Some of the narratives everyone has been following this NFL preseason took a new twist on Tuesday.

Antonio Brown, who just days ago reportedly threatened to retire because he could not use his old helmet, returned to Oakland Raiders training camp.

Jadeveon Clowney, a camp holdout who has been widely expected to report to the Houston Texans later this month, now appears likely to be traded, according to a report.

And there might be more to Andrew Luck's calf injury than has been reported.

Those stories and more in Tuesday's edition of NFL News and Notes.

 

Three things that matter

Brown returns to training camp

Brown opened a new chapter in his strange preseason on Tuesday, returning to the Raiders' training camp in Napa, California. Accompanied by his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and followed by the production crew for HBO's "Hard Knocks," the star wide receiver said he was excited to be back.

"I'm dealing with a lot of adversity … but I'm excited to be back with my team-mates," Brown said. 

Brown said he does not know when he will be able to return to practice, but head coach Jon Gruden said he expects he will be ready for the regular season. 

"We'll work him back in, obviously it's great to have him back," Gruden said. 

Rosenhaus said Brown returned to camp because he had completed treatment on his feet, which reportedly were frostbitten during cryotherapy. Rosenhaus did not offer details, citing possible legal action. However, Rosenhaus said Brown's feet were the real reason he missed camp. Brown had reportedly been absent from camp over a dispute involving what helmet he could wear. The All-Pro wide receiver wanted to use his old helmet, which is not on the NFL's approved list. He had even reportedly threatened retirement if he could not use the helmet.

The NFL has reached a compromise with Brown allowing him to use an old model if it is less than 10 years old. Rosenhaus said Brown has located several older models he plans to submit for approval. No word on whether Brown found any of those helmets through his Tuesday morning tweet seeking a helmet in exchange for an autographed helmet.

Texans' Clowney reportedly on trading block

Clowney, who wants a contract extension the Texans do not want to offer right now, has been a training camp holdout, but had widely been expected to report to camp later this month.

But a report Tuesday suggests the Texans are actively shopping Clowney. The Houston Chronicle's John McClain reported he would "be surprised" if Houston do not trade Clowney before the start of the season.

The Texans put the franchise tag on Clowney in the offseason, but he has not signed it yet.

McClain suggested the Texans might be looking to move Clowney for a left tackle. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was sacked 62 times last season, more than any other NFL quarterback.

McClain did not believe, however, the Texans would pursue Washington Redskins tackle Trent Williams, who has also reportedly requested a trade.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Luck's calf injury may be more complicated than has been reported. 

Luck has missed all but three training camp practices because the Colts are being cautious with the injury he suffered this spring. But Colts owner Jim Irsay told SiriusXM NFL Radio that Luck is dealing with a "small little bone" injury in his lower left leg.

"I feel very confident he's going to find a way through this thing. I think after the [Kevin] Durant thing, everyone is erring on the side of caution, but quite frankly, this is not even in the Achilles tendon," Irsay said. "It's a bone. I'm not good at these things, but it's a small little bone."

Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters last week that Luck will miss several more practices and sit out the team's second preseason game this Saturday against the Cleveland Browns.

This could be just a minor thing, but the fact Irsay has revealed this detail on Luck's injury suggests it might be something more. And notice how the timeline on Luck's full return to action has changed. Reich said in June that Luck would be able to play if there were a regular season game coming up. Yet he has been a spectator most of training camp, and now has something going on with a "small little bone." Recall how, throughout the spring and summer of 2017 the Colts kept moving back the goalposts on when Luck would return from offseason shoulder surgery. He ended up missing the entire season.

No one is suggesting this will end up being a similar situation, but the parallels are interesting.

Luck made his fourth Pro Bowl last season after throwing for 4,593 yards with 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Colts desperately need him healthy to get ready for the season.

Two things that don't matter

Giants owner Mara hopes rookie Jones 'never sees the field' this year

New York Giants owner John Mara raised some eyebrows on Tuesday when asked about the team's quarterback situation this season involving veteran Eli Manning and rookie Daniel Jones.

"I hope Eli has a great year and Daniel never sees the field," Mara told reporters. "That would be an ideal world where you would like to see that. Again, at the end of the day it's going to be the decision by the head coach [Pat Shurmur] as to when or if Daniel ends up playing this year."

When pressed on whether he would be happy if Jones did not play "one snap" this year, Mara didn't back down.

"I'd be very happy about that because that means we're having a great year and Eli's having a great year," he added.

To just glance at Mara's quotes, which were featured in numerous headlines, is to imagine the owner is a kindred spirit to those Giants fans who ripped the team for picking Jones sixth overall in the NFL Draft. Despite the awkward soundbites, however, Mara was merely expressing the opinion that if Manning plays well, that probably means the Giants are excelling. Almost anything would be better than last season's 5-11 mark.

The 38-year-old Manning is set to open the season as the starter, but Jones has turned heads thus far. He completed all five of his passes for 67 yards and a touchdown in his NFL preseason debut against the New York Jets last week.

No matter who is under center, the Giants passing game will face a tough time early this season. The NFL has denied Golden Tate's appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, Corey Coleman suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament and Sterling Shepard is playing with a fractured thumb.

Rosen takes first-team reps at Dolphins practice

Miami Dolphins QB Josh Rosen, locked in a quarterback battle with Ryan Fitzpatrick, took first-team reps for the first time during Tuesday's practice.

So that is it, right? Rosen, acquired from the Arizona Cardinals in the offseason, has seized control of the job, right?

Not so fast. Fitzpatrick is still scheduled to start the second preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, just as he did the opener, with Rosen likely coming on to play most of the game. But Tuesday's development is a big step for Rosen, given head coach Brian Flores has studiously avoided giving him first-team reps in camp.

Flores was not exactly effusive in his praise for the second-year QB on Tuesday, saying he did an "OK job."

"I thought it was a lot of fun," Rosen told reporters afterward. "Got a lot to study tonight, overall it was a positive." 

Bottom line: This competition is not over yet.

One video you have to see

O.J. Simpson tweeted a video that touched on everything from Dak Prescott's and Ezekiel Elliott's contract negotiations with the Dallas Cowboys to Simpson's fantasy football league (he says Prescott would not even be drafted in the top 10) to how much the game has changed ("God forbid you hit a wide receiver too hard downfield").

Tuesday tweet of the day

Just when you thought the Brown helmet saga could not get any stranger … it did. Tuesday morning, Brown tweeted out a plea to help him locate a helmet: "I'm looking for a Schutt Air Advantage Adult Large Helmet that was manufactured in 2010 or after. In exchange I will trade a signed practice worn @Raiders helmet."

Preseason is officially here with 11 games kicking off on Thursday, and another five taking place across Friday and Saturday.

With that comes a variety of storylines which we are keeping track of as the regular season approaches.

From injury updates to the latest trade news, we take a look at what is happening around the league in this edition of NFL news and notes. 

 

Three things that matter

49ers rookie Nick Bosa will sit preseason with ankle injury

San Francisco 49ers' Nick Bosa left Wednesday's practice early with an injury, and general manager John Lynch confirmed on Thursday that the defensive end has a "significant" ankle sprain and will be forced to miss the preseason.

There is still hope he will be ready for the regular-season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 8, but the 49ers are going to be "very prudent" about his return. 

While an ankle sprain may not seem like a huge deal, Bosa has a long history of injuries. He was sidelined for most of last season with a core muscle injury while playing for Ohio State, and missed much of the 49ers' off-season programme due to a hamstring issue. 

"We don't feel he is injury prone," Lynch told KNBR. "Yesterday, he had a big human being fall on his legs while he was engaged with someone else. So, some of those things, that's football, you can't prevent that."

Browns trade running back Duke Johnson to Texans

The Cleveland Browns are still making changes to their offense, and have sent disgruntled running back Duke Johnson to the Houston Texans in exchange for a draft pick.

The trade comes just slightly more than two weeks after Browns coach Freddie Kitchens stated "we're not giving away good players'' right before the team's training camp started.

There has been speculation around Johnson's future for the majority of the offseason. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was asked about Johnson's status in June, and said: "He's going to handle his stuff how he wants, but you're either on this train or you're not, it's moving. You can get out of the way or you can join us."

Now, Johnson is headed to a franchise that is still figuring out their backfield situation after waiving former first-round pick D'Onta Foreman earlier this week. 

Chiefs reveal QB plan for preseason opener

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid revealed his plan for utilising his quarterbacks for Saturday's preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He intends to start quarterback Patrick Mahomes and keep him in for the first quarter.

Reid has been known to play his starting quarterbacks during the preseason in the past, but the move is a bit unusual because coaches generally prefer to sit their quarterbacks to avoid risking injury. 

Back-up Chad Henne is expected to play during the second quarter, while Chase Litton will take over in the third and rookie Kyle Shurmur will play in the fourth, according to CBS Sports.

Two things that don't matter

Kirk Cousins troubled by rookie center's ... sweaty butt?

Mark this one as one of the most unusual stories to come out of training camp: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is bothered by first-round draft pick Garrett Bradbury's sweaty butt. Cousins said he is concerned Bradbury's sweat will affect his grip on the ball.

"He promises that it's not a problem in games, and it remains to be seen because his shorts today were soaked," Cousins said, via the Star Tribune. "Apparently when they keep those domes air-conditioned and you get a break on the bench and you sit with the cooling fans, I'm hoping that really helps."

The first big test will come when the Vikings open their preseason against the New Orleans Saints.

"A big thing I'm going to take away from Friday night, is how tough was it to grip the ball after he snaps it to me. If it's tough we might be in pistol and shotgun [formations] all year," Cousins said. 

Cowboys' Quinn facing two-game suspension

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Robert Quinn is facing a two-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. He is eligible to return on September 15 after the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins in week two.

Normally this would be a significant loss for the Cowboys, who are struggling with depth at the position, but Quinn broke his hand in practice earlier this week. His availability for the first couple of games of the regular season were already in question. 

One video you have to see

Saquon Barkley is working on his throwing game – kind of. The New York Giants running back attempted to throw a "no-look" pass, similar to one Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown, but it did not go exactly as planned.

Thursday tweet of the day

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is putting in some work this offseason. He caught 370 balls from a football passing machine after practice.

Cleveland Browns have traded Duke Johnson to the Houston Texans, it was confirmed on Thursday.

The Browns will receive a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft that could become a third-round choice, NFL.com have reported.

Johnson, 25, joined the Browns as a third-round pick in 2015. He appeared in 64 games (10 starts). He had 1,286 rushing yards and 2,170 receiving yards on 235 receptions with 13 total touchdowns.

However, the running back became frustrated with the Browns after they added the suspended Kareem Hunt this off-season and had demanded a trade that Cleveland's front office had steadfastly refused to make, even as Johnson fired his previous agent and hired Drew Rosenhaus in an effort to engineer a deal.

Houston Texans star J.J. Watt had a lot of fun riding into practice on Monday — that is until he broke his means of transportation.

The Texans and Green Bay Packers held a joint practice in Green Bay, which allowed Watt to take part in a longstanding Packers tradition of players riding a child's bike to practice.

It was something Watt said he has dreamed about since he was a kid growing up in Wisconsin.

However, breaking the bike probably was not part of that dream. 

Watt did not last long on the child-sized bike.

"It was pretty awesome until I broke the bike," Watt told media after practice. "The bike I was using wasn't equipped for a 290-pound man and the seat broke off. We have purchased a new bike for the boy. I apologise for that.

"It's one of the coolest traditions."

Watt did not hesitate to choose which bike he would ride. He picked the first kid in line despite the fact he was wearing a Packers jersey.

"I mean, I can't walk past a kid," Watt said. "That's hard. He had a [Aaron] Rodgers jersey on, which is fine. I respect it. I support loyalty. The welcome and reception I've gotten since I got back here, to see people wearing my jersey, it's pretty crazy."

He eventually upgraded to larger sized wheels to the fans' enjoyment.

"It's one of the coolest traditions," Watt said. "Growing up here, I know how special it is to get to interact with a player from the Green Bay Packers. For them to have that tradition, where kids get to be up close and personal with their favourite players and they get to hold their helmet.

"I mean, that's what it's all about. Those are the memories that those kids are going to have for a lifetime. For me to be able to participate in it as a player was cool."

The Houston Texans will be without two of their stars at the start of training camp this week after placing J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list

Watt and Hopkins can be activated by Houston at any time, and both are expected to begin practicing soon and be ready in time for the regular season opener on September 9.

Five-time Pro Bowler Watt, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in January, practiced throughout the offseason and said he "felt great".

After featuring in just eight games over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Watt played and started all 16 games last year. He recorded 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles.

Hopkins did not participate in OTAs and was bothered by nagging foot and shoulder injuries last season. 

He caught 115 passes for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns as the Texans went 11-5 and won the AFC South. Houston went on to lose to the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs, with Hopkins sustaining the injury to his shoulder.

The Houston Texans won the AFC South last season, but this division might be as competitive as it has been in a long time in 2019.

Andrew Luck is back to his old self, the Jacksonville Jaguars added a quarterback who can throw the ball and the Tennessee Titans seemed to find an identity in the running game last year.

All that leads to speculation that this division is up for grabs, and while there may not be a 13-win team in it in 2019, there may not be a team worse than .500 when all is said and done.

Here's the outlook for the AFC South heading into training camp:

 

TEAM ON THE RISE

Jacksonville Jaguars

Calling the Jaguars a team on the rise two seasons after they made the AFC Championship feels wrong, but there is no denying it's right. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and it appears Jacksonville finally have a quarterback. Super Bowl winner Nick Foles signed a four-year, $88million deal this offseason and will replace the much-maligned Blake Bortles. Simply having a QB who can protect the ball will go a long way for the team's defense and for getting Leonard Fournette some room to run.

TEAM ON THE DECLINE

Houston Texans

There are several ways the Texans are on the rise. They added a couple of offensive linemen early in the draft, which should help the team protect quarterback Deshaun Watson. The young QB has another year under his belt, and younger defenders like Justin Reid should be primed to improve this season.

But the team is in the middle of a contract disagreement with Jadeveon Clowney that might lead to a holdout. The drafted offensive linemen are a long way from being great, plus the team let shutdown cornerback Tyrann Mathieu go for virtually nothing and they'll go through the 2019 season without a general manager having fired Brian Gaine after just one year.

Oh yeah, and Bill O'Brien still has issues with simple clock and game management. That's a team that could easily decline.

ROOKIES TO WATCH

Josh Allen, LB, Jaguars: As if the Jaguars didn't already have enough pass-rushing talent, the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants passed on Allen, who might have been the best player in college football with Kentucky last year. He's going to make an already scary front seven for the Jaguars even more terrifying. 

Kahale Warring, TE, Texans: A former water polo player who really came into his own at San Diego State last year, Warring gives Watson a tight end who can finally scare a defense with his pass-catching and could be an intriguing part of the offense for the next several years.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

Darius Leonard

Leonard completely changed the feel of the Colts defense as a rookie in 2018. He finished the season with 163 tackles, four forced fumbles and two interceptions and turned Indianapolis' defense from one to be laughed at into one to be cautious about. His performance in 2019 could go a long way toward continuing to make the team's defense better – or letting it regress. If he is what he was last year, then the Colts should continue to get better. If he's not, then Luck will be pressing again on offense.

KEY INJURIES

Andrew Luck, calf: The Colts quarterback, who'll be 30 in September, was forced to miss all of the team's offseason workouts because of a lingering calf injury, but the team doesn't seem too concerned about his long-term outlook. However, the Colts weren't concerned about his shoulder either when he missed all of 2017. This could be something of a concern – or it might not be. It's just another part of the long-running worries about Luck's health that always seem to plague his career.

There is never a dull day in the NBA, but this past weekend may have been the craziest moment in league history.

We will get to that in a second, but we will also touch on the Home Run Derby and the Houston Texans who are looking like a train wreck once again.

All that and more on this week in US Sports.

 

1. Clippers eclipse Lakers

This was as crazy of an NBA offseason as there has ever been. An MVP candidate (Anthony Davis) was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, two stars signed with the Brooklyn Nets (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving), the Boston Celtics reloaded with an All-NBA guard (Kemba Walker) and the New York Knicks are the Knicks.

But all of that news paled in comparison to what happened in the wee hours of Saturday morning when news broke the Los Angeles Clippers were going to get both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. While the Leonard news broke first, what we came to find out was Leonard had convinced George to accept a trade to Los Angeles from the Oklahoma City Thunder. So, while he signed seemingly on his own with the Clippers, what actually went down was the George trade was agreed to which sealed Leonard's move to Los Angeles.

Now the Clippers and Lakers have even odds to win the NBA Finals next year, but the Clippers have much of the momentum and possibly the best defensive tandem in the NBA in George, Leonard and Patrick Beverley. The Western Conference is going to be fun next year.

 

2. Home Run Derby for the ages

For years the Home Run Derby has been stale. A few years ago, the MLB was forced to change the format from 10 outs to a timed round in which players could hit as many pitches as they want rather than being selective and taking pitch after pitch. Some rounds would seem to creep into the 30-minute range and fans were losing interest.

Absolutely no interest was lost on Monday though in a Home Run Derby for the ages. This derby featured a man (Joc Pederson) who hit 39 home runs in a round and lost (Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit 40) and an event where a rookie bashed 91 balls over the fence and did not win (Guerrero).

There were 321 total homers in the event and the final between two rookies (Guerrero and Alonso) took three overtimes to decide. The Home Run Derby was not boring this year, it was what a Derby was always supposed to be.

 

3. Drama in Houston

The Houston Texans have been one of the better organisations in the NFL over the last several years as they have made the playoffs three of the last four seasons while winning their division five times since 2011. But all that success seems to be in spite of themselves and this offseason is a perfect example as to why.

Houston selected Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick in 2014. He has 29 sacks and 67 quarterback hits in his career and has been named to three Pro Bowls while missing a total of six games over the last four years. And yet, the Texans do not want to sign him to a long-term deal. In fact, they likely will not be signing him to a long-term deal at all this offseason, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle.

Even more damning may be the team's ineptitude in the front office. General manager Rick Smith left last year to take care of his sick wife, but it was reported he did so because of a rift with Bill O'Brien. Then the man hired to replace Smith was fired after one year with the team, but after the Draft. Finally, the team decided on Thursday they were not going to hire a replacement GM and will run the team as a committee next season. The Texans are lucky to be in one of the worst divisions in the NFL, otherwise they may be getting more flak for their actions.

 

4. Chad Mendes retires

A former WEC title contender has retired. Chad Mendes, who accumulated an 18-5 record and had Conor McGregor beaten and bloodied on short notice, has decided to end his long and illustrious career in the WEC and UFC.

"I just want to say THANK YOU to all my fans and everyone that tuned in to watch me battle!" Mendes wrote on Instagram. "With 29 years of competing and 11 year in the Mma game, I feel it's time for the next chapter in my life! It's been an incredible journey with so many life lesson along the way. I feel extremely blessed to be living this life I live and can't wait to see what the next chapter has in store for me!"

 

5. Astros' Marisnick suspended two games

Houston Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick has been suspended for two games after running over Los Angeles Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a game on Sunday, MLB announced on Thursday.

Lucroy sustained a concussion and broken nose on the play and manager Brad Ausmus called for Marisnick's suspension after the game as did St Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

NFL star J.J. Watt may not yet have a Super Bowl ring but he will soon have a wedding band on his finger.

The Houston Texans defensive end took to Twitter to announce his engagement to professional soccer star Kealia Ohai, accompanied by several photos of the happy couple.

Sharing the news with his followers, Watt posted: "I'm the luckiest man in the world. #SheSaidYes."

Ohai, 27, who plays for the NWSL's Houston Dash and has been a member of the U.S. Women's National Team also shared the news via Twitter, saying: "I love you @JJWatt."

The couple have been dating since 2016. Ohai is the sister-in-law of former Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, now an assistant coach with the team.

The Arizona Cardinals did as expected with the first overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft and created a quarterback controversy.

A year on from taking Josh Rosen, the Cardinals made Kyler Murray the second successive Oklahoma quarterback to go with the top overall pick after Baker Mayfield went to the Cleveland Browns in 2018.

Mayfield already appears destined for success and the Cardinals will hope Murray, who became the first man to be selected in the opening round of both the MLB and NFL drafts, can have a similarly transformative impact on their team after making the decision to choose football over baseball two months ago.

By taking Murray, the Cardinals passed on the two players perceived as the best in the class, and they will see one of them twice a year.

Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa went second to the San Francisco 49ers and will be tasked with hunting down Murray in their divisional meetings. Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams joins namesake Leonard Williams on a New York Jets defensive front that now looks a lot more imposing.

It was the New York Giants who sprung perhaps the biggest surprise of Thursday's proceedings in Nashville, unexpectedly drafting Eli Manning's successor with the sixth overall pick, which they used on Duke quarterback Daniel Jones.

The 17th overall pick, which the Giants acquired in the trade to send Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, was spent on defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, before New York later selected Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker after a trade with the Atlanta Falcons.

Dwayne Haskins had been tipped to be the second quarterback taken prior to the selection of Jones, and they can expect to be compared for a long time to come after the Ohio State passer moved to the Washington Redskins with the 15th pick.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills each acquired premier defensive talents in Josh Allen and Ed Oliver respectively, while one of Murray's favourite targets Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown is poised to form an exciting connection with Lamar Jackson after the Baltimore Ravens traded up for the wide receiver.

Tom Brady will also have a new pass-catcher to throw to as Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots capped off the first round with the selection of Arizona State wideout N'Keal Harry.

 

First Round in full:

1. Arizona Cardinals - Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
2. San Francisco 49ers- Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
3. New York Jets - Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
4. Oakland Raiders - Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Devin White, LB, LSU
6. New York Giants - Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky
8. Detroit Lions - T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
9. Buffalo Bills - Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (trade with Denver Broncos) - Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
11. Cincinnati Bengals - Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
12. Green Bay Packers - Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan
13. Miami Dolphins - Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
14. Atlanta Falcons - Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College
15. Washington Redskins - Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
16. Carolina Panthers - Brian Burns, OLB, Florida State
17. New York Giants from Cleveland Browns - Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
18. Minnesota Vikings - Garrett bradbury, C, N.C. State
19. Tennessee Titans - Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
20. Denver Broncos (trade with Pittsburgh Steelers) - Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
21. Green Bay Packers (trade with Seattle Seahawks) - Darnell Savage Jr., S, Maryland
22. Philadelphia Eagles (trade with Baltimore Ravens) - Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
23. Houston Texans - Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State
24. Oakland Raiders from Chicago Bears - Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
25. Baltimore Ravens (trade with Philadelphia Eagles) - Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
26. Washington Redskins (trade with Indianapolis Colts) - Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State
27. Oakland Raiders from Dallas Cowboys - Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
28. Los Angeles Chargers - Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame
29. Seattle Seahawks from Kansas City Chiefs - L.J. Collier, DE, TCU
30. New York Giants (trade with Seattle Seahawks) - Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
31. Atlanta Falcons (trade with Los Angeles Rams) - Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington
32. New England Patriots - N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

The New England Patriots' path to the playoffs in 2019 does not look too difficult.

New England, based on the 2018 records of their opponents, have the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL alongside the Washington Redskins.

That seems very unfair given the Patriots' continuing dominance, but a big part of that is down to having three division rivals who continue to provide very little in the way of competition.

So, who provide the biggest roadblocks for the Patriots in the regular season as they seek an unprecedented seventh Super Bowl title?

The list is short, but includes some familiar suspects who have caused them problems in years gone by.

 

v Cleveland Browns

Games against his old team may be tougher now for Bill Belichick than they were in the past, and you can file the Browns' offense under the same category as that of the Kansa City Chiefs – one blessed with young talent, a superstar receiver and a fearless quarterback playing for an offensive-minded head coach who maximises his skill set. Throw in the depth on Cleveland's defense and this is a home game that figures to be a very tricky proposition for New England.

@ Baltimore Ravens

It has long been thought that no team scares the Patriots and their fans more than Baltimore. This is a very different Baltimore team – Joe Flacco has been replaced by Lamar Jackson and the defense has been gutted of a lot of talent – but the prospect of a road game against a team led by a coach in John Harbaugh who has had success against New England is not likely to be an enticing one for the Patriots.

@ Philadelphia Eagles

They may be reigning Super Bowl champions, but you can be sure the Philly fans will be keen to remind the Patriots of the one that got away a year earlier. Nick Foles may have taken his magic touch to Jacksonville, but if Carson Wentz is fully healthy this an Eagles team still good enough to contend with any in the league and revenge for their Super Bowl LII defeat is unlikely to come easy for New England.

@ Houston Texans

The Texans have beaten the Patriots just once in their history, but each of the two games in which Deshaun Watson has been under center have been decided by one score. There remain questions over Houston's offensive line and the back end of the defense but, with Watson's dual-threat ability and J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney pursuing Brady, the Texans have enough at their disposal to pull off an upset.

v Kansas City Chiefs

Had the Chiefs won a flip of a coin, we may be talking about them defending the title in 2019. In two games against the Patriots last season, Patrick Mahomes hung points on New England's defense almost at will and there is little to suggest he should not do so once more against a unit now without pass rusher Trey Flowers. The big question, however, surrounds the Chiefs' ability to stop Tom Brady. They failed to do so last season and the task may be even more difficult following the departures of pass rushers Dee Ford and Justin Houston.

The Chicago Bears will face the Oakland Raiders in the first NFL match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the NFL confirmed on Wednesday.

Spurs' new home was purposely designed with an NFL field under the playing surface and the Bears and Raiders will get first use of the pitch.

A total of five regular season matches will be hosted outside the United States, with London hosting another three and the other in Mexico City.

The London schedule will kick off with an intriguing game between the Bears and the Raiders as Chicago will bring Khalil Mack overseas to play against the team that traded him out of Oakland, while the Raiders bring a new look to their roster with Antonio Brown.

Seven days later, the Carolina Panthers will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the same venue in a match-up that will feature NFC South divisional rivals as Cam Newton and Jameis Winston square off. 

Wembley will also host two matches as the Cincinnati Bengals meet the Los Angeles Rams, while the final match sees the Jacksonville Jaguars – complete with new quarterback Nick Foles - play the Tennessee Texans in an AFC South match-up.

The NFL will give a game in Mexico another shot after the Rams versus the Kansas City Chiefs was cancelled last season out of concern for player safety concerns due to field conditions.

This time the Chiefs will meet the Los Angeles Charges in mid-November at the Azteca Stadium.

The Houston Texans have placed the non-exclusive franchise designation on Jadeveon Clowney with the intention of eventiually working out a long-term deal, the team announced on Monday.

Clowney is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins March 13, but has been vocal about wanting to stay put in Houston, where he has spent his entire NFL career.

The non-exclusive tag designation means Clowney may negotiate with other NFL teams, but if he signs an offer sheet, the Texans have the right to match the offer. If they choose not to, they would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.

"Today, we have placed the franchise tag on Jadeveon Clowney, but our goal is to continue to work with his representation on a long-term contract," general manager Brian Gaine said in a statement.

"This gives us both an opportunity to do so."

The Houston Texans have placed the non-exclusive franchise designation on DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney, the team announced today. pic.twitter.com/HmY04QtzWj

— Texans PR (@TexansPR) March 4, 2019 Clowney said in January: "Of course, I want to come back. I promise to the Texans and whoever else is watching that I'm going to be a much better, improved player next season.

"I haven't been thinking about a contract. If I come back and play well like I know I'm going to, the contract will take care of itself. I'm going to work on my craft and work on my game. That's what I'm worrying about.

"That's very important because that makes me more confident knowing where you're going to be. That's very big for my family to know what's going. As a football player, I love Houston. Of course, I want to be here for the rest of my career."

Clowney, who turned 26 last month, was selected out of South Carolina with the number one overall pick of the 2014 draft.

The All-Pro defender has logged 29 sacks and five forced fumbles en route to three consecutive Pro Bowl selections during his career.

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has been named the grand marshal of the 2019 Daytona 500, NASCAR announced on Monday.

Watt is the first NFL player to serve as the grand marshal for the NASCAR Cup Series season-opening race, scheduled for Sunday.

"I am honoured to have the opportunity to serve as grand marshal for this year's 'Great American Race'," Watt said in a statement.

"The Daytona 500 is a truly iconic event with a rich history, and I am very much looking forward to taking in the action up close and personal this year."

Watt will tell the drivers to start their engines for the 61st Daytona 500. His charity work, which includes the $41million he helped raise for Hurricane Harvey relief, was a large factor in why he was selected as the 2019 grand marshal.

"We're ecstatic to have a person who has shown to be not only an incredible athlete, but also somebody who has done so much for communities in need," Daytona International Speedway president Chip Wile said. "J.J. is one of the best players currently in the NFL and now he's going to be our grand marshal for 'The Great American Race.' It's a spectacular pairing."

Watt will be front and center as Hendrick Motorsport team-mates William Byron and Alex Bowman, the reigning Daytona 500 pole winner, will start from the front row of this year's race.

The Los Angeles Rams will return to London next season, potentially as defending Super Bowl champions.

The Indianapolis Colts dominated the Texans in the first game of the wild-card weekend as they took down Houston 21-7 to move on to the AFC divisional round on Saturday.

Andrew Luck was brilliant as he finished 19-of-32 passing for 222 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

The Texans dug themselves a hole and could never climb out as they were down 21-0 at the half.

 

The AFC should be horrified of the Colts

No one will want to play the Colts. The defense is way better than people think and the offense can beat you in multiple ways. Indianapolis can convert short third downs with pick plays to tight ends and they can beat you over the top with T.Y. Hilton.

But what is even scarier is Quenton Nelson has completely changed the temperament of the offensive line. Luck now has time to throw and the Colts can run the ball, and almost all of that can be traced back to when Nelson found his way early in the season. Unfortunately for Jadeveon Clowney, he learned that the hard way.

 

Houston's flaw was in their preparation

The Colts were the more prepared team in this game, both schematically and mentally. The Texans were not prepared to come out and make plays when they needed to. This was infinitely clear in the first half when they allowed the Colts to go six for six on third downs and failed to convert on two of their own fourth downs – Houston converted 67 per cent of fourth downs during the regular season.

The Texans also had a sequence on offense when DeAndre Hopkins had to tell a young receiver where to go, and on another play another rookie wide receiver covered up the tight end, negating a good gain with an illegal formation.

Plays like this can be prevented. Houston had six penalties for 47 yards in the first half, while Indianapolis had one for five. Two of those penalties came on third and medium when the Texans jumped offsides.

The Colts were ready for this one. It is hard to say the Texans were.

Not a good trend

The Texans went down 21-0 in the first half of this game. A big deficit in the first half of a home playoff game is rare, but apparently it is not so rare for the Bill O'Brien-led Texans.

The last wild-card team to trail by 21 points at home was O'Brien's Texans in 2015 against the Chiefs. Houston lost that game 30-0.

The Texans are just the second team in the last 10 years to enter a playoff game as a home favourite and be held scoreless in the first half.

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