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Training Camp Hype ("TCH")

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

For many, if not most of us, our drafts have passed. Similarly, most of the hype has passed as well and now all we have to do is keep our eye on the waiver wire. Obviously over the last week there have been some key NFL injuries, but few if any have an impact on individual fantasy players other than in IDP leagues. Training camps have long since closed up and information which came from scouring the local beat writers is now easily observed through our own watching of preseason games and through numerous sites who can glomb onto information. Accordingly, there may only be a few juicy nuggets within this article which you may not have otherwise been privy to by now.


Baltimore Ravens: I recently reported Joe Flacco was out of the QB hunt. During the week of writing this article I tracked Kyle Boller and started thinking to myself that the Ravens are hush hushing a serious injury in hopes of landing a new QB. The projected starter played no minutes in week 3. Then on Monday Boller was observed touching his shoulders a couple of times. Then on Tuesday he did not practice. When asked if Boller suffered a season ending shoulder injury, Ozzie Newsome merely responded it is unconfirmed and he would know more on Friday. With Troy Smith also out with an “illness,” Flacco has been getting the reps this week. Finally, on the morning of submission of this article, the news broke that Boller will probably be out for the season.

Cincinnati Bengals: “If the regular season started this week Chris Perry would be the Bengals' starting tailback.” So says Marvin Lewis. He almost immediately turned around and said that Rudi Johnson can get his job back. Then he said Rudi could also be cut. Then there are reports that the Bengals are shopping Rudi for a receiver. Perry has made everything of his opportunity to get reps in the preseason, but before you move him up your draft board to a mid round pick, he is still number three on the depth chart behind Rudi Johnson [who has not taken a snap in a pre-season game] and Kenny Watson. The Bengals passing game is banged up with Carson Palmer breaking his nose against the Saints, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh nursing injuries, but everyone should be back on day one.

Cleveland Browns: Missing from week 3 were Derek Anderson (concussion), Braylon Edwards (heel) and Jamal Lewis (hamstring). Brady Quinn did little to instill confidence as a starting QB in the week 3 dress rehearsal, going 14 of 24 for just over 100 yards and no TDs. It appears that RB Jason Wright is cemented as the second RB on the depth chart and his 8 carries for 42 yards makes him look like a solid replacement for Lewis (whose hamstring issue sounds simply like “let’s not injure him during the preseason”).

Pittsburgh Steelers: In summer camp, when we broke the rules, we had to lug around a huge rock all day long, the kind you need two hands to carry. Apparently, my camp director is now in Pittsburgh and has issued a bounty to anyone who can swipe the football out of Rashard Mendenhall’s hands, which he had to carry everywhere he goes this week, after fumbling twice against Minnesota.


Buffalo Bills: Trent Edwards has returned to the practice field. The real issue in Buffalo is what may be happening to its offensive line. OT Jason Peters is still a holdout and given how fat his agent just got off of Steven Jackson’s new contract, there is less incentive to for the agent to get Peters a new deal. With Langston Walker suffering an alleged forearm bruise, it could be that Buffalo is down two OTs and will be starting a rookie 7th round pick Demetrius Bell. Rookie WR James Hardy has remained nicked up and has only been practicing in individual drills.

Miami Dolphins: Obviously, the most intriguing battle here is at starting running back. Tony Sparano has stated that he needs to see more Ronnie Brown, or we will be seeing Ricky Williams. Brown is therefore practicing with a cast on his broken thumb. QBs like Josh McCown and John Beck, who were recently competing for a starting role are now on the bubble to even make the cut. Ted Ginn, Jr. finds his way into every draft I have participated in. But even by a local Miami beat writer’s assessment, Ginn has turned the corner on special teams, but he is not there yet in the receiving game. However, he is one of Miami’s starters along with Derek Hagan and Ernest Wilford. Dolphin management has observed that WR Davone Bess has Wes Welker potential.

New England Patriots: The battle of the Matts may just start heating up for the back-up QB position. Matt Cassel has not been looking all too good against first team defenses while Brady is out. Meanwhile, Matt Gutierrez went 14 of 20 for 2 TDs in the second half against the Eagles. Although the Patriots may be acting concerned with their three preseason losses, we have seen little action from Randy Moss, no time from Tom Brady and even Welker is out with a rib injury. However, the four headed running back crew looks to be in tact (Jordan was held out of week 3 for undisclosed reasons despite allegedly impressing Belichick and leading the team in rushing during the preseason).

New York Jets: This team epitomizes how preseason hype can lift players into rounds they just don’t belong. It happens every year with the Jets and this one just got worse with the Favre acquisition. The Jets went into training camp focused on a run oriented offense. Things obviously changed when Brett Favre showed up and it makes sense to re-focus your pre-season reps on the passing game to get the new(ish) QB familiar with the system and the players. But Favre has really been getting familiar with only the system since Laveranues Coles has been out and Jerricho Cotchery has missed significant time too. Unfortunately, the running game has been deafly silent with Thomas Jones longest carry being only 4 yards and Leon Washington’s averaging just over 2 yards per carry. Given all the preseason turmoil with its own QB controversy, a completely new QB in the system, the media scrutiny associated with the new QB and a lack of any semblance of a first team working together, players who should be downgraded in drafts are bumping up in drafts just because Favre is in town (Jones coming off a 2 TD year has moved from a5th/6th round pick to a 3rd rounder, Coles and Cotchery have jumped up a round into the 6th round of many drafts).


Denver Broncos: The most intriguing issue is no longer on the field. Rather, it is what’s to be expected of Brandon Marshall’s 3 game suspension? First, all he has to cut it down to a 2 game suspension is to report to league appointed counselor and second, not get in any more run-ins with the law. Denver’s QB and management have virtually baby sat Baby T.O. and Marshall should get a one game reduction. Additionally, Marshall and his attorney flew to New York to appeal the suspension and the Broncos are optimistic that the kinder and gentler NFL, who reduced Nick Barnett’s suspension to a fine, will likewise do the same for Marshall. Obviously, the other issue which presents itself every preseason in Denver is who will be carrying the rock. This year, the talk has been much quieter and Selvin Young has done nothing to hurt his probability of maintaining his label as the starter. Shanahan is able to keep his undrafted running backs all happy as Andre Hall is comfortable in his role as a short yardage back since Torain went down, Anthony Aldridge is plugging away expecting to get time and Michael Pittman is just happy being 33 and having a job in the NFL still. Eddie Royal is a definite player to have in return yardage leagues as Shanahan informed that he will return kicks and punts, as well as take first team reps.

Kansas City Chiefs: Its not a good year when your veteran Tony Gonzalez says “we aren’t going to be blown out by anybody” when trying to convince that the Chiefs won’t be going 0-16. No offense Tony, but you probably aren’t going to be blowing out too many opponents either. Either Miami’s Defense is this year’s unanticipated juggernaut, or the Chiefs had serious problems pass and run blocking. Brodie Croyle failed to impress with a 12 for 21 performance, no TDs and one pick. Caveat Emptor.

Oakland Raiders: Apparently Kiffin has lost most, if not all confidence in the passing game and has all but stated that Oakland will lean heavily on the run game. Accordingly, this sounds like a good reason to downgrade Jamarcus Russell, Javon Walker, Ronald Curry and Zach Miller. More important, it appears that Kiffin is frustrated in Oakland and is becoming moe and more brazen in his challenges to ownership. Translation: coaching change could be on its way. I feel it important to mention one thing un-training camp related, which really goes back to my Sun Tzu and the Art of Trade Negotiation article. This year I caught myself uttering the dreaded phrase “Do Not Draft Darren McFadden.” All I can say to that is that I failed myself and failed to heed the true art I profess. For in both my leagues, the Devil who drafted McFadden early, immediately turned around and packaged him with Braylon Edwards in a trade for Adrian Petersen in one league and straight up for Larry Fitzgerald in another. McFadden is laden with great trade value which should be seized immediately.

San Diego Chargers: Darren Sproles has locked up the back-up position to LaDainian Tomlinson, with his 102-yard performance against the Seahawks and should be seriously viewed as a handcuff to Tomlinson owners. Vincent Jackson looked every bit like the post-season stud from 2007, hauling in 3 for 84 yards. Antonio Gates, who was supposed to participate only individual drills, returned to full workouts, last Friday. Since all that I have heard for the last four days is “Shawne Merriman…” I will leave this for others to discuss.


Houston Texans: Ahman Green may be back for week one after having worked out in the team’s conditioning practice. Steve Slaton is bothered by turf toe but is not anticipated to miss much time and will probably be splitting carries with Chris Taylor during week 4 of the preseason. Jacoby Jones is getting the Mendenhall treatment without the bounty.

Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning is not only back in camp…he is on the practice field. There is much speculation that Manning had a second knee procedure and his knee had continued swelling problems, but Manning was back on the field looking like Peyton Manning and not wearing a knee brace. But, as the QB comes, so must the center go – Jeff Saturday is out at least a couple of weeks into the regular season and according to Dungy may even be season threatening. I’ve been pushing Marvin Harrison all preseason and apparently Dungy heard me saying we should expect Marvin to put up his 2006 numbers.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Del Rio stated that if Jerry Porter does not get two weeks of practice, he will be on the bench to start the season. In his and Reggie Williams [who has now returned] absence, guys like Matt Jones and Mike Walker have been earning their roster spots and getting valuable reps with David Garrard. Troy Williamson isn’t even assured a roster spot at this point. Obviously MJD’s ankle sprain is cause for concern, but appears to be limited concern.

Tennessee Titans: Expect to get a better read on the Titans’ starting offense going into week 4 of the preseason as they intend to play them into the 3rd quarter against the Packers. There is nothing much left to speak of here other than the fact that advice from Tennessee is to not look past the starting three WR’s [Justin Gage, Justin McCareins and Brandon Jones] for a sleeper. LenDale White and Chris Johnson are allegedly going to split carries 50/50, maybe 60/40 according to Jeff Fisher.


Chicago Bears: Here comes a player that probably turned very few heads all of his career and even fewer this season. Coming into his 4th season with little to celebrate and with the departure of Bernard Berrian, WR Rashied Davis does not have a lot of competition at the number one receiver slot [who…Brandon Lloyd, Devin Hester, Marty Booker and Mark Bradley?]. Bears receiver coach Darryl Drake has been raving about him all pre-season (which completely flew under my radar) and in Orton’s first game as starting QB, he hooked up with Rashied for two and almost 3 TDs. I have participated in 3 league drafts (I’m done) and in not one have I seen Kevin Jones sniffed out. Yet in week 3, he showed he still has some burst with a 34 yard run.

Detroit Lions: John Kitna continues to put up good numbers this preseason, as do his top two receivers Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams. During the preseason, Kevin Smith has run 14 times for 64 yards and one TD, but his numbers may be inflated by one 35 yard TD run. Absent that (which we can never discount as long runs are a big part of the game), Smith ran 13 times for 29 yards and had one catch for negative six yards during the entire preseason.

Green Bay Packers: Mike McCarthy intends to reduce Ryan Grant’s workload to 300 carries (which translates into 18-20 carries a game) and the Packers plan to work Brandon Jackson into the package. Jackson has proven to be the Packers most improved player from 2007 to 2008, showing better vision, patience, hands and blocking skills. With Ryan’s holdout delay and hamstring injury upon his return, do not be surprised if we see more of Brandon Jackson then mentioned. Donald Driver continues to drop balls in practice with frequency and consistency, but showed up with a TD in game time. Aaron Rodgers completed nearly 65% of his passes in 11 on 11 drills throughout summer.

Minnesota Vikings: Returning to practice are Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice. However, Tarvaris Jackson is still out and although he is expected to return to the line-up (after week 4), he notes that he does not have his range of motion in his knee just yet, but there is no soreness.


Arizona Cardinals: Lots going on here. Ken Wisenhunt intimated that Matt Leinart is out and Kurt Warner is in after Leinart threw three picks against the Raiders. But now it is being said that Leinart is still the starter. Anquan Boldin may be unhappy and want to be moved, but the Cardinals say he is not going anywhere and he posted good numbers in week three. Tim Hightower is making great strides to be the back of the future, but more importantly, to steal red zone carries from Edgerrin James.

San Francisco 49ers: There ought to be a law. QBs with 8 figure salaries who lose their jobs to QBs with 6 figure salaries should have to split their salary. In Part One, I observed that J.T. O’Sullivan was getting first team reps. In Part Two I observed that O’Sullivan was best molded for a Martz styled offense. In Part Three I stated he was rapidly cementing himself as the starter. Now, in Part Four after a good showing against the Bears, I applaud the hype and I say “J.T. O’Sullivan has been officially dubbed by Mike Nolan as the Niners’ Opening QB.” He will still go undrafted in most leagues. None too soon, Bryant Johnson finally starts working his way onto the practice field. However, Josh Morgan finally is gaining front runner status. Disregard that Morgan is presently stashed at No.4 on the depth charts as Mike Nolan stated this week that the toughest position to determine for the season opener is the split end, which will go to either Bryant Johnson or Josh Morgan, who used the others injuries to establish himself as a downfield threat.

Seattle Seahawks: Given that Deion Branch is a strong possibility to be placed on the PUP list and Bobby Engram will be out into October, there is a strong possibility that the Hawks maintain much of their young receiving corps. As it stands, while Jordan Kent has become a crowd favorite, the Seahawks are expecting an increased presence from Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu in week 4 and Taylor is in good position to open the season as the starting flanker opposite Nate Burleson. How the Seahawks backfield will be used is still a mystery with Julius Jones running well, Maurice Morris and T.J. Duckett. While I still have a soft place in my heart for Justin Forsett, if he even makes the team (which he should), he will be deeply buried.

St. Louis Rams: Steven Jackson is back in camp but will not likely see any game time this week [that never seems to bother LT2]. But what of his conditioning. According to Linehan, Jackson will be on a ramped-up schedule getting extra work.” The Rams definitely want to get him “knocked around a little bit.” Linehan says there is no injury to Orlando Pace, despite his sitting out several practices over the last week with shoulder soreness. The problem is that he fell on his shoulder in the San Diego game and woke up with swelling and an inability to raise his arm significantly. Pace will be getting knocked around a lot this season, so how the shoulder will hold-up is pure speculation. Rookie receivers Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton played well in week 3 of the preseason. However, neither appear to be looking at anything more than a slot position with Torry Holt and Drew Bennett in the starting line-up and Dane Looker and Dante Hall behind them. It would not be a bad idea to keep your eye on Avery during the season.


Atlanta Falcons: It’s Matt Ryan’s team now and he is no longer the QB of the future. With his steady preseason performance, Ryan has officially been labeled the starter. According to coach Mike Smith, this is a season long decision and not a game-by-game one. The running backs are looking impressing, as is the o-line.

Carolina Panthers: Those concerned over Jake Delhomme’s elbow issues should be pleased with his performance against the Redskins in which he went 11 of 19 for 159 yards and 2 TDs and even over-threw Steve Smith on a deep pass. Do not read anything into this other than the fact that his reconstructed elbow did not appear to limit him. The running game only increases concern over where to draft these two running backs. Jonathan Stewart’s toe problems seem to be 100 yards in the past and he showed no ill effects on a 50-yard TD scamper. But, along came DeAngelo Williams and surpassed Stewart’s numbers with 1 more yard, one less carry and one longer TD. In the words of DeAngelo Williams, “whether I'm out there or he's in there, the other team can't really tell…the only thing that changes is the numbers [on the jersey].” Given Fox’s run first mentality, its conceivable that even a 50/50 split will make these two running backs valuable. It is appearing more and more that Dwayne Jarrett (4 for 40 against the Skins) may be a valuable receiver early in the year, with Steve Smith serving his short suspension and D.J. Hackett looking more and more questionable for week one. However, Hackett is running now and excpects to be ready come the opener.

New Orleans Saints: Look for Jeremy Shockey’s debut against Miami as well as some more time from Deuce McAllister. Payton is tight lipped about injuries, but Brees, Bush and Colston have either been scratched from game 4 or will be. However, Colston has stated he is 100% healthy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Any lingering issue regarding Cadillac Williams has been put to rest as he has been placed on the PUP list. While it was a good movie, Michael Clayton is still trying to make a name for himself. The Bucs have been fielding calls from other teams interested in trading for Clayton. However, Gruden said he is interested in Clayton too, that he doesn’t care who else is and that Tampa Bay is going to keep its best players. With a receiving corps of Joey Galloway, Maurice Stovall, Ike Hilliard and Antonio Bryant (who Gruden also said great things about), the Buccaneers could be weighing the options of trading out a receiver like Clayton who has historically under-performed, is in his contract year and is number four on the depth charts.


Dallas Cowboys: While I have been pumping Felix Jones somewhat, it appears that he is falling out of sharing carries with Marion Barber, but for those in return yard leagues, may gain some value as he is appearing more and more likely to be implemented in the kicking game.

New York Giants: Its hard to overlook that Osi Umenyiora is out for the season and Michael Strahan will not return despite requests from the front office. However, the fantasy impact of these facts only effects IDP leagues (which I have not focused on) and the team defense (sure it has implications for McNabb, Campbell and Romo who will no longer have to face the bookends two times a year). Super Bowl hero David Tyree starts the year on the PUP. TE Kevin Boss has fallen silent over the last couple of weeks and is not garnering the attention, which he had at the beginning of training camp. If anything positive is coming out of Giant camp, it continues out be Domenik Hixon who has jettisoned from a question mark as to whether he would make the cut, to a guy who has performed at the highest level all preseason, playing with the first team offense. While he may still be behind Toomer and Steve Smith on the depth chart, expect to hear from Hixon during the season. Ahmad Bradshaw is still number three on the depth chart, behind Jacobs and Derrick Ward, but he is still getting drafted while Ward is not. David Carr appears to have locked up the back-up QB position over Anthony Wright.

Philadelphia Eagles: Andy Reid has labeled DeSean Jackson a starter and will be sitting him out of week 4 of the preseason. While Reid is not prepared to say how he will use Jackson, OC Marty Mornhinweg stated he wants Jackson lined up in the slot position. While Eagle fans, coaches and players alike profess their man crushes on DeSean, there are still many targets to throw to in this offense, including Westbrook, L.J. Smith, Baskett, Avant and Lewis, not to mention the eventually returning Reggie Brown. Add to that Kevin Curtis, whose recovery to a sports hernia injury has not yet been prognosed but also has not been placed on PUP.

Washington Redskins: Clinton Portis, who once vowed never to play in a preseason game again, is primed and ready to play yet again in week 4 of the preseason for at least one series with all of the other starters. This suggests that the team is definitely buying into Jim Zorn and his offense. The Skins go into week four without any significant fantasy players nursing injuries.

To all who have taken the time to read these articles and especially to those who provided me with some of their own insights, thank you very much and good luck with your seasons.