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In Chip Kelly offense, Vick will need to get rid of ball faster

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Earlier this week, I noticed an intriguing item from Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com.  And then I forgot to write a blurb about it.

But it’s the weekend and things have slowed down a bit and I’m sitting here watching the Penguins-Islanders game so why not write it now?

McManus points out that Eagles coach Chip Kelly wants his quarterback to get rid of the ball fast.  And Vick doesn’t.

“We want the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in 1.5 seconds,” Kelly said while at Oregon.  “That does not mean holding the ball until 2.5, waiting for someone to get open.”

Last year, Vick held the ball, on average, 3.07 seconds.  Or more than twice the amount Kelly wants his quarterbacks to hold the ball.

So Vick will need to improve his release time.  Kelly apparently thinks he can.

“I think there is a lot more to Michael,” Kelly said in February, via McManus.  “I think quarterbacks are a byproduct of their experience.  But to sit here and say I understood the system that Michael’s been in whether he’s with the Falcons under Coach [Dan] Reeves or here, that depends on the system that you run.  Some of the systems that they run they don’t ask him to get the ball out quick.  Do I think he can get the ball out quick?  I think he’s got an unbelievable release.  It’s up and out and it’s quick.”

That’s what needs to happen, or Vick may not be the starting quarterback for very long.  Or at all.

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Cyrus Jones still struggling as a punt returner

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Patriots cornerback Cyrus Jones, a second-round pick in 2016, struggled during his rookie season as a punt returner. So far, those struggles are lingering into 2017.

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald notes that Jones “misplayed several balls” in practice on Thursday at an OTA practice. He either lost the punts in the wind or flat-out dropped them.

For that reason, Howe floats the idea of removing the punt return from Jones’ repertoire, allowing him to focus solely on playing cornerback. (He also was beaten for a 30-yard touchdown on Thursday, and Malcolm Butler is likely only one season away from leaving New England.)

Jones thrived as a punt returner at Alabama. But first he has to secure the football. Last December, coach Bill Belichick seemed to have Jones’ back after Jones awkwardly strayed his feet toward a live punt that the Ravens had not yet touched.

“[W]e have confidence in all of our players,” Belichick told reporters at the time. “We’ve seen [Matthew] Slater fumble before. We’ve seen [Tom] Brady throw an interception before, too. We’ll always do what we feel is best for the football team based on the situation and the particular game and what we’re dealing with.”

The problem with Jones is that the struggles have gotten into his head, and perhaps the only way to get the most out of him in his primary role will be to shut down a secondary role that is causing way too many problems for him and for the team.

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Despite impending move, Raiders sell out season tickets

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Oakland fans may not be happy that the Raiders are leaving, but the team remains popular enough that the fans will support the team while it’s still there.

That became clear with the news from the San Francisco Chronicle that the Raiders have sold out their season tickets.

That hasn’t always been the case in Oakland, but this year the Raiders are coming off a playoff season, they have plenty of young talent and they’ve added a popular hometown hero in Marshawn Lynch. It would be surprising if they’re not able to fill the Oakland Coliseum this year and next year.

The big remaining question is whether the Raiders will be gone after next year, or whether they’ll stay for 2019 as well. The Raiders’ lease in Oakland runs through 2018, and their new stadium in Las Vegas won’t be ready until 2020. That leaves them in limbo for 2019, but if they keep selling tickets, the most sensible decision would seem to be a one-year extension of the lease, and one last year in Oakland for the Silver and Black.

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When will DeShone Kizer make his debut as Browns’ starter?

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After the Browns made quarterback DeShone Kizer a second-round pick last month, the ESPN draft crew unanimously agreed that Kizer wouldn’t play as a rookie. They apparently had forgotten that it was the Browns who had drafted him.

Kizer joins a franchise that has been struggling to find a competent quarterback for most of the 18 years since it returned to the NFL as an expansion operation. And as Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes in a Sunday mailbag column, Kizer  “demonstrated superior physical skills to the other quarterbacks [on the roster] in regard to arm strength and mobility” from the moment he showed up for rookie minicamp.

The question is whether Kizer can learn enough fast enough to become the best option. Given that Kizer and coach Hue Jackson have essentially become joined at the hip, it’s obvious that the Browns are trying to make that happen quickly.

“I think he’ll either start immediately, or early on in the season,” Cabot writes.

The key for Kizer could be an offensive line that looks to be much better in 2017. If he has time to run the offense and make his progressions and build confidence and have the game slow down, Kizer could both start and thrive for a team that has had well over 20 non-thriving starters since 1999.

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Brandon Jacobs vows to get Jim Harbaugh fired

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Former NFL running back Brandon Jacobs recently reopened his five-year-old feud with Jim Harbaugh, telling CBS Sports Radio that the former 49ers coach “didn’t know what he was doing.” Harbaugh took the high road in response, advising Jacobs via Twitter to “[l]et all bitterness & wrath & anger & clamor & slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Jacobs apparently sought a second opinion.

“I will expose him, Michigan will fire him when I am done,” Jacobs declared Saturday on Twitter regarding Harbaugh.

Before Jacobs convinces himself that he’ll do to Harbaugh what Eric Dickerson did to Jeff Fisher, it’s important to understand more about the history between the two men. Jacobs joined the 49ers in 2012, and a knee injury delayed his regular-season contributions into October. Once October came, however, Jacobs still didn’t do much of anything.

He vented about his lack of game reps, before saying, “I’ve learned over the years when you open your mouth and say certain things, it hurts you, so I’m just going to shut up and keep working.” The next day, Jacobs backtracked, saying he had “ironed it out” with Harbaugh.

Jacobs nevertheless wasn’t activated for the next game, which happened to be against his former team, the Giants. Jacobs finally dressed in Week Seven, against the Seahawks. He nevertheless didn’t play — and wouldn’t play until Week 12 against the Saints.

In November, Jacobs tweeted this general advice: “Never work in a place where you hate your boss so much, you should always be happy at work.” He insisted (perhaps even with a straight face) it had nothing to do with his employment with the 49ers.

Next, he vented again, on Instagram: “I am on this team rotting away so why would I wanna put any pics up of anything that say niners this is by far the worst year I ever had, I’ll tell you like I told plenty others.”

Two days later, Harbaugh declined multiple times to comment on Jacobs during a press conference. Later that same day, the 49ers suspended Jacobs for the final three games of the regular season. He reportedly planned to file a grievance, but there never were any reports of the grievance actually being filed or resolved.

Two days later, Jacobs’ locker had been reassigned and there was no evidence Jacobs had even been employed by the team.

“From the coaching standpoint, they don’t want any distractions on the team. He was being a distraction, they felt he was being a distraction, so they felt they needed to do something about it,” defensive lineman Ray McDonald, who’d go on to create some distractions of his own, said at the time. “I guess, if he’s not about the team. And the coaches feel that he’s not trying to help the team. They made the right decision.”

Jacobs would later say that he was told the team didn’t release him for fear that he’d resurface with an opponent (like maybe the Giants in the 2012 NFC title game).

So that’s the background, which helps explain Jacobs’ animosity toward Harbaugh. And this isn’t even the first time Jacobs had expressed hostility toward Harbaugh; in early 2014 Jacobs offered up a simple explanation for Harbaugh’s failure to win a championship.

He is a bitch, and that’s why he’s never won anything,” Jacobs said. “It is what it is. I’ve got two rings. Harbaugh, though, he’s a bitch. So it doesn’t matter.”

It apparently matters now, with Jacobs pointing to the fence and calling his shot: He will expose Harbaugh and get him fired.

That’s fine, Brandon. Now let’s see if you can swing the bat.

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Dante Fowler on taking big jump this season: I think it will happen

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Defensive end Dante Fowler’s rookie season ended at Jaguars rookie minicamp when he tore his ACL and the 2016 season saw him record four sacks while finding his way in the NFL.

That’s not quite what the Jaguars were hoping for when they made Fowler a first-round pick in 2015, but it may have set the stage for bigger things this time around. Fowler said he has noticed “how strong I’m getting and the explosiveness coming from my knee” and is predicting similarly positive results when he gets on the field this fall.

“I think it will happen,” Fowler said, via GridironNow.com. “It was a big learning experience for me last year on and off the field. That was my first year on the field. I was like a freshman in college all over again, getting used to the guys at this level. It gave me an idea of how big and strong some of these guys are.”

Fowler said he has improved his conditioning and learned “what to do and what not to do” by reviewing film from last season. It all sounds like the right path to follow for better results on the field, but the path hasn’t been a direct one for the Jaguars for quite some time now.

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Sunday morning one-liners

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Said Bills coach Sean McDermott, “You look at all the different aspects of building a roster, it’s not just the guys that are on the team. You have to look at draft picks, and you know, what draft picks we have for next year. Do we have all of them? Are we one short?”

LB Lawrence Timmons is confident he can fit wherever the Dolphins need him.

The Hollister brothers are trying to make the Patriots as undrafted free agents.

Jets CB Morris Claiborne has remained confident despite numerous injuries.

Outside opinions don’t seem to be shaping the Ravens’ view of themselves.

How many receivers will the Bengals keep on the roster?

Assessing Browns QB DeShone Kizer’s chances of winning the starting job.

A look back at the last week for the Steelers.

Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel is off to a good start in his new job.

The Colts have high hopes for DT Johnathan Hankins.

Jaguars S James Sample hopes to remain healthy this year.

Six notes from the first week of Titans OTAs.

A look at the path WR Carlos Henderson took to the Broncos.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid did some sportswriting in college.

Raiders T Donald Penn has learned to listen to his body over the course of his career.

Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco is embracing the team’s move to Los Angeles.

LB Jaylon Smith and DE Charles Tapper forged a bond while rehabbing injuries as Cowboys rookies.

The tabloid takes on Giants WR Odell Beckham continue to roll in.

Breaking down the Eagles’ salary cap situation.

CB Kendall Fuller could have a bigger impact for the Redskins this season.

The Bears think DE Roy Robertson-Harris could break through this year.

What does Matt Asiata’s addition mean for the Lions running backs?

Packers TE Martellus Bennett likes the NFL’s new position on touchdown celebrations.

Said Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon on winning the starting job, “Don’t count me out. That’s always my goal. I’m competitive. I think it will be a good way to evaluate myself and see where I stack up against them.”

Looking ahead to the Falcons’ date with the Dolphins.

S Mike Adams offers the Panthers an experienced hand in the secondary.

Saints DE Trey Hendrickson wasn’t highly recruited coming out of high school.

Buccaneers K Nick Folk is trying to focus on his own performance while competing with Roberto Aguayo.

S Tyrann Mathieu is among the Cardinals with the most to prove this season.

What can the Rams expect from rookie TE Gerald Everett?

Tracing the roots of the 49ers’ interest in LB Reuben Foster.

Will this season be Pete Carroll’s most challenging as the coach of the Seahawks?

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Marvin Jones hopes to start, and finish, at a high level in 2017

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Receiver Marvin Jones arrived in Detroit with a flourish, with 482 receiving yards in four games. Over the next 12 combined, he had 448.

And so a guy who was on pace for 1,928 yards (which would have been No. 2 all-time) finished with fewer than 1,000. Jones addressed the situation earlier this week at an OTA session.

I flushed it really after the playoff game,” Jones said, via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. “After the playoff game I said, ‘It’s over.’

“Obviously I was pretty disappointed in everything that happened. But what can I say? All I can do is prepare and I know what I can do. Everybody sees what I can do and you’ll see it for a long time.”

Jones didn’t offer any concrete plans for both starting and finishing strong in 2017. However, it’s clear that he’s done talking about 2016.

“[O]bviously the start I had was a great start,” Jones said. “I was hoping to continue that. But it’s football and it didn’t [happen] and you guys know how I felt about that. So I don’t really have to talk about that anymore.”

He nevertheless believes he can play on a consistent basis like he did in the first 25 percent of his first year with the Lions.

“Any receiver you ask, they’re supposed to say that,” Jones said. “I want to be that guy that does that. We have a lot of talent on our team that can do that. So when you have a lot of people on your team and you look across, I look across at [Golden] Tate and [Eric] Ebron and stuff like that, we are all those guys. But me personally, I want to be the guy that you’ve seen the first five weeks. I want to be like that for 16, 17, 18 weeks. So yeah, that’s the goal.”

If he can reach that goal, perhaps the Lions can reach their goal of winning a playoff game for the first time since 1991.

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Tom Brady delivers video message to family of Navy SEAL killed in action

Memorial Day weekend has various forms of relevance and significance to American society, but it fundamentally remains a moment to remember and to honor those who have died, often under horrific circumstances, in the service of our country.

And so it’s appropriate to share the story of one of the most recent American soldiers killed in action.

On May 5, 38-year-old Kyle Milliken became the first American service member killed in Somalia since the early 1990s, dying in a firefight during a raid. The Maine native and former track athlete at UConn had a connection to the Patriots; in 2011, Milliken and other Navy SEALs took part in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium.

Milliken spent 15 years in the Navy, earning a spot on SEAL Team Six and securing four Bronze Stars for his efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bill Speros of the Boston Herald explains that, at Milliken’s funeral this week, quarterback Tom Brady delivered a video message to the family, thanking his wife and their two children for their sacrifice.

“It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement earlier this week, via Speros. “It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”

We extend our condolences to Kyle Milliken’s family and to all for whom Memorial Day serves as a tangible and painful reminder of the sacrifice made by a family member, loved one, colleague, or friend.

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The full Rich McKay PFT Live interview

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The Falcons went on an extended media tour this week in connection with the opening of their new stadium, and they gave PFT Live extended access to two of their key employees, via video interviews from 30 Rock in New York City.

In addition to having 70 minutes with G.M. Thomas Dimitroff, PFT Live had 25 minutes with President/CEO Rich McKay. McKay’s role as chairman of the Competition Committee made the conversation even more pertinent, given Tuesday’s changes to the celebration rules and the five-minute reduction to overtime in the preseason and regular season.

And so at the midpoint of a three-day weekend, here’s your chance to check out the interviews. The full Dimitroff interview can be seen here. The McKay interview appears below.

If you like what you hear and want more of it, subscribe now to the PFT Live podcast, which gives you every hour of every show along with special-edition podcasts (like the full Dimitroff and McKay interviews). The show is available at Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and elsewhere.

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Zack Martin sees Tyron Smith as the perfect left tackle

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The Cowboys’ offensive line is probably the best in the NFL, but to hear guard Zack Martin tell it, one player stands above the rest.

Martin describes left tackle Tyron Smith as “an absolute monster” and thinks you couldn’t create a better left tackle if you tried.

“We always joke, if God had to make a left tackle he would make him like Tyron Smith,” Martin said on the HawkCast. “Just massive, long. He’s 320, he’s got a six-pack. It’s just not fair. He’s super durable and he just erases that defensive end from other teams every game. When he gets his hands on you, it’s pretty much over. The best thing about Tyron is he works harder than anyone.”

Smith was only 20 years old and still a little raw when Jerry Jones took him with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, but Jones saw the same things that Martin sees every day: Smith is a unique talent.

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Coby Fleener expecting better things in second Saints season

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The Saints signed tight end Coby Fleener to a five-year contract last offseason and spent the summer trying to find his place in the team’s offense.

That process didn’t play out exactly as hoped for Fleener, who finished his first year in New Orleans with 50 catches for 631 yards and three touchdowns. That’s hardly terrible production, but it was a drop from what they got from Benjamin Watson in 2015 and Fleener said last week that it “absolutely could have been better.”

He expects it will be better now that he’s immersed in the system.

“I think anytime you’re trying to learn a new offense, trying to learn a language, trying to learn something of that nature, going through it under pressure, going through it for a year really helps,” Fleener said, via the New Orleans Advocate.

Brandin Cooks was targeted 117 times last season, which means that there should be plenty of passes heading in different directions during the 2017 season. Some will go to new arrival Ted Ginn, but a more comfortable Fleener should be in position to see more balls than he did last year and do more with them.

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Doug Pederson: Competition has sharpened Nelson Agholor

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The Eagles signed a pair of wide receivers this offseason in Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery and drafted two more, something they probably wouldn’t have felt the need to do if Nelson Agholor had thrived after they made him the 20th pick of the 2015 draft.

Agholor has caught 59 passes for 648 yards and three touchdowns over two seasons and went through a crisis of confidence last season that led to time on the bench along with the offseason moves to shore up the receiving corps. Those moves lessen the need to rely on Agholor, but coach Doug Pederson said this week that he thinks they’ve also pushed the wideout to be better.

“As I’ve said all along, competition, man, sharpens you,” Pederson said, via ESPN.com. “And that’s what I’ve seen from Nelson. He’s done a great job already this spring.”

Agholor switched jersey numbers since the end of last season, which makes for a nice bit of symbolism for a player who could use a fresh start in his third year. He said that he’s learned the need for “a process and continuous progression” rather than making a giant leap all at once, although a modest-sized jump would help ensure he continues the process in Philly.

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John Harbaugh lobbied for loosening the celebration rules

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh deserves some of the credit for the NFL’s decision to ease up on celebration penalties.

Harbaugh confirmed that he’s been stating his case within the league for calling fewer penalties on celebrations, saying the game of football ought to be fun.

“Let’s have some fun. Let’s enjoy it,” Harbaugh said. “I really like it when our guys celebrate. I like it when our guys score touchdowns. I want to score a lot of touchdowns. I want to see a lot of celebrations. I want our guys to have fun, and I want our fans to have fun.”

Although Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is a vocal critic of the NFL’s new, more relaxed celebration rules, Harbaugh says he doesn’t think there was much opposition to the rule change.

“Some of these decisions are really tough that the decision-makers in the NFL have to make, and they are close calls,” he said. “This was not one of them. This was an easy one, and I think they did the right thing.”

Most fans seem to agree.

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Robert Woods reiterates his plan to be Rams’ No. 1 receiver

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The new-look Rams need a game-changing receiver. Free-agent arrival Robert Woods recently reiterated his belief that he can be that guy.

After saying in March, “I feel like I definitely am a No. 1,” Woods explained this week that “I always come in attacked the season trying to be the No. 1 receiver,” via Gary Klein of the L.A. Times.

The former Bills (and USC) receiver became the Rams’ top priority in free agency after Pierre Garςon picked the 49ers. Now, Woods has a chance to make a major impact in the stadium where he played college football, given the departures of Kenny Britt and Brian Quick.

Woods will likely be one of the top options on a depth chart that includes Tavon Austin, Pharoh CooperMike ThomasCooper Kupp, and Josh Reynolds.

Woods has been clicking with quarterback Jared Goff, working out together on their own and developing chemistry during OTAs.

In four seasons with the Bills, Woods caught a total of 203 passes for 2,451 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best performance came in 2014, with 65 catches for 699 yards and five scores.

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Tom Brady files for a host of TB12 trademarks

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It’s not clear when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will retire from football. When he does, it is clear what he’ll be doing: Making a ton of money by selling products and services that carry the TB12 brand.

Via Mark Shanahan of the Boston Globe, Brady has filed for a wide variety of trademark protections for potential products carrying his TB12 brand, from foam exercise rollers, to athletic bags, shirts, sleepwear, and meal kits. Applications also have been filed for TB12 resistance bands, medicine balls, kettle bells, and jump ropes.

The clearest indication of Brady’s plan to take his methods for staying fit and healthy to the public comes from his effort to obtain trademark protection for TB12 educational services, described (per the Globe) as “seminars for certification of instructors, personal and athletic trainers, consultants, therapists, and medical professionals in the fields of diagnostic medical testing, physical therapy, physical rehabilitation, sports medicine, health, nutrition, cognitive training and development, and concussion awareness.”

Brady has said he plans to play at least until he’s 45. It’s possible that the widespread rollout of products bearing the TB12 trademark will happen before he has stopped playing.

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