Week 3 is here, and we got your Tip Sheet …
• Thursday was a tough day for the Cowboys. Star corner Trevon Diggs went down injured going up for a ball during a 1-on-1 red-zone drill, landing wrong on his knee on Dallas’s grass practice field (and I’m pointing out it was the grass field because I would point out if it had happened on the adjacent turf field). It was described to me as the type of play a player would walk away from 100 times without a second thought.
So, yes, this is a stroke of really bad luck for the Cowboys, and I know Diggs, competitive as they come, was having a really hard time with it going through the tests, and so, too, were teammates who are close to him, linebacker Micah Parsons among them.
That said, Dallas is in decent position to absorb the blow. Second-year pro DaRon Bland has been playing inside, after starting eight games as an outside corner (and picking off five balls) as a rookie fifth-round pick—and with the subtraction of Diggs, Bland will move back outside. And with his playmaking ability, demeanor and competitiveness (“he’s one of our best competitors,” said one coach), the Cowboys feel fortunate to be able to put Bland there.
Bland will be replaced in the slot with Jourdan Lewis, who just came back from a foot injury, and former Dolphins first-rounder Noah Igbinoghene adds depth at the position.
Obviously, this isn’t an ideal situation. But defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has been in place for three years now and, as such, the Cowboys have been able to stock the roster with his type of players. Which is why the loss of one of his best players may be manageable. And certainly, the trade for Stephon Gilmore, which flew under the radar a bit in the spring, is looming large for Quinn’s defense now.
• While we’re there, it’s also important to remember the Cowboys’ goals on defense after allowing 10 points through two weeks—they are as high as they could possibly be.
After the 30–10 drubbing of the Jets, veteran defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and I spoke, and he described Garrett Wilson’s long touchdown like this: “Just a little quick slant. I really don’t have nothing for you on that one. Just a quick play. He lucked out.”
Which led to me asking whether, at this point, the Cowboys’ defensive guys feel like they are at a level where the only thing that can stop them is themselves.
“Most definitely,” Lawrence said. “I feel like we leveled up. It’s got to the point where we got to make sure we don’t hurt ourselves, put ourselves in a bad position to make some b.s. penalty or whatever. Other than that—shoot, nobody can mess with us.”
• There is still a lot of mystery hovering over the Bears’ Alan Williams situation, and that includes people on the staff remaining in the dark. So we will fill in a few blanks for everyone.
Ahead of Chicago’s game in Tampa last week, Williams was in morning meetings Wednesday. At around 11 a.m. it was announced to Bears players and coaches that the defensive coordinator would be leaving the team. It was termed a personal leave of absence unrelated to Williams’s health, and information was scarce for the rest of the week.
Head coach Matt Eberflus took over Williams’s play-calling role for the Buccaneers game—something many in the building felt had been coming for a while, regardless of Williams’s personal situation. Eberflus had spent more time on that side of the ball in the offseason, after spending a lot of time with the offense in 2022.
Then, obviously, things came to a head Tuesday this week, and Williams tendered his resignation. While there are stories floating around about the events of that day, there is very little concrete information on why Williams is gone.
• Andy Reid is approaching the upper reaches of the NFL’s all-time coaching wins list. With a win over the Bears on Sunday, Reid can tie Cowboys icon Tom Landry in fourth place—and that certainly makes it more than fair to start discussing the Chiefs coach’s legacy.
I think there’s one thing that sets the 64-year-old apart: Reid is the only coach in NFL history to have at least a decade-long run with two separate franchises—11 years and counting in Kansas City after a 14-year stint in Philadelphia. This is not to say he is the greatest coach of all time—that is still Bill Belichick (at least for now)—but neither Belichick nor anyone else can match Reid on the level of success he has had that is agnostic to the quarterback he has coached or the team he has led.
What’s more, he has been to Super Bowls with both teams, five conference title games with each and the playoffs in 18 of his 24 years as a head coach. And those 18 playoff appearances came with five different QBs—Patrick Mahomes, Alex Smith, Michael Vick, Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb.
Which is to say, yes, there is a unique place for him in the game’s history, and there will probably be a place for him in the Hall of Fame down the line, too (especially when you fold in his off-field contributions to the game).
Young’s injury, I’m told, is a bad ankle sprain. His status for Week 4 is up in the air—the Panthers see him as day-to-day right now—but this won’t be a long-term thing. Meanwhile, Richardson still needs to clear the concussion protocol. It is obviously hard to predict when that will happen, but it’s fair to think he should be back soon as well.
That said, there are fair questions to raise here. Carolina’s banged-up offensive line has exposed Young to hits early on. And after loads of predraft questions about whether he would hold up physically with his slight frame, being put on the shelf this quickly is not the best sign.
In the case of Richardson, there were of course the issues caused by his skill set—where you want to protect him from taking too many shots, but getting the most out of him demands using him in the run game. This has already bitten the Colts.
Now, both guys have shown plenty of promise, too, and there is still a lot for fans of those teams to be excited about. But given the events of this week, it’s definitely fair to want to keep an eye on how they make it through the rigors of a 17-game NFL season.
• I’ve gotten a lot of questions about Zach Wilson and whether Aaron Rodgers is taking an active mentoring role and helping the Jets have him ready to play while Rodgers is on the mend.
In time, something more formal might happen. For now, however, Rodgers is “doing what he can” to help Wilson out, according to one Jets staffer; there’s only so much Rodgers can do, since he is rehabbing in California.
So how much has Wilson tapped into Rodgers as a resource? That’s really been kept between those two, so I don’t know exactly. With New England coming in this week, you would think a phone call or two could help.
• Yes, Kareem Hunt is back on the roster, but I would expect the Browns to do what they can to let Jerome Ford win the right to be the lead back with Nick Chubb out for the year. Ford, a former five-star recruit who transferred from Alabama to Cincinnati, has plenty of physical ability, and his early flashes have given the team hope he can make a difference. Cleveland believed Ford could help even before Chubb went down.
The Browns love Ford’s vision, speed, jump-cutting ability and his pass-protection savvy.
• While we’re on running backs, it is interesting that Cam Akers landed with one of his former Los Angeles coaches in Kevin O’Connell. The Vikings’ coach was Akers’s coordinator for Akers’s first two years in the league. The first was promising. Then during the second season, Akers showed a lot of fight in returning from a torn Achilles in just five months. And what happened after that, O’Connell wasn’t around for, so this will give Akers a clean slate in whatever role he plays in complementing Alexander Mattison in the Minnesota offense.
• The Niners’ draft-and-develop machine may have dug up another gem in seventh-round wide receiver Ronnie Bell, who scored a touchdown and was a factor in the passing game (31 snaps on offense) with Brandon Aiyuk down Thursday night. This, of course, is how good teams keep winning. And it’s something we’re seeing with the rival Rams, too, with the emergence of rookie wideout Puka Nacua.