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Honey Badger viewed as a fourth-round prospect

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With former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu declaring his intent to enter the NFL draft, the obvious question becomes when will he be drafted?

We cast the net on Thursday, and there’s a school of thought that he’s headed for round four.

Of course, if only one team thinks more highly of the Honey Badger, he could go higher than round four.  For now, though, the middle rounds are where he’d likely go — if the draft were held today.

One evaluator said that Mathieu was a better college player and hype machine than pro prospect.  He projects to be a reserve defensive back and a kick returner at the next level, with his return skills being regarded as more valuable than his coverage skills.

Another said that Mathieu is a quick, instinctive, tough playmaker in the slot.  But his size and character will be major concerns.

The fact that Rams rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins is looking like a second-round steal could help Mathieu.  But there are major differences between the two players.  Jenkins found a landing spot and turned himself around after getting kicked out of Florida.  Mathieu bottomed out after getting the boot from LSU, and he will have gone a full season without playing at the time he enters the draft.

Based on numerous reports, Mathieu’s major problem seems to be an affinity for marijuana.  Most NFL teams don’t care if guys smoke it; the problem arises when a player, when forced to choose between marijuana and football, chooses marijuana.

Mathieu’s biggest challenge will be persuading teams that he is now choosing football.  And that he’s not just saying what he thinks he needs to say.  If he can do that, and if he can generate some positive buzz with his physical skills during the pre-draft workouts, he could move up as April approaches.

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Pereira, Blandino offer different reasons for Falcons touchback

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22: Jalen Collins #32 of the Atlanta Falcons recovers a fumble in the second quarter by Aaron Ripkowski #22 of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

If NFL fans have a hard time understanding the rules, that’s understandable: Even the head of officiating and the former head of officiating don’t always see a call the same way.

After the Falcons were given a touchback on a recovery of a Packers fumble that almost rolled into the end zone, NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino and his predecessor, FOX rules analyst Mike Pereira, offered different explanations for the ruling.

Blandino wrote on Twitter that Falcons safety Jalen Collins “Gained possession with left leg touching the goal line so it is a touchback.” In other words, the ruling was about where Collins’ leg was, not where the ball was.

But Pereira wrote on Twitter that it was a touchback because “the recovering player did not have total control of the ball until the ball had broken the plane.” In other words, Pereira says the ruling was based on where the ball was, not where Collins was.

Blandino and Pereira both agree that the ruling of a Falcons recovery in the end zone for a touchback was correct. But they disagree on why it was the correct ruling. And when even the experts can’t agree, it’s hard for the fans to understand the league’s convoluted rules.

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Julio Jones showing off speed, skill as Falcons rout Packers

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons catches a 5 yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter against LaDarius Gunter #36 of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Julio Jones was limited in practice last week. He’s apparently OK — and he’s killing the Packers.

A 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Jones early in the third quarter has made it 31-0. Jones also caught a 5-yard touchdown pass just before halftime and is over 140 receiving yards in this NFC Championship Game.

The Packers have had no answers. Matt Ryan is over 300 yards passing; he’s thrown three touchdown passes and he ran for another.

The Packers moved the ball early but Mason Crosby missed a field goal and Aaron Ripkowski fumbled at the end of a run that would have made it first and goal. Now the Packers need a miracle, but they’re struggling to even get first downs.

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Packers have few answers, no points at halftime

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates with Mohamed Sanu #12 after a 14 yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Matt Ryan and the Falcons dominated the first half and hold a 24-0 halftime lead over the Packers.

Ryan has thrown touchdown passes to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu and also ran 14 yards for a score. He threw for 271 yards in the first half.

Jones caught a 5-yard touchdown pass with three seconds left in the first half to further deflate the Packers.

The Packers moved the ball early but Mason Crosby missed a field goal and Aaron Ripkowski fumbled at the end of a run that would have made it first and goal. Ryan has had wide open receivers and has been a step ahead of the Green Bay defense.

At halftime the Falcons have 325 total yards and the Packers have 127. The Falcons have run 46 plays to the Packers’ 21.

The Packers will get the ball to start the second half.

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Falcons finagle touchback after fumble near end zone

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Ripkowski fumbles the ball during the first half of the NFL football NFC championship game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) AP

As Packers fullback Aaron Ripkowski bulldozed toward a touchdown, he lost the ball. Falcons safety Jalen Collins pounced at the one and then rolled into the end zone.

The officials ruled it was a touchback.

Arguably, Collins gave himself up at the one. Arguably, he deliberately took the ball into the end zone, possibly making it a safety.

Regardless, the issue was glossed over by the officials and by the FOX broadcast. Since it was a turnover, any challenge would have come from the replay booth.

It would be nice to know why the play was ruled the way that it was, and why the ruling wasn’t Atlanta ball at its one or two points for Green Bay.

UPDATE 4:17 p.m. ET: NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino says via Twitter that, because Collins gained possession at the one with his leg touching the goal line, it’s a touchback. If his leg hadn’t been touching the goal line, the Falcons would have had the ball at the one. The FOX broadcast still hasn’t explained the ruling.

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Ryan runs for score as Falcons extend lead

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons looks to pass in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Matt Ryan and the Falcons keep converting third downs, keep moving the chains and keep scoring.

They lead the Packers, 17-0, midway through the second quarter of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

Ryan ran 14 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-0. He threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu on the game’s first drive, and he’s had a bunch of wide open receivers on the first three possessions.

Packers fullback Aaron Ripkowski fumbled inside the Falcons’ 10-yard line early in the second quarter, and Falcons safety Jalen Collins recovered in the end zone for a touchback as the Falcons preserved a 10-0 lead. The Packers have moved the ball on both of their possessions but have missed a field goal and fumbled.

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Falcons dominate first quarter, lead 10-0

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons passes the ball in the first half against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons hold a 10-0 lead over the Packers after one quarter in the NFC Championship Game.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is off to a hot start. Ryan is 11-of-16 for 125 yards and had two passes that would have been big gains dropped.

Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu caught the game’s first touchdown and has been busy. He has four catches for 46 yards and a rush for seven yards.

The Packers moved inside the Falcons’ 25-yard line on their first possession but stalled and Mason Crosby missed a 41-yard field goal. Crosby had made 23 consecutive field goals; it was also the first missed field goal of the entire playoffs.

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NFL teams may have to jam cell signals in locker rooms


As the Antonio Brown Face Book Live fiasco prepares to yield to an actual football game (during which it will be “fair or not” to point out the potential social-media infraction distraction if Brown struggles), there’s a lingering question about the situation that gave rise to the violation.

How will the NFL prevent similar incidents in the future?

One league source suggests that, eventually, the league will need to implement scrambling devices in the locker room when social-media activity is prohibited — from 90 minutes before kickoff through the conclusion of the post-game media obligations.

That’s the easiest way to keep players from violating the rules, and it’s something the league needs to consider if other players will be tempted to broadcast live from the locker room.

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Ryan sharp as Falcons take early lead

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Mohamed Sanu #12 of the Atlanta Falcons scores a two-point conversion against Chris Conte #23 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgia Dome on September 11, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons got the ball first and scored first in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

They went 80 yards in 13 plays with Matt Ryan completing three third-down passes.

The Falcons scored on a third-down shovel pass to Mohamed Sanu after Ryan was flushed out of the pocket. The Falcons have now scored a touchdown on their first drive in eight straight games.

Ryan was 6-of-8 for 64 yards on the first drive. The Packers moved inside the Falcons’ 25-yard line on their first possession but stalled and Mason Crosby missed a 41-yard field goal. Crosby had made 23 consecutive field goals.

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Antonio Brown reportedly fined $10,000 by Steelers for locker room video

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, right, arrives to talk with reporters after their NFL football practice, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers face the New England Patriots in the AFC conference championship on Sunday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) AP

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said last week that the team would discipline wide receiver Antonio Brown for sharing a video from the locker room on Facebook Live and that discipline reportedly includes a five-figure fine.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports that Tomlin told players at a team meeting that Brown was fined $10,000 for violating the team’s social media policy. The league’s policy prohibits the use of social media from 90 minutes before kickoff through the end of postgame media obligations, so Brown may face other penalties.

Per Glazer, Tomlin asked if anyone had a problem with that decision and then said it was time to move on to get ready for the Patriots. Brown apologized for posting the video and creating what he called a “total distraction” to his teammates leading up the game against New England.

NFL Media reported Sunday that Brown has a six-figure marketing deal with Facebook, which got a lot of publicity as a result of the video. Brown would only say “top secret” when asked about a deal with the company, but the net effect on his bank account will still be a positive one if he’s in business with the social network.

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Report: Chip Kelly could replace Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Chip Kelly of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during their NFL game against the New England Patriots at Levi's Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is slated for a second interview with the 49ers about their head coaching job this week and the expectation around the league is that he will wind up taking the job.

That would leave the Falcons in need of a new offensive coordinator and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported on Sunday that the team has lined up three candidates to take the job, including the man Shanahan would be replacing with the 49ers. Glazer reports that Chip Kelly is one of the potential additions to Dan Quinn’s staff.

Glazer reported that Kelly would consider a coordinator position shortly after he was fired by the 49ers and he interviewed with the Jaguars earlier this month before Jacksonville decided to keep Nathaniel Hackett as the offensive coordinator on a permanent basis. He also reportedly met with Patriots coach Bill Belichick recently, although there’s been no word about whether there was a discussion about joining the staff.

Shanahan is eligible to speak to the 49ers this week whether the Falcons win or lose, but would only be moving on to the 49ers immediately if the Packers are moving on to the Super Bowl.

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Report: Matt Cavanaugh “in negotiations” for Redskins offensive coordinator

Washington Redskins conduct OTAs Getty Images

There’s a report about Kevin O’Connell coming aboard as the new quarterbacks coach in Washington, but it doesn’t look like Matt Cavanaugh, who was in that job during the 2016 season, will be leaving the team.

Mike Jones of the Washington Post reports that the Redskins are “in negotiations” with Cavanaugh about a promotion to offensive coordinator. The job has been vacant since Sean McVay left to become the head coach of the Rams.

A bump up the ladder for Cavanaugh would make two internal promotions to coordinator for the Redskins as they’re moving Greg Manusky from outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator.

Cavanaugh has spent the last two years as the quarterbacks coach in D.C. and has experience as an offensive coordinator with the Bears, Ravens and the University of Pittsburgh. He also had stints as the quarterbacks coach for the Bears and Jets before joining the Redskins.

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Packers wide receivers active, available

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 28: Jordy Nelson #87 and Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after a touchdown by Adams in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers have their injured wide receivers active and available for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at Atlanta.

Both team submitted their inactive lists 90 minutes before kickoff. Jordy Nelson, Geronimo Allison and Davante Adams will all play after being listed as questionable. Nelson missed last week’s game after breaking ribs in the wild-card round.

The Packers have six wide receivers active, giving them additional depth if Nelson, Allison or Adams are limited by their injuries or have to leave the game.

Packers safety Morgan Burnett, cornerback Quinten Rollins and running back Christine Michael had been listed as questionable but both will play. The Packers had previously ruled running back James Starks out due to a concussion.

Also inactive for the Packers are Joe Callahan, Max McCaffrey, Herb Waters, Joe Kerridge, Kyle Murphy and Christian Ringo.

The Falcons have no injury-related inactives. Their inactives are Nick Williams, Terron Ward, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Dashon Goldson, Josh Keyes, Wes Schweitzer and D.J. Tialavea.

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Colts used psychologist to improve Grigson, Pagano relationship

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On Saturday, Colts owner Jim Irsay insisted that there were no issues between coach Chuck Pagano and now-former G.M. Ryan Grigson. On Sunday, some evidence contradicting that assertion emerged.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Colts hired a psychologist to help improve the relationship between Pagano and Grigson. The effort focused on ways to improve communications between the two men.

That’s a nice way of saying they didn’t get along in the way that two men who have every reason to find a way to get along should. Whether a result of personality differences or philosophical impasse (Grigson wanted to build for the future and Pagano wanted to win now), two grown men with every reason to treat their jobs like a three-legged race ended up being less effective than a three-legged dog.

“There have been a lot of relationships throughout the years where the General Manager and head coach aren’t the best of friends, but professionally they move forward and excel,” Irsay said Saturday. “Both of these guys have great affection for each other, that may shock you guys, but I will let Chuck speak for himself or Ryan. There is a lot more affection than you guys even know.”

Affection or lack thereof isn’t the issue. The issue is shared accountability. Their failure to be on the same page shows that they each believed it would be possible to survive the firing of the other. Pagano ultimately won; the better approach for any football organization is that both will win or both will lose.

The cockeyed accountability apparently will continue once the new G.M. arrives with a mandate to make changes that could include getting rid of Pagano.

“The new General Manager will come in, evaluate our whole football program and we will see where we are at,” Irsay said. “Again, I hope Chuck can be our coach for many years to come. He is our coach this year. Going through this process and interviewing General Managers and having whoever the new General Manager is come in to work with me to evaluate where we are at will play a big role on that in the long-term.”

The new G.M. will want to hire his own coach. Which means that Pagano already is on notice that 2017 is an up-or-out season for him.

After that, the G.M. and the next coach need to realize that they’re in it together. It’s on Irsay to make sure they realize that failure for one means failure for both, and that the next time a major change is made both the coach and G.M. will be sent packing.

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Wade Phillips on Rams defense: We can fit whatever we need to fit in

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 09:  Wade Phillips defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos celebrates on the stage as the Super Bowl 50 Champion Denver Broncos are honored at a rally on the steps of the Denver City and County Building on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams made the hire of Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator official last Thursday, finalizing a move that extends Phillips’ NFL resume to 10 franchises.

As in those other stops, Phillips is being asked to put together a top-flight defense. As in many of those stops, that will call for tweaking of the Rams’ defensive scheme as Phillips puts his own stamp on the unit. That stamp is expected to include a shift from a 4-3 base to a 3-4 and Phillips doesn’t expect it to be a major stumbling block.

“Four out of the last six teams I’ve gone to were running a 4-3, and we went to a 3-4 and went to the playoffs every year, and they hadn’t been to the playoffs the year before,” Phillips said, via “I think we can fit whatever we need to fit in. And if we couldn’t, we would change. But that’s the way we’ve done it. We’ve got our defense where we can utilize any kind of personnel in any way. It’s just what the players can do best. Same with coverages, and same with the linebackers, and same with the D-line. You try to get the best players on the field and don’t make many mistakes. That’s what we’re going to do. That’s what we plan on doing.”

Phillips’ arrival may force some players, like defensive end Robert Quinn, to change positions but Phillips says players “who can rush are going to rush” by way of explaining that things aren’t going to be radically different under his command.

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Washington promotes Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Greg Manusky of the San Francisco 49ers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)

Washington head coach Jay Gruden didn’t go far to find his new defensive coordinator.

Greg Manusky has been promoted to the top assistant job, NFL Network reports.

Manusky spent last season as the outside linebackers coach in Washington. Prior to that he was a defensive coordinator for nine years, with the Colts for four seasons, the Chargers for one season and the 49ers for four seasons.

The 50-year-old Manusky had a 12-year playing career in Washington, Minnesota and Kansas City.

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