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Jaws: Tape says Cam Newton can be a “special passer”

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Coming out of Auburn, 2011 No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton was billed in many circles as a run-first quarterback who played in a gimmicky college spread offense and would struggle to make NFL throws. After 16 games, Newton established himself as the most prolific rookie quarterback in league history.

And based on game film, as ESPN’s Ron Jaworski explained on SportsCenter Tuesday, Newton has the potential to develop into a truly special thrower of the football.

“No one is a great quarterback in the NFL because of the way they run,” Jaws explained. “… [Newton] played very well from the pocket. … What also stood out was Newton’s patience in the pocket. And his ability to sit on his back foot and cut it loose. He made seam throws that were firm and required arm strength, yet demanded touch.

“Newton hung in the pocket and delivered without flinching. He was very good in the eye of the storm. This kid is a big-time talent. He still needs more experience, but the traits are there to be a special passer.”

Jaws views Newton’s passing ability as the most critical aspect of his quarterbacking chops, but doesn’t dismiss Newton’s running ability. It’s particularly helpful on third downs and in the red zone.

“It starts with passing, but [Newton’s] ability to break down a defense with his legs gives him an edge like few have ever had,” Jaworski said. “The read-option in the red zone is an added dimension that Newton brings. His speed is a decisive factor.

“One element I’ve talked about discussing Aaron Rodgers is the ability on third down to defeat man coverage by running. Newton gives you that same quality. That’s a real problem for a defense. It limits their coverage concepts.”

In daily SportsCenter segments produced by Greg Cosell of NFL Films, Jaworski is ranking the league’s top-30 quarterbacks. Cosell and Jaws have Newton ranked 15th, but Jaworski says there is potential for much more with experience.

“From a skill-set standpoint,” Jaws said, “Newton could easily rank higher than 15th on my big board. He’s a top-ten talent. He needs more snaps; one year is not enough. But I can’t wait to see him in a few months.”

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L.A. stadium should want to delay Super Bowl by a year

Immediately after word broke that the new L.A. stadium will have its opening delayed by a year, the leak/spin cycle began to sell the idea that the NFL could waive its rule requiring a stadium to be open for two years before hosting a Super Bowl. As the leak/spin cycle continues, an important point is being lost in the shuffle: The folks in L.A. should want to delay the stadium’s first Super Bowl by a year.

The reason for the rule (which the leak/spin cycle most recently described to Peter King of TheMMQB.com as an “unofficial policy,” which makes it even easier to disregard) is obvious. The NFL wants to be sure that all kinks have been worked out of a new stadium before it hosts the NFL’s premiere annual 100-million-plus-viewer event.

As King notes, the leak/spin cycle points to the fact that, with the Chargers and Rams sharing the venue, it will have hosted as many NFL games as the new stadiums in Minnesota and Atlanta will host before staging a Super Bowl. The counter to that, however, is that an already hectic and stressful year, with 20 preseason and regular season games in five months, should not be made even more hectic and stressful via the extra work and effort and time and money and everything else spent in order to host a Super Bowl.

Security concerns remain paramount at the Super Bowl. From design to construction to operation of the stadium, new challenges will emerge regarding the process of letting the right people in and keeping the wrong people out. Last year in Minnesota, at the end of the first year of the new stadium’s life cycle, mischief-makers were able to make mischief with equipment they never should have been able to sneak through the doors.

While similar issues problems have happened at older stadiums (like the one in Charlotte), deviating from a rule/unofficial policy/whatever invites a big, fat I-told-you-so if anything happens that shouldn’t during Super Bowl LV.

Then there’s the possibility of further construction delays. Already behind by a full year, what if more unanticipated delays emerge? It would make much more sense to push the Super Bowl back by a year now in order to avoid having to scramble at a time when it may be much harder to reserve thousands of hotel rooms and the various large halls and other spaces needed to pull off the full Super Bowl experience.

For those reasons, the folks building the L.A. stadium shouldn’t be trying to keep their current Super Bowl in place; they should be clamoring to get it delayed. As King notes, the new venue will host multiple Super Bowls. Whether the first one happens to cap the 2020 or 2021 season shouldn’t matter.

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Panthers reorganize scouting department

The Panthers have shuffled their personnel department a bit after the departure of assistant General Manager Brandon Beane for Buffalo, passing out some titles which should keep their scouting department largely intact.

The team hasn’t named a new assistant G.M., but pro scouting director Mark Koncz was named director of player personnel.

They also bumped veteran college scouting director Don Gregory to “senior executive scout,” putting him in an overseeing role for both pro and college scouting. They named longtime college scout Jeff Morrow their new director of college scouting.

“You are always looking to improve your scouting operation,” G.M Dave Gettleman said in a statement. “We made some moves after taking a look at everything. I feel really good about our personnel group, both pro and college. We feel this strengthens us even further.”

The Panthers also named Matt Allen the new director of pro personnel, Jonathan Fields a pro scouting assistant and Eli Montague an area scout.

Photo credit: Panthers.com

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Darrelle Revis won’t be punished by NFL after February incident

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Darrelle Revis doesn’t have a job at the moment.

But at least if he finds one, the former All-Pro cornerback won’t have to worry about any future punishment.

According to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, the league has completed its review of the case surrounding assault charges (which were dismissed in March) and has decided to do nothing.

The 31-year-old Revis hasn’t found a taker since being released by the Jets, and frankly this decision shouldn’t have much bearing on his future employment.

The Jets still owe him $6 million, so it’s not like he’s out there hurting for cash. But his play last year was nothing to create a robust market for himself.

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Josh Doctson to work in full at OTAs

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Wide receiver Josh Doctson’s rookie season was almost a total washout as the first-round pick played in just two games while dealing with an Achilles injury that kept him out of most offseason and preseason work as well.

Doctson moved along slowly in the early parts of this offseason and Redskins coach Jay Gruden said in April that the team was planning to continue with a cautious approach through their organized team activities. Those get going this week and Doctson’s outlook has improved.

Gruden said Monday, via multiple Washington beat reporters, that Doctson will be “full for everything” during OTAs.

That should be a plus for the offense as the departures of Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson has left space to fill alongside Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor. Doctson went in the first round because the Redskins were convinced he could provide such help to the passing game and it looks like he’ll get a bigger chance to prove it this year.

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Mike Zimmer will miss some OTAs after eighth eye surgery

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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer disclosed over the weekend that he recently had an eighth surgical procedure on his right eye. On Monday, Zimmer has disclosed that the development will cause him to miss some of the team’s OTA sessions.

Zimmer told Paul Allen of KFAN that the fourth-year coach will miss an undetermined number of offseason practice sessions while he rests at home following the latest operation.

“As the Vikings begin OTA practices, Coach Zimmer will be taking time away from the team to dedicate to recovering from eye surgery and restoring his health,” the Vikings said in a statement. “We all agree Mike’s health is the priority and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term. We anticipate Mike back on the field in a few weeks.”

The OTA process represents the culmination of the offseason program, during which much of the offense and defense for the coming season is installed. Apart from the impact of Zimmer’s absence on this preparations, the situation will serve for any of the players who were on the roster last year as a reminder of one of the most bizarre and disappointing seasons in team history.

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Bruce Allen believes July 15 will be “driving point” in Kirk Cousins contract talks

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When he was asked about his desire for a long-term contract recently, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said that he’s in a “good place” right now and noted that many players are on one-year contracts without anyone making a major fuss.

It was team president Bruce Allen’s turn to talk about Cousins’ contract status on Monday and cited Cousins’ comments when saying the team was comfortable going into the season with Cousins playing on the franchise tag. Allen also said that the team remains interested in extending Cousins’ deal because the quarterback has gotten “better and better” and that he’s “always an optimist” about things working out.

If a deal is going to be struck, it sounds like it might not come until we draw closer to the July 15 deadline for tagged players to sign multi-year deals.

“It’s ongoing,” Allen said, via Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post. “There’s been constant dialogue, I don’t want to say it’s been every day. I really believe July 15, the league deadline, is really going to be the driving point to it. It’s ongoing.”

There hasn’t seemed to be much momentum toward a deal, but we’ve seen the deadline lead to action in other cases where an agreement seemed like a longshot. In a little less than two months, we’ll know which side of the fence the Cousins talk wind up.

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Giants bringing Devin Taylor in for a visit

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The Giants have written big checks lately for pass-rushing defensive ends, but they still need some depth.

A league source confirms to PFT the Giants are bringing former Lions defensive end Devin Taylor for a visit.

Taylor had 7.0 sacks as a reserve two years ago, but only 4.5 last year as a starter in Detroit.

After signing Olivier Vernon a year ago and extending Jason Pierre-Paul this offseason, the Giants are covered with starters but could use more depth.

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Gerald Hodges visiting Bills, Giants

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The Gerald Hodges job tour continues.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the free-agent linebacker will visit the Bills today and the Giants on Tuesday.

Hodges recently met with the Jets. Before that, he visited with the Chiefs and Seahawks.

Hodges, No. 61 on the PFT Free Agent Hot 100 list, previously played for the 49ers. Because the window has closed on the compensatory draft-pick formula, any team that signs him won’t have that count against their net free agency gains/losses for the purposes of dishing out extra third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, and/or seventh-round picks.

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Orlando Franklin visiting Jags, Sam Barrington visited last week

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The Jaguars are slated to have wide receiver Victor Cruz in for a visit this week, but he’s not the only veteran free agent on their radar.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports and PFT has confirmed that guard Orlando Franklin is visiting the team on Monday. Franklin was released by the Chargers last week.

Franklin started 26 games for the Chargers over the last two seasons and has been a regular in the starting lineup since joining the Broncos as a second-round pick in 2011. The Jaguars are in need of a left guard, although there’s been some speculation that the loser of the left tackle competition between Branden Albert and Cam Robinson could slide inside.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Jaguars also had linebacker Sam Barrington in for a workout last week. He split last season between the Chiefs and Saints and would be a depth pickup for Jacksonville.

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New overtime rule could let receiving team win with just a field goal

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When the NFL changed its overtime rule in 2012, it was supposed to guarantee both teams the ball, unless the team that received the overtime kickoff scored a touchdown on its first possession. But as the NFL prepares to change its overtime rule again, that “guarantee” is no longer so solid.

The league is expected this week to shorten overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. That means that if the team that receives the opening kickoff marches into field goal range on a long, sustained drive, it could just try to run out the clock until there’s a second or two left in the game, send out the field goal team and win the game with a kickoff at the end of a 10-minute opening possession.

Granted, 10-minute possessions are rare, but they’re not unheard of: According to Pro Football Reference, since 1999 there have been 29 possessions that took 10 or more minutes off the clock and ended in a field goal. An additional seven possessions that took 10 or more minutes off the clock ended in a missed field goal.

There’s never been a 15-minute possession (the longest drive of any kind in the Pro Football Reference database lasted 12:29), so this wasn’t a concern with the longer, 15-minute overtime. But with a 10-minute overtime, it’s a real possibility that a receiving team could win with a field goal, and the kicking team never gets the ball.

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Michael Bennett says he will “boycott” local newspaper

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Near the end of last season, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman took some time off from speaking to reporters following a press conference argument that saw Sherman threaten to ruin a reporter’s career.

Sherman eventually apologized for that and resumed speaking to the media, but now one of his teammates has elicited memories of that stretch by vowing not to speak to one of Seattle’s newspapers. Defensive end Michael Bennett responded to a tweet from the Seattle Times about a column by Matt Calkins by saying he would “boycott” the paper and encourage his teammates to join him in refusing to speak to reporters from that outlet.

Calkins wrote a column calling Bennett “as direct and as fearless as they come” in regards to both his play on the field his commitment to issues and causes he believes in off of it. Calkins also criticized Bennett for bouts of “immaturity” when dealing with the media and closes the column by writing that he loves Bennett’s message but “sometimes, I wonder about the messenger.”

There’s nothing too unusual about players taking an issue with something written or said about them in the media. These things often blow over in time, so we’ll have to see if this proves to be an exception.

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Vinny Curry said he played through knee injury last year

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Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry responded to a big contract with a lackluster season, but he’s explaining now there was a reason for that.

Via Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, Curry said during an interview on 94 WIP that he tried playing through a knee injury which bothered him all season.

I messed my MCL up,” Curry said. “I tried to play through it, and in the long run it ended up hurting me. It is going to be a better year, everything has been perfect so far.”

Curry said he suffered the injury prior to the opener against the Browns. He was on the injury report with a knee problem the first three weeks of the season, but then wasn’t listed.

Curry played well in stretches, but had just 2.5 sacks last season, far from what many expected after the Eagles gave him a five-year, $46 million contract extension.

His kind of cap figure ($9 million next season) will keep the attention on him, and with the Eagles using their first-round pick on defensive end Derek Barnett, Curry will need to get back to producing soon.

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Celebration rule change of some sort coming

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The celebration rules, they are a-changing. It’s still unclear what they’ll be a-changing to.

Despite an expectation in the days preceding the annual meeting in March that changes of some sort would be made to the rules regarding player celebrations, the rules never changed. In fact, the topic never even came up again.

It’s coming up now. Via Peter King of TheMMQB.com, the ownership meeting set for Tuesday in Chicago will result in changes to the current 15-yards-and-a-five-figure-fine punishment for things that currently are forbidden. But it remains unclear what will and won’t be allowed, and what the consequence will be for doing something that will, when things change, be forbidden.

Currently, players are prohibited from: (1) going to the ground when celebrating; (2) celebrating in a group; and (3) using the ball as a prop. King points out that maneuvers like shooting the ball through the uprights as if they’re a basketball hoop (which Washington tight end Vernon Davis did a year ago) will be allowed. It’s still not clear what won’t be allowed.

We’ve argued in the past that, whatever the rules may be, the sanction should be a fine and not a penalty. This allows the league office to carefully consider whether a violation occurred, without requiring the officials to determine in the heat of the moment whether (or not) to take out the flag and tilt the playing field by 15 yards.

As noted by King, Commissioner Roger Goodell, his staff, and a “large group of players” met twice this offseason to discuss the issue. Based on King’s report, it sounds as if, at a minimum, the prohibition on using the ball as a prop will go away. Still, there will be a line, somewhere; in Super Bowl XLIX, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin used the ball as a prop in one very specific (and some would say hilarious) way, which the league surely doesn’t want to endorse or embrace.

So whatever they decide to do on Tuesday in Chicago, the new rules need to be clear, and they need to be consistently enforced. Discretion should be at a minimum for the officials. Ideally, the officials won’t be involved at all, with the downside of a downright inappropriate celebration being a postgame fine, not an in-game penalty.

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Monday morning one-liners

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Second-round OL Dion Dawkins is getting used to life with the Bills.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase is taking precautions against injuries in OTAs.

T Conor McDermott may face an uphill climb to make the Patriots.

What can the Jets expect from QB Christian Hackenberg?

Ravens players checked out the Preakness this weekend.

The Bengals alumni were well represented at coach Marvin Lewis’ golf tournament.

Can Cody Kessler hold off competition to be the Browns’ quarterback?

Five Steelers with something to prove during OTAs.

The Texans start OTAs on Monday.

Predicting the Colts’ starting lineup this fall.

A gunshot wound was one of the obstacles RB Tim Cook dealt with on his way to the Jaguars.

How much will the Titans’ offensive philosophy change this year?

The Broncos’ quarterback competition takes a step forward with OTAs here.

WR Jeremy Maclin’s Chiefs teammates were among the guests at his wedding.

A vote for former Raiders QB Jim Plunkett to get into the Hall of Fame.

Working with Anthony Lynn when Lynn was a player helped special teams coach George Stewart land a job on Lynn’s Chargers staff.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett had several of the team’s players at his football camp in New Jersey over the weekend.

OTAs will give the Giants a chance to start learning if standing pat on the offensive line was the right call.

The Eagles’ offseason moves look good for QB Carson Wentz.

Running backs will be worth watching at the Redskins OTAs.

Bears TE Zach Miller was surprised that Jay Cutler took a job as a broadcaster.

A look at WR Golden Tate’s role in the Lions offense.

Will the Packers offense take a page from the Patriots?

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph wound up in victory lane during his visit to a NASCAR race.

Falcons rookie LB Duke Riley is used to following in Deion Jones‘ footsteps.

Is DE Julius Peppers going to be a Reggie White-like addition for the Panthers?

RB Mark Ingram visited a big Saints fan on his first day home after a liver transplant.

The Buccaneers aren’t being shy about making sure WR DeSean Jackson knows their expectations for him.

Said Andre Ellington of transitioning to wide receiver with the Cardinals, “It’s the terminology, that’s the hardest part and weaving through traffic, so to speak, without the ball. At running back, you’re doing that with the ball. At receiver you’re doing that trying to get open.”

With Tavon Austin sidelined, other Rams wide receivers will get increased chances in practice.

The 49ers have a lot of new faces competing for jobs this offseason.

Tyrone Swoopes is trying to go from quarterback to tight end with the Seahawks.

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Bears considering moving Kyle Long again

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The Bears have been fortunate that Pro Bowl offensive lineman Kyle Long is versatile, and they’re thinking about tapping into that again.

According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears are considering moving Long to left guard this year and flipping free agent pickup Josh Sitton to right guard.

Long has played tackle in the past, but the Bears obviously prefer him inside. The only complication to this move is that Long’s still rehabbing last year’s ankle injury, so it’s unclear when the adjustment will begin.

Sitton has plenty of experience at right guard, having started the first four years in Green Bay on the right side. Long hasn’t played left guard since college, but it shouldn’t be that much of a problem for a player of his experience.

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