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Eli Manning: Preseason hasn’t affected confidence in offense

Eli Manning AP

The Giants offense found a good groove, especially in the passing game, as the 2014 season went on but they haven’t been able to carry that over to the preseason this year.

We haven’t seen much explosiveness or sustained success for the starters through three preseason games this summer, but the guy at the controls of the unit says that there’s nothing to worry about. Quarterback Eli Manning said Tuesday that the team’s preseason results have done nothing to damper his optimism for the year to come because the preseason is about laying groundwork rather than being a finished product.

“For me, preseason is just trying to grow within the offense and get the timing of the game,” Manning said, via the New York Daily News. “Obviously you’d like to go out there, have completions and score points, but it’s not going to affect your confidence in any way.”

Manning’s numbers this summer, 20-of-38 for 158 yards and an interception, are very similar to his stats from last offseason and the offense has been missing a key piece of the receiving corps — Odell Beckham last year, Victor Cruz this year — both times. Cruz may not have the impact Beckham did when he does return, but the expected boost he’ll provide and last year’s results are reason to share Manning’s confidence that things will be OK when the bell rings.

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Colt McCoy not saying much about Washington QB decision

Colt McCoy AP

Give Colt McCoy credit — he didn’t “like” anything unnecessarily, so he doesn’t have to blame the intern.

The Washington quarterback said he wasn’t wading into the recent controversy about who’s starting — it’s Kirk Cousins, not him or Robert Griffin III — and wasn’t adding any fuel to the fire.

I’m going to keep my reaction to myself,” McCoy said, via Liz Clarke of the Washington Post.

McCoy and Cousins were ostensibly battling for the backup job, at least until the team decided to park Griffin after a recent concussion. So with confusion the norm, it’s only reasonable to wonder how close McCoy might have been to the starting job himself. But pressed as to whether he thought the competition was fair, McCoy passed.

“I’m not going to get too much into that,” he said. “What has been done has been done. We as a team have to move forward, and my focus right now is on doing the best I can to get everyone on the same page and ready to go for Jacksonville.”

McCoy actually had a better completion percentage than Cousins, and the highest preseason passer rating of the three (79.2 percent, 142.4 rating). And unlike the rest of them, he wasn’t benched for performance last year, with a neck injury taking him out.

So not saying much now is probably the prudent play, since it seems inevitable that he’ll be back on the field at some point this season.

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Patriots claim DaVaris Daniels off waivers

DaVaris Daniels AP

Like every other team in the league, the Patriots spent Tuesday dropping players from their roster in order to get to the 75-man limit.

Unlike some other teams, they also used the day to make additions to the roster. They made a trade with the Saints for wide receiver/kick returner Jalen Saunders, who they got an up-close look at during joint practices and a preseason game. They also claimed wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, who they never saw in person with the Vikings but who they presumably scouted when he was at Notre Dame.

The tapes are a bit dated at this point since Daniels didn’t play in 2014 because of an investigation into academic misconduct. Daniels had 46 catches for 720 yards and seven touchdowns during the 2013 season and had one catch for the Vikings in the preseason.

The Patriots waived Josh Boyce with an injury, leaving them with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell (still on the PUP list), Reggie Wayne and Aaron Dobson as experienced wideouts. Daniels and Saunders join Zach D’Orazio and Chris Harper as callower options for the roster.

In other moves Tuesday, seventh-round cornerback Daryl Roberts landed on injured reserve and offensive lineman Chris Barker and linebacker D.J. Lynch were released. Defensive lineman Chris Jones and linebacker Dane Fletcher will open the regular season on the PUP list.

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Bills claim two off waivers

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Bills made a series of cuts, including running back Fred Jackson, to get down to 75 players and then they made a couple of moves to further shuffle up the roster.

The team claimed two players — center Dalton Freeman and linebacker Kevin Reddick — off of waivers after they failed to make the first cut with their previous teams. They waived linebacker Jimmy Gaines and tackle Tyson Chandler to make room for the new arrivals.

Bills General Manager Doug Whaley reportedly went “rogue” with the decision to cut Jackson, but Freeman’s arrival likely came with Ryan’s seal of approval. Freeman played 16 games for the Jets last season and also played at Clemson with Ryan’s son, which could help his chances of making the 53-man roster despite the short time he’ll have with the Bills before cuts are due on Saturday.

Reddick was waived by the Panthers after playing three games for them last year. He also played two games with the Chargers and saw action in all 16 games for the Saints in 2013. He’ll be in the mix for a depth role after the Bills lost Ty Powell for the season and Tony Steward for a while because of knee injuries.

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Tom Brady: It’s been such an enjoyable offseason

Tom Brady AP

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has not spoken much publicly since the release of the Ted Wells report in May, making a paid appearance at Salem State University just after the report was released and otherwise keeping his thoughts to himself.

Brady was back in front of a microphone on Tuesday night when the Patriots gathered for a gala supporting the team’s charitable foundation at Gillette Stadium. Brady took part in a panel discussion moderated by former Patriot and current radio voice Scott Zolak with a few teammates. There wasn’t any detailed discussion of the report or of Judge Richard Berman’s pending decision in the court case challenging Brady’s four-game suspension, although Brady’s reference was clear when he responded to Zolak’s question about something fun he did this offseason.

“Yeah, it’s been such an enjoyable offseason,” Brady said, via the Boston Herald.

It wasn’t Brady’s only quip of the night. He also compared talking to young teammates to talking to his kids because you have to repeat things over and over again until the information sinks in. That left owner Robert Kraft to directly address Deflategate as the most “overblown” story in recent history as we draw closer to finding out what Berman rules regarding Brady’s punishment almost eight months after the AFC Championship game.

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P.J. Williams, Anthony Spencer to IR as Saints trim roster

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The Saints spent much of the offseason with Junior Galette, Anthony Spencer and Ronald Powell in line for roles at outside linebacker, but none of them will be on the team come the start of the regular season.

Galette was released before camp started and Spencer and Powell were both excised from the roster on Tuesday as the the Saints went to 75 players. Spencer is headed to injured reserve and Powell, a fifth-round pick in 2014, was waived/injured to leave rookie Hau’oli Kikaha and second-year player Kasim Edebali with a lot of responsibility this season.

Injuries were the big story of the Saints’ first round of cuts. This year’s third-round cornerback P.J. Williams joins Spencer on injured reserve while wide receiver Nick Toon, a 2012 fourth-rounder, and safety Vinnie Sunseri, a 2014 fifth-rounder, have also been waived with injuries. With Toon’s contract expiring after this season, he may be done with the Saints even if he does go unclaimed and revert to injured reserve.

The Saints also traded wide receiver Jalen Saunders to the Patriots, claimed defensive back Sammy Seamster off waivers and released wide receiver R.J. Harris, wide receiver Lance Lewis, fullback Erik Lorig, offensive lineman Antonio Johnson, guard Cole Manhart, linebacker Chris Young, defensive end Markus Pierce-Brewster, defensive tackle David Hunter, cornerback Terrence Frederick and cornerback Travis Manning.

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Jerry Jones identifies with John Daly because of course he does

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might not be a golfer, but he’s not exactly one to play it safe, either.

So it’s no surprise that he identifies with golfer John Daly more than most tour pros, since they seem to share a certain something.

During an interview on KRLD-FM 105.3, Jones got into a discussion about the bombastic golfer-turned sideshow, and philosophy as well.

“Well, John is – I guess it’s just obvious – when you’ve been down and out, seemingly, as many times as John has been, then you just become endeared to your fans,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “And that’s happened with John. We all know that no one’s had more foibles, or demonstrated more foibles, than John looks like than Jerry knows Jerry’s had.

“So it’s easy for me to identify with John. I like the way he plays the game. I like the way he does life. I think his swing, I think it’s indicitive of what John is about. That thing, when he draws back and hits it; he curls all the way around.  He’s got that big ol’ belly. He goes completely around and that golf club seems to touch the other toe and he just unwinds and hits that little ol’ ball on the other side of that 360-degree arc. Now that’s impossible to do almost. He does it almost every time. Imagine the leverage. It’s the way he hits life, I think.”

Jones has hit life the same way, in some regard, building the biggest stadium with the biggest TV in the middle of it, and  putting a team together in similar ways in his eternal quest for “glory hole.”

Then again, Daly hasn’t won a major since 1995. Come to think of it, that’s the last time the Cowboys got past the divisional round of the playoffs themselves.

So keep swinging hard boys, you’re at least entertaining the rest of us.

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Philip Rivers says it was “kind of fun” to be in scuffle with Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

Because they involves quarterbacks — who make the most money and get the most protections — fights involving quarterbacks tend to get attention.

But Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers laughed off his Saturday night scuffle with Seahawks pass-rusher Frank Clark, saying he sort of enjoyed it.

Via Eric Williams of ESPN.com, Rivers said he didn’t think it was a big deal at all.

“There’s been way more made of it than what there is,” Rivers said after Tuesday’s practice. “I always thought, shoot, what happens between the lines — what’s said and what’s done — kind of stays there.”

Of course, the NFL has sent out memos about curbing fighting on the field (as they made rule adjustments a year ago to curb abusive language on the field), so perhaps Rivers is just being old school.

After sacking Rivers, Clark appeared to push Rivers’ helmet back to the ground as he was getting up off the pile. Rivers pushed back, and Chargers tackle King Dunlap jerked Clark out of there, earning a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness for defending his quarterback.

“I certainly appreciate King and the guys sticking up for me,” Rivers said. “But there’s no hard feelings on my end — it was kind of fun to be in a little scuffle.”

The league might not necessarily agree with that assessment, at least if you believe they’re genuinely concerned about having fewer fights.

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Jon Beason’s progress has Tom Coughlin feeling optimistic

Jon Beason AP

Jon Beason still isn’t practicing, but he was running sprints with Giants trainers and working on the side Tuesday, which is enough to create optimism by and around the oft-injured middle linebacker.

Beason, who left a preseason game with a knee issue, is hoping to be back on the field by the regular season opener.

He feels better,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, via Stephen Lorenzo of the New York Daily News. “He’s got a routine now, and they get a little bit more aggressive each day with it. So he’s optimistic, let’s put it that way.”

Asked if he was too optimistic, given his injury record, Coughlin replied: “[Beason’s] optimistic. Whatever they tell me. I’m the eternal optimist.”

He needs to be in this case, one supposes. Beason has missed 40 games the last four years because of an assortment of injuries, so it’s reasonable to wonder. But the Giants are clearly better with him in the middle of the defense, so choosing to look at the glass as half-full is understandable for them as well.

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Barkley, Tebow competing in final preseason game

Matt Barkley, Tim Tebow AP

The final week of the preseason is mostly garbage, as teams rest their starters and give ample playing time to scrubs who are going to get cut the next day. But in Philadelphia, plenty of people will be watching the final preseason game to see the battle for the third-string quarterback job.

Matt Barkley will start for the Eagles on Thursday night and play the first half, and Tim Tebow will play the second half. The plan is that one of them will be the third-string quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez, while the other will get cut.

Neither player has been particularly impressive in the first three preseason games. Barkley’s passer rating is 66.6; Tebow’s is 67.2. Barkley, however, said he thinks he can show something off as a starter.

I’ll be excited – first start,” Barkley said. “Excited to get in a rhythm early on, get my feet going, get the ball moving. . . . I don’t feel any pressure at all. I don’t think it’s anything but just an exciting opportunity. I’ve been in this place to impress.”

Tebow, who has run for 50 yards on 10 carries in the preseason, is not much of a passer but may be able to use his mobility to make the Eagles’ roster. He says he’s striving to be a good teammate to Barkley even as the two of them realize that they’re trying to beat each other out.

“You’re competing for something, but at the same time, you want to do it the right way,” Tebow said. “You want to treat others the way you want to be treated the entire time – no matter what’s on the line, no matter what’s it stake. Because opportunities and positions are never more important than character.”

It’s entirely possible that neither Barkley nor Tebow will get any playing time for the Eagles this season. But one of them will likely make the roster, and that makes their Thursday night game interesting. At least by the standards of a Week Four preseason game.

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Titans nose tackle Sammie Hill may need knee surgery

Sammie Hill AP

Tennessee Titans nose tackle Sammie Hill may need surgery after suffering another knee injury last week.

According to John Glennon of the Tennessean, Hill injured his knee either in practice or early in the team’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday.

“We’re talking to the doctors to see,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “It feels better, but I don’t know yet.”

Hill suffered a knee injury during OTAs in May that kept him on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the start of training camp. He passed a physical and last week’s game against the Chiefs was his first game action of the preseason.

Hill played just four snaps against the Chiefs before being sidelined again.

Hill appeared in 15 games for the Titans last season and recorded 34 tackles and three sacks.

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Hard Knocks recap: Wilfork gets laughs, 10 get cut

Houston Texans OTA's Getty Images

The fourth episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks: Houston Texans went heavy on inside access and other staples of the show that takes viewers inside an NFL training camp and preseason. There were tears, trades, cuts and a cancer survivor, David Quessenberry, finding out on his birthday he’s still a year away from returning to football.

“Every day is a birthday for me, man,” Quessenberry told Texans coach Bill O’Brien. “I’m on bonus time now.”

The theme of the most recent episode was that football time is running out for dozens of players. The Texans had to cut their roster from 90 to 75, and in next week’s series finale they’ll close the preseason and go to 53. Besides Ryan Mallett’s inexplicable practice absence last week and Vince Wilfork’s fashion choice, this episode centered around players on the bubble — and those on the wrong side of it.

Wide receiver Travis Labhart talked openly about getting cut, then got cut, then still allowed the cameras back to his house as he discussed it with his wife. Cameras caught offensive lineman Aaron Adams crying while O’Brien told him he had no doubt he’d be successful after football.

“But the football playing has to improve if you want to continue,” O’Brien told Adams.

The episode started with O’Brien addressing his players about “a critical time in camp” and the Texans’ quest to no longer be “the almost team…the team that almost made the playoffs.”

O’Brien was lighter on the F-bombs than he was in the first three episodes; the fourth was heavier on candid, closed-door conversations and the stars of the show, names you probably know like Wilfork and J.J. Watt and one you might not in Charles James.

James is a cornerback who dabbles as a running back and is an O’Brien favorite, though the coach reminded James in a private meeting “it’s going to be tough” to make the team.

Cameras caught Texans general manager Rick Smith talking trade with John Elway while driving and later finishing it “in the bowels” of the Superdome during last weekend’s preseason game. O’Brien gets specific with the team’s wide receivers about there being too many of them and the backup offensive lineman about there not being enough of them.

Wilfork showing up in overalls, cowboy boots and really nothing else was the comedic highlight, but rookie defensive tackle Christian Covington catching a punt to get the veterans released from the training camp hotel and James taking off for a touchdown that was later negated in the preseason game come close.

Late in the episode, cameras caught O’Brien telling Covington to “make a play. You haven’t made a play in like six f—–g days.” In the final three minutes, 10 players are shown being informed of their release, making the long walk through the locker room to O’Brien’s office and hugging friends on their way out.

The preseason is almost over and Hard Knocks is almost over, too. The series has been good enough for viewers to expect a very strong finish next week.

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Hard Knocks goes inside Mallett’s rough week

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

It’s safe to assume Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett won’t be utilizing the ‘save forever’ function on his DVR when it comes to the fourth episode of the HBO series Hard Knocks: Houston Texans, which aired Tuesday night.

Eight days after Mallett was informed he’d lost the training camp battle for the Texans’ starting job and five days after he overslept and missed a practice, Mallett’s rough week was featured by Hard Knocks producers.

A longer version of the previous episode’s scene featuring Texans coach Bill O’Brien informing Mallett and Brian Hoyer of his decision to name Hoyer the starter aired this week. After O’Brien left the room, cameras showed Texans offensive coordinator George Godsey addressing both quarterbacks about the need to stay ready and do whatever is asked to help the team.

When Godsey finished talking, Mallett left the room without acknowledging Hoyer or Godsey.

Fast forward 20 or so minutes in another strong Hard Knocks episode and the reports that Mallett overslept last Thursday are confirmed. In one scene O’Brien is shown on the practice field telling a team security official not to check on Mallet and to call back a team official who’d been dispatched to check on him.

“I wouldn’t even try to call him,” cameras caught O’Brien saying. “Just let it go. He’s 27 years old. Tell Khalil (Reed, listed on the Texans’ website as a security and player engagement manager) to stop. He doesn’t need to do that s–t. Turn around and come back. F–k that.”

In the next scene Mallett is shown entering the office of general manager Rick Smith and discussing his missed practice.

“My phone turned off, man,” Mallett said. “I’m not about to (lie) or bulls–t you like that. I made a mistake. The timing f—–g looks so great. I went and got a battery alarm clock so it won’t happen again. I can’t even explain…when I woke up I was like, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me.'”

Mallett told Smith multiple times he wasn’t mad about being named the backup and that he just picked the wrong day to have his phone go dead.

After Smith told Mallett he needed to “take ownership,” Mallett responded by saying, “No question. I am not blaming technology. I didn’t get up. I’m not trying to make excuses to you, to Bill, to anybody. You don’t gotta worry about that s–t no more.”

Said Smith: “That’s a strong statement there. We need that consistency. We have to know we can count on you. If you need something, come holler at me. You can come here (any time).”

As the scene ends, Mallett tells Smith he’s been “feeling awkward just walking around the building.”

Maybe the HBO cameras made it worse.

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Fred Jackson says Doug Whaley wasn’t honest

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Getty Images

A couple of unnamed sources have claimed Bills G.M. Doug Whaley “went rogue” in cutting running back Fred Jackson. Jackson has an even stronger assessment of Whaley.

“There’s only one person in that organization that I haven’t gotten honesty from, and that was [Whaley],” Jackson told the Buffalo News, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.

“It was a tough pill to swallow, especially because I felt like I can still contribute,” Jackson said. “They gave me a shot. I’ll always be happy about that, but . . . they closed the door on me playing there, too.”

Jackson leaves as the third leading rushing in team history, behind Hall of Famers Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson.

Whaley explained the decision to reporters on Monday, but Whaley’s comments had little meat. PFT reported that Jackson would have “done anything” to remain with the team, including taking less money. The Bills didn’t give Jackson that option.

If the Bills get back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, the incident likely will be forgotten by January. If, however, the Bills make it 16 straight years without a postseason berth, more than a few fans may be thinking of Jackson’s release when developing opinions on whether a new G.M. is needed.

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Report: Bills G.M. “went rogue” in cutting Fred Jackson

Terry Pegula, Doug Whaley, Rex Ryan, AP

As the Bills move on from running back Fred Jackson, it’s possible that the move resulted from the actions of one specific person in the organization.

Citing two unnamed sources, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reports that Bills G.M. Doug Whaley “went rogue” in cutting the veteran tailback.

As a source with knowledge of the situation explained it to PFT on Monday, it’s believed Whaley had wanted to cut Jackson since March, and that Whaley preferred Bryce Brown to Jackson. As PFT reported on Wednesday, Jackson would have “done anything” to stay with the team, but he never got the chance to take a pay cut or to make other concessions.

Graham says that the team will remain unified in any public comments on the situation. Privately, however, it’s hard not to wonder whether Whaley may have put even more pressure on himself by taking matters with Jackson into his own hands.

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