On the field for the first day of OTAs (organized team activities) Tuesday, Andre Ellington proclaimed himself healthy and ready to go.
"I'm not limited in anything," he said. "I'm out here running, running around, feeling good."
None of Ellington's injuries were the type that would keep him out long-term or inhibit him going forward. Once healed, he would essentially be the same player he was prior to getting hurt.
The Cardinals drafted David Johnson to lighten Ellington’s workload, and a reduction in touches may actually help his effectiveness, though it's unlikely to help his per game fantasy production. Ellington averaged 22.0 touches per game, but only managed 3.3 YPC after averaging 5.5 YPC in his rookie season.
Lions beat writer Kyle Meinke on Theo Riddick's role in 2015:
HC Jim Caldwell has already said he expects Riddick to be a bigger part of the fold this year. But I think it could end up being mostly as a pass-catcher. I could see a scenario where many of his reps came out of the slot.
Think of it this way: Detroit's running game was awful last year, finishing 28th. Reggie Bush struggled with ankle injuries for a couple months. And the Lions still gave Riddick only 20 touches on the ground.
If Detroit didn't think Riddick could help on the ground under those circumstances, I have a hard time seeing how it happens this year after adding Ameer Abdullah. Unless Riddick totally remakes his game, which I guess is possible. I'm just not banking on it.
Panthers second-year receiver Kelvin Benjamin strained his hamstring last week, a team spokesman confirmed. As a precaution, he likely won’t participate in next week’s activities, though he has been with the team on the field and in the locker room recently.
Benjamin had a strong rookie season, finishing as the #15 WR in PPR formats and #16 in standard leagues. However, after his team’s Week 12 bye, Benjamin was just the #42 WR the rest of the way. Benjamin admitted to suffering from mental fatigue as a rookie, which is understandable given how much he was asked to do in his first year.
Hyde did not practice on Thursday. Coach Jim Tomsula said the second-year running back is being held out due to an undisclosed leg injury.
“He’s working through the leg. It’s nothing," Tomsula said. "We want you 100 percent. We’re doing this offseason thing and we’re doing things fast and we’re doing all those things, so we’re not going to push. It’s not the season, so we’re trying to treat that the right way.”
Tomsula's "it's nothing" comment is as encouraging as Hyde's tweet is discouraging. 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 is probably being overdrafted as he's been going in the middle of the 3rd round of early PPR drafts. Expect 250 or so carries and a limited role in the passing game.
"Coach Bruce Arians does a great job of calling plays, and it's actually designed for anybody to make plays and be that guy," he said. "Because it's just when the ball is in the air, you have to get it.
"And I think I'll be used more in underneath routes trying to turn and beat (the defense)."
Brown was the #49 receiver as a rookie and that's about where we have him ranked heading into the 2015 season. The main concern is his opportunity to find consistent playing time and targets behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, though he did lead the team in targets (103) and averaged a solid 6.7 T/G with Carson Palmer in the lineup. Fitzgerald averaged 6.8 T/G while Floyd averaged just 5.0 T/G in those six games.
Falcons running back Antone Smith, who suffered a fractured right leg while covering a punt against Carolina on Nov. 16, has started running during his rehabilitation.
“The recovery is going pretty good,” Smith said on Tuesday. “I’m up and running. I’m almost full force, but not quite where I need to be. In time, that will take care of itself.”
Smith is not likely to be cleared when the Falcons open their organized team activities on Tuesday.
Smith believes that he’s a fit for the team’s new outside-zone blocking scheme.
“It’s a fit for my skill set, but it’s a fit for anybody that wants to run the ball,” Smith said. “They want to run the ball here and that’s the biggest thing. They want to run the ball. I don’t care who’s the running back you want to be in this scheme right here. I’m happy for this scheme.”
Along with Devonta Freeman, Smith is a reason we're tepid about rookie Tevin Coleman. It's possible that Coleman wins a feature job in the Falcons' backfield, but Freeman showed some pass-catching chops as a rookie and Smith has racked up 518 yards and seven touchdowns on 44 career touches.
Shane Vereen caught 124 balls in 29 games over the past two years. His presence will undoubtedly be missed.
No single player on the Pats roster will fill his void. So here's what may happen: The Patriots have more talent at the No. 2 tight end spot than they did a year ago, so that position figures to command more targets while the running backs figure to command less.
Of that group, Cadet, a free agent signee from New Orleans, is the most intriguing. He has great receiving skills, as you'll see here, and seems comfortable splitting out wide and running routes, a rare trait for a running back.
If any single back wins the Patriots' pass-catching role outright, he'll suddenly be a factor in PPR formats. Vereen averaged 4.3 catches per game over the past two years (including the postseason). That projects to 68.8 receptions over a full 16-game season.
Scott Chandler isn't a "move" tight end, though. At 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, he's similar to Gronk. He's a massive in-line tight end and a matchup problem for all safeties.
The addition of Chandler could mean more snaps at wide receiver for Gronk. The Pats offense was particularly effective a year ago when both Gronk and Julian Edelman were split together on one side.
Keep an eye on Fred Davis here, too. In the midst of the Deflategate madness, the Pats signed the troubled tight end to a one-year deal. It's a flier, for sure, but Davis is a "move" tight end with plenty of talent and plenty of past off-the-field issues.
Chandler is no slouch. He produced in spots for the Bills and while he doesn't fit the profile of a typical "move" TE, the Pats could elect to use Gronk in that role while leaving Chandler inside.
While Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn would like to see LeSean McCoy’s workload stay the same, he’d prefer if Fred Jackson’s was scaled back. Jackson played 548 snaps last season, a number Lynn said he’d like to see cut in half.
“I think he wore down a little bit at the end of the season,” Lynn said. “If we could take half of that off his plate, I think you’re going to see a fresher Fred Jackson and a more explosive Fred Jackson.”
We currently have Jackson projected to touch the ball 114 times after he racked up 207 touches in 14 games last season, so Lynn's expectations mostly jibe with our projections. As for McCoy, he's going to have a tough time matching the 340 touches he had in 2014 due to the potency and pace of the Philadelphia offense compared to the Buffalo offense. We do have McCoy projected to see 329 touches since OC Greg Roman and HC Rex Ryan both love to run the ball. Just don't expect McCoy's receptions to increase; Roman barely used the very capable Frank Gore in a pass-catching role while calling plays in San Francisco the last few seasons.
Jets OC Chan Gailey on the team's quarterback situation: “Right now, Geno’s the starter…That’s the way it sits and that’s the way we expect it to be.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a safe fallback option if Geno Smith doesn't pan out. Neither player is a particularly good fantasy option at this point in the offseason, but the team has a couple of good receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and an up-and-coming tight end in Jace Amaro. It's not inconceivable that the Jets' starter is stream-worthy at some point this fall.
Question: It seems to me that there is a growing perception that Joseph Randle is the lead for most carries among the committee of running backs. This seems to be a reasonable assumption based on his one-cut skill set aligning better to the Cowboys running scheme as opposed to the other backs. Would you agree with that assessment?
Cowboys beat writer Rainer Sabin: Yes. I agree with that. Plus, he has played more regularly in this particular system and behind this line before. And he has experience as a starter. Don't forget that as a rookie he replaced DeMarco Murray as the primary running back in 2013 when Murray was injured.
Darren McFadden is going ahead of Randle in early drafts, but Randle may be the better bet. He was highly effective (6.7 YPC) in 2014 and is reportedly showing more maturity after several off-the-field issues. He's not going to see a DeMarco Murray-type workload, but 225-250 carries is feasible if he wins the lead back job. Don't forget about McFadden's struggles when the Raiders' moved to a zone-blocking scheme in 2012.
In 2015, the Lions hope a veteran like Moore can help Stafford feast on opposing defenses as he brings plenty of familiarity with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's scheme.
"He seems like a great guy," Stafford said last week at Taste of the Lions. "He obviously has knowledge of the system. It's changed a little bit. We talked about that, but not too much to where it's going to be tough for him to learn it."
Moore is turning 32 this summer and it's not clear how much he has left in the tank. He was only targeted 26 times last season as the Steelers' WR4, but he does seemed to be a handpicked choice for Lombardi's offense. He could serve as the team's WR3 if he has a good summer.
Eagles beat writer Sheil Kapadia on the team's receiving roles:
One thing I know about Chip Kelly: He believes in making rookies earn playing time. So don't be surprised/alarmed if Nelson Agholor starts out with the second or third team. But given how advanced Agholor seems to be from a mental standpoint, he could be the exception.
Riley Cooper's role is one we probably haven't discussed enough here. There's a scenario where the Eagles settle on Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff and Agholor as the top three receivers, leaving Cooper on the sideline. ... But Huff will have to prove he's a more reliable option in his second year to earn those snaps.
As for Matthews' role, my guess is he plays a lot more outside in 2015. I didn't think his size was a huge advantage in the slot last year, even though he was highly productive in that role, and Agholor may be better suited to play inside as a rookie.
Matthews will have to play more than the 65% of the snaps that he played as a rookie. He was the #24 WR in standard formats, so increased playing time should lead to a better finish. We're more interested in just how much Agholor, Huff and Cooper will play.
We'll see how this plays out, but if Carr has to go under the knife, it's going to impact his ability to prepare for the season. If he were a five-year vet, it may not matter, but he can use all the practice he can get as he enters his second season.
Ravens WR Breshad Perriman enters a very favorable position to put up some big numbers in his rookie season. He is the decided favorite to begin the season as a starter over Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro. He has a shot to become the Ravens' No. 1 receiver because coach John Harbaugh talked about how he wanted to reduce Steve L Smith's snaps to save on his wear and tear. And Perriman's speed is the perfect complement to Joe Flacco's strong arm.
Perriman probably won't make many short lists for rookie of the year before the season, because he's considered a more raw prospect than some of the wide receivers taken in the first round. He has to improve his route running and consistency catching the ball, which is why he fell to the Ravens at No. 26 overall.
"We got a guy with a tremendous amount of talent who’s only going to get better," assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. "I’m not going to say he’s 'elite' or this or that, but he’s a very talented guy. He’s motivated, he’s smart, it’s important to him, comes from a football family, and he’s on the come [up], and we’re going to get the most out of him as we can."
The interesting takeaway here may be that the team would like to limit Smith's snaps, though that may not be easy given the team's situation at receiver. Harbaugh recently talked up Brown, so perhaps he's planning to play Brown over Smith in some situations.
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