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Mornhinweg says Jets can get by without an accurate quarterback

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Among the many problems for the Jets’ offense last season was that quarterback Mark Sanchez completed just 54.3 percent of his passes, ranking 30th of 32 qualifying quarterbacks. But new Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg says that’s not necessarily that big a problem.

Asked in an interview on the Jets’ website if there’s a certain completion percentage benchmark that he’ll need his quarterback to reach, Mornhinweg answered, “No, absolutely not.”

Mornhinweg went on to say that he has seen quarterbacks have great seasons without great completion percentages.

“Some of the great ones have really not thrown for such great accuracy,” Mornhinweg said. “Steve Young was astronomical accuracy-wise. Brett Favre wasn’t. Brett Favre, I believe won an MVP two different times out of the three times that he won it, throwing 58, 59, 60 percent, somewhere in there. So they all come in different shapes and sizes.”

For the record, in the three seasons that Favre was MVP he completed 63.0, 59.9 and 59.3 percent of his passes. In four NFL seasons Sanchez has never completed more than 56.7 percent of his passes. So even if Favre wasn’t known for great accuracy, Sanchez still has work to do to get to Favre’s level. It’s also important to note that NFL passing offenses have changed significantly in the years since Favre was winning MVPs. Favre’s 59.3 percent completion rate in 1997 was tied for sixth in the NFL. In 2012 there were 20 NFL quarterbacks with a better completion percentage than that.

And, of course, if your completion percentage is going to be low, you’d better be making big plays downfield. Sanchez wasn’t: He averaged just 6.4 yards a pass and threw just 13 touchdown passes last season. Mornhinweg acknowledged that a less accurate passer needs to make up for it by making more big plays.

“Those guys that throw for a little bit less accuracy typically are generating a little bit bigger plays on occasion. There’s a little bit of a tradeoff there,” Mornhinweg said.

Overall, Mornhinweg said the Jets are going to have an agressive, physical offense this year.

“We’re gonna go after people,” Mornhinweg said. “There are different ways to go after people, but we’re going to go after ’em and we’re going to play to our players’ strengths rather than concerning ourselves too much about their weaknesses.”

It will be easier to do that if the Jets are completing more than 55 percent of their passes.

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Cowboys plan “significant” role for Ryan Switzer

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The Cowboys drafted a slot receiver when they already have a slot receiver. But rookie Ryan Switzer won’t simply be the backup to Cole Beasley.

Via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys plan to put both players on the field at the same time.

“He’s a classic slot receiver,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said, via Machota. “He has a similar game [to Beasley], but he has his own things. We would really like those two guys to be able to complement each other and run real similar route trees. Certainly a huge bonus with him is his ability to be a returner in our special teams.”

With Beasley taking care of a sore hamstring, Switzer has been getting first-team reps in the slot.

“His role is significant,” Lineman said. “You can see right now he’s getting reps that we wouldn’t have . . . if he wasn’t here. He complements Beasley and also gives us some big-time needed depth at that position.”

Switzer also has big-time skill. Earlier this week, he made a one-handed catch at the sideline and got both feet in before stepping out.

It makes sense to have two slot receivers, beyond depth concerns. There are two slots, and the notion of having Beasley on the inside of one wideout and Switzer on the inside of the other creates fascinating possibilities for the offense, regardless of whether Ezekiel Elliott is lined up in the backfield or Jason Witten is playing tight end.

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Lions add Matt Asiata to running back depth chart

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A month after passing on running backs in the draft, the Lions have decided to add one in free agency.

Former Vikings running back Matt Asiata has agreed to terms with the Lions, who worked him out early this month.

“Anybody knows who has seen him work, he’s a good special-teamer,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said of Asiata. “He’s tough. He’s a very good pass protector and he carries the ball. He runs behind his pads. He’s always been a very, very effective player in this league.”

Asiata is, along with John Kuhn, one of only two running backs in the NFL who has averaged less than four yards a carry in each of the last five seasons. So it’s safe to say the Lions won’t be counting on Asiata to break many long runs. But as a short yardage back and special teams contributor he may be able to help the Lions. He joins a depth chart in Detroit that also includes Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington.

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OBJ drops a hint as to his mindset, otherwise remains silent

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Let me begin by saying this: Odell Beckham Jr. has every right to not show up for voluntary workouts. The problem at this point isn’t his absence but his failure to provide any explanation for it.

Often, players stay away in order to exert leverage, with the goal of getting a new contract. Also, and as PFT has recently pointed out, if all players were to band together and boycott voluntary workouts, they’d quickly get a major concession from the league in order to make those mandatory-as-a-practical matter practices truly mandatory. The problem as it relates to Beckham’s decision to treat voluntary-in-name-only workouts as optional is that he has provided no information, directly or via leaks from his representatives to the media, as to the reason(s) for his absence.

Regardless of whether no player must be present, Beckham’s teammates are. As they do things they’d probably prefer not to do but feel like they should do in order to properly prepare for the coming season, it would be useful to at least know why one of their highest-profile teammates believes he doesn’t need to join them. (If any of them had access to Beckham’s reasoning and wanted to knock down the criticism of Beckham, those teammates would be the ones sharing with the public the reason(s) for Beckham’s absence.)

Instead, Beckham has built a mystery, opting to work out with people like Johnny Manziel and Cris Carter in the very same week that OTAs began. The obvious reaction to the timing is why wait until the very week when OTAs began to work out with Manziel and Carter?

Likewise, and as noted here on Friday, Beckham’s decision to engage in workouts and drills away from the team puts his 2017 salary and his fifth-year guaranteed-only-for-an-injury-happening-at-work option a risk. As a result, more than $10 million is riding on Beckham not suffering, for example, a Teddy Bridgewater-style catastrophic knee injury while not on Giants property.

And yet the silence from Beckham as to the reason(s) for his absence continues. Most recently, Beckham has added a twist of defiance and hinted at his mindset, retweeting via his Twitter page messages attacking those who have criticized Beckham for not showing up.

Consider these tweets from Roland Martin that were repeated by Beckham: (1) “If the workouts are VOLUNTARY, then he doesn’t have to show up“; (2) “I’m sick of folks acting like star athletes must always do what a coach asks“; and (3) “When training camp is mandatory, then show up.”

At a time when the Giants have made it clear that they expect Beckham to mature, it’s fair to ask whether Beckham is handling his business in a mature way. Yes, he has every right to stay away. But his stubborn silence has created a vacuum for hot takes, assorted speculation, and ultimately another distraction.

If Beckham were to simply announce his plans and, if he doesn’t plan to show up until the workouts become mandatory, some tangible reason other than “it’s voluntary,” the cottage industry arising from trying to figure out where he is and what he’s doing and why he’s not with the team and whether he’s going to join his teammates will grow. As will the questions for his coach and teammates who are left to explain that which Beckham, for whatever reason, won’t.

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Gronk is “full-go” at OTAs

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With so much time spent this week focusing on players not participating in OTAs, one of the best players in the NFL quietly made a major impact in his return to offseason workouts.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, fresh from signing a new deal that gives him the chance to make up to $5.5 million in extra cash for 2017 with no quo for the quid and less than six months removed from back surgery, was “full-go” during a Thursday workout in the rain, via Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.

“He looks like Gronk,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, via Guregian.

Coach Bill Belichick was more circumspect (shocker). “I mean, we’ll see how it goes,” Belichick told reporters regarding Gronkowski. “We’ve only practiced a couple days. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Gronkowski also took no drills off, participating in everything the team did. So he’s currently healthy. The real question is whether he can stay healthy.

Gronk has up to $5.5 million riding on it, along with a desire to have a direct hand in achieving what would be the third large ring he places on it.

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Cris Carter explains OBJ’s poor performance in playoffs

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As it turns out, Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter is serving as something more than a mentor for Odell Beckham Jr. Carter also is acting as a mouthpiece, of sorts.

In his comments to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News regarding Carter’s new role, Carter provides an explanation for Beckham’s subpar-by-far performance in a playoff loss to the Packers. Many believe that Beckham was trying too hard to silence critics who questioned his decision to take a day-off trip to Miami for a boat party as the game approached. Carter says that’s not the case.

“He realized he was too hyped for the game and put too much pressure on himself after he dropped the first pass,” Carter said. “That created anxiety. He didn’t play well. He thought he was going to have a great game against Green Bay and destroy them. He tried to do too much after the first drop and that’s when the anxiety came. . . . What about all the [Giants] who didn’t go to Miami and played like horse manure?”

So, to summarize, Beckham has opted to hang out and/or work out with Carter, Johnny Manziel, and Iggy Azalea in lieu of being with his teammates for the first three days of OTAs, Beckham has provided no explanation for his absence, and Beckham’s new mentor has thrown various teammates under the bus for playing “like horse manure” in the postseason.

Will anyone be surprised if the next step is a leak from a source close to Beckham that the player would like to be traded to a new team?

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Despite disappointing rookie year, Cardinals high on Robert Nkemdiche

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Robert Nkemdiche, the defensive tackle who was the Cardinals’ 2016 first-round draft pick, had a disappointing rookie season: He played in just five games and recorded just one tackle as coach Bruce Arians questioned his work ethic and maturity.

But 2017 is looking different. Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said Nkemdiche is looking good in offseason workouts and seems ready to bounce back and show the talent that made him a first-round pick.

I’ve been happy with him,” Buckner added. “I never got down on him. I didn’t expect him to come in and do all that dominating, because I knew the position. It takes time. It takes some guys even longer. He is starting to come around. He’s in great shape. He’s fully back from the ankle. You see the natural ability take over. Now it’s all about Robert.”

Nkemdiche says he didn’t grow frustrated by the coaches’ criticism last year.

“Frustrated means that you’re not aware of the lesson you are being taught,” Nkemdiche said. “I wasn’t frustrated. Of course I think things could have gone differently, but they didn’t. That’s what this world set up for me. Last year wasn’t my year to be ready. So I took a step back, learned from it, and got a better understanding about how to be a professional football player.”

This year, Nkemdiche sounds ready to have the kind of season that won’t leave anyone questioning his work ethic or maturity.

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Saints taking it slow with Hau’oli Kikaha’s third ACL tear

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Saints linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha is a talented pass rusher who showed promise as a rookie when the Saints drafted him in the second round in 2015. But he has bad knees, and for now getting his knees healthy is his highest offseason priority.

Kikaha tore his ACL during offseason workouts a year ago, and he also tore his ACL twice in college at Washington. Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said they’re holding him out of team drills because they want to make sure he’ll be completely healthy when the season starts.

“He’s doing really well. He’s going through some individual drills, he’s taking part in the walk-through,” Allen said. “I think the training staff, I think we’re going to be smart with him.”

Allen said Kikaha, who had four sacks and four forced fumbles in 2015, was off to a good start in the 2016 offseason when he tore his ACL.

“The key is to make sure he’s healthy and ready to go,” Allen said. “Whatever we have to do to have him full go and ready to go through training camp and the season, I think that’s what the plan will be.”

With Kikaha’s history, it’s fair to wonder how long the Saints can expect him to stay healthy. They at least want him to be healthy when the regular season begins.

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Richard Sherman imagined playing for Cowboys, Patriots

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The excellent article from Seth Wickersham of ESPN The Magazine detailing the dysfunction in Seattle includes some news regarding the Richard Sherman trade possibilities. Per Wickersham, Sherman had told friends that he imagined playing for two other teams: The Cowboys and the Patriots.

Sherman hoped that running back Marshawn Lynch would join him in New England. This meshes with the report from former ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder, a Sherman confidant who reported that Lynch’s options for unretirement consisted of playing for the Raiders or the team to which Sherman was traded.

Wickersham explains that both team and player had grown weary of the drama by the time the draft arrived, and that Sherman the the Seahawks have mended fences. For now.

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Superdome renovations could be coming

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With more and more NFL teams getting bigger and better and fancier stadiums, the Saints could end up renovating their current home of 42 years.

Via Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a $422,000 study has been commissioned to determine potential upgrades to the Superdome. The six-month project will result in a master plan/wish list for ways to make the venue better.

“The whole idea of this was not to wait until the last minute,” Saints president Dennis Lauscha told Duncan. “If we’re going to do this, let’s start now. This project is about trying to get the stadium to the next generation of fans and make it fun for them, as well.”

Possible changes include a “re-imagined front door,” removal of parking garages on the east side of the stadium, installation of field-level boxes, improved terrace seating, incorporation of virtual-reality technology, expansion of the visiting team’s locker room, and renovation of the press box.

The overriding goal will be to extend the useful life of the structure for 15 to 20 years at roughly $1 billion less than it would cost to replace the Superdome. It’s also believed that the changes will help the Superdome get another Super Bowl after swinging and missing in the last two tries to bring the game to New Orleans for the 11th time.

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Brandon Marshall believes there will be no problems with the Giants

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Giants receiver Brandon Marshall recently took the high road in response to withering criticism from former Jets teammate Sheldon Richardson. Meeting with reporters to conclude Marshall’s first week of OTAs with his latest team, Marshall admitted to past problems, but he predicted there will be none with the other New York team.

“[T]he first couple years of my career, more than the first couple years, really the first five years, I wasn’t responsible with the platform that we have,” Marshall said, via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. “I’m not a perfect guy, but I worked extremely hard to get in the position I am today. The first couple years of my career was rough, and a lot of it I did myself. I hurt myself. And since that point, once I figured things out, I’ve worked extremely hard to be a better person and work extremely hard to be a better teammate, a better father, a better husband, and I’m proud of where I’m at today.”

Specifically as to his beef with Richardson — or more accurately Richardson’s lingering beef with Marshall, Marshall had nothing to add.

“You know what? That is the third or fourth time we’re going down that path,” Marshall said. “Like I said, it was a tough year for us. In the National Football League, it’s not unique. . . . We had high hopes coming off that first year we were all together in 2015. It kind of blew up in our face. So we all were disappointed.”

Bob Glauber of Newsday recently joined PFT Live to discuss the various dynamics regarding Richardson and Marshall and Marshall and the Giants and plenty of others issues regarding the two New York teams.

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Jets hire Collette Smith as coaching intern

The Jets plan to hire Collette Smith as an intern working with defensive backs during training camp, making her just the third woman to work in a coaching capacity for an NFL team.

“I’m over the top. I’m humbled and I’m proud,” Smith, a lifelong Jets fan, told the New York Daily News. “This could have happened with any NFL team. But it just so happened that it was with my beloved New York Jets. This is bigger because of that. God forbid it would have been with the Patriots. But I still would have done it.”

The 44-year-old Smith played three seasons for the New York Sharks of the Independent Women’s Football League. She spent some time last year observing Jets practices and speaking with head coach Todd Bowles, who was impressed enough from their discussions to offer her a role with the team during camp.

Smith joins Jen Welter, a coaching intern with the Cardinals in 2015, and Kathryn Smith, a quality control coach with the Bills in 2016, as the only women to work on NFL coaching staffs.

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Chiefs announce front office additions

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After a few defections this offseason, the Chiefs have announced some additions to their personnel staff.

The team announced a number of moves, including hiring Chris Shea as the club’s salary cap and legal executive and Tim Terry as director of pro personnel.

Shea was most recently with the Eagles, while Terry joins from the Packers (with General Manager John Dorsey dipping into his background there.

The Chiefs have also promoted Brandt Tilis to director of football administration, named Ryan Poles director of college scouting, Ryne Nutt assistant director of college scouting, Dan Zegers college scouting coordinator, and Jim Noel pro scout. Daniel Ricci has been added as a player personnel assistant.

The Chiefs lost Chris Ballard to the Colts, among other changes.

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Philip Rivers happy with left side of his line

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If the Chargers plan to contend in 2017, they need better blocking. They may be on the verge of getting it on the left side of their line.

“[Russell Okung] and [Matt] Slauson there together on that left side have been fun to watch in practice,” River’s told the team’s official website. “I think those two can cause some problems for a defense.  They both really seem to already work well together.  You’ve heard me say I think more than quarterback [and] receiver getting on the same page, it’s those linemen [that’s more important].  So, in the short time that Slauson has been back at left guard and Russell’s been here [it’s been awesome].  They communicate all the time.  They enjoy that part of it. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Rivers is particularly pleased with the arrival of Okung, who joined the Chargers after a year with the Broncos.

“Russell’s been awesome,” Rivers said.  “He’s been what you expect.  I didn’t know him, but I’ve known of him [from] his time in Seattle and last year in Denver. He’s a true pro.”

Slauson slides to left guard after spending his first year with the Chargers at center. If they can stay healthy (which has been an across-the-board problem for the Chargers in recent years), the Chargers could improve enough not only to climb out of the basement of the AFC West but also to get themselves in contention for the postseason.

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Report: Saints give Zach Strief a raise

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The Saints took a tackle in the first round of this year’s draft and Ryan Ramczyk will be a starter up front at some point if all goes according to plan, but Zach Strief is still the top guy at right tackle and the Saints have reportedly funneled a little more money his way.

Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate reports that the team has bumped Strief’s base salary by $700,000 to $1.7 million for the 2017 season. He’s also reportedly getting another $300,000 in roster bonuses, which makes him eligible to make another $1.7 million if he’s on the active roster every week this season.

Strief’s cap hit goes from $5.1 million to $6.1 million as a result. He has a $5.1 million cap charge for the 2018 season as well.

Strief, a 2006 seventh-round pick in New Orleans, has started every game he’s played since the start of the 2011 season and has only missed two games over the last four seasons.

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Cris Carter mentors OBJ

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Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has opted to skip voluntary offseason workouts with the team. Arguably, he’s getting even better preparation for what he’ll be facing in the fall from Josh Norman and others.

As explained by Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, Beckham spent Thursday not at OTAs but working out with Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who is using tough love in an effort to help Beckham better deal with the verbal abuse he gets from opponents.

“I told him, ‘It’s the first time you’re the second best wide receiver in the building. I know you don’t like that, but get used to it. I’m the one with the [gold] jacket,” Carter told Myers. “His mind is in a great place. He knows what’s at stake. He wants to work out to get better. Sometimes a personal trainer is better than the strength coach for the team.”

Carter realizes that Beckham faces extra agitation because of who he is and how he has reacted in the past.

“With Odell, they go to extremes because it is him,” Carter said. “In 108 days, he will be ready to play against the Dallas Cowboys. Is he with the Giants at OTAs? I don’t care. It’s not my job. My job as a former player is to help young players understand about the business. I’m committed to helping Odell get better. So as far as OTAs, that’s somebody else’s responsibility.”

Still, with Beckham’s effort to work with people like Johnny Manziel (“Odell needed someone to throw him the ball,” Carter explained) and Carter coming one some of the same 10 days when the Giants have full-squad offseason practices aimed at preparing for the season, some are wondering whether he still doesn’t get it, whether he still hasn’t matured the way the team wants.

“Odell is going to grow up,” Carter said. “That why’s he is bringing other people in his life so he can grow up. If he wasn’t trying to grow up, he wouldn’t be calling Cris Carter. He’s getting people to tell him all the right stuff. He wants to be better. Not only as a player, but emotionally, as a son, friend and teammate. He’s in the process of doing that.”

Some would say Carter also has some growing up to do as a mentor, given that past stints have included a too-outlandish-to-be-true effort to advise incoming rookies to avoid criminal scrutiny by pre-arranging for a designated-driver-style “fall guy.”

“Being a mentor, that was one of the worst moments I’ve had,” Carter said. “You never want it to affect your ability to get access to young kids. I deeply regret the word choice. What I was trying to get across was these guys have crews. Stop driving the car. Stop having drugs in the car. Smart people realized what I was trying to say. The choice of words was bad and I would never, never give anyone advice about breaking the law.”

The “smart people” who realized what Carter was trying to say apparently didn’t include Carter himself, given that he seemed to realize what he said and what it meant when he profusely apologized for the remarks after they came to light.

“It’s really hard to go through my thought process,” Carter said in August 2015. “I can’t make an excuse for what my mindset was. My heart was in the right place. I didn’t use words that I was very proud of. It’s not the kind of advice I would offer young people. I would never tell young people to break the law or avoid prosecution. It was bad advice. I really, really regret my words when I heard them come back to me. And more importantly it hurt young people and it hurt them in their approach to the National Football League. So I take it very, very seriously. I do regret that day. I hope moving forward that the NFL still has enough trust in me and has me connected to their young people.”

Here are the comments that caused the kerfuffle: “If you all got a crew, you got to have a fall guy in the crew. If you all have a crew, one of those fools got to know, he’s the one going to jail. We’ll get him out.”

So while Carter likely won’t urge Beckham to get a “fall guy,” he’s also not urging Beckham to show up for OTAs.”

“I recommend he should do what he wants to do,” Carter said.

Beckham doing what he wants to do is one of the reasons he’s in a position where everyone watches what he chooses to do, because he’s done too many things that have caused problems for the team and for him. His latest choice — to work out away from team property — could become problematic more for him than the team, because a serious injury suffered while working out with Manziel or Carter or anyone else would jeopardize both Beckham’s $1.839 million salary for 2017 and his injury-guaranteed fifth-year option of $8.459 million.

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