Dolphins and Deshaun Watson, J.K. Dobbins injury and more

The Houston Texans are asking for massive draft capital to trade Deshaun Watson, and the Miami Dolphins’ continued interest speaks volumes.

If your significant other gets a lawyer, drafts the divorce papers and is willing to sign away most of their wealth to escape, don’t believe them when they say everything is fixable.

The Miami Dolphins’ alleged interest in Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, despite all the ugliness swirling around him, speaks volumes towards how they feel about Tua Tagovailoa.

In a normal situation, it’s understandable to want Watson even if the Dolphins loved Tagovailoa.  The Texans’ star is a 25-year-old with elite talent at the game’s premium position. From a football standpoint, he’s an upgrade in the short and long term for almost every team.

But the world isn’t from only a football standpoint. Watson is currently being investigated on criminal complaints alongside 22 civil suits for sexual assault. According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, teams interested in Watson have looked for pick protections considering Watson’s plight.

If you need pick protections because someone is facing almost two-dozen civil suits and potential criminal penalties, perhaps it’s time to back out. And yet from multiple reports, the Dolphins are engaged and interested in Watson, even with Houston seeking three first- and two second-round picks.

Whether Miami eventually acquires Watson doesn’t change that it’s making the effort despite everything. And, regardless of what the Dolphins say publicly about Tagovailoa, their actions are shouting their beliefs.

Entering his second season, few quarterbacks have ever been more embattled from the start than Tagovailoa. Working his way back from a serious hip injury sustained his junior season at Alabama, the Hawaii native started 10 games as a rookie and had mixed results. Miami went 7-3 in his starts but the No. 5 overall pick was benched twice in favor of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, while throwing for a paltry 6.3 yards per attempt.

Still, an easy argument can be made the Dolphins needed to help Tagovailoa with better weaponry, an argument the team seemed to buy when it signed receiver Will Fuller and drafted his former Alabama teammate, Jaylen Waddle, in the first round.

Furthermore, all of the latest news surrounding Miami and Watson brings up another curious point and a thread to pull on.

If the Dolphins believe this little in Tagovailoa, why not stand firm with their No. 3 overall choice in April and select either Trey Lance, Mac Jones or Justin Fields? Additionally, why send a 2022 first-round choice to the Philadelphia Eagles, when it could have been used to procure a new quarterback either this offseason or next?

Maybe the easy answer is general manager Chris Grier didn’t like the quarterback class. Or, perhaps he sees Watson as the final piece to a championship puzzle, and he’ll take on any risk, any PR hit to make it happen. It’s a strategy rife with pitfalls, but if Watson is clearly legally, the Dolphins are suddenly an AFC powerhouse.

Still, Miami’s interest is a siren about its situation. If the Dolphins believed in Tagovailoa, they wouldn’t be deeply investigating what would be the riskiest trade in NFL history, securing a quarterback whose future is uncertain in every way.

Miami has drafted the papers, lawyered up and has prepared to write the check. It can talk all it wants about loving Tagovailoa, but its action scream otherwise.

Power rankings

Top 10 contenders coming out of the preseason

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Green Bay Packers
5. Seattle Seahawks
6. Cleveland Browns
7. Los Angeles Rams
8. San Francisco 49ers
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. Tennessee Titans

Quotable

“Like the rest of us, I didn’t think it was enough varsity work from him. It wasn’t the type of performance he wanted or we wanted. But such is life.”

– Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ performance

Fighting with Mason Rudolph for the backup quarterback spot, Haskins was hideous against the Panthers on Friday night. The former Washington first-round pick completed 3-of-9 throws for 24 yards and an interception in the first half against Carolina’s starters.

It’s hard to see Pittsburgh putting Haskins above Rudolph or maybe even Josh Dobbs, leaving him looking for work. If the Steelers cut Haskins, he might have difficulty catching on, meaning a top-20 choice — and a quarterback, at that — could be out of the league in less than three years.

Podcast

Random stat

How much has the game changed over the decades?

In 1974, Minnesota Vikings receiver John Gilliam made the third of his four consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, notching 26 receptions for 578 yards and five touchdowns over 14 games.

Info learned this week

1. Ravens loss of Dobbins puts Jackson further under microscope in key year

On Saturday, the Ravens won their record-setting 20th consecutive preseason game. And yet they lost simultaneously.

In the first quarter against Washington, Baltimore running back J.K. Dobbins took a screen pass and got hit, his left knee bending grotesquely backwards. The star second-year man from Ohio State has a torn ACL, putting him out for the 2021 season.

No team relies more on its rushing attack than the Ravens, and while backup Gus Edwards is a good player, losing Dobbins is crushing. Last year, the rookie ran for 805 yards and nine touchdowns on 6.0 yards per carry.

Now, the offensive onus falls even more on quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Jackson, still waiting for his mega extension, is entering the most critical year of his career. With Dobbins gone, Baltimore will be more pass-heavy, a direction it was already planning on but now could accelerate further.

If Jackson shines, he’ll put Baltimore in a position of having to pay every cent he wants next offseason. If he crumbles, though, things could get messy in Charm City.

2. Broncos, Saints make their QB decisions and get them right

Finally, some clarity out of Denver and New Orleans.

Early last week, the Broncos sided with newcomer Teddy Bridgewater as theirs starting quarterback, sending former second-round pick Drew Lock to the bench. Denver is essentially betting Bridgewater won’t commit the turnovers Lock did in 2020, where he fumbled eight times (three lost) and threw a league-high 15 interceptions in only 13 games.

For Denver, which has the makings of an elite defense and capable offense, Bridgewater is the smart play. Head coach Vic Fangio knows if Bridgewater protects the ball, the Broncos can win with field position, turnover margin and the occasional big play.

Meanwhile, the Saints made the obvious choice of Jameis Winston over Taysom Hill. While the latter has a role in the offense — as he’s had for years — Winston has far more upside and potential. Only 27 years old, the former No.1 overall pick has shown he can make any throw, but has been plagued by turnovers. This was shown in 2019, when he led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards, but also chucked 30 interceptions.

If the Saints can get Winston to throw 12-15 interceptions, he’s a quarterback New Orleans can reach the postseason with. The defense is terrific and while the early-season loss of receiver Michael Thomas is tough, Winston can hit the big play, hand off to running back Alvin Kamara and pile up wins in the weak NFC South.

Of course, getting Winston to cut down the turnovers is a huge if, but the Saints have a chance with him. They had virtually none with Hill.

3. Cut-down day brings tough decisions across league

Ask people around the league, and this Tuesday is the worst day on the calendar. Dreams end, families pack up. Hundreds get a call nobody ever wants.

In 24 hours, the league mandates every club cuts its roster to 53 players from the current 80-man list. For some, the decisions are easier the others, with general managers having to weigh financial components against pure talent. The result is usually a litany of expected cuts with a few surprises, leaving quality veterans on the market.

This year, a few names to watch include Eagles tight end Zach Eetz, Texans edge rushers Whitney Mercilus and Shaq Lawson, and former All-Pro right tackle Marcus Cannon.

Of course, there’s the added wrinkle of COVID and who decided to remain unvaccinated. Talking to multiple league sources, anybody cut who isn’t vaccinated will have a tough time being signed, as they have to adhere to a protocol which requires quarantine before joining the club. Meanwhile, a player with the vaccine can visit and sign quickly, giving them an obvious advantage.

All 32 rosters will be set, more or less, come Tuesday. It won’t be an easy process for any involved.

4. Bill Belichick, Patriots show their smarts with pair of trades

Last week, the New England Patriots swung two trades. Each showcased the savvy of Bill Belichick.

On Thursday, New England acquired rookie corner Shaun Wade from the Ravens, relinquishing ’22 seventh-round and ’23 fifth-round choices. The former Ohio State star fell to Day 3 in April’s draft and in a crowded Baltimore secondary, wasn’t going to make the roster. For the Ravens, getting any value back was imperative, while Belichick saw an opportunity to fortify both his corners and special teams.

For Wade, he’ll be behind a litany of stars including J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore. But with both scheduled to hit free agency next year, New England could get cheaper and younger, especially in the person of Gilmore, should Wade flash in practice and the occasional defensive rep.

Earlier in the week, Belichick sent former first-round pick Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams, who were looking to buttress the running back room after Cam Akers tore his Achilles in July. Ultimately, Belichick and the Patriots take a loss here, with a top pick going bust. However, New England wisely cut bait and received a sixth-round choice in 2022 along with a ’23 fourth-rounder.

All told, Belichick basically swapped Michel for Wade while moving up a round in each of the next two drafts.

Belichick is often hailed a personnel genius when it’s not warranted, but he had a shrewd week.

5. Jordan Love shows plenty good, but shows rawness for Packers

On Sunday, we saw why the Packers moved up in the ’20 first round for Jordan Love. We also saw why they never entertained trading Aaron Rodgers.

In the most extensive action of his brief career, Love was uneven. The second-year pro threw a few beautiful balls off-platform, including a gorgeous 27-yard sideline dart to Malik Taylor after he drew Buffalo offside.

However, Love also launched a hideous, under pressure, off-balance interception to Bills safety Micah Hyde in the end zone. Later in the first half, Love once again threw late and across the middle, and was only spared a second end-zone theft because of a deflection at the last moment.

For Green Bay, Love may be the future, but there’s a clear reason he isn’t the present. The Utah State product desperately needs work when facing a pass rush, but the arm and athleticism is clearly there.

Will Love figure it out? We’ll find out in 2022.

Two cents

I’ve written plenty about quarterbacks facing pressure in 2021. Perhaps no team is under more scrutiny than the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas had grand plans last season after hiring a Super Bowl-winning head coach in Mike McCarthy. Everything went to hell immediately, with the defense imploding, Dak Prescott ailing and the Cowboys limping to a 5-11 record.

Entering September, Dallas is once again being hyped in many corners. The NFC East is weak, even if the Washington Football Team and New York Giants appear improved.  Save the Buccaneers, every NFC team has questions, whether related to chemistry (see: Packers), injury history (see: 49ers) or both (see: Rams).

All this leaves the door of contention open for Dallas. However, the Cowboys haven’t reached the conference championship Game since 1995. Only the Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, Browns and Football Team have longer current draughts.

For America’s Team, another flop would be devastating. Owner Jerry Jones is 78 years old. The offensive talent is teeming with Prescott, receivers CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper, and running back Zeke Elliott. The defense was overhauled, led by first-round rookie linebacker Micah Parsons.

Between the roster and the surrounding circumstances, the Cowboys are set up for success.

If they can’t capitalize, patience will be short and consternation will be abundant in Dallas.

Inside the league

Connections matter in life. Certainly in football.

On Saturday morning, the Eagles acquired quarterback Gardner Minshew from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a conditional sixth-round pick. While general manager Howie Roseman deserves credit for the heist — and landing a cheap 25-year-old quarterback with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions certainly qualifies — don’t forget about Dave Caldwell.

Caldwell, who served as the Jaguars general manager from 2013-20, was brought on by Philadelphia this offseason as a personnel executive. Caldwell selected Minshew in ’19 and got a great look at both the player and person for two years, after doing ample homework leading into the draft. It’s no coincidence the Eagles made the move. They had the inside information on who they we’re getting, from all angles.

Minshew, entering his third pro season, has two years of cheap control remaining on his rookie contract. Coming in to play behind Jalen Hurts, the Washington State product lands in a terrific spot. If Hurts struggles, Minshew gets a real opportunity.

For the Eagles, it’s a buy-low move with real upside. Having a voice inside the organization with real insight was undoubtedly important in making the decision.

History lesson

No team has ever had better consecutive draft picks than the Chicago Bears in 1965. And they were literally consecutive.

In the ’65 Draft, owner George Halas held the No. 3 and 4 overall selections after acquiring the former from the Pittsburgh Steelers the year prior for second and fourth-round selections. With that choice, Halas nabbed linebacker Dick Butkus. Minutes later, running back Gale Sayers.

Two Hall of Famers, among the greatest to ever play their positions, brought into the fold.

Sadly, both were racked by knee injuries. Sayers played only 68 games across seven seasons, while Butkus retired after nine painful campaigns. Still, both earned five First-Team All-Pro honors along with being named to the 1960s All-Decade Team, while Butkus also made the ’70s All-Decade Team despite retiring in 1973.

Sayers and Butkus defined an era both for the Bears and the NFL, without ever participating in a playoff game, let alone a Super Bowl.

Parting shot

Los Angeles Chargers hype. To borrow the phrase, a tradition unlike any other.

It seems an annual rite we hear about the Chargers being the hot team in the AFC. Yet most recent autumns, whether due to injuries, coaching or another reason for underperformance, Los Angeles hasn’t lived up to expectations.

While the hype is back again, perhaps there’s real reason to believe.

Justin Herbert is coming off a sensational rookie campaign, throwing for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns. The offensive line, one of last year’s worse units league-wide, is also revamped. General manager Tom Telesco inked All-Pro center Corey Linsley and guard Matt Feiler to multi-year deals, before selecting left tackle Rashawn Slater in the first round.

Defensively, the Chargers sustained losses in linebacker Denzel Perryman and corner Casey Hayward, they get star safety Derwin James back from a foot injury which kept him out all of 2020. James is a stud in every sense, and is arguably the NFL’s best safety in man coverage. With Los Angeles facing Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders four times, James’ presence looms large.

Picking the Chargers to win the AFC West without the Chiefs sustaining major injuries is a blind risk. But Los Angeles getting into the playoffs and being a tough out? Hype worth believing.

Source: FanSided

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