Leonard Fournette’s block on Micah Parsons ignited a debate over NFL rules and safety

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Whither the chip block?

Heading into their game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their offensive coaching staff knew they needed a plan for the talented Micah Parsons. Last season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year is a force at the linebacker position both in coverage and as a pass rusher, and Tampa Bay knew they had to account for him every time he came after quarterback Tom Brady.

One such play from that game touched off a war of words online, and a debate over how the NFL views player safety when it comes to defensive players.

Late in the first half, Brady connected with veteran Julio Jones on a deep pass along the right side of the field. But it was not the completion that drew the most attention, but rather the chip block from Leonard Fournette on Parsons as he rushed off the left edge:

Parsons rushes off the left edge, working against reserve left tackle Josh Wells. Wells was in the game after starting tackle Donovan Smith left due to an elbow injury. With Parsons working against a backup, the Buccaneers decide to give Wells help, in the form of Fournette chipping on Parsons. The chip block caught the attention of the Twitter timeline, and then Parsons after the game, who used some … colorful language in response:

The clip also drew the attention of pass rusher Von Miller, who made the case that it was a dangerous block that lets “the offense tee off on our marquee pass rushers:”

There are rules in place where the league protects defenders from chop blocks, where an offensive player goes low into a defender while the defender is already engaged with another blocker above the waist. According to the NFL’s rulebook, all such blocks are illegal, unless the contact is initiated above the waist, or if the contact is “incidental.” On this play, however, Fournette stays above the waist.

Still, Parsons and Miller make the case that with the defender engaged, and his eyes in the backfield, this kind of block is dangerous and risks the “future” of the league. Miller, like many defensive players, points out that while the NFL always looks for ways to protect offensive players — especially quarterbacks — it is not often the case that defensive players receive the same protection.

Should such a rule change be coming? As a washed-up former quarterback a few months older than Brady, I’m of the mind that anything that can be done within the current rules to slow those guys down off the edge, including legal chip blocks like this one from Fournette, are a good thing. Perhaps my dear friends on the defensive side of the football may disagree.

As for Fournette himself, he was not silent about the play on social media, responding with a simple GIF:

The NBA let Robert Sarver off too easy for racial slurs, sexual misconduct in workplace

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Phoenix Suns
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA issues its punishment for Robert Sarver after his rampant racism and misogyny throughout the Suns organization.

Phoenix Suns governor Robert Sarver has been suspended for one year and fined $10 million after the NBA concluded an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct. ESPN first reported that Sarver’s rampant racism and misogyny throughout the organization in Nov. 2021, and now the NBA has finally issued their punishment.

The NBA found that Sarver said N-word at least five times to other employees when recounting statements made by others. The league also found that Sarver made inappropriate remarks to women working in the organization, including sex-related comments and observations on their physical appearance. Sarver also “engaged in inappropriate physical conduct” with male employees.

In addition to the suspension and fine, Sarver is also mandated to complete a training program focused on respect in the workplace. The league wrote that “Sarver engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards,” including unequal treatment of female employees, racist comments, and bullying.

Here’s the full release from the NBA:

The league interviewed 320 people and evaluated 80,000 documents during its investigation. It says the fine will go to organizations working to address gender and racial bias throughout society.

You can read the full report against Sarver here.

Somehow, Sarver was not banned from the league like former Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Additional details on Robert Sarver’s racist comments

Additional details on Robert Sarver’s misogamy

Robert Sarver didn’t want to accept NBA suspension

Sarver reported fought the NBA on his punishment as the investigation was coming to a conclusion.

Sarver and the Suns started fighting against the allegations even before they were first published by ESPN. Phoenix’s official Twitter account put out a statement saying the allegations were “completely baseless” back in Oct. of 2021.

Robert Sarver has a history of unacceptable behavior

In 2019, ESPN detailed the wild workplace dysfunction within the Suns under Sarver’s leadership. The story included this infamous anecdote about Sarver putting live goats in the office of then-GM Ryan McDonough where they proceeded to poop all over the place.

Four years after naming McDonough general manager, Sarver acquired some live goats from a Diana Taurasi event at Talking Stick Resort Arena and planted them upstairs in McDonough’s office. The stunt was both a practical joke and an inspirational message — the Suns should find a GOAT of their own, one who dominates like Taurasi. The goats, unaware of their metaphorical connotation, proceeded to defecate all over McDonough’s office.

Robert Sarver should have been banned from the NBA

Despite the year-long suspension and hefty fine, Sarver will still be the governor of the Phoenix Suns when this is all over. That’s not right. The league easily could have banned him, and found another governor for the Suns. Instead, the penalty for Sarver amounts to a slap on the wrist.

There was loud criticism of the NBA’s light punishment after it was announced.

The NBA doesn’t need Robert Sarver. He shouldn’t be involved in the league anymore. Unfortunately, he’ll still be around a year from now after the suspension is over.

Broncos vs. Seahawks: Time, TV, stream, and prediction for Monday Night Football

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Wilson returns to Seattle as the Broncos and Seahawks start their seasons. Here’s how to watch.

The first week of the 2022 NFL season concludes with one of the biggest revenge games on the calendar, as Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos ride into Seattle to take on the Seahawks on Monday Night Football at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC (live stream available on FuboTV).

The main storyline in this game is of course the return of Wilson to Lumen Field, where he will play in front of a Seattle crowd for the first time wearing a different uniform. Wilson and the Broncos have visions of surviving a tough AFC West gauntlet and making a playoff run, and the Seahawks would love nothing more than to derail those early-season expectation.

As for the Seahawks, Geno Smith emerged as the starting quarterback for Seattle after a training camp competition with Drew Lock, who the Seahawks acquired as part of the Wilson trade. While expectations are certainly not as high in Seattle as they are in Denver, the Seahawks could take sole possession of first place in the NFC West with a win, as all three of their division rivals lost in Week 1.

Time, TV channel, and streaming info:

  • Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
  • Location: Lumen Field, Seattle, Washington
  • Streaming: FuboTV
  • Odds: Denver is currently a 6.5-point favorite

Manningcast for Broncos vs. Seahawks: Guests, TV info

That’s right! Epic coverage from Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and special guests returns for this game. Tonight’s the Manning brothers will be joined by New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, actor (and Seahawks fan) Joel McHale, and Shannon Sharpe.

  • Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN2, ESPN+
  • Streaming: FuboTV

Broncos vs. Seahawks news:

Robinson showed flashes of promise in his rookie year, recording four sacks while playing just 334 defensive snaps. He only managed one sack last season and otherwise struggled to make an impact. The former Syracuse star had a solid preseason up until his injury, so hopefully his knee issue isn’t as serious as it sounds, or else the Seahawks will be down some rotational pass rushing depth.

What that means is that for the first time since Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season the Seahawks are all alone atop the division. In 2021 the Hawks spent barely twenty minutes alone at the top of the NFC West between the end of their victory over the Indianapolis Colts and the when the Niners defeat of the Detroit Lions went final, pulling San Francisco into a tie at the top of the division.

Broncos vs. Seahawks predictions:

The fun began last week with our weekly NFL expert picks for Week 1 of the season. As you can see, every expert picked the Denver Broncos to win tonight.

Astute readers will notice that my name was not among the experts listed, as I did not officially start at SB Nation until today. So with the benefit of having all of the selections available to me to peruse, I am going to try and make up lost ground in a hurry. I’ll go with a shocking upset to close out the first week of the NFL season, as the Seahawks stun the Broncos 17-14.

Jalen Hurts showed how much he’s grown in beating Detroit

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

An offseason filled with expectations culminates in a Week 1 win

A tremendous offseason, coupled with mounting injuries in Dallas, propelled the Philadelphia Eagles to the forefront of the NFC East discussion. But as the 2022 NFL season loomed, the biggest question facing the Eagles centered on the most critical position in the game:

Would quarterback Jalen Hurts live up to the expectations, or would the Eagles fall short of their aspirations thanks to inconsistent quarterback play?

As the NFL world wildly overreacts to the first full slate of games, part of the discussion this Monday morning is how Hurts fared in the season-opening win over the Detroit Lions. Hurts completed 18 of 32 passes for 243 yards in the win, and added another 17 rushing attempts for 90 yards and a touchdown. Beyond the box score, did Hurts show the signs of growth that Eagles fans were hoping for all summer?

In a word, yes.

One of the biggest questions facing Hurts was how he would improve as a pocket manager. His strengths as a quarterback are well-known: His athleticism, his ability to throw on the move, his ability to attack in the vertical passing game with touch, and his creativity inside and outside the pocket. But if the Eagles are going to meet their lofty expectations, Hurts needs to improve within the pocket, both with his decision-making and his willingness to stay in the pocket and fight, and not escape the pocket at the first sign of pressure.

Three moments from yesterday’s win over the Lions highlight his growth and development in these areas. The first we will examine comes right before halftime, as Hurts connects with one of the Eagles’ big additions, wide receiver A.J. Brown:

This play comes just before halftime, with the Eagles holding a 21-14 lead over Detroit. Philadelphia runs a four verticals concept out of a 3×1 formation, and Brown is aligned along the right sideline. What stands out about Hurts on this play is how he reads the rotation in the secondary, and how he uses his eyes. The Lions show a single-high safety before the snap, and indeed run Cover 1 on the play. But how they get there involves a rotation among the safeties. Tracy Walker III, who begins the play aligned as the single-high safety, flashes downhill at the snap and is replaced in the middle of the field by DeShon Elliott, who is down in the box over the running back before the snap.

It is not the most complex coverage rotation, but Hurts reads it perfectly, keeping his eyes trained in the middle of the field — drawing attention to the route working across the field from tight end Dallas Goedert — before dropping in a perfect throw to Brown along the right sideline on his vertical route.

The long completion got the Eagles inside the red zone, and they finished the drive with a field goal to extend their lead.

The next example comes from the third quarter, with the Eagles facing a third down in their own territory. This is the first third down of the second half, and the Lions and their fans are hoping desperately for a stop to give their offense a chance to cut into Philadelphia’s 24-14 lead.

Hurts and Brown would not give them that satisfaction:

This play is a good example of Hurts taking information before the snap, and using it to his advantage as the play unfolds. Prior to the snap, Brown aligns on the left side of the field, and comes in motion across the formation. With no defender trailing him, that is an indicator to the quarterback that the Lions might be in zone coverage. (Although as we will see in a moment, this is never a guarantee).

Hurts has a few other zone indicators to work with, primarily the alignments of the cornerbacks. Both defenders are playing off their receivers, and have their feet and hips open towards the middle of the field. Again, indications that zone coverage is at play.

But the job is not done, as Hurts has to decipher the pressure look up front from Detroit. The Lions have a pair of defenders mugging the A-Gaps, and with seven men down on the line of scrimmage, there is a chance Detroit brings pressure and rotates into man coverage behind this pressure front.

The Lions bring just four, and indeed drop into zone coverage. But they still manage to get interior pressure on Hurts, thanks to a read blitz from the mugged-up defenders. On this play, the two mugged-up linebackers start to blitz, and will read the movement of the center, Jason Kelce. If the center turns to one side, that defender will then drop into coverage, and the other will continue on his blitz path. Kelce opens to his right and spots linebacker Chris Board. Once he does this, Board drops back into coverage and his cohort, Alex Anzalone, continues his blitz. Kelce tries to double-back and help on Anzalone, and running back Kenneth Gainwell steps up into the A-Gap to take on the linebacker, but Anzalone still manages to get into the pocket.

Yet Hurts hangs in the pocket, and knowing that Brown is running an out route, he makes an anticipation throw against the soft coverage to convert the third down.

This is the kind of moment Eagles fans were hoping to see this season from Hurts. At times last year, these were the plays where Hurts would pull the football down in response to pressure and look to create with his legs, rather than make a throw from the pocket. Hurts’ athleticism is a true weapon, and he delivered some athletic moments on Sunday in Detroit, but here he takes advantage of the information gained presnap and makes a read and throw from the pocket, moving the chains.

Philadelphia would finish the drive with a touchdown.

For my money, the best example of Hurts’ development came earlier in the game. With the Eagles facing a 2nd-and-5 with just over five minutes left in the first quarter, Hurts stood in the shotgun to try and diagnose the Lions before the play. Detroit showed him a pair of safeties deep, and when wide receiver Quez Watkins came in motion across the formation, nobody trailed him.

In his mind, Hurts might be expecting zone coverage, in the two-deep family.

But as we noted before, a defense’s response to motion — or lack thereof — is a piece to the puzzle, and not the definitive answer. Because as this play unfolds, the Lions rotate into Cover 1.

Hurts reads it perfectly, and hits Brown on a quick post route:

As with the previous play, the pocket starts to break down around Hurts, this time off the right edge. Yet he hangs in the pocket and, after reading out the rotation, makes a throw on-time and in-rhythm to Brown. The timing gives the receiver a chance to pick up additional yardage on the play, turning a 10-yard throw into an 18-yard gain.

Of course, the athletic plays were there from Hurts on Sunday. He picked up a 16-yard gain early in the first quarter with his legs to move the chains on a third-and-long situation, and gave the Eagles their first touchdown of the year when he took it himself on a fourth-and-goal early in the second quarter. He also delivered a great throw on the move and while under duress in the fourth quarter, combining his athleticism with his arm talent:

While those moments are great from Hurts, his growth and development from within the pocket could tell the story of the Eagles’ 2022 season.

Given what he showed on Sunday in Detroit, that could be a very good story.

Cris Collinsworth’s voice sounds terrible on Sunday Night Football, and everyone took notice

The NBC commentator should probably take a Halls

The Buccaneers and Cowboys squared off on NBC’s Sunday night football, but the talk of Twitter was color commentator Cris Collinsworth. Not because of something he said, nor was it the patented Collinsworth slide into frame.

His voice sounds juuuuuusssttt a bit hoarse.

It’s worth wondering what happened to Collinsworth in between Thursday and Sunday night. He was on the Bills-Rams broadcast and sounded fine, but tonight he sounds like Roz from Monster’s Inc. Maybe overuse? Maybe a sickness? People have already begun speculating whether Collinsworth has COVID-19, wondering if he was tested before the game. He did have to travel from Los Angeles to Dallas.

The biggest point is that if Collinsworth sounds like he has the suds, why doesn’t NBC let him rest? Who would be the next person up to be in the booth? NBC has a roster with guys who could call a game in theory, such as Drew Brees (who called the Notre Dame game on Saturday). Could NBC call in Jac Collinsworth like a relief pitcher?

The one thing we do know, however, is that Collinsworth is trying to grit through what is very clearly a sore throat.

Quenton Nelson, Colts sign biggest contract ever for a guard

Indianapolis Colts v Buffalo Bills
Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

The Colts locked up their star guard with a historic deal for the position.

Indianapolis Colts star left guard Quenton Nelson has signed a massive extension with the Indianapolis Colts, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Nelson, 26, signed a four year extension that averages $20 million per year and $60 million guaranteed. The deal makes Nelson the highest paid guard in NFL history.

In Nelson’s four years with the Colts he has been a Pro Bowler in each year, and been a first-team All-Pro in three of those four years. Nelson’s importance to the Colts offensive line was evident last year, as he only played in 13 games and the Colts failed to make the playoffs.

The deal sets a new precedent for interior offensive linemen heading into the future of the NFL. For the Colts, it was critical to lock up one of their best players on the team. Indianapolis is built through the middle, with Nelson being the offensive stalwart and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on the other side of the ball. In locking up Nelson, it makes sure that he’ll be a Colt for his entire career.