NFL News & Analysis

August 16 Training Camp Notes: Zach Wilson undergoes successful knee surgery, Ikem Ekwonu named Panthers starting left tackle and more

Spartanburg, SC, USA; Carolina Panthers rookie tackle Ikem Ekwonu (79) walks to his first practice at Wofford College. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Jets get good news on quarterback Zach Wilson

  • The Jets officially avoided a nightmare scenario, as the second-year quarterback underwent surgery and just needed to have his meniscus trimmed. The surgery went by without any new revelations.
  • The team won’t put an official timetable on his return, but the belief is Wilson will be sidelined for roughly 3-6 weeks. The Jets will be cautious not to rush him back.
  • In the meantime, veteran quarterback Joe Flacco is expected to take over starting duties with Mike White serving as his backup.
  • Jets head coach Robert Saleh has consistently praised Flacco throughout training camp, saying the former Super Bowl MVP is “really, really talented” and “should be a starter in this league.”
  • Barring something unexpected, Flacco — who earned a 58.8 PFF grade in his lone start last season — is poised to start Week 1 against his former team, the Baltimore Ravens.

Panthers name Ikem Ekwonu starting left tackle

  • This was the expectation when Carolina drafted the N.C. State standout at No. 6 overall in April’s draft.
  • The Panthers did not want to give Ekwonu the starting job right away but rather preferred to see him earn it throughout OTAs and camp.
  • He played 16 snaps in Carolina’s preseason opener and earned a 56.4 PFF grade.
  • 2021 third-rounder Brady Christensen was competing with Ekwonu, but he’ll now transition and compete with veteran guard Michael Jordan for the starting left guard spot.

Seahawks QB Drew Lock tests positive for COVID-19

  • Lock was scheduled to start Thursday night's preseason game vs. the Chicago Bears, but this now takes him off the field.
  • Any player who tests positive for COVID-19 must isolate for five days. The league is no longer testing for COVID, so Lock had to self-report his positive test.
  • Lock, acquired from the Broncos in the Russell Wilson trade this offseason, is in the midst of a quarterback competition with Geno Smith.
  • Head coach Pete Carroll told reporters Tuesday that Smith is still leading the way, but no decision was imminent. The plan was for Lock to get a preseason start after Smith started the first game.
  • In Saturday's preseason game against Pittsburgh, Smith played the first half and went 10-of-15 for 101 yards and made two big-time throws, earning an 88.0 PFF grade. Lock took over for the second half and went 11-of-15 for 102 yards, two touchdowns and one big-time throw, earning a 63.3 overall grade.
  • We'll see if this news throws a wrench into Seattle's quarterback competition. Their final preseason game is scheduled for Aug. 26 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Raiders trading second-year S Tyree Gillespie to Titans

  • A conditional late-round pick will be going back to Las Vegas in this trade.
  • The Raiders, under former general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden, selected Gillespie in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He appeared in just three games as a rookie and played in 13 total snaps.
  • Gillespie had been competing for a backup safety spot behind Johnathan Abram and Trevon Moehrig. Former Patriots safety Duron Hamon, who has ties to the new regime, was signed this offseason and likely had the leg up on Gillespie in camp.
  • In two preseason games so far, Gillespie has played 40 total snaps, earning a 71.6 overall PFF grade.
  • This is another depth move for Tennessee, who also claimed former Texans second-round cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. off waivers on Tuesday.

Buccaneers sign DE Carl Nassib, release DB Ross Cockrell

  • It’s a one-year deal for Nassib, who returns to Tampa Bay after spending the past two years with the Raiders. 
  • Nassib was with the Buccaneers from 2018-2019 and totaled 12.5 sacks, 20 tackles for a loss, 63 tackles and three forced fumbles. His 69.2 PFF grade in 2019 is the best mark of his career, and he spent that season with then-defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who is now Tampa Bay’s head coach.
  • The 28-year-old Nassib came out as the first openly gay active player in the NFL last year.
  • In a corresponding move, the Buccaneers released veteran defensive back Ross Cockrell, who has been with the team the past two years. He played in every game last season and appeared in 12 during the 2020 campaign. He has earned a 68.0-plus PFF grade in five of the past six seasons.

Dolphins put TE Adam Shaheen on IR, ending his season

  • Shaheen was traded to the Texans last week, but Houston failed him on his physical due to a knee injury.
  • He reverted back to Miami’s roster, with the team now placing him on IR. Any player placed on IR during camp is out for the entire season.
  • The only scenario to get back on the field is to be released via injury settlement, which could become an option here. Shaheen did not miss any camp time prior to the trade with Houston. The knee injury is not believed to be season-ending.
  • Shaheen had 24 receptions for 260 yards and three touchdowns in 28 games during his time with the Dolphins. He earned a 59.3 overall grade last season. 

Titans claim CB Lonnie Johnson Jr. off waivers

  • Johnson had been with the Chiefs in training camp but was waived Monday. Tennessee will be his third team in a matter of months, as Kansas City acquired him from the Texans in a trade back in May.
  • A second-round pick in 2019, Johnson showed some flashes in his sophomore season (65.5 grade) but struggled severely as a rookie (36.0 grade) and then again last season when he earned a 31.7 PFF grade.
  • The Titans lost Buster Skrine before the start of camp when he retired. Johnson will look to revive his career as he returns to the AFC South.

Patriots lose CBs Malcolm Butler, Joejuan Williams for the season.

  • Williams suffered a shoulder injury, while Malcolm Butler’s injury is unclear. Both will be placed on injured reserve. 
  • The Patriots traded up to select Williams in the second round of the 2019 draft, but he has not lived up to his draft status, playing just 506 snaps in three seasons. He entered camp on the roster bubble after the team drafted Marcus Jones and Jack Jones.
  • Butler, the former Patriots Super Bowl hero, was brought back by New England this offseason after a brief one-year retirement. In his last full season in 2020, he earned a 71.6 PFF grade and a 72.7 coverage grade.

Raiders release veteran WR Demarcus Robinson and DT Vernon Butler

  • Robinson signed with Las Vegas this offseason after spending the past six years with Kansas City. 
  • He never missed a game over that stretch and has 145 career receptions for 1,679 yards and 14 touchdowns. He earned a 51.1 PFF grade last season, the lowest mark of his career.
  • Butler also signed with the Raiders this offseason after spending the past two years in Buffalo. 
  • A first-round pick of the Panthers in 2016, Butler did not see much action last season, playing 285 snaps — the fewest since his rookie year — and earning a career-low 34.5 PFF grade.

Browns lose two centers to season-ending knee injuries

  • Browns starting center Nick Harris went down in Friday’s preseason game with a knee injury and was officially placed on injured reserve Tuesday. 
  • Reserve center Dawson Deaton went down in practice Monday, and tests confirmed a torn ACL, ending his season.
  • Veteran Ethan Pocic, who Cleveland signed to a one-year deal this offseason, is now working with the first team. He has 40 career starts under his belt and earned a 67.3 grade last season with Seattle.
  • J.C. Tretter, who was released by the Browns this offseason, is still on the free agent market and is PFF's highest-rated available center.
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