The Denver Broncos are limping to the finish line of what has been another extremely disappointing season, and Vance Joseph is expected to lose his job sometime in the days or hours after Sunday’s game, but the team’s veterans insist the head coach has not lost the respect of his players.
While speaking with reporters after Monday night’s ugly loss to the Oakland Raiders, Broncos quarterback Case Keenum said he and his teammates are still playing hard for Joseph.
“We all want to play hard. We all want to win for coach Joseph,” Keenum said, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com. “We all love him. He’s an incredible human and a great football coach. I want to play hard for him, I want to play hard for everybody in that locker room.”
Star pass-rusher Von Miller echoed those sentiments.
“Like Case said, you want to win. You want to go out there and win every game,” Miller said. “It’s tough especially being apart of an organization that’s so used to elite play and get elite wins. It’s just tough man. That’s the story of the season. We play tough. We play every game tough. We play every game for our brothers and our coaches. We just came up short.”
The Broncos are 6-9 heading into their regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers. While that record is technically an improvement over last year’s 5-11 campaign, John Elway and the team’s front office were optimistic heading into the season that Keenum would be the missing link needed to get the team back to the postseason. That obviously was not the case.
We’ve already heard rumblings about one high-profile name replacing Joseph, and it would be a shock if Denver decides to keep Joseph for another season.
Through five week of the NFL season, we’re getting a much better sense of the contenders and teams that will be picking high in next year’s draft. Some players’ seasons have taken off, while others are struggling. For those in the latter group, there is still time for a turnaround.
Here’s a look at 10 players who badly need to turn things around.
Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
The Cowboys looked like they were set at the quarterback position for a very long time when Prescott burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2016, but he has been quite underwhelming since. Dallas has basically had no passing game this season, and that is one of the main reasons they are off to a 2-3 start. Prescott has just five touchdowns compared to four interceptions in five starts. Teams are challenging the Cowboys to throw by loading up to stop Ezekiel Elliott, and Prescott hasn’t looked up to the challenge. That could have a lot to do with not having playmakers like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to throw to, but Dak needs to pick things up if the Cowboys want to make a run at the postseason. Luckily the NFC East is in bad enough shape where there’s still time.
Week 3 of the NFL was not kind to some favorites, as the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars headlined the list of surprising losers on Sunday. They were hardly the only surprises of the week, however, as there were certainly some surprising moments all throughout the league, from underperforming stars to ongoing troublesome trends to, yes, roughing the passer calls.
Here are 15 big disappointments from Week 3 of the NFL season.
New England Patriots
Woof. The Patriots are looking worse and worse by the week. Many chalked up their loss to the Jags in Week 2 to a lack of motivation and figured they’d come out angry in Week 3. That didn’t happen. The Pats looked totally uninspired against Detroit, opening the game with three straight three-and-outs. They only had three points as of halftime, but looked like they would turn things around in the second half after an interception followed by a touchdown drive to open the third. Then Detroit continued to put up points on them, while the Pats failed to answer. The Patriots were missing a number of defensive starters due to injuries, and it showed. Meanwhile, their former defensive coordinator coached like he knew exactly how to stop his former team. The Lions put the clamps on Gronk in coverage by doubling him often, daring someone else to beat them. The Patriots had nobody else who could. They desperately need Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman in action to provide an offensive boost.
After a long, eventful, and occasionally strange offseason, the NFL is back in action. As it always does, it provided some surprises and unexpected moments in its opening week, and plenty of talking points to go over ahead of Week 2.
But where some succeed, some will inevitably fall short, especially relative to expectations. Here are 15 things that weren’t quite as advertised during Week 1 of the NFL season.
This was a playoff team last season, even if few expect them to repeat that feat. Few also rate the Baltimore Ravens or Joe Flacco that highly, but they put up 47 points against a Buffalo team that was abject in every way. The offense was even worse. One has to wonder how many times Buffalo can throw Nathan Peterman out there before realizing that he’s simply not an NFL-caliber starting quarterback, as he went 5-of-18 for just 24 yards, throwing two picks before being replaced by rookie Josh Allen. The Bills don’t seem to have a coherent plan or anything going for them right now. They were brutal.
Every NFL team has that one offensive player who makes his team go. It can often be the quarterback, but some offenses are built around a talented running back or a dominant No. 1 receiver.
Which offensive player is most vital to each team’s success? Which player does everyone look to to get it done when it’s most needed? Here’s a look.
Arizona Cardinals — David Johnson, RB
It’s not really a coincidence that the Cardinals struggled so much last season after Johnson suffered a season-ending wrist injury after just 11 carries in the season opener. The 26-year-old scored 20 touchdowns the year before, so losing him meant the absence of their biggest playmaker. He should be ready to go this season, and Arizona will be desperate for him to return to the form that saw him lead the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage in 2016.
Atlanta Falcons — Julio Jones, WR
The Falcons will want to get Jones’s contract situation squared away as quickly as possible, because Matt Ryan needs him. His yardage numbers are incredible, and he’s collected at least 1,400 yards receiving in every season since 2014, even in spite of the occasional health issue. 1,500 yards is well within reach for Jones if he is healthy in 2018.
Case Keenum is heading to Denver.
Keenum is expected to sign with the Broncos when free agency begins on Wednesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.
The Minnesota Vikings decided not to franchise tag Keenum and appear to be poised to bring in Kirk Cousins. That leaves Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, and likely Sam Bradford all looking for new teams. Keenum has found a home.
Keenum, 30, had a career-year for the Vikings. He completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions while helping Minnesota reach the NFC Championship Game. The Broncos could use an upgrade at quarterback and will receive one, but there are plenty of good reasons to doubt whether Keenum will be able to replicate his success from last season.
All three of the quarterbacks that were on the Minnesota Vikings’ active roster last season could go on to be starters for new teams in 2018, and the Buffalo Bills are reportedly keeping their eye on at least two of them.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports that the Buffalo Bills, who recently traded Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns, have interest in both Sam Bradford and Case Keenum.
Both Bradford and Keenum should be highly sought after for teams that are in need of a starter, though Bradford will have to prove his knee is healthy. While he suffered no structural damage last season, he was said to have been dealing with a lot of pain. The way Vikings coach Mike Zimmer recently described Bradford’s knee condition does not sound all that promising.
Minnesota is considered the favorite to land Kirk Cousins, but you’d have to think they will bring back either Keenum, Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater if Cousins signs elsewhere.
NFL free agency is fast approaching, with action happening daily. The market is strong this season, and it includes a few top quarterbacks, which will be particularly intriguing on the market.
Who are the best players available? Here are the 15 best players currently poised to hit the open market when the free agency period starts.
1. Drew Brees, QB
No, Brees isn’t leaving New Orleans — his coach has already said so. Still, he’s a prospective free agent who’s going to have to land on this list. Some of the 39-year-old’s numbers dropped in 2017, most notably his 4,334 passing yards and 23 touchdowns down from where he’s been for much of the last decade. He still led the Saints back to the playoffs, completed 72 percent of his passes, and looked every bit as controlled as he always has. The Saints will be thrilled to keep him as long as he remains effective.
The Broncos are one of at least three teams that would love to sign Kirk Cousins this offseason, but they need to have backup plans in place in case they are unable to land the star quarterback. Fans in Denver may not like it, but the team’s best options outside of Cousins could be Case Keenum and Josh McCown.
In his weekly mailbag, Mike Klis of 9 News in Denver reported that the Broncos have interest in Keenum but may not consider him Plan B. If they’re unable to sign Cousins, Klis believes Denver could target one of the big four quarterback prospects — Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield — with their No. 5 overall pick and bring in McCown as a bridge QB.
Keenum is only 30 and led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game last season, so signing him would require a much longer commitment than the 38-year-old McCown. That’s why it would probably make more sense for the Broncos to sign McCown if they draft one of the top quarterbacks in the draft.
It goes without saying that fans in Denver would be disappointed with any scenario that doesn’t have Cousins taking the snaps for their team next season, so they should probably avoid reading reports like this.
The market for free agent quarterback Case Keenum will, unsurprisingly, reportedly be closely aligned with what happens to Kirk Cousins.
According to Mike Klis of 9News, there are expected to be at least four major suitors for Keenum: the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, and Minnesota Vikings.
This is almost identical to the list of teams that will pursue Cousins, with the notable addition of the Browns, who will probably see Keenum as a solid stopgap if they draft a quarterback. For the other three teams, Keenum is probably plan B behind Cousins. Of those, he might prefer to stay right where he was for another season, if he can.