Titans beat writer Jim Wyatt on RB Shonn Greene:
The Titans already did away with one running back from a year ago in Chris Johnson, so would they really consider sending another one packing? I haven't heard any buzz suggesting it could happen, but let's just say stranger things have happened. This much is known: Greene was underwhelming in 2013, and he recently had a second knee surgery. He's scheduled to earn $2.3 million in 2014, and that's not chump change. The Titans drafted Bishop Sankey, and the team plans to use Dexter McCluster in the backfield. A big back is on board in Jackie Battle, and undrafted rookie Antonio Andrews of Western Kentucky is no slouch. Greene won't take part in the OTAs, so he'll need to prove his worth in camp.
We're projecting Sankey to be the clear RB1 after the Titans took him as the first back in the draft. The last 13 rookies who were the top drafted RB in their class while joining 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. For more on Sankey's potential production, see The Rookie Rundown.
Bengals OC Hue Jackson discussed the team's receiving corps...
"I want (A.J. Green) to take it to a whole different level. I want A.J. and (Marvin Jones) and that receiver group to play uncommon football like you’ve never seem. That’s just my vision after coaching the position. Coach (James) Urban does a great job. A.J.’s has had one of the most historic first three years this league has ever seen. And he is that player. He is everything I thought he was and more. But I think there’s more in there. I think there’s a lot more in there. My challenge to him is, why not be the best? Why not be the best this league has ever seen? Because he has the ability to be that. And when they talk about A.J. Green, I want people to be talking about one of the greatest ever. Because he is and he has that. He’s got to set out every day to prove that because I think he’s that kind of player.
"Marvin Jones came on like gangbusters and he’s got to go chase A.J. Why not knock A.J. off the pedestal? When you have the friendly competition among your teammates, that’s when things get really, really good, in my opinion. (Mohamed Sanu) and (Brandon Tate) and (Dane Sanzenbacher), those guys at receiver, everybody has to raise their level of play. I think when that happens and we get five percent better, three percent better, whatever that is, I think the whole offensive unit gets better."
The key takeaway here is that Jackson mentioned Marvin Jones in the same breath as Green, so while the team is expected to make a concerted effort to run the ball more, Jones should see more snaps as the clear starter opposite Green. Jones played on an average of 43 percent of his teams snaps in his first 13 games of the season. Over his final four games, including a Wild Card playoff loss to the Chargers, he played on an average of 68 percent of snaps. As his snaps increased, so did his targets. He averaged 4.4 targets through 13 games compared to 8.8 targets in the final four games of the season, including 12 targets against the Chargers in the playoffs. After a season of frustrating usage, it appears that the Cincinnati coaching staff has finally recognized that Jones deserves to play more. He finished as the #21 WR in 2013 despite the limited snaps.
"The doc said ... I'm at risk just like anybody else," Floyd said Monday. "There's not really a worry. As far as going out there and performing, I'm really excited to make plays again. Hopefully, I can do more this year than I ever have. ... I'm feeling good. I think I feel like my old self."
It's outstanding news for a Chargers offense that could use another deep threat. Keenan Allen is coming off a monster rookie year, but the Chargers lacked depth with only Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal on the chart. Floyd will be 33 years old this season, but he topped 800 yards in back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012 before getting injured early last season.
"We were looking for a guy with some versatility, but not exactly trying to replace C.J.," Webster said. "… He is just completely different as a back. Their skill-set is not the same, so when you see him on the field, it is not going to look anything like Chris, and he'll make his own mark."
Sankey, who started 25 of 38 games in college and rushed for 1,870 yards and 20 touchdowns in his final season, has good speed (4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash). He reminded Titans scout Marv Sunderland of former Giants star Tiki Barber.
"He can run inside, he can get outside, he runs through guys and he can break the long runs," Sunderland said. "He has great hands out of the backfield, and he's a good blocker. He is a well-rounded back."
Under then OC Ken Whisenhunt, the Chargers threw the ball 52.8% of the time in 2013, which is low compared to the league average (56.6%), so the Titans figure to feature the running game, especially with the unproven Jake Locker under center. Sankey should win the starting job quickly, but even if the situation is somewhat murky, he should be a good pick on draft day. We're expecting RB2-type numbers out of the rookie; he should be the first rookie taken in fantasy drafts this summer.
"I (want to) make it more than 16 games," Mathews said. "That was a big goal last year: 'Alright, let's get him through 16 games.' We did that. Now the goal is to keep me healthy, keep running after 16 games. The coaches did a good job of getting another guy like Donald to help me out. It's going to be fun."
Brown will siphon some touches from Mathews, but that may also serve to keep Mathews healthy. Brown's arrival certainly limits Mathews upside, but perhaps Mathews has a higher floor since he won't be overworked.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 5:21pm
At last month’s league meetings, Chuck Pagano said the Colts will be relying on more than one back in 2014 but are looking for a “bell cow” to emerge.
With a complete offseason in a comfortable setting, Trent Richardson is primed to be that guy.
“It’s going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will,” Pagano said.
“He wants to be great. He’s got all the talent. He’s got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn’t believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign.”
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 while Vick Ballard is back from a knee injury. As the #20 RB off the board in the 6th round, it appears that fantasy owners are expecting Richardson to post RB2 numbers. Even that may be a stretch given his career output.
Kyle Rudolph said he's had no foot problems, has been running since mid-Feb.
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.
Gil Brandt of NFL.com likes what Redskins TE Jordan Reed brings to the table: "Reed burst onto the scene relatively late in 2013, catching nine passes for 134 yards and a touchdown against the Bears in Week 7, and he started just four games before a concussion ended his debut season six games early. But in that brief window, he showed he could be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, what with his speed and hands. The former third-round pick looks like a receiver, someone who can catch balls and move the chains -- he reminds me of a young Antonio Gates, though not quite as big. The Florida product is pretty slick and has definite Pro Bowl potential. He had three plays of 20 yards or more, which is pretty good for a tight end, and just three drops in 59 targets."
Reed was on pace for 80-887-5.3 (#7 TE-type numbers) prior to his injury, but didn't even crack the 50% snaps played mark until Week 6. In the five games where he played at least 50% of his team's snaps, he averaged 6.2-76-.40 or #3 TE-type numbers. The main concern with Reed is his injury history, specifically with concussions. According to NBC Washington, Reed suffered two concussions while at Florida. If he can stay healthy, he's a likely top 5 fantasy TE, but that's no sure thing.
It will be running back by committee for the Titans. Shonn Greene returns, along with Jackie Battle and Leon Washington. Dexter McCluster was signed the first day of free agency, and though he was primarily a receiver/returner for much of his time with the Chiefs, the Titans plan to line him up at running back. More help is needed, however. Although there aren't any great free-agent options left, the Titans are likely to pick a running back in the May 8-10 draft. Fresh legs are desired.
Chris Johnson's contract that calls for him to earn $8 million in salary this year clearly has been an obstacle to him staying in Tennessee. But even if the contract wasn't an issue the Titans probably would want to purge Johnson. The reason? New coach Ken Whisenhunt likes to spread around playing time and touches between multiple running backs. His plan is to have a running back by committee. Johnson is the type of player who demands the football and never would be happy as a role player. A trade or release, subsequently, is coming.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 12:27pm
"As much as I like Allen, to ask him to improve dramatically in one season may be asking too much. He's a really good receiver, but he does not have the athletic ability of an A.J. Green or a Julio Jones. He could be close to his ceiling already.
Williamson added that Allen is an advanced route runner and has good hands, just lacks speed. He pointed out that teams will have another year to study him, too. Still, Allen was really the only WR threat on the Bolts last year, but put up nice numbers despite getting the full attention of defenses. He should fall in the WR2 or 3 zone with potential to exceed that in certain matchups.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 12:11pm
"Filling in this year for 5-10 touches per game, plus insurance for if/when Ryan Mathews gets injured. He played 16 games for the first time in 2013, and he was not healthy in the postseason."
Last year's RB3, Ronnie Brown, rarely saw 5-10 touches so those are going to have to come from somewhere. Ryan Mathews began to get hot and get over 20 carries a game in the second half last year, but like Acee points out, Mathews wasn't healthy in the playoffs, perhaps as a result of that. Brown's fantasy value likely will be a handcuff to Mathews, but it looks like he's going to be used to prevent wear and tear on Mathews too. Danny Woodhead may also lose a carry or two, but will still be a factor in the passing game.
Monday, March 31, 2014, 9:05am