The base offense will feature two wideouts, Johnson and Hilton. But when the Colts go to their oft-used three-wide receiver lineup, it remains unclear who will be the first receiver off the bench.
"I think we have the fortune of having a wealth of talent at the skill positions," offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said, being intentionally vague. "… In some cases, what the defensive strategy may be ... (will) dictate (that) the third and the fourth guy get more catches than the first and the second guy."
Whether they identify him or not, there is likely to be a third receiver who gets a bigger percentage of snaps than the remaining receivers. At the start of training camp, the possible choices seemed to be first-round pick Phillip Dorsett, second-year player Donte Moncrief and former Canadian Football League standout Duron Carter. Carter has failed to emerge in preseason games the way he did in training camp, so for the purposes of this discussion, let's remove his name.
That leaves Dorsett and Moncrief as the primary options – neither a bad one. Right now, it seems as if Dorsett offers a more varied skill set than Moncrief. But Moncrief possesses size (6-2, 222 pounds) that Dorsett does not. Dorsett seems to have the inside track here. He can play in the slot, runs solid short and deep routes, and he is the fastest receiver the Colts have. But Moncrief, while less consistent, is explosive in his own way.
The Colts are very high on Dorsett, so it seems likely that they'll put him in a significant role as a rookie. This means he may very well play ahead of Donte Moncrief, who was originally penciled in as the team's WR3. Dorsett is currently going in the 13th round, so he's an inexpensive flier and a potential handcuff for T.Y. Hilton/Andre Johnson owners.
Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery did not participate in Monday’s practice at Halas Hall, still hindered by the calf strain he suffered during a practice on Aug. 12. Marquess Wilson was also a spectator Monday, sidelined himself after suffering a hamstring injury during Saturday night’s 23-11 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
That left the first-unit offense significantly short-handed once again as the Bears dived into preparation for their third game of the preseason. It’s too early to say yet whether either Jeffery or Wilson will return to practice this week or play in Saturday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jeffery, coach John Fox asserted, is still “day to day” with his injury. And the Bears will certainly focus more on assuring their top receiver’s ability for the season opener than pushing him back into action for exhibition action this week.
“When they clear him medically and we feel like it’s the smartest thing to do, he’ll be out there,” Fox said. “So I won’t be able to tell you (where he is) until we get closer to game day. … We’d prefer him out there and he’s doing everything he can to get out there. But it’s nobody’s fault. It’s not his fault. It’s not our fault. It’s part of football.”
During team drills at the end of Monday’s practice, the three receivers working with quarterback Jay Cutler and the starting offense were Eddie Royal, Josh Bellamy and Rashad Lawrence. That’s not exactly the murderer’s row of big-play targets that Cutler and offensive coordinator Adam Gase envisioned. But the Bears will push forward, hoping Jeffery and Wilson get well soon, the story said.
Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is moving Johnson all around the Colts offense, lining the seven-time Pro Bowler up both outside and in the slot, more frequently than he did in Houston.
“One of the things that’s allowed Andre to be such a good pro for so long is his ability to focus and pay attention to the details,” Hamilton says.
“He approached joining our team as if he was a rookie. He took copious notes and he was always focus and engaged in meetings. He’s constantly asking questions and he’s working overtime to build a relationship with Andrew Luck and the rest of our guys.”
Moving Johnson around the formation is a way to create mismatches. Johnson is already a mismatch against a lot of corners but seeing him in the slot more could provide a nice option for Luck. The Colts have plenty of talent at the position to allow Johnson to do this, but it sounds like the team is doing what it has to to make Johnson a key part of the passing attack.
Former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne is visiting with the New England Patriots and will take a physical Sunday with the reigning Super Bowl champions, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Wayne, who parted ways with the Colts earlier this year after spending 14 seasons with Indianapolis, arrived in New England on Saturday night, sources told Schefter.
The Patriots are currently dealing with injuries to several members of their receiving corps:
• Top receiver Julian Edelman has been out since Aug. 2 with what is believed to be a leg/ankle injury.
• No. 2 receiver Brandon LaFell, who was spotted in the offseason with a boot on his left foot, has been on the physically unable to perform list since camp opened.
• Brian Tyms, a candidate for a spot as the fourth or fifth receiver, sustained a foot injury Wednesday that could threaten his season.
• Aaron Dobson, a 2013 second-round pick, has reportedly been slowed by a hamstring injury.
It would be an interesting add to the Pats WR group which has been banged up most of camp as the story said. We haven't really got a good grasp of the injuries because the Pats are pretty hush, but this could be an indication they are worried about one or two of their current wideouts. Wayne seems like a WR who could end up having a good connection with Tom Brady, when he returns from suspension.
Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan said Saturday that both wide receiver Percy Harvin (hip) and running back Karlos Williams (undisclosed) will be ready for the Bills' regular-season opener Sept. 13 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Harvin has missed over a week of practice with hip soreness and received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection last week.
"He’ll definitely be back for the opener," Ryan said. "We’re hoping that he comes back and is able to play in one of these preseason games."
Williams underwent an unspecified medical procedure to a "sensitive area," per Ryan, after being hospitalized last week.
"He looked like Fred Sanford walking into a meeting today," Ryan said Saturday. "But other than that, he’s fine. Like I said, everybody tells me that he’s going to be ready to go when we kick the thing off for real."
The bulky black brace Cards QB Carson Palmer wears on his left knee is about the only sign he is less than nine months removed from his second torn anterior cruciate ligament.
That and, well, the way head coach Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians still sometimes shakes his head in disbelief that three weeks into training camp, Palmer isn’t just healthy, he’s better.
And maybe better than he’s been at any point since he made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2005 and 2006 while playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Carson is in great shape, mentally and physically,” Arians told USA TODAY Sports.
Plenty of coaches gush these sorts of platitudes about their quarterback this time of year. But it means something coming from a quarterback guru like Arians, who has tutored passers like Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck.
The story said that through three weeks of training camp, Palmer has been among the Cardinals’ most consistent players, something that backs up numerous reports we've had here at 4for4. In a recent fully-padded practice, he zipped pass after pass across the middle of the field to Larry Fitzgerald, and nailed several deep touchdown passes to second-year receiver John Brown — all while playing against a secondary that includes stars Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Then, in his first live action since suffering the knee injury on Nov. 9, Palmer went 4-for-4 for 77 yards to lead the Cardinals to a touchdown in his one series of work in the preseason opener against Kansas City last week. All signs are pointing to Palmer having very nice, later-round value at the QB position, definitely something to note if you're waiting to draft at the position.
Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan told reporters Thursday he is "cautiously optimistic" that running back LeSean McCoy can return in time for the Bills' regular-season opener Sept. 13 against the Indianapolis Colts.
McCoy suffered a hamstring injury in a joint practice Tuesday with the Cleveland Browns. Ryan did not reveal the results of an MRI on McCoy's hamstring, but had said after Tuesday's practice that McCoy's hamstring was intact and that no separation from the bone occurred.
It’s safe to say that McCoy’s situation hasn’t improved. Sure, he’s going to a run-heavy system, so carries shouldn’t be a problem, but the Buffalo offense isn’t likely to be as efficient as Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia. Throw in an offensive coordinator (Greg Roman) who isn’t known for utilizing his running backs in the passing game and it’s likely that McCoy’s red zone chances and targets will both decrease in 2015. Now he has a hamstring injury that could affect his Week 1 availability. We're steering clear of McCoy in the 2nd round.
Despite injuring his hamstring Tuesday, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy is expected to be ready for the team's regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
The 27-year-old McCoy strained his hamstring in training camp Tuesday and was set to undergo an MRI to determine its extent.
Bills coach Rex Ryan said McCoy's hamstring was intact and that no separation from the bone occurred.
We were already avoiding McCoy at his current price, and this hamstring injury only further dissuades us from drafting him in the 2nd round. Sure, McCoy is in a run-heavy system, so carries shouldn’t be a problem, but the Buffalo offense isn’t likely to be as efficient as Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia. Throw in an offensive coordinator (Greg Roman) who isn’t known for utilizing his running backs in the passing game and it’s likely that McCoy’s red zone chances and targets will both decrease in 2015. We would assume Fred Jackson would be the main beneficiary if McCoy misses any games, but he's dealing with a hamstring injury of his own.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 6:12pm
Back to work at their complex, the Colts returned to the practice field on Tuesday for a lighter session in shoulder pads. We did see the return of WR T.Y. Hilton, RB Vick Ballard and WR Donte Moncrief on Tuesday.
After long months of debate about whether or not Peyton Manning can fit into coach Gary Kubiak's run-heavy Broncos offense, we're about to get our first look when Denver meets Houston on Saturday night.
"I've said many times I believe I can play almost any offense and do what is required," Manning said Monday, per ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold. "Maybe not Tubby Raymond's (Delaware Wing T), but I can make good decisions, make good throws, get us in good plays, and as long as we can score points, move the ball and win games, that's important. My job is to execute the plays that are called, and I'm all-in on what we're doing."
Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian argued this month that Manning would thrive in Kubiak's attack. Strip away some of the bootleg action, and Polian pointed out that Denver's new playbook "is really conceptionally no different" than the scheme Manning made sing with the Colts and Broncos.
"He'll be great at it," Polian said. "He's a great ball-handler, he has a great ability to carry out fakes. He has no peer when it comes to selling a fake and then coming and focusing on the defense, so he'll be wonderful."
The real question surrounds Manning's durability and arm strength, and he showed some signs of slowing down at the end of last year because of an injury. But Manning still finished fourth among fantasy QBs last year. His ADP slips a bit this year and it looks like you can take him in about the fifth round of drafts. But, he comes with some risks as the Broncos may put more of an effort on the run, slowing down the offense.
"He's a big play waiting to happen, but again he has to take care of the football," coach Chuck Pagano said, per the team's official website. "You're looking at a guy that's going to be an outstanding football player, but you know what you're going to remember is the turnover. But again, he's going to be a dynamic guy for us."
Dorsett finished with a team-high four receptions for 51 yards, displaying game-speed, solid route running and a quick-cut capability. His day wasn't perfect, as the rookie left a few plays on the field and was stripped after a 20-yard catch. It's a crowded group of WRs in Indy and right now Dorsett owners best hope is he turns out to be the team's WR3 behind Hilton and Andre Johnson, however he'll have to battle Moncrief for that spot.
Murray sat out the game as the Eagles continued to tread lightly with a player who had 497 touches by the time the Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs by the Packers. In an interview with Peter King of MMQB.com, coach Chip Kelly admitted that his approach to Murray this offseason has been fueled by concerns raised by the history of backs returning from a heavy workload in the previous season.
“I think there is a lot of validity to it,” Kelly said. “But how do you manage him going into a season? Our plan all along was to get another running back with him. I wanted to have two running backs, and that’s why we got Ryan [Mathews]. I don’t think you can have a guy carry it 370 to 400 times per season and be successful. We’re going to run it a lot — we always do — but we’ll have more than one guy doing it.”
Kelly hasn't really come out and said to the media that this has been his plan, which is fueling speculation there is more to the story - but that could be just how Chip wants it, for everyone to think Murray is hurt. It's pretty obvious the team is going to give Mathews his share of carries but the Birds run enough plays that Murray should put up his projected RB2 fantasy numbers. Mathews is looking like a pretty decent add for those who also grab Murray.
The Colts want to see RB Vick Ballard in game action so they can make a better assessment of what he can give the team after basically missing the past two seasons with injuries. It turns out the Colts will have to wait a little longer to see Ballard play in a game because he was inactive against the Eagles. Ballard missed about a week of practice recently because of a hamstring injury.
Ballard’s latest injury was unfortunate, but the longer he’s out of action, though, the less likely it’ll be that he makes the final roster because he faces competition for a spot at that position.
It’s uncertain how many running backs the Colts will keep on the roster. They kept four running backs and a fullback on the roster at the start of the 2014 season.
Ballard missed all but one game in 2013 because of a torn ACL and then all of last season with a torn Achilles. He led the Colts in rushing as a rookie in 2012 with 844 yards.
Frank Gore is the starter and Daniel Herron is the front-runner to back him up.
After that, things get interesting the story said. Gore and Herron both sat out Sunday’s game, which meant there were plenty of opportunities for the rest of the running backs. Zurlon Tipton started and finished with 34 yards on 16 carries. Josh Robinson took over in the second half where he rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Sunday, August 16, 2015, 8:38pm
Nelson Agolor was targeted five times. He made three catches. One was a 34-yard touchdown in which he did all the work.
But after the Eagles won their preseason opener, 36-10, over the Colts (see Instant Replay), the Eagles' first-round pick clearly was more disappointed in his two misses than the three receptions, touchdown included.
"One was an in-crossing route. Considered a basic route," Agholor said. "I felt like I could have come to the ball a little bit more. Attacked the ball in the middle of the seam there.
"I had two hands on the ball, guy comes in, rakes it out. End of the day, that's probably on my mind more than the hitch (the touchdown)."
The glaring miss came on a 3rd-and-12. Matt Barkley threw a wobbler that sailed right through Agholor's hands. Overall, it wasn't a bad effort from the rookie who is eventually expected to take over one of the starting outside spots.
He’s not hurt. He’s not struggling with the playbook. He’s not dogging it.
Eagles RB DeMarco Murray will be ready on opening day, and that’s really all Duce Staley cares about.
"He will respond,” Staley said. “He will come back out here and he will be DeMarco Murray. …
“What you have to understand about DeMarco is that he's a true professional. He brings that professionalism to the game. He works hard. There's no doubt in that. We knew that before we signed him We did our due diligence as far as doing research on him. So we know what type of player we have.”
Murray has watched more practices than he’s participated in through the first two weeks of Eagles training camp, and at least judging from Saturday’s walk-through — which he didn’t participate in — it looks like he won’t play Sunday in the preseason opener against the Colts at the Linc.
The Eagles have explained some of Murray’s absences or limited participation by saying he was sick or dehydrated. Others have gone unexplained.
Head coach Chip Kelly has been vague about Murray, leading to a lot of speculation. Kelly did say Murray’s light preseason workload has something to do with his 497 touches last year, sixth-most in NFL history . Then again, Staley said Saturday that has nothing to do with the way the Eagles have brought Murray along slowly. While it still remains a bit of a mystery, the team is at least publicly ruling out injury.