Sunday, August 2, 2015, 2:53pm
It was Morning No. 1 on Day No. 1 of the Indianapolis Colts’ 2015 season. The team gathered at Anderson University for the first on-field activity at training camp, a light walkthrough that otherwise holds no special significance.
Except for one player. For Vick Ballard, it meant everything.
“The type of stuff I used to dream of,” he said.
No one can blame him. It’s only his third football practice in two years.
The Colts’ fourth-year running back was cleared by team doctors to return to on-field activity for the first time since July 2014, and he did so Sunday morning, sporting a new number (26) and the sobering perspective that comes with back-to-back lost seasons.
Colts Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton joked after his team selected wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the draft in April that he ran to his office and tore up all his three tight end and fullback formations. The possibilities seem endless for how Hamilton can deploy the Colts offense in 2015, and now the time for brainstorming is over, as the Colts take the field for their first practice Sunday.
“I’m really excited. We’ve had a lot of time to pontificate on all the different things we can do with the pieces that we have.” said Hamilton Saturday. “Now is the time for us to really get out on the field and see what we’re about, work together, grow together, and work out some of the kinks that are normal, that you expect to have in training camp.”
“I think we have a lot of guys that have field credibility. I think that’s important,” said Hamilton. “It starts with our quarterback. He’s continued to improve as a pro. I think he’ll only get better with the guys that we have around him.”
As the story said, the first piece is quarterback Andrew Luck, who has more passing yards in his first three seasons than any signal caller in NFL history. Add running back Frank Gore’s 11,073 career rushing yards in 10 seasons, and it appears Indianapolis potentially has its most reliable running back since Joseph Addai in 2007 (the last time the Colts had a 1,000-yard rusher). Gore should give the offense the balance it needs to be very dangerous. Add in WRs like T.Y. HIlton and Andre Johnson along with Donte Moncrief and even TEs Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and there's talent at every offensive position.
Saturday, August 1, 2015, 6:55pm
Hyde is expected to be participating in Saturday night’s first full-squad practice, having spent the first day of camp on the non-football-injury list because of a leg strain.
“Right now I’m just really focused on getting a good chemistry with the offensive line,” Hyde said. “We’ll try to build it so we can go into that season so I know exactly how guys are and I can catch a rhythm and get going.”
Hyde ran for 333 yards as a rookie understudy to Frank Gore. Hyde also caught 12 passes for 68 yards, and he believes he has the receiving skills to help in that dimension, as was the case at Ohio State.
“When I got the opportunity to catch a ball, I made it happen,” Hyde said of his college days. “Here, things are different, and now I have more opportunity to get out and be a receiver.”
He’s not the only running back who might be catching more screen passes and swing routes from Colin Kaepernick. Reggie Bush is the top candidate to handle that task, and Hyde has studied how Bush has become the NFL’s active leader in receptions among running backs. The story also pointed out pass protection is going to be a major factor in who sees time. Right now Hyde projects as the early down back with Bush taking on his normal pass catching role as he has with the Saints and Lions in his career.
Carlos Hyde, expected to become the San Francisco 49ers' lead running back in the wake of franchise rushing leader Frank Gore's free-agent departure, will begin training camp on the active/non-football injury (NFI) list.
Hyde is one of four players placed on the list Tuesday by the Niners.
In OTAs, Niners rookie coach Jim Tomsula explained Hyde's absence as "nothing serious" at the time, though it was believed to be a calf issue.
"Carlos is -- look, we're not in a hurry with him right now," Tomsula said on May 29. "It's nothing serious, but let's be at 100 percent when we get to training camp. He's in all the meetings and he's here and he's working out and he's doing his stuff. It's just more on the cautious side of just making sure we've got everything healed, and then we move forward.
"It's not even a hamstring; it's a muscle pull. You talk to our medical people -- (at a) different time of the year, Carlos would be pushing through. But why? That's my whole point on everything. Why do that now and take any kind of chances on things? Let's just get it healed and get going."
It doesn't sound like it's anything to worry about at this point and the team is just being cautious. The 49ers signed veteran running back Reggie Bush as a free agent, drafted Mike Davis out of South Carolina in the fifth round, and welcomed back Kendall Hunter from a torn ACL that cost him last season. The team opens training camp with its first practice Saturday.
Brady was suspended four games in May after footballs used by the Patriots during the AFC Championship Game against the Colts were found to be inflated under the minimum level prescribed by the league. Along with the NFL Players Association, Brady challenged his penalty and testified before Goodell at an appeal hearing last month.
Brady was suspended on May 11 after a report by Ted Wells, an investigator contracted by the league, asserted Brady's connection to the deflation of footballs used in the AFC Championship Game, which the Patriots won, 45-7. Wells did not allege that Brady himself improperly handled the footballs, but the investigator wrote that he believed Brady was "at least generally aware" of the alleged involvement of Patriots staff in deflating the footballs. Wells also noted that Brady did not fully cooperate with his requests during the investigation.
As it stands, Brady is suspended for the first four games, so his current ranking (which is dependent on his full season projections) is not reflective of his true value. If he decides to pursue the issue in the court system, he could get an injunction allowing him to play while the matter is settled. Given the allegations that he had his phone destroyed ahead of time, he may elect to take his medicine and serve his suspension. If he’s still around in the 10th/11th round, an Angry Tom strategy could be effective. Owners can draft Brady along with another quarterback (Carson Palmer?) later in the draft and stream the position until Brady returns in Week 6. Brady should return with a chip on his shoulder and provide good production down the stretch. Who knows, if he sues and wins an injunction, he could play Week 1.
It's a lot to put on the fifth-year quarterback who has struggled with consistency for much of his career, especially when he'll be without coach Jim Harbaugh, and teammates Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Justin Smith, who are either playing elsewhere or retired.
A season ago, when the 49ers finished 8-8, Kaepernick had career bests in attempts (478), passing yards (3,369) and rushing yards (639), but he also threw more interceptions, took more sacks and lost more fumbles than at any time during his four years in the league.
But according to offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, Kaepernick didn't take a step backwards in 2014.
"And then last year, you're playing with some different sets of challenges," Chryst said, via the MercuryNews.com. There was more change within the offensive line than he had experienced the last couple of years. How does that affect your production as a quarterback? You're behind more often in games. How does that affect your production as a quarterback? I cite the fact that we had six touchdowns nullified by penalty. You plug that back into his formula, he really wasn't ... he didn't regress off his line as much as perceived."
First-year coach Jim Tomsula said in March that Kaepernick not only didn't regress in '14, but he had his best season as a professional, according to the story. The piece added that Kaepernick ranked eighth in QB efficiency in 2013 and 13th the season before that, but none of that matters now because this 49ers team barely resembles the ones that had so much success under Harbaugh. Kaepernick ranks just 14th among QBs on our list. He could turn out to be a nice late-round QB2 who ends up having a bounce-back year, especially if the offense moves to more of a read-option.
It turns out that 69 percent of Frank Gore's rushing attempts last year with the 49ers were made against a defense that had seven or fewer players in the box. Gore rushed for 833 yards and three touchdowns on 179 attempts when there were seven men in the box.
When it came to facing at least eight men in the box, Gore rushed 76 times for 273 yards and a touchdown last season. Gore's 833 yards against seven or fewer defenders in the box would have been enough to lead the Colts in total rushing in each of the past seven seasons.
The Colts didn't have much success rushing the ball when teams loaded the box against them. Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Andrew Luck, Zurlon Tipton and Daniel “Boom” Herron combined to rush for 153 yards on 59 attempts, which is more than 100 yards less than what Gore rushed for.
The numbers don't lie.
The writer concludes that Gore should have plenty of success running the ball this season if the offensive line does its job, because the Colts have too many weapons on offense for defenses to load the box to try to slow Gore down. The hope for the Colts is Gore finally gives them a consistent rushing attack to go with Luck and give the team a bit of balance. Gore is listed 12th on our RB list making him a low-end RB1. Based on ADP, he falls right in that "next tier" of RBs - as the first 11 RBs on our list have ADPs in the first or early second rounds, while Gore's ADP is the early third round. He presents a nice value if you can land him in the third.
The Boston Herald broke down the Patriots RBs:
LeGarrette Blount will miss the opener on the suspended list, but should be viewed as a lock because the Patriots made no obvious attempt to replace him in the draft or free agency. Brandon Bolden signed a contract extension last season and is one of their most trusted special teamers. The Patriots believe James Develin is the best fullback in the league, so he is safe as long as the Pats continue to value the position.
We still don’t know for sure much about Travis Cadet, Tyler Gaffney, Jonas Gray and James White really. Cadet has an intriguing set of skills, but could he provide more than Bolden or White? And White just had his second strong spring of OTAs, but can he do it wearing pads? Is Gray the bulldozer we saw against the Colts or the guy Bill Belichick preferred to keep in the doghouse? And the thinking here is that Gaffney’s best work must come in pads, which is why he had a somewhat quiet spring.
The story went on to say that White, a 2014 fourth-round pick, dazzled at the start of training camp last season before falling off the map with 16 healthy scratches in 19 games. He was strong again during the nine-week OTAs program and appeared to be the Pats’ best back in passing situations. White could monopolize that role if he keeps it up and earns more trust, the story went on to say. But if he disappears again midway through camp, he might even get cut. We had news articles last year that stated White could be a potential Shane Vereen replacement, but the team signed Cadet in the offseason and right now is a bit more proven after filling in for Pierre Thomas at times last year in New Orleans. With Blount seemingly the early down back, the winner of the third down, passing situation job could potentially have PPR value in fantasy leagues.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 2:15pm
Colts writer Kevin Bowen:
In years past, the Colts have typically employed two backs in some sort of a rotational, series-to-series, basis. Frank Gore’s presence though might not lead to that method in 2015. However, I do expect Dan Herron to still play a good amount as the lead guy spelling Gore.
We think the team will use Gore as a three-down workhorse, though Herron will get some reps to keep Gore fresh.
WR Reggie Wayne made it clear he has no intention of retiring following a decorated 14-year career with the Indianapolis Colts. He’s the NFL’s active leader with 1,070 receptions and 14,345 yards – each is No. 2 in club history behind Marvin Harrison – but is coming off an injury-plagued 2014 that limited him to 64 catches and 779 yards.
And let’s not forget, Wayne turns 37 in November.
An ideal scenario, he said, is to play one more season then retire. Wayne said teams – he wouldn’t elaborate – have expressed an interest.
Wayne finished as a fantasy WR5 as he battled numerous injuries during the 2014 campaign. If he lands in a possession role in a good passing offense he could be a factor in PPR leagues this season.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 3:44pm
The sides had faced a 4 p.m. ET deadline to reach a multiyear contract after the Patriots had designated Gostkowski as its franchise player in early March.
Gostkowski, who has played his entire career with the Patriots after being selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft as the replacement for Adam Vinatieri, was the NFL's leading scorer in 2014 with 156 points. A Pro Bowler in each of the last two seasons, he has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, which the Patriots, as a team based in the Northeast often playing in adverse conditions, have valued. Gostkowski's strong leg was reflected in his 53 touchbacks during the 2014 regular season, which tied for fifth most in the league. The 31-year-old Gostkowski was 35-of-37 on field goals in 2014, hitting all 51 extra points that he attempted. He became New England's all-time leading scorer in 2014, passing Vinatieri, the story added.
Detroit has thrown the ball more than it has rushed it every season since 2001 according to ESPN Stats & Information. The closest the Detroit Lions have come to "balance" was in 2004, when Detroit ran the ball 407 times and attempted 505 passes.
In Detroit's more successful seasons, the Lions have trended much heavier toward the pass. In 2011, one of the two seasons Detroit made the playoffs this century, the Lions rushed the ball 356 times and had 666 passing attempts, completing 423 of them.
Last season, Detroit ran the ball 396 times and threw it 604 times, completing 365 passes. So while the Lions appeared to focus their draft on improving a run game that had its worst yards per carry since 2003, don't expect to see a massive play-call shift.
"It's all quarterbacking," former NFL QB Elvis Grbac said. "I got in a league where Drew Bledsoe was starting to come in and just in the last 10 years, retired since 2001, so it's been some time. But just the league in general, it's quarterback-driven. If you don't have a quarterback, you're screwed."
The story went on to say: A 50-50 split hasn't been typical for Jim Caldwell historically. In his three seasons as head coach in Indianapolis, the Colts never rushed more than 393 times in a season. They never threw less than 534 times in a year, and that was in 2011 when Peyton Manning was injured. The only sample size in which a team coordinated or led by Caldwell has had more runs than passes came during the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl run in 2012, when Caldwell took over leading into Week 15. Through the final three weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, the Ravens ran the ball 249 times and passed it 235 times. The following season was more in line with what happened in Indianapolis, where Baltimore had 423 rushes to 619 passes.
Much of the same is expected this year, and the story mentioned how Grbac thinks QB Matthew Stafford has progressed nicely in the offense. The team lost pass-catching RB Reggie Bush, but seems to have a more than capable replacement in Ameer Abdullah, who looks like he's going to hurt the value of Theo Riddick. Both Joique Bell and Abdullah crack our top-31 backs, with Abdullah having top-25 potential in PPR leagues. Stafford is just 13th on our QB list, but if WR Calvin Johnson can stay healthy Stafford could crack the top-10 and be a nice value at QB with an ADP of the ninth round.
It is not just the Cardinals and their fans who are expecting WR John Brown to be a difference maker in the Cardinals offense. NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling ranked Brown sixth in his list of players he believes will "make the leap" this season and start to become a household name around the NFL.
"It's rare to come across an offseason hype bunny who meets expectations as a rookie. It's even more rare to find an NFL draft sleeper in the height of the Twitter era. A hidden gem from small-school Pittsburg State, the third-round pick immediately impressed the Cardinals with his high-end speed, uncanny instincts and unexpected understanding of route concepts.
The article went on to say Wesseling thinks Brown needs to work on his strength, but he believes it's not out of the question Brown could pass teammate Michael Floyd this year. Right now we have Brown ranked 45th on our WR list with an ADP of the 9th round. Interestingly, we have the Cardinal WRs all going around the same time in 12-team formats: Brown 9.07, Floyd 8.04 and Larry Fitzgerald 8.11. However it's Fitzgerald who we have rated the highest at 24th (Floyd's ranked 39th on our list). Fitz could end up being the best value among the three as other WRs ranked around Fitzgerald are all going as many as three rounds earlier. A healthy QB Carson Palmer is the key to how successful the Arizona passing game is this season, and of course all three of these guys will help boost Palmer's value.
Texans beat writers John McClain and Brian T. Smith discuss the candidates to replace Andre Johnson as the starter opposite DeAndre Hopkins. Smith said that "big picture" Jaelen Strong should be the guy, but Smith asked, "can he make enough of an impression during training camp?" The Texans are looking for consistency from the rookie.
Smith went on to say that Cecil Shorts "looked impressive" in camp, showing "really nice hands" and was the "one guy who truly stood out" at receiver.
Smith doesn't believe that Nate Washington will start, but went on to say that he could "really help this team" with his speed in three-WR sets.
Washington was the player that HC Bill O'Brien singled out, but it sounds like Smith believes that either Shorts or Strong will end up starting opposite of Hopkins. This may be something of a committee throughout the season and the quarterback situation in Houston makes it a dicey proposition to buy into the Texans' pass offense. Still, Strong is worthy of a late-round flier given his 15th round ADP even if he isn't starting Week 1.
Dorial Green-Beckham spent weeks sidelined by a hamstring injury. That aside, his former college coach believes the Titans have landed the equivalent of a "nightmare matchup for any cornerback at any level."
"I was with the Colts with Jim Mora when he had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, I was with the Raiders when they had Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Jerry Porter and some other guys on the Super Bowl team," University of Texas receivers coach Jay Norvell told the Tennessean.
Norvell spent last season coaching the red-shirted Green-Beckham in practice at Oklahoma, saying: "When you go through the history of the draft and look at the guys with size and speed and all that, he is just unique. Calvin Johnson is probably one of the closest comparisons physically because of his size."
"He's not a finished product, but most players aren't," Norvell said. "So he's going to have to learn the pro game and that's a completely different game from college. But he's got some natural gifts that will help him in that game, and in some ways, the NFL is probably a better game for him than college football, just because of the bump rules and (less) contact and all of that. So there are some advantages he has. ... That's why they picked him."
If Green-Beckham picks up things quickly and proves he’s not as raw as his detractors say — one offensive coordinator said he was “completely lost” at the whiteboard in a pre-draft interview — he could certainly start early in the season opposite Kendall Wright, since it seems that Justin Hunter is on the outs with the current coaching staff. If he sees starter’s snaps, he should be fantasy relevant as a rookie, though he'll have to prove he's ready for the mental side of the game. Long-term, he has a chance to flourish if both he and Marcus Mariota are the real deal.