Panthers Fantasy News
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.
Thursday, July 31, 2014, 6:22pm
Panthers QB Cam Newton overthrows a pass off the outreached fingertips of wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. Newton throws a pass high and wide to tight end Greg Olsen. Newton throws high again. Yes, the franchise quarterback struggled early on this rainy Thursday morning. It had nothing to do with his left ankle, on which he underwent surgery in March. Asked if the weather had anything to do with it, coach Ron Rivera emphatically and sternly said, "No.'' But the struggles were noticeable, enough that the Panthers ran a couple of segments again. "He was perfect," Rivera said of Newton the second time around. "Once he got into his rhythm, he practiced very well down the stretch." Newton was especially impressive on his final two-minute drills -- or 1:30, as the Panthers like to go with -- finishing a drive with a touchdown pass over the middle to Cotchery. Newton also was more active in talking to his wide receivers and tight ends about what they were doing as it related to him.
Panthers rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin was able to smile after his first NFL injury scare, saying he felt like “a new man” after a precautionary MRI revealed only a bone bruise. Benjamin’s MRI revealed no structural damage, and the indication that his absence will be measured in days rather than weeks.
Benjamin figures to play right away for the Panthers even though he’s something of a project as a route runner. At 6’5”, he should be a factor in the red zone at least. It's not good that he's missing valuable practice reps, but the Panthers are probably happy they avoided a more serious injury.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 6:14pm
The Panthers didn’t really need sixth-round running back Tyler Gaffney this year anyway, so when he was injured recently, stashing him on IR made sense.
But the Patriots had other ideas.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots claimed Gaffney off waivers, even though he needs season-ending knee surgery.
It’s similar to their 2012 claim of injured Giants tight end Jake Ballard, meaning one of these days those unwritten rules are going to have to be written down.
This time a year, if a player is placed on IR he must first clear waivers before heading to IR. It's an unwritten rule, but perfectly in a team's right to make a claim on an injured player. It's likely why the Colts have yet to place Vick Ballard on IR. The Panthers tried to sneak Gaffney through waivers to sign another player, which turned out to be Fozzy Whittaker...
Monday, July 28, 2014, 3:43pm
Quarterback Cam Newton is running the Carolina Panthers offense in practice. But coming off ankle surgery, he’s done none of the running around that is his extra dimension.
That’s not bad news. You don’t have to be an orthopedic surgeon to know it just makes sense.
Newton looks comfortable dropping back, bouncing around in the pocket, setting his feet and making all the throws. He’s getting to know all-new wide receivers.
For now, that’s all he has to do. The Cam Newton who can slip out of the pocket and run for a quick 20 yards can wait until the Panthers start playing for keeps Sept. 7 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I think it’s just a smart thing to do right now. What’s the use of running on it and go in the training room and it’s going to be swelled up,” Newton said after practice Monday, while wearing a sleeve on his repaired left ankle.
In March, Newton had surgery to tighten loose ligaments in the ankle. He sat out most of a June mini-camp except for some throws in a seven-on-seven drill the final day. He's expected to be fine by the start of the season. We rank Newton 10th among QBs this season with the big question being what will be the quality of WRs he'll have to throw to. He's going a little earlier in drafts than Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson who are both ranked ahead of him.
Losing Kelvin Benjamin would be a potential disaster for the Panthers.
So the fact they’re not freaking out about his “precautionary MRI” is probably a good sign.
Benjamin was sent back to Charlotte for tests after banging knees with a teammate Sunday afternoon. He finished practice and signed autographs afterward, so there was no early sign of panic.
“It could just be one of those things where if he had iced it right away and not finished [Sunday’s] practice, maybe it would have been better,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, via Black and Blue Review.
The result of the MRI is just a bruise. Benjamin is expected to play a pretty big role in the Panthers offense after losing both Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell in the offseason. Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery are next in line in terms of WRs. It will be important for Benjamin to get back and continue to get his reps.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 10:22am
The Panthers added a bunch of guys to their receiving corps this offseason, pinning much of the hope on first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin.
Now, they have to hope he’s well.
The Panthers announced this morning that Benjamin was “getting a precautionary MRI” after banging knees with a teammate in practice yesterday.
Benjamin wasn’t going to replace veteran Steve Smith immediately, but if he’s out any amount of time, they could be in real trouble throwing the ball. It's also key Benjamin gets his reps in practice. They’ll go two-tight end more (or maybe three), their next-best options at wide receiver are Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 8:44am
Since his return to practice back in April, Jeremy Maclin has professed that he is a "stronger" version of his former self. "You can just base it off certain things that you do in the weight room, on the football field," he said. "And also mentally stronger. When I talk about stronger I mean everything that goes into it."In the four mostly healthy seasons that preceded his lost one, Maclin provided the kind of consistency and dependability Kelly has preached since the day he arrived. Maclin also fills nicely some of the leadership void created by Jason Avant's departure, an ideal veteran for rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to model their work ethic around.
Still, it is hard to tell if Maclin is physically stronger than he was before that gruesome injury.
It is also hard to believe that he is mentally stronger. This is a man, after all, who was abandoned by his father at 9 and raised by the little league football coach. This is also a man whose undisclosed illness in 2011 forced him to miss a chunk of training camp and led to wide speculation about cancer and his career ending, a man whose ACL tear last August was the second to that knee in his career and, coming at the onset of his final contract season, led to even more speculation about the end of his career.
Maclin is poised to fill a big role on the field too now that DeSean Jackson is out of the picture. Maclin isn't Jackson in terms of speed, but the Birds feel Maclin will still fill in nicely opposite of Riley Cooper. While QB Nick Foles is one of our top-rated at the position, Eagles WRs are further down our list. Maclin comes in at 36th, but his ADP of the 7th round is considerably lower than those ranked around him, so owners are banking on a productive season.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 4:20pm
Though it sounds strange to see given their track record, the Panthers found themselves short at running back. So they solved that problem for the moment by bringing in former Browns running back/return man Fozzy Whittaker. The Panthers had an immediate need with Jonathan Stewart on the shelf with a hamstring and sixth-round pick Tyler Gaffney going on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Whittaker has some return ability, but has been looking for work since the Browns cut him in May.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 1:44pm
Jerricho Cotchery doesn't mind being "the old guy" on the Panthers wide receiver corps — just as long as he's the productive old guy. The 32-year-old Cotchery realizes the team's younger wide receivers are looking to him for experience and occasional words of wisdom given his 10 seasons in the NFL. Cotchery is good with all of that, but said his primary concern right now is proving to his new team he can play at an elite level. "I want to be known as a guy who can help individuals — not just on the field, but off the field as well," Cotchery said. "That's fine with me. But that doesn't get you anywhere in the NFL. Teams don't bring you in to be counselors or anything of that nature. They want you to come in and contribute and make plays and help the team win." Cotchery was brought in as an unrestricted free agent to replace Steve Smith, Carolina's all-time leading receiver and a fan favorite.
Cotchery is coming off a year where he quietly caught 10 TD passes for the Steelers, but he's only ever had one 1,000-plus yard season. That came back in 2007 with the Jets. He's likely not getting drafted in a lot of leagues but he could end up being a free agent pickup if in fact he does end up starting for the Panthers.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 9:19am
Panthers coach Ron Rivera announced that sixth-round pick RB Tyler Gaffney will spend his rookie season recovering from a knee injury. Gaffney injured his knee during Friday night’s practice and doctors determined he needs season-ending surgery long before the season even gets underway.
Good news: Quarterback Cam Newton's surgically repaired ankle is getting better. Bad news (temporarily, anyway): He's not completely healthy and he wants to make that clear as the Panthers begin training camp. ''I can't stress enough that I'm not 100 percent yet,'' Newton said, according to the Associated Press, adding: ''It's just going to take treatment and time." More good news: Newton's rehab is right on schedule, which means he should be good to go when the regular season commences in six weeks. In the meantime, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the plan is to take it slow, but conceded that he was happy to see Newton on the field -- even if it's in a limited capacity.
Newton has finished in the top 4 in each of his three NFL seasons, but his PPG has dropped from 22.9 to 20.6 to 18.7 in that same span. He was unable to do much at OTAs due to his surgically repaired ankle, but threw with his new receiving corps before training camp. He should still be a solid QB1 given his ability to run the ball, but there are several red flags heading into the season.
Steelers beat writer Scott Brown on the team's WR pecking order: (Lance Moore) looked really good during offseason practices, and he is such a solid player and one of those guys who just knows how to get open. I don’t see much of a difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers since the Steelers will use a three-wideout formation frequently. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Moore gets the majority of the snaps opposite Brown when the Steelers use only two wide receivers. Markus Wheaton will be given every opportunity to win a starting job in camp but it won’t be given to him. If he stays healthy I think he will emerge this season and become a big part of the passing game. Wheaton wants to be great and he has the physical talent to succeed at this level.
The Steelers play a lot of three-WR sets, so we’re expecting big snaps for Wheaton even if Lance Moore is on the field for two-WR sets. (Emmanuel Sanders played 76% of the snaps in 2013, while Jerricho Cotchery played 60%.) Wheaton was a 3rd round pick and is a terrific athlete. He’s not big (5’11”) but he fits the mold of a typical Steeler receiver. Despite a short resume, Wheaton is a breakout candidate if he sees big snaps in his second year. In the last four seasons, Hines Ward, Antonio Brown (x2) and Sanders have averaged 65-848-4.5 in the Steelers' WR2 role.
The Rams hold their first practice of training camp on Friday and there won’t be any restrictions on quarterback Sam Bradford when they do. Bradford is coming off a torn ACL, but coach Jeff Fisher said Thursday that there wouldn’t be any limits on the quarterback during practice. “Sam is in great shape,” Fisher said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’s ready to go. We don’t have [reservations] — right now as we speak, as camp starts — he’s full-go. If we need to back him down here and there, we’ll back him down.”
Through the first seven games of the season, Bradford averaged 16.9 FP and was the #11 QB before injuring his knee late in a game against the Panthers. Fantasy-wise, he may have turned a corner, but he's going to have to put together a full, productive season to get a sizable extension from the Rams. The team didn’t do much this offseason to improve the receiving corps.
Brent Celek is the starter and that's not expected to change this year. In a way, Celek and Zach Ertz are playing two different positions. Kelly explained that Ertz [as well as James Casey] is being used as a "move" tight end in this offense. That is similar to the way Aaron Hernandez was deployed in New England -- as more of a "Joker" that lines up in various spots and is used primarily as a pass-catcher. Celek is more of the traditional "in-line" tight end where blocking is a bigger priority. Celek could very well end up with more snaps, but that doesn't mean that Ertz won't be featured prominently.
Ertz averaged 2.8-32-.56 over the final nine games of the season (including the Eagles' sole playoff game) and that included two goose eggs in Week 10 and Week 14. That equates to 6.6 fantasy points per game, which is what Martellus Bennett averaged as the #10 TE in fantasy football. With Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson gone, Ertz could play a lot in the slot, though the arrival of WR Jordan Matthews may limit Ertz’s snaps there.
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