NFL Nation: 2014 NFL roster analysis

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers reached the mandated 75-player roster limit on Tuesday by placing six players on injured reserve. Two days earlier, they waived seven players.

Most surprising move: When the Packers used to hold their offseason practices on the old practice field that bordered Oneida Street, there was a term for players who stood out in helmets and shorts and then faded when the pads came on. They were known as members of the “All-Oneida Team.” Put receiver Chris Harper in that category. The second-year pro drew praise from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy for his production during the offseason program. After a practice on June 3 during which Harper caught a deep pass, McCarthy said: "That’s the kind of explosiveness that he has." Two and a half months later, Harper did not even make it to the final cuts. He was one of seven players released on Sunday.

Change of plans: So much for tight end Colt Lyerla spending the season learning the Packers’ ways while on injured reserve. On Tuesday, they reached an injury settlement with him, the details of which can be found here. If the Packers truly wanted to develop Lyerla, it would seem logical that they would have kept him on injured reserve to keep a close eye on him.

Packers’ moves: After Sunday's release of seven players -- Harper, safety Charles Clay, cornerback Antonio Dennard, linebacker Korey Jones, fullback Ina Liania, quarterback Chase Rettig and receiver Gerrard Sheppard -- the Packers were at 81 on their roster. On Tuesday, they placed the following six players on injured reserve: receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee), running back Rajion Neal (knee), nose tackle B.J. Raji (biceps), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee) and guard Andrew Tiller (calf). Abbrederis, Barclay and Raji will remain on injured reserve for the entire season, but Neal, Thomas and Tiller most likely will be given injury settlements and released at a later date.

Miami Dolphins cut-down analysis

August, 26, 2014
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Most significant move: Miami Dolphins quarterback Brady Quinn was the biggest release in terms of name recognition. The former 2007 first-round pick joined Miami about two weeks ago but was put in a rough spot to learn a new offense months after everyone else. Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore played well once Quinn arrived. Receiver Armon Binns also was a quality player who was cut but has a chance to help out another team. The Dolphins have a lot of depth at wide receiver.

Pouncey factor: The Dolphins' toughest roster decision this week doesn't involve cutting a player. Miami must decide by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET whether to save a roster spot for injured Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey or put him on the physically unable to perform list, which would guarantee he sits the first six games of the regular season. Pouncey had major hip surgery this summer and missed all of training camp and the preseason. The initial prognosis for Pouncey was to miss four to seven games. However, Pouncey has looked strong in rehab and believes he’s ahead of schedule. The Dolphins will get a firm medical update on Pouncey this week to decide how much time off he needs.

What’s next: The Dolphins will host the St. Louis Rams on Thursday at Sun Life Stadium. Then Miami will have to cut 22 more players on Saturday to get to its final 53-man roster.

Dolphins’ cuts: QB Brady Quinn, WR Armon Binns, TE Arthur Lynch, DT A.J. Francis, RB Mike Gillislee, TE Brett Brackett, CB Steven Clarke, DE Rakim Cox, DT Cory Grissom, C Tyler Larsen, WR Ryan Spadola, K John Potter, OT Steven Baker, S Demetrius Wright.
Most significant move: On a day when nothing could trump the trade of veteran offensive lineman Logan Mankins, the one name that stood above the rest in terms of cuts is rookie defensive back Jemea Thomas. A sixth-round draft choice out of Georgia Tech (206th overall), Thomas is a versatile player who was expected to compete for a roster spot. After sustaining an injury on the first day of training camp and missing extended time, it set him back and he obviously never made up the lost ground. Perhaps the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Thomas could potentially return on the practice squad, depending on how things shake out with the rest of the roster. The Patriots have plenty of depth in the defensive backfield.

Revisiting Gaffney waiver claim: The Patriots were willing to carry injured rookie running back Tyler Gaffney on their 90-man roster until this cut-down day, and by officially moving him to injured reserve, it reminds us that the Panthers could have done the same if they wanted to keep their sixth-round pick. Gaffney factors into the running back mix in 2015, as the Patriots have three players on their current roster -- Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden -- who are scheduled to become free agents after this season.

What's next: With the roster at 75 players, the Patriots must trim to 53 with the rest of NFL teams on Aug. 30. They have their preseason finale Aug. 28 on the road against the Giants.

Patriots’ cuts: DL Ben Bass, DB Travis Hawkins, WR Derrick Johnson, LB Deontae Skinner, DB Jemea Thomas, WR Wilson Van Hooser

Patriots to injured reserve: RB Tyler Gaffney, LB Cameron Gordon

Houston Texans cut-down analysis

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Most significant move: There weren't really any very significant football moves in the Houston Texans' first round of cuts. Those gone as the team reduces its roster from 90 (the Texans had 89 for a few weeks) to 75 were long shots to make the team. Non-football-wise, the Texans placed David Quessenberry on the non-football illness list as he continues his treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He's talked often about how being part of the team and the support he's received from the team make him feel stronger, like he has an "army" behind him. He'll remain part of the group as he fights for his life.

Receivers stand out: The Texans cut three receivers in this round, which still leaves them with some very difficult decisions this weekend. Texans coach Bill O'Brien singled out that group Tuesday as being a very talented one. They could keep five receivers, or six if a sixth player forces his way on the roster. Undrafted rookie Travis Labhart is in the conversation to be that sixth player. He could make a case for himself on Thursday night in the team's final preseason game.

Texans' cuts: WR Joe Adams, G Conor Boffeli, NT Austin Brown, OLB Paul Hazel, NT David Hunter, WR Alec Lemon, OLB Terrence Lloyd, G Sam Longo, WR Anthony McClung, CB Junior Mertile, RB William Powell and OLB Lawrence Sidbury. In addition, safety Lonnie Ballentine was placed on injured reserve.
Most significant move: The team released Eric Page, who handled the return duties last year. This is a pretty clear sign that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go with undrafted rookie Solomon Patton as their primary return man. Page was reliable but unspectacular. Patton has the potential to be more explosive.

Surprise, surprise: Most fans thought wide receiver Tommy Streeter would make it to the final cut and maybe even make the roster. That's because Streeter had flashed promise early in camp and caught a touchdown pass in the first preseason game. But Streeter’s shot at a roster spot was doomed because he didn’t have the tools or experience to play regularly on special teams.

What’s next: The Bucs have to trim their roster to 53 players by Saturday afternoon.

Bucs' cuts: Released OT Matt Patchan, OT J.B. Shugarts, CB Deveron Carr, WR Tommy Streeter, LS Jeremy Cain, DT Euclid Cummings, G Jace Daniels, WR Skye Dawson, OL Jason Foster, DE Ryne Giddins, G R.J. Mattes, WR Eric Page, DE Chaz Sutton, QB Alex Tanney and FB Ian Thompson. Placed CB Danny Gorrer on injured reserve. Claimed CB Marc Anthony and G Jeremiah Warren off waivers.
Most significant move: The Steelers cut a pair of players who appeared in games for them last season. In the process, their plans along the defensive line came more into focus. The team released defensive end Brian Arnfelt, who appeared in two games at the end of last season, and nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, who played in four games in 2013. Josh Mauro, an undrafted rookie, has the edge for the last defensive spot if the Steelers keep seven defensive linemen, and rookie nose tackle Daniel McCullers, a sixth-round pick, is almost sure to stick on the 53-man roster. Defensive end Ethan Hemer may be the odd man out with defensive end Nick Williams and nose tackle Roy Philon likely grabbing spots on the practice squad. Arnfelt entered training camp with a good chance at making the team, but the second-year man fell out of favor with the coaches and Mauro passed him at defensive end. Williams still has a chance to unseat Mauro if he plays well in the Steelers’ final preseason game Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.

Running back shuffle: The Steelers are down to five running backs after releasing three at that position Tuesday, including Tauren Poole, who got a long look from the coaches. A roster spot is there for the taking if either Josh Harris or Stephen Houston seizes the final opportunity against the Panthers. The Steelers may go with three running backs and fullback Will Johnson even given the uncertain status of starter Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Coach Mike Tomlin has said the team is considering all options as far as punishment following their arrest on marijuana possession charges. (Bell has also been charged with driving under the influence.) That includes a suspension -- and the Steelers can maneuver around the collective bargaining agreement by simply deactivating Bell, Blount or both for the Sept. 7 season opener against the Browns. I don’t expect the Steelers to sit either for an entire game, and a suspension from the NFL wouldn’t come until next season. That means Harris or Houston will have to play his way on to the 53-man roster, or the two could be vying for a spot on the practice squad. The Steelers will also keep an eye on the waiver wire to see which running backs become available at the end of the week.

Steelers’ moves: Arnfelt, S Jordan Dangerfield, C Chris Elkins, Fangupo, WR C.J. Goodwin, RB Jordan Hall, LS Luke Ingram, RB Miguel Maysonet, OT Emmanuel McCray, WR Kashif Moore, Poole, CB Devin Smith, OLB Vic So’oto, CB Lew Toler, TE Eric Waters

St. Louis Rams cut-down analysis

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Most significant move: None of the Rams' moves really registered much of a blip on the radar, though parting with defensive end Sammy Brown and safety Matt Daniels in this round might qualify as something of a surprise. Brown and Daniels have spent time on the active roster over the past two years, but both have had similar problems staying healthy. Daniels was once a core special-teams player, but he suffered season-ending injuries in each of his two seasons. Brown has shuttled between the practice squad and active roster but spent most of this camp watching from the sideline. It was seemingly inevitable that both would be released but maybe a mild surprise for it to happen during the first round of cuts.

Sam still here: It's no surprise that defensive end Michael Sam made it past the first round of cuts given his draft status and production in the team's first three preseason games. Sam and undrafted rookie lineman Ethan Westbrooks continue to wage one of the more intriguing battles for a roster spot. Both have made strong cases that they belong in the NFL. The question becomes whether the Rams have room to keep both or if they will have to make a difficult decision. At this point, it wouldn't surprise to see another team claim either of them should they be exposed to the waiver wire. The Rams could theoretically keep 10 defensive linemen but would have to sacrifice at other spots. Injuries at cornerback and quarterback could also keep the Rams from going heavy elsewhere. Certainly, Sam and Westbrooks should get plenty of opportunities to make closing arguments Thursday night in Miami.

Rams' cuts: CB Jarrid Bryant, P Bobby Cowan, OT R.J. Dill, WR Jordan Harris, LS Jorgen Hus, FB Kadeem Jones, LB Johnny Millard, WR T.J. Moe; OT D.J. Morrell, LB Pat Schiller (waived injured), S Matt Daniels, DE Sammy Brown

Quarterback Sam Bradford (knee) and center Demetrius Rhaney (knee) were placed on injured reserve. Last week, the Rams placed running back Isaiah Pead on injured reserve and did not replace him on the roster. That brings the total to 75.
Most significant move: Releasing linebacker Victor Butler was a small surprise, but a huge shame. I was one of many analysts who thought the pass-rush specialist could have a huge impact when he joined the New Orleans Saints last year, following defensive coordinator Rob Ryan from Dallas. Unfortunately, Butler missed all of last season with a torn ACL, then he missed three weeks of training camp this year with an ankle injury. In the meantime, the Saints continued to develop two other breakout pass-rushers in Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette. Hopefully Butler can get healthy and get another opportunity somewhere, because he’s an energetic, well-liked guy who showed a ton of promise before the injuries.

One-year wonders: I was equally surprised to see the Saints release second-year linebacker Kevin Reddick, who had been a mainstay on all of their special teams units last season and this preseason. But it goes to show how much depth the Saints have at linebacker. This probably guarantees that guys such as Keyunta Dawson and Kyle Knox will make the team and maybe open up a spot for undrafted rookie Kasim Edebali. ... Cornerback Rod Sweeting also got cut after spending all of last season on the roster as an undrafted rookie. And 2013 sixth-round pick Rufus Johnson Jr. got waived as well -- less surprising after both had fallen behind in the pecking order throughout the summer.

What’s next: Two of the most compelling battles that will be decided by week’s end are at backup quarterback (Luke McCown vs. Ryan Griffin) and kicker (Shayne Graham vs. Derek Dimke). It’s starting to look more and more like McCown will win the backup job. If that happens, the Saints will probably keep three quarterbacks since they like Griffin’s long-term potential. ... I don’t anticipate any more veteran surprises, but you can never rule them out. If I had to make my final roster projection right now, I’d have four guys battling for the last three spots (McCown, Edebali, safety Marcus Ball and defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick).

Saints' cuts: LB Victor Butler, LB Kevin Reddick, DE Rufus Johnson Jr., CB Rod Sweeting, S Ty Zimmerman, DE George Uko, WR Andy Tanner (injured), QB Logan Kilgore, TE Travis Beckum, OT Manase Foketi, OT Ty Nsekhe (injured).
The Indianapolis Colts made four roster moves Tuesday afternoon to get down to 75 players.

Most significant move: Running back Vick Ballard was expected to be a part of the Colts’ backfield that also features Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. The three were supposed to team together to help complement the Colts’ passing game. Ballard barely had a chance to show what he could do because his season ended before it really started. He tore his Achilles during a running back passing drill early in training camp last month. This is the second straight season that Ballard’s season ended because of an injury in practice. He tore his ACL in practice prior to Week 2 last season.

Harvey at fullback: With fullback Stanley Havili being placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which means he has to sit out at least the first six weeks, Mario Harvey will be the Colts’ lone fullback if they decide to keep one. Harvey is in his first season playing fullback after being a linebacker his entire career. The other option would be for the Colts to release Harvey when they have to get down to 53 players by Saturday and use one of their tight ends in situations in which a fullback is needed, as they did at times last season.

Colts’ cuts: RB Vick Ballard (injured reserve), OT Ulrick John (injured reserve), RB Deji Karim (injured reserve), FB Stanley Havili (reserve/physically unable to perform), CB Johnny Adams, CB Qua Cox, G Andre Cureton, G Marcus Hall, CB Kameron Jackson, WR Nu'Keese Richardson, LB Jonathon Sharpe, S David Sims, WR Eric Thomas, WR Tony Washington and FB Cameron White
Most significant move: The Redskins released veteran backup linebacker Rob Jackson, a move that in truth was only mildly surprising. Jackson was not playing on special teams and did not have the speed the Redskins are trying to find defensively. Jackson will forever be remembered by Redskins fans for his game-ending interception off Dallas’ Tony Romo to clinch the NFC East title in 2012. But his future was in doubt when he entered camp, in part because the Redskins drafted Trent Murphy in the second round. And with young linebackers such as Gabe Miller and Everette Brown having better camps, Jackson was let go.

Young backups: The Redskins will go with a youthful group of offensive line backups after releasing veteran guard/center Mike McGlynn. Again, not a big surprise given his training camp performance. But he had the most experience of the backups. However, if they keep less than 10 linemen -- as they should -- then McGlynn was an easy player to release. They can use guard Chris Chester at center in an emergency if something happens to starter Kory Lichtensteiger. But it also means that the other potential backups include two rookies in Morgan Moses and Spencer Long and two others who have not started a game in guard Josh LeRibeus, who has appeared in five games, and tackle Tom Compton, who has appeared in 15. Both their work has primarily come on special teams. Another potential player is tackle Maurice Hurt, who has appeared in 21 games with nine starts (eight in 2011).

What’s next: The Redskins have a tough decision to make at running back when getting to the final 53. They still have all their running backs and will have to cut perhaps two or three players whom they like. But some of them will be eligible for the practice squad, including Chris Thompson, Lache Seastrunk and Silas Redd. Thompson had a big edge early in camp, but the inability to stay healthy has left him in jeopardy. One other thing to watch: what happens with defensive end Stephen Bowen. If the Redskins feel he’ll be ready early in the season, they might keep seven defensive linemen. If not, he could remain on the PUP list.

Redskins' cuts: LB Rob Jackson, OC/G Mike McGlynn, LB Adrian Robinson, TE Matt Veldman, WR Rashad Ross, CB Bryan Shepherd, LB Jeremy Kimbrough, DE Jeremy Towns, G Adam Gettis, FB Stephen Campbell, WR Cody Hoffman, WR Rashad Lawrence, S Ross Madison and DE Jake McDonough. TE Mike Caussin was placed on injured reserve.
Most significant move: There really isn’t one. Linebacker Jonathan “Tig” Willard pulled people out of a burning car on his way to camp a year ago. Cornerback Micah Pellerin was a waiver claim from Dallas last year. But no one on the list of the first cuts was expected to make this roster.

IR, waived-injured and an addition: Veteran linebacker Colin McCarthy (shoulder) was placed on IR. Undrafted rookie center Gabe Ikard (torn ACL) was waived-injured and will revert to the team's IR list if he goes unclaimed. The Titans added quarterback Dominique Davis as insurance for the preseason finale Thursday night against Minnesota. The cut to 53 needs to happen by Saturday at 3 p.m. CT.

What’s next: Six undrafted rookies are still on the roster, and they all could be among the 22 remaining cuts. The best chance to stick, at least for a while, is kicker Travis Coons. Another two qualify as first-year players and appear unlikely to stick. Even if they are all gone, another 14 will be called to visit Ken Whisenhunt in his office on Friday or Saturday and asked to hand in their iPad playbook.

Titans' cuts: LB Kendrick Adams, CB Marc Anthony, DL Lanier Coleman, OL Kevin Danser, LB David Hinds, OL Tyler Horn, WR Julian Horton, RB Waymon James, CB Micah Pellerin, WR Jaz Reynolds, S Hakeem Smith, WR Derel Walker, LB Jonathan Willard and WR Isaiah Williams.
The San Diego Chargers cut 12 players, placed three on the injured reserve list and another on the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list to get down to the NFL-mandated 75 players by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline. San Diego also acquired defensive end Joe Kruger (Eagles) through waivers.

Most significant move: Cornerback Brandon Ghee was signed in free agency as a player looking to revive his career after four injury-plagued seasons in Cincinnati. The Chargers signed the Wake Forest product to a two-year, $1.65 million deal, including a $230,000 signing bonus. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, Ghee was supposed to add size to San Diego’s secondary, but he never cracked the second unit on the depth chart, passed over by second-year pro Steve Williams and undrafted rookie free agent Chris Davis.

Flacco hangs on: Considered a developmental project, 27-year-old tight end Mike Flacco -- the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco -- surprisingly remains on the roster. Raw and unpolished, the former minor league baseball player struggled with running precise routes and setting the edge in the run game. But lately he hasn’t looked like a deer in headlights, making a few plays during preseason action. Led by tight ends coach Pete Metzelaars and future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, Flacco has some good mentors to learn from if he can stay with the organization as a member of the practice squad.

Chargers' moves: San Diego released 12 players -- OT Nick Becton, FB Zach Boren, TE Jake Byrne, WR Brelan Chancellor, LB Adrian Hamilton, WR Micah Hatfield, OL D.J. Johnson, TE Ryan Otten, CB Lowell Rose, P Chase Tenpenny, CB Brandon Ghee and RB Kerwynn Williams. The Chargers placed DT Kwame Geathers, DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and CB Marcus Cromartie on the injured reserve list, and moved offensive lineman Jeromey Clary to the reserve physically unable to perform (PUP) list -- which means he will miss the first six games of the regular season.
Most significant move: The Raiders put 2013 first-round pick D.J. Hayden on the physically unable to perform list to start the season. He will be out at least the first six weeks of the season. He had foot surgery in June. Initially, the Raiders said the issue was minor. But clearly, it has been a significant issue for a player who has not been able to stay healthy. The Raiders took Hayden early despite suffering a heart issue that nearly killed him in November 2012. His rookie season was ended early due to a sports hernia. Last week, Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said Hayden is suffering from missed practice time. He will be further behind when he returns. The Raiders have had many questionable first-round draft picks in recent history. It is probably too early to call Hayden a bust, but he, at the very least, looks like an overdraft.

Camp star cut: The Raiders cut receiver Juron Criner. He was a fifth-round pick in 2012. Criner was famous for making circus catches in training camp. However, the light never came on during the season. He made essentially no NFL impact as a Raider.

What’s next: The Raiders have to pare down their roster to 53 players by 1 p.m. PT Saturday.

Raiders' moves: QB Trent Edwards, WR Juron Criner, S Larry Asante, WR Greg Jenkins, RB Kory Sheets (all waived-injured); G Lucas Nix (waived/failed physical); TE Nick Kasa, injured reserve; CB D.J. Hayden, PUP.
Most significant move: The Chicago Bears officially made Jimmy Clausen the No. 2 quarterback and jettisoned Jordan Palmer, who quickly signed with the Buffalo Bills. While Clausen and Palmer aren’t considered proven commodities, the latter had more familiarity and experience in Chicago’s offense. Jay Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game regular season since 2009, so it’s almost a given that at some point in 2014 the Bears will need to lean on the backup quarterback. That’s not to say the Bears made the wrong move, because Clausen appears to be the better player. Interestingly, Palmer signed with Chicago’s Week 1 opponent: the Buffalo Bills. So there’s a good chance the Bills are pumping Palmer for information on Chicago’s offense.

The end of a career? The Bears signed Adrian Wilson hoping he still possessed many of the physical traits that made him one of the NFL’s most dominating safeties over the years. Had Wilson panned out, he would have given the Bears the type of physical presence on the back end they haven’t had since Mike Brown roamed the secondary. The Bears gave Wilson plenty of opportunities to earn a spot on the team, but he never flashed the brilliance that made him such a force for so many years with the Arizona Cardinals. Wilson says he’s a “prideful person,” but at this point it appears his career is over.

What’s next: The Bears finish out the preseason on Thursday at Cleveland, and upon returning they’ll start to finalize the roster heading into the Aug. 30 cutdown date before beginning preparation for the regular-season opener against the Bills.

Bears' cuts: QB Jordan Palmer, KR/PR Darius Reynaud, LB Jordan Senn, RB Michael Ford, WR Greg Herd, WR Kofi Hughes, OT Joe Long, RB Derricus Purdy, DB Peyton Thompson, DT Nate Collins, OG Dylan Gandy, S Adrian Wilson, S Craig Steltz, OG James Brown, B Isaiah Frey.
Most significant move: It wasn’t surprising, but the release of rookie kicker Carey Spear stands out because it wasn’t the result of Alex Henery locking up the kicker position. The Eagles are still looking to upgrade. They traded for Colts rookie kicker Cody Parkey, and will be watching the waiver wire for more candidates in the next few days. The kicking situation is still very much unsettled, which is not a good feeling with the season bearing down. On the other hand, good candidates keep becoming available: veteran Jay Feely and former Temple kicker Brandon McManus, among others.

Shift at center: The Eagles released Julian Vandervelde late Tuesday afternoon with an injury settlement, getting their roster to 75. Vandervelde, the backup to center Jason Kelce last season, had surgery on his back earlier this month. But even before he was injured, Vandervelde’s job was in peril. David Molk, whom the Eagles signed back in January, had impressed Chip Kelly and the coaches with his smarts and his agility. The Eagles have been very pleased with the play of their second-team offensive line, and Molk has been a big part of that.

What’s next: The Eagles held on to all of their running backs and cornerbacks and most of their wide receivers and linebackers. Those cuts will be tougher because of special-teams considerations. The Eagles wanted to give the players one more opportunity to show their worth in the preseason. And with the starters already working on the season opener against Jacksonville, there is plenty of playing time against the Jets available.

Eagles’ cuts: TE Blake Annen, OL Michael Bamiro, OL Karim Barton, WR Kadron Boone, WR B.J. Cunningham, OL Donald Hawkins, TE Emil Igwenagu, LB Jake Knott, DE Joe Kruger, S Daytawion Lowe, DE Frances Mays, S Davon Morgan, K Carey Spear, OL Julian Vandervelde, DE Alejandro Villanueva.

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