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Steelers OC calls out WR Moncrief

Steelers OC calls out WR Moncrief

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner didn't mince words Thursday when asked about the struggles of wide receiver Donte Moncrief.

"I just know that I had a coach a long time ago say that you've got to put the word receive into receiver," Fichtner told reporters. "That's your job No. 1. Receive the football. Catch it."

Moncrief, who joined the Steelers as a free agent on a two-year deal in March, has had major issues hanging onto the ball through two weeks. In Week 1, he caught three of 11 targets for 7 yards, with four incompletions that hit both of his hands, although most involved a New England Patriots player contesting the attempted catch.

Last week, Moncrief was targeted just once, watching the pass go off his hands and deflect for an interception by Seattle Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald.

Moncrief, 26, told reporters he's been putting too much pressure on himself and overthinking things. He said a minor finger injury is not to blame.

"When you go out there and try to be perfect, it just puts more pressure on yourself," Moncrief said. "Put a lot on you mentally. Like you said, when you're mentally not out there, just not out there having fun, it's hard."

In six NFL seasons, Moncrief has 203 catches for 2,550 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Reports: Dolphins reverse course, Rosen to start Sunday

Reports: Dolphins reverse course, Rosen to start Sunday

A day after head coach Brian Flores affirmed veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Miami Dolphins reversed course and made Josh Rosen the starting quarterback for Sunday's game at the Dallas Cowboys, according to multiple reports Thursday.

The Miami Herald reported earlier Thursday that the two quarterbacks had split reps in Thursday's practice, a change from previous weeks after Fitzpatrick won the preseason competition.

Flores had said Wednesday that Fitzpatrick was the starter "right now."

Fitzpatrick, 36, is 25 0f 50 for 274 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions -- two returned for touchdowns -- through two games, a 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and a 43-0 loss to the New England Patriots. He didn't finish either game because of the lopsided score.

Rosen, 22, has gone 8 of 21 for 102 yards and two interceptions in mop-up duty, although he had two pinpoint deep throws dropped by receivers late in the loss to the Patriots.

The Dolphins are 21-point underdogs against the 2-0 Cowboys on Sunday.

Miami traded a second-round pick for Rosen during the draft in April, just a year after he was the 10th overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins claimed former first-round defensive end Taco Charlton off waivers from the Cowboys.

Charlton, drafted 28th overall by Dallas in 2017, had requested his trade or release from the team after being a healthy scratch to start the season. The 24-year-old has four sacks and 11 quarterback hits across 27 games (seven starts) through his first two seasons.

Bears DT Nichols (broken hand) out, should avoid IR

Bears DT Nichols (broken hand) out, should avoid IR

Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols has a broken hand, the Chicago Bears announced Thursday, but it appears the second-year player will avoid the injured reserve list.

Nichols came away with the injury in Sunday's victory over the Denver Broncos. He is unlikely to play Monday at Washington but could return sooner than later with the hand wrapped into a club, according to head coach Matt Nagy.

Nichols has two tackles while starting each of the Bears' first two games this season. In his rookie season of 2018, the Delaware product had 28 tackles (five for loss) and three sacks, while forcing two fumbles.

Chiefs WR Hill no longer in sling

Chiefs WR Hill no longer in sling

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill is out of a sling this week, sparking speculation that he could be ready to return from a right clavicle injury before the original 6-8 week estimate.

Hill came away with a clavicle injury in a Week 1 victory at Jacksonville, keeping him out of Sunday's victory over the Oakland Raiders. He will not play in this weekend's home game against the Baltimore Ravens.

It is unknown if Hill can return for a Week 4 game at Detroit, but the sight of him dribbling a basketball with both hands at the Chiefs' facility this week, reported by ESPN, has raised the question of an early return.

Hill, 25, had just two catches for 16 yards in the opening week against the Jaguars. He was a key contributor to the Chiefs' offense last season, catching 87 passes for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also running for another score.

Eagles likely short at receiver until Week 5

Eagles likely short at receiver until Week 5

The Philadelphia Eagles are expected to be without wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery on Sunday against the Detroit Lions, with reports indicating that neither will be back until Week 5 against the New York Jets.

The Eagles were missing seven key players at practice Thursday, including tight end Dallas Goedert, who hurt his calf in Week 1 and did not play Monday at Atlanta. He is also considered unlikely for Sunday's game against the Lions.

Jackson has been dealing with a lower abdomen injury, with concerns that he could have a sports hernia. His timetable remains up in the air, according to NFL Network. ESPN reported earlier this week that Jackson turned down the option of having surgery in hopes of returning sooner.

Jeffery has been dealing with a calf injury. NFL Network reported that a return for Jackson and Jeffery in Week 5 is a best-case scenario.

Jackson had eight receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1 but was held catchless before getting hurt Monday. Jeffery had five catches for 49 yards and a TD in the opener before also going catchless Monday. Goedert, who plays a big role in the Eagles' running game as a blocker, has two catches for 16 yards.

To combat the recent injuries, head coach Doug Pederson canceled practice Wednesday and instead had a walk-through. The Eagles were back on the practice field Thursday.

Packers promote TE Baylis with Graham (groin) ailing

Packers promote TE Baylis with Graham (groin) ailing

The Green Bay Packers promoted tight end Evan Baylis from the practice squad on Thursday as Jimmy Graham deals with a groin injury.

Graham, 32, did not practice Thursday, and his status is murky for Sunday's game at Lambeau Field against the Denver Broncos.

The 10th-year NFL veteran caught three passes for 30 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening win at Chicago, but was held without a catch on one target and 51 snaps in last Sunday's victory over Minnesota.

Baylis, undrafted in 2017 out of Oregon, played in one game that season for the Houston Texans and did not record a catch.

He played well for the Packers in the preseason, catching three passes or 23 yards and a touchdown.

"Evan Baylis had done a really, really good job," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the end of August. "I love his energy with us. I think he's been, in the most respectful way, very pleasantly surprising with his versatility. He's been great at the point of attack blocking and he's made a lot of plays downfield."

Graham, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, has 614 receptions for 7,466 yards and 72 touchdowns in 139 games with the New Orleans Saints (2010-14), Seattle Seahawks (2015-17) and Packers (2018-19).

Redskins brace for Bears amid massive MNF skid

Redskins brace for Bears amid massive MNF skid

The Washington Redskins have had a terrible case of the Mondays -- and they are desperate to fix it.

Since 1998, the Redskins are 1-16 when they play at home on Monday nights. They have dropped their last six Monday home games, with their last victory coming Dec. 3, 2012, against the New York Giants.

Now, Washington (0-2) will get another chance to snap the skid when it hosts the Chicago Bears (1-1) in Landover, Md.

Both teams have shown flaws in terms of offense, but the Bears are feeling better after a wild 16-14 win over the Denver Broncos last week. Chicago nearly blew the game late in the fourth quarter only to have rookie kicker Eddy Pineiro win it as time expired.

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has posted an ugly 65.0 passer rating in his first two starts. He has passed for 348 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. Plenty of time remains for Trubisky and the offense to turn things around, coach Matt Nagy said.

"Overall in two games, with there being a lot more negatives than positives offensively, we've done a good job at protecting the football, and that's given us a chance," Nagy said.

Nagy relied much more heavily on the run game in Week 2, with rookie running back David Montgomery leading the way. Montgomery will look to build upon his statistics (80 rushing yards, one touchdown) against the Redskins.

Meanwhile, Allen Robinson (11 receptions, 143 yards) has proved to be Trubisky's top target through two weeks.

For the Redskins to beat the Bears, they will have to avoid beating themselves. Washington is coming off a 32-27 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 and a 31-21 defeat against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2.

Redskins quarterback Case Keenum will aim to continue his sharp performance. He has passed for 601 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions for a sterling 111.2 passer rating.

Adrian Peterson returned to the field last week and picked up 25 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. The Redskins' top receiver thus far has been rookie Terry McLaurin, who has 10 catches for 187 yards and two scores.

It's the defense that has Redskins coach Jay Gruden concerned.

"Well, pass rush is not there. It's really not there," Gruden told reporters. "(Cowboys quarterback Dak) Prescott is patting the ball two or three times (last week), and when we do get pass rush, we're not tight enough in coverage. So it's a combination, really. I'm not blaming the pass rush. I'm not blaming the coverage. It's a combination.

"So maybe we have to give some more exotic looks to make the quarterback hold on to the ball a little longer to get home with the pressure. We got to rush the passer a little bit better. I think that's the biggest challenge for our defensive line."

The Bears do not have to worry much about their stout defense, which is led by Pro Bowl pass rusher Khalil Mack and second-year linebacker Roquan Smith. And Pineiro's big leg has eased many fears about a poor kicking game.

Instead, the spotlight is on a struggling Trubisky and his hopeful head coach.

"We were just talking to those guys and talking to Mitch, that no matter how these games go as we go through this process, you're going to be judged on your wins and losses," Nagy said. "That's what it comes down to. When we fight through, figuring out how we get going here offensively and what our identity is, let's get these wins. We have a very good defense to be able to do that. We just keep fighting and we just stick together."

Following a second primetime appearance in three weeks, the Bears are back at Soldier Field for Week 4 and a matchup with the Minnesota Vikings.

Washington will play at the New York Giants next week.

Report: Jags' Ramsey likely traded before Week 4

Report: Jags' Ramsey likely traded before Week 4

Despite his plans to play Thursday night for the Jacksonville Jaguars, cornerback Jalen Ramsey does not plan on being with the team for a Week 4 matchup at the Denver Broncos, ESPN reported.

Ramsey's request for a trade out of Jacksonville was reported this week, but Ramsey said neither he nor his agent were the source of the leaked information. He did not deny that a trade request had been made, while his agent confirmed a new team is desired.

ESPN's Josina Anderson reported Thursday that the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks all have made "substantive inquiries." Anderson added that "almost every team" has inquired about his availability.

The Jaguars have a primetime matchup against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night, and Ramsey plans on being on the field. Head coach Doug Marrone confirmed Wednesday he plans to play Ramsey.

NFL Network reported the Jaguars have told interested teams they want to get through Thursday's game before readdressing the situation, with a trade possible Friday.

"Right now I'm still a part of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and I'm happy about that," Ramsey said Tuesday. "... That's where my focus is right now."

It is still possible that a team can reach a deal with the Jaguars before Thursday's game, which would prevent him from playing. If Ramsey were to play Thursday and a deal happened Friday, he could not play Sunday or Monday with his new team and would have to wait until Week 4.

Ramsey, 24, has started all 50 games since being drafted fifth overall in 2016. He has nine career interceptions and 202 tackles (178 solo) in his career.

Ramsey earns a base salary this season of $3.6 million, which jumps to $13.7 million next year and had expressed a desire for a contract extension earlier this summer.

"Imma ask for so much money, they have to put me on lay-away," Ramsey posted to his Twitter account in June.

Elway calls out Broncos LT Bolles for holds

Elway calls out Broncos LT Bolles for holds

Denver Broncos general manager John Elway was frank about the rash of holding penalties racked up by left tackle Garett Bolles.

"It's gotta stop. Period," Elway said on 850 KOA radio Wednesday. "There's no more excuses for it. He's had 26 holding penalties in the last two years and two games, so it's gotta stop."

Bolles had 10 holding penalties (three declined) as a rookie in 2017 and 11 (four declined) in 2018. He already has five through two games, including four (two declined) in Sunday's loss to the Bears, two of which came on the same drive. There was also a play in the fourth quarter where teammate Ronald Leary was called for a hold when it appeared Bolles could have been called.

Elway suggested he wasn't certain Bolles knows what is and isn't allowed by the rules with regard to holding.

"He's gotta understand what he's doing and -- that was my question yesterday: Does he know what holding is? Does he know what he can and can't do?" Elway said. "If he thinks he's getting targeted, he's gotta realize he isn't."

Elway took Bolles 20th overall in the 2017 draft, plugging him in as the starter at left tackle immediately. Through 34 career games, Bolles has allowed 11.5 sacks, per STATS LLC, and committed seven false starts, in addition to the holding penalties.

"We'll keep working for it, and he's still a talented guy," Elway added. "... Hopefully, with an explanation and a better understanding by him of what it is they are looking for ... he cannot do that because it's beating us."

The Broncos added highly regarded offensive line coach Mike Munchak this offseason with hopes of improving the line's development, Bolles included. The group has allowed five sacks and 10 quarterback hits through two games.

Cowboys DE Crawford (hip) doubtful for Sunday

Cowboys DE Crawford (hip) doubtful for Sunday

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford is doubtful for Sunday's game against the visiting Miami Dolphins due to a hip injury.

"(He) is probably going to miss some time," Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones told the official team website.

Crawford, 29, dealt with the nagging injury most of the offseason and only participated in two training camp practices before sitting out the preseason.

Crawford started the first two games, registering the Cowboys' only solo sack so far this season during last Sunday's 31-21 win against the Washington Redskins.

A third-round pick by Dallas in 2012, Crawford has 23 sacks and 163 tackles in 94 career games.

The Cowboys could replace Crawford with Robert Quinn, who returns from a two-game suspension.

Raiders RB Jacobs (groin) also dealing with illness

Raiders RB Jacobs (groin) also dealing with illness

In addition to a groin injury, Oakland Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs said he also has an illness that has caused him to lose 10 pounds.

Jacobs, a limited participant at Wednesday's practice, revealed his illness and weight loss in a post to his Instagram story Thursday morning.

Earlier this week, Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Jacobs was dealing with a groin injury.

Jacobs, a first-round pick from Alabama, has rushed 35 times for 184 yards (fourth in the NFL) and two touchdowns during the Raiders' 1-1 start.

If Jacobs is not at full strength for Sunday's game at Minnesota, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington would be in line for more work.

Report: Patriots WR Brown loses Nike deal

Report: Patriots WR Brown loses Nike deal

Antonio Brown continues to lose endorsement deals from head to toe as Nike says it no longer represents the New England Patriots wide receiver, according to the Boston Globe.

"Antonio Brown is not a Nike athlete," a spokesperson for the shoe company told the newspaper.

The exact date when Brown's deal with Nike was officially terminated is unknown.

Helmet manufacturer Xenith already severed ties with Brown earlier this month, one day after the player's former trainer, Britney Taylor, filed a civil suit accusing Brown of three incidents of sexual assault or rape over a two-year period from 2017-18.

Brown's turbulent 10-month stretch goes back to December when he complained of his role with the Pittsburgh Steelers and reportedly got into an argument with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Brown was traded to the Raiders in March but was ultimately released near the start of the season after issues with a helmet that no longer was approved by the NFL, and his complaints after he was fined by his new team for skipping practice in protest. He asked for his release in an Instagram post and it was immediately granted.

Brown signed a deal with the Patriots at the start of the season and made his debut with the Super Bowl champions Sunday, catching four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins.

Brown, 31, is a 10-year veteran out of Central Michigan who was drafted in the sixth round by the Steelers in 2010. He has 841 career receptions for 11,263 yards and 75 touchdowns, including a career-best 15 with the Steelers last season.

Giants WR Shepard (concussion) expected to play Sunday

Giants WR Shepard (concussion) expected to play Sunday

New York Giants wideout Sterling Shepard is expected to clear the concussion protocol and play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coach Pat Shurmur said Thursday.

The veteran's return is good news for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, who has replaced Eli Manning and will be making his first career start at Raymond James Stadium.

Shepard, 26, opened his fourth NFL season with six catches for 42 yards against the Dallas Cowboys, but was held out of last week's loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Shepard has 196 receptions for 2,328 yards and 14 touchdowns in 44 games since New York drafted him in the second round out of Oklahoma in 2016.

The Giants could still be short-handed at receiver even with Shepard's return, as Bennie Fowler injured a hamstring at Wednesday's practice and Cody Latimer is dealing with a concussion.

Panthers QB Newton (foot) misses practice again

Panthers QB Newton (foot) misses practice again

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton missed practice with a foot injury again on Thursday, increasing the likelihood that the Panthers will start Kyle Allen on Sunday in Arizona.

Newton aggravated a left mid-foot sprain during last Thursday night's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has not practiced since.

The former MVP has completed 50 of 89 passes for 572 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in the Panthers' 0-2 start.

Allen, 23, started Carolina's regular-season finale in 2018, completing 16 of 27 passes for 228 yards and two scores in a 33-14 win at New Orleans.

Allen, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., would be starting in his own backyard against the Cardinals.

Allen and Arizona rookie quarterback Kyler Murray were teammates at Texas A&M in 2015. Allen won the Aggies' starting job that year, but both players later transferred. Murray went on to win the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma and Allen played four games at Houston.

Rookie Will Grier, a third-round pick from West Virginia, would back up Allen if Newton is unavailable.

Take 5: Ravens' rematch vs. Mahomes highlights Week 3

Take 5: Ravens' rematch vs. Mahomes highlights Week 3

In a scheduling oddity, Week 3's slate only has one game featuring two 2-0 teams -- the Baltimore Ravens at the Kansas City Chiefs -- but that game shouldn't disappoint.

Lamar Jackson is off to a roaring start in Year 2, but we're going to focus on the other side of the ball, where megastar Patrick Mahomes will face Ravens coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale's unit for the second time.

1. Mahomes vs. Ravens' D, Round 2

Last season's Week 13 heavyweight bout between the Kansas City offense and Baltimore defense was the best unit vs. unit clash all year.

Martindale won the schematic battle against Andy Reid, putting Mahomes off-balance. Known for amoeba fronts and fire-zone blitzes on passing downs, the Ravens unleashed those designs at random -- basically any down, any time -- to keep Reid and Mahomes guessing.

Baltimore slowed Mahomes' processing with disciplined disguises and late coverage rotations, and sprung free rushers on blitzes to disrupt timing. The first-year starter forced an ugly interception, had a few other near-picks and a self-forced fumble while scrambling in overtime.

But Mahomes countered with deadly off-schedule playmaking, epitomized by a 48-yard heave to Tyreek Hill on fourth-and-9, en route to forcing overtime. He created just enough with pure talent to thwart the Ravens' brilliant game plan.

So what will Martindale do in the rematch? How about the exact same thing?

Yes, the Ravens lost, but they held the Chiefs to 27 points, one shy of the lowest output of Mahomes' starting tenure. And while replicating a game plan against the same opponent sounds predictable, the sheer randomness and chaos of this plan eases concerns. Surely Martindale will tweak and tinker, but expect the same core plan.

The challenge is getting new faces up to speed enough to execute sharply. Earl Thomas has been terrific, but he's not yet the orchestrator Eric Weddle was. Likewise, new pieces up front must be comfortable dropping, blitzing or stunting on any given play.

Reid doesn't have Tyreek Hill or left tackle Eric Fisher, absences that will be felt more vs. Baltimore than last week in Oakland. Like always, he'll create some splash plays purely through scheme, but the burden will again fall on Mahomes' legs and arm.

2. What to expect from Daniel Jones

Jones' preseason numbers (29 of 34, 416 yards, two TDs) weren't a mirage, even if he benefited from some contested downfield catches. He showed excellent mechanics, diligence with pre-snap reads and eye discipline like at Duke, and his ball placement was consistently sharper than in college. He also ran Pat Shurmur's scheme effectively, though he didn't face much pressure.

Todd Bowles' defense tends to be static pre-snap, uncommon for a blitz-heavy scheme. He doesn't draw up many exotic disguises or late coverage rotations, but he might consider some against a rookie starter.

Either way, Jones will face blitzes, especially up the A-gaps (either side of the center). If the Giants want Saquon Barkley receiving more than blocking (that's an emphatic yes), they must plan other counters to A-gap blitzes, including slides and 6-man protections.

Any extra attention should slide toward Shaquil Barrett (three sacks last week), whose shorter stature (6-foot-2) is a weapon, giving him leverage on bull rushes and helping him dip around the edge.

3. Rams' new wrinkles could trouble Browns

Despite their efficiency, neither Sean McVay's nor Wade Phillips' schemes are particularly complicated. That said, the Rams have added schematic diversity on both sides this season.

On offense, McVay has made the crack toss -- a tight end or wideout "cracks" a defensive end's outside shoulder while an O-lineman pulls outside to lead a toss -- a staple. He ran it eight times last week, producing 58 yards and a TD. Because it attacks the perimeter, it exploits the 6-1 fronts defenses have used to stop the Rams' outside-zone runs since late last season.

Toss plays could be especially effective against the Browns, stressing cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams in run support. Ward is willing but undersized, while Williams earned a reputation at LSU for avoiding contact.

On defense, Phillips introduced more pre-snap complexity with the arrival of safety Eric Weddle, the defensive playcaller and a master disguiser.

4. Rodgers and Fangio meet again, with a twist

In seven games against Vic Fangio's Bears defense, Aaron Rodgers totaled 1,708 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions (99.2 rating). He diced Fangio's best version of the unit in Week 1 last year, famously hobbling through a knee injury with 286 yards and three TDs in a 20-point comeback win.

But Fangio won the last battle -- limiting Rodgers to 274 yards and a pick on 42 attempts in Week 15 -- and Rodgers' new offense has been touch-and-go under Matt LaFleur. The scheme happens to be a cousin of McVay's, which Fangio dominated in Week 14 last year.

The Packers' run game might make the difference Sunday when the Broncos visit. The offensive line ground down a tough Vikings front and now faces a vulnerable Denver group. Once a rock against double teams, defensive end Derek Wolfe has wobbled early in his eighth season, and nose tackle Shelby Harris isn't the plugger Domata Peko was.

One other thing to watch: Fangio uncharacteristically tweaked his approach last week to have Chris Harris Jr. shadow Allen Robinson (four catches 41 yards). Given the Packers' lack of other weapons, Harris could shadow Davante Adams on Sunday.

5. Chargers will expose Texans' interior

As it turns out, one player cannot fix a team's pass protection by himself. Deshaun Watson has taken 10 sacks and 18 QB hits through two games despite the addition of Laremy Tunsil, who has been as advertised aside from a few ugly plays.

Watson's style inherently invites more pressure, but Houston's line still has weak links, too, especially at guard. Right guard Zach Fulton is limited athletically, and first-rounder Tytus Howard played like a rookie in his first start Sunday at left guard.

That's a problem against the Chargers, who love isolating Joey Bosa and especially Melvin Ingram against guards in obvious passing situations. If the Texans fall behind early or are repeatedly behind the chains, Watson will be battered again.

Rams, Browns looking to put together complete games

Rams, Browns looking to put together complete games

The Los Angeles Rams know what it is like to be the NFL's flavor of the month, and in prime time Sunday night there will be plenty who will tune in to see if they symbolically pass the torch to the latest up-and-comer.

The Cleveland Browns have not yet lived up to the hype they carried into the season, but they are coming off a victory over an overmatched New York Jets team Monday and will try to keep their stride against the Rams on Sunday in front of their own fans.

The Browns were humbled at home 43-13 by the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, but took down the Jets 23-3 behind 161 receiving yards from Odell Beckham Jr. and 325 passing yards from quarterback Baker Mayfield, who insists the offense can be even better.

"I think it falls back on me just playing better, getting the ball out and getting completions like I keep harping on. Just trusting the system," Mayfield told reporters this week. "Everybody is going to do their job. We know what everybody is going to do. That is why we practiced in camp. That is why we did everything like that. Just trust and do my job."

The Rams might be 2-0 but they have their offensive inconsistencies, too. Second-half mistakes led to a closer-than-necessary 30-27 victory at Carolina in Week 1, and in their home opener last week, the Rams didn't score their first touchdown against New Orleans until late in the third quarter. And that was a game in which the Saints struggled to move the ball without quarterback Drew Brees.

Injuries to Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (lung contusion) and guard Austin Blythe (ankle) have both listed as day-to-day moving forward, potentially creating more adjustments for an offense still searching for a flow.

"Whatever the doctor's orders are, that's what's in the best interest of Tyler, is exactly what we'll follow," Rams head coach Sean McVay told reporters of Higbee, who coughed up blood and was hospitalized briefly following his injury. "What that means as far as this week, the following week, we'll have a little bit more updates as we go."

After passing for 186 yards against the Panthers, Rams quarterback Jared Goff recovered from a slow start Sunday to throw for 283 yards and a touchdown.

Los Angeles running back Todd Gurley rushed for 97 yards in Week 1 and 63 yards last week, while scoring his first TD, but has not yet looked like a force after entering the season with questions about a knee issue from last year.

While the Rams' defense looks further along than the offense, defensive tackle Aaron Donald is still nursing a sore back that surfaced in the first half against the Saints. Both he and running back Malcolm Brown (ankle) were limited in practice Wednesday.

The Browns' midweek injury report was packed. At full speed Wednesday were Beckham (hip), running back/return man Dontrell Hilliard (concussion) and kicker Austin Seibert (hip). Those limited included guard Joel Bitonio (abdomen) and wide receiver Rashard Higgins (knee).

Tight end as David Njoku is out Sunday after breaking his wrist in Monday's game. Others that did not practice Wednesday: safety Morgan Burnett (quad), right tackle Chris Hubbard (foot), linebacker Christian Kirksey (chest), left tackle Kendall Lamm (knee), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (ankle), safety Damarious Randall (concussion) and linebacker Adarius Taylor (ankle).

Steelers' Rudolph set for first start at San Francisco

Steelers' Rudolph set for first start at San Francisco

After his first NFL game experience last week in a 28-26 loss to Seattle, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph was asked how he would cope if veteran Ben Roethlisberger remained sidelined due to a right elbow injury.

"I am completely confident in myself, being a leader of a team, and playing games," Rudolph said. "That's what it all comes down to. If he's out a while, I'm ready to roll."

Well, Rudolph will have no choice but to be ready to roll, starting with Sunday's trip to the San Francisco 49ers. Roethlisberger's injury is indeed a season-ender, and Rudolph will make his first career start in a game Pittsburgh needs in the worst way.

The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Rudolph played decently against the Seahawks, hitting 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns with one interceptions. Rudolph posted a 92.4 passer rating, and NFL Network's Deion Sanders observed during a Sunday night highlights package that the offense appeared to run better under Rudolph.

If the 0-2 Steelers are to turn around their early-season fortunes, Rudolph will have to continue to make their retooled offense run better. And he'll have to do it against an opponent that has been one of the NFL's biggest surprises.

San Francisco is off to a 2-0 start and has outscored its opponents 72-34. Granted, playing Tampa Bay and Cincinnati isn't exactly the toughest start to a season, but the 49ers still beat both decisively on the road.

Making the wins even more notable was that San Francisco won in different manners. After using two interception returns for touchdowns to defeat the Buccaneers 31-17, the 49ers exploded offensively in Cincinnati, rolling up 571 total yards.

That was the sixth-highest single game total in franchise history. From 296 passing yards by Jimmy Garoppolo to 121 rushing yards by Matt Breida, the 49ers exhibited the kind of balance that makes any offense click.

"It seemed like for a while we didn't have to call a third-down play ... and that's the goal," San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said. "When you get to third down, everyone in the league is pretty one-dimensional, and when you're getting good plays on first and second down, it opens up everything."

The only negative out of that outburst for the 49ers was losing left tackle Joe Staley to a fractured fibula, although the team believes he could return in eight weeks. Rookie sixth-round pick Justin Skule is expected to start in Staley's place against Pittsburgh.

A product of Vanderbilt, Skule got 19 snaps in second-half garbage time at Cincinnati. With its bye coming up in Week 4, San Francisco could use that time to make a trade for a more experienced replacement or perhaps reconfigure its line.

Almost overshadowed by Roethlisberger's season-ending injury was the Steelers' trade with the Miami Dolphins on Monday for Minkah Fitzpatrick. The 22-year-old safety is expected to slot right into the starting lineup, offering immediate help for a secondary that has been strafed by Tom Brady and Russell Wilson in the first two games.

First up for Brees-less Saints: Unbeaten Seahawks

First up for Brees-less Saints: Unbeaten Seahawks

The New Orleans Saints are beginning a stretch of games without Drew Brees.

The Seattle Seahawks are hoping to continue a stretch that has them off to their best start since their Super Bowl championship season.

Teddy Bridgewater is expected to start in place of the injured Brees when New Orleans visits Seattle on Sunday afternoon -- though Saints coach Sean Payton has yet to officially name a starter. Brees was scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday to repair a ligament in his throwing thumb that injured early in a 27-9 loss at the Rams last week.

Brees underwent surgery Wednesday, and he pronounced it a "complete" success later in the day. He is expected to miss about six weeks after missing just one game due to injury in his previous 13 seasons in New Orleans.

Brees' injury begs the obvious question of whether the Saints are built to withstand the absence of the NFL's all-time leading passer.

"We're getting ready to find out," Payton said when asked that question.

Bridgewater completed 17 of 30 passes for 165 yards after replacing Brees. The Saints hope he can recapture the form he had in Minnesota when he earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2015 before a severe knee injury the following preseason set him back.

"We have 53 people on our team. Drew is a huge part of that," New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "You can't replace Drew, but at the same time we don't know exactly what Teddy brings to the table. It's been (over) two years since he has really had a complete Pro Bowl season that he had over in Minnesota.

"At this point, I can't tell you whether we can withstand without Drew."

Payton wouldn't confirm that Bridgewater would start, instead suggesting that Taysom Hill is also in the mix. Hill plays a variety of positions on offense and special teams and has replaced Brees on occasion at quarterback, particularly when Payton goes with a run-pass option.

Brees' absence wasn't the only problem the Saints had in Los Angeles in the rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game. Their offensive line was beaten consistently and the team rushed for just 57 yards on 20 carries. New Orleans was penalized 11 times for 87 yards.

The Seahawks also want to cut down on their penalties. They have been penalized 18 times, including 10 for 93 against Pittsburgh last week.

If they continue to play close games, having beaten Cincinnati by one point in the opener and prevailing by two at Pittsburgh last week, the rash of penalties could prove costly.

"Our hands have got to get cleaner," coach Pete Carroll said. "That's just being sloppy with their hands, and we have to do better. We're not there yet, we're not on it yet. Our conscience isn't right about it, and I hope this hit hard enough this week. I hope the lessons are strong enough that we can make an impression on our guys.

"We've got to get it done. We're a good third-down team. Everything beyond that, we stink, and that's going to continue to be difficult and those happen because of sacks or because of penalties and we're getting third and fifteens and stuff. We have to clean that up."

Meanwhile the Seahawks don't have any quarterback concerns as Russell Wilson has led them to their first 2-0 start since their championship season in 2013.

Wilson used his arm and his legs to key a 28-26 victory at Pittsburgh last Sunday, a week after Seattle opened at home with a one-point win against Cincinnati.

Against the Steelers, he completed 29 of 35 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns. He also scrambled three times to help keep alive a clinching drive that consumed the final 5:34 of the game.

"It's hard to imagine that someone can keep getting better when you're in year eight," Carroll told "How can that happen? But it is. We're watching it."

Rodgers, Flacco looking to hit Super strides

Rodgers, Flacco looking to hit Super strides

Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco are Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.

For now, they'd settle on a super game.

Rodgers will lead the undefeated Green Bay Packers into a Week 3 home contest against Flacco and the winless Denver Broncos on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Rodgers-led Packers attack is tied for 26th at 15.5 points game. The Flacco-led Broncos attack has been even feebler, ranking 28th at 15.0 points per game.

Green Bay hired Matt LaFleur as head coach in hopes of turning around Rodgers, in particular, and the offense, in general. Other than a 21-point barrage to start last week's win against Minnesota, the offense has been spinning its wheels. Its 21.1 yards per drive ranks better than only the woeful Miami Dolphins.

First-year Broncos coach Vic Fangio knows Rodgers well after spending the last four years coordinating the defense of the rival Bears and another four years coordinating San Francisco's defense. While Rodgers ranks only 23rd in completion percentage and 13th in passer rating, Fangio knows Rodgers can get hot in a hurry.

"He's so good in many different ways," Fangio told reporters. "We just have to try and make him be a normal human and not the Superman he can be many times."

Flacco has been accurate and the Broncos are fifth with 42.0 yards per drive but they have only two touchdowns to show for it. The root of their problems is a 30th-ranked red-zone attack.

"I think we've been in two very low-possession games, so when you hurt yourself when you get into that field-goal range or you don't quite get into field-goal range, that's how that's going to be," Flacco said. "Obviously, you're going to play some games throughout the year that you don't score a ton of points and you have to win them that way. I think this past Sunday was one of those games. When you look at those stats after two games, it's tough to really tell much about it. I think we're definitely gaining the confidence that we can be a really good offense, we just have to go out there and really start to do it."

Both offenses face big challenges this week. For Flacco, it's facing a defense that ranks second in the league in points allowed. For Rodgers, it's facing Fangio and the premier edge-rushing duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.

"They mix a lot of their personnel," Rodgers said. "They won't match every time. A lot of teams will match a nickel to sub and base against base personnel. But they'll do some mix-matches. They'll do base against nickel or base against sub. They'll go nickel against 12 personnel. They'll run five or six defensive linemen, rush-type guys, on the field, which we saw last year when he was in Chicago. So, he's a fantastic coach. I'm happy for him getting the opportunity after so many years being a great assistant in the league. I haven't spent a lot of time with him, but I have a ton of respect for the way he's gone about his business during his career."

Injuries are an issue for both teams. For the Packers, who play Philadelphia next Thursday, their 16-man injury report had LaFleur take the unusual step of scrapping Wednesday's practice. One of Rodgers' top targets, tight end Jimmy Graham, wouldn't have practiced because of a groin injury. For Denver, right tackle Ja'Wuan James (knee) didn't practice. Last year's leading tackler, Todd Davis, has been out for a month with a calf injury but was a full participant.

Texans aim to keep Watson upright vs. Chargers

Texans aim to keep Watson upright vs. Chargers

Two teams seeking to move above .500 meet Sunday when the Houston Texans visit the Los Angeles Chargers in Carson, Calif.

The Chargers return home after dropping a 13-10 road decision to the Detroit Lions. It is the ninth time in the past 11 years the team has started 1-1.

Adding to Los Angeles' frustration were two missed field goals, Austin Ekeler's fumble on Detroit's 1-yard line and Philip Rivers' late-game interception deep in Lions territory.

"I'd expect us to be fired up and ready to bounce back," said Rivers, who became the eighth player in NFL history with 55,500 career passing yards. "I think we've shown the ability to do that over the years when we've lost some tough ones."

Houston heads to ROKiT Field at Dignity Health Sports Park off a 13-12 home victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans dropped their season opener at New Orleans on a 58-yard field goal on the game's final play.

On offense, the Chargers rank fourth overall with 429.5 yards per game. They're eighth in passing (298.5 ypg), and despite the absence of holdout Melvin Gordon, they're 10th in rushing (131.0 ypg).

Houston's offense has struggled, ranking 21st in total offense (338.5 ypg) and 24th in passing (185.5). The Texans, however, have averaged 153 rushing yards (No. 5).

The Texans' biggest offensive problem has been protecting quarterback Deshaun Watson. He has been sacked four or more times in eight consecutive games, tying the longest such streak since sacks became an official stat in 1982. That, after Houston acquired left tackle Laremy Tunsil from Miami before the season opener.

Although each team was close to being unbeaten so far, both have had issues defensively. Los Angeles is ranked 17th overall (357.5 ypg) and Houston 23rd (395.5).

The Chargers have fared better against the pass (eighth, 209.0) than the run (28th, 148.5). But the unit sustained another blow Sunday when safety Adrian Phillips broke his forearm. He subsequently was placed on injured reserve.

"His versatility is huge," coach Anthony Lynn said of Phillips. "He was a special teams Pro Bowler last year. He's the captain of that secondary. He'll be hard to replace. But we have some guys who are going to try to fill his shoes."

The loss of Phillips, and the absence of safety Derwin James (foot) and running back Gordon, means the Chargers are missing three of their seven Pro Bowlers from last season. Tight end Hunter Henry (knee) remains out, and wide receiver Keenan Allen (knee) and kicker Michael Badgley (groin) were limited Wednesday.

The Texans are 22nd in the league defending the pass (270.0 ypg) and 23rd vs. the run (125.5).

One bright spot has been outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who has thrived after Houston traded Jadeveon Clowney. Mercilus was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after registering three tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles against Jacksonville.

"Whitney has been a very productive player for us over the years," coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's been a guy who's known really for just doing his job. He just does a good job of setting the edge in the run game, and then rushing the passer."

Some bragging rights also will be on the line, as Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will face younger brother Derek, a Chargers fullback.

O'Brien also said his team needs to "be ready for the field," as it will host a Los Angeles Galaxy soccer match Saturday night. What effect, if any, that has on the turf likely won't be known until just before game time.


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