Raiders

Cursed Cleveland? No. 1 pick's debut on hold with injury

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USATSI

Cursed Cleveland? No. 1 pick's debut on hold with injury

CLEVELAND -- Myles Garrett's NFL debut for the Browns won't happen for weeks.

Is that Cleveland's luck or what?

The top overall pick in this year's draft will miss Sunday's opener against Pittsburgh and possibly a few more games after severely spraining his right ankle during practice.

A teammate fell on the back of Garrett's leg during a drill Wednesday, and the impressive rookie defensive end stayed on the field as long as he could before succumbing to pain.

An MRI revealed the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Garrett has a high ankle sprain, a tricky injury that typically takes several weeks to heal. His status will be updated in a "couple" of weeks," the team said. That means he will sit out against the Steelers and likely the following week at Baltimore, and perhaps other games.

Garrett is not expected to need surgery.

Garrett's loss is another blow for the beleaguered Browns, who went 1-15 last season and have had their share of costly injuries in recent years.

Quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown were hurt early last season. Wide receiver Corey Coleman, a first-round pick, missed six games after breaking his hand in practice, and Cleveland lost both starting guards with torn foot ligaments.

"Obviously, it hurts when you lose a premier pass rusher like Myles," said Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas. "It hurts losing a guy that is that much of a game changer."

Browns coach Hue Jackson said the injury to one of his top players just days from the opener hasn't changed his resolve.

"Have you guys ever seen me run from anything?" he said. "I am not about to now. If anything, our team is a little bit tighter, a little bit stronger because of the things that have happened.

"We grow from this. It is happening now and glad it is happening early in the year so we can move on from it and grow from it and become stronger as a football team. We never want to see things happen, but we all know they do during a long season, so here we go. This is just the start of it. Let's put it behind us and keep marching."

This is the second time Garrett already has been hurt as a pro, and those setbacks came after he was limited during his junior year at Texas A&M by a badly sprained left ankle.

Garrett sustained a lateral sprain to his left foot during minicamp while pressuring former Browns quarterback Brock Osweiler. The injury was initially thought to be serious, but Garrett's foot was immobilized in a walking boot and he recovered in time for the start of training camp.

The Browns eased him into practices, but it wasn't long before Garrett was dazzling Cleveland's coaches and teammates with his speed and strength. Garrett also impressed with his humility and work ethic, staying after practice to run wind sprints to build stamina.

Jackson said he's not concerned about Garrett's recent spate of injuries. The one that occurred Wednesday was unavoidable.

"I know exactly how it happened," Jackson said. "If you get somebody thrown into your leg, it could happen to any one of our guys, anybody on our football team. It is just unfortunate it happened to a guy who we wish was out there all of the time. That goes with it."

With Garrett out, the Browns re-signed second-year lineman Tyrone Holmes, who was waived by the team on Sunday. He played in 11 games for Cleveland last season and showed promise during this summer's exhibition games.

Holmes knows he alone can't replace Garrett.

"It's huge," he said of losing Garrett. "Everybody knows how talented of a player he is. He is a freak. It is a huge loss for the team, but we are going to have to go in and step up and try to fill the role."

Garrett had been pointing to the opener and promised to sack Ben Roethlisberger. Before Wednesday's practice, Garrett said taking down the Steelers quarterback would be nice, but his main objective was to wreak havoc wherever he could.

"It's to make a difference," he said. "Making a difference whether it's a sack, TFL (tackle for loss) or just being disruptive, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to take the opportunities that are given to me."

For now, those chances are on hold.

Broncos name new starting quarterback ahead of game vs Raiders

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AP

Broncos name new starting quarterback ahead of game vs Raiders

ALAMEDA — It’s time to see conclusively if quarterback Paxton Lynch is a bust or just a late bloomer.

The Denver Broncos’ former first-round draft pick will make his first start this weekend at Oakland, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Denver coach Vance Joseph won’t announce his starter until Wednesday.

General manager John Elway moved up in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft to select Lynch with the 26th overall pick, but the former Memphis QB proved to be a project.

Trevor Siemian, a 2015 seventh-rounder from Northwestern, handily beat out Lynch in 2016 and again this season. Shortly after coming up short in Denver’s quarterback competition for the second time, Lynch bruised his throwing shoulder against Green Bay in a preseason game.

That led to the re-signing of Peyton Manning’s longtime backup, Brock Osweiler, who had been released by Cleveland following a trade from Houston.

Osweiler supplanted a turnover prone Siemian (10 interceptions, two lost fumbles) three weeks ago but went winless in his three starts, including a 20-17 defeat to Cincinnati on Sunday in which Lynch was active for the first time.

On Monday, Joseph fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave.

McCoy raised eyebrows with his overly complex game plans and stubbornness in sticking to three-receiver formations despite a flurry of sacks, flags and turnovers that resulted from a porous line and lack of depth at tight end and wide receiver.

Joseph said he wanted Musgrave, who guided the Raiders’ offense from 2015-16, to simplify the game plans.

Although no team has ever recovered from a 3-7 start to reach the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how Lynch’s promotion is met in the locker room.

Teammates have been effusive in their praise of the work ethic and leadership displayed by Osweiler and Siemian and they usually speak in terms of promise and potential when talking about Lynch, who’s never been known to get to work first and leave last like so many quarterbacks do.

Last week, when Lynch worked as the backup at practice for the first time and even handled some passing plays with the starters, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders praised Osweiler’s energy and experience that he brought to the equation and said what Lynch brings is a promising upside if he ever buckles down.

“Brock, he’s been there before, he’s been groomed by Peyton, so he understands the ins and outs of how to play quarterback,” Sanders said. “Paxton has a big-time arm, big-time talent. He has all the intangibles. It’s all about going out and getting more and more comfortable with the playbook, learning and growing as a player, becoming a pro.”

Lynch went 1-1 last year in place of an injured Siemian, losing to Atlanta and beating Jacksonville. He completed 49 of 83 passes for 497 yards and two TDs to go with an interception. He was sacked nine times.

He had to learn a new system when Gary Kubiak stepped down and was replaced by Joseph, who brought in McCoy to replace Rick Dennison.

With Musgrave’s promotion, Lynch will be working under his third system in less than two years in the NFL, albeit one that will be pared down for him.

He’ll face a Raiders defense going through its own shakeup . The Raiders fired defensive coordinator Ken North Jr. on Tuesday and coach Jack Del Rio handed those duties over to assistant head coach John Pagano.

Why firing Ken Norton Jr. won't solve the Raiders' bigger, deeper problems

Why firing Ken Norton Jr. won't solve the Raiders' bigger, deeper problems

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was twice asked about making in-season changes at his Monday press conference.

He wouldn’t rule it out. Del Rio said he would do anything necessary to help the team “win now,” and later said "we're not getting into staff questions this week."

Then he fired Ken Norton Jr. the next day, hoping the dismissal will provide a spark.

It might. More likely, it might not do enough.

It is a shot across the bow at its base, a signal that subpar play won't be tolerated. 

“We played under our talent level,” defensive tackle Justin Ellis said, “Those things come with consequences.”

New play caller John Pagano has a unique style and knows how to bring creative pressure, disguise a simple play as complex and exploit weak links, but he won’t be using his system this season. He’ll still be working within Norton/Del Rio’s scheme and, more importantly, he’s still playing chess with existing, often inferior pieces. The Raiders understand that, and likely won't judge him on this final stretch alone. 

Why? The defense doesn’t have enough talent in the secondary, the interior defensive line or the inside linebacker corps. That’s not on Norton or Pagano.

Pagano can’t do a thing about an offense struggling mightily to catch passes, block consistently and let plays develop downfield.

The Raiders have some major talent problems, with rush and coverage rarely working together as desired. That, and some uninspired schematics, have produced awful statistics.

The Raiders don’t have an interception, and are the first team to go 10 games without a pick. They’re on track to have the second-worst opposing completion percentage (72.3) and passer rating (113.3) in NFL history, per the Associated Press.

They’re also last in sacks for the second straight year, with just 14 this season despite having reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack.

They're thin because last year's second and third round picks, Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun aren't contributing. This year's draft class had to make an immediate impact, but Gareon Conley played two games, Obi Melifonwu spent eight games on IR and Eddie Vanderdoes as underwhelmed after a promising start.

Highly paid free agents haven't performed well enough, and many could be shown the door.

It’s possible roughly half of the starting lineup doesn’t return next season, with Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin and NaVorro Bowman likely out the door as free agents or roster cuts.

In sum, this isn’t all Norton’s fault.

He was, however, the easiest cut. You can’t fire players en masse during the year, and Pagano was an easy replacement without disrupting the position coaches. Pagano has extensive experience calling plays. He was the then-San Diego Chargers’ defensive coordinator from 2012-16.

Norton wasn’t an innovative play caller. He was passed over for coordinator jobs while serving as Seattle’s linebackers coach, after Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn were hired as head coaches. Del Rio, who played with Norton in Dallas back from 1989-91, hired Norton shortly after being hired by the Raiders.

The Raiders' defense has never been good under Norton/Del Rio, and Norton was on a hot seat most of last season. It was surprising when Pagano was hired that Norton was retained and allowed to continue despite underwhelming performance.

Norton was immensely popular in the locker room, especially with members of the front seven. Mack and Irvin in particular were Norton guys. Norton and Irvin go way back to Irvin’s Seattle days, where the coach helped the player get and stay on the right path.

That’s why this firing was deeply felt on Tuesday. The players were told in an afternoon meeting, following a walk-through focused on corrections from Sunday’s New England loss.

"The axe came down on everybody," free safety Reggie Nelson said. "Everybody felt it in this building. Players, we love Norton, regardless. Unfortunately, the production wasn't a high standard this year and it's a production league. He's not playing. We are.”

The Raiders are 4-6, and can’t afford to lose many more games. They might need to be perfect down the stretch to avoid a messy tiebreaker situation. That’s a tough ask for a team that’s been woefully inconsistent on both sides. This team was always expected to shoot for the middle defensively and have a potentially great offense score points by the bushel.

The offense has been most disappointing, performing far below its pay grade and talent level. There was no movement on that side of the ball. The Raiders hope, with fingers firmly crossed, this defensive change provide the spark necessary to create turnovers and quarterback pressure than has been lacking in a disastrous season to this point.