There was little doubt about Derrick Henry's power coming out of Alabama, as the 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back repeatedly barreled through defenders last season en route to piling up 2,219 yards and winning the Heisman Trophy.
But was he elusive?
That was one of the few questions asked about Henry after the Titans selected him in the second round of the draft.
In the Titans’ 27-10 preseason win over the Chargers on Saturday night, Henry showed that he wasn’t only about running North-South, but that he also had the ability — and the footwork — necessary to elude defenders.
“He made a lot of those — a lot of those runs,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “It was nice to see he had the ability to jump-cut and make things happen outside and really outrun defenders.
Henry wound up rushing 10 times for 74 yards and a touchdown. Much of that yardage — perhaps all of it — came against San Diego’s second-team defense, but that didn’t concern Mularkey, the story said. Henry seems like the option to own behind DeMarco Murray, but Henry currently has an ADP of the ninth round which isn't a cheap price to pay.
I’m not looking for a 100-yard effort and two touchdowns here. But I what I do expect is for Chargers RB Melvin Gordon to take the next step and be the decisive, explosive runner we’ve seen so far in training camp. I expect Gordon to be in there for at least a couple series, so some hard running, being assignment-correct in pass protection and an explosive play or two would be nice.
We had a report the team tried out Gordon as a kick returner, something the author found alarming, and something that may indicate Gordon won't be the team's RB1. However, the team also tried Brendan Oliver back there as well as Danny Woodhead so maybe it's nothing to read into. But, Gordon struggled his rookie year so any positive preseason work is a key chance for him to show signs he can take the next step.
The Steelers made just one splashy -- and much-needed -- free agent signing this past offseason, tight end Ladarius Green. They have yet to see him in their offense, though, and a member of the organization, informed of the player's health, said it has nothing to do with the tight end's surgically-repaired ankle -- but is instead an issue with recurring headaches.
Green's agent, Adisi Bakara, however, immediately said, "His ankle is fine," when reached Wednesday night. Bakara would not comment on what is ultimately keeping Green sidelined, and his client has reportedly been seen running sprints at St. Vincent's College, while his teammates practice.
Green, then a member of the Chargers, complained of headaches after suffering two concussions in two weeks last September, according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Those were his second and third concussions in less than one calendar year. Green sat out one game last season due to a concussion, while ankle issues sidelined him for two others. A concussion also caused Green to miss one game during the 2014 season.
Green landed in a great situation, but it sounds like he continues to have symptoms from previous concussions. There's no telling how this is going to play out, so we're moving Green down our draft board until he's able to return to practice. In redraft formats, given his upside, Green is a good late-round pick as a TE2 but for now he can't be counted on as a fantasy starter.
Chargers WR Tyrell Williams has made a sizable leap in his second season. The former undrafted rookie from Oregon is considered one of the most improved Chargers from 2015, better route-running among his strides. He also projects to be a gunner in special teams coverage opposite safety Darrell Stuckey.
Johnson was shaping up as a nice late-round sleeper after an efficient first season with the Chargers. The team signed James Jones for depth, but Dontrelle Inman is/was Johnson's direct backup. Tyrell Williams (6'3") could potentially push Keenan Allen to the slot. Johnson's absence probably makes Travis Benjamin a solid pick in the double-digit rounds, though he has missed several practices with an unknown ailment.
The Chargers gave Melvin Gordon reps as a kick returner during a couple special-teams periods, alongside fellow running backs Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead, and receivers Isaiah Burse and DeAndre Reaves.
"He's a talented player," Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said of Gordon, via ESPN. "He can do that."
Consider this: In 2014, Oliver rushed for 582 yards on 160 attempts (3.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. The following offseason, the Chargers draft Gordon in the first round, and get nearly identical numbers. Now, the backfield that Gordon was supposed to take over as the bell cow is suddenly considered crowded, with Gordon, Oliver and the small-but-mighty Woodhead. My, how things have changed.
The story really made this out to be alarming and it can be taken very seriously as a team trying to get the most value out of a player who they might suddenly deem as highly overpriced. It may also indicate Gordon will not be the team's RB1 when the season starts. But keep in mind, nothing is set in stone as far as the Chargers backfield is concerned and the battle is still going on according to McCoy.
San Diego Fanfest spectators wondered why speedy newcomer Travis Benjamin sat out all drills, and why Keenan Allen, the No. 1 receiver, sat on the bench with a shoe off as trainer James Collins checked on both players.
HC Mike McCoy said Allen was limited to solo drills, due to having his foot stepped on Friday. “He’s fine,” the coach said.
McCoy didn’t specify Benjamin’s situation but said generally that he’ll rest players on certain days.
So once again, it was Tyrell Williams getting to take advantage. Williams had a 28-yard catch which QB Philip Rivers described as the top highlight for the first team offense. Williams is having a good camp and could be in line for more playing time with Stevie Johnson's injury. The story said Williams is of the Michael Floyd mold.
They worked so well together the first time that Ken Whisenhunt returning to the San Diego Chargers was a no-brainer for head coach Mike McCoy.
One of the reasons McCoy brought him back is how well Philip Rivers performed during Whisenhunt's one-year stint as San Diego's offensive coordinator in 2013.
After an uneven stretch of his career in which he threw a combined 48 interceptions from 2010 to 2012, Rivers experienced a rebirth under Whisenhunt, finishing in the top five in completion percentage (69.5 percent), yards per pass (8.23), passing yards (4,478), passing touchdowns (32) and passer rating (105.5) during the 2013 season. Rivers comes into this season ranked ninth on our list and should be a nice, ninth-round option. Stevie Johnson will be lost for a while but the team signed Travis Benjamin in the offseason to pair with Keenan Allen. The team signed James Jones today and TE Antonio Gates is back so Rivers has plenty of weapons.
They settled on James Jones.
Rapoport reported earlier that the Chargers were hosting Jones and former Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline on Tuesday, per sources. In addition, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported former Lions receiver Lance Moore would also work out for the team.
It's clear the 32-year-old has lost a step, won't get much separation from corners and will rely on timing with the quarterback to earn any production in his 10th NFL season, the story said. With Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin look like they will start, so the Chargers might be comfortable using Jones as a veteran replacement in a limited role in 2016. However as we reported several times, it's not out of the question Allen gets time in the slot with Jones on the outside.
Williams also worked heavily with the ones when a hamstring injury limited Travis Benjamin this spring. Benjamin seems back to full strength this training camp, running at full speed opposite Keenan Allen.
This falls right in line with news items we had yesterday right after Johnson went down. Williams is a bit of an unknown but has been taking advantage of injuries as far back as spring. The story also mentioned Dontrelle Inman as seeing plenty of wide-receiver reps in the early going of camp.
Right now it's unclear if Johnson will miss the entire season. Johnson went down in practice on Sunday. We just posted a news item today from the San Diego Union-Tribune talking about what the Chargers may have to do if Johnson is out for an extended time, which certainly seems to be the case. This particular beat writer pointed to Tyrell Williams as a possible replacement on the outside with free agent Travis Benjamin opposite of him. That would move Keenan Allen to the slot - and the Chargers do play a lot of three-WR sets. Javontee Herndon is another possible replacement for the slot which would allow Allen to stay on the outside. Dontrelle Inman is also on the roster.
Our own sports physical therapist Russell Manalastas weighed in on Johnson's injury: With any torn meniscus the important thing to consider is the size and location of the tear. The meniscus is a cartilage that lacks adequate blood flow so location of the tear is really important. One option would be to do a menisectomy where they just take the portion that is torn out to prevent the knee from catching, lacking, or buckling on him. The other option would be a meniscal repair, where they stitch the torn area back down to preserve the meniscus and preserve the knee from degenerative changes later on. With this being the NFL and how things are always expedited, my guess would be that if they can, they'd clean up the area that was torn, shave it down so there are clean edges, and then start the rehab process. Menisectomy timetables are significantly shorter in terms of recovery (4-6 weeks, depending on pain tolerance, strength and other factors), whereas meniscal repairs are a much longer recovery (4 months or longer, and that's being optimistic). Once we find out what type of surgery Johnson has, then we can figure out what the expectation should be.
If the knee injury Stevie Johnson sustained Sunday sidelines Johnson for an extended period, Williams could see a bigger role.
The story said Williams could play on the outside with Keenan Allen moving to the slot if Johnson would miss time if the injury is serious. Javontee Herndon, who was sidelined Sunday, has the shiftiness that can play up in the slot if the tricky mental nuances are mastered, the story said. If Herndon can play the slot at some point, that would allow Allen back to the outside, but it all depends on the seriousness of Johnson's injury. Over the last couple of years, the team has tried to move Allen around which seemed to help last year. The Chargers use a lot of three-WR sets.
The Chargers rely heavily on three-receiver formations and, like most NFL offenses, skew toward the pass.
Both approaches bear fruit, but the wideouts take the brunt of the workload. Hey, someone has to pay a steeper price for all the offense the NFL craves and fosters, and in San Diego's offense, it's the receivers.
The story talks about how injuries to WRs could be from using them too much. If the WRs survived the injuries, performances have dipped deeper into the season. The author feels running the ball and using two-TE sets could help save the WRs, but the team has struggled to run the ball in recent years. Unfortunately for the Bolts, WR Stevie Johnson went down on Sunday and the team is still waiting results of an MRI.
Chargers wide receiver Steve Johnson was carried off the field Sunday with a right knee injury after going down in a pass drill.
Johnson, who applied no pressure to his right leg as he was carried off, was examined by trainers for several minutes before he was taken inside.
The injury occurred on an pass from Philip Rivers.
Johnson was poised to be the slot guy with Keenan Allen and newly signed Travis Benjamin on the outside. It was shaping up to be the deepest the Chargers WRs have been in a few years. It's obviously not a good sign he couldn't put pressure on the injury but it could have been out of caution. We'll continue to monitor the situation. Dontrelle Inman is next up on the depth chart.
But after a slow start, Gordon picked up the pace during mandatory minicamp and is expected to be full-go at the start of training camp.
The author said he wouldn't be shocked if the Chargers take a slow approach with Gordon, and maybe even start him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list just to make sure he is fully healthy. Once on the field, how decisive Gordon runs and how well he holds on to the football after working out with mentor Adrian Peterson in Houston during the offseason will be points of evaluation during preseason play and training camp.