Saturday, April 4, 2015, 8:16pm
Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot answered a question about whether the team is already looking to move on from QB Johnny Manziel.
Cabot: Based on conversations with the Browns at the NFL annual meeting last week, I really don't believe they're ready to give up on Johnny Manziel after only seven quarters of work. For starters, they don't even know what they have in Manziel until he gets out of rehab -- likely sometime this week -- and they want to see if he can live up to his first-round status once he has his personal life under control. Browns general manager Ray Farmer stressed that he believes Manziel has the physical tools to excel in the NFL.
Kabot added that Farmer also believes Manziel will flourish in the Browns' play-action, run-oriented scheme when the team doesn't have to rely on him to carry it. There is some thought that the offense changed too drastically when Manziel played, and that it threw off the entire unit. What's more, the Browns now have one of Manziel's mentors in Kevin O'Connell as their quarterbacks coach. Manziel thrived and improved in the few months he spent with O'Connell before the draft last year, and the Browns are confident he can bring out the best in Manziel.
Saturday, April 4, 2015, 1:46pm
Tate (6-1, 195; North Carolina) is a seventh-year NFL player for 2015. He has not missed a regular season or postseason game in the last five years, including four with the Bengals. Last season he logged 17 receptions for 193 yards (11.4) and one TD. He also rushed three-for-21 (7.0), averaged 9.7 yards on 18 punt returns and averaged 22.1 yards on 18 kickoff returns.
Saturday, April 4, 2015, 1:44pm
For the fourth time since free agency opened last month, the Bengals have re-signed a player who had left and gone away. On Thursday it was Josh Johnson, quarterback Andy Dalton’s backup from 2013, after he signed a one-year deal that figures to be for near the minimum.
The Bengals were thought to be interested in re-signing 2014 backup Jason Campbell, but there was talk he has been considering retirement and the Bengals moved back to Johnson, a seven-year veteran turning 29 next month.
All signs have been pointing to A.J. McCarron still getting dibs on the backup spot that has been manned by three different players under Dalton.
Saturday, April 4, 2015, 9:05am
Williamson: I think Murray is going to win the job. I just don’t think Richardson is a starting running back in the NFL. He has shown no explosion. I think he is a backup. Two teams have committed first-round picks to him and they both gave up on him. That’s a hint. Murray has more explosion and more potential at this point.
Williamson added that Murray does have to improve his football IQ. That likely means they want Murray to know the playbook more, know scheme better, know the blocking schemes better. It’s all things a young running back has to go through. Roy Helu may be a bigger threat to take away production than Richardson.
HC Jeff Fisher on WR Kenny Britt:
“It didn’t surprise me because obviously I know Kenny, the production didn’t surprise me,” Fisher said, via ESPN.com. “I can kind of share the same issue Kenny does and that’s we think he can be better. I think he can do better. He thinks he can be better. He thinks he can be more productive. He’s looking forward to the offensive changes. I think yeah, we should see a lot more out of Kenny this year.”
Britt was effective when he was targeted consistently. He averaged 4.4 catches for 73 yards and 0.29 TD in the seven games in which he saw at least six targets. Those are solid WR2 numbers, but the Rams didn't use him consistently enough to make him a trustworthy fantasy starter. The arrival of Nick Foles will help the passing game, and Britt should benefit.
It was a tale of two seasons for Watkins, who averaged 4.8 catches for 74 yards and 0.63 TD in the first eight games; he was the #12 fantasy WR going into his team's Week 9 bye. Over the final eight weeks, he averaged 3.4 catches for 49 yards and 0.13 TD, and was the #48 WR from Week 10 to Week 17. The timing of his hip injury (Week 13 vs. CLE) is interesting, because Watkins was already in a slump, posting just 10 catches for 94 yards in the three previous games. Matt Cassel brings some stability at quarterback, but he's no better than Kyle Orton, so we're not expecting a huge jump for Watkins in OC Greg Roman's run-oriented offense.
“This guy can make plays. He’s big. He’s fast. He can stretch the defense, all those types of things,” said Pagano. “It’s a learning process, and he’s going to be better in year two than he was in year one. He’s going to have more opportunities.”
Overall, Moncrief played more than 50% of the snaps in just six games (week 8 at Pittsburgh when Reggie Wayne was out & the last five weeks of the season). In those six games, Moncrief accumulated 18 receptions, 301 yards, and all 3 of his TDs.
That’s more than 56% of his catches for the year, about 68% of his yards, and 100% of his touchdowns for the season...in just six games, the only games where Moncrief played a majority of the snaps. The picture is getting clearer as to why the 6’2”, 221 pound burner is expected to get more opportunities in 2015.
In those six games, Moncrief averaged 3.0 catches for 50 yards and 0.50 touchdowns, but that split includes both huge games (3-134-2 vs. Washington, 7-113-1 vs. Pittsburgh) and disappearing acts (a goose egg vs. Houston, 2-5 vs. Dallas, 3-16 vs. Tennessee), so his production was all over the place. Moncrief's ADP took a two-round hit (6th to 8th) once the Colts signed Andre Johnson, and the signing certainly takes some of the wind out of Moncrief's sails. But both Reggie Wayne (859 snaps) and Hakeem Nicks (576 snaps) are gone, so there may be room for both Johnson and Moncrief to play starter's snaps. The question is how often the Colts go to two-TE sets since Dwayne Allen should be healthy after missing six games last season. When either Allen or Wayne were out, Nicks played 59% of the snaps. When both were in the lineup, Nicks played just 45% of the snaps. Moncrief is still going to be a breakout candidate, but his playing time is up in the air.
"I think you would think that I might get a whole lot more outside reps now just because Maclin is gone, but I already had talked to coaches, and they were already going to implement me more on the outside as opposed to just the inside regardless," Matthews said. "I don't think that's a crazy, huge deal."
HC Chip Kelly said last week that he can envision Matthews playing "a lot of different spots." Kelly kept Matthews in the slot because they wanted him to learn only one position as a rookie. Now that Matthews is more comfortable entering his second season, that role can expand.
If Matthews moves outside, he'll surely see his snaps played increase from his rookie season (65%) and he should be able to improve on his #25 finish in PPR formats. The team signed Miles Austin, who played mostly in the slot while with the Cowboys. Josh Huff and Zach Ertz could also see snaps in the slot.
Thursday, April 2, 2015, 6:54pm
The Broncos don’t figure to use as many three-wide receiver sets as they have over the past two seasons, but they'll still be part of Peyton Manning's playbook. Either way, the Broncos hope Cody Latimer shows that he’s ready to be among the top three pass-catchers.
Latimer had a disappointing rookie season and wasn't even able to beat out Andre Caldwell. However, it takes time to earn Manning's trust, and the franchise didn't draft him in the second round to ride the proverbial pine. His upside will be limited if the Broncos utilize fewer three-WR sets since new HC Gary Kubiak likes to utilize two tight ends.
Thursday, April 2, 2015, 6:48pm
Josh Freeman, the quarterback who rapidly went from one of the most promising young players in the NFL to a major disappointment, is getting another shot.
The Dolphins have agreed to a one-year contract with Freeman, according to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report.
His two touchdowns were a low for his career. His 63 receptions and 784 yards were the fewest since 2004. But there are reasons to think Fitzgerald can post better statistics in 2015, provided he and quarterback Carson Palmer stay healthy.
In Palmer's last five starts before a season-ending knee injury, Fitzgerald caught 31 passes for 461 yards. It was clear that he and Palmer were starting to click.
"Both guys were very comfortable in the offense," coach Bruce Arians said at the NFL owners meetings last week.
"He has progressed so much, I don't think there is any doubt they can go down on an option route, and Carson will know where he is going and the ball is on time. Larry is going to make the big, physical catches inside. He's a true mismatch inside."
$11 million per season (Fitzgerald’s re-worked deal) is a high price to pay for a soon-to-be 32-year-old who is coming off of his worst fantasy season of his career. However, there is a reason for optimism: Fitzgerald averaged 5.3 catches for 81 yards and 0.33 TD in six games with a healthy Carson Palmer. Extrapolate that pace over a full season, and it's about what Mike Evans (PPR) and Golden Tate (standard) scored as last season's #13 WR. The Cardinals obviously believe that he’s worth keeping around.
He didn’t break enough tackles, so he put on seven pounds of muscle in the University of Miami weight room to get up to 225 pounds.
And he didn’t catch enough passes (38 in 2014, with six drops).
And he runs routes for Ryan Tannehill with the team’s other young skill-position players.
Miller carried the ball 219 times for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 38-275-1 on 52 targets in the passing game. This resulted in a #9 finish in both standard and PPR formats. Despite this, the team doesn't seem completely sold on Miller as a feature back and is looking to shore up the position in the offseason. It's good to hear that he's putting on some muscle and is working on his flaws to hopefully take his game to the next level.
"I think that's going to be a big key to our growth is to get more production from Eric, and I think he's ready to do that," Lombardi said Tuesday, per the Detroit Free Press. "I know he's been making some trips to Atlanta to work with Matt already this offseason, so he's -- the thing you like about Eric is he's a bright kid and he works hard and he wants to be good. So we expect very big things from him moving forward."
"There's a big learning curve, obviously, for any rookie, and the tight end position is one that requires a lot," Lombardi said. "As you look back, if you're self-critical, you might say maybe we asked a little bit too much of him, from that perspective. So I think there's just a volume that he struggled with early, but he was productive and, again, for anybody, the second year's always where you see the biggest jump."
Ebron turned 3.8 targets into 1.9 catches for 19 yards and 0.08 TD as a rookie. He played half the snaps, so his lack of production is somewhat alarming. Tight end is a tough position to learn as a rookie, so there is some reason for optimism given Ebron's skill set.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 4:13pm
WR Nate Washington signed a one-year deal for $1 million, including $30,000 guaranteed.
"Our biggest thing is, in order to win football games, you've got to first not lose them, and I thought that he played smart football, and sometimes to a fault," Lombardi said Tuesday, per Ashley Dunkak of CBS Detroit. "We'll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football. He's got the arm to do it. He's got the receivers to throw it to."
After three straight top 10 finishes, Stafford was the #17 QB in 2014, though he was only a couple of touchdowns out of the #13 spot. As the 10th QB off the board in early drafts, it's possible that Stafford is being overdrafted, though if he's being encouraged to take more chances, it could boost his fantasy numbers.