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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Football

Carson Wentz has NFL’s top-selling jersey since Week 1

carson-wentz

Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz played extremely well in his NFL debut against the Cleveland Browns last weekend, but could the 278 yards passing, two touchdowns, no interceptions and 101.1 passer rating have been a fluke?

Football fans don’t seem to think so.

In a span of about two weeks, Wentz has gone from a backup quarterback out of North Dakota State to selling a lot of NFL jerseys. How many? More than any other player in the league since Week 1, per ESPN’s Tim McManus:

According to Fanatics, which runs NFL Shop (the league’s official merchandise website) and powers over 300 stores for all the major sports leagues, Wentz’s jersey has been the top seller across the company’s platform of e-commerce sites since this weekend, thanks in large part to a 278-yard, two-touchdown performance against Cleveland.

Wentz was the top-selling Eagles player during the offseason as well, according to Fanatics.

Wentz has held off NFL superstars Tom Brady, Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown as well as fellow rookie Dak Prescott for the most jerseys sold since Sunday. You might think that is a bit of an overreaction after one good game against a lowly team, but people obviously believe the hype.

When you read the report we shared with you a couple weeks ago, you have to wonder if Wentz’s teammates are quite as high on him as football fans are. In any event, the No. 2 overall pick made some legit NFL throws in Week 1. He’s going to make plenty of mistakes, but it doesn’t take a whole lot to provide more than Sam Bradford would have.

Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

NFL cites ‘posture’ as reason Cam Newton didn’t get head shot calls

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The NFL says Cam Newton’s style of play is the reason the Carolina Panthers quarterback seems to get fewer calls than some of his counterparts around the league.

In response to criticism over several helmet-to-helmet shots that Newton fell victim to last Thursday against the Denver Broncos, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino admitted the officials in the game missed one call that should have been a personal foul. Some of the other hits, he says, have to do with Newton becoming a runner because of his “posture.”

“It’s basically the posture will dictate his protection,” Blandino explained on NFL Total Access Tuesday. “So if he’s in running posture, ball tucked, advancing it as a runner, he’s treated like a runner and he doesn’t get special protection. If he’s in a passing posture, whether he’s inside the pocket/outside the pocket, he’s still going to get passer protection — head, neck, crown to the body — those types of protection. So it’s the posture that dictates the protection.

“You can be scrambling in the pocket/outside the pocket, tuck the ball and then bring the ball up to throw and throw a forward pass. So you go from a runner to a passer again, so it can go back and forth.”

One flag was thrown for an illegal hit on Newton in the fourth quarter, and it was negated by an intentional grounding call. Despite only one penalty, two Broncos players were fined for hits on Cam. You can see videos of the plays here.

In Blandino’s defense, it can be difficult to determine when a scrambling quarterback crosses the line from passer to runner. Having said that, some of the hits against Newton were egregious. Flags should have been thrown on at least three plays regardless of his “posture.”

Eric Dickerson dubs Rams’ season-opening performance ‘an embarrassment’

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Los Angeles Rams icon Eric Dickerson is not pleased with how the team’s return has gone so far.

Dickerson even went as far as to dub the team’s Monday night performance against the San Francisco 49ers as “an embarrassment.”

“The city is happy. You know, the one thing about Los Angeles is you got to win,” Dickerson said Wednesday on NFL Network, via NFL Media’s Kevin Patra. “That’s the No. 1 thing — you’ve got to win in that city. And what they showed Monday night was an embarrassment. As a football team, they got to pick themselves up for the Seattle Seahawks and kind of get it back together.”

Dickerson also seemed unimpressed with the roster construction, particularly the lack of veterans.

“I’ve been saying from Day 1 to the fans, ‘Be patient, this is a young football team,'” Dickerson said. “But you can’t live by that. They’ve been saying that for the last four, five years. But hey, you’ve got to keep some veterans on the team. You’ve got to have some leaders on that team, some veterans.”

It has taken about a week for the Rams to become something of a laughingstock. Dickerson isn’t laughing, but his blunt honesty probably won’t make anyone feel better. The Rams are in danger of being buried immediately in a city that demands to win and be entertained — two things the Rams probably won’t be doing a lot of in 2016.

Rob Gronkowski returns to practice

Rob-Gronkowski

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said he would return to practice on Wednesday after missing the team’s Week 1 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Gronkowski has been battling a hamstring injury that he suffered several weeks ago. He admitted last week that he is not completely healthy, so perhaps the extra week off has done him a lot of good.

While the Patriots were able to escape with a quality road win last weekend, there’s only so much they can do on offense without both Gronkowski and Tom Brady in the lineup. That said, they have always been extremely cautious when it comes to Gronk, as he is one of the most injury-prone players in the league.

Gronkowski will likely be limited on Wednesday, and he is no lock to play even if he practices. Any reporters who ask Bill Belichick about Gronk’s availability for Week 2 can expect an answer similar to this one.

Bill Belichick embarrasses reporter who asks about Rob Gronkowski injury

Bill-Belichick

You knew Bill Belichick wasn’t going to get through his scheduled press conference on Wednesday without being asked about the status of Rob Gronkowski. You also knew exactly the type of answer the New England Patriots coach would give, and The Hoodie did not disappoint.

When a reporter asked Belichick if Gronkowski has a chance to play in Week 2, Belichick was his usual snarky self.

“Yeah, we’ll update you after practice when we turn in the injury report, just like we always do,” Belichick said.

Belichick then turned to Patriots PR director Stacey James and cranked up the sarcasm even more.

“Make sure we get to him right away, Stacey,” Belichick said of the reporter who asked. “I don’t want to hold anybody up here.”

The room erupted with laughter, but Belichick wasn’t smiling. Reporters must dread asking him unavoidable questions like that because they know they’re going to be lambasted, just like the guy who asked about Jimmy Garoppolo potentially stealing Tom Brady’s job (video here).

Gronkowski missed Week 1 with a hamstring injury. We’ll likely know very little about his status for Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins before kickoff.

Dez Bryant on how Redskins defended Antonio Brown: ‘LOL’

Antonio Brown twerk

The Washington Redskins were torched by Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night, leading many fans to incorrectly conclude that cornerback Josh Norman is not worth what the team paid him. In reality, it was Washington’s defensive game plan that was horrendous.

And Dez Bryant seemed to realize that.

Bryant, who says he “can’t wait” to square off against Norman in Week 2, said a whole lot without saying much at all when asked about the approach the Redskins took against Brown.

“No comment,” Bryant said, via John Machota of The Dallas Morning News. “LOL.”

No, this was not a text message. Bryant actually said “L-O-L.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Brown caught seven of his eight targets for 113 yards and two touchdowns when he was being covered by Bashaud Breeland. Brown was targeted twice while Norman was covering him, and the star wideout did not record a catch.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden praised Breeland after the game and said he simply had a rough night. He also would not say whether Norman will be tasked with shadowing the opposing team’s best receiver in the future. You can read Gruden’s full comments here.

Bryant, who received praise from Norman during the offseason, seems to believe the Redskins would be wise to play more to their strengths.

“(Norman) has earned his respect in this league,” Bryant said. “When you go up against a guy like that, you’re going to have bring your best because if you don’t, he’ll get the best of you.”

The Redskins aren’t paying Norman $15 million per year so guys like Brown can make them look silly. Gruden would be wise to allow Norman to shadow more, otherwise he’s going to be seeing star receivers do a lot more of this in the end zone throughout the season.

49ers streaker told his dad he was going to bathroom

Kevin Harlan streaker

Believe it or not, the San Francisco 49ers fan who made headlines earlier this week for running onto the field in the middle of Monday night’s game between the Niners and St. Louis Rams was not intoxicated. His name is William, he’s 16 and he was at the game with his dad.

As you may have noticed from some of the footage, the streaker had his phone number written across his shirtless body. He told Lindsey Adler of Deadspin that his sister, who knew his intentions, wrote it for him. William’s father, however, was lied to just before his son did something incredibly stupid.

“I told him I was gonna go to the bathroom,” William said. “I said ‘I’ll be right back,’ then I just jumped and ran.”

Pops must have been angry about that, right? Not exactly.

“I thought he was gonna be mad, but he said he was proud of me. … My parents found it too funny,” William said.

Of course they did.

Because he is a minor, William was not arrested. He was simply placed in handcuffs and banned from Levi’s Stadium for a year. He’ll have to take an online class and write an apology letter if he wants to return to a 49ers game after that time.

And as for why he went down without a fight after security chased him, William says he had already accomplished his goal by that time.

“I thought they were gonna get me before I was even able to take off my shirt, so when I took it off I was like, ‘Wow I am still going. Where are they?’ he recalled. “Then I saw one blue guy coming, and I didn’t want to get tasered, so I just stopped.”

While we don’t agree with fans running onto the field or court during a sporting event, William’s decision did result in us getting one of the all-time great radio calls. For that, we thank him.

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