This is the David Johnson we’ve been waiting for

Coming into 2018, and off a season in which he missed 15 games with a fractured wrist, Johnson shouldered the expectation that he’d return to his 2016 level with the Arizona Cardinals. That season the running back led the NFL with 2,118 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns, rushing for 1,239 yards to go along with 879 yards receiving. He was an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler.

The bar was set. And it was high.

But through the first seven games of this season, Johnson’s performance dipped. He was a casualty of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s stagnant offense, producing just one game with 100 yards from scrimmage. In the other six games he never got above 71. He never caught more than five passes in a game. His runs were becoming predictable. He wasn’t used like he had been in the past.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Johnson had 100 yards from scrimmage against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 8 and then topped that in the next game. Johnson had the best game of his season Sunday in Kansas City, running for 98 yards and a touchdown in addition to 85 receiving yards and a score. The 183 all-purpose yards on a season-high 28 touches were his most since Oct. 6, 2016.12

“It made me feel like it was back to … two years ago — the 2016 offense,” Johnson said after Sunday’s game. “We got some momentum going as an offense running the ball. We got some good confidence going, as well.”

As the Cardinals prepare to play the Oakland Raiders this Sunday, coach Steve Wilks didn’t mind one bit that Johnson was taken back in time against the Chiefs.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“As long as David is getting yardage and he’s getting in the end zone, I don’t care what it feels like,” Wilks said.

Getting Johnson involved is the only thing Leftwich said he knows to do. Against the Chiefs, Johnson had his second-most carries this season (21) and most catches (seven) on his most targets (nine).

“I know what he is,” Leftwich said. “I’m just trying to put these guys in position. I’m not really thinking about 2016. I’m just trying to use the guys and what I know of the playmakers and just put them in position to make plays and if it turns out to be him playing like he was in 2016, that’d be good for us.”

Johnson has been implored by running backs coach Kirby Wilson to run more downhill and not bounce outside as much. The goal, Johnson said, is to turn 1-yard runs into 3-yard gains. While he did it more Sunday in Kansas City, it wasn’t easy. One of Johnson’s favorite moves is the jump-cut. Lowering his shoulder and bulldozing a defender isn’t natural for him, he added. He’d prefer to create with cuts, moves and jukes.


Don’t judge Le’Veon yet: How Bell could change old NFL thinking

What we do know is that Bell’s situation presents us with a chance — maybe even an obligation — to think differently about the NFL and its economic structure. One of the best players in the world just kissed off his age-26 season because he thought it was the smart long-term financial move. An employee used the maximum extent of his own leverage to try to gain ground in a system designed almost entirely for the benefit of the employer. If that doesn’t make us question what we thought we knew about how all of this works, that’s a missed opportunity on our part.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Let’s start with the franchise tag itself — a widely accepted fact of NFL economics but also an anti-capitalistic device designed to restrict the earning power of top players. The Steelers didn’t want to give Bell the deal he wanted and they also didn’t want to lose him. Fortunately, they operate one of 32 businesses in the world that can have that particular cake and eat it too. For as many as three years in a row, if it can afford to, a team can keep a player from hitting the open market simply by designating him its franchise player and assigning him a one-year deal for a collectively bargained salary.11

It’s a crazy idea which the players should have never agreed to back in the early 1990s when it was first proposed. But like so much else about the NFL, it’s become ingrained, and fans just accept it — especially when it keeps your team from losing its best players. Even the players don’t really fight against it in collective bargaining negotiations, because the vast majority of them will never have to deal with it (a perspective that wrongfully ignores the principle that higher salaries atop the market are beneficial for all salaries throughout).

What Bell has done here is reject the notion that there’s nothing you can do about the franchise tag. The Steelers had it as leverage against him in contract negotiations and used it — two years in a row — to make sure no other team but Pittsburgh could offer him a long-term contract. The premise is that Bell had two choices: Sign a long-term deal under the Steelers’ terms or play on the one-year franchise tag. The deal the Steelers offered wasn’t the one he wanted, and the franchise tag meant they didn’t have to improve on it in order to get him to stay.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Turns out, Bell had a third choice, which was to flex his own leverage and withhold his services. Even when Bell telegraphed this back in January, almost no one believed him because … well, who does that? Sure, Sean Gilbert and Dan Williams did it in the late ’90s, but neither one of those guys was getting $14.5 million on their franchise tags, as Bell would have if he’d played in 2018. The size of that number and the assumption that playing football this year was among Bell’s top priorities made the threat easy to dismiss, pretty much up until he officially made good on it Tuesday afternoon.


Saints’ offense erupts with five first-half TDs in win vs. Bengals

Bold prediction: The New Orleans Saints will keep their spot as the No. 1 team in ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings this week.

The Saints (8-1) scored on each of their first nine possessions Sunday in a 51-14 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals — – making them just the third team to do so since 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The only thing that stopped them was the clock. Backup QB Teddy Bridgewater started taking a knee after the two-minute warning.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Apparently the Saints’ offense was just getting warmed up during the first half of the 2018 season.

They scored touchdowns in each of their first five possessions Sunday to take a 35-7 halftime lead. And they have now scored a total of 96 points over the past two weeks to leapfrog the Kansas City Chiefs as the top-scoring team in the NFL this season (36.7 points per game).12

“We just found our swag, we found our stride,” said Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who scored two more touchdowns to bring his season total to 14. “This team is persistent, consistent, we take advantage of opportunity. The schemes that Sean [Payton] and those guys upstairs, the offensive coordinator [Pete Carmichael Jr.] put in place, we execute. We execute and we make sure we handle our business, from top to bottom, no matter who’s in.

“Everybody knows their role and plays their role. Nobody’s trying to one-up each other.”

The Saints have now won eight straight games as they head toward a showdown with the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in New Orleans next week.

But they took it up a few notches on Sunday.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

Drew Brees was 22 of 25 passing for 265 yards and three touchdowns — including two to receiver Michael Thomas. Mark Ingram had 162 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. And Kamara had 102 yards from scrimmage, along with his two TDs.

Ingram, Kamara and Thomas were all throwing up “Xs” in the end zone during the first half as an homage to receiver Dez Bryant, who tore his Achilles tendon Friday just two days after joining the team.


After tragic week in L.A., Rams do their best to rally the community

For the last several days, football – even for the Rams — became somewhat of an afterthought as tragedy and a natural disaster swept across the greater Los Angeles area.

“Hoping today provided a little bit of joy,” Jared Goff said after the game. “And regularity.”

Last Thursday, the Rams organization awoke to the news of a mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill, located just over four miles from the team’s practice facility in Thousand Oaks and seven miles from their business headquarters in Agoura Hills.

A gunman killed 12 people, including Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus, who was on duty and rushed into the bar to save lives.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

During a team meeting this week, Whitworth implored teammates to wrap their arms around the community. Then the 13th-year pro set the example.11

Whitworth’s game check from Sunday – about $60,000 – will be donated to the Ventura County Community Foundation’s Conejo Valley Victims Fund, a fund to support the families of the victims.

“I texted my wife that day and just said, ‘We’ve been blessed by this game and so many millions of things have been just amazing, that I’m glad to be a part of,’” said Whitworth, who lives in Thousand Oaks with his wife and four children. “The least I can do is say, ‘I can give away the financial reward of playing this game this week to try and just put my arms around, our love and appreciation for what people are going through and what they’re feeling.”cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Then, on Thursday, the Rams took to the practice field Thursday afternoon, as smoke plumes began to fill the air.

By early Friday morning, wildfires raged across Ventura County and eventually spread to Los Angeles County, invading communities where many in the Rams’ organization live. Sean McVay was on a text-message chain with assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and defensive line coach Bill Johnson, who informed McVay that they were being evacuated from their homes.


Falcons regain some swagger with three-game win streak

Anytime a team goes into an opposing stadium and converts eight of its first eight third-down attempts, it speaks to how well prepared the team was to face adversity. Crowd noise wasn’t a factor, in part, because plenty of Falcons fans found their way into Redskins territory. But the biggest factor that made it a non-hostile environment was the Falcons’ ability to convert third downs, sustain long drives and finish with touchdowns rather than field goals.

With 36 seconds remaining in the first half, Matt Ryan found rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley going down the middle on a third-and-9 from the Redskins’ 40-yard line. Ridley turned on the jets and left four defenders in the dust for his team-leading seventh touchdown reception of the season. All Redskins fans could do was shake their heads as the Falcons celebrated what was then a 21-7 edge.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

“It’s huge,” Ryan said of that score to Ridley. “I mean, points before the half have such an impact on wins and losses. And for Calvin to give a great explosive, come out the back end and score, was awesome for us. And then to turn around and get the ball at the beginning of the second half, when the game goes from a seven-point game … then it’s a 21-point game, that’s tough. That’s tough on a team. And to do that on the road is fantastic.”12

Then when Ryan hit Julio Jones with a 35-yard touchdown off a screen late in the fourth quarter — Jones’ first touchdown reception of the season and first regular-season TD since Nov. 26 of last season (Week 12) — the Falcons pretty much sent all the Redskins fans scurrying to the exits with long looks on their faces. The Falcons smacked the home team with 491 total offensive yards, including 350 through the air for Ryan with four touchdowns.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

Playing with that type of confidence is what now has the Falcons riding a three-game winning streak heading into the second half of their schedule. At 4-4, they essentially can start over and erase the bad vibes from a 1-4 start. At the same time, they surely can’t afford to get too comfortable. They’re still trailing NFC South leader New Orleans and are not exactly projected to be one of the top wild-card teams as of right now. But the playoffs are well within reach.

“Listen, I don’t even know our record,” Jones said. “It’s just one game at a time, one play at a time, one practice at a time, one day at a time. That’s my full approach. I never look ahead. I never look behind me. And the guys on the squad as well, we know we just have to keep putting that work in, keep gelling, go out there and have confidence, and just keep working.”

The Falcons still strike fear in their opponents primarily because they boast so many different offensive weapons. One of them came to the forefront against the Redskins in Tevin Coleman, the explosive running back who can take it to the house in one touch. Coleman resuscitated what had been a slumbering running game with 88 rushing yards on 13 carries. That’s eight more yards than the Redskins’ second-ranked run defense surrendered per game entering Sunday’s contest. Tag-team partner Ito Smith added a 12-yard touchdown run where he leaped a defender and carried another into the end zone.


Just another week for Patrick Mahomes in the greatest season for a Chiefs QB

The greatest quarterback year in the 59-season history of the Kansas City Chiefs continued on Sunday for Patrick Mahomes. His teammate, running back Kareem Hunt, said he isn’t surprised by how well the first-year starting quarterback is doing.

“I just know what type of player he is and how competitive he is and he’s going to take chances,” Hunt said. “Most of the time they’re good chances.“nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Mahomes was almost all good again, this time against the Cleveland Browns. He was 23-of-32 for 375 yards and three touchdown passes as the Chiefs went to 8-1 with a 37-21 victory.11

Mahomes, with 29 touchdown passes through nine games, is one away from the 54-year-old team record. Len Dawson, who later was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, threw 30 touchdown passes for the Chiefs in the old AFL in 1964.

Mahomes has 2,883 yards, which puts him on a pace for 5,157. That would easily break the Chiefs’ record of 4,591 set by Trent Green in 2004.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Mahomes also had his eighth straight game with at least 300 passing yards. Drew Brees has the NFL record with two streaks of nine straight games with 300 or more passing yards.

To Chiefs coach Andy Reid, Mahomes’ contributions go beyond the numbers.

“You appreciate him when you’re around him every day and just the spirit that he brings, the attitude he has,” Reid said. “You don’t even worry about him getting a big head or getting complacent. It’s a weird deal. He just goes out and he plays. He works hard and he loves doing it. He just goes about his business the way you’re supposed to do it.”

Mahomes threw two touchdown passes to Travis Kelce and one to Kareem Hunt, who scored Kansas City’s two other touchdowns by run.

Mahomes, as he usually does, deflected all credit for his accomplishments to his receivers.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It makes my job a lot easier knowing I can trust these guys. They’re going to be in the right spot. They’re taking care of their business. They’re running the routes and making route adjustments on the fly. They’ve looked at the film and know how to do those things. Them having that much talent as well as really studying the film so much, that’s what really makes our offense so good.”


Why the Eagles’ deal for Golden Tate makes sense

The Philadelphia Eagles traded a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for wide receiver Golden Tate before Tuesday’s deadline. At first glance, that seems like a pretty steep price for a 30-year-old wideout who will become a free agent at the end of the season.nfl cheap jerseys nike
If the Eagles don’t re-sign Tate in free agency, they could get a third- or fourth-round compensatory pick back in 2020. So, depending on how it plays out, their only cost of acquiring Tate might be having the third-rounder in 2020 instead of 2019.

The Lions’ motivation was to get a guaranteed third-rounder, and sooner, while moving some of Tate’s money off the books. (He carried a cap number of $9.35 million into the season.)12

It also fits into the “optionality” model the Eagles have successfully used in recent years. When bringing in veterans, they prefer to do so on short deals. If the player fits, they’ll sign them to an extension, as they did with Alshon Jeffery. And if he doesn’t, they’ll let him walk. They liken it to dating instead of jumping into a marriage.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles use Tate. He has been one of the most productive receivers from the slot this season. The slot-receiver role has belonged to Agholor — to this point the team’s second-best receiver — so coach Doug Pederson will have to figure out how to make the pieces fit.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

One thing you can bet on is Pederson will use Tate in the screen game.

It isn’t easy to get a player acclimated to a system midseason. But Tate, who ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash coming out of Notre Dame, should be able to use his speed and ability to create in space, which is just what the doctor ordered for Wentz and the Eagles offense.


Texans make necessary move with trade for WR Demaryius Thomas

By trading for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the Houston Texans have filled a much-needed hole left when receiver Will Fuller V tore his ACL on Thursday night.

Without Fuller and with rookie receiver Keke Coutee still recovering from a hamstring injury, the Texans (5-3) simply didn’t have enough depth at the position. Although Texans coach Bill O’Brien said the team would first look at internal options — including whether they could throw the ball more to tight ends or other receivers already on the roster — he also made a point about the other receivers who could possibly fill in for Fuller, saying, “obviously, if they could do them like Will [Fuller], they would’ve been out there like Will.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Fuller has been a very important part of the Houston offense, and the numbers show it. In the 11 games quarterback Deshaun Watson and Fuller have played together, they have connected for 11 touchdowns.11

The pair’s success started last year, in Watson’s rookie season. This season, they picked up where they left off as Fuller averaged 11.7 yards per target. According to ESPN Stats & Information, among players averaging six targets per game when Fuller went down, that ranks second in the NFL. According to ESPN’s Mike Clay, Fuller had a 22 percent target share (6.3 per game) in his six full games this season for the Texans.

Although Thomas will become the Texans’ No. 2 receiver (Coutee will see more time in the slot), he doesn’t have the same skill set as the speedy Fuller. Still, he should help take some pressure off DeAndre Hopkins even if he can’t spread the field in the way Fuller can.

Thomas got off to a slow start in the Broncos’ first two games, but has 36 catches for 402 yards and three touchdowns. He is not the perfect fix but certainly gives Watson another good target.nfl cheap jerseys nike

After Fuller’s injury, O’Brien said he and general manager Brian Gaine were going to “explore everything” when looking to replace him. They clearly found the right price in trading for Thomas, for whom Broncos president of football operations John Elway said Tuesday he received calls from “three or four” interested teams before the trade deadline.


James Conner takes over Heinz Field, dominates Browns again

Conner’s monstrous second half helped seal the Steelers’ 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns and strengthen their position in the AFC North. Over the span of two drives in the third and fourth quarters, Conner gashed the Browns for 95 total yards and a score. The Steelers were reeling after several mental mistakes before Conner spun his way to a 30-yard gain to start a third-quarter scoring drive.

“I’m just running hard,” Conner said when asked if he’s getting stronger by the week after compiling 525 yards over a three-game stretch.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Conner started the game with 36 yards on 12 carries but finished with an explosive 146 yards on 24 carries along with five receptions for 66 yards. That gives Conner a startling 404 total yards in two games against the Browns.

Steelers players kept pumping up Conner publicly over the last two months, and it was not an empty proposition. They feel strongly about their running back, with or without Le’Veon Bell. He’s ready for AFC North football, and so is an offensive line that has been stellar the last three weeks.12

“He wants to be that guy,” guard Ramon Foster said of Conner. “He plays with a passion that’s out of this world.”

But the cheers for Conner and the offense sounded more like boos early on after the Steelers failed to record a first down in the first 17 minutes. Completions to the sideline to Antonio Brown and Justin Hunter loosened things up.

The avalanche of big plays followed. The Ben Roethlisberger-Brown improv show commenced, with the quarterback escaping the rush and throwing on the run to a sprinting Brown for the 43-yard score. Minutes later, cornerback Joe Haden went high for the interception on a Baker Mayfield deep ball.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

The Steelers have been brilliant all year in the two-minute offense to end the first half. A 16-play, 87-yard scoring drive spanning seven-plus minutes marked the Steelers’ fourth touchdown of the season in the final two minutes before halftime. Roethlisberger capped the game with a 1-yard score to Brown on a screen pass with 8 seconds left.

The Steelers gave the Browns too much life in the third quarter with four mental mistakes in a span of minutes. Pittsburgh had a 10-point lead and the ball with eight minutes left in the third, but the Browns recovered a free kick that the Steelers let drop. Returner Ryan Switzer admitted he and Brown thought the play was dead when the ball hit the ground. Fullback Roosevelt Nix appeared to call for the ball but didn’t secure it. “Just a miscommunication,” said Switzer, who stressed he has to know the rules.


Mitchell Trubisky delivers late for Bears, but questions linger

The Bears notched an important 24-10 win on Sunday. Coach Matt Nagy’s team had to capitalize on facing the underwhelming Jets on the same day that NFC North rivals Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit take on the Rams, Saints and Seahawks, respectively.

Beating the Jets not only puts the Bears’ record (4-3) back above the .500 mark, but it also sets the stage for another winnable game next week at Buffalo.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Trubisky found Tarik Cohen for a 70-yard touchdown on a screen pass in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead, but the second-year quarterback finished the first half only 5-of-13 passing.11

Trubisky failed to complete a pass 10-plus yards downfield in the opening 30 minutes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He went 2-of-9 to close the half following the touchdown throw to Cohen.

Trubisky later threw a nice ball to Anthony Miller for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead, but his passes were often off-target.

The season is following a predictable script for Trubisky. When he’s on, he’s a dangerous dual threat. Trubisky, who rushed for 51 yards, may not have the league’s strongest arm, cheap nfl jerseys china nike but he can definitely make all the throws. Factor in Trubisky’s way-above-average scrambling ability, and the Bears can legitimately say that they have a quarterback with whom they can win.

“We wanted to stay aggressive and they were doing a good job stopping us in the first half but we also stopped ourselves a little bit there,” Trubisky said. “We just needed to continue to get in into rhythm. We did a great job getting the running game going and I think O-line did a great job up front and I just need to be more consistent and finding completions and not trying to force a big play, just trying to move the ball and continue to convert on third downs. I think we can do better on third down today, but overall we just found a way and grinded it out and it was a lot better in the second half than the first one. We stuck together and stuck to the plan and executed our plays.”