Training Camp Week in Review, August 5th
We’re a little more than a week into training camp for most teams and the Hall of Fame game is now in the books. Outside of Miami and Dallas, the two teams that played in Sunday night’s Hall of Fame game, everyone else will be teeing it up for the first time later this week. Here’s how the training camp battles are shaping up from a fantasy football perspective:
In Arizona, running back Rashard Mendenhall has been missing time due to tendonitis in his surgically repaired knee. Mendenhall was very limited in 2012 for the Steelers as he returned from the serious knee injury suffered at the end of the 2011 season. With fellow running back Ryan Williams also hurting with a right knee injury that has him on crutches, rookie Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington will get a chance to show their wares. Don’t bump either up your fantasy rankings just yet, but keep a close eye on this situation. Mendenhall and Williams have the pedigrees, but also injury histories.
In New England, it doesn’t look good for Rob Gronkowski to be ready to play at the start of the season. He’s been watching practices throughout training camp instead of rehabbing and is likely to start on the PUP list, meaning he’ll be out the first six weeks. Sorry, but Jake Ballard, Zach Sudfeld and Michael Hoomanawanui aren’t going to turn into Gronkowski anytime soon. That’s bad news for Tom Brady as well. Already without Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker, Brady is trying to get on the same page with free agent acquisition Danny Ameondola and rookies Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins. It’s still a work in progress.
In Buffalo, Kevin Kolb was injured last week after slipping on a rubber mat between the practice fields. That leaves an opening for rookie E.J. Manuel to show he can run the show by himself. Manuel has reportedly looked pretty solid in practices, not good news for an injured Kolb.
In San Diego, the Chargers are apparently preparing to use a running back-by-committee approach that not only uses Ryan Matthews, but Danny Woodhead as well. Woodhead showed good receiving skills and the ability to gain yards in limited usage in New England, but isn’t an every-down back. But veteran Ronnie Brown is also in the mix. That’s bad news for Matthews.
In Denver, Ronnie Hillman continues to hold off Montee Ball as the starting running back. Keep an eye on how each performs in the first couple of preseason games, though. A fumble here or there could be costly.
In Pittsburgh, it’s becoming apparent that the team really wants Le’Veon Bell to unseat Isaac Redman as the starting running back. They’ve shared time thus far, but Bell has shown better feet and vision. The only way he’s not the starter when the season rolls around is if he gets injured or has fumble issues in the preseason. Also, with Heath Miller out for the time being, second-year tight end David Paulson is seeing an increased role. Paulson isn’t going to put up nearly the numbers of Miller, but he did catch a TD pass in the team’s first live goal-line drill.
In Dallas, Lance Dunbar has moved past Joseph Randle according to head coach Jason Garrett and is now DeMarco Murray’s backup. Dunbar started the preseason opener and had four carries for 22 yards before giving way to Philip Tanner, with Randle fourth in the rotation. Tanner and Randle, basically vying for the No. 3 job, got most of the work in the game, with Tanner getting 10 carries for 59 yards and a score and Randle picking up 70 yards on 13 carries working late against Miami’s scrubs. Why is this significant? Murray’s injury history is lengthy. If you draft Murray, you’d better think about grabbing Dunbar as well.
In Miami, Lamar Miller got the start in the preseason opener at running back and promptly mishandled his first handoff from Ryan Tannehill. But he ripped off runs of 11 and 10 yards in his next two carries – his only two carries – before giving way to Daniel Thomas. Thomas had four carries for five yards, so unless the fumbling continues to be an issue, Miller is looking like the man.
In Indianapolis, Darius Heyward-Bey suffered a left knee sprain in practice, something that figures to create additional opportunities for speedy T.Y. Hilton to get more playing time opposite Reggie Wayne.
In Green Bay, Eddie Lacy is behind James Starks on the depth chart, but looked better in the team’s intrasquad scrimmage. Lacy ripped off 65 yards on eight carries running with the first team, while fellow rookie Jonathan Franklin struggled running behind the team’s No. 2 offensive line.
In Seattle, with Percy Harvin on the shelf for the near future, the Seahawks did get some good news in Sidney Rice returning to the field. It looks like Rice and Golden Tate will be the starters, with Doug Baldwin serving as the No. 3.
In Philadelphia, head coach Chip Kelly is continuing to be coy about his starting quarterback. But the chances are about 80-20 if not better for Michael Vick over Nick Foles. Meanwhile, the Riley Cooper debacle following the Jeremy Maclin injury, has opened up the receiving corps battle even more. Darmaris Johnson could be the player who emerges opposite DeSean Jackson. Johnson took over the spot on the first team when Cooper was asked to leave camp.
In Jacksonville, it’s looking like Ace Sanders and Cecil Shorts will be the starting receivers. Blaine Gabbert also continues to work with the first team at quarterback, with Chad Henne handling second-team duties, though neither has looked great.