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Reporters' Notebook: Texans' QB race, minicamp stars and more

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In the wake of minicamps, NFL Media's network of reporters gets you up to speed with the hottest news and notes from across the league, including:

» Where do quarterback competitions stand on the Bears and Jets?

» Two players poised for big 2017: Rams OLB Robert Quinn and Dolphins WR DeVante Parker.

» Rookies Evan Engram (Giants) and T.J. Watt (Steelers) already creating buzz.

But first, James Palmer reports from Houston on one of the most intriguing AFC teams heading into 2017 -- and the big question at quarterback ...

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HOUSTON -- It's a humid Houston afternoon and Tom Savage is positioned in the shotgun. Standing a few feet behind his right shoulder is Texans head coach Bill O'Brien. The offensive and defensive lines are not even in attendance for the final day of mandatory minicamp. The focus today is apparently on the passing game for the shortened final practice outside of NRG Stadium. The Texans are currently in a 7-on-7 period. Right before the snap, both O'Brien and Savage simultaneously notice tight end RaShaun Allen is not lined up correctly. O'Brien's whistle blows and he's visually upset -- as is the fourth-year quarterback, who is shaking his head in disgust. Allen is replaced with Evan Baylis and the ball is snapped.

"He's been here since he got drafted," wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins told me of Savage, a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. "He knows this offense better than anybody in that locker room. He knows where to put the ball at, he knows where the defender is going to be. He's a student of the game."

Savage has spent more time in O'Brien's system than any quarterback at any level. It's also the longest Savage has spent in any system at any level. And oddly enough, one of the most crucial years in Savage's preparation for the opportunity to be the starting quarterback in Houston came in 2015 -- when Savage spent the season on injured reserve after hurting his shoulder in the preseason finale against the Cowboys. Savage and offensive assistant coach Pat O'Hara spent an enormous amount of time not just on Xs and Os, but creating a game plan for the time when Savage would get his shot at QB1.

And now, that time has come.

"Tom's No. 1," O'Brien said this week, in between minicamp practices. "He knows, like I said from Day 1, he's got to earn it every day. That's the type of roster that we have."

Indeed. With the 12th pick of April's draft, the Texans selected Clemson QB Deshaun Watson. In fact, Houston traded up from the No. 25 slot to nab the former All-American. The selection not only marked the first time Rick Smith had ever spent a first-round pick on a quarterback during his 12 years as Texans GM -- but it was the first time Smith had ever snagged a signal caller within the first three rounds of a draft.

Smith had experienced Watson's poise first-hand from the stands during the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship, when the Clemson star calmly came from behind, slayed mighty Alabama and earned Offensive MVP honors. Since joining the Texans, Watson has continued to impress virtually everyone in the organization -- on and off the field -- with a tireless work ethic instilled in him from his mother.

"He's come a long way," O'Brien said after the team's first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. "He's in here all the time. There is no questioning this kid's work ethic. He's in here on the weekends. I wasn't even here this past weekend; my kid was in here. I don't know how that happened, but he was in there -- I think with Fitzy's (Craig Fitzgerald) kids -- and saw Deshaun in there. 'Hey dad, Deshaun was in there.' "

Different aspects of Watson -- as a person and a player -- stand out to each of the Texans coaches who work closest with the rookie on a daily basis. One will tell you he's even more talented physically than they originally anticipated; another will compliment his professionalism; and yet another will wax poetic about his ability to learn and retain information.

"I want to be mentally sharp when I step on the field," Watson told reporters after a practice inside the Texans indoor facility. "I want to be able to operate the offense and be able to come out here and execute at a high level. I have to put the time in, pay my dues, so when I come out here, I'm ready and I can show what I have."

These are the two quarterbacks vying to lead a playoff team to new heights. Their paths to the NFL were vastly different. Savage attended three different universities and, while working construction between transfers, thought at one point his football career was over. Watson went 32-3 as a starter and was a two-time Heisman finalist. Savage, who is entering the final year of his contract, has yet to throw a touchdown in the NFL on 92 career passes. Watson had the fifth-highest-selling NFL jersey in the country last month.

But O'Brien has long been open about his cautious stance when it comes to rookie quarterbacks starting right away in the NFL, and Savage is considered the starter heading into training camp. Last year, the Texans shelled out a bunch of dough to snatch up Brock Osweiler in free agency to be the quarterback savior. It didn't go as planned. Perhaps last season was when Savage's teammates started to really see his knowledge of the offense, even if he was displaying it from the sideline while watching Osweiler.

"I like his leadership," Hopkins said. "From last year, when he wasn't playing on the field, he was still showing the guys, telling us what we should do, helping us out like he was the starting quarterback. Now that he's in that role, it's not surprising to anybody on this field that he deserves that role. He has earned it, not just from playing, but from the chemistry he has built in the locker room with everybody."

In 15 regular-season games last year, Osweiler threw 16 interceptions -- and three more in a playoff loss against the Patriots. That was Osweiler's final game in a Texans uniform, as Houston traded him to Cleveland -- along with a second-round pick -- in a salary dump.

Obviously, Savage's focus is on limiting turnovers in 2017.

"Overall in the offseason, we did a good job of protecting the ball here," Savage said after the conclusion of mandatory camp. "That's going to be a key going into the season."

Houston had the league's No. 1 defense in 2016 -- and with the return of J.J. Watt, the unit could be even more dominant this season. A number of veterans on that side of the ball consistently went against Savage back when he ran the scout team three years ago. Those in the secondary have seen Savage's development.

"He's progressed in that aspect of his game," veteran cornerback Kareem Jackson told me of Savage's knowledge of the system and ability to quickly go through his reads. "Being with coach O'Brien on a daily basis in the film room, it's almost like (snapping his fingers quickly) -- things are coming to him so naturally. And he definitely has a big arm, as well. He can make every throw on the field. It's been kind of cool to go against him and see him progress each and every year."

The progress the public will be focused on during training camp is most likely Watson's. The franchise quarterback of the future. But perhaps the focus should be on the progress of Savage. His success or failure will determine the Texans' immediate future, Watson's developmental path and possibly the future of Bill O'Brien in Houston.

» Houston's Swiss Army Knife in the secondary. Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson prides himself on the ability to play all over the field. Three years ago, when Romeo Crennel became Houston's defensive coordinator, he moved the former first-round pick into the slot repeatedly during passing situations.

"You never know where I might be," Jackson told me on Tuesday. "To me, it's just all about what can I do to help the team. Regardless of who we are playing, just whatever they need from me, I'm willing to do it."

Now O'Brien has promoted Mike Vrabel to defensive coordinator. And the first-year DC apparently has Jackson -- now in his eight season -- lining up more than just outside and inside.

"The more you can do, the better," Jackson told me. "For me, it's all about helping the team. If I got to play outside the whole game, or if I'm in the slot, safety, whatever. I'm all for it, just because I'm capable of doing it and I definitely don't have a problem with it."

I asked Jackson if he believes he will at some point line up at safety this season.

"Not sure, we'll see how the year plays out," he said grinning. "Not sure, it's always in the deck."

-- James Palmer

MINICAMP NOTES AROUND THE REST OF THE LEAGUE

ATLANTA FALCONS: Freeman contract extension? The last time a Devonta Freeman contract extension came up was when his agent brought it up during Super Bowl week. Freeman, who is in the last year of his rookie deal, was asked about it after the conclusion of minicamp on Thursday. The Pro Bowl back sounded optimistic about a deal getting done, but insisted he is focused on football. He said he's talked to GM Thomas Dimitroff and that "Things look good, though ..." -- adding that Dimitroff knows he's in no rush.

» Can this young defense get better? The unit believes so, with LB Deion Jones telling me that "DQ (Dan Quinn) said we know what it takes now. It wasn't like last year when we were trying to figure it out ..."

Last year's defense was a unit that had four rookie starters -- and more than half of its starters in their first or second year. The group tremendously improved in the second half of the season. Safety Keanu Neal said, "The sky is the limit."

Grady Jarrett, now in his third year, had a breakout Super Bowl with 3 sacks.

"As far as the Super Bowl, that was definitely the highlight of my career, as far as the way I played," Jarrett said. "But like I said to everybody, I feel like the effort I gave on that day was just because I wanted that win so badly and it just made me want it even more for this team, for this city -- being an Atlanta guy, it means so much to me. It was an awesome feeling, but the work is far from over."

» Jones expected back in time for training camp. I observed star receiver Julio Jones rehabbing following foot surgery in March, and he was running pretty hard. He also wears a coach's hat while watching practice.

"He's a second pair of eyes for all of the receivers," Mohamed Sanu told me.

Sanu and I also talked about how he and Jones have similar body types, but bring different things to the table.

"My strengths are playing on the inside and attacking defenses on the interior," Sanu said. "He (Jones) likes attacking Ds on the outside, so we just try to help each other understand how we fit there and there ... We just try to feed off each other."

-- Tiffany Blackmon

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CAROLINA PANTHERS: Newton's rehab appears to be moving along. Ron Rivera clarified his statement last week -- when he more or less said that Newton would be throwing this week. Newton did not throw during minicamp. The important thing out of all the confusion around the coach's initial comment is that Newton is still on track in his rehab from shoulder surgery. The plan was to have him throwing the football 12 weeks after the procedure, which would be next week.

Tight end Greg Olsen doesn't seem too concerned: "Obviously, I don't think anyone would say it's ideal. I think he'll be fine. It's not his first time playing quarterback, it's not his first action. Injuries happen. We've seen it across all positions. Obviously, the quarterback is a little bit different, but injuries are just part of this league, unfortunately. He's done everything in his power that he's allowed to do up until this point. When it's time to take that next step, that will be the next big thing for him."

Olsen remains confident his QB will be ready when the time comes: "He'll be fin. He's a big boy."

My own observations from observing the franchise signal caller at minicamp? Cam is the same old Cam in terms of having a huge smile on his face, running around and laughing with teammates. You can see his attitude is 100 percent positive -- and his teammates, along with Rivera, have expressed the same feelings. When he wasn't lining up with the offense, he was jogging in the back of the end zone, and using resistance bands.

» Rivera comments on Oher. Offensive tackle Michael Oher missed the final 13 games of last season due to a concussion. Details about his progress remain limited. But Oher made headlines earlier this month when he posted -- and then deleted -- an Instagram photo of a series of pill bottles and the caption, "All for the brain smh." GM Dave Gettleman released a statement shortly thereafter that read, in part, "Our No. 1 priority is a healthy Michael Oher. This is not about football. It's about Michael."

Before this week, the team last had contact with him on May 5, when Gettleman flew to Nashville to meet with the ninth-year veteran. It's a somewhat-positive sign that Oher flew to Charlotte on Tuesday morning and was slated to meet with doctors. He did not hit the field during minicamp.

"For the most part, he is here and David's statement the other day that we put out is pretty much what we're going to go with," coach Ron Rivera said on Tuesday. "And again it's something that we're keeping in house right now."

-- Tiffany Blackmon

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CHICAGO BEARS: New QB room embracing technology. There are many new faces on this young Bears roster, including three signal callers: declared starter Mike Glennon, (still shocking) second overall draft pick Mitchell Trubisky and journeyman Mark Sanchez. The lone returnee in the quarterback room? Fourth-year veteran Connor Shaw.

What's the most challenging aspect of such a fresh start at the game's most important position?

"The biggest thing is creating the reps for all three quarterbacks," coach John Fox said, "and still developing the ones you think are proven the most worthy."

To expedite the learning curve, given time restraints on practice, the Bears have turned to technology -- namely, virtual reality. The Bears have a system that Fox says only seven to eight NFL teams are using. The system essentially allows a player, with the use of a headset, to see the field from a 360-degree scope and vantage point, in order to diagnose what's happening -- field vision, footwork -- with the result being muscle memory built from repetition. A system that is virtually just like practicing.

How has this translated in the literal sense for the Bears' leaders under center -- and most importanty, the much-analyzed two-deep combination of Glennon and Trubisky?

"I thought they improved," Fox said. "We did a lot of situation football -- we've been able to create some of the environments that are gonna happen in games. Hopefully the more they do it, the better they'll get at it."

» Glennon gaining comfort, command in new offense. Fifth-year vet Mike Glennon is settling into his title as Bears starting quarterback. With innovative tools like the aforementioned virtual reality system and the invaluable practice time spent on the field, Glennon feels like all the work is paying dividends: "I think just having more command in the offense -- there's one thing knowing from an Xs-and-Os standpoint, there's another just going out and executing it. Every rep allows me an opportunity to do something I haven't necessarily done here. So the more reps I get, the more comfortable I'll be."

When I asked Glennon -- who came from a more down-the-field, explosive-play type of offense in Tampa, what he feels the strengths will be in Chicago's more completion-driven, quick-game attack, he hesitated and took a few seconds to carefully contemplate his confident vision: "I would say, we can do multiple things with our personnel. We have a deep group at tight end (starting with Zach Miller, Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen), a deep group at running back (Jordan Howard, Jeremy Langford, Ka'Deem Carey, Tarik Cohen) and then mix in the receivers -- we can give a lot of different looks and I think we can create some matchup problems."

» Every quarterback needs an O-line that serves and protects. How does a new QB bond with his new offensive line? Food. Literally.

When Mike Glennon caught wind of delicious and savory smells wafting from O-lineman Eric Kush's slow smoker at the team's facility in Lake Forest, the quarterback willingly and dutifully became a member of the group. All linemen. Every Thursday during offseason training activities. (Don't think other positions didn't cash in on the weekly smoke-fest, though.)

Glennon was so impressed and inspired by the food extravaganza -- a different player bringing in a selected meat to slow cook before practice -- that he purchased an additional smoker. May the tradition roll on.

-- Stacey Dales

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CLEVELAND BROWNS: Big bucks for the big uglies. After their quarterbacks took a collective beating last season, the Browns committed a big chunk of money to the interior of their offensive line. They snagged former Packers center JC Tretter with a three-year, $16.75 million deal, but it was the two contracts that went to the men next to him that really prompted some "oohs."

Cleveland made Kevin Zeitler, formerly of the Bengals, the highest-paid guard in NFL history with a five-year, $60 million deal. Joel Bitonio was awarded a $51.2 million extension.

On Wednesday, when Bitonio was asked about that outlay of cash, he joked, "Any guard in the NFL should be happy about it!"

-- Aditi Kinkhabwala

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DENVER BRONCOS: Overhauled O-line ready for prime time? The Broncos' offense struggled to find the end zone and consistently convert on third down in 2016. Denver did have a first-year starter in quarterback Trevor Siemian, and running back C.J. Anderson was lost at midseason, making the ground game a non-factor. But the biggest problem was the offensive line.

So John Elway made Cowboys guard Ronald Leary a priority during free agency. The Broncos GM also signed former Raiders right tackle Menelik Watson and drafted Garett Bolles in the first round to hopefully start at left tackle. That's three new faces around center Matt Paradis, who played brilliantly last season despite the two bad hips that required surgery during the offseason. It appears that after installing Mike McCoy's new system throughout the spring, more shuffling is to come heading into training camp.

"We moved Max (Garcia) back to left guard and we're trying Ronald Leary at right guard," Vance Joseph said this week. "Hopefully, that's a better mesh for us. Leary played left the entire spring and Max played the right, but we think Max is more comfortable playing left and Ronald doesn't care. That's the best thing for us. Bolles is alternating with Ty (Sambrailo) at left tackle every other series."

The continuity question up front could make or break the Broncos' season. It appears they're still finding out what works best in front of a quarterback competition that has yet to be decided.

-- James Palmer

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GREEN BAY PACKERS: Much-maligned pass defense showing signs of promise. Despite Green Bay's defense amassing 17 takeaways in the second half of last season -- helping the Packers rally all the way to the NFC Championship Game -- the pass defense just wasn't up to par.

Green Bay ranked 31st in passing yards allowed (269.2 per game), 25th in opposing QB completion percentage (64.8), 26th in opposing QB passer rating (95.9) and 29th in touchdown passes allowed (32).

So, the Packers addressed the defensive backfield with their top two picks in the draft: cornerback Kevin King at No. 33 overall and safety Josh Jones at No. 61.

When I asked Mike McCarthy who stood out through the first couple days of camp -- a camp void of veterans with five or more years of accrued experience -- he went right to last year's problem area: "Really, the DBs -- particularly the young safeties -- have made a lot of plays on the ball. I think if there's one who really jumps out to me, Damarious Randall's had an outstanding offseason. You can see his play at the nickel, the 'star' position, we call it."

Randall had to deal with many injuries last season. The 2015 first-round pick told me his biggest growth this offseason has been, very simply, the fact that he's now healthy. The other part? Stepping up into more of a leadership role, given the infusion of youth.

That youth starts with the aforementioned top two draft picks. Jones has been spotted in a variety of roles this offseason, including linebacker. ("I can handle it," Jones said.) Meanwhile, King was forced to miss OTAs because his prior school was still in session at Washington. But King told me he FaceTimed daily with position coach Joe Whitt, consistently receiving installs. How confident is he now? What are his goals in terms of 2017 contributions?

"Regardless of where you're drafted, the mindset is to be a starter," King said.

-- Stacey Dales

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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Coughlin and Marrone set a grinding tone in minicamp. As the Jaguars' players were leaving EverBank Field on Wednesday evening following the second day of minicamp, a nasty Florida thunderstorm was rolling through the parking lot.

"Man, why couldn't this come through when we were practicing earlier?" one player said before sprinting through the raindrops to his car.

Added another: "Please keep raining like this all the way through practice tomorrow."

With Tom Coughlin in the fold as executive VP of football operations and the ever-direct Doug Marrone taking over as head coach, the players experienced a grinding spring this year -- or at least as grinding as it could be under the current CBA rules for practices. Team leadership wants to set a tone of a team that needs to work hard to achieve the expectations others have placed on it in recent years.

One official said it was the first time in recent memory the team exercised all of its available OTA and minicamp days. Under Gus Bradley, the Jags would cancel a practice in favor of a team-bonding activity. Not this year. Not after the 3-13 debacle in 2016.

And for the players praying for rain in minicamp, it's about to get a whole lot more grinding once the pads go on in training camp next month.

-- Mike Garafolo

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LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: The final days in San Diego. Thursday marked the Chargers' last day in San Diego. Five months after owner Dean Spanos announced he would move his team to Los Angeles, the Chargers will finally put San Diego -- and a 56-year history with the city -- in the rearview mirror. With mandatory minicamp finishing up on Thursday at Chargers Park, players now have the next month-and-a-half off. When they report to work at the end of July for training camp, it will be at a new location in Orange County.

This last week has been especially emotional for quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates, who have played their entire NFL careers in San Diego. Bittersweet is how Gates described this final week, saying, "The memories are still here and they will forever be here." Rivers, who estimates he probably spent over 300 days each year at Chargers Park, reflected on his 13 years in San Diego.

"As it comes to an end, it's a time again to be forever thankful for the time here and getting to stay in one place as long as I have," Rivers said. "There is no denying the fact that when you are in the last week somewhere that's been special to you, it is meaningful."

When players reconvene in Costa Mesa, they won't only be breaking in a new facility, but they will also be introduced to a lot of new faces. A number of long-time employees have opted to stay in San Diego instead of moving north with the team, including a few of my personal favorites. The front office won't be the same without receptionist Georgette Rogers, who is retiring after 24 years.

And the Chargers' longtime PR staff no longer includes Bill Johnston, who joined the team in 1979, Scott Yoffe (that's his farewell tweet just above) or Jamaal LaFrance.

-- Alex Flanagan

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LOS ANGELES RAMS: Quinn could be poised for big season -- if he can stay on the field. Outside linebacker Robert Quinn -- yes, he is an outside backer in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme -- had a procedure to repair ligament damage in his thumb, according to a source. Coach Sean McVay said Quinn should be good to go for training camp.

Playing in Phillips' scheme could prove huge for Quinn, as pass rushers routinely have flourished in the system over the years. Quinn, though, has to stay healthy. He's missed 15 games over the past two seasons with head and back injuries, among other ailments. Quinn is counting $10 million against the Rams' cap this season and is expected to be a major contributor, especially with Connor Barwin signed in free agency to provide a worthy bookend at the other outside linebacker.

-- Steve Wyche

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MIAMI DOLPHINS: Parker poised for breakout campaign in Year 3. This could be the year when Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker enjoys the breakthrough many have expected since Miami selected him with the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Parker has only caught 82 passes in his first two seasons, largely because his body hasn't been right. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder has battled foot and hamstring problems during his brief career. But now he seems to be benefitting from a routine he started last year, one that includes better nutrition, more hydration and increased sleep. Parker saw a rise in his production last season with that regimen -- he increased his receptions from 26 to 56 -- and he already has created ample buzz during offseason workouts.

"It's evident that he's started working on things earlier than he's ever done, and it's really paid off for him," Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said. "The consistency, compared to what we saw last spring, (is there). He's constantly moving as fast as he does on game days. He treats every day like it's a game."

-- Jeffri Chadiha

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NEW YORK GIANTS: Excited about Engram: One of the 29 questions from reporters that Odell Beckham Jr. answered Tuesday was about Evan Engram, the rookie tight end who in February ran his combine 40-yard dash one one-hundredth of a second faster than Beckham did in 2014. Beckham, who first showed at Giants workouts this week, quickly got up to speed on the impact Engram could have on Big Blue's offense.

"I [have told] him how excited I am to have him here, a guy who reminds me of when the Saints had Jimmy Graham and they would line him up on the outside and create nightmare mismatches, and [when] Gronk [is] on the outside," Beckham said. "If you put him out there and you have a safety guard him, that is going to be trouble. If you put him out there and you have a linebacker guard him, that is going to be trouble. And from what I have been hearing, he has even tortured corners.

"I know he is a special talent."

» Can Rudolph take the reins on punt returns? Travis Rudolph's likeliest path to make the Giants' 53-man roster appears to be on special teams. The undrafted wide receiver out of Florida State -- whose story makes him easy to root for -- got an extensive look as punt returner this spring. The Giants ranked 29th in punt-return average (6.1 yards) last season.

Though the position is new to Rudolph, special teams coordinator Tom Quinn complimented his intelligence and the efficiency of his movements.

"It's a short area," Quinn said, "so if you could put your foot in the ground and get vertical, it really helps."

At minicamp, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard joined Rudolph as returners. For a moment, so did a playful Jason Pierre-Paul. Of those four, the Giants would strongly prefer the rookie win the regular job.

» Eli speaks. Eli Manning has no shortage of weapons, including Beckham, Engram, Shepard and Brandon Marshall. He also has a specific goal in mind.

"I think we want to get back to where we are scoring points and being explosive and where we can take over a game," Manning said.

By Manning's standards, that's a pretty strong statement. It's also the sentiment shared around the Giants facility.

Last year, the Giants' offense ranked 26th in scoring (19.4 ppg), tallying one point more than the 49ers on the season. The defense carried the team into postseason. Manning, 36, knows the offense has to do its part this year.

» Improving the O-line. The Giants' offensive linemen no longer protest when asked about being the weak link last season.

"I think we know that," guard Justin Pugh said.

Tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart spent the offseason in East Rutherford, working out in the Giants' weight room. Pugh said he and a few others, including Flowers, incorporated boxing into their training. Flowers appears leaner and quicker at left tackle.

"It's going to get better," Pugh said. "We're definitely going to see an improvement."

The fate of the Giants' offense depends on it.

» Pierce coaching up young MLB. The Giants' plan is for B.J. Goodson, in his second year out of Clemson, to assume starting middle linebacker duties. This spring, he's had a pretty good tutor.

Antonio Pierce, who spent five years with the Giants and was part of the Super Bowl-winning team in 2007, was back with the organization as a coaching intern this spring.

"I love that man," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "[Does he] help B.J.? He helps me."

Spagnuolo lauded Pierce for his film breakdown and attention to detail. Part of Goodson's learning curve includes calling signals for the first time. Pierce can help with that, too.

» Proof's in the pudding for Collins. After playing at 230 pounds his rookie season, Landon Collins slimmed down to 215 in 2016. It paid off. He finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting and was ranked 28th among NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2017." (Collins wants to improve on both counts this season.)

The weight loss was largely due to cutting out fried foods and Oreos. Collins said he hopes to play at 210 this season and "fly around" the field. (He has told me he ran a 4.31 40 at Alabama when he weighed 215.)

But he hasn't given up sweets completely. Spagnuolo's wife, Maria, made banana pudding this week "and he probably walked out with the whole tray," the defensive coordinator said with a smile. Actually, Collins said, "I had two of them." He laughed.

"Can't bring sweets around me."

-- Kimberly Jones

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NEW YORK JETS: The brightest spot for Gang Green. In an offseason of considerable roster upheaval, one of the few remaining bedrocks for the Jets is Leonard Williams, who is entering his third season and, coming off a seven-sack Pro Bowl campaign, is clearly the team's best player.

With the release of linebacker David Harris, Williams is expected to become a more prominent leader. Fans would probably argue that he already is, after a video posted on Twitter showed Williams interceding in an argument between teammate Darron Lee and a woman at a concert, with the D-lineman forcibly removing Lee.

But Williams has also taken more concrete steps to improve his leadership: He is taking a leadership course this offseason in San Diego. Williams said Tuesday that the course has helped him go to the work every day with a purpose.

"Sometimes when you're in camp, you do the same thing every day and you feel like you're going through the motions," Williams said. "This helps me wake up in the morning with set intentions every day."

» Back in coaching, Greene aims to bring physicality to Jets OLBs. Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene is back to coaching after a three-year break to, among other things, coach his son. He is responsible for Gang Green's outside linebackers -- the same role he used to have with the Packers -- and that's an important job because the Jets are hoping for more out of players like Lorenzo Mauldin, who had just 2.5 sacks last year.

Not surprisingly, Green exudes intensity, and he spoke at length about the need for the linebackers to be more physical than the players across from them.

" 'Zo and all my kids, they're going to be more physical players than they have [been] in the past," he said.

» McCown appears to be QB1, but Hackenberg's growing. Josh McCown started minicamp clearly ahead of Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty in the quarterback competition and he took more reps on Tuesday. Coach Todd Bowles said he has a time in mind -- maybe after the third preseason game -- to have a quarterback decision, although he said one of them could separate himself from the group much sooner. Still, his crack comparing starting soon-to-be 38-year-old Josh McCown on an otherwise very young team with a teacher in a kindergarten suggests he is leaning toward the experience of McCown, at least initially.

McCown, though, has been impressed by Hackenberg.

"I feel like his confidence has grown every day and he improves every day and we can see that -- his grasp, of this system has been really good," McCown said. "The coaches are doing a heck of a job of teaching him and he's taking the coaching and you see it rep by rep, his improvement. I think that's cool and it's going to take time, but sometimes you have to step back to see guys, whereas with Christian it seems like every day, 'I got better today.' "

» The Jets' youth movement cannot be understated. There are currently just four players age 30 or older -- one is quarterback Josh McCown -- on the Jets' roster.

How extraordinary is that?

According to NFL Media research, league-wide in 2016 there were 304 players of that age group to play in at least one game. That averages 9.5 players per team. Those are players who actually participated in a game, not just appeared on the roster. The Rams had the fewest players (three) age 30 or older play in at least one game last season. Just two other teams -- Kansas City and Oakland, both playoff teams -- had four or fewer players age 30 or older play in at least one game in 2016.

-- Judy Battista

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PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Watt immediately creating a buzz. Vince Williams is in his fifth season in Pittsburgh and he didn't hold back when talking about the newest linebacker in his meeting room.

"T.J. Watt is the most ready rookie I've ever seen," Williams said. And then, in case there was any doubt of his seriousness, he added: "Ever."

Watt was the Steelers' first-round pick in April's draft. Pittsburgh hopes the No. 30 overall pick will become the latest in its long line of fearsome pass rushers. He's earned all sorts of raves in just a few weeks, for his studious demeanor, for his willingness to ask questions and for the way he's, as Williams put it, "never lost."

"If he doesn't make a play, he understands his mistakes. I have these football conversations with him and I forget T.J. is a rookie," Williams said. "He's just ready."

But then, after a beat, Williams paused and said, "I mean he's mentally ready. Not physically." And when that was repeated back to Watt, he laughed and said, "That's fair."

-- Aditi Kinkhabwala

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Sherman and Co. addressing reported dysfunction head on. Even though Seattle's coaching staff and players are denying or downplaying some of the internal issues reported in an ESPN The Magazine article claiming locker room dysfunction, there is no downplaying the club's strategy in addressing it.

Over the past few days, coach Pete Carroll, quarterback Russell Wilson, safety Earl Thomas, defensive end Michael Bennett and cornerback Richard Sherman -- the focal point of the article -- have all spoken to the media about the team's chemistry.

Let's also not forget the team's success.

By addressing the matter now, it won't hang over the team heading into training camp. Some clubs either avoid confronting public matters, resulting in players/coaches having to deal with them at less appropriate times. Others, take them on -- and persuade key subjects to address them, as well. That usually limits fallout to a news cycle or two and that's that.

-- Steve Wyche

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WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Does Williams' promotion affect the Cousins situation? The promotion of Doug Williams to vice president of player personnel came after the team interviewed several candidates to replace fired GM Scot McCloughan. Someone close to Williams told me that the Super Bowl-winning quarterback laid out detailed plans and strategies and sold team president Bruce Allen on himself. Allen worked with Williams in Tampa Bay and in Washington in their respective personnel departments, so they knew how each other operated and have a comfort level with one another.

The most pressing issue will be determining if the team and quarterback Kirk Cousins, who's set to play this season on a $24 million franchise tender, can reach a long-term deal. That decision likely could come down more to Cousins than the team.

Williams and Cousins do have a positive history, though. Williams told me a year or so ago that Cousins often would come by his office and ask for advice about playing in Washington, playing the position and other football-related matters. Cousins also would just come by and chat. Will that relationship have much influence in brokering a long-term deal? Maybe not, since Williams already was on staff -- but it shouldn't hurt.

-- Steve Wyche

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