Thu Jul 18 1:53pm ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, file photo, Denver Broncos president Joe Ellis speaks during a news conference at the team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo. Ever since soon-to-be Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen stepped down from his daily duties as owner of the Denver Broncos, team president Joe Ellis ran the team in a "What would Pat do" sort of way. With Bowlen's death last month, that's no longer the case. Ellis tells The Associated Press it's time for the Broncos to establish a new identity. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Ever since soon-to-be Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen stepped down from his daily duties as owner of the Denver Broncos, team president and CEO Joe Ellis ran the team in a ''What would Pat do?'' sort of way.
With Bowlen's death last month, that's no longer the case.
Ellis told The Associated Press that while the team will always honor Bowlen's memory, it's time for the Broncos to establish a new identity.
''I got to thinking about that,'' Ellis said Thursday from the sideline as the Broncos became the first NFL team to open training camp . ''I think it's a fair question at this point because he's no longer with us. He was with us (the last five years) even though he was not out here. I got to go see him and I always sort of felt his presence. And I think Pat would want us to move on from him a little bit, you know? I don't think we're going to be able to do that totally because of what he's provided all of us ...
''But it's time to buckle up your chin strap here and do things the Broncos way,'' Ellis said. ''Yeah, we want to make Pat proud. We're going to honor him. It's a subtle honoring with the decal on the helmet and he'll always be in the back of my mind. But you know what, we have to act independently now in some fashion. I hope you can make sense of this.''
Bowlen died June 13 at age 75, nine weeks shy of his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When Alzheimer's forced him to step away five years earlier, Bowlen entrusted Ellis to operate the team with full authority and represent the Broncos in league matters until one of his seven children was deemed ready to take over. Ellis drew on his working relationship with the notoriously publicity-shy Bowlen that spanned nearly three decades to continue operating the team as Bowlen would have during those five years.
Ellis said he doesn't want to look back anymore.
''There's been so much talk about Pat and his excellence and everything that he's done and it's all well-deserved and it's well-acknowledged - he's going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,'' Ellis said. ''But I know if he were here and he were advising me, he'd say, `Listen, you know, your job is to get everybody in the organization to pull together and do this for our fans and do this for themselves and each other, players, coaches. And do what I always wanted to do and not make it about me, make it about them, make it about yourselves, make it about the fans. Make it about winning. Let's focus on that. Let's not focus on me anymore.'''
Ellis noted the Broncos have to change the way they do things to reverse their recent slide that includes back-to-back double-digit losses for the first time since the 1960s.
Even with those 5-11 and 6-10 seasons, the Broncos have as many Super Bowl appearances - seven - as losing seasons during Bowlen's ownership that began in 1984.
''We need to establish our own identity,'' Ellis said. ''So much of our identity the past several years has been based on the success of Pat in some ways, right? And people talk about the Pat Bowlen era. Even if a child were to take over, it's not the Pat Bowlen era anymore. So, this is kind of in some ways this is Year 1 of establishing a different identity as an organization. Never forgetting everything that was Pat.
''No one's ever going to forget what he did. We'll remember him. We've got the decal on the back. His name is on that field house. His father's name is on this facility's front here at UC Health Center. So, he will continue to be honored and remembered, but I do know that he would want us to put our own stamp on this program. I just know that in my heart.''
Ellis said he'll meet with Brittany Bowlen, who is hoping to take over the franchise, next week about returning to the team to gain more front office experience. She's currently working for global consulting firm McKinsey & Company in Denver. Ellis said her role would be generally focused on the business side.
''She's going to come here and work hard. She's got to prove herself,'' Ellis said. ''There's more pressure on her than any other employee. And then we'll see. If that works out, then there's room for growth. Pat always said, `Listen, I'd love to be able to keep it in the family if I can and have a child run it, but if that's not the case, then the team will be sold.' And so we're not there to assign anybody that role yet.''
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald has never played a full season in his six-year career, and the team doesn't plan on using him extensively in order to keep him healthy. McDonald played a career-high 564 snaps last year and split time evenly with Jesse James, who is now with the Lions. "He still won't," offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said of McDonald's playing time increasing substantially this season. "He's never going to play the full game. That's never going to happen." That means that the Steelers plan to use Xavier Grimble quite a bit as the No. 2 tight end. While McDonald is still worth an investment as a low-end TE1, his production could be spotty and inconsistent.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said that wide receiver Mike Evans (quadriceps) will not play in the third preseason game against the Browns on Friday. He has been out all week with what is believed to be a quadriceps injury. Evans' injury isn't believed to be serious, but the Bucs are playing it cautious with their No. 1 wideout. It's unlikely he'll see any preseason action in the final week of exhibition games, so we probably won't see Evans again until Week 1. He's a strong WR1 choice in Arians' aggressive offense and is ranked as the No. 18 overall fantasy player at RotoBaller.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said that quarterback Drew Brees will start in the preseason game this weekend against the Jets. Brees is unlikely to play more than a half in the team's third preseason game. The 40-year-old hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, throwing for 3,992 yards and 32 touchdowns in another Pro Bowl season in 2018. While Brees should be solid once again this year in an explosive offense, the Saints could be more running-back centric to take some of the pressure off of him, which gives him a much lower ceiling as he nears the end of his career. The future Hall of Famer is still a QB1, but don't expect gaudy numbers week in and week out.
Denver Broncos LB Todd Davis (calf) is a bit behind schedule in his recovery from a calf injury, according to head coach Vic Fangio.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon's contract holdout is expected to continue into the season, according to sources. Contract talks between Gordon and the team haven't progressed as hoped, and he'll continue to train in Florida for the foreseeable future. There's still time left, but it's looking like Gordon will miss regular season games for the Bolts. That will obviously hurt his fantasy stock quite a bit, as he came into the year as a surefire RB1 in an explosive offense. As a result, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are set to become much more attractive, although Gordon is still worth a selection around the fifth round of drafts in case he misses minimal time.
Los Angeles Chargers RB Melvin Gordon is expected to continue his holdout through the start of the regular season since there has not been any progress made in contract talks, according to sources.
Fantasy Spin: Gordon's fantasy value will take a big hit if he decides to sit out regular season games and will drop on draft boards. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson will handle the carries while Gordon holds out, and both players had success last season. Ekeler can be considered a No. 2 or No. 3 fantasy back, while Jackson could be a possible handcuff or late-round option.
Pittsburgh Steelers CB Joe Haden (foot) is still considered day-to-day because of a foot injury.
Buffalo Bills RBs LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore will both see more playing time during the third preseason game Friday, Aug. 23.
Fantasy Spin: McCoy probably will keep the starting job this season, but Gore should also have a solid role in the running game. McCoy probably can be a No. 3 running back, while Gore could be a handcuff to McCoy or a No. 4 or No. 5 back on a fantasy roster.
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase is still impressed with a throw that quarterback Sam Darnold made in last Thursday's preseason game against the Falcons. "The throw to Quincy, I dont know if Ive seen many that were better in my career," Gase said Tuesday. Darnold went 10-for-15 with no turnovers in practice on Tuesday. He's expected to play at least the first half of the preseason game this Saturday against the Saints. Darnold had his fair share of ups and downs in his rookie season, throwing for 2,865 yards, 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 13 games. He should be better in his second year with Le'Veon Bell in the backfield, but he'll need to show more before fantasy owners use him for anything more than a low-end QB2.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver David Moore has been quiet overall in training camp and seems to be behind rookie D.K. Metcalf on the depth chart when he's healthy. Jaron Brown also played with the first-team offense over Moore in the last preseason game. Moore had 26 catches for 445 yards and five touchdowns last year and caught just four passes for 32 yards over the final five weeks. NBC Sports Northwest's Joe Fann doesn't think Moore will have much more than the 53 targets he saw in 2018. The 24-year-old could be useful in deeper leagues to begin the year if Metcalf isn't ready, but you can probably ignore him in standard-sized leagues.
Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny has just 13 yards on 12 carries through two preseason games and hasn't shown much burst. The 2018 first-rounder could still have a breakout campaign in his second season, but he's falling further behind Chris Carson as the No. 2 option. Head coach Pete Carroll has blamed Penny's lack of production in the preseason on the team's offensive line. The 23-year-old looked pretty explosive at the end of last season, and he's more attractive in PPR leagues, but don't reach for him solely based on Carson's injury-prone ways. RotoBaller has Penny ranked as the No. 35 fantasy running back, and you should consider drafting him around the eighth or ninth round.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy regrets using running back Tarik Cohen so much down the stretch last season. The running back was used in the backfield, as an outside receiver and inside in the slot. We moved [Cohen] around a lot last year, and I do feel like there was a time probably later in the season where we probably gave him a little bit too much, Nagy said before practice Tuesday. And when you mentally drain them, it pulls them back physically. It's not to say that Cohen won't get his opportunities this year, but Chicago may elect to keep him fresh, especially with tons of other weapons in rookie David Montgomery, Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel. Cohen is a home run hitter on any given play, but be careful not to overvalue him in an offense that has a ton of moving parts.
Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny has 13 yards on 12 carries in two preseason games, and he has fallen further behind RB Chris Carson, in the opinion of NBC Sports Northwest's Joe Fann. Head coach Pete Carroll backed Penny by saying: 'We've got to block for him better. He didn't have a chance.'
Fantasy Spin: Penny will need a strong second half of the preseason to be worth more than RB5 or handcuff at this point. Carson looks like a solid RB2.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis has been named the training camp MVP by ESPN's Turron Davenport following an excellent offseason. Davenport praised Davis for his improved route running and footwork, both of which have helped him gain extra separation throughout camp. Although many fantasy owners have already written Davis off, some context is needed when analyzing his second year. Davis posted a team-leading 65 receptions for 891 yards and four touchdowns all while playing with a quarterback who had nerve damage in his throwing hand. On top of this, Davis lined up against top-25 corners on 43 percent of his routes, the highest percentage of any receiver in the league. Davis should benefit greatly in 2019 from both better quarterback play and an upgraded surrounding cast, making him a prime post-hype sleeper buy going into his third season.
Tennessee Titans running back Dion Lewis has become an afterthought to many drafters in 2019 due to his lackluster finish to last season. The ineffectiveness of Lewis paired with Derrick Henry's late season breakout has dropped his ADP outside the top 50 running backs being drafted. With Henry (calf) missing most of training camp, Titans running backs coach Tony Dews has continued to praise the positional versatility of Lewis in the offense. Although Henry is expected to be the feature back to start the season, Lewis is too talented to be kept off the field. Expect the Titans to find creative ways to get Lewis involved in both the rushing and passing game, making him a good value pick in the late rounds.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (leg) won't play in the third preseason game Friday, Aug. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Evans' injury isn't believed to be serious and shouldn't affect his Week 1 status. He's a WR1, but he has dealt with lingering issues like this throughout his career.
The Cleveland Browns signed free-agent wide receiver Braxton Miller on Wednesday. The former Ohio State star spent two years with the Texans and was on the Eagles practice squad in 2018. He tallied 34 receptions for 261 yards and two touchdowns in 21 games over his two seasons with Houston. He'll represent depth for a talented receiving group in Cleveland that includes Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway and Jaelen Strong. It's unlikely that Miller will make his way into fantasy relevance among this group if he makes the final roster.
Denver Broncos tight end Jake Butt (knee) is expected to be a full participant in Wednesday's non-padded practice, according to sources that informed NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Butt was the team's starter in 2018 for three games before he tore his ACL for the third time in his career. It's notable progress, but it doesn't guarantee that Butt will be ready to go for the regular season, and he also has Jeff Heuerman and impressive rookie Noah Fant ahead of him on the depth chart. The Broncos will be happy with whatever they can get out of Butt this season. You can ignore him for now in fantasy drafts.
Denver Broncos TE Jake Butt (knee) is expected to be a full participant in practice Wednesday, Aug. 21, according to sources.
Updating previous reports, Miami Dolphins WR Jakeem Grant's four-year deal is worth up to $24 million, according to a source.