• Plus, why teams might be less willing to take on Gordon now than they would be in the offseason, one Viking who could cause plenty of problems for Aaron Rodgers, Mariota’s grip, injury issues in the NFC South, Detroit’s problems and more
By Albert Breer
September 16, 2018

1. The Browns’ decision to announce WR Josh Gordon’s pending release is a de facto smoke signal to the other 31 teams: Make us an offer. And it’s smart business. Cleveland has seemingly given Gordon a million second chances. If they can get a return—however small—and determine his destination in order to minimize the chance this comes back to haunt them directly, that’s their right. Obviously, there are plenty of people in the organization rooting for Gordon to get his act together, but business is business.

2. As for teams looking to acquire Gordon, there are lots of questions to answer, and obvious ones concerning his late arrival to training camp, the nature of his last couple days in Cleveland, and where he is personally after all this. And then there’s this point that one exec raised to me on Saturday night: Taking a risk on a guy is different in September as opposed to March. You have fewer roster spots, and disruptions are magnified since every week is a game week. That’s something any team has to take into account on Gordon.

3. Man to watch, re: Aaron Rodgers’s mobility on Sunday (presuming Rodgers starts): Vikings DT Sheldon Richardson. I’d expect that Mike Zimmer and Minnesota will do their best to get heat up the middle, and that starts with the big-ticket free-agent 3-technique.

4. For what it’s worth, Rodgers looked relatively good to those at Saturday’s practice in Green Bay. Though that doesn’t mean the Packers don’t have a decision to make.

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5. Marcus Mariota is obviously one to watch in a Week 2 game against Houston that feels vital for both teams. As we said in the Monday Afternoon Quarterback this week, Mariota experienced issues with his grip earlier in the week. Those have persisted; it’s worth keeping an eye on it Sunday.

6. The Falcons’ injuries got more attention, and rightfully so—Keanu Neal and Deion Jones going to IR are heavy blows. But this week won’t be a picnic for their opponent either. With attrition on the line, the Panthers are planning to start journeyman Chris Clark at left tackle, moving promising second-year tackle Taylor Moton to the right side. The internal expectation was that Moton would be able to approximate what Matt Kalil brought at left tackle, the numbers game will make things harder.

7. The Patriots’ trade for 49ers tackle Trent Brown looks like one of the steals of the offseason—they sent a third-rounder to San Francisco and got a fifth-rounder back with Brown, who has replaced Nate Solder at less than $2 million for 2018 (which is larceny compared to the offensive-line free agent rates this year). How good a deal was it? This afternoon, with the Jacksonville defensive front on the ledger, is one that will help determine that.

8. Seeing Sam Darnold again makes Jets-Dolphins worth watching, but keep an eye on the Jets’ defense. A two-year emphasis on juicing the unit with speed came together on Monday night in Detroit, with Jamal Adams showing himself to be the kind of culture-altering leader they believed he could be when they spent the sixth pick on him two Aprils ago.

9. The schedule-makers didn’t do the Lions a great favor in having the team go to San Francisco on a short week coming off a Monday night opener. And adding drama into the equation (NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported last week on players being upset with Matt Patricia’s program) certainly doesn’t help. So what’s the deal? My understanding is that the dissatisfaction, to this point, really hasn’t gone much beyond players bellyaching, and that the biggest adjustment for those guys has been the difference in the daily schedule, which is challenging under Patricia. Will it go beyond that? It’s hard to say. Getting a more positive result than what we saw against the Jets wouldn’t hurt, of course. And it’s not like the new staff didn’t anticipate that some might chafe at the heat being turned up.

10. And we’ll wrap with a quick look back at Thursday Night Football fallout: The Bengals are prepared for Joe Mixon’s knee injury to sideline him for four weeks. If he gets back sooner, that would be a bonus.

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