JJ Watt appeared in all 16 games for the Houston Texas this year after battling multiple significant injuries in the two seasons prior, but it does not sound like he emerged from 2018 unscathed.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Watt underwent a “minor” procedure in his knee after Houston’s season came to an end. It does not sound like it will impact his offseason workouts.
#Texans star DL JJ Watt had a minor knee cleanup following the season, source said. Sounds like he’s fine now, just some maintenance on an injury that bothered him during the season.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 17, 2019
Watt returned to his beastly form this season, recording 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles in what was one of the best years of his career. If he was playing through pain, that makes what he accomplished even more impressive.
While the latest injury doesn’t sound like it is something that will impact Watt going forward, knee ailments are certainly worth monitoring for a player who will turn 30 this offseason. One of Watt’s leg injuries in the past almost ended his career, so it is at least somewhat concerning any time he has to go under the knife.
- J.J. Watt
Leonard Fournette appeared to fall out of favor with Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone toward the end of the season, but all indications are that the star running back has managed to crawl his way out of the doghouse.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported last week that Fournette met with Tom Coughlin and other members of the Jaguars’ brass to clear the air after the way his season ended. Marrone was either part of that meeting, or he sat down with Fournette separately. On Wednesday, the coach said he had an “encouraging” discussion with Fournette.
“We had a good meeting. I’m not going to speak for Leonard, but when he left that meeting … I think he’s in a really good place,” Marrone said, per John Oehser of Jaguars.com. “That’s encouraging and I’m excited about that.”
After the final game of the season, Coughlin admonished Fournette and fellow running back TJ Yeldon for their “selfish” behavior. Marrone then issued a warning to players about the offseason, and many felt he was calling out Fournette after the former LSU star missed seven games and could not manage to stay healthy. Fournette played sparingly down the stretch even though he was supposedly recovered.
Marrone said he and Fournette came up with a plan during their meeting last week.
“We just talked: where we’re going, where we want to go, what we want to do,” he said. “We set out a plan, and I feel good about it.”
There have been some hints that Fournette was not the only star player Marrone was on rocky ground with, and there’s still a chance the Jaguars could decide to blow up their roster. If they do want to trade Fournette, painting him as a malcontent would only hurt the running back’s value.
The NFL has been somewhat predictable over the past several seasons, but that changed in a significant way in 2018. In fact, this season felt like a new era had been ushered in, which can be cemented if the Kansas City Chiefs defeat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for a trip to the Super Bowl.
Much of the change can be attributed to young talent, but it wasn’t entirely exclusive to rookies and sophomores. In fact, several aging veterans broke through their shells in 2018 and performed at unexpected levels, so the norm was essentially thrown out of the window.
Here’s a look at 10 (of many) players who exceeded expectations in 2018.
10. Jared Cook, TE, Oakland Raiders
Jared Cook has spent a decade in the NFL with four different teams and has consistently provided a quality veteran presence at the tight end position. His best year came in 2011 when he recorded 49 receptions for 759 yards and three touchdown for the Titans, which is a moderate level of success for the 31-year-old. But the former third-round pick saved his best for 2018 as Cook hauled in 68 receptions for 896 yards and six touchdowns, which all represented career highs. Cook’s 13.2 yards per reception were also the second-highest total in his career. Whether or not he’s able to replicate this level of success in 2019 remains to be seen, but at least for one year, Cook performed well beyond his expectations.
Memphis Grizzlies fans had no love for a Bill Belichick lookalike fan who attended Wednesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
During the first half of the game at the FedEx Forum, Peyton Manning, who played his college ball at Tennessee, was shown on the jumbotron and got a big applause.
Peyton Manning in the house pic.twitter.com/tXH5gmQkln
— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) January 17, 2019
According to radio host Chris Vernon, a Belichick lookalike was shown afterwards. Grizzlies reporter Sharon Brown says the fan got booed.
Funniest moment of first half… they showed Peyton Manning on the jumbotron – and then right after happened to show this guy that looked exactly like Belichick pic.twitter.com/8neTANbwfD
— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) January 17, 2019
The fan really did look like Belichick with his hairstyle and cutoff hoodie. He ranks pretty highly on our list of lookalike fans — and there are lots of them out there.
The Alabama Crimson Tide will be in the market for two new coordinators this offseason.
In addition to seeing offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and his seeming replacement Dan Enos leave for other jobs, Alabama defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi is leaving. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman says Lupoi will be taking a job coaching Cleveland’s defensive line.
BREAKING: #Alabama DC Tosh Lupoi is going to take a job on the Cleveland Browns staff, coaching the D-line, per source. Was a huge recruiting force the Tide as primary recruiter for Tua, Jonah Williams, Raekwon Davis, Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood, Trevon Diggs & Dylan Moses.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 17, 2019
Though Lupoi served as defensive coordinator, the area this will hurt the program the most is probably in recruiting. Lupoi has been recognized as an excellent recruiter for several years, though he has gotten in trouble in the past for making improper payments. Seeing him leave for the NFL where perhaps his greatest skill will not be utilized is a surprise.
Alabama has numerous coaching vacancies to fill, though they reportedly have their next offensive coordinator in place.
The Detroit Lions have a new offensive coordinator.
The team announced Wednesday that they have hired former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to replace Jim Bob Cooter in the position.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 16, 2019
Bevell was Seattle’s offensive coordinator from 2011 through 2017. He oversaw an extremely successful period, including a Super Bowl title, and is credited with the development of Russell Wilson into one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. On the other hand, he was also responsible for one of the most controversial and consequential playcalls in NFL history.
Bevell will be tasked with turning the stagnant Lions offense into a more successful unit and has an established quarterback in Matthew Stafford to work with on day one.
Antonio Brown has finally begun defending himself in the wake of all the criticism he has faced over the past few weeks, and one of the star wide receiver’s former teammates is not having it.
While appearing as a guest analyst on NFL Network last weekend, Denver Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders shared his thoughts on the Brown situation in Pittsburgh and said it “all sounds familiar.” He also criticized Brown for disrespecting the Steelers organization.
“You cannot turn your back on your brothers, not on the Pittsburgh Steelers organization that gave you an opportunity to make you who you are in terms of Antonio Brown the football player,” Sanders said. “And so for you to leave on a Wednesday and then have your agent call on a Sunday is the ultimate disrespect to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.”
On Wednesday, Brown decided to fire back at both Sanders and new Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, who recently called Brown a “diva.” Brown accused Sanders of missing his Achilles rehab just to go on NFL Network and talk about his former teammate, and Sanders responded by saying Brown was the one who created headlines by “acting foolish.”
@AB84 you know damn well I didn’t travel to LA to talk about you fam. You trippin yo. I went to be a analyst in which you acting foolish was the topic and I gave my analytical opinion. Get off the gas yo. You did it to yourself
— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) January 16, 2019
Sanders then retweeted a tweet from one of his followers who called Brown a “complete narcissist.”
Brown reportedly got into an argument with Ben Roethlisberger in the week leading up to Pittsburgh’s final game of the regular season, and he then went AWOL. Even Steelers owner Art Rooney II had some harsh words for the All-Pro recently, so he doesn’t appear to have many people on his side. He also doesn’t seem to care.