NFL notes on Joe Haden, DeShone Kizer, Ezekiel Elliott, Johnny Manziel and more.
1. You can read my Wednesday column on why the Browns cut Joe Haden, but to spin this one forward … what’s really interesting about Pittsburgh bringing him in? How about the idea that it might signal Artie Burns’ public wish coming true. Burns has advocated for the Steelers to play more man defense; Haden may be a No. 2 now, but he’s played a ton of man over the years.
2. As for the other big decision Cleveland made this week—to go with DeShone Kizer—you have to give the rookie quarterback credit for killing the preconceived notions there were about him when he arrived in Cleveland. His positive, can-do nature, and ability to learn quickly, were definite factors in what turned him from simply the team’s most talented QB in May to its starter in August.
3. The NFLPA clearly doesn’t trust the NFL’s appeals procedures, and given that Jeffrey Kessler is involved, it’s a good bet that Ezekiel Elliott will be taking his case to court. If he does, whether his legal team can get an injunction to stay the suspension will determine if Elliott plays this year. To get it, his legal team has to prove two things: 1) Elliott will suffer irreparable harm by serving it, and 2) he has a reasonable chance to win. Believe it or not, the latter will a much tougher thing to prove.
4. Bruce Arians has forgotten more about quarterbacking than most of us will ever know, but I’m gonna take a buyer beware approach on his praise of Blaine Gabbert. The Niners felt the same way last summer, in part because he’s the type of guy who looks great in mesh shorts, but has struggled when its counted.
5. I’m not convinced that Blake Bortles is going to hold the starting job in Jacksonville for a extended period of time. And yet, I think it makes sense for the Jags to exhaust every avenue to make sure that their instinct to begin to separate from him earlier in the month was well-guided. They’ve invested too much to give up on a guy if there’s any sort of chance for a breakout.
6. We don’t say this often, but good on Johnny Manziel for trying out for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. You hear a lot of players talk about how much they love football, but then show no desire to take their game to Canada, or to any other league, to try and revive a career. That Manziel is willing to tells me that football remains an enormous part of his life.
7. We mentioned the Niners’ progress a few weeks ago, and that’s come to be on the game field the last few weeks. And that especially goes for Reuben Foster, who looks like an absolute heat-seeker at linebacker. Barring injury and off-field issues, he should be a Pro Bowler before too long.
8. The potential that the Broncos could move on from TJ Ward ahead of the final year of his contract seems strange on the surface. But they like their young guys, rising sophomores Justin Simmons and Will Parks, at the position, and this might be a better-a-year-too-early-than-a-year-too-late situation.
9. No mistake that the Bills reward Eric Wood (with a new deal) and punished Marcel Dareus (sending him home from last weekend’s game in Baltimore) one after the other. These are culture moves by Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott, and about buy-in from the players—same as walking away from Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby.
10. College football season kicks off this weekend, and there are a ton of great matchups. Want an under-the-radar one to keep an eye on? Iowa is one of just two Power 5 conference opponents that Wyoming will play this year, before bowl season. And so if you want to see a game that scouts will be watching intently, to see how uber-talented Cowboys QB Josh Allen has come along, be sure to tune into Big Ten Network at noon Eastern on Saturday.