The bulky black brace Cards QB Carson Palmer wears on his left knee is about the only sign he is less than nine months removed from his second torn anterior cruciate ligament.
That and, well, the way head coach Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians still sometimes shakes his head in disbelief that three weeks into training camp, Palmer isn’t just healthy, he’s better.
And maybe better than he’s been at any point since he made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2005 and 2006 while playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Carson is in great shape, mentally and physically,” Arians told USA TODAY Sports.
Plenty of coaches gush these sorts of platitudes about their quarterback this time of year. But it means something coming from a quarterback guru like Arians, who has tutored passers like Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck.
The story said that through three weeks of training camp, Palmer has been among the Cardinals’ most consistent players, something that backs up numerous reports we've had here at 4for4. In a recent fully-padded practice, he zipped pass after pass across the middle of the field to Larry Fitzgerald, and nailed several deep touchdown passes to second-year receiver John Brown — all while playing against a secondary that includes stars Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Then, in his first live action since suffering the knee injury on Nov. 9, Palmer went 4-for-4 for 77 yards to lead the Cardinals to a touchdown in his one series of work in the preseason opener against Kansas City last week. All signs are pointing to Palmer having very nice, later-round value at the QB position, definitely something to note if you're waiting to draft at the position.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 5:51pm
Those who have wondered what it will look like when Peyton Manning runs an offense constructed by Gary Kubiak and his coaching staff will get their first chance to see it Saturday night (8 ET) in Houston.
Manning was held out of the preseason opener in Seattle this past Friday night, but Kubiak said following Tuesday's practice Manning will get his first action of the preseason when the Denver Broncos face the Texans in NRG Stadium.
"He's going to play. ...I'll say he's going to play quite a bit," Kubiak said. "I'd like our 1s to play quite a bit. Is that a quarter? A quarter and a half? Is that a half? I don't know, I'll see how the game goes, but I want them to get a bunch of snaps under their belt. We have some guys that have not been working together who need to work together. ...Expect him to play quite a bit."
After long months of debate about whether or not Peyton Manning can fit into coach Gary Kubiak's run-heavy Broncos offense, we're about to get our first look when Denver meets Houston on Saturday night.
"I've said many times I believe I can play almost any offense and do what is required," Manning said Monday, per ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold. "Maybe not Tubby Raymond's (Delaware Wing T), but I can make good decisions, make good throws, get us in good plays, and as long as we can score points, move the ball and win games, that's important. My job is to execute the plays that are called, and I'm all-in on what we're doing."
Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian argued this month that Manning would thrive in Kubiak's attack. Strip away some of the bootleg action, and Polian pointed out that Denver's new playbook "is really conceptionally no different" than the scheme Manning made sing with the Colts and Broncos.
"He'll be great at it," Polian said. "He's a great ball-handler, he has a great ability to carry out fakes. He has no peer when it comes to selling a fake and then coming and focusing on the defense, so he'll be wonderful."
The real question surrounds Manning's durability and arm strength, and he showed some signs of slowing down at the end of last year because of an injury. But Manning still finished fourth among fantasy QBs last year. His ADP slips a bit this year and it looks like you can take him in about the fifth round of drafts. But, he comes with some risks as the Broncos may put more of an effort on the run, slowing down the offense.
Saturday, August 15, 2015, 10:36am
Almost from the moment he was introduced as the new coach in January, Gary Kubiak has promised the Broncos will run the ball more, run the ball better and that those efforts will help win games and keep QB Peyton Manning out of harm's way when the future Hall of Famer does let loose.
Which makes this a good time to point out that in 20 previous seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator or head coach, Kubiak's team has had a 1,000-yard rusher 15 times. Seven times a back rushed for at least 1,500 yards.
With three players in the starting offensive line Friday night who had played in zero NFL games combined -- preseason or otherwise -- the Broncos called 33 runs before the night was out, a different look for a team that had at least 33 rushing attempts in just five games last season. Ronnie Hillman, who has spent most of the offseason as the No. 3 back, did most of the work Friday with 66 yards on his eight carries.
This is good news for those thinking about taking RB CJ Anderson either late first round or early second in drafts. The Broncos are looking to give more work to their running game, much like they did the end of last year when Anderson began to emerge.
HC Gary Kubiak kept his promise. He vowed to install an offense that would work to his players' strengths, especially those of quarterback Peyton Manning. On Friday, he had his quarterback back in the hurry-up and working the offense in the pistol formation.
"He kind of goes right back to normal when he does that stuff," Kubiak said. "We're basically taking our schemes and what we do and putting them in the gun and doing it. We're taking a look at both ends. We're going to do it all. We're going to find out what we do best, and we're going to have the ability to do it all."
Manning first popped up on the injury report with a thigh injury after Week 15 (vs. San Diego). When looking only at his first 13 games, Manning averaged 301 yards, 2.8 TD and 0.8 INT, or 21.4 fantasy points per game. That would have been good enough for the third-highest average if he were able to keep that pace. In the final three weeks, including the game in which he injured the thigh, Manning averaged 272 yards and just 1.0 TD versus 1.3 INT. Even with the reduced production, Manning finished as the #4 quarterback in 2014. If he's fully healthy and ready to go, we'd expect him to be selected in the top 5 in 2015 fantasy drafts. There has been talk that Kubiak intends to install a more run-heavy, slower-paced offense, but it looks like he's going to play to his quarterback's strengths.
Manning first popped up on the injury report with a thigh injury after Week 15 (vs. San Diego). When looking only at his first 13 games, Manning averaged 301 yards, 2.8 TD and 0.8 INT, or 21.4 fantasy points per game. That would have been good enough for the third-highest average if he were able to keep that pace. In the final three weeks, including the game in which he injured the thigh, Manning averaged 272 yards and just 1.0 TD versus 1.3 INT. Even with the reduced production, Manning finished as the #4 quarterback in 2014. He is once again a top 5 option at quarterback, though he's closer to the pack than in recent years.
Monday, August 3, 2015, 3:55pm
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was one of eight players the team held out of Monday’s practice to rest. Manning has been held out of practices previously in his time with the Broncos as a result of injury, most notably ankle injuries in 2013, but Monday was the first time new head coach Gary Kubiak has instituted the team’s plan to give the 39-year-old quarterback a break once in a while.
“I know it’s hard on him, we all know that," Kubiak said. “But I think he understands what we want to do."
Cornerback Aqib Talib, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., safety T.J. Ward, linebacker Von Miller, guard Louis Vasquez, tight end Owen Daniels and linebacker DeMarcus Ware were the other veteran players who were held out of Monday's workout.
Falcons TE Jacob Tamme, who spent his first seven NFL seasons primarily catching passes from Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and Denver, made an immediate impression with his pass-catching ability this offseason. He looks poised to come in and become a real threat in Kyle Shanahan's offense. It's hard to compare him to a guy such as future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, but Tamme can be the type of reliable pass-catcher the Falcons haven't had at the position since Gonzalez's retirement. The 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound Tamme isn't going to overwhelm you with his size, but he finds a way to get open and is fluid with his routes.
Tamme is 30 years old and isn’t likely to be a fantasy factor in single-TE leagues, but he’s on the radar in two-TE or TE-premium (1.5 PPR) formats.
Although Bears WR Kevin White garners most of the attention because of his draft status, don't be surprised if Eddie Royal turns out to be the more impactful of the two offseason receiver acquisitions. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase can deploy Royal from a variety of alignments in order to maximize matchups. Royal, 29, can play outside and in the slot. Think of how Gase used Wes Welker with the Broncos the last two seasons — he was a quick, reliable outlet for quarterback Peyton Manning — but also factor in Royal's superior speed and ability to gain yards after the catch.
Royal has been a fantasy headache for years, and now he takes his act to Chicago. White needs to have a good camp to earn a starting job. Royal is likely to serve as the team's slot receiver, where he could siphon targets from the rookie.
It's a very similar deal to what Dez Bryant got in Dallas, and it shouldn't be too shocking the announcements came just a short time apart. Bryant's signing bonus is a bit higher, however. There were some rumors the Broncos and Thomas weren't close to a deal leading up to today, and we even had a news item earlier this week the Broncos weren't in a hurry to sign Thomas to a long-term deal with a chance QB Peyton Manning retires after this season. Also yesterday, it was reported there was a real chance Thomas would not report to camp and could also miss games. Thomas is ranked third on our WR list, but is often getting drafted outside the first round and after Dez Bryant. However we project him as one of three WRs to go over 100 receptions this season. Like Bryant owners and potential owners, those protecting or eyeing Thomas in fantasy drafts can relax a bit.
There are plenty of ways to break down just how bad the Jaguars' offense has been the past several seasons, but the best way to illustrate the ineptness is by looking at how the unit has performed in the red zone.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars scored an NFL-low 13 touchdowns and completed an NFL-worst 39.1 percent of passes on an NFL-low 85 snaps in 32 red zone possessions in 2014. They were still last in TDs and completion percentage if you include the 2013 season, too.
The blame is spread between the quarterbacks, offensive line, backs and receivers, and play calling. Not much the Jaguars have tried the past two seasons has worked consistently and as a result the team has averaged just 15.5 points per game the past two seasons.
Things could be significantly better in 2015, though, thanks to the addition of tight end Julius Thomas. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder was not only one of the league's better tight ends the past two seasons – catching 108 passes, including 24 for touchdowns – he was one of the NFL's most effective players in the red zone.
Thomas had 13 catches in the red zone in 2014, including nine for touchdowns. Only Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb had more (10) and Thomas had the same number as New England's Rob Gronkowski, Miami's Mike Wallace, New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, and San Diego's Antonio Gates, the story said. Obviously potential owners of Thomas need to keep in mind the situation is now a little bit different. The Jags don't have the same weapons Denver had a year ago that also needed to be accounted for in the red zone, and don't forget about Peyton Manning as the QB. Still, Thomas will be looked at as a big red zone option, and if the Jag WRs can step up as threats, that should also help Thomas' chances to continue his success. Thomas is ranked eighth among our TEs and is available in the middle of drafts.
Time is running out for the Denver Broncos and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to work out a long-term contract extension. Progress has been hard to come by, which means Thomas' absence could stretch all the way into September.
"Do not rule out the possibility that Demaryius Thomas misses games," NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport said on Tuesday's NFL Total Access on NFL Network. "This is very much in the realm of possibility."
The Broncos have until 4 pm ET Wednesday to sign Thomas, the team's franchise player, to a long-term extension. If that doesn't happen, Thomas must either play for his $12.8 million franchise tender or continue to stay away from the team.
Rapoport went on to say in the story it's clear Thomas will miss the start of training camp if he's unsigned, and there's a "very good chance" he'd miss all of camp. Skipping the $750,000 paychecks that come with each regular season game is a different matter. No franchise tagged player has missed games since Walter Jones sat out two weeks in 2002. We had a story earlier in the week that indicated the Broncos aren't necessarily in a hurry to sign Thomas to a long-term deal, especially with the possibility QB Peyton Manning isn't around after this season.
Detroit has thrown the ball more than it has rushed it every season since 2001 according to ESPN Stats & Information. The closest the Detroit Lions have come to "balance" was in 2004, when Detroit ran the ball 407 times and attempted 505 passes.
In Detroit's more successful seasons, the Lions have trended much heavier toward the pass. In 2011, one of the two seasons Detroit made the playoffs this century, the Lions rushed the ball 356 times and had 666 passing attempts, completing 423 of them.
Last season, Detroit ran the ball 396 times and threw it 604 times, completing 365 passes. So while the Lions appeared to focus their draft on improving a run game that had its worst yards per carry since 2003, don't expect to see a massive play-call shift.
"It's all quarterbacking," former NFL QB Elvis Grbac said. "I got in a league where Drew Bledsoe was starting to come in and just in the last 10 years, retired since 2001, so it's been some time. But just the league in general, it's quarterback-driven. If you don't have a quarterback, you're screwed."
The story went on to say: A 50-50 split hasn't been typical for Jim Caldwell historically. In his three seasons as head coach in Indianapolis, the Colts never rushed more than 393 times in a season. They never threw less than 534 times in a year, and that was in 2011 when Peyton Manning was injured. The only sample size in which a team coordinated or led by Caldwell has had more runs than passes came during the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl run in 2012, when Caldwell took over leading into Week 15. Through the final three weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, the Ravens ran the ball 249 times and passed it 235 times. The following season was more in line with what happened in Indianapolis, where Baltimore had 423 rushes to 619 passes.
Much of the same is expected this year, and the story mentioned how Grbac thinks QB Matthew Stafford has progressed nicely in the offense. The team lost pass-catching RB Reggie Bush, but seems to have a more than capable replacement in Ameer Abdullah, who looks like he's going to hurt the value of Theo Riddick. Both Joique Bell and Abdullah crack our top-31 backs, with Abdullah having top-25 potential in PPR leagues. Stafford is just 13th on our QB list, but if WR Calvin Johnson can stay healthy Stafford could crack the top-10 and be a nice value at QB with an ADP of the ninth round.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it’s currently “not likely” that the Broncos and WR Demaryius Thomas will work out a new contract before the close of business on Wednesday. It means that Thomas and the Broncos thereafter would be able to do only a one-year contract. The terms could be changed; the Broncos could, in theory, offer more than the $12.8 million tender to get him to show up for training camp, or they could promise not to use the franchise tag on him in 2016. If he plays for $12.8 million in 2015, the Broncos would have to give him a 20-percent raise in order to tag him again next year. That’s more than $15.3 million for a receiver they may not be able to fully utilize if quarterback Peyton Manning retires after the coming season.
The story makes the point that given Manning’s uncertain status beyond 2015, a multi-year investment in Thomas may not make much sense for the Broncos. The story goes on to say the Broncos may be smarting from a late deal with T Ryan Clady back in 2013. Clady suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2 of the 2013 season and is already done for 2015 with a torn ACL.
Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer, a second-round pick who flashed plenty of potential in training camp, struggled at times with the learning curve and the team’s scheme, finishing with just 37 snaps in 2014.
“I felt like I kept myself ready to contribute last year, but this year I feel like I’m much more prepared," Latimer said. “... I think the study part of it, you learn what it takes. I think I can contribute, and I just want to do what I can to be ready when they want me to play."
“Cody has everything he needs to be one of those guys to make an impact in this league," WR Emmanuel Sanders said. “We expect big things … you could see it in practice last year; he’s ready to do some things."
With Demaryius Thomas having skipped the Broncos’ offseason workout after they put the franchise player tag on him, Latimer spent the offseason largely working as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver (he did miss some of the work with a sore hamstring). The Broncos see Latimer as the No. 3 behind Thomas and Sanders, the story said. Latimer comes in 67th on our WR list with an ADP of the 14th round so some are taking a late-round flier on him. The Broncos are expected to run a bit more to try and save QB Peyton Manning, so the Broncos WR3 spot may not hold the fantasy value it once did.
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