Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 11:44am
Shaw started Cleveland's season finale in 2014 at Baltimore and the Browns were encouraged by his progress before he got hurt in the exhibition opener. Now that Shaw's season is over, the team will likely sign a young quarterback to keep on its practice squad.
With Johnny Manziel sidelined with a sore elbow, the Browns signed Pat Devlin last week. He's expected to play in Thursday's preseason finale at Chicago. Starting quarterback Josh McCown will sit out to get ready for the Sept. 13 season opener against the New York Jets. Backup Thad Lewis will start.
After letting league-leading rusher DeMarco Murray go in free agency, and not making a move for any replacement, or trading for a guy like Adrian Peterson, the Cowboys seem determined to go with their running back by committee.
In Saturday’s game against the Vikings, Joseph Randle started and had six carries for 15 yards. Darren McFadden took the second quarter and added four carries for 37 yards. While it may not be Murray, getting 10 for 52 out of the pair of them is a solid start.
“I thought they both did a good job,” quarterback Tony Romo said, via Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com. “I thought the looks were a little tougher for Joe early on with the way they played it, then we got to some runs we could attack them with and it opened up some holes. Darren obviously did good on those and made some explosive runs.
“But sometimes the dirty ones are some of the best ones too.”
So as much as it made sense that they might pursue more of a bell-cow back, Jones seemed content going with the duo into the regular season.
“I see how we can line up certainly this coming week but I see how we can line up against the Giants, yes, I do,” Jones said. “You say, ‘Well, couldn’t you see it before?’ Now, I saw the same things before. I expect [Randle] to give us and has the talent to make some of the plays we saw him make tonight. I certainly know [McFadden] can make them and [Lance] Dunbar can do the same. If they’re healthy, I’ll take their skill and what they can bring and go to the game against the Giants and won’t ask for any more.”
Going with that approach is going to put more pressure on Romo and their offensive line this year, but they seem comfortable with that for the time being, the story pointed out. Maybe more importantly, it's going to be a headache for fantasy owners. Add Lance Dunbar in the mix, especially in the passing game, and there's potential for a three-headed backfield. Randle is still our pick to have the most fantasy value out of the three.
On the topic of the Cowboys' RBBC approach...
If you're seeking knowledge for your fantasy football draft, well, peace be with you.
Dallas isn't relenting on this. It's not a bluff. As it stands right now, this will be a committee in the purest NFL form. The Cowboys are adamant that their elite offensive line can be the glue that elevates a collection of parts into a greater whole.
Ultimately, what we saw Saturday night against the Vikings is likely a facsimile of what to expect this season. Joseph Randle came in and ended up playing the role of the guinea pig, with the Cowboys probing some inside runs for signs of weakness, then ending up sputtering with some third-and-long situations that weren't conducive to running. Lance Dunbar got one carry that went one yard. And then once Dallas identified some soft spots, Darren McFadden came in and cleaned up with 37 yards on four carries. Had this been a regular-season game, it's highly likely that Dallas would have ridden McFadden's hot hand as the lead, while mixing in Randle in both the run and pass, and then getting some situational opportunities to Dunbar. It wouldn't have played out that way because Randle is the No. 2 – it would have played out that way because he did the grunt work early and set the stage for McFadden.
That's how committees like this work.
Recent play has McFadden trending up with Randle trending downward. This has the makings of a full on committee, which means that the team is likely to ride the hot hand in any given week. This is not conducive to success in fantasy football, so we wouldn't recommend drafting Randle at his current ADP (#42). McFadden is the better value in the 9th or 10th round, but he may go early given the way things are trending. Keep in mind that his durability is a major question mark given his extensive injury history.
Deep in Vikings territory, McFadden took a stretch handoff to the left side and made two explosive cuts that extended the play, giving Dallas a first-and-goal situation inside the Minnesota 10. The carry spawned a thousand Vines wondering if McFadden is finally back. It beat his previous best on the night, a 13-yard carry with 13:59 to go in the second.
"I think that what you saw was vintage McFadden," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after the game, per the Dallas Morning News. "You saw that acceleration. You saw his abilities."
The question with McFadden will always be health. There is no doubt that plays like these are still in his arsenal, but with a body that has betrayed him so many times, is it something that can be counted on?
While Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett won't go that far, he'll agree that it was a step in the right direction; a step away from uncertainty.
We're expecting Randle to be the lead back, but he didn't help his cause with just 15 yards on six carries. The Cowboys will use a committee to a certain extent, and McFadden's health is not to be trusted. but if he's healthy and active on game day, it may be difficult to trust Randle, either.
The Vikings were in the shotgun or pistol about 65 percent of the time after Teddy Bridgewater took over as the starting QB in Week 4 last season -- the 13th-most in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- and their 565 shotgun snaps in that time were only 210 less than they had in 2012 and 2013 combined.
Adrian Peterson, of course, was in the backfield both of those seasons, and has yet to play his first game with Bridgewater at quarterback. In those two seasons, Peterson ran just 40 times out of the shotgun, or one fewer than Christian Ponder. Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, on the other hand, logged a combined 114 carries out of the shotgun last season.
"I think the things we're doing out of the shotgun, he's very comfortable with, and getting more comfortable," Turner said. "We're going to give him a good dose of the things he does best and has done best his entire career. We're going to try to spread the field a little bit and do some things to give him more space."
There's little doubt the offense will require something of an adjustment for Peterson, who's made a career out of lining up seven yards deep in the backfield and hitting the line of scrimmage with a healthy fury, the story said. But between the Vikings having enough of Peterson's staples in the playbook and giving the running back enough practice snaps to adjust, offensive coordinator Norv Turner thinks Peterson will be fine with an offense that's a little more spread out. It should only help Peterson as long as Bridgewater and the receivers and prove to be a legit passing threat. It will be a lot for defenses to account for.
The hype machine has yet to start cranking for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson. When it comes to the team's offensive skill positions, running back Adrian Peterson, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a handful of other receivers have all generated more discussion than Johnson.
However, Johnson's 10-yard touchdown catch in a preseason win over the Oakland Raiders on Saturday served as a subtle reminder of what he brings to Minnesota's offense.
"You talk about that touchdown catch he had today with the defensive back all over his shoulders," Bridgewater said, per ESPN's Ben Goessling. "Charles, he’s a big, physical guy. He helps out in the run game with his blocking for the running backs and it showed tonight in the passing game in just the first half -- not even the entire first half, but the first quarter. He showed that he’s going to be big for us this year."
At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Johnson hides in a cast of receivers that includes Mike Wallace, Cordarrelle Patterson and rookie sensation Stefon Diggs, among others. He is listed as the starting "WR2," opposite Wallace, on the Vikings' preseason depth chart, the story said. Johnson is 34th on our WR list and hasn't really been that big of a secret in drafts this season. Teams are taking him in the middle rounds because he's got a lot of positive press since the end of last season.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 8:23am
The Minnesota Vikings' running game has put up meager numbers so far in the preseason, and there's one particular area of it that coach Mike Zimmer feels the team needs to fix. Zimmer didn't divulge what the fix was, but it's probably a safe bet he doesn't have "get future Hall of Famer for backfield" on his daily to-do list.
Adrian Peterson certainly figures to provide a jolt to the Vikings' running game when he steps back on the field on Sept. 14, and his presence could minimize some of the issues the Vikings are having on the ground game. In the meantime, however, the fact Peterson isn't playing in the preseason probably gives the Vikings time to clean things up before Peterson covers them up.
The Vikings are averaging just 3.1 yards per carry in the preseason, and gained only 87 yards on 32 carries Saturday night against the Oakland Raiders. Zimmer had several points of emphasis for players when they returned to work on Monday; improving the run game was among the top priorities. While Peterson should be a quick-fix, it's also important the backups show some signs of life if something were to happen to AP.
Monday, August 24, 2015, 5:08pm
Quarterback Jameis Winston has spent the bulk of his rookie offseason learning the playbook and preparing to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015. While that's obviously still the focus, Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune reports that there's one other key thing Lovie Smith wants Winston to focus on.
Protecting himself better.
This all stems from Winston running during the team's 26-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
“Well, he hadn’t run the ball (until then),’’ Bucs coach Lovie Smith told Cummings. “So, yes, in these coming weeks we will work on teaching him how to protect himself a little better and when to get down.’’
As Cummings explains, Winston dove headfirst on all three scrambles during the preseason game. Obviously, this is something the Bucs need to fix immediately, because you can't have your franchise quarterback taking big hits. Winston stated that he was always taught something different, but there's little chance his mindset will stay that way for long. That's what Michael Vick said too, but never seemed to be able to adjust to sliding rather than going head first, and it often cost him with injuries.
Sunday, August 23, 2015, 12:54pm
When asked about his second-quarter interception on Saturday night, backup quarterback Shaun Hill chose diplomacy. When approached about the same play, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson chose silence. But Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer offered a hint on Saturday night about what happened on the miscommunication between Hill and Patterson.
Asked what happened on the play, Zimmer said, "Yeah, there was miscommunication." Then asked if Patterson ran the wrong route, Zimmer replied with a smirk, "Probably -- if you were a betting man."
Those 11 words were all Zimmer said about the play, but in his second year as the Vikings' head coach, Zimmer has already become a master of saying everything while saying little. And his response suggested Patterson, who played 21 snaps on Saturday night, still has some work to do if he wants to earn the Vikings' trust as a receiver, the story said. Fantasy owners likely already knew this, however.
Charles Johnson isn't one of the three Vikings-drafted receivers on the roster, nor is he the prized offseason acquisition.
But since Johnson was plucked off the Cleveland Browns' practice squad nearly a year ago, he's been one of Teddy Bridgewater's favorite targets in a receiver room that has been recently bolstered with developing young talent, like fifth-round pick Stefon Diggs, and a new face in Mike Wallace.
"Charles continues to make plays," coach Mike Zimmer said. "Catches the ball, runs good routes. The touchdown he caught, I thought the guy was grabbing the heck out of him the whole way."
After the Vikings jettisoned Jerome Simpson last fall, Johnson joined the Vikings after spending the 2013 season rehabbing a torn ACL under then-Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Less than two months later, Johnson became the Vikings' starting split end over 29th-overall pick Cordarrelle Patterson and turned 25 catches into 415 yards as Bridgewater's go-to target in the rookie quarterback's best stretch of play in December, the story added. We see potential for Johnson and think he could at least put up low-end WR3 numbers, like he did from Week 11 on last year when he finished as WR31 in that span. We rank him 39th on our WR list, and he's getting some mid-round draft attention.
Sunday, August 23, 2015, 9:19am
The Minnesota Vikings made their trust in kicker Blair Walsh clear at the beginning of training camp, by giving him a four-year contract extension that included $5.25 million in guaranteed money. So there's no real reason to think Walsh's struggles in the team's first three preseason games will put his job in jeopardy any time soon.
But there's also no escaping the fact that since last December, Walsh hasn't been the same kind of dependable kicker the Vikings had when he went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2012, or even when he drilled 26 of 30 field goals in 2013. Since Week 14 last season, Walsh is 7-for-16 in games, and 2-for-6 in the preseason.
He missed three field goals and an extra point on Saturday night against the Oakland Raiders, and while swirling winds played with the trajectory of Walsh's kicks on Saturday, neither the kicker nor coach Mike Zimmer was about to accept that as an excuse. Raiders kicker Giorgio Tavecchio made both of his field goals.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 8:04pm
Peterson, recovering from a right thigh bruise, sat out practice with the exception of doing some late light work without a helmet. He was hurt Aug. 11 in practice and missed workouts for two days before returning to limited duty on Monday.
Peterson won't play in the exhibition season. He's expected to next take the field Sept. 14 in the regular-season opener at San Francisco.
This is Simpson's third NFL-issued suspension in four years, and this was for violating the league's substance-abuse policy last year with the Minnesota Vikings.
"The probability of a suspension was known when we signed Jerome," general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "Since joining the 49ers, Jerome has proven to be a great teammate.
"Although he will not be able to participate in the first six weeks of the season, Jerome has done everything asked of him, both on and off the field. We are in full support of the NFL's decision, and look forward to Jerome's future contributions to our organization."
After sitting out last season, Simpson has impressed upon joining the 49ers in March, both with his quick receiving skills on the field and proper behavior off it. Simpson had two catches for 31 yards in Saturday's exhibition opener at Houston, including a 25-yard catch. Simpson won't count against the 49ers' 53-man roster until he's eligible to come off suspension Oct. 19, a day after the 49ers host the Baltimore Ravens. He is able to continue practicing and playing through the final exhibition, Sept. 3 against San Diego, the story said.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who missed two days of practice last week because of a left thigh bruise, returned to practice today. He participated in some of the individual drills, but stayed on the sideline for the 11-on-11 portion of the fully-padded practice.
Peterson didn’t play in Saturday’s 26-16 preseason win over the Buccaneers. But he wouldn’t have played even if he was healthy. He won’t play until the regular season starts on Sept. 14 at San Francisco so there's no need to rush him back to practice.
Monday, August 17, 2015, 6:10pm
When they're asked for a facet in which Teddy Bridgewater has improved before his second season, Minnesota Vikings coaches and players usually mention how much more assertive the second-year quarterback is this year. That generally starts with Bridgewater's command of the huddle, but it's also starting to show up in how he reads defenses on the field.
Bridgewater is 12-for-14 in the preseason, having thrown for 130 yards without a turnover or a sack. The Vikings have done a solid job protecting Bridgewater so far this preseason, but the quarterback's decisiveness probably deserves some credit.
"He's a very quick decision-maker and I'm always going to relate to when he played at his best that last third of the season," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "As I tell you, I'm not a big stat guy, but I don't see us as the 28th-rated passing game in the league last year because over the last six weeks, we were probably a top-10 passing game and that's what we're trying to build on."
Bridgewater showed a better ability to throw receivers open late last season, and he hit Jarius Wright on Saturday with the kind of play he might not have made early last year. Bridgewater used his eyes to hold the middle of the field while Wright worked past two defenders on a crossing route. As soon as Wright cleared cornerback Leonard Johnson and linebacker Bruce Carter, Bridgewater hit him in stride 10 yards down the field, and Wright gained another 16 after the catch. Bridgewater is getting some late round draft attention and is ranked 17th on our QB list.
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