Reporters' Notebook

Daniel Jones' steadiness, Mecole Hardman's speed, Bills' culture

As we turn toward Week 4 of the 2019 NFL season,'s network of reporters provides the hottest news and notes from across the league, including:

-- The Bears' plans for Dalvin Cook.

-- Mecole Hardman's full speed potential.

-- How Jamie Collins is impressing Bill Belichick.

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NFL: Pereira not in favor of new challenge rule. On Sunday night, during halftime of the Rams-Browns game, Mike Pereira called Al Riveron, the NFL's head of officiating,  to congratulate him on a good week. Holding calls had gone way down after Riveron held a conference call with his referees about the Competition Committee's point of emphasis that was now the source of so many complaints. There had been no "trainwrecks," as Pereira called them.

Pereira remembers Riveron's response: "Don't jinx it!"

As the league's former head of officiating -- and, since 2010, Fox Sports' rules analyst -- Pereira is in a unique position to understand the challenges of officiating. He is sympathetic toward Riveron, because the job, Pereira said, has gotten much, much more difficult since he held it. Pereira did not have to make the final calls on replay reviews. And social media alone has made the job much harder, because any mistake gets magnified and criticized immediately.

Pereira is no fan of the new pass-interference challenge rule, and he thinks there is a good chance owners will not approve it again next spring.

Pereira's overarching thought: "The league has got to stop treating the problems -- and that includes rules -- with Band-Aids. At some point, the league needs to start over and say, how do we make this better?"

He has a few ideas.

-- He would take the best two or three replay officials out of stadiums and install them in New York. They would then make the final call on reviews, because Pereira believes the head of officiating should not do it. The head of officiating, he says, should be the buffer between coaches and general managers and officials. He cannot be the buffer if he is also expected to make calls that can alter a team's season.

-- When an officiating crew has a weekend off, that crew should spend the weekend at the officiating command center in New York. It would be a good training opportunity, and it would provide backup support to Riveron and his team on reviews.

-- If the league wants full-time officials, Pereira would make every referee be full time, and he would install them at an officiating institute. They would work seven days a week, six months a year, evaluating all calls together and engaging in education. Those referees could then take absolutely consistent messaging to their crews.

"You could take a first-year referee, and he would improve at a rate four times as fast as he does under the current system. They would all be working on mechanics, all on rule changes, all on training, all going to clubs during the offseason. The relationship between clubs and officials would improve. I want to think outside the box."

Next CBA to include 17-game season, extra wild-card contest? When negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association eventually resume, a serious restructuring of the season will be on the table.

Owners want an expansion of the regular season because of the significant revenue increase that would accompany it. While there has not even been unified support among owners for 18 games, two people with knowledge of the talks say 17 games is a more likely focus that could be more palatable to players and is likely to receive greater support from owners. Under the 17-game proposal, first reported by The Athletic's Daniel Kaplan, the preseason would likely be reduced to two or three games from the current four, and the league will likely add a wild-card playoff game, the revenue from which would offset the loss of revenue from the preseason reduction.

Two interesting details: there could be an additional bye week added during the regular season, which means teams would play 17 games in 19 weeks. That would push the Super Bowl deeper into February and give the NFL the possibility of playing it on President's Day weekend. The league has heard for years from fans who wanted the Super Bowl moved to a Saturday from its customary Sundays, because most people have to go to work on Monday. But television audiences are much larger on Sunday nights than they are on Saturday nights. Playing the Super Bowl over a three-day weekend could make everyone happy.

The other question is when the longer regular season would begin. With new media contracts still to be negotiated, it is possible the expanded season would not begin immediately, but would be phased in as the new media contracts begin.

With the current collective bargaining agreement not set to expire until after the 2020 season, there is still optimism that a deal can be completed in the spring of 2020.

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BUFFALO BILLS: Defense bringing the noise. The surest guess in the world this past Sunday was that Buffalo fans at New Era Field would be raucous for the 2-0 Bills' home opener against the Bengals.

In fact, they were so loud that middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds couldn't hear defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier's play call in his helmet. Bills fans were that intent on disrupting the Cincinnati offense. Buffalo held the Bengals to a season-low 306 total yards in a 21-17 win.

"We need our fans to continue to make it a difficult place for opponents to operate their offense," Frazier said. "So, we'll work through things we need to work through."

The Bills' defense has been outstanding, with leaders at every level. On one play, safety Micah Hyde moved cornerback Kevin Johnson into position pre-snap, which led directly to Johnson's first sack as a Bill. Frazier said Hyde and fellow safety Jordan Poyer probably don't get enough credit for quarterbacking the back end of the Bills defense. It's hard to argue against that.

Players see McDermott's long game paying off. The sign on the wall as you head out to Bills practice implores players and coaches alike to "Respect the Process." Through three weeks of this NFL season, that process has paid dividends, as Buffalo was one of eight undefeated teams in the NFL heading into Week 4. (The Packers' loss to the Eagles on Thursday dropped that number to seven.)

"You definitely can just tell over the last three years, really, the transition of the guys that are in this locker room, the environment since (coach) Sean (McDermott) has been here, the change in the culture. Things are starting to come together," Buffalo linebacker Lorenzo Alexander told me earlier this week. "Obviously, we're 3-0, and that's kind of the fruit of that. But we have to keep that going, because sometimes we have a chance to ease up and forget that foundation."

"I don't want to say, in any case, we've arrived, but at the same time, you definitely feel the foundation," said safety Jordan Poyer. "We're winning games, you feel the camaraderie with the guys, you feel the hunger of the guys to continue to work with each other, play for each other and win more football games."

On Sunday, that foundation will face the biggest test of the McDermott era, when the undefeated Patriotscome to New Era Field. But Alexander believes his team is on a more even playing field with New England than it has been during his three previous seasons in Buffalo.

"We were watching some film of how the Patriots have attacked us over the years," he said. "2017, 2018, and each game, kind of chronologically, you can see the improvement of how we played, the understanding, the different talent on the field, and so it's kind of a cool display while watching film of what you're asking taking place."

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CHICAGO BEARS: Defense knows Cook will keep Bears on their toes.Vikings running back Dalvin Cook led the NFL with 375 rushing yards heading into Week 4, and 303 of them have come outside the tackles, according to Next Gen Stats.

How do the Bears disrupt that trend Sunday at Soldier Field?

"You gotta contain him," veteran Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan told me Thursday. "You gotta be in your gap, know your responsibility, trust your guys and don't trade 1-for-1 blocks. Know it's going to be a long game, and you've got to be in your gap the whole game, and you've got to be on one page. ... Their O-line does a great job of working next level, getting up (on linebackers), creating that space for him, and he hits it."

Stopping Cook won't be any easier if the Bears are without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who missed practice again Thursday because of a knee issue. Coach Matt Nagy said Hicks will be a true game-time decision.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Feeling the effects of playing Ravens' Jackson. Even after beating the Ravens, 33-28, in Week 3, Lamar Jackson is still giving the Chiefs headaches. Literally.

"That was the No. 1 offense going in and we know why now," Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Thursday. "He's a headache. I'm still taking Advil."

Safety Tyrann Mathieu, now in his seventh NFL season, told me he's never played against anyone like Jackson before.

"I wouldn't even disrespect him like that," Mathieu told me. "The kid is so poised even when things weren't going his way. He was still finding ways to extend drives and even threw up a few prayers. But that's why that kid is going to be special one day. Because he can make certain plays that him and my quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) can do."

Cornerback Bashaud Breeland told me Jackson isn't just a dual threat at quarterback.

"He's like a triple threat," Breeland said. "He can run it, throw it, pass it, run the option with it. He brings a lot to the table. You can really see the growth from Year 1 to Year 2 the way he's throwing it. His accuracy. There were some passes that I was like, 'Oh my.' There really isn't anything I can say other than tip my hat to him. He's going to be one of the great quarterbacks in the upcoming years."

Hardman dazzled -- without going all out. Rookie Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman can fly. He ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in March, and he led the NFL with 26.3 yards per catch entering Week 4. Last Sunday, in the team's win over the Ravens, Hardman was clocked at 21.7 mph during his 83-yard touchdown catch by Next Gen Stats.

After the game, Hardman told ESPN he was only running at about 80-85 percent during the play, something Hardman confirmed to me on Thursday. Hardman knows how fast he can go -- it just has to be the right situation for him to put on the afterburners.

"I'll break 22 mph easy," Hardman told me. "It depends on how long I get. If it's like 50-plus, I can get to 23. It just depends if it's the open field and someone is chasing me. If I'm just in the open field and I'm wide open, I'm not going to run that fast. I'm just going to do just enough to get there. If someone has an angle and I have to outrun the angle, I can get to 22.8 mph or something like that."

For context, consider that receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is the fastest ball-carrier tracked over the last two seasons, having hit 22.23 mph on a 46-yard running play for the Bears, followed by 49ers running back Matt Breida (22.09), Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (22.07), Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty (22.05) and Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill (21.95). On Sunday, the Chiefs play indoors at Detroit on turf.

Shady shining once more. Running back LeSean McCoy has been an invaluable addition to the Kansas City Chiefs so far. The Buffalo Bills released the six-time Pro Bowler in August, after he posted career lows in rushing yards (514) and yards per carry (3.2) in 2018. All he's done since signing with the Chiefs -- and reuniting with head coach Andy Reid, who coached McCoy during the first four years of McCoy's career in Philadelphia -- is prove he still has plenty left at age 31.

McCoy currently leads the team in rushing with 158 yards on 29 carries, and he's been the best back in their backfield rotation. "He still has the vision and the shiftiness," Reid said. "He was never the fastest guy in the world. He's fast enough, but that's not his game. His game is the great vision and the ability, with the quick feet, to move. He still has that."

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Collins rolling in Patriots return. Bill Belichick loves to tell you how the opposing team he's facing is loaded with exceptional players. When it comes to his own team, the Patriots coach will often couch any compliments with a line about how there's still a long way to go or plenty of areas to improve. However, earlier this season, Belichick broke his own rules with regards to linebacker Jamie Collins.

"Jamie's a very special player. He's very smart, instinctive," Belichick said. "He's got a great nose for the ball in the passing game and in the running game. He's got the physical skills to play at the end of the line and off the line, to blitz, to play in coverage, play against the run and play against the pass. So we're able to do different things with him, and he's been productive and effective in all of them. So it's really exciting to have that type of player in your system, and to have players he can work with. They can do things that maybe you don't normally or aren't able to do because of some type of limitations."

What the what? I checked the tape -- Belichick really did say that. But then, Collins is deserving. After two-plus seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Collins is back with the Patriots, who drafted him in 2013, and so far in 2019, he has two interceptions, 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hits in three games, and he's improved dramatically against the run from the last time he was a Patriot. Special indeed. Collins has arguably been the best player on the best defense in the league.

"It's not just me out there," Collins said. "All those guys can make plays. They make my job easy."

And Collins, according to Belichick, makes the players around him better, as well. The Patriots haven't allowed a rushing or passing touchdown through the first three weeks of the season, the first time that's ever been done by a team in the Super Bowl era.

"Yeah, that's pretty damn good," admitted Collins. "You know, we just go out there and play for keeps. We are playing to win."

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NEW YORK GIANTS: Can Jones juice the Giants' season? In his NFL debut as a starting quarterback, Daniel Jones orchestrated an 18-point comeback win over the Buccaneers, the Giants' largest since Week 9, 1970.

Eli Manning, the veteran Jones replaced, is 0-43 in his career when trailing by at least 18 points. (Thank you, NFL Research.)

The rookie excelled under pressure, as he did during the preseason, and turned both a designed run -- on a zone read -- and a scramble into touchdowns, the latter being the game-winner.

Jones is poised, on and off the field. He does not rattle, it appears. When I interviewed him after his first professional win, Jones brought up his two lost fumbles against the Bucs, saying he cannot do that.

"We weren't perfect, by any stretch," Jones said Wednesday. "But I thought we competed for four quarters, and that's what helped us win."

He'll make his first home start Sunday against the Redskins. Giants fans will be very happy to see him.

Gallman geared up to go. With Giants coach Pat Shurmur acknowledging that Saquon Barkley will miss "an extended period" with a high ankle sprain, Wayne Gallman becomes the starter at running back.

We'll spare you the "next man up" cliches, but teammates offered their confidence in Gallman while acknowledging that no one can replace Barkley, the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Barkley has 15 games of 100-plus scrimmage yards going back to last season, more than anyone in the NFL in that span. Gallman, a third-year pro, has topped 80 yards from scrimmage three times in his career, and he has yet to break triple digits.

It was Gallman who had the best response to his suddenly increased workload.

"I finally get to get some touches," he said with a laugh. "That's my mindset."

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WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Collins ready for Giants return?Redskins safety Landon Collins will be a must-watch presence Sunday against the Giants, the team that drafted him in 2015 and elected not to retain him in free agency in March. Since signing with Washington, Collins has been critical of Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, particularly for a lack of communication.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden described Collins this week as a "great leader and communicator."

"He's a good player, and we wanted him because he was a pain in the ass with the Giants," Gruden said. "... I think the entire defense has probably underachieved, but not because of him."

Collins struggles with the idea of losing -- he was always vocal about that in the Giants locker room -- so the Redskins' 0-3 start can't be sitting well with him. We could not ask Collins about that this week, however. The Redskins told me Wednesday they were not making Collins available to the media this week, not even at his locker at Redskins Park.

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