While I was enjoying the quiet …
One thing that I think a lot of people missed with Disney’s announcement of the Monday night games set for Sept. 19—as part of the league’s coordinated “trickle” release of the schedule this week, ahead of Thursday’s full release—was that it isn’t actually a doubleheader. The Vikings-Eagles game, set for 8:30 p.m. ET, will kickoff right around when the Titans-Bills game (at 7:15 p.m. ET on ESPN) goes to halftime. And when I pointed that out on social media Monday morning, some fans got real worked up over it.
They should also get used to it. It will be the only occurrence of it this year, but starting next year, we’ll see it three times every year. And there are reasons why it’s almost certain to stay this way going forward. Among them …
1) Ratings. Games kicking off at 10:15 p.m. ET don’t rate, and that’s one reason the league abandoned having those as part of Monday Night Football in Week 1 last year. The late MNF game in 2020, Titans at Broncos, attracted an average of just 7.6 million viewers (the 2020 Thursday opener, by comparison, averaged 25.8 million viewers). The year before, the number for that game, with the Raiders and Broncos facing off, was a little more respectable (10.62 million viewers), but still low. The year before that, for Rams-Raiders, the number was 9.61 million. Those would be good for other sports; for the NFL, they aren’t.
2) Inventory. Doing it this away allowed for the NFL to sell the package as 20 games, and since it would go to one company, there wasn’t an issue with the league cannibalizing one of its packages—the overlap between games on those three Mondays can be managed by Disney (with the early game on ESPN and the late game on ABC).
3) Time zones. Realistically, a 10:15 p.m. ET start limits the amount of teams that can host those games. There are just six teams in the Pacific and Mountain time zones (Rams, Chargers, 49ers, Seahawks, Cardinals, Raiders). And so, if you were going to have three 10:15 ET kickoffs every year, you’d be boxing yourself, and your schedule-makers, in.
So … get yourself a two-screen setup.
• While we’re on TV, here’s my understanding on where Richard Sherman stands right now, to follow up on my buddy Ian Rapoport’s report on Monday morning: Sherman is likely to join Amazon in an undetermined role, while leaving the door open for a return to football. How might that return manifest? Well, for now, his plan is to start the season in TV, and keep working out in case a team calls late in the year to sign him for the stretch run. The 34-year-old has always been calculated with his moves, and this one’s no different.
• The Giants made a real effort to trade James Bradberry (for just about anything) and the league usually tells you what it thinks of a player in situations like this. The clear message here is that no one thought he was worth the $13.5 million in cash that New York was slated to pay him this year. Bradberry will turn 29 during training camp and, to be clear, other teams I’ve talked to think he’s still got something left in the tank.
One problem, again, was the money, and to put that in perspective his number for 2022 was equal to the APY on the deal that the 49ers gave Charvarius Ward to lure him from Kansas City. Another issue? Bradberry probably needs to be in a zone-heavy scheme at this point. That’s where he’s fit best all along (he was drafted into such a system in Carolina) and, never the fastest guy to begin with, he seemed to lose a step last year.
And I get that because he’s the new name on the market at a slow time of year, a lot of people will make a big deal of his availability. But the key here might be to get him in the right role. If he can find it, he’s still got plenty left to give a team.
• One leftover from my talk with Falcons coach Arthur Smith the other day: I told him I’d heard him referencing building the team “the right way” a lot. And so I asked him what specifically means, in regards to everything from day-to-day operation of the team, all the way to the very deliberate build that he and Terry Fontenot have mapped out.
“It checks a lot of boxes,” Smith answered. “Are you truly going to implement your culture and not get derailed? Are you gonna bring guys in that are going to fit what you want to do in all three phases? Are you truly going to have competition year-in and year-out? I mean, we can go in a million different directions, but when guys know when they come in the building that no matter how they got there, they have a chance, that’s how you sustain success. You rip that entitlement out.”
And so I asked whether or not, a year in, the entitlement is gone.
“I feel like we’re in a much better spot, yeah,” he said. “We’ll continue to work through it.”
• This weekend was the first one for rookie minicamps, and these can actually mean a little something—it was at one of these that Russell Wilson first turned heads in 2012, to start his then-unlikely run at becoming a Week 1 starter as a rookie. And so we’ll start our notes with another skill-position player who might be ready to make a run at early playing time.
Washington took Alabama tailback Brian Robinson Jr. in the third round, and took him largely on his low-mileage untapped potential. He only topped 100 carries in a season once over five years in Tuscaloosa, a result of playing behind Najee Harris, Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris for four of those seasons. And the impressive package of size and speed he brings to the table popped out to coaches at the Commanders’ rookie camp.
If things go to plan, the 6' 2", 228-pound back should perfectly complement Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic in the Washington backfield, as the more traditional, physical tailback in the group, and allow the staff to move the other two around more. And paired in the Washington class with receiver Jahan Dotson and tight end Cole Turner (who both also flashed), the hope is Washington did a lot here to get Carson Wentz, and Terry McLaurin for that matter, help.
• You don’t often hear about linemen coming out of these camps, but the Eagles’ second-round pick, ex-Nebraska center Cam Jurgens, showed his athleticism, and how well he moves in space over the weekend in Philly.
Of course, linemen get judged when the pads go on. But the Eagles seem pretty excited about Jurgens, who gives them another nice young piece to pair with 2021 rookie Landon Dickerson on the interior of the line. Both guys have center/guard flexibility, and loom as important in Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni’s continued effort to get younger up front.
• Same goes for the tackles in Seattle—both ninth overall pick Charles Cross and third-rounder Abraham Lucas showed a ton of athleticism in non-contact work over the weekend at Seahawks’ rookie camp. Which, at least, has the Seahawks thinking that both guys have a really strong baseline to work off.
Interestingly enough, the question with each related to how they’ll fare in the run game (both played in Mike Leach’s offense as collegians), making them a little bit of a funny fit for what Pete Carroll generally emphasizes. We’ll see if they can coach it into them.
• On Monday, second overall pick Aidan Hutchinson became the sixth first-rounder, and highest drafted guy yet, to agree to terms, just nine days after the draft wrapped up. His contract is the standard slotted deal, with $35.71 million coming over four years, all fully guaranteed, and $23.15 million of it in a signing bonus. None of that is particularly interesting
What is? Well, six of these have been done now, and all six have offset language, which signifies that the owners won the battle over those—a battle that’s minute in its effect on the individual player, but important to teams for precedent purposes, and important to agents for recruiting reasons. The expectation is that 30 of 32 first-round deals will have offset language, with Jaguars picks Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd likely in position to avoid it in their deals, based on Jacksonville’s history with its first-rounders.
• It’s also worth noting the financial benefit Aidan Hutchinson reaped for staying in school. Had he declared after the 2020 season, he’d have been in a group of pass-rushers behind Jaelen Phillips, probably grouped in with Greg Rousseau, Odafe Oweh and Joe Tryon, who went 30th, 31st and 32nd. The first of those picks, Oweh, signed a four-year, $11.34 million contract with the Ravens last June.
So if you think Hutchinson would’ve gone in that range without his freakishly productive senior year Michigan—and I think it’s fair to think that—then the 22-year-old more than tripled the value of his rookie deal. Not bad for 12 months work.
• Anyone else notice how many NFL folks were at the Formula 1 race in Miami on Sunday?
More NFL Coverage:
• MMQB: The Falcons’ Strange Offseason, Remaining Free Agents
• What the NFL Didn’t Reveal About Its Browns Investigation
• Biggest Draft Takeaways From Around the NFL
• Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud Possible Next No. 1 Pick