The official return of pro football will have to wait another four days. The NFL canceled Sunday night's Hall of Fame game because of poor field conditions. The Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts are headed back home.
The disappointing decision came after player safety concerns arose. NFL Media's Steve Wyche reports that the midfield logo was the main area of concern. It recently was painted and it was slick and hard, according to several team officials.
The embarrassing news casts a pall on an otherwise great weekend. Sunday's game was going to be much of a regular season preview, although it provides a chance for end-of-the-roster plays to impress coaches and make the team. Undrafted free agent Joe Callahan was expected to start at quarterback for the Packers. Starters usually play a series or two at most in the first preseason game.
It's safe to say New Orleans Saints tight end Coby Fleener is still trying to learn the nuances of playing with Drew Brees after playing with the same quarterback for his entire college and NFL career in Andrew Luck.
Brees is still learning Fleener's game, of course. Yet Fleener seems well aware of who's the boss and it's more about learning Brees than vice versa.
"There's absolutely some catching up to do on my part," Fleener said after Day 4 of training camp practices Sunday at The Greenbrier. "Drew can write the playbook if he wanted to. He's just that well versed in what we're doing.
The last two days displayed how quickly the two are coming along the story said. It added Brees connected with Fleener on a few intermediate routes in team drills, and also a one-armed grab with a ball thrown behind him in team drills. On Sunday, Brees hit Fleener perfectly on a deep seam route for a long touchdown connection.
Johnson, 35, starred in his first 12 NFL seasons with the Texans before struggling last season with the Colts. Although he appears on the downside of his career, the 6-3, 229-pound veteran will still likely provide a reliable target for second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota and boost a Titans receiving corps that rated among the least productive in the league last season.
Johnson didn't seem to have much left with the Colts last year. And in a recent news story, one of four unnamed team execs said Johnson's upside was in some kind of limited role because of his size. Two of the four execs said he was done while one other said he could serve as a mentor. This particular story said Titans coach Mike Mularkey was impressed by Johnson's productivity in a limited role last season, because 24 of his 41 catches went for 10 yards or longer. It's doubtful Johnson is going to have a huge fantasy value but it's worth monitoring what his role is going to be with Tennessee.
Early in training camp, per the Indianapolis Star, it's "unmistakably clear" that Rob Chudzinski is moving away from the two-tight end offense that was a staple under former coordinator Pep Hamilton.
Along with the coordinator change, the organization's recent personnel moves dictate an adjustment. With receiving tight end Coby Fleener out of the picture and 2015 first-round draft pick Dorsett healthy, it behooves Chudzinski to take advantage with a three wide-receiver attack, the story said. It looks like Moncrief will be the team's WR2 with Dorsett's role expanding as the third WR.
The Colts have talent at their skill positions, but they also have depth concerns.
“We have three guys at wide receiver [who] we know about and then we have a bunch of guys [who] have talent, can run, have height, weight and speed and can catch and do all those things, but they have to go do it now,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “Those guys are all going to compete for that spot, and that’s what training camp is all about. We’ve got talent, we’ve got guys that are capable, they are just unproven.”
The Colts have nine receivers on their roster not with the last name T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett or Donte Moncrief. Brian Tyms and Josh Boyce are the only receivers who have a reception in the NFL. The Colts have routinely kept around five receivers during the regular season.
There's no clear-cut favorite on who Frank Gore's backup is even though the team is high on undrafted free agent Josh Ferguson out of Illinois. Gore had 227 more carries than his next closest teammate last season.
The Colts are just fine with their starting skill spots, but any kind of injury the team will need to sort out who is up next. Whomever wins the jobs could certainly have fantasy potential if there is an injury at some point. The story also mentioned TE, where it's just Jack Doyle and Chase Coffman behind Dwayne Allen.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016, 7:00pm
The 35-year-old wide receiver visited the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of Johnson's whereabouts.
No signing is imminent, per Rapoport, as the two sides are simply feeling each other out at this point.
There's reason to believe Andrew Luck was never fully healthy at any point in a disappointing 2015 season.
He missed two early-season games with an injury to his throwing shoulder, played through torn cartilage in two of his ribs and went down with a lacerated kidney at midseason.
Going all the way back to the season opener we saw a quarterback with waning arm strength and shaky pocket presence, suggesting Luck was hiding an injury he never revealed.
"Personally, I know I wasn't playing well, whether I was injured or not," Luck recently acknowledged to the Indianapolis Star. "I have some thoughts, but I don't want to share them. I wasn't doing a good job and it's no one else's fault but mine."
Luck said he feels as good as ever coming into a training camp. He should bounce back nicely this season, and we're thinking he ends up a top-five QB.
Drug possession charges have been filed against former Utah State football player Robert Turbin, who was reportedly found in possession of marijuana, during a traffic stop in Logan.
Logan City Police Capt. Curtis Hooley said an officer pulled over a black Audi Friday night, near 950 N. 200 W. after the car ran a stop sign.
“The officer made a traffic stop and made contact with the driver, who was Robert Turbin,” said Hooley. “Upon contact, the officer immediately smelled the odor of burnt marijuana coming from the vehicle.”
Related players: Josh Ferguson
Saturday, July 9, 2016, 11:22am
Ferguson still sits behind Gore, but as we pointed out in June, the others on the depth chart aren't really impressive names - like Robert Turbin and Jordan Toddman for example. We think Ferguson could make a mark in PPR leagues even if Gore stays healthy. He's also drawn comparisons to Darren Sproles so he's that type of back - a pass catcher who can make people miss but also log a few carries as a change of pace.
Giants beat writer James Kratch answered a question about the team's RB situation:
I expect the Giants to start the season with Rashad Jennings as their starting running back and Shane Vereen as the third down/hurry-up back, with Andre Williams being the short-yardage/change-of-pace guy.
I think rookie Paul Perkins could definitely make an impact, but my guess is that would come later in the season. If Jennings stays healthy, I think he can be the Giants' first 1,000-yard rusher since Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012.
Kratch said it helped last year the Gaints broke up the RB committee down the stretch and as a result Jennings took over as the hot hand behind an improved offensive line. Jennings is 30th on our RB list but is another later-round selection who could produce as part of your fantasy committee.
Sunday, July 3, 2016, 4:13pm
When it comes to NFL quarterback contracts, a rising tide doesn’t necessarily lift all boats. Just ask Ryan Fitzpatrick, who gained no leverage from contracts given to players like Sam Bradford (two years, $35 million) and Brock Osweiler (four years, $72 million). Ultimately, a quarterback’s value is driven not by what others have gotten, but by what anyone will pay this specific player.
Fitzpatrick, despite the Bradford, Osweiler, and now Andrew Luck deals, can’t get eight figures per year from the Jets, or anything close to that from anyone else. Next year, that same problem could apply to Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
The story went on to say Taylor is due to earn $3 million this year, which when it comes to quarterbacks isn’t peanuts but pressed peanut sweepings. For Taylor, his value next year likely will be driven by the market for mid-level quarterbacks, if anyone out there chooses to pay him a mid-level contract, which currently is in the range of $15 million per year. Luck’s new contract doesn’t change that.
The Colts announced Wednesday that Luck has signed an extension through the 2021 season that will make him the highest-paid player in the NFL, based on guaranteed salary.
Go get that money, Andrew.
Owner Jim Irsay had been openly pining for an elusive Darren Sproles-style satellite back. That's the role offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski dangled in front of Ferguson in a post-draft recruiting pitch.
With the underwhelming quartet of Robert Turbin, Jordan Todman, Trey Williams and Tyler Varga behind 33-year-old starter Frank Gore, Ferguson used offseason practices to climb the depth chart and make a lasting impression on the coaching staff.
"It's just in shorts, but he looks really good," coach Chuck Pagano said last week as the Colts wrapped up minicamp. "He's smart. He picks things up in a hurry. He's very, very athletic. He's a great receiver out of the back field. We can split him wide, we can displace him formationally. He's a mismatch out in space. He's got juice. He can go. He's got great vision."
We like Frank Gore as a value pick this year, but Ferguson could surprise in PPR formats even if Gore stays healthy.
“We watched a lot of film on him last year, just because we played the AFC South,” Brees told reporters. “It felt like every time we turned on the film to watch an opponent that we were about to play, I’m watching Colts film or Fleener film. It was like, ‘Man, this guy has an uncanny ability to separate.’ He is always open. There’s always a place to throw the ball where he can get it. It gets you excited about a guy who has that type of range and that type of feel. Time on task with a guy like that, the more time we have in this offense where he can understand the nuances and understand what I am thinking, and where I want him to be, and when I want him to be there, and when and where the ball is going to be thrown — that’s when you really start cooking. That’s when you feel like a guy is uncoverable. I don’t care who is on him. He’s 6-5 or 6-6, there is a place where I can throw the ball where he can get it or nobody can.”
In the 22 games that Fleener has played over the last three seasons with Dwayne Allen sidelined, he has averaged 4.1 catches for 54 yards and 0.45 TD. Those averages would have been good enough to finish 7th in standard scoring and 6th in PPR in 2015. When only looking at seven such games in the last two seasons, Fleener has averaged 5.4 catches for 82 yards and 0.86 TD. He landed in a great spot (New Orleans), where he’ll be asked to replace Ben Watson, who was 7th in tight end targets last year. It doesn't hurt that Fleener hasn't missed a game in the last three years, either.
Moments after saying he would prefer not to hype anyone’s performance this early to avoid the potential for complacency, Colts coach Chuck Pagano proceeded to sing the praises of his No. 1 receiver.
“(T.Y. Hilton) is having as good an offseason as anybody, probably better than anybody,” Pagano said Tuesday. “…I’ve never seen this guy practice as fast as he's practicing right now. … He’s done it day in and day out.”
That's no embellishment. Hilton has caught just about everything thrown his way – over the middle, on the sideline, falling out of the end zone. On those occasions when he’s matched up against No. 1 cornerback Vontae Davis, Hilton seems to have won more of those battles than he’s lost.
I asked Hilton what gives. He offered a simple explanation.
“I’m more motivated, more hungry,” he said. “I’m just ready to go, man. After watching the playoffs last year and not being in there, I’m just ready to get back to that point and continue to lead this team.”
In 22 games over the past two seasons with an active Andrew Luck, Hilton has averaged 5.1 catches for 86 yards and 0.45 TD. Those are fringe WR1 numbers in PPR formats and solid WR1 numbers in standard leagues. With Luck back under center, Hilton should have a bounce back season after finishing #22 in both formats.