Tuesday, September 2, 2014, 1:34pm
Fortunately for the Vikings' receiver depth, their offense has two things working in its favor. First, OC Norv Turner makes frequent use of two-tight end sets; the San Diego Chargers used more of them than all but one team while Turner was the head coach from 2007-12, and used the fewest three-receiver formations during that time. And second, the Vikings have another versatile wideout in third-year man Jarius Wright.
The 5-foot-11 Wright, who'd been cast as a slot receiver early in his rookie year, actually ran 192 of his 252 routes lined up wide last season, as Jennings and Patterson got more of the slot work. He caught 23 of his 26 passes lined up out wide, and clicked with quarterback Matt Cassel late in the season, catching 14 of his 26 passes from Cassel for 252 yards. Wright saw 30.7 percent of his routes from the slot during the preseason, and he's got plenty to prove in Year 3 as he tries to carve out a niche in the offense, so he should be ready and eager to fit into the Vikings' scheme while Simpson is out.
The story breaks it down in depth on how the team will move its WRs around this year based on the preseason: During their third preseason game in Kansas City, when the Vikings' starters played almost all of the first three quarters, they ran 18 plays out of three-receiver sets, displaying impressive variety in how they lined up their three wideouts. Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Simpson all saw time on both sides and in the slot. It's perhaps especially good news for Patterson owners that the team is trying to create mismatches for the talented WR.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014, 9:18am
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw 22 interceptions last season. When Bruce Arians was hired in January 2013, he talked about having six "bullets" on his play sheet, meaning he wanted to take six downfield shots every game.
As the season wore on, he didn't call as many long passes as he intended, but Palmer still led the NFL with 145 passes of 15 or more yards. He also led the league with 13 interceptions on such throws. While 13 seems like a lot -- especially when they account for 59 percent of his total picks -- they only amounted to about 9 percent of his passes of 15 yards or longer being intercepted. Still not a bad rate.
He also finished 17th in yards per attempt and 29th in touchdown-to-interception ration on deep passes.
Palmer can be a decent QB2 option in the right matchups and this week could be one of them. He's ranked 15th on our list with a pretty nice contest against the Chargers who were 23rd in allowing fantasy points to QBs last season. Palmer certainly has some playmakers to throw to in WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, so don't be surprised if he again throws a lot of 15-plus yard passes.
And that should bode well for both them and Mathews, 26.
In the months since a game but gimpy Mathews sat out most of the Division Playoff loss at Denver, Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy have added three running backs to the 53-man roster while also retaining third-down specialist Danny Woodhead and subtracting Ronnie Brown. Giving the run game another dimension, Telesco signed David Johnson, a fullback-tight end noted for his blocking.
We'll see how long rookie backs Marion Grice and Branden Oliver will stay on the active roster behind another Telesco addition, Donald Brown, the ex-Colt who averaged 5.3 yards per carry last year. The kids look they could help in a pinch, but other roster moves this week could affect one of them.
At any rate, it made sense to give Mathews more cushion. As terrific as he was last year, overcoming a concussion and ankle sprain, powering the team's late run into the playoffs and never missing a start, it would’ve been foolish to be as dependent on him this year.
The plan seems to be to ride Mathews on occasion but it really seems like the team wants to ease his workload to keep him healthy down the stretch for a possible playoff run. It's not the first time we heard this, as similar reports were out even before camp. That likely means more work for Brown and Woodhead. Mathews had just two, 20-plus carry games through Dec. 1 last year, but the final four weeks of the season went 29-29-25-24 and wasn't able to get over a high ankle sprain. Look for the Bolts to keep Mathews in the 13-19 range, which is where he was for most of the September-November.
Saturday, August 30, 2014, 2:52pm
The veteran wide receiver was waived/injured by the team on Saturday as the Bolts whittled their roster down to the 53-man limit, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport was told by a source informed of the move.
Brown hasn't been on the field since suffering a calf injury in late July. He lost the numbers battle to a wideout group led by Keenan Allen, training camp "MVP" Malcom Floyd and veteran Eddie Royal. Dontrelle Inman and Seyi Ajirotutu are expected to fill out the receiving corps.
"I think that it was obvious that he’s a talented young man. He ran the ball very well last night, very decisive, made good cuts. We’ve seen growth from him, as well. I think, just like with Zach (Mettenberger), we’ve seen growth with Bishop (Sankey). He’s gotten better, obviously, at his exchanges with the quarterbacks. His course on his footwork has improved. His vision is good. He’s seeing the holes well. His protection, he’s done a nicer job with that as he’s gone through it, so from a young guy that you’re trying to get prepared to contribute during the season, you’ve seen growth, you’ve seen him moving along with that, and that’s what you needed to see. I’m happy with him."
We’re projecting Sankey to eventually win the RB1 job after the Titans took him as the first back in the draft. He’s a versatile back who doesn’t have much competition for touches, though the team may elect to bring him along slowly since Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster are on the roster. The last 13 rookies who were the top drafted RB in their class and joined a backfield with a lackluster incumbent averaged 18.2 touches for 83.1 yards and 0.55 TD, or 11.6 fantasy points per game. That’s about what Ryan Mathews averaged as the #12 RB in 2013.
That runs counter to the popular narrative that emerged when the Eagles acquired the shifty running back from the Saints for a fifth-round pick during the offseason. In his eight-year career, Sproles has been mostly known as a receiving threat out of the backfield. During five years in San Diego and three more in New Orleans, Sproles never carried the ball more than 93 times in a single season. His highest rushing total was 603 yards with the Saints in 2011.
In fairness, he was mostly a backup with the Chargers, and he was employed primarily as a pass catcher with the Saints. Since 2009, Sproles has had at least 45 receptions each year. His receiving numbers spiked with New Orleans, where he hauled in 188 passes over the last three years.
While the Eagles expect him to be a good receiver in the offense, Chip Kelly insisted that Sproles is a running back first and capable of carrying the ball when needed. Pat Shurmur echoed that sentiment this week before practice at the NovaCareComplex
“We’ve said it all along. Darren can play running back on first, second and third down,” the offensive coordinator said. “We always try to use our players in a way where we maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, no matter what the situation.”
If there’s a concern about Sproles carrying the ball, it’s what kind of impact the increased workload might have on his body, the story said. He’s been a pretty durable player in his career, missing a total of just six games in eight years. This very well may have everything to do with Chris Polk struggling to get on the field and still not being 100-percent. It would make much more sense to keep Sproles in his receiving role and use another back like Polk - ideally - on early downs should McCoy ever miss time.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 8:33am
Beckham hasn't been a full participant in a Giants practice since early June. He's going to need time to get up to speed and into playing shape. So, best-case scenario at this point appears to be Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals. More likely at this point appears to be even later in his rookie season.
It's reached the point where coach Tom Coughlin would settle for a single, solitary practice from his prized rookie.
"Have you seen him practice?” a seemingly perturbed Coughlin said. "How about practicing before you play?"
The Giants are hoping for Beckham to turn into Keenan Allen, who didn't see a preseason snap a year ago and then after a slow start really came on.
Sunday, August 24, 2014, 8:10pm
With news coming from ESPN NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that Bradford will miss the 2014 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the Rams will almost certainly turn to veteran Shaun Hill to replace him. In Hill, they have an in-house replacement they believe to be an upgrade over Kellen Clemens, the quarterback who replaced Bradford last year.
But Hill is 34 and what was already an uncertain picture at the game's most important position just became a lot fuzzier. Bradford is scheduled to count $17,610,000 against this year's salary cap. His number for next year is a daunting $16,580,000. And he's headed for his second left knee surgery in less than a year.
Forgetting the Rams' inability to reach the playoffs or even post a winning record under Bradford's guidance for a moment, the harsh reality is that there's no longer any debate about whether Bradford should be the team's quarterback of the future. Once this season ends, Bradford will have missed 25 consecutive games over two seasons.
It looks like the Rams are going to have to alter their future at QB. It's easy to say now, but the Rams could have addressed the position with the second and 13th picks this past draft. It will be interesting to see their plan considering they are a very young and upcoming team.
Sunday, August 24, 2014, 2:10pm
The third-year pro, who began training camp 18 pounds heavier than he was during his rookie campaign, made a speedy recovery in hopes of building momentum heading into the regular season.
He plans on carrying the ball and being active in the return game Sunday.
“I’ll do it all,” James said.
James initially went down in a 1-on-1 blitz pickup drill on July 26 while trying to block inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite. He’ll wear a brace to protect his elbow for now, but he hopes to “ditch it” after the preseason.
The Patriots don’t need a fourth preseason game. After two games of 30-point performances (yes, even in exhibition games) you can tell that Tom Brady and the gang are ready to kick tail this fall. On Friday, they racked up 405 yards of offense, 22 first downs, and ran 67 plays while Brady continued to be his super efficient, almost deity like self, completing 17 of 21 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
Brady only had his top target, Rob Gronkowski, in the lineup for seven games in 2013 and it led to a #15 fantasy finish, his worst since his injury plagued 2008 season. Over the past two seasons, Brady has scored 20.3 FP with Gronk in the lineup, and just 16.2 FP when the tight end is sidelined. This is something to monitor as the big tight end works his way towards Week 1. Owners who draft Brady may want to back him up with a quality passer (Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, etc) so they have a backup plan if Gronk is out.
New tight ends coach Pete Metzelaars helped mentor Green in blocking this offseason. The 6-foot-7 coach made a 16-year career from specializing in the area. His work with Green, a willing but imperfect blocker with a thin frame, should help keep the 24-year-old on the field. His route running, though, seems most improved from last season. Green is moving better in and out of his breaks.
Last year, Antonio Gates played 1,083 snaps on offense. The disparity between him and Green likely will narrow this season, helping keep Gates fresh.
Gates said that Green is "a big part of what we do." Green played 33% of snaps on the season, but played 40%+ in the final six games, indicating that the team likes what he brings to the table. He's still playing behind Gates, so it's surprising to see him going ahead of Gates in early fantasy drafts. He does have far more upside, but it's hard to see him posting TE1 numbers without an injury to Gates.
Titans RB Bishop Sankey didn’t have a fumbling problem in college and no one seems concerned that it will be an issue going forward. It’s just a part of the learning curve.
“That’s been the problem for him,” said RB Sylvester Croom. “He’s using the same footwork on all the running plays. It’s been different. It’s been a learning experience for him and it’s a discipline about doing it over and over again. He’s learning how important it is.”
Every Sankey mistake is sure to be followed with tough love from Croom, but the Titans running backs coach left nothing to question about the confidence he has in his rookie.
“Bishop has everything we thought about him during our evaluation process prior to the draft. He has that and more,” Croom explained. “We think he’s going to make a big contribution to this football team because he works at it. He’s a talented individual, he works really hard and he’s intelligent. When you put those things together and you keep showing up, then good things will happen.”
It make take a few weeks, but we’re projecting Sankey to be the clear RB1 in Tennessee after the Titans took him as the first RB in the draft. He’s a versatile back who doesn’t have much competition for touches. The last 13 rookies who were the top drafted RB in their class and joined a backfield with a lackluster incumbent averaged 18.2 touches for 83.1 yards and 0.55 TD, or 11.6 fantasy points per game. That’s about what Ryan Mathews averaged as the #12 RB in 2013.
I wrote several weeks ago that expectations might be too high for wide receiver Justin Hunter entering his second season, considering he only caught 18 passes as a rookie.
But I'm now more inclined to jump on the hype wagon. Hunter has progressed faster than I imagined. He's bigger, more confident and is doing a better job of using his freakish athletic skills to full effect.
While it's true the regular season is a different animal, Hunter appears ready to become a consistent big-play threat.
As a rookie, Hunter checked in with the #18 FP/T (1.41), which is encouraging, especially if he’s able to beat out Nate Washington and get on the field as more than a just a passing-down specialist. He only played 36% of the team’s snaps, while Washington played 82%. The good news is that under then-OC Ken Whisenhunt, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal all played at least 67% of the Chargers’ snaps. So with Whiz calling the plays in Tennessee, there may be room for both players in the lineup if Hunter hasn't already won the job outright.
When the Titans get anywhere near the goal line, quarterback Jake Locker simply lofts a soft spiral toward the corner of the end zone. That's when the 6-foot-4, 203-pound Hunter turns into a jack-in-the-box, leaping over defenders to haul in a touchdown pass – just as he did in last Friday's loss to the New Orleans Saints.
It's been all but unstoppable so far.
As a rookie, Hunter checked in with the #18 FP/T (1.41), which is encouraging, especially if he’s able to beat out Nate Washington and get on the field as more than a just a passing-down specialist. He only played 36% of the team’s snaps, while Washington played 82%. The good news is that under then-OC Ken Whisenhunt, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal all played at least 67% of the Chargers’ snaps. Hunter's prowess in the redzone bodes well for QB Jake Locker.
Colts RB Trent Richardson’s first run of the preseason was for 8 yards, giving the indication that good things were to come with him. But he gained only 26 yards since then. The New York Giants, according to HC Chuck Pagano, loaded up the box on more than 20 of the first 30 plays of their preseason game last weekend. Richardson’s two longest runs -- 8 yards each -- came with Andrew Luck in the shotgun. Richardson's running with better instincts. It's just not showing up in the results, which is the determining factor.
Richardson averaged a woeful 2.9 YPC after joining the Colts, but he blames the learning curve he faced after joining a new offense midseason. Since they gave up a first round pick for him, he’ll have the backing of this Colts regime, but OC Pep Hamilton wasn’t afraid to give more work to Donald Brown given the disparity in the quality of play between the two backs. The offseason has gone pretty well for T-Rich — Brown is now out of the way, but the Colts did re-sign Ahmad Bradshaw. As the #20 RB off the board in the 5th round, it appears that fantasy owners are expecting Richardson to post RB2 numbers. Even that may be a stretch given his career output.
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