Texans coach can ‘definitely see’ J.J. Watt playing Week 1, but ‘won’t commit to it’

The Chargers signed Jones to a one-year deal earlier this month as a potential replacement to Stevie Johnson, lost for the season with a meniscus tear in his right knee that required surgery.

Pittsburgh’s high-ceiling offense will go through 2016 without the services of suspended wideout Martavis Bryant, while all-world running back Le’Veon Bell will serve a three-game ban to start the year. The latter looked good running and cutting in last weekend’s long-awaited return to the field. In Cincinnati, losing Hue Jackson as the team’s offensive coordinator puts Andy Dalton back in the spotlight. Can he still play at the MVP level he operated at for much of last season? Can Bengals rookie wideout Tyler Boyd make up for the loss of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu? The Ravens have put last year’s injury-plagued disaster behind them, but Baltimore’s roster can’t match what the balanced Steelers and Bengals bring to the table.

While some players have come out in support of Kaepernick and his right to protest, other players are livid with Kaepernick, including one of his ex-teammates.

Vikings offensive lineman Alex Boone, who spent five seasons as Kaepernick’s teammate in San Francisco, says that the 49ers quarterback needs to show some “f—— respect.”

“It’s hard for me, because my brother was a Marine, and he lost a lot of friends over there,” Boone said, via USA Today. “That flag obviously gives (Kaepernick) the right to do whatever he wants. I understand it. At the same time, you should have some f—— respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom. And I get that he can do whatever he wants. But there’s a time and a place. Show some respect, and that’s just how I feel.”

Boone also called it shameful that Kaepenick didn’t stand.

“You see all these pictures of these veterans that have no legs, and they’re standing up in a wheelchair,” Boone said. “I had a brother that served, and he lost friends, and I know how much it means to him. It’s shameful.”

Boone’s brother J.J. is a marine who once served in Iraq.

“We’re out here playing a game, making millions of dollars,” Boone said. “People are losing their lives, and you don’t have the common courtesy to do that. That just drove me nuts.”

Josh Gordon’s catches overshadowed by Browns’ clunker vs. Bucs

The Cleveland Browns might look at Josh Gordon’s late first-half touchdown catch as a good sign from Friday night’s game in Tampa Bay.
This was a bad third preseason game.

“I’m not going to accept this,” Jackson said. “We’re going to go back to work and fix this.”

QB depth chart: Jackson gave Griffin one half, then went right to Josh McCown. There will be no change in this depth chart. Griffin will be the Browns’ starter.

Special failures: It wasn’t just the offense and defense that let down. Special teams contributed, as well. The starters gave up a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first half, the backups a 43-yard return that set up a field goal in the second half. This was not a good night for the team.

Despite having surgery on his collarbone in March, the Cowboys believed Romo was in his best physical condition since the first back surgery in 2013. That now comes into question before the Sept. 11 season opener against the New York Giants.

All about Elliott: As deflating as Romo’s injury was, Ezekiel Elliott’s debut was encouraging. The No. 4 overall draft pick played 15 snaps in his debut and carried seven times for 48 yards. He showed speed in getting to the edge for 9 yards. He showed vision in breaking through the front seven for another 9. He showed no fear in seeking out safety Kam Chancellor on a 13-yard gain. On the one pass thrown his direction, Chancellor was flagged for unnecessary roughness after he hit Elliott well after the ball was on the ground.

Elliott was also able to handle pass-protection responsibilities as a blocker. The Ohio State product showed a feistiness, jawing with several Seattle defenders as the Cowboys matched the Seahawks’ physicality with some of their own.

Real world: Dak Prescott knew he would start the preseason opener and knew he would take over for Romo in the second preseason game after a series or two. Thursday offered up a real-world scenario, as he was thrust into action after just three snaps. Playing behind the first-team offensive line in the first half, the rookie completed 15 of 19 passes for 106 yards with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten on his second series.

“He comes in and shows great poise,” Witten said. “He trusts his players, and he trusts the system. Coach [and offensive coordinator Scott] Linehan does a great job with him. The situation and circumstances are not too big for him.”

Prescott finished the game 17-of-23 for 116 yards and carried twice for 12 yards.

Shoulder injury to keep Matt Jones out rest of preseason

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady returned to the team Tuesday from an excused personal absence, telling reporters he “had to take care of something” without divulging what it was.

Brady also detailed what unfolded before Thursday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears, when he sliced his right thumb on a pair of scissors and was a late scratch.

“I was ready to go, had everything on, and I was just trying to get something out of my shoe,” he said. “The scissors slipped. Just a silly accident.”

“It’s a crappy way to not be out there because it’s a silly mistake. I’m glad it wasn’t in the regular season. I learned from it and hopefully won’t be operating any more scissors for a while.”

Brady said that when the accident happened, he “let out a pretty loud word I wouldn’t repeat in front of my kids. I couldn’t believe it and then got it checked out.”

CSN New England tweeted a close-up photo of Brady’s thumb.

Asked how his right thumb feels now, Brady said, “Good. It took a few days. I wanted to go, and Coach [Belichick] said it’s probably best if we just take it easy.

Jones said: “Injuries happen so you can’t stop that from happening. But … everyone wants to be durable.”

Despite White’s pedestrian statistics, Jeffery thinks the second-year wideout is on track to experience regular-season success.

“He’s taking coaching well and learning, because, I mean, he missed the whole year last year, so this year he’s progressing right where we need him to be,” Jeffery said. “He listens to the coaches, and he’s making plays and he’s having fun.”

As they got up, Funchess still had Worley’s facemask. They ultimately were separated by defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.

Funchess didn’t want to talk about it afterwards.

Vikes’ Mike Zimmer: Up to Adrian Peterson on preseason playing time

“I probably made some mistakes going forward — he’s out for the year, we come back, I don’t play him in the preseason games and then we’re kind of figuring out things,” Zimmer said in January. “I felt like we were figuring things out a little bit at the beginning of the year, especially offensively with that whole dynamic. That was probably a mistake that I made. I probably should have been more involved with trying to get things, and I don’t know, maybe playing him.”

With Peterson present and healthy for all of the Vikings’ organized team activities and minicamp, though, Zimmer left things more open-ended through the spring. The Vikings’ two joint practices with the Cincinnati Bengals last week gave Peterson a chance to work against another team without the risk of injury from live tackling, and it’s possible those practices will be the closest he comes to game action before the regular season.

Ultimately, the decision will largely be in Peterson’s hands. Asked why he would play the running back, Zimmer simply said, “If he wants to.”

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – San Francisco 49ers quarterback Thad Lewis will miss the 2016 NFL season after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament in Sunday’s preseason opener against the Houston Texans.

Niners coach Chip Kelly confirmed the injury on Monday afternoon.

“I’m just really disappointed for him because I thought he played well yesterday,” Kelly said. “We would like him to stick around.”

With 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick nursing a fatigued right arm, Lewis was the first off the bench behind starter Blaine Gabbert against Houston. Lewis took over on the team’s fourth offensive series and played well into the third quarter.

On his final snap before departing, Lewis scrambled from pressure for a 1-yard gain. Lewis was hit as he went to the ground but Kelly said Lewis didn’t believe he was hurt that badly on the play.

Lewis had a slight limp as he went to the locker room and seemed to be in good spirits as he left Levi’s Stadium on Sunday night. Kelly said the 49ers received the official confirmation of the injury on Monday morning and hadn’t yet had the chance to discuss what comes next.

“We just lost Thad today, which is disappointing for us,” quarterbacks coach Ryan Day said. “We really felt like we were creating depth at the position and then we lose Thad so it’s an obstacle we’ve got to overcome but that’s part of coaching in the NFL. Nobody else cares so although it bothers us, we have to come up with a new plan moving forward.”

No. 3 pick of 2013 NFL Draft cleared to return to practice after suspension

He was then suspended again for the entire 2015 season thanks to yet another violation of the performance enhancing drug policy. Jordan now returns to a team that could use some help in the pass rush department, having lost Olivier Vernon this offseason, but which also has established starters entrenched at left and right end in Cameron Wake and Mario Williams. He’ll likely have to play his way into a rotational role.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 fantasy football season is about to get underway. The SB Nation fantasy football draft guide features all you need to dominate your league, including position rankings, sleepers and potential busts, rookie rankings, the biggest offseason transactions, and even the important bye week implications.

The 2016 fantasy football has arrived, which means it is time to prepare for your upcoming fantasy league drafts. Whether you are playing a one-off season, a keeper league, or a monster dynasty league, we’re here to help you get ready for the season. There are plenty of ways to prepare, and we have a vast array of opinions and information to get you closer to fantasy football glory.

Our annual guide opens with a look at an overall ranking of the top 150 players. The NFL is a pass-heavy league, and our rankings reflect that in 2016. Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Jr., and Julio Jones top our overall rankings with close to unanimity from our five experts. Todd Gurley follows as the second year back is expected to do huge things in the Rams first season in Los Angeles. The first quarterbacks do not show up until the late 30s, with Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers virtually tied.

The 2015 SB Nation fantasy football draft guide features the normal assortment of position rankings, but we continue to take it a step further. We have all the positions ranked, separating out running backs and wide receivers for standard and PPR leagues. We also have put together rankings from five different SB Nation fantasy football writers, and developed consensus rankings. There are agreements near the top, but injury questions and suspensions result in some adjustments across the board.

You can’t win your league without hitting on some sleepers and avoiding the potential busts. We break down candidates for each in 2016. Some sleepers are notable names like Philip Rivers and Jonathan Stewart. They may be well known, but they are still potential fantasy bargains based on where other folks are drafting them. The busts include plenty of big names, with Eddie Lacy and Carson Palmer among the most notable this season.

Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald sign 1-year extensions

It’s no surprise that the Cardinals committed to Fitzgerald, a peerless team leader and the face of the franchise for the past decade. The 13-year veteran has successfully transitioned from All-Pro “X” receiver working outside the numbers to Pro Bowl slot receiver inside the numbers. The 2015 season represented his finest work since 2011, featuring a career-high 109 receptions as Palmer’s go-to target in key situations.

Palmer’s pact is his second extension in less than two years. It’s also a vote of confidence for a 36-year-old passer who followed an MVP-caliber season with a disastrous seven-turnover performance while playing through an index finger injury that altered his touch in the NFC Championship Game.

Coach Bruce Arians came to his quarterback’s defense after the meltdown, emphasizing that there is “no doubt” in his mind that Palmer will return “with more vengeance” than the year prior when he was coming back from an ACL tear.

“Just the experience. Having failed,” Arians explained in late January. “Last year, the knee was the driving force. This year, he’s already working like crazy because of the way it ended.

“That’s what you want. You want your guys back. When he’s back working like that, the rest of them will be back working like that. As a coach, you don’t have to say anything. It’s just get going again and see if we can reach that pinnacle again and play better.”

Palmer and Fitzgerald have enjoyed a symbiotic effect over the past two seasons, breathing new life into one another’s careers with the help of Arians’ offensive mastery. It’s fitting that three iconic figures are tied together on a NFC powerhouse for at least two more shots at the Lombardi Trophy.

As the NFL’s salary cap increases, veteran players are becoming expensive to lock up or sign in free agency. This makes finding contributors in the draft and undrafted free-agent market extra important.

While it is always preferable to be good than to be merely young or old, we have once again ranked all 32 teams by talent under the age of 25. Last year’s U25 rankings had the Cowboys at No. 1 and the Seahawks at 32. Sure, Dallas’ talent did not translate to wins after its 35-year-old quarterback was injured, but that is why we wanted to create a ranking that balanced opportunity with performance and potential.

To see our exact methodology, check out the bottom of the article.

Here are our rankings for this season. All ages are as of Sept. 8, 2016. Read through the full file 1-32, or jump to your favorite team using the quick links below.

Jacksonville’s offense made fantasy owners happy last year, but what really drove us to rank this team No. 1 were the additions on defense. How often do you add arguably the best defender in the draft two years in a row, as well as another top-five talent? This is so much about potential with a serious risk of injury, but getting defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack on the field together should make Jacksonville worth watching again. Aaron Colvin is also a solid cornerback who was rarely tested last year despite playing over 1,000 snaps.

Ezekiel Elliott will miss time with tweaked hamstring

The Cowboys’ backfield as a whole is banged up early in camp. Darren McFadden is on the active/non-football injury list after undergoing elbow surgery last month. Pass-catching back Lance Dunbar continues to rehab last year’s knee injury. Free-agent pickup Alfred Morris is slated to get the majority of first-team carries until Elliott returns to practice.

Jones added the team doesn’t plan to add a running back to its training camp roster at this time. Rookie Darius Jackson and Rod Smith round out the depth chart.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Heading into 2015, Romo would have been at the top of this list, coming off a 12-4 campaign marked by quarterback excellence (including a league-best passer rating of 113.2). Of course, the wheels proceeded to fall off last season, with Romo missing all but four of Dallas’ games thanks to a twice-injured collarbone. Consequently, the Cowboys went 4-12. While he’s a love-him-or-hate-him type among fans, a fully healthy Romo has the arm strength, accuracy and overall ability to win big in 2016. Of course, the window is closing fast for the 36-year-old — so he’ll have to take full advantage of Dez Bryant’s return to health and the presence of a stud rookie back in Ezekiel Elliott.

Michael and Martellus Bennett don’t think highly of Jay Cutler. Jay Cutler doesn’t seem to care. This is a very Jay Cutler reaction.

We learned of this Bennett-on-Cutler disdain thanks to an ESPN The Magazine profile on the brothers that went viral on Wednesday. Michael Bennett, a defensive end with the Seahawks, called Cutler the “worst quarterback in the NFL.” Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, who spent the last three seasons playing with Cutler in Chicago, added, “I’d be open and he’d throw into double coverage.”

Predictably, Cutler was asked about the comments after he came off the practice field at Bears training camp on Wednesday.

“Most receivers and tight ends (think they) are always open,” Cutler said of Martellus, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Hopefully Tom (Brady) can do a better job of finding him than I did.”

Cutler didn’t directly address his unflattering placement in Michael Bennett’s QB power rankings, but he was asked why his name has a tendency to come up with former teammates — often in a negative context.