News and notes to know heading into Week 9…
1.Baker Mayfield is going through his first coaching change just eight games, and five starts, into his NFL career. So what will change for him against Kansas City? My understanding is interim coach Gregg Williams’s new staff will make limiting hits on the rookie a priority, and creatively find ways to protect him and make him less of a sitting duck. And there will be a real effort to do more to get the run game going.
2. The Cardinals’ Saturday release of Sam Bradford was common sense. They’d already made him a regular gameday inactive to save the weekly $312,500 per-game roster bonuses, and they’ll save more if he’s claimed on waivers. If anyone else wants him, they can get him for $2.35 million on Monday. Two things that are interesting about that: (1) because he was cut before the Cardinals’ 10th game, his contract won’t count towards the compensatory pick formula; and (2) if they cut him prior to the trade deadline, he wouldn’t have been subject to waivers, meaning he could just pick his landing spot.
3. Why would the Raiders dump Bruce Irvin now? Because he’d lost a step, they shopped him ahead of the trade deadline, and word is he’s grown unhappy with his shrinking role. Irvin has played less than half the Raiders’ defensive snaps (48 percent), and that number has been falling of late—he went from 41 snaps against Seattle to 24 against the Colts to 9 on Thursday night against the Niners. At this point, it makes sense for the scuffling Raiders to invest their time and resources into young D-linemen like Maurice Hurst and Arden Key.
4. Sunday’s game against the Lions is a big one for the 4-3-1 Vikings, and they have some moving parts. With Stefon Diggs on the shelf, the expectation is a bigger role for veteran journeyman Aldrick Robinson. And with Dalvin Cook working his way back from a hamstring injury, the plan is to get him about 20 snaps or so.
5. As for the Lions, the departure of Golden Tate should open opportunity for Kenny Golladay, though the second-year pro was already getting extra attention from defenses. And T.J. Jones is likely to get a good portion of the playing time that has opened up. Remember, it’s not like the Lions were dying to see Tate go—they’d offered him a new contract and drove a hard bargain with suitors on the trade market.
6. One thing the Saints coaches picked up as a key to slowing the Rams offense, based on what the Packers did last week, and have emphasized to their defensive players: Get your hands on the receivers and find a way to reroute them. The other key is an obvious one, which is to slow Todd Gurley. And the belief is if the Saints can do that, take the teeth out of L.A.’s play-action game and make it a dropback passing game for the Rams, then it will be Advantage: New Orleans.
7. New Texans receiver Demaryius Thomas will start today, according to a source, five days after being traded from Denver to Houston. That’s mostly a product of necessity. Will Fuller’s season-ending ACL injury was what prompted the deal in the first place, and rookie Keke Coutee won’t be available either in Denver, so Thomas it is.
8. Keep an eye on how the Packers deal with Rob Gronkowski tonight. More than one team has raised the idea that he looks hurt, and that he can’t really run like he used to. As such, he isn’t commanding as much attention as he used to in the way of defenses scheme to stop him. Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, having spent time as a Jets and Bills coordinator, has a lot of experience playing against him.
9. Just from me here: Nick Mullens’s performance on Thursday night is pretty solid proof of what coaching can mean for a quarterback. And Kyle Shanahan is pretty good at coaching quarterbacks.
10. And here’s a friendly reminder: Le’Veon Bell has to show in the next nine days or he can’t play this year, which mean his franchise tag would roll over into 2019. So we’ll see him in the next nine days.
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