| Part Two |
Part Three | Part
It is the dog days of summer and for some of us this conjures up
a painfully distant memory of two a days, where the only joy experienced
was the trip to the A&W for a-gallon jug of root beer to rehydrate.
But for many of us, it fills our wells with hope springs eternal.
For the magazines are all out and the conjecturing we do from February
through July is now corroborated by an influx of sift-able information.
I personally subscribe to the philosophy that anything coming
out of training camp, along with $4.25 may get me that one gallon
of gasoline I need just to get to my day job. And often, that
is just what it is, Training Camp Hype or "TCH". Now,
to the Deadheads who just got excited, please lay off the spinach
for just a second as your myopic dyslexia has made you misread
But sometimes I can hardly tell the distinction between THC and
TCH. I would be a lot happier if I could say it was THC that caused
me to draft, with immense pride: Wali Lundy, Jacoby Jones, James
Jones or even Kevan Barlow. But alas, it was TCH and not THC that
numbed my brain.
Training Camp Gem: Anquan Boldin
But every once in a while, training camp does uncover a gem or
confirms our suspicions of who will prevail in that position battle
or that an RBBC is evident. In 2003, few people in fantasy football
were looking at the Arizona wide receiver corps for filling out
the late rounds of their draft. But quietly discussed in the Arizona
press was a training camp phenom and 54th pick of the NFL draft
Anquan Boldin (he was not even the first receiver picked by Arizona
that year). Coach McGinnis kept stating that this kid was a playmaker
and that the Cardinals were going to have to find a way to get
the ball to him. So, if you can sift through the TCH you just
may draft that pearl who gets 101 receptions for 1377 yards and
8 tds, rather than being eighth on the waiver list and desperately
hoping that the seven guys overlook a Boldin-like Week One performance
of 10 receptions 217 yards and 2 tds and think they are getting
the next Frisman Jackson.
It is my intention to provide you with a limited digest of brief
tidbits coming out of the training camps about key fantasy positions.
Hopefully, at sometime during this August run, the dirt which
fills my oyster brain will irritate just enough to spit out one
pearl. Otherwise, the information below should serve only as a
host of useful information, consolidating as much into one location
as my limited resources can provide.
Since I am incapable of visiting camps and my hometown's only
professional football team is the Avengers (unless you wish to
lump my Trojans in this class as well), this digest is from various
sources and is often uncorroborated and unauthenticated.
Denver Broncos: If I write this
article today, next week, next month or next decade, this shall
remain constant: Every running back looks impressive. One of them
will definitely be the starter....for at least one week. Ryan
Torain has been impressive but will miss 6-8 weeks with a broken
Young is the lead guy.....for now. Oh yeah...and who is Denver's
"I've Never Heard of You Before Who Bursts Onto the Scene This
Year Back?" Write down the name Anthony Aldridge....how do Denver
fans keep their heads from imploding? For any of you who actually
fret over picking a kicker in your draft, you just might find
a gem in Matt
Prater, who likely won’t be drafted in any league format (this
is the first and last time I will bring up a kicker). In simulated
game conditions he went 11 for 11, 3 over 50 and one for 68. Brandon
Marshall may not be in the best shape and he is facing a Steve
Smithesque suspension of 3 weeks, but he's wowing spectators,
players and coaches in practice. Expect to be wowed in preseason
so Broncos can work him into game shape for his return from suspension.
Kansas City Chiefs: Rookie down!
With Brandon Albert out for the training camp, what happens to
the already questionable o-line? While Larry Johnson is back leaner
[8% body fat], cutting out the fast food and looked like a beast
against Vikings [not their first teamers] in scrimmage, the real
question seems not whether L.J. can run with the rock, but whether
his line will permit it.
Oakland Raiders: Before you read
this, remember this one word that is extremely important to sifting
through what is true and what is stank- Raidermyopia. Javon Walker's
choice not to retire should not excite anyone yet, as one of the
reasons he wanted to was his training camp woes. Apparently however,
he misunderstood Kiffin's advice about losing weight and went
to Vegas to unload the weight of jewelry and cash on him. Darren
McFadden continues to make a play or two every day, "a wow
play." He picks it up really well and really fast,"
Kiffin said. "He just wants to be in everything." And
he is. He lines up WR, RB and QB. The Raiders are expressing man-love
for their rook, who will be sharing with Fargas to start the season.
This might be the year to keep your eye on Ronald Curry who bulked
up in the off-season and with Javon's mindset, Curry could take
over. Michael Bush is enjoying training camp where the players
are hitting harder than when he showed up in week 13 of 2007.
Oh yeah...and there is this guy Jamarcus Russell, who Kiffin describes
as otherworldly, with arm strength and a release that are Marino-esque.
After Russell injured his elbow earlier this week Kiffin said
"He's throwing the ball like other quarterbacks now."
Reading defenses still may be a problem.
San Diego Chargers: Vincent Jackson
is catching every pass and running and cutting extremely well
- it should be noted this is against the likes of Jammer and Cromartie
(apparently he is now nursing a hammy). Chambers believes they
have to practice against better corners then they will play against.
LT2 is over-thinking the loss of the Burner and is concerned he
may have to play more to pick up the slack. Darren Sproles and
Jacob Hester are considered by Norv as 2 and 2A and will probably
be splitting the non-LT2 carries. Antonio Gates is running and
cutting up to twice a day on a side field but has yet to practice
and is expecting to play in season opener. Rivers on his knee:
"feels better than I could have imagined it."
Buffalo Bills: Marshawn Lynch is
explosive and dominating in both the running and passing game.
James Hardy is looking like everything he has been Billed to be
- difficult to cover (nursing tight hammy). Lee Evans is a training
camp hero, but where is he on game day? J.P. Losman appears horrific
in short and middle range and Edwards may have locked it up right
now. Trent Edwards and Evans are benefiting from off-season workouts
together. O-line is opening holes and there is a lot of optimism
for Lynch and Fred Jackson, who is looking elusive in the passing
game as well, which makes me think Lynch may not be getting all
the 3rd downs they're saying he will get.
Miami Dolphins: John
Beck's confidence is not strong; he keeps tossing to checkdown
receivers. Earnest Wilford is having difficulty getting open against
less then stellar defenders and Derek
Hagan lining up opposite Ted Ginn Jr may be as good as it
gets here. Chad
Henne is giving strong competition to Josh
McCown and Beck. Don't count out Quincy
Carter who is working out in K.C. after his arena league year.
RB news seems conspicuously silent after Ronnie
Brown has gotten looks with the first team, but Ricky
Williams has repeatedly looked like the best player on the
field. Looks like a time share in South Beach for the ground game.
New England Patriots: O-line is
cause for a little concern - a musical chairs, with all its injured
players. Vrabel and Wes Welker off PUP, but not going full bore
just yet. Chad Jackson is not impressing.
New York Jets: QB competition is
over as some guy named Brett Favre is in the fold. Chad Pennington
looks to be on his way out of New York. There are few reasons
to get excited about a 3rd WR in NY, but there is noise about
David Clowney at WR giving Brad Smith and Chansi Stuckey a run.
Rookie TE Dustin Keller is greatly impressing.
Baltimore Ravens: WR are running
thin with Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams relaxing...uhh…injured.
Kyle Boller is throwing some crisp passes, while rookie WR Marcus
Smith may be giving Figurs run for the no.3. Ray Rice is impressing
as a tough, north south runner while McGahee is also resting.
Heap - SOP (nursing another injury).
Cincinnati Bengals: The only news
coming out of this camp seems to be that Ocho Cinco reported.
Sounds like business as usual. Team disarray is already in seasonal
form. Rudi Johnson has supposedly put on weight. Chris Perry’s
formerly dislocated ankle is working fine and T.J. Houshmandzadeh
is a big fan of what Perry can do…if he can stay on the
Cleveland Browns: Kellen Winslow
is looking unstoppable. There does not appear to be an early concern
with a QB controversy as Derek Anderson is looking good in the
short game and Quinn still looks unsure of himself. Jamal Lewis
has some interesting motivation playing on the team that his idol
Jim Brown played on and being down the road from Canton. Apparently,
he is motivated to impress Brown, has slimmed down and envisions
that he will surpass 1500 yards this year. "Non-household
names impressing in camp are rookie RB Travis Thomas (but don't
get excited he is looking at practice squad) and WR Travis Wilson.
Addition of Shaun Rogers may make defense something to consider.
From what's coming out of this camp, if you like the players,
don't fret the schedule. This team appears legit.
Pittsburgh Steelers: On D big buzz
at camp is that Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley are beasts.
IMO, this and the news about Shaun Rogers in Cleveland just makes
this division a scary place for fantasy players who will line
up in 4-6 games against their division opponents. Big Ben has
small groin pull. Santonio Holmes showed up in great shape and
is taking a leadership role while still recognizing Ward as the
vet. Buzz is: look for a Pro Bowl year out of Holmes this year.
Loss of Faneca is affecting O-line which only looks average, which
may explain the hush on the RB sitch.
Houston Texans: Andre
Johnson gave a minor scare, pulling up with a hamstring (changed
from earlier diagnosis of groin) tweak on Saturday, but no tears
and apparently no lingering effects. Clearly committee, by their
own expression and running game is looking good for Darius
Taylor and Steve Slayton, despite Chris
Brown out with sore back and Mike
Bell not in camp shape yet (looking fast, but not well conditioned).
When it comes to Houston running backs just read my comments on
Denver running backs as they generally mirror each other. Kevin
Walter has been Schaub’s favorite target in camp. Healthwise,
Schaub is looking good.
Indianapolis Colts: This is obviously
a relatively seasoned team with few training camp questions at
the skill positions. Marvin Harrison has been making play of the
day moves and catches. So don’t write him off just yet.
Dominic Rhodes has been gaining a lot of attention and people
are talking about him cutting into Joseph Addai’s carries.
Jacksonville Jaguars: David Garrard
is looking sharp, but he is going with the low risk passes almost
exclusively. With all the receiver injuries (Porter, Reggie Williams
and others), Maurice Jones-Drew may have a huge year in a PPR
format. There is a reason that Garrard only threw 3 picks last
year. The ageless and No Longer Fragile Fred still has cutback
ability and after burners. Jerry Porter is wrapped up from below
the knee to the buttocks and shows a limp when wrapped, but no
gait when unwrapped. Matt Jones is really blowing....err…I
mean smoking....I mean really doing well. The vibe sounds like
J-Ville is looking at an aggressive blitzing D and a ball control
offense with a lot of running and short dump-offs. I always reserve
judgment when a starting center is gone. The o-line is like a
nervous system and the center is the brain sending out all of
the messages. With Meester probably out for half a season, I’ll
keep this offense monitored.
Tennessee Titans: We have all heard
rumors about Chris
Johnson’s big-play potential and tremendous speed and that
the Titans are deploying him as a split out. However, he is also
making big strides for his physicality knocking back linebackers
in one-on-one blocking drills. The Titans are saying that he is
showing what they need from the guy in that position. LenDale
White has been used sparingly (wrist) to allow other RBs to
get into the mix. While LenWhale showed up to camp in better shape
than in the past, he is still not as well conditioned as hoped
for. The team is expressing confidence in Vince
Young. They have worked on his footwork to improve his accuracy
and believe he is more accurate than what they saw on film from
last year. The o-line is saying that he appears more confident
in the huddle and calling audibles.
Arizona Cardinals: According to
Wisenhunt, the QB position is still a competition. Doubt that
it is true. It looks like Matt Leinart’s. It does not look
like the specialist role of 2007 will be re-implemented. Pope
must show he's 100% and faces stiff competition from Ben Patrick
for Tight End. Edge says “30” is so cliché
– hate to say it, but there are certain places where clichés
are meaningful. Anquan Boldin’s strained hammy shouldn’t
present a problem.
San Francisco 49ers: Frank Gore
looks terrific running. Martz on Gore - "We use him everywhere
we can in the running game...and in the passing game...deep threat...short
threat, as a crossing threat." Bruce, Battle and Bryant Johnson
appear to be starters in a Martz 3 WR. Bruce has been getting
extensive action and looking good. Cautious on Battle and Lelie
who seem to be nursing their labia. Martz has raved about WR Jason
Hill in the spring, but when Nolan is asked he simply says Hill
has to stay healthy. Reporters have indicated they have never
seen more dropped footballs in passing drills. So much so that
at certain practices O'Sullivan surpassed Smith and was taking
1st team reps, but Nolan is still saying it’s a two man
race b/w Smith and Hill. O’Sullivan's top WR is Hill, Smith's
is Bryant Johnson and Shaun Hill's is rookie Josh Morgan.
Seattle Seahawks: Additions of
line coach Mike Solari and Guard Mike Wahle seem to paying dividends
in the o-line and rb's are finding lanes now. The connection between
Hasselbeck and his receivers is like a blank slate. He has expressed
that he feels very comfortable with Bobby Engram and is hooking
up with him well in practices. Clearly looks like Engram and Nate
Burleson with injured Courtney Taylor or Obomanu looking to fill
out the 3rd. Red Bryant out 4-5 weeks after arthroscopic surgery.
St. Louis Rams: Pace is feeling
good and on track which would be good news for Steven Jackson
owners, if he returns to camp. Drew Bennett is back in practice
from his knee injury. Bulger was looking very accurate with his
passes. Carriker looking like a beast "rag-dolling"
people. Chris Long is starting to "get it."
Dallas Cowboys: Felix Jones is
living up to the bill as “electric” showing speed
and vision. The Cowboys like Tashard Choice’s speed and
physical play. He may take 3rd spot. Even though Marion Barber
has been labeled the bell cow by Wade Phillips, there are pundits
who believe that Jones has done enough to ensure that Barber doesn’t
see 20 touches a game. They have designed a number of packages
to put both on the field including placing Barber at fullback.
Is it my imagination or is T.O. not taking training camp off?
Passes are going to get spread around between T.O., Jason Witten
and the running backs and no one is talking up the number two
through five wide outs at this point.
New York Giants: Eli Manning is
stringing together one great practice after another. His back-ups
however, are striking fear into Giant fans. Due to all the injured
WRs, Kevin Boss and Domenik Hixon are garnering a lot of attention.
Hixon may get past being a special teamer and worked into passing
game. Steve Smith is also showing up (when not injured). Sinorice
Moss is not impressing anyone yet. Difficult getting a read on
the RB situation and most the blurb is on Bradshaw’s jail
Philadelphia Eagles: Donovan McNabb
looks sharp, is spreading the ball around and the first-team offense
looks good. McNabb is allegedly all the way back. There’s
talk about using Hank Baskett’s size and strength more in
the red zone and he and Jason Avant have been pulling down a number
of balls in practice.
Washington Redskins: Jason Campbell
is throwing well. Back-up Colt Brennan, who threw for two TDs
against Indy’s Third team D is looking pretty good too.
Rookie receiver phenom Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Anthony
Mix are out with hamstring pulls. Kelly just had arthroscopic
surgery and will be out at least 2-3 weeks.
Chicago Bears: Nothing could be
clearer than Matt Forte is number one and Adrian Petersen Kevin
Jones, and Garrett Wolfe are fighting it out for number two. Forte
is being used consistently in the passing game and flourishing.
He is unafraid of contact. He ain't your grandma's Cedric Benson.
Devin Hester is getting a lot of looks in the number one offense
(but its still Rex at the helm). Apparently Marty Booker is being
outpaced by John Daly and Craig Stadler.
Detroit Lions: Jon Kitna looking
very accurate and throwing well on the run. "Roy and Calvin
"are going to have more than 80 balls providing they play
all 16 games,'' In scrimmage the passing game looked anemic. Roy
Williams did show up at Aug. 2 practice once he got angry and
if he can carry that intensity forward, the sky is the limit.
Marinelli said he did not put much stock into running game since
tackling wasn't part of it. Everyone is optimistic about Colletto's
new zone blocking scheme, but they recognize they simply aren't
there yet. For all of those who note that Kevin Smith is the most
notable rookie, temper it with the fact that while he knows the
zone scheme, his team doesn't and they may be forced to air it
out until they get more comfortable with the run game.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
has looked horribly inconsistent through practices and scrimmage
(7 for 22 with 10 straight incomplete passes). Ryan Grant has
at least 4 million reasons to rush for 1500 yards, but how often
does incentive laced contracts turn into performance enhancers?
It is far too early to make any dispositive comments about what
is happening in Packer camp.
Minnesota Vikings: Beware PPR gurus.
Tarvaris Jackson looked sharp in early practice against chiefs
and through a swing pass td to All Day. Said Jackson: "I
just try to get Peterson the football whenever I get a chance
so he can make plays with it." IMHO - Move over LT, there's
a new sheriff in town. Long passes are still an issue - just ask
Atlanta Falcons: This is one of
the more interesting camps to me since it really is a blank slate
with new coaching, new QB, RB and TE. Matt
Ryan is making great strides since mini-camp, but he does
not appear to have the strongest arm. Chris
Redman looks to be the starter come September. Don’t look
for a replacement to Alge Crumpler. The Tight End corps looks
to be made up mostly of blockers who aren’t catching many balls
in camp. Rookie WR Harry
Douglas is running great routes, getting open and filled with
NFL attitude. He may already have a shot at the slot. But one
of the hardest guys to good a good read on where he should be
drafted is Michael “The Burner” Turner. In drills, Turner has
shown he can get to the hole in a hurry and he attacks the line
of scrimmage so aggressively that he moves the pile where there
is no crease. Once he gets through the front, his momentum is
so fierce that he is blasting into the secondary. He has exhibited
speed, power and evasiveness. As stated with some other RBs, temper
with this the understanding that he is running against the Falcons
Carolina Panthers: Uhm…would it
be real inappropriate to state that “there is some real hitting
going on”? Obviously the Steve
Smith blow to Ken Lucas has garnered as much of the blog talk
as Brett Favre and Green Bay. But Smith appears focused on being
the top receiver. The only problem is that he is already down
two games. Jonathan Stewart is making a lot of believers out of
everybody (teammates, coaches and spectators) with powerful running
– just what the Panthers want. Stewart has received a lot of red-zone
opportunities, was catching passes and running over players at
the goal line. He is impressing Coach Fox. But, DeAngelo
Williams has likewise been shining, running with confidence
and….motivation. Quarterback Jake
Delhomme’s elbow does not appear to be causing any concern
and though he is being limited in practice time, he looks at ease
under center and sharp on his throws. Julius
Peppers is looking bigger, stronger and faster and is poised
for a dominating year.
New Orleans Saints: Marques Colston
recovered from a sore left knee that was drained in the early
days of training camp only to resurface in the same knee. Payton
is not worried and says its minor. Pierre Thomas is also standing
out in a crowded backfield. With “good vision and good balance…he’s
competing for a lot of touches and doing well” Payton has
a lot of confidence in him as a runner. Payton as stated “he’s
going to get a serious look.” Deuce McAllister will be sitting
out the first pre-season game, but got in two full practices on
Monday. He even caught a pass and powered in for a TD. Shockey’s
practice time is limited. Robert Meacham and Adrian Arrington
are having a great camp. Drew Brees is “as good as ever.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jeff
Garcia was looking good before he went out with a calf strain.
Chris Simms took reps with the first team and looked good. Not
good enough apparently to fend off Favre from talking to the Bucs,
and for now McCown still may be in front. The pre-season depth
chart seems to shift with the QBs on a daily basis between Simms,
McCown and Griese. Antonio
Bryant is nursing a knee injury and in and out of practice.
Gruden is happy with Warrick
Dunn’s performance in camp. The depth chart still looks cemented
with cagey old vets Joey
Galloway and Ike
Hilliard top the WR chart, with Michael
Clayton, who has been impressing (don’t we hear that every
year – but it is a contract year) and Maurice Stovall following
Smith is still number one TE with John Gilmore, Ben
Troupe and Jerramy