Lions RB Joique Bell isn't worried about the knee injury that has sidelined him for the entirety of this offseason. He isn't worried about the Achilles either.
He really, really isn't.
Bell is so confident about this season, in fact, that he's predicting he'll become the second Detroit Lions running back to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards since 2004 -- and then some.
"I'm going to rush for over 1,200 yards," Bell told MLive.com. "That's the minimum. If I do less than that, I'll be surprised. I'll be disappointed.
"Anything more than that, I wouldn't be surprised at all."
Bell was the #14 RB in standard formats (#13 in PPR), while racking up 257 touches in 15 games. That works out to a 17.1-touch average. While he certainly benefited from Reggie Bush's injury-plagued season, Bell dominated the touches even when Bush was active and playing. He should continue to see RB1-type touches in 2015 with Bush out of the way, though the arrival of Ameer Abdullah is a concern. Abdullah has shined with Bell sitting out of offseason activities, but Bell should still see 14-15 touches per game.
Monday, June 29, 2015, 2:33pm
Walker: James is an interesting project for Miami. He was a hot name coming out of Oregon in 2012 and the 49ers took him with the No. 61 overall pick. But the smaller James never fit San Francisco's power running game and he was released in his third season. The Dolphins picked him up, but James played in only two games last season and rushed for 9 yards on three carries. This is a huge year for James to prove himself. He's had a full offseason with the Dolphins to learn the offense, and the backup tailback position is wide open behind starter and 1,000-yard rusher Lamar Miller.
Walker went on to say that James is a better fit for Miami’s spread scheme under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, and the running back has made some nice plays this spring. But James will compete for reps with a crowded group of running backs that includes Miller, rookie Jay Ajayi, Damien Williams and Mike Gillislee. Miami may keep only three tailbacks on its active roster and it could come down to Williams or James for the final spot.
Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson was a week from returning to the Vikings' roster after a three-game suspension for drunken driving, when ESPN reported on Sept. 18 that Simpson had been cited in July for misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving with an open bottle. The Vikings released Simpson later that day, and signed Charles Johnson off the Cleveland Browns' practice squad the next day.
It seemed at the time like a move to replenish the Vikings' wide receiver depth with a known commodity -- quarterbacks coach Scott Turner had been Johnson's position coach the previous year in Cleveland -- but Johnson was less than a year removed from knee surgery, and didn't play more than 20 snaps in a game until Nov. 16. From that point on, though, he caught 25 passes for 415 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and supplanted Cordarrelle Patterson as the team's "X" receiver.
"He was recovering from that knee surgery a year ago and I don't know that he was ever 100 percent," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "I think he's 100 percent. He's got great work ethic, and he's a big, strong guy. He's a 218-pound receiver that can run. He's got everything you need to be a productive player in this league."
In organized team activities and minicamp, there was no mystery about where Johnson figured in the Vikings' plans, the story went on to say. He was lined up at split end all spring, and teamed with Mike Wallace and Jarius Wright in the team's three receiver sets. According to ESPN, 33 of Johnson's 58 targets were at least 10 yards downfield, and 13 of those 58 were 20 or more yards downfield. Johnson worked out in Southern California with Bridgewater and a number of the Vikings' receivers this offseason, and also spent time in Houston with Rischad Whitfield, the "Footwork King" who has counted Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins among his clients. Johnson is one of 4for4.com Senior Editor John Paulsen's potential sleepers this year. We rank him 37th on our WR list and he looks to be in a good situation with the offense under OC Norv Turner and a developing QB in Bridgewater.
Carlos Hyde missed a lot of the offseason program with a relatively minor leg issue.
That left Reggie Bush to take the first running rep during drills and he reportedly looked strong. Hyde still projects as the early-down starter come Week 1, but his workload will be nibbled into by Bush, rookie Mike Davis and a healthy Kendall Hunter. And if the 49ers end up trailing a lot this season as they very well could, Bush will be logging the majority of snaps as the passing back.
Hyde is expected to take over as the team's primary ball-carrier, with Bush assuming the passing down role. Given Bush's presence and Hyde's 4.0 YPC during in his rookie season, Hyde's upside may be somewhat limited. Expect 240 or so carries and a limited role in the passing game. As for Bush, anytime he stays healthy, he's a factor in PPR formats. He has appeared in 14 or more games in five of his nine NFL seasons, and has finished in the top 14 in PPR leagues in four of those five seasons.
49ers writer Tyler Emerick said that RB Reggie Bush was the team's best free agent addition:
If you’ve followed our offseason coverage, you’ve heard Trent Baalke, Jim Tomsula, Tom Rathman, Geep Chryst and Kaepernick all express the same sentiment: Bush, at 30 years old, looks every bit as explosive as ever. The active leader in receptions by a running back with 466 career catches, Bush has urged the 49ers to get him the ball in space. This offseason, that translated not only into the 10th-year pro catching passes out of the backfield, but also getting carries on stretch plays and returning kicks and punts on special teams. Bush sounds like a man with something to prove, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Bush is expected to fill a third-down role since it looks like Carlos Hyde is ready to carry most of the rushing load, though Jim Tomsula's comments (about Bush being “a runner...not a gadget guy”) indicate that Bush's presence should be a concern for Hyde owners who were initially excited about the young back's opportunity with Frank Gore gone. The 49ers don't typically use their running backs in the passing game, though longtime OC Greg Roman is gone and new OC Geep Chryst may have a different plan in mind.
49ers.com writer Joe Fann calls Torrey Smith the team's best free agent addition:
The 49ers needed a compliment to Anquan Boldin, and they found the perfect man for the job. Smith is far more than a one-trick pony. Yes, he excels at stretching the field and getting behind defensive backs, but he’s already shown the ability to catch balls in traffic on short and intermediate routes as well. On two specific minicamp plays, Smith caught the ball on a stopping route, then spun away from his defender and accelerated away from everyone in pursuit. I’m not sure I saw him drop a ball this offseason.
Smith got off to a slow start in 2014, posting just six catches for 85 yards in the first three games. Over the final 13 games of the season, he averaged 3.3 receptions for 52 yards and 0.85 touchdowns, which equates to #20 WR-type numbers in PPR formats. As it stands, he finished as the #29 WR in PPR and #19 in standard formats (thanks to the high touchdown rate), which is the fourth time he has finished in the top 23 (in standard formats) in his four-year career. He joins a 49ers receiving corps that has lost Michael Crabtree and has a still-effective Anquan Boldin as a possession receiver. Smith will serve as a deep threat for QB Colin Kaepernick, though this move has to be considered a downgrade from an offensive/quarterback standpoint since the 49ers are typically run-heavy and Joe Flacco is pretty adept at putting touch on the deep ball. Throwing with touch has not been one of Kaepernick's strengths, though he has been working on his passing technique his offseason.
Greg Cosell of NFL Films discussed the 49ers' offseason:
People tend to forget with Colin Kaepernick, because he had such great success early, that he's only been a full-time starter for two years. He's still a young quarterback, he's still learning the craftsmanship of the position and the subtleties of the position. With a new coordinator, I think Geep Chryst, my sense is, I think he'll try and be a little more expansive and explosive with the pass game. So I'm anxious to see that. I think they'll try very hard to get Vernon Davis back into it. So I think it's important for people to remember that Colin Kaepernick is still a young quarterback learning.
He was the #14 QB in 2014 after finishing #9 the season before, though his overall production only dipped by 11 fantasy points. He's a bounce-back candidate provided new OC Geep Chryst can design an offense that can move the ball. Chryst previously served as the OC for the Chargers in 1999 and 2000, but his offenses ranked 26th and 28th overall in that span. Any gains that Kaepernick can make as a thrower (due to his offseason work with QB coach Dennis Gile and former Rams/Cardinals QB Kurt Warner) will only help his overall value.
As for Davis, he's quite a bit better than the numbers he posted last year. His 50 targets were his fewest since 2008, and his usage was way too low considering he has finished in the top 8 at his position in four of the last six seasons. He was targeted just once in the red zone after seeing 20 red zone targets in 2013.
The speedy first-round pick arguably had his roughest practice Tuesday since joining the Ravens, as he dropped four passes, including one deep sideline pass after he had sprinted past cornerback Jimmy Smith and was wide open.
“Just really paying attention, getting too tired and really not focusing,” Perriman said when asked for an explanation about the drops. “I don’t really make excuses for it. They should have been caught, but that’s something that won’t happen too often.”
The Cowboys' intrigue with Lance Dunbar has been long-running. He might not be an every-down back, but he can be part of a committee. They like what he can do in space. They believe he can be a mismatch player for defenses. Before arriving from the Detroit Lions, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had two running backs catch more than 50 passes in a season. Linehan sees Dunbar being able to do some of what Reggie Bush and Joique Bell did in 2013 in Detroit.
"Sometimes he doesn't play as many plays as some of the other guys, but when you look at his production within the plays that he has, it's usually pretty good," coach Jason Garrett said. "He's usually a difference maker. He's a really smart football player. He's talented. He's quick. He's fast and explosive, has great intuition and instincts for the game. We try to use him a lot of different ways, and when we have used him he's been effective for us. You're always trying to give those guys more opportunities."
49ers TE Vernon Davis had the worst season of his career last year, when he missed two games because of injury and caught only two touchdown passes. Both scores came in a Week 1 win over Dallas. The downfield catches that had been a staple of his career all but vanished as well. After averaging more than 16 yards a catch in 2013, he averaged a career-low 9.4 yards last year. His longest catch last season – 29 yards – also was the most modest “long” of his nine-year career.
“Whenever I’d run, like, my deep over routes, there was a safety sitting over there already,” Davis said. “It was just game planning. And nothing really ever opened up. But I wasn’t really ever a factor in the offense last year. ... The first game, yeah. But the second game, the tight ends (weren’t) really involved as a whole.”
After tinkering with multiple wide receiver sets throughout last season, the 49ers are returning to more traditional looks this year. There will be an emphasis on the running game. And tight ends again will have a major role.
Davis is a talent, but the team didn't do a good job of using him last season. His 50 targets were his fewest since 2008, and his usage was way too low considering he has finished in the top 8 at his position in four of the last six seasons. He was targeted just once in the red zone after seeing 20 red zone targets in 2013. It's up to new OC Geep Chryst (formerly the team's QB coach) to get Davis more involved in the offense. Davis has reportedly looked fast in offseason activities. Given his 15th-round ADP, he's a very cheap lottery ticket at the tight end position.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was mostly on point throughout the minicamp. Sure, at times there were a few passes he'd like to have back. Kaepernick was intercepted twice in three days: Michael Wilhoite caught a deflected slant pattern; Jaquiski Tartt victimized Kaepernick on an end-zone pass to close out a situational two-minute drill. Other than those two passes, Kaepernick was decisively accurate with the football. Perhaps the most striking observation of the 49ers signal-caller was his accuracy on the move. One of the hardest throws to make is a rollout throw to the left for a right-handed quarterback. But not for Kaepernick. San Francisco's fifth-year quarterback is able to complete nearly every one of his rollout throws. Kaepernick used the three-day period to continue his chemistry with Smith as well as other prime targets like Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin.
It was reported earlier in the offseason that the team planned to utilize Kaepernick’s running ability to a greater degree. Kaepernick ran the ball 12 more times in 2014 than he did in 2013 for an additional 115 yards, so it's not like he abandoned the scramble. It sounds like it's more about utilizing the read-option as a larger part of the offense. If that's the case, it could be a boon to Kaepernick's fantasy value. He was the #14 QB in 2014 after finishing #9 the season before, though his overall production only dipped by 11 fantasy points. He's a bounce-back candidate provided new OC Geep Chryst can design an offense that can move the ball. Chryst previously served as the OC for the Chargers in 1999 and 2000, but his offenses ranked 26th and 28th overall in that span. Any gains that Kaepernick can make as a thrower (due to his offseason work with QB coach Dennis Gile and former Rams/Cardinals QB Kurt Warner) will only help his overall value.
49ers WR Torrey Smith has indeed added a new dimension to San Francisco's pass game. With Smith in the fold, the 49ers were able to attack all levels of the defense. Smith's home-run ability was most evident when he hooked up with Colin Kaepernick on a 40-yard jump ball down the left side line at the expense of second-year cornerback Dontae Johnson. Kaepernick and Smith routinely connected in the minicamp, but on the final day, the deep throw showcased the budding chemistry between the two. Johnson had great coverage on the play, but Kaepernick was able to put the ball up with enough loft for the fifth-year veteran receiver to go up and get the ball. Smith caught slants and intermediate routes for most of the camp, but it's hard not to overlook his ability to stretch the defense and compete for the football at its highest point. Smith's speed and leaping ability was on display throughout the camp. The 49ers will surely tap into those talents come training camp.
Smith got off to a slow start in 2014, posting just six catches for 85 yards in the first three games. Over the final 13 games of the season, he averaged 3.3 receptions for 52 yards and 0.85 touchdowns, which equates to #20 WR-type numbers in PPR formats. As it stands, he finished as the #29 WR in PPR and #19 in standard formats (thanks to the high touchdown rate), which is the fourth time he has finished in the top 23 (in standard formats) in his four-year career. He joins a 49ers receiving corps that has lost Michael Crabtree and has a still-effective Anquan Boldin as a possession receiver. Smith will serve as a deep threat for Kaepernick, though this move has to be considered a downgrade from an offensive/quarterback standpoint since the 49ers are typically run-heavy and Joe Flacco is pretty adept at putting touch on the deep ball. Throwing with touch has not been one of Kaepernick's strengths, though he has been working on his passing technique this offseason.
"Yeah, if you're asking if we're going to throw some swing passes, yes," Bush said, laughing. "I think that'd be an understatement."
“I know an area I wanted to improve on a lot was blocking. I was always a willing blocker, but I was 230 pounds going against guys who were 260, 270, 280,” Paul told CSN Washington.com. “I just wanted to level out the playing field a little bit. And it has showed up on film out here [in OTAs]. I’ve been doing a good job.”
As it stands now, Paul currently weighs more than 250 pounds for the first time in his career. “I’m 252 right now,” he told reporters. “I feel good, and I feel healthy. I’m happy.”
“You know, he’s a converted wide received for goodness sakes and he’s busted his tail to get himself ready for the tight end spot,” head coach Jay Gruden said of Paul. “He’s stronger; he’s one of our most explosive players in the weight room, done some great things.”
Paul has had his moments with Jordan Reed sidelined. Last year, he caught 21 passes for 313 yards and a touchdown in the first four games with Reed out, and was the #9 TE in that span. But then he posted one-catch clunkers against the Seahawks in Week 5 and the 49ers in Week 12 with Reed sidelined. He's certainly a sleeper if Reed (knee) can't get healthy, but he hasn't been a consistent performer even with Reed out.
In the backfield, we saw a complete running back group for the first time this offseason. Carlos Hyde, who was limited to individual drills last week, was a full participant on Tuesday. During team drills, Hyde took carries and ran routes out of the backfield.
Hyde is expected to take over as the team's primary ball-carrier, with Reggie Bush assuming the passing down role. Given Bush's presence and Hyde's 4.0 YPC during in his rookie season, Hyde's upside may be somewhat limited. Expect 250 or so carries and a limited role in the passing game.
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