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PFT’s Week One picks

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With the start of the NFL regular season comes the start of a new picks competition.  This year, MDS will pit his prognostication skills against the proprietor of this portal.  At least I can proudly say I’m currently tied for the lead at 0-0.

And given that we disagree on only one game, I’m guaranteed to be no more than one game back after one week.

Cowboys at Giants

Florio’s take:  That Dallas playoff win by the Giants in 2007 not only fueled a Super Bowl run but also sparked the first of seven wins by New York in nine games against their NFC East rivals.  Underestimated by many (not me) as they try to become the first team to repeat in nearly a decade, the Giants should be able to continue the string of eight straight defending champs who launch the ensuing season with a win.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 30, Cowboys 24.

MDS’s take: I’m tempted to pick the upset in an attempt to put some distance between myself and Florio right off the bat, but this looks like a tough game for the Cowboys to win. The Giants’ pass rush is going to give Tony Romo fits, and Romo likely won’t have his favorite target, tight end Jason Witten. The Super Bowl champions will begin the 2012 regular season the way they ended the 2011 regular season, by beating the Cowboys.

MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Cowboys 14.

Colts at Bears

Florio’s take:  In 1961, a far less heralded rookie quarterback who would become a Hall of Famer launched his career with the Vikings (and the life of an expansion team) with a win over the Bears.  Though the Colts in many ways feel like a first-year franchise, lightning likely won’t be striking again, 51 years later.  Andrew Luck looks to be the real thing, but he’ll have to wait for a Week Two visit from the Vikings to get his first NFL win.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 27, Colts 13.

MDS’s take: Andrew Luck has looked outstanding in the preseason, but I’m not falling into the trap of thinking a new franchise quarterback means the Colts are going to pick up right where they left off when Peyton Manning was healthy. Even if Luck is outstanding when the games count for real, the Colts have all kinds of problems on defense, and I like Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Matt Forte to have big games on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Bears 31, Colts 17.

Eagles at Browns

Florio’s take:  A reunion of the Green Bay mafia will be conducted on Sunday, with various branches of the Mike Holmgren tree coming together in Cleveland.  But the Factory of Sadness will likely continue to churn out chagrin for the denizens of the Dawg Pound.  Though Mike Vick may not be able to stay healthy all season, he’ll be ready go to in Week One.  And so will the rest of his teammates.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 35, Browns 20.

MDS’s take: I’m not sold on the Eagles, but I am sold on the Browns — sold on the idea that they’re the worst team in the league this year. It’s going to be a rough season in Cleveland.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 17, Browns 7.

Rams at Lions

Florio’s take:  Even when the Rams won the Super Bowl, they couldn’t win in Detroit.  Now that the Lions are moving closer to a Super Bowl berth of their own, this one could get ugly.  Quickly.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Rams 10.

MDS’s take: Jeff Fisher is going to turn the Rams around, and they’re going to be a much better team this season than they were last season. An upset over the team coached by Fisher’s old protege Jim Schwartz wouldn’t surprise me, but I’ll pick Detroit in a nail-biter.

MDS’s pick: Lions 21, Rams 20.

Dolphins at Texans

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins won’t truly experience Hard Knocks until they get a look at the Texans’ defense.  I rarely predict a shutout.  It’s not really all that much of a stretch on this one.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 20, Dolphins 0.

MDS’s take: This looks like Week One’s biggest mismatch. Ryan Tannehill will have a steep learning curve adjusting to the NFL, while Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and the Texans’ offense will be in midseason form. This is a beatdown.

MDS’s pick: Texans 34, Dolphins 7.

Falcons at Chiefs

Florio’s take:  Last year, I had a feeling that the much-hyped Falcons wouldn’t fare well on a Week One trip to the Midwest, against the Bears.  This year, the Falcons are on the road to the Heartland again, against the Chiefs.  But they’ve got too much firepower, notwithstanding the firewater-influenced fanatics at Arrowhead.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 28, Chiefs 24.

MDS’s take: Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel has expressed disappointment with his team’s performance in the preseason, and with good reason.  The Chiefs have looked shaky on both sides of the ball. Kansas City
got off to a very rough start last season and never recovered, and the start of this season could be rough as well.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 28, Chiefs 10.

Jaguars at Vikings

Florio’s take:  The battle for Matt Barkley would have been a hell of a lot more compelling in Week 17.  When the talent level is equally suspect, the home team gets the edge.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 20, Jaguars 17.

MDS’s take: Who’s more likely to play and play well in this one, Maurice Jones-Drew or Adrian Peterson? Jones-Drew is healthy and says he’s been staying in shape, but one week isn’t enough to completely learn an offense after a lengthy holdout, and I see Jones-Drew struggling early this season in much the same way Chris Johnson did last season. Peterson didn’t play at all in the preseason, but from all accounts he has recovered from last year’s season-ending torn ACL, and I like him to have a big game in Week One.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 23, Jaguars 16.

Redskins at Saints

Florio’s take:  In a May appearance on PFT Live, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan joked that he hoped Saints quarterback Drew Brees would be suspended for Week One.  That would have been Washington’s only chance to steal a win in a Superdome that will be rocking almost as loud as it was the night they reopened the place in 2006.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 38, Redskins 22.

MDS’s take: The Saints feel like they have a point to prove, and they’ll be motivated, and the Superdome will be a hostile environment for Robert Griffin III. I think the Redskins’ offense is going to be better than most people expect, and they’ll put some points on the board against the Saints, but Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense will score more.

MDS’s pick: Saints 27, Redskins 24.

Bills at Jets

Florio’s take:  Lost in the hand-wringing regarding the Jets’ offense is the fact that the defense is still pretty good.  Good enough to outscore a Bills team that, while improving, isn’t ready to steal one on the road to start the season.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 15, Bills 10.

MDS’s take: This looks to me like one of the most interesting matchups of Week One, because the Jets are desperate to show that their terrible offensive showing in the preseason didn’t mean anything. Unfortunately for the Jets, I think the Bills, bolstered by the addition of Mario Williams, have exactly the kind of defense that can pressure Mark Sanchez and force him into a multiple-turnover game. The
chants for Tim Tebow be deafening by the end of this game.

MDS’s pick: Bills 10, Jets 3.

Patriots at Titans

Florio’s take:  The last time these two teams got together, the Patriots scored 59, and the Titans scored nothing.  While much has changed in Tennessee since 2009, enough players are still there to remind the teammates and the coaches of that day.  And it would matter if the Titans had the horses of defense to keep up with New England’s offense.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Titans 26.

MDS’s take: The consistency of the Patriots in the salary-cap era in the NFL is nothing short of remarkable. The Patriots look, once again, like one of the best teams in the NFL, and Bill Belichick’s defense will give fits to Titans quarterback Jake Locker, making his first NFL start.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Titans 17.

Seahawks at Cardinals

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals didn’t have a shot at quarterback Russell Wilson, given that they sent their second-round pick to Philadelphia for a quarterback who is now second string.  But coach Ken Whisenhunt may be wishing that the team had traded up six spots to get the Seahawks’ new starter; Wilson looks to be better than anything the Cardinals have at the position, which may be enough to pull off a Week One division road win.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 24, Cardinals 21.

MDS’s take: Russell Wilson emerged as the starter in Seattle after one of the most impressive performances in the NFL preseason, while John Skelton became the starter by default in Arizona because Kevin Kolb was one of the least impressive players in the NFL preseason. Advantage: Seattle.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Cardinals 20.

49ers at Packers

Florio’s take:  When one of the best offenses meets one of the best defenses, the game will turn on how the other offense fares against the other defense.  The Packers defense has improved just enough to hold serve at Lambeau Field in the season opener.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 30, 49ers 27.

MDS’s take: The NFL schedule makers gave us a potential NFC Championship Game preview in Week One, and I see the Packers’ offense picking right up where they left off last year — and the Packers’ defense looking better.

MDS’s pick: Packers 27, 49ers 14.

Panthers at Buccaneers

Florio’s take:  The Bucs are laying the foundation for a very good team.  The Panthers are on the brink of being a very good team.  Cam Newton will be out to prove last year was no fluke, and an improved defense will keep it from turning into a shootout.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 31, Buccaneers 21.

MDS’s take: Cam Newton won’t have a sophomore slump — he’ll be every bit the player this year that he as a rookie, and the Panthers will have a better team around him. Greg Schiano will turn the Bucs around, but there are going to be growing pains along the way, and they’ll struggle against the Panthers’ offense. This will be the Panthers’ first statement that they’re a team to be reckoned with in the NFC.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 30, Buccaneers 14.

Steelers at Broncos

Florio’s take:  Some say this could be the highest-rated regular-season game in NFL history.  Though the 1985 Bears-Dolphins game ultimately may keep the crown, the return of Peyton Manning could set the high-water mark for the entire 2012 season.  He wouldn’t have come back if he couldn’t get it done, and the Steelers have too many issues to come out of the gates with a road win.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 24, Steelers 17.

MDS’s take: This is a rematch of last year’s playoff meeting, but it’s a very different game with Peyton Manning at the helm in Denver and Tim Tebow off running the wildcat with the Jets. The result, however, will be similar: In a close, competitive game, the Broncos’ offense will get a late score to win it.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 24, Steelers 17.

Bengals at Ravens

Florio’s take:  Cincinnati gets its first chance in 2012 to win a game that it shouldn’t.  Though in time those wins will come, the Ravens have too much talent on both sides of the ball.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 31, Bengals 24.

MDS’s take: The Bengals took a big step forward last year with the emergence of a young offense led by Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. This is an opportunity for them to make a very big statement about re-ordering the AFC North, but I see the Ravens’ defense making a big statement that they’re not going to let their young rivals get the best of them just yet.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 16, Bengals 13.

Chargers at Raiders

Florio’s take:  Oakland is taking a step back in the hopes of eventually taking a giant leap forward.  The Chargers are trying to finally put the pieces together.  For now, advantage Chargers.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 27, Raiders 21.

MDS’s take: In the game that will have those in the Eastern time zone drinking coffee late into Monday night and showing up to work bleary-eyed on Tuesday morning, the Chargers will get a big game from Philip Rivers and get a leg up on the Raiders in the AFC West.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 21.

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Report: Chiefs to interview Ryan Cowden for G.M. job on Wednesday

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The Chiefs will reportedly interview a candidate for their General Manager opening on Wednesday.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Titans director of player personnel Ryan Cowden will interview with the team on Wednesday. Chiefs co-director of player personnel Brett Veach is also set to interview for the job.

Cowden joined the Titans last year and oversaw all areas of the team’s pro and college scouting departments. He spent the previous 16 years in the Panthers organization.

Seahawks exec Scott Fitterer and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick have been mentioned as other possible candidates for the job, although there have been no reports of interviews being scheduled with either man at this point. The Chiefs fired John Dorsey last week after four months on the job with reports that issues with his communication and management styles led to the decision.

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Supreme Court could remove federal ban to sports wagering

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At a time when Congress has launched an effort to scrap a 1992 law that prevents most states from legalizing wagering on sports, another branch of the government could get the job done more quickly.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that challenges the federal prohibition on expanded betting on sporting events. The case, arising from efforts by New Jersey to enact sports wagering, will be presented as early as October 2017, with a decision coming in the weeks or months thereafter.

While the decision doesn’t mean New Jersey will win, it’s an encouraging sign. New Jersey had lost at every step of the process, and a decision by the Supreme Court not to hear the case would have ended it with an “L” for pro-gambling interests. A victory remains possible, and some will predict that the current makeup of the Supreme Court points to a win.

The argument against the law flows from the notion that states should be permitted to decide whether to allow gambling on sports. The 1992 law was written in a way that allowed places like Nevada to continue to permit sports wagering, forbidding other states who didn’t already allow this form of gambling to join in.

The development puts the NFL in an awkward spot. At a time when it has embraced Las Vegas by allowing the Raiders to eventually move there, many think the league also secretly longs for the day when fans can play the odds via NFL.com and/or each of the various team websites, with the league acting as the bookie at most, middleman at a minimum, for widespread wagering. To get there, federal law first must change, and then the states must embrace betting, one by one.

The NFL had no comment on the news of a new effort in Congress to scrap the federal law prohibiting sports wagering. PFT has submitted a request for comment to the league regarding the Supreme Court’s decision, which on the surface will be met with a profane muttering of frustration but which at a deeper level could prompt a profane shout of joy, thanks to the many billions the league will earn every year if/when it can finally get a piece of all of the money that currently changes hands illegally by people who bet on sports, regardless of what the law allows.

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Ravens announce scouting hires

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At least one of this summer’s ESPN layoffs has found an NFL job.

The Ravens announced they had hired Kevin Weidl as a new area scout for the Southeast and Southwest.

Weidl worked for Scouts Inc. as a draft analyst and did some television and radio work in Charlotte, but was let go as part of the four-letter network’s purge earlier this spring. His brother Andy used to work for the Ravens, but just left to take a job with the Eagles as assistant director of player personnel.

The Ravens also promoted Brandon Berning to an area scout post, after he served as a player personnel assistant.

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Former Chiefs cornerback gets first pro baseball hit

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Tim Tebow isn’t the only former NFL player giving baseball a shot this summer.

Former Chiefs cornerback Sanders Commings, whose football career ended because of injuries, is playing in the Braves farm system. And last night, playing for the Danville Braves, he got his first two professional hits in his second professional start. That gives him a .333 average, and a 113-point edge on Tebow.

It’s impressive because Commings hasn’t played baseball competitively since 2008, when he was in high school in Georgia.

It was a little bit of a sigh of relief,” he said, via Alex Tichenor of the Danville Register & Bee. “Last game, I got two at-bats and got two [strikeouts], so I felt a little bit of pressure to get that first hit. I got a first-pitch fastball today and it dropped in for a double. It feels really good.”

Commings was a fifth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2013. He played two games after breaking his collarbone in training camp. The next year, he broke his ankle in training camp and spent the year on injured reserve. He was waived with an injury settlement in 2015.

He trained with former Major Leaguer Jerry Hairston Jr., and signed a free agent deal with the Braves this year. And apparently the 27-year-old Commings has impressed his teammates who have played more recently.

“I was amazed,” D-Braves shortstop Nick Shumpert said. “His swing is really good for not having played in that long. It looks like a normal baseball swing. When I first saw him, I didn’t know he hadn’t played in a while.”

Of course, he didn’t win a Heisman Trophy, doesn’t have a side job in television, and he wasn’t a quarterback, so he hasn’t been promoted yet.

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Jets name Matt Bazirgan college scouting director

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The Jets are in the throes of a big rebuilding project and part of the responsibility for its success or failure will rest on the people tasked with adding players out of the college ranks in the coming seasons.

There will be a new head of that scouting effort. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that the the Jets made Matt Bazirgan their new college scouting director and the team’s website reflects that change.

Rex Hogan was hired after Mike Maccagnan became General Manager in 2015 and held that job for the last two years, but left to take a post in the Colts’ front office this offseason. Bazirgan has worked for the Jets since 2004 and was promoted to pro personnel director following Maccagnan’s arrival in New Jersey.

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Bengals sign a guard

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The Bengals have added a player to their offensive line group ahead of training camp.

The team announced on Tuesday that they have signed guard Cameron Lee to their 90-man roster.

Lee went undrafted after completing his career at Illinois State last season. He started every game during his final two seasons in college and signed with the Saints after the draft, but was dropped from New Orleans’ roster earlier this month.

The Bengals signed Andre Smith this offseason with designs on him switching from tackle to take over for Kevin Zeitler, who signed with the Browns as a free agent. Lee will be competing for a reserve spot or a chance to continue working with the Bengals as a member of their practice squad come September.

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Vince Young still doesn’t close door on football

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The Vince Young CFL Experiment ended poorly, with a hamstring injury resulting in Young being released by the Saskatchewan RoughRiders before the launch of the regular season. But even after that experience, Young isn’t slamming the door on playing football.

Maybe I’ll play football again,” Young told Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated in an article that chronicles the quarterback’s more-lows-than-highs career. “You never know.”

You never know because Young knows (or at least thinks) that he is as good or better than guys currently playing in the NFL.

“I’d see a quarterback and be like, ‘Dude is garbage, and I’m over here in the kitchen cooking turkey necks?’” Young said. “I hate to name-drop, but [Ryan] Fitzpatrick is still playing? He leads the league in interceptions, and he’s still f–king getting paid? I mean, what the f–k is going on?”

The full article paints a picture that isn’t surprising but is nevertheless informative. Entitled and coddled as a young star quarterback, Young didn’t do enough to maximize his talents. Then, after things fell apart for him in Tennessee, he didn’t do enough to prove himself all over again.

The self-awareness that led him to Canada came too late. If he’d done it a few years ago, maybe he’d be the one leading the league in interceptions. For now, he’ll continue to have as many interceptions in the NFL as he’s had touchdown passes, passing attempts, completions, and rushing tries since 2011: None.

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Cam Newton: I know I need to be better

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton resumed throwing last week for the first time since having right shoulder surgery and said there’s “no doubt” that he’ll be fully ready for training camp next month.

When Newton does get on the field with the rest of the team, he’ll be working on getting the one thing he says is missing from his life. That would be a Super Bowl ring and the 2015 NFL MVP said that he believes getting there will call on him to step up his game.

“The more I reflect on who I am or what I have become and what I can still become — I need to be better. I know I need to be better,” Newton said to Bill Voth of the Panthers website. “I want to be better because me being my best me helps everything else around me, including this organization.”

One way Newton thinks he can be better is by putting less of the pressure to get things done on his own back. While the Panthers offense is always going to run through Newton, the quarterback said that the “hardest thing” about his maturation in the league has been the realization that “my job is not necessarily to always be the playmaker.”

The Panthers drafted running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Curtis Samuel in the first two rounds this year and that has helped Newton feel that the team has the kind of talent around him to make that happen.

“When you look at quarterbacks and where I’m at right now, I want to commit everything to the game of football,” Newton said. “I want my diet to display that. I want my life to display that. I don’t want to look back when I’m 40 and be like, ‘Dang, when I was 28 and we had this talent around us, I didn’t maximize it.”

If everything falls into place on the offensive line in Carolina, Newton should have the time and opportunity to get the ball to others so that they can do more of the heavy lifting. Should things play out the other way, though, it may be hard for Newton to resist trying to make things happen on his own when he’s under fire.

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Latavius Murray: This is my time

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The Vikings signed running back Latavius Murray as a free agent shortly after they released Adrian Peterson, but Murray’s time as the clear frontrunner to replace Peterson as the No. 1 back in Minnesota this season didn’t last long.

Some could point to Murray’s ankle surgery as a reason, but the arrival of rookie Dalvin Cook in the second round of the draft would have changed the equation even if Murray was 100 percent this offseason. The Vikings have enjoyed what they’ve seen from Cook thus far and Murray concedes that Cook has a leg up thanks to his time on the field this spring, but the veteran said on NFL Network Tuesday that he’s not conceding anything else.

“You’re looking at it from his aspect, ‘This older vet is coming off this injury, it’s time for him to step aside. I want this, and I should be the guy,'” Murray said. “I’m looking at it from my perspective, like, look, this is my time, this is my new opportunity and this is what I want. When it comes Game 1, I need to be back there in the “I” lining up.”

Murray added that competing with Cook won’t stop him from offering the rookie help should he need it this summer, but made it clear that he expects his work in camp and the preseason to earn him a place in the lineup for the first snap of the regular season.

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Marty B’s top QBs: 1-Rodgers, 2-Brady, 3-Cutler, 4-Eli, 5-Romo

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Packers tight end Martellus Bennett has played with a lot of good quarterbacks in his NFL career. Heading into his 10th NFL season, Bennett has played with Tony Romo on the Cowboys, Eli Manning on the Giants, Jay Cutler on the Bears, Tom Brady on the Patriots and Aaron Rodgers on the Packers.

So which one is the best?

Bennett chose the quarterback he’s playing with now, Rodgers, in an appearance on NFL Network.

“Aaron, I love you,” Bennett said. “He’s a really smart guy, he’s just really laid back, really cool and it’s been fun working with him so far.”

Bennett chose Brady as the No. 2 quarterback he has played with. At No. 3 is a big surprise: Cutler, whom Bennett played with for three years in Chicago. And Bennett says Manning, who was his teammate for only one year in New York, was better than Romo, Bennett’s quarterback during the first four years of his NFL career in Dallas.

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Kevin Greene hopes to get more out of Lorenzo Mauldin

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The name of Jets linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin has been in the news several times recently, for the wrong reasons. Hall of Famer Kevin Greene hopes to get Mauldin’s name into the news for the right reasons.

Greene has been working with the Jets defensive players to get more heat on the quarterback.

“I was a finesse player,” Mauldin said recently, via Darryl Slater of NJ.com. “I think I’m going to throw that into the trash can this year. I think I’m going to go with more power this year.”

That’s exactly what Greene wants from a former third-round pick whose sack production dropped from four in 2015 to 2.5 in 2016.

“Everybody at this level has skill, correct?” Greene said, per Slater. “They’re all athletic, and agility and dexterity and all that stuff. Well, what separates people initially is their physical level of play. That’s always our first step, is we have to play more physical than whoever is in front of us, because we’re all athletic. . . .  It’s based on physicality. It’s based on drive and desire.”

The Jets continue to wait for Mauldin to become a force as a pass rusher. Greene thinks that Mauldin is still overwhelmed by the relative complexity of the pro game.

“It’s the hardest thing to do, going from a three-point stance up into a staggered, two-point stance,” Greene said. “And now expanding your vision [to locate receivers who may need to be covered] and understanding how that can change your job, depending on formation, motion, or any number of factors. So that’s where the growing pain comes.”

Having great players around Mauldin helps, too. Despite the recent exodus of veteran talent, the Jets still have Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams, which could make it easier for Mauldin to find favorable matchups when he pins his proverbial ears back and chases the passer.

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Mike Matthews approaching Steelers shot the right way

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Being part of one of the first families of football has given Mike Matthews the chance to learn plenty of lessons.

But the perspective he gained last year gave him a chance to teach one to his Hall of Fame father.

The son of legendary offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, Mike is fighting for a chance to make the Steelers roster this year. He spent last fall out of football and selling shoulder pads, after being released by the Browns.

And his father Bruce told Max Bultman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a recent conversation with his son that suggested that he’s in good shape, regardless.

“I still want to play, passionately, but I realize that this is a very small part of my life, even if it does go great,” Bruce said Mike told him. “It was kind of humbling to me, because I’m thinking, ‘Oh gosh. I should have said that to him instead of he to me.’ ”

If Mike is going to make it, it will be under the eye of someone the family knows well. Steelers line coach Mike Munchak played with Bruce on some great Oilers lines and hired him as an assistant when he was coaching the Titans, but won’t be cutting the kid of a friend any slack. Munchak has cut one of Matthews’ kids before (Kevin, in Tennessee), so that much is known.

“For me, it was weird to see that side of football,” Mike said. “Because my dad played 19 years, and it’s like, ‘You play until you don’t want to play any more,’ and that was what I thought.”

Mike has an outside shot to make the Steelers this year, working at guard as well as center. But whether he makes it or not, he’s learned that nothing is owed to him because of his family name, and that whatever happens will be a short chapter in his story.

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Corey Linsley learned his lesson about rushing back from injury

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Packers center Corey Linsley sat out the team’s offseason workouts in 2016 and then went on to miss training camp, preseason and the first eight weeks of the regular season because of a hamstring injury.

Linsley was a spectator again this spring after having ankle surgery early in the offseason, but he says that the lesson he learned last year will keep his absence from extending as long as it did last year. Linsley started working out on his own around this time last year in hopes of being healthy for camp and wound up with a setback that cost him half a season.

“I just have to continue to follow the plan, whereas last year I maybe didn’t,” Linsley said, via ESPN.com. “I was trying to go ahead of the plan because I thought I was ahead of it, instead of just trusting the process that the trainers and the strength coaches had given me. I was trying to beat it, like the tough guy I am. I was trying to get ahead of it. And I ended up behind. Now it’s a matter of knowing I’ll be OK as long as I follow this plan.”

JC Tretter stepped in at center in place of Linsley last year, but he’s gone to Cleveland as a free agent. Guard T.J. Lang also left this offseason, so the Packers have enough to deal with on the offensive line without worrying about replacing their starting center and Linsley has plenty to gain from staying healthy as he’ll be playing out the final year of his contract.

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Bradley Roby: Bengals were going to pick me in 2014

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The Broncos have an embarrassment of riches at the cornerback position. They nearly didn’t.

In a recent profile from Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post, cornerback Bradley Roby said that the Bengals had told him he’d be their pick with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2014 draft.

“Don’t worry about it,” Roby said the Bengals told him. “We’re going to pick you.”

They didn’t, possibly due to the OVI charge that came after the Bengals made that vow. Yes, the team that routinely is accused of giving too many second chances to athletes who get into trouble away from the field chose not to give one to Roby, drafting cornerback Darqueze Dennard instead.

And while neither Roby nor Dennard have become full-time starters with their respective teams, Roby is stuck behind Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Jr. (The Bengals apparently expect Dennard to become a full-time starter sooner than later, given the decision to pick up his fifth-year option at $8.5 million for 2018.)

Adding to the intrigue is that Broncos coach Vance Joseph served as the defensive backs coach in Cincinnati three years ago. It would be interesting to know whether and to what extent Joseph lobbied for Roby or, alternatively, took the position that he shouldn’t be drafted after the arrest. For now, it sounds as if Joseph believes in Roby.

“Roby is a young corner that could be really, really special. He’s playing behind two Pro Bowl guys,” Joseph told Jhabvala. “From time to time, he has to push himself to continue to become what they are. That’s tough because on most teams, he would be a starter.”

Roby believes that, eventually, he’ll be a starter in Denver.

“My time is coming,” Roby said. “I’m not really worried about that. I just want them to know that I’m a baller and when I get on that field I’m going to ball.”

When he’s had chances during his first three NFL seasons, he has done well. And, at some point, the Broncos will have to choose whether to keep paying big money to Talib and Harris or to give some of that money to Roby and backfill with a younger player — unless Denver can justify devoting significant cap dollars to three cornerbacks.

If Denver can’t, Roby can always sign as a free agent with the Bengals.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

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Will uncertainty about his future affect Bills QB Tyrod Taylor this season?

Dolphins rookie WR Isaiah Ford got some advice from Steve Smith.

LB David Harris will wear No. 51 with the Patriots.

QB Christian Hackenberg remains a big unknown for the Jets.

The Ravens want to get the run game going.

A look back at the early days of the Bengals franchise.

Cameron Erving feels he’s in a better place on the Browns offensive line.

Steelers C Mike Matthewsoffensive line coach is his father Bruce’s former teammate Mike Munchak.

WR Braxton Miller’s size and speed hold appeal for the Texans.

The Colts have employed several good receivers over the years.

Jaguars CB Aaron Colvin graded well in pass coverage last year.

The Titans hope OL Corey Levin can play as well as he can spell.

Broncos LB Von Miller was the highest-rated defensive player in the NFL’s player poll.

The Chiefs maintain an optimistic view about their young receivers.

Raiders P Marquette King had an issue with Southwest Airlines.

Breaking down the Chargers defensive backs with their position coach.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ visit with the Pope inspired a song.

Former Giants RB Brandon Jacobs thinks his old team can win the Super Bowl.

An attempt to name the top Eagles offensive players of the last 17 years.

Things appear to be trending down for LB Will Compton with the Redskins.

The Bears may be taking on a different look at tight end.

Running through the Lions’ left tackle options with Taylor Decker injured.

Packers DL Dean Lowry hopes to build on a good finish to last season.

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook threw out the first pitch at a Marlins game.

Falcons LB Vic Beasley has a Clemson-themed Camaro.

Dwight Howard now plays basketball in Charlotte and hopes to connect with QB Cam Newton.

Assessing LB Alex Okafor’s fit in the Saints defense.

Will former Buccaneers CB Ronde Barber make the Hall of Fame?

Undrafted rookie CB Sojourn Shelton got a feel for the Cardinals by watching their Amazon show from last year.

The Rams want a better experience for fans at home games this year.

Do the Falcons provide a hint about how the 49ers’ defensive line will look this year?

A guide to checking out Seahawks training camp this summer.

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