Part One | Part
Two | Part
Three | Part
In this second installment of a four part series reporting training
camp hype, I endeavor to make this one of the few articles coming
out this week which, although it cannot help but address Brett Favre's
trade, will not indulge too much in the projections. Without further
Chicago: I never thought I would
hear these words, but it appears that Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton
are regressing, both performing horridly in 7 on 7 drills. There
does not appear to be a No.1 WR in the offense. From all accounts,
it appears the Bears will try to keep their offense on the field
as short as possible and let Defense and special teams when the
games for them. All kidding aside, reports are not to look for
any Bear WR to get much more than 40-50 catches (that still seems
optimistic). On the bright side, Kevin Jones began practicing
with the team Saturday. Injury to rookie LT Chris Williams is
season ending and the o-line is just that much more suspect now.
The hit of training camp may be rookie TE Kellen Davis, but in
a crowded field of TEís where would Davis fit in? Meanwhile
Matt Forte has been having a good training camp and got a lot
of opportunities in the preseason opener against KC. Garrett Wolfe
is pushing hard to not be forgotten and is running on a bad hamstring
and doing it well with a 42-yard run and a 25-yard catch and TD.
I donít care what the intentions are for Matt Forte, if
the Bears donít mix in Wolfe, Peterson and Jones (when healthy),
Iíve got Forte at the top of my dead pool.
Detroit: In looking for Detroit
training camp news, I came across this
little ditty from the Giant Napkin.com, apparently the internetís
newest version of The Onion [Its made even more hilarious by the
fact that some Internet bloggers took it seriously]. It was a
good little laugh. Rookie RB Kevin Smith is getting more reps
and reports are that he is going to be the starter - coach Coletto
says the Lions are just mixing things up and Marinelli says not
to read anything into the reps. Calvin
Johnson bruised his leg against the Giants which is keeping
him out of practice.
Green Bay: Who-Ville? For three
Rodgers has developed a relationship with one of GB's talented
WR's, but his name is not Jennings or Driver. "I just feel like
when I throw the ball to Ru-vell [Martin], he's going to be in
the right position to make the catch." Martin has been having
a good camp [2 catches for 40 yards against Bengals], but he is
still battling it out with James
Jones (who has also been dazzling in camp) and Jordy
Nelson [who's also gaining praise from McCarthy] behind Jennings
and Driver. By the way, Jonesís TD in the Bengal game, despite
his decapitation, was pretty sick. The Cincinnati Bengals could
be perhaps the best way for Aaron Rodgers to have gotten his feet
wet in Ď08. While his first series went out in 3, with one sack,
an incomplete and a short hook-up with James Jones, Rodgers looked
okay and played with aggression. He made a lot of tough passes
into traffic - his interception bounced off Chris
Franciesí number (on the front of his jersey - not the back).
While Iím not ready to praise Rodgers, by no means did I find
him to be as much of a concern as many of the other QBs mentioned
throughout this report and at this point, I would not be upset
with having Rodgers as my QB2. One other note from the Monday
night game: Green Bay may have too much of a passing game with
four legitimate receivers in Donald Driver, Greg
Jennings, James Jones and Ruvell
Martin, TE Donald Lee and some other less notables. Between
Rodgers still having to prove himself, an NFL learning curve and
the number of players vying for clutches, I have some concern
that numbers for any given receiver week in and week out may be
Minnesota: There is no secret that
the Viking offense hinges upon the performance of Tarvaris
Jackson. If they cannot get the passing game off the ground,
opposing defenses will stack the line with 8 in the box, which
has proved effective in limiting Adrian
Peterson. And pre-season game one was a step in that direction.
Childress scripted 10 straight passing plays to keep the Seattle-D
honest. Running back coach Eric
Bieniemy has been working with Peterson in his pass protection
and says Peterson is ďlight years ahead of where he was last seasonĒ
in picking up blitzes. While the skills Peterson has been working
on do not translate into fantasy value, it is anticipated that
in opening up the passing game, running space will open up for
Peterson. The Vikings are happy with their receiving corps of
Wade and Robert
Ferguson. As such, it all comes down to Jackson.
Dallas: If we can put any stock
in a preseason game, Felix Jones perked up the interests of many
fantasy team owners, with 32 yards on the ground and another 29
yards in the air, each made with burst and elusiveness. Marion
Barber tended to take it between the tackles, while Jones ran
outside, exhibiting the change of pace thatís been discussed
all summer. Miles Austinís stock may be on the rise making
tough catches in traffic.
NY Giants: Eli Manning did not
look sharp, but there were flares of greatness from his receivers.
Sinorice Moss got separation and looked better than earlier training
camp reports. Domenik Hixon looked good. Kevin Boss truly impressed
getting hit and making it look more painful to the tacklers immediately
after a 15-20 yard pass up the middle. Hixon and Boss are continuing
to impress in camp. Brandon Jacobs made a nice 27-yard run, after
he shifted to the outside on a Lion who looked a little fearful
of taking that load down by himself. Ahmad Bradshaw...not so impressive
and even exhibited alligator arms on a dropped pass where it looked
like he expected contact.
Philadelphia: Eagles v. Pittsburgh
- Donovan McNabb was absolutely outstanding. He had that "burst"
that he lacked last season, moving quickly and decisively in and
out of the pocket. He saw the field. He threw the ball accurately.
Rookie WR DeSean Jackson is the "real deal" and is assimilating
into the offense. He has speed, hands and has been able to get
open in the summer and has made big plays in training camp. L.J.
Smith getting a lot of looks and making great snatches. Lorenzo
Booker has been making some sick moves in practice...and now that
Westbrook has his new contract...nah.
Washington: Is it Antwaan
Randle El's year? "He has been fantastic...his route running
has improved a lot since he's been here...He doesn't have Santana's
breakaway speed, but he's so wiggly that the slot is probably
the best spot for him. He knows how to use his body to find the
open area and get yards after the catch. I like the way he's running
his routes. They're crisp. He makes a decision and goes." These
are the statements of coaches and Jason
Campbell. Zorn expects much more than 51 catches this year.
Arizona: You say tomatoes and I
say tomatoes (just doesnít come off as well in writing).
Matt Leinart threw the ball well, but depending upon who you ask
he either looked patient or timid. Nearly, if not all of his passes
went to check down receivers. Thus, he is being praised for not
forcing things, avoiding sacks and putting the ball in his playmakers
hands and he is being panned for his lack of aggression. Problem
is that his playmakers are Nos. 11 and 81, not Pope, Rector, Urban,
Arrington and Breaston. Rookie RB Tim Hightower has looked very
good in camp and may take on some more prominent role with Marcel
Shipp getting the boot. Hightower is definitely gaining on J.J.
Arrington, and may have already surpassed him on the depth chart
and is looking to get goal line carries.
San Francisco: Ugh. This QB situation
does not look too impressive. OíSullivan appears to be best
molded for a Martz offense with his quick release. Josh Morgan
is still looking impressive in the receiving game. But what about
the uncertainty of Frank Gore, who is dropping into middle 2nd
round of some drafts? He is reported to be in his best shape ever,
weighing in at about 214 pounds, eliminating the baby fat. Players
often fall on tough times, but last year Gore lost his mom in
September and his good friend Sean Taylor, not to mention a pre-season
hand injury and a sprained ankle for most of the season [which
all support his being an injury risk]. He is definitely showing
the right attitude. He has been in constant contact with Marshall
Faulk about running in a Martz system [the weight being one key].
When practice is over, Gore goes out and runs more. Gore is more
polished in the receiving game and he's "darting into holes
with razor-like cuts." His PPR value is likely to increase
significantly. But, as long as the 49ers are 3 and done, Gore
is still a big question mark.
Seattle Seahawks: WR race has just
become quite interesting with Bobby Engram being sidelined for
the first half of the season. Ben Obomanu - his route running
is sound, he's adjusting to coverage, gaining separation, fighting
for the jump ball, and working underneath and across the middle.
Courtney Taylor wants to practice, but the team isn't letting
him. Throughout training camp, rumor is that Taylor is the favorite,
if healthy. Logan Payne has good hands and runs tight routes,
but not so good come game time. Jordan Kent's athleticism will
gain him a roster spot. And the first TD of the 1st Quarter v.
Minnesota went to...drum roll...Jordan Kent. Julius Jones and
the o-line looked pretty decent against a tough Minnesota run-D.
St. Louis: I cannot talk about
Ram training camp without focusing on what is not there. Linehan
is pleased with what heís seeing from backup runners Antonio
Pittman and Brian Leonard. He is not exhibiting any concern about
the holdout and foresees that Steven Jackson will be back in the
fold prior to opening day. He is looking at the cup half full
stating that the backs are getting a lot of work and it has been
helpful in the evaluation of the roster behind Jackson. If I read
it correctly, although there are no discussions between ownership
and S.Jax, he is communicating daily with players and coaching.
Brian Leonard regularly looks like the best back on the field.
He is running hard and is not afraid of collisions. Leonard did
get the start during the preseason game against the Titans, an
otherwise uneventful game, unless you are a fan of Dane Looker.
Atlanta: Michael Turner started
off the Falcon era with a tough, 9-yard run against the Jags.
His back-ups Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling each looked good
too. Falconsí fans are greatly optimistic with Matt Ryan's
first appearance, replacing Redman midway through the first quarter
and throwing 9 for 15, 113 yards and a TD. I really try not to
get excited about preseason games, especially week one, but Roddy
White impressed with 5 catches and a 25-yard TD and is appears
slated to be the No.1 receiving threat in the Falcon offense.
Stewart...hush. Donít utter his name too loudly as week one
of the preseason may be opening the door to get Stewart just a
tad later than people were reaching for him in early mocks. DeAngelo
Williams (and the o-line) tore through the Colts for two TDs.
But I do have a few concerns about Stewart: First, history could
be repeating itself - when DeAngelo came into the league, everyone
shied off DeShaun Foster, saying that the Panthers would not have
drafted DeAngelo unless.... Second, Stewart may be fielding kick
returns to start the season. Third, Williams made some good cuts
and showed bursts of speed. But by all accounts, Stewart is making
good progress on his recovery from toe surgery and hasnít faltered
in camp yet. D.J.
Hackett seems to be getting more and more relevant with Steve
Smith getting a concussion in the Colts game. As each week
goes on, I become a little bit more wary of whether Smith just
may be snake-bitten this year.
New Orleans: Fighting through soreness,
Deuce McAllister reports that rehab on his knees is going as well
as could be expected. Country singer Kenny Chesney did very little
to solidify his spot on the 53 man roster when he failed to nab
2 of 3 punts on the closing day of camp. Deuce and Jeremy Shockey
were limited going into their last practice of training camp.
Marques Colston ended camp on a real high making three "sensational"
nabs in the red zone. I would be remiss not to mention Robert
Meachemís show of promise in the preseason opener. Drew
Brees ended camp looking sharp.
Tampa Bay: Back-up to Garcia at
QB race has flipped flop again, and will probably do so by next
week's article. In the lead now is Brian Griese. Griese completed
70% of his passes [against his dad's former team] and led the
Buccaneers on a 19-play drive, ending in a TD. Just the way Gruden
likes it. Jeff Garcia has returned to limited practice. Joey Galloway
has not. There seems to be a mum on the running game, with little
coming out of camp about Earnest Graham [alleged non-serious ankle
injury] and Warrick Dunn.
Baltimore: Four weeks ago, before
training camp, I was hyping Ray
Rice as my RB sleeper. Unfortunately for me, Rice is making
enough noise and McGahee is sufficiently injured, that Rice's
sleeper value is gone and pundits are questioning whether Rice
will push McGahee out of town. McGahee is done for the pre-season,
which should have owners a little nervous. The bad news for any
fan of Ravens' players is that the Defense is just having its
way with the offense in training camp. QB's are on their rear
more than their feet. Back-up QB's Joe
Flacco and Troy
Smith have looked plain awful. The injured o-line is not opening
up holes and the un-injured RB's aren't finding the limited holes
that are opened.
Cincinnati: If Chris Perry can
stay off the injured list long enough, he looked pretty impressive
Monday night, with some hard nose runs, moving piles and rumbling
in for a TD. In fact, the Cincy running attack looked relatively
strong with Kenny Watson. There does not appear to be any lingering
resentment among teammates towards Chad Johnson (if there was
any in the first place). The competition for the No.3 WR behind
Ocho Cinco and Houshmandzadeh is still up in the air. The battle
is between rookies Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson and veterans
Antonio Chatman, Glenn Holt and Marcus Maxwell. Caldwell and Simpson
are locks to make the team, but are looked at as the future. The
Bengals are discussing options, which may include a two-tight
end set instead of a three-wide receiver set. If Monday nightís
game against the Packers is any indication, TE Ben Utecht got
significant play and a red zone TD. Utecht and TE Reggie Kelly
have gotten a lot of looks in training camp and the Marvin Lewis
trend of not using TEís in the passing game looks to be
Cleveland: Beautiful! The Olympics
are here and we have to be reminded of a barefooted Zola Budd
taking out American Gold Medalist hopeful Mary Decker. The roles
are reversed, but for those of you whose head has been buried
in the sand, barefooted (socked) Braylon Edwards got run up on
and spiked by Donte Stallworth, requiring stitching. Some reports
have been drastic, but apparently Braylon was back practicing
afterwards. Maybe this news will make one or two drafters in front
of you overlook the ridiculous turn around in the end zone, where
he made a one handed snatch against the Jets. Travis Wilson has
all but locked up the No.3 receiver, which may be meaningless
on a team where the TE will be getting as many looks as the No.1
WR. Travis Thomas drops off this list with his weak performance
in the preseason game and Lewis's other back-ups Jason Wright
and Jerome Harrison are average at best.
Pittsburgh: Once promising Byron
Leftwich has signed to replace injured Charlie Batch. Ben Roethlisberger
hooked up for two, 19-yard plays on his only two passes, one to
Hines Ward and one to Santonio Holmes for a touchdown. Willie
Parker and Rashard Mendenhall also each looked good against the
Buffalo: As I write this, I have
the Buffalo v. Washington game on and I have to say that I think
I have a mini-man crush on Marshawn Lynch. It only takes 8 Redskins
to bring him down. The passing game, wellÖnot so much. I
can't put this all on Trent Edwards, as the receivers just don't
look to be in sync, running bad routes and dropping balls. If
the Bills can't get more out of their passing game, Lynch will
be facing 8 in the box and I don't care how many defenders it
takes to bring him down. Lee Evans continues to be uncoverable
(in camp). James Hardy was the sole highlight of the passing game
against the Redskins, but he probably did more wrong in that game
then right and knows he has a lot more to learn.
Miami: The QB carousel lands Chad
Pennington in Miami. This does not appear to be a bad match, as
he is familiar with a Dan Henning offense [offensive coordinator
in his rookie year with the Jets] and the Dolphins may need to
focus more on ball control than airing it out. In practice, Pennington
has displayed poise, leadership, decisiveness and accuracy. Ronnie
Brown said his knee felt good throughout camp and expected some
soreness after the game, which never came. Ricky
Williams excited Miami fans with 31 yards on 5 carries and
some "highlight reel" runs.
New England: Randy Moss is not
dogging it in training camp, whose highlight reel catches are
coming at the staggering rate of one per practice since camp opened.
Crowded backfield? Belichick is not ruling out keeping Maroney,
Morris, Faulk, Evans, and Jordan (who proved to be the best RB
of the opener against the Ravens with his gaining tough yards
on the inside). Chad Jackson is doing little to earn himself the
number three WR spot.
NY Jets: Last week I mentioned
that David Clowney is turning heads and during their game against
the Browns, Clowney exhibited some good speed and had blow away
numbers with two 70 yard TDs. Here is a trivia question. What
team drafted Clowney last year in the 5th round? Hint: his new
QB makes this question relevant. But Chad Pennington doesn't have
an arm and Kellen...oh wait...here's where Brett Favre comes in
and messes up everything. The most significant thing coming out
training camp is that the Jets' store had 7,000 Favre jerseys
in stock ready for sale on Saturday's session. And on his first
day, Brett was Brett, making some good gunslinger throws and some
bad ones, but keeping fans excited. Clowney just continues to
impress, getting a lot of balls, running good routes and running
reverses for long TDs. Apparently, I heard that Laveranues Coles
is having severe separation anxiety from Chad Pennington and making
no secret of it. Chansi Stuckey is also carrying on with a good
Houston: Donít be surprised if
you hear about a free agent signing of an RB soon. On the opening
play of the first pre-season game, Ahman
Green pulls up with a groin pull. On this site, Charles Spellman
recently wrote an article entitled ďFantasy
RBs: Signs the End is Near,Ē wherein he discusses the downside
of running backs over the age of 30. I could not agree more and
sorry Edge, but 30 means a lot to me when it comes to running
backs in the NFL. Anyways, back to the issue at hand. Itís time
to put a fork in Ahman Green. If he comes back and significantly
contributes, congratulations to the guy who got him. The crowded
backfield is becoming less crowded with Green nursing injury and
released and Chris
Brown still coming off of a back injury. While the aging Green
is only day-to-day, Chris
Taylor, Steve Slayton and Darius
Walker are going to get a lot more reps in the pre-season.
Kubiak seems inclined to believe that Green and Andre
Johnson will be sitting out most of the pre-season, but ready
come the opener. Kubiak is happy with Slaytonís speed (he is the
fastest out there), but doesnít like his dancing in the backfield.
Taylor is missing key blocking assignments in the passing game,
exposing the QBís to injury, and he had no comment of Darius Walker.
They say they are not looking at Cedric
Benson, but...stay tuned.
Harrison is 100% healthy and looking like Marvin of 2006. Marvinís
looking to prove the media fantasy geeks wrong for writing him
off. Roy Hall appears to be the primary backup for Reggie Wayne
or Marvin Harrison. He is running better routes and catching the
ball well. He has speed and size. Gonzalez should remain in the
slot. Looks like plays are being designed for Dominic Rhodes and
Mike Hart to nab goal line carries from Joseph Addai. Kenton Keith
should be wearing different colors come opening day.
Jacksonville: With George Wrightster
injured, Marcedes Lewis is on top of the TE pool and has looked
good in training camp. He is proven to be able to find openings
in coverage and is gaining Garrardís trust. Jerry Porter
and Reggie Williams are supposed to be available at the beginning
of the season, but their absences have allowed Dennis Northcutt
to solidify himself as Garrardís favorite go-to-guy, Matt
Jones to put up a strong fight for his football life, Troy Williamson
to disprove knocks on him as a no-hands guy, Mike Walker to show
his skills and a host of other receivers to show some hope. Jacksonville
is ripe for a WRBC.
Tennessee: Let the Chris
Johnson hype officially commence in 3...2...1...NOW (that
was not even as quick as his 40-time)! All the training camp hype
was about this rookie RB. Could he do the same come game time?
When he took the ball straight up the middle for a 66-yard touchdown,
Tennessee media went National. He has blazing speed. Of course
his five other carries went for a total of 11 yards and the hole
he got was wide enough to drive an 18-wheeler through [well sort
of...Johnson exhibited incredible burst to get to the hole and
then once through, to tweak his course and make the Ram safety
who had the angle on him no longer have an angle]. Johnson will
not sideline LenDale White, nor vice versa. According to Fisher,
even the starter label will be misleading as it does not indicate
who will be getting the predominant share of carries. Fisher may
be excited about a true thunder and lightning attack, with LenDale
getting consistent numbers and Johnson getting some breakaway
numbers. This seems designed to restore LenDale
White to his USC numbers when splitting carries with Reggie
Bush. Both backs looked good in the opening pre-season game
and the question is whether the Tennessee o-line was that good
or the Rams just that bad. Vince
Young is still looking confident, making good decisions and
throwing with accuracy. Young did not turn any heads with his
passing in the preseason opener (3 of 6 for 17 yards) but he did
go vintage VY with a 35-yard run. What Fisher likes about Justin
Gage is his ability to adjust and make a tough catch, which
is a bonus with a QB like Young, who could be a little off target.
Denver: Biggest news is obviously
Ryan Torain being out [elbow] upwards of three months [not just
2 like earlier reported], followed by a brief three-week suspension
of Baby T.O. Brandon Marshall. Jay Cutler has diabetes under control
and regained lost 35 lbs. His arm has looked strong. Broncos are
looking at training camp star WR Eddie Royal to replace Marshall
during Marshall's suspension - He,s earned the chance to start
[over veterans like D.Jax]. He,s practiced at a high level and
done all the things you need to do to play with the first team.
RB Andre Hall has been having a good camp so don't go moving Selvin
Young too far up your charts just yet.
Oakland: Sorry, but I am not yet
buying into Darren McFadden. The Raiders gave him a lot of reps
[12 for 48], but they were all vanilla carries to test his fumblitis.
Michael Bush is making a compelling case to be the short yardage
and goal line back and has worked his way into Kiffin's heart.
"His feet looked exceptional.... I was very pleased with
Michael." Bush converted a third-and-two play, caught every
pass thrown his way and scored from 5 yards on a play on which
he made a nice cut in the backfield before blowing through the
49ersí defense [okay...a 49er second or third team D may
not be much to get excited about]. Jamarcus Russell needs a lot
more playtime in the preseason. He is the center of the Raider
nervous system and 2 for 5 for 13 yards isn't making him game
ready for when it matters.
Kansas City: O-line still seems
to be a big question mark. Branden Albertís injury may have
him lagging behind until mid-season. In a non-blitz pre-season
game, the WRís all got some good looks and some separation.
Larry Johnson proved last weekís caption of this article
to be accurate. Tyler Thigpen appears to be No. 2 on the QB depth
chart while Brodie Croyle may be walking a thin tight rope. The
WR is still a group of question marks with Will Franklin looking
a little better then Devard Darling. Iím hoping that Dantrell
Savage makes the team as a back-up running back as he has one
of my favorite names and he just may with his special teams play.
San Diego: As usual, you will not
hear anything from LT2 during the pre-season. This portion of
the thread [from a Charger fan no less] will sound like a broken
record. Vincent Jackson has been a monster and is having the most
impressive training camp. Chris Chambers is becoming more comfortable
in the Bolt offense. And Craig Davis is making strides. Other
than that, itís just monitoring the injury situation for
Rivers, LT2 and Antonio Gates. Gates is the big concern and is
still experiencing soreness in his big toe and has yet to hit
the practice field with his team.