Sat May 23 12:17pm ET
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
Washington Redskins' Dwayne Haskins is sacked by Green Bay Packers' Kenny Clark and Kyler Fackrell during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
This Oct. 20, 2019 file photo shows Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Green Bay, Wis. Pettine believes his teams run defense is much better than the way it played in its most recent game. When things are right, when things are clicking for us and guys have a good understanding of what theyre doing, we can stop the run as well as anybody else, Pettine said Friday, May 22, 2020 during a Zoom session with reporters.(AP Photo/Mike Roemer, File)
Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine believes his team’s run defense is much better than its last showing.
And he expects the team to prove that this fall.
“When things are right, when things are clicking for us and guys have a good understanding of what they’re doing, we can stop the run as well as anybody else,” Pettine said Friday during a media Zoom session.
Green Bay hasn't made many offseason changes to a defense that got run over by the San Francisco 49ers in last year’s NFC championship game. The Packers’ Super Bowl hopes disintegrated with a
in which Raheem Mostert ran for 220 yards and Green Bay gave up 285 yards rushing overall.
Pettine called it “beyond disappointing” and said it has made the run defense a point of emphasis during this unusual offseason, as teams try to improve themselves while being scattered across the country because of the pandemic.
“It’s tough to realize that we played our worst game at the worst time, but at the same point, we own it,” Pettine said. “We’re not running away from it. We went through it in detail with the staff. We talked to the players about it. There’s no excuses being offered. We just weren’t good enough in every aspect, whether it was scheme, effort, energy, technique. The key thing is to learn from it so it doesn’t happen again.’’
Since then, the Packers lost their leading tackler from each of the last three seasons when linebacker
The signing of
could help the Packers make up for the loss of Martinez, though injuries caused the former Cleveland Browns linebacker to play just two games last season and seven games in 2018.
Green Bay used on defense were for Minnesota linebacker Jamal Martin in the fifth round and TCU safety Vernon Scott and Miami defensive end Jonathan Garvin in the seventh round. This marked the
that the Packers had waited until the fifth round to draft a defensive player.
Even so, Pettine remains confident the Packers have what it takes to stop the run. Green Bay ranked 23rd in the NFL in run defense last year and gave up 112.2 yards rushing a game and 4.7 yards a carry during the regular season.
“We’re not going to all of a sudden jump into a mode where (we say), ‘Hey, we’ve got to stack the line of scrimmage, we’ve got to stop teams from running,’ “ Pettine said. “The formula of the defense we played last year, we won 14 games. That’s a really good thing. So we’re not going to junk our approach over the last game. But we also know we’d be fools to ignore it.”
They certainly didn’t ignore it. Pettine said the Packers often break down plays that went wrong and try to figure out whether scheme, technique or personnel was to blame. He believes the Packers learned from what went wrong in the NFC championship game.
He wants to make sure that loss doesn’t carry into this season.
“We’re not going to let it be the dark cloud that hangs over us and let that define us,” Pettine said. “We have a confident group and they know that when they execute properly and they’re playing with the right leverage and energy and focus and technique - and all that stuff has to mesh together - they know when it’s done the right way, that it works and it’s effective. We need to raise our level of consistency, but at the same time, we’re not going to overreact to it.’’
Five Hot Plays: Week 13
Green Bay Packers center Corey Linsley (knee) was placed on Injured Reserve on Saturday, meaning he'll have to sit out the next three games. In a corresponding move, the team elevated offensive guard Ben Braden from the practice squad to the active roster as a COVID-19 replacement. Tight end Dominique Dafney was also elevated from the practice squad to the active roster. Linsley's injury is a downgrade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but fantasy managers should continue to treat him as a top-five fantasy signal-caller heading into a matchup with the Eagles in Week 13. Philadelphia's defense has actually allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game to the QB position in the last five weeks, but Rodgers has been on another level this season and cannot be benched.
The New York Jets released wide receiver Chris Hogan on Saturday. The wideout had 14 catches for 118 yards in five games before he landed on the Injured Reserve in October with a high-ankle sprain suffered in Week 5. It's never a good sign when you're released by an 0-11 team, but Hogan's injury surely played a big part in this transaction. The 33-year-old had just eight receptions for 67 yards in seven games for the Panthers in 2019. He hasn't been fantasy relevant since his time in New England (2016-18). Gang Green will move forward in three-wide sets with Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and rookie Denzel Mims, with Vyncint Smith, Jeff Smith and Braxton Berrios serving as receiver depth.
The New York Giants placed running back Devonta Freeman (ankle), who is already on Injured Reserve, on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday. Freeman was eligible to come off IR, but it looks like he'll miss some more time. The Giants haven't really missed him with Wayne Gallman stepping up as the lead back ahead of Dion Lewis and veteran Alfred Morris. Freeman hasn't played since Week 7 against the Eagles and has just 54 carries for 172 yards (career-low 3.2 yards per carry) and one touchdown in his five games played this season. Whenever he does return, the 28-year-old will likely work behind Gallman, who has earned more touches. Freeman can be left to the waiver wire in 12-team leagues.
Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (ankle), defensive end Ryan Anderson (knee) and offensive tackle Morgan Moses (groin) are questionable for Week 13 against the Steelers on Monday. McLaurin got in a full practice on Saturday, so he should be good to go for this week. The second-year pass-catcher has WR1 upside almost every week, and he'll be looking to top the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career on Monday. Heading into this week, McLaurin ranks as the No. 14 fantasy receiver, so he should be locked into all starting lineups. He's the only Washington wideout that has drawn any kind of fantasy appeal. Scary Terry only has three touchdowns on the season, but he's caught exactly seven passes in five of the last six games and has three 100-yard contests in 2020. He's had 90-plus yards in four of his last five games.
New Orleans Saints rookie wide receiver Marquez Callaway (knee) suffered a minor knee sprain in the Week 12 win over the Broncos, but he'll be sidelined for at least the next three weeks after being placed on Injured Reserve on Saturday. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins was also activated from IR. With Callaway sidelined, Deonte Harris could see a little more run alongside Tre'Quan Smith as the No. 3 wideout behind Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The 22-year-old Callaway is more of a developmental project for the Saints over the long haul. He has been targeted only 19 times in his first nine games and has caught 15 passes for 136 scoreless yards. Callaway belongs on the waiver wire in all single-year formats.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (knee) and kicker Chris Boswell (hip) are both listed as questionable for Week 13 against Washington on Monday. Roethlisberger didn't practice all week, but the Steelers also list him with a non-injury, so it's likely that they just gave the 17-year veteran some extra rest after a Wednesday game in Week 12. Big Ben didn't look very great against a tough Ravens Defense last week and will be facing a Washington defense that has allowed a league-low 216 passing yards per game. Expect Roethlisberger to play in this one, where he'll be a low-end QB1/high-end QB2. Boswell popped up on the injury report on Saturday and didn't practice, so he could be in danger of sitting out. If he's active, though, he should be a low-end kicking option in 12-team leagues. The 29-year-old has gone 18-for-19 on field goals this season.
Former NFL running back LeGarrette Blount announced his retirement on Instagram on Saturday. The three-time Super Bowl champion last played in 2018 and announced the news on his 34th birthday. Blount had a bruising rushing style in his nine seasons in the league with six different teams. He began his career as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon with the Titans. Blount spent each of his final two seasons with the Eagles and the Lions. He won two of his Super Bowl rings with the Patriots and one with Philadelphia when they beat the Patriots. He'll finish his career with 6,306 rushing yards and 56 touchdowns. In 11 playoff games he had 600 yards and 11 scores.
The Houston Texans activated running back David Johnson (concussion) from Injured Reserve on Saturday. Johnson missed exactly three weeks with a head injury but should return in Week 13 to face the division-rival Colts. Indy's stout defense was exposed against the NFL's leading rusher in Derrick Henry last week, but their defensive line is also returning to full strength this week with DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry back in the fold. The Texans may be willing to give Johnson a bigger workload with Romeo Crennel at the helm now, but they could also ease him back. Consider Johnson more of a high-end RB3 flex in the tough matchup, with Duke Johnson's fantasy value dropping considerably as well after he was the primary back each of the last three weeks. Not including last week's game, the Colts Defense has allowed just 3.27 yards per carry to RBs.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is eligible to be activated from the COVID-19 list with medical clearance on Sunday, according to a source. Jackson tested positive for the virus last week and missed the Week 12 loss to the Steelers. Hopefully his fantasy managers will know if he's off the COVID-19 list before Sunday's early games start, as the Ravens don't play the Cowboys until Tuesday night. Dallas' defense has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to signal-callers, but Jackson will be more of a risk as a low-end QB1 in Week 13 if he's eased back into the offense or is rusty from being away from practice for over a full week. Having a capable backup on your roster is a good idea in case Jackson isn't activated before Tuesday's game. If he can't play, Trace McSorley would have to start for Baltimore after Robert Griffin III (hamstring) was placed on Injured Reserve on Friday.
The Miami Dolphins activated running back Myles Gaskin (knee) from Injured Reserve on Saturday. It's great timing for Gaskin, as running backs Salvon Ahmed and DeAndre Washington are doubtful to play on Sunday due to injuries and Matt Breida is officially out after being put on the COVID-19 list. So Gaskin and Patrick Laird should handle most of the team's backfield touches in Week 13 against the Bengals. In his last five games before getting injured, Gaskin was averaging almost 17 touches per game, so he will be the more attractive fantasy option in his return against a Cincinnati defense that has been generous on defense all year. The 23-year-old should be considered a low-end RB2 this weekend and could be at risk of being eased back in. The Bengals rushing defense has allowed 5.07 yards per carry in 2020, which is the second-most in football.
Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift (illness), who cleared the league's concussion protocol this week but fell sick, has been downgraded to doubtful for Week 13 against the Bears. It looks like Swift will miss his third straight game, so fantasy managers need to remove him from their starting lineups. Veteran Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson combined to rush for 153 yards and two touchdowns (both from Peterson) in the Thanksgiving loss to the Texans. The Lions won't have nearly as good of a matchup in Week 13 as they did last week, as Chicago and their defensive line will be much tougher to exploit. With Peterson and Johnson expected to share the backfield workload again, both RBs are more of low-upside RB3/flex options.
Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (illness) has been downgraded to out for Week 13 against the Jaguars. Mattison had appendicitis and underwent successful surgery, according to a source. The 22-year-old could also be forced to miss Week 14 against the Buccaneers. With Mattison sidelined list Sunday, expect Ameer Abdullah to serve as Dalvin Cook's primary backup. The Vikings also have Michael Boone on the active roster. Cook, who is second in the NFL in rushing yards behind the Titans' Derrick Henry, will be facing a Jacksonville defense that has given up 10 rushing touchdowns and the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. He tweaked his ankle in the Week 12 win over the Panthers but stayed in the game and is fine for this weekend. He's a must-start elite RB1 for fantasy managers.
Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, who is recovering from his battle with COVID-19, will miss his sixth game in Week 13 against the division-rival Chiefs on Sunday night. Donatell went through an entire practice week but will be cautious with the team playing on the road this week. He's expected to return in Week 14 against the Panthers. Denver's defense stepped up in Week 11 in the upset win over the Dolphins, but they failed to slow the Saints Defense down in Week 12 and have allowed 30-plus points to their opponents in five of their last six games. That trend will likely continue on Sunday night against a high-octane Chiefs offense after they gave up a season-high 43 points to them back in Week 7. Avoid Denver's defense in fantasy this weekend.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) appears to be on track to play in Week 13 against the Bengals. Tagovailoa's agent, Leigh Steinberg, said that he is flying to the game in Miami to watch the rookie play. The 22-year-old jammed his left thumb on a helmet in practice last week and sat out of the Week 12 win over the Jets. Tagovailoa has mostly been a game manager in his four starts and was benched late in the fourth quarter of his last start against the Broncos in Week 11. He has six touchdowns to zero interceptions, but he hasn't thrown for more than 248 yards and has been sacked 10 times, including six times against the Broncos. The Bengals have allowed 22 passing touchdowns this year (tied for sixth-most), so Tagovailoa will have a chance to rebound this Sunday. Fantasy managers should be treating him as a low-end QB2, though.
The Philadelphia Eagles elevated running back Jordan Howard from the practice squad to the active roster on Saturday for the team's Week 13 game against the Packers. Howard played the 2019 season with the Eagles before getting cut after playing in five games for the Dolphins this year. The Eagles already have Miles Sanders as their lead back and Boston Scott and Corey Clement on the roster, but Howard could be used in a short-yardage and goal-line role as early as Sunday against Green Bay. Howard is unlikely to see more than a handful of touches this weekend, but his presence is more bad news for Sanders, who disappointed his fantasy managers in Week 12 against the Seahawks. Sanders had just 15 yards rushing last week and hasn't found the end zone since Week 5 against the Steelers.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Nelson Agholor (ankle) was a limited participant at Friday's practice but does not carry an injury designation heading into Sunday's game against the Jets. Agholor has been inconsistent for most of this season but has put together solid back-to-back games. Over the last two games, he has seen 15 targets and has gone for 142 total yards. He will look to continue this against a Jets Defense that has struggled all season. His volatility makes him a risky play, but he will be a solid flex option if he can put together another good performance.
The Baltimore Ravens activated running back Mark Ingram II and defensive ends Calais Campbell and Jihad Ward from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday. Ingram missed the Week 12 loss to the Steelers after testing positive for the virus. However, his role in the backfield was already being diminished prior to last week, making him one to leave on benches for Week 13 against the Cowboys on Tuesday. Baltimore will return to a three-headed backfield with Ingram, rookie J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Dobbins has become the leader of the group, giving him RB2 upside against Dallas. Campbell missed some time with a calf injury as well and hasn't played since Week 9 against the Colts. The 34-year-old five-time Pro Bowler will give the team's defensive line a big boost with his return, having recorded 24 tackles, 10 QB hits and four sacks in his eight games. The Ravens Defense will be a top-five fantasy unit against Andy Dalton and Dallas this week.
The Pittsburgh Steelers activated defensive end Stephon Tuitt from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday. Tuitt has 31 tackles and seven sacks in 10 games and has also forced two fumbles and has two passes defensed. His return is a huge boost for a defense that just lost linebacker Bud Dupree (knee) to a season-ending torn ACL. Defensive lineman Chris Wormley was also activated from the Injured Reserve, returning the team's defensive line to full health. Tuitt went on the COVID-19 list on Nov. 27 and missed the Week 12 win over the Ravens on Wednesday. The 27-year-old has been a starting defensive lineman in IDP leagues in 2020 and ranks 10th at the position through 10 games in overall fantasy points. Pittsburgh's defensive unit will be a top-three play in Week 13 against Washington on Monday.
Indianapolis Colts Nyheim Hines was not great running the ball last week against the Titans but contributed in the passing game with eight receptions. Hines has shown throughout the year that he is a productive player when given ample opportunity. He has three games all season where he has played in at least 50 percent of the team's snaps. In those three games, he has caught 21 passes, rushed for 127 total yards, and tallied four touchdowns. He has a great matchup this week against a Texans Defense that ranks 31st against opposing running backs. Hines is a volatile option due to uncertainty about the amount of snaps he will get but is worthy of flex consideration if given enough opportunity.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley looks like a steal in PPR formats this year. He wasn't expected to have a huge role in Buffalo, but clearly that has changed. Beasley continues to put up reliable numbers in PPR formats just about every week. He'll get a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 13. Beasley will likely be a low-end WR3 in most standard formats. However, he'll remain a reliable PPR option because the Bills love looking his way.