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Week 5 NFL QB awards



The massive shadow of Patrick Mahomes often eclipses another pretty decent quarterback from the 2017 draft. You’ve had to work hard to see Deshaun Watson this season — his Houston Texans have played only one prime-time game — but trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Watson has assimilated his frenetic and daredevil scrambling skills into an impressive passing game, pushing the ball downfield and into the end zone at rates rarely seen even in the context of today’s league-wide passing exploits. Since the start of the 2017 season, Watson has thrown a touchdown pass on 6.5% of his attempts, better than every qualified NFL quarterback except Mahomes and Russell Wilson.

Watson produced an extreme example of that mentality in Sunday’s 53-32 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, throwing five touchdown passes on 33 attempts for a rate of 15.2%. And he did it without throwing an interception, the third time in his career that he has thrown five touchdown passes without a single pick. Only five other players in NFL history have produced at least three games with that tricky combination, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau: Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. Find me someone on that list who isn’t going to the Hall of Fame.

Overall, Watson ranks No. 4 this season in Total Quarterback Rating (70.9). We’ll start there for ESPN’s Week 5 Quarterback Awards, our Tuesday assessment of highs and lows using unique data culled from ESPN Stats & Information and NFL Next Gen Stats.

Only three players in the Super Bowl era have thrown for at least 400 yards, with five touchdowns and a perfect passer rating (158.3) in a single game. Watson is now one of them, joining Jared Goff (2018) and Nick Foles (2013). Yes, the NFL’s current passing era makes it impossible to use raw statistics to compare players from previous decades. Even so, Watson has elevated above most of his contemporaries and has never looked better than he did against a Falcons defense that entered the game ranked No. 15 in NFL defensive QBR.

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Is Carson Wentz an elite QB? A dive into the numbers – Philadelphia Eagles Blog



PHILADELPHIA — Quarterback Carson Wentz will square off against Tom Brady for the first time in his career when the Philadelphia Eagles host the New England Patriots on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

“It’s always cool to play a competitor like him, arguably one of the best ever,” Wentz said Wednesday. “Ton of respect for him and what he has done.”

Wentz missed the last matchup, of course, as a torn ACL and LCL late in the 2017 season sidelined him for the Eagles’ postseason run, which culminated in a 41-33 win against New England in Super Bowl LII.

Before that injury, Wentz was on an MVP charge and looked to be leading the next generation of great quarterback play. But Sunday’s game has no baton-handing feel to it. Injuries slowed Wentz’s ascension. He’s healthy now, and while there have been some solid performances and “wow” moments over the first nine games of the 2019 season, there hasn’t been the same current of electricity flowing from Wentz and the offense as there was during the 2017 title season.

So where is Wentz in his development? What factors need to be considered when evaluating him? And are there signs that he remains on track to becoming one of football’s best signal-callers? Here’s what the next-level statistics tell us:

29.9: The percentage of blitzes faced per dropback this season, which ranks 20th in the NFL. Defenses brought the heat at about the same clip last season — 28.7%, which ranked 19th. During Wentz’s career season in ’17, it was a much different story. He was blitzed more than any QB in the NFL at 38.9%, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. And he made defenses pay, tossing 14 touchdowns to one interception for a 99.6 rating. He remains effective against the blitz (65% completion rate, 3 TDs) but just doesn’t have as many opportunities against it. In other words, defenses have adjusted, limiting one of Wentz’s strengths.

26: The number of first downs Wentz picked up with his legs in ’17 over 13 games, compared to 14 so far this season. He’s behind pace in that department while also down in rushing attempts per game (4.9 to 4.1) and rushing average per attempt (4.7 to 3.9). Wentz had three rushes of 20-plus yards in ’17 and none so far this season. This tells us a few things: Wentz is operating within the system more and freelancing less; he’s being more judicious about racing into traffic; and there has been a defensive adjustment on this front.

“There’s usually a spy, someone that’s kind of keying the quarterback,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said, when asked how the defensive approach has changed against Wentz. “The type of blitzes that teams [are using]. He’s a right-handed quarterback, so a lot of times they don’t want to let you escape to your hand side or your right, they might pressure you to the back side. There are all kind of ways that they can affect your quarterback and particularly Carson, but one of the things he’s great at and has done a really good job this year of is just getting the ball out, understanding our offense better, spreading the ball around.”

5.0: Percent of drops per pass attempt by Eagles receivers this season, the worst clip in the NFL. They have 15 drops in all, tied for second highest in the league. It’s a real issue that has held Wentz and the offense back. Wentz ranks 24th in the NFL this season in completion percentage at 62.7. His expected completion percentage, though, is 65.1, per NFL Next Gen Stats, which moves him up to 13th among QBs.

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Ex-Seahawk Malik McDowell sentenced 11 months in jail



Former Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Malik McDowell has been sentenced to 11 months in jail and three years of probation after pleading guilty last month to a series of crimes earlier this year in Michigan, court records show.

As part of McDowell’s sentencing Wednesday in Oakland County (Michigan) Circuit Court, a judge also ordered him to write four essays within the next 90 days.

The 23-year-old McDowell never played a down for Seattle after injuring his head in an ATV accident in July of 2017, three months after the Seahawks drafted him 35th overall out of Michigan State. He was arrested in February and charged with assault, resisting arrest and operating a vehicle while intoxicated after an incident in which he fought with two officers after a DUI stop. In April he was found in possession of a stolen Ford F-150 Raptor, leading to a charge of receiving and concealing stolen property.

McDowell was sentenced to 153 days in jail over the incident with police and his second drunken driving offense, with credit for 66 days served, and another 244 days in jail for the stolen property offense.

According to the Oakland Press, McDowell apologized to his victims and others on Wednesday while vowing to abide by the law going forward.

“I’m doing everything I need to do, seeing all the doctors I need to, working out … doing everything I can to get back to where I was, back to the NFL,” McDowell said, according to the newspaper, and added that he’s “very remorseful.”

Judge Michael Warren ordered McDowell to write essays ranging from 750 to 1000 words on: finding meaning in life other than committing crimes, the importance of respecting the rule of law, the principles of the Declaration of Independence and how your behavior undermines them, and the importance of respecting property rights.

McDowell was previously sentenced to 12 months of probation from a 2017 drunken driving incident in Royal Oak, Mich. He was also arrested in December of that year on a disorderly conduct charge stemming from an incident at an Atlanta-area nightclub.

McDowell spent two seasons on the Seahawks’ non-football injury list before being waived with an injury designation in March. The team filed a lawsuit against McDowell in May, seeking the repayment of nearly $800,000 in forfeited signing-bonus money.

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Biggest Week 11 injury questions for all 32 NFL teams



As the races for the 2019 NFL playoffs tighten, a number of key starters are battling injuries.

Get the latest scoop from inside NFL locker rooms here.

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None. Don’t refresh your page — you read that correctly, although Buffalo fans might want to knock on wood. The Bills’ 53-man roster is shockingly healthy entering Week 11, and although three players are technically eligible to return from injured reserve, the only “realistic” option to do so is tight end Jason Croom. Yet, with four healthy tight ends already on the 53, even Croom’s return seems incredibly unlikely. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Dolphins safety Reshad Jones told reporters that this is the week he will return from what he called a crack rib. He has missed the past four games, and he’ll add strong veteran talent for a young secondary that is trending in the right direction. — Cameron Wolfe

The Patriots haven’t had much pass-catching production from the tight end position, and the hope is that Matt LaCosse, who injured an MCL on Oct. 10 vs. the Giants and has been sidelined since, will help improve that. LaCosse returned to practice two weeks ago on a limited basis. If he’s ultimately cleared for action, his presence would create more options for coordinator Josh McDaniels so the team isn’t as reliant on the wide receiver position. — Mike Reiss

Running back Le’Veon Bell (ribs, knee, ankle) is beat up, but he will play Sunday against the Redskins. The injuries seemed to affect him last week, as he appeared a half step slow to the hole. It wouldn’t be a surprise if backup Bilal Powell gets a few more carries. The Jets could be without cornerback Darryl Roberts (calf) for a second straight week, meaning another patchwork game at cornerback. — Rich Cimini


Defensive tackle Michael Pierce didn’t practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury, and the key run stopper likely will be sidelined for Sunday’s game against the Texans. Coach John Harbaugh didn’t officially rule out Pierce, but the Ravens signed veteran defensive tackles Domata Peko and Justin Ellis on Tuesday for a reason. Baltimore understands it has to be strong up front against the Texans, who have the NFL’s fourth-best rushing attack. — Jamison Hensley

Bengals wide receiver Alex Erickson was limited in the Week 10 loss to the Ravens and missed Wednesday’s practice with a back injury. While Bengals coach Zac Taylor listed the starter as day-to-day, it appears he’s optimistic about Erickson’s availability at Oakland. Taylor: “He’s a tough guy, so start with that and make your own assumptions from there. He’s going to do everything he can to get healthy and get going.” — Ben Baby

Defensive end Olivier Vernon (knee) will miss Thursday’s game vs. Pittsburgh, leaving Chad Thomas as the starting replacement for a second consecutive week. — Jake Trotter

While running back James Conner is off the injury report for Thursday night’s game, another starter landed there Wednesday afternoon. Cornerback Joe Haden is questionable with an illness, and his availability is the biggest injury question for this team. He has flown under the radar, but he had an interception a week ago and figured to be key in slowing Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. If Haden can’t go, he’ll likely be replaced with Artie Burns, who played 100% of defensive snaps against the Chargers. — Brooke Pryor


Texans wide receiver Will Fuller V was limited in practice on Wednesday, but it was the first time he has practiced since he injured a hamstring in Week 7. Fuller could still be a week away from playing, but this is a good sign for the Texans’ offense for the second half of the season. — Sarah Barshop

The Colts got some positive news when quarterback Jacoby Brissett was a full participant in practice Wednesday. He’ll be back in the starting lineup against Jacksonville on Sunday barring any kind of setback. Brissett missed the Week 10 game against Miami with a sprained left MCL. Wednesday was definitely a significant step in the right direction for his return, after he was a limited participant in practice last week. — Mike Wells



Mike Clay doesn’t see Eric Ebron as a top tight end to start in fantasy, but sees a little bit of optimism with Jacoby Brissett returning.

The Jaguars are pretty healthy after the bye week. Every player practiced Wednesday in some capacity, but one player to monitor is defensive lineman Calais Campbell. He’s dealing with a back injury (he was limited on Wednesday), and while he is expected to play on Sunday, back issues can be troublesome because they tend to linger. Dawuane Smoot has been a pleasant surprise this season (four sacks after having none in his first two years) and would absorb some of Campbell’s reps. — Mike DiRocco

The bye week comes at an ideal time for the Titans. Linebacker Jayon Brown (groin), wide receiver Corey Davis (hip), tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey all missed last week’s game and should benefit from the time off this week. Coach Mike Vrabel said all of the players who missed time are working their tails off to return, and coaches will evaluate where they are when they get back after the bye week. — Turron Davenport


Right tackle Ja’Wuan James (knee) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, and he continues to work his way back into the lineup. James, who was one of the Broncos’ major free-agent signings in the offseason, has played 32 snaps this season. James played 10 snaps in the season opener in Oakland before injuring a knee, missed six games and returned to play 22 snaps against the Colts before reinjuring the same knee. He missed the Week 9 game against the Browns before the Broncos’ bye, and he is still a significant question mark to return to the lineup. It has continued to limit the Broncos’ ability to adjust to any troubles in the offensive line, including left tackle Garett Bolles‘ struggles with penalties. — Jeff Legwold

The rash of offensive line injuries could be easing to the point where the Chiefs could have their initial group of starters back on Monday night for the first time since Week 2. The Chiefs are hopeful left tackle Eric Fisher and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif could be ready to play. The Chiefs will know more on Thursday, when they begin their practice week. The Chiefs have been patching offensive line holes all season. Only center Austin Reiter of the original starting group has yet to be knocked from the lineup because of injury. Things were most perilous last week in Tennessee, where the Chiefs played without Fisher and Duvernay-Tardif, lost two others to injury and for a time were without any available backups on the bench. — Adam Teicher

Chargers left tackle Russell Okung played only seven snaps against the Raiders last week due to a groin strain. Okung did not practice on Tuesday while the Chargers prepared for the high altitude of Mexico City in Colorado Springs. However, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn remains hopeful that Okung can return to the field in time for Monday night’s game against the Chiefs. If not, rookie Trey Pipkins would get his first career start. “We’ll see where he’s at,” Lynn said this week. “I’d love to see him play. But if he can’t go, he won’t go.” — Eric D. Williams

Defensive back Lamarcus Joyner pulled up with a strained hamstring on the last defensive series of the Raiders’ white-knuckle defeat of the Chargers on Thursday, and he has not practiced since. Joyner has been Oakland’s primary nickel cornerback, and if he cannot play against the Bengals, the Raiders could slide Daryl Worley into the slot and put rookie Isaiah Johnson on the outside, opposite another rookie corner in Trayvon Mullen. Veteran Nevin Lawson would be another option at nickel, as would undrafted rookie Keisean Nixon. — Paul Gutierrez


Amari Cooper did not practice as he continues to deal with a number of lower-body injuries, including a bruised knee. He took part in just one limited practice last week but managed to catch 11 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota. The Cowboys will look to make sure Cooper is ready for game day and limit his work in practice to make sure he is healthy. On the offensive line, the Cowboys will work in Xavier Su’a-Filo at left guard after Connor Williams had knee surgery Tuesday. Meanwhile, the right side of the line, Zack Martin (elbow) and La’el Collins (back), did not practice Wednesday, but the expectation is they will be ready to play Sunday. — Todd Archer

It’s a good thing that tight end Evan Engram gets this extra week to rest his injured foot with the Giants on their bye week. He was still in a walking boot on Tuesday, and coach Pat Shurmur said he didn’t practice. Engram was hopeful to return next Sunday against Chicago, but it certainly doesn’t appear to be a lock. — Jordan Raanan

Receiver Alshon Jeffery missed practice Wednesday with an ankle injury, which he suffered late in a Week 9 win against the Bears. The fact that he was sidelined even after having the bye week to heal makes his absence more notable. If he can’t go, the Eagles will be down their top two receivers — Jeffery and DeSean Jackson — against the 8-1 Patriots. — Tim McManus

The Redskins still aren’t sure when running back Chris Thompson will return from his turf toe injury, but coach Bill Callahan said he remains week-to-week. Tight end Vernon Davis is more of a possibility for this week, though he remains in the concussion protocol after missing the past five games. The Redskins need what Davis provides: someone who can win at the line and create opportunities in the pass game. The passing game struggles because the Redskins lack enough players who can do this. Davis did go through practice Wednesday, but he’s done that before during the time he’s been in the protocol. — John Keim


Bears coach Matt Nagy said he isn’t sure whether veteran inside linebacker Danny Trevathan (elbow) will be placed on injured reserve, but Trevathan is likely out for the foreseeable future. The veteran suffered a gruesome left elbow injury last week vs. the Lions and was replaced by Nick Kwiatkoski, who recorded nine tackles, one sack and an interception. Nagy was also vague about tight end Trey Burton‘s status for Sunday night versus the Rams. Burton has been ineffective all year with just 14 catches for 84 yards, and is battling a calf injury. — Jeff Dickerson

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