Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson was a week from returning to the Vikings' roster after a three-game suspension for drunken driving, when ESPN reported on Sept. 18 that Simpson had been cited in July for misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving with an open bottle. The Vikings released Simpson later that day, and signed Charles Johnson off the Cleveland Browns' practice squad the next day.
It seemed at the time like a move to replenish the Vikings' wide receiver depth with a known commodity -- quarterbacks coach Scott Turner had been Johnson's position coach the previous year in Cleveland -- but Johnson was less than a year removed from knee surgery, and didn't play more than 20 snaps in a game until Nov. 16. From that point on, though, he caught 25 passes for 415 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and supplanted Cordarrelle Patterson as the team's "X" receiver.
"He was recovering from that knee surgery a year ago and I don't know that he was ever 100 percent," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "I think he's 100 percent. He's got great work ethic, and he's a big, strong guy. He's a 218-pound receiver that can run. He's got everything you need to be a productive player in this league."
In organized team activities and minicamp, there was no mystery about where Johnson figured in the Vikings' plans, the story went on to say. He was lined up at split end all spring, and teamed with Mike Wallace and Jarius Wright in the team's three receiver sets. According to ESPN, 33 of Johnson's 58 targets were at least 10 yards downfield, and 13 of those 58 were 20 or more yards downfield. Johnson worked out in Southern California with Bridgewater and a number of the Vikings' receivers this offseason, and also spent time in Houston with Rischad Whitfield, the "Footwork King" who has counted Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins among his clients. Johnson is one of 4for4.com Senior Editor John Paulsen's potential sleepers this year. We rank him 37th on our WR list and he looks to be in a good situation with the offense under OC Norv Turner and a developing QB in Bridgewater.
He’s not the new wide receiver who many call the best player in Houston Texans franchise history. He’s not the dynamic weapon fresh off his first Pro Bowl appearance. He’s not the first-round draft pick with speed that rivals some of the NFL’s fastest players.
As a 21-year old rookie last season, Moncrief forced his way into the lineup and gave Colts coaches enough of a look to feel just fine in increasing expectations for No. 10.
“Moncrief has big play ability and we saw him do that,” Chuck Pagano said back at the League Meetings in March. “He’s going to have more opportunities going forward.
“He’s got such a high ceiling and room for improvement. The sky’s the limit for him.”
There's no question Moncrief has talent, but rookie Phillip Dorsett is getting a lot of press so far this offseason and he could battle Moncrief for the WR3 spot - assuming T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson are the top two. In a news article from earlier this month, we thought it was possible Johnson, Moncrief, Dorsett and TEs Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener rotate through the other three positions in one running back sets.
Texans beat writer John McClain:
Hoyer is such a nautral in the system implemented by coach Bill O'Brien and OC George Godsey. QB gets a lot of freedom at the line.
Hoyer is smooth, smart and accurate. Looks like he's been in this system for years. Has a nice touch on all throws. Looked good today.
Hoyer didn't have much success in Cleveland, but he could work his way into the QB2 conversation if everything breaks his way in Houston. He has a bona fide WR1 in DeAndre Hopkins, but after that there isn't a whole lot of certainty in the receiving corps.
Texans RB Arian Foster’s early performance during offseason workouts has been encouraging. A season removed from back surgery, the veteran running back has been a full participant in workouts and stood out again Tuesday, during the first day of a three-day minicamp.
Foster averaged 22.9 touches per game (the 4th-highest workload in the league) and scored 0.79 fantasy points per touch (13th among the top 60 running backs). From a per game standpoint, he was #2 in standard formats and #4 in PPR, so he's still playing at a very high level when healthy. However, he missed three games in 2014 and eight more in 2013, and has only played 14 or more games once in his last four seasons.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 1:15pm
Strong is vying for snaps opposite DeAndre Hopkins. It's nice to see that he's healthy enough to get these crucial practice reps as he tries to learn the offense.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 12:38pm
Watch for a jump from second-year tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. The second year is big for NFL players, and both Fiedorowicz and the Texans' organization are pleased with his progress and expect a much better season out of him. His blocking was expected to be a strength, and O'Brien has indicated he thinks it will be more of one this year.
Fiedorowicz only has Garrett Graham ahead of him on the depth chart, so there is opportunity for a big jump in playing time.
The top options here include free-agent pickups Nate Washington (31) and Cecil Shorts III (27), and rookie Jaelen Strong, who was taken in the third round with the 70th pick in this year's draft. Strong's start has been delayed a bit, and we'll get to that more later. Coach Bill O'Brien was effusive in his praise of Washington last week. "I really like Nate. I think he's been a good addition to our football team, both from a veteran leadership standpoint and then from his route-running ability. He's really practiced hard all spring. He's been here a lot. He's been out there every day at practice. He's picked up our offense well. He's always communicating with the other receivers and the quarterbacks. I think he's going to add a lot to our offense. I'm glad he's here."
Strong suffered a hamstring injury during the Texans' first OTAs, which is sometimes an injury that is the result of not being in the right condition for practice. He hasn't returned yet, which is a function of those kinds of injuries. Too much time lost will be a big problem, but we aren't there yet. O'Brien called the injury minor a couple of weeks ago.
The WR2 spot in Houston is wide open. Cecil Shorts should be the frontrunner, but it sounds like Washington is the one turning heads. He's a savvy vet who has produced whenever he sees significant targets. Strong is missing valuable reps.
This offseason so far reminds me of the Texans offseasons when it was Andre Johnson and a buncha rando wide receivers competing to see who would be starters. No receiver targets in OTAs have been *oh-wow* type guys where you see a particularly positive future for him when they are in the offense longer.
Texans writer Jesse Clark:
It’s been more of a passing camp than anything else but RB Alfred Blue has much more juice than he had this time last season. I think he’s going to surprise fans when training camp rolls around.
Considering he's the primary handcuff to the oft-injured Arian Foster, Blue is going very late (17th round) in early fantasy drafts.
Texans writer John Harris: When the Texans signed Nate Washington, I wrote a piece on him as it pertained to how his veteran savvy could be seen in his route running. I watched him closely today on a few of his routes and that man can get open in a phone booth. He has a knack of selling his routes to get open and it’s fun to watch a veteran at his age still know how to find seams or win against man coverage.
This time, Bryant wants to make sure he is ready to start the season in Week 1.
"I am more prepared," Bryant said. "I have more confidence. I just trained and did karate and ran routes the whole offseason to get better. I worked on the whole route tree that we run so people can see that I can do more than just catch the deep ball."
Bryant averaged 2.8 catches for 56 yards and 0.82 TD in the final 11 games of the season (including a 5-61-1 outing against Baltimore in the playoffs). Thanks to the incredible touchdown rate, those are high-end WR2 numbers in standard formats and solid WR2 numbers in PPR. What's more, he didn't play 60 percent of the snaps until the postseason, so there's upside here from a playing time standpoint. If he earns a starting role this offseason -- and it looks like he will -- he’ll be a middle round pick in 2015 fantasy drafts.
Friday, June 5, 2015, 5:46pm
Knowledge of the system has aided in Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz's ability to play faster. Also helping is improved health, as Fiedorowicz revealed Monday that he'd gone through arthroscopic knee surgery in January. The tight end said his knee "feels great" and is "strong".
HC Bill O'Brien wants "to see very consistent play" from the tight end, and said a strength of Fiedorowicz's is his blocking.
"He’s a very good blocking tight end and I think he can help us in the passing game," O'Brien said. "I think he can run the different routes that we need the tight ends to run."
Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 12:42pm
Thursday, May 28, 2015, 3:35pm
Texans writer John Harris...
If there’s a guy that I’m truly stoked about his progress as a second year player, it’s TE C.J. Fiedorowicz. He made a great fingertip catch on a ball down the seam. If he’s healthy, he’s going to impact this offense in 2015 and be a multi-purpose “tight end” in every respect.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 12:21pm
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