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.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 10:48am
RB Ryan Williams, the former Arizona Cardinals second-round pick who signed with the Cowboys this summer, raised eyebrows with his impressive running late in Saturday's preseason game. But Joseph Randle, who the Cowboys gave a third-round grade coming out of Oklahoma State, has performed better on the whole since camp started and has consistently been ahead of Williams on the depth chart.
"Joe Randle right now is really playing outstanding," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 FM The Fan. "That's not an exaggeration."
Randle, who averaged only 3.0 yards per carry last season, has gained 91 yards on 20 carries in two preseason games, getting a lot of his work against the San Diego Chargers' starters. He looks more decisive and more elusive than he did last season.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 9:25pm
The Union-Tribune considered Chargers WR Malcom Floyd the training camp MVP in a runaway. Newcomer and Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Flowers said Floyd, soon to be 33, moved like he's just three years into the NFL.
There wasn't a cornerback who faced him that Floyd failed to roast once.
Floyd took another step Friday in his comeback from the scary neck injury that ended his 2014 season. Against Seahawks starters and second-stringers, he caught one Philip Rivers pass in traffic and another over the middle.
Floyd said the contest's speed and contact, which included crack blocks against safeties, was vital to scrape barnacles off his game. He pronounced himself "pleased and confident" after facing the Super Bowl champs.
Floyd isn't getting drafted in typical leagues but he's trending up our WR draft board and may be someone you make your late-round flier if you find you need some depth with your WRs.
Monday, August 18, 2014, 2:10pm
Some of that inexperience showed up in Saturday’s preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens, according to coach Jason Garrett. Weeden completed 10 of 19 passes for 129 yards and an interception. He also could have had a second pass intercepted. He was sacked once and hit countless times.
It was a little different than Weeden’s start in the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers.
“As much as anything else, it’s the mechanics of the game: handle himself at the line of scrimmage, making sure we’re in the right play,” Garrett said. “His decision-making at different times was only OK in this game, but he did some good things. Obviously we’ll highlight those and try to correct the other things. Like we talked about with him all along, he needs to play. He needs to play a lot of snaps, and I think he’ll get better and better the more chances we give him in game situations.”
Locker confidently marched the first team on a seven-play, 62-yard scoring drive that saw him complete 4 of 5 passes for 30 yards with a pretty touchdown strike to "Making the Leap" candidate Justin Hunter.
After what Ken Whisenhunt did for Philip Rivers in San Diego last season, we're already seeing the coach's fingerprints on Tennessee's young passer.
Locker has averaged 15.1 FP in 16 career starts. That extrapolates to 241 points over a 16-game season, or about what Ryan Tannehill scored as the #16 QB in 2013. Health has been his biggest problem, but if he can stay upright, he could grow in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense.
It seemed tight end Kyle Rudolph was poised for a huge 2013 season after he scored nine touchdowns and was Pro Bowl MVP in 2012. But an injury cut short his season last year. That injury has suppressed expectations for Rudolph externally. But internally, Rudolph is looked at as a key cog in the offense. He signed a lucrative contract extension at the beginning of camp and can now put his entire focus into playing within Turner’s offense, which has been very tight end-friendly over the years.
Rudolph was the #13 TE through Week 9 prior to a season-ending fracture in his foot. He was 15th in targets per game during that span, so there’s some opportunity in the workload department, especially with new OC Norv Turner in town. Turner isn’t necessarily as TE-friendly as his old boss Rob Chudzinski, but he featured Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron heavily while with the Chargers and Browns. Rudolph is just 24 and could make a nice leap if the Vikings can get good play out of the quarterback position. He should continue to be a force in the redzone.
Friday, August 15, 2014, 12:12pm
Titans beat writer Paul Kuharsky: While veteran Shonn Greene is at the head of the line for the Titans running back-by-committee approach, rookie Bishop Sankey is the team's most well-rounded back. Sankey is on a good growth curve, and I expect he will earn the most touches over the course of the season, with Greene and Dexter McCluster making their contributions as more situational players.
We’re projecting Sankey to be the clear RB1 in Tennessee after the Titans took him as the first running back in the draft. He’s a versatile runner 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. He carries some risk since the backfield is unsettled, but the Titans didn't draft him so he could stand on the sideline.
Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said Ryan Mathews remains the every-down back for San Diego. However, with the addition of Donald Brown in free agency along with third-down back Danny Woodhead coming off a career 2013 campaign, Mathews likely will see a decrease in carries. Mathews is in a contract year, so he'll be properly motivated to do the best with whatever touches he receives.
We're currently projecting an 11 percent drop in carries for Mathews. He is currently our #20 RB in standard and #26 in PPR. Brown is a very cheap (and talented) backup playing behind the injury-prone Mathews for a team that likes to run the ball. He's an attractive attrition pick in the final rounds.
We’re projecting Sankey to be the clear RB1 in Tennessee 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. 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. Our only real concern is HC Ken Whisenhunt force-feeding Shonn Greene and/or Dexter McCluster to fill certain roles in his offense.
Titans WR Justin Hunter continued his run of strong training-camp catches. In seven-on-seven play, he hauled in a Locker pass at the left sideline despite strong coverage from Coty Sensabaugh. A few plays later, Hunter blew past rookie defensive back Marqueston Huff and caught a long pass from Charlie Whitehurst. Hunter also made two leaping receptions during team drills – once in the red zone and once down the left sideline, going up and over cornerback Ri'Shard Anderson.
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 Washington and Hunter in the lineup.