1-5. The quarterback shuffle …
A 1. Bradford on the road again: Now with the Minnesota Vikings, quarterback Sam Bradford has been with St. Louis, Philadelphia and Minnesota in the last 18 months, and the Eagles ate an $11 million signing bonus when they traded him to the Vikings. He will be handing off a lot to running back Adrian Peterson after taking over the job from Shaun Hill.
And a 2. First time ever I saw your face: In Minnesota, Bradford will be with his fifth head coach and offensive coordinator, and sixth quarterbacks coach in his seven NFL seasons. For the record, it’s head coaches Steve Spagnuolo, Jeff Fisher, Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson and Mike Zimmer; coordinators Pat Shurmur in St. Louis and Philadelphia (and now Minnesota’s tight ends coach), Josh McDaniels, Brian Schottenheimer, Frank Reich and Norv Turner; and quarterbacks coaches Dick Curl, McDaniels, Frank Cignetti, Ryan Day, John DeFilippo and Scott Turner (Norv’s son).
And a 3. Meanwhile, in the City of Brotherly Love: Eagles head coach Doug Pederson confirmed first-round pick Carson Wentz will start Sunday at home against Cleveland. In practice this week, it will be the first time Wentz will take snaps with the first-team offense. And he has been sidelined by injured ribs. “Everybody feels like this kid is ready to go,” Pederson insisted Monday. “We drafted him to take on the reins. It’s something now that we’re prepared to do and looking forward to Cleveland. One day at a time with him. At the same time we’ve got to be obviously smart in how we handle it. But at the same time, fully expect him to perform like he’s capable of performing and what we’ve seen throughout OTAs and training camp.”
And a 4. Happy trails to you: The Cowboys supposedly liked quarterback Jameill Showers so much (and Dak Prescott), they resisted signing a quarterback after Kellen Moore was injured early in camp. Sunday, Showers was cut so the Cowboys could sign Mark Sanchez. Dallas is hoping they never have to worry about seeing Sanchez commit an excruciating turnover in a game. They did sign Showers to the practice squad after he cleared waivers.
And a 5. Davis does Denver: With Sanchez and his $4.5 million salary gone, and with the Broncos now retaining the seventh-round pick they would have had to send to the Eagles in 2017 (don’t snicker; starter Trevor Siemian was a No. 7 pick last year), Denver signed Austin Davis, who has been with the Rams and Browns. Said head coach Gary Kubiak, “I studied him really hard coming out. He has a little bit of background of my verbiage. He’s been in some quarterback rooms with guys that have played for me so I thought that we could make up some ground here pretty quick. When he’s had some opportunities, he’s done some good stuff. We’ll see. We’ll take it a day at a time, but I think he’ll catch up pretty quick.”
6. Hit the road, Jack: When cornerback Justin Gilbert was traded Saturday by the Browns to the Steelers, it closed the book on the team’s first-round picks dating back from 2011 through 2014. Cleveland had six first-round selections in those four drafts. None are on the roster, and three are out of the league: 2011, defensive lineman Phil Taylor (gone); 2012, running back Trent Richardson (gone) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (Texans); 2013, linebacker Barkevious Mingo (Patriots); 2014, Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel (gone). Of the Browns’ 14 picks they made this year, all were on the roster in the Saturday cut to 53, but cornerback Trey Caldwell (fifth round) was waived Sunday when the Browns claimed five players on waivers. He was signed to the practice squad Monday.
7. Does the banner wave? With Patriots quarterback Tom Brady beginning his four-game suspension, a banner of Brady adorns the lighthouse at Gillette Stadium. Said wide receiver Julian Edelman, “It’s pretty cool that we have that banner.” He then went just a tad overboard when he added, “Not going to lie, it’s like one of your buddies going to jail.” Are there any Giselle’s in jail? Didn’t think so.
8. The missing logo: Meanwhile, Brady supposedly claims he didn’t know the NFL logo from his helmet was missing for two preseason games. Hmmmm. Maybe it’s attached to that wayward cell phone.
9. Speaking of banners waving: Many eyes will be on the players during the national anthem Sunday, the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
10. Another opening, another show: Seven months after Super Bowl 50, the Panthers visit Denver in the Thursday night opener. Viewers love it, but the teams … not so much. Said Carolina head coach Ron Rivera, “If I had my druthers, I’d have liked to start the season differently.” Rivera noted the “mad scramble” that all teams experienced over the weekend, cutting the roster, completing the practice squad, and now having to leave Wednesday for the game. “Other teams will have 10 days that you kind of need to have,” he added. “Defending NFC champs; it would have been nice to open the season at home.”
11. Out of sight, out of mind: The Bengals will play the first three games without linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was suspended for his out-of-control behavior in the team’s playoff loss to Pittsburgh last January. Don’t bother asking head coach Marvin Lewis about Burfict unless you want your head snapped off. Lewis said Saturday when the suspension officially started, “We’re not going to discuss what Vontaze can and can’t do. We’re not going to talk about anything to do with Vontaze. He’s no longer on the team right now.”
12. Put a cap on it: Former Packers left guard Josh Sitton was prescient in May, one month before his 30th birthday, when he said, “I think we’d all love to be here at the end of the year, but it’s out of our control.” Released Saturday, Sitton was one of four starting offensive linemen – the others are guard T.J. Lang, tackle David Bakhtiari and center JC Tretter – who were scheduled to be free agents next March. At $6.85 million, Sitton’s cap figure was eighth highest on the team. For this week, Lane Taylor will start in Sitton’s spot Sunday at Jacksonville. For Sitton, he quickly landed a job with the Bears.
13-18. The Undrafteds: And now, one more than Route 66 are the 67 rookie undrafted free agents that survived Saturday’s roster reduction to 53. A few have been waived since, but history tells us some will become starters and even Pro-Bowl players. Seven others that were waived Saturday were claimed Sunday. League personnel executives love to point out there are more starters in the league that were undrafted than were No. 1 picks. That shouldn’t be a surprise, considering the sheer number that vie for jobs every summer. Seven teams had none of their own rookie free agents on the original 53: Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Now, the rest of the story …
14. Quarterback Trevone Boykin: Not only did the Texas Christian quarterback earn a roster spot with the Seahawks, but at least for now he’s the backup to Russell Wilson. He is also one of six that are currently on the Seahawks roster.
15. Defensive end Channing Ward (Mississippi) and defensive tackle DaVonte Lambert (Auburn): They were two of four that made Tampa Bay’s roster. Said Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, “Some rookies you see come in and you never know what you’re going to get from them. Those guys took every opportunity they had and made the best of it. … Anything is possible.”
16. Quarterback Joe Callahan (Division III Wesley): You remember Joe, right? He was supposed to start in the Hall of Fame Game that was never played. Opportunity lost? Well, he still made the Green Bay roster. Said head coach Mike McCarthy, “I think Joe Callahan’s a great example of it’s not really where you start it’s where you finish. I understand his background, but Joe’s a hell of a football player. He was extremely productive in his college career, and he’s really, if you go back to the OTAs, he’s improved every step of the way.” Callahan didn’t throw an interception among his 88 pass attempts in the preseason, but it’s also true he was throwing mostly safe passes, ending with an average per attempt of 5.67 and per completion of 9.24. In case you were wondering, Wesley College is located in Dover, Del.
17. Running back Jalen Richard (Southern Mississippi): The 5-foot-8, 207-pound back has a chance to contribute in Oakland, where he was signed after a tryout following the draft.
18. Fullback Glenn Gronkowski (Kansas State): Yes, another Gronk, brother of Patriots tight end Rob, is in the league with Glenn included on the Buffalo roster. Glenn just hope he lasts at least until Week 4 when the Bills host New England.
19. A ‘Tree’ grows in L.A.: There were questions of lost leadership when the Rams released middle linebacker and defensive play-caller James Laurinaitis and said fourth-year man Alec Ogletree would fill the void in Gregg Williams’ defense. Defensive end William Hayes says not to worry. The believer in mermaids, but not dinosaurs, said, “He has stepped into the role and he’s excelling at it. Everybody knows he’s a freak of nature, but he’s literally starting to get the smarts of James Laurinaitis now. James was a great leader and just a phenomenal football player. Tree, he’s going to continue to grow in the role and he could be one of the best in the league by the time this is all said and done.”
20. Speaking of California Dreaming: Former Rams center Eric Kush was one of the stars of “Hard Knocks” because of his obsession with tank tops, even having some custom-made for his teammates. They’ll now have something to remember him by after Kush was cut Saturday and then claimed by the Bears. The only question is how long Kush will be able to wear his favorite tanks in the Windy, and eventually, cold City.
21. No Gold in Gould: Eyebrows raised Sunday night when the Bears sent out a press release at 10:55 CT announcing the team was releasing 34-year-old (35 in December) kicker Robbie Gould. Yes, it’s true Gould, who has been with the team since 2005, made 33 of 39 field-goal attempts last season and was 7 of 9 from 50 or more yards. However, in the uber-accurate NFL kicking world, his 84.6 overall percentage ranked 19th in the NFL. More glaring was the Bears were fifth worst in the league with a 50.0-percent touchback percentage, last in reaching the end zone (73.5 percent) and last in average drive start after kickoffs at 24.2. Monday, the Bears signed Connor Barth as Gould’s replacement.The change in kickers wasn’t the only move the Bears made on special teams. Inexplicably, they waived long snapper Patrick Scales on Saturday, retaining Aaron Brewer. However, they reversed themselves Monday, terminating the contract of Brewer and re-signing Scales.
22. There’s no such thing as “the final” cut: The word “final” should never be used to describe it, but we often hear it. From the end of preseason Week 3 through Saturday, 1,184 players went off rosters in the cut from 90 to 53. Sunday, 33 players were assigned on waivers and another three were added as free agents, leading to another 36 leaving rosters. Monday, there was one more waiver claim and 18 free-agent additions. Among the players cut, 320 (10 per team) are finding work on practice squads. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher explained it best when asked about there being only three safeties on the team’s roster (T.J. McDonald, Cody Davis and Maurice Alexander) and seven wide receivers (Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, Pharoh Cooper, Bradley Marquez, Mike Thomas, Nelson Spruce) after Saturday’s moves. Said Fisher, “There’s moving parts. We have got work to do. I can’t comment on the 53 right now; I can’t stand up in front of them tomorrow and say, ‘Hey, this is the group we’re going to war with,’ because there’s change — and you see it across the league. Nobody is settled right now.” As of Monday, the Rams still had … three safeties and seven receivers.