The Texans’ chances of trading Deshaun Watson were boosted by poor quarterback play around the league Sunday, Ja’Marr Chase already an elite game-altering talent, and more
The Houston Texans were Sunday’s biggest winners, even in losing 31-5 to the NFL’s last unbeaten, the Arizona Cardinals.
Entering the weekend, interest around the league in quarterback Deshaun Watson — embroiled in 22 allegations of sexual misconduct and uncertainty over whether the NFL will place him on the commissioner’s exempt list — was tepid.
One league executive told FanSided this week that the Texans hadn’t received any offers “anywhere close” to the three first-round picks and a player that Houston had been asking for leading into the NFL Draft this spring.
But that doesn’t mean Houston and general manager Nick Caserio are backing off their demands.
“The price is still, way, way too high [for Watson],” according to one personnel director. “They still want three first-rounders and a player. “My understanding is the [Texans owners] McNairs and Caserio are holding firm when it comes to the asking price.”
The executive believes last week’s flurry of reporting around conversations with the Miami Dolphins was in reality the Texans attempting to incite a bidding war for Watson that had cooled in recent months.
However, it is widely believed among league sources that the Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, and Philadelphia Eagles are all in the mix to acquire Watson prior to the NFL trade deadline at 4 p.m. on Nov. 2.
Less than an hour before the Texans ran onto the field in Glendale, Sam Darnold was benched by Matt Rhule 2,443 miles away, as the Panthers’ offense was stuck in the mud against the 2-5 Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Carolina traded a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, plus a second and fourth-round selection in 2022 to the Jets for Darnold this spring.
But the same turnover demons that have followed the 24-year-old since his time at USC continue to be problematic.
Through seven weeks, Darnold has tossed seven touchdowns to eight interceptions. And Sunday, Darnold was held to 111 yards with one interception prior to being given the hook in favor of P.J. Walker in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers have just seven total draft picks, so Carolina might need to dip into future drafts for Watson, hamstringing their ability to build around him.
Meanwhile, the two teams best suited to make a legitimate run at prying Watson away from the Texans saw their own quarterback issues exacerbated last weekend.
Sunday in Las Vegas, Jalen Hurts’ audition to be the main attraction in Philadelphia for years to come was more Piff the Magic Dragon than Cirque du Soleil.
Hurts’ up-and-down season at the helm continued Sunday, as the second-year quarterback passed for 263 yards with two touchdowns in a 33-22 loss to the Raiders that was never competitive.
Each week it seems more likely the Eagles will be in the market for a quarterback come this offseason, if not sooner.
Philadelphia also has the requisite draft capital to be the frontrunner for Watson, should general manager Howie Roseman be so inclined to make such a splash, and owner Jeffrey Lurie be comfortable enough to sell Watson to the Philly faithful as the face of his franchise.
Armed with potentially three first-round picks in 2022, presuming Carson Wentz plays 70 percent of the now 3-4 Indianapolis Colts’ offensive snaps, Roseman and the Eagles might be best equipped to win the Watson sweepstakes.
The Dolphins’ first-round pick in 2022 is one of the three nestled in the Eagles’ war chest. Yet Miami might be facing the direst quarterback situation of all and could be best positioned to execute a trade, as the Dolphins are reportedly Watson’s preferred destination.
In South Beach, Tua Tagovailoa might have the best supporting cast around him when compared to Hurts and Darnold. Miami has wide receivers Devante Parker and Will Fuller, tight end Mike Gesicki and running back Myles Gaskin in the backfield.
But, the first 14 games of Tagovailoa’s NFL career have been underwhelming.
“Tua still has a chance to develop,” one league source says of the Dolphins’ current starting quarterback. “But Mac Jones is the only current Alabama quarterback who’s pro-ready right now out of the three currently starting in this league.”
The Dolphins chose Tagovailoa No. 5 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, one spot ahead of Justin Herbert, who has looked like an MVP candidate in his second season. It seems general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores rightfully are having significant buyers remorse.
Tagovailoa hasn’t lived up to top-five billing, passing for 835 yards with seven touchdowns to four interceptions this season.
Miami seems so intent on trading for Watson, that The Houston Chronicle reports Tuesday that the parameters for a deal are in place with the Texans for a trade, but the Dolphins are waiting for Watson’s legal situation to be resolved before executing a deal.
In the end, it might actually prove more difficult for the Dolphins to find a suitor for Tagovailoa, than to pull off a trade for Watson.
“[Tagovailoa] is a really good backup,” an NFC executive tells FanSided. “If you’re trading for him, you’re trading for a starter who can go 8-8 in a good year. If you look at his medical issues, his mediocre NFL tape, and the more you watch him play the less value you’re going to get in a trade, it may be tough for them to find a deal.”
Whether it’s Carolina, Philadelphia, or Miami, the Texans have three quarterback-needy teams on the hook.
The biggest question becomes whether Scott Fitterer, Howie Roseman, or Chris Grier are willing to tolerate the risk that trading for Watson with his legal trouble looming, his uncertain future, and the possible public backlash is worth the steep asking price for one of the NFL’s five-most gifted quarterbacks.
“I don’t know how teams can trade as much as the Texans are asking,” an executive says. “Teams can’t do it with that much compensation and so little known about his future when it comes to his legal situation, when it comes to the league office, and when it comes to him waiving his no-trade.
“If he’s not traded before the deadline, the Texans’ asking price needs to and will come down. If you ask me, nothing happens until the offseason and Houston will need to bite the bullet and take what they can get before the draft.”
Ja’Marr Chase arrives as one of the NFL’s elite
All the Ravens secondary could do was watch.
Ja’Marr Chase left them all puzzled as he hoisted the football while crossing the goal line.
And for those sitting wondering at home, the reign of Chase has just begun.
With 6:01 remaining in the third quarter and the Bengals looking to extend a 20-17 lead, Chase, the wunderkind receiver and Offensive Rookie of The Year favorite, ran a post pattern against Ravens All-Pro Marlon Humphrey, hauled in a laser beam of a pass from quarterback Joe Burrow before spinning past three Baltimore defensive backs and streaking upfield for an 89-yard touchdown that will go down as one of the most impressive plays of the NFL season.
Boos flew from M&T Stadium.
Chase smiled getting underneath the skin of Ravens fans, watching Cincinnati’s lead extend by 10 points and putting pressure on Lamar Jackson to respond.
The reception, and mad dash after the catch, put an exclamation point on an eight-reception for 208 yards and a touchdown career day for Chase, who already looks like one of the NFL’s premier receivers just seven games into his career.
How is this possible for a player who just two months prior looked lost with the yips during the preseason?
“He just wins at the line of scrimmage,” former Tennessee Titans wide receiver Chris Sanders Sanders tells FanSided. “If you look at Davante Adams, the reason why they get open is they release and get guys off the spots, beat them at the line of scrimmage.”
Beyond beating his opponent at the line of scrimmage, Sanders believes Chase has a rare trait that could make him one of the more unguardable receivers for the next decade in the league.
“The one thing I love that Chase does, is he lies with his eyes,” Sanders says. “He’s going opposite of where you think he’s going. And that’s why Antonio Brown and guys like that that aren’t fast with 4.2-speed create so much separation, because they win at the line of scrimmage, and they lie with their eyes, and they have burst to get out of the cuts. Chase has all of that.”
The production speaks for itself. Chase has already caught 35 passes for 754 yards and six touchdowns, and trails Rams’ Cooper Kupp for the league lead by just 55 yards.
Remember when the Bengals were panned for passing on Oregon’s Penei Sewell with the No. 5 selection? Since then, the Detroit Lions tackle has been inconsistent in pass protection. Chase, meanwhile, has been a catalyst in the Bengals’ hot 5-2 start to the regular season.
“He’s got perennial Pro Bowl talent,” an NFL scout tells FanSided. “He’s big, he’s fast, athletic, with excellent hands and ball skills.”
With a 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, plus the athleticism, and the speed, Chase has a chance to be one of the best receivers in the league. If he isn’t already.
“Maybe the best part about Ja’Marr’s game,” the scout adds, “is he can win on third down with size and yards after the catch. He has excellent size for contested balls. This kid is a faster Andre Johnson.”
Well before he arrived in the Jungle, Chase tallied 20 touchdown catches on his way to helping LSU hoist a national title in 2019. With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through the nation, Chase elected to opt-out for the 2020 campaign.
That means his body is still getting back into a full football season. Could this what the hot new pass-catcher looks like on an average, and if so, what the heck is his ceiling?
Beyond falling back on chemistry, and preparation, and countless reps with Burrow from their time in Baton Rouge, Chase has refined his craft in a way few receivers do at any stage in their career, let alone their rookie season.
“So many times in college, coaches focus too much on the scheme,” Sanders explains. “They don’t teach enough about technique; using your eyes, your release, and all of those things. They do it, but they don’t perfect it.
“When you have a guy like Chase, who perfects it, he’s taken the coaching and taken ownership of what he’s been taught, and when you do that … That’s going to make you into something special.”
“Guys, I don’t have time for that speculation. I mean, that’s a joke to me. I have one of the greatest jobs in all of professional sport. Why would I ever coach college football? This will be the last time I address it. Not only today but moving forward. Never say never, but never. Okay? There isn’t a booster with a big enough blank check.”
– Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, on his name being mentioned as a finalist for the USC head coaching job
That’s one way for a head coach to dismiss his name being tied to a marquee job.
Tomlin is in the pantheon of NFL head coaches, alongside Andy Reid, Sean Payton, and perhaps only a rung below Bill Belichick as one of the greatest coaches in the league’s modern era.
The Steelers’ head coach was rightfully miffed by the speculation, and swiftly shot it down.
Tomlin might be facing a crossroads in terms of the Steelers’ impending rebuild, but it certainly sounds as if he is fully committed to Pittsburgh, so long as the organization will have him.
It’s past time to take Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys seriously.
Not only do the Dallas Cowboys look plenty capable of barnstorming through the NFC and into the Super Bowl, but Prescott looks every bit the part of the league’s MVP.
Don’t just take my word for it, football people far smarter than I have sat up and taken notice of what’s transpiring in Arlington this season.
“I really think Dak has elevated his game to tier-1 status,” former NFL Executive of The Year Randy Mueller tells FanSided. “The fact that they are multi-dimensional on offense and their defensive is respectable le give them a real chance to go all the way.”
The only blemish on the Cowboys’ 5-1 start is an opening night loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Dallas is already through the teeth of its schedule.
Only three teams currently inside the NFL Playoffs, if the season ended today, remain for the Cowboys, who have the 12th easiest road home; The Minnesota Vikings, who host Dallas Sunday night, the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving, and a Week 17 date with the Cardinals, when both teams might long have been locked into their postseason seeding.
Entering Week 8 with a four-game lead over the NFC East in the loss column, there’s a very real possibility that as America carves its turkey, the Cowboys will be raising an NFC East Division Championship banner.
These aren’t your fathers, or grandfather’s Dallas Cowboys, either.
Dallas enters Sunday with the fourth-best point differential in the NFL, at +9.8, are scoring a league-high .488 points per play, and the Cowboys’ defense is holding opponents to 24.3 points per game, a marked improvement from the 29.6 it allowed in 2020.
The Cowboys have game-altering playmakers at all three levels of their defense; Micah Parsons is making an assault on the Defensive Rookie of The Year with three sacks while playing opposite Randy Gregory, who has four, Trevon Diggs is on pace to shatter Night Train Lane’s single-season interception record, having already pulled down seven through six weeks, and are deploying a system built by coordinator Dan Quinn to maximize his players’ best traits.
But, as always, the Cowboys’ success starts with Prescott, who is playing by far the best football of his career.
One year after shattering his ankle under the weight of Giants defensive back Logan Ryan, Prescott is carrying the Cowboys to new heights.
Currently Prescott sits eighth in the NFL in passing yards (1,813), sixth in touchdowns (16), and has thrown just four interceptions.
There’s no question that the NFC is a gauntlet, with five teams; the Buccaneers, Cardinals Packers, and Rams all with a legitimate case to be considered the conference’s Super Bowl favorite.
But the Cowboys’ brand of complementary football, Prescott reaching new heights, and a navigable road through the rest of the regular season has Dallas very much in the Super Bowl conversation in the NFC, and maybe closer to the top of the hierarchy than many perceive.