ESPN's Mike Sando:
Eddie Royal's resurgence over the past two seasons and his early grasp of the Bears' new offense has him in great position to play a prominent role right away. The staff seemed excited about him when I visited Bears camp earlier in the offseason. Royal has 10 red zone touchdowns over the past two seasons, tied for ninth in the league among wide receivers.
Royal could continue to be a headache for fantasy owners. He's production tends to be spotty and comes in bunches, which makes it difficult to know when to use him. There's also the possibility that he draws targets away from Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Martellus Bennett and/or Matt Forte.
With Sam Bradford in, the Eagles' new quarterback stood in the pocket and threw a bomb down the field. On the other end was tight end Zach Ertz, who hauled in the long pass and kept going for the touchdown.
Bradford and Ertz connecting on the field has been a common sight for those watching the Eagles' OTAs the past few weeks. Although Bradford has only been taking a handful of reps with the team, and isn't yet taking part in 11-on-11 drills as he recovers from a torn ACL, the chemistry he is developing with Ertz is clear.
"He is a great tight end," Bradford said of Ertz. "Obviously he is really athletic. He gives us the ability to stretch the field and make some (big plays) down the field."
"Not only does he have a strong arm, but he is very, very accurate. He can put the ball wherever he wants to," Ertz said. "Being a taller guy, a more athletic guy, he likes to put the ball up high where I can go up and get the ball. He is able to make all the throws in the book."
Ertz was the #13 TE in both standard and PPR formats despite only playing half of the Eagles’ snaps in his second year. Ertz played mostly (73%) on passing downs, so if his playing time is going to increase, a majority of the additional snaps are likely to come in run formations. Still, there’s upside with Ertz if he begins to see starter’s snaps. The Eagles lost their leading receiver -- first DeSean Jackson and then Jeremy Maclin -- in back-to-back seasons, so there will be opportunity from a targets standpoint. Budding chemistry with his quarterback can only help.
RB Danny Woodhead has been one of the pleasant surprises for the Chargers so far during offseason work. He has flashed the quickness and elusiveness that makes him one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league in his return from a serious ankle injury.
Woodhead should resume his role as the Chargers' passing down specialist. In 21 games with the Chargers (including the playoffs), Woodhead has averaged 11.0 touches (4.1 catches) for 58 yards and 0.43 touchdowns, which equate to #13 RB numbers in PPR formats (#21 in standard). He’s not likely to post those numbers with Melvin Gordon coming aboard, but he should continue to see a significant amount of touches as the team’s primary third-down and no-huddle back, making him an excellent value late in drafts.
Johnson's isn't the thumper complement that some were expecting that the Cardinals would acquire to join Andre Ellington in the backfield. Instead, they elected to draft a running back with a similar skillset to Ellington so that the offense doesn't miss a beat if something happens to their starter. We view Johnson as a backup and the proper handcuff for Ellington owners.
“He’s a great player,” Jeffery said, rare praise for a rookie. “He’s an explosive player. We can’t wait for the season. What he’s going to do on the field is going to be great.”
White should start immediately and is a threat to post WR3 (or even WR2) numbers as a rookie. The team is installing a new offense under OC Adam Gase, and QB Jay Cutler hasn't been the model of stability, but there are plenty of targets available for White in Gase's offense.
According to wide receiver Roddy White, the offense won’t be as reliant as throwing the ball as they were last season. The Falcons were third in the league with 39.5 attempts per game last season and White expects that number to drop significantly in 2015.
“We’re not going to be passing 35-40 times a game,” White said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
That may well be the plan, but the Falcons are going to have to be a lot more effective running the ball than they were last year if they are going to cut down on the size of the roles that White, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan play in the offense.
It's still unclear if Jets running back Stevan Ridley, an offseason free agent pickup, will fully participate in practice at the start of training camp. Ridley didn't get any 11-on-11 team periods work in the spring. He tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his knee during an October game against the Bills. Ridley isn't sure if he'll be 100 percent healthy by the start of camp. He doesn't want to put any undue pressure on himself with expectations about his return to practice, either.
"I really can't predict the future, man," Ridley said Thursday. "I just know that, for me, I've got to be ready for Week 1. That's the goal right now. I'm not going to set myself up for any false hope or say that I'm going to do something that I'm not. What I will say is I'm working hard. I've just got to make sure that I'm 100 percent healthy, and that when I do hit the field, I'm making an impact." Ridley said his knee is "doing well."
Ridley's standing on the team, as the season approaches and he continues to recover, will partly be determined by "what the guys do in front of him," HC Todd Bowles said.
"If all those guys are playing well and he gets limited time, then it's going to be tough [for Ridley]," Bowles said. "If those guys aren't doing very well, and he comes in and makes a splash, then you go by that. Only time will tell. We knew he needed time [to recover]. We want him healthy, and there's no hurry to get him healthy, because we have good running backs on the roster. When we brought him in, we knew it was going to be a process. We didn't know how long [it would take for Ridley to recover], but we knew he had time, and he can take his time. There's no urgency for him to get healthy."
“What you’re not seeing that makes me look a little slimmer is my body fat,” Martin said. “I got my body fat down by like four or five percent so I’m in great shape. I feel good and I’m ready to go.”
Martin could have a few new faces blocking for him after the Bucs’ selected tackle Donovan Smith and guard Ali Marpet in this year’s draft. Although the Bucs have only gone through non-contact OTA practices, he can already see improvement along the offensive line.
“They’re doing pretty good,” Martin said. “There’s more communication between the line. We’re more gelled than we were last year. I feel like it’s going to be a good season for us and the line’s doing a good job proving that… or (are) going to prove that.”
The coaching staff reportedly loves Charles Sims, but OC Dirk Koetter fought to keep Martin with the team during the offseason, and he still sits atop the team's depth chart. He's going in the 9th round, so he's a good target for those owners who are looking for potential starters in the later rounds.
Titans RB Bishop Sankey missed almost all of last year's OTAs and wound up behind the eight-ball. But with Shonn Greene absent from this year's OTAs and rookie David Cobb (hamstring) hurting, Sankey has taken oodles of snaps this time around. He now feels more comfortable in the system, and that should help him make more of an impact in his second year.
Sankey qualifies as a post-hype sleeper. This is his first offseason and while his rookie year was a disappointment, he showed flashes of what convinced the Titans to make him the first running back off the board in last year's draft. Given his 8th/9th round ADP, he's a good target for the "wait on RB" crowd.
“It was just something I felt like I needed to do,” Bryant said. “Just to add a different aspect to my game of being physical, being bigger.”
Bryant said he is focusing on mastering the “Z” receiver spot that places him on the outside on the strong side of the field. However, Mann said in three-receiver sets Bryant and third-year receiver Markus Wheaton would be “interchangeable” between the “Z” and the slot.
Bryant figures to be a bigger part of the offense this season. He averaged 30 snaps per game in 2014.
“He's always been strong, but to be honest with you his conditioning is way better now,” Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “That's what we look at — and me being his big bro, I tell him, ‘You gotta work on your conditioning.' And he came back in way better condition than he was last year. “You can be fast — but you need to be fast 10 plays in a row, not just two.”
One of the concerns with Bryant is playing time, but it appears that he's distanced himself from Wheaton and is in line for starter's snaps opposite Antonio Brown. He averaged 2.8 catches for 56 yards and 0.82 TD in the final 11 games of the season (including a 5-61-1 outing against Baltimore in the playoffs). Thanks to the incredible touchdown rate, those are high-end WR2 numbers in standard formats and solid WR2 numbers in PPR. Increased playing time should offset any drop in TD rate. We like Bryant to break out in 2015.
Saturday, June 13, 2015, 1:31am
With RB Adrian Peterson now returning to an offense stocked with pass-catching weapons and a promising young quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings don't plan to ask him to do it all alone in 2015.
"No question that the workload will be a lot more balanced than in the past because the organization has done an outstanding job of acquiring talent and other explosive pieces," Vikings running backs coach Kirby Wilson told Around The NFL on Thursday. "And just as the natural progression as an older back ages, the workload decreases anyway."
Wilson was quick to point out that Peterson has been "extremely explosive" in practice and "still has electric foot speed," saying: "I don't see any difference from the guy who left here X amount of months ago."
Throwing out his one-game season in 2014, Peterson never finished outside of the top 6 on a per game basis in standard formats (or outside the top 11 in PPR) in his previous seven seasons. He's now on the wrong side of 30, but his legs should be fresh after taking a full season off to deal with his criminal case. OC Norv Turner has a history of feeding the ball to his top running back; LaDainian Tomlinson averaged 20.9 touches per game from 2007-09 while he and Turner were in San Diego. That included 2.86 receptions per game, which would represent a career high 45-46 receptions for Peterson if he catches the ball at the same rate. It does sound like McKinnon will be involved, but when push comes to shove, we expect that Peterson will play the vast majority of snaps on game day.
When Colts QB Andrew Luck worked out of a three-receiver formation during Wednesday evening’s work at Lucas Oil Stadium, it primarily was T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson and Donte Moncrief. But rookie Phillip Dorsett is going to cut into somebody’s playing time this season. That might be Moncrief. And it might be either Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen as Hamilton uses more three-wide alignments than two-tight end formations.
The Colts are loaded with talent, but they can't play everyone all the time. We would expect T.Y. Hilton to play a ton, but Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Dorsett and the two tight ends, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, could rotate through the other three positions in typical one-running back sets.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported that Bryant was considering a holdout that could extend into the season.
"This is not a rumor," Bryant confirmed to Silver. "It's legit."
It's no surprise that Bryant would attempt to maximize his leverage and stimulate talks with just five weeks remaining before the July 15 deadline for franchise players to sign new contracts.
Bryant would sacrifice major money if he misses any games, so this sounds like posturing. Hopefully this will be resolved by mid-July. If not, we would expect that he plays for the one-year franchise tender of $12+ million.
Wright ends up back in Tampa, where he'll compete for snaps behind Austin Seferian-Jenkins.