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18-09-01 Khalil Mack

Image Credit: nypost.com

The final weekend before the regular season is one of the biggest of the NFL calendar with all thirty-two teams cutting their rosters to 53 on Saturday. On Sunday they can place players on injured reserve with the possibility of bringing players back later in the season and shuffle the bottom of their roster as they seek to address weaknesses from a player pool of over a thousand that have just been cut from all teams. Meanwhile at the top of rosters since I last wrote we’ve seen new contracts for Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Donald whilst the currently of Oakland Raiders traded away Khalil Mack, one of the best young defensive players in the league to the Chicago Bears. That’s as good a player that has been traded away as I can remember and the Raiders also traded to get AJ McCarron from the Buffalo Bills despite his underwhelming pre-season and shoulder injury. Frankly, things seem a little odd for the silver and black right now.

Meanwhile, things took a strange turn for the Cleveland Browns, especially for those of us in the UK who saw Michael Kendricks on Hard Knocks giving the scouting info on the Philadelphia Eagles offence ahead of their game with them, only to then find out that Kendicks had been released by the Browns after he was charged for insider trading. It appears that the Browns were aware of the situation that occurred back in 2014 but they had been told that Kendricks had cooperated with investigators as a victim and the change in information prompted them to release the Super Bowl winner.

Getting back to Hard Knocks episode four we had the rookie show and the clip of Kendricks breaking down his former team but it was a more restrained episode this week. A game that finished 5-0 will be part of it, but we did get a more detailed look into Tyrod Taylor’s exit from the game with a dislocated finger, the x-ray, and then him getting taped up and heading back into the game. The cameras didn’t follow Taylor into the medical tent or x-ray room but we heard the pain and saw him catch a ball in the locker room before he declared himself fine and headed off to get back into the game. There was an interview with Josh Gordon before the game and we saw him passing out gloves to a pair of children screaming for him, but with him not cleared to participate the nearest we got to Gordon playing football was him going through the new playbook and saying he knew the plays. Given that Todd Haley has been installing a new offence this offseason that was a little curious.

We know that for a lot of young NFL players are helped by the veterans, but it was interesting to see Devon Cajuste working extensively with a fellow tight end on his blocking, but much like when we saw Antonio Calloway watching film with Jarvis Landy, you wonder where the position coaches are as surely they should be making sure the players are working on the techniques the coaching staff wants the players to be using.

The final episode of Hard Knocks will focus on the Brown’s game against the Detroit Lions and the cuts of the fringe players that has already happened as I write this but several of them could have been picked up for practice squad or other teams by the time the episode airs. This is one of the most awkward parts of Hard Knocks being shown a couple of days later in the UK as if you don’t want spoilers you have to be careful about the NFL media you consume but the fifth and final episode really suffers as it airs on the same day the season starts, four days after cuts weekend and a week since the last games of the pre-season.

In their game against the Lions Devon Cajuste caught a twenty-four yard catch at the start of the game and Nate Orchard intercepted the ball and ran it back for a touchdown. Fans of the Browns will already know if this was enough for them to make the team or not, but I’ll let you find out for yourself or keep the suspense until the last episode. It was interesting to see Brogan Roback get some extended play time but early on whilst his demonstrated the strength of arm, he kept trying to force long passes and more than once he looked distinctively frantic. He did eventually settle down and showed some touch on a couple of completions before firing in a touchdown pass to Blake Jackson.

Overall the Browns ran away with this game but both sides of the ball fell away as the game progressed and we slipped further down the roster. There is a lot of positivity floating round the Browns at the moment but they were again beset by penalties and you have to wonder how much this is going to hurt them in the season. We’ve seen Hue Jackson bemoaning the penalties throughout the series but things are not changing and you can’t turn this round simply by telling players something they already should know. This is about discipline and what the coaches demand and what they encourage through tolerating on the practice field, a team plays like how they practice, and this is something that could very easily cost them games this season.

There is one episode of Hard Knocks left and the Browns will already be preparing for their opening game but we will soon see if Hue Jackson has turned things round or this will be his last season as head coach of the Browns.