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Saints hold on for fifth straight with late sack of Locker

Marques Colston, Cortland Finnegan, Alterraun Verner AP

The Saints hadn’t played outdoors since Week Six.

Their offense wasn’t quite as explosive as usual in Tennessee, but New Orleans got the job done with a few big fourth quarter plays. Here’s what we learned in New Orleans’ 22-17 win.

1. This game looked over when the Saints went up 22-10 midway through the fourth quarter. Titans rookie Jake Locker, playing for an injured Matt Hasselbeck, managed to get the Titans in position to win with the ball on the five-yard line with seven seconds left.

2. Unfortunately, the game ended on a “rookie mistake” by Locker. He dropped back to pass and couldn’t find anyone open. He scrambled to his right, didn’t get rid of the ball, and tried to change directions before getting sacked by JoLonn Dunbar to end the game.

Locker had his moments in the game, but he has to give some receiver a chance to make a play. It looked like Jared Cook — who Locker was looking right at — had a chance to box out the defender on his hip. Call it a learning experience.

3. Locker showed some toughness after taking a massive hit from Roman Harper. He had to leave for a play, but returned quickly. (Hasselbeck was able to take that snap and completed a pass, indicating he may be able to start next week.)

4. The Saints offense was content to dink and dunk all day. They only had nine points heading into the fourth quarter, but Drew Brees hit Marques Colston for two big pass plays in the fourth quarter.  New Orleans just doesn’t have the same offense on the road on grass, but they got the job done Sunday.

5. Chris Johnson had another weak effort. He put up 23 yards on 11 rushes. He had a ton of open field space late in the game on a reception and couldn’t make Malcom Jenkins miss. It was a wildly tentative play that came up a yard short of the first down. The Titans didn’t wind up getting a first down.

6. The Saints are cruising to the NFC South title at 10-3. They have won five straight games, four against teams that had winning records at the time.

7. The Titans, now 7-6, will probably have to win out to make the playoffs. The Texans have won the AFC South.

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Broncos QBs sharing first-team reps

STANFORD, CA - FEBRUARY 04:  Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Denver Broncos  stands on the field during practice at Stanford Stadium on February 4, 2016 in Stanford, California. The Broncos will play the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos are in their second week of on-field practice work, and the starting quarterback’s job remains open.

It’s so open that Broncos coach Gary Kubiak told reporters Tuesday that he’s splitting reps evenly among Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian and rookie first-rounder Paxton Lynch. As for any kind of depth chart/pecking order, Kubiak said that will come later.

Per Mike Klis of 9News in Denver, Sanchez started with the first team in Tuesday’s practice but later took reps with the third unit. Siemian and Lynch also got first-team reps.

Sharing the reps is an interesting approach, but Kubiak clearly believes it’s the right one. Sanchez is the only competitor with real NFL experience, and though his draft position says Lynch’s time will come sooner than later, the Broncos are trying to repeat as Super Bowl champs and won’t rush him. Through the early practices, Siemian has played well enough to create some buzz.

It’s only May, but this figures to remain one of the most interesting — and apparently open — position battles in the NFL through the summer until a starter emerges, or until Kubiak has to pick one.

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Cowboys sign fourth-rounders, including Dak Prescott

STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 14:  Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs looks to pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Davis Wade Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Starkville, Mississippi.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys haven’t drafted many quarterbacks lately, and the one they took this year now has a contract.

Per the league’s official transaction wire, the Cowboys have signed fourth-round defensive end Charles Tapper and quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott, the 135th overall pick, was the first quarterback they’ve taken since using another fourth-rounder on Stephen McGee in 2009.

He was the consolation prize when they were unable to move back into the late first round to take Paxton Lynch, and an interesting prospect in his own right. He ought to have time to develop, as starter Tony Romo said he wants to play another four or five years.

As with other teams, they’re now down to just one unsigned pick, third-round defensive tackle Maliek Collins.

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J.J. Watt thinks he’ll be practicing soon

J.J. Watt AP

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt isn’t practicing with the team right now as he continues to recover from offseason groin surgery required to repair core muscle injuries he suffered during the course of the 2015 season.

The Texans obviously want to be sure Watt is 100 percent for the start of this season, so he’s been working out on the side while his teammates go through practices during OTAs. Watt said Tuesday that he expects his participation level will rise in the near future.

“I feel really good,” Watt said, via the Houston Chronicle. “As soon as I’m allowed, I’ll be out there. You guys know me well enough now to know that it’s not up to me. I think it will be soon.”

The Texans have two more OTAs this week, four over the next two weeks and then a three-day mandatory minicamp that ends on June 16. Watt should be doing more by the time that schedule wraps up, but may not be full go until training camp. That should work out just fine for the Texans defense as long as it ensures a healthy Watt come September.

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Report: Toxicology shows Will Smith was legally drunk

570a1c8ce3c36_willsmith Getty Images

Saints defensive end Will Smith, who was shot and killed in what has been described as a road rage incident, was legally drunk at the time, according to a new report.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that toxicology tests put Smith’s blood alcohol content at 0.24, or three times the legal limit of 0.08. An attorney for Smith’s family had previously claimed that Smith was not inebriated to the point where he couldn’t drive.

Cardell Hayes has been charged with murdering Smith and attempting to murder his wife Raquel, who was also shot in the incident. Hayes’ lawyer is claiming the shooting was self defense.

Surveillance cameras and witness statements indicate that that Smith’s SUV bumped Hayes’ Hummer and drove off before Hayes caught up to Smith, rammed into the SUV, and shot him in an ensuing argument.

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Tim Wright goes on IR, after tearing his ACL

Calvin Johnson, Timothy Wright AP

It was at least a little curious last week when the Lions put tight end Tim Wright on waivers, but now we know why.

The team announced this afternoon that Wright reverted to injured reserve after clearing waivers, and that he had torn his ACL.

The Lions acquired Wright in a trade with the Buccaneers (after they had previously traded him to the Patriots and later brought him back).

He played in nine games last year, catching nine passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. The Rutgers product has 13 touchdowns over his three NFL seasons.

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Carson Wentz says the Eagles have “an awesome quarterback room”

Quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass during the Philadelphia Eagles' rookie minicamp at the team's NFL football training facility, Friday, May 13, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) AP

On the outside, it appears that the Eagles’ quarterback situation is something of a mess, with the declared starter Sam Bradford not hiding his disappointment that the team traded up to draft Carson Wentz. But from Wentz’s perspective, everything is great.

Wentz said that he, Bradford and Chase Daniel have quickly developed a good rapport and are getting along well, with the two veterans helping the rookie learn to be a professional.

“So far it’s been great,” Wentz said. “Working with Sam, working with Chase, we’ve got an awesome quarterback room. A lot of really good discussions about the playbook, about life, it’s been great. And then on the practice field, they’ve been great for me. We have a really good relationship, so nothing but great things to say about those guys.”

Wentz is putting a happy face on what could be perceived as an uncomfortable situation. We’ll see in three months how happy everyone is when one quarterback is named the starter and the other two have to bide their time on the bench.

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Report: Malcolm Butler will be at OTAs this week

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 20:  Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots intercepts a pass intended for  Harry Douglas #83 of the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots opened up the OTA portion of their offseason schedule last week without cornerback Malcolm Butler and his absence was accompanied by a report that Butler wants a new contract as he heads into his third year with the team.

Butler’s not required to be at any team practices until next month’s mandatory minicamp, but it doesn’t look like he will be missing in action for much longer. The Patriots will hold two more OTAs on Wednesday and Thursday this week and Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that Butler will be in attendance.

Howe adds that the “strong indication” is that Butler’s absence last week was not part of a push for a new contract and that Butler wants to avoid “unnecessary attention” this offseason after missing a flight on his way to practices last year.

Butler is set to make $600,000 in 2016, which is certainly a bargain price for a player in his role for the Patriots but it isn’t one that there’s much pressure for the Patriots to adjust. Butler is set for restricted free agency after the season and extending a first-round tender would likely be enough to ensure that he doesn’t leave town until 2018 at the earliest.

With linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower progressing toward unrestricted free agency, Butler may be third in line among New England defenders for extension talks in the immediate future.

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Broncos could keep Ware on sideline until training camp

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 27: outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after sacking the quarterback while playing the Detroit Lions in the first quarter on September 27, 2015 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) Getty Images

A week after saying that outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware would likely be limited through OTA practices and minicamp due to back issues, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday that Ware might not do any on-field work until the Broncos open training camp in late July.

Given that Ware is going to be 34 this summer and is very much a proven player, that’s probably a smart move. It’s notable because those back issues sidelined Ware at two different times last season and because the Broncos are counting on him to be a productive pass rusher.

A week ago, Kubiak said Ware sitting out the start of OTAs was “more preventative than anything” and said “we’ll probably make decisions on DeMarcus day to day based on how he is feeling.”

Ware had 7.5 sacks last season, 4.5 in the first four games before the back flared up, though he recovered well enough to play in the postseason and had two sacks in the Super Bowl. He took a pay cut in the offseason to stay with the Broncos.

A first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2005, Ware came to the Broncos in 2014. He’s only missed eight games in his career, all in the last three seasons, and has 134.5 career sacks.

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Branden Albert not worried about Laremy Tunsil being left tackle of the future

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Branden Albert #76 of the Miami Dolphins in action against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 29, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Laremy Tunsil wasn’t expected to be on the board when the Dolphins were picking 13th in the first round of last month’s draft, but Tunsil tumbled after a video showing him smoking pot surfaced and Miami was there to stop his fall.

Tunsil played left tackle at Ole Miss and is expected to play that position in the NFL as well, although it looks like his first stop on the Dolphins offensive line will be at guard because Branden Albert and Ja’Wuan James are installed at left and right tackle. Albert said Tuesday that he isn’t threatened by Tunsil’s addition and that he’s spending time making sure the rookie is ready to play as soon as possible because it’s the best thing for the team.

“I’m the left tackle of this team. I wasn’t worried about anything,” Albert said, via “I’m trying to bring [Tunsil] along the best I can. The faster he moves along, the faster that his progress comes, the faster we get the five best offensive linemen on the field. … and that’s going to help the team.”

Albert said he’s down to 313 pounds, which is as light as he’s been since leaving the Chiefs for the Dolphins, and that losing weight has made for less impact on his knees a year after returning from a torn ACL and MCL. A healthy Albert would be a good thing for the Dolphins line in 2016 and beyond, even if it means Tunsil continues his NFL education at other positions.

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Kelvin Benjamin trying “not to baby” knee in return to field

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 10:  Kelvin Benjamin #13 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after scoring a 15 yard touchdown thrown by Cam Newton #1 in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during the 2015 NFC Divisional Playoff game at CenturyLink Field on January 10, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers had wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin on the practice field for the first time in almost a year last week when he joined the team at Thursday’s OTA session.

Benjamin was back at it on Tuesday and said after the workout that it feels good to be on the field after such an extended layoff. Benjamin isn’t a full participant at this point, but told reporters that he isn’t holding anything back during the drills that he is able to do.

“Not at all. I try not to baby it,” Benjamin said. “I try to go hard. Whatever the route is, I try to trust in the process that we have been doing, the rehabbing. So I just go ahead and make that plant.”

Benjamin said that a knee brace was recommended, but that he’s going without one because it “would be a mind thing” that could get in the way of returning to full speed. After seeing Benjamin catch 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2014, no one in Carolina’s going to want to get in the way of that either.

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The week after foot surgery, Titans sign second-rounder Kevin Dodd

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 31:  Samaje Perine #32 of the Oklahoma Sooners carries the ball as Kevin Dodd #98 of the Clemson Tigers attempts to tackle him in the first quarter during the 2015 Capital One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on December 31, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Titans aren’t going to see Kevin Dodd on the field until at least training camp, but at least they’ll see his name on the dotted line.

According to Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website, the second-round outside linebacker from Clemson has agreed to terms on his four-year rookie deal.

He’s the ninth of their 10 draft picks with a deal, leaving only third-rounder Kevin Byard (which is consistent with other third-round deals being more than boilerplate).

As for Dodd, they’re going to be without him for a few months after foot surgery to repair a stress fracture, which coach Mike Mularkey described as “preventative.”

“He is going to miss the OTAs and the veteran minicamp (next month) but he should be back for training camp,’’ Mularkey said. “He’ll miss some initial days here because he’ll be on crutches. But as soon as he can support his weight he’ll be out here and at least get some visual work with it.”

Dodd had 12.0 sacks last year at Clemson, with three of them coming in the national championship game.

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Lurie: Bradford is absolutely the right guy to quarterback our team

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 22:  Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, looks on before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lincoln Financial Field on November 22, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie says he believes in quarterback Sam Bradford, but also believes trading up to get Carson Wentz was a wise investment in the team’s future.

Lurie told that the Eagles think Bradford is the quarterback of the present while Wentz is the quarterback of the future, and the team had to make bold offseason moves to have both in the fold.

“We see it differently than I guess some other people may,” Lurie said. “We see Sam as absolutely the right guy to quarterback the team. We are so rarely able to draft in the Top 5 in the draft. It’s only been twice in about 15-20 years. So we saw the opportunity, and we liked two quarterbacks. We had to make the move to secure having a potential franchise quarterback for many, many years. Having a lot of assets at the most important position in the NFL is a good strategic move for now. And it can only benefit us. Because in the NFL, it’s the one position you can’t just go get. And so when you have an opportunity, you’ve gotta take your shot, and you’ve gotta be bold. Otherwise, if you say to yourself, you know, it is probably a 50-50 shot that maybe the quarterback will be really good, you can’t let that deter you. So that’s how I look at it: You either have a really good QB and you compete for the Super Bowl, or you don’t and you are probably not competing for the Super Bowl. And that’s simple.”

As much as Lurie wants to justify the Eagles’ moves this offseason, however, it seems unlikely that the Eagles would have signed Bradford to an $18 million a year contract if they had realized they’d be able to move up in the draft and get Wentz. Bradford might be the guy this season, but the decision to trade up for Wentz shows that Bradford is not the right guy beyond this season.

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Senquez Golson says “soft tissue” injury, not shoulder, reason he went for MRI

Senquez Golson AP

The good news for the Steelers is that 2015 second-round cornerback Senquez Golson says that his shoulder is “100 percent ready to go” after an injury forced him to miss his entire rookie season.

The bad news is that Golson still spent some time in an MRI tube last week. Golson didn’t take part in Tuesday’s OTA session in Pittsburgh and explained, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that a “soft tissue” injury is the reason why he’s on the sideline.

Golson only expects to miss “just a couple days” and wasn’t worried that he’ll miss too much as a result of this injury.

If Golson can keep up, he will try to add to the number of new faces in prominent roles in the team’s secondary. They drafted cornerback Artie Burns in the first round and safety Sean Davis in the second round as they try to shore up a group that finished 30th in the league in passing yards allowed.

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Vikings shuffle defensive linemen after B.J. Dubose tears ACL

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 22:   Bruce Gaston #76 of the Chicago Bears waits with teammates to run out to the field during pre-game ceremonies prior to the start of the NFL game against the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field on November 22, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings suffered a loss on the defensive line last week when B.J. Dubose tore his ACL during one of the team’s OTAs.

The injury will force Dubose to miss the season and the Vikings announced a move on Tuesday to fill the 2015 sixth-round pick’s spot on the roster. The Vikings waived Dubose with an injury designation, setting him up for a spot on injured reserve if he goes through waivers unclaimed, and signed defensive tackle Bruce Gaston.

Gaston got some exposure to life in the NFC North last season by playing in two games for the Packers and then seeing time in seven games for the Bears after they signed him off of Green Bay’s practice squad. Gaston had 12 tackles and a sack across his two stops and has also spent time with the Cardinals, Patriots and Dolphins since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2014.

Gaston will be trying for a reserve role behind Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph in Minnesota.

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Ben Roethlisberger hopes young receivers “take the next step”

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 09:  Markus Wheaton #11 of the Pittsburg Steelers celebrates after catching a pass against the Cincinnati Benglas at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s a safe bet that Antonio Brown is going to see plenty of action in the Steelers offense during the 2016 season whether it amounts to enough to set a new single-season record for receiving yards or not.

Less certain is how big an impact the team’s other wide receivers will have. With Martavis Bryant suspended for the entire season, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is looking to the younger members of the group.

“We all need to step up anyway, but we have a lot of guys who carry a lot on their shoulders already, so we’ll all need to step up,” Roethlisberger said. “I’d like to see some of the young guys really take the next step, especially the young receiving guys.”

Markus Wheaton closed the 2015 regular season with a flourish, catching 28 passes for 476 yards and four touchdowns in the final six weeks of the year after making just 16 catches up to that point in the season. All of that production took place with both Brown and Bryant in the lineup, however, and Wheaton’s production hasn’t been as impressive over the rest of his three NFL seasons.

Sammie Coates had a couple of big plays against the Broncos in Pittsburgh’s playoff loss, which puts the 2015 third-rounder into the group of young wideouts with a chance to do more. Coats had only one catch in six regular season appearances, so there’s a lot of work to do to show he can be a consistent threat for Roethlisberger this season.

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