RENTON Authentic Nail Yakupov Jersey , Wash. (AP) — Throughout its offseason team activities, the Seattle Seahawks appeared to be settled at safety. Bradley McDougald would just continue his role from a year ago stepping in as a full-time starter alongside Earl Thomas.
That was before Thomas decided to take his demands for a new contract to the extreme by holding out, creating an unexpected competition and a bit of chaos in Seattle’s defensive backfield.
With Thomas missing, Seattle’s safeties are a revolving door of combinations trying to find the pairing that makes the most sense ahead of the Sept. 9 opener at Denver. The process of seeing how all those combinations look gets its first true examination next Thursday when the Seahawks open the preseason against Indianapolis.
“These guys, they kind of joined forces in the offseason and kind of as a group, they knew they were up against it and wanted to make sure that they were going to give everything they had and put it all on the line,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Bradley McDougald has done a great job of being the leader in that group and it’s a good, tight group and they’re ready to take on the challenge of getting through camp and getting through all of the learning and the experience that’s necessary here is all part of the process, but their attitude is really strong and they’re really determined to do something with this.”
McDougald is almost certain to claim one of the positions. Which one is the question. He filled in as both free and strong safety last year when injuries sidelined Thomas and Kam Chancellor. McDougald was the starting strong safety after Chancellor was lost for the season in early November to a neck injury.
That doesn’t mean McDougald will be the strong safety. Throughout the first week of training camp, Seattle has rotated its safeties in both positions in an attempt to see how interchangeable the players can be.
“They have the opportunity to show themselves and it’s a lot of competition,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “Great communication, it’s showing up every day. Doing extra work, asking a lot of good questions. But, this is their chance to really step up and show us what they have.”
With McDougald seemingly a cinch to take one of the safety spots, the remaining position appears to be a four-way competition between Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, Maurice Alexander and Mike Tyson. And it’s Thompson and Hill that appear to be getting the most opportunity early on.
It makes sense Seattle would give Thompson and Hill the most reps. The Seahawks invested major draft capital in the pair a year ago, taking Hill in the third round and Thompson in the fourth round. They were allowed to spend last season learning behind Thomas and Chancellor with the idea they could eventually take over for the veteran Seahawks safeties.
The replacement has arrived sooner than expected, accelerated by Thomas’ holdout.
“Earl is a special, special player. At the same time, the guys that are here are working really hard and competing and they have the opportunity to show what they can do,” Norton said.
From a look standpoint, Thompson fits the mold of a free safety and Hill looks more like a strong safety. But each is working at both positions as Seattle often adjusts its safety alignments based off the offensive formation. Neither has the sideline-to-sideline speed of Thomas, but Norton has said Seattle’s scheme won’t change.
“I view it as competing. First game is a little ways to go. I’ve got a lot to improve on,” Thompson said. “I don’t focus on if I’m starting today or not starting today. We all get the same amount of reps so it’s all about competing.”
CLEVELAND (AP) — Sam Darnold once thought he’d be wearing an orange helmet just a few shades brighter than his hair color.
But the former USC star wasn’t precisely what the Browns were looking for in a franchise quarterback in the NFL draft. Darnold checked most of the boxes Adidas Brent Burns Jersey , but not all of them and Cleveland passed on him with the No. 1 overall pick, selecting Baker Mayfield instead.
On Thursday night, Darnold can show the Browns they made a mistake.
The youngest quarterback to start a season opener since 1970, Darnold will perform on a national TV stage for the second time already as a pro when he leads the New York Jets into FirstEnergy Stadium to face the Browns, who have played well enough to win their first two games but are still searching for their first victory since Dec. 24, 2016.
Heading into April’s draft, Darnold was considered the top of the deep 2018 QB class and it appeared he would wind up in Cleveland, where quarterbacks have come and gone like restaurant busboys over the past two decades.
“Yeah, I thought I could’ve ended up there or several other teams,” Darnold said this week. “I was excited to go anywhere. “Whoever wanted me, whoever wanted to pick me as a top pick, to me it was a dream come true right when it happened.”
After the Browns nabbed Mayfield and the Giants grabbed running back Saquon Barkley, the Jets took Darnold and have been more than satisfied by his early development.
He rebounded from throwing an interception that was returned for a TD on his first pass attempt in the opener and led the Jets to a 31-point win, and last week the 21-year-old became the youngest QB to pass for 300 yards.
Darnold insists he’s not seeking any revenge or trying to prove anything to the Browns.
“No,” he said. “I’m just going to go out there and play ball.”
The Jets and Browns are on divergent paths with their rookie quarterbacks. New York has chosen to start Darnold, while Cleveland is holding Mayfield out to watch and learn behind Tyrod Taylor.
It’s not a race and the Browns feel no need to rush their plan.
“We feel very comfortable with the guy that we selected in Baker, and I’m sure they do with him,” coach Hue Jackson said. “He’s a fine prospect and is going to be a fine player. I think they got a good one, but we feel we have a really good one, too.”
After facing Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees — two future Hall of Famers — in Weeks 1 and 2, the Browns aren’t looking at Darnold as any break.
“I don’t think that any game in the NFL is a breather,” said linebacker Joe Schobert.
“He’s got a big arm. He’s doing good things as their quarterback. The hardest thing to do is come into the NFL and play quarterback and be successful. And he’s so far shown himself to be pretty poised and good at it.”
The Browns are down and desperate. They need a win, and after stubbing their toes twice already, need to beat the Jets. A 1-1-1 record seems light years from 0-2-1.
“Our team is excited, hungry Customized Los Angeles Chargers Jerseys , disappointed, anxious — all of those words you want to use,” said Jackson, who is 1-32-1 in two seasons. “We just need to get it done.”
The Dawg Pound will be a homecoming of sorts for several current Jets, who are former Browns.
Running back Isaiah Crowell played the past four years in Cleveland. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor spent two seasons with the Browns, including a breakout campaign in 2016 when the former quarterback had 1,007 yards. His QB for parts of those seasons was Josh McCown, now Darnold’s backup and mentor.
Cornerback Buster Skrine played in Cleveland from 2011-14. Jets coach Todd Bowles, too, has Cleveland connections as an assistant under Butch Davis from 2001-04.
ALIVE & KICKING
Greg Joseph was on the beach hanging out with friends last weekend, “you know, just living the South Florida life.” Things changed quickly.
The rookie is now in the spotlight — or crosshairs — as Cleveland’s new kicker. Joseph signed this week after the Browns cut Zane Gonzalez for missing two field goals and two extra points last week.
Joseph, who spent the preseason with Miami, is excited about the opportunity.
“My film’s out there. My stats are out there,” he said. “I learned a lot about me, the athlete I am and the competitor I am. I’m ready to bring it here.”
Q IS THE ANSWER
Darnold’s favorite target through two games has been wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who has a team-leading 13 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown. Enunwa has been targeted 21 times, more than Pryor (11), Robby Anderson (six) and Jermaine Kearse (two) combined.
The Jets got their first four sacks of the season last Sunday against Miami, the most since getting to Taylor seven times when he played with Buffalo in Week 9 last season.
“The whole unit, we definitely picked it up last week,” defensive end Leonard Williams said. “We didn’t have any sacks in the first week, even though they got the ball out pretty quickly. At the same time, I don’t want to make excuses. We definitely picked it up last week and I hope we continue to make strides on that.”