Philip Rivers, Rex Ryan and Sammy Watkins
Quarterback Philip Rivers thrived in a new offense with the San Diego Chargers last season.
His center, Nick Hardwick, is convinced Rivers is poised to have "the best year of his career" this season.
"We found really good direction this (past) year in our coaching and the offensive system that we were running," Hardwick told XTRA Sports 1360 in San Diego. "They were able to come in and identify the personnel we had, identify our capabilities and abilities and push us in the right direction. They obviously knew they had a great mind and great quarterback in Philip, and we want to use him as much as we possibly can and let his brain work on the field because it's completely capable."
The numbers confirm as much. Rivers had a career-best completion percentage of 69.5 in 2013. He equaled the best passer rating of his career at 105.5. For only the third time in his career, Rivers threw for at least 4,400 yards and at least 30 touchdowns.
That was quite a contrast from the previous two seasons when Rivers' passer rating fellow below 90 while he operated in the system of former Chargers coach Norv Turner. Rivers also saw a decline in touchdown passes and increase in interceptions.
"Frank Reich (whom the Chargers promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator after last season) has said (Rivers) is the smartest guy on the field when he's out there, and he certainly is," Hardwick said. "So let him see what he's seeing and give him flexibility and time to change to the plays he wants to change to and he can make a lot happen."
LIONS GIVE OFF STRONG SIGNALS THEY WANT WATKINS
The buzz seems to be getting louder that the Detroit Lions want to draft Clemson's Sammy Watkins to build what could be the NFL's most dominant receiving corps along with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
It doesn't seem likely the Lions would have a chance to select Watkins with the first-round choice they currently own, 10th overall.
According to the Detroit Free Press, there is a "growing sense" around the NFL that the Lions are looking to move up to be in a position to grab Watkins.
How high they would have to move is a matter of conjecture. The majority of draft analysts view Watkins as a top-five pick, meaning the Lions would likely have to pay a hefty trade price to get there.
JETS' CHOICE BETWEEN MICHAEL VICK AND GENO SMITH TO BE 'ORGANIZATIONAL'
There's a presumption in the media that the New York Jets are going to simply hand their starting quarterback job to Michael Vick, whom they recently signed to a one-year contract.
Not so fast.
In a conversation with Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, Jets coach Rex Ryan said a decision on a starter has yet to be made and that the choice between Vick and incumbent Geno Smith would be made organizationally.
"We'll always make it as an organization," Ryan said. "Everything we do will be an organizational decision whether, you know, I'm the guy that ultimately says, 'This guy is the guy' or whatever in front of everybody. Believe me, it is a collaborative effort.
"Marty Mornhinweg as our offensive coordinator, great offensive coordinator, (we) will lean heavily on him (and), in my opinion, the best quarterbacks coach in football, David Lee. …That decision's a New York Jet decision and at the appropriate time we'll make that decision."
CARDINALS' OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR 'SHOCKED' AT VELDHEER'S AVAILABILITY
To say the least, the Arizona Cardinals are thrilled to have left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, whom they signed to a free-agent contract reportedly worth $35 million over five years.
You can also add that they're surprised they ever had a chance to get him. To be more specific, they were, in the words of Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, as he explained to the Arizona Republic, "shocked." That, Goodwin said, was the reaction within the Cardinals when they learned the Oakland Raiders weren't placing a franchise tag on Veldheer and allowing him to enter the open market.
"He's a guy you watch on film, he very seldom gets beat," Goodwin said. "Every tackle at some point is going to get beat, but the thing you like about him is the next time, he's going to try to beat that guy to a pulp. He's not going to let that happen again.
"I think the comfort level between him and (quarterback) Carson (Palmer), having played together, is going to be huge. I also think he'll bring a leadership role to the room. He's a guy who is no nonsense and not afraid to get a little physical in practice or on the field. Don't get me wrong, Bradley (Sowell) did a great job (at left tackle last season). He's still a young guy. It was really his first year. Bradley is going to get better. I think Carson is a little bit more comfortable, and I think us as an organization are more comfortable having Veldheer."
RYAN TANNEHILL KNOWS HE NEEDS TO MAKE 'BIG JUMP'
In two NFL seasons, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has completed 59.4 percent of his passes, thrown for 36 touchdowns and been intercepted 30 times. His passer rating is an underwhelming 79.1.
Compared to those of other quarterbacks selected in the 2012 draft – Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and Robert Griffin III – Tannehill's accomplishments leave plenty to be desired. For that matter, he is greatly overshadowed by other young quarterbacks, such as Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton.
No one recognizes that more than Tannehill.
"I have to make a big jump, I'm aware of that," Tannehill told ESPN. "I'm putting in the work, putting in the time to get myself physically ready, mentally ready and learn this new offense that we're going with this year. So there is still work to be done.
"I look for a big jump in myself, both in production and wins (the Dolphins have gone 7-9 and 8-8 with Tannehill as their starter). That's what we ultimately play for is wins. So, I'm excited to see what this team does."
A.J. MCCARRON TRIES DISTANCING HIMSELF FROM REALITY TV SHOW
Multiple questions have been raised about the focus of high-profile draft prospects Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney.
For Manziel, the issue has been whether he is more about being an NFL player or more about leading the celebrity life of a professional athlete. His recent efforts to trademark the phrase, "The House That Johnny Built" only reinforced concerns about Manziel's frame of mind.
For Clowney, there have been lingering questions about his desire to give his all to the game after a disappointing 2013 season that followed a dominant 2012 campaign. The universal conclusion among NFL observers is that he was more worried about guarding against injury in what would be his final year at South Carolina before having the chance to receive a mega-million-dollar contract as a pro.
But what about another prospect who hasn't drawn nearly the attention for his football talent as the others? We're talking about Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. And the discussion about him concerns the filming of a reality show with his fiancée, Katherine Webb.
It might not exactly be the sort of venture that would figure to endear McCarron with NFL clubs determining whether to draft him. Realizing as much, McCarron posted on his Twitter account Wednesday that the project is all Webb's doing, and not his.
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