Lorenzo Carter, Giants’ defense want to be better against Buffalo

Lorenzo Carter this week wishes he had a professional basketball player’s opportunity for rapid redemption.

The second-year linebacker and the rest of his defensive teammates on the Giants were dissatisfied with their performance in the season-opening loss in Dallas last week. They are eager to show they are capable of much better when the team plays its home opener tomorrow against the Buffalo Bills, whose quarterback is the mobile Josh Allen. But the seven days between games seem like an eternity.

“A lot of guys, we talk,” Carter said. “In the NBA, if they have a bad game, the next day they can go out there and play again. For us, we have a whole week to sit, let it marinate, watch film and soul search. I think that’s what we’ve been doing this week. We came out and worked hard this week in practice. Now we’re just getting ready to come out and get that taste out of our mouths. Everybody is ready to get that taste out of their mouths.”

Their performance will determine if they’re successful. While the run defense was strong against the Cowboys (who averaged just 3.0 yards a carry and did not have a run longer than 10 yards in 30 attempts), both the front and back ends of the pass defense were lacking. The D never did sack quarterback Dak Prescott and rarely pressured him, getting credited for just two hits. And the secondary had too many coverage breakdowns, resulting in seven completions for more than 20 yards, including gains of 62, 45 and 36 yards that weren’t touchdowns.

“We did not play, number one, as well as we expected to play and, number two, as well as we are capable of playing,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.

“I think everybody is looking for the same answer, how are we going to get more pressure on the quarterback?’ outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson said. “Obviously, have to make him uncomfortable, we have to get the ball coming out faster, and we have to make him throw it under duress when he is going to throw it. Ultimately, we need to sack the quarterback when we get there. Something I think all the guys are hungry to get fixed, hungry to get answered, they came out and trained hard this week. We have to do a great job. Guys that can move, you have to have a good aiming point and good plan on those guys to be able to get to them.”

Perhaps the most critical question facing the defense entering the season was where the pass rush would come from. The players most often mentioned as potential suppliers of that valuable commodity were veteran linebacker Markus Golden, rookies Oshane Ximines and Dexter Lawrence and Carter. The quartet combined for five tackles (two solo) and one hit on Prescott (by Carter).

“We were disappointed, of course,” Carter said. “But it’s just on to the next week. There’s nothing you can really do about last week but watch the film, evaluate it and then just get ready for this week. We’re going to keep going.”

“When it comes down to whether you pressure (with extra players) or you four-man rush, it comes down to winning one-on-ones,” Bettcher said. “We have to do a better job of winning one-on-ones. I think coming out of Week 1 in terms of that specifically, you don’t sit back and say, ‘I’m surprised, I can’t believe this, I can’t believe that.’ I don’t live in that world. I look at it as here’s something we have to get better at, let’s go work to get better at it. We’re running to things, we aren’t running from them. We need to attack what the problem was and go work to correct the problem. Not just say we need to rush the quarterback better? The truth is how do you rush the passer better. What fundamentals and techniques do we need to improve with specifically with what guys and players.”

The same question could be asked about the secondary. Dallas’ strategy was to have Prescott throw the ball away from the Giants’ top cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, and toward the young corners on the opposite side, Antonio Hamilton (who started and played 36 snaps) and first-round draft choice DeAndre Baker (31 snaps). Prescott completed 25 of 33 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns for a perfect 158.3 passer rating and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

“It didn’t shake us,” said free safety Antoine Bethea. “It wasn’t the outing we wanted. We have to put the work in this week (to correct it).”

“It’s an opportunity for me to bounce back and show what I can do,” Baker said. “Show that I can fight through adversity. It’s not the best game that I wanted to have, but I can now bounce back and show what I can do.”

Coach Pat Shurmur and Bettcher all but announced changes are coming there for the Bills game.

“You can expect the young guys to play, just like they did the other night,” Shurmur said. “We’ll see how much. The rotation on that player (Hamilton) and maybe a couple others may change on defense.”

“We have to play better at that spot, we have to tackle better at that spot,” Bettcher said. “I think that’s what it came down to, some missed tackles at that position. Bake’s going to get a chance to play there and you’ll see Ham in situations and we will go from there. I think the plan will reveal itself like it did last week on Sunday. We just have to play better at the spot, just with the little things, it’s not about ability, it’s not what the guys are capable of doing, they just need to execute things that they know.”

The Giants’ secondary is an interesting blend of young players like Baker, Hamilton, Grant Haley and third-year strong safety starter Jabrill Peppers, and veterans Bethea (a 14-year pro), Jenkins (eighth season) and Michael Thomas (sixth). Every defensive back gives up big plays at some point. After a rough opening week, the more experienced players are schooling the youngster in letting those plays go and moving on.

“Just understand that this is the NFL,” Thomas said. “You have to continue to put in the work. The good thing about it for them is not just individuals, but teams make the biggest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. Now you see it’s not like the preseason. You can have a great week of practice, but the results might not always be there. Come in, communicate way better than you did last week, run to the ball way better than you did last week, better than you’ve ever done before, and execute way better than you did last week. That’s going to give you a chance to have success.”

“You have to have a short-term memory when you’re playing cornerback,” Jenkins said. “You have to understand that you’re going to make plays, and you’re going to have plays made on you, because I get paid just as well as they get paid. You can’t go out there thinking, ‘Oh I’m going to knock every ball down, I’m going to stop every completion.’ Just go out there and play football. Understand that whatever happens between the snap, it happened. After the snap, (move on to the) next play. That’s all that matters.

“I’m going to tell them (Baker and Hamilton) that every day. Every day until they understand. Until they learn that it’s next play because they have to understand, like I said, they get paid just as well as we get paid. Everybody in the NFL is the best at what they do. You can’t go out there thinking this and thinking that. If you get beat, you line up on the next play and win the next matchup.”

The Giants’ defensive backs intend to do that tomorrow. It’s just too bad they have to wait a week for redemption.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen

 

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Marrone on Minshew: ‘I think he’s going to be defined by how he plays on Sunday’

Jaguars rookie QB Gardner Minshew was not expected to play much or at all in 2019. However, the unexpected happened. Last week against the Chiefs, in his first game as Jacksonville’s starter, QB Nick Foles suffered a broken left clavicle that will keep him out until at least November. Now, it’s Minshew’s show until Foles comes back or until the Jaguars decide otherwise.

The sixth-round pick out Washington State was impressive against Kansas City last Sunday. Minshew completed 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards, 2 TDs, 1 int. However, this week, Minshew will have to go on the road as the Jaguars(0-1) battle the Houston Texans(0-1) on Sunday.

When asked what his comfort level is with Minshew as the starter, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has this to say.

“I don’t know,” Marrone said on Friday. “I don’t think I said anything earlier in the week; you know what I mean? Like I said, he’s a unique guy, and I think he’s going to be defined by how he plays on Sunday.”

You wonder what the patience level will be for Minshew. The Jaguars did acquire another young QB in Joshua Dobbs from the Steelers last week, and while the third-year player does not have a lot of experience, he does have more experience than Minshew.

It would be nice if Minshew could have another solid performance, but based on his experience and what we have seen in the preseason, don’t be surprised if he struggles against the Texans on Sunday.

Marrone on Watson: ‘Probably competes for the MVP’

Even in a loss, Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson showed the league that he is special. Against the Saints on Monday night, the third-year quarterback accounted for four touchdowns, including one on the ground, and he put the Texans in position to win before Saints K Wil Lutz made a 58-yard FG at the buzzer as New Orleans defeated the Texans 30-28 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

In his short time in the league, the 23-year-old Watson has proven to be a play-maker, and as he demonstrated on Monday night, has shown the ability to be clutch. In 2018, Watson had five game-winning drives.

According to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, whose Jaguars travel to Houston to face Watson and the Texans on Sunday, Watson could win MVP in 2019.

“(Watson)Probably competes for the MVP. I can’t say anything more than that,” Marrone said on Wednesday. “Last week, we saw the 2018 MVP in Patrick Mahomes who played like an MVP. We are going in and playing against another quarterback who has the same amount of skill, the same amount of ability, and I think it’ll be between those two guys who’s going to be the MVP. I’m sure someone else will start playing well down the road, but right now those guys just took it Week 1, but those two guys are playing really well.”

Last season, Watson threw for 4165 yards and 26 touchdowns, and he rushed for 551 yards and scored five touchdowns on the ground, and If Watson continues to play as well as he did on Monday, he would be in the running for MVP. However, Watson does take a lot of hits, and he was sacked six times against the Saints. All that must change if he wants to finish the season healthy, but for now, Watson is definitely off to a great start.

Vikings’ Anthony Harris named NFC Defensive Player of the Week

Vikings S Anthony Harris has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Atlanta in Week 1. Harris had a career game versus the Falcons, intercepting a pair of Matt Ryan passes that led to two touchdowns by the Vikings. The Chesterfield, Virginia, native also recovered his third-career fumble in the second quarter that resulted in a scoring drive by Minnesota.

Overall, Minnesota scored 21 points off Harris’ takeaways, sealing the Vikings’ 28-12 win on Kickoff Weekend. He tallied five tackles (three solo) and three passes defensed against the Falcons altogether. Harris’ four interceptions since Week 11 of the 2018 season are tied for most in the NFL while his two interceptions to start 2019 are tops in the league.

The NFC Player of the Week award is the first of Harris’ career, and the fifth by a Vikings defensive back under Head Coach Mike Zimmer. The Vikings have now had an NFC Player of the Week in four consecutive season openers.

Schwartz on Jackson: ‘We’ll certainly miss him’

The Philadelphia Eagles have placed DT Malik Jackson on injured reserved, the team announced today, which will end his season. Jackson signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Eagles this offseason, and according to the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Jackson suffered a Lisfranc injury on Sunday against the Redskins. The 29-year-old Jackson is expected to have surgery next week, according to the report.

To replace Jackson, Philadelphia announced today that they have signed DT Akeem Spence, who spent last season with the Miami Dolphins. The 27-year-old Spence was released by the Dolphins back in August.

Obviously, losing Jackson hurts, but according to Eagles DC Jim Schwartz, it’s next man up.

“Malik [Jackson] is an important part of what we do, and we’ll certainly miss him when he’s not on the field,” Schwartz said on Tuesday. “But we have plenty of guys that can step up and play. And that’s nothing new in the NFL, doesn’t change our task from game to game, and it doesn’t change our task over the course of the year.

“We’ll get him healthy and get him back. If I know Malik, he’ll do a good job staying engaged while he’s rehabbing. I’ve been really impressed with him as a professional, not just as a player, but as a professional, I’m sure you guys have too.”

With Jackson out, Timmy Jernigan will be a starter again at the defensive tackle spot, and considering how well Jernigan played for the Eagles in 2017, the Philadelphia does not lose much at the position. However, they do lose depth, which may hurt the team as the season moves on.

Vikings bring back C Brett Jones

The Minnesota Vikings have brought back C Brett Jones, the team announced today. According to The Athletic’s Chad Graff, the Vikings never had Jones clear out his locker after they cut him last week, which makes you believe that the plan was to bring Jones back all along. 

The 28-year-old Jones was released by Minnesota after the team signed WR Josh Doctson.

To make room for Jones, the team released TE Brandon Dillon.

Bills’ OC: ‘I have a lot of confidence in Josh(Allen)’

QB Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills’ offense started slowly against the Jets on Sunday, and at one point, the Bills were down 16-0 in the third quarter. One of the Jets’ touchdowns was a pick-6 by C.J. Mosley in the first quarter.  However, things got better in the fourth quarter for the Bills’ offense, as Allen was able to lead the Bills on two touchdown scoring drives to help Buffalo defeat the Jets 17-16 at MetLife Stadium.

Allen finished the game 24/37 for 254 yards, 1 TD, 2 ints, despite Allen’s struggles, Bills’ OC Brian Daboll continued to have confidence in his quarterback.

“I’ve said this before; I have a lot of confidence in Josh,” Daboll said on Monday. “Again, he hasn’t even started a full season. But he’s a grinder. He’s a competitor. He’s smart. He’s tough. And I got a lot of faith in him. So, we started out the game in no huddle to spread [the Jets] out. Sometimes you start games, you pass to set up the run or you run to set up the pass. Each week is a little bit unique. This is what we felt was best going into this game. Unfortunately we had some turnovers, but again, you don’t pull the plug on that. You take a look at why, and we have enough confidence in him and the rest of the guys to keep going in that no huddle and throwing the ball around a little bit.”

The Bills’ offense turned the ball over four times on Sunday, which, according to Daboll, was one of the reasons they were not able to have success early in the contest.

“Well, we were moving the ball. We had four turnovers,” Daboll said. “It’s well documented, right? Two tipped balls, a fumbled snap, and then we lose one in the pocket on the opening drive. So you have turnovers, that stops drives. Now, if you weren’t moving the ball, then you’re going to have to figure out how to do something else. But we felt like we were moving the ball, and we had turnovers.

“Did we change a whole bunch at halftime? No. I mean we had four drives in the second half minus the four-minute. We had one safety back there backed up. And then we had a drive for three points and two drives at the end. So we had four drives. And give credit to the players. That’s who I give credit to. They went out and executed and made some good plays when they had to make them. You talk about Josh or Smoke (John Brown) or really, I’d say the whole group; that we’re far from where we need to be. But they played the best when it counted the most, and that’s resiliency. That’s mental toughness. You have to string them together and have a good week of preparation this week. Really, what you did last week means nothing in this business. But I’m proud of the way they competed and fought.”

While Allen did his job in the fourth quarter, the credit definitely goes to the Bills’ defense, who kept the team in the game despite the four turnovers. Buffalo escaped with a victory on Sunday, but they have to play better moving forward if they want to have success this season.

Jaguars place Nick Foles on IR, could return in November

The Jacksonville Jaguars have placed QB Nick Foles on the team’s reserve/injured list, the club announced today. Foles broke his left clavicle on Sunday in the Jaguars’ 40-26 loss to the Chiefs. The eight-year veteran had surgery on Monday.

Foles, 30, is eligible for reserve/injured – designated for return, and if it were applied, Foles could return to practice after six weeks (the week of Oct. 21), and the earliest he could play in a game would be Week 11 at Indianapolis (Sunday, Nov. 17).

On Monday, the Jaguars acquired QB Josh Dobbs from the Steelers for a 2020 fifth-round pick. Pittsburgh originally drafted Dobbs in the fourth round (135th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft. He did not see action during his rookie season and played in five games in 2018. 

 

Vikings’ Cook: ‘Whenever I am on the field, a lot of special things can happen’

Ground and pound was what the Vikings did on Sunday against the Falcons. Minnesota rushed for 172 yards, including 111 yards from RB Dalvin Cook and two touchdowns to defeat Atlanta 28-12 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“It was a great start. It was good to set the pace for the season,” Cook said. “The offensive line was moving people upfront. We got it going early. The defense kind of sparked this thing, and we took care of business by punching the ball in which got the momentum going. It was definitely a good start for the season, and something we can build on. There are still more yards on the field that we can get by cleaning up the little things.”

The Vikings running game was so effective with Cook and Alexander Mattison(9 carries, 49 yards) that their QB Kirk Cousins only had to throw the ball 10 times against the Falcons, and defensively, the Vikings were able to force three turnovers against Atlanta. According to Cook, running the ball and playing big-time defense is what makes head coach Mike Zimmer happy.

“That is our identity. Everybody knows Coach Zimmer wants to run the football and play great defense,” Cook said. “Like I said earlier, they played great defense and set the tone for us today. We were able to piggy-back off of their energy and got this thing rolling.”

Many believe that Cook, who had touchdown runs of 7 and 19 yards, could have a breakout season in 2019, and Cook believes that whenever he is in the game, great things can happen for the team.

“I have been practicing and working very hard,” he said. “It’s just football. Whenever I am on the field, a lot of special things can happen. I just got to stay on the field to help the team that’s the most important thing. Being out here with these guys is fun. We worked extremely hard this offseason and training camp to have days like these.”

The Vikings are off to a good start. Obviously, the next 15 games won’t be like this, but Minnesota has to be happy with what they saw out of Cook and the running game in Week 1.

Mahomes: ‘I tried to get the ball out of my hands, and guys were making plays’

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes picked up where he left off in 2018. Mahomes threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns as the Chiefs went on the road to beat the Jaguars 40-26 on Sunday.

For good portion of the game, Mahomes was hampered by a left ankle injury, which he injured in the second quarter, and while the injury slowed Mahomes, he was still able to be effective.

“The adrenaline helped out, of course,” Mahomes said after the game. “I was going out there and just playing football. I mean, obviously, I wasn’t as mobile as I usually am. But the team helped me out step-by-step as I tried to get the ball out of my hands, and guys were making plays.”

While Mahomes was able to play on despite the injury, Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill could be out for an extended time after he suffered a collarbone injury in the second quarter. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the injury will not require surgery but will cause him to “miss a few weeks.” However, without Hill, who recently signed a reported three-year, $54 million extension, the Chiefs were still able to have success on offense.

“I mean, obviously whenever someone with Tyreek’s ability goes out, you wonder what’s going to happen,” Mahomes said. “But, the best thing about this team – and you’ve seen it the last few years now – is whenever someone gets their opportunity, they step up and play. And we really pick each other up. So, I was glad the guys stepped up, made plays; and that was running backs, receivers, tight ends, and whatever it was. I mean, that’s just how we roll. Whoever is given the opportunity to make the play, they make it.”

The Chiefs will get their first taste of life without Hill next week as they travel to Oakland to face the Raiders. It should be fascinating to see how the Chiefs prolific offense will look without Hill.