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The 400-yard passing game is no longer special

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning leaves the field after the Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys durign their NFL game in Arlington, Texas Reuters

There was a time in the NFL when a quarterback who passed for 400 yards in a game had done something really special. That time has passed.

Consider this: In 2005, there were only two 400-yard passing games all season, both by Marc Bulger of the Rams. In 2013, that total has already been surpassed, and Week One isn’t even over. Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Colin Kaepernick all topped 400 yards this week.

NFL quarterbacks have picked up this season right where they left off in the last couple of seasons. Over the last 35 weeks of the regular season, stretching back to Week One of 2011, there have been 36 quarterbacks who threw for 400 yards in a game. Basically, in the NFL these days, we average a 400-yard passer a week.

And when you see something every week, it stops being special. In the 1970s, there were five 400-yard passing games for the entire decade. When Joe Namath topped 400 passing yards, he had done something really great. When Eli Manning went for 450 in Sunday night’s loss to the Cowboys, it sure didn’t feel like a great game.

Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach and Bart Starr are among the Hall of Fame quarterbacks who never passed for 400 yards in a game. Matthew Stafford is only 25 years old and has already done it five times.

What has changed? That was the question Brian Kenny posed to me on his NBC Sports Radio show this morning. The primary difference is the rules: Quarterbacks are protected from hits. Wide receivers are protected from hits. Pass interference, illegal contact and defensive holding are called much more stringently.

What has also changed is that young quarterbacks come into the league ready to command an NFL offense immediately. In the old days, it took years for quarterbacks to make the transition from the college game to the NFL. Now young quarterbacks can do it immediately. In NFL history, there have only been four 400-yard passing games by rookie quarterbacks, and all four of them happened in the last two years.

Despite playing at a time when 400-yard passing games were less common, Dan Marino is still the all-time leader, with 13 games of at least 400 yards passing in his career. But it’s just a matter of time before Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, both of whom have nine career 400-yard games, surpass Marino.

Manning or Brees might even surpass Marino this year.

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Vic Beasley: Pass rush “ain’t working right now”

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 14: Vic Beasley #44 of the Atlanta Falcons talks to a teammate on the sidelines in the first half of a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at the Georgia Dome on August 14, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons moved Vic Beasley to linebacker this offseason in hopes of putting him in position to better rush the passer in his second season after being drafted eighth overall in 2015.

Beasley missed a little time this summer with a shoulder sprain, but said it wasn’t the reason why he failed to register a sack or quarterback hit in a quiet outing against the Falcons on Thursday night against a Dolphins offensive line that’s been a subject of concern in Miami.

“Nah, it ain’t working right now,” Beasley said, via “I have to go to the film room, go to the practice film, and try to critique some thing. It is [frustrating] at times. I just know I have to keep working. … I know what’s expected of me, but it’s not a sense of pressure. It’s just what’s expected of me. I just have to keep attacking each day.”

Beasley isn’t the only reason Atlanta’s pass rush is falling short. Dwight Freeney didn’t play on Thursday because of a back strain and Adrian Clayborn, the only regular with a sack thus far in the preseason, had to leave with a shoulder injury. Everyone will need to be better, but being drafted so early means there’s going to be a particular spotlight on Beasley this season and that sense of pressure will likely come if he doesn’t produce.

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Kam Chancellor “a little surprised” by Ezekiel Elliott’s physical play

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25:  Running back Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys exchanges words with defensive end Cliff Avril #56 of the Seattle Seahawks after being stopped on a rushing play at CenturyLink Field on August 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Cowboys 27-17.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might not like that running back Ezekiel Elliott was photographed at a legal marijuana dispensary in Seattle, but he probably likes that there wasn’t any sign of a mellow Elliott in his first game action of the preseason.

Elliott ran for 48 yards on seven carries against the Seahawks and showed no qualms about initiating contact with Seattle defenders in an effort to grind out a few more yards at the end of runs. Some of those collisions came with Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, who said after the game that he was surprised by Elliott’s willingness to take on contact.

“I was, because there was no film on him,” Chancellor said, via the Seattle Times. “I didn’t know if he was going to juke me or not, so I was a little surprised. But not the second time. Second time you know I’m bringing that wood. I was a little surprised the first time, but he has a lot of courage for that. I’ll give it to him. But if it was a full game, it would have been a bloodbath.”

Chancellor picked up a personal foul for hitting Elliott late on an incomplete pass, something he said wasn’t meant as a “Welcome to the NFL” moment for a rookie who wasn’t showing any fear of getting hit. Chancellor might not have been sending a message with that hit, but Elliott was — “I had to let them know I belong here” — and it’s unlikely that any defenders will face him in the future without knowing that there’s going to be a lot of hitting.

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Brandon Marshall thinks Ryan Fitzpatrick is better this year

New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) passes the ball under pressure from Washington Redskins defensive end Preston Smith (94) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) AP

Throughout the long spell this offseason when the Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick were unable to agree on a new contract, wide receiver Brandon Marshall consistently expressed his hope that Fitzpatrick would be back at the helm of the offense in 2016.

Marshall wasn’t always so positive about Fitzpatrick, however. At the start of training camp in 2015, Marshall said he thought “we’re in trouble” if Geno Smith were to get hurt. Smith would get hurt, of course, and Fitzpatrick would set a Jets record with 31 touchdown passes.

Marshall says Fitzpatrick “proved us wrong” last year and he thinks that life with Fitzpatrick will improve in 2016.

“I actually think he’s better this year,” Marshall said, via the New York Post. “He’s throwing the ball much better, more velocity, he’s throwing it deeper. He seems comfortable back there. He’s looking really good. He’s impressive.”

Marshall thinks it took the offense a long time to jell last season, something that seems less likely to be an issue with everyone back in the same system as last season. With a schedule that features five 2015 playoff teams and a Thursday night game in Buffalo in the first six weeks, it would certainly behoove the Jets to find their groove right off the bat.

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Steve Smith won’t play this week for Ravens, Suggs and Dumervil unlikely

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 26: Wide receiver Steve Smith #89 of the Baltimore Ravens walks on the field prior to the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 26, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens are going to put Joe Flacco on the field Saturday night against the Lions, but most of their other recovering-from-injury stars are going to get the night off.

Via Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun, veteran wide receiver Steve Smith has already been ruled out by coach John Harbaugh, while wide receiver Breshad Perriman and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are unlikely to play either.

He’s not playing in this game – at least that I know of,” Harbaugh said of Smith. “We’ll see. Maybe he’ll be on the side.”

Smith’s coming back from a torn Achilles, and Perriman was just activated from the physically unable to perform list Monday.

As far as the outside linebackers, Harbaugh said Suggs was “fine,” but they’re expected to keep him and Dumervil (activated from the PUP Monday) out anyway, while they look at young pass-rushers Albert McClellan, Matthew Judon and Kamalei Correa.

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Andy Reid still expects Eric Berry to play Week One

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid yells from the sideline during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) AP

As the drama with Joey Bosa and the Chargers has dominated headlines, another unsigned player in the AFC West has received less attention: Chiefs safety Eric Berry.

Berry, the All-Pro safety who has still not signed his franchise tag, remains out of Chiefs camp. And yet with only 16 days before they kick off the season, Chiefs coach Andy Reid still thinks Berry will be there for Week One.

Reid said today on PFT Live that he trusts Berry to be taking good care of himself and ready to play when the Chiefs opened the season, even if he hasn’t practiced.

“Eric’s one of our good players and he’s in the business side of it right now,” Reid said. “This is all part of the profession, so I get it. But I also know when he comes in he’s going to be in great shape, he’ll be able to get himself back before the first game and be ready to go because that’s the way he trains in the offseason and the kind of shape he keeps himself in.”

Berry is so dedicated to fitness that he kept working out while he was undergoing chemotherapy. So Reid is surely correct to think that Berry isn’t just sitting on his couch and eating Twinkies while his teammates are sweating through August practices.

The only question, then, is whether the business side of it will get taken care of. If Berry doesn’t sign his $10.806 million franchise tender in time to play in Week One, he’ll lose $635,647 a week during the regular season. It seems unlikely Berry would leave that kind of money on the table, so it seems like a fair bet that Berry will be back in the fold within the next couple weeks. And Reid thinks he’ll be ready to play.

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Jordan Cameron says he’s not concerned about drops

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 29:  Jordan Cameron #84 and Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins react after a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on October 29, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron didn’t have a great first season with the Dolphins in 2015, leading to a pay cut to remain with the team for this season.

Things haven’t gotten off to a great start in Year Two. Cameron dropped a pass in the end zone against the Cowboys last week and had two more catchable passes fall to the turf against the Falcons, including another one that could have been a touchdown. Reports from Dolphins practices have pointed out drops by Cameron as well, but the tight end insists he’s not worried about it.

“I’ve just got to catch the ball,” Cameron said, via the Miami Herald. “It’s football. It’s not my first one, it won’t be my last one. Maybe it’s a funk, but i don’t think about it as much as I think everyone else does. It’s not a concern for me. We’ll get things rolling in the season when it matter.”

Coach Adam Gase pointed out a good Cameron block on running back Arian Foster’s touchdown and shared Cameron’s feeling that he’ll start holding onto the ball soon, but there have been calls for more out of the tight end position from offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen and quarterback Ryan Tannehill this summer. If Cameron’s funk continues much longer, it will likely be time to see if someone else can provide it.

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NFL forms Chairman’s Committee to work with Roger Goodell

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL has various committees that oversee different areas of league business and the chairmen of those committees have long worked closely with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Now they’ll do it in a formal committee of their own. According to multiple reports, Goodell sent a memo to NFL teams announcing the formation of the Chairman’s Committee made up of some of the most prominent members of the group that employs Goodell. Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Giants owner John Mara, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Texans owner Bob McNair and Steelers president Art Rooney II will serve on the committee.

The name that likely jumps out from that list is Kraft, who has had plenty of negative things to say about the way the league handled Deflategate over the last couple of years. He has remained an influential part of league operations as the chairman of the broadcast committee and member of the finance committee, however, and that keeps him in a prime spot at the table even if he’s been critical of Goodell.

The group isn’t expected to take any votes while serving as advisors for Goodell on the league’s internal priorities and strategies.

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Friday morning one-liners

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25:  Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys passes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field during a preseason game on August 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills QB Tyrod Taylor is looking forward to WR Sammy Watkins‘ return to game action.

Identifying areas of uncertainty for the Dolphins.

DT Anthony Johnson will try to build on a good outing in Friday’s Patriots game.

Said Jets DE Sheldon Richardson of facing former teammate Damon Harrison, “He’s going to look weird in that uniform. Like a big blueberry.”

Ravens TE Benjamin Watson helped feed first responders to the flooding in Baton Rouge.

WR A.J. Green hopes his baby’s birth doesn’t coincide with a Bengals game.

The Barkevious Mingo trade continues the Browns’ rough run with first-round picks.

Steelers T Ryan Harris is no stranger to position battles.

QB Brock Osweiler feels more in sync with Texans coaches.

Colts QB Andrew Luck got a new phone, although you might not tell from looking at it.

The Jaguars are closing in on a plan for the left side of the offensive line.

A sports performance center named after Titans QB Marcus Mariota opened at the University of Oregon.

Will opening on Thursday night affect Broncos roster decisions?

S Brock Vereen hopes his twisty path through the summer ends with a Chiefs roster spot.

The Raiders will look at several running backs with the first team on Saturday.

The Chargers defensive line is coming together despite missing pieces.

QB Dak Prescott played earlier than expected Thursday and the Cowboys liked how he handled it.

Giants S Landon Collins slimmed down heading into his second season.

Who will make the Eagles at linebacker?

Five players who can help their chances of making the Redskins on Friday.

WR Daniel Braverman is making a push for the Bears roster.

The Lions will be patient with rookie T Taylor Decker.

Ball security is a priority for the Packers.

Vikings TE Rhett Ellison shared the difficulties of his recovery from a torn patellar tendon.

QB Matt Ryan says the Falcons have things to clean up.

A look at what’s different at Panthers home games this year.

Saints P Thomas Morstead has worked to get school supplies for kids affected by flooding in Baton Rouge.

LB Daryl Smith gives Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy an experienced teammate to lean on.

The Cardinals are still figuring out who will play corner across from Patrick Peterson.

Rams QB Jared Goff hopes for a better outing against the Broncos.

WR DiAndre Campbell’s bid for a 49ers roster spot looks like it will fall short.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll liked the way S Kam Chancellor played outside of a penalty.

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Dolphins slaughtering mosquitoes to try to ease Zika fears

A captured Aedes aegypti mosquito is shown at the Florida Mosquito Control District Office, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in Marathon, Fla. Pending a November referendum vote, mosquito control officials are prepared to release up to three million mosquitoes produced by the British company Oxitec over the next three to six months. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) AP

The worries about the construction schedule seem to be taken care of, and the Dolphins are confident they’ll be ready to host next week’s preseason finale in refurbished Hard Rock Stadium.

But while they can’t promise they won’t have to deal with weather (with a possible hurricane brewing in the Caribbean), they are taking aggressive steps to keep the stadium free from Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, team officials are taking extreme measures to kill any and all mosquitoes in the area, even though the stadium is 15 miles from the “Zika zone” in Miami.

They’ve hosed down the 265-acre site with pesticides, and have been treating areas of standing water around the stadium, and using backpack foggers to spray high-risk areas.

Of course, all those chemicals are EPA approved, the Dolphins say, and safe for people, pets and aquatic wildlife.

They’re hoping that eases the minds of their fans, who will then only have to worry about the Dolphins.

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Las Vegas investors: $750 million in public money for Raiders, or else

briefcase-cash Getty Images

Las Vegas is fairly new to the business of being a potential host for professional football, but the group that’s trying to bring the Raiders there is already employing a good old-fashioned NFL shakedown.

According to the Associated Press, the group headed by Sheldon Adelson told a local oversight committee last night that they needed no less than $750 million of public money for the project, and would walk away from their project if they don’t get it.

“Not to be difficult, but we’re not negotiable,” said Sands president Rob Goldstein, who spoke on behalf of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his family. “If we can’t get 750, we respectfully thank you but we’re going to move on.”

Of course, there are critics of the plan, as there are every place when NFL business is built on the back of public money.

“There’s been a lot of conversation on why are we giving money to billionaires,” said Steve Hill, chairman of the oversight committee and head of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “The public is not making a contribution to a privately owned stadium.”

Goldstein said the total cost of the project was going to be $1.9 billion, and he said the list of proposed sites was down to two. They also showed off renderings of a proposed 65,000-seat domed stadium.

The Raiders haven’t been able to get their current hometown to come up with $500 million toward keeping them in Oakland, and have been working on Las Vegas in earnest, even applying to trademark “Las Vegas Raiders.”

Adelson and his company are also trying to rush the project through a September special legislative session, so they can secure the funding before the next NFL owners meeting in January.

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Jerry Jones doesn’t approve of Ezekiel Elliott’s visit to pot shop


Marijuana is legal for recreational use in two of the 22 states in which the NFL does business. It’s legal, that is, for everyone except the NFL players who live in, work in, or visit those states.

The Cowboys visited the Seahawks on Thursday in Washington, one of the two states were marijuana legally can be purchased. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was photographed in a store that sells marijuana. There’s no evidence he bought any or that he smoked any. Regardless, his boss doesn’t approve of Zeke’s weed window shopping.

“Well, I think that, in and of itself, the reason we are talking about is in a way part of the learning process,” Jones said after Thursday’s game, via Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But it’s not good. It’s just not good. It’s just not good.”

Setting aside the fact that Jones has been photographed in compromising situations that weren’t illegal but that were at least ill-advised, why is it not good that Elliott was looking at marijuana that was legally for sale if there’s no evidence he bought it or smoked it? While behavior can get a player evaluated for placement in the substance-abuse program, behaving like a tourist is a far cry from behaving like a pothead, Focker.

It still doesn’t look good, but only because of the NFL’s Big-Shield-Knows-Best mandate regarding things a player can and can’t do on his own time. (And because the Cowboys have more than a few guys who consistently choose consuming banned substances over football.) The mere fact that a guy walking down the street and passing a store can’t even go in the store and look but don’t touch underscores the folly of the league’s lingering finger wagging over marijuana.

But the marijuana ban is here to stay, in part because the issue has become part of the broader push-and-pull of collective bargaining — and in part because the NFL Players Association knows that it’s relatively easy for players not in the program to smoke, if they want to. Regardless of whether they do, they should be able to walk into a store that sells it without being called out by their coach, owner, or anyone else.

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Julio Jones could be back by Sunday, MRIs for Neal and Clayborn today

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) celebrates with wide receiver Julio Jones (11) after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Cleveland Browns, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard) AP

The Falcons have some problems coming out of last night’s game against the Dolphins. But apparently the condition of star receiver Julio Jones isn’t one.

Jones left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter, but it’s apparently not so bad, since coach Dan Quinn said he’d be back on the practice field as soon as this weekend.

“I think Julio will hopefully be back in short order and hopefully as quick as Sunday,” Quinn said, via Vaughn McClure of “I think he definitely wanted to go back in. And just for me, it was a coach’s decision where I said, ‘OK, you’re done.’ He definitely wanted to go. He was loose and ready to go.”

Given his importance to the team, and his not-insignificant injury history, keeping him tucked away was the wise decision.

The rest, the Falcons are going to have to wait and see on. First-round safety Keanu Neal (knee) and veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn (shoulder) will have MRIs today to determine the severity of their injuries.

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Tony Romo says he’s OK after leaving game with back injury

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is tended to by a trainer after he went down on a play against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo left Thursday night’s preseason game with a back injury, but he said afterward that he’s fine.

In fact, Romo said after the game that he was glad to take a hard hit, which he said has him mentally ready for the 2016 season after an injury-plagued 2015.

“In a weird way I feel good about the fact that – that was probably as tough a hit I took on the back as I have in the last five years,” Romo said. “From that regard, I feel very lucky that it can hold up and you can keep going.”

Romo said the hit he took from Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril hurt at first, but he felt fine within a few minutes and wanted to go back in the game.

“At the moment when you go down – you crunch. And so your back gets squished,” he said. “You kind of feel the, almost like a sensation of if someone gave you a stinger in your shoulder or something – where it just feels hot for a second and then that just dissipates after a minute.”

With Romo out, Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott continued his strong preseason, completing 17 of 23 passes for 116 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. Prescott’s preseason play has many in Dallas thinking they can withstand a Romo injury this year. But they’d prefer not to find out.

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Report: Keanu Neal tells teammates he’s OK

Atlanta Falcons rookie strong safety Keanu Neal (22) catches a ball during an NFL football practice Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) AP

Falcons first-round safety Keanu Neal had a short night Thursday due to a knee issue, but signs point to Neal having avoided major injury.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported late Thursday night that Neal was telling teammates he believes he’ll be OK and ready to play in the season opener vs. the Buccaneers.

Neal was slow getting up after trying to make a tackle in the first quarter of Thursday night’s preseason game vs. the Dolphins. He ended up walking gingerly to the sideline after talking with trainers, then later was taken to the locker room.

Neal will undoubtedly continue to be evaluated and receive treatment as the Falcons return to Atlanta. He has more than two weeks until the Sept. 11 season opener, and being able to play in that game will be his focus.

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Ezekiel Elliott impressive in limited debut for Cowboys

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25:  Running back Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on prior to the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The fourth overall pick from this year’s NFL Draft put on an impressive performance in his preseason debut on Thursday night.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 48 yards on seven carries for Dallas before yielding backfield duties to Alfred Morris for the remainder of the first half.

Elliott had carries of 9, 9, 13 and 8 yards as part of Dallas’ seven-play, 81-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter that gave the Cowboys a 7-0 lead over Seattle.

He flashed speed in getting to the edges of the Seahawks’ defense, an ability to find creases between the tackles and ran over oncoming defenders. Elliott even won a couple of collisions with Seattle safety Kam Chancellor.

Elliott had been sidelined due to a hamstring injury suffered in the early stages of training camp. It didn’t look to be any issue Thursday night.

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