Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 1:25pm
The Bucs didn’t get a lot of production out of the tight end position last year. But that’s almost certain to change. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter had the tight ends very involved in the passing game during his stops in Atlanta and Jacksonville.
That’s good news for second-year pro Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He had only 21 catches during an injury-filled rookie season. But the Bucs believe Seferian-Jenkins can be a big producer in the passing game.
The team also picked up Tim Wright in the offseason. Wright isn’t much of a blocker, but he has good receiving skills and that could mean some two tight end sets.
Koetter coaxed a 58-700-10 season out of Marcedes Lewis in 2010 to go along with the 176 catches for 1,965 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons with Tony Gonzalez in 2012-2013. Seferian-Jenkins is a breakout candidate in his second season with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator and is a high-end TE2 option heading into drafts.
After Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston is where it really gets interesting for the Saints WRs. The Saints will have two relative newcomers in their top-four rotation after trading away TE Jimmy Graham and receiver Kenny Stills and opting not to re-sign Robert Meachem.
Fourth-year pro Nick Toon will get the first crack at the No. 3 job since he’s been waiting in line the longest. Toon helped his case with a solid finish to last season when he finally got an extended opportunity -- 17 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown over the final six games.
Brandon Coleman’s massive size (6-foot-6, 225) makes him the most intriguing roster contender since he could develop into a red-zone monster. Coleman seemed to be playing faster and more at ease this summer after struggling last summer -- a good sign that he’s on the rise.
Seantavius Jones shouldn’t get lost in Coleman’s shadow. The 6-3, 200-pounder has flashed a great combination of size and athleticism. And he was actually promoted to the active roster ahead of Coleman late last season when the Saints needed injury reinforcements.
The author thinks both Jones and Coleman make the roster while the team parts ways with Josh Morgan and Joe Morgan. The article said Toon (6-4, 218) can help his case even more if he proves to be a strong blocker (a valued skill that used to be one of Meachem’s specialties). Also mentioned was the possibility Colston becomes a red zone threat, taking over for the departed Graham. However, we think C.J. Spiller also takes on a huge role in the passing game from the running back position.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 11:56am
When it comes to Rams receivers, Kenny Britt isn't the only one with something to prove. Brian Quick, who flashed some promise in the first half of 2014, is recovering from shoulder surgery that prevented him from enjoying a potential breakout season. Quick figures to be the other starter opposite Britt on the outside if and when he returns to full strength.
Beyond that duo, the Rams have a pair of former West Virginia Mountaineers still looking to break out in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. That pair will likely battle for playing time in the slot. Chris Givens, who might be in his final go-around with the team if he's unable to offer more in 2015, projects as the fifth wideout.
While it's not an impressive group in terms of potential fantasy numbers and rankings, the team hopes having stability at QB with Nick Foles will help the passing game. There were also heavy investments made in the offensive line - and at running back with draft pick Todd Gurley. As a result, the story said, the Rams believe this is the year for at least one or two of the wideouts they've been so patient with to emerge. The offense figures to be run-first, so the Rams don't need a wideout to post stud numbers, the team instead needs receivers to make big plays when presented with an opportunity.
"I'll definitely be ready to practice," said Watkins, who was speaking during his football camp at Erie Community College. "I'll be full go. I'll be prepared to go out there and make plays."
Watkins underwent hip surgery early in the offseason and was held out of live action until minicamp in June.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 11:46am
He was fourth in the running back chase to replace DeMarco Murray behind Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar. Williams had two arthroscopic surgeries on his knee in the offseason, the most recent coming after the Cowboys' June minicamp.
Williams spent last year on the Cowboys' practice squad, spurning chances late in the season to join other teams' active rosters. The Cowboys rewarded him with a two-year deal that included a $240,000 signing bonus.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 11:01am
Former first-round quarterback Josh Freeman might not have shown much in recent years, but he keeps getting chances.
Including from the team which just cut him last week.
They cut him last week, but the Dolphins only had three quarterbacks after the move, and teams generally want four passers in camp with rosters at 90.
It's a lot to put on the fifth-year quarterback who has struggled with consistency for much of his career, especially when he'll be without coach Jim Harbaugh, and teammates Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Justin Smith, who are either playing elsewhere or retired.
A season ago, when the 49ers finished 8-8, Kaepernick had career bests in attempts (478), passing yards (3,369) and rushing yards (639), but he also threw more interceptions, took more sacks and lost more fumbles than at any time during his four years in the league.
But according to offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, Kaepernick didn't take a step backwards in 2014.
"And then last year, you're playing with some different sets of challenges," Chryst said, via the MercuryNews.com. There was more change within the offensive line than he had experienced the last couple of years. How does that affect your production as a quarterback? You're behind more often in games. How does that affect your production as a quarterback? I cite the fact that we had six touchdowns nullified by penalty. You plug that back into his formula, he really wasn't ... he didn't regress off his line as much as perceived."
First-year coach Jim Tomsula said in March that Kaepernick not only didn't regress in '14, but he had his best season as a professional, according to the story. The piece added that Kaepernick ranked eighth in QB efficiency in 2013 and 13th the season before that, but none of that matters now because this 49ers team barely resembles the ones that had so much success under Harbaugh. Kaepernick ranks just 14th among QBs on our list. He could turn out to be a nice late-round QB2 who ends up having a bounce-back year, especially if the offense moves to more of a read-option.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 9:32am
The Redskins need better blocking from their TEs.
This group was too inconsistent for the coaches when it came to blocking and that includes Logan Paulsen, too. It's not just on the offensive line to pass protect or open holes in the run game. They want, and need the tight ends to produce as blockers or other areas won't work.
Bill Callahan likes to involve the tight ends more than most in pass protection, though it does not sound like it will be a whole lot different than it was before he arrived. Jordan Reed blocked better as a rookie than he did last season and that can't happen again. Niles Paul's added weight will help in this area; he's worked on improving his angles and hand placement but sometimes was just outweighed. He's still slightly undersized but is a whole lot more suited to the position now than in the past.
The Skins loved Reed's offensive ability leading up to his rookie year when he eventually came out of no where to most. But Reed's problem is staying on the field. Last season, Reed's primary work came on short routes the story said. The article went on to say Reed's average air yards on passes thrown to him as a rookie was 6.61 while last season it was 4.40, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The result: Reed averaged 11.03 yards per catch as a rookie and 9.30 this past season. Reed is ranked just 24th on our TE list, but is capable of low-end TE1 numbers when healthy.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 8:35am
Tampa Bay has one of the league's best tandems of starting receivers with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Each of them had over 1,000 receiving yards last season, which came despite some shaky quarterback play.
With the arrival of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, Evans and Jackson could put up better numbers than last season. They developed good chemistry with Winston during offseason workouts and they should make life easy for the rookie.
Camp figures to be a wide-open competition for the other roster spots. Veteran Louis Murphy enters with a slight edge over rookies Kenny Bell and Kaelin Clay and second-year pro Robert Herron. But all three of the young receivers will have a chance to compete with Murphy for the third receiver spot. Clay has added value because he is expected to be the primary kickoff and punt returner.
Our bet is on Murphy at this point, but he only comes in 84th on our WR list. He got some attention in Weeks 4 and 5 last season when he had back-to-back TDs, but the rest of the way had just one game over 18 yards receiving.
The passing of the torch many predicted for last season never really came to fruition. Celek was on the field for 827 of the offensive snaps, or 69 percent of the time, compared to 603 snaps (50 percent) for Ertz. It really does come back to blocking. Ertz was called on as a run-blocker 161 times last season to Celek's count of 443.
Ertz knows the only way to take over the lead role in this run-heavy system is to improve that area of his game, and he's worked towards that end. His busy travel itinerary this offseason in the name of getting better included a stop to study under former offensive line coach Hudson Houck.
It stands to reason that Ertz will see a jump in playing time as he continues to develop into a more well-rounded tight end. While Celek's snaps might very well drop as a result, Kelly is a huge fan of the nine-year veteran and will likely still deploy him quite a bit. It wouldn't be all that surprising, then, if we saw an increase in the number of two tight-end sets in 2015.
This makes a lot of sense and is something many predicted would happen when Kelly took over the team a few years ago, however it never really came about. With the loss of Jeremy Maclin at WR, the Birds are a bit unproven at wideout, and if Ertz is indeed improved and can earn more playing time, Celek can still hold his own at the position as both a blocker and receiver. We still rank Ertz higher on our TE list, consider him a mid-range TE1 option, and think this is the year he finally busts out a bit. However, it looks like Celek is going to remain a factor.
It turns out that 69 percent of Frank Gore's rushing attempts last year with the 49ers were made against a defense that had seven or fewer players in the box. Gore rushed for 833 yards and three touchdowns on 179 attempts when there were seven men in the box.
When it came to facing at least eight men in the box, Gore rushed 76 times for 273 yards and a touchdown last season. Gore's 833 yards against seven or fewer defenders in the box would have been enough to lead the Colts in total rushing in each of the past seven seasons.
The Colts didn't have much success rushing the ball when teams loaded the box against them. Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Andrew Luck, Zurlon Tipton and Daniel “Boom” Herron combined to rush for 153 yards on 59 attempts, which is more than 100 yards less than what Gore rushed for.
The numbers don't lie.
The writer concludes that Gore should have plenty of success running the ball this season if the offensive line does its job, because the Colts have too many weapons on offense for defenses to load the box to try to slow Gore down. The hope for the Colts is Gore finally gives them a consistent rushing attack to go with Luck and give the team a bit of balance. Gore is listed 12th on our RB list making him a low-end RB1. Based on ADP, he falls right in that "next tier" of RBs - as the first 11 RBs on our list have ADPs in the first or early second rounds, while Gore's ADP is the early third round. He presents a nice value if you can land him in the third.
All of these things were said, or reported, about the veteran wide receiver from the end of last year and into the offseason. But the version of Wallace that the Vikings have seen since acquiring him for a fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft in March has been anything but a recalcitrant player.
Wallace is usually the last guy off the field following each practice because he wants to put in extra work. He has granted just about every interview he has been asked to conduct and he has talked about wanting to be a leader.
So what has changed when it comes to a guy whose last act with the Dolphins involved getting into a sideline altercation in Week 17 that got him benched in the second half?
"I definitely have something to prove," Wallace said. "Everyone knows why I'm here. I have a lot to prove, man."
Wallace didn't come cheap but the Vikes can opt out after the 2015 or 2016 season. The team feels he's a good fit for OC Norv Turner's offense and is a potential deep threat. Wallace isn't coming off a terrible season in Miami. He led the Dolphins in receiving yards (862) and touchdowns (10) and was second with 67 receptions. However, he and quarterback Ryan Tannehill failed to develop the type of chemistry and consistency that Wallace had with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, the story said. The hope is Wallace will develop with young QB Teddy Bridgewater. Wallace is ranked 36th on our WR list and can be had in the middle rounds of drafts.
There was some consternation, both among fans and media, that the Cowboys lost an integral part of their offense when running back DeMarco Murray signed with the Eagles. But the price -- a five-year, $42 million deal ($21 million guaranteed) -- was prohibitive and the Cowboys were right to look for running back help elsewhere.
A lot can happen between the start of training camp and the regular season, and the Cowboys will no doubt be on the lookout for backs that can help them. And that list could include Chris Johnson, the former Titans first-round pick who struggled with the Jets last season and remains unsigned.
If the Johnson-Cowboys rumors sound familiar, they should; CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora wrote earlier this month that several NFL executives brought up Dallas as a possible landing spot for Johnson. And Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said in May that Johnson was on the team's short list, according to the story. It could be significant news for those targeting, or looking to keep, Joseph Randle.
Roethlisberger: It will be big. He’s put the work in. He looks good. He’s picking everything up. Last year we just kind of put him in there and gave him a couple of things to do, which he did really well at. Now we’re asking him to do more. We’re asking him to move around a little bit, front side, back side, and to know things better. I’m going to count on him in the no-huddle. Last year he’d ask everyone what to do. Now we feel more comfortable with him knowing what to do. Hopefully he’ll be able to translate that into playing faster.
Big Ben later went a little further talking about Bryant, saying he was in for a lot of deep ball stuff, and that was kind of his go to pattern. But Roethlisberger added the team can now start using him in some different areas, use him coming underneath as well as catching the ball and running after the catch. We think there is upside for Bryant who ranks 18th among our WRs this year in what is expected to be a high-powered offensive attack from Pittsburgh. Bryant put up WR2 numbers without playing 60-percent of snaps last year, thanks to his high TD rate.
There are a couple schools of thought on how a year off might affect a 30-year-old running back.
Some people believe that the Vikings Adrian Peterson - held out of game action since Week 2 of last year - could be fresher this season because he didn't have the normal wear and tear associated with the NFL's 16-game schedule.
Others, who believe Peterson has some catching up to do after missing most of the first year in a new offensive system, would find themselves at odds with second-year offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
Peterson, Turner contends, has only minor adjustments to get up to speed with Turner's offensive playbook. If that's true, it shouldn't be terribly surprising, considering Peterson was there for the preseason last year as the team installed plays and concepts, and he also carried a big load in the team's Week 1 win in St. Louis against the Rams.
The Vikings don't put the pads on until Tuesday, but if walk-throughs and practices in shorts are any indication, Turner says Peterson is reintegrating just fine.
"When he comes out here and I watch him he's way ahead of everybody else," Turner said.
"This scheme thing is, to me, it's overrated," he added, in response to a question about whether Peterson has any catching up to do with the playbook. "I know it's different for Adrian, so there are some things that caught him off guard, but he is very comfortable with what we're doing. He and [running backs coach] Kirby Wilson spent a lot of extra time getting him back caught up on what things are different."
The story pointed out that one of the great mysteries about the Vikings entering this year's training camp would be Peterson's readiness to once again be featured in the offense. Many have wondered how the superstar running back will be used, considering the Vikings now have a quarterback they know they can trust in a pass-happy league, the story said. But it sounds like Peterson is doing just fine in learning the system and will be ready to take on a full load. Peterson, of course, is our top-rated RB and our thinking is he bounces back just fine. So far, he's being selected atop of many fantasy drafts this season.