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QB Smith sheds leg brace 8 months after injury



ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith has finally shed the massive brace on his right leg eight months after breaking his tibia and fibula in gruesome fashion.

Smith’s wife, Elizabeth, posted a photo Monday of him holding the ring external fixator in his hand. The team’s Twitter account re-posted that picture with the message, “The brace is off! A great step for Alex in his recovery.”

Given the severity of the injury, it’s unlikely Smith will play this season; Washington drafted QB Dwayne Haskins in the first round. Smith recently said he plans to play in the NFL again and is under contract through 2022.

Coach Jay Gruden said last month that Smith’s recovery “is going to be a pretty lengthy process.” At the time, Gruden said Smith can throw but was still about a month away from getting rid of the leg brace.

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Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. has core surgery to repair hip and groin injury



Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a hip and groin injury that hampered him throughout this season.

Dr. Bill Meyers performed the surgery in Philadelphia.

Beckham’s recovery timeline figures to be similar to Browns running back Kareem Hunt, who underwent sports hernia surgery in training camp, but was ready to play after serving an eight game-game suspension.

Beckham had 74 receptions, 1,035 receiving yards and four touchdowns this season playing through the injury.

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NFL to experiment with alternative to onside kick at Pro Bowl



The NFL will experiment with an alternative to the onside kick during Sunday’s Pro Bowl, an indication that the league is still considering the option despite owners rejecting it last year.

As in past years, there will be no kickoffs at all in the Pro Bowl. The twist this year is that teams will have two options after scoring.

The first is to give the ball back to their opponents, who would start their drive at their 25-yard line. The new, second option for the scoring team would serve as a substitute for an onside kick. It would allow it to run one additional play from its own 25-yard line.

If the scoring team gains 15 or more yards, it would retain possession. If it falls short, their opponents would take over at the dead ball spot. Essentially, it will be a 4th-and-15 play.

Onside kicks have been more difficult to recover since the NFL’s 2018 overhaul of the kickoff. Among other changes, the new rule prevented the kickoff team from getting a running start before the kick. Onside kick recoveries dropped from its historic rate of about 21% through the 2017 season to 7.7% in 2018 and 12.9% in 2019.

The Denver Broncos proposed a similar change last winter, but owners voted it down in March. The NFL does not always adopt Pro Bowl rule changes, but the presence of the onside kick alternative means that at least some league decision-makers would like to see it in action.

Also this year, Pro Bowl officials will be instructed to use a different standard for false start penalties on receivers who are flexed from the line of scrimmage. It will not be a false start if a receiver flinches or lifts one foot off the ground, provided he re-sets for one second and/or keeps one foot on the ground.

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NFL Rookie Rankings – Nick Bosa beats out four offensive first-year stars for the top spot



The 2019 rookie class had a lot of intrigue, and with the NFL’s regular season well behind us, we ranked the best of the best in the year’s group.

We asked six writers and analysts — Matt Bowen, Mike Clay, Jeff Legwold, Cam Mellor, Kevin Seifert and Field Yates — to rank the top 10 rookies throughout the season, then tabulated the results using Heisman-type scaling for each set. The product features nine players taken in the first 51 picks last April, and although it didn’t contribute to his ranking — this is regular season only — the top seed served as a defensive force in helping power his team to the Super Bowl.

We also looked at two first-year players who closed the season well and saw their stock rise and two more whose stock declined in the final month. But first, here is our final ranking of the top 10 rookies of the 2019 regular season, starting with that Super Bowl-bound pass-rusher.

Stats: 47 tackles, 9.0 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble
Drafted: No. 2 overall
Previous rank: 1

Bosa was second in sacks and No. 1 in quarterback hits for the top pass defense in the league during the regular season. He was an especially fierce presence in the pass rush down the stretch, with nine QB hits over the last four games. Football fans will get another look at the top rookie in the Super Bowl, when his Niners face the Chiefs.

Stats: 242 carries, 1,150 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns
Drafted: No. 24 overall
Previous rank: 2

Jacobs missed the last three games of the season with a shoulder injury and a skin infection. But he still finished eighth in the league in rushing overall and led all rookies in yards on the ground, consistently breaking tackles and providing yards after contact.

Stats: 3,722 passing yards, 544 rushing yards, 24 total touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Drafted: No. 1 overall
Previous rank: 3

He threw four of his 12 interceptions on the season in back-to-back games in Weeks 13 and 14, but the body of work over the course of the season at the most difficult position for a rookie puts him at No. 3. Murray and Cam Newton are the only rookie quarterbacks in league history to have passed for at least 3,500 yards and rushed for at least 500.



Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald gives high praise to QB Kyler Murray on his rookie season.

Stats: 52 receptions, 1,051 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns
Drafted: No. 51 overall
Previous rank: NR

In the 11 games that Ryan Tannehill started at quarterback for the Titans, Brown had four 100-yard games, caught six of his eight touchdowns and averaged at least 15 yards per catch seven times. And he topped 20 yards per catch four times in that stretch. Some in the league believe Brown was actually the NFL’s best rookie by the time Week 17 rolled around.

Stats: 58 receptions, 919 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Drafted: No. 76 overall
Previous rank: 6

McLaurin made many cornerbacks pay the price for trying to press him at the line of scrimmage. And while his production dipped some in the weeks immediately following fellow rookie Dwayne Haskins Jr. being named starting quarterback, McLaurin eventually had at least seven targets and averaged at least 14 yards per reception in three of the last five games.

Stats: 44 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Drafted: No. 7 overall
Previous rank: 5

He has some work to do in the run game, but Allen was drafted to impact the pass rush and was the league’s only rookie to nudge his way past 10 sacks this season (the Raiders’ Maxx Crosby finished right at 10). Allen should get more snaps overall moving forward — he played 58% or fewer of Jacksonville’s defensive snaps in its last seven games — when he improves his work on early downs.

Stats: 109 tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Drafted: No. 10 overall
Previous rank: 4

After playing at least 90% of the defensive snaps in four of the first seven games (and 89% in another), Bush lost some coverage snaps in the season’s second half as Mark Barron saw more time in down-and-distance situations. But this is a player with dynamic closing speed who will flourish over the long haul in the Steelers’ scheme.

Stats: 16 starts, 93.3% pass block win rate
Drafted: No. 48 overall
Previous rank: 8

McCoy played all but six snaps this season — he briefly left a Week 8 win over Arizona just before halftime — for the league’s No. 3 scoring offense. The Saints also tied for the third-fewest sacks allowed in the league and averaged 4.6 yards per rush in run plays over the center.

Stats: 14 starts, 95.0% pass block win rate
Drafted: No. 44 overall
Previous rank: 9

Jenkins took over as the Packers’ starting left guard in Week 3 and didn’t miss a snap the rest of the way. He did not allow a sack all season in one-on-one situations, and the Packers averaged at least 5.2 yards per carry in run plays over the left guard or behind the left guard and center. Jenkins’ 95% pass block win rate — the percentage of blocks sustained for at least 2.5 seconds, an ESPN metric powered by NFL Next Gen Stats — was the best of any rookie.

Stats: 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Drafted: No. 17 overall
Previous rank: 10

After playing at least 70% of the defensive snaps in a five-game stretch from Week 10 to Week 14, Lawrence was on the field less down the stretch and had just four tackles combined in the last three games. But he was an early-down force for much of the season and his potential was easy to see.

Just missed

Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Sanders, who played through an MCL sprain in the Eagles’ playoff loss to the Seahawks, flashed lead-back potential throughout the season. He averaged at least 5.7 yards per carry in four games, and his 50 receptions made him the only rookie running back to reach that total this season. He finished with 1,327 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns.

Gardner Minshew II, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Minshew responded to his benching well and rebounded with seven touchdown passes and only one interception in his final four starts of the season. He consistently showed premium deep-ball accuracy throughout the season. Minshew closed the season with 3,271 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Also received top 10 votes: Juan Thornhill, Jamel Dean, Marquise Brown, Maxx Crosby, DK Metcalf, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Dalton Risner, Mecole Hardman, Deebo Samuel


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