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Sunday night wrap-up: Saints have their moment

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For a night, the Saints got to enjoy themselves.

Drew Brees got the NFL’s consecutive games with a touchdown pass record with his 48th in a row, beating his old team the Chargers 31-24 in the process.

They got the goose-egg off their record, improving to 1-4, a half-game out of second in the NFC South.

But this is a temporary reprieve, at best.

The Chargers have shown signs of being a good team, but were swept up in the moment Sunday. (Watch highlights here.)

But until the Saints run the ball with any degree of consistency, or until they play better defense, they won’t get much better.

This Saints defense doesn’t have nearly the talent coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had at his disposal when he built a reputation with the New York Giants. That’s a given. But they just don’t fit what he wants to run. There’s little evidence they can consistently rush the passer with any of their linemen, and there’s not an impact player in the back seven either (despite Roman Harper running under a gift-wrapped one in the fourth quarter). They have some solid parts, but until they add some personnel, this defense is going to struggle regardless who’s coaching.

Gregg Williams could trick it up and blitz and try to cover up the shortcomings, and it worked for a bit. But it wasn’t going to beat the clock, as Spagnuolo is finding out.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. Maybe not being the champions of March, April and June will help the Chargers come January.

This offseason has been different for San Diego, without the weight of Super Bowl expectations that have been standard as they’ve underperformed for years.

Many thought the Chargers were lost at sea when Vincent Jackson was allowed to leave in free agency. But by replacing him with cheaper players such as Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem, the Chargers may have made themselves harder to defend in the long run.

Even the dog-housing of running back Ryan Mathews has an ulterior motive. When you put a guy you traded up in the draft to acquire in the first round on the bench, there’s a message of accountability.

And while it might be temporary, the 3-2 Chargers appear more willing to work for the praise that was given so freely before it was earned.

2. Of course, the Chargers need to get some people well, specifically left tackle Jared Gaither.

He battled back problems all summer, and gave up game-deciding pressure late in the game. Whether that flared up or he was just beaten, it was clear in the final moments of the game he wasn’t right, and it cost them a chance to tie.

3. It’s hard to call a guy with a five-year, $36.3 million contract underrated.

But you know what, Saints wide receiver Marques Colston is kind of underrated.

It’s almost amazing that he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl yet, and if not for some injuries he probably would have.

Brees’ second touchdown, the non-record breaking one, was Colston’s 50th with the Saints, tying Joe Horn for most in Saints history.

Colston made that record his own in the third quarter, and finished with nine catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns.

4. Chargers rookie linebacker Melvin Ingram was flagged for roughing the passer in the third quarter, taking a pick six off the board and allowing the Saints to get within a field goal, a 14-point swing that changed the course of the game.

As roughing calls go, it was a little thin, but it’s the kind of thing that gets called these days.

But he’s one of a few good young parts on that Chargers defense (along with defensive end Corey Liuget) that will keep them solid for years to come.

5. Drew Brees broke the record.

But you know what? The Chargers still made the right call going with Philip Rivers. For all the numbers Brees has posted, the Chargers quarterback has more regular season wins since Brees was allowed to leave, and mostly similar passing numbers.

What Rivers hasn’t had is Sean Payton. Norv Turner is a good play-caller, but Payton’s proving in his absence how good he is at his job.

If there was a debate, let’s end it. Young and promising is better than not-as-young and hurt, which is what Brees was when the decision was made.

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David Irving a no-show as Cowboys report

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Defensive lineman David Irving was a no-show as the Cowboys reported to training camp Friday, sources confirmed. ESPN’s Todd Archer first reported Irving’s unexcused absence.

The Cowboys held a conditioning run and physicals at their training complex in Frisco, a day before leaving for Oxnard, Calif.

Receiver Dez Bryant arrived late, and the Cowboys are expected to fine him. Irving, though, is subject to a $40,000 fine for missing the reporting date, according to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

Last month, the NFL suspended Irving for the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He had four sacks and four forced fumbles last season and was expected to play a big role as a pass-rusher this season.

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Agent: Adam Jones considering options after receiving one-game suspension

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The agent for Adam Jones said they are considering “all options” after the league suspended the Bengals cornerback for one game for violating the personal conduct penalty. Jones has three days to appeal.

“We are reviewing the ruling and assessing all options,” agent Peter Schaffer said, via Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal. “Any decision we make will be in the best interest of Adam, the Bengals and the NFL.”

Jones pleaded guilty to obstructing official business after a January incident in which he spat on a jailhouse nurse.

In the league’s letter to Jones, they said the “extensive video documentation of the tone, tenor and nature of your interactions with law enforcement at the site of your arrest, during transportation to the jail, and during the booking process. As you acknowledged, your post-arrest words and actions reflected poorly on you and your family, the Cincinnati Bengals football club, and the NFL. While it is our understanding that appropriate apologies have been publicly extended, they do not completely negate your behavior and admission of culpability for the underlying conduct.”

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Deone Bucannon only Cardinals player on PUP

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Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Coach Bruce Arians said Friday, after the team’s conditioning run, that Bucannon is the only player on PUP.

Bucannon had surgery on his right ankle in May after a lingering problem caused him to miss the final three games of last season.

The Cardinals hope Bucannon can return in time for the season opener.

Deone is close,” Arians said, via Darren Urban of the team website. “He’s getting there. I think he’s a little bit ahead of schedule. We have our fingers crossed. The first game is his due date, so to speak. Hopefully we’ll have him ready to play.”

Haason Reddick, the team’s first-round pick, has taken first-team reps in Bucannon’s spot next to veteran Karlos Dansby.

Linebacker Jarvis Jones tweaked a quadriceps muscle during the conditioning run Friday, Arians said, and could miss a few days of work.

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Dez Bryant arrives late to conditioning test, physicals

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Dez Bryant threw a free barbeque for his hometown of Lufkin on Thursday, but he likely earned a fine from the Cowboys after showing up late to the team facility Friday.

Bryant told Jane Slater of the NFL Network that he had a sinus infection and headache, so he spent the night in Lufkin, which is 175 miles from Frisco. Per Slater, Bryant said he should have informed the coaching staff earlier, but that he has talked to coaches, takes full responsibility and is prepared for the consequences.

Bryant arrived three hours late for physicals and the team’s conditioning test. Bryant told Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan that he wasn’t scheduled to run because of the sinus infection.

Although Bryant has a history of tardiness, he reminded Slater that he has “laid low” this offseason.

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Falcons still hoping to sell out their PSLs

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As the Falcons prepare to open their swanky new stadium in Atlanta, the bad news is that they still have nearly 6,000 PSLs to sell. The good news is that they’ve sold more than 55,000.

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons have sold 55,113 Personal Seat Licenses. The PSLs have generated $256.3 million.

Roughly 10,000 seats are excluded from the PSL process. The PSLs range from $500 to $45,000 per seat.

So, basically, the food at the stadium will be cheap. But not much else will be.

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Dolphins place two undrafted rookies on PUP

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The Dolphins placed running back De’Veon Smith and tackle Eric Smith on the physically unable to perform list.

Miami signed De’Veon Smith as an undrafted college free agent on May 5. A two-year starter at Michigan, he played 49 career games with 26 starts. Smith had 495 carries for 2,235 yards and 22 touchdowns, while catching 38 passes for 251 yards and one touchdown.

The Dolphins signed Eric Smith as an undrafted college free agent on May 5. He started all four years at Virginia, playing in 45 career games. He was the team’s starting right tackle for every game from 2014-16.

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Michael Oher sued by Uber driver for assault

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Michael Oher’s bad week keeps getting worse.

According to the Associated Press, the former Panthers left tackle — who was released Thursday — has now been sued in connection with the Nashville incident in which he was accused of assaulting an Uber driver.

Oher faces misdemeanor charges from the April incident. The lawsuit, filed by driver Girma Berkessa said that Oher was “extremely intoxicated.” The suit also contends Oher pushed the driver to the ground, kicked him and called him a homophobic slur several times.

Oher was released with a failed physical designation. He’s been in the league’s concussion protocol since Week Three of last season, and visited a concussion specialist earlier this week.

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Malik Jackson predicts Super Bowl title for Jaguars

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The Jaguars’ 80-1 Super Bowl odds are better than only five other teams. But if Malik Jackson is to be believed, Jacksonville is a good bet.

Jackson, who won a Super Bowl with the Broncos before leaving for the Jaguars’ six-year, $85.5 million offer last offseason, expects Jacksonville to win Super Bowl LII.

That’s what I believe and, until we lose, that’s when I’ll believe different,” Jackson told The Simms and Lefkoe Podcast, via NFL.com.
“The Panthers did it. If the Panthers can do it after the season they had [in going 7-8-1 in 2014]. . . But we’re going to win the Super Bowl. If they can do it, why can’t we?”

The Jaguars were a trendy darkhorse playoff pick this time a year ago, but after last year’s 3-13 season, few are willing to venture out on that limb again. Jacksonville has not made the playoffs since 2007 despite several high draft picks and high-profile free agent signings.

“I’m very confident,” Jackson said. “It truly feels different. . . .I think it’s a lot of guys coming in here and coming to Jacksonville saying, ‘I’m going to change this. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that,'” Jackson said. “We have leaders. We have a lot of great players. We just need to be consistent, and that’s on all three sides of the ball: offense, defense and special teams.”

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Vikings sign Chunky Clements, release Caleb Kidder

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The Vikings signed defensive tackle Chunky Clements on Friday. They released defensive end Caleb Kidder to make room for Clements.

Clements went undrafted after starting 20 games and playing in 26 others at Illinois. He finished his college career with 99 tackles, six sacks and four forced fumbles.

Clements missed the final game of the 2016 season after undergoing surgery to repair a Lisfranc tear in his right foot.

The Vikings now have 89 players on their roster.

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Jim Harbaugh hires ex-49ers executive Tom Gamble at Michigan

Shortly after John Lynch was hired as the 49ers’ General Manager, Assistant G.M. Tom Gamble left the team. Now he’s reuniting with a former 49ers coach.

Jim Harbaugh is hiring Gamble to work at the Michigan football program, Tim Kawakami of TheAthletic.com reports.

Gamble and Harbaugh worked together during Harbaugh’s time as the 49ers’ head coach. It’s unclear exactly what Gamble’s role will be at Michigan, but it’s believed he’ll work in football administration, not as an on-field coach.

Harbaugh has built a large and expensive staff at Michigan, with three assistant coaches making $1 million a year.

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Report: D’Onta Foreman tests negative for marijuana, according to attorney

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Soon after D’Onta Foreman’s arrest in Austin, his attorney released a statement expressing confidence evidence would prove the running back was not guilty of the charges. On Friday, attorney Chip Lewis told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle that Foreman tested negative for marijuana at a Houston lab.

Foreman, a third-round pick of the Texans, was arrested early Sunday morning by University of Texas Police for possession of marijuana and possessing an unlawful weapon. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Lewis said in a statement Sunday that the handgun was legal, recently purchased by Foreman, registered in his name and properly secured inside Foreman’s vehicle. The attorney said the marijuana belonged to the passenger in Foreman’s car.

The Texans drafted Foreman in the third round to backup Lamar Miller.

 

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Ravens make moves, including officially signing Griff Whalen

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The Ravens announced the signing of receiver Griff Whalen among a number of roster moves Friday.

Baltimore also signed rookie cornerback Reggie Porter. Porter signed with the Colts after going undrafted out of Utah. Indianapolis released him June 12.

The Ravens placed receiver Michael Campanaro (toe) and cornerback Tavon Young (ACL) on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

Offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor, a fifth-round pick from Texas A&M, came off the non-football injury list after passing his conditioning test.

The Ravens waived/injured cornerback Aaron Bailey and placed safety Daniel Henry on injured reserve.

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Landon Collins predicts Giants’ takeover in the NFC East

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The Giants are talking the talk. Now can they back it up?

On the heels of Jason Pierre-Paul calling the Giants a Super Bowl contender and Dwayne Harris’ reminder that the Giants swept the Cowboys last season, Landon Collins insists the Giants are ready to “take over” the NFC East.

Giants players have responded with defiance after Dak Prescott declared at the ESPY Awards earlier this month that the Cowboys would defend their NFC East title.

Collins, who had already responded on social media to Prescott’s claim, fired back Friday after his youth football camp.

“I commented right underneath his picture [on social media] and said, ‘I highly doubt that,'” Collins said, via Art Stapleton of The Record. “They will not control the East. It’s over with. We’re going to have a run for it. I mean, they’re not going to win, I tell you that much. We’re definitely going to take over.”

The Giants handed the Cowboys two of their three losses in the regular season in 2016, giving them a three-game winning streak over their rivals. The Giants have not won the division since 2011, but the NFC East has not had a repeat division champ since the 2004 Eagles.

The Cowboys, who went 13-3 last season, have not posted back-to-back winning seasons since 2008-09.

So until the season opener, let the debate continue.

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Fight could be looming over possible three-time franchise tag limit

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As star players begin to consider the Kirk Cousins/Trumaine Johnson year-to-year approach to the franchise tag, there’s a potential squabble looming regarding the total number of times a player can be restricted by the franchise tag.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement contains no express limitation on the number of franchise tags that can be applied to a given player. Article 10, Section 2(b) of the CBA arguably implies that a player can’t be franchise-tagged more three times.

The NFL Players Association would argue that the franchise can’t be used more than three times. The NFL declined comment on the issue.

Of course, the ability to use the franchise tag for a fourth time and the price of it are two very different propositions. With the franchise-tagged player guaranteed at least a 44-percent increase over his second franchise tender when tagged a third time, it likely would cost at least as much for a fourth.

So if Cousins, for example, were tagged a fourth time, he’d get a 44-percent raise over the 44-percent raise over $23.94 million. That’s $49.6 million for a fourth year under the franchise tag — which means it’s highly unlikely he’d be tagged a fourth time.

Could there ever be a player who merits a fourth franchise tag? If more and more players go year to year, eventually maybe someone will.

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Ravens signing veteran WR Griff Whalen

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The Ravens are adding another veteran receiver and a potential kick returner. Griff Whalen worked out for the Ravens on Friday, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports they will sign Whalen after he passed a physical.

Baltimore placed receiver Michael Campanaro on the physically unable to perform list with a toe injury, creating a need for an option in the slot and at returner.

Whalen, 27, has played for the Colts and the Chargers in five seasons. He also spent a few days with a Patriots last season but was cut when New England picked up Michael Floyd.

Whalen has appeared in 41 games, making 47 catches for 509 yards and three touchdowns, which includes two receptions for 22 yards in eight games for the Chargers last season. For his career, Whalen also averages 24.2 yards kickoff returns and 8.2 yards on punt returns.

As he awaited another NFL opportunity, Whalen took part in The Spring League Showcase.

The Ravens signed Jeremy Maclin last month but are young at the position behind Maclin and Mike Wallace.

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