Buffalo Bills, Cole Beasley talk about Sunday trickery

Beasley’s touchdown toss against Los Angeles is the Buffalo Bills’ second scoring pass from a non-QB this season.

Kelly, Kemp, Ferguson, Flutie, Bledsoe…Beasley??? 

It’s not likely that Cole Beasley will go down amongst the great passers in Buffalo Bills history, even if his official passer rating sticks at 158.3. Beasley joined fellow non-quarterbacks John Brown and Preston Ridlehuber as the only players in Bills history to earn a perfect mark in the category on Sunday. Buffalo trickery led to the receiver tossing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis during a tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers at Bills Stadium en route to a 27-17 victory. It was similar antics that allowed the rusher Ridlehuber and the receiver Brown to likewise earn passing scores in 1969 and 2019 respectively (Beasley’s current teammate Brown also had a scoring throw in last year’s playoff cameo in Houston). 

The Bills (8-3) were able to pass the play off as a bubble screen, with Beasley taking a pass behind the line of scrimmage from regular quarterback Josh Allen. Davis faked a block before heading downfield, drawing the Chargers’ attention to Beasley. With the ruse in full swing, Beasley lobbed the ball to a wide open Davis, helping the rookie catcher earn his fourth touchdown pass of the season and to give Buffalo a 14-6 lead in the second quarter.

According to Davis, the gridiron sorcery was several weeks in the making, giving him full confidence that the deception would work. 

“I knew it was going to work,” Davis said, per Jourdan LaBarbour of BuffaloBills.com. “We run a lot of those bubble screens, so as soon as I saw (Chargers cornerback Chris Harris) shoot, I just knew the ball was coming to me and Cole was able to, you know, put a dart. He said he threw it kind of hard to get it in there but…it was a softball. It was an easy catch and I’m glad we could make that connection.”

Mandatory Credit: Jamie Germano-USA TODAY NETWORK

Beasley became the second Bills receiver to flip the narrative of a touchdown pass this season, joining Isaiah McKenzie. The latter threw a four-yard pass to Allen in the infamous loss to Arizona earlier this month. Alas for McKenzie, the passer rating formula left him just short of a perfect mark at 156.2. Since 2018, Buffalo is tied with division rival Miami for the most touchdown passes thrown by a non-quarterback (4, including postseason). 

“My feet weren’t set right, it was really ugly, but it got there. I’ll take it,” Beasley analyzed in LaBarbour’s report. “I was trying to get them to come up and think it was a bubble screen. I just had to have eyes on the safety, make sure he’s not coming over back there. The guys were guarding the guys going deep, so I had a chance to throw it.”

If anyone on the Bills was ready for aerial duplicity, it was likely going to be Beasley. The 31-year-old previously served as an option quarterback at Little Elm (TX) High School, earning 5,071 yards and 40 touchdowns through the air and on the ground combined over two varsity seasons. He did not attempt any passes during his college years at Southern Methodist but got two chances during his seven-year tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, both falling incomplete. 

In addition to his self-deprecation, Beasley was happy to chalk the highlight up to a team effort, complimenting both his blockers and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

“(The blockers) sell it more than I do,” Beasley said, per Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News. “They sell it with the blocks. They give like a three count and then they go. I was trying to get them to come up and thinking it was a bubble screen. I just had to have eyes on the safety, make sure he’s not coming over back there.”

“(Daboll) has done a good job of mixing it up,” he continued in another report from David De Cristofaro of Bills Wire. “He does a good job of keeping them off-balanced and that was one of those times right there.”

Before anyone tells Beasley to stick to his day job, they should be advised that he’s been posting strong numbers on the receiving ledgers as well. He’s currently on pace to set career-highs in nearly every major statistical category, standing at 667 yards on 57 receptions, three of which have gone for touchdowns. 

Allen has praised Beasley for stepping up in recent weeks, particularly with Brown forced out due to an ankle sprain. 

“Cole is very instinctive. He’s a very smart player,” Allen said prior to the Chargers’ visit, per AJ Feldman of RochesterFirst.com. “He knows what windows to kind of throttle down into and get out of and it’s just something we’ve talked about an extreme amount. We’ve watched a lot of film together.”

“I trust him implicitly whenever he breaks in or breaks out. I trust that he did his due diligence of peaking where the defense was. The majority of the time he’s 100 percent correct.”

Beasley and the Bills return to action on Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers in a game moved to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

Ex-New York Jet Kalen Ballage finds a role in Los Angeles

Ballage spent three quiet games with the New York Jets, but rose to the occasion as a member of the Chargers.

Kalen Ballage is one of several players that have been on and off the 2020 New York Jets’ roster as the team tries to find the perfect formula for breaking a long streak of futility. Unlike some of his compatriots, like Avery Williamson or Steve McLendon, Ballage more than likely won’t get a tribute on the MetLife Stadium videoboards if/when he returns as an opponent.

Nonetheless, Ballage, currently a Los Angeles Chargers running back, is part of the Jets’ star-crossed history, having spent three games with the team earlier this season. He met up with his former teammates on Sunday at SoFi Stadium, earning 71 total yards in the Chargers’ 34-28 victory over the Jets. It followed up a 102-yard output earned in last week’s tilt against another former team, the Miami Dolphins. The rusher has earned at least 70 total yards in each of his three contests in a Charger uniform.

Ballage previously earned 81 total yards over a trio of losses, including 44 receiving tallies on five receptions in the team’s Week 3 loss in Indianapolis. Even in his brief time with the organization, his tenure managed to attract typical New York silliness. The Jets originally tried to bring in Ballage, then in Miami, through a trade in the late stages of training camp, but the trade was nullified when the rusher failed a physical. He wound up joining the green New York crew anyway when the Dolphins waived him with an injury settlement just over a week after the trade talks fell apart.

Going after Ballage seemed to be a heavenly football endeavor for all sides. Jets head coach Adam Gase helped the back begin his professional career through his prior top boss endeavors with the Dolphins. Miami originally chose Ballage in the fourth round of the 2018 draft after a strong career at Arizona State (he tied a Football Bowl Subdivision record with eight touchdowns in a single game during a 2016 win over Texas Tech). Despite the familiarity with Gase’s offense, Ballage failed to find a consistent role in the Jets’ rushing rotation, even with Le’Veon Bell injured and later outright released. Ballage himself would be released by the Jets on October 5.

Despite things not working out in New York, Ballage didn’t seem to have any ill will toward Gase and whoever’s left in green. In a report from Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times, Ballage used the word “love” to describe his relationship with Gase.

“It’s been crazy,” Ballage said, per Miller. “It’s been hectic. But, obviously, it’s a blessing for me to be here with the Chargers. Things worked out the way they worked out and I’m kind of glad, to be honest with you.”

The Chargers signed Ballage to their practice squad four days after his Jets release and promoted him earlier this month. Injuries in Los Angeles’ rushing corps (Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Troymaine Pope) have forced him to take on a larger role in an offense building around first-round rookie and newly minted franchise quarterback Justin Herbert. The veteran Ballage has used his size of 231 lbs. to create a bit of a security blanket for Herbert in short-yardage situations. Both long and short exploits were on display from the former Sun Devil. For example, he helped the Chargers’ offense open the second half with three first down carries on their opening drive.

Ballage has high hopes for his former Pac-12 Conference opponent, with Herbert having competed for the Oregon Ducks.

“I think Justin is ahead of his time, just composure-wise,” Ballage said in another report from Miller. “He’s making smart plays. He’s very talented.”

Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn had some special words for Ballage in the pregame buildup.

“He’s answered the call,” Lynn said, per the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta. “He’s stepped up. He’s made some tough yards. And he’s definitely helped that rushing attack. He’s a very important part of our offense right now. We’re glad we have him.”

Ballage is expected to maintain the top rushing option for the Chargers (3-7) until Ekeler and Jackson make their returns. Los Angeles next battles the Buffalo Bills next Sunday afternoon, while the Jets take on the Dolphins at the same time (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three stars from the New York Jets’ Sunday loss at Los Angeles

Far removed from the playoff picture, the New York Jets engaged the Chargers in a strong duel despite another defeat.

Justin Herbert threw for 366 yards, with 145 of those tallies and 16 receptions going to Keenan Allen, and the Los Angeles Chargers doomed the New York Jets to yet another defeat, topping Gang Green by a 34-28 final in the latter’s first visit to SoFi Stadium. Joe Flacco had 205 yards and two scores for the Jets (0-10), who managed to earn three sacks on the rookie Herbert. If anything, Jets fans certainly see Sunday as a win if only because they hold their ground in the battle for the top overall pick in 2021. In contrast, Los Angeles (3-7) now sits in sixth after their victory.

ESM looks back on three stars for the Jets in their latest, entertaining defeat…

3rd Star: WR Denzel Mims

3 receptions, 71 yards

It took a while to truly get things rolling, but the Jets did enjoy some production from their healthy top receiver trio. Jamison Crowder was mostly held in check, but Breshad Perriman hauled in 54 yards on a pair of receptions, one of which was a 49-yard grab that started the Jets’ second half surge. Mims had his moments to shine in the second half, earning a trio of receptions in dramatic fashion, as his highlight reel grabs are perhaps the Jets’ strongest beacons of hope going forward. One could argue that Mims probably could’ve had the game-tying score, but no penalty was called despite contact from Tevaughn Campbell.

Once Mims learns how to play a full game, he’ll truly be dangerous. Perhaps the return of Sam Darnold could help unlock the final stages of his rookie development in the coming weeks, consisting of games that become far more watchable with Mims in tow.

2nd Star: TE Chris Herndon

2 reception, 32 yards, 1 TD

Sunday began to offer some hope for the career of Herndon for perhaps the first time since his promising rookie season. Last year was a wash due to a suspension and injuries, while this ongoing campaign has been defined by some tough drops in less-than-ideal situations. But while the stats were pedestrian to the naked eye, the visit to the west coast could serve as a good chance for Herndon to mentally prepare himself for a big final stretch, especially with his rookie camp roommate Sam Darnold possibly set to return in the near future.

Herndon had two receptions, but both came in major opportunities. A diving grab in the second half netted 26 yards and he later scored the Jets’ final touchdown of the late afternoon, trimming the Los Angeles lead to one possession in the fourth quarter. Herndon is one of the few Jets with his 2021 status more or less secure. If he can build some momentum that he can take into next season with him, this woebegone campaign can still produce a win.

1st Star: DE Henry Anderson

5 tackles, 1 blocked punt, 0.5 sacks

Early in the game, it was hard to tell if either Anderson or Herbert was going to spend more time in the Los Angeles backfield. Anderson’s antics allowed the Jets to keep pace with the Chargers in the early going, ending the first Los Angeles possession with a blocked punt that set up La’Mical Perine’s early score. Toward the end of the first half, Anderson came up big again with a crucial, nine-yard sack of Herbert that limited the Chargers to a far less costly field goal on the final play.

Anderson is perhaps one of the biggest cases the Jets have against tanking. With his 2021 release bringing the Jets over $8 million in cap savings, he has to do every possible to prove himself essential to the Jets in these final hours. Even if the Jets do opt to cut ties, if only for financial reasons, Anderson would be wise to treat the last seven weeks as a potential audition for 31 other employers.

The Jets return to action next Sunday afternoon against the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

How The Philip Rivers News Helps The New York Giants

The NFL is going through significant changes this offseason. Multiple franchises are parting ways with their veteran quarterbacks. Eli Manning’s recent retirement came as no surprise, but Drew Brees is mulling retirement as well. Additionally, Philip Rivers and the Chargers are reportedly moving on from each other ahead of 2020’s free agency period.

Philip Rivers will be a free agent this March, leading many fans to speculate as to where the veteran signal-caller might end up playing next season. But, for fans of the New York Giants, the speculation will not surround Philip Rivers as much as it will encompass the Chargers’ next quarterback. The question is, whom will the Chargers’ next quarterback be?

Many assume that Los Angeles will get younger at the sport’s most important position. Like the Giants did last year with Daniel Jones, the Chargers are likely to draft their next franchise quarterback in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. This could be good news for the Giants as they hold a highly coveted draft pick.

Could The Chargers and Giants Strike A Draft-Day Deal Again?

The 2004 NFL Draft saw the Giants and Chargers both draft and subsequently trade rookie quarterbacks. Eli Manning was drafted first overall by the then-San Diego Chargers. The Giants drafted Philip Rivers. The two swapped quarterbacks in a draft-day trade that worked to the benefit of both teams (but more to the benefit of the Giants who saw their quarterback win two Super Bowls in his sixteen-year career).

Once again, the Giants and Chargers both possess top-ten draft picks in a year featuring a rich quarterback class. Unlike 2004, however, the Giants do not need to draft a quarterback with their first-round draft pick. This is where another draft-day trade could come to fruition.

Assuming Joe Burrow and Chase Young get drafted first, and second overall, the Giants and Lions will be in peculiar positions with their third and fourth overall draft picks. Teams will be looking to trade up for the next best quarterbacks in the class. Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert both have the potential to be top-five picks in April.

Regardless of whether or not the Lions stay put or trade their pick away, the Chargers just made the Giants’ draft pick more valuable. If they want one of these top quarterbacks, they will need to trade up from their sixth overall pick.

Trading down with the Chargers could be a win-win situation for both teams. The Giants would move back only two spots while adding an extra draft pick, possibly an additional second-rounder. The Giants would still have the chance to land one of the big-names they would be considering at fourth overall, and the Chargers would get their future franchise quarterback.