Fri Aug 16 6:31pm ET
By The Associated Press
In this May 11, 2019, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush, left, catches the ball during pass defense drills at NFL football practice in Pittsburgh. First-round pick Bush will get a chance to show his eye-opening debut _ when the inside linebacker made 10 tackles against Tampa Bay _ was a taste of things to come. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
In this July 29, 2019, file photo, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten catches the ball from a passing machine at the NFL football team's training camp in Oxnard, Calif. The Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams meet Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Honolulu, a place that used to be a regular NFL stop for the Pro Bowl. The first exhibition game in Hawaii since 1976 also figures to be Wittens return after a year in retirement as a broadcaster. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker, File)
Aloha. The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams meet Saturday night in Honolulu, a place that used to be a regular NFL stop for the Pro Bowl.
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Eds: With AP Photos.
By The Associated Press=
The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams meet Saturday night in Honolulu, a place that used to be a regular NFL stop for the Pro Bowl.
Instead, Hawaiians will see lots of backups for both teams, who faced off in a playoff game in January won by LA on its way to the Super Bowl.
''Hawaii is a magical place,'' coach Jason Garrett said. ''There is a great football tradition there, a lot of great players have come from there. One of our great players years ago, Mark Tuinei, is from Hawaii, and so many others. But once you get around the logistical part it's going to be fun to go over there and play a football game and hopefully grow as a team in a great environment.''
The first exhibition game in Hawaii since 1976 also figures to be Cowboys tight end Jason Witten's return after a year in retirement as a broadcaster. The 11-time Pro Bowler is on the verge of setting a club record with a 16th season. The 37-year-old Witten already holds the Dallas records for catches and yards receiving and could threaten the mark for touchdowns receiving.
With two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott about to miss his second preseason game in a holdout, rookie Tony Pollard should get a slightly longer look than he did in the opener at San Francisco. Playing just the first series against the 49ers, Pollard had four carries for 16 yards on a drive to a field goal. Alfred Morris, the primary replacement during Elliott's six-game suspension two years ago, could see his first action of the preseason after signing during training camp.
Many of the Rams' top players are not even making the trip to Hawaii. Coach Sean McVay intends to stick to his strategy of sitting out his key starters for the entire preseason.
After spending last week in Northern California ahead of a game in Oakland, the Rams are already a bit tired of life on the road again, so they're only spending about 48 hours total in Hawaii.
Lions at Texans
While Houston coach Bill O'Brien doesn't seem ready to play many starters, one of them who would like to get in Saturday's game, or at least one of the next three preseason contests. Receiver Will Fuller, a first-round pick in 2016, sustained a season-ending knee injury last October.
''I think I need to play in a preseason game because I haven't played a football game in a long time,'' he said. ''So just being out there and feeling game speed again, getting hit again, I haven't gotten tackled yet, is important.''
For the second straight week, the Lions will play a team after having joint practices with the opponent. Last week, New England was at the Lions' facility for practices and faced them in their preseason opener.
''Competing against the Patriots, competing against Houston, you really get three good sets of evaluation with different types of players,'' Detroit coach Matt Patricia said. ''J.J. Watt is obviously a phenomenal player, as is everybody that's down there, so I think that it is a great opportunity.''
Of course, Watt and those others ''down there'' likely won't play.
Browns at Colts
After two days of physical workouts and minor skirmishes, Cleveland and Indianapolis get together one more time.
Indy needs to see more productivity out of its offense. In last week's loss to Buffalo, the Colts managed only two first downs on their first seven possessions. Those problems reappeared during the joint practices and included slow starts by the offensive line on both days. Coach Frank Reich wants to see that corrected this weekend even as Andrew Luck continues sitting out to recover from calf and lower left leg injuries.
The Browns are expected to keep the bubble wrap on star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who didn't play in the first exhibition and is dealing with a hip injury the team claims is minor.
Beckham's absence has given Rashard Higgins more reps and the receiver's development has been one of the team's most pleasant surprises this summer.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield is expected to get a few more snaps with the starting offense.
Patriots at Titans
The Patriots have wideout woes.
Julian Edelman is still recovering from a thumb injury, and they also practiced without N'Keal Harry for a second straight day this week. Phillip Dorsett also watched with a wrap over his left thumb and hand after not being able to finish Wednesday's practice. And Maurice Harris didn't finish that practice and wasn't seen Thursday.
Not that it mattered to Tom Brady, who simply completed most of his passes to receivers such as undrafted rookie Gunner Olszewski of Bemidji State. And the standout thus far in camp has been undrafted WR Jakobi Meyers.
Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker is hoping to play for Tennessee after watching the Titans' preseason-opening win in Philadelphia. He sat out three straight practices before working against the Patriots on Thursday. The Titans also might get back rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown, who sat out for two weeks of training camp after hurting his left hamstring on the opening day of camp.
Chiefs at Steelers
The Steelers will begin the painful process of moving on following the death of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake.
Drake's passing left the Steelers in mourning and the young group of receivers the 62-year-old led missing more than just a coach.
''It's hard to get back to the game you love because he's not out there telling you what to do, he's not out there yelling,'' Steelers receiver Ryan Switzer said. ''So it's hard. But it's part of our profession, and it's something we have to do. And something that coach Drake would want us to do.''
First-round pick Devin Bush will get a chance to show his eye-opening debut - when the inside linebacker made 10 tackles against Tampa Bay - was a taste of things to come.
The Chiefs head to Pittsburgh with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the rest of their starters expected to play most of the first half. That includes a number of guys who have missed practice this week with an illness, such as wide receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive end Frank Clark.
Newly signed cornerback Morris Claiborne could also get on the field for the first time with Kansas City, even though he will be suspended the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Saints at Chargers, Sunday
The Saints' first-team defense struggled in its preseason opener while healthy Pro Bowl edge rusher Cameron Jordan watched from the sideline.
''We've got some things we have to fix,'' Jordan said. ''I'm always going to put it on the front D-line when we don't generate enough pass rush. I'd say it's concerning, but at the same time, that's why you have a preseason game to tune everything up.''
While Jordan could see his first preseason action, more attention is on how much progress fellow end and 2018 first-round draft choice Marcus Davenport is making. He struggled to create pressure on Vikings QBs last week in a 34-25 loss.
''He's got a lot of things he wants to do, mentally,'' Jordan said of Davenport. ''So, I try to tell him sometimes it's not about thinking so much. It's about just going out there and physically performing.''
Philip Rivers will be held out for the second straight game as Chargers coach Anthony Lynn continues to get the backups and young players more snaps. Rivers said he would be fine with not playing in a preseason game, which is a pretty stunning admission from him; he likes getting in as much work as possible.
Tyrod Taylor will get the start followed by Cardale Jones and rookie Easton Stick.
Adrian Phillips will get a lot of snaps at free safety now that Derwin James (foot) is injured.
Seahawks at Vikings, Sunday
After playing the starters one series in their opening win at New Orleans, the Vikings will probably give the first-team offense a longer look as quarterback Kirk Cousins continues to settle in to the revamped scheme under coordinator Kevin Stefanski and adviser Gary Kubiak. Running back Dalvin Cook, entering his third year after two injury-shortened seasons, was held out against the Saints as a precaution. Rookie Alexander Mattison is the leading candidate to be the No. 2 running back and will get plenty of action against the Seahawks.
The most intriguing player in purple will undoubtedly be specialist Kaare Vedvik, the recent acquisition from Baltimore who is being evaluated equally as both a kicker and a punter. Though it's unlikely Vedvik, a native of Norway in his second year in the league out of Marshall, would be given both jobs for the regular season, he'll get a chance to kick and punt in the remaining exhibition games.
Russell Wilson likely will see the field for the first time and will give the first true look at his connection with rookie wide receiver DK Metcalf that has shown promise during training camp. Running backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny - leaders of the top running attack in the NFL last season - are also likely to get some carries.
Defensively the focus will be on Seattle's pass rush that remains the biggest question heading into the season.
49ers at Broncos, Monday night
San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to get his first game action since going down with a season-ending knee injury last September. Garoppolo sat out the first exhibition game, but is expected to play at least a series at Denver. The Niners are counting on big things this season from Garoppolo, who has made only 10 starts in five NFL seasons.
Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders is expected to make his first start since tearing his left Achilles tendon in practice last December. Sanders revealed recently that in addition to that injury, he had ''tightrope'' surgery on his right ankle (which is being used in athletes now to speed the recovery from high ankle sprains).
The Broncos are hoping to finally have their starting O-line together in a game. LT Garett Bolles, LG Dalton Risner and C Connor McGovern have all played, but health concerns have limited RG Ronald Leary and RT Ja'Wuan James. The Broncos need this group to show marked improvement and keep Joe Flacco upright for them to have any chance of returning to respectability in 2019.
The Buffalo Bills have talked with free-agent cornerback Josh Norman, according to general manager Brandon Beane, but nothing is imminent. Norman was recently released from the Redskins and has ties to both Beane and head coach Sean McDermott from their time together with the Panthers. Norman was drafted with Beane in the Carolina front office, and he was an All-Pro with McDermott as his defensive coordinator, so a match makes sense on paper. But the former fifth-round pick in 2012 is a shell of his former Pro Bowl self and was benched late in the year in Washington in 2019. Norman played in just 12 games and recorded 40 tackles (33 solo), one sack, one forced fumble and one interception.
While the San Francisco 49ers think wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is too valuable to straight up cut, they are open to trading him, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Goodwin has two years left on his current deal and is scheduled to make $3.95 million in base salary in 2020 while counting $4.906 million against the salary cap. The 29-year-old played in just nine games in 2019 because of injury and had 12 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown. If he returns, he'd be competing with Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor for a role behind Deebo Samuel in the passing attack. The 29-year-old has game-changing speed but has never played a full season in his seven years in the NFL and hasn't scored more than four TDs in a single season. He could benefit from a change of scenery but will have to rehab his fantasy value and stay healthy.
The Dallas Cowboys and Todd France, the agent for quarterback Dak Prescott, had discussions on Wednesday regarding a long-term contract extension for the first time since September of last year. The meeting didn't last long, but the Cowboys are hoping to get a long-term deal done before needing to use the franchise tag on Prescott. If Dallas can get Prescott locked up soon, they could save the franchise or transition tag for impending free-agent wide receiver Amari Cooper. Prescott put up great numbers under center in 2019 despite the Cowboys underwhelming as a whole and finishing outside of the playoff picture. One way or another he's staying put, making him a high-end QB1 entering the 2020 season for fantasy owners.
Washington Redskins impending free-agent quarterback Case Keenum is on the Cleveland Browns' radar, according to a league source. Cleveland is looking to bring in a veteran backup to Baker Mayfield that can help him grow and develop after a disappointing 2019 campaign. Drew Stanton missed all of last season with a knee injury and will be a free agent himself next month. Keenum, 32, worked with head coach Kevin Stefanski with the Vikings in 2017 when he led the team to an 11-3 record. He's thrown for 14,368 yards, 75 touchdowns and 47 interceptions for a career passer rating of 85.3, but he'd just be holding the clipboard for Mayfield in Cleveland.
Denver Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb (knee) will not take part in organized team activities this spring, but he will be ready for training camp. Chubb, the fifth overall pick in 2018, is recovering from a torn ACL that cost him 12 games in his sophomore season. The 23-year-old wasted no time doing damage in his rookie season with 60 total tackles and 12 sacks, so he should return to being a force across from Von Miller in 2020 if he avoids the injury bug. Denver's D will likely go undrafted in standard-sized formats this year, but they could easily wind up being owned in the majority of leagues by the end of the year in head coach Vic Fangio's second season.
The Cleveland Browns are expected to pursue Chicago Bears impending free-agent quarterback Chase Daniel when free agency begins. The Browns need a strong veteran backup behind Baker Mayfield next season. Cleveland's backup last year was Drew Stanton, but he's set to be a free agent next month as well. Behind him was Garrett Gilbert. Daniel played in parts of eight games for the Bears in the last two seasons, throwing six touchdowns and four interceptions. He'd only be in the mix as a low-end QB2 if he were to sign with the Browns and Mayfield were to get hurt in 2020 and miss some time.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said the team would like to keep impending free-agent wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb. Cooper is the bigger priority as the team's No. 1 receiver, but things are complicated this offseason, as the Cowboys' biggest priority is getting franchise quarterback Dak Prescott signed to a long-term extension. Cooper battled through nagging injuries in 2019 but managed to play a full season and caught 79 passes for a career-high 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns. Cobb would be more of a luxury to keep around after he had 55 receptions for 828 yards and three scores in his first year in Dallas. Cooper finished as a top-10 fantasy wideout in 2019 and would be firmly in the WR1 conversation if he remains in Dallas.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is expected to return to the team in 2020. Lee played in a full season for the first time of his career and saw considerable playing time in the second half of the season with Leighton Vander Esch (neck) injured, recording 86 tackles (55 solo), one sack and one interception. Lee will be more of a backup with the Cowboys if Vander Esch is fully healthy next season, but he'd provide valuable veteran depth in the middle of the field if he comes back. The 33-year-old will only had IDP appeal in deep leagues if LVE misses more time with injury.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa received overwhelmingly positive reports on his dislocated hip from teams who examined him following two days of medical testing, according to sources. The MRIs were clean, his fractured hip is healed and there is no loss in blood flow. One source said Tagovailoa "looked great." It's great news for Tua's draft stock heading into April's draft. There might still be some concerns about his long-term health and ability to stay healthy at the next level given his size (6-foot-1, 218 pounds). Regardless, he'll be an early selection in the first round, possibly as high as No. 5 to the Dolphins. Or a team could trade up at No. 4 with the Giants to take him. Depending on where he lands, Tagovailoa will mostly be a dynasty asset in his first year in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who put on some weight last year to bulk up, plans to be slimmer and faster this year with an emphasis on being in better shape. The extra weight that Mayfield carried with him last year caused him to lose some overall quickness. Cleveland had sky-high expectations going into last season, and both the team and Mayfield failed to live up to them. The second-year quarterback completed only 59.4 percent of his passes for 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in 16 games. He'll be learning a new offense this spring and summer, but Mayfield has plenty of weapons around him to bounce back. Fantasy owners won't be so bold on him and will likely take him as more of a QB2 with upside.
Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry, who was vice president of player personnel in 2017 when the team drafted tight end David Njoku in the first round, envisions a role for Njoku moving forward despite his down season in 2019. Berry implied that the team will pick up the fifth-year options on both Njoku and defensive end Myles Garrett, the first overall pick of 2017. Njoku, 23, played 16 games each in his first two seasons and had a career year in 2018 with 56 catches, 639 yards and four touchdowns. He was held to just five catches for 41 yards and a score in four games in 2019 due to injury and headbutting with former head coach Freddie Kitchens. You can get Njoku on the cheap as a TE2 with upside in 2020 drafts.
San Francisco 49ers left tackle Joe Staley (leg) is expected to return for the final year of his contract in 2020 after there was speculation that he would retire from the game after a Super Bowl run in 2019. The 13-year veteran missed nine games last season due to a broken leg, but he was solid as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's blind-side protector when he was on the field. Staley allowed just seven QB pressures in 240 pass-blocking snaps last year for a pressure rate of 2.9 percent, which trailed just Ronnie Stanley and Taylor Lewan among left tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. Staley's return would be great news for Jimmy G.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that he wants wide receiver Dante Pettis to go on an offseason "mission" after taking a huge step back in his second season in 2019. After catching 27 passes for 467 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games in his rookie season, Pettis had just 11 grabs for 109 yards and two scores in 11 games in 2019 and was in Shanahan's dog house for the majority of the season for multiple reasons. But with Emmanuel Sanders a free agent and the Niners looking for someone to step up behind Deebo Samuel, Pettis could get another chance this spring and summer to prove he belongs. Still, it'll take a lot of convincing for fantasy owners to invest in Pettis off the waiver wire to begin the year.
Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead said that there is "no timeline" on a long-term contract extension for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Rams acquired Ramsey from the Jaguars in the middle of last season for two first-round picks. The 25-year-old played in just 12 total games last year (nine with the Rams), and he had 33 tackles (31 solo), one forced fumble and an interception in his time in Los Angeles. The former fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft has made three straight Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro back in 2017 when Jacksonville made an AFC Championship appearance. Ramsey will be expensive, but he'd be a huge asset for the Rams secondary for years to come if he sticks around.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll thinks highly of tight end Jacob Hollister and the team wants to bring him back as a restricted free agent. Will Dissly is coming off a torn Achilles last year and has two major lower-body injuries in the last two seasons, but the Seahawks also recently signed veteran Greg Olsen at the position. There's no guarantee that either of Olsen or Dissly will stay healthy for a full season, though, so perhaps Seattle wants to keep Hollister around for depth. The 26-year-old had a career-high 41 catches for 349 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games in 2019. He might have some low-end TE1 fantasy appeal if he were to land with another team as their starter.
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone and general manager David Caldwell said that the team will let quarterbacks Gardner Minshew and Nick Foles compete for the starting job in 2020. Joshua Dobbs will also be a part of the competition, which will begin as soon as organized team activities kick off this spring. Marrone suggested that the Jaguars won't select their starter until the preseason. Caldwell may have a soft spot for Minshew, but the Jags also signed Foles to a four-year, $88 million deal ($45 million in guarantees) in March of last year. Foles broke his collarbone in Week 1 and was benched upon his return. Minshew, a rookie in 2019, showed flashes but was mostly a game manager in this run-first offense. Whoever is under center to start next season will be a middling QB2 option.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that he expects running back Rashaad Penny (knee) to begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Penny needed reconstructive knee surgery after injuring himself in early December against the Rams. If he were to start the season on the PUP, Penny would have to sit out the first six games. The former first-round pick started riding a stationary bike on Feb. 12, but he has a long ways to go in his rehab. With the oft-injured C.J. Prosise hitting free agency, Travis Homer could be the direct backup to Chris Carson to open the 2020 season if Penny isn't ready to go.
Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said that he will hand play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly in 2020. O'Brien had been calling the offensive plays in Houston since he took over from former offensive coordinator George Godsey in 2016. Kelly will be in his second season as the OC and has worked with O'Brien since he was a graduate assistant at Penn State. The Texans finished 13th in the NFL in 2019 in yards per game (362). Kelly will also work closely with quarterback Deshaun Watson, and this news could actually raise the ceiling of Houston's entire offense next year. "Deshaun and [Kelly] have a great relationship," O'Brien said. "... Deshaun has great trust in Timmy and the work that Timmy puts in, what Tim brings to the meeting room and on the field. Tim is an excellent coach."
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that running back Chris Carson (hip) is making progress but can't do much yet in his rehab. However, the Seahawks expect Carson to be ready for the 2020 season. The 25-year-old missed just one game in 2019 and handled 278 carries for 1,230 yards and seven rushing touchdowns for Seattle in his third year in the league. It was Carson's second straight 1,000-yard rushing season, and he also added a career-high 37 receptions for 266 yards and two scores through the air. He has yet to play in a full season but has missed just three games in the last two seasons. With Rashaad Penny (knee) doubtful to be ready for Week 1, Carson should handle the bulk of the load heading into the regular season and will be a strong RB1 in this run-first offense if he's fully healthy.
Impending free-agent LB Joe Schobert (Browns) is expected to meet with Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry at the NFL Combine, but Berry acknowledged the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot that Schobert has 'earned the right to test the market if he deems that appropriate.'