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NFL notebook: QB competition in full swing in Buffalo


The Sports Xchange

The Buffalo Bills’ open quarterback competition is in full swing, and has been since the moment EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel, and Tyrod Taylor came to One Bills Drive for the start of voluntary conditioning.

“I thought it started when we all got back,” Manuel said. “Even in the film room trying to grasp the offense, it’s like a race to see who knows it the best and you want to know it the way (offensive coordinator Greg) Roman does.”

Head coach Rex Ryan said he was pleased with what he saw from the quarterbacks during the just-completed voluntary three-day mini-camp the Bills conducted before the draft began. Ryan reiterated that everyone starts from zero, and there will be no bias in the ultimate decision. The guy who plays the best will start opening day against Indianapolis.

“I’d rather have, in a perfect world, ‘this is our guy,’ but I’m excited about the competition,” Ryan said. “You don’t know how it’s going to shake out. There’s not anybody who knows how it’s going to shake out. We’re going to give them a platform that will showcase what they can all do, and let’s see what happens. Is it a perfect situation? No, I’m not saying it is, but when we end it, it’ll be a clear guy who will be No. 1. There are three guys in my opinion, who can be NFL quarterbacks.”

—Former Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner plans to sign with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent to play wide receiver, according to ESPN.

The 6-foot-4, 218-pound Gardner will join a Patriots team that already has successfully converted one quarterback into a wide receiver — Julian Edelman, who arrived in Foxborough in 2009.

Edelman, who was selected in the seventh round, played quarterback at Kent State. Edelman has since emerged as Tom Brady’s go-to receiver, but he also threw his first NFL pass in this past season’s playoffs, tossing a 51-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola in the Patriots’ AFC divisional-round win over the Baltimore Ravens.

At Michigan in his four years, Gardner appeared in 49 games, with 27 starts at quarterback and four at receiver. At quarterback, he set school records for passing yards in a game (503) and total yards in a game (584). He ranks sixth on Michigan’s career passing touchdown list (44); fourth on the school’s career passing yards list (6,336); fourth in total offense (7,252) and fourth in total completions (475).

—Kicker Ryan Succop, who eventually gave up No. 8 for first-round quarterback Marcus Mariota, jokingly went to Twitter and Instagram saying that Mariota could have the jersey number for free if he could beat Succop in an arm wrestling match. The Instagram video showed Succop working in the weight room doing some curls.

Succop is giving up the jersey to the new face of the franchise and now will wear No. 4.

Meanwhile, the Titans had an embarrassing moment when they first contacted Mariota to tell him that he was going to be their pick at No. 2 overall. They accidentally hung up on him and had to call him back at his home in Hawaii. The story made big news after word of the hang-up was reported.

—Reports that the Chicago Bears shopped tight end Martellus Bennett around were not surprising considering he wasn’t at the voluntary minicamp. If he was shopped around, it was the Bears doing it because general manager Ryan Pace said Bennett did not ask for a trade.

It’s unknown whether Bennett will participate in OTAs, although it’s expected he’d be at the mandatory minicamp in June.

“With him, it’s individual choices,” Pace said. “I’ve been talking to him and his agent and we’d love for him to be here right now and competing here, especially with what we’ve got going right now.”

Pace was referring to the installation of the offense, which Bennett was missing.

—Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is giddy about what his team accomplished in the draft, especially their ability to continue a complete overhaul on defense.

The Cowboys took defensive players with five of the first six picks led by cornerback Byron Jones and defensive end Randy Gregory in the first and second rounds respectively.

Add that to what the Cowboys accomplished in free agency, the return to health of Sean Lee and the continued development of some of the young defensive players they added last year and Jones said this is a completely different unit than the one that struggled to get pressure on quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.

“Gosh when you look down through there, potential and everything is potential,” Jones said. “But when you look at the positions and everything on the defense I couldn’t have asked for more in this draft. We addressed some key positions. Weak-side linebacker is a key position for us. Pressure player is a key position for us. And certainly in this particular place, corner was key. Put it all together this thing has been a major overhaul on defense. This is a very significant sea change of what we are doing on defense and it’s all for the better. We are dramatically improved personnel wise from the team that was on the field against Rodgers in the playoff game against Green Bay.”

—The San Diego Chargers started with six picks and ended up with five. That was the price the team paid to move up and trade spots in the first round with the San Francisco 49ers.

But the team said it couldn’t let running back Melvin Gordon stay on the board any longer and did business with the 49ers. San Francisco got the Chargers’ fourth-round pick this year and a fifth-rounder in 2016 to snag the Wisconsin star.

“We’d like to have all our players and the picks, but it doesn’t quite work out that way,” Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said.

—Defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., the Oakland Raiders second-round draft pick, came out of Texas as one of the top recruits in the country. The son of former Florida State and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mario Edwards admits he may have lived on his reputation early on at Florida State.

Edwards ballooned to 315 pounds at one point and it hurt his stamina.

“Coming out No. 1 in the nation and all that stuff, you have people saying you’re this and that, and all you’ve got to do is this or that,” Edwards said. “You kind of relax and take the foot off the pedal a little bit. I’d just say that me getting a little too comfortable and complacent with where I was ranked kind of had its toll on me coming in overweight.”

—First-round draft pick Phillip Dorsett couldn’t believe his luck when he was selected by the Indianapolis Colts.

“Amazing, it’s just a blessing to be here. To have this opportunity to be able to play in Indianapolis with one of the best quarterbacks, best receiving corps, best coaches. I’m grateful, I’m happy to be here,” Dorsett said.

Dorsett said that he has already heard from several former Miami Hurricanes who have either played in Indianapolis or are currently on the team.

“Obviously (head coach Chuck Pagano) comes from the University of Miami and he’s familiar with all the players. Nothing really different,” Dorsett said.

—Four years ago on May 1, 2011, the brother of Cleveland Browns first-round pick Danny Shelton, Shennon Shelton, was shot to death in a neighborhood argument in the Seattle suburb of Auburn, Wash.

Danny Shelton was 17 at the time. Shelton considered dropping out of football, but he changed his mind after receiving guidance from his coaches.

“Honestly, I owe it all to the coaching staff, I owe it all to the team and I owe it all to the (Huskies) fans,” Shelton said after being drafted. “It’s amazing how much they supported me throughout my four years.

“I didn’t have any doubt in myself. I knew that I was at home, I was in a better place and I was just ready to play. That’s what shaped me throughout the four years. Facing adversity, it prepared me for the next level. I feel confident to go into the league and play the right way and play the way that I play.”

Shelton played in all 13 games as a freshman at Washington and then started every game the final three years of his college career.

—The Cincinnati Bengals used their first two picks of the draft to take offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. It’s the sixth time in franchise history they’ve selected players at the same position with their top two picks.

They chose defensive tackles Mike Reid and Ron Carpenter in 1970, defensive tackles Eddie Edwards and Wilson Whitley in 1977, wide receivers David Verser and Cris Collinsworth in 1981, linebackers Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons in 1998 and linebackers David Pollak and Odell Thurman in 2005.

Head coach Marvin Lewis isn’t worried about bruising any egos in that or any other position room.

“They’re pros,” Lewis said. “They want to have the best team we can have in the National Football League so we’ve got to add good players to it all of the time. They understand that. They went through the process when they were picked. They know how that works. We want to have the best football team. They’re out front. They can continue to prove that.”

—The Atlanta Falcons waived tight end Kyle Miller.

Miller was on the Falcons’ practice squad last season. He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011. He has also spent time with the Colts and Dolphins.

The Falcons did not draft a tight end this year, but have four veterans on the roster in Tony Moeaki, Mickey Shuler, Jacob Tamme and Levine Toilolo.

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