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NFL news: Thursday Night Football, Cam Newton, and more

The season is here

NFL: New England Patriots at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

We are only one week away, ladies and gentlemen. The 2021 NFL season is just around the corner, and we here at Big Blue View are very excited about the season and the content we’ll be providing; everything from extensive New York Giants coverage (hopefully positive), the biggest stories from the NFL, and we’ll have fantasy football content as well.

The Dallas Cowboys are opening the season on Thursday against the defending Super Bowl champions. Head coach of the Cowboys Mike McCarthy ushered praise on Tom Brady earlier this week, stating that the 44-year-old’s longevity in this league may be even more impressive than the seven Super Bowl titles.

”Well, I think, like anything – a lot of things, about his game – but longevity. It’s difficult to win a championship in this league. It’s so difficult to win a Super Bowl and the fact that he’s won seven is just unbelievable. But I think my personal belief, the biggest challenge in this league is to have continued success. To have success and to play at that level for such a long period of time, to me, I think that’s a tremendous quality. And he’s living it and he eats it every day. You can just see just the way he goes about it from what you know, from what you hear about, not only his approach and where he is today, but to be able to do it at such a high level for such a long time, that’s what I’m impressed with.”

Coach McCarthy is correct. Tom Brady is almost 50 years old and he just won a Super Bowl in his first year out of New England - that’s wildly impressive. Jason Licht, the Buccaneers’ general manager retaining Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Shaq Barrett, Levonte David, Leonard Fournette, Rob Gronkowski (who stated he’s feeling a lot better heading into 2021) and Ndamukong Suh a year after winning a Super Bowl is also very impressive. Plus, the Buccaneers brought in a much more efficient third-down back in Giovani Bernard and they’re getting a healthy O.J. Howard back from a torn achilles.

Dallas should have their hands full on Thursday night, but the defense may look better.

The Cowboys defense ranked 22nd in yards allowed, 28th in points allowed, while also ranking 28th in 3rd down conversions per game. The ineptitude on defense that almost resulted in a midseason mutiny prompted McCarthy to fire long-time friend Mike Nolan from his defensive coordinator position.

McCarthy hired Dan Quinn to be his new defensive coordinator. Quinn brought the Atlanta Falcons to a Super Bowl during the 2016 NFL season. He’s well respected around the league and should bring a zone heavy defense that’s much more gap sound - Nolan’s defense was horrendous in terms of gap integrity and run fits.

Quinn will certainly have his work cut out for him against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. He was able to see this Bruce Arians aerial attack headed by Brady up close twice last season. The results were two high scoring losses for the Falcons. Brady threw for 789 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception in the two games.

The personnel for the Cowboys is probably an upgrade over the Falcons from late last season, but only marginally. The addition of Micah Parsons is going to really help this defense’s ability to generate pressure, while also shoring up their rushing attack. The Giants will find out how Quinn’s defense is in Dallas on Oct. 10th.

Cam Newton

There were many players released from their teams this week, none more surprising than possible starting quarterback of the Patriots Cam Newton. Rookie first-round pick Mac Jones seized an opportunity to win the starting job upon Newton’s absence from the team, which was due to a miscommunication that led to Newton landing on the COVID-19 list.

Jones impressed many around the league during the preseason, and proved enough to head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The Patriots decided Newton’s presence was no longer needed, and it’s fully Mac Jones’ team now. As some would say, the future is now.

Trades

Last week was a difficult week around the NFL, where teams had to trim their 80-man-rosters down to 53. Teams are rushing to get their rosters finalized to the liking of the coaching staff, so trades spike at this time of year. The Giants traded for two interior offensive lineman last week: Billy Price of the Bengals, and Ben Bredeson of the Ravens. They were necessary moves to provide depth to a Giants team with a precarious offensive line. Here are some of the other trades from the last week:

Akhello Witherspoon to Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t pleased with their cornerback depth, so they traded for Witherspoon. The deal cost Pittsburgh a 2023-fifth-round-pick. The former 49er is a 26-year-old who just signed with the Seahawks in the off season. I haven’t watched his tape since he came out of Colorado in 2017, but I remember a long defensive back who lacked physicality in the run game. Witherspoon will back up Joe Haden and Cam Sutton for the Steelers.

Chris Herndon to Minnesota

Herndon had a really solid rookie season with the Jets in Jermey Bates offense. He caught 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns - for a rookie tight end, this is impressive. It was also Sam Darnold’s rookie year, and the two showed promise as the Jets season tanked to a 4-12 year. Unfortunately for the Jets, the organization hired Adam Gase, and the team’s offense was stifled for two-years of dismal football.

Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh are now running the organization. Former Bengals’ tight end Tyler Kroft has proven a reliable asset for Zach Wilson in the preseason. The team also invested in Ole Miss TE Kenny Yeboah during the draft, albeit he’s on the practice squad now. Herndon became expendable and the Vikings are in desperate need of a tight end with the injury to Irv Smith Jr. The Jets were able to pick up a fourth-rounder, while shipping a sixth-rounder and a tight end who needed a fresh start. Herndon has dealt with suspensions and injuries, but he should get a solid shot at some early snaps with Minnesota’s tight end depth chart.

Injuries

Quarterback of the Titans Ryan Tannehill was activated from the COVID-19 Reserve list, as was Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. They’ll seem to both be ready for the season. Jets’ WR Jamison Crowder was just put on the COVID-19 list. His status for Sunday’s game against Sam Darnold and the Panthers is uncertain.

Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu also landed on the COVID-19 list after testing positive on September 1st. If Mathieu is vaccinated, he should be able to return with two negative COVID-19 tests within 24 hours of each other. If not, his Week 1 status is up in the air; he’d need to quarantine for 10 days and test negative before returning.

Carson Wentz was also activated from the COVID-19 Reserve list. He appears to be ready for week one after his foot injury as well. Dak Prescott will be a full go for Thursday’s matchup against the Buccaneers. This isn’t too much of a surprise, but worth mentioning because of the lat strain he suffered in training camp. Along with Wentz, center Ryan Kelly and WR Zach Pascal are also removed from the COVID-19 list.

San Francisco 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk didn’t practice last week with a slight hamstring strain. It appears the 49ers are just being cautious, but I would monitor the practice reports next week to be sure. Aiyuk is primed for a breakout fantasy season if he can stay healthy, especially at his ADP of 64. Washington WR Curtis Samuel returned to practice with no pads as he deals with a groin injury. He hasn’t received much practice time with his new team due to the injury and COVID-19, but he’s familiar with Joe Brady’s offense from their days with the Panthers.

Evan Engram was seen practicing in full pads. His status is still up in the air for the Giants Week 1 matchup against the Broncos. Reports suggest that Kenny Golladay will be available week one. Kadarius Toney resumed practicing in full pads - a good sign for his week one availability. Saquon Barkley took his first contact since the injury during practice. He seems to be trending in the right direction for week one, but I would expect a lesser workload.

List of notable IR players

*J.K. Dobbins, RB (knee)

*Travis Etienne, RB (foot)

*Cam Akers, RB (Achilles)

*Carl Lawson, EDGE (Achilles)

*Joseph Ossai, DE (knee)

Jalen Richard, RB (foot)

TY Hilton, WR (neck)

Irv Smith Jr., TE (knee)

Rashod Bateman, WR (groin)

Myles Boykin, WR (hamstring)

Tavon Austin, WR (quad)

Stephon Tuitt, DE (knee)

Neville Gallimore, DT (elbow)

It’s also worth noting that Packers’ left tackle David Bakhtiairi and Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore will start the season on the PUP meaning they’ll miss the first six games of the season.