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PFT's Week Five picks

For the second straight week, I held a one-game lead over Rosenthal entering the Monday night game.

And, for the second straight week, Rosenthal got the Monday night game right and I got it wrong, forcing a tie.

We both finished 9-5 in the first 14-game weekend.  Rosenthal won Week One and Week Two; in Week Three and Week Four, we tied.

Overall, Rosenthal is 43-19.  I’m two games back, at 41-21.

For this week’s picks and explanations, read on.


Jaguars at Bills

Florio’s take:  The Bills are bad, but in this season of parity they’re not bad enough to lose all 16.  Even with former Bills quarterback Trent Edwards feeding the Jags with the Buffalo state secrets, Jacksonville is prime for a letdown after unexpectedly toppling the Colts.  

Florio’s pick:  Bills 20, Jags 19.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bills have no chance to move the ball against superior defenses.  The Jaguars do not have a superior defense.  In fact, the Jaguars’ secondary is one of the few groups in the league struggling as much as Buffalo during their transition to the 3-4 defense.  The Bills aren’t going 0-16, and this looks like one of their most winnable games of the year.  Bad David Garrard shows up this week.

Rosenthal’s pick:  Bills 23, Jaguars 21.

Broncos at Ravens

Florio’s take:  The Broncos pulled off an unlikely road win against a one-loss team on Sunday, but the Ravens has a few more horses than the Titans.  Despite Baltimore’s so-so secondary, Denver quarterback Kyle Orton won’t have time to find an open receiver if he’s being chased and/or pummeled by the Ravens’ front seven.  Meanwhile, the Baltimore offense finally is emerging from its vegetative state, with Joe Flacco looking more like Joe Flacco and less like Stoney Case.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Broncos 10.

Rosenthal’s take: The Ravens and Broncos both have the records you’d expect, but they’ve arrived there in surprising ways.  Kyle Orton and his band of hodgepodge receivers are racking up passing yards like the ’99 Rams.  Baltimore’s secondary has played great, but their run defense has been soft.  Luckily, the Broncos don’t try to run.  When they do, it doesn’t work.  Denver is a tough out, but asking for back-to-back wins in Tennessee and Baltimore is asking too much.  

Rosenthal’s pick: Ravens 28, Broncos 24.

Chiefs at Colts

Florio’s take:  Scratch a little at the word “Chiefs” and a faint “Patriots” emerges, with the presence of Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Mike Vrabel, and Matt Cassel making this one a kinda-sorta renewal of one of the most compelling inter-division rivalries of the past decade.  The Chiefs have nothing to lose, and the Colts have no easy answers for their lackluster start.  It adds up to an upset.  In a PFTV video previewing what we regard to be the game of the week, I picked the Colts, but I left a little wiggle room.  I’m tempted to pick the Chiefs here, primarily because a win over the defending AFC champs would make this Chiefs team even more compelling.  (Besides, what’s the point of having wiggle room if you don’t, you know, wiggle?)  I’ll stick the home team, but I’ll gladly accept the “L” if I’m wrong.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 24, Chiefs 20.

Rosenthal’s take:  Chiefs fans are making too much out of this game.  It’s not a litmus test for the rest of the season.  It’s Week Five. There aren’t many teams that could go into Lucas Oil Stadium and win against an angry Peyton Manning.  I’m most interested to see how Kansas City’s young secondary holds up.  They have potential to carry this team, because Matt Cassel isn’t going to.  A mismatch in special teams should keep the Chiefs close, but they will only get a moral victory here.

Rosenthal’s pick:  Colts 27, Chiefs 21.

Packers at Redskins

Florio’s take:  But for a fast start against the Eagles from quarterback Donovan McNabb, in no doubt fueled by the enthusiastic response that Philly fans gave to a guy about whom they had been ambivalent at best, the Redskins would be 1-3.  Though the Packers have yet to develop a killer instinct, they suddenly feel the hot, stinky breath of the Vikings on their necks — and so the Packers can’t afford to lose games that they easily should win.  

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Redskins 21.

Rosenthal’s take: No one knows how good the Packers are because they’ve faced one of the easiest schedules in the league.  No one knows how good the Redskins are because a wildly different team shows up every week.  I know this much:  The Redskins aren’t worse off with Ryan Torain starting at running back, but the Packers are much worse off without Nick Barnett at linebacker.  Washington doesn’t have the passing attack to take advantage, though.

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 27, Redskins 20.

Rams at Lions

Florio’s take:  Last year, the Rams’ only win of the season came against the Lions, who eventually won only two.  This year, both teams are better, even though the Lions are 0-4.  In fact, the Lions are good enough to win, even though the Rams are good enough to win the NFC West.

Florio’s prediction:  Lions 20, Rams 16.

Rosenthal’s take:  Due to a forgiving schedule and a surprising pass rush from James Hall and Chris Long, the Rams defense has been impressive this year.  They haven’t allowed more than 17 points yet.  The Lions offense has played well with Shaun Hill, which makes you wonder what they’ll do with Matthew Stafford.  Detroit has lost three games by one score and played three games on the road. Like Cleveland last week, they are overdue for a victory.

Rosenthal’s pick:  Lions 21, Rams 14.

Bears at Panthers

Florio’s take:  A loss would send the Panthers to 0-5 at their bye, putting coach John Fox at risk of possible termination.  Last week, Carolina showed progress against the Saints, and the Panthers have a blueprint for turning the Jay Cutler (or, as it turns out, Todd Collins) black and blue, courtesy of Big Blue.  The correction for Chicago continues, and Carolina gets in the win column by sticking it former Panther and Tar Heel Julius Peppers.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 14, Bears 12.

Rosenthal’s take:  A lot of fun questions can be answered here.  What does the worst passing attack in football look like after Carolina loses Steve Smith?  How many forward passes will John Fox call with a rookie quarterback and three rookie wide receivers?   Would you rather have a wobbly Jay Cutler (or, as it turns out, Todd Collins) or a healthy Jimmy Clausen?  I’ll take Cutler (or, as it turns out, Todd Collins), especially since the Bears rush defense can stop Carolina’s one strength.

Rosenthal’s pick:  Bears 17, Panthers 10.

Buccaneers at Bengals

Florio’s take:  The Bucs beat the Browns and the Browns beat the Bengals so the Bucs should beat the Bengals, right?  Even though Tampa has had the benefit of the bye week, the Bengals are a better team at home than on the road and the Bucs are still learning how to become a good team anywhere.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 21, Buccaneers 13.

Rosenthal’s take:  When the Bengals win, they don’t seem happy.  When they lose, Carson Palmer keeps his fantasy owners happy.  It’s a wobbly team [editor’s note:  Rosenthal uses “wobbly” almost as much as Steve Young uses “leaking oil”], which makes this a huge game for Cincinnati.  Despite all the offensive concerns, they can enter their bye week at 3-2, and then re-group.  In the end, the veteran Bengals defense should be the best unit in this game.

Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 17, Bucs 14.

Falcons at Browns

Florio’s take:  The Browns have been competitive in every game, and they’re riding the momentum of a big win over the Bengals.  The Falcons struggle

d with the 49ers last week, one game after stealing a win from the Saints.  These two teams are more evenly matched than their records suggest; as a result, I’m giving the edge to the home team.

Florio’s pick:  Browns 17, Falcons 16.

Rosenthal’s take:  Falcons coach Mike Smith raised a good point this week.  His team could be 1-3 just as easily as 3-1 after Garrett Hartley’s gaffe and Nate Clements’ fumble.  The Browns are similarly incapable of playing in a blowout.  These two teams have played eight games this year, with seven decided by an average of three points.  Jake Delhomme’s likely return breaks the tie.

Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 23, Browns 21.

Giants at Texans

Florio’s take:  The Giants played well with their backs against the wall, and now that their backs are a little bit off the wall, the Giants can dial up another lackluster effort.  The Texans, though not dominant, have been solid, and they can sense that a playoff appearance could be coming.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 24, Giants 20.

Rosenthal’s take:  Outside of the embarrassment in Indianapolis, the Giants defense has shown steady improvement this year.  Of course, that game against the Colts was their only road test yet.  Houston’s wideouts are banged-up, but the offensive line is coming off its best performance of the year.  They won’t let Matt Schaub get assaulted like Jay Cutler was last week.

Rosenthal’s pick:  Texans 28, Giants 17.

Saints at Cardinals

Florio’s take:  The current Drew Brees meets up with the guy who eventually could be the next Drew Brees, Cardinals rookie Max Hall.  But Hall gets a tough draw in his first start, and it will likely be a long day for the 2008 NFC champs when the 2009 NFC champs come to town.  The only question is whether the Saints can display some of the same dominance from 2009, or whether they’ll continue to eke out narrow wins.  For one week at least, I envision dominance.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Cardinals 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The Cardinals are the most depressed 2-2 team in the land because they’ve played worse than some 0-4 squads.  Derek Anderson has taken all the heat, but the offensive line is in shambles, there’s no running game, Larry Fitzgerald is hurt, Joey Porter looks his age, Darnell Dockett has been inconsistent, and they don’t have a second cornerback.  Other than that, they look great.

Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 28, Cardinals 14.

Titans at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  Two weeks after beating the team that currently plays in Houston, the Cowboys host the team that used to play in Houston.  With a bye week to prepare and the Titans simply not as good as initially believed, the Cowboys will welcome the Titans back to the Lone Star State with a Texas-sized butt whipping.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 35, Titans 17.

Rosenthal’s take:  I picked both these teams to win their division in the PFT Season Preview.  One of them will fall into a major hole after this game.  Tennessee may be getting called dirty, but where’s the toughness on offense?  Their run-blocking has been abysmal.  Chris Johnson is often breaking two tackles to get back to the line of scrimmage.  The Titans need to air it out more, especially to Kenny Britt.  The Cowboys are a tough defense to play when you are searching for answers.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 23, Titans 17. 

Chargers at Raiders

Florio’s take:  The Chargers are continuing to dig out of their funk, just as the Raiders are settling in to theirs.  The only question about this one is whether it will be the last one of Tom Cable’s career.  

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 35, Raiders 19.

Rosenthal’s take: Where did all that offseason optimism about the Raiders go?  This looks like the same old team.  The defense was supposed to carry the day, but they’ve been among the league’s worst.  Bruce Gradkowski has improved the passing attack, but the offensive line still struggles.  This is a game Oakland desperately needs to stay relevant, and they usually play the Chargers tough at home.  They also usually find a way to lose.  Mike Tolbert Fever: Catch it!

Rosenthal’s pick:  Chargers 24, Raiders 20.

Eagles at 49ers

Florio’s take:  Though 0-4, the 49ers remain in contention to win the NFC West, especially since the three teams in front of them are 2-2 each.  The 2-2 Eagles enter the game without the NFC’s offensive player of the month for September, and there are real concerns that quarterback Kevin Kolb won’t be able to perform as well as he can, given the problems with the team’s offensive line.  With a national audience, an increasingly restless home crowd, and the ability to put together a string of four wins before their bye (the next opponents are the Raiders, Panthers, and Broncos), the 49ers have every incentive to put together a powerful performance.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 28, Eagles 22.

Rosenthal’s take: How little respect is there for Kevin Kolb nationwide?  The winless 49ers are favored in this game by 3.5.  With Oakland and Carolina on the schedule next, San Francisco has a real opportunity to turn their season around. There’s just very little reason to believe they’ll do so.  I’m taking the Eagles, if only for organizational superiority.  They are a team that finds ways to win over the years, while Mike Singletary’s squad searches for new and painful ways to lose each week.

Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 24, 49ers 21.

Vikings at Jets

Florio’s take:  Suddenly, the Monday night game at the New Meadowlands Stadium becomes as compelling as the Thursday night season opener.  The Jets have won three in a row since losing on their home field to open the season, and the Vikings are desperately trying to keep pace with the Packers and the Bears.  The Jets are 7-1 against the Vikings; even with Randy Moss, win No. 2 isn’t likely to come on Monday night.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 23, Vikings 21.

Rosenthal’s take:  Randy Moss can’t pass protect.  He can’t make Brett Favre turn back the clock a year, and Moss definitely can’t re-arrange a challenging schedule that even the ’09 Vikings would struggle to win 11 games against.  The Jets have lived up to the hype so far. The offense is playing better than the defense.  Don’t expect that to continue with Calvin Pace and Darrelle Revis likely returning Monday night.

Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Vikings 13.

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Ex-NFL player Antonio Armstrong and wife killed by their teen son

antonioarmstrong

Former NFL linebacker Antonio Armstrong and his wife were shot and killed by their teenage son in their home in Houston on Friday, police say.

Police were called to the Armstrongs’ home around 1:30 a.m. in response to shots fired, the Houston Chronicle reports. Daun Armstrong died at the scene and Antonio Armstrong died in the hospital a few hours later. KTRK reports that the couple’s 16-year-old son has been charged with murder. The couple’s two other children were at home at the time but were not harmed.

Relatives described the Armstrongs as a loving family and say they can’t imagine what could have led to such a situation.

“They kept them busy and they supported them in everything that they did. There was not any mark that they missed with their children,” a cousin of Daun Armstrong told the Houston Chronicle. “There was nothing that even could possibly have justified this situation. This doesn’t even make sense.”

Antonio Armstrong was an All-American linebacker at Texas A&M and a sixth-round draft pick of the 49ers in 1995. He played briefly for the Dolphins and Rams and then spent four seasons in the Canadian Football League. In retirement he has worked as a personal trainer and was well known in his community as a volunteer youth coach.

Photo via Facebook.

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Coach fired for Dolphins bullying scandal now in trouble at Texas A&M

San Diego Chargers v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Jim Turner, the Dolphins offensive line coach who was fired for his role in a bullying scandal that embroiled the team, spent two years out of football after losing his job in Miami. This offseason he was hired at Texas A&M, where it didn’t take him long to get in trouble again.

Texas A&M has suspended Turner and tight ends coach Jeff Banks for two weeks without pay, and ordered them to complete 20 hours of community service, for inappropriate comments they made at an event for female fans.

Among the issues that surfaced at the event were changes to the school’s fight song, which presented lyrics including “We are Aggie women / We are filled with estrogen” and “We are putting down our dish towels / And taking off our gloves.”

The coaches also gave the women tips on playing football that were filled with sexual double entendres like “No penetration,” “Never bend over,” and “Don’t end up on your back.”

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin quickly moved to suspend Turner and Banks after reports of the sexist comments surfaced.

“There is absolutely no place in our program or in our University community for inappropriate conduct or degrading comments towards women, or anyone, regardless of intent,” Sumlin said in a statement.

Turner was fired after an NFL-commissioned investigation found that he fostered an atmosphere in which Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey regularly bullied teammate Jonathan Martin. Among the inappropriate actions Turner is alleged to have taken during his tenure as Dolphins offensive line coach was buying inflatable sex dolls for players as Christmas presents. Turner filed a defamation lawsuit against Ted Wells, the lawyer who led the NFL’s investigation.

Turner and Banks issued a joint statement in which they said, “We clearly understand now that our comments and slides were not appropriate or consistent with the values of our football program.”

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Browns experimenting with Ogbah at 3-4 defensive end

BEREA, OH - JUNE 1, 2016: Linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah #90 of the Cleveland Browns takes part in drills during an OTA on June 1, 2016 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Emmanuel Ogbah Getty Images

As a pass rusher, Browns rookie Emmanual Ogbah naturally would play defensive end in a 4-3 defense and linebacker in a 3-4. In Cleveland, where the 3-4 remains the base defense, Ogbah spent the offseason as a linebacker. Now that camp has arrived, the Browns have given him a try at defensive end.

“We’re going to try a little bit of everything,” coach Hue Jackson told reporters on Friday. “We’re going to put our best players out there on defense. Obviously, we are going to try him there. We’re going to put him back at outside linebacker. We’re just trying to find a lot of different combinations now that Des [Bryant] is going to be down to see if we can put our best guys out there. If he gives us something there, then it’s going to help our football team. We’re going to try anything and everything that we can to give guys opportunities that showcase their abilities and talents.”

Jackson confirmed that Ogbah played linebacker exclusively during OTAs, with the switch happening only in training camp.

“We’re going to play him at defensive end some and take a good look at him,” Jackson said of Ogbah. “As you guys know, this time of the year is evaluation time for all of our football team. Now, you can do some of that. Move guys around and see what’s the best fit for our football team to help us win.”

Jackson disputed the notion that Ogbah moved to defensive end because of perceived difficulties with dropping into coverage as a linebacker during the offseason program. Instead, Jackson pointed out that having Ogbah play multiple positions gives the defense a greater degree of flexibility on defense.

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49ers add defensive lineman

UFC Fighters meet San Francisco 49ers Players Getty Images

The 49ers announced Friday that they’ve added defensive lineman D.J McBryde to their training camp roster.

McBryde, 24, signed a two-year deal with the team. McBryde broke into the NFL last season with the Eagles and spent six weeks on their active roster before catching on with the Packers practice squad last November. He signed a futures contract with the Packers in January but was waived last week.

He was a three-year contributor and one-year starter at UConn.

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49ers sign Joshua Garnett

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 7: Joshua Garnett #65 of the San Francisco 49ers goes through drills during the 49ers Rookie Camp at Levi Stadium on May 7, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Joshua Garnett Getty Images

The 49ers traded back into the first round to pick guard Joshua Garnett. Finally, the Stanford product is under contract.

The team has announced the Garnett has agreed to terms. As usual, it’s a four-year deal with a team-held option for the fifth year.

Garnett won the Outland Trophy in 2015, which goes to college football’s top lineman.

The acquisition leaves one one unsigned first-round pick: Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa.

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Todd Bowles doesn’t rule out carrying four quarterbacks

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets during play against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not long ago, the Jets were trying to sell the idea that Geno Smith would be the team’s starting quarterback. Now, they’re trying to sell the idea that Smith, the only quarterback inherited by the current regime, won’t be dumped in favor of 2015 draft pick Bryce Petty and 2016 draft pick Christian Hackenberg.

Keeping Smith could mean keeping four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Coach Todd Bowles was asked on Friday how conceivable keeping four quarterbacks would be.

“It’s conceivable,” Bowles told reporters. “It all depends on the strengths and weaknesses of other positions, because you have to steal from a position to keep a position and we have pretty good competition right now at about five positions, at least. It’s going to come down to seeing who we’re able to keep and who’s able to perform and who’s able to do things where we can steal one from another and who can play a dual role and have some versatility. It’s early, but we’ll see how it works out.”

Bowles pointed out that he once played on a Washington team that carried four quarterbacks, but that it happened in the days before the salary cap.

Bowles also made it clear that counting reps won’t be the best way to spot the man in danger of being cut.

“It’s not just if you get the least reps, you’re not going to be on the team,” Bowles said. “Sometimes you only need a little bit to show a lot and that’s at every position and that’s how we evaluate. We’re not going to evaluate somebody because they start out third team — and I’m not just talking about the quarterback spot — so you can make plays in a small amount of time to make an impact depending on what our need is for making this team.”

The Jets have no reason to admit that Smith or any other quarterback is in danger of being cut. They surely hope that someone will offer to trade for one of them. That’s why anything the team says about wanting to keep Smith should be taken with a grain of salt. They have to act like they want him in order to ever have any hope of training him.

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Bills hope Manny Lawson doesn’t have a long-term injury

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24: Manny Lawson #91 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a third quarter blocked kick recovery while playing the New York Jets at Ford Field on November 24, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) Getty Images

With Mario Williams gone, the Bills are counting on Manny Lawson stepping in and stepping up. For now, however, the Bills don’t have Lawson, because he injured himself working out on his own shortly before training camp.

While most stints on the non-football injury list will be temporary, the Bills are still waiting to learn more about Lawson’s absence. On Friday, G.M. Doug Whaley was asked whether Manny Lawson’s absence could be a long one.

“We’ll have to assess and get information from the medical staff here pretty soon and hopefully not,” Whaley told reporters. “We don’t anticipate it, but again, you never know with these things.”

Whaley said Manny Lawson suffered an upper body injury. If he’s not available, IK Enemkpali will have even more opportunities with the Bills.

“I’m excited about IK and I’ve mentioned that before,” coach Rex Ryan told reporters on Friday. “It may give him an opportunity to get the majority of the reps at the one.”

If Manny Lawson’s absence is extended, the team may look to add players at the position — especially since first-rounder Shaq Lawson could be missing much of his rookie year.

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Jets’ GM says Geno Smith remains in team’s plans

Geno Smith AP

Jets quarterback Geno Smith was essentially demoted when the team re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier this week, and Smith hasn’t hidden the fact that he’s not happy about it.

Still, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan told reporters Friday that Smith remains in the team’s plans.

Asked if he expected Smith to be on the opening day roster, Maccagnan said he “assumes” that answer is yes and said the team likes Smith.

The team will almost certainly end up either moving on from Smith or second-year quarterback Bryce Petty after drafting Christian Hackenberg last spring. That’s a decision Maccagnan doesn’t have to make now, but Smith knows he might also be auditioning for other teams.

Jets Coach Todd Bowles praised Smith in the offseason. Whether that was about trade value or whether the team still thinks Smith could end up being in its long-term plans might is unclear, and a lot could depend on what happens over the next four or five weeks with all of the team’s quarterbacks.

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Roethlisberger honors Heath Miller on first day of camp

Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller AP

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger paid tribute Friday to retired tight end Heath Miller by wearing Miller’s No. 83 jersey for the start of training camp.

Friday marked the start of the Steelers’ first camp without Miller since 2004. He was a first-round pick in 2005 who caught 45 career touchdown passes and went to two Pro Bowls.

Miller announced his retirement in February.

The Steelers tweeted a video of Roethlisberger taking the field in the No. 83 jersey on their official Twitter account.

Ladarius Green figures as the team’s new No. 1 tight end after signing with the Steelers in March, but he’s starting camp on the PUP list. His absence means extra reps for tight ends Jesse James and David Johnson.

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Texans extend G.M. Rick Smith’s contract through 2020

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Houston Texans General manager Rick Smith watches the New York Jets and Houston Texans warm up on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the signing of quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller, the Texans were one of the busier teams in the early days of free agency.

They aren’t going to wait to see how those moves or any of the others they made this offseason work out before deciding on General Manager Rick Smith’s future with the team. The Texans have extended Smith’s contract, which was due to expire after this season, through the 2020 campaign.

“Rick’s doing a good job for us, and I think stability in the organization is important,” owner Bob McNair said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “He works hard. He’s very diligent. He communicates well. He knows what our objectives are. Rick has put together a good scouting staff, and he works well with the coaching staff. I thought this was a good time to get this done.”

Smith is the second G.M. in the history of the franchise. He succeeded Charley Casserley in 2006 and built the first Texans teams to advance to the postseason. They took a step back in 2013 and 2014 and had a rough draft in 2013 outside of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but returned to the postseason as AFC South champs last year and McNair clearly believes Smith will continue to be successful in the years to come.

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Panthers first-rounder Vernon Butler carted off practice field with cramps

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Draftee Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech arrives at the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the early days of training camp, the most dreaded sight is the flatbed cart.

It made its appearance at Panthers camp today, to haul first-round pick Vernon Butler off the practice field, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said moments later that Butler was suffering from cramps, alleviating some of the concern.

Butler is a key piece for the Panthers for several reasons, even beyond his presence on the field. Having another interior presence should help them keep waves of linemen coming, and add to a pass-rush that isn’t as well-stocked at defensive end.

But he’s also a useful deterrent/insurance policy in the ongoing Kawann Short contract talks, allowing General Manager Dave Gettleman some cover for the future if they can’t work out a deal with Short.

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Raiders parting ways with Roy Helu

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 06:  Roy Helu #26 of the Oakland Raiders rushes with the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during their NFL game at O.co Coliseum on December 6, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders put running back Roy Helu on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp because he had surgery on both hips this offseason, but it’s going to be a brief stay.

The change isn’t because Helu is moving back to the active roster. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said Friday that the team has removed Helu from the 90-man roster entirely and replacing him with defensive tackle Derrick Lott.

Helu signed with the Raiders in March 2015, but he was hurt during training camp and wound up getting just 17 carries and nine receptions in nine appearances with the team. His hip problems suggested more of the same could be on tap this season and the Raiders will look elsewhere for backs to complement Latavius Murray.

They have 2016 fifth-rounder DeAndre Washington, Taiwan Jones, George Atkinson and Jalen Richard on hand to compete for that role now.

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Eli, Cruz say Beckham needs to be careful with his emotions

Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham Jr. AP

Giants receiver Odell Beckham’s 2015 season ended with a suspension for repeated personal fouls in an ongoing skirmish with Josh Norman. Beckham’s veteran teammates want to see 2016 go differently.

And so, quarterback Eli Manning told Sal Paolantonio of ESPN, the veterans on the Giants have talked to Beckham about keeping his emotions in check.

“Odell knows what he needs to do,” Manning said. “He’s got to be careful with his emotions and make sure that doesn’t affect his play. You want to get in that right temperament, be at your best, play your best football and he’s got to make sure he controls that, where we’re getting his best and his actions don’t affect the team in a negative way.”

Receiver Victor Cruz added that Beckham, as a young star in the NFL, needs to consider what kind of reputation he wants to have.

“I think he understands that this past year, since last season, has been a little bit of a whirlwind, in that regard, and he understands that — he wants people to know him for him and how he’s a great player, great person, and how he wants to be perceived and I think he’s really taken charge of that,” Cruz said.

Beckham already has the “great player” part down. He may have some work to do rehabbing his personal image, after the ugly ending to last season.

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Kubiak admits the obvious: 2015 Broncos offense “did not play well at all”

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Denver Broncos  reacts against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the retirement of Peyton Manning and the departure via free agency of Brock Osweiler, the Broncos official website referred to the quality of the team’s quarterback play in 2015 as “sub-optimal” and “near-replacement-level.”

On Friday, coach Gary Kubiak didn’t use such specificity in connection with the quarterback position. But he used a broad brush to paint a not-so-flattering picture regarding the team’s offensive performance in 2015.

“We’re talking about a group,” Kubiak told reporters. “We’re not talking about a position. You go back to last year and you look at us, we finished in the middle of the pack. I think we finished 16th. Out of 12 playoff teams, I think we we’re like sixth offensively, but we feel like we did not play well at all. That tells you the standard that we have, the standard that I have and [offensive coordinator Rick Dennison] has, and what we want to do. We’ve got to improve as a team. We can’t turn the ball over as much as we did last year and we’ve got to play better up front. If we do those things with the players we’ve got, we’re going to be a better offense. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a group, not a player.”

Fine, but it’s hard not to throw stones at an entire offense without hitting the former leader of it in the red splotch on his forehead. Quarterbacks get the credit when offenses thrive and the blame when they sputter. The Broncos sputtered on offense last year, and the play of Peyton Manning was a big factor in that.

This year, if the Broncos can get more out of the quarterback position, they can be better on offense and, if they perform as well as they did defensively in 2015, hoist another Lombardi Trophy.

On Friday, Mark Sanchez had the first crack at leading the first-team offense. After he threw an interception to cornerback Chris Harris Jr., however, Trevor Siemian entered and, according to Mike Klis of 9news.com, remained the No. 1 quarterback for the rest of the day.

With multiple options and no clear-cut leader at the position, that’s likely how it’s going to go. With Kubiak wanting to protect the ball, the one that does will play. Until he doesn’t, at which point someone else will play.

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Richardson missing from Jets practices for personal reasons

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 01:  Sheldon Richardson #91 of the New York Jets warms up prior to playing the Oakland Raiders in their NFL game at O.co Coliseum on November 1, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets have excused defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson from their training camp practices due to personal reasons, Jets coach Todd Bowles told reporters Friday.

Bowles said he expects Richardson to be absent for a couple days.

The Jets started camp on Thursday.

Richardson, 25, had five sacks last season after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He has 16.5 sacks in three seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

Richardson is suspended for the Jets’ season opener vs. the Bengals for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He’s still allowed to participate in camp and the preseason.

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