Everson Griffen is being evaluated at a hospital in the Minneapolis area following an incident over the weekend where police were called to the hotel at which the Minnesota Vikings defensive end has been staying, a league source told ESPN’s Josina Anderson.
The source said Griffen is “getting assistance on personal matters” and that the league is “comfortable he has a good support system around him.”
According to a police incident report obtained by ESPN, authorities from the Minneapolis Police Department were called to Hotel Ivy on Saturday because an individual was threatening to shoot someone if he wasn’t allowed in his room.
Though his name was redacted from the incident report, sources told ESPN’s Courtney Cronin that the individual in question is Griffen, the Vikings’ ninth-year defensive end.
The Vikings said Monday that they concerned about Griffen’s well-being.
“We are aware of the situation involving Everson Griffen and certainly concerned by what we have heard,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement. “We are currently focused on Everson’s well-being and providing the appropriate support for him and his family.”
The incident report states that hotel staff believed Griffen was possibly under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. The report states that he checked into the hotel last week and caused a disturbance “each time he walks through the lobby.” On Saturday, the situation escalated to a point where Griffen allegedly threatened to assault hotel staff.
Griffen told authorities “I’m leaving” after police arrived on the scene, according to Minneapolis Police Department PIO John Elder. Police found no gun, and no arrest was made.
A number of professional athletes, including Minnesota Wild and Twins players, live at the hotel, which was built in 2008 and renovated in 2015.
Griffen, a three-time Pro Bowler, did not play in Week 3. Sources told Anderson that a number of Vikings players and coaches were not aware of Saturday’s incident, even at game time on Sunday.
Coach Mike Zimmer was asked postgame to address why Griffen was not on the sideline, to which he responded, “He is having a personal matter and I’m going to leave it at that.”
Griffen was arrested twice after his rookie season, the first incident coming Jan. 28, 2011, when he was arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of public intoxication. He was arrested days later for allegedly assaulting an officer during a traffic stop.
The 30-year-old has played all nine of his seasons with the Vikings and signed a four-year extension with the team last year.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — One of the common lines of thinking in Bill Belichick’s coaching tenure has been that September is an extension of the preseason, in the sense that the coach is still figuring out how all the pieces fit.
That’s why some of the New England Patriots‘ slower starts in past years have usually been viewed through the prism of a team that often gets better as the season unfolds.
Is this year different?
No one truly knows the answer at this point, but for those who might make that case, it wasn’t that the Patriots lost on Sunday against the Detroit Lions, it was how they lost. A week after stressing the importance of a faster start when playing on the road, they fell into the same hole for the second straight game. There were times when they weren’t competitive against an 0-2 team that isn’t viewed as an upper-echelon club.
But for those who believe it’s only a matter of time until the Patriots turn it around, pointing to the return of receiver Julian Edelman after a four-game suspension is a good place to start. The Patriots’ offense is too easy to defend right now, with opponents locking down tight end Rob Gronkowski and forcing others to beat them. Edelman will help, and if Josh Gordon can contribute a bit, that would be another coup. As for the defense, 2017 is a good example of how early-season questions were answered as time passed.
Here is a look at some of the early-season struggles the Patriots have had under Belichick, which shows how rare it is that they didn’t respond after a loss.
Chiefs 42, Patriots 27
Patriots 36, Saints 20
Patriots 36, Texans 33
Panthers 33, Patriots 30
First-month recap: The opener against the Chiefs was filled with defensive breakdowns (remember newly acquired Cassius Marsh in coverage down the field?) and coverage busts, but the club rebounded with authority the next week in New Orleans. After squeaking out a win at home against the Texans, the coverage busts returned in a home loss to the Panthers.
What happened: The Patriots cleaned things up on defense, went 11-1 the rest of the season and advanced to Super Bowl LII, losing to the Eagles.
Dolphins 33, Patriots 20
Patriots 30, Vikings 7
Patriots 16, Raiders 9
Chiefs 41, Patriots 14
First-month recap: A disappointing opener in South Florida showed how newcomer Darrelle Revis was still getting acclimated to the team’s defense, but the Patriots rebounded with back-to-back wins against Minnesota and Oakland, and they were never truly threatened in either game (the Raiders did have a chance to tie late). Then came the Monday night debacle at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City in Week 4, which is when media-based questions swirled around whether the team’s dynastic run was ending.
What happened: The Patriots went 10-2 the rest of the way, en route to a stunning victory in Super Bowl XLIX over the Seahawks.
First-month recap: The Patriots decisively opened the season with a win in Nashville, before a stunning home loss to the Cardinals in which special-teams breakdowns were a big factor in the outcome. Replacement officials were working games at that time, and in Week 3, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker‘s game-winning field goal sailed over the upright and was ruled good (it was close). Belichick followed one of the officials off the field after the game with a fury that the team ultimately played with the rest of the way.
What happened: The Patriots went 10-2 the rest of the season, before losing to the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game at home, 28-13.
Patriots 30, Raiders 20
Panthers 27, Patriots 17
Patriots 23, Steelers 20
Chargers 41, Patriots 17
First-month recap: Coming off their third Super Bowl championship in four years, the Patriots opened the season with a solid win at home over Oakland before splitting back-to-back road games against Carolina and Pittsburgh, and then falling apart at home against the Chargers. That was the game then-Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer noted how New England had a run of injuries that ultimately catch up to every team, which Tom Brady used as motivational fuel.
What happened: The up-and-down nature of the season continued as the Patriots were 4-4 before making a strong finishing kick to finish 10-6. They could have been 11-5, but didn’t play the regular-season finale like they would have had they not had playoff positioning in mind. The team ultimately lost to Denver in the AFC Championship Game, 27-13.
Bills 31, Patriots 0
Patriots 31, Eagles 10
Patriots 23, Jets 16
Redskins 20, Patriots 17
First-month recap: This was the “Lawyer Milloy Game,” as the Patriots had stunningly released safety Milloy the week before the opener, and he signed with the Bills. The Patriots were steamrollered in the opener. They rebounded the next two weeks, before a surprising loss in Washington, D.C.
What happened: The Patriots didn’t lose again the rest of the season, all the way to Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers. That might have been the best defense the Patriots have had in Belichick’s tenure.
Bengals 23, Patriots 17
Jets 10, Patriots 3
Patriots 44, Colts 13
Dolphins 30, Patriots 10
First-month recap: Drew Bledsoe opened the year as the starter, but when he took a big hit from Mo Lewis in Week 2, it opened the door for Tom Brady –- then a second-year player — to step in. It has been his job ever since, with the team’s decisive win over the Colts a surprising start, followed by a tough loss in Miami.
What happened: The Patriots rallied around Brady with strong defense and special teams, and while they lost to the Rams by a touchdown to fall to 5-5, that game was a springboard for a remarkable finishing kick: nine straight wins and a victory over those same Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
J.J. Watt on his big game against the Giants: “I said I’ve been knocking the rust off since the first half of the first game, and it’s been going little by little.”
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HOUSTON — Tyrann Mathieu hasn’t been in Houston for that long, but the Houston Texans safety is well aware of how good teammate J.J. Watt was before he spent the majority of the past two seasons on injured reserve.
“I was in the back and I was just like, ‘Go J.J.!,'” Mathieu said. “It was fun to see him flying around and getting back to it.”
On Sunday, Watt had three sacks of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. They were his first sacks in more than two years — he had 1.5 sacks against the Chiefs on Sept. 18, 2016 — and stopped a streak of eight games without a sack.
“I said I’ve been knocking the rust off since the first half of the first game, and it’s been going little by little,” Watt said. “Obviously, hopefully it continues that way. It’s good to finally end such a long drought and do it in that type of way.”
Sunday was Watt’s sixth career game with three sacks, which is the second-most in the NFL since his rookie season in 2011, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Watt also finished the game with eight tackles, three tackles for a loss, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
When Watt was on the field consistently during training camp, coach Bill O’Brien said he thought the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was back to playing at a high level and that the team would see that on the field this season.
That has come to fruition three games into the season. According to Pro Football Focus data, Watt is the top-ranked edge rusher through three games. Although his first sacks came against the Giants, since halftime of Houston’s Week 1 loss to the Patriots, Watt has been a consistent force.
After three games, Watt is now is tied for sixth in the NFL with his three sacks and is one away from the league lead. One of the players he’s tied with is his brother, Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt.
Though veterans in Houston’s locker room are recognizing that Watt is starting to play as well as he has in the past, there was a new NFL star who got a firsthand look on Sunday afternoon.
“Ninety-nine [Watt] is by far the best player I’ve ever seen,” Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley said.
Watt said before his breakout performance that “it’s a continued grind to get it back to where I want to be, and I think it’s going in that direction.”
It certainly did on Sunday.
“That’s the beauty of this league, is that it’s week to week and it’s who can improve the fastest and who can get better the fastest,” Watt said. “Obviously, with myself coming off the last two years I had, I need to improve more and more and quicker and quicker to try and get myself back where I want to be.”
Fortnite star and Lions fan Ninja took in a portion of the opener at Ford Field from the sideline.
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DETROIT — Ninja might live in Chicago and his father might be a Chicago Bears fan, but the world’s most prominent Fortnite player — and one of the better known esports competitors in the world — has stuck by his original hometown.
Ninja even attended the Lions’ season opener against the New York Jets, and when he was on the field before the game, receivers Marvin Jones Jr., Golden Tate and TJ Jones all stopped by to say hi. So did his favorite player of all time, Barry Sanders.
In between meeting the players he has in fantasy football (yes, he plays) and taking photo after photo with Lions fans screaming to meet him (there were a lot, and it was constant), he stopped for a few minutes to chat with ESPN about how, exactly, he became a Lions fan.
Q: Just to start, how did you become a Lions fan?
Ninja: So my dad, we were born in Detroit, my entire family and my dad was a Lions fan long enough for my oldest brother, Jon, to become a Lions fans. And then when my dad switched allegiances over to the Bears, my brother Jon stayed a Lions fan. Then when I got into football, fast forward eight years later, yeah, he brought me to my first game ever at Ford Field and then brought me to a game at Lambeau as well, and I just became a Lions fan.
Q: What was that first game like?
Ninja: I was 19 years old. First game ever was at Lambeau against the Packers. The Lions were away and we got absolutely demolished. But it was such a cool experience. We parked at a house outside of the field that he usually parked at. It was a Packers house, too, but they let us park there anyways even though we were Lions fans. They were super nice. It was a super-amazing experience.
Q: Were you really into football at that point or did that push you in?
Ninja: I was already into football. My brother already made me fall in love with the Lions and the NFL. That kind of solidified it. Then after that, every Sunday we were at the bar watching the game.
Q: So who is your favorite Lions player of all time?
Ninja: My favorite Lions player of all time is Barry Sanders. Barry Sanders, if I ever want to get pumped up, I watch a highlight video of him on YouTube. He’s an absolute monster. Him and Calvin Johnson are fantastic. I’m also a [Matthew] Stafford fan. Hoping for a W tonight. [That did not happen. The Lions lost to the Jets 48-17.]
Q: When you were growing up and when you started gaming, did you ever think you’d be on an NFL sideline, meeting NFL players?
Ninja: Absolutely not. I didn’t think it would bleed over. It’s just fantastic. I just don’t think you ever expect gaming to bleed over into other sports and stuff like that. Being realistic, I’m older than some of the players. I’m 27. This is awesome, dude. I don’t even know what to say.
Q: Did you play Madden?
Ninja: I actually did. I was really good. I fell in love with the training. I think it was ’09, Madden ’09. I fell in love with the training. I would literally make custom teams, always do the Lions, and I would just train, just do the training simulation over and over again because I loved throwing the ball through the hoops and stuff like that and getting their value up and stuff like that, their overall score. It was so much fun.
Q: So what was this like? Marvin Jones comes over and hugs you. TJ Jones comes over and hugs you. Golden Tate.
Ninja: I have half of them on my fantasy team, man. It’s amazing. I’ve been a fan of them for such a long time. Been watching the Lions for like the last five years, so it’s just amazing. It’s humbling, I guess.
Q: So you never thought this would happen?
Ninja: Of course not, man. I don’t think anyone expected gaming to get anyone this far. But it’s broken through the threshold, everyone’s a gamer and they just don’t talk about it. But now they are.
Q: Have you reached out to any Lions to play?
Ninja:Eric Ebron and Golden Tate were the first two Lions I reached out to back in the day, two years ago, a year-and-a-half ago. I followed them. I tweeted at them, tell them like, “Hey man, I love you guys, come to your games.” They would reply and favorite and stuff like that. Now it’s just come full circle.
Q: Do they play Fortnite with you?
Ninja: I’ve been trying to get games with Ebron for a while, but he just had his new kid and he’s been super busy. Ebron is not even on the Lions anymore. I’m so sad. I don’t even want to talk to you about that. I was so triggered when they were like, “Yo, they let Ebron go.” I’m like, “He has the best second half of the season of his career. He’s catching a touchdown a game and you let him go?” That’s a classic Lions play right there. It really is, dude. I was triggered, man. I really was upset.
Q: [He had just met Barry Sanders] Have you ever met Barry before? Did he know who you were?
Ninja: I never met Barry before. Are you kidding me? It just blends together, too. I’m blessed, man. He said, “Oh, Ninja, the Fortnite guy.” “It’s me! It’s me!”
He believes there’s a possibility he might not even be alive, either.
That’s why Sunday’s game against the Jets at TIAA Bank Field will be an emotional one for the Jacksonville Jaguars tight end. Not only did the Jets help him resurrect his career, he said they helped him turn his life around. He doesn’t know what would have happened had Brian Heimerdinger, the Jets’ VP of player personnel, and GM Mike Maccagnan not taken a chance on him after Tampa Bay cut him following a DUI arrest in September 2016.
“They chose me,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “That was a big deal, to me. I was messed up. I was really messed up at that point in my life. Didn’t have any direction. I felt lost, and they brought me in. They helped me. They had gotten me help that I needed and I’ve been playing good football ever since, so I really owe them a lot.
“Obviously, I have to do it on my own and I have to go out there and I have to hold myself accountable, but that organization I have nothing but — I owe them a lot. I owe them a lot.”
Seferian-Jenkins admitted he was in trouble — and potentially headed for even more — in September 2016 when the Florida Highway Patrol pulled him over in Tampa for speeding (75-80 mph in a 55 mph zone) and driving erratically and charged him with DUI and violation of an Ignition Interlock Device restriction from a 2013 DUI arrest when he was playing at the University of Washington.
An embarrassing police video surfaced shortly after in which he was captured making crude remarks in the back of a police cruiser.
The arrest was it for the Bucs, who cut the former 2014 second-round pick on the day he was arrested. Seferian-Jenkins never reached his potential on the field — he played in only half of the Bucs’ games through his first two seasons, catching 45 passes for 603 yards and seven touchdowns — and the franchise decided it was best to move on.
The Jets claimed Seferian-Jenkins off waivers and he went on to play in seven games and catch 10 passes for 110 yards the rest of the 2016 season. Seferian-Jenkins admitted in a May 2017 ESPN story that he continued to drink throughout the rest of the season and his weight ballooned to 285 pounds.
He eventually decided to seek help after the season in an outpatient rehab program. Seferian-Jenkins said the support he received from Heimerdinger, Maccagnan, head coach Todd Bowles, tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson, then-offensive coordinator John Morton and quarterback Josh McCown as he sought treatment was instrumental in him beating the alcohol problem that nearly cost him his career — and potentially his life.
“I needed help,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “Truthfully, as an African American man we’re conditioned to not ask for help and be strong on our own. I had to realize I couldn’t do something on my own. I needed help and they were there to help me, and I’m always indebted to them. I really appreciate them.”
That’s why he’s always going to be a Jets fan. Except for this Sunday, of course.
“Every time they’re out there I really hope that they win,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “When we’re playing them, obviously I want to win, but I really want to see coach Bowles succeed. I want to see Mike Maccagnan succeed and especially Mr. Heimerdinger. Mr. Heimerdinger saved my life so I appreciate him more than anyone.”
Bowles said he’s glad Seferian-Jenkins has continued to thrive after getting his life in order.
“That’s outstanding,” Bowles said. “You always worry about the person first and not the player. I think he’s done a great job and continues to do a great job with doing everything the right way. That helps his football element as well. You know the talent he’s got on the field, but for what he’s been through and where he came from, I can’t do anything but take my hat off to him. I have total respect for him.”
Getting his life together off the field helped him save his career. Seferian-Jenkins caught 50 passes for 357 yards and three TDs in 13 games with the Jets last season. The 50 receptions were nearly as many as he had in his first four seasons combined (55), and that enticed the Jaguars to sign Seferian-Jenkins to a two-year, $10 million contract with $4 million guaranteed.
He has started all three games and has nine catches for 66 yards and one touchdown. He also had a touchdown catch wiped out by a penalty on left guard Andrew Norwell.
There’s no way to know where Seferian-Jenkins would be today had he not gotten the support to seek help for his drinking problem. Maybe things would have worked out anyway. All he knows is he’s a different person now than he was in his first few seasons in Tampa, and the Jets have a lot to do with that.
“Being in Tampa was when I grew up,” he said. “I was 20 or 21 years old, going in there, still learning about life, learning how to be a mature adult, not just a man. Everyone wants to say, ‘Be a man.’ It’s about being an adult and going through life problems and all those other things and understanding myself and knowing myself. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t understand myself as a person, and New York helped me do that. Coach [Todd] Bowles helped me do that. The Jets organization helped me do that.
“I’m here in Jacksonville and I’m ready to do the best I can do for them. I’m not worried about anything like that. I’m focused on what I can do today. What do I have to do for my teammates? What do I have to do for my coaches? What do I have to do for this city so they can get the most back on their investment in me and I can get the most out of myself so I can be the best tight end I can be?”
ATLANTA — I got to drop in on the NFC South on Sunday, and boy was that fun. The New Orleans Saints‘ 43-37 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons was about as 2018 as football gets. Quarterbacks, more protected than ever, airing it out. A rookie receiver dominating his matchup. The ever-menacing threat of a tie. And, in the end, Drew Brees still colder than ice when it counts.
The NFC South had three playoff teams last year. So far this year, only the 1-2 Falcons have a losing record, and their losses are to the Philadelphia Eagles and Saints. No other division has more than two teams with winning records so far. Which is why every game between two NFC South teams is must-watch, and every division win a huge relief.
“It makes the win that much sweeter when we know we have that much more room to grow,” Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said after Sunday’s game. “We know we can improve, and we know we have to. Starting next week.”
The Saints haven’t played as well as they’d like to so far — especially on defense. They talked last week about “diversifying” their passing attack, but 25 of Brees’ 39 completions Sunday went to Alvin Kamara or Michael Thomas. Work still to do. But they’re 2-1, and a road win in Atlanta is a big deal when you’re forecasting a tight division race.
Carolina is also 2-1, with a Week 2 loss in Atlanta. The encouraging thing for Carolina is that they’ve scored 31 points in each of their past two games. They need to get some things going downfield with their receivers, but the early success has Cam Newton buying into Norv Turner’s offense, and the defense gets better in two weeks when Thomas Davis returns from suspension.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a surprising 2-1 even after getting knocked off at home by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, and it remains to be seen what happens with their quarterback situation. But the offense is clearly capable of big things, and they look like a tougher team to play than they were last year.
Sadly, the Atlanta Falcons may be cooked. Ricardo Allen‘s season-ending injury Sunday means they’re now without both starting safeties (Allen and Keanu Neal) and middle linebacker Deion Jones. Dan Quinn’s defense is built around the idea of funneling the other team’s passing game up the middle and leaning on star players who can clean up that area. Those guys are all gone to injury, and in a division like this one there’s little margin for error. That’s why Sunday’s loss hurt Atlanta so badly. Five touchdown passes from Matt Ryan, three to rookie Calvin Ridley and an offense that finally looks like it’s clicking under Steve Sarkisian … and now the defense is falling apart. Got to hit your windows in this league. They always shut before you expect them to shut.
Some other things Week 3 taught us:
Fascinating situation up there in Seattle. Thomas is no longer holding out, but does seem to be staging what Fox’s Jay Glazer referred to Sunday as a “hold-in.” Thomas admitted after Sunday’s game — in which he had two interceptions — that he has been skipping practice because he wants to reduce the strain on his body and keep himself fresh for games. Said, “I’m invested in myself. If they were invested in me, I would be out there practicing.”
Thomas, in the final year of his contract, wants a new deal. The Seahawks don’t want to give him one, so Thomas would like to be traded to a team that will. It seems clear that a trade would be in everyone’s best interest, since Thomas obviously doesn’t want to be there and Seattle’s coaches surely don’t want one of their best players skipping practice and signaling to others on the team that such behavior is OK. The reasons not to trade him are (1) because you don’t want to be perceived as giving in to a player’s trade demand and (2) because he’s going to help you win. But this year’s Seahawks (Sunday’s home-opener victory against a miserable Dallas Cowboys offense notwithstanding) don’t look as though Earl is going to make them a Super Bowl team. And as to the first point, what does pride really get you here? They have a guy who doesn’t want to be there and would be of value to another team. Find out what that value is, max it out, and wish another of your franchise cornerstones well. It’s rebuild time out there anyway, and you need draft picks for that.
Speaking of former Seattle cornerstones, San Francisco 49ers corner Richard Sherman looks as though he’ll miss 2-3 games with a calf injury. Remember when Sherman negotiated his own contract with the 49ers without an agent? Yeah, here’s what that means now that he’s hurt:
Sherman loses $125,000 in per-game roster bonuses for every week he’s not on the 46-man roster. So if he misses three games, that’s $375,000. His contract also stipulates a $1 million bonus if he plays in at least 90 percent of the 49ers’ defensive snaps. If he misses two games, he’s got almost no chance of doing that. He gets an additional $1 million for making the Pro Bowl (in the initial selection process, not as an alternate) and $2 million if he’s first-team or second-team All-Pro. Not many dudes who play only 13 games get that kind of recognition. Oh, and his totally non-guaranteed 2019 salary includes a $1 million escalator that only kicks in if he makes this year’s Pro Bowl (again, initially, not as an alternate). So if he makes this year’s Pro Bowl (which he probably won’t now that he’s hurt), his 2019 salary would be $8 million instead of $7 million and would be injury-guaranteed upon that selection and fully guaranteed as of April 1, 2019. As it stands, without that escalator, the Niners can cut him free and clear after this year and owe nothing.
So a contract that was initially reported as three years, $39 million really comes out to one year, $8.625 million if he misses three games due to injury — less by $125,000 for each additional game he misses.
Sherman argued at the time that he was in a low-leverage situation coming off an Achilles injury and having been cut by Seattle. And he’s right. He wanted to try to negotiate his own deal without an agent, and that’s his right. The point here is not to call Sherman a fool, which he is not. The point here is that an agent surely could have done better in terms of guaranteed money. San Francisco contract negotiator Paraag Marathe is one of the best in the business, but this surely was not his final offer. If this became a trend — if players ditched agents and started negotiating their own deals — teams would really, really enjoy that.
Mike Golic says Clay Matthews’ roughing the passer penalty during the Packers’ loss to the Redskins was the right call, but he still hates the rule.
Complaints about roughing the passer calls aren’t going away
Clay Matthews is upset. Jerry Jones is upset. Even quarterbacks who are benefiting from the calls seem to think the league may be going too far in trying to protect quarterbacks. But it’s not going to stop anytime soon, and here’s why.
First of all, this thing about not landing on the QB with your full body weight is not a new rule. It has been on the books since 1995. It’s a point of emphasis this year because teams complained that it wasn’t being enforced and asked the competition committee to look at it. They did, and issued the following recommendation:
“The Committee recommends that the Officiating department emphasize that the defender is responsible to avoid landing on the quarterback when taking him to the ground. The Committee also recommended that video be shown to players, coaches, and officials during the offseason demonstrating legal and illegal plays. Examples of rushing defenders getting their bodies to the side during the contact and avoiding putting their body weight on the quarterback must be included so that coaches can teach proper technique.”
All of this happened. NFL officials visit every team in training camp every year to go over rule changes and points of emphasis specific to that season. Every player who’s complaining saw a video with multiple examples of how to sack the quarterback legally. I’ve seen it too. It begins with about a dozen examples of legal sacks. Every player who’s complaining and asking, “What does the league want us to do instead?” has been shown an answer. Whether they were paying attention or not in their team’s annual training camp officials meeting is a different question. And the answer probably tells you why this controversy isn’t going away anytime soon.
Saturday night, when Titans coach Mike Vrabel addressed his team, one of the things he said about the Jacksonville Jaguars was, “Everybody in this room knows what it’s like to beat this team.” A slight exaggeration, perhaps, since some of the people in that room were playing college football last year. But think about it. Not only did the Titans beat the Jags twice in 2016, but the Los Angeles Rams beat them with current Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur in the same position, the New England Patriots beat them with current Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler in their secondary, and the Arizona Cardinals beat them with Blaine Gabbert — who started Sunday’s game for Tennessee — playing quarterback. Thus, it shouldn’t have been a huge shock to see the Titans win Sunday’s game.
But the way they won it — and the way they won last week’s game against Houston — is what stands out. The Titans have nothing on offense right now. They lost their most reliable offensive weapon, tight end Delanie Walker, for the season in Week 1. Both of their starting tackles have missed games due to injury. Starting quarterback Marcus Mariota still can’t grip the ball at full strength following his Week 1 elbow injury, which is why Gabbert was starting, but then Gabbert got a concussion so Mariota had to go in anyway. The Titans’ offense has scored just two touchdowns in three games. Dallas and Arizona are the only teams in the league that have scored fewer points. And yet, Tennessee is 2-1 overall and 2-0 in their division.
What makes the Titans dangerous is that it should get better from here. Left tackle Taylor Lewan was back in the lineup Sunday, and right tackle Jack Conklin could be back from his injury in time for this week’s game against the Eagles. The Titans’ coaching staff believes Mariota is progressing in his recovery and that it’s possible he’ll play Sunday without limitations. They can’t get Walker back, but they’re happy with the development of second-year receiver Corey Davis.
LaFleur certainly isn’t happy with the production of his offense so far, but he’s proud that they’re finding a way to make fourth-quarter plays that win them games. The defense is playing lights-out, and as a result the Titans are finding a way to win games — important division games — while undermanned. That’s likely to serve them well as the season goes along and they get healthier.