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Five questions: New Orleans Saints

Cooks AP

The Saints had become a trendy pick to make it back to the Super Bowl, five years since their lone NFL championship.

And then the Seahawks demolished the Packers to open the season.

But the Saints have yet to play.  There’s a chance that, if/when New Orleans takes care of the Falcons in their own building on Sunday, those who now presume the Seahawks will finish 19-0 may at least give the Saints a chance to stay within 10 points of the defending champs.

Whether the Saints ultimately can do that or better hinges on a few questions.  Five questions, of course.

1.  What kind of impact with Brandin Cooks have right away?

In recent years, the Saints have had a few receivers contribute right away as rookies.  None had the expectations currently foisted upon Brandin Cooks.

The 20th pick in the draft, Cooks gives the Saints something they haven’t had in recent years — a deep threat who can stretch the field and open up running lanes and underneath routes.

Before that can happen, Cooks will have to show that he can get off the line of scrimmage and put the pedal to the metal.  Regardless of what he did during training camp or the preseason, that test begins on Sunday at Atlanta.

2.  Is Mark Ingram in line for a career year?

In 2011, the Saints gave up a first-round pick in 2012 to jump back into round one and land running back Mark Ingram.  To date, his NFL career has been underwhelming, at best.

Ingram has 1,462 rushing yards.  Not in one year; in three.

The Saints opted not to pick up his option for 2015, making 2014 a contract year.  So far, Ingram has looked like the runner that he hasn’t been.  If he can play that way all year long, the Saints may have to pay more to keep him than the option would have cost.

And it will be money well spent.

3.  Will Jimmy Graham still be dominant?

He missed all of the offseason program, and then he signed a huge contract.  Now that Jimmy Graham finally has been paid, will he still be the guy he’s always been?

The question often comes up when a player cashes in.  For Graham, who has developed a reputation for not generating huge numbers in key games, it’s fair to at least wonder whether the money will change him.

For now, it’s safe to assume it likely won’t matter, and that Graham will continue to be one of the best tight ends in the league.

4.  Have Saints learned to win on the road?

In January, the Saints managed to win a road playoff game for the first time in franchise history.  While last year was last year and this year is this year (profound, I know), the Saints may not need to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs to win games once they get there.

At Philly against the Eagles, the Saints churned out an unlikely win.  The following week at Seattle, the Saints nearly pulled off another one.

Those achievements could serve the Saints well, starting on Sunday when they start the season at Atlanta.  And if the Saints can win enough road games during the regular season, they won’t have to try to win many or any in the postseason.

5.  How much better will the defense be?

In 2012, the Saints’ defense stunk.  Last year, coordinator Rob Ryan turned things around dramatically.

So what does Ryan do for an encore?  With safety Jairus Byrd joining Kenny Vaccaro and guy like defensive end Akiem Hicks ready to emerge, the defense may finally do enough to get Ryan an interview for a head-coaching job.

The Saints should hope it’s only an interview, and not an offer.

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Week One injury report roundup

Cam Newton AP

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the first injury report roundup of the 2014 season.

Bills at Bears

The Bills should have wide receiver Sammy Watkins (ribs) and linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee), but running back Anthony Dixon (hamstring) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (groin) are both questionable. The Bears ruled out third quarterback David Fales (shoulder), fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) is questionable and the team expects safety Chris Conte (concussion) and center Brian de la Puente (knee) to be in the lineup.

Panthers at Buccaneers

The Panthers have only one man on their injury report, but it is a significant one. Quarterback Cam Newton (ribs) is questionable and the team is expected to make a final decision about his status on Sunday. Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (abdomen), defensive end William Gholston (shoulder), safety Bradley McDougald (knee), cornerback Rashaan Melvin (ankle) and wide receiver Louis Murphy (back) are all out for Tampa, while running back Mike James (shoulder), cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring) and running back Jorvorskie Lane (hand) are listed as probable.

Bengals at Ravens

The Bengals have known for a while that wide receiver Marvin Jones (knee) would miss the game and they’ve also ruled out running back Rex Burkhead (knee). Cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hip) is questionable for what would be his regular season debut and the team expects linebacker Vontaze Burfict (hamstring), tight end Tyler Eifert (shoulder), running back Cedric Peerman (hip), guard Mike Pollak (knee) and tackle Andre Smith (concussion) to play. The Ravens have a shorter list of wounded players. Cornerback Lardarius Webb (back) is questionable and running back Bernard Pierce (concussion) is probable to start in place of the suspended Ray Rice.

Browns at Steelers

The Browns will try to reverse trends at Heinz Field without defensive end John Hughes (hamstring) and guard Paul McQuistan (ankle). Defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (wrist) is doubtful and would be replaced by Armonty Bryant if he’s unable to make it a two Bryant Sunday for Cleveland. Cornerbacks Joe Haden (foot) and Buster Skrine (thumb) lead a list of probable players. The home team won’t have wide receiver Lance Moore (groin) or cornerback Brice McCain (groin) and probably won’t have wide receiver Martavis Bryant (shoulder).

Jaguars at Eagles

Wide receiver Cecil Shorts (hamstring) missed the last two Jaguars practices and drew a questionable tag. Tight end Clay Harbor (calf), running back Storm Johnson (ankle) and tackle Austin Pasztor (hand) are all out, but it looks good for kicker Josh Scobee’s quad injury. The Eagles ruled out wide receiver Josh Huff (shoulder) and tackle Matt Tobin (ankle) and remain undecided on running back Chris Polk (hamstring) and cornerback Jaylen Watkins (hamstring). Wide receivers Riley Cooper (ankle) and Brad Smith (groin) are both probable.

Vikings at Rams

Defensive end Everson Griffen (illness) is questionable, but the Vikings expect him to play. The same is not true of running back Zach Line (ankle), linebacker Michael Mauti (foot) or linebacker Brandon Watts (knee) after all three were ruled out. The Rams won’t have cornerback Trumaine Johnson (knee) and center Barrett Jones (back) and the jury remains out for defensive end Eugene Sims (knee). Tackle Jake Long (knee) is expected to play his first game since suffering a torn ACL.

Patriots at Dolphins

Two relative unknowns from the Patriots — quarterback Tom Brady (calf) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) — are listed as questionable, but all signs point to them playing. Defensive end Michael Buchanan (ankle) and defensive tackle Chris Jones (ankle) are both out for New England. Linebacker Philip Wheeler (thumb) won’t go for Miami, which is also waiting for center Mike Pouncey (hip) to get healthy. Guard Billy Turner (foot) is listed as doubtful.

Saints at Falcons

Wide receiver Kenny Stills (quad) is the only question mark for the Saints, who have rule out safety Marcus Ball (hamstring) and fullback Erik Lorig (ankle). The Falcons are not feeling many hard knocks on their 53-man roster, with defensive tackle Corey Peters (Achilles) and safety Dezmen Southward (concussion) listed as probable and comprising the entire injury report.

Raiders at Jets

The Raiders traveled across country to face the Jets on Thursday and ruled cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (knee) out on Friday. Linebacker Nick Roach (concussion) is questionable and everyone else on the roster is expected to play. In addition to cornerback Dee Milliner (ankle), the Jets ruled out safety Josh Bush (quadricep) and defensive end IK Enemkpali (foot). Antonio Allen, who is expected to see a lot of time at cornerback, is probable after a concussion.

49ers at Cowboys

The visitors ruled out tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring) and center Marcus Martin (knee) and they listed wide receiver Michael Crabtree (calf) as questionable, although Crabtree has said he expects to be on the field when he returns to his home state. As expected, defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) is out for the Cowboys. So is tackle Darrion Weems (shoulder), while guard Zack Martin (foot), defensive tackle Terrell McClain (ankle) and wide receiver Terrance Williams (back) have all been listed as questionable. Quarterback Tony Romo (back) is probable and expected to play for the first time since Week 16 last year.

Titans at Chiefs

Titans quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (hand) is expected to back up Jake Locker and defensive tackle Mike Martin (hamstring) is questionable. Running back De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring) will probably have to wait to make his Chiefs debut after being listed as doubtful. Cornerback Marcus Cooper (ankle) and center Eric Kush (shoulder) are questionable, but linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) and safety Eric Berry (heel) are both expected to play.

Redskins at Texans

It’s a waiting game for linebacker Brian Orakpo (ankle) and the Redskins, who have already ruled out cornerback Tracy Porter (hamstring) and linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee). Tight end Jordan Reed (thumb) is also questionable. Tight end Garrett Graham (back) will be a game-time decision for the Texans and safety Shiloh Keo (calf) is also questionable. Texans coach Bill O’Brien listed 11 players as probable, perhaps as a nod to his mentor Bill Belichick.

Colts at Broncos

Versatile reserve offensive lineman Joe Reitz (ankle) is out and center Khaled Holmes (ankle) is questionable with the arrow pointing the wrong direction, so the Colts will be short at offensive line on Sunday. The defending AFC champs will be without linebacker Danny Trevathan (knee) for a while and guard Ben Garland (ankle) was also ruled out.

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Five questions: Carolina Panthers

camnewton AP

Every year, a team surprises to get in the playoffs.

But this year, it seems the Panthers are practically expected to miss them.

A team that won the NFC South and 12 games last year has taken hit after hit this offseason.

Left tackle Jordan Gross retired. Wide receiver Steve Smith was cut because he didn’t play well with others. Quarterback Cam Newton had ankle surgery that kept him out of OTAs. The entire secondary was either cut or allowed to leave in free agency.

That’s a lot of stuff. Seeing how they handle all those changes will determine whether they can post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.

1. Is the quarterback going to be OK?

As it pertains to Newton, that’s a question that supersedes the recent rib injury that has him limited in practice this week, and uncertain for Sunday’s opener in Tampa.

Newton missed practically the entire offseason program while recovering from ankle surgery, and that’s the greater concern.

In Washington, Robert Griffin III showed us last year how easy it is to skip OTAs and come in ready for the opener. While his injury might have been more serious than Newton’s, the time away is what will be missed.

Considering they have an entirely new receiving corps and plenty of doubt along the offensive line, there’s no sure thing when it comes to Newton.

2. Will Ron Rivera ever remember how to lose?

The Panthers were a mess a quarter of the way into last season, and it looked like Ron Rivera was on the verge of being fired.

He was 14-22 overall, and 2-14 in games decided by a touchdown or less.

Then he started going for everything, and his team responded, winning 11 of their last 12 games last year.

Now teams have had a year to study Rivera’s tendencies, and with a sore quarterback, going for every fourth down might not be as good of an idea.

3. Can that defense be good enough to stop everyone?

Maybe is the short answer.

Their front seven is as good as any in the league. Their back four goes the other direction. When you spend 21 percent of your salary cap on two defensive ends, and they produce the way Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have, you’re always going to have a chance.

But other than Antoine Cason (who plays well in a Ron Rivera-Steven Wilks defense), the Panthers don’t have a corner who can cover the big receivers in the NFC South. And they replaced their safeties with a pair of divisional cast-offs, with Thomas DeCoud and Roman Harper.

The Panthers aren’t built to get in track meets with teams, but this secondary might not be able to prevent it.

4. Will they be able to run?

They better.

Given the iffy status of their quarterback, they’re going to have to put the ball in the hands of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and let them make hard yards.

That’s a hard way to do business when the league limits contact during training camp, but that’s what the Panthers are going to have to do. Both have taken major paycuts in recent years to stay, but they need to earn every nickel for the Panthers to have a chance.

5. Can they get every break again?

Again, the Panthers forgot how to lose from October until the playoffs. And they caught so many fortunate bounces, it’s hard to imagine them repeating.

From the flag picked up to help them beat the Patriots to fumbles that kicked back their way, the Panthers were a fortunate team in many ways.

Simple math makes it hard to imagine them winning 12 again. And playing in the division they play in will make it that much harder.

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PFT’s Week One picks

Cowboys Getty Images

It’s a new year; everyone is 0-0.  That includes MDS and yours truly.  Which is good since he whipped my butt in 2013.

But this could be my year to do the whipping in the 256-game PFT Picks showdown.  We disagree on four of the first 16 games, so there’s a chance I’ll establish an early lead.

There’s probably an even better chance I’ll land in a pothole.

For all the picks, keep doing what you’ve been doing for the last four paragraphs.

Packers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Seahawks have been so dominant at home that the NFL tries not to schedule prime time games in Seattle because the Seahawks jump out to such big leads that viewers turn off the games early and go to bed. I think the Packers’ offense is good enough to prevent that from happening and keep Green Bay in the game, but Seattle will win it.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 27, Packers 20.

Florio’s take:  After the Super Bowl champion won every Thursday night opener since the format was adopted, the last two have lost.  The trend ends at CenturyLink Field.  Getcha Richter scale read; the Seahawks may be even better this year.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 27, Packers 20.

Saints at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Saints are my pick to win the NFC South, and they’ll take a big step toward that title by starting the season with a divisional road win.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Falcons 20.

Florio’s take:  Losing the first game of the season doesn’t create a major problem unless the loss comes at home to a division rival.  The Falcons need to hold serve if they hope to rebound from a disastrous 2013.  But the Saints may be even better than last year.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, Falcons 24.

Vikings at Rams

MDS’s take: Shaun Hill is going to surprise a lot of people and turn in a solid season in place of Sam Bradford this year. I’m not picking another Kurt Warner/Trent Green situation, but I am picking the Rams to be better than anyone thinks, and to get it started with a win over a rebuilding Vikings team.

MDS’s pick: Rams 24, Vikings 20.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings finally will have balance on offense.  The Rams suddenly won’t.  Sometimes, it’s that simple.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 16, Rams 10.

Browns at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers are preparing to see both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel on Sunday. I think Pittsburgh’s defense will do just fine against both of them.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 17, Browns 10.

Florio’s take:  Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Bernie Kosar, Brian Sipe, Otto Graham.  It won’t matter on Week One in the year the Steelers are honoring the late Chuck Noll.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Browns 7.

Jaguars at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Jaguars have taken a bigger step forward this offseason than most people realize, and they won’t be pushovers anymore. But Philadelphia will be a tough place to play this year, and the Eagles will take this one.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 28, Jaguars 23.

Florio’s take:  The Eagles ended the 2013 season with a disappointing loss at home.  They’ll start 2014 with one of their easier home dates, especially since the Jaguars have the wrong guy at quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Jaguars 20.

Raiders at Jets

MDS’s take: The Raiders made the right call by starting rookie Derek Carr at quarterback, and the Jets’ cornerback situation is bad enough that Carr should hit on some big plays in his first NFL game. However, Rex Ryan’s defensive schemes will pressure Carr into at least three turnovers, and that will be the difference.

MDS’s pick: Jets 20, Raiders 17.

Florio’s take:  The Raiders haven’t won a game on the East Coast since December 2009.  Coming to town a few days early likely won’t change that.  Especially since the Raiders are breaking in a rookie quarterback and are featuring a bunch of veterans who were available this offseason for a reason.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 17, Raiders 10.

Bengals at Ravens

MDS’s take: All the offseason talk has been about Andy Dalton, but I expect the Bengals to have one of the NFL’s best defenses this season, and that’s why they’ll be the best team in the division, starting Sunday in Baltimore.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 17, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take:  Cincinnati is breaking in a pair of new offensive coordinators.  Baltimore is breaking in a new offense.  Steve Smith may break someone’s jaw.  Advantage home team.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 20, Bengals 17.

Bills at Bears

MDS’s take: In Marc Trestman’s second year as head coach, the Bears will have one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses. The Bills just won’t be able to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Bears 31, Bills 13.

Florio’s takeEJ Manuel won’t be wearing a “C” on his jersey.  But he will be wearing a Jared Allen.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 28, Bills 13.

Washington at Texans

MDS’s take: J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney will be chasing Robert Griffin III all over the field, and the Texans will get off to a 1-0 start after losing their last 14 games in 2013.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Washington 10.

Florio’s take:  A couple of new coaches of teams that combined for five wins last year square off.  Somehow, one of these two squads will emerge with a “W”.  While Washngton could have the better season, Houston will have the better day.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 17, Washington 10.

Titans at Chiefs

MDS’s take: I think the Chiefs will take a step backward this season after their surprising playoff berth last year, but starting at home against the Titans should be one of the easiest games on their schedule.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 21, Titans 13.

Florio’s take:  While the Chiefs likely will take a step back in 2014, it won’t begin against a team that has all the sizzle of a bowl of unflavored gelatin.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Titans 17.

Patriots at Dolphins

MDS’s take: We’ve heard a lot about how the Dolphins have changed their offense to run at a faster pace, but I just don’t think Miami has the personnel to match up with New England, which remains the best team in the AFC East.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Dolphins 10.

Florio’s take:  With a much better defense and a still-potent offense, the Patriots launch the 10-year anniversary of their last Super Bowl-winning season with a performance that could put them back there, again.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 34, Dolphins 24.

Panthers at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: Carolina got worse this offseason and Tampa Bay got better. The Lovie Smith era will start with a win that provides Tampa with some optimism, which was sorely lacking during the Greg Schiano era.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 23, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take:  Of all the divisions in the NFL, the NFC South has featured the most bottom-to-top turmoil.  It starts early this year, with last year’s basement dweller topping last year’s champion in a showdown between Panthers coach Ron Rivera and the guy who fired him in Chicago.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 21, Panthers 17

49ers at Cowboys

MDS’s take: I think the Cowboys are going to be better than most people expect this year, with DeMarco Murray running behind a good offensive line and giving them a balanced attack on offense. And I think the 49ers are going to be worse than most people expect this year, with the absence of NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith at the start of the season hurting their defense. So I’m picking Dallas.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 28, 49ers 24.

Florio’s take:  It’s been a long time since these were the best two teams in the NFC.  The Cowboys could take a major step back from their perpetual 8-8 record, and the 49ers may be unable to get close to another NFC title game.  In fact, there’s a chance that the Cowboys could win this one.  I thought about making that pick.  And then I remembered how bad the defense is.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Cowboys 20.

Colts at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Broncos’ offense won’t be quite as good this year as it was last year, but it will still be plenty good. And I see big holes on the Colts’ defense. Indianapolis won’t be able to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 30, Colts 20.

Florio’s take:  Last year, former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning returned to Indy and lost.  This year, the Colts travel to Denver and Manning gets a measure of revenge.  Along with a lot of yards and touchdowns.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 34, Colts 21.

Giants at Lions

MDS’s take: There are major concerns about the Lions’ secondary, and Eli Manning may be able to take advantage of Detroit’s cornerback situation. But Matthew Stafford has so many weapons that he’ll put up even bigger numbers than Manning, and the Lions will win a high-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Lions 35, Giants 31.

Florio’s take:  New York’s new offense is a work in progress.  But it’s not making much progress, and it isn’t really working.  The Lions have the talent to score a lot more points than whatever the Giants can muster against a Detroit defense that still has plenty of question marks.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 30, Giants 20.

Chargers at Cardinals

MDS’s take: Carson Palmer is going to have a better season than most people expect, and it starts in the late Monday night game against a Chargers defense that is going to have a rough year.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 33, Chargers 27.

Florio’s take:  Arizona has become a trendy pick for those willing to forget that Karlos Dansby, Darryl Washington, and Darnell Dockett are gone for the year.  The Chargers flew under radar for most of 2013.  They won’t in 2014.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 27, Cardinals 23.

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Week Zero Power Rankings

Divisional Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Back in July, we published a list of preseason power rankings aimed at providing a snapshot of where each franchise stacked up against the other 31 before training camp opened.

With the regular season starting tonight, it’s time to reconfigure the top-to-bottom ranking, which will provide the starting point for the first set that comes after the first slate of games.

Here they are.  You know the drill:  (1) read them; (2) find one or two that you strongly disagree with; and (3) call us nasty things in the comments.

1. Seattle Seahawks (preseason rank: No. 1):  A decade since the Patriots became the last team to repeat, the Seahawks are in the best position to do it.

2. Denver Broncos (preseason rank: No. 3):  Will all those new arrivals close that 35-point gap with the Seahawks?

3. New England Patriots (preseason rank: No. 4):  They would have been higher if they hadn’t dumped Logan Mankins last week.

4. Green Bay Packers (preseason rank: No. 5):  Aaron Rodgers will be the guy to get them to the playoffs.  Julius Peppers could be the guy to get them beyond the divisional round.

5. New Orleans Saints (preseason rank: No. 6):  They’re overlooked among the league’s elite teams, and they like it.

6. San Francisco 49ers (preseason rank: No. 2):  The list of teams that have it better than the 49ers quietly is growing.

7. Baltimore Ravens (preseason rank: No. 7):  If this list were based on shameful P.R. responses to a player accused of domestic violence, the Ravens would be No. 1.  (Or perhaps No. 2, behind the team that’s currently No. 6 on this list.)

8. Indianapolis Colts (preseason rank: No. 8):  The best news about Jim Irsay being suspended for six games is that he won’t be able to complicate trade talks by tweeting about them prematurely.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (preseason rank: No. 9):  The streak of playoff appearances could extend to four.  The streak of one-and-out playoff appearances could, too.

10. Carolina Panthers (preseason rank: No. 10):  When practicing, quarterback Cam Newton has been wearing a rib protector that looks like a life vest.  Which makes sense; with significant question marks at left tackle, he could eventually feel be on the wrong side of a Titanic-iceberg re-enactment.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (preseason rank: No. 13):  If Nick Foles gets injured, Mark Sanchez could do what Foles did to Mike Vick, who previously did the same thing to Kevin Kolb.

12. Chicago Bears (preseason rank: No. 12):  If the defense is only a little bit better, the Bears will get back to the postseason.

13. Arizona Cardinals (preseason rank: No. 11):  Bruce Arians’ job has gotten a lot harder, given the injuries and suspensions on the defensive side of the ball.

14. San Diego Chargers (preseason rank: No. 16):  Has a team that made it to the playoffs one year ever been so disregarded the next?

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (preseason rank: No. 15):  Even with the Cheech & Chong backfield, Pittsburgh’s offense is ready to harsh mellows throughout the AFC.

16. Atlanta Falcons (preseason rank: No. 14):  Could a home loss to the Saints in Week One doom the season?  Perhaps.

17. Kansas City Chiefs (preseason rank: No. 17):  Alex Smith was very wise to sign a long-term contract before the season got rolling.

18. New York Jets (preseason rank: No. 19):  Struggles in the secondary have caused many to overlook that the offense is a lot better.

19. Detroit Lions (preseason rank: No. 21):  They could set a single-season scoring record and still give up more points than they score.

20. New York Giants (preseason rank: No. 18):  It feels like the Giants are trying to change a wheel on a moving car.  And it could turn out roughly the same way.

21. Washington (preseason rank: No. 23):  RGIII spends so much time talking about not caring about people not liking him that it’s obvious he cares more than anyone realizes.

22. Dallas Cowboys (preseason rank: No. 24):  There’s a sneaky chance they’ll finish much lower than this.

23. Minnesota Vikings (preseason rank: No. 27):  There’s a sneaky chance they’ll finish much higher than this.

24. St. Louis Rams (preseason rank: No. 20):  Shaun Hill is the starting quarterback.  That is all.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (preseason rank: No. 26):  Trading for Logan Mankins proves that 2014 won’t be a scholarship year.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (preseason rank: No. 29):  They’d be higher if Blake Bortles were the starting quarterback.

27. Houston Texans (preseason rank: No. 25):  They’d be higher if Ryan Fitzpatrick weren’t.

28. Miami Dolphins (preseason rank: No. 31):  Now that they’re in the top 30, maybe owner Stephen Ross won’t call coach Joe Philbin to talk about it.

29. Cleveland Browns (preseason rank: No. 22):  Maybe they drafted Johnny Manziel to play receiver?

30. Buffalo Bills (preseason rank: No. 28):  Maybe they drafted Sammy Watkins to play quarterback?

31. Tennessee Titans (preseason rank: No. 30):  Quick, name one player on the team.  Now, name another.  Now name one more.  If you can’t, you’re hardly alone.

32. Oakland Raiders (preseason rank: No. 32):  With Derek Carr’s first two games coming against Rex Ryan’s defense and a team that features J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, is the appropriate term “congratulations” or “condolences”?

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Five Questions: Kansas City Chiefs

Andy Reid, Alex Smith (11) AP

As PFT winds down its “Five Questions” series, we move next to the Chiefs, who are trying to make the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1994-95 seasons. At the time, the franchise was reaching the end of a six-season streak of postseason appearances.

In a vote of the PFT staff published Wednesday, none of the six writer / editors selected Kansas City — 9-0 to begin 2013 and 11-5 overall — to go back to the postseason. Only seven other clubs didn’t get a single vote. This places the Chiefs with teams like the Bills, Browns and Raiders, all of whom haven’t made the playoffs in more than a decade.

So was the Chiefs’ 2013 playoff bid a one-and-done deal? Was it the foundation for even better things to come in Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach? Or is the answer somewhere in-between, with 2014 a baby step backwards before a bounce-back 2015?

With the regular season opener just four days away, here’s a closer look at Kansas City:

1. With a new contract in place and with experience in Andy Reid’s offense, can quarterback Alex Smith deliver a career-best season in 2014?

The debate on whether the Chiefs should sign Smith to a contract extension is over, and Smith won — big time, to the tune of a four-year, $68 million deal with $30 million upfront.

The issue now is whether the 30-year-old Smith can improve upon his solid first season in Kansas City (60.6 percent completions, 23 TDs, 10 turnovers, 89.1 QB rating). If Smith has yet to hit his ceiling, more progress should come in Year Two. This is his 10th NFL season, and he is approaching 100 career starts. He is still one of the game’s more athletic players at his position; note he gained nearly six yards per rush in 2013.

2. Who will emerge as the Chiefs’ top pass catching threat outside of Dwayne Bowe in the receiving corps?

There are catches to be had in the Chiefs’ offense. With Dexter McCluster (83 targets in 2013) and Sean McGrath (40 targets) no longer with the club, there are opportunities for pass catchers to shine. Perhaps second-year tight end Travis Kelce (team-high 14 targets in preseason play) is ready for a bigger role. Also, second-year pro Frankie Hammond (10 targets in exhibition play) is slated to start with Bowe serving an NFL suspension in the opener vs. Tennessee.

3. Can reserve tailback Knile Davis emerge as a key contributor in the offense?

In Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have a true featured back. In 2013, Charles led the Chiefs in carries, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, catches, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and targets a season ago — and he did all of that averaging 20-21 touches per game. The Chiefs are at their best when Charles has the ball in his hands.

Still, Davis, who averaged about five touches per game a season ago, could be an important part of the Kansas City offense. He has exceptional speed, and he’s a playmaking threat in an offense that can be lacking in big-play punch outside of Charles. If Davis can handle a slight increase in work while mixing in a few explosive plays, the Chiefs’ offense will be better for it. And Charles will be better for it, too.

4. Will the Chiefs’ defense bounce back after a tough finish to 2013?

Including the playoff loss at Indianapolis, the Chiefs allowed more than 400 yards in seven of their last nine games. In fairness to the Chiefs, four of those performances were against Denver and San Diego — top-caliber offenses. And the Colts can have a potent offense, too.

Nevertheless, the Chiefs need their defense to return to top form to return to the postseason for a second straight year. The talent certainly is there in spots, especially at outside linebacker, where Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are a strong tandem. Nose tackle Dontari Poe and safety Eric Berry are standouts, too.

5. What else needs happen for another playoff trip for Kansas City?

Well, taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers like a season ago would help. Only the champion Seahawks (+22) were better than the Chiefs in this regard in 2013 (+19). Without much offensive punch, the Chiefs need as many short fields with which to work as they can get.

Also, the offensive line will have to quickly jell. Without Donald Stephenson (suspension) for the first four games, the Chiefs have moved left guard Jeff Allen to right tackle, with recently signed Mike McGlynn taking over at left guard. The progress of left tackle and 2013 No. 1 pick Eric Fisher bears watching, too.

Finally, the Chiefs can’t afford to be overwhelmed by the prospect of four challenging road trips in their first six contests (Denver, Miami, San Francisco, San Diego). With the matchup at Denver in Week Two, winning the opener vs. Tennessee is a necessity.

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PFT’s 2014 season predictions

Pete Carroll AP

Every year, we on the PFT staff offers our predictions for how the upcoming season will unfold. Every year, many of you tell us we’re idiots, primarily because we don’t have your favorite team in the playoffs.

One person who can’t be called an idiot is Josh Alper, who last year correctly predicted that the Seahawks would beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl.

Alper got that one right, but we all got plenty of predictions wrong: Notably, not a single one of us had the Panthers in the playoffs, even though they ended up winning the NFC South. And five of us had the Texans in the playoffs, even though they ended up earning the first overall pick. (Alper was the only member of the staff who didn’t have the Texans in the playoffs. He’s good at this. As you’re about to see, that’s good news for Saints fans.)

Feel free to tell us in the comments that we’re idiots, but remember this: Last year, not a single one of the 139 comments on our preseason predictions post disagreed with all of us leaving the Panthers out of the playoffs. And the only comments mentioning the Texans were criticizing Alper for leaving them out.

Josh Alper


Seeds: 1. Patriots; 2. Broncos; 3. Colts; 4. Steelers; 5. Chargers; 6. Bengals.

Wild card round: Bengals over Colts; Steelers over Chargers.

Divisional round: Patriots over Bengals; Broncos over Steelers.

Conference championship: Patriots over Broncos.


Seeds: 1. Seahawks; 2. Saints; 3. Eagles; 4. Packers; 5. Bears; 6. Buccaneers.

Wild card round: Eagles over Buccaneers; Packers over Bears.

Divisional round: Saints over Eagles; Packers over Seahawks.

Conference championship: Saints over Packers.

Super Bowl: Saints over Patriots.

Curtis Crabtree


Seeds: 1. Broncos; 2. Bengals; 3. Patriots; 4. Colts; 5. Steelers; 6. Jaguars.

Wild card round: Patriots over Jaguars; Steelers over Colts.

Divisional round: Steelers over Broncos; Patriots over Bengals.

Conference championship: Patriots over Steelers.


Seeds: 1. Saints; 2. Seahawks; 3. Packers; 4. Eagles; 5. Lions; 6. Cardinals.

Wild card round: Packers over Cardinals; Eagles over Lions.

Divisional round: Saints over Eagles; Seahawks over Packers.

Conference championship: Seahawks over Saints.

Super Bowl: Seahawks over Patriots.

Mike Florio


1. Patriots; 2. Colts; 3. Broncos; 4. Steelers; 5. Chargers; 6. Ravens.

Wild card round: Broncos over Ravens, Steelers over Chargers.

Divisional round: Patriots over Steelers, Broncos over Colts.

Conference championship: Patriots over Broncos.


1. Seahawks; 2. Eagles; 3. Saints; 4. Packers; 5. Bears; 6. Buccaneers.

Wild card round: Saints over Bucs, Packers over Bears.

Divisional round: Saints over Eagles, Seahawks over Packers.

Conference championship: Seahawks over Saints.

Super Bowl: Seahawks over Patriots.

Darin Gantt


Seeds: 1. Broncos; 2. Patriots; 3. Colts; 4. Ravens; 5. Jaguars; 6. Chargers.

Wild card round: Colts over Chargers, Ravens over Jaguars.

Divisional round: Broncos over Ravens, Colts over Patriots.

Conference Championship: Broncos over Colts.


Seeds: 1. Eagles; 2. Seahawks; 3. Packers; 4. Saints; 5. Bears; 6. Falcons.

Wild card round: Packers over Falcons, Saints over Bears.

Divisional round: Eagles over Saints, Seahawks over Packers.

Conference championship: Eagles over Seahawks.

Super Bowl: Broncos over Eagles.

Michael David Smith


Seeds: 1. Broncos; 2. Patriots; 3. Bengals; 4. Colts; 5. Dolphins; 6. Texans.

Wild card round: Bengals over Texans; Colts over Dolphins.

Divisional round: Broncos over Colts; Patriots over Bengals.

Conference championship: Broncos over Patriots.


Seeds: 1. Seahawks; 2. Saints; 3. Packers; 4. Eagles; 5. Giants; 6. Cowboys.

Wild card round: Packers over Cowboys; Eagles over Giants.

Divisional round: Packers over Saints; Eagles over Seahawks.

Conference championship: Packers over Eagles.

Super Bowl: Packers over Broncos.

Mike Wilkening


Seeds: 1. Bengals; 2. Broncos; 3. Patriots; 4. Colts; 5. Chargers; 6. Jets.

Wild card round: Patriots over Jets; Chargers over Colts.

Divisional round: Bengals over Chargers; Broncos over Patriots.

Conference championship: Bengals over Broncos.


Seeds: 1. Packers; 2. Seahawks; 3. Saints; 4. Eagles; 5. 49ers; 6. Vikings.

Wild card round: Saints over Vikings; 49ers over Eagles.

Divisional round: Packers over 49ers; Seahawks over Saints.

Conference championship: Packers over Seahawks.

Super Bowl: Bengals over Packers.

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Five questions: Seattle Seahawks

San Diego Chargers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The defending Super Bowl champions are quickly closing in on the start of their 2014 season Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers.

The Seahawks were able to keep most of their young core in place this offseason and were able to sign Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin to contract extensions as well. While they did lose some key contributors off their championship team, an inevitability for any team in the salary cap age, Seattle has kept a roster together every bit as a talented as the one the won the title last year.

There aren’t many areas that remain in doubt for the Seahawks as the season gets set to begin. However, we take a look at five questions that could determine if Seattle is able to repeat as champion this season.

1. Could the Seahawks be even better than last season?

If the offense can translate its production from this preseason over to the regular season, they almost certainly will be better.

In 13 offensive drives led by Russell Wilson this preseason, Seattle scored on 11 of them with nine touchdowns, two field goals, a missed field goal and just a single punt. Richard Sherman said Monday that Wilson is being more decisive this season. Head coach Pete Carroll said Wilson has had a near-perfect offseason. With Percy Harvin fully healthy, the Seahawks offense looks much more explosive.

With a defense that looks to still be a force and a special teams unit that is strong as well, if Seattle’s offense can take several steps forward they could be tremendously difficult to beat this year.

2. Will Seattle’s offensive line hold them back?

The Seahawks offensive line was the one area of the team that underperformed consistently last season. Tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini missed a combined 15 games. Center Max Unger missed three more and the depleted unit struggled mightily in their absence.

This year, Seattle is going to start a rookie at right tackle in second-round pick Justin Britt and Okung is still working into game shape after missing most of the offseason following foot surgery.

On the positive side, left guard James Carpenter has lost a considerable amount of weight and looks more capable of moving adequately this year. Right guard J.R. Sweezy has appeared to take his game up another level as well.

The unit is much more adept at run blocking, which is still going to be the main focus of the team with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield and Percy Harvin potentially being used as a rusher at times as well. If they can adequately provide protection for Russell Wilson in the passing game, the offense should be able to accomplish much more this season.

3. Can the Seahawks get 16 games out of Percy Harvin?

Percy Harvin is noticeably exhausted about answering questions about his health. However, when you miss most of the last two seasons due to injury, it’s one of the only things to ask about.

Harvin has missed 22 regular season games over the last two years due to ankle and hip injuries. He’s only played all 16 games of an NFL season once in his career in 2011 with the Minnesota Vikings. But it’s already evident this preseason that the dynamic athlete that was firmly in the MVP conversation in 2012 is back.

Harvin says he’s as healthy now as he’s been since even before he got to college at the University of Florida. His presence on the field expands the field both horizontally and vertically for Seattle’s offense. The Seahawks are counting on Harvin being a big part of their offense. It’s now on Harvin to see if he can put all those questions about his health in the past.

4. Will the Seahawks run defense take a step back?

The Seahawks cut defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons this offseason for salary cap reasons. However, both players had been important pieces of Seattle’s run defense the last few seasons.

In their absence, Seattle has toyed with moving tackle Tony McDaniel to end in rushing situations with Kevin Williams replacing McDaniel along the line. There are also some new young cogs in their defensive line rotation as well that will be called upon for increased roles.

The Seahawks allowed Tampa Bay and St. Louis to rush for 200 yards against them in consecutive weeks last season before making an adjustment and getting the run defense righted. With key pieces such as Bryant and Clemons gone, it remains to be seen if they can find similar performance up front against opposing rushing games.

5. How does Seattle handle being the team on top?

It’s a position the franchise has never been in before. Several key players got big paydays this offseason as well.

But Russell Wilson and Earl Thomas swear they will be able to keep the focus in the right direction this season. The two talk about how they are competing on a daily basis to see which one of them is the last player to leave the team’s facility each day. Both players obsess over every minute detail they can find on tape in hopes of being completely prepared for games.

That focus trickles down to the rest of the team and the players and coaches are convinced they have turned the page on last season. The only way to truly know now is to play the games.

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Five questions: Green Bay Packers

Rodgers AP

Since winning the Super Bowl to cap the 2010 season, the Packers have made it back to the playoffs three straight years.  But they haven’t made it past the divisional round.

The ability to consistently contend is a testament to franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  The inability to get with a game of the Super Bowl is an indictment of the defense.  Whether Titletown’s can get close to the title game again hinges on a few questions.

How about five of them?

Yeah, five will be good.

1.  Will Aaron Rodgers stay healthy?

For his first five years as a starter, Rodgers missed only one game, due to a concussion.  Last year, a broken collarbone derailed the team’s season and nearly cost the Packers a playoff berth.

This year, Rodgers needs to avoid a similar outcome.  Which may not be easy, with the team breaking in a new center.  The rest of the line has shown signs of encouragement, however, the Packers effectively can replace Evan Dietrich-Smith, Rodgers’ safety will depend more heavily on his ability to protect himself.  (With starting center J.C. Tretter gone for multiple weeks with a knee injury, that’ll be a challenge, at least early in the season.)

If he can, the Packers can shake things up in the NFC, starting with the first game of the regular season at Seattle.  If he can’t, they’ll need Scott Tolzien or Matt Flynn to do far better than Rodgers’ backups did in 2013.

2. How big of a contract year will Randall Cobb have?

Receiver Jordy Nelson got his big contract.  Receiver Randall Cobb hasn’t.  He has said he wants to earn it.

So will he?

Cobb definitely has the incentive to put up big numbers.  A lot of it depends on whether defenses shade coverage to Nelson or to Cobb, and whether Cobb can stay healthy, a year after missing 10 games due to injury.

3. Is Eddie Lacy ready for stardom?

The truly great running backs in the NFL hand can be listed on one hand.  Even if that hand has been partially reconfigured by a table saw.

The Packers believe Eddie Lacy can join them.  And he possibly can, given the manner in which he performed last year, especially after Rodgers was injured.

Much of Lacy’s ultimate production will hinge on the run-pass mix.  With the Packers inclined to throw the ball a lot, Lacy simply may not get the touches necessary to rack up the kind of yards that would allow him to join the likes of Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, and . . . and . . . .

OK, that hand can lose three fingers.

4. How much will they miss Jermichael Finley?

Lacy could get more opportunities because the passing game will be missing a key component in 2014.  Tight end Jermichael Finley is gone, and in recent weeks there has been no talk of a return, to Green Bay or elsewhere.

It’s possible that Finley has fallen quiet because his camp is pursuing that $10 million tax-free disability policy.  If/when it appears that Finley won’t be getting the money because his injury ultimately wasn’t career ending, he may decide to play.  Which doesn’t mean the Packers will decide to embrace the risk of further injury.

Regardless, they need someone to fill the void.  Currently, they simply don’t have anyone who clearly will fill Finley’s shoes.

5.  Can Julius Peppers make a difference on defense?

Last year, in his final season with the Bears, Peppers looked like something other than what he has been when he’s been at his best.  This year, the Packers are confident Peppers will be much more than he was in 2013, even though it’s his first foray in the 3-4.

The defense desperately needs it, given the loss of B.J. Raji for the year.  Peppers on one side and Clay Matthews on the other need to create mayhem in the backfield, which will help the rest of the defense be something other than it has been when it’s been at its best.

Which has been a while.

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Five questions: Baltimore Ravens

Flacco Getty Images

The Ravens followed a five-year run of playoff berths and a Super Bowl win by missing the postseason completely.  With a new offense and a defense that remains stout even amid plenty of changes, the Ravens could be closer to what they were in 2012 than what they were in 2013.  Whether they get back to the playoffs and succeed there hinges on several questions.

Five, to be exact.

That’s convenient.

1.  Will new offense work?

A year after winning the Super Bowl, Baltimore’s offense struggled under coordinator Jim Caldwell.  Though he wasn’t in danger of being fired (as far as anyone knows), his elevation to head coach in Detroit opened the door for a new approach.

Enter former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, and his zone-blocking, one-cut, rollout pass, West Coast-influenced attack.

It requires an adjustment for everyone on the offense, and it could result in players unable to make the adjustment landing on the bench, or worse.

2.  Did they pay Joe Flacco too much money?

The starting quarterback won’t be landing on the bench or worse, not with his $120.6 million contract.  More than a year after Flacco had the team over a barrel and took full advantage of the situation, the team awaits full return on the investment.

Sure, they won a Super Bowl.  But that trophy was already in the case before they committed to depositing so many millions into Flacco’s vault.  Last year, he didn’t perform like a short-list franchise quarterback.  This year, he needs to; otherwise, the Ravens will have to start considering their options as the cap numbers begin to grow in the latter years of the deal.

Specifically, the cap number shoots from $14 million and change in 2014 and 2015 to $28 million and change in 2016, setting the stage for another potential showdown in 18 months.

3.  Is Ray Rice declining?

Big dollars in the out years of Ray Rice’s contract won’t be an issue.  His new deal, signed in July 2012, gave him $25 million in the first two seasons.

That makes is easier to keep him around now, even if Rice has begun the inevitable running-back backslide as the 30th anniversary of his birth approaches.  Also, Bernard Pierce may be a better fit for the new offense.  And he’ll get two weeks to prove that he is, thanks to Rice’s suspension.

Yes, the suspension.  No matter how much the Ravens dig in publicly regarding their support for Rice, surely some in the organization are sufficiently troubled by the events leading to the suspension to result in Rice getting no benefit of the doubt when the time comes to make an objective, detached football decision about his future with the franchise.

Beyond 2014, he possibly won’t have one.

4.  How much does Steve Smith have left?

Steve Smith had no future in Carolina beyond 2013, and it made plenty of sense for him to come to Baltimore.  Good as he is, Torrey Smith may never develop into a guy who effectively runs every route.  Steve Smith can, even if it means stepping on a few sporks.

It’s presumed that Smith, at age 35 and with a possibly nagging knee problem, can still play like he did in Carolina.  The folks in Carolina decided that he didn’t merit another $4 million beyond the guaranteed $3 million he’ll earn from the Panthers for 2014.  Even though the team reportedly hoped that removing Smith’s big personality would allow younger ones to blossom, the Panthers would have gladly paid the money if they thought Smith’s performance would merit it.

A need for more talent and a lot of toughness at the receiver position, the Ravens didn’t hesitate.  Even if Smith can’t play like he used to, the fire remains — and the Ravens are banking on it being contagious.

5.  How good is the defense?

Smith’s influence won’t be needed on the defensive side of the ball.  Even with the likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed long gone, the defense continues to be the soul and the strength of the team.

Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata still anchors the line, with Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Courtney Upshaw providing the pressure from the outside.  And while no one expects C.J. Mosley to become the next Ray Lewis, Mosley and 2013 rookie Arthur Brown could push each other to become, in combination, almost as effective.

With a great front seven, the secondary doesn’t need to be.  But veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb and second-year safety Matt Elam move the needle in that direction.

Coach John Harbaugh has said that defense aims for a top-five finish every year.  This year, the Ravens have a better chance of getting there than most realize.

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2014 NFL practice squad tracker

Marcus Cannon, Armond Armstead AP

NFL teams started assembling their practice squads on August 31, a day after all rosters were cut down to the 53-man limit. Links to our posts on each team’s practice squad are below.

Arizona Cardinals

Added wide receiver Brittan Golden, defensive tackle Christian Tupou, linebacker Jonathan Brown, tight end Andre Hardy, cornerback Jimmy LeGree, tackle Kelvin Palmer and guard Anthony Steen.

Atlanta Falcons

The team added cornerback Ricardo Allen, safety Sean Baker, guard Harland Gunn, tackle Terren Jones, wide receiver Bernard Reedy, defensive tackle Travian Robertson, linebacker Jacques Smith, and running back Jerome Smith.

Baltimore Ravens.

Signed rookie cornerback Tramain Jacobs, second-year offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, rookie defensive tackle Jamie Meder, rookie cornerback Deji Olatoye, rookie defensive tackle A.J. Pataiali’i, second-year outside linebacker John Simon, first-year tight end Phillip Supernaw, rookie tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint and rookie quarterback Keith Wenning.

Buffalo Bills

Guard D.J. Morrell, running back Lonnie Pryor, quarterback Jeff Tuel, defensive back Deon Broomfield, linebacker Jimmy Gaines, wide receiver Caleb Holley, defensive end Ike Igbinosun, defensive end Bryan Johnson and defensive back Kenny Ladler.

Carolina Panthers.

The team announced they had signed linebacker D.J. Smith, safety Robert Lester, cornerback Carrington Byndom, linebacker Adarius Glanton, wide receiver Tavarres King, wide receiver Marcus Lucas, tackle Andrew McDonald, running back Darrin Reaves, defensive tackle Micanor Regis and defensive tackle Casey Walker.

Chicago Bears.

Signed wide receiver Josh Bellamy, center Taylor Boggs, defensive tackle Brandon Dunn, cornerback Isaiah Frey, guard Ryan Groy, linebacker DeDe Lattimore, cornerback Al Louis-Jean, cornerback Terrance Mitchell, defensive tackle Roy Philon and wide receiver Rashad Ross.

Cincinnati Bengals

Signed defensive tackle Devon Still, defensive end Sam Montgomery, center Trevor Robinson, running back James Wilder Jr., tackle Dan France, defensive tackle David King, wide receiver Colin Lockett and cornerback Onterio McCalebb.

Cleveland Browns.

Signed quarterback Connor Shaw, linebacker Justin Staples, linebacker Keith Pough, defensive lineman Jacobi McDaniel, tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi, offensive lineman Karim Barton, receiver Charles Johnson and offensive lineman Patrick Lewis.

Dallas Cowboys.

Signed running back Ryan Williams, wide receiver Tim Benford, defensive end Kenneth Boatright, center Ronald Patrick, safety Micah Pellerin and linebackers Keith Smith and Will Smith.

Denver Broncos.

They brought back quarterback Zac Dysert, linebacker Shaquil Barrett, running back Kapri Bibbs, safety John Boyett, wide receiver Bennie Fowler, guard Vinston Painter, wide receiver Nathan Palmer, center Matt Paradis and tight end Gerell Robinson.

Detroit Lions

Signed fullback Emil Igwenagu, tackle Michael Williams, guard Rodney Austin, running back George Winn, wide receiver Andrew Peacock, cornerback Mohammad Seisay, tight end Jordan Thompson, linebacker Julian Stanford, safety Nate Ness and defensive tackle Xavier Proctor.

Green Bay Packers.

Signed safety Chris Banjo, wide receiver Kevin Dorsey, center Garth Gerhart, wide receiver Alex Gillett, running back Michael Hill, linebacker Adrian Hubbard, tight end Justin Perillo, defensive end Luther Robinson, tackle Jeremy Vujnovich and wide receiver Myles White.

Houston Texans

Signed defensive end Keith Browner, linebacker Max Bullough, wide receiver EZ Nwachukwu, tight end Anthony Denham, tackle Matt Feiler, center James Ferentz, guard Alex Kupper, fullback Toben Opurum, wide receiver Travis Labhart and cornerback Marcus Williams

Indianapolis Colts.

Signed defensive lineman Tyler Hoover, linebacker Andrew Jackson, wide receiver Ryan Lankford, wide receiver Josh Lenz, safety Dewey McDonald, defensive tackle Nnamdi Obukwelu, cornerback Sheldon Price, tight end Erik Swoope and offensive guard Josh Walker. Agreed with quarterback Jeff Mathews.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Signed tackle Cody Booth, defensive tackle DeAndre Coleman, safety Craig Loston, quarterback Stephen Morris, wide receiver Kerry Taylor, linebacker Marcus Whitfield and wide receiver Tony Washington.

Kansas City Chiefs

Added linebacker Nico Johnson, center Ben Gottschalk, running back Charcandrick West, linebacker Jerry Franklin, guard Ricky Henry, wide receiver Darryl Surgent, wide receiver Fred Williams, fullback Jordan Campbell and defensive end Kona Schwenke.

Miami Dolphins.

Signed center Sam Brenner, offensive tackle Tony Hills, wide receiver Matt Hazel, linebacker David Hinds, quarterback Seth Lobato, tight end Jacob Maxwell, defensive end D’Aundre Reed, cornerback Lowell Rose, defensive tackle Garrison Smith and wide receiver Tommy Streeter.

Minnesota Vikings

Signed running back Joe Banyard, wide receiver Kain Colter, defensive tackle Isame Faciane, tight end Chase Ford, wide receiver Donte Foster, cornerback Kendall James, center Zac Kerin, tackle Mike Remmers and defensive end Justin Trattou on Sunday. Signed cornerback Chris Greenwood on Monday.

New England Patriots

Added quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, long snapper Charley Hughlett, wide receiver Josh Boyce, defensive end Jake Bequette, linebacker Ja’Gared Davis, safety Kanorris Davis, running back Jonas Gray, offensive lineman Chris Martin, defensive lineman Deonate Skinner and defensive back Daxton Swanson.

New Orleans Saints

Signed the following 10 players Monday: wide receiver Brandon Coleman, inside linebacker Todd Davis, cornerback Terrence Frederick, tight end Nic Jacobs, wide receiver Seantavius Jones, offensive guard Antoine McClain, offensive tackle Tavon Rooks, nose tackle Lawrence Virgil, cornerback Trevin Wade and safety Pierre Warren.

New York Giants

Signed running back Michael Cox, cornerback Bennett Jackson, cornerback Chandler Fenner, linebacker Dan Fox, defensive end Jordan Stanton, tackle Nick Becton and wide receiver Julian Talley.

New York Jets

Signed defensive tackle Tevita Finau, defensive lineman Kerry Hyder, safety Rontez Miles, tight end Chris Pantale, offensive tackle Brett Qvale, tailback Daryl Richardson and quarterback Matt Simms.

Oakland Raiders.

Signed tailback George Atkinson III, defensive end Denico Autry, linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, linebacker Spencer Hadley, offensive tackle Dan Kistler, defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, offensive guard Lamar Mady, wide receiver Seth Roberts and tight end Scott Simonson.

Philadelphia Eagles

Signed safety Ed Reynolds, quarterback G.J. Kinne, linebacker Emmanuel Acho, guard/center Josh Andrews, tackle/guard Kevin Graf, defensive lineman Wade Kelilikipi, wide receiver Will Murphy, running back Matthew Tucker and wide receiver Quron Pratt.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh added Alejandro Villanueva, cornerback Shaquille Richardson, tight end Rob Blanchflower, Howard Jones, wide receiver C.J. Goodwin, wide receiver Derek Moye, defensive back Ross Ventrone, defensive lineman Josh Mauro, defensive lineman Nick Williams and running back Josh Harris.

San Diego Chargers

Added quarterback Ryan Lindley, wide receiver Javontee Herndon, outside linebacker Cordarro Law, guard/tackle Jeremiah Sirles, wide receiver Torrence Allen, guard Craig Watts, defensive end Chas Alecxih, cornerback Greg Ducre and safety Adrian Phillips.

San Francisco 49ers.

Signed offensive tackle Carter Bykowski, tight end Asante Cleveland, wide receiver Lance Lewis, defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye, nose tackle Mike Purcell, linebacker Shayne Skov and linebacker Chase Thomas.

Seattle Seahawks.

Signed safety Josh Aubrey and rookie defensive end Julius Warmsley on Monday. Signed quarterback B.J. Daniels, tailback Demitrius Bronson, tight end RaShaun Allen, offensive lineman Nate Isles, wide receiver Chris Matthews, defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, safety Terrance Parks and safety Steven Terrell on Sunday.

St. Louis Rams.

Signed linebacker Denicos Allen, wide receiver Emory Blake, safety Christian Bryant, defensive tackle Matt Conrath, safety Matt Daniels, quarterback Garrett Gilbert, tackle Sean Hooey, linebacker Kevin Reddick, wide receiver Justin Veltung and guard Brandon Washington.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Signed running back Jeff Demps, tight end Cameron Brate, quarterback Mike Kafka, linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo and kick returner Solomon Patton.

Tennessee Titans

Brought offensive lineman Justin McCray, tackle Will Poehls, defensive lineman Chigbo Anunoby, linebacker Brandon Copeland, running back Antonio Andrews and wide receiver Rico Richardson back after the cut to 53 players.

Washington Redskins

Signed cornerback Richard Crawford, safety Akeem Davis, safety Phillip Thomas, linebacker Chaz Sutton, cornerback Chase Minnifield, tight end Ted Bolser, running back Chris Thompson, offensive lineman Tevita Stevens, defensive lineman Robert Thomas and wide receiver Nick Williams.

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PFT’s 2014 53-man roster cuts tracker

53 AP


Arizona announced that the following players were cut: RB Zach Bauman, LB Marcus Benard, G Philip Blake, LB Jonathan Brown, WR Dan Buckner, C John Estes, DT Bruce Gaston, WR Brittan Golden, TE Andre Hardy, CB Jimmy Legree, CB Bryan McCann, T Kelvin Palmer, RB Jalen Parmele, DT Isaac Sopoaga, G Anthony Steen, S Curtis Taylor, LB Adrian Tracy, DT Christian Tupou, S Anthony Walters and CB Teddy Williams. The Cardinals also released tackle Nate Potter with an injury settlement after he hurt his shoulder, and placed safety Eddie Whitley on injured reserve with a broken foot.


Dumped on Friday were linebacker Pat Angerer, running back Josh Vaughn, tackle Pat McQuistan, linebacker Yawin Smallwood, fullback Maurice Hagens, defensive end Nosa Eguae, cornerback Jordan Mabin, wide receiver Freddie Martino, safety Kimario McFadden, tight end Jacob Pedersen, offensive lineman Adam Replogle, and defensive tackle Donte Rumph. They finished up business Saturday by releasing cornerback Ricardo Allen, safety Sean Baker, wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, guard Harland Gunn, tackle Terren Jones, wide receiver Bernard Reedy, defensive tackle Travian Robertson, tight end Mickey Shuler, and linebacker Jacques Smith. The reached an injury settlement with wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn.


Waived on Friday tight end Nathan Overbay, linebacker D.J. Roberts, center Reggie Stephens, defensive tackle Levi Brown and defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins.  Saturday cuts include quarterback Keith Wenning, offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint, and guard A.Q. Shipley. Linebacker John Simon, cornerback Dominique Franks, cornerback Sammy Seamster, cornerback Tramain Jacobs, defensive tackle Jamie Meder and defensive tackle A.J. Pataiali’i were also dropped from the roster. Released cornerback Derek Cox, waived tackle Parker Graham, placed wide receiver Jeremy Butler on injured reserve, placed defensive tackle Terrence Cody on PUP list and placed running back Ray Rice and safety Will Hill on suspended list.


Released wide receiver T.J. Graham, center Doug Legursky, offensive guard Antoine McClain, safety Deon Broomfield, linebacker Jimmy Gaines, wide receiver Caleb Holley, defensive end Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, defensive end Bryan Johnson, safety Kenny Ladler and quarterback Jeff Tuel on Saturday. The club also parted ways with punter Brian Moorman on Friday.


Released guard Chris Scott. They finalized their moves Saturday by waiving safety Robert Lester, cornerback Josh Thomas, linebacker Denicos Allen, cornerback Carrington Byndom, guard Derek Dennis, cornerback James Dockery, linebacker Adarius Glanton, wide receiver Tavarres King, wide receiver Marcus Lucas, tackle Andrew McDonald, safety Tom Nelson, defensive tackle Drake Nevis, running back Darrin Reaves, defensive tackle Micanor Regis, linebacker D.J. Smith, defensive tackle Casey Walker, and fullback Michael Zordich. They also waived-injured tackle Kevin Hughes, and waived tight end Mike McNeill and safety Anderson Russell with injury settlements. Defensive end Frank Alexander is on reserve/suspended.


Armanti Edwards, beater of Michigan, was released, along with running back Jordan Lynch, tight end Jeron Mastrud and offensive linemen Dennis Roland and Robert Turner. Offensive lineman Eben Britton, offensive lineman Taylor Boggs, offensive lineman Ryan Groy, wide receiver Dale Moss, wide receiver/kick returner Chris Williams, linebacker DeDe Lattimore, defensive lineman Lee Pegues, linebacker Jerry Franklin, safety Marcus Trice and cornerback C.J. Wilson have been released. Released cornerback Kelvin Hayden, safety M.D. Jennings (with injury settlement) and defensive end Austen Lane and waived wide receiver Josh Bellamy, defensive tackle Brandon Dunn, defensive tackle Tracy Robertson and cornerback Al Louis-Jean to finish their moves.


Released on Friday running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, linebacker Brandon Joiner, defensive tackle Lakendrick Ross and quarterback Tyler Wilson.  Waived center Trevor Robinson, former second-round defensive lineman Devon Still, and former fourth-round tight end/fullback Orson Charles on Saturday. They finished their moves by placing quarterback A.J. McCarron on reserve/non-football injury, placing guard Trey Hopkins on injured reserve, and cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris on reserve/suspended for the first two weeks, after he violated the league’s substance abuse policy. They also waived tackle Dan France, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, cornerback Victor Hampton, defensive tackle David King, wide receiver Colin Lockett, cornerback Onterio McCalebb, defensive end Dontay Moch, defensive end Sam Montgomery, fullback Nikita Whitlock and running back James Wilder Jr.


Running back Dion Lewis has been released, as was veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson. The Browns have also released tailback Chris Ogbonnaya and parted ways with cornerback Leon McFadden. Waived quarterback Connor Shaw, defensive back Josh Aubrey, defensive lineman Calvin Barnett, defensive lineman Jacobbi McDaniel, offensive lineman Justin Staples, offensive lineman Reid Fragel, offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey, offensive lineman Donald Hawkins, linebacker Zac Diles, linebacker Jamaal Westerman, tight end/fullback MarQueis Gray, offensive lineman Alex Parsons, offensive lineman Abasi Salimu, wide receiver Willie Snead and tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi. Cornerback Isaiah Trufant was placed on injured reserve.


Waived or released guard Uche Nwaneri, wide receiver Desmon Briscoe, running back Ryan Williams, linebacker Orie Lemon, defensive tackle Zach Minter, running back D.J. Adams, tackle Josh Aladenoye, defensive end Kenneth Boatright, defensive tackle Dartwan Bush, wide receiver LaRon Byrd, guard Stephen Goodin, cornerback Terrance Mitchell, wide receiver Jamar Newsome, center Ronald Patrick, defensive end Caesar Rayford, linebacker Dontavis Sapp, linebacker Keith Smith, safety Ryan Smith, linebacker Will Smith, running back Phillip Tanner and tight end Asa Watson. Placed cornerback Orlando Scandrick and safety Jakar Hamilton on suspended list.


Waived tackle Vinston Painter, a 2013 sixth-round pick who was on the Super Bowl XLVIII roster. Cut defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson. Finished their business by cutting ight ends Jameson Konz and Cameron Morrah, cornerback Jerome Murphy and defensive linemen Brian Sanford and Kevin Vickerson, waiving quarterback Zac Dysert, linebacker Shaqil Barrett, running back Kapri Bibbs, safety John Boyett, linebacker L.J. Fort, wide receiver Bennie Fowler, defensive tackle Sione Fua, safety Duke Ihenacho, guard Ryan Miller, wide receiver Nathan Palmer, center Matt Paradis, tight end Gerell Robinson, cornerback Jordan Sullen and cornerback Louis Young. The y also placed rookie defensive end Kenny Anunike on injured reserve and kicker Matt Prater on reserve/suspended.


Released offensive lineman Rodney Austin, linebacker Shamari Benton, wide receiver Kris Durham, wide receiver Patrick Edwards, tight end Michael Egnew, defensive tackle Andre Fluellen, cornerback Chris Greenwood, linebacker Brandon Hepburn, running back Emil Igwenagu, running back Mikel Leshoure, offensive lineman Darren Keyton, safety Nate Ness, offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds, wide receiver Andrew Peacock, defensive tackle Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, defensive lineman Xavier Proctor, linebacker Julian Stanford, cornerback Mohammed Seisay, defensive end Darryl Tapp, tight end Jordan Thompson, offensive lineman Michael Williams and running back George Winn.


Got down to 53 players by cutting safety Chris Banjo, wide receiver Kevin Dorsey, linebacker Jake Doughty, tackle John Fullington, center Garth Gerhart, wide receiver Alex Gillett, defensive tackle Carlos Gray, running back Michael Hill, linebacker Adrian Hubbard, guard Jordan McCray, safety Tanner Miller, tight end Justin Perillo, running back LaDarius Perkins, defensive end Luther Robinson, cornerback Jumal Rolle, tackle Jeremy Vujnovich, wide receiver Myles White and cornerback Ryan White. They also placed tackle Aaron Adams, linebacker Nate Palmer, tight end Jake Stoneburner and defensive tackle Khyri Thornton on injured reserve.


Brandon Harris, a 2011 second-round pick, didn’t make the cutAlso gone are nose tackle Ricardo Mathews and linebacker Chris McAllister, as well as kicker Chris Boswell, tight end Zach Potter, safety Jawanza Starling, fullback Toben Opurum, wide receiver Travis Labhart, tackle Mike Farrell, outside linebacker Quentin Groves, wide receivers E.Z. Nwachukwu and Lacoltan Bester, guard Alex Kupper, center James Ferentz, tight end Anthony Denham, guard Bronson Irwin, tackle Matt Feiler, inside linebackers Max Bullough and Chris Young, cornerback Marcus Williams and defensive ends Keith Browner and Julius Warmsley.


Indianapolis sent cornerback Marcus Burley to Seattle in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Indianapolis waived the following 17 players: DE-Gannon Conway, RB-David Fluellen, QB-Chandler Harnish, DE-Tyler Hoover, OLB-Phillip Hunt, ILB-Andrew Jackson, WR-Ryan Lankford, WR-Josh Lenz, C-FN Lutz, S-Dewey McDonald, DT-Nnamdi Obukwelu, CB-Sheldon Price, ILB-Rob Ruggiero, TE-Weslye Saunders, ILB-Kelvin Sheppard, TE-Erik Swoope and G-Josh Walker. The Colts also released NT-Brandon McKinney, waived-injured T-Matt Hall and S-Delano Howell and placed OLB-Robert Mathis on the reserve/suspended by commissioner list.


Released on Friday were quarterback Stephen Morris, quarterback Ricky Stanzi, fullback Eric Kettani, guard Drew Nowak, defensive end Gerald Rivers, wide receiver Chad Bumphis, tackle Cody Booth, defensive lineman DeAndre Coleman, defensive tackle Ricky Havili-Heimuli, safety Craig Loston, kicker/punter Kasey Redfern, guard Tyler Shatley, tight end D.J. Tialavea, and linebacker Marcus Whitfield. Tight end Brandon Barden was waived-injured with a groin injury, and wide receiver Tandon Doss and cornerback Rashaad Reynolds were placed on injured reserve. They finished up with four moves Saturday, releasing wide receiver Kerry Taylor, safety Sherrod Martin, cornerback Jamell Fleming and linebacker Nate Stupar.


Reduced roster to 53 players Saturday, releasing kicker Ryan Succop, linebacker Nico Johnson, tackle J’Marcus Webb, safety Jonathon Amaya, safety Malcolm Bronson, fullback Jordan Campbell, defensive lineman Dominique Hamilton, wide receiver Mark Harrison, offensive guard Ricky Henry, linebacker Alonzo Highsmith, linebacker Nico Johnson, defensive tackle Kyle Love, cornerback Justin Rogers, defensive lineman Kona Schwenke, cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, linebacker Devan Walker, offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb, tailback Charcandrick West and wide receiver Fred Williams. Placed quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receiver Kyle Williams on injured reserve. Put defensive end Mike Catapano on non-football injury list. Placed wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and offensive lineman Donald Stephenson on the reserve/suspended list.


Finally gave up on running back Daniel Thomas, and released return man Marcus Thigpen, tight end Kyle Miller and cornerback Kevin Fogg. Players waived by the Dolphins on Saturday included DT Isaako Aaitui, G David Arkin, C Sam Brenner, WR Kevin Cone, G Evan Finkenburg, CB Kevin Fogg, S Jordan Kovacs, QB Seth Lobato, TE Kyle Miller, DE Tevin Mims, DE D’Aundre Reed, K Jake Rogers, DT Garrison Smith, LB Andrew Wilson and TE Evan Wilson. Rookie free agent Kamal Johnson was placed on injured reserve and veteran offensive lineman Tony Hills had his contract terminated.


Defensive tackle Fred Evans has been released. Also released offensive guard Jeff Baca, defensive tackle Chase Baker, running back Joe Banyard, safety Kurt Coleman, wide receiver Kain Colter, safety Kurt Coleman, defensive tackle Isame Faciane, tight end Chase Ford, wide receiver Donte Foster, linebacker Justin Jackson, cornerback Kendall James, center Zac Kerin, cornerback Julian Posey, tight end Allen Reisner, offensive tackle Mike Remmers, defensive end Justin Trattou, tailback Dominique Williams and linebacker Mike Zimmer. Put safety Jamarca Sanford and offensive tackle Antonio Richardson on injured reserve.


Wide receiver Josh Boyce will be waived, along with recent trade acquisition Jerel Worthy. They finished with 19 cuts, including offensive lineman Jon Halapio, wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, long snapper Danny Aiken, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, defensive lineman Jake Bequette, tight end Steve Maneri, offensive lineman Braxston Cave, linebacker Ja’Gared Davis, safety Kanorris Davis, running back Jonas Gray, defensive Daxton Swanson, running back Roy Finch, safety Shamiel Gary, defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna, offensive lineman Chris Martin, linebacker Taylor McCuller and defensive lineman L.T. Tuipulotu, and placed linebacker James Morris on injured reserve.


Released fullback Greg Jones on Friday. They surprised by cutting cornerback Champ Bailey Saturday among their final moves, they also cut wide receiver Robert Meachem, linebacker Keyunta Dawson, kicker Shayne Graham and tackle Thomas Welch, while waiving center Matt Armstrong, Derrius Brooks, cornerback Brandon Coleman, linebacker Todd Davis, kicker Derek Dimke, cornerback Terrence Frederick, wide receiver Charles Hawkins, tight end Nic Jacobs, guard Marcel Jones, wide receiver Seantavious Jones, tackle Tavon Rooks, running back Derrick Strozier, Lawrence Virgil, cornerback Trevin Wade, safety Pierre Warren and guard Jason Weaver.


Tight end Kellen Davis has been released, along with defensive lineman Israel Idonije. Quarterback Curtis Painter was cut, along with defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, defensive back Bennett Jackson, linebacker Dan Fox, fullback John Conner, offensive lineman Jamaal Johnson-Webb. Placed wide receiver Mario Manningham and kick returner Trindon Holliday on injured reserve. They finished by waiving-injured tackle Rogers Gaines, placing guard Eric Herman and cornerback Jayron Hosley on reserve/suspended and waiving tackle Mark Asper, running back Michael Cox, defensive back Chandler Fenner, running back Kendall Gaskins, defensive back Thomas Gordon, tackle Adam Gress, defensive back Bennett Jackson, linebacker Terrell Manning, defensive end Jordan Stanton and wide receiver Julian Talley.


Announced the release of tailback Daryl Richardson, cornerback Johnny Patrick and linebacker A.J. Edds on Saturday. Waived wide receiver Stephen Hill. Also parted ways with quarterback Tajh Boyd, tight end Chris Pantale, tailback Alex Green and defensive lineman Zach Thompson. Released cornerback Dimitri Patterson after a short but rocky tenure with the team. Waived quarterback Matt Simms, cornerback Brandon Dixon, guard Will Campbell, linebacker Troy Davis, defensive tackle Tevita Finau, wide receiver Clyde Gates, defensive lineman Kerry Hyder, linebacker Garrett McIntyre, safety Rontez Miles, tackle Brent Qvale, cornerback Jeremy Reeves and offensive lineman Caleb Schlauderaff. The Jets also moved linebacker Antwan Barnes to the regular season PUP list.


The big name of the lot was wide receiver Greg Little, and they also cut wide receiver Seth Roberts, kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, running back George Atkinson III, running back Jeremy Stewart, fullback Karl Williams, guard Lamar Mady, offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw, tackle Jack Cornell, tight end Jake Murphy, tight end Scott Simonson, tackle Dan Kistler, tackle Erle Ladson, defensive end Jack Crawford, defensive end Denico Autry, defensive end Ryan Robinson, linebacker Carlos Fields, linebacker Spencer Hadley, linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu, defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, safety Brandian Ross and cornerback Casey Chance.


Quarterback G.J. Kinne was among the early exits, along with offensive lineman Josh Andrews. Wide receiver Arrelious Benn is headed to injured reserve. They announced the full list Saturday, including inebacker Emmanuel Acho, running back Kenjon Barner (waived/injured), cornerback Roc Carmichael, tackle Kevin Graf, kicker Alex Henery, wide receiver Damaris Johnson, safety Keelan Johnson, running back Henry Josey, linebacker Josh Kaddu, defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi, cornerback Curtis Marsh, wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah, wide receiver Will Murphy, wide receiver Quron Pratt, safety Ed Reynolds, defensive tackle Damion Square and running back Matthew Tucker. They also placed linebacker Travis Long on injured reserve.


Released tight ends Rob Blanchflower, Bryce Davis and David Paulson, defensive backs Isaiah Green, Dayonne Nunley, Shaquille Richardson and Ross Ventrone, running back Josh Harris, Stephen Houston, defensive linemen Ethan Hemer, Josh Mauro, Roy Philon and Nick Williams, linebackers Chris Carter, Howard Jones and Dan Molls, quarterback Brendon Kay, wide receivers Derek Moye and Lanear Sampson, and offensive linemen Graham Pocic, Will Simmons and Guy Whimper.


Tight end Mike Flacco has been released. Wide receiver Vincent Brown, linebacker Victor Aiyewa, defensive tackle Chas Alecxih, wide receiver Torrence Allen, cornerback Crezdon Butler, safety Alden Darby, cornerback Greg Ducre, tackle Mike Harris, wide receiver Javontee Herndon, linebacker Thomas Keiser, defensive lineman Joe Kruger, linebacker Cordarro Law, safety Adrian Phillips, wide receiver Tevin Reese, tackle Jeremiah Sirles, quarterback Brad Sorensen, linebacker Colton Underwood, guard Craig Watts, tackle Kenny Wiggins, center Khalil Wilkes and defensive end Doug Worthington have been waived or released.


Veteran offensive lineman Adam Snyder was the first name to be reported. San Francisco announced that 18 more players were released on Saturday: T Carter Bykowski, TE Asante Cleveland, WR Lance Lewis, LS Kevin McDermott, CB Darryl Morris, G Al Netter, DL Lawrence Okoye, WR Kassim Osgood, T Michael Philipp, NT Mike Purcell, G Ryan Seymour, LB Shayne Skov, RB Alfonso Smith, S C.J. Spillman, LB Chase Thomas, S Bubba Ventrone, WR L’Damian Washington and RB Glenn Winston. The 49ers also placed cornerback Kenneth Acker and fullback Will Tukuafu on injured reserve.


Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was waived. The club released right tackle Eric Winston. In other moves announced Saturday, the Seahawks terminated the contract of cornerback Phillip Adams and placed defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith on injured reserve. They waived tight end RaShaun Allen, cornerback Akeem Auguste, running back Demitrius Bronson, wide receiver Arceto Clark, quarterback B.J. Daniels, guard Caylin Hauptmann, tackle Nate Isles, center Patrick Lewis, wide receiver Chris Matthews, defensive end Benson Mayowa, safety Terrance Parks, tight end Morrell Presley, defensive tackle Andru Pulu, fullback Kiero Small, defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, safety Steven Terrell, linebacker Korey Toomer, wide receiver Bryan Walters and running back Spencer Ware.


Michael Sam was waived. The Rams also waived WR Emory Blake, G Travis Bond, DE Kourtnei Brown, S Christian Bryant, DT Matt Conrath, S Avery Cunningham, WR Austin Franklin, QB Garrett Gilbert, DT Deantre Harlan, LB Aaron Hill, T Sean Hooey, DB Greg Reid, LB Etienne Sabino, TE Brad Smelley, LB Phillip Steward, T Mitchell Van Dyk, WR Justin Veltung, OL Brandon Washington, LB Lawrence Wilson and CB Darren Woodard. The Rams also placed WR Stedman Bailey on reserve/suspended.


Former first-round pick Larry English was among the early cuts, as was one-time starter at right guard Jamon Meredith and veteran kicker Connor Barth. Also cut Friday were cornerbacks Anthony Gaitor, Keith Lewis, Kip Edwards and Marc Anthony; linebackers Nate Askew and Ka’Lial Glaud; fullback Lonnie Pryor, defensive end T.J. Fatinikun and offensive linemen Edawn Coughman, Jeremiah Warren and Andrew Miller. Former Olympic sprinter and running back Jeff Demps was cut Saturday. They finished up their 53 by cutting safety Major Wright, tight end Cameron Brate, quarterback Mike Kafka, linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo, wide receiver Solomon Patton and defensive tackle Ronald Talley.


Marc Mariani was among the first to go Friday, and several other players were also released. The full list of cuts: T Jeff Adams, CB Ri’Shard Anderson, RB Antonio Andrews, DL Chigbo Anunoby, K Maikon Bonani, CB Tommie Campbell, TE Chase Coffman, LB Brandon Copeland, QB Dominique Davis, DE Marcus Dixon, LB Moise Fokou, G Justin McCray, FB Collin Mooney, OL Eric Olsen, T Will Poehls, WR Rico Richadson, WR Brian Robiskie, TE Jason Schepler and CB Winston Wright. DL Antonio Johnson was placed on injured reserve and defensive end Lavar Edwards was traded to the Cowboys for a conditional seventh-round pick.


Cornerback Richard Crawford was among eight players cut on Friday, while Zach Hocker and Chris Thompson were among those released on Saturday. Others cut to get down to 53: LB Everette Brown, OL Maurice Hurt, CB Chase Minnifield, RB Evan Royster, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Phillip Thomas, WR Nick Williams, TE Ted Bolser, S Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, WR Lee Doss, OL Kevin Kowalski, P Robert Malone, OL Tevita Stevens and NT Robert Thomas. NT Chris Neild and LB Darryl Sharpton were placed on the Reserved/Injured list. DE Stephen Bowen and WR Leonard Hankerson were placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list.

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Five Questions: Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals won seven of their final nine games last season as they made a late-season push for a playoff spot in a difficult NFC West. The defense finished the year ranked 6th in the league and Carson Palmer passed for over 4,000 yards.

They’ve lost some significant pieces to that defense this offseason and the offensive line continues to have some questions despite the addition of Jared Veldheer at left tackle.

The NFC West looks imposing once again and the Cardinals are looking up at Seattle and San Francisco for bragging rights in the division.

Here are five questions that could ultimately determine whether the Cardinals can rundown the top of the division this season:

1. Have the Cardinals lost too much defensively?

The Cardinals defense was one of the best in the league last season. However, they’ve lost three major pieces from that unit this year.

Karlos Dansby left in free agency for the Cleveland Browns, Daryl Washington was suspended for the season due to repeated substance-abuse violations and Darnell Dockett suffered a torn ACL in training camp.

That leaves a major void that the Cardinals may not be able to fill through the middle of their defense.

Arizona has added Isaac Sopoaga, Ryan McBean, Tommy Kelly, Larry Foote and Ernie Sims in an attempt to patch some of the holes, but the production lost from the departed pieces is significant.

2. Is Carson Palmer able to limit turnovers?

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 4,274 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. The problem with those numbers is that they came along with 22 interceptions and three lost fumbles.

With the continued emergence of receiver Michael Floyd, the Cardinals passing offense became a more dynamic unit last season. However, Palmer turned the ball over too many times and it came back to cost Arizona all too frequently.

Palmer is still a capable quarterback but the turnovers have to come down this season. With the defense looking potentially weakened due to the losses we already detailed, the Cardinals will need to maximize every opportunity they have to possess the ball.

One thing that would help Palmer?

3. Can the offensive line hold up to allow the offense to function at a high level?

Veteran Eric Winston is gone, leaving the right side of the Cardinals offensive line again in doubt.

Paul Fanaika and Bobby Massie have both been fairly pedestrian at best in their opportunities to play in Arizona.

Jared Veldheer is a nice addition at left tackle. Lyle Sendlein is a capable center and second-year guard Jonathan Cooper has great potential. However, the right side could be problematic.

Arizona’s offense has weapons. With Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn and John Brown at receiver and Andre Ellington in the backfield, the potential for a strong offense is there. But the offense line must be able to perform to give their skill players the opportunities they need.

4. Is Arizona capable of dethroning Seattle and/or San Francisco in the NFC West?

Coming off their Super Bowl victory, the Seattle Seahawks look to be as strong as their title team from a season ago.

However, the San Francisco 49ers don’t look nearly as untouchable.

San Francisco’s first-team offense has struggled mightily this preseason to produce points. NaVorro Bowman will miss a sizable chunk of the season. Glenn Dorsey is out for the year and nothing appears to be in sync right now for the 49ers.

Arizona finished 2013 as one of the hottest teams in the league and is the only team in two years to win a game in Seattle. With the strength of the NFC West, it’s likely Arizona will have to supplant either Seattle or San Francisco to find themselves in the postseason this January.

5. Can Andre Ellington carry the rushing attack?

Andre Ellington proved to be a terrific change-of-pace option for the Arizona Cardinals at running back last season.

Ellington carried 118 times for 652 yards and three touchdowns last season as a secondary option to starter Rashard Mendenhall. Now with Mendenhall gone, Ellington will get his chance to be the lead back for the Cardinals.

Ellington started just one game last season as a rookie but posted an impressive 5.5 yards per carry average in the chances he received. Will he be able to duplicate that production with an expanded role?

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Five Questions: Chicago Bears

Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Getty Images

There will surely be moments this season where the Chicago Bears look like contenders — legit contenders. They will look this way because of their offense, which is loaded with top-tier talent at quarterback (Jay Cutler), tailback (Matt Forte) and wide receiver (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery). In fact, the Bears may look their very best when they are behind and it’s time for Cutler and Co. to pass Chicago back into the game.

Assuming the 2014 Bears stay healthy on offense, they are going to have more than enough highlights for the annual NFL Films season-review video. But can the Bears do enough in the other phases to be a playoff team? Are they going to be a lamentable 8-8 or a you-don’t-want-to-face-them-in-January 10-6 or 11-5?

Here are five questions to weigh about these intriguing Bears:

1. Will Jay Cutler be named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career?

We hear you: The Pro Bowl doesn’t matter, you say. Look at some of the recent rosters — the game has lost luster being moved a week before the Super Bowl, which precludes players from the conference winners playing in the NFL’s all-star affair. And what’s the deal with the new captains system? Why not call it the “Rock N’ Jock Football Jam” and get it over with?

Well, in the case of Cutler, a Pro Bowl selection would be a big deal. And we’re talking about a selection right off the bat, not an addition to the roster because of injuries/defections at the position.

Here’s why this would be notable:

It means he played all or nearly all of a full season. Considering he’s missed at least five games in two out of the last three seasons, 16 Cutler starts would be a welcome development for Chicago.

It means the Bears’ offense likely would have met the high expectations set for the group entering this season. There haven’t been many, if any, Chicago offenses with this much talent. If Cutler shines, the Bears’ skill position players should stand out, too.

He would have beaten out several other capable quarterbacks along the way. Consider the NFC’s depth at the position: Aaron Rodgers. Drew Brees. Russell Wilson. Colin Kaepernick. Nick Foles. Tony Romo. Cam Newton. Matt Ryan. Matthew Stafford. Robert Griffin III. Eli Manning. If Cutler is one of the NFC’s top three initial selections at the position, he likely will have had a monster year.

2. Was the Bears’ preseason debacle at Seattle an aberration — or a chilling hint of where the club fits in the NFC’s pecking order?

In the third preseason game for both clubs last Friday, Seattle converted all seven third-down attempts in the first half, running out to a 31-0 halftime lead on Chicago. Yes, it was just an exhibition, but it was the most important of the preseason games — the closest to a real dress rehearsal. And under the somewhat-bright lights, Chicago wilted. At best, it’s a throw-out performance, one not to be taken at face value. At worst, it’s a loss that suggests Chicago’s ceiling isn’t at high at all.

3. Is Chicago’s defense materially better than a season ago?

It better be. The Bears’ run defense was the NFL’s worst a season ago — and the pass defense wasn’t much better, frankly. Chicago spent big in free agency to improve the defensive line, signing defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. Then, in the draft, the club added secondary help in Round One, selecting Kyle Fuller.

The moves were a nod to the obvious — the Bears needed to get deeper and more talented on defense. If indeed the Bears have succeeded in this regard, it should show up early in matchups against the Bills (Week One) and Jets (Week Three) — clubs without much offensive punch.

4. Will the special teams be a weakness?

For years, the Bears’ special teams were a major strength, but entering 2014, they are, at best, a question mark outside of steady kicker Robbie Gould. The Bears’ coverage units are worth monitoring; Chicago really struggled in his regard at Seattle. The Bears also need a returner to emerge to replace Devin Hester. And Chicago is untested at punter and long-snapper, too.

5. Can the Bears survive their first nine games?

After beginning their season at home vs. the Bills on Sept. 7, the Bears then play 6-of-8 away from Soldier Field, with road trips to the 49ers (Sept. 14), Jets (Sept. 22), Panthers (Oct. 5), Falcons (Oct. 12), Patriots (Oct. 26) and Packers (Nov. 9). This will be a test of the Bears’ resolve and their readiness. They probably will have to shake off some adversity and perhaps steal a road game or two early to give themselves a chance to make the most of having five of their last seven at home. If the Bears are truly playoff contenders, they can emerge from these first nine games with a winning record. However, if they start slowly, it’s probably unreasonable to expect a strong stretch run.

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Roger Goodell’s letter to NFL owners on domestic violence

Roger Goodell AP

[Editor's note:  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent the following letter to all 32 NFL owners today.]

Since becoming Commissioner, my focus has been on ensuring that the NFL is held in the highest regard by our fans, players, business partners, and public authorities.  My commitment has always been to do what is right and to protect the integrity of the game, both now and long into the future.

Recently, we have addressed issues of respect — respect for co-workers, opponents, fans, game officials, and others.  Whether in the context of workplace conduct, advancing policies of diversity and inclusion, or promoting professionalism in all we do, our mission has been to create and sustain model workplaces filled with people of character.  Although the NFL is celebrated for what happens on the field, we must be equally vigilant in what we do off the field.

At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals.  We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence.  We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place.  My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values.  I didn’t get it right.   Simply put, we have to do better.  And we will.

The public response reinforced my belief that the NFL is held to a higher standard, and properly so.  Much of the criticism stemmed from a fundamental recognition that the NFL is a leader, that we do stand for important values, and that we can project those values in ways that have a positive impact beyond professional football.  We embrace this role and the responsibility that comes with it.  We will listen openly, engage our critics constructively, and seek continuous improvement in everything we do. We will use this opportunity to create a positive outcome by promoting policies of respect for women both within and outside of the workplace.  We will work with nationally recognized experts to ensure that the NFL has a model policy on domestic violence and sexual assault.  We will invest time and resources in training, programs and services that will become part of our culture.  And we will increase the sanctions imposed on NFL personnel who violate our policies.

In the past few weeks, I have reviewed all aspects of our Personal Conduct Policy and met with a wide range of experts (several of whom we have been working with for some time), as well as with the NFLPA and many of you. Those discussions will continue. They have helped us to identify a number of steps that will better communicate our position and strengthen our policies on domestic violence and sexual assault.  

These steps are based on a clear, simple principle:  domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong.  They are illegal.  They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances.  That has been and remains our policy.

Many of you have done excellent work in this field, both personally and through the efforts of concerned players and your community relations and player engagement departments.  Our goals are to prevent violence, impose appropriate discipline, provide professional support resources when appropriate, and publicly embrace a leadership role on this issue.  

Consistent with that view, I have directed the following actions to reinforce and enhance our policies:

First, we will continue our work with leading experts to expand the scope of our education on domestic violence and sexual assault for all NFL personnel – players and non-players.  This will include enhanced training for entering players through the Rookie Symposium and Rookie Success Program, as well as new programs designed for veteran players and other NFL personnel. All NFL personnel — players and non-players — will receive information about available league resources and local support and advocacy groups in their community.

Second, our club Player Engagement Directors, Human Resource Executives, and other appropriate team personnel will undergo comprehensive training to help them understand and identify risk factors associated with domestic violence and sexual assault. Any person identified as being at risk will be afforded private, confidential assistance.  Persons who decline this assistance will be held accountable for that decision in determining discipline for any subsequent act of domestic violence or sexual assault.  This is a complicated matter and must be approached with care.  We will work with experts to identify strategies based on the most reliable research, recognizing that violence can and does take different forms but generally involves a pattern of coercive behavior.  

Third, we will ensure that the NFL LifeLine and NFL Total Wellness Program are staffed with personnel trained to provide prompt and confidential assistance to anyone at risk of domestic violence or sexual assault – whether as a victim or potential aggressor.  Information regarding these resources will be furnished to all NFL personnel and their families.  Our Player Engagement Directors and Human Resource Executives will meet with team spouses and significant others to ensure that they are aware of the resources available to them as NFL family members, including the ability to seek confidential assistance through independent local resources, as well as through the club or the NFL Total Wellness Program.  In this respect, we will utilize our existing, established telephone and on-line programs, and will communicate the full range of available services to all NFL personnel and their families.

Fourth, the outside groups we met with have emphasized that the NFL can play an important role in communities throughout the nation.  Consistent with that advice, we will expand the educational components in our college, high school and youth football programs that address domestic violence and sexual assault. We will seek to create and promote programs that develop the character of the young men who play, coach or manage our game, emphasizing respect for women and appropriate ways to resolve conflicts.  Outreach efforts embodied in these programs will help young people recognize, establish and maintain healthy relationships.  In our earliest contact with young men, we can communicate our expectations, establish NFL standards of conduct, and stress the responsibility that all men have to adhere to those standards.

Fifth, we recognize that domestic violence and sexual assault are broad social issues, affecting millions of people.  We want our public role to be both constructive and effective.  In the coming months, we will explore meaningful ways to incorporate domestic violence and sexual assault awareness and prevention into our public service work.  We will do this with the assistance of responsible outside organizations and the potential participation of current and former players, coaches and families who have been affected and are willing to speak out.  Actions we take in this respect will be sensitive, thoughtful and will recognize the positive role models and high character presented by so many men in the NFL.  

Finally, and consistent with our Personal Conduct Policy, our own response to domestic violence or sexual assault incidents by NFL personnel will include new elements of evaluation, treatment and family support, as well as enhanced discipline.  We will address these issues fairly and thoughtfully, respecting the rights of all involved and giving proper deference to law enforcement and the courts.  If someone is charged with domestic violence or sexual assault, there will be a mandatory evaluation and, where professionally indicated, counseling or other specialized services.  Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant.  Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be a prior incident before joining the NFL, or violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.  A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL; while an individual may petition for reinstatement after one year, there will be no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted.  These disciplinary standards will apply to all NFL personnel.  

With very few exceptions, NFL personnel conduct themselves in an exemplary way.    But even one case of domestic violence or sexual assault is unacceptable. The reality is that domestic violence and sexual assault are often hidden crimes, ones that are under-reported and under-acknowledged.  The steps we are taking will reinforce our commitment to address this issue constructively.

In addition to focusing on domestic violence and sexual assault, we will continue to maintain strong policies regarding weapons offenses.  We are similarly working to strengthen our response to impaired driving.  We have sought – unsuccessfully – for several years to obtain the NFLPA’s agreement to more stringent discipline for DUI, including mandatory deactivation for the game immediately following an arrest and a minimum two-game suspension for a first violation of law.  We will continue to press our position on this issue in the hope of securing the union’s agreement.

There are three steps that each club should take promptly:  first, post and distribute the attached “Memorandum to All NFL Personnel” to every player under contract to your club; second, ensure that your head coach reviews the information in that notice with his staff and with all your players; and third, share this letter and the attached Memorandum with all members of your organization, including your team president, General Manager, Human Resources Executive, Security Director, and Player Engagement Director.

In the coming weeks, we will contact all clubs on further steps to be taken in support of these initiatives.  I am grateful for the thoughtful advice received from so many of you and for the support that I know you will give to this important work.


Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong.  They are illegal.  They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances.  

Our Personal Conduct Policy has long made clear that domestic violence and sexual assault are unacceptable.  We clearly must do a better job of addressing these incidents in the NFL.  And we will.

Earlier today, I sent NFL owners a letter that identified specific actions we will take to improve our response to domestic violence and sexual assault. Those actions include the following:

All NFL Personnel will participate in new and enhanced educational programs on domestic violence and sexual assault.  We will also increase our outreach to college and youth football programs.

Families will receive detailed information about available services and resources, both through the club and independent of the club.  These resources and services will be available to employees and their families on a confidential basis.

Violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence and sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to enhanced discipline.  A first offense will be subject to a suspension of six weeks without pay.  Mitigating circumstances will be considered, and more severe discipline will be imposed if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.  A second offense will result in banishment from the league; an offender may petition for reinstatement after one year but there is no assurance that the petition will be granted.  These disciplinary consequences apply to all NFL personnel.

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If you believe that you or someone you know may be at risk of domestic violence or other misconduct, we strongly encourage you to seek assistance through your club’s director of player engagement, human resources department, the NFL LifeLine or an independent local domestic violence resource.  Help is available and can prevent potentially tragic incidents.                                                                                                 


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