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Training Camp Hype ("TCH")
8/13/08

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

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 blustering:

NFC NORTH

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 years, Aaron 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 inconsistent.

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 Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade and Robert Ferguson. As such, it all comes down to Jackson.

NFC EAST

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.

NFC WEST

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.

NFC SOUTH

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.

Carolina: Jonathan 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.

AFC NORTH

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 reversed.

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 Eagle-D.

AFC EAST

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 camp.

AFC SOUTH

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 Mike Bell 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.

Indianapolis: Shhhhhh...Marvin 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.

AFC WEST

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.