Preseason - August
- Look for the Steelers' Hines Ward to end his holdout and report
to the team in the near future. Like all teams, the Steelers
frown upon holdouts but are unique because they refuse to acquiesce
to a player's demands. Generally, the team is active in locking
up players they want to retain, however that wasn't necessary
in Ward's case because he has one year left on the contract
he signed in 2001. Expect Ward in camp soon and a contract extension
announcement by the end of training camp or shortly thereafter.
- The Seahawks' Shaun Alexander unexpectedly agreed to sign
his franchise tender and report to training camp on time, although
he was late arriving due to the birth of his daughter. Alexander
reversed fields on his holdout stance once the team agreed to
not place the franchise tag on him in 2006. Although Alexander
has stated he expects to be a Seahawk in 2006, it says here
this will be his last season with the team unless he agrees
to a contract extension on the team's terms.
- Cardinals coach Dennis Green pulled another training camp
surprise this year with the release of defensive tackle Wendell
Bryant one day before camp was to begin. Green shocked the league
last year by cutting starting center Pete Kendall on reporting
day. A 2002 1st round pick, Bryant never lived up to expectations
and wasn't guaranteed a roster spot in 2005. Green's reasoning
that Bryant was cut because the team realized they didn't have
a role for him makes sense but teammates might question why
a player that worked hard in the off-season wasn't cut earlier
in order to give him a better chance with another team. However,
Green was clearly sending the team another message that nobody's
job is safe.
- Keeping with the Cardinals, the assumption with the team's
running back depth chart was that the starting job would be
contested between J.J. Arrington, the team's 2nd round draft
pick, and Marcel Shipp, with Arrington the likely starter. However,
Shipp has been sidelined with a hamstring injury and is on the
physically unable to perform list. With Shipp's 2005 salary
at $1.425-million and plenty of other options available (James
Jackson, Troy Hambrick, J.R. Redmond, Damian Anderson, Josh
Scobey), don't look for Green to keep Shipp around unless he
proves his worth during training camp.
- Don’t look for Bubba Franks to report to the Packers
unless the team’s gives into the tight end’s salary
demands. Slapped with the transition tag, Franks failed to receive
any solid contract offers during the off-season and has not
yet signed the transition tender. However, the team does not
have any other viable options to start at the position so Franks
and his agent clearly have the upper hand in contract negotiations.
- With starting center Jeremy Newberry possibly out for the
season after his latest knee operation and rookie 2nd round
pick David Baas out six weeks with a torn hamstring, the 49ers
have been reduced to using last year's starting left guard,
Eric Heitmann, at center and a rookie 3rd round pick, Adam Snyder,
at left guard. If these changes remain intact, the team will
enter the season with new starters at every position along the
offensive line. Left tackle Jonas Jennings in his first season
with the team after been signed as a free agent from Buffalo,
right tackle Kwame Harris started on the left side in 2004 and
right guard Justin Smiley, a 2nd round pick in 2004, started
nine games at left guard in 2004. Suffice it to say, this isn't
the model for success new head coach Mike Nolan had in mind
for protecting the 1st pick in the draft, quarterback Alex Smith.
Look for the 49ers to bring in some veteran stopgaps midway
through training camp.
- Keeping with the 49ers, it's become more apparent that 2004
1st round pick Rashaun Woods is an unqualified bust. Woods'
rookie season was a washout after he missed portions of last
year's training camp with a hamstring injury. This year, Woods
has been hampered by a groin injury that has resulted in him
sliding down the depth chart. The previous administration was
responsible for Woods' selection and teams rarely dump 1st round
picks after only one season but this might be the rare instance
where a team decides to cut their losses early.
- Bucs coach Jon Gruden was very vocal in his criticism of
last year's kicker, Martin Gramatica, and early indications
are the team may struggle in that department again this season.
Matt Bryant and Todd France were brought in to compete for the
job but have struggled early in camp. It won't come as a surprise
if Gruden, who prefers veteran players, brings in a proven player
prior to the season opener.
- The initial speculation surrounding the Texans selection
of running back Vernand Morancy in the 3rd round of this years
draft was that the team wanted him to compete with oft-injured
Domanick Davis for the starting position. However, that flawed
logic was revealed when word leaked of the team's interest in
signing Davis to a lucrative long-term extension. It's now clear
Morancy was selected because of the team's unhappiness with
back-ups Tony Hollings and Jonathan Wells. In fact, with the
team expected to keep two fullbacks (Moran Norris and Jarrod
Baxter), it's likely Hollings and Wells are now competing for
one roster spot.
- Interesting that certain teams are excellent at finding players
with potential in the late rounds of the draft or as rookie
free agents. Case in point is the Packers who seem to unearth
offensive line prospects every year. Starting right tackle Mark
Tauscher was a 7th round pick, the team's top back-up at tackle,
Kevin Barry, was undrafted while Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan
was picked in the 3rd round. One of the team's starting guards
last year, the since departed Marco Rivera, was picked 6th round.
Two years ago, they found guard prospect Steve Morley in the
Canadian Football League. At center, the heir apparent to Flanagan,
Scott Wells, was picked in the 7th round of the 2004 draft.
This year, rookie free agent center Chris White has impressed
the coaches and may battle his way onto the roster if he continues
to play well in training camp.
- It appears the Raiders may finally be giving up on safety
Derrick Gibson. Picked in the 1st round of the 2001 draft, Gibson
has struggled with injuries and been ineffective when in the
line-up. He lacks the instincts to play safety and seems to
be a step slow on every play. Former Packer Marques Anderson
has already supplanted Gibson on the depth chart at strong safety
with Gibson being relegated to the role of dime back. Look for
Anderson to open the season starting alongside Stuart Schweigert,
the team's 2004 3rd round selection. This combination isn't
exactly going to scare offensive coordinators around the league.
- Keeping with the Raiders, cornerback Fabian Washington, the
team's 1st round pick this year, has been unimpressive thus
far in training camp and is certainly not a lock to be in the
starting line-up with Charles Woodson when the season begins.
As things currently stand, 2003 1st round pick Asomugha Nnamdi
is starting with Woodson while 2nd round pick Stanford Routt
is the team's nickel back, leaving Washington, Denard Walker
and Renaldo Hill out of the rotation in the team's base defense.
However, look for this situation to be in state of flux for
most of the pre-season as the team attempts to come up with
the right combination.
- Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil dropped a surprise this week by
suggesting wide receiver Samie Parker, expected to win the starting
job opposite Eddie Kennison, would play in roughly 35 offensive
plays per game. Vermeil is either putting up a smoke screen
for defensive coordinators to consider, putting Parker on notice
that he needs to step up or the team has decided to utilize
more two tight ends sets to get Kris Wilson involved and to
design plays to take advantage of the skills of the team's other
wide receivers. Bottom line is not to expect big things from
Parker in 2005.
- After having an off-season to learn the playbook, Cowboys
receiver Quincy Morgan was expected to challenge Terry Glenn
for the starting spot opposite Keyshawn Johnson. However, Morgan
hasn't impressed thus far in training camp and coach Bill Parcells
has indicated the 3rd wideout position is now up for grabs amongst
Morgan, Patrick Crayton, Terrance Copper, Zuriel Smith and Ahmad
- The 49ers have indicated they feel recently acquired cornerback
Willie Middlebrooks, picked by the Broncos in the 1st round
of the 2001 draft, will compete with 2004 2nd round pick Shawntee
Spencer for a starting spot opposite Ahmad Plummer. This tells
us one or perhaps two things - Spencer is more or less useless
or the 49ers brass has lost their collective mind. Or perhaps
they're trying to motivate Spencer by telling him a guy who
has rarely seen the field in a base defense in his four years
is his main challenger for a starting job. It might be a long
season in San Francisco in 2005.