears’ most scrutinized offseason storyline rests on the right foot of Eddy Pineiro, the former undrafted kicker who enters Week 1 with a tenuous grip on the starting job.

Tenuous being, perhaps, an understatement.

The Bears’ much-publicized, and sometimes unorthodox, search to replace Cody Parkey (he of “double-doink” fame and eight missed field goals in 2018) ultimately led them to Pineiro, whom Chicago acquired from the Oakland Raiders in May.

Pineiro ended up as the last man standing in a nine-kicker derby that began at the post-draft rookie minicamp, but Chicago’s problem isn’t necessarily solved. Pineiro said on Sunday, after Bears coach Matt Nagy named him the starting kicker for Thursday night’s Green Bay Packers game, that “a big stress has been lifted off my shoulders.”

In reality, having never attempted a field goal in a regular-season game, Pineiro’s stress level is about to get worse.
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The second-year kicker, who turns 24 on Sept. 13, is assured of very little beyond Week 1, and that’s the difficult balancing act for the Bears.6

“Hopefully it’s the arrow-up deal where he hits a few early and he gets his confidence going, and before you know it, he’s on a nice streak. … And if it starts out a little slow or there’s inconsistency, that’s where the challenge of being able to … the frustration of how much it hurts you comes into play.”

The Bears were exceedingly patient with Parkey only to get burned at the worst moment. Most people remember the 43-yard playoff miss against the Philadelphia Eagles, but Parkey, astonishingly, bounced four missed kicks (two field goals, two extra points) off the uprights in a regular-season home game with Detroit.

Chicago stuck with Parkey, who went 3-for-3 on field goals the next week, but the veteran’s accuracy again began to wane as the regular season drew to a close. The Philadelphia disaster made an already uncomfortable situation untenable. Parkey’s ill-advised appearance on a national morning television show days after the Bears’ season ended expedited his departure, which was inevitable.

The Bears cannot let history repeat itself, but they have to be fair to Pineiro.nike jerseys nfl cheap

“Otherwise, we’re just a cat chasing its tail,” Nagy said.

But just how much leeway can a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations afford an unproven kicker?

“You look at a lot of good kickers around the league, you’ll see ebbs and flows sometimes earlier in their career — not that that’s our expectation. We also understand sometimes that you have to have patience with this position,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. “Eddy has the right demeanor. He’s got the right leg talent. The team has really embraced him and we’re happy with the way the whole process played out.”

Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor added: “There have been some other players here that have been really good that missed two of their first four kicks. So the hard part is, if it does happen, when does that take place? … I like how he’s preparing, because he keeps growing, each and every day. And that’s our job to help him with that.”

‘Adaptable’ Patriots’ plan of attack in 2019? Whatever works

Ever since tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement in late March, the hot-button question has been how the New England Patriots will reshape their attack without him.

Josh McDaniels, the architect of the ever-evolving unit, keeps reminding everyone that he doesn’t have the answer right now. He isn’t being evasive as much as highlighting what has made the Patriots one of the most unique offenses in the NFL: a rare adaptability.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Last season, when the Patriots transformed to a smash-mouth approach in mid-December en route to their sixth Super Bowl championship, is a classic example of it.

“There are still a lot of unknowns, still a lot of bridges you have to cross, a lot of reps we need to take and get better at and improve on,” McDaniels said as the 2019 preseason ended. “There are areas of the game that we will continue to improve on and develop our identity and our team over the course of the regular season, which will be a lot more telling than what I know at this moment.”5

Specific to personnel, McDaniels obviously knows more now than he did in spring practices and training camp.

Four-year veteran Matt LaCosse (career-high 24 catches in 2018) and 2018 seventh-round draft choice Ryan Izzo (rookie season on injured reserve) are the lone tight ends. Veterans Benjamin Watson (four games) and Lance Kendricks (one game) are serving NFL suspensions to open the season.

Fullback James Develin, who played 35% of the offensive snaps last season, also factors significantly into the mix. Even when Gronkowski was on the field last season, and wasn’t often at his peak, Develin became a huge part of the attack.

This was a notable part of NFL Films’ “Do Your Job” special (NFL Network, 8 p.m. ET Wednesday) on the 2018 Patriots — how the offense turned to an old-school formula to turn its season around after back-to-back December losses to the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

“One of the things that I’m so thoroughly impressed with Bill [Belichick] on is his ability to adapt and evolve. He said, ‘If you keep holding on to what [you’d] rather be — no-huddle, spread formations, 34 points per game — then you’re probably going to end up regretting a lot of things at the end of the year. What are we really good at? What’s the most consistent part of our team offensively?’ Then you commit to it,” McDaniels said in the special.