Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
I'm going to start off today by reminding everyone just how cruel life can be for a kicker in the NFL. Riley Patterson was the star of Jacksonville's playoff run last season, going 3 for 3 on field goals in two games, including a 36-yard game-winner that capped a 27-0 comeback in a 31-30 win over the Chargers. However, Patterson is no longer on the team because he got cut on Thursday.
Most of the time, if you're a playoff hero, you do not get cut the following season, but that rule definitely doesn't apply to kickers, a position where anyone can be cut at any time. The Jaguars dumped Patterson because they've decided to move on to Brandon McManus, who was cut by the Broncos on Tuesday.
Anyway, now that you know how cruel life is for kickers, let's get to the rundown, where we'll be ranking the best defenses, plus looking at Patrick Mahomes' list of the five best quarterbacks ever.
As always, here's your daily reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here.
1. Ranking the NFL's best defenses
If you read this newsletter regularly, then you know that we love to rank things here, and after ranking the NFL's top offenses last week, it only makes sense for us to rank the top defenses, so that's what we're going to do today.
Although this is a top 10 ranking, it's not exactly a top 10 ranking. CBSSports.com's Jared Dubin went through each NFL team's roster and came up with a list of the 10 teams that are most likely to finish with a top 10 defense in the NFL this year. He broke his ranking down into several categories, which we'll cover below.
Most likely to finish with a top 10 defense:
- Bills: "Even without longtime defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, the Bills still have the infrastructure to remain among the league's top defenses with Sean McDermott, a returning Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, the NFL's best safety tandem, and Tre'Davious White."
- Cowboys: "I'm close to ready to declaring that as long as the Cowboys have Dan Quinn and Micah Parsons, they will be a top 10 defense. Far from regressing, the Cowboys improved on this side of the ball last year, and the addition of Stephon Gilmore should only make them stronger."
- Patriots: "New England finished last season ranked No. 1 in Football Outsiders' weighted defensive DVOA, meaning that by the end of the season, the Pats were playing like the best defense in the league. Adding Christian Gonzalez and Keion White, among others, to last season's group only figures to raise the ceiling of the group even further."
- 49ers: "The Niners have been the league's best defense over the past few years, and despite losing defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, they have more than enough on hand to remain at or near the top of the charts."
Somewhat likely to finish with a top 10 defense:
If you want to see the rest of Dubin's ranking and his explanation for each pick, then be sure to click here. Dubin also came up with a list of teams that almost certainly won't have a top 10 defense, and that list included the Falcons, Bears, Lions, Texans, Colts, Rams, Vikings, Giants, Buccaneers and Titans.
2. Commanders trademark application gets shot down
The Commanders have taken plenty of losses on the field over the past few seasons, and now, they're taking a big one OFF the field: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has denied the team's request to trademark "Washington Commanders."
This news came first from trademark attorney Josh Gerben who did a terrific job on Twitter of breaking down the situation for people like me who know nothing about the process of filing a trademark application.
Let's take a look at why this happened and what could be coming next for the "Commanders."
- Why the trademark got shot down. A trademark already exists for the "Commanders Classic," which is a big reason why Washington's trademark application fell through. The "Commanders Classic" is the annual college football game played between Army and Air Force.
- One other issue for the Commanders. Another reason the team's trademark request got denied is because someone in Washington D.C. has a pending application for two trademarks similar to what the team wants. The man is trying to trademark "Washington Space Commanders" and "Washington Wolf Commanders." This guy actually filed a bunch of trademarks several years ago in hopes that he would end up trademarking the name that Washington eventually went with, and well, it seems he did a pretty good job of that.
- Looking at the Commanders options. At this point, the team seems to have two options. They can try to convince the USPTO that no one will confuse the NFL team with the "Commanders Classic," and if that happens, the USPTO could approve Washington's trademark request. According to Gerben, the team will also need to "attempt to buy out the rights or sign a co-existence agreement" with the fan who filed the two trademarks.
The most likely outcome in all of this is that the Commanders get their trademark and end up keeping their name, which might disappoint all the fans who hate the name and who would very much like to see it changed for the third time in three years.
3. Patrick Mahomes ranks the top five quarterbacks of all time
If you were to ask anyone to rank the top five quarterbacks in the NFL right now, almost all of them would put Patrick Mahomes at the top. With two MVP awards and two Super Bowl wins under his belt, it's hard to make an argument for anyone BUT Mahomes as the top quarterback in the NFL.
Although there's no debate there, there is plenty of debate about who makes the cut on the list of the top five quarterbacks in NFL history. Mahomes actually got asked that question recently by Complex and he revealed his list.
So who are the five best quarterbacks in NFL history according to Mahomes? Let's take a look at his list:
1. Tom Brady
2. Peyton Manning
3. Aaron Rodgers
4. Joe Montana
5. Dan Marino or John Elway
One one hand, I like this list because it tells you how crazy Jim Irsay's list was. Last week, the Colts owner had John Elway ranked as the third-best PLAYER in NFL history when he's not even the third-best player at his own position. The only issue I think some people might have with Mahomes' list is that he doesn't really take older players into account like Johnny Unitas and Otto Graham. However, Mahomes wasn't born until 1995, so we'll cut him some slack there. Overall, I'd say this is a pretty impressive list.
Mahomes was also asked to rank the top five current quarterbacks, but he wasn't as forthcoming with that list. Instead, he answered the question by listing off nearly half the quarterbacks in the league, which you can check out here.
In other news that should scare every team in the NFL, the Chiefs QB also made it clear that he doesn't care about the fact that he's only the seventh-highest paid QB in the NFL. "I've always said I'm about legacy and winning rings more than making money at this moment," Mahomes said.
When it comes to contracts, Mahomes is taking the Tom Brady route and that should worry every other team in the NFL considering Brady won seven Super Bowl rings, in part, because he never demanded to be the highest-paid QB even though he easily could have done that.
4. Seven rookies who have stood out during OTAs
It's been almost a month since the NFL Draft ended, which means that rookies have now had almost a month to get acclimated to the NFL. Although NFL practices are pretty tame in May -- you can't tackle and contact is kept to a minimum -- there are several rookies who have already been turning some heads over the past month.
CBSSports.com's Jordan Dajani went through and made a list of rookies who have been the most impressive at OTAs so far. Let's take a look at a few of the names on his list:
- Panthers QB Bryce Young: "Head coach Frank Reich said Young's command was '10 out of 10' on the first day, and fellow quarterback Andy Dalton even claimed the rookie pointed out an incorrectly labeled play or formation during practice, per WCNC. We all knew Young's football IQ was going to quickly stand out... This is a strong start for the top quarterback in this class."
- Dolphins RB Devon Achane: "Achane made an immediate impact at OTAs. He chewed up yardage both on explosive runs, and on a deep ball thrown by Tua Tagovailoa. While he was a third-round pick, this burner is someone to keep an eye on. Mike McDaniel made his name scheming for the run, and Achane is someone who could flourish in this offense."
- Texans WR Nathaniel Dell: "University of Houston wideout Tank Dell didn't want to leave the city, and new Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud helped to make sure that didn't happen. This connection is in the infant stages of being special, as Dell was Stroud's favorite option in the passing game on Tuesday with four targets, per ESPN. No player in the FBS had more receptions (199), receiving yards (2,727) and receiving touchdowns (29) than Dell over the past two seasons."
- Broncos LB Drew Sanders: "The Broncos have what could be a top five defense, but they were missing that elite inside linebacker. Drew Sanders may be that guy. Sanders made what many claim was the play of Broncos rookie minicamp, when he picked off Ben DiNucci and returned it all the way for six. He's been making big waves early."
Dajani listed a total of seven players and you can see his full list by clicking here.
5. Burning questions for the NFC East
With all the roster changes that have happened around the league this offseason, there are plenty of questions that each team will need to answer before we know if they'll actually be good in 2023.
With that in mind, we're going to go through each division to look at the biggest questions for each team and today, we're going to cover the NFC East.
Here's one burning question that Jeff Kerr has come up with for each team.
- Eagles: Will Philly make a post-June 1 move to improve at linebacker? "The state of the linebacker position in Philadelphia is worse than what the team had in Super Bowl LVII (which was a pretty good group). T.J. Edwards signed with the Chicago Bears in free agency and Kyzir White went to the Arizona Cardinals, leaving the Eagles without both their starting off-ball linebackers from last season ... There's just too much uncertainty for Roseman to let the position slide, especially in a new defense under Sean Desai."
- Cowboys: Will Mike McCarthy calling plays fix Dak Prescott's turnover woes? "Last season, Prescott became the first player in NFL history to miss at least five games and still lead (or co-lead) the league in interceptions. Prescott had 15 interceptions in 12 games last season, while finishing dead last in interception rate (3.8%) ... McCarthy has emphasized he will run the ball more to counter Prescott's turnover woes."
- Giants: Did they actually improve on the offensive line? "The skill positions have improved, but what did New York do to make the offensive line better? New York allowed 49 sacks last season -- tied for fifth most in the NFL -- and the sack percentage of 8.6% was sixth worst. The pressure percentage allowed per dropback of 43.4% was worst in the NFL. Jones was also hit 48 times, tied for 10th most in the NFL. There's a lot of pressure on right tackle Evan Neal and center John Michael Schmitz to make this line in the upper echelon of the league, a lot to handle for two players with a combined one year of NFL experience heading into the 2023 season."
- Commanders: Who will be the starting QB come Week 1? "While the Commanders plan to go forward with Sam Howell, Washington did sign Jacoby Brissett in free agency to compete for the starting job. Brissett played well filling in for Deshaun Watson with the Browns last season while Watson was serving his suspension, and his 48 starts certainly give him the experience edge over Howell. Brissett will compete for the job, but he is likely the No. 2 quarterback unless Howell has a poor training camp."
To read Kerr's full answer for each question, be sure to click here.
6. Extra points: Patriots punished for offseason rules violation
It's been a busy 24 hours in the NFL, and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- NFL punishes the Patriots for violating offseason rules. Get ready for the jokes, because the Patriots have been caught cheating again by the NFL. The Patriots have been docked two days of OTAs for violating an unspecified offseason rule, according to ESPN.com. You can read more about their punishment here.
- Adrian Peterson insists that he's not retired. The former NFL MVP, who didn't play a single down in 2022, wants to play at least one more season. "Mentally, I haven't officially hung it up," Peterson said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We'll see what happens. My mindset is, if God's willing, maybe an opportunity presents itself and maybe it happens this season." Peterson said if he doesn't get signed this year, then he's going to go ahead and retire.
- Andy Reid and John Harbaugh not happy with new kickoff rule. The Chiefs coach definitely isn't happy with the NFL's new fair catch rule on kickoffs. "My thing is, where does it stop, right?" Reid said. "We'll see how this goes. You don't want to take too many pieces away and you'll be playing flag football." As for Harbaugh, he's worried that the new rule will create more "create more high-speed head trauma." Fortunately for both coaches, the rule is only being implemented for one year. After that, the owners will look at its impact and if no one likes it, then the NFL can scrap it going forward.
- Lamar Jackson is loving Baltimore's new offense. The Ravens QB finally showed up for OTAs and after only one day, it appears that he's already decided that he loves the team's new offense. "The new offense is smooth," Jackson said. "More verbiage than usual. I like it. I'm loving it so far." This is good news for Ravens fans, but also, it's not a total surprise to hear him say that. It would be a bigger surprise if a player came out said "I hate this new offense" during OTAs, but I don't think anyone has ever done that.
- Von Miller could miss the first five games of the season. The Bills star, who tore his ACL in November, admitted that he might not be back on the field until Week 6. Miller is hoping to be back for the opener against the Jets, but he was also realistic, saying he might not be back until later in the season. "If that's Week 1, then I'll be happy for that," Miller said of a possible return, via Syracuse.com. "If that's Week 6, I'll be happy for that, but I guarantee you it won't be any later than [Week 6]."