Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 1:37pm
Wide receiver Devin Funchess (hamstring) was on the field for a handful of plays during team drills. This was the first time for Funchess in a week. He seemed to move well, but coach Ron Rivera wouldn’t commit to his status for Friday night’s preseason game against New England until he sees how he responds on Thursday.
Rivera wants Funchess on the field because he’s the best candidate to replace Kelvin Benjamin.
"No, he won't," head coach Tom Coughlin said when asked if Cruz could return to work from the calf sprain that Coughlin has said he is "concerned" about.
Cruz was on schedule to play last weekend against the Jaguars, but the sprain forced him out of practice and prevented him from playing in the game. He has not practiced since.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 1:33pm
A position beset by injuries this preseason got a dose of good news Wednesday with the return of tight end Brandon Williams.
Williams, who was placed on the physically unable to perform list before training camp, returned to the practice field after recovering from surgery on his groin.
"I felt a little rusty, but it feels so good to be back," Williams said. "I felt bad not being able to help my teammates out – they've been getting a lot of extra reps – so it feels good to be back contributing and taking some of the load off them."
The Panthers are still without Richie Brockel, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, and lost Jamie Childers for the season to an arm injury suffered in the preseason opener. Carolina signed free agent tight end Dallas Walker on Tuesday.
To make room for two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis, the Broncos on Wednesday released kicker Connor Barth, the team announced. Barth took over as the team's starting kicker in the last five weeks of the season last season and made 15 of his 16 field-goal attempts and all 15 PATs. He also made 11 consecutive field goals to begin his tenure with the Broncos and twice tied the team's single-game record for made field goals, going 5-for-5 at Kansas City and at San Diego. But Barth's inability to kickoff doomed him this year, as special teams coach Joe DeCamillis has reiterated that he wants to keep two dual-threat kickers — players who can both kick field goals and kick off, and punt and kick off.
Related players: Brandon McManus
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 10:14am
With longtime deep threat Torrey Smith in San Francisco and his replacement, first-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman, out for going on four weeks, the Ravens passing game has seemed to lack a down-field dimension through training camp and the first half of the taken on a different look than years past.
Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, while acknowledging that missing top-end speed, said the team has other ways of getting chunks of yardage in the passing game than by hitting a receiver who has run past his defender.
“We’ve hit a lot of deep balls; you saw last week if you were in Philadelphia,” Trestman said. “We went on the edge and practiced and made some plays on the edge. [If] you went on the deep ball in the National Football League, you don’t have to go by your guy to beat him. The guy can be on top of you, and you can back-shoulder throw. That’s a vertical throw, too, and we [had] a bunch of that in the games, in the practices anyways. We got one by Marlon [Brown] in the game.
“We have enough speed to get down-field,” Tresman said. “It’s [about] how we do it and how we scheme it and approach it. Our guys are fast enough.”
The down-field passing game has been a big part of the Ravens offense, with quarterback Joe Flacco completing 21 of 56 passes over 20 yards down-field for 663 yards with 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Factor in the seven drops on such passes, and the balls that resulted in Smith’s league-leading 11 pass interference penalties drawn for 229, and you have a big part of the Ravens offense.
Steve Smith has also provided a target down-field, as evidenced by his Week 1 touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals. Kamar Aiken ran the proverbial “Torrey Smith route” early in Saturday’s game against the Eagles. But the return of Perriman, whose speed Trestman said is “one of the big reasons we got him,” will help that aspect of their offense, the story said.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 10:10am
DeMarco Murray’s biggest schematic adjustment in coming from Dallas to Philadelphia is running out of the shotgun formation instead of getting the ball from a quarterback is who under center. It’s similar to how he played at Oklahoma, though, when he last took handoffs from Sam Bradford.
“We didn’t do much of it in Dallas, but I’ve done it in past,” Murray said. “Hopefully we’ll get more downhill runs and get in the home position, but I think just the way we run and the plays, it’s hard for teams to set on one guy, set on one formation, we have a lot of things.”
There are advantages and disadvantages. LeSean McCoy preferred taking handoffs when the quarterback was under center because he was 7 ½ yards deep and he said it helped with his vision. He had the running start in that scenario as opposed to in the shotgun, when McCoy said he started running sideways.
Murray said he actually gets to “see more of the field” when it’s a shotgun formation.
Without Nelson, the 25-year-old Cobb becomes the senior member of the receiving corps in just his fifth NFL season, and the 22-year-old Adams moves into the No. 2 role in just his second season.
"He's poised for a breakout year," Cobb said Tuesday. "He's poised for a big year. I look forward to helping him accomplish that."
Perhaps the good news is Cobb said he sensed that since the end of last season, when Adams finished off his rookie season with eight catches for 124 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs - seven of those catches, 117 of those yards and the touchdown came in the win over the Cowboys in the divisional round. Sounds like Cobb expected big things from Adams before Nelson's injury. We do too and have him ranked 18th on our WR list.
The Cleveland Browns officially break training camp today. Preparation for the regular season moves to the next phase. This time provides a good chance to look back at the highlights and lowlights of training camp.
Best player: WR Brian Hartline. Practiced hard, practiced well and was there every day. Availability is part of dependability, after all. Hartline is a clear pro and a solid addition.
The story added a close second WR Travis Benjamin. It never really made sense that some thought Benjamin was on the bubble to make the roster when camp started. After seeing him in camp, it makes less sense. Benjamin is vastly improved as a receiver and his speed is something the offense and punt return units badly need. Brown WRs are buried down our WR list but Hartine always attracted targets in Miami. The QB situation is an unstable one but Hartline, who isn't getting a lot of draft attention, could be a waiver wire claim at some point if he continues to play well.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 10:00am
Walker will make his preseason debut Friday night at Kansas City after missing the first two preseason games with an injured thumb. Walker needed 12 stitches to repair an injury earlier in camp.
He’ll get a chance to play in a game with quarterback Marcus Mariota for the first time.
“You always want to get to the regular season, but it’s good to practice and work the rust off, and I haven’t gotten the opportunity to play with Marcus yet, so I am looking forward to that,’’ Walker said. “Marcus is playing great.
“I’m looking forward to being out there with my teammates.”
The story went on to say Walker, heading into his 10th NFL season, isn’t quite 100 percent. He’s been practicing with a small protective cast on the thumb area, and the device has forced him to catch the ball a little differently.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 9:58am
Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is bringing an old friend with him to Atlanta.
The Falcons announced Wednesday that they have signed Rex Grossman. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported he will sign a one-year deal, per a source informed of the contract. The 35-year-old has now worked with Shanahan over three stops in Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta.
If the Packers hadn’t re-signed wide receiver Randall Cobb this offseason, there would probably be a lot more concern in Green Bay right now about the impact that the Jordy Nelson’s torn ACL will have on the Packers.
Cobb had 91 catches last season, though, and that kind of connection with Aaron Rodgers makes it easier to see how the Packers offense can keep on rolling this season. Cobb said that there’s “no need” for him to put more pressure on himself with Nelson out because Rodgers will get the ball to the right people at the right times and because he doesn’t think he’ll be playing a different role on the field.
“If we’re in a three-receiver set, most likely I’ll be inside,” Cobb said, via ESPN.com. “If we’re in a two-receiver set, I’ll obviously be outside. It just depends on what we do. We’ll move around. We planned on moving around this year, so I don’t think our plan changes. It’s just finding that guy that’s going to be able to plug in and be able to fit into what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Cobb was playing inside with Nelson and Davante Adams outside in three-receiver sets this summer. Rookie Ty Montgomery stepped in for Nelson during Tuesday’s practice and the team could also look at Jeff Janis as they look for another receiver to count on behind Cobb in 2015, the story said.
As a result Sanders, who has been held out of practice since he suffered some hamstring soreness after warming up before the preseason opener in Seattle on Aug. 14 , may not play, as a precaution, for the remainder of the preseason. The Broncos open the regular season Sept. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens.
“The expectations are for him to maybe be on the field [for practice] by the end of the week or beginning of next week,’’ Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “We have good news on him and we’re doing everything we can to get him ready for our opening weekend, basically.’’
Both Kubiak and Sanders have said the receiver is on track to play in the opener. It's becoming a growing theme around the league and team's don't want to chance it with injured stars even with the third preseason game on the horizon.
The 35-year-old Vick is a far cry from the star he once was, and he’s coming off a season in which he was largely disappointing when he played for the Jets. But he was the best veteran quarterback available to the Steelers when Gradkowski got hurt.
If Roethlisberger stays healthy, Vick may never see the field in Pittsburgh. But if Roethlisberger goes down, the Steelers know they have a backup with experience.
Vick struggles to stay healthy himself, especially because of his reckless running style. He's always had a strong arm, and given the talent around him should he see the field, the potential is there for him to put up fantasy numbers in this offense.
Lost in QB Jameis Winston's shadow is the play of running back Doug Martin in Monday night's preseason victory against Cincinnati. Martin had six carries for 59 yards (a 9.8-yard average), including 52 yards on an opening touchdown drive.
He looked more like the Martin who rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a rookie in 2012 than like the player who has struggled through injuries the past two seasons.
"First off, he's healthy and you know how much that means to a running back," coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday. "He's worked hard. He's looked good in training camp practices but you want to see him do it in a game. There were holes last night. But there was also a wall and he was stopped at the line of scrimmage a couple of times and he made something out of nothing a few times. He broke tackles and ran hard. Just a good game."
Martin's play in training camp has had the coaching staff talking and his performance against the Bengals only added to the excitement that he might be able to be the player he once was. Martin could also be inspired by his contract situation as the Bucs declined his 2016 option. There are plenty of backs behind Martin who have shown flashes at one time or another in Charles Sims, Bobby Rainey and Mike James.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 6:45pm
Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro’s knee injury opens the door for rookie fourth-round NFL draft pick Javorius Allen, who understands the opportunity at hand. “Times like this are when you prove yourself,” Allen said following Tuesday’s practice. “Can you step in and be that guy and provide for your team and have your team believe in you?” The early returns for Allen have been uneven. In two preseason games, he’s rushed 17 times for 54 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and caught two passes for 25 yards. However, running backs coach Thomas Hammock and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman indicated this week that Allen has made definite strides. “Buck continues to improve," Trestman said. “He’s shown us that he can run and make plays and be physical and drop his pads and finish with his feet. We’ve seen that. We just want to continue to see him grow and get better at all the little things that he’s doing.”
One area that Allen is working to improve on is blitz pickup. The former USC standout acknowledged there’s a big difference between doing it at the college and pro levels. This is something that tends to limit a lot of young backs in the NFL.