The New England Patriots reportedly signed three-time Pro Bowler Justin Bethel on Tuesday shortly after trading for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.
The cornerback/special teamer was released by the Baltimore Ravens on Monday, which led the Patriots to jump on Bethel. According to former kicker and now-NFL analyst Jay Feely, Bethel is the “perfect Bill Belichick signing.
“Perfect Bill Belichick signing,” Feely tweeted Tuesday evening. “One of the best special teams players in the league. Has been playing at a pro bowl level this year. He and (Matthew) Slater make the best duo in the league.”
Perfect Bill Belichick signingOne of the best special teams players in the league. Has been playing at a pro bowl level this yearHe and slater make the best duo in the league https://t.co/tVAwox7Nw9
— Jay Feely (@jayfeely) October 22, 2019
That’s a glowing take on the acquisition, but Feely certainly has a point on the combo of Slater and Bethel. The two special teamers should create headaches for opposing teams for the remainder of the year, something NESN.com’s Doug Kyed noted in a perfect tweet.
The Patriots released Jordan Richards following the acquisition of Bethel.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images
It has begun, with NFL teams beginning to fire up the motor on potential trades they hope will benefit them respectively, as the league deadline of Oct. 29 rapidly approaches. The first to draw real blood were the Baltimore Ravens, who landed cornerback Marcus Peters from the Los Angeles Rams, the latter in turn trading with the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire All-Pro, and disgruntled, talent Jalen Ramsey.
The number of moves were/are expected to ratchet up around the league following those moves, as evidenced in the New England Patriots sending a second-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for wideout Mohamed Sanu -- leading to the San Francisco 49ers accepting the consolation prize of Emmanuel Sanders -- and with many more likely to happen in the next few days.
Let's take a look at some that would make a lot of sense for teams who have a genuine chance at making the playoffs and a run at Super Bowl 54. Sometimes, all it takes is one more meaningful addition to take a club over the top, and these players could have such an impact.
Also, keep up with all the latest trades and rumors with our NFL deadline trade tracker.1. A.J. Green to the Packers
It's time for a fresh start here and Green likely knows it. He's now in a contract year but hasn't stepped foot on the field yet this season, and not by any fault of his own. He's been sidelined with an ankle injury that required surgery to repair, suffered during a summer practice on a field at the University of Dayton that players deemed awful, but one the Bengals opted to use anyway. Green was hoping to make this another dynamic season after missing much of 2018 (injury-related), and doesn't seem interested in signing an extension with a Bengals team that has wasted much of his career with poor coaching in the postseason -- and mostly regular season, and as of late -- poor performances from quarterback Andy Dalton. The Packers have been able to manage in the absence of Adams due to turf toe, but he'll return soon, and the Packers passing attack could go from questionable behind Adams to potentially terrifying for opposing defenses if a talent like Rodgers is giving two weapons to use in the aerial attack. Rodgers with Adams and Green? Easy money.2. Trent Williams to the Browns
Believe it or not, but the Browns still have a chance to make the playoffs and potentially some noise once there. Loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, the biggest issue has been the mostly poor play of quarterback Baker Mayfield, but he's only part of the reason for his struggles. Fact is, the Browns offensive line couldn't protect a sack lunch from a hungry toddler, let alone an NFL quarterback, and Williams could help in a big way -- to say the least. Having still not reported to the Washington Redskins due to distrust of the organization and their medical staff, Williams' bluff has been called and he's not backed down. The Redskins are firm in not wanting to trade him, but it's nonsensical at this point, and especially with the Browns reportedly hounding them to make the deal. All the Redskins have to do is the smart thing, for once, which is take assets for a premium player that will never suit up for them again. Earlier, CBS Sports writer Josh Edwards broke down Williams' current trade market, the six most likely suitors, including the Browns, and what a trade might return for the Redskins.3. Gerald McCoy to the Cowboys
And just like that, the Cowboys are back on track after suffering a three-game slide that was promptly ended when they took the Philadelphia Eagles out back and plucked them like a Thanksgiving bird in Week 7. That put them back above .500 and in sole possession of the top spot in the NFC East, but their masterful display on Sunday Night Football doesn't change the fact they need to figure out their defensive interior. With veteran lineman Tyrone Crawford now on injured reserve following hip surgery, they've put a lot of pressure on rotational players like Christian Covington and second-round pick Trysten Hill to get the job done. Covington has played admirably but Hill is still finding his way after being inactive several games, but the bottom line is there isn't an interior lineman on the roster comparable to what McCoy can do in an NFL game.
A tandem of McCoy, Antwaun Woods, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Robert Quinn would be destructive to opposing offenses, and that includes instantly shoring up the questionable run defense. It's doubtful the Cowboys would fork over a premium pick to land him, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't, and that's what this column is all about. Earlier, I broke down three other players the Cowboys should target in a trade prior to the deadline in addition to five players they can trade away and return solid value for.4. Chris Harris to the Seahawks
A contender with an MVP candidate at quarterback, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks took a step back when they went up against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. It served as a reminder they still have issues on defense, one of which being their struggle to stop the pass. They're one of the worst teams in the NFL in that category, and the Broncos are taking calls on players not named Von Miller, as evidenced in the move to send Sanders to San Francisco. If there's a fire sale in Denver, the Seahawks would be smart to pick up the phone and find out the asking price for Harris. He'd help give their secondary a jolt and could be the missing piece when the playoffs roll around and they're facing a team like the Cowboys or New Orleans Saints.5. Nelson Agholor to the Colts
Is Agholor simply not talented enough, or does he lack focus at times? The answer is likely the latter, considering he's shown a sizable progression recently when he was moved to mostly slot duty, but his time in Philadelphia might and should be over. His dropped pass in Atlanta cost them a potential victory over the lowly Falcons, and he short-armed what might've been a big play in Dallas on Sunday Night Football when Carson Wentz was doing his best to mount an unlikely comeback. A split could benefit the Colts, though, because they'd love to get a talent like Agholor to bolster the wide receiving corps led by T.Y. Hilton and tight end Eric Ebron. If Agholor can get to Indy and become a more locked-in receiver, it would've been worth making the trade, and especially since it's one that shouldn't cost more than a late-round pick at this point -- when also considering how the team views him.6. Patrick Peterson to the Eagles
The WR position isn't the only the thing the Eagles need to address, and honestly not the most important, as odd as they might sound after seeing the regression on Nelson Agholor. They've been obliterated at the defensive back position by both injury and poor play, and failed in their attempt to land Ramsey after offering a first- and second-round pick -- in 2020 and 2021, respectively -- only to lose him to the Rams bigger offer. The egg on the face of Howie Roseman is still present and accounted for, and the way he can win fans back would be to woo the Arizona Cardinals into dealing All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson to them. Peterson is instantly better than any cornerback they have now or have had in a very, very long time, and they're not out of the NFC East race, even after being humiliated by the Cowboys in Week 7. They're still in second place, and need cornerback help to stop the potent receiver corps of the first-place Cowboys, along with all others they'll come up against in 2019. Earlier, CBS Sports writer Jeff Kerr broke down nine players the Eagles need to target prior to the trade deadline -- Peterson topped the list.7. Karl Joseph to the Chiefs
This would be more of an insurance move for the Chiefs, but one they should consider doing. There isn't a long-term deal in place for Tyrann Mathieu and it could be argued Joseph is better and/or has more potential than any safety in Kansas City not named Mathieu or Juan Thornhill. If they can convince the Raiders to trade within the division -- an admittedly tall ask, but not impossible -- they could theoretically send a fifth-round pick to land Joseph, considering the Raiders don't truly need him after 2019 if first-round pick Jonathan Abram returns fine from injury. The trade would ensure even if there's an injury at the position in the second half of the year, there wouldn't be a definitive drop off at the third defensive level, and one Tom Brady and the Patriots could exploit in January.8. Vic Beasley to the Raiders
It's odd to consider, but the reality is the Raiders are still relevant in late October, sitting at .500 and in second place in the AFC West behind the aforementioned Chiefs. They are also in the thick of the wildcard race. Their attempts to chase down Kansas City makes them sending Joseph improbable, but not impossible, but a player-to-player swap might sweeten that deal. It's not as if the Raiders can't use help both now and later, and they've made sure to stack draft picks like Jinga pieces to help build their future. They still need something potent right now, though, and Beasley could be that something, especially since the hapless 1-6 Falcons don't have much to play for going forward. Since making the mistake of dealing away Khalil Mack to the Bears, there hasn't been much of a pass rush to speak of in Oakland. Head coach Jon Gruden famously noted following the Mack trade that pass rushers are difficult to find. Well, Beasley is one, and would love to be saved from a drowning boat in Atlanta.9. Kenyan Drake to the Buccaneers
Speaking of boats smashing into icebergs, the Miami Dolphins are the epitome of the Titanic, only they seemingly have no want of avoiding the collision. Having already traded away safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers a few weeks ago, they're clearly open for business. That business now includes seeing what they can get for running back Kenyan Drake, and they may not have to look far for a potential buyer. Not far away in Central Florida lies the Buccaneers, who are 2-4 right now, but only two games back of the second-place Carolina Panthers, who face the undefeated 49ers -- now equipped with Emmanuel Sanders -- after the bye week. There's still time for the Buccaneers to go all-in and make a run at a Wild Card spot in the NFC, having already defeated the Los Angeles Rams to prove they can make some noise. Jameis Winston would love to have another impact running back behind him to make his job easier, and Drake proved he can produce before things fell off the rails in 2019 amid coaching changes and a tank-driven offense that keeps switching quarterbacks.10. Demaryius Thomas to the Jaguars
It's been a rough 2019 for Thomas, who was excited to join the Patriots this year before ultimately being traded away to the New York Jets after Bill Belichick mistakenly believed Antonio Brown had his act together. Things haven't fared well for him in New York, but maybe the answer is to remove the pressure of him being a top-2 target. The Jaguars would love to have him in the mix as they attempt to chase the Colts and Houston Texans in the AFC South, and the fact D.J. Chark is having a breakout season means Thomas won't have to carry the wide receiver corps. If anything, he'd add immediate depth and veteran savvy to the room and could be an impact rotational piece alongside Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley. Injuries have been an issue for Marqise Lee, and that only serves to make any interest in Thomas more justifiable. At this point, a late-round pick could make this deal happen, but also give Gardner Minshew, and Nick Foles (?), another weapon as they mount their rally in the second half of the season for either the division crown or an AFC Wild Card slot.
It has been difficult to avoid pangs of sympathy in recent years for Aaron Rodgers, a transcendent quarterback held back by franchise complacency, injuries to his favorite targets and undermanned protection. Now, "the old man," as his coach lovingly referred to him Sunday, is nearing 36 years old and enmeshed in an organizational refresh designed to maximize whatever time he has left at the top of his game.
So it was notable, and no doubt welcome, to see how much help Rodgers got from coaches and teammates in producing one of the best statistical games of the season during the Packers' 42-24 victory over the Raiders.
Rodgers, of course, threw for 429 yards and accounted for six touchdowns, good for a Week 7-best 95.3 Total QBR and the first perfect passer rating (158.3, minimum 10 attempts) in Packers history. But as we've seen in recent years, no one -- not even Rodgers -- can do it alone. Below, we dig deeper into ESPN's Week 7 QB Awards, our Tuesday assessment of highs and lows using unique data culled from ESPN Stats & Information and NFL Next Gen Stats.
None of what I'm about to tell you should take anything away from Rodgers' individual performance. He was dealing Sunday against the Raiders. One data point helps support that assertion: He was off-target on just 10% of his passes, not including throwaways or spikes, the third-lowest percentage in Week 7. Simply put, Rodgers took full advantage of a good scheme against a bad defense, with receivers who helped him double his air yards over the course of his game.
Nearly two-thirds (64.5%) of Rodgers' receivers were open by at least 3 yards, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He tried to squeeze passes into a tight window (less than 1 yard from the nearest defender) only 6.5% of the time, third-lowest in the NFL in Week 7. More than half (55%) of his yardage total came after the catch, and in this game, he rarely found himself needing to avoid pressure in the pocket.
When he had at least 2.5 seconds to throw, Rodgers completed 15 of 18 passes for three touchdowns. In his previous six games, Rodgers had completed only 55% of those passes. The difference Sunday? Rodgers was pressured on only 14.7% of his dropbacks, his second-lowest pressure rate in the past three seasons. Instead of darting around the pocket to buy more time, Rodgers received it organically from his pass protection. And still, 29% of his passes were targeted to a receiver at or behind the line of scrimmage, the fourth-highest rate in Week 7.
Chris Berman and Tom Jackson recap the weekend's games with extended highlights and analysis.
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Packers fans should be encouraged by this analysis. It means that, for the first time in a while, the Packers substantively enhanced the performance of their future Hall of Fame quarterback. It might have come against an inferior defense -- the Raiders entered the game ranked No. 30 in the NFL in opposing QBR (65.5) -- but it also coincided with the Packers' third consecutive game without leading receiver Davante Adams. Quarterbacks are the most important players on the team, but they can't do it alone.
After Week 6, I wondered if the end was nearing for Marcus Mariota in Tennessee and Jameis Winston in Tampa. Now it's time to ask the same question about Dalton, who threw three interceptions in the course of four attempts as a 10-9 Bengals lead slipped away against the Jaguars.
In the fourth quarter, Dalton threw 13 passes that traveled fewer than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. He only completed six of them, and all three interceptions came on what should have been relatively easy throws. In total, Dalton completed 9.8% less passes than expectation, according to NFL Next Gen Stats data -- a higher percentage than all but one Week 7 starter.
It's true Dalton has been playing without injured receiver A.J. Green, who has bailed him out of many inaccurate passes over the years. And as we just said, quarterbacks can't do it by themselves. But Dalton's performance without Green -- call it Andy Dalton without a safety net -- might be enough for new coach Zac Taylor to move on after the season, if not before. The Bengals have rookie 2019 fourth-rounder Ryan Finley waiting on the bench and are in line for a top pick in the 2020 draft, a class that will be loaded with quarterbacks.
Simply put, the Patriots dismantled Darnold. He played Monday night as though he had never seen the types of coverages and pressure schemes the Patriots were using. At one point, he threw 10 consecutive incompletions -- nine of which were judged to be off-target by ESPN video charters. In total, he had 15 off-target incompletions in the game, tied for the most in a game by any NFL quarterback this season.
Overall, Darnold threw 32 times but managed only 11 completions for 86 yards with four interceptions and a fumble. According to the Pro Football Reference database, it was one of only six games since 1950 in which a quarterback had been held to 86 or fewer passing yards after throwing at least 32 passes.
At one point, an ESPN microphone recorded him saying, "I'm seeing ghosts." He was pressured on 45% of his dropbacks, including on three of his interceptions. But even when the ghosts scattered back into the closet, he still didn't fare much better. Darnold completed just three of 17 passes when he had at least 2.5 seconds to throw.
There is no doubt that Jackson is a better passer this season than he was as a rookie. He has nearly tripled his passing expected points added (EPA) from all of 2018 (6.6) during the first seven games of 2019 (17.7). But the public obsession with measuring his growth as a passer shouldn't overshadow that he remains absolutely lethal as a scrambler.
Jackson rushed for 116 yards in Sunday's 30-16 victory over the Seahawks, 86 of which came via scrambles after he initially dropped back to pass. He converted four first downs in that manner and now has an NFL-high 262 scramble yards, the third-most that a quarterback has had through seven games since ESPN Stats & Information began tracking such plays in 2006.
Jackson's formidable two-way threat also undoubtedly gives the Ravens more confidence on fourth downs. Coach John Harbaugh has spoken about the influence of analytics on his game-management decisions, but it sure helps to have a quarterback who can turn a busted pass play into an unscripted first-down scramble. Overall this season, the Ravens have converted seven of 10 fourth-down plays, second most in the NFL.
As he tried to bring back the Texans from a double-digit deficit against the Colts, Watson unleashed a throw of incredible touch and accuracy.
Officially, it was a 41-yard pass to receiver Kenny Stills, who caught the pass in stride with Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin just 0.7 yards away, according to NFL Next Gen Stats data.
To get an idea of the touch Watson put on the ball, consider that it spent 2.57 seconds in the air, the fourth-longest time of any pass thrown in Week 7. Given the time in the air, the lack of separation and the distance of the throw -- the ball traveled 47.7 yards from Watson's hands to Stills' -- the pass carried an expected completion percentage of only 15.9%.
The play moved the Texans to the Colts' 38-yard line, and they pulled to within five points just five plays later. It was yet another example of Watson's fast-developing skills as a pocket passer.
In his sixth start since Andrew Luck's retirement, Brissett broke out against a defense that seemed to invite him to throw the ball often and, more specifically, to his wide receivers.
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The Colts had dropped back on only 56% of their plays entering the game, clearly attempting to give Brissett a balanced play sheet. But the Texans used man-to-man defense on 79% of their defensive snaps Sunday, according to ESPN pass coverage metrics powered by NFL Next Gen Stats, and blitzed on 52% of his dropbacks.
Indianapolis clearly liked the matchups it created, so Brissett dropped back on 64% of its plays and threw a career-high four touchdown passes. Overall, he completed 14 of 20 passes with three touchdowns to his wide receivers. Zach Pascal was particularly effective, hauling in six of seven targets for 106 yards and two scores.