Evan Engram using memory of drops as motivation

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Giants tight end Evan Engram‘s rookie season was successful by most statistical measures.

But when he looks back at the number of passes he didn’t catch, he finds all the motivation he needs.

Via Dan Duggan of The Athletic, Engram remains haunted by his Thanksgiving game against Washington, which included a pair of drops on third downs and another instance of not coming up with a contested catch. He came back with better games down the stretch, but kept his focus on not letting the ball hit the ground this offseason.

“That was just a mindset thing. I wanted to have zero drops all spring,” Engram said. “I knew what I was doing wrong. I knew how to fix it. I knew how to improve on it. So it was just a learning experience. I have the utmost confidence in myself. It’s definitely something that pisses me off a little bit, but I feel like that’s a good thing. So I never lost my confidence. It just kind of humbled me a little bit and allowed me to get back to the basics and be more consistent. . . .

“You get in the groove and then you start wanting to make moves after the catch and start getting a little bit too confident and a little bit too comfortable. Stuff like that kind of needs to happen for us as players to be able to take a step back like, ‘OK, let me get back to where it all started.’ ”

Engram caught 64 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns last year, but his 11 drops were the most by any player at his position. If he can iron that part out, he has a chance to be one of the top tight ends in the league, in an offense that should rebound.

Seahawks think Rashaad Penny looks “so comfortable” in pass protection

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Running backs obviously have to be able to make plays with the ball in their hands in order to earn jobs, but they won’t see much of the field in the current NFL if they can’t make plays without it.

Specifically, they aren’t going to play much if they can’t help protect their quarterbacks from pressure by opposing pass rushers. That’s been a problem across the board in Seattle in recent seasons, but coach Pete Carroll said that first-round pick Rashaad Penny has done a good job of picking it up in his first offseason as a professional.

“He has picked up a ton of stuff,” Carroll said last week, via the team. “[Running backs coach Chad Morton] was just talking about the pass protection stuff that he looks so comfortable with after the time he has been here. That was something that was new for him and a demanding part of the game. We don’t have any hesitation that he’s going to be fine in that area.”

Carroll has also talked up Chris Carson‘s return from injury this offseason and the Seahawks are going to play multiple backs regardless of how well Penny does a pass blocker. They didn’t take him in the first round to be a non-factor, however, and keeping Russell Wilson upright while also making plays when the ball comes his way is a sure path to serious playing time.

Marvin Lewis: Rookie DE Sam Hubbard “way ahead of the curve”

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The Bengals added 11 rookies in the draft this year as they try to infuse some new talent into a roster that’s fallen short of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

One of those picks has made a strong early impression on head coach Marvin Lewis. During last week’s minicamp, Lewis discussed third-round defensive end Sam Hubbard, who he expects to be part of the defensive end rotation right off the bat.

“He has been way ahead of the curve,” Lewis said, via WCPO. “We’re just excited about that. He’s going to really complement and add to our football team right away. I’m just excited because he’s probably out here a little mature beyond his years right now.”

Hubbard, who grew up in Cincinnati, was a productive pass rusher at Ohio State and could round out a productive group for the Bengals. Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson have been successful in the past and 2017 third-round pick Jordan Willis could take a step forward in his second season.

Tuesday morning one-liners

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Will Phillip Gaines be the Bills’ nickel cornerback?

Jonathan Alston only played one year of cornerback in college before signing with the Dolphins this offseason.

How will the Patriots approach kickoffs?

Juston Burris is bidding for a spot in the Jets’ cornerback rotation.

A list of five Ravens who stood out at minicamp.

C Billy Price is ready to go for the Bengals.

A positive take on the way the Browns are handling their quarterbacks.

A prediction of the Steelers’ 53-man roster.

WR Keke Coutee has made a good impression on the Texans.

Former Colts WR Reggie Wayne shares some thoughts on T.Y. Hilton.

Jaguars DT Marcell Dareus is taking a humanitarian trip to Haiti.

The Titans hosted a football camp for more than 200 kids.

CB Isaac Yiadom is making the transition from college to the Broncos.

Catching up on lessons learned in the Chiefs offseason program.

Rookie S Derwin James thinks the Chargers have a new attitude on defense.

You can buy Raiders WR Jordy Nelson‘s former home in Green Bay.

What will David Irving‘s suspension mean for the other Cowboys defensive linemen?

Giants G Patrick Omameh has an intellectual side.

Breaking down every player on the Eagles’ 90-man roster.

Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula expects better run defense for Washington this year.

What will Bears LB Roquan Smith‘s rookie contract look like?

Lions CB Darius Slay could outperform his contract in 2018.

The Packers are counting on young receivers.

How do the Vikings wide receivers rank league-wide?

Falcons DE Takkarist McKinley is a breakout candidate this season.

A look at how Panthers DT Dontari Poe is investing his money.

The Saints need a radio voice for the 2018 season.

Former Buccaneers WR Lawrence Dawsey was a coaching intern for the team this offseason.

WR Brice Butler hopes he can play as well for the Cardinals as he has against them over the years.

The Rams helped special teams coach John Fassel and his family reveal the gender of a new addition to their family.

Rookie T Mike McGlinchey followed a similar path to the one 49ers teammate Joe Staley took to the NFL.

The Seahawks will open training camp on July 26.

Steelers comfortable going without a quarterbacks coach


The Steelers have a relatively old quarterbacks room, so for the moment, they’re not going to bother with having a quarterbacks coach.

When former QB coach Randy Fichtner was promoted to offensive coordinator, the Steelers let him keep his old title without hiring another one to replace him. And while they say it’s something they may revisit, the team is comfortable with the set-up for now.

“It’s a fine line because he wants to coach and be involved with the young guys, but he has to be ready to give me the next play in practice or whoever it is,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. “It is something that we may just keep an eye on. I understand that he doesn’t want to break up that room and how it works and all that.”

With Roethlisberger 15 years in and backup Landry Jones entering his seventh season in the league, there’s a ceiling on how much day-to-day instruction they need beyond the coach they already know so well. The same isn’t true for third-round rookie Mason Rudolph, though his development is more of a long-term thing anyway.

“Maybe that will be something you explore down the road,” Fichtner said. “When you are not working with a veteran quarterback and I will throw Landry Jones into that because we’ve been together for six years. There is some natural communication that already takes place. It might be eye contact. Something might not even be said. It’s a look sometimes. You know how you give your kid a look when they made a mistake and they knew? . . .

“I think there might be value about that in the end. Right now the value in that is direct communication in that room of the expectations of what we are trying to do as a whole.”

Roethlisberger said he talked to coach Mike Tomlin about adding one in the future, even one of his former backups such as Bruce Gradkowski or Charlie Batch. That might be simply because of familiarity, because he’s always had a quarterbacks coach (including Fichtner for the last eight years).

“I’ve had a few and it’s great,” Roethlisberger said. “Typically the quarterback coach is a bridge between the OC and you. Now when your OC is your quarterback coach you don’t need a bridge. It’s nice to have someone to talk to and that’s why I think, and backups to, it’s important to have that bridge-the-gap type thing.”

Three other teams don’t employ dedicated quarterbacks coaches — the Patriots, Giants and Jets.

Baker Mayfield: Tyrod Taylor has been an “unbelievable” mentor


Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield isn’t ready to compete with Tyrod Taylor for the starting job in Cleveland. But Mayfield is happy to be learning from Taylor.

Mayfield said on the ThomaHawk Show that Taylor has been an incredible mentor to him, and Mayfield is shocked that the Browns were able to get Taylor from the Bills for just a third-round draft pick.

“They traded a third-round pick to Tyrod just doesn’t make sense,” Mayfield said. “We got a lot more out of that than anybody else could. The guy that he is for this franchise, for all of our teammates is unbelievable. For me to watch him and learn him has been great. He sets the bar high, shows up, his work ethic, it’s a great situation for me to come into to have someone like that. It’s good for me.”

The Bills were ready to move on from Taylor, so they traded him away even though he was their first quarterback to start a playoff game for them in the 21st Century. Mayfield thinks Taylor is ready to show that was a mistake.

Jon Ryan isn’t handing over Seahawks punting duties: “I’m going to make you look really dumb”

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Punter Jon Ryan is the only player on the Seahawks’ roster that predates head coach Pete Carroll and General Manager John Schneider in Seattle. And while Ryan and Schneider have a close relationship and work out together at the team’s headquarters throughout the season, it didn’t stop Schneider from selecting a punter that could eventually supplant Ryan as Seattle’s punter in May’s NFL Draft.

But according to Jayson Jenks of the Athletic, Ryan has no intentions of handing the job to fifth-round pick Michael Dickson.

“(Schneider) had that attitude almost like, ‘Sorry, but I had to do it…’” Ryan said when he fits crossed paths with his G.M. after the draft. “And I was like, ‘Don’t apologize! Do not apologize.’ This is the business. If all the players got to pick who was on the team every year, we’d still have the Super Bowl team from five years ago.”

Ryan has been with the Seahawks for 10 seasons after being let go by the Green Bay Packers at the end of training camp in 2008. It was a decision that Schneider had to inform Ryan the Packers were making when Schneider was Director of Football Operations in Green Bay. Now Ryan’s time with the Seahawks is in peril after a decade spent in Seattle.

Barring the occasional unique circumstance, NFL teams only keep one punter and one place kicker on their 53-man roster during the season. And the Seahawks just spent a relatively high draft pick to select a player 15 years younger than Ryan; a player that won MVP honors in the Texas Bowl against the University of Missouri in December.

“If you let me, I’m going to compete my ass off, harder than you’ve ever seen,” Ryan told Schneider. “I love you. I have so much respect for you. But one way or the other, I’m going to make you look really dumb.”

Ryan is getting that chance to compete. He’s still on the Seahawks’ roster as the team breaks for six weeks before training camp begins at the end of July. While Dickson can do some impressive things kicking a football, Ryan has vastly more experiencing holding for place kickers. He’s also thrown a touchdown pass in the NFC Championship game and caught a 109-yard touchdown pass when playing at the University of Regina in Canada.

While kickers can get panned for their perceived lack of athleticism, Ryan doesn’t fit that mold. He can do many things beside punt a football, though he’s still quite good at that as well.

“We expect him to battle just like he is,” Carroll said during offseason workouts. “He has not backed off one moment.”

Tom Brady explains decision to finally accept #DeflateGate punishment


Three years ago, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady scored a major victory in the #DeflateGate case, delaying by a full season his four-game suspension. Two years ago, Brady eventually accepted the punishment. He explained his thinking in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Just too much anxiety,” Brady said regarding the decision to drop his appeal, via the Boston Herald. “I realized I couldn’t win. It was divided attention and I was tired of that, tired of waking up and having a call with someone from the Player’s Association. I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to use this as an opportunity, to have the month of September off for the first time in like 16, 21 years, and I’m going to take advantage of this.'”

Brady went to California for the month to visit his mother, who was receiving cancer treatment, during the four-week suspension. He also took his wife to Italy.

“Man, that was the best month off I think I’ve ever had,” Brady said. “In some ways, it was a great experience. I think you look back on those experiences and it was a really tough experience in my life.”

His instincts were right regarding his ability to win any further appeals. In fact, he possibly wouldn’t have managed to further delay the suspension pending a long-shot appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That said, long-shot appeals sometimes prevail. Just ask the folks in New Jersey, who now enjoy legalized gambling because the powers-that-be pulled a needly out of the haystack by taking the case to the Supreme Court.

Former Eagles staffer fired by Chip Kelly gets Super Bowl ring anyway

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Carol Cullen served as an executive assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1985 to 2014 before former head coach Chip Kelly decided her position was no longer necessary in his management of the front office.

Despite not being a staff member during the Eagles run to their first Super Bowl victory in February, the team elected to award her with a ring anyway.

According to Tim McManus of ESPN.com, Cullen got an email from the team while at her new job telling her she would be getting a championship ring. She thought the message was sent in error before a team employee confirmed she would be getting a ring and they needed to get her fitted.

Cullen has been with the Eagles through the coaching runs of Marion Campbell, Fred Bruney, Buddy Ryan, Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes, Andy Reid and Kelly before being unceremoniously told Kelly no longer has use for her.

“It was very difficult,” she said. “I had no idea it was coming, so it was very emotional for me. And it took me a while to get over it and get used to another life, really, because when you work in football like that, it’s not 9 to 5 — it’s seven days a week, and I loved every minute of it.”

She kept in touch with head coach Doug Pederson, general manager Howie Roseman and other members of the Eagles that she worked with during his 29 years with the franchise. Ultimately, someone with pull determined she needed to get a ring along with the rest of the players, coaches, front office and support personnel still working for the team.

It was really a special night,” Cullen said after getting her new piece of jewelry last week. “And I just feel honored and humbled that I was a part of it.”

Terrell Owens runs a 4.43 40

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He’s about to enter the Hall of Fame, but he wants back in the NFL. And he still has the speed of an NFL player.

Via NFL.com, receiver Terrell Owens ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash.

Yes, it came on a track and not on a field. Sure, it was hand timed. Still, the guy is 44-year-old. So the bottom line is that T.O. can still move, eight years after he last played.

He has wanted for years to get back in to the NFL, but there has been no interest in his services. That likely won’t be changing, regardless of how fast he can still run.

Jimmy Johnson under consideration for Cowboys’ Ring of Honor

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The Cowboys have 21 members in their Ring of Honor, but Jerry Jones has elected not to add a name to the facade at AT&T Stadium since Darren Woodson in 2015. The former safety stands as the lone inductee over the past six years.

The team has several candidates to be next to enter the Ring of Honor, including Jones himself.

Jason Witten’s retirement this offseason allows for the possibility that the former tight end will go in with his best buddy, Tony Romo, who retired after the 2016 season. Jones also has talked openly about inducting DeMarcus Ware, though that now seems at least a bit awkward after Ware took a job as a pass-rush consultant for the Broncos.

Instead, Jimmy Johnson, Gil Brandt and Jay Novacek are under consideration for the next halftime Ring of Honor ceremony in Arlington, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Johnson and Brandt’s Hall of Fame candidacies would not be hurt by their addition to the team’s Ring of Honor. Brandt annually is a contributors’ candidate for the Hall, and Johnson has made the list of modern-era Hall finalists.

Jones’ sometimes icy relationship with Johnson has thawed to the point that the Cowboys owner has no problem acknowledging his former head coach’s contributions to the 1990s Cowboys.

Jones and Johnson, who parted ways in 1994 after back-to-back Super Bowl titles, both insisted during the 1992 team’s 25th reunion in 2017 that they have a good relationship. Johnson congratulated Jones on his Hall of Fame selection, and Jones credited Johnson for his part in the Cowboys’ dynasty.

Jones again praised Johnson at his Hall of Fame induction, where Johnson served as Jason Taylor’s presenter.

Novacek became a favorite target of Troy Aikman after signing as a Plan B free agent in 1990. In his six seasons with the Cowboys, Novacek caught 339 passes for 3,576 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Civil rights groups ask NFL to dump new anthem rule

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Less than a month ago, the NFL revised its rules to require players to stand for the national anthem, allowing any players who choose not to stand to remain in the locker room. On Monday, multiple national civil rights groups asked the NFL to dump the new rule.

“This policy represses peaceful, non-disruptive protest of police violence against unarmed African Americans and other people of color,” the various groups wrote in a letter published by USA Today. “It is disappointing that a league built on grit and competition lacks the constitution to stomach a call for basic equality and fairness.”

The groups hope to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the situation.

“The recent decision to mandate the silence of players wishing to demonstrate for civil rights is even more appalling against the backdrop of the glaring racial disparities in the NFL,” the letter explains.

Indeed, the vast majority of players are African-American, and the owners are exclusively white, with the exception of Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who is a native of Pakistan.

Eagles have highest Madden rating, #asexpected

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The new Madden game comes out in August and, to little surprise, the new Super Bowl champions to little surprise have the highest rating in the game.

Via the Sunday Night Football Twitter account, the Eagles have a 90 rating as a team. That’s six points higher than the Patriots, who come in second at 84.

The Falcons, Steelers, and Saints each rate an 83, and the Vikings and Jaguars come in at 82.

The Cowboys, Titans, and Raiders triggered an 81, and the Rams surprisingly register an 80, along with the Seahawks and Chiefs.

At the bottom of the barrel are the Jets, at 72.

For the full list, click here. For the full experience, buy the game. We’ll likely have plenty of free codes once the game debuts.

Jerry Jones trusts Ezekiel Elliott as much as “he trusts himself”


After making headlines much of his first two seasons after the Cowboys made him a first-round pick, Ezekiel Elliott mostly has laid low since his six-game suspension.

He did show up in photos on TMZ, along with quarterback Dak Prescott, during a fishing trip to the Keys when the two purchased, um, provocative water guns that Elliott wore to a nightclub. But that was Zeke being Zeke, having a little, innocent fun.

The Cowboys have insisted Elliott has learned his lesson and expect him to stay out of trouble. Owner Jerry Jones reiterated that Saturday night, saying the running back has a “new sense of awareness,” Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Jones said he trusts the running back as much as “he trusts himself.”

He added, though, that Elliott still needs “a talking to” — sometimes daily — to remain on the straight and narrow. But the Cowboys have no concerns about Elliott between now and training camp.

In less than a year, Elliott has gone from sometimes being a migraine for the Cowboys to being a team leader, who has preached to his teammates the importance of working the next five weeks.

It’s why many in the organization are predicting a big year for Elliott.

Report: Jadeveon Clowney might not get extension before the season

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After the Texans signed Benardrick McKinney to a five-year, $50 million extension last week, it was presumed Jadeveon Clowney was next in line. The fifth-year linebacker still might be, but it might not be this season, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Clowney, the first overall pick in 2014, will make $12.3 million this year under the fifth-year option.

He still has to show he can stay healthy for the Texans to commit to him long term. Last season was the first that Clowney played all 16 games, but he spent the offseason program rehabbing a knee injury after arthroscopic surgery in January.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he expected Clowney to be on the field at the start of training camp July 26. That gives the Texans only a six-week window to get an extension completed, and the sides have had no substantive negotiations, per McClain.

Texans General Manager Brian Gaine’s philosophy is not to negotiate during the season.

That doesn’t mean Clowney will become a free agent in March. The Texans are expected to use the franchise tag on him if they can’t come to terms before that.

But Clowney’s price tag will go up with a big season. He had 9.5 sacks, 21 quarterback hits and 21 tackles for loss last season without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus over the final 11 games.

Bigger numbers this season will equal a bigger pay day for Clowney.