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How Miami Dolphins could land one of the 2019 Heisman Trophy finalists – Miami Dolphins Blog



It’s Heisman Trophy weekend for four finalists: LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and defensive end Chase Young. With all four seemingly destined for NFL futures likely beginning in 2020 (or 2021 with Fields), it is a good time to examine their pro futures.

The Miami Dolphins might be the most important team in the 2020 NFL draft with three first-round picks and 14 projected picks. All eyes are on the Dolphins’ pursuit of a franchise quarterback, something they haven’t had since Dan Marino retired in 2000. Miami has other needs such as edge rusher and offensive tackle, too.

ESPN’s Football Power Index projects the Dolphins (3-10) to secure the No. 4 pick in April. Two games back of the Cincinnati Bengals (1-12), the Dolphins have a 5.7% chance of landing the top pick. So what actions should Miami take if it doesn’t control the top of the draft board?

“The Dolphins should feel really good with the job that [coach] Brian Flores has done, but they can ruin that by reaching for a player,” ESPN college football and NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky said. “Everybody wants to find the quarterback, but if you land the No. 4 pick, you may miss on Joe Burrow. It will be really hard for them to find their guy if they don’t get the top pick.

“Everybody thought this would be a great QB class, but with the Tua [Tagovailoa] injury, that’s a massive question mark. Justin Herbert has had some performances that will raise some questions. If they fall in love with Burrow, they may need to maneuver. If they adore Herbert at No. 3, then great. But you don’t want to erase all the good by getting a guy you aren’t sold on. So, maybe you go Chase Young or another player and wait until 2021.”

Here’s each Heisman candidate’s early pro scouting report, a comparable NFL player and how the Dolphins could land each one. The Heisman Trophy ceremony will be on at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN.

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

6-foot-4, 216 pounds; 78% completion, 4,715 passing yards, 289 rushing yards, 51 total TDs, 6 INTs

Orlovsky’s scouting report: “There’s a watery elusiveness to his game. The stuff that is hard to measure is the big moments where it could have gone either way, and he’s succeeded instead of failing every time. That’s what teams are going to fall in love with — and his personality. The physical talent — he’s not a massive arm guy, but who cares? He’s made big throws against SEC defenses; that translates. The accuracy is there, pretty good anticipation, ball placement to covered receivers is cool. He’s going to be the No. 1 pick. He has assumed leadership of his team and Baton Rouge folks fell in love with him.”

Orlovsky pro comparison: Steve Young, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1985-86, San Francisco 49ers 1987-99

Wolfe on the Dolphins’ fit and how Miami could land him: To get Burrow, it likely would mean Miami trading up to the No. 1 pick. Burrow is a special talent. It would cost a pretty penny of draft capital, but if the Dolphins love him, they should not hesitate. His moxie, playmaking ability and unique swag have some current Dolphins players salivating over potentially playing with him.

Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

6-foot-5, 265 pounds; 16.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, 7 forced fumbles

Orlovsky’s scouting report: “He’s a long, freak, physical athlete who has bendability, violent hands and can get off the football. The brains match the physical talent. He’s a game-wrecker. He’s a scheme-changer. He’s a guy you will game plan for week after week. You’ll leave him one-on-one and let him dominate, or double-team him and open someone else up. It’ll be a tough decision at the top of the board because many teams really need a quarterback, but some teams may feel this kid is the best player available.”

Orlovsky’s pro comparison: Terrell Suggs, OLB, Baltimore Ravens 2003-18, Arizona Cardinals 2019

Wolfe on the Dolphins’ fit and how Miami could land him: Young might be the draft’s best overall player, as he is ranked on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board. The Dolphins are last in the NFL with 17 sacks, and they desperately need a game-changing edge rusher. Young would fit like a glove. Quarterbacks often rise up draft boards, so there’s a chance Miami could stay put and take Young if they land the No. 2 or No. 3 pick. Otherwise, another trade up might be the only route.

Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

6-foot-2, 218 pounds; 72% completion, 3,634 passing yards, 1,255 rushing yards, 51 total TDs, 7 INTs

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Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch likely out 6-8 weeks with broken collarbone



FRISCO, Texas – Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday on a broken left collarbone suffered in the season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams, according to a source.

Vander Esch is expected to miss 6-8 weeks and be placed on injured reserve with the ability to return later in the season. The collarbone will be repaired with a plate and screws, similar to the surgery former quarterback Tony Romo had on his broken left collarbone in 2015.

Vander Esch suffered the injury in the first quarter and was replaced by Joe Thomas. Romo missed nine weeks (eight games) in 2015 with his collarbone injury and suffered a re-break in his return against the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving and was done for the season.

Last season, Vander Esch, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2018, missed seven games with a neck injury that eventually required a minimally invasive procedure in the offseason to fix, but he said in training camp he has had no issues with his neck.

With Vander Esch out and Sean Lee missing at least the next two games on injured reserve with a pelvis issue, the Cowboys have four linebackers on the 53-man roster. Luke Gifford, who was inactive against the Rams, has been working back from a hamstring strain. It is possible the Cowboys could look to call up rookie Frances Bernard from the practice squad.

Vander Esch’s injury was not the only one of significance for the Cowboys.

Tight end Blake Jarwin is believed to have suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, a source said. He is set for more tests on Monday. Backup offensive tackle Cameron Erving suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and could miss a few weeks, according to a source.

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Here are three ways Lamar Jackson is even better than his MVP season – Baltimore Ravens Blog



BALTIMORE — Just like last season’s opener, Lamar Jackson strong-armed the Baltimore Ravens to a rout.

Once again, Jackson threw for multiple touchdowns, completed nearly every throw and finished with a near-perfect passer rating.

But Jackson’s performance in Sunday’s season-opening 38-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns went beyond the numbers. After an off-target touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews on the opening series, Jackson carved up the Browns with accuracy, consistently putting more touch on the ball and placing it where it needed to be.

Does Jackson believe he’s a better passer than he was last year? “I do,” said Jackson, who finished 20-of-25 passing for 275 yards and three touchdowns. “Just dedication.”

Here are three ways in which Jackson improved as a passer:

Tight windows. Jackson was 3-of-4 on tight-window throws Sunday. He hit a well-covered Marquise “Hollywood” Brown on a perfectly thrown 47-yard strike. Last year, he completed 31% of those throws. The key is Jackson is throwing to specific areas and not targets.

“He’s a lot more pinpoint with it,” Brown said. “Now it’s our job to get to that spot because that is where he is putting it.”

Deeper throws. One of Jackson’s biggest goals was to drive the ball more downfield. Jackson did just that against the Browns, going 9-of-10 for 180 yards on passes of 10 yards or more, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead (which traveled 18 yards in the air). That’s the most such completions in a game in Jackson’s career. Last season, Jackson completed just 49.2% of passes over 10 yards, which ranked 19th in the NFL.

“Lamar Jackson just played a phenomenal game,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He just played a top-level game in every single way, and I think he was, probably, the biggest difference in the game.”

Play action. Jackson was a perfect 10-of-10 for 128 yards on play-action passes against Cleveland, including his five-yard touchdown pass to Andrews in the first quarter. That tied for the most play-action completions of Jackson’s career. Last season, Jackson completed 65.1% of play-action attempts, which ranked just 22nd in the NFL.

“The misconception of our offense is that we’re only a run-first team,” Andrews said. “We’ve shown time and time again that we can throw the ball. We used the run game to throw off that. We’re going to be dangerous in the passing game.”

Jackson broke out in last year’s opener, when he threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns in Miami. After that, the Ravens went on to set the NFL’s single-season rushing record and Jackson finished 22nd with 3,127 yards passing.

But there’s a different feel this year, and a difference in the way Jackson is throwing the ball. He’ll get a chance to build upon that in Week 2 against the Houston Texans, who allowed three touchdown passes to Patrick Mahomes in Week 1 and gave up the fourth-most passing yards last season.

“To me, he’s obviously the best player in the world,” Andrews said. “His arm reflects that.”

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Steelers players display unity against racism in Instagram posts, to honor Antwon Rose Jr. on helmets



PITTSBURGH — When it comes to social justice statements and demonstrations, the Pittsburgh Steelers are making one thing clear: they’re unified.

In the hours before opening the season at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants, the Steelers began posting photos holding the names of their hometowns and steps they’re taking to end racism. The team also announced that every player will wear the name of Antwon Rose Jr. on the back of his helmet this season, a nod honoring and remembering the Pittsburgh teenager who was fatally shot in the back by a white Pittsburgh policeman in 2018.

When asked about the national anthem ahead of Monday night’s game, cornerback Steven Nelson didn’t reveal the team’s plans, but said they would do everything as one.

“We’ll come out together as one unit and we’ll express our beliefs in that aspect,” Nelson said Saturday. “You guys will see that Monday.”

The strategy is similar to the one the Steelers wanted to take in 2017, but so far, the execution is very different.

Three years ago, the Steelers planned to be united by staying in the locker room together for the anthem in Chicago. But offensive lineman and former Army ranger Alejandro Villanueva got separated from the group and was captured on camera standing just outside the tunnel during the anthem with his hand over his heart while all the other players stayed inside.

“The thing that ticks me off about that is what we were trying to do was remain out of the spotlight and it got turned upside down,” defensive captain Cam Heyward said in June. “To know that we were looked at like we were leaving one of our brothers out, leaving Al out to dry … It was never meant to ostracize a player.”

The fallout became a divisive national discussion, and the Steelers found themselves at the center of a national debate about anthem protests.

This time around, the Steelers are together in their words and actions. Veteran linebacker Vince Williams, a leader on the team’s social justice committee, said the team has always felt support from team owner and president Art Rooney II, and they’ve constantly had open dialogue in the building. Now, though, they’re taking that dialogue public.

“We get free reign to express ourselves,” Williams said recently. “We never felt like we were in a predicament where we couldn’t say whatever we wanted to say. When the situation happened three years ago, Mr. Rooney spoke to us, addressed us and told us to handle it the way you want to handle it. When we came back and wanted Mike T to give a statement for us, we told him how we wanted to perceive it, and we were supported top to bottom. That’s just how it works. I mean everybody’s encouraged to speak up. Everybody, it’s like yo, if you feel like you need to say something that’s going to encourage people, say it. Just don’t be negligent and always be professional and keep it classy. That’s what we’re encouraged to do.”

Williams added: “I think that now that we are seeing the need and people in the community want to hear from us, we’re here and we are going to speak. We just never felt pressed to speak because we get to go about our life and talk about these things and deal with these things, and we get to get out in our community personally and deal with these things as pedestrians and on our own.”

A part of the team’s social media blitz Monday morning included prominent players like Heyward, Eric Ebron, Bud Dupree and Zach Banner holding signs with the names of their hometowns and why they want to highlight them. Some, like Banner, wrote about incidents of police brutality in the caption, while others like Dupree included what they’re doing to bring change in their hometowns.

“Tonight, we as a team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, will unite and show we are against racism,” Banner wrote, mirroring the form of the Steelers’ other social media posts. “Me personally, I want to highlight my hometown of Tacoma, WA because of the murder of Manuel Ellis by our local police department. We make a stand against all racism and we will continue to speak our minds and use our platforms as a positive advocate to change things in our great country. I’m Zach Banner, and I’m against racism.”

The team’s social justice committee met frequently throughout the offseason, and players can choose to be involved in any of four subcommittees aimed at targeting specific initiatives in the Pittsburgh community, like voter turnout.

Before a team scrimmage at Heinz Field during training camp, the Steelers linked arms behind coach Mike Tomlin as he spoke about the team’s responsibility to use its platform.

“We are committed to taking action and being a part of the solution to face social injustice and prejudice that we all face, not only in our country, but worldwide. It is our desire to be active participants in the formation of a more perfect union,” Tomlin said.

“That being said, we realize recent events are a continued reminder of how far we are from that. We stand before you acknowledging that we are blessed and privileged. But that privilege does not shield us from sadness. This privilege does not shield us from shock or outrage. It does not shield us from fear, fear for our safety, or a loved one or an uncertain future. Beyond being football men, first and foremost we are husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, members of a community. We wanted to pause and share with those that are hurting tonight that we see you, that we hear you, but most importantly we stand with you.”

The next day, Heyward and Williams, both heavily involved in the Steelers’ social justice initiatives, echoed their coach’s words, adding that the team selected Tomlin to deliver the words because of his role in the NFL and “who he is as a person.”

“We can’t be blind to what’s going on,” Heyward said. “We’ve seen too many injustices to be silent. Our communities hurt day in and day out. We’re left with the question, ‘Why?’ As we are held accountable on the field, we want to be accountable off the field, and we feel others should be as well.

“Along with that, we didn’t want to just give a statement. We know and understand statements do a lot but they’re not enough. Going forward, we want to have action behind that through our organization and the Steelers and everybody through this. I think we are going to have a lot of change going forward. With that change, we understand it’s not going to be done in one day or two days. We want something attainable that’s going to be long-lasting, constant and provide a better way for our children as Black men as you see today.”

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