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Texans to work out Stanford Routt

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

As the Texans work out defensive backs today searching for depth, they’ll look at one who has deep pockets.

According to John Brannen of the Houston Chronicle, among those working out will be former Chiefs cornerback Stanford Routt, who played at the University of Houston.

The Texans are short in the secondary, with cornerback Brice McCain going on injured reserve yesterday, and Johnathan Joseph and Alan Ball struggling with injuries that caused them to miss the Titans game.

Routt has received little interest since being released by the Chiefs this year. Including his $5 million in guaranteed parting gifts from the Raiders, he’s made about $11 million in the last year for being fired twice by bad teams.

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Whisenhunt says he’s going with Mettenberger and sticking with him

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Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt says Zach Mettenberger is his starting quarterback, and that’s not about to change.

“We’re going with Zach and we’re going to stay with Zach,” Whisenhunt said today.

The injury-prone Jake Locker, who has missed three of the last four games, is expected to be healthy enough to play on Sunday against the Texans but has been demoted to second string. Charlie Whitehurst, who has started the games Locker missed, is now No. 3 on the depth chart.

For the Titans, it really only makes sense to go with Mettenberger. This team is 2-5 and going nowhere with either Locker or Whitehurst. They might find out that Mettenberger is the quarterback of the future. Or they might find out that Mettenberger simply isn’t good enough — which they’d rather find out now so they can find another quarterback in the offseason.

Whisenhunt has a history of struggling to make the right decision at the quarterback position, most notably during his tenure as head coach of the Cardinals when he took far too long to realize that Kurt Warner was a better player than Matt Leinart. But this feels like the right decision for the Titans. Mettenberger might turn out not be the answer, but Locker and Whitehurst definitely aren’t.

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Norv Turner: Teddy Bridgewater “a work in progress”

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It’s just a few starts into his NFL career, but Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater already reminds offensive coordinator Norv Turner of one of the most accomplished quarterbacks he’s every coached.

Unfortunately for Bridgewater, he reminded Turner of Troy Aikman on an interception. Turner said that Bridgewater’s second interception against Buffalo last week reminded him of one Aikman threw to Cris Dishman of the Oilers during his rookie season with the Cowboys. The story helped underscore Turner’s point that Bridgewater is “a work in progress” that will do things that make you smile and make you scream over the course of a game.

One thing that Turner has liked is the way that Bridgewater dealt with the Buffalo pass rush.

“He’s had a lot of pressure, and I think he’s been unbelievable,” Turner said, via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I get nervous in terms of the hits outside the pocket. Those are the ones where you get thrown to the ground and banged around pretty good. He’s got good sense in the pocket. He’s getting better at getting the ball out, and he threw the ball away a couple of times on Sunday when there was nowhere to throw it; whereas against Detroit on those plays, he took sacks.”

Given the play of the Vikings line this season, that’s a good skill for Bridgewater to have. The Vikings will have to hope that buys him enough time to work on a few of the other ones he’ll need to succeed in the NFL.

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Cowboys keep talking about giving DeMarco Murray fewer touches

Murray AP

Before this season, the Cowboys talked a lot about running the ball more.  But they never really did.

This year, the Cowboys finally are running the ball more.  So much more than running back DeMarco Murray is on pace to run the ball more times than anyone ever has in a single season.

As a result, the Cowboys are now talking about giving the ball to Murray less.  But they’re not doing it.

“Well there’s no doubt we look at it and there’s no doubt we’d like to get that cut back,” COO Stephen Jones told Adam Schein of SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio on Thursday.  “We’ve got to get our hands around having the ball 30 minutes versus having the ball 33, 34, 35, in some cases 36 minutes, even though you are giving Joe Randle and [Lance] Dunbar some carries when you keep the ball that long.  We need to even do it a little more.

“But we’re certainly aware of it.  We certainly know that when you touch the ball that many times you are exposing DeMarco to a difficult hit or something like that.  So we’re aware of it.  We want to do better in terms of reducing his touches.  Not by a ton but you’d like to see him get it less than 30 times a game.  Between his receiving and running I think he’s in the 35-36 range.  So we would like to get that down.”

Technically, Murray’s workload currently is under 30 touches per games; he’s a 29.8.  Still, he had only 17 per game for his career before 2014, and he never stayed healthy with that more limited workload.

So maybe the goal should be to get Murray under 25 touches per game.  If they don’t, it’s just a matter of time before Murray won’t be able to manage one touch for one or more consecutive games.

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Gerald McCoy: Bucs defense is “soft,” makes too many excuses

Baltimore Ravens v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy looks at the Buccaneers defense from a different vantage point from outside observers but he’s reached the same conclusion.

It’s not a good unit. The Bucs are allowing more yards per game than any team in the league and McCoy has diagnosed them as being too soft to stop opposing offenses.

“Yeah. I mean if you look out there on tape and you see a bunch of guys sitting on blocks, are you not earning the title of being soft?” McCoy said, via ESPN.com. “I mean, guys get so sensitive around the league, but we have to be men. This is a man’s league. This is a man’s league and we’re professionals. Guys have issues with criticism. I’ve been getting criticized since I’ve been in the NFL, and I don’t even feel it anymore. It is what it is.”

According to McCoy, part of the softness extends to the team making too many excuses for their shortcomings rather than just saying that they got beat and that they’ll win the next one. McCoy also acknowledged that talking about the issues hurting the team isn’t going to make a difference on the field because that talking has been going on since he got to Tampa.

“But it’s enough talking. We have to start playing, simple as that. The talking is not going to get it anymore,” McCoy said. “I’ve been hearing talking and speeches for five years. It’s time to start seeing action, simple as that.”

The words are strong, but McCoy’s probably right about the limitations of its impact. The limitations of the players and the scheme are likely to keep winning out until there are fewer of them holding the Buccaneers back.

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Talk persists of an NFL team moving to London

Osborne Getty Images

If one or two NFL teams move to Los Angeles, the NFL will need a new potential destination to which an owner can threaten to move his franchise if/when efforts to finance a new stadium with public money fail.

Playing the role of Los Angeles once the NFL returns there could be London.

Despite many logistical issues that would seem to make it ultimately impractical, talk persists of a team moving to London.  According to the London Evening Standard, Chancellor George Osborne says he has pledged full backing of the British government to a potential franchise move.

“This is primarily a decision for the owners of the clubs and the NFL organisation but I’ve said to the NFL that anything the Government can do to make this happen we will do, because I think it would be a huge boost to London,” Osborne said.  “We could have not just the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of NFL games but also God Save The Queen.”

So when could it happen?

“I think that there’s a chance in the next few years to get an NFL team for London,” Osborne said.  “There are 32 teams in America — and one of them could be a London team.  That’s a serious prospect.”

“We warmly welcome the Chancellor’s strong support for the possibility of an NFL team in London and look forward to welcoming him to a game at Wembley over the next few weeks,” the league said in response to Osborne’s remarks.  “Our key priority is to continue to build our fan base in the UK so that there is strong demand for any future plans in London.  We will do this by ensuring that we are able to offer top class action on the field and brilliant events — which include the fan rally at Trafalgar Square on Saturday — off it.  We are looking forward to two exciting upcoming games in London and are committed to further strengthening the links between the NFL and our UK fans.”

The NFL began its London series in 2007, with one game per year.  Last year, the NFL increased to two.  This year, the total inventory has increased to three.

An alternative to moving a team to London continues to be playing up to eight games per year there, each involving different teams.  The primary challenge to that approach comes from persuading enough teams to give up periodic home games.  Recently, the NFL moved a step in that direction by requiring all Super Bowl host teams to give up a home game to London.

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Buccaneers sign linebacker Orie Lemon away from Chiefs

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The Bucs filled an unexpected roster spot Thursday, finding another defensive player to take the spot created by Da’Quan Bowers‘ two-week PED suspension.

The team announced they had signed linebacker Orie Lemon off the Chiefs practice squad.

Lemon has bounced around, doing two stints each with the Cowboys and Chiefs, along with going to camp with the Cardinals last summer.

The former Oklahoma State standout was waived/injured by the Cowboys this year, prior to hooking up with the Chiefs again.

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Calvin Johnson ramping up his practice work in London

Britain Lions Football AP

The Lions might not have Reggie Bush available Sunday morning in London, but it’s looking like there’s at least a chance that Calvin Johnson will be back on the field.

According to Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website, Johnson did more in practice Thursday than he has recently, planting and cutting on his high right ankle sprain.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell still sounded cautious, but the trend is good after he was limited Wednesday.

“The big thing is, typically when they ramp up their activity that way, the most important thing is what they feel like the following day,” Caldwell said.

“And today he came back feeling good, so that’s encouraging. We knew he was coming along and to have him have an opportunity to take part in a little bit of practice [Wednesday] was good. As they see it, they’ll ramp him up a little bit more today and see how he looks tomorrow. We’ll go from there.”
Johnson said things were “moving in a positive direction,” but he’ll probably still be a game-time decision Sunday.

“Like I said, it gets better and better, like right now it’s getting better on a daily basis,” Johnson said. “As long as we can keep up with that progression, we’ll see.

“We haven’t pushed it too much, we don’t want to get to that point where we get a setback. Like I said, it’s getting better and better. I want to push it, but we are just trying to be smart about it. I’m trying to take good advice from our training staff that they’re giving me and go with that.”

Caution is wise with guys coming off injury, and the temptation to give him another week is reasonable, given this week’s opponent.

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Ultimately, De Smith may decide to question Goodell

Executive director of the NFL Players Association Smith and NFL Commissioner Goodell speak outside the NFL Players Association Headquarters in Washington Reuters

We know that Commissioner Roger Goodell will testify in the Ray Rice appeal hearing.  We still don’t know with certainty who will ask the questions.

One source with knowledge of the situation says it will be NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler.  Another source says Rice’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, also will pose questions to Goodell.

And now comes the curve ball.  Yet another source tells PFT that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has not yet ruled out handling the questioning himself.

Smith, a practicing lawyer before becoming the NFLPA executive director, routinely adds his own name to the roster of lawyers handling a given case.  It allows Smith to directly participate as an advocate, if he so chooses.

Given the broader relationship between Smith and Goodell, it probably makes sense for Smith to defer to Kessler or Ginsberg.  Either would be capable of asking the right questions without undermining the ability of Smith and Goodell to work productively and cooperatively in the future.

If Smith decides to question Goodell, it would represent a belated turning of the tables, sort of.  In 1981, Paul Tagliabue cross examined NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw in the Raiders’ lawsuit against the NFL, nine years before Tagliabue became the NFL’s Commissioner.

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Taylor Lewan not set for trial after all

Green Bay Packers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan will not have to spend his bye week on trial after all.

Lewan, the Titans’ first-round draft pick this year, had a trial on an assault charge scheduled for next week. But Lewan’s lawyer said today that the trial is off. Lewan apparently reached some type of settlement with the two people who accused him of assault, and they no longer wish to pursue criminal charges.

“We asked the judge to cancel next week’s trial with anticipation of putting that resolution on the record a week from today. That’s where things stand as of today,” attorney John Shea said, via the Tennessean. “Still some final steps being taken, but the parties anticipate the case will officially and on the record be resolved a week from today.”

Lewan has played in all seven games this season and started the last two. The alleged assault took place last year, before Lewan was an NFL player, and is not expected to result in a suspension.

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Reggie Wayne misses practice for second straight day

Reggie Wayne AP

When the Colts held wide receiver Reggie Wayne out of practice on Wednesday, it was difficult to know how much of a role his injured elbow played in their decision.

Wayne typically gets a veteran’s rest day on Wednesday and both he and coach Chuck Pagano downplayed the significance of the injury after he sat out the session. Still, the team was concerned enough to send Wayne for an MRI early on the week and even a relatively insignificant injury can be enough to keep a player out for one week.

The possibility of that outcome seems a bit likelier now that Wayne has missed practice on Thursday as well. Tom James of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star reports that Wayne watched his teammates go through practice from the field and that he didn’t have a wrap or anything other than a compression sleeve on the injured elbow.

If Wayne doesn’t play, it could mean an expanded role for Hakeem Nicks. Nicks signed as a free agent in the offseason after a disappointing year with the Giants in 2013 and has 17 catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns so far this season.

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Jadeveon Clowney will be surprised if he doesn’t play this week

Jadeveon Clowney AP

Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney has been out since the first week of the regular season because of a knee injury, but he’s been drawing closer and closer to making his return in the last couple of weeks.

Clowney was listed as questionable heading into last Monday’s game against the Steelers, but the team opted to leave him inactive when they took the field in Pittsburgh. Clowney said Thursday, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, that he would be surprised if things played out that way again this week.

While his knee remains sore, Clowney said that he feels ready to “push through it” and return to the lineup against the Titans this weekend.

Coach Bill O’Brien termed Clowney’s chances of playing “decent” earlier this week and also said that it wasn’t a guarantee that Clowney would take a spot with the starters upon his return to week. That makes sense since Whitney Mercilus has played well and it’s been a long layoff, but first overall picks don’t remain on the bench long so we’d expect to see a healthy amount of Clowney if the Texans deem him healthy enough to play.

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Saints defense implements “Operation: Feed Drew”

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Saints defense had forced two turnovers on the season heading into last week’s game against the Lions, a number they doubled against Detroit by picking off two Matthew Stafford passes.

That helped lead to two short fields for the Saints, something they hadn’t experienced in their first five games of the season, and they were able to turn those turnovers into 10 points. The result of the game wasn’t what the Saints wanted as the Lions came back to win after Drew Brees threw an interception of his own, but members of the defense know that the odds are in their favor if they can get Brees the ball in advantageous situations more often.

That’s why they’ve instituted “Operation: Feed Drew” in New Orleans.

“We have to keep taking those,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said, via the Baton Rouge Advocate. “The more chances he gets to score the ball, the better chance we have at winning.”

The nascent operation could find the sledding tough this Sunday. The Packers have turned the ball over four times all season, which may leave Brees to feed himself in a game that’s probably going to take a lot of points for the Saints to win.

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Harry Douglas back at practice on Thursday

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

The Lions and Falcons are preparing to face off in London this Sunday and there’s been a lot of attention paid this week to whether or not the Lions will have wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush available for the game.

The Falcons have some uncertainty surrounding the status of one of their key offensive players as well. Wide receiver Harry Douglas has missed the last four games because of a foot injury, but made the trip to London with the team and was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice.

Coach Mike Smith said no decision would be made on Douglas (or defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who missed a second straight practice) until the team gauges the response to this week’s practice work.

“We’ll have to see how both those guys handle their workload over the next couple of days to see what their game status will be,” Smith said, via the team.

How much getting Douglas back will help an offense that’s still dealing with a porous offensive line remains to be seen, but the Falcons would surely prefer to be as close to 100 percent as possible as they try to avoid a fifth straight loss.

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PFT Live: Denard Robinson, Week Eight picks

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The Jaguars got their first 100-yard rushing game of the year last Sunday against the Browns, but it didn’t come from offseason free agent acquisition Toby Gerhart.

It was former Michigan quarterback and 2013 fifth-round pick Denard Robinson that did the honors and helped the Jags to their first victory of the season. Robinson will join Mike Florio on Thursday’s edition of PFT Live to talk about getting that victory, his transition to running back and what he thinks the rest of the 2014 season holds for a young Jaguars team.

The Jaguars face the Dolphins in a battle for Florida bragging rights this Sunday and that will be one of the 15 games that Florio and MDS are predicting winners for this week. They’ll share their choice for that game and the reasoning behind that choice during our weekly picks segment.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Gruden hints at Week 11 return for Griffin

Griffin AP

When a report emerged that Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III plans to return from a dislocated ankle in Week Eight against the Cowboys, a source with knowledge of the situation promptly said it was too early to know when Griffin would return.

The source suggested that Week 11 makes more sense, given that it comes after the bye week and entails a visit from the Buccaneers.

Coincidentally (or not), coach Jay Gruden recently hinted that Week 11 could be the date on which Griffin returns to action.

“I would guarantee Tampa, most likely, unless something happens between now and then,” Gruden told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday.  “You’ve got a good bye week, you’ve got a couple weeks to make sure it’s ready.  Obviously Robert is a quick healer.  He works extremely hard in the training room.  So the process could be sped up a little bit depending on how he feels.”

If the team learned anything from last year’s goofy “Operation: Patience” and “All In For Week One” mantras, it’s that real patience is critical to the healing process.  Gruden wisely has tapped the brakes not by pointing at the scars of the Shanahan regime but by emphasizing the importance of practice reps to a quarterback’s ability to play.

“[T]he quarterback position is very delicate,” Gruden said.  “You need your reps to play, and play successfully.  You can’t just throw a guy out there without the reps, and the practice time, and the continuity with the receivers and the backs and the tight ends.  So it’ll be a little bit of a process — probably a little bit more than people think — but we’ll play it by ear and see how he’s doing on a daily basis.”

In other words, it’s highly unlikely that Griffin will play in Dallas on Monday night, and nearly as unlikely that he’d play on a short week in Minnesota the following Sunday.

Waiting until after the bye gives Griffin more than three more weeks not only to heal but also to prepare.  Which will help ensure that, when he plays, he’ll play at his best.  Whatever his best may be.

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