Cowboys WR progress, Bengals have 9 players on initial injury report

The Cowboys and Bengals are deep into preparations for their Week 2 tilt. Here’s who’s working and who’s on the mend. | From @KDDrummondNFL

As work began in full towards the weekend matchup, Dallas is making their way without four starters and a key reserve. Meanwhile the Cowboys next opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, have a long list of players on their practice report. The number is misleading however as all of the key members of their depth chart are either full participants after playing in Week 1, or trending in the direction of suiting up.

Here’s a look at the practice report from Wednesday.

Bears’ Jaylon Johnson, Darnell Mooney are first-round picks in PFF’s 2020 re-draft

The Bears got steals in both CB Jaylon Johnson and WR Darnell Mooney, who were both first-round selections in PFF’s 2020 NFL re-draft.

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Pro Football Focus took a crack at re-drafting the 2020 NFL draft, where Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson and wide receiver Darnell Mooney were both selected in the first round to NFC North rivals.

With the 22nd overall pick, the Minnesota Vikings originally selected wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who went third to the Detroit Lions in this re-draft. Instead, PFF has Minnesota drafting Johnson, who originally was the 50th overall selection, in this re-draft.

This selection doesn’t fill the Vikings’ need for a wide receiver to pair with Adam Thielen, but Minnesota has also had a revolving cast of cornerbacks in recent years. Johnson has responded well to the No. 1 role he’s been forced into on the outside. There’s still some room for growth, but Johnson has been active at the catch point for Chicago, as his 15.3% forced incompletion rate ranks sixth among 64 cornerbacks with at least 100 targets since 2020.

The Green Bay Packers originally drafted quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th overall selection, which spurned quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In this re-draft, the Packers give Rodgers the wide receiver he wanted in Mooney, who was originally a fifth-round selection.

Mooney isn’t best suited as the No. 1 option he currently is in Chicago, but he does represent a nice complementary piece to a passing attack that can stress defenses vertically. Mooney’s 0.4 wins above a replacement since 2020 rank sixth among wide receivers in the draft class — just behind Claypool in Pittsburgh.

Both Johnson and Mooney are cornerstones for this franchise moving forward. And it’s safe to say Chicago got a steal in both of them.

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Matt Nagy ghosted Allen Robinson following Bears’ 2020 season

Allen Robinson got the cold shoulder from Matt Nagy following the Bears’ 2020 season.

The Bears fired Matt Nagy following the end of a disappointing 2021 season, and it didn’t take long for some unflattering stories to surface about Nagy’s time in Chicago.

According to a feature by The Athletic‘s Adam Jahns and Kevin Fishbain, Nagy once blew off a meeting with quarterback Mitch Trubisky following the 2019 season. Now, a new story is surfacing from wide receiver Allen Robinson, who also got the cold shoulder from Nagy.

Robinson appeared on the Cut to It podcast with Steve Smith, where he explained how Nagy never had an exit interview with Robinson, as is custom, following the 2020 season.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t talk to him, we didn’t talk,” Robinson said. “I’m gonna say, ‘We didn’t talk,’ because from the time the season ended, on the plane after the Saints game, the following 24 to 48 hours, there’s some sort of exit meetings. For us, because of COVID, that was supposed to scheduled with the head coach and management, or whoever they were coordinating that, via Zoom. Talked to the receivers coach, talked to equipment, everybody else. Few days go by, no Zoom link. Week go by, no Zoom link.

“I was a pending free agent at that point. I didn’t know which direction they were wanting to go, either way or not, So for me, I’m waiting for that exit meeting so we can talk about this thing. Like, what do you all see, or think, in the foreseeable future, just to five me an idea. So for me it it’s supposed to be a Zoom link sent out to me, cool. Alright, I’m waiting for that Zoom link so we can chop it up and see what’s up. Even from a football side, from how do we improve next year? A week go by, no Zoom link. Two weeks, no Zoom. Now January, we’re into February, nope.”

With a new regime in place following the firings of Nagy and GM Ryan Pace, you have to wonder if perhaps new GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus could somehow convince Robinson to return.

In a way, it would be a clean slate with a new regime in place. But the more likely option is Robinson exploring free agency and finding the most bang for his buck.

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Cowboys WR Amari Cooper placed on COVID list, will miss Week 11 game vs Chiefs

The Cowboys’ WR1 could also miss the Thanksgiving rematch against his old Raiders team. | From @ToddBrock24f7

The Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott will be without one of their most lethal weapons when they travel to Kansas City for their Week 11 game. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has been placed on the team’s Reserve/COVID list, according to the team website.

The timing of the roster move means he will definitely be ineligible to play Sunday. And due to the short week before the Thanksgiving Day game, Cooper is in serious jeopardy of also missing that contest, in which he was to face his old Raiders team. Cooper’s vaccinations status, which is not known, could even impact his availability for the Cowboys’ Week 13 game in New Orleans.

Cooper is currently second on the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. As one of the few current Cowboys players who has experienced a game at Arrowhead Stadium, Cooper had just this week shared with his teammates some tips for dealing with the challenging and noisy environment.

“It is different than other spots. It gets pretty loud there,” Cooper said. “It is going to be a challenge for us, definitely with the noise.”

“It just depends on how well you can handle it as a team. I think we’ve been handling it pretty well as a team, especially with Dak recognizing the blitz, being able to get into the right situations and get the ball off on-time and stuff. We’ve been handling it well. I don’t think we’ve played a team that’s just blitzed as much as they do, so again, it’s going to be another challenge for us from that aspect as well.”

CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Cedrick Wilson will now be the top three pass-catching targets for Prescott in what is expected to be a high-scoring affair.

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Khris Bogle continues to be a valuable rotation player for Florida

Bogle isn’t starting right now, but he’s seen action in every game so far in 2021.

Name: Khris Bogle

Number: 8

Position: Outside Linebacker

Class: Junior

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 242 lbs

Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

High School: Cardinal Gibbons

2020 statistics:

TOT SOLO AST SACK FF FR
27 11 16 4 1 0

Overview:

Bogle was one of coach Dan Mullen‘s first major recruiting wins, and it came over the sport’s greatest coach in Nick Saban. Bogle committed to Alabama the January of his senior year, but on National Signing Day, he announced that he’d be flipping to Florida.

A four-star recruit and top-100 player, Bogle saw early action as a true freshman, playing in all 13 games as a rotational linebacker/BUCK player. He totaled 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Bogle was expected to play a rotational role again in 2020, but a season-ending injury to Jeremiah Moon led to him starting four games at BUCK, and he had a career-high 27 tackles with four sacks and a fumble recovery.

He was expected to be a key member of the rotation once again, and while the bulk of the playing time has gone to Moon and Brenton Cox Jr., Bogle has still appeared in all seven games and has 14 tackles to go with a sack.

Bogle has never quite had the impact he was expected to coming out of high school, but he has been an important and reliable member of this defense since arriving on campus.

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Australia product Jeremy Crawshaw looks to become next great Gators punter

Punter Jeremy Crawshaw looks to become college football’s next great punter to hail from Australia.

Name: Jeremy Crawshaw

Number: 26

Position: Punter

Class: Redshirt Freshman

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 193 lbs

Hometown: Emu Plains, New South Wales, Australia

Previous School: ProKick Australia

Twitter: @jeremy_crawshaw

2020 statistics:

PUNTS AVG LNG YDS TB IN20 NET
2 49 50 98 0 1 49

Overview:

Originally from outside of Sydney, Australia, Crawshaw is the next in a long line of punters from the land down under that have broken through in college football in recent years. Discovered by ProKick Australia, Crawshaw was a two-star recruit rated as the No. 9 punter in the 2020 recruiting class.

Crawshaw early enrolled at Florida as a true freshman last season, but he found himself as the backup to redshirt senior Jacob Finn. The only action Crawshaw saw was in the Cotton Bowl loss to Oklahoma, when he had two boots for an average of 49 yards.

After the 2020 season, Finn announced that he was transferring to Virginia, clearing the way for Crawshaw to start in 2021 as a redshirt freshman.

He’s been Florida’s primary punter through the first five games, and he’s attempted 15 punts for an average of 45.3 yards so far in 2021. He has three touchbacks and six punts downed inside the 20 this season.

Crawshaw hasn’t been amazing, and it’s clear UF’s specialists have taken a step back since the days of the Townsend brothers and Evan McPherson. Still, Crawshaw is a talented punter who should be a solid starter for the next few seasons.

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Avery Helm surging into a starting role in his second year

It was a bit surprising when Helm was named the starter opposite Kaiir Elam, but he has held the job down through the first three weeks of the season.

Name: Avery Helm

Number: 24

Position: Cornerback

Class: Redshirt Freshman

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 180 lbs

Hometown: Missouri City, Texas

High School: Fort Bend Marshall

Twitter: @FMB_Helm

2020 statistics:

TOT SOLO SACK FF INT PD
1 1 0 0 0 0

Overview:

A four-star recruit in the 2020 recruiting class from Fort Bend Marshall High School in Missouri City, Texas, Helm was expected to be a bit of a project player. He was only the No. 24 corner in the nation coming out of high school, and he was the third-highest rated defensive back Florida signed in the class.

He didn’t see much action as a true freshman in 2020, appearing in just one game, Florida’s loss to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. With a number of starters sitting out, UF gave a lot of opportunities to younger players like Helm in that game, and he earned a tackle.

Helm entered the 2021 season expected to be a rotational player in the secondary, but those plans changed when projected starter Jaydon Hill was lost for the season with a knee injury in camp. Helm won the starting job opposite Kaiir Elam over true freshman Jason Marshall, and though he’s had to deal with some learning curves as a redshirt freshman, he does have five tackles and a pass deflection through three games.

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Patience paying off for Rick Wells in his sixth season

Wells is making an impact on the field after a difficult start to his Florida career.

Name: Rick Wells

Number: 12

Position: Wide Receiver

Class: Redshirt Junior

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 200 lbs

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida

High School: Raines

Twitter: @Rick_Wells3

2020 statistics:

REC YDS AVG TD LNG
12 120 10 0 20

Overview:

Wells was a three-star recruit from Raines High School in Jacksonville coming out of high school, and he was the first player to join the 2016 recruiting class under then-coach Jim McElwain. Wells held firm on his commitment, and he eventually signed with the Gators.

The early part of Wells’ college career was marred by off-the-field incidents. He was arrested for an airsoft gun incident in 2016 before the beginning of the season, and he eventually redshirted after not appearing in a game that year. Then, he missed the entirety of his redshirt freshman season in 2017 due to his involvement in the credit card fraud scandal.

Wells was internally disciplined in the summer of 2018 for another airsoft gun incident that involved five of his teammates, as well, and he only made one catch for 10 yards as a redshirt sophomore despite appearing in 10 games, mostly as a reserve receiver and on special teams.

It was largely the same story in 2019. Wells was suspended for the season opener for unknown reasons, and despite playing in nine games, he only boosted his catches from one to two for 27 yards.

The 2020 season, however, was when things finally started to go right for Wells. Though he was buried on the receiver depth chart by Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland, he still had the best season of his career, by far. Appearing at receiver in 10 games, he totaled 120 yards on 12 catches.

Wells understandably took advantage of the extra year of eligibility allowed to players due to COVID-19, and he returned in 2021 for his sixth year in his biggest role yet.

2021: Through three games, he already has seven catches for 82 yards, and he caught the first touchdown of his college career in the season opener against Florida Atlantic. Though he’s still a backup, he’s one of Florida’s primary rotational receivers, and he should be in store for a career year during his final campaign in the orange and blue.

Video:

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Veteran Amari Burney will face some competition in 2021

Burney is set to start the opener this weekend, but linebacker is set to be a competitive spot for the Gators in 2021.

Name: Amari Burney

Number: 2

Position: Linebacker

Class: Senior

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 230 lbs

Hometown: St. Petersburg, Florida

High School: Calvary Christian

Twitter: @amari_burney

2020 statistics:

TOT SOLO SACK FF FR INT PD
52 30 2 0 0 1 2

Overview:

A four-star recruit from St. Petersburg, Burney committed to the Gators in June before his senior year of high school, and he signed with the team during the early signing period in December of 2017. He began his career as a defensive back, and saw reserve action on defense and a lot of time on special teams as a freshman, when he totaled 12 tackles and a sack.

Burney moved to linebacker ahead of his sophomore season, and he played in eight games with three starts, also seeing some action at the STAR linebacker safety hybrid position. He had 37 tackles, a fumble recovery and notched his first career interception.

Burney entered the 2020 season expected to be one of Florida’s key contributors on defense, but he saw his role diminish a bit. He appeared in every game, but started just four of them. Still, he reached a career-high in tackles with 52 and sacks with two.

Entering the 2021 season, Burney is listed as a starter at linebacker alongside Ventrell Miller. But he could be pushed by Mohamoud Diabate, who has been very impressive during his Florida career, and Ty’Ron Hopper, who enters his third season and was a role player last year.

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Back from injury, Trent Whittemore is ready to breakout

The Gainesville native is primed to have a breakout season after last year’s campaign was cut short.

Name: Trent Whittemore

Number: 14

Position: Wide Receiver

Class: Redshirt Freshman

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 211 lbs

Hometown: Gainesville, Florida

High School: Buchholz

Twitter@trentt_whitt

2020 statistics:

REC YDS AVG TD
10 128 12.8 1

Overview:

Trent Whittmore grew up in Gainesville cheering for the Gators. Now he plays for UF and is coming back from a broken rib and punctured lung as a redshirt freshman.

Whittemore returned from the injury last season to play in the Cotton Bowl, but he didn’t reach 100 percent until the summer. Healthy and ready to contribute, Whittemore will be a big part of the receiving core with Jacob Copeland and Justin Shorter.

Coming out of high school, Whittemore thought he’d play safety, but the Gators liked him more as a receiver. The three-star prospect converted without hesitation and now looks to be Emory Jones‘ man in the slot. Whittemore has learned behind guys like Kadrius Toney and Freddie Swain and says he’s ready to put his spin on things.

At 6-feet-4-inches and 211 pounds, Whittemore is a more physical receiver than the Gators normally feature in the slot. Rick Wells, Jacob Copeland and Xzavier Henderson will also get time at the position, but the rotation will help create situational matchups for the Gators.

If Whittemore stays healthy, he should be able to have a career year.

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