0 of 10
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
We had actual, honest-to-God NFL football on Thursday night.
Well, sort of.
To be fair, the annual Hall of Fame Game that kicks off the preseason has about as much in common with actual NFL football as Twilight does with The Great Gatsby.
But after a long offseason, it still felt good to see some live action and get a glimpse of stars like Denver’s Von Miller and Atlanta’s Julio Jones—even if there was a negative bajillion percent chance either was going to play a single snap.
The dawn of the preseason puts us one step closer to September 5. One step closer to fans far and wide getting to watch their favorite team take the field for real. And while it’s still a long way off, one step closer to Miami and Super Bowl LIV.
There wasn’t much of note that happened in the “contest” between the Falcons and Broncos, but Thursday did mark the professional debut of a rookie quarterback from which much is expected by many.
And it’s that debut that leads off our roundup of the latest across the league.
1 of 10
Ron Schwane/Associated Press
After an up-and-down start to training camp that mostly involved running the scout team as the third-string quarterback, Drew Lock allowed to Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post that he was eager to get on the field at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium and show what he can do in the 2019 Hall of Fame Game.
“Of course, I’ll be a little fired up to show people what I can do and bring the juice that I brought through college. I think you’ll still see the same me. I’m confident in what I can do, whether I go in right at the beginning of the game or at end of the game. I’m going to be the same guy and prove to people that one day, I should be starting these games.”
All Lock showed against the Falcons was that running the scout team is the best place for him right now.
Lock’s first half fell somewhere between pitiful and putrid—just two completions on five attempts, an overthrow on a long pass where he had a wide-open receiver, two sacks and a passer rating of 50.4.
Lock’s second half wasn’t much better. The 42nd overall pick in this year’s draft finished the night 7-of-11 for a whopping 34 yards. His passer rating skyrocketed all the way to 68.0.
Coincidentally, Joe Flacco’s grip on the starting job in Denver increased by 68.0 percent.
2 of 10
Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
The Washington Redskins are facing a number of major questions in 2019, including whether to start veteran Case Keenum or rookie Dwayne Haskins at quarterback.
The answer to that question could be dictated in large part by the status of Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, who is holding out of camp and has reportedly demanded a trade.
No worries, though—the Redskins have a plan.
Les Carpenter of the Washington Post reported Thursday that the Redskins are hopeful that as potential fines for sitting out continue to pile up, Williams will eventually cave and report (h/t Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk). The week of camp Williams has missed to date could cost him $280,000, and if he sits out the entire preseason, that amount could swell past $1 million.
Carpenter also refuted (at least partly) a tweet from Jeff Howe of The Athletic the day before that the Redskins were “having trade discussions” about the 31-year-old. Per Carpenter, the team is “not actively shopping him.”
Williams has been MIA since June, when he reportedly demanded to be either dealt or released. Some believe it’s a contractual matter. Others (including Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports) have indicated that Williams’ rift with the team is a medical matter.
This is a situation that started off contentious and has since gotten worse. Craig Hoffman of 106.7 The Fan reported late Thursday that Williams has told friends he’s willing to pull a Le’Veon Bell and sit out the entire season.
And having Donald Penn covering Haskins’ blind side isn’t a development that would be conducive to his first-year growth.
3 of 10
Mike McCarn/Associated Press
Sometimes the hardest part of an NFL player’s career is the end. It happens all the time—a veteran hangs up his cleats, only to reconsider once camps ramp up and the itch to mix it up returns.
It appears it’s happened again, this time with five-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil.
Kalil, who played his first 12 years for the Carolina Panthers, will be heading north for season No. 13.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Kalil will join the New York Jets for 2019 on a one-year, $8.4 million contract, provided that the 34-year-old can pass a physical.
Passing that physical isn’t a given. Over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Kalil missed more games than he played in. And while he was on the field for all 16 games in Carolina a year ago, Kalil wasn’t the same player who made four Pro Bowls in five years from 2009 to 2013.
Still, even at less than his best, Kalil is an improvement in the middle of New York’s offensive line—a line that has gone from a weakness to a potential area of strength with the addition of Kalil and guard Kelechi Osemele.
4 of 10
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Ryan Kalil wasn’t the only veteran player who found a new home Thursday.
According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN, the Denver Broncos agreed to terms with tailback Theo Riddick, who spent his first six seasons with the Detroit Lions before being recently released. Riddick, who piled up 555 yards from scrimmage on 101 touches last year, had also visited with the New Orleans Saints before eventually choosing a reunion with Denver RBs coach Curtis Modkins, who Riddick played under from 2013 to 2015.
Riddick won’t add a lot to the Denver run game—he’s never had even 100 carries in a season and has averaged a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry for his career. But banging away between the tackles was never Riddick’s game anyway—he’s a receiving back who caught 80 passes playing for Modkins in 2015 and has 50-plus receptions in each of the last four seasons.
Given a report from Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson earlier in the day that stated Denver aspired for a just-about-even workload split between Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman this season, Riddick’s arrival in the Mile High City is more likely about depth than making Riddick a big part of the offense.
The signing also means that fourth-year veteran Devontae Booker may want to polish up his resume.
He’s apt to be looking for work soon.
5 of 10
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
After trading defensive end Frank Clark and losing defensive tackle Jarran Reed to a six-game suspension to open the 2019 season, the last thing the Seattle Seahawks needed was for any of the team’s remaining defensive linemen to suffer a significant injury.
I guess you know where we’re going with this.
It’s not bad enough that Seattle’s first draft pick in 2019 (TCU defensive end L.J. Collier) didn’t make it through a week of his first training camp without suffering an ankle injury. But as Brady Henderson reported for ESPN, head coach Pete Carroll indicated Collier’s injury is severe enough that it could sideline him into the regular season.
“It’s unfortunate. Really an awkward position he got tangled up in. So, we’ll have to take some time here to figure it out. It’s going to be some weeks, though. It’s not a garden-variety sprain at all. It’s a little but unusual one. Kind of the upper part of his foot. An unusual one for us. We really haven’t had a guy that sprained his ankle just like this, so that’s why we’re really going slow to make sure we know what we’re doing with this. It’s a rare sprain.”
It’s unreasonable to have expected Collier to carry the pass rush early on even if he was healthy. Rookie edge-rushers often face a steep learning curve.
But that doesn’t change the fact that a Seattle team with a pretty daunting early-season slate is now that much thinner at a position that wasn’t deep to begin with.
6 of 10
John Raoux/Associated Press
It’s been a rough spring and summer for the Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker corps. First, veteran weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith stunned the organization by announcing his plans to sit out the 2019 season.
Now, the player the Jags hoped could replace Smith (at least in the short term) is hurt.
Per Rapoport, rookie third-round pick Quincy Williams will be sidelined 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a slight tear in his meniscus.
To say that it’s an unfortunate development is an understatement. It’s not just a matter of the Jaguars having a massive hole on the weak side of the defense. But the small-school standout from Murray State had been impressive in camp, drawing rave reviews from head coach Doug Marrone.
“When the ball is snapped, I think he might be the fastest player on our football field right now,” Marrone told reporters Tuesday.
It’s going to be a while before Williams is able to show off that speed again, and missing out on valuable practice reps is going to make it that much harder for the youngster to make a rookie impact.
7 of 10
Gary McCullough/Associated Press
Given the Williams news (on top of the Smith) news, the Jaguars are badly in need of something to smile about.
It looks like they will get it soon.
As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noted, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who has yet to report to training camp while he seeks a new contract, tweeted “The Return” on Thursday—a message most have taken to indicate that the 24-year-old will end his holdout soon.
The reason for this acquiescence is simple—if Ngakoue doesn’t report by August 6, then instead of becoming an unrestricted free agent (and being a candidate for the franchise tag) in 2020, Ngakoue would be a restricted free agent.
Ngakoue, who has piled up an impressive 29.5 sacks in three seasons, is reportedly seeking a long-term contract that would pay him a similar annual salary as Demarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys, Dee Ford of the San Francisco 49ers and Frank Clark of the Kansas City Chiefs—all of whom received massive extensions in the past year.
However, all three of those edge-rushers played out their rookie contracts before hitting the jackpot.
From all indications, Ngakoue will have to do the same.
8 of 10
David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Melvin Gordon’s contract holdout hangs like a dark cloud over training camp for the Los Angeles Chargers.
It doesn’t appear that the Southern California sun will be poking through any time soon.
According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Gordon’s agent (Damarius Bilbo) requested a trade on behalf of his client last week after the Chargers held firm to their offer of $10 million per season for the 26-year-old, who gained 1,375 yards from scrimmage for the Bolts in 2018.
That $10 million salary would be a substantial raise for Gordon, who is set to make $5.6 million in the final year of his rookie contract. But it would also put Gordon well behind the highest-paid tailbacks in the game—and that’s apparently not good enough for Gordon.
The notion of a trade apparently does about as much for the team as that $10 million salary offer did for Gordon. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco told Bilbo that Gordon was “family” and then denied Bilbo’s request to begin soliciting potential trade partners.
This has the makings of a good old-fashioned standoff. And right now neither side looks to be even remotely close to blinking.
9 of 10
Eric Risberg/Associated Press
The Oakland Raiders have completely remodeled their wide receiver corps with the addition of veterans Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams on the outside. However, the slot receiver job remains a question mark.
That question may be getting answered before the first preseason game.
As Vic Tafur wrote for The Athletic, rookie fifth-rounder Hunter Renfrow has performed head and shoulders above Ryan Grant in training camp. But Tafur also cautioned that another free-agent acquisition could factor into the equation as well.
“The rookie out of Clemson has dusted veteran Ryan Grant out of the starting gate in the slot receiver competition,” Tafur said. “But don’t be surprised if you see a lot of Brown in the slot with Tyrell Williams and speed demon J.J. Nelson outside.”
The eventual victor in this competition may not be as important as what the competition itself means. Last year, Oakland had arguably the weakest cadre of receivers in the league. In 2019, Derek Carr will be throwing to one of the best in the business in Brown. A proven veteran with a 1,000-yard season on his resume in Williams.
And whether it’s Nelson outside and Brown in the slot or Brown outside and Renfrow in the slot, the Raiders have options in the third wideout spot.
10 of 10
Charles Krupa/Associated Press
The New England Patriots spent a first-round pick on N’Keal Harry in an effort to bolster a receiving corps that lost quite a bit of veteran talent after last year’s Super Bowl win.
In camp, it’s been a player who joined the team a couple of days later who has stood out.
According to Michael Giardi of NFL Network, UDFA rookie Jakobi Meyers has consistently out-performed Harry on the practice field.
“Meyers has consistently made plays in competitive situations,” Giardi tweeted. “(He) has out-performed N’Keal although again, we’re just a week in.”
“Well, he’s a smart kid, and he understands (the offense) and has versatility. Like any rookie, any young player, there’s a lot of things he needs to work on technique-wise — recognition, route adjustments — just a lot of fine points. He basically knows what to do, but there are a lot of subtleties and nuances that all receivers need to pick up — certainly in our offense — and he’s doing that. There’s more than we’ve had to get down, but he’s making progress there. Whether that comes from his quarterback background, or his experience, or his intelligence, or his learning, I’m not really sure. But that’s not really an issue. He’s a smart kid, and he learns well.”
Meyers will have a chance to keep the momentum going a week from now in Detroit.