Saturday, August 13, 2022

Panthers unveil new black alternate helmet, plus three questions every NFC East team must answer

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

If I’ve learned one thing over the past few weeks, it’s that I’ve completely lost track of all the new helmets that have been unveiled this offseason. I might be slightly off, but it feels like we’re seeing a new helmet every 47 hours, and the newest one came Tuesday when the Panthers unveiled a black helmet for 2022. The helmet is awesome and we’ll be taking a look at it today. 

Although I’d love to spend the entire newsletter talking about the Panthers’ new helmet, I promise we’ll touch on other things, like whether Rob Gronkowski is actually going to stay retired. Apparently, everyone in Gronk’s life — except for Gronk — thinks he’s going to make a comeback at some point this year. 

As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link. Let’s get to the rundown. 

1. Today’s show: Rookies who could have an instant impact in 2022

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From left: Jermaine Johnson II, “Sauce” Gardner and Garrett Wilson USATSI

With rookies around the NFL reporting to training camp this week, we thought now would be a perfect time to take a look at a few rookies who could have an instant impact this year, so that’s exactly what we did for Tuesday’s episode of the Pick Six Podcast.

By the end of today, there will be a total of 10 teams with rookies in camp (Bills, Raiders, Falcons, Ravens, Chargers, Dolphins, Patriots, Saints, Giants and Jets), so those were the 10 teams that Ryan Wilson and Will Brinson decided to focus on. Of the 10 teams, the Bills, Ravens and Jets seemed to have the rookie classes with the most potential. All three of those teams have four players who could conceivably become instant impact guys in 2022. 

Here’s a look at who Brinson and Wilson like from the Jets draft:

“I love this Jets draft. On paper, these guys look fantastic,” Wilson said. “The Jets feel like they could win six or seven games.”

The two guys spent nearly an hour on today’s show, and during that time, they talked up 27 different rookies who could end up having an instant impact. 

If you want to listen to the rest of today’s show, be sure to click here. You can also watch today’s episode on YouTube by clicking here.

2. Three questions each NFC East team must answer before the start of the season 

There’s no division that embraces parity more than the NFC East. This is the only division in the NFL that has gone more than 15 years without seeing a repeat champion, which is bad news for the Cowboys, because they won the title last year. So what does each team need to do to catch the Cowboys? What does Dallas need to do to stay on top?

We tried to answer both of those questions today, plus a few more. CBSSports.com’s Cody Benjamin came up with three questions that each team needs to answer before the start of the season, but since we don’t want the newsletter to be 11,000 words long today, we’ll cover one question for each team here. 

  • Cowboys: Is the offensive line healthy? “Better yet, can it stay healthy? For as dominant as Tyron Smith remains at left tackle, the Pro Bowler hasn’t played a full season in seven years, missing 20 games over the last two. At some point, the lack of availability there is going to take another toll on QB Dak Prescott. That’s doubly the case now that La’el Collins and Connor Williams are both gone.”
  • Giants: What does Daniel Jones have to do to stick around beyond 2022“What does new leadership need to see from Jones, either in the eye test or in the numbers, in order to warrant re-signing him for 2023? Obviously the answer to this could — and should — be adjusted throughout the year, but still, it’d be wise for the new regime to go into the season with a benchmark expectation for the former first-rounder.”
  • EaglesIs Jalen Hurts ready to throw the ball moreA.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert make a potentially elite pass-catching trio, but Hurts still has to prove he can win regularly with more than his legs. The answer could determine Philly’s approach at QB in 2023 and beyond.”
  • CommandersIs there enough (or a plan) at receiver? Terry McLaurin is golden as the top target, and first-rounder Jahan Dotson has drawn promising reviews before camp. But Curtis Samuel is a big X-factor coming off a lost season. It’s imperative, by the looks of the rest of the depth chart here, that Scott Turner find a way to deploy the ex-Panthers utility man properly. It would be a big help if youngsters like Dyami Brown and Kelvin Harmon emerged over the summer.”

To check out all three questions for each team, be sure to click here so you can read the rest of Cody’s story

3. Three training camp battles to watch for the Cowboys

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CeeDee Lamb USATSI

Between now and July 26, all 32 teams will be reporting for training camp, which means between now and July 26, you better get mentally ready to read a lot about training camp battles because we’re going to be spending a lot time talking about them. 

Today, we’re going take a look at three battles that will be taking place at Cowboys training camp this year. 

Here’s the list of battles, which was put together by CBSSports.com’s Patrik Walker.

  • Wide receiver (Losses: Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson Jr.). “Those two losses have immediately thrust former first-round pick CeeDee Lamb into the role of WR1, and while he says he’s ready, we’re all about to find out if that’s truly the case — especially at the start of the season when factoring in the likely absence of Michael Gallup (ACL) in early to mid September. Suddenly, a WR room that was spilling over with talent must now figure out who’ll be WR2 on Sept. 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, along with the rest of the rotation. Could this be the year Simi Fehoko makes an impact? Or will rookie third-round pick Jalen Tolbert steal the show? The battle at WR is easily the most intriguing of them all for the Cowboys, so glue yourself to it.”
  • Tight end (Dalton Schultz gets franchise tag). “By giving Schultz the tag, that immediately creates competition not simply for the role of TE2 this year, but for the throne of TE1 heading into 2023. Rookie Jake Ferguson has the skill set to potentially succeed Schultz in the future, and young upstart Sean McKeon was nearly ready to make an impact in 2021 before battling injury, plus it would behoove many to keep an eye on undrafted rookie Peyton Hendershot (a record-setting TE from Indiana). The fight for the future at TE in Dallas begins on July 26.”
  • Linebacker. Micah Parsons might be the best linebacker in the league already after only one season, but the problem for the Cowboys is that there isn’t anyone else in the LB room who is free of question marks heading into training camp. There are nine other linebackers who all have a lot to prove, and that makes this competition an absolute free-for-all.”

To check out Walker’s full take on each of these battles, be sure to click here

4. Rob Gronkowski’s girlfriend doesn’t think Rob Gronkowski is going to stay retired

Rob Gronkowski insisted last week that he definitely won’t be making a return to football, but one person in his life actually disagrees with that take, and it’s someone who we might want to listen to: Camille Kostek.

Kostek is Gronk’s longtime girlfriend, and based on an interview she did earlier this week, it sounds like she’s pretty convinced Gronk is going to play this year.  

  • Kostek’s take on Gronk’s retirement? “I am an honest lady, and honestly, in my heart, I didn’t feel like this [retirement] is a forever one. So, I think maybe he’ll come back again,” Kostek said, via Sports Illustrated. “I feel like him and Tom [Brady] are just having fun like, ‘Retired, not retired, retired, not retired.”http://www.cbssports.com/” That’s an interesting take that actually sounds completely believable. I could totally see Gronk trying to one-up Brady. 
  • Two people close to Gronk now think he’ll eventually return. Kostek isn’t the only person to who thinks Gronk is going to make a come back. Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, also believes Gronk will eventually play again, and he’s believed that since the day Gronk announced his retirement in June. 
  • Gronk is still insisting that he’s retired. The last time we heard from Gronk came July 12. During an interview with ESPN, he shot down the rumors that he might return. “I’m done with football. Love the game. Love the game. And definitely blessed with all the opportunities the game of football has given me,” Gronkowski said. “But done with football and stepping my feet into the business world and the business ventures. Just seeing what’s out there and where I can, you know, find my place.” 

Normally, when you get information straight from the horse’s mouth, you feel pretty good about it, but I’m not sure I’m buying what Gronk is selling. If two people close to him think he’s going to come back, I’m starting to feel like we’re probably going to see him make a comeback. I still think he only retired so he can skip training camp, and I won’t be surprised at all if he returns at some point after training camp is over or at some point early in the regular season. 

5. Panthers unveil new black helmet for 2022

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Photo courtesy of the Carolina Panthers

The Panthers entered the NFL in 1995, and in the 27 seasons since, they’ve worn a silver helmet for every game, but that will be changing this year because they’re getting a special helmet for 2022. 

For the first time in franchise history, the team will be wearing an alternate helmet, and it unveiled the new look Tuesday: It’s a sleek black helmet that you’re definitely going to want to check out. 

If you haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet, you can check out a couple of pictures of it on Twitter by clicking here. If you want to see even more photos of the helmet, you can check out the photo gallery on the team’s website by clicking here

Here are a few details on the helmet:

  • This is the first helmet change in franchise history. Most teams have changed their helmet at least once over the course of their franchise history, but not the Panthers. Carolina has been wearing the same silver helmet since joining the NFL in 1995. Fans had been hoping for a black helmet ever since the Panthers unveiled their all-black color rush uniform and now, their wishes are coming true. 
  • The helmet will be worn in November. The Panthers will definitely be wearing the black helmet at least once in 2022, and that will come in primetime when they host the Falcons for a Thursday night game in Week 10 (Nov. 9). 
  • The Panthers are the sixth team to announce an alternate helmet. Now that the NFL is allowing teams to wear an alternate helmet, everyone seems to be taking advantage of it. Besides the Panthers, the other five teams with a new helmet are the Bengals (white tiger helmet), Texans (red helmet), Patriots (white helmet), Saints (black helmet) and Falcons (red helmet).

According to UniWatch, there could be as many as 15 teams that end up wearing an alternate helmet for at least one game in 2022, so don’t be surprised if we hear a few more announcements over the next few weeks. 

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Buccaneers coaches not happy with Leonard Fournette

It’s been a wild 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. 

  • Leonard Fournette apparently showed up to minicamp way overweight. Buccaneers coaches are apparently upset with Fournette for showing up to minicamp at roughly 260 pounds, which is more than THIRTY pounds over his playing weight. The Buccaneers report to training camp on July 26, and if Fournette is still looking pudgy, there’s a good chance Tampa Bay’s coaching staff is going to be even more upset than it was before. 
  • Rams defensive lineman hit with six-game suspension. The Rams will be without Bobby Brown III for their first six games after he was hit with a suspension on Monday for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Brown, who is going into his second season with the team, played in a total of 10 games last year as a rookie. 

  • Buccaneers-Seahawks game in Munich quickly sells out. The NFL’s first game in Germany is already sold out. Tickets went on sale today and were gone within minutes. Anyone who wants tickets will have to use the secondary market, but that won’t be cheap. Right now, tickets on Stubhub range from $600 to more than $33,000. 
  • Heinz Field ketchup bottles removed from Steelers stadium. Although Steelers fans have been petitioning to get the stadium name changed back to Heinz Field, I’m starting to think they’re fighting a losing battle and that’s because the giant ketchup bottles have been removed from Acrisure Stadium. If you want to see what it looks like to remove a giant ketchup bottle from a stadium, then be sure to click here so you can watch the video of it happening

  • Texans running back charged with burglary and assaultDarius Anderson has never played in an NFL game, and there’s now a chance he might not ever see the field after an arrest this week. According to court records in Harris County, Texas, Anderson has been charged with burglary with intent to commit assault after an incident in Texas. 

  • J.K. Dobbins disputes report that he won’t be ready for Week 1. After NFL Network reported that J.K. Dobbins might not be ready for Week 1, the Ravens running back took to Twitter to fire back at the report Monday. Based on Dobbins’ tweet, he seems to think he will be ready. “I might not even go on PUP because that’s how good my rehab is going and I’m damn sure going to be ready for week 1,” Dobbins wrote.
  • Rodney Hudson expected to report to training camp. The Cardinals starting center skipped OTAs and minicamp during the spring, but it does look like he is going to show up for training camp. According to NFL.com, Hudson has informed the team that he’ll be reporting with the rest of the Cardinals’ veterans on July 26. There had been some questions about whether he would show up since his spring absences were unexcused. 

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