AROUND THE NFL

The idea of an 18-game schedule refuses to die.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The NFL could seek an 18-game regular season or an expanded playoff field in a new labor deal, Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports. In return, Maske says, many owners are willing to offer players concessions to the commissioner’s disciplinary authority and to the marijuana policy.

 

Maske quoted a high-ranking official with one NFL team saying “some owners . . . would like to expand the season” to 18 games but added it’s not clear “if there is much support from the players on that.”

 

Players have adamantly opposed an expanded schedule, and Giants co-owner John Mara reiterated the NFLPA’s strong stance on that issue as recently as September. Packers CEO Mark Murphy repeatedly has stated his concerns about the impact of more games on the health and safety of players.

 

The league, though, wants 18 games, especially with legalized gambling on the way, and it now has something to give up in order to create even more revenue.

 

The NFL and NFLPA announced last week a joint committee will study the use of marijuana by players as a pain-management tool.

 

The current collective bargaining agreement expires following the 2020 season, and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith recently sent an email to all agents warning them to prepare for a full-season work stoppage in 2021.

 

Both sides, though, appear hopeful that a better working relationship than in 2011 could lead to a labor deal before it comes to that.

 

“I do hope it’s sooner rather than later,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at last week’s owners’ meeting, via Maske. “I think there’s great value to all parties, and most importantly our fans, that we get this issue resolved and move forward. But there are important issues to be addressed, and we’re doing that.”

 

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

TE KYLE RUDOLPH with a contract update.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

All is quiet on the Kyle Rudolph contract negotiations front, but the Minnesota Vikings tight end continues to make his intentions loud and clear.

 

In an interview with NFL Network’s Scott Hanson on Total Access on Wednesday, Rudolph said that he is optimistic that a deal can be reached between his team and the Vikings to ensure his future in Minnesota.

 

“They want me in Minnesota. I want to be in Minneosta,” Rudolph told Hanson. “Unfortunately, the business side of things gets int he way. That’s a testament to the rest of the team. We have a lot of good football players on our team. You can’t pay everyone. You can’t keep everyone.

 

“As of right now, we still think there’s a way. I said last week after OTAs that my agent and the Vikings are working extremely hard to find a creative way to make these things happen.”

 

The cap-strapped Vikes want Rudolph to take a pay cut from his $7.6 million salary in 2019, the last season of a five-year deal signed with the team who drafted him in 2011. The 29-year-old Rudolph said previously that he’s too young to take a pay cut. Minnesota has explored trading Rudolph, but the tight end has insisted time and time again he wants to stay in purple and gold.

 

“Yeah, no question,” Rudolph said. “Throughout all of this, that’s been the easiest thing. We want to be in Minnesota. We want to make sure we exhaust every possible option to make sure that we stay in Minnesota.

 

“With that being said, the Vikings feel the same way. They want to keep me in Minnesota. They want me to finish my career in Minnesota. So we’re both on the same side of things. It’s just a matter of finding a way to get it done within the salary cap.”

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

The 19-year-old security guard abused by RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT says he wants a “sincere apology.”  The DB would also want at least a five-figure check.  This from ESPN:

 

The security guard allegedly knocked down by Ezekiel Elliott at a Las Vegas music festival earlier this month says he is still seeking a genuine apology from the Dallas Cowboys running back.

 

Kyle Johnson, 19, told KCBS-TV in Los Angeles that he wasn’t injured in the May 19 incident that led to Elliott being detained but was disappointed by his actions. While trying to access a secure area at the festival, Elliott allegedly used his body to shove Johnson backward and he fell over a security fence.

 

“I wasn’t hurt or anything, but just to have someone that you looked up to shove you on the ground over a metal fence?” Johnson told the station. “It’s not the biggest thing in the world, but really, [to say] nothing happened? I mean, come on.”

 

Video of the incident was released by TMZ.

 

Johnson, who plays football at a California community college, told KCBS that he would like another apology, saying he wasn’t satisfied by the one he got at the time.

 

“I did get an apology from him. It wasn’t a sincere apology,” Johnson said. “He didn’t maintain eye contact. It didn’t seem sincere at all.”

 

Johnson declined to press charges against Elliott at the time. He told KCBS he hadn’t thought about whether that was the right decision or if he would reconsider.

 

At the time of Elliott’s detainment, Las Vegas police office Laura Meltzer described the possible charge as misdemeanor battery.

 

On Thursday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he didn’t believe the NFL would take action against Elliott, who was suspended six games in 2017 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

 

We saw the video.  No “allegedly” here.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Both Grudens are resisting being exposed by “Hard Knocks.”  Les Carpenter of the Washington Post:

 

The Washington Redskins don’t want anything to do with the HBO reality TV show “Hard Knocks,” which follows a team through its training camp. The Redskins have never been on the show, which seems to suit the organization just fine, but time might be running out. They are one of five teams the NFL will not allow to block HBO from coming, along with the 49ers, Giants, Raiders and Lions.

 

On Wednesday, during his news conference following the day’s organized team activities, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden did his best to convince HBO that his brother Jon’s team, the Oakland Raiders, would be a much better choice.

 

“Really, if they were smart they’d go to Oakland,” Gruden said, smiling. “Seriously. You have Antonio Brown, Jon Gruden, Paul Gunther, Vontaze Burfict. [Richie] Incognito. They’d be crazy not to go to Oakland. They could do us next year, maybe.”

 

When reminded that teams that make the playoffs can reject a request to host “Hard Knocks” the following summer, Gruden laughed.

 

“If we don’t make the playoffs I probably won’t be here anyway. They can do what they want,” he said.

 

No one seemed to have the heart to tell Gruden that teams that have a new head coach also can say no to hosting the show.

– – –

Terez Paylor of YahooSports.com looks at possible timetables for QB DWAYNE HASKINS:

 

The past month has been downright dizzying for Dwayne Haskins. But at times it feels too good to be true.

 

Not only did Ohio State’s star quarterback fulfill a lifelong dream by being taken in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft in late April, the team that selected him 15th overall — the Washington Redskins — is the Potomac, Maryland, native’s hometown squad.

 

What’s more, in a final fairytale flourish, the club granted Haskins’ request to wear No. 7 (his preferred number at Ohio State), despite the fact it hadn’t been worn by anyone in 33 years in honor of Joe Theismann.

 

And don’t think for a second that Haskins, who spoke to Theismann and eventually received his blessing to wear the number, is taking any of this for granted. That much Haskins wanted to make clear during a recent interview with Yahoo Sports.

 

“I just can’t see myself not wearing 7 — I just feel like it’s a part of me, it just fits me, and I just felt like that was the right number for me,” said Haskins, who was recently making the rounds to talk about his involvement with Panini America. “This is going to give me the opportunity to wear it, and I’m very thankful for that, and I feel like I’m going to do a great job in it and hold that number to a high standard.”

 

Sooner rather than later, perhaps. Before drafting Haskins, the Redskins traded a 2020 sixth-round pick to Denver for veteran journeyman Case Keenum, so internally, they continue to insist there’s no rush to start Haskins in 2019.

 

Still, it behooves them to give the 22-year-old every opportunity to win the job, especially since a quality quarterback on a rookie deal is the best value in professional football.

 

“Having sit out at Ohio State for two years, I know what it’s like to prepare to play, even though you’re not [playing],” Haskins said. “It’s whatever Coach [Jay] Gruden and the coaching staff want to do … but I’ll make damn sure [that I’m] ready to play and make that decision hard for them.”

 

How quickly he can do both of those things will come down to his ability to answer two primary questions that, interestingly enough, were the ones that Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, the NFL’s reigning MVP, faced two years ago.

 

‘In college, you have like four or five signals and that’s it.’

Redskins coach Jay Gruden’s West Coast offense is heavy on verbiage — just like Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s. Haskins must consistently spit out Gruden’s long play calls if he wants to have a fighting chance of adequately running the offense.

 

There’s zero doubt about his ability to eventually do so, but considering Haskins didn’t have to call plays in Ohio State’s huddle, there’s a fair question to be asked about whether he can nail it down by the regular-season opener.

 

“In college you have like four or five signals and that’s it,” Haskins said. “In the West Coast [playbook], you have like 15 words and it’s a lot, it’s different, but it’s pretty cool.”

 

The good news for Haskins is that Mahomes, the 10th overall pick of the 2017 draft, didn’t call plays in the huddle at Texas Tech either. That’s one of the reasons why, despite his preponderance of athleticism, he sat on the bench for the majority of his rookie season in Kansas City, as the coaching staff gave him time to master the verbiage behind entrenched starter Alex Smith.

 

Yet, by the time Mahomes made his NFL debut in the regular-season finale against Denver — a brilliant performance in which he led a game-winning scoring drive — not only did Reid rave that Mahomes had a “complete” command of the verbiage, he was also well-acclimated to the speed of the NFL game, as he’d spent four months working against the first-string defense as the scout-team QB.

 

This would be the best-case scenario for Haskins, who may be thrust into playing time sooner than Mahomes yet be better served sitting for at least the first month of the season, when the Redskins open the year. Four of their first five games are against playoff teams from the 2018 season (Eagles, Cowboys, Bears and Patriots).

 

“It’s a long process, but he’s a bright guy,” Gruden said of Haskins. “He’s wanting to work at it and he will work at it.”

 

‘Mahomes’ second-reaction ability — where the quarterback makes defense-demoralizing throws when the original play design breaks down — was stunning last season and he made the trait cool again.

 

And in a pass-centric era of football where defenses are more multiple and adept at confusing quarterbacks, young QBs with Mahomes’ playmaking skills are given a reprieve, of sorts, when their first few reads are taken away.

 

While Mahomes’ second-reaction ability was once thought of negatively (he was called “reckless” by many during his draft process), the 6-foot-3, 231-pound Haskins also found himself being criticized for second-reaction ability during his pre-draft process, albeit for a lack of it.

 

“I simply don’t have a great sample size [of that] because I was able to be on time in the pocket and protect myself with [blitz] protections,” Haskins told Yahoo Sports. “It was how [well] I prepared for the game.”

 

Haskins’ entire supporting cast at Ohio State — from his skill players, to the offensive line, to the coaching staff — was far superior to anything Mahomes had at Texas Tech, where he had to regularly pull things out of his rear to keep his team in the game. So in many ways, Haskins didn’t have to be as creative.

 

Yet, that doesn’t change the fundamental fact that Haskins’ ability to create and throw on the run when plays break down remains a projection, one that contributed to him falling to the 15th pick of the draft, and third overall quarterback selected behind Kyler Murray (No. 1 overall) and Daniel Jones (No. 6 overall). But the Redskins say they aren’t worried much about that.

 

“Whether it is a 6-inch step, a step up [or] a lateral step — what have you [do is] buy some time, and he can buy some time with his size and strength,” Gruden said. “People bounce off of him … he is a big, strong kid and he has functional mobility.”

 

‘He’s very likable’

While Haskins has some clear areas of improvement — including his footwork, accuracy and anticipation on intermediate routes — his ability to win in the pocket still excites many in the NFL. He regularly worked his way to the third or fourth progression of passing reads and showed off his strong, accurate arm at Ohio State.

 

By the end of the 2018 campaign, he completed 70 percent of his passes and set school records with 4,831 passing yards and 50 touchdowns (and only eight interceptions) as he led the Buckeyes to a 13-1 record in his only season as a starter.

 

While the lack of college starting experience remains a red flag, scouts around the NFL are intrigued by what the 22-year-old can develop into if he’s allowed to get more seasoning in Washington before taking over under center full-time.

 

“[He’s] very likable — he just has to naturally grow up some more and obviously, as a one-year starter, he just doesn’t have a ton of experience dealing with the ups and down of the year and moving on from them,” one scout told Yahoo Sports. “[He only had] one loss this year.”

 

And to Haskins’ credit, he seems excited to learn from Keenum, Colt McCoy and Mahomes’ former mentor Smith (the Redskins’ starter in 2018 who suffered a devastating leg injury last year), adding that sometimes, he can’t believe he is playing for his hometown team, wearing his favorite number, with all the veteran support he could ever ask for.

 

“To be around these guys I looked up to growing up … and now I’m in the same room as them, you’ve got to pinch yourself,” Haskins said. “They definitely want to assist me along the way and I’m just thankful they’re so helpful in that situation — a lot of guys usually aren’t.”

 

So now, with a clear sense of his good fortune, he knows his task is to master the playbook, prove his second-reaction ability and get better in every other area every day.

 

“And everything else,” he says, “will just take care of itself.”

 

A DB pet peeve – Haskins is not a “native” of Potomac, Maryland.  He was born in Highland Park, New Jersey (or at least lived there as an infant/kid as Highland Park kids may be actually born in nearby New Brunswick). 

 

He moved to the DC area in 9th grade. He may or may not have lived in Potomac, but that is where the Bullis School that he attended is located.

 

So we would say – Haskins is a New Jersey native who went to high school in Potomac, Maryland.  Not that he is a “native” of Potomac.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Gerald McCoy escapes the clutches of the Ravens and goes to Carolina.  Will the chance to play the Buccaneers twice per year be appealing?  This from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

Free agent defensive tackle Gerald McCoy’s visit with the Ravens has ended and now it’s time for all involved to play the waiting game. McCoy’s decision is coming down, at the moment, to the Browns, Ravens and Panthers.

 

McCoy stayed overnight in Baltimore during a two-day visit that began on Tuesday afternoon.

 

Last week, McCoy had dinner with Browns team personnel on Thursday night and was at the team’s facility on Friday.

 

Later in the day on Wednesday, Joe Person of The Athletic reported that McCoy will visit the Panthers.

 

@josephperson

 McCoy got out of Cleveland and Baltimore without a contract. Panthers making a late run at him.

Will be interesting to see where this ends up.

 

A source told cleveland.com the Browns are still in the mix for the services of the 31 year old who spent his first nine seasons in the league with the Buccaneers. The two mutually parted ways last week.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Did the Buccaneers overpay for damaged goods in WR BRESHAD PERRIMAN?  The RedZone:

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Breshad Perriman has been sidelined at OTAs with a shoulder injury according to Greg Auman of The Athletic.

 

The injury reportedly happened about two weeks ago and Perriman has been out ever since.  The good news is that Perriman has not been seen wearing a sling and has still been in attendance at OTAs despite being unable to participate.

 

Originally the No.26-overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Baltimore Ravens out of UCF in 2015, Perriman’s career in Baltimore was derailed by numerous injuries and frequent drops.  His tenuous NFL career finally clicked under Freddie Kitchens in Cleveland last season as he closed out the team’s final eight games with a total 15/334/2 receiving line and he parlayed that success into a one-year, $4 million contract to join the Bucs in March.  Still only 25 years old, it is far too early to give up on the speedy Perriman and he is tentatively penciled in as the No.3 wideout for the Bucs in 2019 behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.  He should be a great fit in Bruce Arians’ offense but has to get and stay healthy as he is missing some valuable reps.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

When Kliff Kingsbury’s formations spread out the defense, RB DAVID JOHNSON thinks he will have room to roam.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

New Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury was known at Texas Tech for a pass-first offense, but that doesn’t mean a running back can’t get plenty of action in it — and that’s exactly what Cardinals running back David Johnson is expecting.

 

Johnson said he could see himself having the kind of production in Kingsbury’s offense that he had in 2016, when he led the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage.

 

“It’s been going great. I think it’s going to be a really good offense,” Johnson said, via ArizonaSports.com. “I think it’ll be similar to 2016 but probably more shotgun’s our home, which is good because I did that in college and we had a running quarterback. I think I’ll be utilized as a running back and receiver. I think it’s going to be really helpful, only having to worry about one guy trying to tackle you as opposed to three, four guys loading the box.”

 

The Cardinals hired Kingsbury to be an offensive innovator, and in Johnson they have a big-play threat who should have plenty of opportunities.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

Someone named DARREN WALLER is looking good at TE in Raiders OTAs.  Scott Bair of NBCSports.com:

 

The Raiders were content letting Jared Cook leave in free agency despite him being their best receiver last year. Darren Waller’s the main reason why, and he has shown playmaking ability during OTAs.

 

That was clear midway through Tuesday’s session when he hauled in an over-the-shoulder grab from Derek Carr. The Raiders quarterback quickly identified a favorable matchup outside with rookie cornerback Isaiah Johnson and threw a quick strike trusting Waller would win out. He did, bringing in one of a few nice plays made as the primary receiving tight end getting tons of first-team work that would’ve been unavailable with Cook around.

 

“Would it stunt his growth if Jared was here? Possibly,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “So now that he has that position, it’s your position, you are the ‘Y’ in certain personnel groupings. We’re going to put you out there on the field and you’re going to play. You’re going to get better from playing. You’re not going to wait and sit behind Jared Cook and have to wait your turn, you have to go now. We’re really pushing him to the limit right now.”

 

Waller has responded well to a golden opportunity to kick-start his career and realize vast potential.

 

Waller is from Georgia Tech and is the great grandson of jazz musician Fats Waller.

 

He was picked by the Ravens in the 6th round in 2015.  He was with Baltimore for three seasons – and caught 12 passes total.  Part of the reason for that limited production was a pair of substance abuse suspensions, including one that cost him all of 2017.  Last November, the Raiders signed him off Baltimore’s practice squad.  All six of his 2018 receptions came in four games with Oakland.

– – –

It turns out that G RICHIE INCOGNITO has had some issues that have been incognito until now.  This from ESPN.com:

 

Richie Incognito, whom the Oakland Raiders signed to a one-year deal on Tuesday, pleaded guilty in April to two misdemeanors after an incident involving his 90-year-old grandmother that took place in August in Peoria, Arizona.

 

According to court documents obtained by ESPN, Incognito agreed to plead guilty to charges of criminal damage and disorderly conduct — both Class 1 misdemeanors in Arizona — after he punched a fist-sized hole in a wall in the living room and ripped a security system’s control box off the wall during an argument with his grandmother at her house on Aug. 19, 2018.

 

The police report described Incognito as “enraged” and that he blamed his grandmother for the death of his father, which he had announced on Twitter the day before. A domestic violence charge was removed when a plea agreement was reached on April 1.

 

Incognito was ordered to take 10 weekly anger-management sessions and pay a $569 fine. He also was given one year of unsupervised probation per terms of the agreement. He was ordered to stay away from his grandmother’s home, stay on his medication, avoid alcohol, not possess firearms and write a letter of apology.

 

Incognito also pleaded guilty last month in Scottsdale, Arizona, to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge stemming from an arrest in August. Two days after the fight with his grandmother, Incognito was arrested in Scottsdale after making threats at a funeral home where his father’s body was being held.

 

Thoughts from Mike Florio:

 

Given an extensive history of misconduct for which Incognito has never faced league-level scrutiny, these two incidents could (and arguably should) put Incognito in line for a significant suspension. And if he hadn’t disclosed the run-in with his 90-year-old grandmother to the Raiders, that could be enough to get the Raiders to pull the plug quickly on the Incognito experiment.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Owner Steve Bisciotti lays down the word that LAMAR JACKSON won’t be the run-first QB he was as a rookie.  Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:

 

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said Wednesday night that the vision of the organization is to build the team around Lamar Jackson and to decrease the rushing attempts for its young franchise quarterback.

 

In an hourlong conference call with season-ticket holders, Bisciotti was asked several questions about Jackson, including any concern over increased risk of injury. Last season, Jackson set the NFL record for quarterbacks by running 147 times, surpassing Bobby Douglass (who had 141 in 1972).

 

“I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that Lamar is not going to be running 20 times a game,” Bisciotti said in his first public comments in more than a year. “That’s not what this offense is about.”

 

When Jackson took over for Joe Flacco around midseason, he won six of seven starts to lead the Ravens to their first AFC North title since 2012. He also averaged 17 carries per game.

 

Bisciotti said Jackson’s high number of rush attempts were a factor of Baltimore doing whatever it took to get to the postseason for the first time in four years. The Ravens spent this offseason tailoring the offense around Jackson’s unique skill set, and Bisciotti expects a significant amount of growth from the No. 32 overall pick in last year’s draft.

 

“Everything falls to Lamar,” Bisciotti said. “We believe in him. We believe he’s going to be great. He desires to be great. We will continue to build the team around his strengths, and he’ll continue to work on his weaknesses.”

 

The Ravens’ priority this offseason was to surround Jackson with playmakers. Baltimore signed two-time Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram II in free agency and selected two of the draft’s quickest wide receivers and the fastest running back in the first four rounds.

 

“We realized as much as anybody else did that we had 11 eyes on Lamar at the end of the year,” Bisciotti said. “I think they were focused on him, and in order to make him grow, we had to put some speed around him.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

The Jaguars have offered a tryout to WR TERRELLE PRYOR per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

– – –

Tough news for QB NICK FOLES and family.  Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com:

 

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles was absent from the team’s organized team activity Tuesday because he was taking care of his wife after she suffered a miscarriage last weekend.

 

Tori Foles announced on Instagram on Wednesday night that she was only 15 weeks pregnant when she went into early labor Sunday morning and was hospitalized. She also said she contracted a blood infection.

 

Nick Foles had announced during an April news conference that the couple was expecting their second child. They have a daughter.

 

“The emotions go back and forth from immense and overwhelming sadness, confusion and anger to a firm belief that God has this fully in his hands and will use this for good,” Tori Foles wrote in the post. “We cannot always understand or explain, but we know that is true.”

 

She said she is back home now and recovering.

 

Nick Foles missed a voluntary practice Tuesday for “a personal reason” and returned to OTAs on Thursday after the team was off Wednesday.

 

Foles posted on his Instagram story that “this has been a tough last week,” adding that his wife “has written a beautiful post explaining our experience and what is in our hearts.”

 

The team has OTAs on Thursday and Friday, and four more next week.

 

The team’s mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 11-13.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

OC Brian Daboll is happy with the progress of QB JOSH ALLEN.  Veteran scribe Vic Carucci in the Buffalo News:

 

This is how far Josh Allen has progressed in one year. At times, he actually gets to call his own plays during Buffalo Bills OTA practices.

 

That’s a pretty big deal, considering that, one, even the most experienced NFL quarterbacks rarely are allowed to do their own play-calling, and, two, Allen made all of 11 starts as a rookie in 2018.

 

Yet, there was Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll Tuesday, standing before reporters and sharing the extent to which his confidence in Allen has grown.

 

“There’s been a series in there where I said, ‘Hey, you got it, bro. Take it, call it. Go no-huddle and you call it on your own,’ ” Daboll said.

 

Sounds like shades of the Super Bowl years, when Jim Kelly had that constant green light to dial up his own plays in the legendary K-Gun offense. OK, maybe that’s a bit too far. And whether Allen will have many or even any such opportunities in games remains to be seen.

 

For now, though, Daboll’s show of trust serves as a strong reflection of the kind of offseason Allen has been having. It’s the result of work he has done in his native California on his own and while working with quarterback guru Jordan Palmer, and what Allen has retained from a year ago with Daboll and since the Bills’ offseason program began in mid-April.

 

Given restrictions on interaction between teams and players during the offseason, per the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Daboll had to use a window of opportunity right at the end of last season to talk with Palmer about “things that we want to try to get accomplished” with Allen.

 

“I have a lot of respect for Jordan and what Josh does, and Josh goes out there,” Daboll said. “And, unfortunately, the rules are the rules. You can only do so many different drills with so many different people. Jordan does a good job with him. (Allen) knows what was expected of him in terms of his footwork and the throws we’d like him to make.”

 

There has been a clear emphasis on improving Allen’s accuracy, a sore spot from his collegiate career that didn’t disappear during a rookie season that he finished by completing 52.8 percent of his passes. Not all of the incompletions were his fault and completion-percentage isn’t a perfect measurement of how accurately a QB throws.

 

Nonetheless, Daboll and new quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey know that one of their primary goals is to help Allen become more efficient and effective, especially after the team’s heavy free-agent investment to fortify the quarterback’s supporting cast.

 

A year ago, Allen was seen less as a savior than an exceptionally raw project. Sure, the Bills had made him the seventh overall pick of the NFL draft, a spot that defined him as their long-term answer at quarterback. But there were still many more questions from a career at Wyoming where he displayed overwhelming arm strength but underwhelming accuracy.

– – –

The Bills knew he needed work. They began him as the third of their three quarterbacks, with AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman alternating in the first two spots before McCarron was shipped to the Oakland Raiders and Peterman began his disastrous run as the Day One starter. Allen’s move to the No. 1 spot happened faster than the team anticipated, but during last year’s offseason workouts, it was all about having the rookie take baby steps.

 

Now, as the Bills’ undisputed No. 1 quarterback, he is in an all-out sprint by comparison.

 

“You’ve got to think to back to last year, Josh was taking reps with threes a bunch,” Daboll said. “And then he was taking reps with some of the twos and some of the ones. To build camaraderie and consistency, particularly in the passing game, you like to throw to the guys you’re going to throw to as many times as you can. So I think having him out there, obviously, it’s very helpful because he’s going with the ones for the most part. We don’t have a depth chart (yet), but the guys that he’s working with, some of the new guys, like Smoke (John Brown), and Zay (Jones), and those guys, I think that’s really beneficial for him because he’s taking reps with a lot of guys that he’ll be working with throughout the summer.

 

“He’s had a good offseason in Phase One and Phase Two. And these first couple days (of the current OTA session), we’ve put him in a lot of different situations. We’ve done Red Zone already, we’ve done two-minute, we’ve done third down, we’ve done first down, we’ve done start of the game. … He’s grown mentally, physically, off the field, on the field, as a leader. And again, it’s a short time, we’ve only had (two) OTAs.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BEST PLAYERS UNDER 25

As compiled by Marc Sessler of NFL.com.  Edited below, full thing here:

 

Who are the most promising rising stars in the NFL? Marc Sessler compiled a roster of the top players under 25 years old heading into the 2019 season. Note that players must be less than 25 years old on Sept. 5, the day the season kicks off. Players have been listed with their age as of Sept. 5.

 

Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (23 years old as of Sept. 5). No need to get too cute out of the gate: Mahomes is the clear choice under center after an MVP campaign that rewarded fans with more than just bursting box scores. Yes, the Chiefs passer notched the kind of statistical feats that make keyboard-facing number bods hot and bothered (for starters, his 134.2 passer rating from a clean pocket marked the highest qualifying single-season mark in the 13-year history of Pro Football Focus) while tossing for 5,097 yards at 8.8 yards per attempt with 50 touchdowns and 12 picks. It’s about how the newbie starter did it, though, beguiling cover men and puzzling even the smartest chess players with a fast-arriving ball that left defenses out of position all season long. With Mahomes at the helm, the Chiefs were an explosive beast with a knack for raining down points like an NBA team on a 24-2 run. It’s fair to expect Mahomes’ numbers to regress some in 2019, but that doesn’t diminish his physical gifts. Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield (24) would be my second choice here — with so much to like — but Mahomes is the unquestioned leader today.

 

Running back: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (24 as of Sept. 5). Elliott remains firmly in place as a do-everything workhorse in Dallas, one who led the NFL in ground yards per game for the third straight campaign in 2018. He might not top last year’s 77 catches — he amassed just 58 total grabs during his first two seasons — but the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft remains a danger through the air. It’s fair to wonder how long he can churn out 330-plus touches per year, but no current doubts exist about Elliott’s immense meaning to the Cowboys as one of the more watchable and fascinating rumblers of our generation.

 

Running back: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (22 as of Sept. 5). What more could you ask from a rookie? The Offensive Rookie of the Year had nine big-play snaps of 40-plus yards — five more than any other back. The second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft also finished second among runners with 91 catches and rolled through his rookie season as the central focus of New York’s offense. Like Elliott before him, Barkley has fully delivered on his lofty draft pedigree. It’s worth noting that Todd Gurley — knee concerns aside — turns 25 on Aug. 3, before the opener.

 

Running back: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (24 as of Sept. 5). After tossing and turning over a variety of combinations that would dump either Elliott, Barkley or Kamara to the curb, I’ve come up with a solution: We’ll use all three — at once. Envision Zeke, Saquon and Alvin bouncing around unhindered out of a grisly combination of Wishbone and Power I sets. Will we go heavy up the middle? Or unleash Kamara into the flats to employ the same jaw-dropping physical gifts that allowed him to freak out the league with back-to-back 81-catch campaigns? Kamara can run, too, blasting into would-be tacklers with more power than expected, for 5.1 yards per carry over 31 appearances.

 

When teams think they’ve figured us out, that’s when we’ll begin to unleash — for quarters at a time — variations of the T formation, the glorious flexbone triple option and the esoteric Notre Dame Box, before psychologically breaking the enemy with 25 straight runs out of the Maryland Power I.

 

Once we’ve gone 16-0, my editors can issue their rebuttal for including a third back on MY FOOTBALL LIST.

 

Wide receiver: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (22 as of Sept. 5). Pittsburgh sets the bar when it comes to finding and developing wideouts. Some balked when 2009 third-rounder Mike Wallace was allowed to hit the market in 2012. The Steelers, though, knew what they had in Antonio Brown, despite the former sixth-round pick failing to reach 70 catches in any of his first three campaigns. Smith-Schuster’s ceiling already feels inspired by Michelangelo; consider that he pulled down 111 balls for 1,426 yards last season with Brown still in the lineup. Age aside, JuJu has already become one of the league’s anchoring stars. The question is whether Pittsburgh can flip the switch on second-year (and suddenly vastly important) wideout James Washington.

 

Wide receiver: D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers (22 as of Sept. 5). The age cutoff for this piece eliminates a flock of stars — Tyreek Hill (25), Michael Thomas (26), Mike Evans (25) and Amari Cooper (turning 25 in June) — but Moore fits here as Carolina’s tough-as-nails heir to Steve Smith. The rookie brought rugged traits to Carolina’s air attack, finishing second league-wide in missed tackles (17) and first in yards after the catch per reception (7.91) among wideouts with 40-plus grabs.

 

Tight end: O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24 as of Sept. 5). Before you ask, San Francisco’s George Kittle already hit the quarter-century mark in October. Howard, however, fits here — and remains my choice over the also-inviting David Njoku (22) — after a tantalizing second season that saw him emerge as a strong-handed pass-catcher who now owns 60 receptions, 997 yards and 11 touchdowns over 24 tilts.

 

Offensive tackles: Braden Smith, Indianapolis Colts (23 as of Sept. 5) and Orlando Brown Jr., Baltimore Ravens (23 as of Sept. 5). After dominating at Auburn as a road-grading guard, the versatile Smith finished his rookie season as PFF’s 18th-ranked tackle. Colts general manager Chris Ballard told reporters Smith would be given this offseason to stay and grow at right tackle — that’s good enough for me. Across from Smith, we’ve got Baltimore’s Orlando Brown Jr., who needs polish as a run-blocker but gives our squad a wild-bodied 6-foot-8, 345-pound protector up front. Age prohibited us from nabbing Ryan Ramczyk (25), Laremy Tunsil, Mike McGlinchey, Jack Conklin, Taylor Moton (all turning 25 in August), Ronnie Stanley (25), George Fant (26) or Taylor Decker (25).

 

Offensive guards: Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts (23 as of Sept. 5) and Will Hernandez, New York Giants (24 as of Sept. 5). The Colts keep giving, with the presence of Nelson, who graded out as PFF’s fourth-best run-blocking guard and anchored an Indy line that properly protected Andrew Luck for the first time in Earth’s history. A nasty football lifer, Nelson would make any gridiron list around — forget the age requirement. Hernandez, meanwhile, brought a dose of stability to a Giants front lost at sea. Both Andrus Peat and Joe Thuney — a couple of blue-hairs — are 25-plus.

 

Center: Garrett Bradbury, Minnesota Vikings (24 as of Sept. 5). In another move bound to be critiqued by the reader, I’ve filled our center spot with an untested rookie in Minnesota’s first-rounder, Garrett Bradbury.

 

Edge rusher: Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers (24 as of Sept. 5). Danielle Hunter (24) and T.J. Watt (24) hover closely, but no way do I pass on adding Bosa to the mix. I don’t need him to pen a dense, intricately plotted Russian novel for the public. Instead, he will be used to turn opposing quarterbacks into doomed and greying mincemeat Sunday after Sunday. Durability concerns linger, but I also see a player who missed his entire rookie offseason, only to notch 10.5 takedowns in his first 12 NFL appearances. No assembly required.

 

Edge rusher: Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns (23 as of Sept. 5). Housed on our roster, Garrett will be allowed to use more than two moves come kickoff. If it’s true that former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams limited Garrett’s bag of tricks, that makes his 13.5 sacks under Williams last season look even more remarkable. After leading all qualifying edge defenders with an 18.5 % win rate, per PFF, Garrett stands at the threshold of making his a monster career.

 

Defensive tackle: Jonathan Allen, Washington Redskins (24 as of Sept. 5). Injuries stunted Allen as a rookie in 2017, but he showed promise last autumn by winning more pass-rushing battles (11.7 percent) than any qualifying interior defender from his draft class.

 

Defensive tackle: Kenny Clark, Green Bay Packers (23 as of Sept. 5). More people should know Clark, the somewhat anonymous Green Bay anchor who played well against the run and pass in 2018. Tampa’s Vita Vea (24) deserves a mention here, too, while Chris Jones (turning 25 in July), Leonard Williams (turning 25 in June), DeForest Buckner (25) and Sheldon Rankins (25) all missed out due to age.

 

Linebacker: Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts (24 as of Sept. 5). The quickly ascending Colts strike again with another young game-changer in Leonard. The 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year hit the ground running with 10-plus tackles in a league-leading seven starts…The Colts have found the dictionary definition of a centerpiece on defense.

 

Linebacker: Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys (23 as of Sept. 5). Vander Esch was a marvel to the eye as a rookie in 2018, dominating linemen and giving Dallas a lock-and-load tackler who singlehandedly turned the middle of the Dallas defense into a black hole.

 

Linebacker: Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons (24 as of Sept. 5). You can make an argument for Jacksonville’s Myles Jack (23), but I’m picking Jones in a tight race.

 

Cornerback: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars (24 as of Sept. 5). Ramsey struggled at times inside a Jacksonville defense held hostage by a confused and wandering offense. None of that stops me from siding with a player who reimagined the position in 2017. \

 

Cornerback: Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints (23 as of Sept. 5). The New Orleans corner fell off a tad from his wondrous Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2017, but Lattimore’s dance card featured bouts with Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Alshon Jeffery and Calvin Ridley inside a Saints secondary that took time to figure itself out. Tre’Davious White (24), Denzel Ward (22) and Desmond King II (24) hover beside Lattimore as some of the game’s brightest young corners.

 

Safety: Jamal Adams, New York Jets (23 as of Sept. 5). While I hemmed and hawed at some positions, safety was simple. Adams evolved into a complete player in Year 2, the rare backstop who excels in coverage while operating as a dangerous pass-rushing nuisance. \

 

Safety: Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers (23 as of Sept. 5). Seen by some as a snub for Defensive Player of the Year, Derwin logged a monster 1,169 defensive snaps as a wire-to-wire rock for the Chargers. Coordinator Gus Bradley was able to reimagine his secondary largely because of the versatility James brought as a rookie.

 

Kicker: Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs (24 as of Sept. 5). What’s not to like? In an era where a flock of kickers flub extra points left and right, Mr. Butker has pegged 40 of 41 kicks inside 40 yards and nailed 93 of his 97 career PATs. He’s reliable from longer ranges and serves as an appropriate fit for Kansas City’s high-octane attack. It’s worth noting Wil Lutz of the Saints turns 25 before HE’S ALLOWED TO in terms of this exercise.

 

Punter: Michael Dickson, Seattle Seahawks (23 as of Sept. 5). Finishing as football’s second-best punter, via PFF, Dickson capably replaced the long-standing Jon Ryan in Seattle.

 

Returner: Desmond King II, Los Angeles Chargers (24 as of Sept. 5). Tarik Cohen (23) deserves a mention here, but the Bears weapon only returned three kicks last season, including playoffs. One of the game’s top slot corners, King put his stamp on last year’s Chargers campaign with a flurry of special-teams magic, highlighted by his 73-yard punt return score in a comeback win over Pittsburgh in Week 13. Doubling down in his X-factor status, King also notched a 72-yard kick return in the playoff win over Baltimore.