Tom Brady, Bruce Arians, Dee Ford
With offense leading the way, the Arizona Cardinals caught fire in the second half of last season, winning seven of their final nine games for a 10-6 finish that just fell short of a playoff berth.
Through those final nine weeks, the Cardinals' offense averaged 27 points per game. That was largely fueled by Carson Palmer's prolific passing, which included four 300-yard performances and two 400-yard outings in the final seven games.
Bruce Arians, the Cardinals' second-year coach, is convinced they will do much better this season, especially after what he has witnessed from the team during offseason workouts.
"Where we're at this point is like light-years from last year," Arians was quoted as saying in the Arizona Republic. "They are getting on the same page. Every play, they come back and there is good dialogue: 'Why did you break out? Why did you break in?'"
It is a similar theme of offseason progress being seen by other NFL teams, including the Cleveland Browns, who began their second week of OTAs on Tuesday.
ANDY REID SAYS DEE FORD'S INTANGIBLES ARE 'OFF THE CHARTS'
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid needed all of one rookie minicamp to determine that the team made a smart decision by selecting outside linebacker Dee Ford with the 23rd overall pick of the NFL Draft.
Reid has been particularly impressed with the intangibles the former Auburn standout defensive end displays.
"Off the charts," Reid told reporters covering the Chiefs. "He brings a lot of energy. He loves playing the game. Now, he and our (rookie) quarterback (Aaron Murray, from Georgia) have competed against each other for the last four years and they get after each other out there, so it's kind of fun to watch."
TOM BRADY EXPECTED PATRIOTS TO DRAFT A QUARTERBACK
Many NFL observers expressed surprise when the New England Patriots used a second-round draft pick on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The common refrain was that, with Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett, the Patriots didn't have an urgent need to address the position and, instead, should have selected someone at a spot – such as wide receiver – that could more directly help Brady.
Another popular conclusion was that the Pats sent a strong message that having Brady's replacement on board was, in fact, a priority.
"I felt like I had a pretty good idea we'd take a quarterback," Brady was quoted as saying by Peter King of TheMMQB.com. "Coach (Bill) Belichick doesn't care who the quarterback is here. He's always going to play the guy who he thinks gives him the best chance to win.
"It's not my role to choose players here, thankfully. And this is not the first time they've taken another quarterback either. There's no entitlement in the NFL. I don't expect to be given anything. I just hope I'm the one most entitled to play that position for a long time here."
JAGUARS 'EXCITED' TO HAVE TOBY GERHART'S STRONG LEGS IN THEIR BACKFIELD
Finally, Toby Gerhart is getting the chance to be recognized as something other than an understudy.
At Stanford, Gerhart developed a reputation for a tough, powerful style of running. However, he rarely had a chance to display it while backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota.
Now, as the No. 1 running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Gerhart is able to show his new coaches the qualities that made him such an intriguing prospect at Stanford. And the Jaguars should have every reason to think he can be highly effective, given that in the nine games with the Vikings in which he had at least 10 carries, Gerhart averaged 77 yards per game and 4.7 yards per rush.
"He's a horse," running backs coach Terry Richardson was quoted as saying in the Florida Times-Union. "He's a big guy, and I talked to one of his former (position) coaches, and he was saying Toby had the strongest legs he's been around in terms of his leg drive and leg power.
"We're excited about that."
UNDRAFTED JACKSON JEFFCOAT THINKS SEAHAWKS WILL GET MOST OUT OF HIM
It's easy to understand why Jackson Jeffcoat is carrying what he describes as a "boulder" on his shoulder.
Despite being named the Big 12 defensive player of the year and the Hendricks Award winner as the top defensive end in collegiate football, the former Texas standout wasn't picked in the NFL Draft.
The Seattle Seahawks did sign him as a free agent, however, and Jackson think they are the perfect team for someone with a whole lot to prove.
"That's what was enticing about Seattle," Jeffcoat was quoted as saying in the Dallas Morning News. "They see that chip you have and poke at it and keep poking at it to make it grow in a positive way. It becomes motivation to become better than you ever thought you could be."
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