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Troy Aikman Dallas Cowboys Jersey

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman retired in 2001 after winning three Super Bowls during his 12-year NFL tenure. File Photo by Sergio Flores/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 26 (UPI) — Dallas Cowboys legend Troy Aikman recently stood up for Andrew Luck on social media after the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback announced his decision to retire.

The three-time Super Bowl champion and Pro Football Hall of Famer did so by responding to a tweet from FS1 sports personality Doug Gottlieb. Luck announced his decision to retire Saturday. The 29-year-old quarterback cited the numerous injuries he has sustained during his NFL tenure as a major reason behind walking away from the game.

“This is not an easy decision. Honestly, it’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me,” Luck told reporters Saturday during his retirement news conference.

“For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab, and it’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and offseason, and I felt stuck in it. The only way I see out is to no longer play football.”

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Luck missed the entire 2017 season due to a shoulder issue. He returned to win Comeback Player of the Year in 2018, before dealing with more injuries this off-season and in training camp.

“Retiring cause rehabbing is ‘too hard’ is the most millennial thing ever,” Gottlieb tweeted Saturday.

Gottlieb’s tweet drew a lot of negative reaction and had more than 26,000 comments and 1,700 retweets. Aikman — now a commentator for Fox — was just one of the former athletes to respond to the take.

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“That’s total [expletive] Doug,” Aikman wrote. “What qualifies you to decide how someone should live their life? So you’re now the authority on what motivates Andrew Luck? And if his decisions don’t fit into what you think is best for him then you rip him? Guess that keeps you employed on FS1. Nice.”

Aikman, 52, played his entire 12-year career with the Cowboys. The six-time Pro Bowl selection sustained multiple concussions during his pro football tenure before retiring in 2001. He also sustained a concussion during the final snap of his career. Aikman spoke about his personal decision to retire during NFL Films’ Troy Aikman: A Football Life.

“All these people think I got out of the game because of head injuries,” Aikman said. “Concussions had nothing to do with it, absolutely nothing to do with my retirement. Ultimately, the reason I retired after 12 years was because I felt that I had worked hard to develop some level of credibility and respect within this game. And I felt like that was being jeopardized by decisions that were being made beyond my control within the organization. And I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.”

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Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady also voiced his support for Luck during a radio interview Monday on WEEI’s Greg Hill Show.

“It is his life,” Brady said. “Everyone has the right to choose what they want to do. He had a great career and he was a great player. Everybody wishes they could be healthy all the time.

“It is a contact sport and he’s certainly had his fair share of injuries, so guys retire at different times. Some at the end of the season, and I have seen a lot of guys retire before the season gets going and this is just one of those examples.”

Luck retired with a 4-4 record in the postseason and a 53-33 record in the regular season. The Stanford graduate was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Custom Cincinnati Bengals Jerseys

In an article published Thursday on NFL.com ranking each division by its starting quarterbacks, columnist Adam Schein had an optimistic forecast for Cincinnati Bengals starting signal-caller Andy Dalton.

Schein ranked the AFC North as the NFL’s fourth-best division by its starting quarterbacks: Dalton, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.

From Schein:

While the Freddie Kitchens promotion to head coach feels like a shotgun marriage, there’s no doubt that Mayfield is a young star. Baker thrived under Kitchens when he took over as offensive coordinator at the midway point last season, and I expect Mayfield to flourish even more now that Odell Beckham Jr. has been paired with his old LSU running mate, Jarvis Landry, in the Cleveland receiving corps. Mayfield is plenty accurate, and he has the “it” factor that can be so hard to find. I think he’ll have an MVP-caliber season while leading Cleveland to the playoffs. Big Ben still hasn’t stopped talking about Antonio Brown, and he’s going to miss his former go-to guy on game days. Ben is still great, although he’s down a tick from his Hall of Fame-caliber play. I am a believer in Jackson as a winner and runner, and I expect him to improve as a passer. First-round pick Hollywood Brown will help him, especially if Jackson does indeed show some growth as a thrower. Prediction: First-year Bengals head coach Zac Taylor will help Andy Dalton have the best season of his career.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) runs in the second quarter of an NFL Week 12 football game, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) runs in the second quarter of an NFL Week 12 football game, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. (Photo: Kareem Elgazzar)

Dalton, who needs 10 touchdown passes to pass Ken Anderson for the most in franchise history, is coming off an injury-shortened 2018 campaign.

Dalton was 5-6 as a starter last year with 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 64.6 QBR before suffering a season-ending right thumb injury in a 35-20 home loss to the Cleveland Browns on November 25.

Taylor, who turned 36 earlier this month, was named the 10th head coach in franchise history in February.
He was the quarterbacks coach last season for the Los Angeles Rams, where he helped further the development of former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, who set career-highs in completion percentage (64.9), passing yards (4,688) and touchdowns (32) en route to a Super Bowl appearance.

“Zac is a bright coach with an offensive mind and background, which is important to have in today’s NFL,” Bengals President Mike Brown told The Enquirer’s Fletcher Page when Taylor was hired.

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Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor called the first day of OTAs, “sloppy, as expected. We’ve got a long ways to go.” Fletcher Page, [email protected]

Brian Callahan will also play a vital role in determining the final outcome of Schein’s prediction. Callahan, named the Bengals’ offensive coordinator in January, is Dalton’s fourth in the last five seasons. Callahan was previously the quarterbacks coach in Detroit and Oakland, where he worked with Pro Bowl quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr.

Custom Tennessee Titans Jerseys

How did Dane Brugler grade the Jon Robinson’s first draft with the Tennessee Titans?
It seems like forever ago, but the 2016 NFL Draft was Jon Robinson’s first with the Tennessee Titans.

Dane Brugler did posted a massive analysis of the 2016 NFL Draft, breaking down each team’s picks and grading the class as a whole.

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As much as we all scoff at immediate draft grades, they are an important part of the process. After the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft most thought the Miami Dolphins got a steal landing Laremy Tunsil and that he was the best player in that whole class.

Meanwhile, the former San Diego Chargers were ripped for drafting Joey Bosa when so many good offensive tackles were on the board.

Since then, Tunsil has been above average and the Chargers probably have a player on pace for a Hall of Fame career if he can stay healthy.

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Still, this snap shot shows us which teams are going with the flow and drafting by consensus and which teams are ready to stick to their evaluations and take the best player. Titans GM Jon Robinson is clearly in the second group.

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You can read Brugler’s full post here, but if you have been paying attention you probably can guess which player was the biggest bust and who was the best player in that class.

Ultimately, Brugler gave the Titans a “B-” and broke down why with the help of Titans beat writer Travis Haney.

Only 12 teams in the NFL got a better grade than the Titans did in this class, and it doesn’t seem to factor in the Corey Davis pick up in 2017. If you include Davis in this class I think you can at least bump it up to a “B” grade which would put the Titans with just 7 teams in front of them.

Either way, it should be noted that 6 of the Titans 10 picks from this draft are still on the roster three years later which is sort of rare. I would also throw in that the 3 of the Titans UDFA signing are on a roster now too.
–Austin Johnson, Karl Klug and Angelo Blackson, pushed out UDFA DT Antwaun Woods who has been a pretty darn good DT for the Dallas Cowboys.

-K Aldrick Rosas is now the kicker for the New York Giants.

-OT Tyler Marz (somehow pronounced Meritz) is actually still with the Titans as a player who has moved on and off of the practice squad throughout his career. He has been solid depth on that line.

While you can’t include the ones that moved on, it should be noted that Marz probably filled the role Tretola would have had as a utility OL.

For the majority of last year people were down on Jon Robinson because he brought a winning culture to the Titans…wait that doesn’t sound right, let me try again. Last year people were upset because he turned the Titans from a bottom-feeder to a playoff team in two years…that can’t be right.
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In 2018 people were mad at GM Jon Robinson because he didn’t spend a trade a 1st round pick for Amari Cooper just to pay him $13+ million in 2019 and then have him break the bank in 2020…

Ok, I keep checking my notes and this all is true but I’m just going to power through it. Jon Robinson took some flak last year despite all of his success, but this should show you that in retrospect Robinson has had above average classes every single year he has been with the Titans.

Looking at the depth chart, only 5 of the 22 starters on offense and defense were on this roster before Jon Robinson took over: Taylor Lewan, Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker, DaQuan Jones, and Jurrell Casey.

The rebuild that Robinson has done on this team in three quick years is remarkable and it all started with this class. Even if it may not have been the best draft class of 2016 it did everything it needed to in terms of filling needs, while also setting the Titans up with a top-5 pick in 2017 to give Tennessee another foundational piece.

 

Custom New York Giants Jerseys

Following the NFL Draft, the New York Giants are set to have two very interesting positional battles on the defensive side of the ball.
Let’s take a look at these groups below!

Cornerback

After selecting three cornerbacks in April, this young group will arguably be the most competitive on the roster. Behind the veteran leader of the group Janoris Jenkins, the rookie trio of Deandre Baker, Julian Love, and Corey Ballentine are all fighting for snaps, along with second year corners Grant Haley and Sam Beal.

Beal did not play a snap in his rookie year due to season-ending shoulder surgery last offseason. The Western Michigan product was selected by Big Blue in the supplemental draft in 2018, which saw them give up this year’s third round pick for the defensive back. Beal was a highly touted prospect and is already making plays in OTAs. He is expected to heavily contribute in the Giants secondary this season.

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Haley played in 10 games for the New York Giants in 2018 and took over the starting slot corner position in the second half of the year. The undrafted rookie corner posted a solid 33 tackles, four of which came for a loss, along with two passes defended.

As for the rookies, both Baker and Love are two of the three candidates up for the Jim Thorpe award (best defensive back in college football). While Baker was lock down at Georgia only allowing one touchdown in his collegiate career, Love was right behind him. Playing at Notre Dame, Julian Love was a pass breakup machine recording 36 in the past two seasons alone. He also led the NCAA in this category in 2017 with 20 passes defended.

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Last but not least, Ballentine was selected by the Giants in the 6th round out of the Division II school Washburn College. Despite suffering a gunshot wound following the draft, Ballentine practiced for the first time on Thursday since the tragic incident. Ballentine ran an impressive 4.47 at the combine and collected five career interceptions as a three-year starter at Washburn.

Outside Linebacker

The other most intriguing competition on defense comes from the outside linebacker position. This group will be heavily relied upon to get after the quarterback this year, which was an aspect that was lacking on this unit a season ago.

The New York Giants selected Old Dominion pass rusher Oshane Ximines with their third round pick in the draft, who was known for getting after the quarterback in his college career. Ximines recorded a total of 32.5 sacks in four seasons at ODU, including 11.5 in his senior year.
Another young linebacker, who will be competing for a starting spot this offseason is second-year player Lorenzo Carter. Although he only started two games in 2018, Carter was second on the team with four sacks behind fellow rookie B.J. Hill. Carter also posted 30 tackles, seven for a loss, 10 QB hits, and four passes defended in 15 total games.

With these two young players knocking on the door for playing time, the Giants also have veterans Markus Golden and Kareem Martin. Both Golden and Martin come from Bettcher’s defense with the Arizona Cardinals.

Martin had an underwhelming first season as a Giant in 2018, which saw him only have one and a half sacks in 16 games. This number needs to improve if he wants to keep his starting spot over the youngsters, as previously mentioned.

As for Golden, he is coming off a torn ACL in 2017 that has limited him to only 15 games in the past two seasons combined. Despite this injury, he has still shown the ability to get after the quarterback and arguably had the best year of his career in 2016 under Bettcher, where he recorded 12.5 sacks with the Cardinals.

This unit must help increase the sack total for this defense in 2018. Now with a stronger secondary, this could allow them extra time to disrupt the pocket due to the fact that there will be better coverage behind them. The Giants are hoping Carter can take the next step and build off of his strong rookie campaign, along with Golden returning to his pre-ACL injury form that saw him record double digit sacks.
Stay tuned as we will without a doubt be very entertained throughout the summer watching these positional battles unfold!

Custom Houston Texans Jerseys

@benitosupreme_: Dear Drew, Do you think TE Kahale Warring would be close to an Owen Daniels replacement? We been missing that TE threat since his departure.
DD: While I’m excited about Warring’s potential, let’s tap the breaks on the Daniels comparison. He certainly has an intriguing skillset and athleticism, but Daniels played in multiple Pro Bowls and is the greatest tight end in franchise history. However, I’m bullish on the tight ends group in 2019, as Warring, Jordan Thomas, Jordan Akins and Darren Fells are all capable of creating mismatches.

Mike Ledesma Dear Drew, Is training camp being held in West Virginia? Would love the Texans to hold it in Austin like the Cowboys did in the 90’s. Getting tired of Central Texas being Cowboy Country even though I see more Texans every year.
DD: No Mike, the Texans will be back in Houston this year for training camp. It’ll start in late July, and they’ll spend a part of a week in early August practicing with the Packers in Wisconsin before the preseason opener at Green Bay. There are no plans for the Texans to do camp in Austin, but that could certainly change in the future.

@DanielNunezRise Dear Drew, Will our offensive line protect Deshaun Watson this year?
DD: Yes. I think the combination of the linemen who played last year improving, along with the return of Seantrel Henderson and the addition of the Draft picks will raise the level of competition and in turn, the level of play. I also believe Fells will be a nice cushion, too. When I spoke with him last week, he jokingly referred to himself as a left, left tackle.

@briangrunt311 Dear Drew, Is a hotdog a sandwich?
DD: Of course not.
Clinton Polasek: Dear Drew, Who do you think will be the biggest standout of our rookie class?
DD: Lineman Max Scharping. He’s a very impressive guy, and I think he’ll find a way to get on the field and make an impact early. He’s massive, super-smart, and though he might not pancake guys, he almost always seems to get the block made.

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Samantha Hallas: Dear Drew, What’s a typical day like for you at this point in the offseason?
DD: Depends on the day of the week. But I typically write an article or two, do a podcast, interview some players, do a bit of television, and attend a few meetings. Plus I mix in some pushups, planking, and light reading.

Juan Garza: Dear Drew, What do you think the chances are Jadeveon Clowney signs his tender and plays for the Texans this year, or that they get a deal done long term and he stays with our favorite team?
DD: Not sure either way, but I’m fairly certain you’ll see him on the field, wrecking shop in Week 1 for the Texans.
@joelormsby Dear Drew, Sort me out with a Wembley ticket mate, I’ll buy you a pint. Thanks.
DD: Word.

Ian Cottle: Dear Drew, Outside of RB Karan Higdon, who’s an undrafted name we should know going into training camp?
DD: I’m guessing you’re talking about the undrafted rookies, so I’d say keep an eye on receiver Johnnie Dixon from Ohio State, defensive end Albert Huggins from Clemson and running back Damarea Crockett from Missouri.

Rafael Pelayo: Dear Drew, How do they determine when we wear our full Battle Red uniforms? What can we do to wear it more often?
DD: Rafael, the Battle Reds can only be worn at home, and only twice per season, max. The marketing staff and in union with the football operations side ultimately decides what dates the Texans will wear Battle Red.

@nanipenajr: Dear Drew, There has been a lot of talk about finding our 4th WR. Is there any reason we can’t go get Bruce Ellington back?
DD: He’s a free agent, so the Texans could get him if they wanted. But I doubt they’ll do that, as they have a pair of receivers in Keke Coutee and DeAndre Carter who sort of play the same spot as Ellington would.
@NiMoTX: Dear Drew, What’s more likely: Texans keep 4 tight ends or 12 defensive backs?
DD: I really think you’ll see four tight ends on this year’s 53-man roster. Darren Fells, Jordan Thomas, Jordan Akins and Kahale Warring all give you a creativity for the offense because of their skillsets. Like I’ve mentioned many times this offseason: they’re incredibly athletic. Fells and Akins were professionals in basketball and baseball, respectively. Thomas is enormous. Warring is an athletic freak.

@debbiethetexan: Dear Drew, what’s your favorite color of cotton candy?
DD: Pink!

@Martin_E18 Dear Drew, How do you think our secondary would look this year?
DD: Hey Martin, hope you’re doing great my friend. This year’s secondary, especially at the safety spot, has a lot of experience. Tashaun Gipson and Jahleel Addae each started all 16 games last season with the Jaguars and Chargers, while Justin Reid started 12 games here in Houston. Johnathan Joseph is back at corner, and he’ll be joined by free agent Bradley Roby, rookie Lonnie Johnson and a few others.

Custom Minnesota Vikings Jerseys

Xavier Rhodes struggled during the 2018 season but looks to bounce back to his Pro Bowl form for the upcoming year with the Minnesota Vikings.
Watching a top-tier defensive back going up against the best wide receivers in the league can be quite entertaining to watch and fans of the Minnesota Vikings have gotten to see that on a regular basis with Xavier Rhodes.

A first-round draft pick who needed to clean up his play to get to become one of the top players at his position (including wearing boxing gloves to stop holding), Rhodes has defended 67 passes in 89 games played and returned one interception 100 yards for a touchdown.

However, Rhodes didn’t look like his usual self in 2018. A quick look at Pro Football Focus shows that they agree that he struggled, as he earned the lowest grade of his career in coverage (55.1) as well as overall defense (58.2).

Even head coach Mike Zimmer spoke about his struggles according to the Star Tribune, being quite harsh with the defensive back:

“I just don’t think he played as well as he can play. He needs to play up to his ability level. We’re paying him a lot of money. He needs to play up to that contract.”

The money Zimmer is describing is the five-year deal Rhodes signed worth $70 million. He also carried a salary cap hit of over $13.3 million in 2018 and will have the same cap hit for the 2019 season.

Recently, Rhodes responded to this comment in a professional manner on the official website of the NFL, stating some observations he had about his play.

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“I mean, we had a bad year as a whole team, so everybody was messing up. We all need to come together as a team and correct our mistakes. I was one of those guys being a leader on the team, not making as many plays as I did in previous years.”

Rhodes accounted for some of his errors by pointing out that he gambled more often than he should have on plays and performed out of character at times. With those things in mind, he had nothing but praise for his coach.

“We appreciate him being hard on us, being tough on us,” Rhodes said. “He only wants greatness out of us.”

There is no question that Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff demand excellence from everyone around him (no matter what Matt Kalil might say). By being so frank with his players a level of respect can be earned and held. That respect is something which has helped keep key pieces of the team together despite issues with the salary cap.
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Xavier Rhodes is under contract through the 2022 season with the Minnesota Vikings and should continue to play at a high level for the team. And hopefully, that means he can return to play that made him one of the most feared cornerbacks in the NFL.

Custom Buffalo Bills Jerseys

An injury early in the offseason means the Buffalo Bills should have a wide open competition to find the best tight ends for the regular season.
The Buffalo Bills signed Tyler Kroft to be the starting tight end this season.

He had his 2018 season cut short with a broken foot and was looking to get off to a great start in his new home.

Then he went and broke the same foot.

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Buffalo Bills

@BuffaloBills
Coach McDermott: “TE Tyler Kroft suffered a broken foot during day one of OTAs. WR Cole Beasley and C Mitch Morse will not participate.”

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Bradley Gelber

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Despite Ian Rapoport saying #Bills TE Tyler Kroft would likely be out until the start of the regular season, Josh Allen said he is hoping the TE is back in time for Training Camp.

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Kroft shouldn’t miss significant time during the regular season, but this is a terrible sign for someone who may be dealing with a chronic issue.

It is entirely possible Kroft recovers and has a great season for the Bills. In the meantime, the starting spot is wide open.

Counting Kroft, there are currently seven tight ends on the roster. Four are rookies and Jason Croom is the only one who is returning from the 2018 squad. There is also Lee Smith, who should make the team but won’t be a top target for Josh Allen.

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The injury to Kroft seems to set up Dawson Knox to get significant playing time, assuming he lives up to his third-round draft status. There is also Tommy Sweeney, who was taken in the seventh round.

I see this as a wide open competition. Take Smith out and that leaves Knox, Sweeney, Croom, Mik’Quan Dean, and Moral Stephens fighting to take Kroft’s spot.

Dean and Stephens may appear to be longshots, but it is entirely possible they shine in training camp and earn playing time. Knox is probably the only safe one based on his draft slot.

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NEXT: Things we know this week near the end of May
Brandon Beane is doing the right thing in creating competition at different positions groups. It is just unfortunate that the competition came about at tight end due to an injury.

 

Custom Pittsburgh Steelers Jerseys

PITTSBURGH — James Washington’s underwhelming rookie year was exhausting, so he coped the only way he knew how.

He got back to work on the family farm in Stamford, Texas, where Washington helped his dad change tractor tires or work on crops from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Open-field sprints commenced in the late afternoon.

Returning to normalcy helped Washington — who’s fighting for a starting receiver job with the Pittsburgh Steelers alongside JuJu Smith-Schuster — reimagine his physique, coupling the hard work with portion-control eating of farm food.

Steelers coaches were pleased by the transformation upon his return to Pittsburgh.

“I was pretty big,” said the 5-foot-11 Washington, who is down about 15 pounds from the 223 to 225 pounds he estimates he played at last season. “Just eat less, working and working out. Basically. Didn’t really do anything too crazy. It just started to fall off.”

Washington’s rookie year wasn’t a total disaster. He finished it with two performances of 60-plus yards in the final three weeks of the season. But his 42.1 percent catch rate (16 receptions on 38 targets) was easily the worst among Steelers with at least 10 catches. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called out Washington on his weekly radio show for not trusting his hands on a deep-ball drop in Week 12.

Washington’s biggest strength — the ability to make contested catches — was drowned out by the miscues and confidence issues.

Washington aimed to return faster and mentally ready.

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“I feel like I know more of the plays. … I feel I’m quicker off the ball,” Washington said. “I’m able to run with everybody.”

More preparation might result in less tough love from Roethlisberger, but Washington is prepared for that, too. In fact, he revels in it.

Washington and Roethlisberger had a one-on-one conversation in Week 13 that Washington said aided his evolution in the offense.

“It’s hard coaching,” Washington said of Big Ben’s criticisms. “I’ve been hard-coached my entire life. It wasn’t really anything new to me, and it kind of helped me get back on track a little bit. … He’s a captain. That’s what a captain is supposed to do. Encouraging words made me at ease.”

Free-agent addition Donte Moncrief might have the inside track on a starting job, but up to six receivers could hold down key roles. Eli Rogers is a slot option. Ryan Switzer can line up anywhere. Third-round pick Diontae Johnson will get a hard look.

But make no mistake, Washington has the raw ability to become a catalyst.

The Steelers hope healthy competition ignites him.

“It brings the best out of all of us,” he said.

Custom Green Bay Packers Jerseys

GREEN BAY – As the Packers look to sort out their pecking order at wide receiver beyond Davante Adams as their No. 1 guy, they may not end up with a standard hierarchy.

And new Head Coach Matt LaFleur will be just fine with that.

Following Tuesday’s open OTA practice, LaFleur explained his view of putting together a wide receiver corps. He likened it to “filling out a basketball roster,” for which the preference is to have a diverse set of skills in the group that the coaches can draw upon with their offensive play designs and calls.

So while it’s clear Adams is Aaron Rodgers’ go-to target in the passing game, and fourth-year pro Geronimo Allison has far more NFL experience than any of the understudies, other labels such as a No. 3 or slot receiver may not exist in the traditional sense.

“You need guys that are at a certain area of expertise, and then it’s our job as coaches to put those guys into position where they can showcase that skill set,” LaFleur said.
Put another way, LaFleur and his staff are going to work with the Packers’ plethora of young wideouts – which includes 2018 draft picks Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore, plus last year’s emerging contributor Jake Kumerow, late-season signee Allen Lazard and veteran return specialist Trevor Davis, among others – to find out what each guy does best, and sort out roster spots and roles from there.
So while a common question over the past couple of months has been who will replace departed free agent Randall Cobb in the slot, the answer might be no one and everyone at the same time.

“It’s more concept-driven, not necessarily slot versus outside receiver,” LaFleur said. “Are you asking the guy to run a choice route, or are you asking him to take the top off and run a vertical route?”

By “choice route,” LaFleur means a route within which the receiver has options for what to do and where to go, depending on the defensive coverage. It’s the type of route where the quarterback and receiver must see the field the same way and “be on the same page,” as the saying goes.
As expected, some receivers are more adept than others at reading defenses, making those choices and seeing the game like Rodgers. Everyone needs to work on it, but the better ones will stand out over time, particularly as they absorb more of LaFleur’s scheme. Another receiver might line up in the exact same place for another play, but then have a completely different job.

“Everybody’s got their own little spin, their own little thing to him,” Moore said. And while they’re all learning a new playbook from scratch together, they have that first season with Rodgers under their collective belts.

Packers hold practice inside the Don Hutson Center Wednesday
The Packers practiced inside the Don Hutson Center on Wednesday for voluntary minicamp.
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Evan Siegle, packers.com
Green Bay Packers during voluntary minicamp inside the Don Hutson Center in Green Bay on Tuesday, April 23, 2019
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Green Bay Packers during voluntary minicamp inside the Don Hutson Center in Green Bay on Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Evan Siegle, packers.com/Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers during voluntary minicamp inside the Don Hutson Center in Green Bay on Tuesday, April 23, 2019
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Green Bay Packers during voluntary minicamp inside the Don Hutson Center in Green Bay on Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Evan Siegle, packers.com/Green Bay Packers
“Getting that experience with one of the best quarterbacks to ever do it, you can’t take that back,” Valdes-Scantling said.

In the early stages of the offensive installation, Rodgers emphasized he wants to see the young receivers show consistency on the mental side, which starts with “alignment and assignment” – knowing the formations and responsibilities on every snap. Once those are down, their best skills will shine through, and LaFleur and his staff can figure out where and how they fit.
“The greatest thing a young player can do is not repeat a mistake, because a repeat mistake a lot of times is tied to preparation,” Rodgers said. “(If you’re not) locking that thing away in your mind so you don’t make the same mistake twice, it maybe shows you don’t care to fix something.”
Rodgers mentioned several young receivers have made plays during the early OTAs as opportunities have been plentiful. Adams was being held out for unspecified precautionary reasons, according to LaFleur, and Allison is still working his way back from last year’s season-ending core muscle injury.

Of course, when it’s all said and done, the most diverse, well-rounded receivers will put themselves in position for the most playing time. But if there’s a specific, standout skill that LaFleur can maximize on within the framework of his offense, he’s going to try to utilize it.

“You’re not going to go out and play with five point guards,” LaFleur said, continuing the basketball roster analogy. “You need a speed guy. You need a guy that’s got short-area quickness… (and) we’d like to have a couple guys that are versatile enough to do both of those things.”

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated following video surfacing of Ezekiel Elliott being handcuffed, but not reportedly arrested, at a music festival in Vegas over the weekend.

FRISCO — With each NFL season, Ezekiel Elliott has taken on a larger leadership role for the Dallas Cowboys.

The two-time rushing champ, who turns 24 in July, entered the league in 2016 as someone who mostly led by example.

He enters Year 4 as more of a vocal leader and the face of a team looking to get back to the NFC championship game for the first time in 24 years.

“I’m just excited about the group of guys we have,” Elliott said Sunday during his annual youth football ProCamp inside the Ford Center. “I’m excited about the talent we have on this team. I’m excited about the leadership group we have. I think we have a lot of the right pieces. I think we have a lot of promise for this season.”

Ezekiel Elliott playing QB at his annual youth football camp pic.twitter.com/affRD3refW

— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 19, 2019
During a sit-down interview with CBS 11 (KTVT-DFW) on Sunday, the two-time Pro Bowler was asked about maturing off the field.

“Just kind of growing up,” Elliott said. “I came into this league real young and had a lot to learn. I got those boo-boos, I messed up a couple of times and I learned from my mistakes. It made me a better person.”

Editor’s note: This story with the interview listed above was published before video surfaced of Elliott being handcuffed at a music festival in Vegas over the weekend. Read more about that incident here.

In that same CBS 11 interview, Elliott made it clear that he believes he’s “the best running back in the league,” adding that his statistics “speak for themselves.”

He also explained why he thinks the Cowboys are capable of being the league’s best team this season.

“I think we have a lot of the right pieces,” Elliott said. “I think we’re loaded at every position. We have a lot of depth and we have a great group of leaders and some great team chemistry going on. We just have to lay that foundation now and carry it through camp and make it happen during the season.”

Ezekiel Elliott’s message to the kids at his youth camp: “Just to work hard. Just to compete. It doesn’t just mean on the field, but off the field. In the classroom. If you’re at home, making your bed or you’re cleaning your room, just to pursue excellence in everything you do.” pic.twitter.com/IaLR0Su1Bg

— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 19, 2019
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