relationship with Leftwich and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen.“It’s showin

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METAIRIE Rock Ya-Sin Jersey , La. (AP) — Saints quarterback Drew Brees is averaging fewer yards per game passing than at any point in his 11-plus seasons with New Orleans.Yet he sees no evidence of a drop-off in his effectiveness, or that of his receivers.Overshadowed by dramatic improvements in the Saints’ running game and defense is the fact that the 38-year-old Brees has been as efficient as ever.He’s keeping defenses on their heels with a personal best completion percentage and drive-sustaining third down conversions when New Orleans has needed them during its seven-game winning streak.“When we’re running the ball effectively and when we’re playing the type of defense we’re playing, it’s not necessary to throw the ball 35, 40 times a game,” Brees said. “If we can throw the ball mid-20s and rush the ball 40-something times and win the way that we have, then, man, that’s great.“I’m sure there’s going to be games where we’re going to need to throw it (much more) to win the game — and we’re ready to do that,” Brees added. “We’ve done that many times before.”The Saints have finished the regular season leading the NFL in yards passing six times since Brees arrived in New Orleans in 2006.New Orleans has never finished a season worse than fourth in yards passing; that was the 2009 season, which ended with New Orleans’ only Super Bowl triumph.Now New Orleans ranks fifth in yards passing per game at 260.2 — still elite in a 32-team league, but below the Saints’ usual passing production since Brees joined forces with coach Sean Payton.However, Brees’ completion rate of 71.7 percent, if he sustains that through the end of the season, would set a NFL record, breaking the mark of 71.6 percent set by Sam Bradford last season (when he broke Brees’ 2011 mark of 71.2 percent).Brees’ career-low interception rate for a whole season is 1.8 percent in 2013 and 2015. Though nine games this season, he’s been intercepted on only 1.3 percent of his passes.“A the end of the day, you want to be as efficient as you possibly can , so that’s what we talk about when it comes to anything around here — it’s efficiency,” Brees said.“How efficient are we at the passing game? How efficient are we in the running game? How efficient are we on third down and in the red zone? And all that together results in a winning formula.”In a 47-10, cold-weather victory at Buffalo that really seemed to get the rest of the NFL’s attention, the Saints rushed for 298 yards, making them only the fifth team in NFL history with as many as 295 yards and six touchdowns rushing in a game.But Brees still connected on 72 percent of his passes (18 of 25), including connections of 30 yards to Brandon Coleman and 28 yards to Michael Thomas.“The total numbers are never important. It is more of what we are doing each week,” Payton said. “Obviously, in today’s NFL, you have to be able to convert third downs. You have to be able to attack certain defenses and we feel confident that that’s something that each week we’ll put the time in and be able to do.”Thomas finished the victory at Buffalo with nine catches for 117 yards, and said that when he has reviewed game video this season, he has seen a Saints passing game that is highly in sync and productive, even if overall attempts and yards are down.“Any game,” Thomas began, “Drew could go for 500 (yards) if he needs to, but we’re not asking him for that.”Redskins coach Jay Gruden, whose team will have to try to stop the Saints in the Superdome on Sunday, said fewer attempts or yards by no means indicate a drop-off in Brees’ effectiveness as a passer.“Sometimes that is better. A lot of people worry about stats and fantasy football numbers … but when you have balance Khari Willis Jersey , I think it makes it easier on the entire offense, the play-caller and the quarterback, the receivers, everybody,” Gruden said.“An effective passing game doesn’t mean it has to lead the league in yardage. It just means it has to be effective getting the ball down the field and in the end zone. That’s what they’re doing right now.”NOTES: Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro, who missed last Sunday’s game with a groin pull, returned to practice on Wednesday on a limited basis. … Running back Jonathan Williams, whom the Saints signed off Denver’s practice squad, practiced with New Orleans for the first time.—— TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrapped up their first offseason conditioning program under coach Bruce Arians, hopeful they’re on course to end the franchise’s long, frustrating playoff drought.Arians became the club’s fourth coach in a decade in January, inheriting a team that’s coming off consecutive 5-11 finishes and missed the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons — the second-longest stretch of futility in the NFL.Only the Cleveland Browns, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2002, have gone longer without a postseason berth.The Bucs concluded the team’s three-day minicamp on Thursday, with Arians delivering a glowing assessment of the progress made this spring.Players will be off until training camp begins in late July.“Are we there? No, but I like where we’re at right now Josh Allen Jersey ,” Arians said. “The work ethic of this group is amazing. Everybody shows up, everybody works, everybody’s bought in, so that’s all you can ask as a coach. Hopefully we’ll stay in shape and have everybody report healthy when we get back.”In addition to being hired to try to help Winston reach his potential as a quarterback while transforming the Bucs into winners, Arians is tasked with fixing a defense that allowed the second-most points in the league last year.Winston, who’ll make nearly $21 million this year in the final season of the contract he signed as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, is impressed with the changes under way on both offense and defense.The fifth-year pro, whose career has been marked by inconsistency, is excited about working with Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. He stressed his focus this spring has been on improving his footwork and protecting the football.In 56 career games, the 25-year-old has completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 14,628 yards, 88 touchdowns and 58 interceptions. The Bucs are banking on Arians to be able to help Winston cut down on turnovers and prove he’s the team’s long-term answer at quarterback.The task begins in meeting rooms and on the practice field, where Winston has been facing a retooled defense.Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh participated in the mandatory minicamp after signing on a one-year contract two weeks ago; first-round draft pick Devin White is expected to be an immediate starter at inside linebacker; and several young cornerbacks and safeties are competing for jobs in the secondary.“The competition is tremendous. … We can only go up,” Winston said.“I’m focused on competing against myself,” the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner added. “Our defense, they’re going to do their job. I have to do my job. So, I’m competing against myself and how I can get better at the end of the day.”Arians said Winston is developing a good relationship with Leftwich and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen.“It’s showing Parris Campbell Jersey ,” Arians said. “Both of them — Clyde and his fundamentals, and Byron on the headwork stuff. He’s getting coached as hard as he can, and one thing about Jameis is you know he is going to work.”The former Arizona Cardinals coach, who came out of retirement to replace Dirk Koetter, reiterated that he’s encouraged by the attitude and work ethic of the entire team.Suh has only been with the team for a short time. Still, he’s confident Arians has the Bucs headed in the right direction.“I think the important thing is to forget about the past. There’s a new regime and new understanding of none of the past stuff matters,” the three-time All-Pro, who’s also played for the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Rams over a 10-year career, said.“Yes, he has to set the tone,” Suh added. ‘But that doesn’t mean anything if we all don’t buy in.”

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