The new NFL season is only days away, with Thursday to mark the opening of what’s expected to be one of the most exciting campaigns in league history.
As such, we bring you some of the biggest stories heading into the upcoming term.
Tyrod Taylor Lands Starting QB Spot in Houston
Houston Texans coach David Culley confirmed the obvious on Monday with the announcement revealing Tyrod Taylor will be the team’s starting quarterback, not Deshaun Watson. The news hardly came as a surprise as it’s what many were expecting, yet it needed to be said ahead of the Texans’ Week 1 fixture against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Culley’s preseason affairs leaned that way and, given Taylor’s activity in training camp, there was little doubt over who would be named starting QB heading into the upcoming season. Taylor has been the starter since Watson became the subject of sexual assault accusations which include 22 civil lawsuits filed in March and April of this year.
Watson is currently under police investigation, with the FBI also said to be looking into the matter after it was alleged that he engaged in sexual assault and misconduct during massage sessions.
“Tyrod Taylor will start at quarterback for us, for sure,” Culley said on Monday, per ESPN’s Sarah Barshop.
The announcement confirms that Watson will remain as part of the roster but will not play. Apart from the off-field issues, there are other things to iron out as Watson had asked for a trade. It was thought that the team might tell the player they planned to field him and then fine or suspend him should he refuse to play. However, they have opted not to go that route.
The NFL is also carrying out their own investigations into the claims but, last week, Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported that the league has shown no signs of any plans to have Watson put on the Commissioner’s Exempt list amid the investigations by all parties.
While they wait for an outcome, Houston will look to Taylor, a starter in 47 career games who has loads of veteran experience.
“Not a very vocal guy, but first guy in, last one to leave,” Culley said in praise for Taylor, according to Aaron Wilson. “I have seen him a little bit more going into 11th year more vocal than he has been. I think those experiences have helped him be in position to lead our football team.”
The 32-year-old is likely to hold down the starting position for the Texans for a while as their next option is rookie David Mills.
T.J. Watt’s Availability For Week 1 In Doubt
T.J. Watt might not start for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 due to contract issues. Considered a favorite for the Defensive Player of the Year award this season, the pass rusher is entering a contract term with the Steelers that might not go through as smoothly as either side probably imagined.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler is reporting the star player’s availability for Sunday’s opener vs. the Buffalo Bills is in doubt and the player isn’t expected to play unless the parties can come to an agreement over a deal ahead of the game.
Watt, who is keen on securing a raise in pay, did not have full participation in any of the team’s practices during training camp while his practice status prior to the opener remains the same.
He isn’t considered a holdout as he attended every single practice this summer. However, he only took part in individual drills, remaining away from the rest of the team as he pushed for talks over a new deal. Coach Mike Tomlin is expected to address the player’s absence this week yet there is speculation over Sunday’s game being an unofficial extension deadline as the Steelers are known for refusing to negotiate new deals while the season is ongoing.
Pittsburgh is heading into Sunday’s game as the betting underdogs, with bookmakers offering live NFL odds heading into the 2021/22 opening week. The Bills are favored to win at 5/14 while the Steelers are at 23/10.
Ravens Make Mark Andrews 3rd-Highest Paid TE In The NFL With New Contract
Mark Andrews has been signed to a lucrative contract extension by the Baltimore Ravens. The team has rewarded key players with huge extensions this year – Ronnie Stanley and Marlon Humphrey have both made bank. But there are still a few contracts to hand out and, on Monday, Andrews became the latest player to sign a big-money contract.
An extension was always inevitable but the player could rest easy now that it’s actually done, with the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reporting the details of the deal. According to the aforementioned, Andrews is set to earn $56 million over four years, which will make him the third-highest paid tight end in the NFL.