Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Friday he will know who his starting quarterback for their Week 1 game at the New York Jets early in the week.

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesDerek Carr's performance against the Seahawks on Thursday has created a lot of discussion about the Raiders' starting quarterback job.
However, Allen did not shed any light of whether Matt Schaub or rookie Derek Carr will be behind center in the game during his conference call Friday afternoon. Allen is sticking to what he said Thursday night after Carr starred in a 41-31 home win over Seattle. Allen said the team has to see where Schaub, acquired in a trade with Houston in March, is medically Monday when the team returns to practice.

Schaub didn’t practice all this week with what both he and Allen has called a minor elbow issue. Schaub is dealing with a personal matter and Allen did not see him Friday. The matter is unrelated to football.

“I think the biggest thing is I want to be able to check on Matt and see where Matt is health-wise,” Allen said. “Like I said, he was making some progress last week, threw on the side with the trainers. I feel like he’ll be ready to go, but I think we need to see how he’s doing Monday when he gets in here.”

Still, Allen was just as enthusiastic about Carr’s play Friday as he was the night before. Carr, a second-round pick from Fresno State, completed of 11 of 13 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns, including two one-play touchdown passes. The Raiders led the Seahawks 28-7 early in the second quarter. Nine of Seattle's started played in the game.

The entire offense seemed to be energized with Carr behind center.

“I was very pleased with what I saw out of Derek Carr last night,” Allen said. “We’ve said all along that Derek is going to be a really good quarterback in this league and he’s shown those signs, and you’ve seen those signs, throughout practices. It was good to see that our whole group offensively was able to go out and function the way that they did last night.”

Still, it appears Allen is three days away from disclosing his plan for the start of the regular season.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The only way Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu will play under the bright lights of "Monday Night Football" in their season opener is if he hits somebody. Soon.

Mathieu
"He's going to tackle somebody this week," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said.

Only after Mathieu tackles in practice will Arians decide if the Honey Badger will play Sept. 8 against the San Diego Chargers at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mathieu returned to practice Aug. 20, almost nine months after suffering an ACL and LCL injury in Week 14 of the 2013 season.

It took him a day to progress from individual defensive back drills to working with the scout team, but he didn't engage in contact. Mathieu was held out of the final two preseason games.

Throughout the past week Arians has maintained that Mathieu wouldn't play in Week 1 if he didn't play Thursday night in San Diego.

"I wasn't kidding," Arians said. "We'll see how he tackles.

Asked who'll be the lucky teammate to take the brunt of Mathieu's hits next week, Arians was ready with an answer.

"That's what practice squad is for," he said with a laugh.
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INDIANAPOLIS – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is seemingly a step closer to disciplining Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay now that his change of plea hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Irsay already has reached a plea agreement, according to the Indianapolis Star, which means Goodell is on the clock to discipline the owner shortly after the hearing.

The Colts organization and many players around the league will be keeping a very close eye on how Goodell handles Irsay.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was suspended Friday for nine games for violating the league’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies. Smith was arrested in September 2013 for drunken driving. It was the second time he was arrested and charged with drunk driving since entering the league in 2011. Smith also had three felony gun charges dropped down to misdemeanors.

So now the question is: How will the commissioner discipline the owner? Will it simply be a number of games? A fine? Both? Neither?

Irsay was arrested March 16 near his home in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. He had $29,000 in cash and "numerous" bottles of prescription drugs in his vehicle at the time of his arrest, the police report said. Irsay also spent time in a rehabilitation facility after his arrest.

The NFL's Personal Conduct Policy says that league representatives are held to a "higher standard" and "it is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime" in a legal situation to escape discipline.

If that’s the case, Irsay might be suspended for longer than Smith.

Players spoke out earlier this year, saying they believed there’s a double standard on how Goodell disciplines.

The players, like many others, are getting closer to finding out if there really is a double standard.
CINCINNATI -- After 112 days, finally, the news came.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis was cut.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Hill
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriJeremy Hill can expect the Bengals to use him in a variety of ways this season.
Most around southwest Ohio had anticipated hearing of the running back's release since May, when the Cincinnati Bengals drafted his replacement, Jeremy Hill. A second-round pick, Hill vowed that weekend to learn from and play along with Green-Ellis, even while it was apparent that the veteran's days were numbered.

Those days officially ran out Friday afternoon.

Green-Ellis' release means the Bengals have turned to the next chapter of their backfield plans, and that they are embracing having Hill as an option out of the backfield. It's safe to say that in Cincinnati, the Jeremy Hill Era has begun.

You actually could rewind your clock back to Thursday night in order to pinpoint the exact moment Hill's tenure with the Bengals began. During a 35-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts, the running back shouldered the load, receiving 26 touches. He ran 20 times for 90 yards and caught six passes for 63. With the star rookie playing until deep into the third quarter, many criticized coach Marvin Lewis for not taking him out sooner.

There was a method to Lewis' apparent madness.

"Jeremy has to understand what it's like to be an NFL running back," Lewis said. "We aren't five deep. When we get to Sundays and we got down to 46 guys, and if he's going to be the guy, then he's going to have to be able to shoulder the load."

It should be pointed out that he won't be the only guy for the Bengals this season. Second-year back Giovani Bernard also will be contributing out of the backfield. Bernard is expected to see the bulk of the touches out of the backfield, but Hill should have his share, too.

Bernard is more of a shifty, outside runner who can punch the ball inside if he needs to. Hill is more of a power-running ballcarrier who happens to have next-level speed, too.

Green-Ellis no longer had that combination, and it factored into the reasons he had to go.

When you saw Green-Ellis and Hill run in practices during the spring and earlier this summer, it was a night-and-day difference in how fluid Hill looked compared to the veteran. The rookie's cuts were sharper. His feet were quicker. His strides were longer. Matched with Green-Ellis' comparatively plodding pace, Hill looked more like an NFL rusher than Green-Ellis. There was no contest.

After Thursday night's game, Hill was asked about getting such an exhaustive workload on a warm, humid night. He said he felt fine with it because it was good preparation for what's to come.

"Bigger backs are always accustomed to getting the workload," Hill said, adding that he still wants to work on his conditioning a little more.

A physical runner himself, Green-Ellis has gotten his share of carries in recent seasons. In his two years with the Bengals he averaged 249 carries. Prior to that, though, he never had more than 229 in a single season with the New England Patriots, the only other team Green-Ellis has played for.

You won't ever hear Green-Ellis admit it, but perhaps his slower, less effective play last season was partially the result of overuse. He was, after all, the primary back on the roster in 2012 when he had 278 carries. Last season he had Bernard to share the runs with, but he still far outpaced any other Bengals rusher, collecting 220 carries.

While coaches won't say how often they expect to use Hill this season, based on Thursday, it's clear they expect to use him in a variety of ways. The rookie ran up the middle, hit the edge a few times and even caught a number of screen passes.

"He likes to attack every corner of the field," backup quarterback Jason Campbell said.

Now that Green-Ellis is no longer ahead of him, Hill will be able to touch as much of the field as he wants.
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid revealed knee and ankle injuries to quarterback Tyler Bray that otherwise went undetected in the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. These injuries could be the Chiefs' way out of their quarterback dilemma.

"He got banged up a little bit last night and I hope he’s OK," Reid said.

Those injuries could allow the Chiefs to put Bray on injured-reserve, which would be convenient in that they would like to keep all four of their quarterbacks. To do that, the Chiefs would have to either keep them all on their active roster, which they don’t want to do, or put one on an injured list.

Doing so with Bray would cost him this season, but allow him to remain a part of the picture for the long term.

"If you took one player and you said 'who’s improved and changed themselves physically and mentally in the last year the most,' you probably have to put Tyler in that mix," Reid said. "From where he was to where he is now, there’s a big difference."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin has been answering a lot of questions about the poor performance of his team's passing game this preseason. And after reviewing film of the fifth preseason game, he seemed to have a fresh explanation for Eli Manning's struggles.

Manning
"Did we have a game where we just sat back and threw it? Not really," Coughlin said in a conference call Friday. "And that was because last year, we were so poor in the run game that it ruined our balance and we turned the ball over a ridiculous amount. So we didn't want to get away from our run game."

Coughlin said it's possible they could or should have stressed the passing game more in the preseason, and he said he expects things will look better "once we zoom in on an all-encompassing game plan."

Other notes from Coughlin's day-after conference call:
  • He said the timetable on guard Geoff Schwartz's recovery from toe injury is likely to be a bit longer than 3-to-4 weeks. He didn't rule out placing Schwartz on short-term injured reserve, which would keep him out for the first eight weeks of the season, but it sounds as though they hope they don't have to do that.
  • Coughlin said middle linebacker Jon Beason should be cleared to practice Monday. That likely makes Beason available for the regular-season opener Sept. 8 in Detroit, though it remains to be seen how much he'll be able to play after missing all of training camp with a foot injury.
  • Fullback Henry Hynoski has a "contusion" of his shoulder and felt better Friday than he did after leaving the game Thursday. Sounds as though they have avoided a major problem with Hynoski.
  • Wide receiver Mario Manningham has a strained calf. This likely means the end for Manningham with the Giants, though Coughlin wasn't giving anything away about final decisions on that or any other aspect of the final roster cuts due Saturday.
TAMPA, Fla. -- With the start of the regular season just around the corner, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith talked about his offensive and defensive lines Friday.

You might be a little surprised with what he had to say. Smith had plenty of praise for an offensive line that has been criticized and has undergone a lot of changes. On the flip side, he had a challenge for a defensive line that many consider one of the team’s strengths.

Let’s start with the offensive line. Right tackle Demar Dotson is the only remaining starter from a line that wasn’t very good a year ago. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Anthony Collins were brought in as free agents. After some early struggles on the interior in the preseason, the Bucs made a big trade this week to bring in six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins.

Smith said he’s not concerned about the chemistry of the offensive line even though Mankins has yet to practice with the team.

“It’s been talked an awful lot about “the offensive line, they have to play together’’,’’ Smith said. “I don’t buy that at all. I think you get the best possible guys you can, and you make moves when you have to.’’

“He knows how to get himself ready. He’ll have to change a little bit of terminology but not as much as you would assume. He’ll fit in right away and I don’t think that will be a big issue. Some of our other offensive linemen haven’t played a lot together. But these three preseason games, they’ve come together. Based on the way they played the last time they were together [in the third preseason game], we like where we’re at going into the Carolina game [to open the regular season].’’

The defensive line is supposed to be a strength. The Bucs haven’t gotten some pressure from their starters, but the team plans to use a rotation. Smith said he hasn’t been impressed with the play of some of his backup defensive linemen.

“Very concerned about it,’’ Smith said. “It’s disappointing, the pressure we weren’t able to get. It’s been documented how we want to play football. As we look at it, the challenge for our defensive line this week will be to outplay Carolina’s defensive line. They have an excellent front seven. We need to play better than them up front. That isn’t just four guys. A couple other players have to step up. We’ll normally dress seven defensive linemen. All of them will play and we need production from all of them.’’
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans have poor cornerback depth.

Campbell
Campbell
To their credit, that didn't prompt them to keep Tommie Campbell. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reports Campbell has been cut.

Campbell had a disastrous, three-penalty night Thursday, exchanged words with both safety Bernard Pollard and coach Ken Whisenhunt and gave up a bunch of plays. (One of those three penalties was declined, because the pass was completed for a touchdown.)

Campbell is an exceptional athlete.

I thought that would convince a new coaching staff to continue to give him time to develop. But his mental game has never caught up to his physical tools, and even his ability to force fair catches on punts was not enough to save him.

The Titans have Jason McCourty, Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson as their top three cornerbacks. Fourth-round pick Marqueston Huff will also be on the team.

Khalid Wooten has been used as a safety this summer, but started as a cornerback and is regarded as versatile and able to do both. But I have heard he is unlikely to stick. Undrafted rookie Winston Wright has not yet been cut. I don't know if they like him enough for him to make it.

With or without Wooten and/or Wright, the Titans will be scanning the waiver wire and looking to add to their pool of cornerbacks.
The Baltimore Ravens started making their final major cutdown by waiving five players on Friday.

There were no surprises in the five released: tight end Nathan Overbay, outside linebacker D.J. Roberts, center Reggie Stephens and defensive tackles Levi Brown and Derrick Hopkins.

Three of the Ravens waived were undrafted rookies (Hopkins, Brown and Roberts) and no one had more than two years of experience. Hopkins, from Virginia Tech, received the biggest signing bonus ($10,000) of any of the Ravens' undrafted players.

The Ravens have to make 17 more roster moves to get down to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday.

Two of the moves will be placing running back Ray Rice (two games) and safety Will Hill (six games) on the suspended list. Another potential move is putting nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip) on the Physically Unable to Perform reserve list, which would sideline him for at least the first six games of the regular season.

The Ravens can sign 10 players to the practice squad, so they might only be cutting ties with four players Saturday.

Here is my projected 53-man roster for the Ravens.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- In a half-joking manner, Jerry Jones declared this spring that the Dallas Cowboys’ defense would get better because it couldn’t be any worse.

When you rank dead last in the league in total defense, there’s only one way to go, he figured. Of course, it’s completely possible for the Cowboys to have the worst-ranked defense again and give up more yards than last season’s franchise record, but Jones would rather not view the situation that way.

“I think the defense is much improved, much improved,” Jones said after the preseason finale. “Awareness, the player we’re going to ask to do the job, I think we’re much improved from the team that was on the field the last four games when we ended the season. This is a better defense.”

Jones attempts to muster hope for a defense that lost arguably its three best players from last season with linebacker Sean Lee tearing up his knee, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher leaving in free agency and defensive end DeMarcus Ware being released. Plus, Orlando Scandrick will serve a four-game suspension to start the season after performing the best among the Cowboys cornerbacks last season.

The Cowboys certainly upgraded at defensive coordinator by demoting Monte Kiffin, who the game has clearly passed by and promoting Rod Marinelli. The Cowboys have recent evidence that Marinelli is a quality coordinator from his tenure with the Chicago Bears before coming to Dallas last year.

But Marinelli is no miracle worker. Just look at the Detroit Lions defensive rankings from his tenure as head coach: 28th, 32nd and 32nd in yards and 30th, 32nd and 32nd in scoring.

Marinelli needs playmakers to make his scheme work. Where are they on the Dallas defense?

The reality is this defense is in even worse shape than anticipated when training camp opened. They lost rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who they desperately needed to develop as an edge pass-rushing threat, for several weeks due to a broken foot. Defensive tackles Henry Melton and Terrell McClain didn’t play a down in the preseason due to injuries, with Melton still working to chip off rust after missing the last 13 games last season with a torn ACL. Defensive end George Selvie is dealing wth soreness in his surgically repaired right shoulder. Cornerback Morris Claiborne sat out the entire preseason -- again -- and will need to take pain-killing injections to play with a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. Scandrick is suspended four games.

“We know our limitations,” Jones said. “We know our scheme better, and we got players [who] can execute. We’ve got better players, healthier players to execute the scheme.”

That's the hope for the Dallas defense. But it’s definitely not the reality as they get ready for the regular season.

Bucs cut kicker Connor Barth

August, 29, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buccaneers pulled a bit of a surprise on Friday afternoon by releasing kicker Connor Barth.

Barth
 Presumably, the kicking job now belongs to Patrick Murray, who had a strong training camp. Barth had been with the Buccaneers since 2009. But he missed all of last season after tearing his Achilles tendon in a charity basketball game.

The decision also might have been influenced by economics. Barth was scheduled to earn $2 million in base salary. Plus, he was slated to earn $1.15 million in weekly bonuses if he made the 53-man roster. The Bucs take no cap hit for releasing Barth.

Murray is scheduled to make $420,000 this season.

#NFLRank: No. 6 Robert Quinn

August, 29, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The annual #NFLRank project got underway last week as a panel of 85 NFL analysts across ESPN's many platforms went through the process of ranking the Top 100 players in the league on each side of the ball.

 Though Thursday, three St. Louis Rams -- linebacker James Laurinaitis (No. 93 defense), left tackle Jake Long (No. 63 offense) and defensive end Chris Long (No. 37 defense) -- had cracked the list. On Friday's final day, the list revealed the highest-ranked Ram, defensive end Robert Quinn.

Quinn made the biggest jump of any player in this year's rankings, moving from unranked last year to No. 6 on defense this year.

Defense, No. 6, Robert Quinn

Stats & Info: Quinn led the NFC with 19 sacks last season, the most by a Ram since sacks became official in 1982. Quinn's seven forced fumbles also led the NFC last season.

My take: Although Quinn made quite a leap in this year's rankings and being called the sixth best defensive player in the league is no slight, I can't help but feel like Quinn is too low on this list. I suppose you could make the argument that he needs a little more of a body of work before he can crack the top five, but these rankings are based on the here and now. I have the privilege of seeing Quinn every day so maybe that clouds my view, but I doubt there's a defensive player in the league that has the combination of production and upside that Quinn showed coming out of last season. I personally would have Quinn only behind Houston's J.J. Watt, who is at No. 1 on the list, and Seattle safety Earl Thomas, who is No. 3. I have little doubt that Quinn's trajectory will only continue to point him upwards as these rankings continue. What's scary for the rest of the NFL is he's only 24 and still scratching the surface of what he can do.
PITTSBURGH -- Finalizing the 53-man roster before 4 p.m. ET Saturday is the Pittsburgh Steelers' top priority.

It might also be their last major order of business before the start of the regular season.

Worilds
Team president Art Rooney II told ESPN.com that there is a good chance that the Steelers won’t sign any more of their players to long-term deals before next year.

The Steelers have signed center Maurkice Pouncey, right tackle Marcus Gilbert and kicker Shaun Suisham to new long-term contracts since June.

Outside linebacker Jason Worilds and cornerback Cortez Allen remain the only starters who are candidates to receive new deals. The Steelers don't negotiate player contracts during the regular season, so it would be an understatement to say that the clock is ticking.

"There’s probably a chance we’ll do one more contract," Rooney said. "I don’t know if we will get it done or not, but we’re pretty much done with the signing process as we’re heading into the season."

Worilds is probably the odd man out even if the Steelers sign one more player to a new long-term contract before Sept. 7.

The fifth-year veteran will make $9.754 million in 2014 after signing the one-year contract the Steelers offered him when they used a transition tag on him in March, and the Steelers might not be willing to offer the kind of multi-year deal to make it worth it for Worilds to pass up making nearly $10 million this season.

The Steelers will still have some measure of control when it comes to Worilds’ rights even if they don’t sign him to a new contract before the start of the regular season.

They can tag Worilds again next year, which would prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent when the 2015 NFL year starts.

The Steelers appear to be content to see if Worilds can build on his strong second half from last season and then decide whether they are ready to commit to the former second-round draft pick long term.

Allen is the more likely of the two to sign a new contract becausee it might be more feasible -- and palatable -- for the Steelers from a financial standpoint.

Allen, whose cap hit is $1.529 million this season, is a promising young cornerback who has yet to put it together for an entire season. His signing a long-term contract would provide security for both Allen and the Steelers, who are thin at cornerback.

Given where the respective sides are coming from, it seems a lot more likely that Allen, not Worilds, and the Steelers find common ground on a new deal before the organization shuts down contract negotiations until next year.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Marc Mariani was a likable underdog, and understandably so.

Mariani
He went to the Pro Bowl as a seventh-round rookie out of Montana as a returner, suffered a gruesome broken leg in the preseason two years ago, and landed on IR again before last season.

Now, as first reported by Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Mariani has been cut.

He knew last night it was a possibility and left LP Field knowing it might be for the last time.

"It’ll suck to say goodbye, but it’s part of the gig," he said. "It’s been an amazing opportunity and I’ve loved my time here."

See him here in his final postgame chat.

I think he should be able to find work with a team that needs a return man. The Titans will lean on Leon Washington in that department.
METAIRIE, La. -- Although the New Orleans Saints haven’t made any official announcement, it is apparent that veteran Jonathan Goodwin has won the starting center job over Tim Lelito.

Lelito
lastname
Goodwin
Lelito said that is what he thinks from talking with coaches and reading the tea leaves. Though Goodwin refused to get ahead of himself, he said he did take it as a good sign that he was held out of the preseason finale along with several other veteran starters, while Lelito played in all four quarters.

"The positive thinking side of me would take it as a good sign," Goodwin said.

Lelito is thinking positive as well, though. Although the second-year pro wasn’t able to take over the job this summer, he still loves his position as a backup center and guard behind three veteran Pro Bowlers.

"I’m excited. I’m probably in the best position out of any young offensive lineman in the entire NFL," Lelito said following Thursday night’s game. "Because Ben Grubbs, Jon Goodwin and Jahri Evans, that’s probably the best three interior that you’re ever gonna see. And then you got (Zach) Strief out at right tackle, who should probably have a couple Pro Bowls himself. ...

"Who knows where I’m gonna play in the future, center or guard? But I’m just learning from Jon and Ben and Jahri, just trying to get better."

Believe it or not, Goodwin feels like he is still getting better in his 13th NFL season, as well. Last week, Goodwin talked about how he thinks this was his best training camp yet in his career spent with the New York Jets, Saints, San Francisco 49ers and back to the Saints. He reiterated that on Friday.

"A lot of guys hold on too long, and I don’t want to do that,” Goodwin said. “But I really felt like I could still play this game, and I think this last month has proven that."

The Saints should be feeling awfully positive about the center position, as well.

Nobody won this job by default. Goodwin's fountain-of-youth performance probably exceeded expectations. And they also must feel comfortable that Lelito is capable of stepping in at any of their interior line positions if needed this season.

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