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Allen Hurns of Dallas Cowboys — Call criticism not shot at Dak Prescott


FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Allen Hurns defended the comment he made to ESPN’s Josina Anderson about a play call that led to a Dak Prescott interception in last weekend’s loss to the Houston Texans.

According to Anderson, Hurns said the decision to run deep curls against two-man coverage on third-and-8 from the Dallas 32, “is the worst play call that you would make.” Prescott’s pass to Deonte Thompson was tipped and ended up getting intercepted by Justin Reid.

“I didn’t question,” Hurns said. “Everyone knows that’s not a good play call versus two-man. So what’s unfortunate for us is that was their only snap in two-man.”

Hurns said he has not had any discussions with the coaching staff about his comments.

“Far as all that, it’s pretty much outside of here that talks about it,” Hurns said. “No one really talks about it inside.”

If Hurns was critical of that particular play call, how does he feel about the play-calling of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in general this season?

“I feel like it goes well sometimes,” Hurns said. “Of course, from a receiver standpoint you want more opportunities, but you can’t control that. As far as for us, you always say control what we can, but as far as some plays, we all have to do a good job of just executing and sometimes it’s where we’re not put in the best positions. But that’s part of football.”

The Cowboys are 28th in total yards offensively and scoring just 16.6 points per game, which is 30th in the league. The passing game is ranked 30th as well. Prescott does not rank better than tied for 18th in any passing category, completing 89 of 144 passes for 961 yards with five touchdown passes and four interceptions in the first five games.

Hurns, who signed as a free agent in March after his release from the Jacksonville Jaguars, has six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. He made comments after the loss to the Texans that the receivers have been open this season.

“The main thing is I just want to get across it wasn’t no shot at Dak,” Hurns said. “It’s a lot that goes into it, even in the passing game whether it’s receivers getting open. It’s not just Dak making the throw. He’s also got protection issues and then sometimes he does make the throw and we leave things out there on the receiver position. It’s across the board, and so the main thing with me and (Cole Beasley), we spoke out. We’re not saying it’s not us. We’re saying it’s not just us. But a lot of people don’t understand that side of it. The main thing was it was not a shot at Dak at all.”



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Why this is Drew Brees’ best shot to win another Super Bowl – New Orleans Saints Blog


NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees didn’t just break the NFL passing yardage record Monday night. He did it with his foot slammed down on the gas pedal.

Sure, the New Orleans Saints‘ 39-year-old quarterback relished every moment of his record-breaking night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, eyes welling up with tears as he shared the love with teammates, family members and the home fans.

And sure, his football immortality is now intact — as if it wasn’t already. Forget “first-ballot” Hall of Famer. They should just hand Brees his gold jacket and bronze bust the day he retires and skip the five-year waiting period.

But Brees wants more than that. He wants a second Super Bowl win. And this season might be his best shot.

Here are the three biggest reasons why:

He’s surrounded by cheap talent

The way the Saints (4-1) are built right now is kind of the opposite of how the Philadelphia Eagles were built with quarterback Carson Wentz on his rookie contract last year, or how the Seattle Seahawks were built when they had Russell Wilson on the cheap.

Brees is making $25 million per year, but he is surrounded by lower-priced, Pro Bowl-caliber talent throughout the roster, thanks to some outstanding draft selections in recent years. And that won’t last forever.

Running back Mark Ingram becomes a free agent after this season. A year later, receiver Michael Thomas and offensive linemen Max Unger and Andrus Peat are all scheduled to hit the open market (as will Brees).

In 2021, running back Alvin Kamara, DE Cameron Jordan, safety Marcus Williams and Pro Bowl guard Larry Warford will be free agents, while CB Marshon Lattimore and OT Ryan Ramczyk are due for big raises with fifth-year option bonuses.

They probably can’t afford to keep everyone on that list. And on top of all that, the Saints have already traded away their first- and third-round draft picks for next year.

In other words, this is probably as loaded as this roster is ever gonna be around Brees. So this window of the next one to three years probably represents the Saints’ best opportunity to win a Super Bowl.

The NFC is off to a rough start

This could change quickly, but for now, the NFC standings are stacking up in New Orleans’ favor. The Saints are one of only four NFC teams with a winning record (Los Angeles Rams at 5-0, Carolina Panthers at 3-1 and Chicago Bears at 3-1).

Other expected contenders such as the Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers have gotten off to much slower starts. And the Saints need to take advantage.

On the flip side, back in 2011, the Saints might have had their best team ever — arguably even better than the 2009 Super Bowl championship team. That was the season they set the NFL record with 7,474 yards. But somehow they wound up as the No. 3 seed despite a 13-3 record, and they lost on the road at San Francisco in an epic 36-32 divisional-round playoff game.

And oh, by the way, the Saints are playing their best football heading into a Week 6 bye. The pass defense got off to a dreadful start in the first three weeks, but it has tightened up quite a bit over the past two weeks — even after losing Lattimore to a concussion in the first quarter of Monday night’s 43-19 rout of the Washington Redskins.

Brees might not play forever

This is the obvious one. Brees turns 40 in January, and at some point the skill level or desire is bound to drop off, right?

Right???

Brees has talked often about believing he can still thrive at age 45. And I’m not going to be the one to doubt him after he just completed 23 of 26 passes for a career-best 89.7 completion percentage on Monday night, with 363 yards and three touchdowns.

He has the highest passer rating in the NFL this season at 122.3, with 331.6 yards per game, 11 TD passes and zero interceptions.

Sure, Brees doesn’t hit the deep ball with quite as much zip as he did in that 2009 to 2011 prime. But arm strength was never his greatest asset. And he obviously finds ways to manage the game just as effectively. He just set the NFL record for completion percentage for the third time last season at 72.0. And he’s on pace to break it again this year at a whopping 77.9 percent.

But in theory, some of those numbers are bound to start declining at some point. Maybe.

When I asked Brees on Monday night if he feels like he’s playing as well as ever, Brees joked about how his youngest son, Callen, always tells him he’s not throwing the ball in the right place when they try to make diving one-handed catches on the sofa at home.

“So they’re my toughest critics,” Brees said. “They keep me honest.”

Brees has also said that having his four children growing older and getting to appreciate the experience of being around him for all these special moments is one of the things that keeps driving him. So maybe he will play until he’s 45.

But as long as he’s got that foot on the gas pedal the way he does now, he might as well try to drive straight on through to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta just to be safe.



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Torrey Smith would like Carolina Panthers to give shot to Eric Reid


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers need a free safety, and wide receiver Torrey Smith would like to see former San Francisco 49ers teammate Eric Reid get a shot.

“I think we all know why he hasn’t received a call,” Smith told reporters on Tuesday as the Panthers (2-1) broke for their bye week.

Reid in 2016 joined former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial equality and police brutality.

Last season, the NFLPA filed a grievance with the NFL on Reid’s behalf, alleging team owners and the league, influenced by President Donald Trump, colluded to prevent his unemployment because of his protests.

He became a free agent this past offseason and remains unsigned although several teams, including the Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, have lost a starting safety to injury.

Smith, acquired by Carolina in a trade with Philadelphia during the offseason, has defended the rights of Kaepernick, Reid and others to protest.

He would be more than willing to sit down with the Carolina coaches and make a case for signing Reid, 26, to replace veteran Da’Norris Searcy, who was place on injured reserve last week after suffering his second concussion in a month.

Smith called Reid, a 2013 Pro Bowl selection, a “great leader” and one of the “best men that I know.”

“Honestly, with our injuries, I hope he ends up here,” Smith said. “I know how he is as a talent. If this is something where they come and talk to me about him, I’ll be glad to talk about him as a player, as a person. He’s one of the best men I’ve been around, so I hope that is something that can happen for us because I know that with the injuries we have, he’s a guy that can help this team.

“I really hope he gets a shot. He deserves it, and it’s not right what’s happened to him.”

The Panthers played with a three-safety rotation on Sunday against Cincinnati, starting Mike Adams at strong safety and Colin Jones at free, with rookie Rashaan Gaulden giving relief.

They signed Dezmen Southward, who was with the team in camp, to the practice squad on Monday and also have safety Cole Luke on the practice squad.

Rivera, asked directly about Reid, replied only that the team has discussed several names for the fourth safety spot. He said Southward “definitely” has a chance to move to the 53-man roster by the time the Panthers next play against the New York Giants on Oct. 7.

So it doesn’t sound like Smith, who has been helping promote social justice causes for the NFL “Players Coalition,” will get a chance to plead his case on Reid.

“Both of those guys should be playing,” Smith said of Reid and Kaepernick. “They should be in the league, both of them.”



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Marquette King of Denver Broncos takes shot at Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden in social media post


DENVER — Denver Broncos punter Marquette King showed Sunday he isn’t quite ready for bygones to be bygones when it comes to the Oakland Raiders and coach Jon Gruden.

Shortly after the Broncos defeated the Raiders 20-19 on a 36-yard field goal by Brandon McManus with six seconds remaining in the game, King took to social media. King posted a video on Twitter that included a Chucky doll with money stuffed into its mouth — an apparent reference to Gruden and the 10-year contract the coach signed with the Raiders this offseason.

King was released by the Raiders on March 30 and there were rumors at the time that King’s outspoken personality and his high profile on social media didn’t mesh with Gruden’s reconstruction of the team’s roster. King agreed to a three-year, $7 million deal with the Broncos on April 5.

At the time King said he had not spoken to Gruden before or after his release by the Raiders, adding, “I never got a chance to talk to him. I just saw him on car commercials and stuff. [Now] I get to see him two times a year.”

King also said he didn’t receive an “exact reason” from anyone with the Raiders about why he was released. This past week when King was asked about Gruden, he simply replied, “Who’s that?”

King punted four times in Sunday’s game as he finished with a 44.1 net yards per punt average (51.0 gross) and he put one punt down inside the Raiders’ 20-yard line.

The Broncos will face the Raiders a second time this season on Christmas Eve, in Oakland.

King was third in the NFL in net punting last season at 42.7 yards. He originally signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2012, and the team signed him to a five-year, $16.5 million contract extension in 2016.





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New York Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold has ‘very fair shot’ to start Week 1


Rookie Sam Darnold “has a very fair shot” of winning the Jets starting quarterback job for the regular-season opener, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Darnold, 21, has to keep progressing and the preseason will be critical for him. But the Jets like what they see as he’s further along than they thought, according to the source.

He arrived in camp July 30, signing a four-year contract for the slotted amount of $30.2 million after a three-day dispute over offset language in the deal.

Darnold, drafted third out of USC, is competing against veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job.

Jets coach Todd Bowles has said that McCown is the starter, adding that it could change based on the preseason.



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