Goodness gracious does Eagles QB Sam Bradford look sharp. Any tentativeness we saw Saturday night at the Linc vs. the Ravens was gone. Any jitters that were apparent in his first appearance in a year were nowhere to be seen. He used all his receivers, was remarkably accurate, made quick and smart decisions in the pocket and even threw a touchdown pass to Trey Burton while under heavy pressure from Packers safety Micah Hyde. Bradford played three series in his final preseason appearance, threw three touchdown passes and then gave way to Mark Sanchez. Add in his own series against the Ravens, and Bradford played four series this preseason and put up four touchdowns. His final numbers Saturday: 10 for 10 for 121 yards with three TDs and no INTs. Things aren’t going to come this easily in the regular season — I don’t think — but it’s hard not to be incredibly excited about where Bradford is and how far he’s come.
Over the last two seasons, Philadelphia quarterbacks have averaged 16.7 passing game-only fantasy points. Bradford isn’t much of a runner, but he adds about 0.7 FP per game as a rusher. That adds up to 17.4 FP, or about what Eli Manning averaged as the #10 QB in 2014. The Eagles’ offense has lost their top receiver – DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin – in each of the last two seasons, but Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz are emerging and the team added Nelson Agholor in the draft. This is a definite system upgrade due to the overall effectiveness of Chip Kelly’s offense.
Griffin still hasn't fully recovered from the concussion he suffered recently.
Perriman's stock continues to free fall. He's now going in the 10th round and we're betting he's going to fall even further. Perriman has one of the best opportunities of this year's rookie receiver class, so once healthy, he should be given plenty of snaps and targets in Marc Trestman's offense. If he's still around in the 11th/12th round, we can't think of too many players in that range with his upside.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 4:15pm
DeMarco Murray was asked how he expects the rotation to play out. Will the RBs alternate series? Will they spell one another during a drive?
"I don't think it will be alternating series," Murray said. "But [Mathews] is a quality back, great guy, works extremely hard. I'm sure he'll get his fair share of touches. But I don't know how the rotation will be yet, we haven't touched on it."
Murray is unsure of how many snaps he'll get in Green Bay this Saturday, but expect his workload to increase in the dress rehearsal. Starters typically play an entire half, if not more, in the penultimate preseason game.
The Eagles like to run a lot of plays so it's possible Murray still gets a solid workload with perhaps Mathews getting 8-10 touches. Sproles could mix in but is expected to get most of his work in the passing, even though he proved to be a nice weapon running the ball last year. As long as the Eagles offense is clicking, Murray owners shouldn't worry too much about the Birds crowded backfield.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 10:14am
With longtime deep threat Torrey Smith in San Francisco and his replacement, first-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman, out for going on four weeks, the Ravens passing game has seemed to lack a down-field dimension through training camp and the first half of the taken on a different look than years past.
Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, while acknowledging that missing top-end speed, said the team has other ways of getting chunks of yardage in the passing game than by hitting a receiver who has run past his defender.
“We’ve hit a lot of deep balls; you saw last week if you were in Philadelphia,” Trestman said. “We went on the edge and practiced and made some plays on the edge. [If] you went on the deep ball in the National Football League, you don’t have to go by your guy to beat him. The guy can be on top of you, and you can back-shoulder throw. That’s a vertical throw, too, and we [had] a bunch of that in the games, in the practices anyways. We got one by Marlon [Brown] in the game.
“We have enough speed to get down-field,” Tresman said. “It’s [about] how we do it and how we scheme it and approach it. Our guys are fast enough.”
The down-field passing game has been a big part of the Ravens offense, with quarterback Joe Flacco completing 21 of 56 passes over 20 yards down-field for 663 yards with 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Factor in the seven drops on such passes, and the balls that resulted in Smith’s league-leading 11 pass interference penalties drawn for 229, and you have a big part of the Ravens offense.
Steve Smith has also provided a target down-field, as evidenced by his Week 1 touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals. Kamar Aiken ran the proverbial “Torrey Smith route” early in Saturday’s game against the Eagles. But the return of Perriman, whose speed Trestman said is “one of the big reasons we got him,” will help that aspect of their offense, the story said.
As a result Sanders, who has been held out of practice since he suffered some hamstring soreness after warming up before the preseason opener in Seattle on Aug. 14 , may not play, as a precaution, for the remainder of the preseason. The Broncos open the regular season Sept. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens.
“The expectations are for him to maybe be on the field [for practice] by the end of the week or beginning of next week,’’ Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “We have good news on him and we’re doing everything we can to get him ready for our opening weekend, basically.’’
Both Kubiak and Sanders have said the receiver is on track to play in the opener. It's becoming a growing theme around the league and team's don't want to chance it with injured stars even with the third preseason game on the horizon.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 6:45pm
Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro’s knee injury opens the door for rookie fourth-round NFL draft pick Javorius Allen, who understands the opportunity at hand. “Times like this are when you prove yourself,” Allen said following Tuesday’s practice. “Can you step in and be that guy and provide for your team and have your team believe in you?” The early returns for Allen have been uneven. In two preseason games, he’s rushed 17 times for 54 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and caught two passes for 25 yards. However, running backs coach Thomas Hammock and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman indicated this week that Allen has made definite strides. “Buck continues to improve," Trestman said. “He’s shown us that he can run and make plays and be physical and drop his pads and finish with his feet. We’ve seen that. We just want to continue to see him grow and get better at all the little things that he’s doing.”
One area that Allen is working to improve on is blitz pickup. The former USC standout acknowledged there’s a big difference between doing it at the college and pro levels. This is something that tends to limit a lot of young backs in the NFL.
But he was the second running back up against Houston on Saturday. And after slashing through blocks and around the edges of the Texans' defense for 54 yards on just eight first-half carries, he is second to none in the league in rushing yardage so far this preseason, with 120 yards on 16 carries.
Yeah, yeah, it's just preseason. The Broncos know that. Hillman, in his fourth year, knows that. Last year's preseason rushing leader, Baltimore's Lorenzo Taliaferro, gained just 292 yards in limited duty in the regular season. No one's breaking out the streamers and balloons to herald Hillman's arrival.
But there's something different about the San Diego State product now. As the offense as a whole searches for consistency in a tweaked scheme, Hillman appears more comfortable now than ever before.
"He’s moved himself up. He’s had a really good camp," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said after Saturday's game. "... He deserves more reps and if he keeps playing like that he’ll continue to get some more."
Kubiak has always noted that he won't strictly have No. 1 and No. 2 running backs; instead, they will be 1 and 1a. The best example of how that worked for him came in the 2011 season with the Houston Texans, when backup Ben Tate had 175 carries -- 62.9 percent as many as first-teamer Arian Foster. They combined for 2,166 yards and the Texans sprinted to their first division title. The No. 2 back will play -- and he could see a lot of work, the story said. Right now, C.J. Anderson figures to be the lead back with Montee Ball also a factor. But Hillman has been good and the Broncos appear to have three legit threats. While Anderson is a popular early round pick after stepping up late last season, it looks like at least Hillman is trying to make a push for playing time.
Add the Ravens backfield to the positions hit by the injury bug.
“I don’t have the degree on it yet, but it’s going to be a few weeks for Lorenzo,” Harbaugh said.
Taliaferro was listed as the Ravens No. 2 running back behind Justin Forsett, but now rookie fourth-round pick Buck Allen will likely see an increased workload for the rest of the preseason and potentially early in the regular season. Behind Allen is second-year back Fitzgerald Toussaint and undrafted rookie Terrence Magee.
Saturday, August 22, 2015, 8:33pm
But what they saw out of Sam Bradford in his first game back from his twin torn ACLs still had them holding their breath.
Bradford took several hard shots from the Ravens on his opening drive, with linebacker Terrell Suggs drawing a penalty after diving at his legs, and then defensive lineman Brandon Williams pounding him into the ground.
But Bradford led a crisp touchdown drive also, an 11-play, 84-yard march capped by a Ryan Mathews touchdown run. He completed 3-of-5 passes, but taking so many shots so early in his comeback will create a worry. That’s probably why Mark Sanchez took the field for the second possession, making it a short night for Bradford, the story said.
Ravens beat writer Jeff Zrebiec:
He's caught balls underneath, he's caught deep passes, he's drawn pass interference penalties. Nobody on the Ravens has been able to match up. If Matthews stays healthy, I'd be shocked if he didn't have a big year.
The offseason buzz has been strong. With Jeremy Maclin gone, Matthews will have to play more than the 65% of the snaps that he played as a rookie. He was the #24 WR in standard formats, so increased playing time should lead to a better finish. He won't be limited to the slot in 2015.
Ravens beat writer Jeff Zrebiec:
I’ve been saying for months that Marlon Brown is a lock for one of the wide receiver spots in what has been the most-scrutinized position competition of training camp. But now, I’m not so sure.
Brown, to no fault of his own, missed most of the first couple of weeks of training camp with back and hamstring injuries. But since his return, he hasn’t looked right.
He isn’t getting a ton of reps and he’s been extremely tentative, failing to get much separation on defensive backs. I’m sure the injuries have a lot to do with it, but Brown may be playing himself onto the roster bubble, especially if Michael Campanaro stays healthy and Jeremy Butler and Darren Waller have good preseasons.
Two weeks ago, I would have predicted with some confidence that the Ravens’ regular-season roster would include seven receivers: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Brown, Campanaro, Breshad Perriman, Waller and Jeremy Butler. Now, I’m not so sure.
Campanaro is making a push to be the team's slot receiver, and if Perriman returns and takes over as the WR2, then Brown will be vying with Aiken for snaps as the team's WR4. If Perriman remains sidelined, then Aiken/Brown could be battling for a starting job.
A sprained PCL usually requires 2-6 weeks of recovery, and Perriman has been out since July 31, when he injured the knee. If he can get healthy, he'll have a tremendous opportunity to make a splash as a rookie in Marc Trestman's offense, but he continues to miss valuable practice reps. He should be ready for Week 1, but may get off to a slow start.
The Ravens didn’t seem to have any answer for Eagles WR Jordan Matthews over the middle, be it shallow crosses or intermediate seam passes, and his touchdown grab was a thing of beauty, beating his man clean to the outside and extending to make the catch. Of course, this is nothing altogether new—Matthews has been tearing it up all camp. Regardless, it was nice to see him as a focal point of the Eagles offense while going up against another team. Big things appear to be in store for Matthews this season.
With Jeremy Maclin gone, Matthews will have to play more than the 65% of the snaps that he played as a rookie. He was the #24 WR in standard formats, so increased playing time should lead to a better finish. He won't be limited to the slot in 2015. He's primed to build on a strong rookie season.
Murray suiting up in Week 1 is clearly the goal for the Eagles as well, as head coach Chip Kelly has admitted he is the reason the running back hasn't been taking part in many team drills.
"The only thing holding back DeMarco is me," Kelly said last week.
Murray increased his workload on Wednesday, taking first-team reps throughout the day against the Ravens. He looked sharp doing so, running hard and not having to spend anytime with trainers.
Murray had a career year in his fourth season, racking up 2,261 total yards and 13 touchdowns on 449 touches. He should get plenty of work in Philadelphia, though the signing of Ryan Mathews and the presence of Darren Sproles make it very unlikely that he’ll approach 450 touches in 2015. LeSean McCoy averaged 353 touches over the past two seasons, so that’s probably Murray’s ceiling if everyone stays healthy. He’ll hold low-end RB1 value, though the presence of Mathews and Sproles may make even that a stretch. The local beat writers are predicting a 50-30-15 split in carries among Murray, Mathews and Sproles. The history of 380-carry running backs isn't pretty when we look at the next season, but those players didn't have Chip Kelly's sports science program to lean on.
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