Green Bay Packers

Richard Rodgers sees new life with Eagles

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Richard Rodgers sees new life with Eagles

It’s impossible to look at his stats and not wonder what exactly happened to Richard Rodgers.

In 2015, he ranked 12th among all NFL tight ends with 58 catches for 510 yards and fifth with eight touchdowns. 

His 58 catches were the fourth most in NFL history by a tight end 23 years old or younger, behind only Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow Sr. Pretty good company.

He was just 23 years old, he had a future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, and he looked for all the world like one of the league’s brightest tight end prospects.

Since then?

His catches dropped nearly in half to 30 in 2016 and then down to 12 last year. Yards dropped to 271 and then 160 last year. And TDs to two and then just one.

Rodgers’ decline has been steep.

When his contract expired in March, the Packers moved on from Rodgers, who on Wednesday agreed to a one-year deal with the Eagles.

Rodgers met with reporters Friday afternoon and was asked about his dramatic decline in production.

“Yeah, I just did what I was told, did what the coaches asked me to do, and that’s all you can do as a player,” Rodgers said. “Just do what the coaches ask you to do. My numbers just dropped for whatever reason.”

Rodgers said he’s healthy and remains physically the same player he was when he caught 58 passes two years ago, which made him Aaron Rodgers’ second-favorite target, behind only Randall Cobb.

“I was playing a lot of snaps,” Rodgers said. “That was my highest snap-count year. And we had a lot of injuries. A number of things contributed to that [season].

“I was just trying to be consistent and trying to help the team win and if that’s having 100 catches or having 10, it doesn’t matter.”

Rodgers is right.

From 2015 through 2017, his targets dropped from 85 to 47 to 19, and his snaps on offense dropped from 70 percent to 56 percent to 29 percent.

With a one-year contract, Rodgers could find himself in line for a huge deal next offseason if he approaches those 2015 numbers. Heck, Trey Burton got a four-year, $32 million deal, and he had about half as many catches and yards in his four years as Rodgers.

"Obviously, it’s a good opportunity for me to reset my value,” he said.

Playing behind Pro Bowler Zach Ertz will be a different experience for Rodgers, who was always the Packers’ No. 1 tight end.

“I don’t know him very well,” Rodgers, a Cal grad, said. “He played against me, went to Stanford — unfortunately — but I’m looking forward to getting to know him and see how he is in practice and see how he works, because I haven’t really had many veteran tight ends to look up to, so I’ll be looking to learn a lot from him and my coach.”

From the outside, it seems like this is a great chance for Rodgers to prove himself after two disappointing seasons.

He said he’s not looking at it that way.

“That’s not really my mindset,” he said. “I just want to come out and help the team win, and if I can do that, I can be satisfied.”

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

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Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

When Doug Pederson said back in July that the 2017 Eagles "probably have more talent" than the Super Bowl Packers teams of the 1990s that Pederson played on, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Millions of eyebrows maybe.
 
The Eagles? Who hadn't won a playoff game since 2008 and were coming off a 7-9 record in Pederson's first season?
 
More talented than a team that went to the playoffs virtually every year from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s behind Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White and reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning one?
 
"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there," Pederson said on July 17.
 
"And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"
 
Seriously, Doug?
 
Six months later, Pederson's comments — which seemed so ridiculous at the time — don't seem so ridiculous, do they?
 
Because here are those 2017 Eagles, sitting 13-3 with a playoff win over the Falcons in the books and a berth Sunday in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players.
 
The Eagles haven't lost a game with postseason implications since Carson Wentz was lost for the season, and they're one home win from reaching their third Super Bowl.
 
Pederson, who had two stints backing up Brett Favre with the Packers — from 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 — was reminded of his comments Friday before practice.
 
"I don't have a crystal ball, obviously, and it's hard to predict," he said. "You'd love to sit here and go, 'Yeah, in the summer, (I thought we were) going to be 13-3 and win the NFC East.' You'd love to be in that situation, or 16-0, or whatever it might be.
 
"I did have a feeling back then when I made that statement that we could be, we had the potential to be a good football team because of the way we've practiced and the talent that we brought to the roster and the progression of Carson in his second year.
 
"And then defensively, the front, the way they performed, and the back end, I saw a lot of the same similarities. So you just have that gut feeling when I made that statement."
 
Back in July, when Pederson made those comments comparing the Eagles to the Packers, he tempered them by saying talent isn't always enough. It takes much more for a team to have success.
 
"I (said) it takes great coaching, teaching, mentoring to also have our guys prepared each week to be in this position," Pederson said. "So all of that has kind of culminated. I think you look back on it and you go, 'Wow, maybe it was a true type of thing.'
 
"But we just keep doing our jobs, keep doing what we've been coached to do. Players play what they can do and what's in their control, and we're here today."

'Good chance' Jon Gruden returns to Raiders

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'Good chance' Jon Gruden returns to Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Jon Gruden says he had a good talk with Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis about returning to the organization for a second stint as coach and believes there is a "good chance" it will happen.

Gruden gave an interview to ESPN Radio on Wednesday to discuss his pursuit of the Raiders job that opened when Jack Del Rio was fired after a disappointing six-win season.

Gruden has been out of coaching the past nine years while serving as ESPN's analyst for "Monday Night Football." He is scheduled to work the network's playoff game Saturday in Kansas City between the Chiefs and Tennessee Titans and could come back to the Raiders as soon as next week.

Gruden coached Oakland for four years from 1998-2001 before going to Tampa Bay (see full story).

Giants: Interim Spagnuolo interviews to be head coach
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have started the interview process for their head coaching job by starting with the man who ran the team for the final month of a disastrous season.

Interim coach Steve Spagnuolo was interviewed by new general manager Dave Gettleman, co-owner John Mara and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams Wednesday, three days after the Giants (3-13) ended the season with an 18-10 win over Washington.

Co-owner Steve Tisch will meet with the candidates later in the process.

Spagnuolo posted a 1-3 record after being promoted from defensive coordinator to replace the fired Ben McAdoo on Dec. 4. He has head coaching experience, having guided the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11.

The likable Spagnuolo, who was promised an interview after being the interim coach, has had two tours as Giants defensive coordinator. He held the position in 2007-08 and helped the franchise win a Super Bowl. He returned in 2015 working the first year under Tom Coughlin and being retained by McAdoo (see full story).

Bills: McCoy (ankle) misses practice, uncertain vs. Jags
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Bills running back LeSean McCoy missed practice Wednesday because of a right ankle injury and it's uncertain whether he can play Sunday at Jacksonville in Buffalo's first playoff game in 18 years.

Coach Sean McDermott would only list the Bills' top offensive threat as day to day and declined to say whether McCoy would be able to practice at all this week. McCoy did not speak with reporters during time designated for interviews, as team officials said he was being treated by trainers.

McCoy was carted off the field after being hurt on the opening drive of the second half of Buffalo's 22-16 win at Miami on Sunday.

The win coupled with Baltimore's 31-27 loss to Cincinnati clinched Buffalo's first playoff berth since the 1999 season. As the AFC's sixth seed, the Bills (9-7) will face South Division champion Jacksonville (10-6) in a wild-card game.

McCoy leads Buffalo with 1,138 yards rushing, 59 catches and eight touchdowns, including two receiving (see full story).

Vikings: Bradford explains mindset on latest comeback
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The worst-case scenario fear surfaced in Sam Bradford's mind at midseason, in the aftermath of the 30-year-old quarterback's latest surgery on his left knee.

This procedure was an arthroscopic cleanup, not another reconstruction, but that didn't quiet the question about whether he'd be able to resume his career.

"That was a battle I fought for a few weeks," Bradford said. "But it seemed like each day where it got better, each week where it felt like I was making true progress and could do a little bit more, those thoughts started to leave my mind. I started to become more confident in how I felt on my knee and what I was able to do."

Bradford returned to practice with the Minnesota Vikings this week, the earliest he was eligible to do so after being placed on injured reserve on Nov. 8.

The Vikings can put him back on the active roster for the playoffs at any time, with a decision required by Jan. 23 if they advance to the Super Bowl.

Packers: Capers out as defensive coordinator
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers have announced the departure of veteran defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac and inside linebacker Scott McCurley were also let go.

The moves made earlier this week were announced by coach Mike McCarthy on Wednesday.

Packers president Mark Murphy said on Tuesday that McCarthy has the authority to fill the coordinator position without waiting for a new GM. Murphy is leading the search for a replacement for general manager Ted Thompson, who is moving to an advisory role with the team.

Capers had been defensive coordinator since 2009. Green Bay was fifth in overall defense in the Super Bowl-winning season in 2010.

But the defense slipped to 22nd in each of the past two seasons despite being stocked with high draft picks. Injuries have plagued the cornerback position.

More changes to McCarthy's staff could be coming after the team finished below .500 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Raiders: Headquarters land deal offered by city near Vegas
HENDERSON, Nev. -- The Oakland Raiders came one step closer Wednesday to securing the land the team needs for its new headquarters and practice facility near Las Vegas, and at a steep discount.

Officials in suburban Henderson approved a resolution that allows the city to move forward with a direct sale of 55 acres (22 hectares) to the Raiders for more than $6 million -- half the land's appraised value. The city is using a Nevada law that allows for no-bid sales at under-market prices when they are considered to be in the public interest.

"This is an opportunity to take the city of Henderson to a new level," Assistant City Manager Greg Blackburn said during the city council meeting ahead of the resolution vote. "It's hard to put a dollar value to what this does to help us for the future."

The Raiders have promised that the venue will create an estimated 250 full-time jobs not counting players. The team will spend about $75 million to build the complex.

The team wants to kick off its 2020 season at a 65,000-seat domed stadium built partially with taxpayers' money across the freeway from the Las Vegas Strip. The team in May paid $77.5 million for the 62-acre (25-hectare) site and hosted a glitzy groundbreaking ceremony in November (see full story).