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Giants RB Rashad Jennings headlines a diverse group of candidates to fill the possible void left by David Wilson. Already the starter, he'll likely have an expanded role. Second-year pro Michael Cox, veteran Peyton Hillis, rookie Andre Williams and first-year pro Kendall Gaskins are also in the mix. Each brings a different dimension to the backfield but none possess the game-breaking ability of Wilson. Coach Tom Coughlin said he’ll employ a running back-by-committee rotation to offset the likely loss of Wilson. “I think we have some talented guys at that spot,” Coughlin said Thursday. “I think Rashad has done well. I think the young kid (Williams) has come along the more we have given him to do. Michael Cox has had his spots."
The various backs will have roles, but Jennings is very likely to play heavy snaps. He has his detractors, but he's a solid pick in the 5th round as a RB2/RB3.
Thursday, July 31, 2014, 8:03pm
Lions TE Eric Ebron, whose drops have been chronicled here the past three days, had a very nice catch at one point as the ball was headed out of bounds. That is the positive part of why the team drafted him in May.
Ravens Steve L Smith continues to prove he has the best hands of all the Ravens receivers. His best catch on Thursday was reaching behind him for a low pass that would've been intercepted by Chykie Brown. Judging from camp, quarterback Joe Flacco has built a trust that Smith will catch anything thrown close to him.
Smith will likely see the third-most targets behind Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta. Anquan Boldin finished #34 and #30 as the Ravens' WR2 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, so that's probably Smith’s ceiling as he joins a new team. At 35, he’ll more likely finish as a spot starter/fantasy reserve.
Thursday, July 31, 2014, 7:32pm
Chiefs rookie free agent Cairo Santos has the ability to kick in the NFL. He’s only 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, but he has a strong enough leg to handle the job. In choosing between Santos and incumbent Ryan Succop, the Chiefs need to decide how comfortable they would be with a rookie as their kicker. From all appearances, they don’t fear that with this particular rookie. They believe he has the mental toughness to be an NFL kicker. But Succop has experience getting past a slump. He hit all three of his field goal attempts in last year’s playoff game a week after missing the potential game-winning kick in San Diego. That kind of mental toughness is essential for a kicker. Santos’ salary is about $1.5 million less than that of Succop but it’s difficult to put a price tag on Succop’s experience at a pressure-filled position. Both players have kicked well in camp.
Thursday, July 31, 2014, 7:27pm
Jaguars WR Allen Robinson suffered hamstring injury on Thursday.
Thursday, July 31, 2014, 7:25pm
Carolina Panthers coach Rivera said Thursday that rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin (knee bruise) is “progressing very nicely” and the team will see how he feels Friday after getting a workout Thursday.
Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan warned everyone not to count out rookie Johnny Manziel in his battle with veteran Brian Hoyer for the team’s starting quarterback job. Although Hoyer has taken all the snaps with the first-team offense through the first five full-squad practices of training camp and Manziel has worked exclusively with the second unit, Shanahan insists the derby is a dead heat. Most observers believe Hoyer is clearly ahead at this point, but Shanahan isn’t going along with that narrative. “I don’t think one’s any further in front than the other,” Shanahan said Thursday during a post-practice news conference. “I think they’ve both done a good job. As far as these five practices, it’s usually one day, one guy’s ahead of the other. The next day, the other guy does a better job. I think it’s been back and forth."
If Manziel wins the starting job this summer, he'll be an intriguing QB2 who should be available in the 10th-12th rounds given all the depth at quarterback. He has a good long-term situation brewing with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron in his receiving corps, and the newly-signed Ben Tate as a threat in the running game. (Gordon’s looming suspension is an obvious concern.) Manziel’s durability is a question mark given his propensity for taking chances by leaving the pocket.
Eagles beat writer Jeff McLane: I threw a little cold water on the Jordan Matthews hype in my Tuesday column, pointing out that few receivers make first-year splashes in the NFL. Plus, Matthews isn’t likely to get the number of snaps that are generally needed to generate such numbers. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been excellent in camp and won’t someday be a Pro Bowl-caliber player. He had a come-back-to-earth practice today, though. During one-on-ones, he got the better of Malcolm Jenkins on an “out” route. But Jenkins had tight coverage on a deep route in which Matthews failed to get separation. His next time up, Matthews faced undrafted rookie defensive back Davon Morgan, but once again he couldn’t slip a defender on a deep run.
Matthews will likely see snaps in the slot (at least) this season. Jeremy Maclin is working his way back from an ACL injury and Riley Cooper is solid, but unspectacular. There is opportunity in this offense if Matthews has a great summer, and by most accounts he has. Rookie wideouts usually don’t live up to their ADP, but there is the occasional exception.
On Thursday, Giants QB Eli Manning hit Rueben Randle on a fade pass for a touchdown. The two found the end zone again later on the other side of the field. Manning threw a dart to Randle over the middle, who made a toe-tapping catch in the back of the end zone. Rookie WR Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants’ first-round draft pick who is dealing with a hamstring issue, suited up on Thursday but wasn’t cleared for participation. Rather, he worked on the sidelines, including catching passes from all angles on the JUGS machine.
New OC Ben McAdoo utilizes a lot of three-WR sets (a la the Packers), so Randle should see starter’s snaps. He has been productive in his first two seasons on a per target basis, so he should produce starter-caliber numbers in significant playing time. Beckham's lingering injury isn't doing much for his chances of contributing early in the season.
No setbacks so far for Colts WR Reggie Wayne... "Like I've been saying, so far, so good," Wayne said after Thursday morning's walkthrough at Anderson University. "I haven't had any problems, nothing out of the norm. "I haven't had any pain. Nothing has set me back." The Reggie Wayne running routes and effortlessly snatching passes out of the air from Andrew Luck at training camp looks incredibly similar to the Reggie Wayne who did the same thing before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 20 against Denver. "That's the way it looked to me," HC Chuck Pagano offered last week after watching Wayne go through his first full-squad work since having his knee repaired. "When you go back, you watch it live and then you go back and watch it on film. It's really incredible."
Wayne was the #19 WR in standard formats and the #17 WR in PPR through the first seven weeks prior to tearing his ACL. He's 35 and coming off of a major knee injury. He’s expected to play Week 1, but it's hard to envision him returning to his usual form in time for the 2014 season, though it sounds like he's off to a good start. The Colts signed Hakeem Nicks as insurance.
Thursday, July 31, 2014, 6:51pm
Patriots WR Aaron Dobson has been working out on the side of the field and they're taking it slow with him. Doesn't seem like a return is too far away.
During offseason workouts, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase said the depth chart behind Montee Ball was "wide open." Since the start of training camp, however, Ronnie Hillman has been solidly No. 2 in the rotation. C.J. Anderson has nudged himself back into the No. 3 spot, for now, after losing about 20 pounds and rebounding from a sluggish performance in OTAs and minicamp.
Ball owners will need to pay attention to the battle going on for RB2 duties. It's usually smart to handcuff your RB1, especially when he plays in a potent offense like Denver's.
Thursday, July 31, 2014, 6:39pm
Giants WR Mario Manningham made this list last week when he knocked off some rust in his second stint with the Giants. Manningham, who was sidelined for most of the last two seasons in San Francisco due to a lingering knee problem, did more than that on Thursday. He produced a nice over-the-shoulder catch from Ryan Nassib during the team portion of practice.
Michael Crabtree missed his first practice of training camp Thursday, and it’s unknown whether his past Achilles or foot injuries are the reason. “Mike’s just working though something. He’s fine,” said offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who proceeded to praise how improved Crabtree is from his injury-shortened 2013 season.
Including three playoff games, Crabtree appeared in eight contests last season and averaged 4.3 catches for 61 yards and 0.13 TD. For a better indication of his potential for 2014, we should include the 10 games he played with Colin Kaepernick in 2012 (and in the 2013 playoffs). When those numbers are rolled in, Crabtree averaged 5.3 catches for 76 yards and 0.50 TD, which equates to 10.6 PPG, or strong WR2-type numbers. He looked liked himself during the 49ers' playoff run, so we're expecting a productive 2014 from the 6th-year receiver. Let's just hope this injury is nothing serious.
Thursday, July 31, 2014, 6:30pm
Saints WR Marques Colston says he made resting his ailing left foot a priority during the offseason and feels far healthier than he did a year ago.
After four straight top 20 seasons, Colston finished #27 in 2013. He got off to a decent start (#27 WR through the first four weeks) before a midseason swoon where he caught a combined six catches for 44 yards against the Bears, Patriots and Bills. Then, over the final 10 games (including the postseason), he averaged 6.1 catches for 76 yards and 0.50 TD, which equate to fringe WR1-type numbers. The 31 year-old should benefit from the loss of Lance Moore and Darren Sproles, who saw a combined 143 targets last season. Health is a concern, but Colston has only missed four games in the last five seasons.
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