How to make a big play, we asked the NFL’s best wide receivers

If you’re a fan of clean, well-played football, GiantsBuccaneers might not be for you on Sunday afternoon. If it’s quick strikes from big-play wide receivers that piques your interest, though, then this might be the one to watch.

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Will Fuller, Houston Texans wide receiver, ruled out with knee injury

HOUSTON — Wide receiver Will Fuller left the Houston Texans‘ game Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins because of a knee injury.

Fuller injured his knee midway through the fourth quarter while attempting to catch a deep pass from Deshaun Watson in the end zone. He was checked out on the field but was able to walk off under his own power.

Fuller left the game with five catches for 124 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown. On the touchdown, Fuller easily beat his defender across the middle and down the right sideline, trotting the final five yards into the end zone. The pass was the longest touchdown of both Watson’s and Fuller’s careers. The pair have now connected for 11 touchdowns in 11 games played together.

The receiver missed a game earlier this season because of a hamstring injury.

After the game, coach Bill O’Brien said he didn’t have an update on Fuller’s status. “We’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

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NFL – Ranking Adam Thielen of Minnesota Vikings among the best wide receivers in football

Through seven games, Adam Thielen leads the league in receiving with 67 catches for 822 yards, including five touchdowns. He is averaging 117.4 yards per game, also a league high, and has yet to post fewer than 102 receiving yards in a game.

Simply put, the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver has been fantastic. But how does the five-year pro measure against the best of the best? We asked eight of our NFL experts to weigh in on where Thielen ranks among receivers in the NFL right now, expanding on a question from our weekly roundtable.

Where does Thielen rank among the NFL’s best wide receivers right now?

Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Third. Antonio Brown is still the No. 1 for me, and that’s not going to change. But Thielen has to be mentioned as a top-five guy, given his numbers this season. That’s why I would put the Vikings’ wide receiver at No. 3, behind DeAndre Hopkins.

Mike Clay, NFL writer: Sixth. Though it might seem odd to place him ahead of, or alongside, the league’s superstars, the fact is Thielen has been playing elite ball for 2½ years now. He is seeing a similar target share to players such as Julio Jones, Brown, Hopkins and Odell Beckham Jr., and yet his production and efficiency have been much better and more consistent this season. I’ll dock him slightly for the edge he gets from working from the slot so often and rank him sixth, but there’s a case to be made that he’s currently the best receiver in the league.

Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Seventh. Well, seventh and gaining. Thielen is the most productive receiver in the league right now, so if you want to say he’s No. 1 right now, I’m not going to protest too loudly. But as Mike Clay alluded to, Thielen is 10th in receiving yards when aligned on the perimeter, where Jones, Mike Evans, Hopkins and Beckham fill the top four spots. I think it’s a stretch to say opponents would rather face Jones, A.J. Green, Brown, Hopkins, Evans or Beckham, but we have to put Thielen on the cusp of that group.

Kevin Seifert, NFL national writer: First. Simply put, he is the best at the moment. This is a production business, and no one has more than his 67 receptions or his 822 yards. He clearly knows how to get open, even against defenses that are fully aware of him, as his league-high 89 targets indicate. He is making those targets count, having converted more first downs (43) than any other receiver. And his streak of seven consecutive 100-yard games speaks to his consistency. Other observers might have a different personal preference, but the objective facts here point to Thielen.

Field Yates, NFL analyst: Second. And that’s at worst right now. I’d take Brown and his masterful skill set over him, but Thielen’s production is simply unmatched right now. In terms of overall body of work, I would select others, including Jones, ahead of Thielen. But right now, Thielen is No. 2 in my book. He’s without a hole in his game.

Dan Graziano, NFL national writer: First. Right now, no one is playing the position better. And given his circumstances — strong QB play, an unreliable run game, a teammate at the position who also commands a defense’s attention — why would we expect his production to tail off as the year goes along? This is a player who has improved every season and is producing at a level that surpasses Brown, Beckham, Jones and Hopkins on a weekly basis. Right now, he’s the best in the league.

Mina Kimes, senior writer: Fifth. Thielen has been the best wide receiver in the NFL this season, but if you asked me point-blank to build a roster for a game next week, I’d turn to him after Brown, Jones, Hopkins and Beckham. He’s rapidly rising the ranks, though. After all, if you had asked me before this year, I’m not sure I would’ve had him in my top 10.

Eric Karabell, senior fantasy writer: First. The numbers say Thielen ranks right at the very top of the list. While Brown, Jones, Hopkins and Beckham are certainly flashier, Thielen is on a pace for 153 catches and nearly 1,900 yards. Brown has never done that — nobody has. I don’t want to overreact to half a season, but Thielen was great last year, and this is not going away. He has passed Brown, Jones and all the others. Thielen is No. 1.

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Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, suspended 3 games NFL substance abuse

FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams has been suspended three games without pay for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

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Larry Fitzgerald, Demaryius Thomas and the art of aging at wide receiver – Denver Broncos Blog

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — By the time his career with the Denver Broncos ended, wide receiver Rod Smith had two Super Bowl rings, 849 receptions, 68 receiving touchdowns and plenty of wisdom dispensed along the way.

“Old comes fast in the league sometimes and the guys who might have to fight it off the hardest are receivers, because once you can’t get open, they close the door on you,” Smith has often said.

Two of the most prominent in the wave of big receivers in their 30s — the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas and the Arizona CardinalsLarry Fitzgerald — will face off Thursday night (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox). They continue to adapt — adjusting to changing times and offenses — and their aging bodies.

“Guys are only getting younger, quicker and faster,” Thomas, 30, said. “Younger you are, the quicker you heal, so they might be fresher than you … I think you always have to look to see if you need to change up some things to stay on point, to help your team win. You have to do that work, all the time, no exceptions, be a little lucky, a little blessed — all of the above — and never let up.”

Fitzgerald, 35, the Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2004, is now in his 15th season with the team. Thomas, a first-round pick in 2010, suddenly finds himself the longest-tenured Broncos player in the locker room.

Both are 6-foot-3, both have played north of 220 pounds at times during their respective careers, both have been to Pro Bowls, played in Super Bowls and been their team’s alpha receiver for a variety of quarterbacks.

And when they take a step back to see how they got from where they were as players to where they are now, even the path is similar. Each started as a split end — lined up wide, much of the time, on the offensive left.

And each has had to expand his skill set and move around the formation to remain impactful.

“I prepare much more now,” Fitzgerald said this week. “Playing X is way easier than doing what I’m doing now — all I did was play X. I’m on the backside of everything … it was pretty easy — I never studied, never really did much preparation, to be honest with you. But now I have to prepare a lot more. When you’re playing inside, you’re responsible for a lot of the [hot routes] — you have to relay the plays outside … I’m the closest to the quarterback, so when there’s distress, he’s going to be looking to me first, so you have be a lot more on your P’s and Q’s.’’

“[Fitzgerald] is right,” Thomas said. “… At the X, you’re usually on the backside — not much to worry about, a sight adjustment sometimes, a block here and there. You don’t have to think too much; you could go out, run your route. Now, there’s more to it.”

Fitzgerald largely plays out of the slot for the Cardinals these days — an intersection of experience, his knowledge of the game and the fact he’s playing in a league in which 35-year-olds at his position are on the shortest of lists.

“You change in terms of what you’re asked and what your responsibilities are,” Fitzgerald said. “… You move inside — your game kind of expands. You have to learn to do things different, be valuable when there are things you can’t do anymore or things you wish you could do and they won’t let you do anymore. You have to kind of evolve.”

For Thomas, it also has meant dealing with the physical battering he has taken along the way. He hasn’t missed a game since 2011, and rarely even a practice, but he constantly has battled hip, wrist, hand and foot injuries.

Thomas said he spends far more time on “the body work” in season and in the offseason than he ever thought he would as a 23-year-old rookie. Largely because of a troublesome hip, he also now plays at 218 pounds, down from the 238 pounds he said he weighed as recently as the team’s run to Super Bowl 50 in 2015, a season in which he had 105 catches.

“After that year we won the Super Bowl, I was real banged up coming out of that year and it took a while to get back,” Thomas said. “Noticing that, I knew I had to do more. I knew the game so much more because of Peyton [Manning] — it helped with angles, setting up routes … but my body had to get that kind of work too.

“But if I wouldn’t have lost the weight, [I] don’t know where I’d be. I mean, guys were noticing before I did. One guy told me in the playoffs that year, ‘You ain’t the same DT,’ and that was one of the years I was dealing [with the hip]. I’m strong as s— still, but that hit me. Getting that weight off helped my hip. I could run the same before, but the cuts, the stops — those are better. The thing is, if you slow down you ain’t getting the ball, you ain’t helping your team win. I want to help us win. I want to play in more of those big games.”

Josh Weinfuss contributed to this story.

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Ted Ginn Jr., New Orleans Saints wide receiver, out vs. Washington Redskins with knee injury

NEW ORLEANS — Ted Ginn Jr. has been ruled out of Monday night’s game with a knee injury, which could create more opportunity for New Orleans Saints rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith or fourth-year pro Cameron Meredith.

The severity of Ginn’s injury is unknown. He played through a knee injury in recent weeks despite being limited in some practices, but then he didn’t practice at all this week. The Saints (3-1) have a bye in Week 6, which gives him extra time to heal.

Ginn, who is used often as a deep threat, has 12 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns this season. He ranks second among Saints receivers behind Michael Thomas in every category, though running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Benjamin Watson have more catches and yards.

Smith, a third-round pick from Central Florida, could potentially run downfield routes in Ginn’s place. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder showed some big-play ability throughout training camp and the preseason, but he has just one catch for 18 yards so far this season.

Meredith, meanwhile, has gradually worked his way into the offense after recovering from a knee injury suffered in 2017, when he was with the Chicago Bears. He was inactive for the first two games this season. Then he caught four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown over the past two weeks.

Meredith (6-3, 207) could be used both in the slot and on the outside. Second-year pro Austin Carr is also an option in the slot.

The Saints’ healthy pass-catchers could be part of history on Monday night when New Orleans hosts the Washington Redskins. Drew Brees is just 201 yards away from passing Peyton Manning as the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader.

Washington, however, ranks among the NFL’s top three defenses in total yards, passing yards and points allowed per game.

The Saints also released running back Mike Gillislee and officially activated running back Mark Ingram following his four-game suspension.

New Orleans signed Gillislee in Week 1 after he was released by the New England Patriots, but he carried the ball just 16 times for 43 yards with one catch for 9 yards, no touchdowns and one lost fumble.

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New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman to play versus Indianapolis Colts

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman will make his 2018 season debut on Thursday vs. the Indianapolis Colts, per a league source, marking his return from a four-game suspension and the ACL he tore in August 2017.

Edelman can thank, in part…the Boston Celtics.

Edelman has spent time working out at the Celtics’ new training facility in Boston, sources tell ESPN. Edelman spent a significant number of mornings around the Celtics’ training staff and used the team’s Celtics weight room.

And he frequently played ping pong against Celtics star Gordon Hayward, who was a high school tennis champion in Indiana.

“He’s a good player,” Hayward texted ESPN. “I haven’t played against someone who moved like he did when he played. He was all over the place and low to the ground.”

Hayward thinks he beat Edelman 9-1 in games but as Hayward noted, “They were all close. It was fun getting a chance to hang out with him and compete in something. We were battling and by the end we would have an audience watching.”

On Thursday, Edelman also will have an audience watching — with Hayward be rooting for his hometown Colts. But this time he will playing his regular sport, against Indianapolis, on Thursday Night Football.

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Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is fine and healing from hip issue

CINCINNATI — Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said A.J. Green is fine after missing the second half of Sunday’s loss to the Panthers with a hip issue.

Green landed hard on his hip while trying to catch a pass and eventually went to the sidelines while clearly in pain. He did not return to the game, and watched the rest of the contest while sitting on a cooler.

Lewis said he thought Green may have slightly re-aggravated an old injury from college, but has been on the mend. Lewis said he didn’t exactly know what was wrong during the game because Green said there was pain in both hips and also pain in his shoulder after he landed on it awkwardly.

“He seemed to come around very quickly with the anti-inflammatories. We’re very fortunate with that,” Lewis said.

Green was in pads during the portion of Wednesday’s practice open to the media, but went to the rehab field with Joe Mixon after the team was done stretching.

Green said after the game that he thought he would be able to go back in. He initially jogged off but couldn’t shake off the pain. Green said he felt better afterward and should be ready to go next week.

“I just came down on my hip and I guess my two bones just hit. Just another bruise. I should be fine,” he said on Sunday. “At first I didn’t feel anything. I just thought the air got knocked out of me. Then I got up and I was like, ‘Oh, it hurts a little bit.’ I didn’t feel anything pop or anything like that. So I should be fine.”

He added: “I hurt it as soon as I hit the ground. I just fell awkwardly. I did the same thing in college.”

Mixon and Billy Price are also on the mend. Mixon had a procedure done after the Ravens game to remove loose particles in his knee, but had progressed to doing some jogging on the side by Friday. He was in attendance during Wednesday’s practice but was not dressed out, and went to the rehab field.

Price, who has a foot injury, is still in a walking boot, but was able to ride the stationary bike during the open portion of Wednesday’s practice.

“Joe’s doing great, Lewis said. “We’re very happy and pleased with he and Billy’s progress. Very positive reports. And we have a chance to have all hands on deck here soon, and that’s exciting. But Joe’s youth and everything I think is playing a big part. I think Billy’s youth is playing a big part. We’ll keep the glass half full and keep moving on.”

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Anthony Miller, Chicago Bears rookie wide receiver, predicts big season for team’s offense

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears open the regular season Sunday night in Green Bay with questions about how the offense will perform with a new playcaller, a new scheme and a second-year quarterback with only 12 NFL starts.

None of it matters to rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller, who predicted on Thursday that Chicago’s offense is poised to embark on something special.

“I think there are a lot of people sleeping on us right now,” Miller, a second-round pick, told reporters. “We’re that new team. We’ve got a couple of new guys, but the history of this team hasn’t been what we wanted it to be, so we’re about to rewrite it. This is the beginning of something new, a new era in Chicago.”

Changing Chicago’s narrative on offense would be welcomed.

The Bears have historically struggled on the offensive side of the ball. Last season, Chicago ranked near or at the bottom of the league in passing yards (32nd), total yards (30th) and points scored (29th).

Sensing a lack of growth, Bears general manager Ryan Pace systematically overhauled the offense in the offseason by first installing 40-year old Matt Nagy as head coach/offensive playcaller.

Nagy, who called plays in five games for the Chiefs in 2017, brought with him to Chicago a version of the successful Andy Reid offense that has been used in, among other places, Philadelphia and Kansas City.

Nagy’s system, however, is a radical departure from what Bears second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky ran last season. The second overall pick of last year’s draft, Trubisky passed for 2,193 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions (77.5 passer rating).

“I have a really good idea of what this offense looks like and where we’re at and how we need to go about our business and execute our plays,” Trubisky said.

Making big plays was Miller’s specialty at the University of Memphis, where he recorded 238 receptions for 3,590 yards and 37 touchdowns. Miller, who is slated to play in the slot, is part of the Bears’ revamped group of skill position players, which also includes Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton.

The Bears also return a strong running game led by Jordan Howard and all-purpose back/wide receiver Tarik Cohen.

“I think about making big plays [against the Packers], and not just myself but my teammates,” Miller said. “I know we’re all going to eat in this offense and I just can’t wait to see everybody’s faces when we’re doing the things we talked about.”

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Vikings wide receiver Cayleb Jones arrested on theft, assault allegations

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cayleb Jones was arrested Tuesday on allegations of felony theft, misdemeanor domestic assault and for interfering with a 911 call. He was being held without bond in the Dakota County Jail in Hastings, Minnesota.

A preliminary investigation deemed that Jones and an unidentified female engaged in “a verbal altercation” that turned physical. Jones fled the scene, but turned himself in.

According to arrest records, Jones was taken into custody at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday by Eagan police and booked at 5:05 p.m. He is due to appear in court at noon Thursday when he will be formally charged.

“We are aware of the situation involving Cayleb Jones and are in the process of gathering more information,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement released by the team. “Further comment will be provided at the appropriate time.”

Jones, a practice squad member in 2017, was already due to serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances.

KSTP was the first to report news of Jones’ arrest. The Vikings travel to Tennessee on Thursday for their preseason finale against the Titans.

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