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Steve Spurrier to Browns: Why not Connor Shaw

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The Browns picked Brian Hoyer to be their starting quarterback this week, relegating Johnny Manziel to a backup role after a closely watched competition that fizzled on the field as neither player performed all that well.

The quarterback who played the best on Monday night against the Redskins was undrafted rookie Connor Shaw, who went 8-of-9 for 143 yards and threw a touchdown on a Hail Mary to give the Browns a chance to win the game with no time left on the clock. Shaw was never a serious contender for the starting job, much to the dismay of his coach at South Carolina Steve Spurrier.

“I thought Connor played pretty well,” Spurrier said, via the Greenville News. “What did he hit, eight out of nine? He has always been a pretty good percentage guy. Against Missouri he hit 20 out of 21 one day, 20 straight one day. It always amazes me, for some reason they just don’t assume that he is really a top quarterback and he is. I mean, look at his statistics. He’s a winner. He makes plays. I wish they would put him in the hunt for the starting job.”

Spurrier doesn’t have the best bona fides when it comes to picking professional quarterbacks — see Danny Wuerrfel, Patrick Ramsey and Shane Matthews of the 2002 and 2003 Redskins– but that hasn’t stopped him from promoting Shaw for a while now. Spurrier even compared him to Russell Wilson during the days leading up to the draft, but none of the league’s 32 teams thought he was worth selecting.

If Hoyer and Manziel both continue to sputter and he plays well in his remaining preseason action, Shaw might get a chance to prove the Ol’ Ball Coach right.

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Jim Harbaugh: “Very good chance” Glenn Dorsey returns this season

Glenn Dorsey AP

Immediately after defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey had biceps surgery, the 49ers were unsure whether or not he’d miss the entire season.

It’s been a few weeks since the operation and the team is optimistic that they haven’t seen the last of Dorsey in 2014. Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports that coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday that there is a “very good chance” that Dorsey is able to return to the team before the end of the year.

Harbaugh pegged the timetable for Dorsey’s return at three-and-a-half months, which would keep him out of the lineup until the final weeks of the regular season. If the 49ers season unfolds the way the last few have, the team should be in the hunt for the playoffs and/or the NFC West at that point and a healthy return would likely be welcomed given the way injuries can pile up over the course of the season.

If that time frame is accurate, the 49ers will have to either keep Dorsey on the roster as an inactive player or place him on injured reserve with the designation to return after at least eight weeks out of the lineup.

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Jimmy Graham fined $30,000 for dunks over crossbar

Jimmy Graham AP

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said that he’s done dunking balls over the crossbar, which will save his team penalty yards and save him money.

PFT has confirmed that Graham has been fined $30,000 for a pair of dunks following touchdowns during last week’s preseason game against the Titans. That’s a lot of money to spend for celebrating a touchdown even if Graham had been labeled a wide receiver during his franchise tag grievance earlier this offseason.

In addition to the fine, those dunks led to 15-yard penalties that prompted Saints coach Sean Payton to say he was “very upset” with Graham after the game. Ultimately, Graham, who predicted he’d lead the league in penalties after the rule was changed, promise not to do it anymore.

Should Graham go back on his word, the fines will go up now that he’s racked up a pair of offenses. Given how avoidable and damaging these penalties are, Payton might have to use stronger words than “very upset” to describe his feelings about Graham.

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Report: Some Jets coaches disappointed Vick wasn’t more hell-bent on winning starting job

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Jets quarterback Michael Vick said that there’s pressure on Geno Smith to win and win now because there’s “really no patience” for quarterbacks in the NFL these days.

Although the Jets haven’t officially named Smith their starter to open the regular season, Vick makes it clear that’s where things are heading. It’s something he’s done all offseason, even as some members of the Jets staff and brass have insisted that there’s a more spirited competition than anyone has actually seen unfold. Vick’s said all the right things about Smith and his own backup role, so it would seem that all’s well with the team’s plan to have the veteran ready and waiting if Smith can’t handle the job.

That may not be the case, though. Jenny Vrentas of MMQB.com reports that some Jets coaches “have privately expressed disappointment that Vick didn’t show up more hell-bent on winning the starting job.” One would have to guess that those coaches weren’t the same ones involved with making decisions about the quarterbacks since that has always felt more like it was Smith’s job to lose than Vick’s to win.

“The last five years I spent in Philly, I had some great years and played in some great games and went through a lot. Now it’s an opportunity for me to refresh myself and take a step back away from the game. I’m kind of relishing the moment that I’m in right now,” Vick said. “I am not required to have to do a lot. Preserving my body right now is very important to me, and making sure I can make a strong push late in my career in case I am needed.”

There’s some resignation in his words, but would it really be better for the Jets if Vick was causing problems about not being the starter? He’s said multiple times that he still wants to start and his willingness to accept being Smith’s backup likely had something to do with the likelihood that he’ll be called on at some point this season and the way the Jets presented the situation to him. If there’s a problem with that answer, someone with the Jets should have asked different questions earlier in the process.

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Report: Delano Howell’s neck injury isn’t career ending

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Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson didn’t sound too many optimistic notes about safety Delano Howell’s neck injury earlier this week when he said that Howell would need to form an “opinion with his wife and his agent” about next steps.

Whatever those conversations might be, it doesn’t sound like they’ll involve bringing an end to his career. Mike Wells of ESPN.com reports that the injury is not going to force him to stop playing football.

Howell met with doctors this week to discuss the best course of action and, per Wells, the Colts are expected to speak with them on Friday about where things go from here. At that point the timetable for a return to the field will presumably start to take shape.

The injury knocks Howell out his presumed spot alongside LaRon Landry in the Colts defense. Mike Adams is the next man up in that spot.

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Bishop Sankey: I don’t plan on fumbling being a problem

Bishop Sankey, Daimion Stafford AP

Titans rookie running back Bishop Sankey has a shot to move ahead of veteran Shonn Greene into the top spot on the depth chart this summer as Greene dealt with knee problems, but he is at risk of fumbling it away.

Sankey has fumbled in each of the first two preseason games and displayed problems holding onto the ball in practice as well. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Sankey needs to show more attention to details like footwork and exchanges with the quarterback because they are the root cause of the fumbles. Sankey appears to have taken the coach’s words to heart.

“You definitely can’t put the ball on the ground. I want to do everything right assignment-wise, execution-wise. That’s really my main focus each and every game, to help the team win,” Sankey said, via 247Sports.com. “It seems like a small detail, but it’s something you’ve got to do right each and every time. It wasn’t an issue for me in college, and I don’t plan on it being an issue for me now.”

It’s hard to think of a running back who made a fumbling problem part of their plan for an upcoming season, but, as Sankey pointed out, holding onto the ball wasn’t an issue for him at Washington. That doesn’t mean the demands of the professional game won’t be and Sankey’s expected rise to a prominent offensive role will take some time if the little things continue to trip him up.

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Doug Martin to be Tampa’s “bell cow” after injuries to Sims, James

Doug Martin AP

Over the course of the offseason, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford each said that the team wanted to use a variety of running backs this season in order to keep Doug Martin fresh and healthy after his 2013 season came to an early end with a shoulder injury.

As the old saying goes, though, man plans and the injury rate for running backs in the NFL laughs. The Bucs have lost rookie Charles Sims for much of the season to an ankle injury and Mike James is sidelined by a shoulder injury, cutting what was once a deep backfield down to Martin and Bobby Rainey. According to Smith, the result will be a familiar role for Martin.

“With Mike James going down with an injury and with Charles going down, [Martin and Rainey] need to play at a certain level,” Smith said, via the Associated Press. “They’re both good players, but Doug is our bell cow. He likes that role. He’s had a good camp, hasn’t missed a beat.”

If that’s going to work out, the Bucs are going to need to sort out their issues at guard sooner rather than later because there’s only so many times you can send a back into a swarm of defenders before he doesn’t get back up.

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PFT Live: Packers talk with Tyler Dunne, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Green Bay Packers v St Louis Rams Getty Images

The Packers will welcome back an old friend on Friday night when Charles Woodson and the Raiders come calling for a preseason matchup.

We could all probably predict a warm reception for a player who had his best years in a Packers uniform, but for more insight into what’s going on in Green Bay these days we’ll ask Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to share his thoughts on Friday’s edition of PFT Live. Dunne and Mike Florio will talk about what to watch for on the Packers side of the ball in the traditional dress rehearsal for the regular season.

Then we’ll close out the week by finding out what PFT Planet wants to know. Florio will be taking your questions on the Packers, the Raiders and everybody else in the league so send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or call 888-237-5269 during the show.

It all gets started at 1 p.m. ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Five questions: New York Jets

New York Jets v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Doom and gloom were the two leading predictions for the Jets in 2013, but the team defied those execrable expectations to go 8-8 while securing wins over teams like the Patriots and Saints over the course of the season.

Predictions aren’t quite as bad this time around, although that doesn’t mean people are clamoring to get in line for playoff tickets. The team improved their offensive supporting cast, but there’s still plenty of uncertainty about Geno Smith’s ability to drive the bus. On defense, the strength of the defensive line is balanced out by a shortage of cornerbacks that could prove fatal given the Jets’ schedule.

Questions about quarterback and cornerback kick off our five queries about the Jets and the answers to them will probably go a long way toward answering the final entry on the list.

1. Who will start the most games at quarterback?

Unless things go terribly wrong against the Giants in the team’s third preseason game on Friday night, Smith will be starting the opening game against the Raiders. That hardly settles things for the entire season, though.

With Michael Vick on the roster, Smith won’t have the same kind of rope he got when Matt Simms was the only other option during his rookie season. With Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and other new additions on offense, Smith also won’t get the benefit of doubt that comes from playing with a skeletal supporting cast. Smith will have to show that his strong close to last season was a building block for the future, something that hasn’t been readily apparent in the team’s first two preseason games.

If he can retain the job through the season, it should mean that the Jets have taken a significant step forward offensively. If he can’t, Vick may be able to rally the team but it would leave the Jets back at square one in their decades-long search for a franchise quarterback.

2. Were the Jets too dismissive of cornerback needs?

The offseason started with the Jets cutting Antonio Cromartie because of his outsize salary, a move that opened up cap space that many imagined General Manager John Idzik would use to bolster the position. While they did sign Dimitri Patterson, the Jets otherwise resisted the temptations of free agent cornerbacks and end the summer with a lot of cap space that should help them maintain fiscal sanity in the coming years.

It won’t do them any good against the pass, though, and that’s become a big problem with Dee Milliner’s readiness for the season in doubt because of an ankle injury and third-round pick Dexter McDougle lost for the season because of a torn ACL. Patterson’s also been banged up this summer, no surprise given his history, and there’s not much behind them on the roster.

Idzik says he has no regrets about how things went this offseason, but let’s check in again in a couple of months. The Jets open with the Raiders and then go on to face the Packers, Bears, Lions, Chargers, Broncos and Patriots with the last two coming five days apart. Those are all potent passing offenses and the Jets’ corner issues could make it late real early this season.

3. How will the running back workload shake out?

Johnson still has the aura of a marquee back because of his past exploits, but he’s not guaranteed much of anything with the Jets after offseason knee surgery and two disappointing years with the Titans. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell are back after each had strong stretches for the Jets in 2013 and the desire to put too much on Smith’s shoulders should leave work for all of them come the regular season.

There’s little question that the best-case scenario for the Jets offense is that Johnson rediscovers his old magic and takes the lead role in the backfield while Ivory and Powell do complementary work. If he can’t, the Jets offense will likely be on the plodding side and that hasn’t worked out for them the last couple of years.

4. Will Quinton Coples take the next step?

Given the issues at corner, the Jets would help themselves a lot if they can pressure quarterbacks into mistakes. Rex Ryan’s defenses have had some success doing that over the years, but his recent Jets teams have been a bit short on that front if their talented defensive line doesn’t get the job done on its own.

The addition of Jason Babin gives the Jets another piece to use in hopes of generating a more robust pass rush this season, but it would be ideal if Coples were to find more success in that area. He’s a better all-around player at this point than Babin and his work down the stretch last season provides hope that the light’s coming on for the talented but inconsistent linebacker.

5. Is this Rex Ryan’s last season with the Jets?

Ryan signed an extension with the Jets after last season, but it fell well short of securing his job for years to come. He got one more year of guaranteed money, which means he enters this season in pretty much the same position he entered last season. He did some of his best coaching by squeezing an 8-8 record out of a roster short on talent, but he was hired before Idzik and may still face the axe if there isn’t a significant improvement after three years out of the playoffs.

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Taylor Lewan has to “be smarter” after drawing fine for unnecessary roughness

Green Bay Packers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Rookie seasons are full of learning experiences and Titans tackle Taylor Lewan had one this week.

He learned that he’ll wind up with less money in his pocket if he isn’t able to avoid unnecessary roughness penalties on the field. Lewan was fined $8,200 for drawing a flag in the second quarter for retaliating to a shove from Saints defensive tackle Akiem Hicks with a shove of his own to Hicks’s facemask.

“It was petty; it was not very mature of me to do,” Lewan said, via the Tennessean. “But it was one of those heat-of-the moment things you have to be smart about.”

Lewan also drew a flag for grabbing Cameron Jordan’s facemask later in the contest, which makes for 30 yards in penalties for a Titans offense that doesn’t need those kinds of obstacles for success. It’s little surprise, then, that Lewan says he needs to “be smarter” moving forward because players that hurt their teams can find playing time hard to come by.

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Jason Verrett expected to make preseason debut

Jason Verrett AP

The Chargers made cornerback Jason Verrett their first-round pick in May knowing that he’d need time to recover from March shoulder surgery before he’d be ready to hit the field.

Verrett missed spring work, but started practicing in training camp and added more to his plate as his shoulder proved up to the challenge. Now he’s ready to take the next big step in his preparation for his rookie season as Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Verrett is expected to make his first appearance in a preseason game when the Chargers face the 49ers on Sunday.

His teammate Brandon Flowers is looking forward to seeing what Verrett can do in a game situation.

“He sticks in coverage,” Flowers said. “He’s a playmaker. He has that ‘want to’ in his eyes. I’ve been around a lot of cornerbacks in my days, from old guys to young guys. He wants to be the one to make a play. He’s not going to shy away from it like, ‘I hope the quarterback doesn’t throw my way on third down.’ He wants the quarterback to throw his way on third down. Just having that ‘want to,’ his athleticism, I can’t wait to see him when the lights come on.”

Cornerback was a weak spot for the Chargers last season and they weren’t shy about addressing it this offseason with the additions of Flowers and Verrett. If both live up to expectations, the chance to at least compete for a second straight playoff berth should be within reach in San Diego.

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Montori Hughes on leave from Colts after death of daughter

i Getty Images

Colts defensive tackle Montori Hughes has taken a leave from the team to deal with a family tragedy.

Coach Chuck Pagano announced on Thursday that Hughes’s three-month old daughter Maveah Alice died last week and that Hughes will be away from the team while dealing with the loss. Pagano said that the little girl had visited practice early in training camp and “she was perfectly fine” before getting ill.

“I can’t imagine. No parent should have to bury a child. We all go through circumstances. This is an extremely, extremely difficult time for Montori and his family. But we’ve got his back and we’ll get through this thing as a family like we get through anything,” Pagano said, via the Indianapolis Star.

We offer our condolences to Hughes and his family as they deal with their loss and hope he can make a successful return to the field when he feels ready to resume his career.

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Nate Burleson: Johnny Manziel’s still the man

Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel may not have won the starting quarterback job in Cleveland, but at least one member of the team’s receiving corps thinks that the future is still very bright for the first-round pick.

Nate Burleson said that Manziel’s extracurricular activities were not a problem for him because he has seen that Manziel “loves this sport and he wants to be great at it.” Burleson also thinks that a stint as a backup could make Manziel even better down the road.

“Johnny’s still the man. He’s still a really good quarterback. He’s an NFL-quality starting quarterback. … Johnny being the No. 2, as you want to call it, we got arguably the best No. 2 in the NFL,” Burleson said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “Johnny will be successful in this league. He’ll have his opportunities. Regardless of how many chances he’ll get or waves of opportunities he gets, he’s going to take advantage of them. It’s not a bad thing for him to be the No. 2 [quarterback] Week One. He is a rookie, still has a lot to learn and to do as a professional and as a player when it comes to the playbook. He’s going to be all right. I’m a Johnny Football fan.”

Burleson’s support for Manziel doesn’t come at Brian Hoyer’s expense as he said he felt the team had two “winners” to choose from and praised Hoyer’s command of the offense. That command hasn’t been as evident to many others during the team’s preseason work, something that will have to change if Manziel is going to remain the No. 2 in Cleveland.

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Friday morning one-liners

Alex Henery AP

Bills WR Sammy Watkins ran routes against air in Thursday’s practice.

CB Will Davis has shown more consistency for the Dolphins.

Patriots RB Brandon Bolden thinks competition this summer has made him better.

CB Darrin Walls is expected to start for the Jets on Friday night.

Ravens WR Torrey Smith won the Tim Wheatley Award for his community service work.

RB Jeremy Hill may get work with the Bengals starters this week.

Said Browns T Joe Thomas of RB Ben Tate, “One of the bright spots on offense is how we’ve been able to run the ball with Ben back there and I expect him to have a great season for us.”

Steelers LB Ryan Shazier was “very disappointed” with the team’s play on Thursday night.

WR DeVier Posey did well during the Texans’ practices with the Broncos.

The state of G Jack Mewhort’s knee is an issue for the Colts.

The Jaguars are still waiting to name a starting center and right guard.

Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst probably won’t play this week.

WR Emmanuel Sanders was back at practice for the Broncos.

The Chiefs are one of many teams adjusting their defensive play due to the increased flags for illegal contact and holding.

Young cornerbacks are bidding for roles on the Raiders defense.

The Chargers aren’t worried about the field at Levi’s Stadium.

LB Anthony Hitchens got a turn with the first team at Cowboys practice.

Giants RB Andre Williams balked at those who thought he was talking trash about the Jets this week.

Eagles K Alex Henery missed another field goal Thursday night.

Ryan Clark likes what he’s seen from fellow Redskins S Bacarri Rambo.

Jordan Palmer is still trying to be the Bears’ backup quarterback.

Is there a role for RB Mikel Leshoure with the Lions?

The Packers have decisions to make at outside linebacker.

Vikings QB Matt Cassel isn’t worried about the reaction he’ll get from Chiefs fans.

The Falcons want to play at a higher offensive tempo.

Panthers CB Josh Norman has to avoid bad decisions on the field.

QB Drew Brees is ready to “just play ball” for the Saints.

Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith and C Evan Dietrich-Smith have bonded over their love of vintage cars.

WR Walt Powell is looking for a chance to show the Cardinals what he can do.

Rams LB James Laurinaitis has resumed practicing, but might not play this week.

WR Stevie Johnson thinks the 49ers will have a dynamic offense.

Seahawks DE Michael Bennett will have a chance to square off with his brother Martellus this weekend.

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Derek Carr won’t play this week

Derek Carr, George Johnson, Andre Fluellen AP

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr made a quick return to practice after suffering a concussion and rib injury during last weekend’s game against the Lions, but he hasn’t recovered enough for the team to play him against the Packers.

Steve Wyche of NFL Media reports that coach Dennis Allen said that Carr won’t play on Friday night because his bruised ribs are still sore. Allen added that Carr has been cleared after his concussion.

The injury likely eliminates what little chance Carr had of starting for the Raiders when they face the Jets in Week One. Barring an injury of his own, you can put Matt Schaub’s name into the lineup for that game.

His performance there and in the following weeks will determine how long it is before Carr gets his chance to lead the Raiders offense. If Schaub looks anything like he did with the Texans last season, it probably won’t be long.

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