Author Archive | Charlie Page

Oakland’s Woes Continue?


Agent’s Take: Examining where the Oakland Raiders go from here

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis preached patience when he hired Reggie McKenzie as general manager in January 2012 to oversee one of the NFL’s most difficult rebuilding projects in recent history. Back-to-back 4-12 records in McKenzie’s first two seasons while watching the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs go from 2-14 records to the playoffs seemed to have tested Davis’ patience.

GM Reggie McKenzie has gotten the Raiders out of salary-cap hell, but his lack of success in the draft and free agency has put his job in peril. Agent’s Take: Examining where the Oakland Raiders go from here


Johnny Manziel unlikely to play with first team

People in Aggieland are on pins and needles to see if Johnny Manziel will start for Cleveland or take a back seat role. For a young man very used to the limelight, will warming the bench be something he can do well?

“I don’t think he will,” coach Mike Pettine told reporters Thursday of his plans for Manziel against the Lions on Saturday night. “I think we’re going to let Brian (Hoyer) go. The circumstances could change that obviously. For this game, I think pretty much stick to the units as we’ve practiced so Brian with the ones and Johnny with the twos.”

That veers away from what Pettine suggested Wednesday, when he hinted that Manziel might see first-team reps against Ndamukong Suh and Detroit’s pass rush.

Pettine said there was no “solid” reason for keeping Manziel with the second team beyond “we just didn’t want to mix the units in this game.”




What we learned: Falcons can’t trust offense or D

The conundrum facing coach Mike Smith on fourth-and-15 late in the Atlanta Falcons17-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night was a microcosm of a season gone awry.

Down by four points with just more than two minutes remaining, Smith was forced to decide whether he had a better chance of winning by trusting his tattered offense to protect his quarterback against New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s blitz — or by putting faith in his beleaguered defense to stop Saints signal-caller Drew Brees‘ offense on three consecutive plays.

Smith opted for a 52-yard field goal from kicker Matt Bryant that sailed wide left, ending any hope of winning a tight contest.

The Falcons came to play in a vaunted rivalry clash, but there was a sense the entire game that they simply didn’t have the horses to keep up with the Saints‘ firepower on both sides of the ball.

Smith entered the season with Super Bowl hopes buoyed by running back Steven Jackson and the wide receiver duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White on offense, and defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann leading the defense.

Thursday’s game ended with special teamer Antone Smith producing the Falcons‘ longest run from scrimmage. Undrafted rookie free agent Darius Johnson hauled in six passes while White was an afterthought. The leading tacklers on defense were undrafted rookie linebackers Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu.

That certainly isn’t the way Smith drew it up in the offseason. His team will spend the rest of the season trying to remain competitive before owner Arthur Blank opens his checkbook to fix the offensive line and defensive front in the offseason.

Here’s what else we learned in Thursday’s game:

1. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham showed once again that he’s a physical marvel unlike any player in the NFL. After dragging Falcons safety William Moore into the end zone on a 44-yard touchdown, Graham knocked the goal post off kilterDaryl Dawkins style — with his slam-dunk celebration. Graham and running back Pierre Thomas then went on to stiff-arm Falcons defenders for back-to-back big plays in the third quarter. Graham’s sixth 100-yard game of the season tied Joe Horn for the franchise record and matched Tony Gonzalez for the single-season record among tight ends.

2. When in need of a key play, the Saints often turn to Thomas to bail them out — whether it’s a tough run, a swing pass or the best backfield screen game in the league. He’s been among the most reliable situational players in the NFL for years. Thomas moved into fourth place on the Saints‘ all-time rushing list, passing Rueben Mayes and Chuck Muncie. Not bad for a part-time player.

3. Drew Brees‘ 352 touchdown passes now are second only to Peyton Manning‘s 399 through the first 13 seasons of a career. Brees also passed Warren Moon to move into fifth place on the career passing yards list (49,566), behind just Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and John Elway. By the time his career is over, Brees will be acknowledged as the best free-agent signing in history — better even than Hall of Famer Reggie White with the Packers.

4. Running back Steven Jackson looked as good as he has all season. His longest run went for eight yards.

5. White managed just two catches for 24 yards after saying last week was as good as he’s felt in a season where he’s been battling nagging hamstring and ankle injuries. Between 2007 and 2012, he had 24 yards or fewer in seven games. He’s already done it five times this season.

6. Saints defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks dominated an overwhelmed Falcons offensive line, combining for four sacks. Jordan added 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hits to an already strong All-Pro resume in a breakout season.

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7. The early returns on Corey White as the replacement starter for injured Saints cornerback Jabari Greer were not positive. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan picked on White early and often, leading to a 31-yard pass interference penalty and a career-high five catches and 65 yards for wide receiver Darius Johnson by halftime. The Greer injury could come back to haunt the Saints in the playoffs.

8. How bad is Atlanta’s offensive line? Last year’s second-round draft pick, Peter Konz, recently lost his starting center job to Joe Hawley. Konz was moved to right guard last week, only to be replaced by Garrett Reynolds after Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy toyed with him last week. Konz was forced back into the lineup Thursday after Hicks repeatedly beat Reynolds on the interior. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has twice won the Executive of the Year award, but his draft picks on the offensive line have been a disaster.

The latest “Around The League Podcast” previewed “Thursday Night Football” and “stuck a fork” in three unlucky teams.


Lions-Falcons London game to kick off at 9:30 a.m. ET

The Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons might have to borrow Wimbledon’s strawberries and cream tradition for breakfast at Wembley.

The NFL announced Wednesday that the Falcons and Lions will kickoff at 9:30 a.m. ET on Oct. 26 when the two teams play in London next season.

The Week 8 showdown will mark the first time in league history that a game has started that early in the morning.

“We are excited about playing three regular-season games in the UK for the first time,” NFL chief marketing officer Mark Waller said, “and debuting a new game time that we expect to be a hit with fans on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world.”

I’m not looking forward to waking up in Los Angeles for a 6:30 a.m. kickoff after an epic Saturday night Halloween party. On second thought, though, what kind of NFL fan wouldn’t enjoy a fourth window to watch football on Sundays?

The Around The League crew moves to make this a regular Sunday phenomenon. Who’s with us?

The latest “Around The League Podcast” recapped every Week 13 game.


Arizona Cardinals’ Tyrann Mathieu tears ACL, LCL

Bad news got worse for Tyrann Mathieu.

The dynamic defensive back indeed suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during the Arizona Cardinals30-10 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, a source informed of the injury told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.

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Tests also confirmed that he tore his LCL, making the injury more significant because Mathieu has to wait for the injury to heal a bit before he can undergo surgery, Rapoport reported Monday.

Arians later confirmed the ACL and LCL injuries and added that Mathieu’s rehab “will be a long one.” The coach didn’t expect to have Mathieu back by training camp.

Mathieu was injured in the third quarter after getting his left leg tangled while returning a kickoff.

The news is devastating for Mathieu, who was having a fantastic season and had vaulted himself into the lead for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Arians said he still believes Mathieu has earned consideration for the award, saying, “It’ll take two guys to take his place.”

The Cardinals remain in the hunt for a playoff spot, but their defense took a huge hit Sunday.

The latest “Around The League Podcast” recapped all the Week 14 games.


Report: Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald suffers concussion

The Arizona Cardinals didn’t have No. 1 wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald or playmaking scatback Andre Ellington available for overtime of Sunday’s 37-34 victory over the Titans.

Fitzgerald sustained a concussion attempting to recover an onside kick in the fourth quarter, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. Ellington was dealing with a thigh bruise.

Fitzgerald also was evaluated for a concussion last October and suffered one late in the 2010 season. He will have to go through league-mandated protocol to suit up for Week 16 at the Seattle Seahawks.

Here are the rest of the injuries from around the league:

1. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz also sustained a concussion as well as a knee sprain in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks. Coach Tom Coughlin couldn’t say after the game whether Cruz would be shelved for the final two games in a lost season.

2. The Browns lost top cornerback Joe Haden to a hip pointer. The team won’t know the severity of the injury until test results come back Monday.

3. Colts starting running back Donald Brown didn’t return to the game after suffering a “stinger” in Sunday’s blowout victory over the Texans. In his absence, Trent Richardson cleared 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time this season.

4. Dolphins run-stuffer Paul Soliai left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury. He did not return for the second half.

5. Bills defensive end Marcel Dareus never returned after coming down with an ankle injury of his own. On a torrid stretch the past couple of months, Dareus joined Kyle Williams to collapse the pocket on Chad Henne in Sunday’s victory.

6. After missing three weeks with a left calf strain, Steelers pass rusher LaMarr Woodley was forced out of Sunday night’s game with a right calf injury. He’s doubtful to return.

7. Bengals linebacker James Harrison is doubtful to return to the same game after showing concussion symptoms. Punter Kevin Huber was knocked out with a fractured jaw, forcing kicker Mike Nugent to expand his duties.

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Cardinals’ Tyrann Mathieu likely tore ACL vs. Rams

Tyrann Mathieu‘s promising rookie season has likely come to an abrupt and disappointing end.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters that Mathieu appeared to suffer a torn ACL in his left knee during Sunday’s 30-10 win over the St. Louis Rams.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the diagnosis was made after initial tests on the free safety’s knee, according to a source. An MRI is expected to confirm the injury Monday.

Mathieu was injured in the third quarter after getting his left leg tangled while returning a kickoff. Mathieu was down on the field for a short time, then attempted to jog off the field under his own power. However, he collapsed as he neared his sideline, and he was immediately carted to the locker room.

It’s a terrible setback for Mathieu, who became an instant starter for Arizona and had put himself in the running as the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Cardinals‘ secondary will be challenged to fill the void left by one of the NFL’s most promising defenders.

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