News and Views

Miles Austin Expected To Sign With Eagles... If Healthy Monday, March 30, 2015 | Time: 11:15 PT |  Reported by NFL.com
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The Facts: If Austin is healthy, Chip Kelly will add the veteran to his receiver corps. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the wide receiver will sign with the Eagles when he visits this week, assuming all goes well with the physical, according to a source informed of Austin's plans.
Diehards Line: The 30-year-old wideout played in 12 games, starting 11, for the Browns last season before being placed on injured reserve with a kidney injury. Austin caught 47 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns in 2014. The former Cowboys receiver has dealt with injuries -- including persistent hamstring troubles -- that have sidetracked his career following back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2009 and 2010. Kelly continues to reshape the Eagles' receiving corps. After watching Jeremy Maclin defect to Kansas City, Philly will add Austin to a group currently led by Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff and Riley Cooper. As NFL.com suggests, at this stage of his career Austin, the receiver is a complementary player at best. But if there is anything left in his tank, Kelly might be the man to get pump it out.
Browns GM Ray Farmer Suspended Four Games Monday, March 30, 2015 | Time: 11:12 PT |  Reported by ESPN.com
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The Facts: According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Browns GM Ray Farmer has been suspended four games and the team was fined $250,000 for Text-Gate.
Diehards Line:Farmer admitted to texting to team personnel during games in violation of the league's electronic device policy. Farmer has not revealed who he texted, but reports have said the texts went to an assistant coach and an unnamed team representative on the sideline and that the texts dealt with in-game strategy and use of personnel. Farmer sent text messages throughout most of the season, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com. The texts took place for multiple games and continued at least until QB Johnny Manziel got his first start in Week 15. Owner Jimmy Haslam said he stands firmly behind Farmer, who has owned up to his mistake, and the Browns will accept the consequences. HC Mike Pettine admitted he was not pleased when the texts began, but he said at last week's league meetings that he and Farmer had talked it through. "We both feel like we're very much on the same page and we're moving forward to make this team better," Pettine said.
Falcons Likely To Lose Draft Pick For Piping Crowd Noise Into Stadium Monday, March 30, 2015 | Time: 11:11 PT |  Reported by ESPN.com
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The Facts: The NFL is expected to suspend Falcons president Rich McKay from the competition committee and take a draft pick from Atlanta for piping crowd noise into its stadium over the past two years, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Diehards Line: The NFL could also place heavy fines on the Falcons, according to sources. The league is expected to officially hand down the discipline no later than Tuesday. Falcons owner Arthur Blank already has acknowledged wrongdoing, saying that the situation is "embarrassing." Atlanta has been accused of piping in the noise while opposing teams were huddling, trying to call their plays. Some around the league have argued that silent counts have rendered crowd noise more irrelevant, and it's difficult to discern how much of an advantage it gave the Falcons. The Falcons went 3-4 at the Georgia Dome this season -- they played a "home" game in London -- and were blown out there 34-3 by the Carolina Panthers in Week 17 with the NFC South Division title on the line.
Hakeem Nicks Visting The 49ers Monday, March 30, 2015 | Time: 9:28 PT |  Reported by Profootballtalk.com
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The Facts: Nicks told Josina Anderson of ESPN that he is on his way to California on Monday for a visit with the 49ers.
Diehards Line: The 49ers have already added Torrey Smith and Jerome Simpson to their receiving corps while they have parted ways with Stevie Johnson. Michael Crabtree, who started every game for the Niners last year, remains unsigned and joins Nicks, who has been greeted by an indifferent reaction from the league coming off a 38-catch season with the Colts in 2014, as one of the more prominent free agents still on the market. As PFT's Josh Alper suggests, with Smith and Anquan Boldin on hand, Nicks would be in line for a depth role with the 49ers similar to the one he played in Indy last year. Which seems about the best he could hope for at this point.
Will A Stronger Rushing Attack Help Matthew Stafford? Monday, March 30, 2015 | Time: 12:12 PT |  Reported by the Detroit Free Press
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The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... HC Jim Caldwell said at the NFL owners meetings Wednesday that he wants to become less reliant on a passing game that features Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, and win with a balanced offense and the same tenacious defense that helped the Lions reach the playoffs last year. "When I tell you that we're not going to throw the ball any more than we threw it (last year), that's a fact," Caldwell said. "We're probably not going to throw it (more). If we do throw it more, that means we're behind, we're struggling, we're not winning, we're not a very good football team, plain and simple."
Diehards Line: The Lions ranked 11th in the NFL with 604 pass attempts last year, including two fake punts, and just four of the 10 teams that threw the ball more made the playoffs. Stafford's passing numbers have been in decline the last few years, since he set an NFL single-season record with 727 attempts in 2012, and his 602 attempts last fall - he completed 363 passes and took another 45 sacks - were the lowest in a season in which he played in all 16 games. Caldwell said the Lions still will lean on Stafford plenty this fall, but he cautioned the ball will "be distributed maybe a little bit different."
Packers Will Continue To Keep An Eye On Eddie Lacy's Carries Sunday, March 29, 2015 | Time: 1:13 PT |  Reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Facts: HC Mike McCarthy knows that Lacy takes (and delivers) punishment that other backs don't because of his bulldozer running style. McCarthy said he's not concerned with changing Lacy's willingness to run over people instead of around them, and that the best way to preserve him is to limit his touches. "It's a learning experience," McCarthy said. "I'm conscientious of how many times each guy touches the ball, how much each guy plays, especially the running back. I think you have to be smart there."
Diehards Line: In terms of carries, Lacy's average per game last season didn't even crack the top 10 in the NFL last season. He ranked 13th with 15.4. McCarthy said the 246 attempts he gave Lacy didn't reach the target he had set, but he liked the way he limited Lacy's snaps and carries early in the season and increased them down the stretch. In 34 games over his first two seasons, including playoffs, Lacy has carried 611 times, which ranks fourth in the NFL behind Seattle's Marshawn Lynch (709), Murray (653) and Buffalo's LeSean McCoy (647). His carries in 2013 (305) and 2014 (306) were almost identical, so if anything McCarthy has found some balance. Look for more of the same going forward.
Stevan Ridley To Start Making Free Agent Visits Sunday, March 29, 2015 | Time: 1:12 PT |  Reported by ESPN.com
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The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... Ridley is scheduled to make his first visits in free agency this week as he explores potential opportunities for 2015 that would have him playing elsewhere from New England.
Diehards Line: Ridley tore his right ACL on Oct. 12, had surgery Nov. 18, and ESPN.com's Mike Reiss reports the running back is on target to receive full medical clearance in about six weeks. Reiss went on to note that Ridley is probably looking at a prove-it type one-year deal because of the injury and thus one consideration he’s weighing is landing with a team where there is a great chance to break through. ... We'll be watching to see which teams show some interest.
If Andre Johnson Wasn't Already Irritated At Texans... Sunday, March 29, 2015 | Time: 1:05 PT |  Reported by NFL.com
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The Facts: When the Texans informed Johnson that he would be an afterthought in Bill O'Brien's offense this season, the franchise icon laughed his way to the top of the division in Indianapolis. Texans owner Bob McNair said this week that he wasn't surprised at Johnson's reaction because it's human nature for athletes to go into denial in the twilight of their careers. "Every athlete I think would like to play forever," McNair said. "They never want to acknowledge that they've lost a step or they can't quite do what they did before. Just look at history. Look at all the players. It just happens time and time again."
Diehards Line: While it's a bit of a surprise to hear McNair say it publicly, the point is taken. As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling noted, a potential Hall of Famer, Johnson was the best receiver in the game at his career apex. A superstar of that magnitude wouldn't have taken a backseat to an up-and-comer like DeAndre Hopkins if he hadn't lost a step. But there were other factors involved. Was Johnson's decline in production purely the onset of physical attrition? Or was it just as much about a changing role in a new offense with a four-pack of scattershot QB? Whatever the case, it's hard to argue Wesseling's contention that Johnson isn't going to accept McNair's appraisal at face value. The Colts believe Johnson can return to that elite 2012-2013 level catching passes from Andrew Luck, easily the best quarterback of his 13-year career. And having a big chip on his shoulder won't slow Johnson down any more than age.
C.J. Anderson Heads Into OTAs As Denver's Starter Saturday, March 28, 2015 | Time: 11:55 PT |  Reported by NFL.com
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The Facts: One of the most intriguing offseason battles to watch this summer will take place in the Denver Broncos' backfield, which is stocked with young runners Anderson, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman. "Who's going to be the bell cow, who's going to play every down, who's going to be the three-down player, they've got to sort that out," HC Gary Kubiak said this week.
Diehards Line: But NFL.com went on to note that Kubiak's comment came amid copious praise of Anderson. The 24-year-old flashed a power and speed combo coaches drool over during a brilliant end to last season, in which he carried the load while Peyton Manning battled injuries. Anderson's style would seem to be custom-made for Kubiak's zone-blocking, one-cut runner style -- and Kubiak realizes it. "[Anderson] made a big jump as a player, and I think he's earned the right to walk into the offseason program -- the OTAs -- and line up as our starter," Kubiak said. "But he's got to continue to earn it on a daily basis. I think he's shown he has all the ability to be an excellent starter in this league, so we're really looking forward to working with him." Fantasy owners should feel the same.
Rivera: 15 Carries A Game Is Ideal For Jonathan Stewart Saturday, March 28, 2015 | Time: 11:54 PT |  Reported by ESPN.com
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The Facts: The Panthers may have given up on all-time leading rusher DeAngelo Williams, but they haven't given up on the two-back system. HC Ron Rivera said on Wednesday at the NFL owners meeting the Panthers ideally would like to get about 15 carries from Jonathan Stewart and then 8-10 from another back. "The thing you've got to be careful about in this league is you can't rely on one player at one position,' Rivera said. "Running back has definitely been proven that you've got to have a good two-back tandem." The Panthers have Fozzy Whittaker and fullback/running back Mike Tolbert to spell Stewart. But neither can replace him without a dropoff
Diehards Line:in talent like Williams could. So look for that other back to be found in the NFL draft. The Panthers hosted Georgia's Todd Gurley, expected to be the first or second back selected, last week. According to ESPN.com's David Newton, they also have shown interest in Indiana's Tevin Coleman, Southern California's Javorius Allen and a few other backs who would be second- to mid-round picks. "We're looking for that complement to Jonathan," Rivera added. Stewart proved to be one of the most productive backs in the league last year when healthy. He led the NFL in rushing with 437 yards from Weeks 12-15 while Williams was out with a broken hand. The Panthers just want to make sure they remain productive when Stewart can't play or needs a rest.