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Training Camp Hype ("TCH")
The Fast, The Furious And The Four Twenty

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

Who says procrastination does not pay? I endeavor to turn in my article every Tuesday, but this week I got slightly derailed by having a day job. And good thing too, because if this article were submitted on Tuesday, the fast and furious NFL would have made much of the subject matter obsolete. My take on Steven Jackson’s holdout would have looked more like the beginning of Ram’s Armageddon. My advice that Kevin Curtis should not be overlooked would have been untimely.

But my favorite part of this week relates to the 420. Where in Part I of this Series, I distinctly recall uttering these words: “But sometimes I can hardly tell the distinction between THC and TCH.” I recall advising the lovers of the hippie spinach not to get excited and to re-read the acronym. But now, only two weeks later, just when I thought I had it all figured out, TCH and THC morph and the 420 does not refer to Chris Johnson’s time in the forty yard dash, but instead to this week’s Training Camp Hype stud, the most famous pot smoker in professional sports. And as such, let’s lead off with the Miami Dolphins.


Miami Dolphins: Is Chris Mortensen credible when he says that Ronnie Brown may be playing elsewhere before the year is up? Some Miamians....Miamiites... whoever, believe there is some accuracy to this report. Accordingly, Ricky Williams heads the TCH list as the Dolphins have named him their starter...for their 3rd preseason game. Sparano credited the O-line with the most improvement and a good reason why the QBs and Ricky Williams looked as good as they did. Jake Long is apparently adjusting to the speed of the game.

New England Patriots: Obviously the talk in New England is Tom Brady’s foot injury. If this injury persists, there is something to be concerned with in Beantown. The QB-less Patriots looked far worse than the QB-less Buccaneers. While Wes Welker continues to be a bright spot as the elusive receiver, Matt Cassell does not look ready to help this team out if Brady misses any time with injuries. The running game was pathetic, even for a pre-season game, averaging just above 2.5 ypc.

New York Jets: Damn. I was feeling pretty saucy about my unearthing David Clowney before it was fashionable and he goes and breaks his collarbone. Brett Favre is praising Laveranues Coles, but I’m guessing he’s just blowing smoke up Coles’ backside since its not like they have practiced together with Coles nursing his left leg. Favre has been practicing with the likes of Chanci Stuckey, Brad Smith, Wallace Wright, Marcus Henry, Dustin Keller and Chris Baker, not Coles and Cotchery. Finding any news on a Jet that does not center around Brett Favre is next to an impossible task. Yesterday, on August 19, Thomas Jones celebrated his 30th birthday and his palm crystal turned black (ref: Logan’s Run – film version ca. 1976). The o-line is quite improved and with Favre as QB, Jones stock is rising. But given my predisposition towards 30 year-old RB’s I can’t get too excited. Since there is little news coming out of camp about he or Leon Washington, and two exhibition games have resulted in a whopping combined total of 10 carries for 25 yards between the two, it is difficult to get a fix on the RB situation in Jet camp. Since the Jets are going to want to get Favre all the reps they can prior to opening game, don’t look for any significant RB play in week 3 of the preseason.

Buffalo Bills: And just as soon as J.P. Losman accepts that he will be the back-up QB, Trent Edwards bangs knees with Marshawn Lynch and is walked off the field…or so CBS Sportsline reports. However, according to Buffalo, Edwards left practice with a thigh contusion. Josh Reed returned from 10 days off and impressed with 5 catches and a glowing endorsement from Edwards. WR Steve Johnson has made the most of additional reps with Reed, Parrish and Hardy nursing injuries and has “turned heads.” Marshawn Lynch continues to look very quick in and out of his cuts and is quite elusive. Against Pittsburgh, the Bills studs prevailed in their first drive when Lynch and Evans accounted for 60 of a 67 yard drive. While Evans is notorious for slow starts, having a QB may change things.


Baltimore Ravens: It is teams like the Ravens which make my job fun. The QB battle is still up in the air, and no, the rumors that Baltimore’s favorite athlete Michael Phelps will be trying out are not true. Neither Troy Smith nor Kyle Boller are getting the job done. Between the two, they barely eclipsed a 70 passer rating against the Vikings (Boller 36.8 and Smith 33.3). But don’t get your hopes up for Joe Flacco, who isn’t even considered in the same breath as these QB juggernauts at this stage of his career. According to Harbaugh, it is between Smith and Boller....ha ha ha...that has to hurt just to utter. It doesn’t help that the Ravens’ primary weapons in Willis McGahee and Todd Heap have been out and the Ravens are learning a new system from Cam Cameron. Both McGahee and Heap are expected to be ready by opening kick-off, but Ray Rice is starting to gain a lot of loving from Ravens’ fans while there are rumors that McGahee is wearing out his welcome with a questioned work ethic and that he may not be a Raven much longer. Good news for Ravens running backs, the MVP maker Lorenzo Neal signed on and has a history in a Cam Cameron offense.

Cincinnati Bengals: From one sideshow freak to another, this division continues to cause chaos. Fathers of underage girls in Ohio get your shotguns, cuz Chris Henry is back in town. The receiving issues in Cincy have gotten so bad that the momentarily moralistic Bengals have no choice but to bring Henry back. Obviously, Henry’s fantasy impact is no different than past years where he starts off the year with a hefty suspension. Chad Johnson’s shoulder injury will have him out the rest of the preseason, but look for him to be healthy on opening day. Housh also expects to be ready come season opener, but has missed significant time as he has not practiced since opening week of TC. Palmer says rookie Jerome Simpson is not ready to be counted on. RB Chris Perry keeps getting reps with Rudi nursing his hammy and TE Ben Utecht continues to get good looks in practice and in game time. Considering the receiving woes, Utecht may be a very nice surprise for owners who don’t want to use an early pick on a TE.

Cleveland Browns: Derek Anderson got mildly concussed by the Giants and may be giving up the dress rehearsal game to Brady Quinn. Although Anderson has been relaxed and confident this summer, his 4 of 10 for 20 yards before getting knocked out of the game was not a stellar performance. Granted, a day without Braylon is like a day without sunshine. But teammates like Joshua Cribs and Donte Stallworth are saying that Anderson may very well be the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Regarding Rashard Mendenhall, Tomlin and Willie Parker have each said he needs to think less and run more instinctively. However, the Steelers appear quite pleased with the pace of Mendenhall's development, with Bruce Arians stating that he “has been everything the team hoped and more.” “He's violent running down there”. He earns praise from fullback Carey Davis: “He has very, very quick feet [and is] able to get in and out of holes and make cuts that some people may not see.” They are not looking at Mendenhall as a 3rd down back [that role appears to be Mewelde Moore’s], but they are looking at brining him in various roles including two back sets with Parker. For those leagues where your players also are awarded points for return yards on kick-offs and punts, the Steelers are looking to take the training wheels back off and allowing Santonio Holmes to resume returning punts (averaged 10.2 yards a return in his rookie year).


Denver Broncos: Jay Cutler looked very impressive in combined drills with the Dallas Cowboys, providing Denver fans with the hopes of having found their new elite QB. If pre-season games have any meaning, Cutler was undeniably dominating against the Cowboys, with 16 of 20 for 178 yards and one touchdown and a 120.4 passer rating. Rookie WR Eddie Royal continues to be the most head turning player in camp and by all accounts is the starter opposite Marshall in the Denver line-up. He is earning praises from teammates, coaches and even opposing defenders like Pac-Man.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Arizona game provided some promise for Larry Johnson as the o-line opened up some gaping holes. The setback is that Brodie Croyle has not been all too impressive still and Tyler Thigpen is No.2 on the depth chart, instead of Huard, the only Chief with a history of winning games in the NFL. If Edwards thinks LJ is going to get the same lanes when teams start stacking 8 in the box....and by the way, sure he missed half of last season, but did anyone observe that LJ (who is only one season removed from 416 carries) just got 14 carries in a second week preseason game. Not one starting RB got double digit carries this last week.

Oakland Raiders: The Raider running game continues to show progress, while the passing game is lagging significantly behind. Receivers like Ronald Curry continue to drop passes throughout training camp. Coach Kiffin has been critical about Javon Walker’s dropped balls in light of his guaranteed $16 million. However, the Raider faithful are still heaping praise on Jamarcus Russell and like what they saw from him against the Titans. A quick glance at the RB numbers from the Titan game may get you excited (37 carries for 235 yards) and further excitement may be garnered by fans of McFadden, who got 44 of those yards on only six carries, one for 26 yards. A closer look reveals that up until the final play of the first half, the Raiders mustered up only 21 yards on 8 carries between Fargas and McFadden. The 26 yard run came when the Raiders opted to run Darren McFadden out of the shotgun from their own 36 yard line while the Titans were clearly playing the pass with only 09 seconds left on the clock. For the McFadden lovers this is not meant to detract, it is simply a prime example of TCH numbers arbitrarily inflating draft values.

San Diego Chargers: Biggest news out of camp is that Antonio Gates got his wish and was removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list. He is back at practice engaging only in individual drills, but not engaging in team drills. Gates is optimistic that he will be playing against the Panthers on opening day. Not much news coming out of SD since most its veterans are on cruise control during preseason games, nursing injuries [i.e. LT2, Rivers, Chambers, Vincent Jackson, Gates, Merriman.…]. Buster Davis has taken advantage of this and has become the most recent wide receiver of note. He is running and catching well and in the words of Norv Turner “has really come on.” Don’t misconstrue the above passage: according to LT2, the lack of starters presence during games is not indicative of how serious training camp has been.


Houston Texans: In last week’s installment on the Texans, I opened with: “Don’t be surprised if you hear about a free agent signing of an RB soon.” Well, I missed the mark on the name, but that signing came with Arizona Cardinal’s release of Marcel Shipp. Again, this thin, but crowded backfield of Chris Taylor, Steve Slaton, Chris Brown, Shipp and aging Ahman Green appears destined for RBBC. But if Slaton can start picking up blocking in the passing game, which he did against the Saints, this speedster out of West Virginia may get some good looks as he did against the Saints (2nd and 3rd teams), going 13 for 57 with a TD. In fact, Kubiak has expressed that he wants to get Slayton some looks against Dallas on the first team this week. Without Andre Johnson in the line-up, Matt Schaub went 14 for 16 for 187 yards and 2 TD’s, hooking up substantially with Kevin Walter for 6 for 100 yards and a TD. Don’t forget Walter who really excelled last year when AJ was out. AJ is expected to suit up against Dallas this week.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are the antithesis of TCH. If we took much from the preseason, Joseph Addai would be falling way down the draft charts with a less than scintillating 0.92 ypc on 13 carries. Peyton Manning would be dropping into later rounds like every other player who had a knee operation/procedure at the outset of the summer who has returned to practice, but is not practicing 6 weeks into his 4-6 week recovery. But alas, this is Indy and even catastrophic flooding would not diminish the fantasy value of its top three studs. Marvin Harrison clearly has a huge chip on his shoulder, is angry with the media and wants to let his play do the talking.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Nothing in the Miami game would give a Jacksonville fan something to write home about. They had one sustained drive at the end of the first half which ended with MJD’s fumbling the ball out of the end zone for a touchback. The longest run from scrimmage for an RB was only 5 yards and MJD and Taylor combined for an average under 2.0 ypc. Troy Williamson was not getting separation and when Mike Walker did, the pass was either overthrown or he was not able to maintain control on impact with the ground. This may not be something to be concerned about as it is only a preseason game, but top ranked teams should not lay eggs against 1-15 teams during the preseason.

Tennessee Titans: Every once in awhile, I am rewarded by getting additional insight directly from a FF Today reader who monitors an individual team and shares their info. This is one of those cases (all of the information has been confirmed by my press sources - unfortunately I don’t confirm whether they are right). Vince Young is throwing a lot of floaters, falling off his back foot, doing a lot to hurt his accuracy. But the passing woes are not just Young’s problem. Apparently, none of the WR’s are stepping it up, except perhaps for rookie Lavelle Hawkins out of Cal (I’m not a big fan of the Bears, but it seems their NFL 2008 crop have been shining in the pre-season with DeSean Jackson, Hawkins and Justin Forsett). Don’t look for Hawkins to start as the starters still appear to be Justin Gage, Justin McCareins and Brandon Jones. The TE’s Alge Crumpler and Bo Scaife have looked very good in preseason. The real story in Tennessee may be the offensive line which seems to be more solid than in past which should benefit Lendale and rookie Chris Johnson and the defense looks good enough to keep the running game on track through four quarters. Johnson appears to be picking up NFL pass blocking without a hitch and should have little problem retaining the role as a third down back.


Chicago Bears: Kyle Orton will be named the starter for the regular season as confirmed by Lovie Smith. Matt Forte has not been as impressive as he was earlier. However, Kevin Jones is strapping on the pads and getting into practice in team drills now.

Detroit Lions: Once again, Lions fans believe they just may get to the play-offs. Jon Kitna has been having a sharp training camp and he and Calvin Johnson have been on the field for four series in two games, with Kitna going 9 of 10 for 184 yards and 2 TDs ad a perfect passer’s efficiency rating of 158.3. Calvin Johnson, the recipient of those 2 TDs has 7 catches for 154 yards and is earning the nickname Megatron. Kevin Smith is bringing a needed spark to the running game, going 4 for 19 yards in his first game. But if preseason is an omen of things to come, the ball will be in the air much more than on the ground. With Tatum Bell and Brian Calhoun averaging 1.5 ypc against 1st and 2nd team defenses, if there was any doubt that Kevin Smith will start the year as the lead back, all doubt should be removed. Sidenote: In the ESPN Fantasy Draft Special, Roy Williams picked himself in the 5th round, after having picked T.O. and Colston in earlier rounds (Mortensen grabbed Calvin Johnson in the 4th). While Roy apparently loves he some he, he said he expects “a really big breakout season.”

Green Bay Packers: Ryan Grant is almost set to return from his hamstring injury. During rehab he has not been "nursing" the injury. Grant has been doing extensive running and conditioning work to build up his endurance. Greg Jennings and Ruvell Martin practiced in full pads and at full speed on Monday and looking good.

Minnesota Vikings: Last week I reported that the road for the Vikings is paved with Tavaris Jackson. The Vikings took a bad step forward when Jackson sprained his MCL last weekend. Bernard Berrian is resting with turf toe and Sidney Rice has a stomach virus. With timing and chemistry still a work in progress, limited p.t. between these three can be quite problematic going into the season. That being said, Childress isn’t concerned. Jackson has performed well thus far. While Jackson is participating in individual drills and Childress says he has not determined whether Jackson will see some game time this weekend, expect the Vikings to rest him for the regular season opener.


Dallas Cowboys: Preseason question marks still exist in the receiving game with no back-up receivers making any separation. Otherwise, nothing much has changed in this relatively set offense.

NY Giants: In Part I of this series I mentioned that Domenik Hixon was really showing up. Against a suspect Cleveland secondary, with Burress and Toomer still out, Domenik Hixon looked like a Pro Bowler with 4 catches for 60+ yards and 2 TDs. Interesting note on Kevin Boss viz-a-viz Jeremy Shockey. While it is fairly apparent he will be the starter, the Giants have expressed confidence in his receiving but no so much in his blocking in the running game. Giants averaged 4.4 ypc with Shockey in, but only 3.5 with Boss in.

Philadelphia Eagles: The biggest player in Eagle camp [not counting Westbrook] may be sitting in Arizona right now. Eagles fans are desperately hoping that Anquan Boldin’s trade demand is met and they are the lucky recipient. Not likely, Philadelphia has already suffered the indignities of a Drew Rosenhaus represented wide receiver. And it just got worse as the Eagles reported that Kevin Curtis will undergo surgery for a sports hernia and will be out for a while. DeSean Jackson will be getting the start on the right side with Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis splitting on the left. Joe Horn is looking to land in Philly and now its made that much more probable.

Washington Redskins: Zorn was disappointed with the red zone offense and third-down execution in the passing game against the Jet 3-4 defense. However, upon closing training camp the assessment by Zorn has been nothing but positive. Clinton Portis said: We've had 39 training camp practices….nobody went AWOL--not even me.” Zorn on Portis: “When you watch Clinton and you see the sudden moves he makes, and his ability to move and re-accelerate, you see what a special back he is.”


Atlanta Falcons: Michael Turner amassed 115 yards of his 113 total yards on just two carries against the Colts (missing Freeney and Sanders). Said Mike Smith: “He [Turner] read the play perfectly. We got a good push on the defensive tackle and he was able to cut it back. He showed great awareness in his cutback ability." Matt Ryan did not perform as well as he did in his first pre-season game.

Carolina Panthers: DeAngelo Williams continues to make the most of Carolina’s bringing Jonathan Stewart along slowly. Stewart ran for only 3 yards on 4 carries behind Carolina’s second team o-line, while Williams averaged 4 yards a carry on 8 carries, one of 23 yards. Delhomme connected on 9 of 15 for 59 yards, the longest, a 12 yard pass to Muhsin Mohammed. Carolina was without the services of Steve Smith or D.J. Hackett.

New Orleans Saints: Anyone who knows me understands I am myopic when it comes to Reggie Bush, but his attitude this pre-season has been nothing short of wanting to bring his game to the pro level. His touchdown hurdle over Jacques Reeves was vintage Reggie Bush and this was after Sean Payton said he was going to keep Bush out of the game with knee soreness. Bush apparently lobbied to get himself into the game. Marques Colston also coming off his own injuries put up a solid performance making a highlight TD grab with his right hand while pushing off the draping defender Jamar Fletcher with the other. Board fav David Pattern has been steadily putting up good numbers as has Lance Moore. Deuce McAllister was back on the field and averaged 4 tough yards per carry on his new knees.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Antonio Bryant has been the most consistent Tampa Bay receiver since the beginning of training camp. His performance against the Patriots may help him land a starting spot on the roster and Gruden seems to be oozing about his talent.


Arizona Cardinals: Anquan Boldin and the Cards are in a “full blown Cold War.” From Boldin’s own mouth, he believes Whisenhunt became too involved in negotiations, they “have no relationship,” and he doesn’t “see that changing." Arizona refuses to trade Boldin and Boldin is utterly unhappy showing up to work. There is now no doubt that Tim Hightower is the number two running back and J.J. Arrington is behind him. The TE race has temporarily become a one horse show now that Ben Patrick has a high ankle sprain and Leonard Pope is uncontested.

San Francisco 49ers: Nothing like wasting a number one draft pick, but J.T. O’Sullivan is rapidly becoming cemented as the starting QB as he takes the 49ers three quarters into Chicago on Thursday night. The young receivers are going to get more reps as Bryant Johnson, Arnaz Battle and Ashley Lelie miss yet another game. Jason Hill is flashy but inconsistent and Josh Morgan is steadily making more and more noise in the offense and on the board.

Seattle Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck continues to be hassled by his back. Jordan Kent continues to shine and was Frye’s favorite target in week two, but this only means he makes the team and sees a few snaps a week. In a crowded backfield rookie Justin Forsett appears to have solidified a roster spot with 136 yards rushing and an almost equal amount in punt and kick returns. Many bloggers are looking to Forsett to save the day later in the season.

St. Louis Rams: Rams’ fans have to be more than a tad bit concerned. The offense looked anemic against the Chargers, even though the Bolts sat more than half their starters. Steven Jackson has apparently ended his holdout. But, other than typical board chatter, two reasons to be cautious in your optimism or pessimism is that he has missed nearly a month of practice/training camp and as Torry Holt has mentioned, there is a steep learning curve with Al Saunders’ new system. However, Antonio Pittman and Brian Leonard looked pretty solid in a late first quarter drive. While I have seen on this board reference to lingering issues with Orlando Pace’s shoulder, news out of Rams camp contradicts this. There was expected soreness in his shoulder after playing a quarter in the Titan game, but there have been no complications reported. The loss of two o-line men for the year is only affecting depth at the position and not key components to the line. Randy McMichael has been steadily impressing in camp and in games and is excited about being in an Al Saunders offense which favors a receiving Tight End. Bulger has not looked consistent and went out with a minor shoulder injury during the Charger game.