NFL Nation: Landon Cohen
Yet it's the one they haven't yet announced -- agreeing to terms with quarterback Kyle Orton -- that could have the biggest effect.
Here are some thoughts on that move and where the Bills stand entering Saturday's cut-down deadline at 4 p.m. ET:
Spotlight still on Manuel: Unless the Bills change their tune down the road, Orton isn't going to challenge Manuel for the starting job. So while they have one of the NFL's better backup quarterbacks, the Bills' overall quarterback situation still isn't where it needs to be. A few days ago, it was the worst in the NFL. Now it's in the bottom-third. It's hard to place the Bills' quarterback group any higher than that until Manuel proves in the regular season some of his preseason woes were a fluke or the product of a "vanilla" offense.
Punting situation problematic: The Bills cut veteran punter Brian Moorman after he ended the preseason with two sub-par performances. While the team claimed punter/kicker Jordan Gay off waivers, he only punted once in Thursday's game. The Bills didn't feel as though he was "ready" to punt yet and wanted to evaluate him more as a kickoff specialist. Whether that changes in the next eight days is not known. One way or the other, the Bills will need a punter for their opener in Chicago. Expect them to keep an eye on the waiver wire and try some players out. They had a similar situation at kicker around this time last season and struck gold with Dan Carpenter.
Parting with Cohen: Of the Bills' 13 roster moves Friday, the most surprising may have been the release of defensive tackle Landon Cohen. He quickly earned praised after signing early in training camp, proving to be a disruptive player in some of the Bills' preseason games. There are a few important factors to remember with Cohen: (1) He played mostly against lesser competition later in games, (2) He's a seventh-year, journeyman veteran who remained a free agent most of this offseason and should be available if needed during the regular season, and (3) The Bills likely only need two backups at defensive tackle and those roles were filled by Stefan Charles and Corbin Bryant. Cohen was a nice story during the preseason but he wouldn't have seen much, if any, playing time in the regular season.
Urbik on block? The Bills have already placed wide receiver T.J. Graham on the trade block, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan, but he may not be the only player. Guard Kraig Urbik, who started 16 games last season, could also be available, according to a tweet from CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora. The Bills seemingly tried everything they could do to push Urbik out of the starting lineup this preseason, shuffling players in and out of his right guard spot. Eventually the return of Cordy Glenn at left tackle had the trickle-down effect of moving Erik Pears to right guard. That could be the final blow to Urbik.
CHICAGO -- In the past, clinging to a six-point lead with 5:21 left and the opposing team taking possession at its own 11-yard line, it would have seemed almost certain the Chicago Bears would hold on to win.
Yet that wasn’t the feeling Thursday night at a tense Soldier Field, and likely won’t ever be this season with the way Chicago’s defense continues to struggle.
During that frantic sequence, New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs broke loose for 14 yards on first down. Three plays later, Eli Manning hit Hakeem Nicks for an 11-yard gain. Two more running plays picked up 25 yards, and by the 2:02 mark, the Giants had advanced all the way to the Chicago 35.
“It wasn’t pretty out there,” said cornerback Tim Jennings, arguably the game’s most valuable player. He preserved Chicago’s 27-21 victory with an interception at the Bears' 10-yard line with 1:54 remaining, and he had put a touchdown on the board in the first quarter with a 48-yard interception return.
“We got off to a fast start. We didn’t finish strong, though. We’ve got to go back and figure it out. We didn’t play well. Of course we’re happy with the win. But just going back and watching, it’s not going to be a pretty thing to watch. It’s a learning tool. We’ll get something out of it.”
The Bears certainly need to.
Chicago captured its 10th consecutive victory in a game in which it scored a defensive touchdown. Since 2005, the Bears are 24-2 when they score on defense. It's an impressive statistic. But the primary objective on defense is to stop the opponent from scoring -- something Chicago hasn’t done all season.
The Bears are allowing 26.8 points per game, and haven’t yet limited an opponent to fewer than 21 points. Since 2010, the Bears are 15-6 when they hold teams to 17 points or fewer. During that span, when they allow 18 points or more the Bears are 18-15.
“Our guys, we missed some tackles,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We didn’t make some plays, certainly, we need to make down the road here.”
Jacobs finished the game with 106 yards and two touchdowns, marking the third time an opponent rushed for 100 yards or more against the Bears.
The Giants came into the game with the NFL’s lowest conversion percentage (26.2) on third down, yet skyrocketed that number up to 64 percent against the Bears. Manning completed four passes for gains of 20 yards or more, including two connections for 30-plus yards.
“We’ve got to work on third downs,” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. “Third downs have been the bane of our defense this year.”
Chicago’s starting front four featured defensive end Corey Wootton inside at tackle alongside Landon Cohen, who joined the team on Sept. 29, as well as defensive ends Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin.
By the time the Giants attempted to mount their late rally, the Bears had already lost two more starters: linebackers in D.J. Williams (chest) and James Anderson (back)
“You’re right about these injuries,” safety Major Wright said. “But it’s the NFL? What do you expect?”
Obviously not what observers in the past had become accustomed to from a Bears defense in a crucial situation with advantageous field position. But in the end, Chicago’s defense found a way to seal the victory thanks to two interceptions from Jennings and another from Zack Bowman, who filled in for Tillman.
“We want to be out there on that field around that time,” Wright said. “We’ve got some special players, and any time during a game, we can get a turnover -- by anybody. We knew something was gonna happen, and it was Tim.”
But the truth is, the Bears can’t always rely on that.
Collins hurt the knee while attempting to pressure Saints quarterback Drew Brees on a pass attempt. Collins' knee appeared to buckle as he was tied up with a New Orleans offensive lineman. The four-year veteran defensive lineman grabbed his knee after falling to the ground and remained on the turf for a short period of time before eventually walking back to the locker room under his own power.
Collins moved into the Bears’ starting lineup after Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Entering Sunday’s game versus the Saints, Collins led all Bears defensive linemen with 10 tackles through the first four games. Collins also recorded two quarterback pressures and forced one fumble.
The Bears are perilously thin on their defensive line. Not only are Turk McBride and Melton already on injured reserve, but starting nose tackle Stephen Paea was inactive on Sunday because of toe injury. The Bears also lost another prospective body on the defensive line when veteran tackle Sedrick Ellis announced his retirement on the eve of training camp.
Because of the rash of injuries on the defensive line, relative newcomer Landon Cohen and undrafted rookie Zach Minter are both in the defensive tackle rotation on Sunday, along with Corey Wootton, who the club bumped inside from his customary defensive end spot. David Bass is seeing significant playing time outside at end.
Melton tore the ACL in his left knee with 12:58 left to play in Chicago’s 40-23 victory Sunday over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Looking to add depth, the Bears brought in Cohen and Daniel Muir for tryouts, before opting Friday to sign the former.
“I just talked to [general manager] Phil [Emery] about him,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “I don’t know much, but he’s with us. We’ll find out a little bit more. Phil’s been out of town, so I’ll have a chance to chat with him. I did by phone, but [I’ll] have a chance to talk with him a little bit more.”
Cohen has played in 27 career NFL games (with five starts) for Detroit (2008-09), Jacksonville (2010), New England (2010-11) and Dallas (2013). He has posted 32 tackles.
Fourth-year veteran Nate Collins will start Sunday opposite Stephen Paea, who is expected to move into Melton’s customary spot as the three-technique while Collins plays nose tackle. It’s likely that defensive end Corey Wootton will also kick inside to defensive tackle to enter the rotation, which will also include undrafted free-agent Zach Minter.
Minter had been among the team’s inactives over the first three games.
“[Melton] is definitely a great player. No one is going to do what he does out there,” Minter said. “But when the opportunity presents itself, it’s our job to take advantage, but also step up and play like he’s not missing. So it’s up to us to keep the momentum going, keep the pass rush up and get after the football.”
Melton has 13 sacks since 2011, which ranks second among defensive tackles during that span. So replacing him will be a difficult proposition for Chicago’s already struggling pass rush. Through the first three games, Collins has contributed seven tackles in limited action.
Filling in for an injured Melton at Pittsburgh, Collins posted two tackles.
“I feel like I’m aggressive, like I might be a little undersized,” Collins said. “But in some situations, playing in that phone booth at nose tackle, it’s an advantage as long as I keep my pads down and use my leverage to my advantage.”
In fact, the four Cowboys who received the highest grades from ProFootballFocus.com’s play-by-play evaluation of the season-opening win were starting defensive linemen.
It’s not necessarily a surprise to see defensive end DeMarcus Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher at the top of the list, although this was their first game in a 4-3 scheme. It’s much more noteworthy that defensive end George Selvie and defensive tackle Nick Hayden, a couple of fill-in starters for former Pro Bowlers, performed so well.
Selvie figured his football career could be over when he didn’t get signed all offseason, then seized his opportunity when the Cowboys called him after Anthony Spencer needed knee surgery the first week of training camp. Hayden was out of football last season, but he’s consistently impressed the Cowboys coaches since signing in the spring.
The Cowboys also got quality contributions from reserve defensive tackle Landon Cohen, who was out of football last year and signed with the Cowboys the same day as Selvie, and reserve defensive tackle/end Jerome Long, who was released in the cuts to 53 and re-signed the day before the opener.
“Man, they did an awesome job,” said Hatcher, who had a sack and a hurry. “Hayden just had a monster game. Selvie came in and a few guys came in off the street. Long came in like yesterday and spared us a few plays.
“When you have leaders on the D-line, it’s easy to bring guys in and show them the way. Hats off to those guys, man. They did a tremendous job coming in off the street and doing what they do.”
Ware picked off an Eli Manning screen pass on the first snap of the game. He was relatively quiet the rest of the night, recording one hurry and one pass defensed, but his mere presence as a pass-rushing threat made a major impact.
Selvie benefitted from the Giants sliding protection towards Ware. The 26-year-old journeyman had a critical sack in the red zone, two hurries and a fumble recovery.
Hayden anchored the Dallas run defense, which held the Giants to 3.6 yards per carry, and forced the fumble that safety Barry Church returned for a touchdown.
“I’m really proud of some of these guys coming in off the bus,” Marinelli said. “They played very well and played very hard. We’ll get better.”
Anthony Spencer will be ready for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the New York Giants, but he will have less than a week of practice after undergoing knee surgery July 25. It is not possible to expect Spencer to be able to play a full game at a high level after such a long absence.
Tyrone Crawford is on crutches, wearing a cast because of a torn Achilles’ tendon suffered in the first training-camp practice and is out for the year.
All offseason the Cowboys talked about the defensive line being a strength, as if saying it actually made it so.
Nick Hayden, who was out of football last year, will replace Ratliff in the starting lineup. George Selvie, who was out of football for two months this summer after his release from Jacksonville, could start or at least see significant action with Spencer working his way back. He has three sacks in 36 games for three teams.
Ben Bass, who made the Cowboys’ roster last year after gaining a tryout to the rookie camp, is projected to be Crawford’s replacement based on his ability to play end and tackle. Landon Cohen came in the same day as Selvie and could find his way into the defensive line rotation. Kyle Wilber, who barely played as a rookie outside linebacker in 2012, is another rotation player. Sean Lissemore is another rotation guy, but seems to be a better fit for a 3-4 defense than a 4-3 scheme.
The Cowboys chose not to select a defensive lineman in last April’s draft. They didn’t like Sharrif Floyd in the first round because, as Jerry Jones said, he did not possess the “fast twitch,” they want out of defensive linemen. They passed on defensive linemen in every other round, too.
Remember, the Cowboys believed the defensive line was a position of strength.
Rod Marinelli has earned rave reviews from the front office, fellow coaches and players during his short time with the club. He is a mix of pass-rush whisperer and task-master.
He will have to be at his best with Ratliff out for six games at least, Spencer attempting to return to form and Crawford out for the year.
In April, they viewed the defensive line as a strength. Now it’s a question mark.
Jones allowed for only one question to be asked -- about his concern for defensive tackle Jay Ratliff missing this week and most likely next week's practices.
"Well, I'm not, and I think that's the best way to go," Jones said. "That's all I got right now."
Jones then wondered where one of the team doctors was -- behind him, it turned out -- and left for the day.
The Cowboys have numerous injuries along the defensive line, missing four players; they signed two, Landon Cohen and George Selvie, on Wednesday.
Jones hasn't spoken to reporters since last Saturday's news conference to open training camp.
The Cowboys media contingent has been eager for Jones' take on a number of developments since his last full chat, including the injuries that have befallen the team, how the Cowboys have performed thus far in camp, and a naming-rights deal that appears to be in the offing.
- Seattle Seahawks: released kicker Jeff Reed, defensive lineman Junior Siavii, defensive lineman Pep Levingston and linebacker David Vobora; claimed defensive lineman Landon Cohen (New England), kicker Steven Hauschka (Denver), defensive lineman Al Woods (Tampa Bay) and tackle Jarriel King (New York Giants).
- Arizona Cardinals: released rookie linebacker Quan Sturdivant and veteran tight end Stephen Spach; put in a failed waiver claim for receiver Brandon Tate; agreed to terms with veteran running back Chester Taylor; claimed defensive backs Crezdon Butler (Pittsburgh) and Korey Lindsey (Cincinnati) off waivers.
- St. Louis Rams: lost quarterback Thaddeus Lewis to Cleveland, defensive end George Selvie to Carolina and receiver Mardy Gilyard to the New York Jets on waiver claims; agreed to terms with veteran interior offensive lineman Tony Wragge.
- San Francisco 49ers: claimed quarterback Scott Tolzien off waivers from San Diego, releasing linebacker Keaton Kristick with an injury designation to make room on the roster; put in a failed waiver claim for former New England tight end Lee Smith.
Teams are also assembling practice squads. The 49ers announced adding seven players to theirs, all released by the team on the reduction to 53 players. I'll round up those additions once they become official.
- Running back Rashad Jennings
- Guard Kevin Haslam
- Tight end Zach Potter
- Defensive end Aaron Morgan
- Defensive tackle C.J. Mosley
- Defensive tackle Landon Cohen
- Linebacker Justin Durant
- Safety Sean Considine
Signed quarterback Tom Brandstater, defensive end John Chick, receiver Brandon James, defensive back Mike Newton and receiver Blair White to the practice squad.
Were awarded defensive tackle Landon Cohen off waivers from the Detroit Lions. Released offensive lineman Paul McQuistan.
Signed offensive tackle Daniel Baldridge, tight end Mike Caussin, receiver John Matthews, and defensive tackle Kommonyan Quaye to the practice squad.
Were awarded linebacker Tim Shaw from the Chicago Bears and linebacker Patrick Bailey from the Pittsburgh Steelers off waivers. Released linebackers Stanford Keglar and running back LeGarrette Blount.
Signed defensive lineman Hall Davis, receiver Dominique Edison, cornerback Pete Ittersagen, center Kevin Matthews, safety Myron Rolle and linebacker Patrick Trahan to the practice squad.
Biggest surprise: Veteran cornerbacks Dre Bly and Eric King were among six cornerbacks released. The Lions' secondary was hardly exemplary during the preseason, but you figured Bly or King would make the team to provide some level of veteran presence. As it stands now, the Lions' cornerbacks include starters Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade, rookie Aaron Berry and newcomer Alphonso Smith. I'm not saying it was a mistake to cut Bly and King. Just a bit surprising. Defensive tackle Landon Cohen, meanwhile, saw the Lions overhaul his position in the offseason, but seemed to make enough plays in training camp and during the preseason to earn a roster spot. Instead, his spot went to Andre Fluellen. Finally, the Lions chose Aaron Brown over DeDe Dorsey for the final running back spot. Dorsey made two big plays in the preseason finale, but coaches chose Brown's speed and potential special teams contribution.
No-brainers: I give the Lions credit for releasing linebacker Vinny Ciurciu. He entered training camp as a player focused on special teams, but spent most of it filling in for injured middle linebacker DeAndre Levy. Ciurciu hasn't played much linebacker in his career, and unfortunately for him, the extended time revealed that he wouldn't be able to hold down the position should he be called on in a relief role during the season.
What's next: The Lions need to settle their secondary following this weekend of flux. Who is their nickel back? What about the dime? Will rookie Amari Spievey remain at safety or move back to cornerback to provide more depth? The team is also going to need to spend some more time looking for depth at linebacker. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them focus at that position over the next few days.
We teased you Sunday night with some (bad) pop culture humor. Monday morning, we can tell you what's coming.
Actually, it's already here.
ESPN Chicago -- the Web site.
Yes, Monday is the debut for an ESPN-styled site devoted solely to Chicago sports. Some of the best writers in the ESPN stable -- Gene Wojciechowski, Wayne Drehs, Scoop Jackson and more -- will be contributing regular pieces on the Bears, Cubs, White Sox and Big 10 college sports as well. And Jeff Dickerson, who you might know from ESPN 1000 radio, is writing a Bears blog.
This won't change the frequency and tone of the Bears coverage here on the Black and Blue blog. Consider it another layer at our disposal. I'll do my best to link to the best of the Bears coverage on the site, and from time to time some of our Bears discussions will appear there as well. So check it out.
In the meantime, let's catch up on the weekend and start our sprint to the NFL draft.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune considers the Bears "the most improved playoff-caliber team in the NFC heading into the NFL draft."
- The Bears haven't yet launched an advertising campaign around the acquisition of Jay Cutler, writes Lewis Lazare of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Detroit cornerback Travis Fisher predicts the Lions' defense will be "vicious" under new coordinator Gunther Cunningham, writes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Free Press looks at four players the Lions have drafted in recent years who need to bulk up for the team's new defensive system: Linebacker Jordon Dizon, defensive tackle Andre Fluellen, defensive tackle Landon Cohen and defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis.
- Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has an interesting piece on how health insurance works for Packers players. When a player is injured, the resulting care falls under workman's compensation. Most teams budget $1 million or more for this insurance, Demovsky reports.
- Minnesota has eliminated 78 players from its draft board for various red flags, including character and health, according to Chip Scoggins and Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- The Vikings have had 95 percent attendance in their offseason strength and conditioning program, writes Scoggins.
1:00 PM ET San Diego Buffalo 1:00 PM ET Dallas St. Louis 1:00 PM ET Washington Philadelphia 1:00 PM ET Houston New York 1:00 PM ET Minnesota New Orleans 1:00 PM ET Tennessee Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET Baltimore Cleveland 1:00 PM ET Green Bay Detroit 1:00 PM ET Indianapolis Jacksonville 1:00 PM ET Oakland New England 4:05 PM ET San Francisco Arizona 4:25 PM ET Denver Seattle 4:25 PM ET Kansas City Miami 8:30 PM ET Pittsburgh Carolina