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Nathaniel Hackett: You’ve got to make the quarterback comfortable

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Bills introduced their new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on Thursday and, as you’d expect, he faced a lot of questions about what kind of offense the team would run with him at the controls.

There’s been talk about ratcheting things up in Buffalo, including the occasional mention of the old K-Gun offense from the days of Jim Kelly, Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas. Hackett didn’t delve into any specifics about schemes, but he did reveal what he thought was the most important thing he needs to do in Buffalo.

“You have got to make the quarterback successful,” Hackett said, via the team’s website. “He’s such a critical part in all games. He touches the ball every single time in the run game and the pass game. Anything you can do to help him feel more comfortable back there, because when you’ve got 11 guys coming after him and the crowd is screaming at him. He has to feel so comfortable out there and he has to be willing to take on the world at that moment. I think that the more comfortable you can make the quarterback feel the better he’s going to be out there.”

With a good running game and offensive line in place, the Bills need to work on receivers to up the comfort level for whoever they wind up picking at quarterback but that choice figures to be the one that determines how successful. Hackett evaded questions about Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Nassib, who will be in the draft after playing for Hackett and head coach Doug Marrone at Syracuse, by talking about the need to evaluate everything on the team.

You wouldn’t expect anything different publicly at this point, but even vague answers say much about the biggest offseason need for the Bills.

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Texans send Mallett to IR, officially add Thad Lewis

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On Monday, tight-lipped Texans coach Bill O’Brien didn’t have much to saw about reports that quarterback Ryan Mallett would miss the rest of the season.

On Wednesday, the team said plenty, parking Mallett on season-ending injured reserve.  He was replaced on the roster by quarterback Thad Lewis.

Mallett sustained a torn pectoral on Sunday, reportedly during pregame warmups.  The development leaves the Texans with limited evidence to decide whether to re-sign him for 2015, or whether to let him exit via free agency.

The Texans also may want to determine at some point over the next five games what they may have in rookie Tom Savage.  With the Texans surely hoping to make some long-term decisions about the quarterback position, they need to know what they have in who they have.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick has less beard, but does get old job back

GriffinBeard

Ryan Fitzpatrick has his old job back.

But he looks like a new man.

With Ryan Mallett out for the season, the Texans are expected to turn back to Fitzpatrick, who started the first nine games of the season for them. But when he walked into the team facility today, there was little notice.

We hate to break this news to you so close to a holiday, but Fitzpatrick has trimmed his glorious beard.

“We had to chop it down piece by piece. It was definitely a significant amount of time to take it off,” Fitzpatrick said, via Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle.

It was more me just getting tired of having to pick corn out of it,” he added. “When I eat pancakes in the morning with the syrup and stuff, that’ll be there for days. My wife will ask me, ‘Did you have pancakes this morning?’ And I’ll say, ‘No, it was four days ago.’ ”

While his wife might like it, others weren’t so impressed.

“I can’t even look at him anymore,” rookie backup Tom Savage said. “His lips look small.”

Hopefully Fitzpatrick listens to his teammates, and grows back one of the very best things about the NFL.

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Jay Gruden: RG3 needs more time to learn

Jay Gruden AP

Washington coach Jay Gruden says Robert Griffin III was benched in part because he needs time to learn the offense.

“Robert has done some good things at quarterback but I think he just needs a little bit more time in the system with the verbiage and the plays, to sit back and take a step back and learn,” Gruden said. “When he gets back in there he’ll be a lot more decisively and ready to roll.”

That explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense. Griffin has had plenty of time to learn Gruden’s system since Gruden was hired in January. Griffin got the first-team reps throughout minicamps, training camp and the preseason, whereas McCoy wasn’t even signed until April and spent the whole offseason as a third-stringer and doing scout team work. If McCoy doesn’t need more time to learn the offense, why does Griffin?

Gruden says that what it comes down to is that McCoy has been the quarterback for two of Washington’s three wins this season, and that means he deserves the chance to show he can keep helping Washington win.

“We’re gonna play Colt — he’s done some good things,” Gruden said. “I felt like he deserved a bit of a promotion.”

Still, Gruden insists that he’s not saying Griffin can’t one day be a franchise quarterback.

“Obviously, I’m not putting the blame all on Robert,” Gruden said. “It seems like that when you make a change at the quarterback position. I understand that there are other issues involved here, but we’re 2-0 with Colt as a starter and I just want to give him an opportunity to play well.”

Realistically, it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which Gruden is coaching Griffin next year. If Gruden is claiming he still thinks Griffin can play well, then Gruden is trying to talk up Griffin for a potential trade partner in the offseason. Griffin has had all the time he’s going to get to learn Gruden’s offense. It hasn’t worked, and if Griffin is going to become a great player in the NFL, it will be with some other coach.

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Beckham’s big catch bumps him up in Madden

Beckham AP

I’ve been critical of the Madden game.  (I remain hooked on FIFA.)  But Madden remains the dominant NFL video game, primarily because the NFL has granted an exclusive license to EA.

The only NFL-licensed video game has reacted to the play of the year to date, in a dramatic way.

EA has announced that Beckham’s “spectacular catch” rating has rocketed from 85 to 99 in the wake of his three-fingered grab of a ball that traveled more than 50 yards.

The play also moved Beckham’s total rating from 80 to 84.  He has argued that the total rating should be a 95 or a 96.  If he keeps making catches like that, it will be.

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Jerry Jones loves him some Robert Griffin III

Jerry Jones AP

Washington might not want anything to do with Robert Griffin III anymore, but a certain someone in his division is clearly still a fan.

During an appearance on the NFL Network this morning, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressed a great admiration for the deposed starter from his NFC East rival.

Well, I’m a fan of RGIII,” Jones said. “Right on this field two years ago, or maybe it was three seasons ago, he put on a show and had a game that just floored me. And they won, and they won in large part because of his play at quarterback. I thought ‘my goodness, and we’re going to have to be playing this guy for years and years.’ And so he’s got it.

“Once you see a player do it, especially if you see him do it two or three times, you know he can do it. And of course he’s a driven young man. I’m a big admirer of RGIII.”

Of course, that 2012 game was before the injury that derailed Griffin’s career, and the subsequent mayhem that has ended his tenure as the starter.

Of course, his inevitable availability just makes you wonder: Could it actually happen?

I can see it now, Griffin comes in to back up Tony Romo, and mentors a certain young, impressionable Jonathan F. Football, as Jones collects all the glory hole in the NFL.

Please let this happen.

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Tony Romo says his back is no worse than anyone else’s injury

Tony Romo AP

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is downplaying any effects of the back injury that forced him to miss a game this season.

Romo noted that no NFL player is feeling 100 percent healthy by late November, and he doesn’t think he’s dealing with anything worse than any other player.

“You don’t really think about it,’’ Romo said, via the Dallas Morning News. “You just go and play. I mean, everyone has something wrong with them during the football season. We say it all the time. Once you step on the field no one cares what you have. You’ve got to go produce. Our job is to play well regardless of what’s going on around you. That’s our job as players.’’

Romo said he’s feeling good on a short week and eager to get on the field against the Eagles on Thanksgiving.

“We’re playing against a really good football team who is going to bring great energy,” Romo said. “We understand how important this game is for both teams and I think it’ll be fun to just to see them try and attack us and come after you and be an aggressive team. That will be an enjoyable game to go against.’’

Not many people with a bad back would consider getting hit by 300-pound defensive linemen “enjoyable,” but Romo is feeling good about this season, no matter how his back feels.

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League has no comment on Richard Sherman’s press conference skit

Sherman AP

I’m still not quite sure what to make of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s Tuesday stunt at his weekly press availability, which included a life-size cutout of receiver Doug Baldwin coupled with the real thing lurking under the podium to chime in from time to time.

The league apparently doesn’t know what to make of it either; the NFL has no comment on Sherman’s antics.  However, despite Sherman’s gratuitous reference to the headphone company that sponsors him personally but not the NFL, don’t look for Sherman to be fined.

Fine or no fine, Sherman’s remarks lumbered clumsily through issues of hypocrisy and greed that entail far more nuance that he gave them. Perhaps more importantly, the attempted Abbott-and-Cardboard-Costello routine wasn’t funny.

The players benefit financially from the league’s deals with headphone manufacturers and beer companies. They also benefit financially from short-week football, a topic that Sherman awkwardly wedged into what was supposed to be a satirical commentary on the NFL’s media policy. Most importantly, the players get paid significant amounts of money in part because a strong relationship with the media — which serves as a conduit to the fans — has helped the NFL become the behemoth that it is.

For more on that, consider this recent item from Ed Sherman, to which NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted a link on Tuesday night as a “bit of history on NFL media relations.”

Sherman became Seattle’s NFLPA representative earlier this year.  If he has genuine issues with the media policy, the NFL’s sponsorship portfolio, and/or Thursday night football, Sherman now has a far more direct and meaningful way to agitate for change.  If he simply prefers to give short-shrift to these issues while advancing a “look at me, I sometimes say provocative stuff” agenda, then mission accomplished, I suppose.

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PFT Live: Jets talk with Manish Mehta, Week 13 picks

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Jets have decided to go back to quarterback Geno Smith after Monday night’s 38-3 thrashing at the hands of the Bills in a move that some have reported is the opposite of what head coach Rex Ryan wanted to do at the position.

One of those reports came from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News and he’ll join Mike Florio on Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss the latest episode in the never-ending soap opera that is the Jets. They’ll discuss the reasons for going back to Smith, the machinations that went on in coming to that decision and what it all means for the futures of Ryan, General Manager John Idzik and Smith with the franchise.

We usually do the weekly picks on Thursday, but Thanksgiving is a day for stuffing turkeys and watching football so Florio and MDS will discuss this week’s slate of games during Wednesday’s program.

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

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Chris Cooley’s breakdown of RG3’s tape shows bigger issues

chris-cooley AP

While the benching of Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III is news this week, it’s clear that we should have all seen it coming.

If you need any further evidence, take a look back at the scathing critique of RG3 by former tight end Chris Cooley last week.

During his radio show on the Dan Snyder-owned ESPN 980, Cooley (who has also been an outspoken advocate on nickname issues on behalf of the team) spent 24 minutes breaking down the Xs and Os after studying the film of their loss to the Buccaneers.

And the way he picked apart Griffin made it clear that there were problems, problems which were acted upon by coach Jay Gruden.

Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post transcribed the bulk of it, and offers visual evidence to confirm the particulars, but it’s clear the pressure for yesterday’s move was mounting.

“I can’t grade the pass game. Our quarterback does not allow a proper grading of the pass game, because there was something I’ve never seen go on on a football field before,” Cooley said. “There was a game plan initially installed, which was not run or operated in any way shape or form the way it should have been. There was a quarterback not reading the field when he should have been, there was a quarterback scrambling when he [shouldn’t have been]….

“You can’t grade anyone else around Robert because of the way Robert played.”

Cooley went chapter-and-verse through the problems Griffin had, and it was a football criticism more than the more parenthetical media/social media/personality issues that have been at play. At the end of the monologue, Cooley made it clear what other team employees were thinking as well.

“My ultimate evaluation is: he is gun-shy in the pocket,” Cooley said. “He is so so concerned about anyone putting a hand on him in the pocket, . . . he doesn’t feel what’s going on around him, he doesn’t see what’s going on down the field. He’s not capable of moving and scrambling to make a good throw, he’s inaccurate when he’s on the move, and he’s really inefficient.

“And as a player, if I were on that team — and I will promise you, all the players would feel this way, because I would feel this way, and you’re wrong to not feel this way — he will not allow you to get better as a player, the way he played in this one week.”

Again, this was a week ago, and from a guy who is personally invested in the team. And it sounds like Gruden came to the same conclusion this week, and made the ultimate change.

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Anthony Dixon named AFC special teamer of the week

Anthony Dixon AP

The Bills ransacked the Jets 38-3 in Detroit on Monday night by dominating them on offense, defense and on special teams.

Their biggest play on special teams came when a blocked punt extended a 17-3 lead in the third quarter and turned the game into a laugher. Linebacker Manny Lawson fell on the ball in the end zone, but it was running back Anthony Dixon that came up with the block and came home with some recognition from the league.

Dixon was named the AFC special teams player of the week thanks to his block of Ryan Quigley’s punt. It’s the second punt he’s blocked this season and the first time he’s won weekly honors, although it is the third time that a Bills special teamer has received recognition this season. Kicker Dan Carpenter won in Week One and running back C.J. Spiller took it home in Week Two for his work as a kickoff returner.

In addition to his punt block, Dixon also capped the Bills’ scoring for the night with a 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

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Josh Huff named NFC special teams player of the week

Tennessee Titans v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

A flash of brilliance to begin Sunday’s win vs. Tennessee has garnered Eagles rookie returner Josh Huff the NFC’s weekly special teams honor.

The NFL has named Huff the conference’s special teams player of the week, the league announced Wednesday morning. Huff’s 107-yard kickoff return score on the game’s first play gave the Eagles a lead they would not relinquish in a 43-24 victory over the Titans.

The touchdown — Huff’s first as a professional — was a reminder of the Eagles’ exceptional skill and diligence on special teams. It also highlighted the playmaking ability of Huff, a third-round pick from Oregon.

Huff received the opening kickoff seven yards deep in the endzone. He encountered traffic around his own 15, but his teammates opened a lane, with tight ends Zach Ertz and James Casey, wide receiver Brad Smith and safety Nate Allen getting good blocks. This gave Huff the instant he needed to spy the crease and dart through into the clear nearest the Philadelphia sideline. Another tight end, Trey Burton, would get another key block a little downfield.

By the time Huff reached his 30, Titans kicker Ryan Succop was the closest pursuer. Succop took a decent angle, but the 5-11, 206-pound Huff was too quick. The rookie got the edge, and he delivered a little stiff-arm to boot.

Now, Huff was well on his way to setting up the Eagles in Titans territory. But could he finish the deal? It all rode on whether he could fend off speedy, long-striding Titans cornerback Brandon Ghee, who had an angle and was making up ground.

But here, Huff showed some moves that would make a defensive lineman proud. He braced for contact with Ghee around the Tennessee 30, then struck Ghee was his left hand to create some space. Then, Huff delivered the decisive blow, hitting and pushing Ghee about the facemask around the 20. This sent Ghee off-balance, and he tumbled to the ground at around the 15.

From there, Huff was off to the endzone, and the Eagles were off and running against the Titans, the result of some splendid team execution and tantalizing individual talent. Vision, patience, quickness, speed, power, leverage — Huff emptied out the bag to leave the Titans in the dust.

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Belichick on Brady/Rodgers similarities: They both wear No. 12

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots Getty Images

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers correctly pointed out on Tuesday that Sunday’s game against the Patriots is not about a matchup between him and Tom Brady because they won’t be on the field at the same time barring some really strange coaching decisions.

That doesn’t mean that people are going to stop focusing on the two quarterbacks ahead of their first meeting, however. It also doesn’t mean that anyone involved with the game has to play along any more than Rodgers did. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about similarities between Brady and Rodgers at his Wednesday press conference and the one he found came without the deep analysis his questioner may have been looking for.

“They both wear No. 12,” Belichick said in comments distributed by the team.

Belichick said that he didn’t think there was much benefit or disadvantage to Rodgers never having faced one of his defenses — “Whatever hasn’t happened hasn’t happened” was his take — but he made it clear that he thinks highly of the Packers quarterback when asked what makes him different than others that Belichick has faced.

“It’s just, he’s great,” Belichick said. “He’s quick, he’s big, he throws the ball very accurately, has great vision down the field. He finds guys that there’s not a lot of space, but he finds them and he hits them. He’s really good. I’m not taking anything away from anybody else, but this guy is a really good player.”

And Sunday has all the makings of a really good game thanks in large part to the guys wearing No. 12.

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Justin Forsett is AFC offensive player of the week for second time in November

Justin Forsett AP

It’s been a good month for Ravens running back Justin Forsett.

In Week 10, Forsett ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns in Baltimore’s victory over the Titans and was named the AFC offensive player of the week in recognition of his exploits. Forsett couldn’t win the award in Week 11 because the Ravens were on a bye, but he did the next best thing.

Forsett ran for a career-high 182 yards on 22 carries while scoring twice more in Baltimore’s 34-27 victory against the Saints in New Orleans on Monday night. His second touchdown came in the fourth quarter to extend the Ravens lead to 14 points, an edge they’d need after Jimmy Graham caught a touchdown pass later in the proceedings.

That effort left Forsett with 903 yards and seven touchdowns on 155 carries this season, which is easily the best production of his professional career and a big reason why the Ravens have a 7-4 record at this point in the season.

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Charles Woodson named AFC defensive player of the week

Charles Woodson, Sio Moore AP

The Raiders finally won a game, so it’s only right to let them extend the party.

Veteran safety Charles Woodson was named AFC defensive player of the week, for his role in last week’s win over the Chiefs, which snapped a year-long losing streak.

The 17th-year safety had nine tackles (three for a loss), a sack and broke up a pass in the Raiders’ 24-20 win over the Chiefs.

The sack also put him in an exclusive club, as he became the first player with 50 interceptions and 20 sacks.

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Kam Chancellor named NFC defensive player of the week

Seattle Seahawks v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor said this week that he hasn’t enjoyed taking a look at his film from earlier in the season because of the way he played while trying to battle through ankle, groin and hip injuries.

Chancellor missed a couple of games, but has been in the lineup for Seattle the last two weeks and he’s putting better work on film. His work last Sunday in Seattle’s 19-3 win over the Cardinals was good enough that the NFL named him the NFC defensive player of the week.

Chancellor didn’t put up any gaudy numbers in the game, but he had eight tackles while the Seahawks were holding the Cardinals to just 204 yards over the course of an afternoon that left the Seahawks feeling like they had their swagger back.

Whatever Chancellor’s issues are with his work earlier this season, it’s not like he’s always been off his game. He was also the NFC defensive player of the week for the third week of the season.

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