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Draft review: Indianapolis Colts

Bjoern Werner from Florida State Uni holds an Indianapolis Colts jersey after being selected by Colts as the 24th overall pick in NFL Draft in New York Reuters

After analyzing the draft needs of all 32 teams, PFT will review how well each team addressed those needs. Up next: The Indianapolis Colts.

What they needed: Guard, running back, cornerback, outside linebacker, wide receiver.

Who they got:
Round 1: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

Round 3: Hugh Thornton, OG, Illinois

Round 4: Khaled Holmes, C, Southern California

Round 5: Montori Hughes, DT, Tennessee-Martin

Round 6: John Boyett, SS, Oregon

Round 7: Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State

Round 7: Justice Cunningham, TE, South Carolina

Where they hit: Werner seems to fit in with the blue-collar style coach Chuck Pagano’s trying to instill there. He’s a worker, has plenty of upside and could turn into an above-average starter. And using their second-rounder to acquire cornerback Vontae Davis is probably better than anyone they’d have picked there in this draft. They added up some offensive line depth, which they needed.

Where they missed: Their draft was kind of like their offseason as a whole. They sure did a lot of things, but it’s hard to see immediate upgrades in too many spots. Other than Werner, it’s hard to see an immediate impact from any of their picks. They added some size up front, but not of the variety that’s going to make a huge difference this year, anyway.

Impact rookies: Boyett was a dynamic safety when he was well in college, but that wasn’t often. And didn’t they do the good-but-always-hurt safety thing already? Hughes has size and athletic ability, but there’s a reason he was a fifth-rounder after being dismissed from Tennessee.

Long-term prospects: The best they can hope for from this bunch is solid. And solid might be OK for now. Andrew Luck is going to keep them competitive for a generation, and it’s filling in the blanks from there. They were aggressive in free agency, filling in a lot of lines on the depth chart. That allowed them to draft a few projects and developmental guys. They spent a lot of money this offseason, but the areas where they’re markedly better are unclear.

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Questions raised about Blount orchestrating his return to Patriots

blount AP

Questions have been raised this week in Phoenix about whether Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount purposely got himself cut by the Steelers with the knowledge that if he left Pittsburgh, he could return to New England.

Blount was waived by the Steelers in November after walking off the field before the end of a game, and the Patriots re-signed him that week. That has resulted in stories with headlines like, “The other Patriots conspiracy theory: LeGarrette Blount’s scheme to reunite with Bill Belichick?” A segment on Pardon the Interruption discussed whether tampering rules were violated by the Patriots, who let Blount know he’d have a place to play if he got cut by the Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Blount answered with a soft “No” and shook his head when asked if he orchestrated his exit from the Steelers. Blount wouldn’t answer whether he knew the Patriots wanted him back before he left the Steelers.

But the conspiracy theories don’t make a lot of sense. Even if Blount was purposely acting out because he was unhappy in Pittsburgh, he had no way of knowing for sure that his act would result in the Steelers waiving him. It could have just as easily resulted in the Steelers suspending him or benching him, options that wouldn’t have had the desired effect. And the Patriots didn’t even claim Blount on waivers after Pittsburgh waived him. Some other team could have claimed him, which would have prevented Blount from getting back to New England.

So while it worked out well in the end for both Blount and the Patriots, that doesn’t mean it was planned in advance. A conspiracy theory makes for a good topic of conversation during Super Bowl week — even a conspiracy theory that doesn’t add up.

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Antonio Cromartie on Jets: I didn’t want to leave, I’m open to returning

Pro Bowl Getty Images

At this point last year, discussion about cornerback Antonio Cromartie centered on when the Jets would release him to save money under the cap following an injury-plagued and ineffective 2013 season.

Cromartie wound up getting cut in March and signing in Arizona, where he turned in a strong bounce back season with the Cardinals to set him up on stronger footing heading into this offseason. Cromartie is on track to be a free agent and talked about making a return to the Jets on Wednesday.

“My door is always open to returning,” Cromartie said, via the New York Post. “Everybody knows I didn’t want to leave. I’m going to keep my door open and see what happens.”

Cromartie isn’t the only former Jets cornerback that can be a free agent this offseason, but he might be the more realistic return option. He’ll cost less than Darrelle Revis and he comes with a year of work in new head coach and former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’s system under his belt. Cromartie said he thought Jets players accustomed to Rex Ryan would love Bowles and said he may meet with linebacker Demario Davis soon to give some pointers about Bowles’s scheme.

It doesn’t make sense for players about to hit the open market to limit their potential landing spots, but the Jets’ need at corner and Cromartie’s ties to the area (he’s living in New Jersey this offseason) suggest there could be something to this potential reunion beyond the Bowles connection.

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Joe Haden: Johnny Manziel is definitely not a joke

Johnny Manziel, Kyle Shanahan AP

Last week, a report from ESPN.com on Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel’s rookie season painted Manziel in a negative light.

Several unnamed members of the team slammed Manziel on various fronts, including one anonymous teammate who called his first NFL year a “100 percent joke.” Cornerback Joe Haden was willing to put a name on a different view.

Haden said that Manziel is “definitely not a joke” and named Phil Taylor and Travis Benjamin as two other teammates who feel that way. Haden said criticisms of Manziel’s work ethic, preparation and practice performance were overblown for a player that Haden suggested was held to an unfair standard.

“Johnny takes too much bashing for nothing and the thing is that being a quarterback in the NFL is so much harder,” Haden said, via Cleveland.com. “They can’t do anything. If Johnny is to do anything that shows him having fun instead of being in the meeting room, they blow him up.”

Linebacker Karlos Dansby has also chosen to avoid the cloak of anonymity to discuss his teammate. Dansby publicly called for Manziel to dedicate himself to the game in the past, but also said Wednesday that criticism of Manziel’s practice work was incorrect. He said Manziel made the defense “better every day” and that he thinks Manziel will do what it takes to improve heading into his second season.

 

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Darrell Bevell: Robert Turbin “understands his role”

Robert Turbin AP

Some teams use a running back-by-committee approach.

The Seahawks are not one of those teams.

Marshawn Lynch, of course, will get the vast majority of backfield snaps for Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX, and with good reason.

But even a back at the top of his game like Lynch needs a rest once in a while. And when that happens, the Seahawks turn to third-year pro Robert Turbin, who has carved a niche as the backup to Lynch.

The 25-year-old Turbin has been solid in limited opportunities for Seattle, gaining a little more than four yards per carry in 2014 in 83 rushing attempts over the regular season and postseason. He’s never missed a regular season or playoff game, and he’s lost just two fumbles in more than 300 touches on offense in that span.

At Wednesday’s media session, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell praised Turbin’s approach to the game.

“He does a great job. Number one, he understands his role and he embraces that role,” Bevell said, according to a transcript from the NFL. “He doesn’t gripe and complain about the role he is in. He is very prepared. If something happened and he had to play every snap, there would be no question that he would be able to get it done.

“He is a true professional who works hard at his craft. He tries to get better every day. No detail is too small for him. That is why you like guys like that in that role.”

Turbin’s role Sunday figures to be limited — around 10 snaps. But he’s earned that work, and he’s kept it for three seasons now. In a backfield where the starter dominates the carries, Turbin has nonetheless found a way to contribute.

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Pats could get Stork back for Super Bowl

Brady AP

The Patriots won the AFC title without the services of center Bryan Stork, who has a knee problem.  Injured in the divisional round against the Ravens, Stork could be back for Super Bowl XLIX.

According to the official injury report for Wednesday, Stork practiced on a limited basis.  Also practicing on a limited basis on Wednesday were linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), defensive tackle Chris Jones (elbow), and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga (foot).

Quarterback Tom Brady fully participated despite a lingering ankle issue.  His cold apparently isn’t severe enough to merit a mention in the injury report.

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Tyrann Mathieu shares secrets on how to stop Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham Getty Images

Wednesday’s star-studded edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN included an LSU mini-reunion.  Former Tigers Odell Beckham Jr. (now with the Giants) and Tyrann Mathieu (now with the Cardinals) joined the program to discuss, among other things, how to slow down Beckham.

Mathieu told Paul Burmeister the best way to do it is with a quick jam at the line of scrimmage.

“I think somebody in his face the entire game, it’ll probably give him some trouble,” Mathieu said.

Beckham agreed:  “It’s true, it’s true,” he said.

“That’s probably one of the things that I want to work on the most is just that press game.  I feel like if you can get that first five yards down, I feel very comfortable about the rest of my game,” Beckham said.

Mathieu then got a chance (sort of) to demonstrate when Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed up to throw a pass to Beckham.  To see the whole exchange, click below.

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Broncos hiring Joe Woods as defensive backs coach

Houston Texans v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Broncos have added an experienced defensive backs coach to their staff.

Joe Woods, who oversaw the Raiders’ secondary in 2014, has agreed to become Denver’s defensive backs coach, the team said Wednesday night.

The 44-year-old Woods has worked with NFL defensive backs the last 11 seasons. Before his season with Oakland, he had stints with Minnesota (2006-2013) and Tampa Bay (2004-2005).

The news of Woods’ addition comes on the same evening Denver reached a deal with Wade Phillips to become defensive coordinator.

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Seahawks head toward Super Bowl with minimal injuries

Marshawn AP

On Friday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll declared the shoulder injury to safety Earl Thomas to be “over.”  Technically, it isn’t.  As a practical matter, it is.

Thomas fully participated in the team’s “Competition Wednesday” practice session despite the shoulder injury.  Ditto for tackle Justin Britt (knee), running back Marshawn Lynch (back; pictured), cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow), and guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle).

No injured players practiced on a limited basis or not at all.

The Seahawks will place an official availability label on each player after Friday’s practice.  Barring a setback, it’s hard to imagine any of them to be less than probable.

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Broncos hiring Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator

Wade Phillips AP

Wade Phillips is back for a second tour with the Broncos.

Phillips has agreed to become Denver’s defensive coordinator, the team announced Wednesday night.

Phillips, 67, was the Texans’ defensive coordinator from 2011 through 2013, working with head coach Gary Kubiak, with whom he will team again in Denver.

Phillips’ hiring could signal changes ahead for the Broncos’ defense. A move to a 3-4 scheme is likely; the club employed a “40” front a season ago.

Phillips was the Broncos’ head coach from 1993 through 1994 after a four-season stint as their defensive coordinator (1989-1992). This is his eighth stint as an NFL defensive coordinator. In addition to his prior work in Denver and Houston, he oversaw defenses in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Atlanta and San Diego.

Phillips also has a solid resume as a head coach, posting an 83-69 record. He was 16-17 in his two seasons with Denver.

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Revis, Patriots not talking yet

Revis AP

In March, the $20 million in 2015 compensation due and owing to Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis becomes fully guaranteed.  If the Patriots can’t work out with Revis a new deal before then, they’ll have to decide whether to pay the money or to cut him.

Per a league source, negotiations have not yet commenced between the Patriots and Revis on a new deal that would replace the current one.  The starting point presumably will be a package that pays out at least $20 million in the first year.

If the Patriots aren’t willing to go that high, the question becomes whether other teams will be willing to offer more than what the Patriots would put on the table.  Any team that provides that information to the player’s agent engages in tampering; agents, however, call it “gauging the market” in order to better assess the player’s value.

Multiple teams are expected to be interested in Revis, if he becomes available.  Teams currently believed to be interested include the Jets, Bills, Chiefs, and Browns.

Some think that the tampering charges filed by the Patriots against the Jets, based on public comments made by owner Woody Johnson about his interest in re-signing Revis, were intended primarily to scare the Jets away from pursuing Revis.

Drafted in 2007, Revis was traded to the Buccaneers in 2013.  After one season in Tampa, the Bucs opted not to continue his year-to-year $16 million annual arrangement, due in large part to the shift in defensive philosophy to the Cover 2.  Revis then signed with the Patriots a contract that was viewed as a one-year deal for cap purposes, with a trigger aimed at forcing a new contract or putting Revis back on the market.

To keep Revis off the market, there’s a chance the Patriots will have to fork over 2.5 times the amount they’ll be paying to quarterback Tom Brady in 2015.

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Two more candidates for Eagles job didn’t interview

Chip Kelly AP

The list of folks still in the running for the vacant personnel executive position in Philly could be a lot shorter than the list of men either who said “no thanks” or whose teams said “no touchy.”

Per a league source, the list of men who have declined interviews for the job includes Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutenkunst and Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz.  Their teams either denied requests for permission or the candidates declined the opportunity.

Teams can deny permission because the job does not entail final say over the draft or the 53-man roster.

Earlier this month, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie promoted G.M. Howie Roseman to the position of executive V.P. of football operations, gave coach Chip Kelly full power over personnel, and authorized Kelly to hire his own table-setter from a player standpoint.  Kelly has not yet made a hire, and some believe the perception of a power struggle between Kelly and Roseman has caused some candidates to decide to avoid becoming essentially the buffer between the coach and the guy in charge of negotiating contracts.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that uncertainty exists in the agent community regarding Roseman’s role.  That uncertainty will linger until Kelly’s right-hand man in hired — and possibly longer.

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Report: 49ers likely to hire Geep Chryst as offensive coordinator

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers are likely staying in-house to fill their offensive coordinator vacancy.

The club “is expected” to tab assistant Geep Chryst to oversee the offense, Albert Breer of NFL Media reported Wednesday night.

The 52-year-old Chryst was the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach the last four seasons. He was last an NFL offensive coordinator with the Chargers under Mike Riley in 1999 and 2000. Chryst also has been an offensive assistant with the Panthers (2006-2010) and Cardinals (1996-1998, 2001-2003).

The 49ers’ offense struggled in 2014, with San Francisco finishing 30th in passing yards and 25th in points. It will be interesting to see what changes Chryst makes after a tough season for a talent-laden attack. The progress of starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick bears watching, and some changes could come at the skill positions. Stalwart tailback Frank Gore and wideout Michael Crabtree are both slated to be free agents.

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Fred Jackson: Rex Ryan the right guy to get us over the hump

Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Running back Fred Jackson has been with the Bills for the last nine years and he’s seen a lot of coaches come through the organization in that time.

The last of those coaches was Doug Marrone, who opted out of his contract after two years this month. Jackson, a Bills captain in 2014, said on PFT Live Wednesday that he received a mass text from Marrone about his decision and hasn’t heard anything else from the coach about his choice to leave the Bills.

Not that Jackson seems to mind the result of the change all that much. Mike Florio asked Jackson about Rex Ryan and the veteran running back said he thinks Ryan’s the man to get the Bills back into the playoffs.

“I’m extremely excited about it. Rex is Rex. Everybody knows who he is. He’s a boisterous coach that’s gonna come in and have things go his way,” Jackson said. “Teams usually take on the persona of their coaches. I think he’s gonna give us the push we need to get over this hump. We went 9-7, the best we finished in 10 years, and I think he’s going to be the guy that gets us over that hump.”

Given the histories of Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Jackson should be in line for plenty of work in 2015 whether or not C.J. Spiller re-signs with the team. The 2014 history for both coaches speaks to the need of strong quarterback play to balance out the work on even the strongest work on the ground, however.

Jackson also outlined an unlikely career path from Coe College and the Sioux City Bandits to NFL Europe and the Bills that includes cameos from Marv Levy and 49ers coach Jim Tomsula during his visit with Florio, which you can check out in its entirety below.

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Prop Challenge, Day VI — Over-Under on LeGarrette Blount’s rushing attempts: 13.5

LeGarrette Blount AP

Leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, we’ll take a closer look at one proposition bet per day, something we’ve dubbed PFT’s Prop Challenge.

Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then let you decide which side to take — hypothetically, of course. (Previous examples are at the bottom of this post.)

When the Super Bowl wraps up, we’ll tally the votes and see how well PFT Planet did.

Now, let’s get to today’s prop, which is courtesy of oddsmaker William Hill U.S.:

Over-Under on Patriots tailback LeGarrette Blount’s Super Bowl carries: 13.5.

Over: -110. Under: -110.

When the Patriots and Seahawks met last back in 2012, the Patriots threw 58 passes and attempted 26 rushes. The Patriots played at a quick pace, stuffing 85 plays into 34 minutes. Overall, New England ran one play per 24 seconds.

The question is, will the Pats employ a similar approach this time around? If so, Shane Vereen, not Blount, could be New England’s key back.

On the other hand, if the Patriots have a more balanced attack, then the 6-foot, 250-pound Blount could be busy. He might not get, say, the 30 carries he had vs. Indianapolis in the AFC title game, but clearing 13.5 carries could well be within his reach. If the Patriots want to stick with the run, then Blount will be the back they lean upon.

Blount has only twice received more than 13.5 carries since returning to New England in November, but the oddsmaker’s total seems appropriate. After all, Blount has taken 78.6 percent of the Patriots’ tailback carries in the postseason (33-of-42).

In short, the prop probably comes down to how you see the game playing out. If New England gets ahead, Blount will be busy. If New England falls behind  . . . well, OVER 13.5 carries could be in trouble.

Furthermore, this is a prop that Seattle fans should have a feel for, too. They know their team’s defense well. Can New England establish the run? Will it even try?

Cast your votes and let us know in the comments.

Previous props studied:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards.

Day II: Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s catches.

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

Day V: Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yards.

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Lynch is already among the all-time great postseason runners

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch runs for a first down against the Redskins during their NFL NFC wildcard playoff game in Landover Reuters

Everyone is talking about Marshawn Lynch not talking this week. Which means no one is talking about what Lynch does best, which is run with the ball in his hands, particularly in the playoffs.

That’s too bad, because Lynch has already put together one of the all-time great postseason resumes of any running back in NFL history.

Lynch’s record of postseason runs starts, of course, with the Beast Quake. On January 8, 2011, in Lynch’s first career postseason game, he destroyed the Saints’ defense on his way to a 67-yard touchdown run to seal the Seahawks’ win late in the fourth quarter. Some people consider that the best run in NFL history.

But that game, in which Lynch carried 19 times for 131 yards, was far from Lynch’s only big postseason game. From that postseason debut through his 157-yard day against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, Lynch has topped 100 yards in the playoffs five times, and topped 130 yards four times. Only former Broncos running back Terrell Davis, with five 130-yard playoff games, has reached 130 yards in the postseason more often than Lynch.

Players on the Patriots understand what they’re up against when they’re up against Beast Mode.

“I’ve said many times I think he’s the best back in the game,” Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said today. “With the ball in his hands, catching the ball, running the ball, blocking, yards after contact, you name it. All those areas he leads. He’s amazing when he gets the ball in his hands.”

Added Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, “Marshawn Lynch is a guy that could run through and run over your whole defense if you let him.”

If Lynch does run over the Patriots’ whole defense, he may add a Super Bowl MVP award to his already great postseason resume. Lynch may just go down as the best big-game running back ever.

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