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#pounditTuesday, January 18, 2022

Football

Larry Fitzgerald nailed his Odell Beckham Jr. analysis

Larry Fitzgerald on set

Larry Fitzgerald perfectly nailed his analysis regarding Odell Beckham Jr.

Fitzgerald was a guest on the ESPN2 “ManningCast” broadcast for the NFC Wild Card Game between the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. During his appearance, the former Cardinals receiver praised the way the Rams have been utilizing Beckham’s skills in the red zone.

“I love the way they’re utilizing him in the red zone. He’s such a threat with his lateral quickness, his ability to be able to go up and high-point the football. And also with his catch radius, he’s got one of the best catch radiuses in the game. I love the way the Rams utilize him and feature him in the red zone, because he’s so dynamic,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald’s comments came during the Rams’ second possession of the game. A few minutes after Fitzgerald praised the way the Rams were using Beckham, Odell caught a touchdown pass in the exact manner Fitzgerald described.

That shows how well Fitzgerald knows his receivers and their strengths, as well as the way teams are utilizing their players’ strengths.

Beckham had four catches for 54 yards and the touchdown. He also completed a pass for 40 yards in the game.

The only thing Fitzgerald was missing was predicting Odell connecting on a pass he threw.

Steelers’ reported plan for replacing Ben Roethlisberger revealed

Ben Roethlisberger throws a pass

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to address the quarterback position this offseason for the first time in 18 years. They won’t have that high of a draft pick after reaching the playoffs, so some have wondered if they could explore blockbuster trade scenarios. That does not appear to be the plan.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, sources who are familiar with the situation in Pittsburgh do not expect the Steelers to trade for a high-priced veteran quarterback. General manager Kevin Colbert has only traded a first-round pick for a player once in his 20-plus years with the team. Those who know Colbert believe it is highly unlikely he would trade multiple first-round picks for a QB like Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers.

Colbert’s contract is set to expire after the draft, and he is expected to retire. He will remain with the team through then and help with the transition from Ben Roethlisberger to a new quarterback.

The Steelers have always preferred to draft and develop players rather than make big free-agent signings or trades. They could add a quarterback late in the first round and head into the 2022 season with Mason Rudolph as their starter. Rudolph has one year remaining on his deal in Pittsburgh after he signed an extension.

Pittsburgh also signed Dwayne Haskins prior to last season. The former No. 15 overall pick will be a restricted free agent this offseason.

The Steelers reached the playoffs this year after a wild finish to the regular season. They have never had a losing season under Mike Tomlin, but finding a replacement for Roethlisberger will be the coach’s toughest task to date.

Photo: Dec 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) warms up before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Haden shares message to Steelers fans after season ends

Joe Haden wears sunglasses

Joe Haden shared a message to the fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night after the team’s season came to an end with a 42-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Haden is set to be a free agent now that his 2-year, $22.4 million contract has expired. The veteran cornerback shares his love for Steelers fans over Twitter.

Haden also indicated in one of his hashtags that he is not planning to retire.

Haden has been with the Steelers since 2017. He will be 33 soon but still earned high marks from Pro Football Focus this season, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them show interest in bringing him back.

Photo: Jan 25, 2020; Kissimmee, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (23) during AFC Practice at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Mike McCarthy could be on hot seat with early playoff loss

Mike McCarthy coaching the Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys won 12 games in 2021 and an NFC East title, but a new report suggests that may not be enough to keep coach Mike McCarthy employed.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones could consider a coaching change if the team falls early in the playoffs, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Sources told La Canfora that Jones would likely at least consider a change if Dallas falls in the Wild Card round.

If the Cowboys do make a change, it is reportedly likely that they would promote from within. The Jones family is known to be enamored with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, and would hate to see the Cowboys lose Moore to another team.

Any change would certainly look harsh for McCarthy, especially after the team jumped to 12-5 after going 6-10 in his first year. While a change seems like an unlikely outcome, there is precedent. Jones went out of his way to keep Jason Garrett before promoting him to head coach in 2010. McCarthy could be a casualty if the owner opts to take a similar route with Moore.

Photo: Oct 3, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy on the field before the game against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Look: Leighton Vander Esch had major wardrobe mishap against Niners

Leighton Vander Esch had his jersey misspelled

The Dallas Cowboys came out a bit slow in their Wild Card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, and there were questions about whether they were adequately prepared. Their equipment staff apparently was not.

Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch had the name on the back of his jersey misspelled. The “S” and “C” on his name plate where in the wrong spot. Check it out:

That is not the first time we have seen a player have his name misspelled on the back of his jersey. However, the error for the Cowboys was particularly embarrassing given the stage.

Raiders preparing to move on from Mike Mayock, Rich Bisaccia?

Mike Mayock wearing a hat

The Las Vegas Raiders appear to be ready for a switch regarding their head coach and general manager positions.

The Raiders are preparing to interview both head coach and GM candidates, according to reports. ESPN’s Adam Schefter says Las Vegas is set to interview Jerod Mayo for their head coach job and Dave Ziegler for their GM job.

Both Mayo and Ziegler are with the Patriots.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport says the Raiders are also hoping to interview Colts executive Ed Dodds.

Rich Bisaccia is currently serving as the Raiders’ interim head coach. He took over after Jon Gruden was forced out. Mike Mayock is the team’s general manager and has served in that position since being hired at the end of 2018.

The Raiders could be ready to make sweeping changes now that their season is over. They may have their eye on one specific coach.

Photo: Sep 13, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock in attendance at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mac Jones goes viral for funny moment with Josh McDaniels on sideline

Mac Jones looking at his breath

Mac Jones looked a little bit out of his element against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, and his moment on the sideline with Josh McDaniels seemed to indicate that as well.

The New England Patriots quarterback went viral during the team’s Wild Card game against Buffalo for a funny moment in the first half. McDaniels, New England’s offensive coordinator, was trying to discuss something with Jones on the bench, but Jones seemed more preoccupied with looking at his own breath in the cold. Take a look.

The game was played in near-zero temperatures, and the players’ breaths were even visible through their helmets during live action. New England quickly went down 27-3 going to halftime though, meaning that the Jones moment was about the only smile that Patriots fans got all half.

Jones, who is a native of Florida and went to college at Alabama, has openly stated that he is not accustomed to the extreme cold. For someone who seemed like he had never seen his own breath before, Jones definitely looked the part on Saturday too.

Cowboys cost themselves in playoffs with unreal 14 penalties

Mike McCarthy coaching the Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys suffered a heartbreaking playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, but in many ways they had no one to blame but themselves.

The Cowboys fell just short in a 23-17 loss, but one stat stood out more than the rest. Dallas took an astonishing 14 penalties in the loss, totaling 89 yards. The 14 penalties tied a franchise record for a playoff game.

The flags started early, when defensive lineman Randy Gregory committed a neutral zone infraction on the first play from scrimmage. Several of the penalties essentially stopped Cowboys drives in their track. Perhaps the most damaging of them was a first quarter holding call that wiped out what would have been a 32-yard reception by CeeDee Lamb. Even the penalties that weren’t as harmful were pretty embarrassing, too.

Dallas’ final penalty was also a costly one. Gregory, again, committed a blatant hold with just over a minute and a half left to give the 49ers an automatic first down.

Without the penalty, the Cowboys would have had the chance to get off the field and get the ball back with over a minute left. Dallas still got the stop, but they instead had just 32 seconds to try to drive all the way downfield for a touchdown.

In games like this where the flags pile up, it can sometimes be the result of overzealous refereeing. That wasn’t the case here. The bulk of the calls that went against Dallas were blatant and impossible to ignore. Combine that with some very bizarre decisions, and you have a Cowboys team that mismanaged the game, lacked discipline, and deserved to lose.

Photo: Oct 3, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy on the field before the game against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

JJ Watt has harsh comments for Cardinals after playoff loss

JJ Watt on the field

JJ Watt maintains high expectations for himself, his teams, and his teammates. That’s why he did not hold back after his Arizona Cardinals got blitzed 34-11 by the Los Angeles Rams in their NFC Wild Card playoff game on Monday night.

Watt returned from a serious shoulder injury to play in his Cardinals’ playoff game. The contest marked Watt’s first game since Week 7.

The veteran defensive lineman had three tackles as his team was crushed. Watt said after the game that the Cardinals’ finish to the season was a “massive failure” considering what they showed in the first half.

It’s hard not to agree.

Arizona began the season 7-0 and was in good shape at 10-2. Then they lost four of five to end the season, and five of six if you count the playoffs. Based on what they showed in the first half, seeing them get smashed in a 1-and-done playoff performance was a surprise. That’s definitely not what Watt had in mind when he carefully selected over the offseason to play for the Cardinals rather than any other team.

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles’ Josh Sweat was admitted to hospital for ‘life-threatening’ situation

Josh Sweat on the field

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat will not play in Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but there was a point this week where football probably was not at the forefront of his mind.

Sweat was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday for a situation that the Eagles described as “life-threatening.” He underwent an emergency procedure that was successful. Remarkably, Sweat recovered quickly enough that he was almost able to play on Sunday.

The details of the condition are unknown. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said during the week that Sweat was dealing with an abdominal issue. That led some to speculate that Sweat may have had an emergency appendectomy, but that reportedly was not the case.

Sweat is in his fourth season with the Eagles. He appeared in all 16 games this year and recorded a career-high 7.5 sacks and 45 total tackles.

Photo: October 4, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat (94) during halftime against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports