Top training camp rumors surrounding the Buffalo Bills

What are people saying about the Bills?

By: Caleb Holfoth (@cmhfilm)

The Buffalo Bills begin their 2021 training camp in about a month and a half. For the second year in a row, the Bills will complete their camp at home in Buffalo as opposed to traveling to St. John Fisher College in Rochester. Due to Covid-19 and the potential protocols that will be in place through August the Bills management decided it was best to stay at home. Now that Buffalo knows where they will be practicing all of August there are still certain rumors that are floating around about the Bills roster. Post Free Agency and NFL Draft is a very interesting time for teams especially when there are quality free agents available just like there is this season. Buffalo heads into training camp with the best roster they have had in the entire 21st century. In all three facets of the game, Buffalo has elite talent. Not only is that talent elite but it is also young. A majority of the cornerstone players on the Bills roster have not even touched age 28 yet. With a really good and young roster, Buffalo hopes to make a jump to the Super Bowl season. However, before all of that even begins the Bills are still circulating in the news due to several rumors. Here are three major Bills rumors before training camp.

Rumor: Buffalo Trades for Philadelphia Eagles Tight End Zach Ertz

This is a rumor that has been attached to Buffalo for some time now. For a good portion of the early offseason, many people thought that the Buffalo Bills would trade a late-round draft pick to the Eagles in exchange for the former Pro-Bowl tight end. Ertz voiced his frustration with the franchise last season and both sides have been in a rift since. The only option for the Eagles seems to be to part ways with the disgruntled veteran. However, the Eagles have stood pat that they do not want to release Ertz but instead trade him. The Bills have been connected because they do have a weakness at the tight end position.

As this rumor has come and gone throughout the offseason it varies how much the Bills seem interested in trading for Ertz. While Ertz certainly would be worth a 5th round pick or later and easily become the best tight end in Buffalo there are reasons Beane could be hesitant. First, Ertz had a very rough injury-riddled 2020. Although just 30 years old this is something to certainly keep in mind. Ertz does not have an extensive injury history, but players are rarely traded for after injury-riddled seasons. Second, it is no secret that Ertz wants no part of Philadelphia. Brandon Beane could be in wait-and-see mode to see if the Eagles eventually give up and release Ertz. Lastly, Ertz does carry a large cap hit of 12.7 million in 2021 with a dead cap hit of 3.5 million in 2022 (UFA after 2021). Even though the Bills just cleared up some cap space by converting Stefon Diggs salary to a signing bonus, likely, Beane will not want to take on such a huge hit for an older tight end.

What makes this rumor, so intriguing is that Beane has commented on the state of the Bills tight end room several times this offseason. Beane has emphasized that Buffalo needs more from the tight end position. At the same time, Beane has circled back to that comment saying he does have faith in Dawson Knox and the rest of the tight end group to be able to step up. While Knox has always had potential and a high ceiling, he has not come close to that ceiling or being consistent. The addition of Ertz would certainly push Buffalo from a mediocre tight end group to potentially a top ten group. Ertz adds a different dynamic as a pass-catcher from both the hand in the dirt and the slot.

This rumor has no straight yes or no answer of will it happen or not. With all the previous rumors of both parties being tied to each other it likely is something, the Bills have explored at one point this offseason. I think it is fair to say that a trade is unlikely. However, I believe that Zach Ertz will be on the Bills roster at some point during the 2021 season.

Rumor: Buffalo will sign a veteran cornerback before camp

This is a rumor that has swirled of late because of the salary cap that Buffalo just opened up by converting Stefon Diggs’s base salary into a signing bonus. The Bills now have about $9 Million in cap space ready to use. The reason that cornerback has been the main position a part of the conversation is because it is one of the weak spots on the roster outside of star cornerback Tre’Davious White. Opposite of White Buffalo has a very young group led by Levi Wallace. Each of the past three seasons the Bills have brought in a veteran cornerback to compete for the number two spot across from White. That was at least the case until this offseason. Buffalo neglected to add a cornerback in free agency and early in the draft instead opting to rely on young unproven talent and Levi Wallace the starter the previous two seasons.

What puts the Bills in the market for a corner is not only the money they now have but also the fact that there are several starting-caliber veteran cornerbacks on the market. Buffalo has options with Richard Sherman, Steven Nelson, Brian Poole, and a couple of other veteran corners. While Buffalo may be confident in the young group, they have now there is some very good value this late in free agency. For example, Richard Sherman who happens to fit Buffalo’s defensive scheme very well has declared that he wants to play for a contender. Buffalo is one of the few contenders who will not only be able to sign Sherman but compensate him at a pretty solid rate. The same goes for Steven Nelson who has been a very good corner the past couple of years in the league.

This rumor is interesting because if you go off of Brandon Beane’s habits he will bring in one of these players. However, I think that Beane will wait as long as possible to add a player to determine what Buffalo has at the position already and the confidence in that group. I think that Beane would be comfortable with some corners coming off the market and is in no hurry to make a move. While I think Sherman and Nelson would both benefit Buffalo significantly Beane seems to have high expectations and praise for Dane Jackson who is currently competing with Levi Wallace. I do think that Beane is exploring this option but will opt to not sign a veteran cornerback to bring in for the 2021 season.

Rumor: The Bills are having trouble getting players vaccinated

While not specifically football related it has been a topic of conversation around Buffalo for a couple of weeks now. Brandon Beane found himself in hot water after he said he would cut an unvaccinated player if it meant Buffalo would then meet the threshold of enough vaccinated players for looser protocols. Beane’s comments caused quite the uproar from the NFLPA, and Buffalo has been under vaccine watch since. Combine Beane’s slightly insensitive comments with the fact that all the Bills players who have been in press conferences have declined to comment on their vaccination status. Add on the public disapproval of the COVID-19 vaccine from both Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley and Buffalo could be on the wrong side of the news when it comes to the vaccine.

This bodes well for the Bills who have found themselves in hot water with the vaccine talk recently. It looks like Beane, and Sean McDermott has been able to right the ship for Buffalo. While Buffalo is likely not one of the 16 teams that have at least 50% of their players with one shot the discourse about vaccines over the past couple of weeks has turned from a negative conversation to a positive one. Buffalo likely has a way to go to meet the threshold of vaccinated players to have minimal protocols to follow. However, McDermott and Beane have turned the team in the right direction and seem to have all the so-called vaccine drama in the past.

3 reasons why Derek Carr won’t be traded anytime soon

By: Jake Rajala

Derek Carr, the pocket passer that holds the most late-game comebacks in a quarterback’s first several seasons (20), has been in controversial trade rumors over the past couple of seasons. It’s unclear if Carr will follow in the footsteps of past former elite QBs like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, likely Aaron Rodgers, in switching uniforms in a high level of his career. 

As of right now, Carr is dedicating all of his energy to obtaining a Lombardi trophy in Las Vegas. Carr is so fixated in marriage to the Raiders that when asked about getting traded, this is how he responded, “I’d probably quit football if I had to play football for someone else”.

Carr’s allegiance to Las Vegas is unquestionable. The real inquiry is, “do the Raiders want Carr to be the face of their franchise forever?”. My response to that question: I believe so. 

I will outline the three reasons why Carr will remain the Raiders QB until the death star (Raiders stadium) is inhabitable.

  1. Carr will be the best “long term option” available 

The Raiders signal-caller isn’t only an elite caliber of talent, but he is only 30 years old. Carr is the same age as Taysom Hill, two years younger than Russell Wilson, and two years younger than Kirk Cousins. Carr has at least a decade of quality football left in him. 

As long as Carr is the franchise QB, the Raiders will have an excellent floor each season. The Raiders have improved from four wins to seven victories, to eight wins, under Jon Gruden’s reign. Even if the Raiders miss the playoffs or have an early postseason exit, they should be in a tough spot to acquire a decade-like talent at QB in the draft each year.

There have been talented QBs on the trade block, but the available QB options are no longer available, or the steam has left the QB’s camps. Deshaun Watson doesn’t appear tradeable at this point, Russell Wilson is staying in Seattle, Aaron Rodgers appears to be in a Denver uniform or staying in a Packer jersey, and Tua Tagovailoa will be a franchise QB in Miami if he improves, or below dealing for if he sinks.

To sum it up, Carr will always be the best long-term offseason option to start for the team moving forward. 

  1. The Raiders need to seriously focus on improving the defense

Gruden knows that improving a defensive unit that ranked 25th in 2020 is the highest priority on the horizon. The Raiders had issues against the pass (26th ranked) and opened the floodgates against the run (24th). The Raiders have made this defensive emphasis clear with four defenders getting drafted in the first four rounds of the 2020 NFL draft. 

LV acquired pass rusher Yannick Ngakouye and cornerback Casey Hayward in free agency this offseason. Holes still lie in the secondary for the Raiders defense. CB Damon Arnette hasn’t proven his worth as a first-rounder, while the safety position was an Achilles heel in 2020. Corey Littleton was a sneaky good signing last offseason at LB, but the team desperately needs more consistent production in the LB unit. 

In an AFC West division featuring MVP Patrick Mahomes, OROY Justin Herbert, and potentially Aaron Rodgers, the Raiders have to be featuring a competitive defense (at the very least) in the divisional gauntlet. A lackluster defense with a young, different face at QB could also put the Raiders in a massive hole in their very own division.

  1. Jon Gruden is a Derek Carr supporter

There have been false claims of Gruden wanting “his own guy” or in search of a different QB. This common, false report, can be put to the grave. Gruden AND Mayock firmly stand strong behind their QB held on a high pedestal. 

They’ve expressed their gratitude and defense for their QB after putting on a fantastic showcase in the 2020 season. Carr displayed a career high passer rating (101.4) last season. His personality of grittiness is also very similar to Gruden’s style in the locker room. 

Carr told Vinny Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review Journal that his relationship with Gruden is often misunderstood. He elaborated by saying “what people don’t understand is how close we are. Not just football, but off the field. Whether it’s him texting videos of his dog and what they’re doing, and I’m sending videos of my kids hitting baseballs in their first game. People don’t understand that.”

The young Carr had an amazing season of production in 2020. If Carr ousts another year of mastering the offense and capping elite numbers, the connection should only continue to grow in the upcoming years.

Early MVP favorites from each skill position

By: Eli Grabanski

The MVP race is one of the most fun to watch in sports, as it leads to a lot of great debates throughout the season. In the 2018 NFL season, it was Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In 2019, it was Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Last year, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took home the crown. This article will look at the most likely player to win MVP at each of the key offensive skill positions – QB, RB, WR, and TE. Let’s dive in.

QB: Patrick Mahomes

The MVP of the NFL is almost always a quarterback. It makes sense since they are the leaders of the team and have the largest impact on each game. To be in the MVP conversation, a quarterback needs to put up efficient passing numbers and be on a winning team.

This is by far the toughest choice to pick a favorite of the skill positions since there are quite a few great options, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll go with the safest pick and say Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has had an incredible start to his career, completing 66% of his passes for 14152 passing yards (307.7 per game) and 114 touchdown passes (2.48 per game) in his first 46 starts. In addition, his team has consistently won since he’s been the starter, with the team going 38-8 in the regular season with him as their quarterback. He’s got a great supporting cast and coaching staff that make it easier for him to put up impressive numbers, and he’s also far enough removed from his previous MVP award (2018) for any semblance of ‘MVP voter fatigue’ to fade away. For all of these reasons, Mahomes should be the favorite to win the MVP award in 2021.

Other Notable Candidates: Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Kyler Murray, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Ryan Tannehill

RB: Nick Chubb

Besides the quarterback position, the running back position has the next best shot at winning the prestigious NFL MVP award. To be the MVP as a running back, you usually have to put up 2000+ yards from scrimmage, play for a winning team, and have a strong narrative as to why you should win.

Based on these criteria, Nick Chubb seems like a phenomenal candidate to win the award. The Browns are slated to be one of the top contenders in the AFC after finishing 11-5 a year ago. The Browns are also a run-heavy team, with the team running the ball 495 times in 2020. Head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt are committed to running the ball, and running backs coach Stump Mitchell and offensive line coach Bill Callahan are among the best position coaches in the league. The Browns also have the #1 ranked offensive line according to PFF which should help open up running lanes for Nick Chubb to put up insane rushing numbers. All these situational factors, plus Nick Chubb’s elite ability to generate yards after contact and you have all the makings for a monster numbers year. Add in the narrative of the lowly Browns finally becoming a contender and you have the makings of a potential MVP season for Nick Chubb.

Other Notable Candidates: Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, Ezekiel Elliott, David Montgomery, Najee Harris, and Dalvin Cook

WR: Michael Thomas

For a wide receiver to win MVP, they need to be capable of putting up big numbers, play with multiple different quarterbacks (so the QB doesn’t take the award instead), and play on a winning team.

Of all the major wide receiver candidates for the MVP award, Michael Thomas probably has the best shot at this combination. The New Orleans Saints have a QB controversy going into the 2021 season, with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill fighting for the starting job. There’s a good chance that both make some starts at some point during the 2021 season. The Saints have been one of the best teams in the NFL in recent years and should be in the playoff mix once again. Lastly, Michael Thomas has shown the capability to put up massive receiving numbers in the past, including an insane 2019 season where he had 149 receptions on 185 targets for 1725 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns. He is absolutely capable of doing it again now that he’s healthy.

Other Notable Candidates: Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Calvin Ridley, Davante Adams, Keenan Allen, A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Allen Robinson, Justin Jefferson, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, and D.K. Metcalf

TE: George Kittle

Realistically, a tight end doesn’t really have a shot for the MVP award. But just for fun, if a tight end were to win MVP in 2021, which would it be? Travis Kelce? Darren Waller? Kyle Pitts?

The tight end with the best shot to semi-realistically win MVP in 2021 would be George Kittle. Travis Kelce is capable of putting up huge numbers, but in any season where he’s an MVP candidate his quarterback, Patrick Mahomes likely is as well. Darren Waller is also capable of putting up big numbers, but there are concerns about his team winning enough games to be MVP.

Now look at George Kittle. Kittle is capable of putting up huge numbers like Kelce and Waller. His team is projected to make the playoffs. There’s a good chance that the 49ers play two different quarterbacks during the 2021 season considering they drafted Trey Lance 3rd overall in the 2021 NFL Draft and they still have Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster – which means that the quarterback likely wouldn’t have the numbers to steal the award away from Kittle.

Other Notable Candidates: Darren Waller and Travis Kelce

3 underrated offseason moves by the New York Giants

By: Daniel Racz


The New York Giants are entering a make-or-break year for many within the organization. Quarterback Daniel Jones is entering the vaunted third year leading the franchise, and many are doubting whether he will earn a second contract. This offseason general manager Dave Gettleman, who himself is on the hot seat, gave Jones a supporting cast through the offseason and draft. Big Blue broke the bank to add ex-Lion wideout Kenny Golladay and spent the 20th pick in the draft, acquired from Chicago in Dave’s first trade-down, on Florida playmaker Kadarius Toney. During free agency, the Giants also added tight end, Kyle Rudolph, on a two-year contract. The Giants decided to not add to their offensive line, instead choosing to rely on past investments.

On the defensive side of the football, the Giants did not make any super splashy moves. The team re-signed defensive lineman Leonard Williams while letting interior presence Dalvin Tomlinson sign with the Vikings. The Giants added a collection of bodies to their front seven with the hope to remain an above-average defense. In regards to their secondary, the Giants drafted UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson in round three and gave a three-year, 39-million-dollar contract to Adoree’ Jackson. The Giants made waves when they signed Jackson, Golladay, and Rudolph, but other moves deserve recognition. 

Gaining future capital

Before the draft, media personalities were saying “There will be right turns in NASCAR before Dave Gettleman trades back.” In his first seven drafts for the Giants and Panthers, Gettleman had never traded back. However, within the first two rounds of the 2021 draft, Gettleman moved back twice. Some even started calling him “Trader Dave” given his newfound affinity for defraying risk through moving down the draft board and acquiring 2022 draft picks. The Giants were rumored to be in love with Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith. However, when the Eagles traded up ahead of the Giants for Smith, the Giants pivoted.

The Giants moved down from pick 11 to pick 20, acquiring a 2021 5th round pick and 2022 1st & 4th round picks in the process. 

During the second round of the draft, the Giants were on the clock at 42. First-round caliber pass rusher Azeez Ojulari was on the board, yet the Giants moved down to 50, taking Miami’s 2022 3rd round pick to do so. At 50, Ojulari was still on the board, so the Giants rushed their card in to make him a Giant. 

The Giants exited the draft with extra first, third, and fourth-round picks in the 2022 draft. Gettleman managed to add players that can help the Giants compete for a 2021 playoff spot while also having sustained success. If the Giants do not have a winning record in 2021, Gettleman (and possibly Daniel Jones) will be out of a job, but the team will have plenty of assets to move up the board in 2022. Quarterbacks like Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler, Carson Strong, and Malik Willis will be in play for the Giants if Jones does not pan out, and that extra first-round pick will come in handy. 

Trusting their in-house offensive lineman

The New York Giants offensive line has been putrid for the better half of a decade. When Dave Gettleman took over, he promised that he would fix the offensive line. The results have not been promising. Will Hernandez, a 2018 second-round pick, is in the final year of his rookie contract. Nate Solder is a free agent after the 2021 season following a re-working of his contract. New York brings back another lineman Andrew Thomas, Nick Gates, Matt Peart, and Shane Lemieux. Their group did not play well in 2020, but there are plenty of excuses that can be made. The team came off a limited offseason and had to learn offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s new scheme. During the year, Joe Judge fired their offensive line coach. Once Judge relieved Marc Colombo of his role with the franchise, the group played better.

The Giants hired former Louisiana offensive coordinator and line coach Rob Sale to mentor their hog mollies. Sale has gotten rave reviews from the Giants camp so far this offseason, giving fans a reason to expect improvement. The Giants have reiterated that they have confidence in their young unit. While the group has not come together yet, this will be their first complete offseason together in the Judge regime. If the young, affordable unit plays at a close to league average level, it could catapult the team into the playoffs.

Adding front seven depth

The New York Giants’ 2020 defense was a revelation. The success came from new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and his innovative multiple schemes. Graham’s scheme relies on moving defensive lineman, disguising blitzes, and man defense. Last season Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence were the top two pass rushers on Big Blue’s defense. While both return and likely retain their roles as the key disruptors, there are now a plethora of players around them. 

Edge rushers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines both return from injuries that cost them the majority of their 2020 seasons. The Giants also added Georgia pass rusher Azeez Ojulari and Northern Iowa edge player Ellerson Smith during rounds two and four of the draft, respectively. In free agency, the Giants signed depth rushers Ifeadi Odenigbo and Ryan Anderson to round out the group.  On the interior, the Giants brought back Austin Johnson and added nose tackle, Danny Shelton. To stabilize their linebacker group, the Giants signed Reggie Ragland. None of these individual moves likely move the needle, but the collection will make an impact. The Giants’ edge presence was lacking last year, mainly due to the absence of Carter and Ximines.

The Giants defense was a top ten unit last season, and to improve the unit the Giants quietly added a handful of players that will see meaningful snaps during the season. The edge rush presence will allow Pat Graham to drop more players into coverage when necessary and still feel confident that his group will pressure the quarterback enough. The Giants’ defense does not have to be a top three-unit, but if they want to sniff the playoffs they must have an above-average group.

three biggest question aside from Rodgers for Packers right now

Who is the WR2 for Green Bay?

By: Noah Nichols

The Green Bay Packers have a lot to worry about right now. Mostly it concerns the deteriorating relationship between the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. Those are not the only problems that face them as they prepare to begin training camp. Positional battles will take place in training camp to determine who exactly starts as the number two receiver. Or who the center is.

Another problem that the Packers seemingly have ignored is their run defense. While they were ranked at 13th, to 11th last year, those numbers do not tell the true story. The Packers run defense in 2020 was mostly a liability. The Titans – Packers game where Derrick Henry did not rush for 100 yards was an aberration. Packers fans heading into that game fully expected Henry to have his way with the Packers run defense.

So, what real problems face the Packers heading into training camp? There are three big ones, as I have already outlined. And while the Packers have drafted some players to potentially fill in those spots, that does not mean that these questions have been answered. Only that a potential solution exists. The 2021 NFL season will prove whether or not those solutions are effective.

Who is the number two receiver?

Davante Adams might be the best wide receiver in the NFL. He’s in the top 3 if he is not number one. However, the players that line up with him don’t exactly crack any “top 25 wide receivers” lists. For good reason. Adams had 149 targets last year. (149! Let that sink in how dependent Rodgers was on Adams. Or how good Adams is. Or both.)

The next closest receiver, Marques Valdes-Scantling, had 63 targets. Aaron Jones, the Packers running back had the same amount of targets. However, Valdes-Scantling only caught half of the footballs thrown his way, for 33 receptions. Jones had 43. Allen Lazard, who had 43 targets, had the same amount of receptions as well. Robert Tonyan actually was second on the team with 52 receptions. The problem here is that Tonyan is a tight end.

So, who is the number two receiver? Is it Lazard? Perhaps, but the lack of targets is concerning. Valdes-Scantling certainly underperformed, with 30 targets resulting in no receptions. If the quarterbacks best options are his two running backs, who combined for 78 receptions, or his tight end, then the quarterback is in trouble. Especially if that quarterback is not Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers seem to be hoping that third-round draft pick Amari Rodgers can be that number two receiver. Rodgers (the receiver) is a fast, quick ,sure handed receiver. Matt LaFleur will certainly take advantage of Rodgers speed on jet sweeps and screen passes. Training camp will certainly help the Packers figure out who is the number two receiver. Amari Rodgers shows a lot of potential, with his speed and talent. However, if he does not win the job, that does not bode well for the Packers wide receiver core.

Who replaces Corey Linsley?

This might seem like a dumb question. After all, the Packers drafted Josh Meyers in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft. While Meyers will certainly have the inside track to start the season at center for the Packers, the level of play he gives will probably not be equal to what Corey Linsley gave. And there is no guarantee that Meyers picks up the job. He is a rookie and sometimes rookies underperform. Should he win the job? Yes. Will he? Probably, but he could not.

Being a rookie, his level of play will just not be as strong as Linsley’s was. Meyers might eventually reach that level of play, but not this season. He will be learning how to call out protections, read the defense to an extent, and how to play center at the NFL level. Even more concerning perhaps, is the depth behind Meyers. If Meyers falls, the level of play falls off a cliff. The only player behind Meyers on the Packers roster is Jake Hanson, who has never started an NFL game. Or played in one.

Can the run defense be fixed?

Out of the three questions facing the Packers as they enter into training camp, the run defense has the least amount of possible answers. The Packers ranked around 13th best rush defense in the NFL last year. However, they were 26th in yards per carry. The Packers did nothing in free agency to add a player to help their linebackers or defensive line. They added a 6th round pick at linebacker, and a 5th round pick at DL.

Those players will probably not start, and the 6th round pick, Isaiah McDuffie, may not even make the team. So the Packers will essentially be returning the same players, on one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Their scheme will probably be changing in some portion with Joe Barry being named the new defensive coordinator. But there is only so much a scheme change will do. In the end, it will come down to talent and skill, and the Packers simply lack that when defending the run. Can Barry fix it? Perhaps. But I would not bet on it.

Could Washington use Taylor Heinicke like Taysom Hill?

By: Noah Nichols

When the Washington Football Team played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the playoffs last season, nobody expected a close game.

Everyone predicted a blowout win for the Buccaneers. After all, the starting quarterback for Washington was a little-known player named Taylor Heinicke. Expectations were low for Washington as the game began and even lower for Heinicke.

Instead of a blowout loss, Washington was within eight points of tying up the game. Ultimately, they fell short, due to injuries and drops by receivers. However, the loss did not quite feel like a loss. Washington had seen a star rise that night.

Taylor Heinicke nearly led Washington to a victory against the heavily favored, more talented, Buccaneers that night. He threw for 306 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 46 yards, and one of the most spectacular rushing touchdowns ever seen.

Heinicke had to push through a separated left ACL joint, that he played with throughout the entire night. He also was not helped out by his receivers, who had five drops that night. Thus, the reason for the hope that rose that night in Washington. Heinicke showed real potential.

Whether he starts as the quarterback next season for Washington or not is uncertain. Heinicke flashed potential that night. Perhaps he won’t be the starter. But as Ron River said, “He (Heinicke) has created an opportunity for himself.” Even if Heinicke is not the Starter, perhaps he could be like another quarterback in his conference, Taysom Hill.

What exactly would Heinicke do similarly to Hill? Hill is the more athletic player of the two, but Heinicke showed that he was faster than his combine 40-time of 4.7. Heinicke is arguably the better passer, being the only quarterback of the two to throw for over 300 yards in a game. And he did it against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Heinicke could come in for packages like Hill does and be a threat to run or pass the ball. Washington has upgraded their receiver core, and defenses would have to respect the passing game. And the thing is, Washington has no clear number one quarterback.

So not only could Heinicke be brought in for packages, he potentially could win the starting job. And even if he did not win the starting job, Heinicke would be a great backup for whoever won the starting job. Defenses could not prepare for him, because they would be focused on planning for the starting quarterback.

If he were the starter, then the question is, can Heinicke be good enough to win, week in and week out? Perhaps. Look at what the New Orleans Saints did with Taysom Hill as the starter last season. The Saints were 3-1 with Hill. Sure the Saints have a great offense and defense, but the teams are not as far apart as you might think.

Washington might have the best defense in the NFL. They have a young, exciting receiver group led by Terry Mclaurin. And Antonio Gibson is a growing star player at running back. So Washington has all that it needs to surround Heinicke with talent.

It really is up in the air how well Heinicke would play as the starter, or even as the Taysom Hill role player. Heinicke could come in for special packages, and provide splash plays that way. But he would have to do it more with his arm than his legs. He just is not as good a runner as Hill. So if Heinicke were to come in and run the ball himself, most likely he would not provide splash plays the way Hill does on the ground.

However, Heinicke the Buccaneers game provided a glimpse of potential as a runner. Heinicke did well against the best linebacker tandem in the league. The question is, can he do it for a season, even as just a package player. There is no way to know the answer to that question. We just have not seen enough of Heinicke to know.

But Heinicke could come in to pass the ball, while still providing a little bit of a threat to run. He has shown that he can do it. However, there is no reason to bring Heinicke in to pass the ball in special packages, unless he is a serious threat to run the ball.

Sean Peyton does not bring Hill in to pass the ball, he has Hill pass the ball on rare occasions because he takes advantage of defenses playing the run. Unless Heinicke can offer potential as a runner, there is no reason for Heinicke to come into the game to pass the ball. 

So, Washington could bring Heinicke in a game to be the “Taysom Hill” of the offense. But unless Heinicke has grown as a runner, that probably won’t happen. The only thing that helps Heinicke in this regard is how bad Washington’s quarterback room is. They do not have a clear starter. So Heinicke could win the starting job, as a passer, and still provide some sort of threat as a runner.

Will Heinicke be the next Taysom Hill? No. And the only way he starts for Washington is if he outplays all the other quarterbacks on the roster, which is certainly possible. But even Ron Rivera did not name Heinicke as the starter. Otherwise, Heinicke is most likely a capable backup. But he won’t come into the game as a “Taysom Hill” type player unless he can become a threat on the ground. Otherwise, Washington has no reason to put Heinicke into a game.

Kelly Kleine: How She Became the Highest Ranked Woman in NFL Scouting

Kelly Kleine continues to be a trailblazer for women in sports…

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Kelly Kleine is not just the highest-ranked woman in NFL scouting, but one of the most powerful women of all time in the entire league. She continues to climb the ranks through hard work and perseverance and has been a revolution for women in a male-dominated profession. Her accomplishments to this point are remarkable and she’s just getting started. Let’s take a look at her impressive journey to the top.

Kelly Kleine: A Rise to Power

While attending the University of Minnesota, she was hired as an intern for the Minnesota Vikings public relations department in 2012. The following year in 2013 she became a scouting intern and was promoted to a full-time staff member as a scouting assistant in 2014. It did not take long for Kleine to climb the ranks. In 2015 she was promoted yet again, this time to be the Vikings scouting coordinator where she would oversee all scouting operations. She was highly trusted by the organization, serving as the link between the executive front office and all of their scouting units.

The highest title she received with the Vikings was the manager of player personnel. Her decade of hard work earned her yet another promotion, but this time it would be with a new team. The Denver Broncos hired her this offseason to be the executive director of football operations and a special advisor to the general manager. This hiring would make her the highest-ranking woman in NFL scouting history.

The Connection

Before hiring Kelly Kleine, the Broncos first hired a brand new general manager to run the team. After spending fifteen years with the Vikings organization in several different positions, George Paton would get his first opportunity to be a GM when he was hired by the Broncos this offseason. When a team hires a new GM, it usually means more staff changes are going to follow. A new person in charge, like Paton, gets the opportunity to tweak things in a way of their choice for the potential betterment of the organization. After all, a desire for change is the whole reason a team would hire a new GM in the first place.

Now calling the shots in Denver, it did not take long for Paton to contact Kleine about joining the staff. They worked together for nearly a decade in Minnesota, so he was well aware of the talent and value that she could bring to a team. He hired her to a very high position and will rely on her abilities heavily to assist in major team operations.

Only Getting Started

This is not the finish line for Kelly Kleine, but rather just another starting point. She will have a wide variety of responsibilities in her new role with the Broncos, including overseeing several different departments and operations. Her performance will open the possibility of advancing even higher in the ranks if she is successful. There is no reason to believe she won’t, and it is likely that she will make positive headlines again in the near future. This is another big step in the right direction for women in sports. A revolution is happening, and Kelly Kleine is one of the leaders of the pack.

Three ways the Packers can heal the Rodgers strain

Could Rodgers still stay in Green Bay?

By: Noah Nichols

When the news broke that Aaron Rodgers no longer wanted to play for the Green Bay Packers, his only team for his entire career, it shocked a lot of people.

Others, not so much. Those people agreed with Rodgers, in a way. The Packers had just taken a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft a year before. Instead of helping their Hall of Fame quarterback to get over the NFC Championship hump, (that seems to plague the Packers), they literally did the only thing that would not help him whatsoever.

In the 2021 NFL draft, the Packers did add a speedy, playmaking wide receiver. They still have one of the best one-two punches at running back in the league. But Rodgers wants more than that. As he should. There are three things that the Packers can do to bring him back to play at Lambeau again. And they should do one, or more of these things if they want any shot at winning a Lombardi.

1: Extend Rodgers

There were reports that the Packers were working on a contract extension with Rodgers. He certainly deserves one. His contract extension ends in two years. If the Packers want to save money and help save their relationship with Rodgers, they should extend him.

Not only can they move money into the future, helping them enter a “win now” mode, but Rodgers gets what he feels he deserves. More money. And with the quarterback market being reset by Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, Rodgers would make a LOT of money. Would this contract be worth more than Mahomes or Watson?

Probably not. Both Mahomes and Watson are much younger than Rodgers. And for all his greatness, he has an injury history, and age does not make one any healthier. If Rodgers were to come to an agreement with the Packers on a contract extension, it would probably look a little like this. An additional three years, making him signed for the next five years, and another 90 million dollars added to his current contract.

With Rodgers due almost 40 million next year, the Packers would also be able to push some of that money into the future, maybe 15 million, bringing his cap hit down next year, while still giving him the money he wants. His new contract would be worth around 150 million dollars, and he would make on average 30 million per year. Not a market reset, but certainly reasonable for a 37-year-old quarterback, no matter his talent.

2: Bring Back Jake Kumerow

This might seem like a surprise, but it is a big deal to Rodgers. He was reportedly “furious” when the Packers released Kumerow. During an interview on Sirius XM, Rodgers said of Kumerow: “I think he’s a fantastic, steady player, who’s very heady on the field. He makes plays, he plays with a lot of coincidence, and he’s a guy who you love having on the squad.”

Clearly, Rodgers liked have Kumerow on the team. He was also frustrated that the Packers did not consult him before they released Kumerow. To Rodgers, Kumerow was someone that Rodgers could depend on. He was or is, probably good friends with Kumerow off the field. Rodgers probably felt like he lost a friend and a dependable player. Any quarterback wants those things out of a receiver, no matter how great they are. Look at Tom Brady with Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, and Ben Roethlisberger with Heath Miller and Antonio Brown. Sure those players were better than Kumerow, but the idea is the same. Quarterbacks have someone they prefer to throw to. They typically don’t appreciate it when that player is released, especially without their knowledge.

Even if the Packers don’t bring back Kumerow, (which is probably unlikely, due to the receiver they drafted, Amari Rodgers), they can still learn from this mistake. The Packers can approach Rodgers, and let him know that from now on, he will have intimate knowledge, and say, in the Packers roster. But they should take a look at bringing Kumerow back, if for no other reason than to appease Rodgers.

3: Fire Brian Gutekunsk and have Rodgers take his place as GM

This final option is a half-truth, half-joke. Rodgers reportedly does want Gutekunst, the Packers General Manager, fired. But Rodgers would not take his place. Instead, Rodgers would have a heavy influence in two things. First, whoever became the next GM. And second, anything that the new GM did to the Packers roster.

That could be the release, signing, or restructuring of a player, anything to do with the roster. Rodgers might not care about the defense, but he would at least have a voice in the room that the GM would have to listen to. And if the GM chose not to listen to him, Rodgers could simply say that he won’t play again.

All three of these options could happen, independently, or altogether. If all three were to happen there is no doubt that Rodgers would have gotten what he wants. He would have his new contract, new GM, and a much larger influence on the construction of the Packers roster. If the Packers want Rodgers back, they need to do at least one of these three options, if not all of them.

Michael Thomas Will Return to the Reception King in 2021

After a frustrating 2020 campaign, MT is poised to take back the receptions throne this season.

by Michael Obermuller

In 2020, Stefon Diggs led the NFL in receptions with 127 during his inaugural season in Buffalo. It was a legendary campaign for Bills’ new WR1, but he’s still more of a newcomer when it comes to this honor. The recent king of catches has been New Orleans Saints star Michael Thomas, and he’s the only player to actually top Diggs’ 2020 output.

It was a rough 2020 for MT, starting with a high ankle sprain in Week 1. Then, after an altercation on the practice field before his expected Week 5 return, Thomas was benched and fined for breaking team rules. Things got worse from there, as the wide-out did not end up returning until Week 9 (injury flare ups). After six games on the field, Thomas finished the year off it again, joining the injured reserve before Week 15.

“Can’t Guard Mike” was the receptions leader in both 2018 and ’19, and there’s no reason to believe that he cannot take back this title again in 2021. Here’s why.

1. Career Consistency

The New Orleans Saints WR1 caught 149 passes two seasons ago, totaling 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns through the air. The next closest pass-catcher was running back Christian McCaffrey, with 116 receptions. This was not just a career season by MT, it was a campaign that will go down in the NFL history books as one of the greatest of all-time. Thomas was never a one-hit wonder either. He also led the NFL in receptions in 2018 (125), and finished third in 2017 (104).

In fact, since his rookie season in 2016, MT has only caught less than 100 passes twice; 92 as a rookie (which is actually pretty ridiculous) and 40 during his injury-ruined 2020 campaign. This is one of the most consistent players in all of football. Not wide receivers, players. No wide-out has been as steady as Thomas in terms of receptions though, and that includes rivals like DeAndre Hopkins and Davante Adams. He is currently averaging 7.3 receptions per game throughout his career, with a 77.6 percent catch rate.

2. Stats Without Brees

One of the arguments against Thomas has always been that he plays with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, but this is an unfair critique of MT’s game. Whenever Brees has missed time in recent years, his top wide receiver has performed just as impressively without him, if not more so.

The stats above are from three games with Teddy Bridgewater in 2019. Thomas averaged 8.3 catches per game during that span, which is actually higher than that 7.3 career average. Brees also went down in 2020, and MT produced yet again (and with lingering injuries and Taysom Hill at QB this time). During four games with Hill throwing the ball, Thomas caught 30 passes for 343 yards, which averaged out to 7.5 receptions per game.

Clearly, MT doesn’t care who’s throwing him the football, so why would it matter if Jameis Winston (or Hill again) is his quarterback in 2021? If anything, Winston is known as a gunslinger who actually led the NFL in passing yardage in 2019. The Saints may also play from behind more with Jameis or Taysom at QB, which generally means more passing attempts and wide receiver targets. Thomas will be just fine without Brees, after all his nickname is Can’t Guard Mike for a reason.

3. Sean Payton

NOLA general manager Mickey Loomis extended Thomas in 2019. The five year deal was worth a record-breaking $96 million-plus. That is an expensive weapon, and don’t think for a second that head coach Sean Payton won’t milk that weapon for every penny so long as he’s wearing a Saints jersey. We are talking about one of the most creative offensive minds the game has ever seen, with one of the best pure route runners of the NFL today.

Whichever route New Orleans goes at quarterback, Thomas will be a major part of it. Outside of 2020, MT has averaged 150.5 targets per season in Payton’s offense, and the HC has already proven he can win without Brees just like the wide-out has proven he can put up numbers without his former QB. This is not meant to disparage Brees, but instead credit a couple of the key influencers on his career. The Saints have also lost WR2 Emmanuel Sanders and TE Jared Cook in free agency, meaning Payton may have to rely on his WR1 more than usual this season.

Two things are for certain; the Saints offense will score in 2021, and Michael Thomas will catch many passes so long as he’s on the field. He may even reclaim his crown.

the Chicago Bears are top NFC Super Bowl Sleepers in 2021

In the blink of an eye, the Chicago Bears have flipped their chances in 2021, and not just because they landed QB Justin Fields.

A few short months ago I was writing articles about general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy’s impending firings, so I understand as well as anyone that a Chicago Bears Super Bowl run sounds a bit farfetched right now, but NFL franchises often flip the script overnight in this league and it can all start with one move.

Now I know I just finished saying that Chicago’s chances aren’t reliant on Fields’ immediate stardom, and they’re not, but his potential as a generational quarterback talent is certainly the conductor of the hype train.

Truth is, I have been against this regime for quite some time. The trade up for the unproven Mitchell Trubisky, the horrid playcalling by Nagy that seemed to stunt the growth of not only Trubisky but running back David Montgomery, the indecision at QB and the miserable ideas to bring in Nick Foles and Andy Dalton as “saviors” when every NFL fan under the sun knows that these veterans are no more than underwhelming game managers. Yes, I know Foles won a Super Bowl, but that Philadelphia Eagles roster was built like a tank and this Bears one is not.

It’s been a tough road for Bears fans ever since Vic Fangio’s defense (led by Khalil Mack) shattered expectations in 2018. Not tough like 1-15 record tough, but more “what could have been” tough. The knowledge that your putrid offense is holding back and possibly wasting a championship caliber defense is difficult to stomach (especially when you traded a ton of your future draft capital for the catalyst of that unit in Mack).

This defense has a window, and that window is closing fast. Mack is under contract till 2025, but his cap hit is exorbitant after 2021 (unless Chicago takes the potential out next offseason at a $24 million dollar hit). That 2018 group has already seen losses like Fangio (DC), Kyle Fuller (CB1), Adrian Amos (S), Prince Amukamara (CB2, age caught up fast here), Bryce Callahan (slot), Leonard Floyd (edge) and more. Mack’s departure could be the final nail in the coffin, sealing that window for good.

The emergence of a unique prospect like Fields at QB gives Chicago a shot in 2021, but there are a few other factors that have a Jets fan like me all aboard the Bears bandwagon.

1. NFC in Decline

With Drew Brees retiring, the NFC East in total dissarray, Aaron Rodgers wanting out of Green Bay, and the NFC West all beating up on eachother, there aren’t many Super Bowl favorites in the NFC outside of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In what has become a conference shift in strength, we now see a lot of the bright young quarterbacks in the AFC (Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson should he return to Houston) while the NFC is left wanting.

An Aaron Rodgers trade to a franchise like the Denver Broncos could totally blow the doors off this conversation. Not only that, it would leave a gaping hole in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions rebuilding and the Minnesota Vikings as a playoff bubble team at best. The Green Bay Packers are one of the NFC’s (and Bears’) strongest competitors left, and if there’s any truth to the rumors, that Cheesehead locomotive may have already flown off the tracks.

2. Phenomenal ’21 Draft

We all know about the Justin Fields selection, but the Bears 2021 draft went much further than that. Pace was drafting like his job was on the line and he answered the bell with some really solid picks.

Just after trading up to get the franchise QB, Pace was able to nab the left tackle to pair with him for years to come, in Teven Jenkins. Many thought the Oklahoma State Cowboys 6’6″ tackle would go in the first, but he slipped to day two and the Bears did not hesitate. Later on he bulked the offensive line again, drafting upside guard prospect Larry Borom out of Missouri.

One trouble area may be cornerback with Fuller gone, but sixth rounder Thomas Graham Jr. had sleeper grades from many analysts out of Oregon. The former Duck could help fill the void, but Chicago will also need something from 2020 second rounder Jaylon Johnson (just turned 22 in April), and free agent flier Desmond Trufant.

3. Key Vets Returning After 2020 Season

I wasn’t particularly high on the 2020 Bears defense, in part because I knew the offense would struggle, but also because some instrumental pieces were missing.

One major cog to account for was nose tackle Eddie Goldman, a 2020 COVID opt-out. Goldman had 40-plus tackles in 2017 and ’18 as one of the premier run-stuffers in the game. 2021 is only his age-27 season, so Chicago will count on the DT to return with avengeance after a year on the pine.

Alongside Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, this unit is still very formidable up front. The linebacker core also flaunts Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan in the middle, with free safety Eddie Jackson over the top. LB Christian Jones joins this crew, and they’ll also look to re-sign or replace strong safety Tash Gipson before preseason begins. Gipson started all 16 games with the Bears a season ago, and is currently an unrestricted free agent.

Let’s not forget the offensive side of the ball, as Pace held onto wide receiver Allen Robinson for dear life. New faces like Damien Williams, Damiere Byrd, Dazz Newsome, Khalil Herbert and Marquise Goodwin add some versatility to a group that needs to get more creative behind Fields and Nagy.

This defense may be slightly diminished from 2018, but it’s still pretty darn good, and this offense could theoretically become much more dynamic with a quarterback like Fields at the helm. Am I slightly worried that Nagy may just be a terrible coach? Absolutely. This is a make or break season for the HC though, so I expect him to pull out all the stops.

At the very least, I see the Bears as a playoff team again in 2021, but at +4800 odds right now on FanDuel Sportsbook, Chicago may just be the biggest sleeper pick to win Super Bowl LVI.

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