To answer that, it helps to have a loose definition of what a “role player” is. For this exercise, I’m considering players who are not generally considered “stars” on a national level, nor considered the “go-to guys” on any given team.
That means, for skill position players, we’re talking that third receiver or that second tight end. For offensive linemen, I’m including starters, but focusing in on a few guys who don’t get a ton of fanfare as perennial Pro Bowlers or high-profile studs. Obviously, some of these determinations are going to be a little subjective. And, as you may have picked up, I’m looking at the offensive side of the ball first.
We’ll just go ahead and skip quarterbacks because by the nature of the position, they shouldn’t really be “role players.” If you have a “role playing” quarterback, he’s not very good, and your team is probably not very good, either.
Fred Jackson just keeps chugging along. The Bills drafted Marshawn Lynch in the first round. They traded him. They drafted C.J. Spiller in the first round. He battled injuries before leaving in free agency.
And all along, Jackson’s been a workhorse for Buffalo, seemingly ageless and dependable. The 34-year-old vet will ostensibly head into the 2015 season as LeSean McCoy’s primary backup, and will likely continue to be a mainstay in the passing game. Jackson caught a career-high 66 passes last season, averaging a gain of 8.9 yards after each catch while forcing 19 missed tackles, third among running backs (per Pro Football Focus’ tracking).
It can be tough to categorize a starting offensive lineman as a “role player,” because generally speaking they play every snap and are highly important to each play. But a few young players that are perhaps underappreciated come to mind.
Player you’ll be buzzing about: LB Akeem Ayers — Ayers was a second-round pick in 2011, but he hasn’t met his potential thus far. He’ll get every opportunity to do that in St. Louis and should win the starting outside linebacker spot opposite Alec Ogletree.
IT’S A THURSDAY afternoon in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and under normal circumstances, the 23-year-old Hornets forward would want nothing more than some shut-eye on this rare day off. He’s bleary-eyed after playing 33 minutes in Charlotte’s 104-98 win the night before.
But his mom, Cindy Richardson, has just arrived from his hometown of Somerdale, New Jersey, and she’s here to cook the spaghetti sauce that was his childhood favorite. The nap can wait.
“No onions,” Kidd-Gilchrist reminds her as he rubs his eyes.
“I know, baby,” she assures him. “But no sugar in the sauce, though.”
This is Kidd-Gilchrist’s lone dietary cheat.
Even as a kid, he never ate junk food, the kind of nutritional discipline that allows someone to make his NBA debut a month after turning 19.
It’s his fifth season in the NBA, and although the 6-foot-7 Kidd-Gilchrist is still younger than six players taken in the 2016 draft, today he’s feeling every one of those years. He’s grateful to be tired, though. It means he was healthy enough to play in a game — something that hasn’t happened much the past two seasons. In October 2015, a shoulder injury limited his season to seven games. “The worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” he says.
Things are turning around. He moved into his first house this past summer, and it holds reminders everywhere that he’s still just a kid, after all — like a dining room with a chandelier but with no furniture underneath, along with a regulation basketball hoop nailed to his living room wall.
There are currently six head coaching jobs open in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, and San Francisco 49ers all on the hunt for someone new to lead the way.
Collectively, the six teams finished 30-66, but that’s weighted down by the poor records of the Jaguars, Rams, and 49ers. The Broncos never intended to begin a new coaching search after a 9-7 season, but were forced to look for a replacement for Gary Kubiak after he stepped down Monday due to health concerns.
Getting the the conference title game is old hat for the New England Patriots, who are in the AFC title game for an NFL-record sixth consecutive season after beating the Houston Texans on Saturday night in Foxborough. New England will host the Pittsburgh Steelers, who didn’t score a touchdown but got six field goals from Chris Boswell to beat the No. 2 seed Kansas City Chiefs on the road at Arrowhead Stadium.
In the AFC Wild Card round, the Texans got things started with a home win over the depleted Oakland Raiders, followed by the Steelers dispatching the Miami Dolphins at home.
In the NFC, the Seahawks beat the Detroit Lions at home, while the Packers fell behind early but then rallied behind Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb to oust the New York Giants at Lambeau Field.
Roethlisberger has had some not-so-great games during the winning streak, but because the slack has been picked up by others, like with Bell and Dupree, it’s helped make a difference and keep the Steelers going. It hasn’t been pretty, but it’s almost fitting for a Steelers franchise we’re used to seeing compete — and one we know has a high ceiling.
The Steelers are playing some great football at the right time. Now it doesn’t really matter what happened during the first 16.
With starting quarterback Geno Smith out for 6-10 weeks after having his jaw broken by a teammate, the Jets have decided to sign veteran Matt Flynn, the team announced on Wednesday.
Flynn, who’s spent the majority of his seven-year NFL career in Green Bay but has also made stops in Oakland, Seattle and Buffalo, returned to the Packers in 2013 and remained with them through the 2014 season before joining the Patriots in June. He was released last week and replaced in New England by Ryan Lindley.
Despite serving as Aaron Rodgers’s backup for most of his Packers career, Flynn still managed to amass 219 completions for 2,541 yards and 17 touchdowns during his time in Green Bay. His career completion average is 61.3 percent and his quarterback rating is 85.9.
In Week 17 of the 2011 season, Flynn started for the Packers in the place of Rodgers, who was being rested for the playoffs. Flynn set a team record with six touchdown passes, racking up 480 yards passing in his only start of the year. He parlayed that success into a three-year, $20.5 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks, but never started for the team after being beat out in training camp by then-rookie Russell Wilson.
Former Arizona Cardinals coordinator Todd Bowles is starting his first season as head coach in New York and Flynn will provide him some depth at the quarterback position. It has yet to be announced if Smith will be placed on the short-term injured reserve list, but Flynn will provide the Jets with a competent backup QB should the team decide to do so. For now the Jets have turned over starting duties to Ryan Fitzpatrick, an 11-year veteran on his fourth team in four years.
A middle ground has been elusive so far. The NFL is said to be standing firm on its insistence that Brady accept the findings of the Wells report, i.e. that it was “more probable than not” that he played a role in deflating game balls ahead of the AFC Championship game against the Colts in January.
The San Diego Chargers have reportedly decided to move to Los Angeles. While that move comes with the promise of playing in a glitzy, state of the art stadium, that won’t be the case initially. The Chargers will instead play in the 30,000-seat StubHub Center for two seasons, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
The StubHub center is a soccer-specific facility and home to the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer. It’s still a reasonably new facility, as it opened in 2003, and is a fine MLS setting. But, it’s not your typical environment for a NFL game. The stadium seats 27,000 for soccer games, which will make it almost half the size of the next smallest NFL stadium.
Is Tank Carradine going to make everybody forget about Justin Smith this year? Highly unlikely. But he could be productive enough that at least 49ers fans aren’t openly pining for Smith all season. I expect him to be fully confident in his knee now and ready to unleash the uncanny athleticism of a man his size.
Justin Smith was a special dude, physical as all hell and a non-stop wrecking ball. I don’t think Carradine will be that kind of player, but I expect him to provide a lot of pressure inside as a pass rusher and be hard to move in the running game. With more playing time, Carradine’s production should skyrocket.
Stepping into the on-air studio with SAS and Skip is a magical moment. I felt like a honeybee bee who accidentaly flew into the garden of Eden, there was just to much to process. Seeing the two of them take there seats before taping was not unlike when Rocky and Thunderlips faced off on the Silver Screen except if Hulk Hogan played both characters. Stephen A was literally cracking his neck getting ready to do battle. They didnt speak to each other- didnt even make eye contact- just prepared for what was sure to be a slugfest.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are running all over the Miami Dolphins at home, and as tough as a time as Miami has had, they may not even have it the worse.
CBS cameras showed a referee, whose whistle appeared to have frozen in the cold.
The referee tried blowing on it and everything, but had no success. That’ll happen when it’s nine degrees outside.
Cold weather is fun!
He calls out to Watkins, calling him “Big Los.” After no response, we walk over to the podium and add some pizazz to the interview Watkins is trying to stay focused on.
“Big Los, what’s up man, how you doing? We gonna talk about Big Los,” Greenlee said. “You know he got the fresh lineup. Big Los, man, he’s one of a kind, man. Good, cool guy to be around. Work hard. Got good work ethic. He a clown at heart, though. He’s trying to act all serious, but he know he wanna laugh right now.”
Harris kept the media in the dark toward the end, at one point saying he planned to just show up at his school of choice and enroll. One day before the report, he said the decision still wasn’t final.
Najee Harris to @Birm: I still don’t know where I’m going. I’m going home and I’ll decide.”
Thursday, sources told 247Sports that Harris planned to take a plane to California, his home state, after this weekend’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Wednesday, Tagovailoa told 247Sports that Harris would instead fly with him to Bama. Tagovailoa also said he would room with Harris in Tuscaloosa.
Wayne Simmonds is a very good hockey player. Further to that, though, he’s one of those good hockey players that can also fight. Remember, P.K. Subban does not want anyone fighting Wayne Simmonds.
Kevin Bieksa, though? Sure, why not?
It didn’t turn out to be much of a fight – and losing Simmonds in exchange for Bieksa was definitely a loss for the Flyers – but in a more accurate way, we were all winners, because in the midst of the short fight Bieksa somehow got all of Simmonds’ jersey, pads, and under armour off.
It’s probably the best thing Bieksa has ever done in his life.
Team USA began the tournament with wins over Latvia and Slovakia by a combined score of 11-3 before narrowly edging out Russia on Thursday in a 3-2 affair. Clayton Keller leads the Americans with five points and three goals, though the U.S. has spread the goal-scoring wealth around a bit compared to previous years.
Canada, meanwhile, is the most impressive team in the tournament. They lead the World Juniors with 20 goals, the best scoring efficiency (17.24 percent), the best power play (57 percent) and the second-best penalty kill (92 percent).
The winner of Saturday’s game (and thus, the winner of Group B) will play the fourth-best team in Group A. That will likely be either Switzerland, Finland, or the Czech Republic. The loser will play the third-place team in Group A, which will either be the Czech Republic, Denmark, or Switzerland.
Mike McCoy led the San Diego Chargers to the playoffs in his first year, but after showing no improvement and a 5-11 record for the 2016 season, the team announced that they fired McCoy.
The Chargers waited until the end of the season to fire McCoy. But with the Chargers having lost their last five games — including giving the Browns their first and only win of the year — as well as blowing leads in the last five minutes of several games this season, it’s not hard to see why they finally made the move.
“I want to thank Mike for his tireless work and commitment to this organization,” general manager Tom Telesco said. “He instilled a culture of work ethic and togetherness that we can build on for years to come.”
Following his statement, Rodgers backed it up with his play. In the five wins, the Packers quarterback racked up 11 passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and no interceptions.
The Packers have a chance to finish running the table Sunday night, but the pressure isn’t quite as drastic now that Green Bay is locked in, regardless.
If the Packers hope to make a deep postseason run, it’ll be on the back of Rodgers, although the team’s stout run defense could cause problems for teams in the playoffs. The Packers are below average in most defensive categories, but are top 10 in rushing yards and touchdowns allowed.
The Packers defense has been especially opportunistic in December, forcing 12 turnovers in three weeks during the team’s win streak.