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Thread: Previewing the 2018 NFL Camps

  1. #16
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    GB's Graham builds chemistry with Rodgers
    July 28, 2018


    GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Jimmy Graham isn't worried about developing chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers new tight end knows how good his new quarterback is, and through the first three days of training camp, they've already made plenty of progress.

    But when will Graham know that he and Rodgers have truly gotten on the same page?

    ''I'll be with the ball in the end zone,'' Graham said after Saturday's first in-pads practice of camp. ''That's really when you know.''

    That hasn't happened yet in any of the 11-on-11 team periods of the first three practices, but the two have connected plenty of times during drills and expect to be on the same wavelength in time for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against Chicago.

    ''We'll just keep plugging away. We'll just keep doing that each and every day,'' Graham said. ''And come Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . we'll be clicking, I'm pretty sure.''

    The Packers certainly need Graham, a five-time Pro Bowl tight end who came over from Seattle in free agency, to be a force. After cutting wide receiver Jordy Nelson during the offseason, they'll be counting on Graham to be a go-to presence in the red zone. Last year with the Seahawks, all 10 of his touchdown catches came from inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

    Coach Mike McCarthy's offense is at its best when he has a big, athletic tight end in the mix, which is why the team has signed one three years running - Jared Cook in 2016, Martellus Bennett last year and Graham this time around. While the Bennett experiment backfired, Rodgers and Cook developed a strong connection during their one season together after Cook overcame early-season injury problems.

    ''We just need more reps,'' Rodgers said of his exposure to Graham. ''He's a big target, he catches the ball with his hands. We haven't had a guy like that around here in a while. Obviously Jared did a lot of those things, but Jimmy, he's got a great feel for coverages, getting open, he uses his body really well, runs good routes. And he's a matchup issue. We haven't had a consistent matchup issue guy like that for a long time.

    ''So we just need reps together. He needs to hear the language, he needs to hear some of the code words and the verbiage and the signals. I'm not worried about any chemistry issues with him.''

    Graham, who played with elite-level quarterbacks with the Saints (Drew Brees) and Seahawks (Russell Wilson), has been impressed with Rodgers' accuracy and his ability to put the ball in places that protect his receivers from dangerous hits. To Graham, having that type of trust already with Rodgers is a very encouraging sign.

    ''I know when leads me out there that I can just run right through it. I've got no worries in the world because I know he's the eyes in the back of my head,'' Graham said. ''We'll just keep working on that. It's not him getting on my page, it's me getting on his page, you know? He's been in this league a long time, knows too much, and I've got to just catch up and just learn every day and make sure I'm supposed to be where I'm at so I can make that catch and make that big play.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Cam: Time to 'take back the division'
    July 28, 2018


    SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) An optimistic Cam Newton says he's adjusting well to a new offensive scheme and boldly proclaimed it's time for the Carolina Panthers to ''take back the division.''

    Wearing a ''Change the culture'' t-shirt and a ''Keep Pounding'' hat, an upbeat Newton was budding with enthusiasm on Saturday even after starting right tackle Daryl Williams went down with a knee injury earlier in practice.

    In his first football-related interview in six months, Newton set a positive tone for training camp for a team that hopes to recapture the NFC South it won in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Carolina went 11-5 last season, but New Orleans won the head-to-head tiebreaker and took the division title.

    Part of Newton's optimism surrounds the hiring of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the addition of wide receivers D.J. Moore, Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright.

    Newton said Turner has been ''extremely easy'' to work with and joked that his offense is ''Boogie approved.''

    The 2015 league MVP said he likes that Turner is open to listening to suggestions about what plays may work best, even to the point to keeping the names of some of the predecessor Mike Shula's play calls.

    ''I think the onus is on (Turner) more so than us to take what we have done good and expand on it, rather than just ripping the sheets of paper up and having a this-is-my-way-or-the-highway mentality,'' Newton said.

    Newton said it didn't take long to realize Turner has a high football IQ.

    But he added that it's still a little too early to know exactly what to expect from the Panthers offense when the regular season arrives.

    ''I can't tell you that, (but) I know that the transition as far as philosophies has almost been as easy as anyone could expect,'' Newton said. ''He is super relatable and is someone who has been around this league and been around a lot of egos and lot of different players and knows how to adjust. That alone makes my job easy knowing that he is a person who you can go to and say, `This is how I feel about certain things.' And (he'll say), `OK, let's find out how we can implement it.' He's not a guy who is so egotistical who says, `No, this play is going to work versus this.'''

    Turner has already talked about wanting to improve Newton's completion percentage.

    Newton's has completed just 58.5 percent of his career passes, but Turner would like him to be above 65 percent.

    ''That's a goal of mine and it is certainly attainable,'' Newton said.

    Newton said that means learning to accept what the defense gives him, even if it means short dump-offs over the middle and to outlet receivers.

    ''That has to be my mentality,'' Newton said. ''We have a lot of guys who can take two yards and turn it into 20 yards, or more. But it starts with me and I have to trust those guys and get the ball to them.''

    The 29-year-old Newton said he's feeling healthy heading into the season.

    That's a big difference from last season when he underwent shoulder surgery and missed all of OTAs and minicamp and a large portion of training camp undergoing rehab.

    ''It was very big for me making the proper steps this offseason knowing that I am full go,'' Newton said. ''My body feels great and I always have to mention to TD (linebacker Thomas Davis) that I even look great. I am in a position where I am all smiles.''

    Newton also addressed new owner David Tepper, teasing that ''I'm up for an upgrade'' after seeing he paid $2.2 million to purchase the team from founder Jerry Richardson.

    ''The excitement is something we all should get prepared for knowing we have a lively owner,'' Newton said.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Wentz looking 'really good' at Eagles camp
    July 28, 2018


    PHILADELPHIA (AP) Carson Wentz lunged to his right and then backpedaled to avoid a rush. After darting forward again, he quickly rolled to his right and took off down the sideline at full speed.

    The only reminder Saturday that the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was returning from knee surgery was the brace attached his left leg.

    ''Obviously he's got some of that Kobe Bryant (stuff) in his knee,'' defensive end Michael Bennett said with a smile, referring to the offseason knee treatment in Germany the NBA great used to receive. ''He probably went to Germany or Switzerland or some (stuff), because he's looking really good out there.''

    How upbeat were the Eagles after Wentz went through 11-on-11 drills with the starters at the first padded practice of training camp? Coach Doug Peterson interrupted new offensive coordinator Mike Groh's press conference with the key question for the Super Bowl champions.

    ''I know you don't want to put a timetable on Carson, but what's your timetable?'' Pederson asked, smirking.

    ''Great question,'' Groh said.

    Wentz sure looked close to ready, if not already there, during a humid morning practice. Barely seven months removed from tearing the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee, Wentz participated in full team drills without limitations. While he tossed two interceptions, he drew rave reviews from his teammates and coaches for his arm strength, accuracy and mobility.

    ''He's in the right frame of mind. He's making some good throws,'' Groh said. ''As you can see, we're pretty good on defense. Those guys are making it challenging for us on offense, particularly early, first day in pads.''

    Wentz dazzled in 13 games last season, throwing for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. The Eagles led the NFL in scoring and were 11-2 after Wentz went down on Dec. 10.

    Behind backup Nick Foles, the Eagles went on to win their first NFL title. But it's clear that even though Foles was the Super Bowl MVP, Wentz will become the starter again when he's ready.

    ''When you're rehabbing something, it's not an exponential line. It's not you're slowly getting better and then you rapidly accelerate,'' tight end Zach Ertz said. ''There's going to be times in training camp probably where he doesn't feel great or his knee doesn't feel great and they'll back him off.''

    Because of that, the Eagles remain tight-lipped about whether they expect Wentz under center for the season opener Sept. 6 against Atlanta. It's also uncertain if he'll appear in a preseason game. Wentz didn't speak to reporters after the 2 1/2-hour workout.

    ''To have everybody out there, Carson there, in some people's minds is ahead of schedule,'' Groh said. ''But I know this was his target date. So we're happy to have him out there working. It's only going to make everybody better.''

    NOTES: With several receivers banged up and not practicing, including Alshon Jeffery and Bryce Treggs, the Eagles signed WR DeAndre Carter. The move gives the Eagles the maximum 90 players. ... The team displayed the Lombardi Trophy in a glass case outside the practice fields, allowing fans to snap pictures while standing next to it.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Falcons hope well-paid offense makes plays
    July 28, 2018


    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Ricardo Allen began listing the weapons on the Atlanta Falcons' offense and shook his head.

    Wide receivers Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Quarterback Matt Ryan.

    The safety said facing those playmakers is like a bad dream he must revisit every practice. But Allen also smiled because that's good news for Atlanta's 2018 outlook.

    ''Oh, man, you've got Julio, you've got Sanu, you've got Ridley on the field at the same time and you've got those running backs,'' Allen said Saturday. ''Who do you match up against? Who do you put your best players on? It's like a matchup nightmare.''

    The front office has taken action to make those playmakers happy - and safe.

    Ryan has a new five-year, $150 million contract extension. Jones was given an adjustment to his five-year, $71.5 million contract and a promise the deal will be renegotiated after the season. Left tackle Jake Matthews agreed to five-year, $75 million extension on Friday, and the team's top offseason acquisition was right guard Brandon Fusco, adding more stability to the offensive line.

    Ridley, a wide receiver from Alabama, was the team's first-round draft pick .

    Ryan is 33. Jones is 29. Coleman can be a free agent after the season. The Falcons are attempting to seize this opportunity to take full advantage of this offense - most of the unit led the league in scoring two years ago.

    ''To go up against it every day, I personally don't think any other offense that has this many weapons from sideline to sideline to give us that much pressure,'' Allen said. ''Then you've got Matty Ice out there putting the ball anywhere he can. It's a hard matchup and every day is a challenge and that's a good thing.''

    The Falcons led the league with 33.8 points a game in their 2016 Super Bowl season with former coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now San Francisco's coach, in charge of the offense. In Steve Sarkasian's 2017 debut as offensive coordinator, Atlanta fell back to 15th in scoring, at 22.1 points per game.

    Center Alex Mack says the Falcons are starting faster in their second year with Sarkasian.

    ''I just see it as a way to start fast and build,'' Mack said Saturday. ''As an offense in training camp, you can start at a more advanced point than you started the year before, so you can get into the details and work on the little things and be really on the same page.''

    The Falcons opened training camp with Freeman and Jones at full health.

    Jones played every game but dealt with a long list of injuries last season. Freeman missed two games with his second concussion of the year, including one last preseason, and also was slowed by a knee injury at the end of the season.

    ''It is awesome to see Free back, feeling like himself,'' coach Dan Quinn said. ''His aggressive nature always comes out and he's off to a great start.''

    Quinn said the familiarity that comes with the offense's second season with Sarkasian is crucial.

    ''I think anytime you're around guys for more than a year, he has such a clear vision of what guys can do,'' Quinn said. ''As small as that may sound to you, it's a big deal.''

    NOTES: DE Takkarist McKinley left practice with an apparent right shoulder injury. He has had surgeries on both shoulders the last two years. Quinn said Saturday's injury is not believed to be serious. ... The Falcons have sold all 60,000 tickets, at $5 each, for their practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. It will be the team's first practice in pads.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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