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Training Camp Hype ("TCH")

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI | PIT | STL | SD | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WAS

Before sitting down to write this series in 2009, I thought it would be prudent to re-visit 2008, and determine if there was any value in re-generating this series. What I found most intriguing was its precautionary advice, namely not to rely on it as gospel, but as a source of useful information to weed through in the hopes of unearthing a single nugget that would elevate a team’s chances come draft day. Accordingly, as you go through the next four weeks of training camp hype, you have to remember that it is called “hype”, because that is all that it is. It is propaganda wrapped up inside a riddle, wrapped again in a puzzle, entrenched in an enigma, surrounded by conundrum.

And it proved to be just that, as names like Chris Perry, Derek Anderson, Jordy Nelson, Ben Obomanu and Selvin Young would pop up throughout. Reports out of Miami were that Ronnie Brown was on his way out and Ricky Williams was in. But, then, somewhere amongst the drivel, other mid-to-late-round draft choices started gaining momentum and nuggets were unearthed.

For instance, out of the chute, during the first week of training camps, I was already touting DeAngelo Williams, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Pierre Thomas and Steve Slaton.

By week two, I was expressing hesitancy about Jonathan Stewart and suggesting that history could repeat itself in Carolina and I cautioned readers not to get too excited about Stewart and to keep their eyes on DeAngelo Williams. The Smash and Dash combo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White began to get a lot of air time. Eddie Royal had crept onto the scene.

By week three I was on the Eddie Royal express. While the Texan offense was destined to become an RBBC with five “competent” backs, I noted that “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.”

Finally, in week four, I continued carrying the torch for DeAngelo Williams, even after Jonathan Stewart’s 100-yard performance, stating “given Fox’s run first mentality, it’s conceivable that even a 50/50 split will make these two running backs valuable.”

And now, for Training Camp Hype 2009 - Revenge of the Footballen.

Preliminary cautions to the reader: (1) between the time I start drafting this article and its eventually posting at FF Today, things change as training camp is fast and furious. For instance, as I prepared, Reggie Bush was the talk of camp, but then prior to submission, Bush left practice with significant swelling and was seen icing his knee, then Bush came back, then New Orleans issued a statement that Bush will be kept out of the scrimmage. While I may catch big scoops like this, the smaller changes in day-to-day battles will be overlooked and some of the news below may already be stale; (2) I live in Los Angeles, whose closest to thing to a professional football team is presently ranked number four in the AP Poll. Obviously, I cannot get around to one, let alone 32 different training camps, so all of this information is derived from nearly 100 different resources.


New York Jets - Shonn Greene is the sleeper rookie running back I will be watching closely. With Thomas Jones aging, a QB situation that screams rush over pass, one of the best offensive lines and a world class fullback in Tony Richardson, Greene seems to be in one of those potentially perfect situations of a back-up who may get top billing by mid-season. Top that off with the fact the Jets really didn’t seem to mind that Thomas Jones, I suspect the Jets running backs perceive Greene to be a real threat to their livelihood. According to Newark Star Ledger beat writer M. A. Mehta, “Greene appears like he’ll challenge Jones” and in the first scrimmage, Greene, with a bum ankle took center stage.

Mark Sanchez is not hurting his chances to start on opening day. Kellen Clemens has had some difficulties in pressure situations and while some reports say that Rex Ryan calls it a virtual deadlock, others say that Sanchez is already widening the gap. Sanchez looked good in the green and white scrimmage but Clemens has already been named the starter for the first preseason game. Jerricho Cotchery is holding the number one receiver position and Chansi Stuckey the slot, but none of the other receivers have stepped up to claim the number two – not David Clowney, Brad Smith or Wallace Wright.

Buffalo Bills – Already dealing with question marks on the O-line, the Bills lost RT Brad Butler to a back injury. Although the coaching staff does not feel it’s a long term issue, Butler will be on the sideline to start the preseason. Despite the good reports I read about T.O. and Trent Edwards, I keep hearing about dropped passes in practice. Sounds like the Bills can expect some of the same frustrations Dallas and Philly fans have experienced. Free agent WR Shaine Smith from Hofstra [home of Marques Colston] has been turning heads with his play-making ability. He was brought into camp while the receiving corps was thin, but he just might make the squad. Marshawn Lynch’s three game suspension is now a fact and Fred Jackson (the declared starter for weeks 1-3) and Dominic Rhodes are getting a lot of first team reps.

Miami Dolphins – The entire no-name wide receiver pack of Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, Ted Ginn, Jr., Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline have been putting together consistently good practice sessions. Camarillo seems to be Pennington’s clutch guy whenever he gets in trouble. Patrick Turner is already showing polished route running, clutch hands and excellent body control. Pat White has looked impressive against the third team defense in the shotgun, but not that impressive under center. Patrick Cobbs has been having an impressive camp, but he still languishes behind Ricky Williams, who is backing up Ronnie Brown. According to reports, Sporano has never seen Williams look more physically fit.

New England Patriots – Up first is Tom Brady’s recovery and Patriot faithful are happy to note that Brady has not missed one practice or workout. The running back system has all the earmarks of a four back committee with Sammy Morris getting goal line carries and Kevin Faulk getting significant work. Fred Taylor has been looking sharp and Laurence Maroney has been having a strong camp including basking in his role as a kick returner. Chris Baker will be pushing hard to be the starting tight end as Ben Watson is missing significant time. Joey Galloway has not been overly impressive and likely won’t impact the number of passes going to Wes Welker and Randy Moss. Note: Getting a good read on Patriot practices is more difficult due to certain policies they have with their reporters and lack of information coming from the team.


Denver Broncos – Note that while I strive to maintain journalistic integrity, I am nevertheless a Charger fan, so when it comes to the evil Raiders and Broncos, I may not be as objective. Having said this, from week one of training camp last year, I touted Eddie Royal, so at least I am not as myopic as the fans of the Silver and Black. Has Josh McDaniels gained control of this team? The Broncos are already down Brandon Marshall, who I predicted in one of my articles a month ago was going to feign a difficult to diagnose hamstring injury or lingering hip problem, so he could avoid playing during his contract dispute. While I believe Marshall to be one of the elite talents in the league, he has powder keg written all over him this year. Knowshon Moreno signed on the evening of submission of this article, in the meantime, Lamont Jordan leads the Broncos depth chart at the tailback position. The backfield is already crowded and there is talk of Peyton Hillis being the early standout at camp, earning more time at tailback in McDaniels one-back sets. And don’t forget that Ryan Torrain is healthy and looking good, as is Darius Walker. Kyle Orton and Eddie Royal have both looked impressive and there is no question that Royal is working his way into being the lead receiver with Marshall on the bench. Orton was booed by Broncos’ fans after two interceptions at the Broncos’ scrimmage.

Kansas City Chiefs – Little else needs to be said about the Chiefs number two wide receivers Mark Bradley or Devard Darling other than the fact that Todd Haley has been griping about the dropped passes and then went out and signed Amani Toomer. Matt Cassel has “found a rhythm with Bobby Engram,” who will be used as a slot receiver when the Chiefs use a three-receiver formation. Haley is not use to nor does he tolerate fumbles or dropped passes in the manner which he has witnessed in KC, so look for a lot of mental guidance which should make Dwayne Bowe a more accomplished receiver this year. To insure this, Bowe is rooming with Engram who is teaching him how to practice and properly prepare. Reports are that Haley will not be naming his starting running back, but that Larry Johnson returns with a new head of steam, in the best shape of his life (dropped 12-pounds) a positive attitude and is punishing defenders. Jamaal Charles has also been looking goo and about the only Chief that has added weight instead of lost weight at the request of Haley’s new conditioning program.

Oakland Raiders – Reports about Jamarcus Russell seem to be favorable, but I have learned over the years that the Raiders’ press is the most myopic – maybe its fear of Al Davis. The knock on Derrius Heyward-Bey coming into the draft was not his athleticism, but his inability to hold onto the ball. Early into training camp, Heyward-Bey is looking every bit the Clifford Franklin clone, wowing with his speed and dropping balls – in offense only drills. I know… I know… none of you football purists will admit to having enjoyed The Replacements, but for me any movie that can ask the question “Is Lap Dancing a Style?” gets rave reviews in my book. Javon Walker is making some noise, looking impressive in his workouts – uhm… repeat after me, myopic Raider media. Chaz Schilens is supposedly one of the standout receivers in camp. Darren McFadden is looking sharp but Justin Fargas may still get a lot of looks because he is the only back who can pick up blitzes.

San Diego Chargers – LaDainian Tomlinson is intent to disprove those who knock him as a deteriorating 30-year-old. He is “hitting holes with a purpose.” It warms my heart to hear these things coming from former USC and Los Angeles Rams coach and Charger consultant John Robinson, who has coached the likes of Eric Dickerson, and Heisman Trophy winners Charles White and Marcus Allen. While Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson are having good camps, WR Legedu Naanee is one of the skill position standouts and is lining up in the slot. Antonio Gates has self-proclaimed that he has his “hop” back, which was not present in 2008.


Baltimore Ravens – Darn! Mark Clayton was looking good to be the pseudo-sleeper pick, with Joe Flacco improving, Derrick Mason retiring and his biggest threat being Demetrius Williams. Then, Derrick Mason un-retired and Clayton strained a hamstring (with bleeding), which will keep him out most of the pre-season. The training camp depth chart has Ray Rice number one, Willis McGahee number two and Le’Ron McClain number three. Rice is “bigger and better,” “bouncing outside” and “cutting with confidence.” McGahee comes to camp healthy and has been looking good. This triumvirate should be as effective as last year.

Cincinnati Bengals – The starters all appear entrenched – Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and Cedric Benson. Chris Henry has not been overly impressive. Conversely, Brian Leonard and Bernard Scott are making a push to get some playing time behind Benson. Starting TE Reggie Kelly was placed on injured reserve which is a big blow to the Bengals blocking scheme.

Cleveland Browns – The QB competition is still close, with neither Derek Anderson nor Brady Quinn jumping ahead of the other. Braylon Edwards has rejuvenated the Browns’ faithful that his case of the 2008 dropsy’s are behind him as he is again making exciting catches and grabbing everything in sight. Rookie WR Mohamed Massoquoi is running crisp routes and demonstrating sure hands. James Davis is becoming another back-up running back to keep your eyes on. He has exhibited speed and elusiveness in camp, impressing the Browns coaches and having highlight days running for long touchdowns. Eric Mangini is also impressed with Davis’ pass blocking skills. However, there is no talk he will be stealing too many carries from Jamal Lewis or even Jerome Harrison. It’s fashionable to discount Lewis as too old at the age 30, especially coming off an abysmal year in 2008 but writing off Lewis may be a bit premature. Under a Mangini regime last year, Thomas Jones went from 1,119 yards, 3.6 ypc and two total TDs to 1,312 yards, 4.5 ypc and 15 TDs. The Browns have a solid offensive line and Mangini wants a bruising downhill runner. At 245 pounds, Lewis fits the bill. In 2008, Lewis had 1,002 yards, 3.6 ypc and four TDs. Sound familiar?

Pittsburgh Steelers – Things may be looking good for Ben Roethlisberger on the legal front and the civil action does not appear to be a distraction. Limas Sweed appears to have locked up number three wide receiver position. Mike Tomlin has given many of the veterans significant time off, so there is not much news. Rashard Mendenhall would like to be a contributor to the Steelers Super Bowl success and is motivated to be one this year.


Houston Texans – Andre Johnson is every bit as exciting in practice as he is on Sunday. He makes his own defensive backs look bad. Kevin Walter is locked in to the number two position while Andre Davis is making a bid for the number three, trying to fend off Jacoby Jones. Matt Schaub isn’t looking sharp yet, but is entrenched and doesn’t have to worry about Dan Orlovsky or Rex Grossman taking his job. Orlovsky looks to be the early leader for the number two QB. Steve Slaton has beefed up approximately eight pounds, but still looks quick. Chris Brown looks good (as he does every preseason) and is getting significant reps with the first team. Ryan Moats also looks good, exhibiting better vision than in previous years. While Slaton may get the bulk of the reps, he may be looking at a committee situation.

Indianapolis Colts – The Colts brings continuity each year. Peyton Manning is not in jeopardy of losing his job to Jim Sorgi. I could say Manning is having an awful training camp and it would still be meaningless. He is not of course and Manning has expressed joy in being able to drive himself to camp this year and being healthy enough to play. Reggie Wayne is the undisputed number one wideout and the new Reggie Wayne is Anthony Gonzalez. Fighting for the number three (or the old Anthony Gonzalez) are Pierre Garcon and Roy Hall. Manning is expecting big things from Garcon, so he may be a player to look for in deep leagues. Joseph Addai is looking good also although Donald Brown is explosive and elusive and will have significant time on the field. 2009 does not look like 2006 when we all suspected that then rookie Addai would replace Dominic Rhodes by game four or five. Addai has been limited to certain practices. But, there are no problems noted and the limitation appears precautionary as a result of his arthroscopic surgery earlier this offseason.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Jack Del Rio has expressed that Maurice Jones-Drew will see an increase in touches, but that he plans to use others significantly so as not to wear Jones Drew out. Greg Jones is looking like the best candidate to take over Fred Taylor’s carries, and seventh round pick Rashad Jennings out of Liberty has turned a lot of heads since spring. The old guys are getting to rest a lot, so I wouldn’t expect to hear much about the receivers right now. Mike Walker (soon to be “Sims-Walker in honor of his father who passed late last year) is being given every chance to line-up opposite of Torry Holt. David Garrard has great expectations of Sims-Walker this year. Marcedes Lewis has moderately improved his numbers each year and during the off-season worked on his pass catching skills as opposed to his usual focus on blocking.

Tennessee Titans – When it comes to the Titans, only three words matter: “Smash and Dash.” During the offseason, Chris Johnson had fun at LenDale White’s expense, saying he no longer wants to be part of Smash and Dash and now wants to be known as “Every Coach’s Dream.” In a slow summer, the media ran with this story as something meaningful. It is not. Johnson still looks as explosive as last year and LenDale has trimmed down and stopped drinking tequila. The Titans are sporting a self-proclaimed Hall of Fame quarterback, but right now he is still second on the depth chart behind Kerry Collins. It’s difficult to talk about Titans’ wide receivers and care at the same time. Seriously, the last time the Titans had a WR/TE exceed 750 yards or six touchdowns, Billy Volek was at the helm. That was 2004, when the Titans enjoyed the services of Derrick Mason and Drew Bennett. At that time, Tennessee’s first team WRs Nate Washington and Justin Gage were barely hanging onto third positions at their former teams. First round selection Kenny Britt is suffering from a hamstring pull.


Arizona Cardinals – Chris (“Beanie”) Wells sprained his ankle in his very first training camp practice. Wells was already behind the curve having missed earlier organized team activities due to Ohio State’s late graduation. He comes into camp with knocks on his durability and pass blocking all of which are starting to make fantasy owners nervous. Ken Wisenhunt has voiced his concern that Wells will not have enough reps. In the meantime, Tim Hightower has been looking ever so sharp in practice, having shed some weight to increase his quickness. Matt Leinart is no lock for the number two QB spot, as Whisenhunt promised Brian St. Pierre a chance to compete. Early Doucet, the Cardinal’s 2008 third round rookie from LSU hampered his chances to crack the daunting wide receiver line-up when he sprained his shoulder Monday.

St. Louis Rams – The Rams under Steve Spagnuolo are taking a “tougher” approach towards practice this season and most of the reporting so far is defensive oriented. One of the unfortunate recipients of this pounding is Steven Jackson who spent the off-season putting on weight as opposed to conditioning for endurance. Marc Bulger has been looking sharp, hooking up on some nice plays with Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton and even Ronald Curry (who may be looking at punt returns more than being a go to receiver). Kenneth Darby is presently number two behind Steven Jackson. Editors Note: WR Donnie Avery is out 4-6 weeks with a foot injury suffered over the weekend.

San Francisco 49ers – Michael Crabtree is on his way to making Al Davis look like a genius. Crabtree is holding out for a top rookie contract and some are speculating he is stalling because his foot is not fully healed. In any event, the holdout is ongoing and will likely continue for some time, so don’t look for any on-the-field information about him. Quarterback Alex Smith led off the first practice to a repetitive chorus of “boos” by faithfull 49er fans. Granted, the boo tactic is one Coach Mike Singletary warmly embraces to motivate his players. Nevertheless, in their first session, Shaun Hill looked better than Smith. Hill took the first team reps, while Smith took second team reps however the talk is that Smith will be the opening day quarterback. Frank Gore already appears to be in top condition and is finding holes and utilizing his great vision. Its only two practices, but the run blocking has been spotless, while the pass blocking has been woeful. In addition to ageless Isaac Bruce and the lesser household names like Josh Morgan, Brandon Jones (injured) and Arnaz Battle, the list of receivers making great plays on day one sounds like an arena football squad, with names like Dominique Ziegler and Delanie Walker. Even when Crabtree enters the mix, the guy to keep your eye on is second year receiver Josh Morgan, who is rapidly tying up the number one position. While I probably won’t utter this name again, undrafted RB Kory Sheets is one of the new guys making an impression and is looking better than third-rounder Glenn Coffee.

Seattle Seahawks – If there is one thing Jim Mora wanted for an early Christmas present, it’s the signing of his 254-pound linebacker, Aaron Curry which he got over the weekend. Offensively, Mora is already implementing trickery, which could result in some unexpected numbers, as T.J. Houshmandzadeh is coming off the reverse and throwing interceptions. The Seahawks offensive line presents early preseason issues. Left guard Mike Wahle failed his physical and retired. Right tackle Walter Jones is leading off with back spasms and is not around to practice in Mora’s new zone blocking system. Matt Hasselbeck, Nate Burleson and Deion Branch (sore knee) are all back. With Greg Knapp at the helm of the offense, “one cut and go” is the term being repeated over and over. Knapp’s offenses historically have been based on the run and training camp has started off no different. Julius Jones has shed ten pounds and has lofty expectations in the new system.


Dallas Cowboys – Roy Williams has taken a lot of time to get on the same page with Tony Romo and while waiting, Romo made progress with Miles Austin and Sam Hurd . Austin is running crisp routes and making plays after the catch. Meanwhile, Hurd catches everything in sight. While I would not be “surprised” if Austin turned into the Cowboys top receiver, he is still behind Patrick Crayton and Roy Williams on the depth chart and that is not likely to change by opening day. The Cowboys are looking at a two tight end set with Martellus Bennett coming into his own, which could work out well, but may take away looks from Jason Witten. Bennett is wowing spectators and could end up having a huge impact this year. As for the running game, Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice have all looked good, but its Jones and Choice who are really impressing the Dallas beat writers. Jones with his electrifying quickness and Choice with his determination to prove he could pick up where he left off in 2008.

New York Giants – The Giants showed up for camp August 2, so most of the training camp news is related to off-field events, like Eli Manning’s huge contract and the New York grand jury’s decision not to indict Antonio Pierce. Regardless of the off-field issues, the Giants camp should be one of the more interesting ones to watch. They have a list of five wide receivers, all of whom could start. Steve Smith believes the job is his and that he will eclipse 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns. Domenik Hixon has exhibited the most consistency in camp to date. Hakeem Nicks has made some nice grabs. No significant notes on the running backs yet.

Philadelphia Eagles – It’s difficult to overlook the loss of MLB Stewart Bradley as an important cog in the Eagles’ run stopping machinery. However, Bradley’s torn ACL serves an important fantasy reminder that it can be quite difficult to speculate as to which running backs will have the toughest strength of schedule. The Eagles have not been able to get their new-look offensive line off the ground, with both Jason Peters and Shawn Andrews sidelined with spasms. It is far too early to carry LeSean McCoy’s jock, but he has not disappointed the Eagles so far in training camp. The backup to Brian Westbrook will be an important fantasy tool and so far, Lorenzo Booker is not making the grade. Former Charger practice squad player, Eldra Buckley (who?), has been making some absolutely sizzling runs. On the receiving side, Donovan McNabb has hooked up with DeSean Jackson for some highlight plays and Reggie Brown has had a good off-season, both in spring and in the first few days of camp this summer, catching everything thrown his way and making defenders miss tackles. Jackson hyper-extended his knee in practice Saturday, but should be okay. Finally, all of the talk that Jeremy Maclin was falling further and further behind the learning curve got the deal closed and Maclin will be reporting to camp.

Washington Redskins – Devin Thomas is starting off camp as the odds on guy to take up the flanker position opposite of Santana Moss. So far, Thomas has met training camp expectations. But, not so fast, as Malcolm Kelly is doing his part to impress the coaches and lock up that position for himself. From all accounts, Jason Campbell has looked unreliable and Redskin fans are already chanting the mantra of Colt Brennan who has looked far more prepared to take the helm.


Chicago Bears – The Bears are being cautious with Matt Forte after having pulled his hamstring back in June. He’s been held out of drills, but the team is unconcerned and Forte himself says he is at 100 percent. Kevin Jones has slimmed down and is looking good in his extended opportunities. Jay Cutler has looked good early in camp, but mostly passing to his check down receivers Forte, Greg Olson and his former teammate Earl Bennett. While the Bears have other possible threats at wide receiver in Devin Hester and rookie Juaquin Iglesias, Bennett is one of the guys the Bears are keeping their eyes on… along with Brandon Rideau, who is also excelling at camp (like he did last year).

Detroit Lions – Players, coaches and the press in Detroit are gushing over Matthew Stafford. He is delivering jaw dropping, precision-long passes into tight coverage with pin point accuracy. Even Calvin Johnson is impressed by Stafford’s skills and believes (like many) Stafford is “way ahead of the curve.” The quarterback battle is already heating up and the Lions are brimming with joy, as they believe they have two good quarterbacks in Stafford and a much slimmer Daunte Culpepper. However, don’t get too excited as the Lions’ offensive line has not been able to stop the defensive line in passing drills, which will drastically affect either QB’s chance at getting good looks down the field. The brightest star so far seems to be RB Kevin Smith. The buzz is about Smith’s toughness, discipline and desire along with his improved power – a by-product of running hills in the offseason. Rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew left practice with a quad injury, which is minor, but as discussed ad nauseam, rookies need to be in camp. While Megatron (Johnson) is making a few highlight reel catches, it appears Dennis Northcutt (who is behind golf cart injured Bryant Johnson on the depth chart) is getting a lot of opportunities with the first team.

Green Bay Packers – Greg Jennings committed himself in the off-season to becoming better than his new friend Larry Fitzgerald. Apparently, the two would text each other at odd hours of the morning, trying to show each other up in their work out efforts. Nice to hear a top 10 WR is not satisfied with merely being amongst the elite, but wants to be the best of the elite. I think we’ll be hearing Jennings’ name all year long right alongside Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. While many names get bandied about in the Green Bay wide receiver corps, one making early waves is second team TE Jermichael Finley in the form of run blocking or receiving. Also making noise this training camp has been RB DeShawn Wynn, even before Brandon Jackson left Tuesday morning with a bruised shoulder.

Minnesota Vikings – I cannot even report on this quarterback situation with a straight face. Good luck Viking fans. Favre was in, then out. Tavaris Jackson was in, then out then in again but expect him to be out Week 1. Rosenfels and Jackson came into camp allegedly even and although Jackson expects to be 100% by the first preseason game, if Rosenfels continues to make good decisions and improve on his timing, Jackson will be on his way to the bench. If Sage Rosenfels can be the journeyman Trent Dilfer was for a year with the Ravens things could be okay. Otherwise, Adrian Peterson could be consistently looking at eleven in the box. But, in all seriousness, Rosenfels’ has found timing with Bernard Berrian on deep passes and has also experienced some success with Jaymar Johnson, who has been one of the most impressive players in camp thus far. Jaymar Johnson is buried deep on the depth chart behind Berrian, Bobby Wade, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin.


Atlanta Falcons – Roddy White ended his lengthy holdout over the weekend. A season-ending injury to Harry Douglas has left the Falcons scrambling for veteran help. In steps Robert Ferguson and Marty Booker although both seem like long shots to have a successful fantasy season. Matt Ryan has picked up where he left off, completing nearly every pass he throws and garnering high praise as the real deal from veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez. There has been a lot of talk about reducing Michael Turner’s carries and so far in camp, they appear to be keeping him fresh with limited totes. Jerious Norwood or not, if the passing game gets thinned out by the lack of talent, expect the Burner to be burned out by the end of the year.

Carolina Panthers – Jonathan Stewart is still nursing his Achilles tendon. He is practicing at most, once a day, sat out all spring and will not cut into DeAngelo Williams’ carries one iota. Williams has been “looking like a superstar” and is “picking up where he left off last season.” Late news before submission was that Williams suffered a toe injury, which does not have Jon Fox concerned. Rookie RB Mike Goodson could cut into the carries of both running backs and has impressed his teammates with his speed and versatility. For the second time in this article, a run defense has been hampered by a significant blow, when the Panthers lost Maake Kemoeatu for the year to a torn Achilles tendon. The Panthers were already thin in their front seven and could not afford this loss. Dwayne Jarrett made a terrific catch in traffic while draped in coverage during first practice.

New Orleans Saints – Saints camp is one of the more exciting camps to watch with the emergence of Pierre Thomas and the hopes that Reggie Bush will live up to his NFL draft day status. Chris Mortenson reported that Reggie Bush’s explosiveness is “stunning.” Bush experienced some knee swelling, and has missed a couple of practices however, according to the Times-Picayune, when Bush is on the field, he looks as “fast and fluid as ever, standing out as the most dynamic weapon on the Saints' offense.” Bush is making players miss and punching in 60-yard touchdowns. Wait, not so fast. Bush left Tuesday’s practice with swelling and a limp. Pierre Thomas has done no less to impress and is picking up exactly where he left off last year with his own dazzling 65-yard touchdown run. Even running backs Mike Bell and Lynell Hamilton have been getting noticed and are hoping to make an impact this year. Drew Brees has not had his timing down and has been consistently off the mark. However, Brees is finding a comfort zone with one of his receivers and it is not Marques Colston or Lance Moore – instead, it is Robert Meachem, who is looking much more comfortable. Receivers coach Curtis Johnson expressed that Meachem’s development is “light years” and that he will be a pleasant surprise for the Saints this season. At this moment, Meachem is first team ahead of Devery Henderson.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – New team, new coach, and a new roster at the skill positions, so the Bucs present another intriguing team to follow during camp. The running back situation could be dicey for those who are expecting to nab Derrick Ward in early to middle rounds of their draft. Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski has made it clear that he wants to rotate backs in and out and use all of his resources. He likes Ward’s slashing style and ability to catch the ball. He likes Earnest Graham’s tenacious ability not to lose yardage. Cadillac Williams has returned to camp at full strength, with spirit, quickness and decisiveness. Even Clifton Smith is expecting to get playing time in the Buccaneer backfield. While the offensive line started off slowly, on Monday they opened some nice holes for big gains by both Ward and Cadillac. Antonio Bryant missed practice with knee swelling and Kellen Winslow is suffering from a mild sprained his ankle. The receiving corps may not be a list of household names after Bryant, Michael Clayton and Winslow, but the change in coaching philosophy already shows with all three QBs airing it out deep in practices. Early on, Luke McCown was taking first team reps at quarterback.