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Training Camp Hype ("TCH")
Week 1: The Week of the Cart-Off

Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four

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

They say if you put an infinite amount of monkeys in a room with an infinite amount of typewriters, before the end of time, they will have written all the great novels. This theory equally applies in the context of preseason hype. If one writes about all of the hype coming out of camp, eventually a nugget will be unearthed amongst the endless pounds of fool’s gold. In 2009, that nugget was Ray Rice. Statements out of Ravens camp were reported in this series of articles and accordingly, Ray Rice jumped from a mid-round running back to a fourth round selection in many drafts.

Heed these following words of caution. Training Camp Hype (“TCH”) is not the bible of fantasy football insight. When you view the information contained in this article, remember that every NFL team is fraught with the delivery of misinformation, sometimes to psyche out an opponent, other times to motivate players within its own camp and other times simply because the teams have no concept of reality (i.e. the Oakland Raiders). The press who write about their observations are easily manipulated and often have as much knowledge of football as British Petroleum has when it comes to capping an underwater oil leak.

In 2009, T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s and Matt Hasselbeck’s nice chemistry turned into only 911 yards and three touchdowns. Miles Austin’s up and down training camp and battle with Sam Hurd had this cat on most free agency boards. Sidney Rice’s name was buried behind Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and even Bobby Wade. And lest we forget the hype that made an irrelevant name like James Davis everybody’s sleeper of the year.

Let me not be so quick to discredit my own article. TCH picked up on Cedric Benson’s strong camp, Mike Sims-Walker’s development if he steered clear of injuries, the constant juggling of quality wide receivers chomping at the vacancy left by Plaxico Burress’ errant decision to shoot himself in the leg, and even the development of Jermichael Finley.

Before I send you off into a deluge of often meaningless information, it is with great fondness to those of you who have faithfully read this article and provided feedback over the years, that I express my gratefulness for your kind words and understanding. For the intent of this article is solely to pass on news, unfiltered, and allow you the reader to decide what will make the difference to you on draft day.

And with that in mind, I send you off for year III of Training Camp Hype, beginning with Week 1... the Week of the Cart-Off:


Buffalo Bills - When one looks at the competition for starting QB between Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Brian Brohm, one wonders if it is better to take a back-up QB then one of these starters. There is not much of a competition and Edwards appears the favorite and is doing nothing to ruin his chances, with accurate tosses. The problem is, the Bills’ passing game has been so anemic (less than 3,000 yards last year) and it is thinner at wide receiver, with the departure of Terrell Owens and Josh Reed. Absent Lee Evans, you would have to be a real hard core college football enthusiast to even recognize any of the names left on this squad. That being said, Steve Johnson and James Hardy are entering their magical third year. Roscoe Parrish is always good for one good game during the season. Oddly, it is almost as if no beat writer even wants to go to Bills training camp as there is little news coming out about this core. Likewise, reporting on the running back situation is difficult. C.J. Spiller’s late arrival gives us very little insight and too many people do not expect Marshawn Lynch to be around on opening day.

Miami Dolphins – When the flash bulbs stop flashing and the talcum powder clears from the air, Miami will remember they have a football team and that basketball season is still in the distance. Chad Henne’s training camp has not lived up to his preseason hype, but nothing too negative to report. In practice, Henne seems to be relying a lot on his check down receivers. Henne is not in jeopardy of losing his job to back-ups Pat White, Chad Pennington or Tyler Thigpen - Thigpen being the favorite to win the No. 2 job as Pat White is struggling with accuracy. Pennington is taking the third team reps.

Brandon Marshall has been "everything he’s advertised to be" in the Dolphins’ first week of camp, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly. “He is extremely dominant...and is definitely going to be that dominant receiver the Dolphins have lacked for a long time.” But even more impressive is the comments of his teammate Greg Camarillo who was not about to be sold on the hype that is Marshall. “I knew he was good, but I didn't know to what extent...I'm definitely more impressed than I thought I was going to be...he runs good routes. He catches the ball deep. He catches the ball short. He catches the ball in traffic. The man is really, really good.'' Marshall was reportedly ‘unstoppable” in red-zone drills. However, in the first scrimmage, Henne had a slow start, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall was far less consistent than he had been the rest of the week. Brian Hartline is holding down the number two in front of Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess as Sporano likes his run after catch ability which makes him the frontline guy.

RB Ronnie Brown is “100 percent healthy and ready to go.” According to Brown, is foot injury is “a non-issue” and his knee “feels great.”

New England Patriots – About the only thing that can be said regarding the quarterback situation is that Tom Brady, like Peyton Manning is in ongoing contract negotiations and that Brady will likely to sign by the end of the summer. The backfield is fraught with an unimpressive committee of Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Laurence Maroney and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. As of Monday, Fred Taylor supplanted Maroney as the first-team tailback, with Sammy Morris taking second and Maroney third. The reasons for Maroney’s sudden fall are unknown.

Randy Moss is participating fully in training camp as opposed to 2009, where he practiced only once a day. Wes Welker has made a faster-than-expected recovery from his season ending injuries. He has not only been taking part, but “looking well” (I always thought it was good, but maybe I am learning something about grammar from the Providence Journal). Welker has been active in both seven-on-seven drills and in full-contact, 11-on-11 sessions. Said Welker, “I think I’m making progress, but there’s still a long way to way”. Brandon Tate is the "top candidate" to play in three-receiver sets. Julian Edelman is holding strong at number four. Torry Holt could be fighting rookie Taylor Price for the final receiver spot this summer, as Holt has struggled to separate early in training camp. Price is impressing as a pass-catcher and route-runner.

New York Jets - Let’s face it! Nearly all of the news coming out of the New York media machine will not help fantasy rosters...unless you are in IDP leagues (which this article does not address). The Darrelle Revis holdout dominates the headlines, the midlines and the backlines. The Revis topic so dominates that it has gotten to the brink of frustration for Coach Rex Ryan who seemingly has to answer a Revis related question every time a reporter opens their mouth.

Mark Sanchez’ leadership skills have turned the corner. Dustin Keller noted that Sanchez is “taking charge.” Said Keller, “Damn, he’s really taking lead, and this is it, this is our leader, and he’s doing it right now. He stepped up big time. And it’s not what he said but the way he said it.” WR Jerricho Cotchery echoed Keller’s sentiments. Rex Ryan stated that the energy level on the field spikes when Sanchez runs on it. In recent practices, Sanchez has looked sharp. In an inter squad scrimmage, Ryan says that Sanchez looked really good. Equally garnering praise in the Jets’ offense is their new addition Santonio Holmes who has “looked like the best receiver” in training camp and scrimmage (just don’t lose sight of the four-game suspension). Braylon Edwards reported to training camp “a couple of pounds” overweight. Jerricho Cotchery is holding his own and should line up opposite Edwards during the first four weeks of the season, while there is no real threat from Laveranues Coles who might be cut after Santonio Holmes returns from his suspension. Do not remorse in Coles’ demise as he himself stated he was prepared just to come in and sign a one day deal just so he could retire as a Jet.

Ryan and the press are lauding LaDainian Tomlinson as “the best third-down back in the league” and why not, as Tomlinson nailed a 70-yard touchdown catch in scrimmage. Said LT2 “My plan was to show people that I can still play this game and that I still have a lot left in the tank.” Keep in mind however, that until he is dead and buried, LT2 will get the Priest Holmes treatment in this column.


Denver Broncos – So you are looking for a good RB2 when you read that Denver is reverting to a power running game and who is a better fit than Knowshon Moreno? Then, on opening day of camp, not only does Moreno go down to a hamstring pull, but so goes Correll Buckhalter. Then the Broncos swooped down on LenDale White, only to lose him to injury as well. Moreno and Buckhalter are expected to be healthy for opening day, but the general consensus coming is to be wary of Broncos running backs, especially with an offensive line suffering its own set of injury setbacks.

There is the whole circus that surrounds Tim Tebow almost akin to a Brett Favre watch. Tebow’s presence is larger than life and it has to affect the confidence Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn, even though Tebow is not nearly ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Orton is presently working with the first team and is allegedly showing confidence and accuracy. In fact, Orton has been distancing himself from Quinn and Tebow and is entrenching himself as the undisputed starter. Tebow has been taking a lot of snaps and running quite often, so expect him to immediately fulfill a role in the wildcat. However, he still struggles to read defenses and go through his progressions.

The Broncos injury bug did not stop at the running backs (or Elvis Dumervil - which could leave their defense on the field even longer), but expected starter and rookie wide receiver Demaryius Thomas came limping off the field with a foot injury, along with Eric Decker, leaving a suspect and rag tag group of Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Lloyd, Brandon Stokley, Matthew Willis and Kenny McKinley. Thomas had been struggling early in camp showing a lack of confidence in his fractured foot, but came on strong right before his aggravation to that foot. Decker and Willis have been impressing the coaching staff. Royal has been practicing significantly in the slot, but with the injuries to Thomas and Decker, there is no telling where Royal will end up. Tight end Marques Branson is making an impression on Josh McDaniels who notes that Branson is hard to cover.

Kansas City Chiefs – From a fantasy football perspective, this team is chock filled with intriguing story lines. Bringing in new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis may cause some growing pains and they were observable on the first few days of practice with Matt Cassel looking questionable at best. But Cassel is in no danger of losing his starting gig. Both Cassel and Brodie Croyle have often looked ineffective in passing drills.

One of the more deep subjects for speculation is the fact that the Chiefs preseason opener depth chart lists RB Thomas Jones as the starter over Jamaal Charles (who had offseason shoulder surgery). Some say it is a psychological ploy to inspire Charles, others think it is just to rest Charles. But Todd Haley’s words were thus: “I think (touch distribution) will depend on a lot of different factors: who’s hotter, who’s running better, who’s blocking and picking up blitzes better, who’s doing a lot of things better and who’s healthiest.” Jones has looked good in camp and this could be problematic for fantasy managers drafting Charles early. However, Charles appears to be hands down the better running back and has taken a significant portion of the first team plays. Shoulder surgery has not hampered him and he looks as strong and quick as last season. And coming from the guy in the back of the pack, Jackie Battle oozes love for his fellow running backs. “Dexter is electric...the quickest player I’ve ever seen. Thomas Jones is like the leader of leaders, he can bring everybody up a notch. He’s really the best locker room guy that I’ve ever been around...Jamaal is going to be Jamaal...He can pop at any time. He’s really got something that’s special.”

Wide receiver seems to be the only place where there is some comfort and continuity. Dwayne Bowe returns invigorated and has been a training camp poster child. Haley is encouraged and has stated that he thinks Bowe is far ahead of last year. Seasoned veteran Chris Chambers will start opposite Bowe and is having a solid camp. Add in one Dexter McCluster and things get a little less secure for everybody. McCluster brings a lot of buzz to camp. He catches the ball, the fans start buzzing. He jukes a defender the fans start celebrating. But two dropped punts in a scrimmage game and several dropped passes suggest that there is a lot of flash with some substance issues. Clearly, McCluster appears to be a must have in return yardage/TD leagues. Rookie tight end Tony Moeaki has played impressively stretching and hauling in tough passes. Nevertheless, he is listed number two behind Leonard Pope to start in the preseason opener.

Oakland Raiders – Quickly, without grabbing your Cheatsheet Compiler, name the first Raider to go in a fantasy football draft and what round he will go in? Surely not one of the receivers and based on such a thin display, despite whatever we hear from Tom Cable, it will not be Jason Campbell. So, perhaps it is Michael Bush, who is poised to take the reins at running back. But once again, thanks to Cable, even the running back situation is muddled. Prior to camp, Cable seemed unequivocal that he was gunning for a primary back. But with a “jaw-dropping” blow, now Cable has waffled and is now talking about split reps. Fortunately for Bush, Darren McFadden has come up gimpy with a sore hamstring, which will cause him to miss the preseason opener against Dallas. This paves the way for Bush to shine. Backing up the running backs are two old-timers in Michael Bennett and Rock Cartwright.

Cable has been pleased with QB Jason Campbell who is throwing accurate deep balls to his receivers. Unfortunately, I must resort to my opening comment in last year’s TCH that “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.” When it comes to Raider reports, it is best to subscribe to the philosophy of “believe none of what you see and even less of what you hear.” Since that is the case, it would behoove the reader to note that the back-ups to Jason Campbell are Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye, with Gradkowski as the leading candidate for the No. 2 spot. Kyle Boller and Colt Brennan are battling it out for third string (perhaps the most impressive third string battle ever).

The most promising receiver is Chaz Schilens who cannot seem to keep himself on the field long enough to gain any rhythm. According to the Raiders, there is nothing wrong with Schilens surgically repaired foot, he is just missing practice and preseason games out of precaution. Unless the report on Darrius Heyward-Bey was that he spent the off-season in an Elmer’s Glue factory, the propaganda on him is difficult to swallow, even if it is reported that he has bulked up. The primary back-up is Louis Murphy with Johnnie Lee Higgins, Todd Watkins, Nick Miller, Shaun Bodiford, Yamon Figurs and Paul Hubbard battling for the final two or three spots. Rookie Jacoby Ford will secure a spot on special teams.

San Diego Chargers – The only knock on Philip Rivers has nothing to do with Rivers himself. Simply stated, all indications are that Marcus McNeill’s holdout will last throughout camp and maybe even into week one. Brandyn Dombrowksi who has been nursing injury would then be asked to protect Philip Rivers’ blind side. Rookie RB Ryan Mathews is being praised for his field vision and competitiveness. However, the Chargers are trying to work him into the passing game, with which he had little familiarity at Fresno State. Expectations are that Matthews will get 300 carries and be a significant part of the passing game as well. Other reports suggest that Darren Sproles will take third downs and Mike Tolbert could vulture some short yardage carries.

There seems to be little expectation of Vincent Jackson showing up in a Charger uniform this season (at least before week 10). In his absence, Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naanee are the anticpated starters come opening day. The coaching staff likes Craig Davis and he appears locked into the number three position with Jeremy Williams and Josh Reed right behind him. The Chargers believe they have so much talent at tight end that they may put three tight ends on the field at the same time. This includes one of the league’s best tight ends in Antonio Gates, veteran Randy McMichael and up and comer Kris Wilson.


Baltimore Ravens – According to the Baltimore Sun, QB Joe Flacco is taking more command of the offense and he may be “on the verge” or turning into an elite quarterback. RB Ray Rice, who has been nicknamed "Rated-R," appears to be in midseason form already. He has picked up right where he left off, scoring long distance touchdowns in practice by catching long passes and bouncing off defenders, making them look bad (do not be surprised if Ray Rice leads all backs this year, especially given the added threat – catching and blocking – of Anquan Boldin). RB Willis McGahee appears to be in good shape with added pounds - all muscle. McGahee is showing speed and cut ability.

TE Todd Heap has come into camp looking healthy as well. With all of the talk of receivers Anquan Boldin coming to Baltimore and the revival of Derrick Mason, slipping under the radar is new addition WR Donte Stallworth, who has been having a quietly strong training camp. The perennial breakout WR Mark Clayton looks to be fantasy irrelevant as he is holding the number four position for now.

Cincinnati Bengals – With the Hall of Fame game under our belts, we were privy to one important preview - Carson Palmer may be really happy with Terrell Owens in his arsenal. His only two completions of the game (and if you count a third which was called back on a penalty) were all to T.O. Chad (I’ve given myself too many nicknames to remember) Johnson has been looking sharp in practice and there should be no doubt who will be lining up on opposite sides of the field come September. But things are not as rosy for WR Antonio Bryant who has been nursing a nagging knee issue. The Bengals are probably not too worried about Bryant any longer. Rookie WR Jordan Shipley may prove to be of some value in return yard/td leagues after he scampered for 63 yards against the Cowboys on a punt return. The days of Matt Jones’ fantasy relevance are behind him, but for some there just may be a sentimental reason to grab him. The slot position seems to be a battle between Jones, Shipley and Andre Caldwell. TE Jermaine Gresham finds himself locked into the number one role immediately. Marvin Lewis expects big things from him, and Gresham will be taking about fifty percent of the snaps in practice.

After my early love for Cedric Benson and the letdown I suffer, I am quick to write him off. But maybe that is premature. He is free of suspension and the offensive line favors his running style. In the opening preseason game he made a nice little shift in the backfield and took the ball for a six-yard play up the gut. Expect every bit as much from Benson as we saw last year. Bernard Scott was back, but did not get much going in the opener.

Cleveland Browns – It should not come as much surprise that Cleveland is ready to embrace football after a dreadful May through July which saw the decline of basketball in that city. With the Indians and the Cavaliers in the rear view mirror, the Browns are about the only professional sport team worth mentioning...almost. While much of the talk out of Browns’ camp is of their first round draft choice Joe Haden, there can still be heard utterances about starting QB Jake Delhomme, who will not be losing his position to back-up Seneca Wallace or rookie Colt McCoy, but there is talk of platooning Delhomme, Wallace and Joshua Cribbs. Delhomme’s passing has been crisp. Mangini has liked what he has seen from Delhomme. But also turning heads is Seneca Wallace with his ability to run the Wildcat.

There is excitement coming from the crowded backfield, which consists of Jerome Harrison, injured rookie Montario Hardesty, returning from 2009 preseason hype James Davis and hard-nosed Peyton Hillis. Hardesty was rapidly on his way to receiving the Davis praise of 2009 when he suffered an early training camp cart off the field after suffering a “non-serious” twisting of the knee. Davis has returned with a determination to impress. According to Mangini, “he’s stronger...playing with better technique and better leverage.” Do not lose sight of the fact that the Browns finished 2009 ranking 8th in rushing yards. The only drawback is that with such a crowded backfield, it’s difficult to imagine that Harrison will tote the rock as often as he did at the end of the season.

Looking to the Browns aerial attack, it reminds me of the Luftwaffe’s chances on the History Channel. Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie are coming back in their setback second years to a new quarterback in a new system. However, Delhomme raves about Brian Robiskie’s knack for reading the ball in the air and adjusting his body and feet into perfect position as if he has a “sixth sense” for where the ball is going to be. Delhomme has been developing a “palpable chemistry” with Brian Robiskie, featuring deep throws that didn’t exist last year. Robiskie was named minicamp MVP. Joshua Cribbs (and Seneca Wallace) has been getting practice and promises of more of a role in the Wildcat, but frankly, Cleveland is not Miami. One standout in camp has been TE Ben Watson.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Absent having fallen off the face of the earth, most fantasy football managers are already aware that Ben Roethlisberger has been a model citizen, but that he will be out no less than four and likely six games to start the season. In the meantime, Big Ben has been a model quarterback and never looked better in training camp, completing nearly every pass and not tossing any picks. Byron Leftwich appears to be entrenched as the starter until Big Ben returns. While the Steelers are high on Dennis Dixon’s potential they believe the veteran gives them a better chance to win games right now. Nevertheless, Leftwich has not dominated practice.

Despite missing some drills with a minor toe injury, Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that Rashard Mendenhall will likely see the bulk of the running including short-yardage duties. Mewelde Moore took first team reps while Mendenhall was nursing his toe. Moore is locked in at number two and is well ahead of rookie Jonathan Dwyer who has been unimpressive and came into camp much heavier than expected. Speculation is that if anything happens to Mendenhall, look to the Steelers airing it out and not to Mendenhall’s back-ups. Besides Roethlisberger, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is praising WR Mike Wallace who is making a good transition from a No. 3 receiver to the starting split end. Hines Ward is equally impressed with Wallace’s growth. Do not be surprised if rookie WR Emmanuel Sanders steals the No. 3 receiver slot from seasoned veteran Antwaan Randle El. Sanders is a deep threat with dangerous after-the-catch ability. Also rookie Antonio Brown is turning heads.


Houston Texans - Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson immediately picked up where they left off - Schaub throwing down the far side of the field, Johnson outrunning the secondary and in for a TD. Reports are that Schaub is at the top of his game when it comes to command of the offense and leadership and his teammates have confidence in him. There is no reason to expect anything less from these entrenched starters, unless you are one of those who get concerned that a player lets down when he signs a fat contract. From all indications, Johnson should be poised to be at the top of the NFL as always. On the other side of the field Jacoby Jones is giving Kevin Walter a run for his money. According to Gary Kubiak, Jones is “in better shape than he's ever been” and providing fierce competition for the number two role. However, Jones has been on the precipice of unseating Walters for years and it just never seems to happen. Walters is “a lunch pail-type football player. There's not a lot of flash. It's just productivity and accountability,” and that’s what Kubiak wants to see. Keep an eye on reports of Owen Daniel who has suffered a setback in his rehab from ACL surgery.

The Texan running situation is filled with intrigue after the rapid demise of Steve Slaton last year. Arian Foster opened camp as the starter and has received high praise from an odd source, intra division rival Maurice Jones-Drew. Kubiak has dubbed Foster as “mature beyond his years” and thinks it will be tough to unseat him as starter. If that is not indication enough, Steve Slaton is getting a lot of reps on kick-off return, not the sort of thing you wish to see from a featured back. Rookie Ben Tate has been slow to making an impression. Kubiak asserts that Tate “has got a long way to go" but is "behind the team because of the stuff he missed in the offseason." In typical fashion, Chris Henry is a practice field beast, but few expect him to be relevant during the season. As always with a Shanahan or Kubiak, beware selecting the man on top of the RB pile at the beginning of the season.

Indianapolis Colts – Usually there is nothing to say with Peyton Manning at the helm of this ship. At least this year, Manning gave us something to consider. Manning issued a statement that he wants the Colts to emphasize the running game more this season and not throw 50 times a game. Yeah, and I only want to come in third place in my fantasy leagues. Okay, it’s not much, but come on, it’s Peyton Manning.

Obviously this takes us directly into the Colts running game, which only averaged 22 rushing attempts for eighty yards a game last year. If 2005 is any guide, the Colts don’t mind abusing their running backs who they expect to be moving on. Edgerrin James got 360 carries and it would not be surprising to see Joseph Addai similarly used. However, the Colts also have big plans for Donald Brown whose increased understanding of the offense coach Jim Caldwell praised during the offseason.

Like Manning, finding anything to discuss with respect to Reggie Wayne is just filler. However, who will line up his opposite is more challenging. Anthony Gonzalez is back and according to Peyton Manning, ready to compete, or is he? Gonzalez is lining up in the slot with Austin Collie and appears to be fighting it out for the number three-four spot. But he is also splitting some time with Pierre Garcon at the number two. In other words, there may be a lot of mish-mash in the receiver groupings and with Dallas Clark also on the field, getting it right on your fantasy roster every Sunday may mean getting Wayne or backing off several talented receivers.

Jacksonville Jaguars – It’s difficult to get excited about a 32-year-old quarterback who has never thrown for 4,000 yards or twenty touchdowns, but David Garrard has secured his position as the Jaguars starting QB for another season. Then again, a list of Luke McCown and Trevor Harris do not constitute a heavy slate of competition. Garrard’s training camp has not been especially noteworthy in either direction. While Mike Sims-Walker is secure as number one, but because of his injury history, the coaching staff will take it easy on him during the summer. The battle for number two wide receiver is going to Mike Thomas. According to Coach Jack Del Rio,“Mike’s been making big plays. Mike’s determined to take a step forward. He’s an explosive player. He’s fighting for that role right now,” “Garrard followed Del Rio’s comments with his own: “We continue to talk about ‘Mike T’ because he continues to make plays. I told him if you continue to make plays I’m going to continue to throw the ball to you.” Jarett Dillard is expected to provide Thomas with the greatest competition for the number two spot when he comes off the PUP list. Troy Williamson has done nothing to help his chances of landing a first team role.

Maurice Jones Drew has not lost anything, but there is some discussion that back-up running back Rashad Jennings will alleviate his presence. While Jennings has shined in camp looking strong and fast and displaying some good pass catching ability, there is no true indication that Jones-Drew will be losing carries.

Tennessee Titans – Tennessee appears to have its starting roles all locked up from last year. Vince Young has continued to impress with a “tremendous command of the offense.” Not much can be said about Chris Johnson, other than he is in camp and does not want his contract to be a distraction. While Javon Ringer appears to have the back-up role locked in, rookie LeGarrette Blount has also been "tremendous" and is making a run at that spot. Wide receiver has been a sore spot this camp. Kenny Britt has been riddled with injuries and unimpressive practices, dropping balls. He is doing little to gain on Nate Washington (who has also aggravated his wrist injury) and Justin Gage. Of special note is TE Jared Cook who has been getting reps in different receiving roles.


Dallas Cowboys – Few teams come into training camp with the luxury of most fantasy positions being so secured. The Cowboys are just one of those teams. This is Tony Romo’s world and enough has been said about him having the potential for league leading numbers this year. Out of the mere need to report something, Romo complained of some throwing arm soreness which has subsided. Jon Kitna is a nice number two, but absent injury or blow-out, will remain an apparition.

If the preseason opener is a prelude to the season, do not discredit Marion Barber too quickly. The Cowboys have anointed Barber the first string running back for now. If the Cowboys are truly looking at this being Barber’s last year with the team, never underestimate their willingness to use whatever he has left in the tank. Barber is running with strength and decisiveness. Jones is carrying more weight as he tried to bulk up and is still experiencing minor knee flare ups.

There is a lot to be excited about from the wide receiver group. Before suffering a preseason ending high ankle sprain, rookie Dez Bryant was living up to expectations, making an impression in camp, catching everything thrown to him. He was first to sign, first to show up to practice and he pesters Romo for reps. Do not get caught up in the negative hype on this kid he should be back for the opener and looks every bit the rookie Randy Moss and Anquan Boldin were. Then again, his injury has paved the way for Roy Williams, who looked good in the Hall of Fame game. Even more convoluting is the fact that Bryant’s injury just kissed Patrick Crayton’s trade demand good night. Sure, everyone is talking about number one WR Miles Austin and the championship benefits of a Kardashian in one’s back pocket. While the Kardashians latch onto championship squads, Lamar Odom went from first team to second team and Reggie Bush’s productivity dropped at an alarming rate of 20% a year. In other words, beware the succubus! The Cowboy coaching staff admitted they used TE Jason Witten too often as a blocker and too infrequently as a receiver in the red zone last year and intend to rectify that mistake this year.

New York Giants – There has been nothing remarkable, one way or the other regarding QB Eli Manning who has had to deal with not only missing some of his starting linemen, but his starting receivers missing a few days here and a few days there, affecting their timing, but not much more. Manning has been focusing on improvement and according to quarterback coach Mike Sullivan, Manning is working on his leadership, decision-making and accuracy. Manning has displayed this in camp and has exhibited consistency and accuracy. Steve Smith has been out with a not so serious groin strain which he says is getting better and he anticipates a return to camp shortly. Mario Manningham returned from a similar injury and has been getting first team reps in Smith’s absence. Hakeem Nicks returned from his own knee injury last Thursday after missing a couple of days. Lastly, when it comes to the air attack, Kevin Boss has been dealing with hamstring issues.

Word out of New York is not to get too caught up in last year’s passing numbers as the Giants hope to re-establish the ground attack with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw coming back from injuries. Who will be the bell cow is anyone’s guess and according to Tom Coughlin and the RB coach Jerald Ingram, the running backs will platoon in-game situations and match-ups will dictate the primary ball carrier. According to Ingram, there is no “starting running back.” If you want proof of Ingram’s statement just look at the reports, one day Jacobs is practicing with the first team, the next it’s Bradshaw. Jacobs has dropped his body fat and according to Coughlin, he “looks good... [is] running well...[and] looks fast.” Likewise, Bradshaw continues “to show good burst.” But leave it to the New York Post to confuse the issue by questioning the coaching staff with a factual report that nearly every first play of a team practice leads off with a Bradshaw tote and every practice has Bradshaw seeing three times the action of Jacobs. Coughlin discounts this observation as nothing more than keeping bodies healthy.

Philadelphia Eagles – Two weeks into training camp, whether Kevin Kolb will be a fantasy boom, bust or somewhere in between is just not clear. Early in camp, Kolb was tossing interception after interception and his decision making had been questioned. But his accuracy has improved towards the later portion of camp and he is settling down. Many expect this year to be “about making mistakes, learning from them, and bouncing back.” While Jeremy Maclin thinks Kolb “looks like a guy who's been starting 4 or 5 years,” Maclin’s rookie year does not make him authoritative on the subject. Kolb on Kolb: “There's been some ups and downs...and there's going to be ups and downs, throughout camp...obviously, there's room to grow and get better, but there's been consistent improvement.”

LeSean McCoy is reported to be in the best shape of his life. There has been much to praise and some to criticize with McCoy who shows flashes of agility and strength while also showing a little too much jitterbugging. RB Mike Bell is sidelined with a hamstring strain. Also vying for carries are J.J. Arrington, Eldra Buckley and rookie Charles Scott. While Scott comes in as a hybrid tailback/fullback, according to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Scott is “way ahead of the curve, mentally...he's big, physical, tough, real smart.” While he may not even make the final roster, do not lose sight of Eldra Buckley, who has taken some first team reps to spell McCoy. According to Andy Reid, Buckley is a “very, very competitive, tough guy... has good feet and good vision when he's asked to carry the football.”

Wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin started off as training camp casualties with DeSean being carted off for a back injury and Maclin for a knee injury. Both are back and practicing at full speed. Jackson is consistently showing that he is the best player on the field according to Oddly, as in every year of this column, Jason Avant has been a training camp standout and other TCH notables Kelley Washington and Hank Baskett are battling it out for roster spots. Brent Celek is...Brent Celek and minor peeps are being heard about rookie TE Clay Harbor who is jumped up the depth chart to probably displace no.2 TE Cornelius Ingram.

Washington Redskins – Never underestimate the prowess of Mike Shanahan when it comes to running backs. We often see the right, only to be punched with the left in some previous unknown. In a field of Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, Ryan Torrain and Willie Parker how could this even be an issue. But, because it’s Shanahan, keep your eyes on an undrafted rookie named Keiland Williams who is receiving Shanahan’s praise with his pass protection and running skills. Williams is deep on the depth chart...for now, but don’t be surprised if he remains and Willie Parker does not. Clinton Portis is running with the first team and looks strong earning a “very impressed” from Coach Shanahan. Larry Johnson is not giving Portis much room to breathe as he looks equally explosive.

At wide receiver, Santana Moss has no competition. But, the number two appears up for grabs between Joey Galloway, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, none of who are gaining any true separation from the pack. In fact, also ran Roydell Williams is the one who is turning heads. If his days in Philadelphia are any indication of the future, McNabb’s love for the tight end may just make TE Fred Davis a household name this year. In goal line drills, Davis simply could not be covered. While Chris Cooley is back, it may be a good idea to watch who McNabb builds chemistry with during the preseason. It may just be that the two tight ends present more of a passing threat than any of the receivers.


Arizona Cardinals – Starting QB Matt Leinart “isn't having a bad camp,” but he hasn't been great, either. He has made some nice throws but missed on some intermediate and long ones. Backup Derek Anderson has been up and down, too. WR Early Doucet is taking his third season seriously, by beginning his off-season training program before most players began their off-season. Larry Fitzgerald said about Doucet, "I don't think he took any time off…I remember when we left for exit physicals, he was working out already. I got back from my trip, he's working out. The guy's been working tirelessly to try to improve.”

RB Beanie Wells has gotten much better in pass protection. TE Ben Patrick has a sprained left knee and has an MRI scheduled. WR Steve Breaston took fewer reps to nurse a sore groin, but Coach Ken Whisenhunt is not concerned. Wisenhunt expects to expand LaRod Stephens-Howling role.

St. Louis Rams – There is not much buzz in St. Louis, except for the fact that they have a first pick Sam Bradford looking poised to start on opening day. Touted as “the real deal", Bradford is already taking half the first-team snaps in practice. In scrimmage, Bradford looked like a franchise quarterback going 8 of 10, with two dropped passes. Even A.J. Feeley, the present “starter” says “You can see it coming....” Bradford is throwing razor sharp bullets everywhere. Spagnuolo stated that he was “zipping the ball around pretty good...finding receivers. He was hitting second receivers. I thought there were one or two in there where he might not have gotten them away.” Suffice it to say, A.J. Feeley has little fantasy relevance while Bradford has more.

Steven Jackson has returned from off-season back surgery, heavier than and just as fast as he has always been. Although he was held out of the scrimmage, this was pre-planned as part of the program prescribed by the team's trainer before camp. Jackson has participated in live tackling, taken hits and still feels good.

Little news on starting wide receivers Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson. Danny Amendola appears to have locked up the slot, while rookie WR Mardy Gilyard was looking to land the number four position. Gilyard injured his wrist, which is not believed to be serious. WR Keenan Burton appears to be on the roster bubble. TE Daniel Fells should be the starter in front of Billy Bajema, but the team is happy with its depth at this position including Darcy Johnson, Michael Hoomanawanui and Fendi Onobun. Obviously they cannot hold onto this many tight ends.

San Francisco 49ers – The dog days of summer apparently got to Alex Smith, who has otherwise looked fairly accurate through most of camp. But even with bad performances, Smith is receiving no challenge from second year QB Nate Davis and little challenge from David Carr. 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye suggested Smith might have gotten a little “arm-weary.” Not everybody is in accord with Smith having had a decent camp. stated Smith has only had a "so-so" camp. Smith has looked good on deep throws, but not as good in the short game.

No worries for Frank Gore as Anthony Dixon is struggling with fundamentals and consistency and Glen Coffee has yet to stand out in training camp practices. The only worries could be that Rookie RT Anthony Davis and LG Mike Iupati were officially anointed starters and on their first day as starters the 49ers had the worst practice of the summer (nobody is blaming the rookies...out loud).

This is a two horse team at wide receiver. Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan are locked in at starting wide receivers. Coach Mike Singletary heaped praise on Michael Crabtree, but little has been said about Crabtree since camp opened. While Ted Ginn, Jr. is in little danger of looking behind him, he is continuing to be plagued by the dropsies. Brandon Jones, Dominique Zeigler, Jason Hill and rookie Kyle Williams are scrambling for the final two spots. Williams is pouring himself into his effort to make the cut and while he has been anything but perfect in his routes or his pass-catching, his speed may keep him on the roster. Vernon Davis heaped praise on Mike Singletary for getting his head into the idea that football is a team sport and that it was not all about Vernon Davis.

Seattle Seahawks - Matt Hasselbeck has been resting a sore hamstring, but is expected to be back at full anytime. Conflicting reports of Charlie Whitehurst’s progress has one Seattle publication stating that he has been unimpressive, thereby securing Hasselbeck’s grip on the starting job, while another seemed to praise his performance in the Seahawks’ first scrimmage, wherein he took another step in his development as Hasselbeck’s eventual replacement. Yet other publications have J.P. Losman beating out Whitehurst to be the Seahawks’ No. 2 quarterback.

Mr. Rah Rah himself, Pete Carroll, says that Leon Washington is going to be “special” and that he “showed his considerable speed immediately” on his return to practice, in the passing game. Washington’s presence may adversely affect Justin Forsett’s hold on the number one running back spot. So may Quinton Ganther’s, who is working at both tailback and fullback. If Carroll implements his college philosophy, there is no reason to expect anything less than a thin distribution of touches amongst a crowded backfield. Additionally, there is speculation that Carroll will be surfing the waivers to get a bigger back when one gets cut. Oh yeah, where Julius Jones fits in all this is a mystery.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is coming into camp optimistic and buying into Coach Carroll’s mantra "Always Compete". Houshmandzadeh is happy to be back underestimated, overlooked and unappreciated. Deion Branch appears to be the starter opposite T.J. Houshmandzadeh but the rookie Golden Tate has made several highlight reel catches and Deon Butler has been a training camp stand out. Butler has “probably been the most improved receiver, the most improved guy ..." says Coach Carroll. Matt Hasselbeck believes that TE John Carlson is the best choice for a breakout player in 2010.


Chicago Bears – The epitome of training camp hype seems to come every year out of the Windy City. If you ask anyone from Chicago, every position is filled with players that are about to embark on their hall-of-fame trek. This could not be more prevalent then starting off with their quarterback Jay Cutler, who is really happy to have Mike Martz shining the light. Cutler is reported to have a pretty strong grasp of the new offense and is being compared by Martz to Kurt Warner. Just remember, Martz has no problem getting his quarterbacks pummeled and throwing interceptions and neither does Cutler.

Next comes RB Matt Forte who is predicted to have a bounce back year. Forte is showing signs of life and has been outrunning RB Chester Taylor, but the two are nevertheless sharing carries. Then comes the heralded wide receiver group. Devin Hester is still the number one receiver coming into camp, but all the hype is about Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu. Knox’s “elite” speed has him the most thrown to receiver in camp thus far and he is fitting in nicely with Martz’ offense. Consider Knox off the sleeper list and plan accordingly in your draft. Aromashodu was predicted early on by Cutler to have a breakout year, but it is becoming ever clearer that he will be relegated to the slot position. Earl Bennett, last year’s fantasy honey (because of his college history with Cutler), may be becoming an afterthought. And finally, TE Greg Olsen appears to be Cutler’s choice red zone receiver during camp.

Detroit Lions – Last time that there was much to talk about coming out of Detroit, Barry Sanders was retiring and General Motors was staring down the eyes of a bankruptcy. QB Matthew Stafford is locked in as the team’s starting quarterback. He has a strong command of the offense, a great wide receiver in Calvin Johnson and very good wide receiver in Nate Burleson. The Detroit News' Chris McCosky describes Matt Stafford's accuracy in drills as "astounding.” Johnson came into camp perhaps the best physical talent in the league and now is saying everything is a lot slower and easier to him. Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch oozes praise for Stafford and Johnson stating that “I’m continually amazed at Stafford and Calvin at practice…I haven’t been around better players at their positions in any place I’ve been. The Lions have a strong veteran presence in Burleson, Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt and Stafford and the receiving corps should benefit greatly, especially in the red zone.

First round draft pick Jahvid Best is already making jaw dropping moves and runs with his trademark explosiveness and lightning-quickness. Although Kevin Smith has been cleared to practice and Maurice Morris is also in the backfield, coach Jim Schwartz has stated that he likes to keep one back on the field and does not envision a committee approach. TE Brandon Pettigrew is also off the PUP list, however, the acquisition of Tony Scheffler, who has impressed in camp, makes Pettigrew a deep pick.

Green Bay Packers – Green Bay is poised to be one of those fantasy teams you just can’t go wrong with. QB Aaron Rodgers comes in to the preseason as a top three QB in nearly every fantasy ranking. In camp he is making strong use of Jordy Nelson and James Jones in the deep game, Donald Driver through the middle and Greg Jennings...well everywhere. In taking 21 snaps in first and only full-contact action of training camp, Rodgers threw the ball 14 times for nine completions. He spread the ball evenly amongst his receivers and threw with velocity and accuracy Coach Mike McCarthy stated “there's a lot of confidence between the quarterback and those four receivers and the tight-end group.” Perhaps the best news for the receivers is that the o-line is healthy and Rodgers has time to air it out. While Jermichael Finley wants a larger role as a receiver after his playoff coming out party against Arizona and has been doing everything he can to gain such status. He is having an incredible camp, but if you listen to the Packers coaching staff they intend to use him often in blocking situations and line him up inside.

RB Ryan Grant is not expected to increase his carries as he is not a dominant third down back. His ability to pick up blitzes has not significantly advanced.

Minnesota Vikings – Obtaining an accurate read out of Vikings camp will be difficult this preseason. First and foremost, there is the often discussed absence of Brett Favre and the possibility that he may not return. While few people believe Favre won’t be suited up come the first week in September, it leaves training camp discussion to the prowess of Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfelds. Rosenfels has been an interception machine and Jackson all but has the bridesmaid position locked up as he has had a decent camp. Without Percy Harvin (migraines/family death) or Sidney Rice (hip) in the mix, the receiver information is fluid. In Rice and Harvin's absence, seven receivers behind them have gotten increased reps. Bernard Berrian, Greg Lewis, Jaymar Johnson and Logan Payne have been able to impress in their increased roles. And even Adrian Peterson missed nearly a week of practice with a tight hamstring.


Atlanta Falcons – Prior to press Coach Mike Smith had declared Roddy White and Michael Jenkins as the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, but then Jenkins was carted off and is expected to miss the rest of the preseason with a dislocated shoulder. Up until then, Jenkins was having a pretty “stunning” camp, catching passes that shouldn’t be caught, all while being covered very well by a strengthened defensive secondary. Harry Douglas who was expected to claim the No. 3 spot if he fully recovers from knee surgery, is in line for the No.2 while Jenkins is out. Matt Ryan is happy to see Douglas, who he has said looks “really good” and “really healthy.” Ryan has been impressed with his work ethic during the off season and that has continued throughout training camp. Brian Finneran, Eric Weems and rookie Kerry Meier will be trying to hold off challenges from Ryan Wolfe, Brandyn Harvey, Tim Buckley, Troy Bergeron and Andy Strickland.

Michael Turner has spent a great deal of time in the training room re-sculpting his body and decreasing his body fat. He appears to be much faster running to the edge and busting through the holes at the line of scrimmage. "I'm feeling great," Turner said. "I'm just trying to get that pop back, that explosiveness that I was getting in the middle of last year. This year I want to start off with it." The Falcons also are looking to expand Turner's game and get him more involved in the passing attack. Jerious Norwood missed practice again on Wednesday, but Smith did not provide an update to Robinson’s hamstring injury or Norwood’s hip. TE Tony Gonzalez is a hall of famer, so do not be looking for anything different. He is more comfortable in the offense and is looking forward to a strong year.

Carolina Panthers – QB Matt Moore appears entrenched in his position as the starter...for now and the gap between he and rookie QB Jimmy Clausen is “considerable.” The Panthers appear to be excited about Moore’s improvement and are optimistic. Clausen is presently number three behind Hunter Caldwell. WR Dwayne Jarrett continues to run with the starters, but rookie WR Brandon LaFell is looking to unseat him. LaFell has had a solid camp and continues to impress with his ability to catch balls across the middle. Rookie WR Armanti Edwards is off to the same quick start, but he is shaking some of early training camp woes. WR Kenny Moore is having a “brilliant training camp,” making “Jerry Rice” like catches. One source said “I’m not quite sure what’s got into Moore this summer, but he has my early vote for camp MVP. The guy continues to make catch after catch and seems to do something every day to catch your eye.” Every day TE Jeff King is making a great play. However, do not get too excited, King is a block-first guy with good hands (who is now showing some improved yards-after-catch plays).

With the Panthers currently overwhelmed by injuries at running back – Jonathan Stewart, Mike Goodson and Tyrell Sutton are all out – Josh Vaughan from Richmond is expected to get a significant numbers of carries during the team’s 36-play scrimmage. DeAngelo Williams and Dantrell Savage seem to be the only other healthy running backs.

New Orleans Saints – Surprisingly, there is actually a way to discuss Patrick Ramsey’s presence in New Orleans. He is impressed by everything Drew Brees, who is not resting on his Super Bowl laurels. Brees is constantly thinking and doing football. After practice and interviews, he is back on the field running wind sprints. Ramsey who had heard enough about Brees before he signed with the Saints, did not realize until he began playing along side of him, just how “unbelievable” is the quarterback named Brees. “You can use all the superlatives. He's an excellent player. He's a great leader. He's incredibly accurate with the ball. He works hard. You can go on and on. He's the real deal.” Obviously it did not take Ramsey for most of us to recognize that Brees is the real deal, but this should quiet any post-Super Bowl blues.

The running backs are clearly headed by Pierre Thomas who missed some of camp with a wrist injury. However, Thomas is back at practice and looking every bit as powerful as last year. While it is safe to say that Reggie Bush reports to camp every year looking as powerful and fast as the year before. However, Bush was held out of joint practice with the Patriots for unexplained reasons. Lynell Hamilton’s offseason training may be paying off and he is expected to fill some of the void left by Mike Bell.

The Saints battered receivers are on the mend. Marques Colston returned from the PUP list (knee) and performed well in the Saints' scrimmage. Robert Meachem’s toe injury has kept him off the field, but his return is anticipated. In the interim, Meachem has lost ground to Devery Henderson to start opposite of Colston. Henderson has had a good training camp. Lance Moore had a very good start to training camp as well. The Saints also signed Mark Bradley, who has gotten some run in prior year TCH articles. TE Jeremy Shockey has been sidelined with knee soreness, which Coach Peyton says is not serious. Meanwhile, Dave Thomas has stepped in for first team reps and the heir apparent rookie Jimmy Graham is getting some looks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – According to Derrick Ward, QB Josh Freeman “is light years ahead of any quarterback I've seen going into his second year.” Freeman is atop the depth chart and firmly planted as the Bucs starter and is more comfortable coming into his second camp. What seems to be the only sure thing is that his number one receiver is going to be a rookie and not even the first one picked by Tampa Bay in the 2010 draft. The Bucs confirmed what was known early on in camp, that rookie Mike Williams has won the starting job at split end. He has been consistently dominant in all aspects of training camp. Maurice Stovall has all but locked up the flanker role with a very good camp, with Sammie Stroughter and rookie Arrelious Benn as Nos. 3 and 4. Benn, who struggled at the beginning of camp is “starting to come into his own” according to Coach Raheem Morris. TE Kellen Winslow has been eased into camp after knee surgery.

The least favorite term in fantasy football is being applied to the running game, which is “the hot hand.” Cadillac Williams has the inside track, with Derrick Ward having to “earn” it. Cadillac missed some practice with a sore ankle but returned quickly. Ward however, appears optimistic in Tampa Bay’s scrapping the zone blocking scheme.