August 9, 2013
|Is CJ2K back? Time will tell, but week 1 of the pre-season looked good.|
• Football is back! And so too, apparently, is Chris Johnson, as evidenced by his 58-yard touchdown run in the Titans’ preseason opener. Maybe even more impressive was that Tennessee’s new-look offensive line also paved the way for Shonn Greene to ramble 19 yards for a touchdown of his own. While two sacks of Jake Locker suggest there’s work yet to be done, adding Chance Warmack and Andy Levitre in front of CJ looks like it could pay big fantasy dividends this season.
• Speaking of running backs, Daryl Richardson padded his lead in the race for the Rams’ RB1 job with 24 yards on four carries in the Rams’ exhibition opener. His primary competition for touches, Isaiah Pead, fumbled on his first carry and finished with 18 yards on three carries while rookie Zac Stacy worked primarily with the reserves and showed the effects of missing practice earlier in the week.
• The Rams were also hoping to unveil first-round pick Tavon Austin, but the rookie dropped the only ball thrown his way and didn’t field the only punt return he dropped back for. On the bright side, his fantasy value won’t see a preseason-related jump–yet, at least.
• Browns fans smarting at the departure of return ace Josh Cribbs were climbing back on the Cleveland bandwagon after Travis Benjamin took his first punt return of 2013 91 yards for a touchdown. Benjamin should also run in Josh Gordon’s spot during the first couple weeks of the season, making him an intriguing late-round fantasy grab suitable for a fast start and perhaps a quick sell-high opportunity as well.
• The Bengals have a pair of first-round tight ends, and it looks like they’re not afraid to use them at the same time. Cincy’s first-team offense stuck around for two series in the exhibition opener and used plenty of both Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, who as a tandem were targeted three times in eight Andy Dalton dropbacks. Also notable in Cincinnati: Giovani Bernard, expected to be the change-of-pace back with potential for feature-back touches, not only dazzled with a 16-yard reception but also scored a short touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line.
• If you’re a former first-round pick looking to earn a starting job, you’d really like a more positive reaction from your coach than “Uh, could have been better.” Yet that’s what Jim Harbaugh had to say about A.J. Jenkins, who fumbled following his only catch of the 49ers’ preseason opener and was also overthrown on a deep route, resulting in an interception. Maybe Randy Moss should hold off on signing those retirement papers for a little bit…
• Finally, eight more games on the docket for Friday night including a look at the Jaguars’ and Vikings’ new jerseys, the Patriots’ new receiving corps, and the new offenses in KC, Chicago and Philly. Happy football, everyone!
August 8, 2013
|Will 49ers drafted WR A.J. Jenkins show us anything in tonight’s game?|
• With the first full slate of exhibition games kicking off tonight, camps were relatively quiet. Much of the news centered on what limited (if any) playing time starters would get, and what backups were worth keeping an eye on. For the 49ers, it’s a chance to see if last year’s first-round pick A.J. Jenkins can flash enough to keep the Niners from continuing to audition unemployed receivers. Jenkins has missed practice time with a hamstring injury but looked good upon his return earlier this week; now he needs to show something in a game to earn a spot opposite Anquan Boldin–at least until Michael Crabtree returns.
• It’s a similar situation for the Bengals, where by virtue of being healthy Mohamed Sanu can state his case for wingman duties. Cincy will be wihtout A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins, and probably Marvin Jones due to injuries, giving Sanu an opportunity to shine amongst an inexperienced group of contenders.
• The Titans will want to get a longer look at their rookie receiver Justin Hunter, both with starter Jake Locker and with backup Ryan Fitzpatrick. Hunter could be the heir to Kenny Britt if the Titans opt not to re-sign him following the season, or he could push for playing time sooner than that with a strong showing against the ‘Skins.
• Seattle has had more than its share of banged-up wide receivers this preseason, but they’ve also taken hits at tight end: the loss of Anthony McCoy to an Achilles’ tendon injury during minicamps, and starter Zach Miller missing time with a foot injury. The upshot is that the Seahawks can take an extended look at rookie Luke Willson against the Chargers. A run-first, West Coast offense with a thin receiving corps might be forced to lean on its tight ends, and if Willson continues to impress he could push himself onto the fantasy radar as well.
• The Rams backfield has “committee” stamped all over it, but nonetheless Daryl Richardson will get first crack at the starting gig in the preseason opener. Both Richardson and Isaiah Pead should get extended looks, as rookie Zac Stacy and Terrance Ganaway both remain sidelined with injuries. With the situation still so fluid, a strong showing from either Richardson or Pead could tilt the touches–and the fantasy value–as we churn towards games that count.
• Cowboys rookie wideout Terrance Williams remains sidelined with a concussion and will likely be held out of the upcoming preseason game against Oakland. Williams is already log-jammed behind a talented trio of pass-catchers in Dallas, but he has the speed to warrant dynasty consideration; however, it would be nice to see him on the field first.
• Finally, it’s time once again to make sure the name Zach Sudfeld is on your tight end radar. The rookie continues to run with the Patriots’ first team in both one- and two-tight end formations. Sudfeld is still prone to occasional drops, but he also draws raves from just about every media member who’s attended a Patriots practice. At minimum he’s playing his way into Gronk insurance, with the upside of filling a portion of Aaron Hernandez’s productivity.
August 7, 2013
|Joe Morgan became the latest victim of a training camp ACL injury.|
• It’s a rough month to be an ACL. On the heels of oft-injured Charger Danario Alexander going down for the season, the Saints lose potential WR3 Joe Morgan to an ACL injury of his own. That means Nick Toon, Kenny Stills, and newly signed Steve Breaston all move into position for more looks; however, keep in mind the role they’re battling for falls behind Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Lance Moore in the passing game pecking order.
• Former Bill and short-time Patriot Donald Jones announced his retirement just three years into his NFL career due to advancements in a kidney disease he’s battled his entire life.
• With Jones off the radar in New England, youngsters Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Tompkins, and Josh Boyce have seen extra work–to the point that one is likely to start opposite Danny Amendola and at least one of the other two could unseat Julian Edelman for WR3 work. Dobson brings a size element to the Patriots the others don’t, so you could pencil him in on one side with Amendola on the other. The more versatile Thompkins could push Dobson to start but may wind up in the slot or on the other side if Amendola slides to the slot. The situation offers much to watch when the Patriots open their exhibition schedule on Friday.
• If for some reason you recently added Early Doucet to your fantasy cheat sheet after he signed with the Seahawks, go ahead and cross him off. Seattle released Doucet after just one practice, in part due to his still being too “banged up” to offer immediate help, according to Pete Carroll. Seattle remains thin at wide receiver, with Golden Tate the name shooting up most draft boards.
• As the Chargers look for help in the wake of Danario Alexander’s season-ending injury, they won’t be able to look at fellow oft-injured wideout Vincent Brown. Brown will be held out of San Diego’s preseason opener due to the hamstring injury that has sidelined him for much of training camp. Brown’s absence means more work for rookie Keenan Allen as well as last year’s free agent bust, Robert Meachem.
• What’s this? A healthy wide receiver? Mike Wallace, who has missed two weeks of camp–including the Dolphins’ preseason opener–with a groin injury, returned to practice Wednesday and promptly caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill. Whether that means Wallace is healthy enough to play in Miami’s exhibition game this weekend remains to be seen, but it’s nice to at least see him back on the field.
• Finally, it’s never dull at the Packers’ training camp. During Wednesday’s practice Jermichael Finley was involved in a skirmish that included him throwing punches at a helmeted defensive player. While that doesn’t seem to be a particularly smart move, fantasy owners who have been saddled with Finley in the past know there’s little risk of his injuring his stone hands.
August 6, 2013
|New Colts WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is day-to-day after a good MRI.|
• The hits just keep on comin’ in Green Bay, where it was announced that Jordy Nelson will miss the rest of the preseason after undergoing a procedure on his knee. The Packers hope he’ll be back for the start of the regular season. Randall Cobb is also nicked, nursing a biceps injury, but it’s not believed to be serious. As the last man standing, maybe James Jones will be able to duplicate last season’s league-leading touchdown total.
• Speaking of injured receivers, the Colts can breathe a sigh of relief after an MRI on the left knee of Darrius Heyward-Bey came back negative (which, of course, is positive). DHB is considered day-to-day, meaning TY Hilton will have a chance to run with the first team opposite Reggie Wayne and Griff Whalen moves into the slot. Whalen is actually one of Indy’s camp standouts after spending all of last season on injured reserve. He’s built for a slot role, so if Heyward-Bey gets healthy it will be interesting to see where the Colts use Hilton–as a slot guy ahead of Whalen, as an outside guy ahead of DHB, both, or neither.
• More injury news: Mike Johnson, running with the Falcons’ first team as the apparent replacement for Tyson Clabo, was carted off with what looked to be a serious left leg injury during Tuesday’s practice. Lamar Holmes is next on Atlanta’s depth chart, but the Falcons may want a more veteran option than the inexperienced second-year player.
• The four-day leave of absence for Riley Cooper ended with his return Tuesday, and he made some plays in the Eagles’ joint practice with New England. Cooper is expected to play in Philadelphia’s first preseason game Friday, but it remains to be seen how his team–not to mention opposing defensive backs–treat him. Chip Kelly continues to say Cooper won’t be released, and with Jeremy Maclin and now Arrelious Benn (torn ACL) both out for the season there are definitely receiver slots to be filled in Philly.
• Arian Foster was expected to come off the PUP list over the weekend; instead,back issues and an overly cautious Texans coaching staff have kept him on the sidelines. Ben Tate remains out as well after experiencing groin tightness late last week; he’s shooting for a Wednesday return. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie Dennis Johnson is leading the charge for the distinct honor of handcuff to the handcuff.
• Under the heading, “Some Guys Just Can’t Catch a Break”, insert Danario Alexander. Late Tuesday word broke that Alexander had torn his ACL and would miss the 2013 season. It’s just the latest medical malady for Alexander, who has flashed talent on those rare instances when he actually makes it to the field. Alexander’s injury opens the door for rookie Keenan Allen to carve out playing time amongst a receiving corps that also includes Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, and Robert Meachem.
• Finally, let’s bookend the Daily with Packer news. Eddie Lacy took the first rep in every running back drill during Tuesday’s practice and has established himself as the favorite to open the season as Green Bay’s RB1. Lacy sparkled in the team’s scrimmage over the weekend, and while fellow rookie Jonathan Franklin is having a strong camp as well it looks like Lacy’s job to lose. And the way Green Bay receivers are dropping, maybe they’ll actually need to run the ball this year.
August 5, 2013
|Eagles WR Russell Shepard has moved into the WR2 spot opposite DeSean Jackson.|
• With a preseason game in the rear view mirror it’s time for depth charts to start leaking out. In Philadelphia the big news is co-QB1s Michael Vick and Nick Foles, with Matt Barkley listed as QB2. Chip Kelly will need to pick a starter–at least for the first exhibition game–soon, and all indications are that Vick is in command. Another depth chart note in Philly: Russell Shepard has moved into the WR2 spot opposite DeSean Jackson. The opportunity provided by the injury to Jeremy Maclin and the ill-advised comments by Riley Cooper could turn Shepard into a viable fantasy sleeper.
• Remember when Bruce Arians took the Arizona job, how he gushed about Ryan Williams? Yeah, these days not so much. Arians singled out Alfonso Smith for “having a great camp” and noted that he had taken a “great step” towards making the roster. As for Williams, who–to the surprise of absolutely no one–is currently missing time with an injury, Arians said “it’s hurting (him) extremely not to be on the field competing for a job”. That all leaves Rashard Mendenhall as the likely RB1 in a battle that holds little fantasy value even for the victor.
• Another back capitalizing on injuries is Bilal Powell, who has become the Jets’ feature back almost by default. Chris Ivory has yet to make it to the field due to a hamstring issue, Joe McKnight is sidelined with a concussion, and Mike Goodwon remains AWOL. Rex Ryan indicated that Powell has “really taken the reins” after a solid showing in the weekend scrimmage. Keep in mind that this is the same situation that made Shonn Greene a 1,000-yard rusher last year at right around three yards a carry.
• The Lions have an opening for receiver help opposite Calvin Johnson, and through the early part of camp Ryan Broyles is answering the call. Not only is Broyles looking all the way back from his knee injury, coach Jim Schwartz has commented on his ability to get open against different kinds of coverages. Nate Burleson remains in the mix, but the Lions and fantasy owners are hoping Broyles continues to impress and earns WR2 looks in Detroit’s pass-happy attack.
• Is any position being hit harder by injuries than tight end? The latest news on elite fantasy TE Rob Gronkowski isn’t good, as Boston Globe beat writer Ben Volin expects Gronk to open the season on the PUP list; that means he’ll miss at least the first six weeks of the season. Daniel Fells looks like the guy who will fill Gronk’s spot in the offense, though coming anywhere near Gronk’s numbers is unlikely. Meanwhile, Ed Dickson left Sunday’s practice with a hamstring injury, and while the Ravens have indicated it’s not serious we may not see him in action until the regular season. With Dickson iffy and Dennis Pitta already out for the season, suddenly Visanthe Shiancoe is back on the fantasy radar..
• Finally, the Packers’ attempts to put up a formidable wall in front of Aaron Rodgers suffered a blow when the team confirmed that former first-round pick and projected starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga would miss the season with a torn ACL. Green Bay was already struggling to fill a void that’s remained iffy since Chad Clifton left; sans Bulaga, the Packers will either go back to Marshall Newhouse or throw rookie David Bakhtiari into the fire.