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Bills OC Nathaniel Hackett is excited by what WR Sammy Watkins, the fourth overall pick in the draft, can bring to the offense. “He’s a guy we’ve got to get the ball to a whole bunch,” Hackett said. “Good players just naturally start getting the ball, whether you call a play for them or not. I think it just shows here in practice. It might not necessarily be his number, but EJ just naturally finds him, throws it to him earlier, he goes up and catches it.” Hackett acknowledges that Watkins needs to work hard this summer on his route-running. The majority of his catches at Clemson last season came on receiver screens and vertical throws up the field. “We’ll probably do that some, too,” Hackett smiled. “I would say up to this point as a pro he’s been amazing, just the way he’s attacked this whole thing,” Hackett said. “He understands that he is a little bit behind from the route-running standpoint. He’s done a great job working hard, starting from the rookie minicamp, really throwing himself into the offense and the routes we want him to run, which are a lot of unique things he has done in the past. ... He’s got a lot of work to do from his route standpoint, which he knows.”
He’s not landing in a good situation, since the Bills are run-heavy and E.J. Manuel is his quarterback. But with Stevie Johnson out of the way, the potential is there for solid production. By all accounts he has shown a great work ethic, so if he’s a target-hog, he should be a fantasy starter (top 36) in 2014.
Bears beat writer Michael C. Wright was asked about the team's WR3: "I think Marquess Wilson is that extra receiver you’re thinking about. He’s a rising second-year player, coming off an offseason in which he trained out in Florida with Brandon Marshall. And you saw what training with Marshall did for Alshon Jeffery. The plan right now is to give Wilson first dibs at that No. 3 receiver job, and I think the staff is pretty confident he’ll wind up winning it. Wilson was a highly-productive player in college, and was able to step in as a rookie last season and contribute. I think Jay Cutler is pretty comfortable with Wilson, too."
The Bears' WR3 last year (Earl Bennett) wasn't a featured player in the offense, so we're not expecting Wilson to be one of the more productive WR3s in the league unless something happens to Marshall or Jeffery. The team has a lot of mouths to feed in the passing game with Martellus Bennett at tight end and Matt Forte at running back.
Had play-caller Norv Turner had his way last season in Cleveland, the team would have made a deal for Matt Cassel. "I think that would have been, at the time, a good move for us," said Turner. "I gave my evaluation (for the Browns to sign him). I thought he would have fit. ... Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't." Now serving as coordinator for the Vikings, Turner has found his way to Cassel, who opted to re-sign with Minnesota largely because of Norv's reputation as a quarterback whisperer.
The important takeaway here is that Turner likes Cassel, and that makes it more likely that he'll win the QB1 job if Teddy Bridgewater isn't ready to start. We still feel like Bridgewater will start Week 1, but wouldn't be shocked if it's Cassel under center against the Rams.
"The game truly started to slow down towards the second half of the year. It was such a whirlwind at the beginning that I didn't really know what was going on. The playbook wasn't too hard to grasp, but just the play speed was the biggest thing to get used to," Eagles TE Zach Ertz said. "Last year, I didn't know what to expect from the offense and just being out here in Philadelphia as a whole. Obviously, this year it's going to be a lot better." After notching 22 catches and all four of his touchdowns in the final eight regular season games, Ertz wanted to continue the momentum through the offseason. He returned to California and has returned to Philadelphia feeling "a lot stronger, faster" than last year. He's put a huge emphasis on getting better as a run blocker. Ertz recognizes that he's more of a move tight end while Brent Celek is the traditional, in-line variety, but in Chip Kelly's offense you have to be able to do it all. "If you want to play fast, you can't be subbing guys in and out," Ertz said. "With the tight ends we have, we're able to do that whether it's in-line or out wide as a receiver. That's the biggest thing with the tight end group that we have."
Ertz averaged 2.8-32-.56 over the final nine games of the season (including the Eagles' sole playoff game) and that included two goose eggs in Week 10 and Week 14. That equates to 6.6 fantasy points per game, which is what Martellus Bennett averaged as the #10 TE in fantasy football. With Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson gone, Ertz could play a lot in the slot, though the arrival of WR Jordan Matthews may limit Ertz’s snaps there. If he can take a step forward in the blocking department, it will help his overall fantasy outlook.
Saturday, June 7, 2014, 11:17am
Broncos RB C.J. Anderson's burst makes you lean forward in your seat, or stand at attention if you're watching from the sideline. That explosion caught the eyes of onlookers at training camp last summer, and then blossomed in his lone preseason game at San Francisco before he injured his knee in practice the following week. But to earn more playing time, Anderson knows he must continue to absorb the offense and capitalize on the repetitions he gets standing next to Manning. "Last year when I got my chance out there with Peyton, I was a little shaky, a little nervous," Anderson said. "This year, it's so much easier. Whenever Peyton wants to make a call or change anything, I know what's going on, and I see the same things he sees, and I can play a lot faster and really show my ability, instead of just showing flashes like I did last year."
We currently project Anderson to be the RB2 for the Broncos, but he'll have to beat out Ronnie Hillman for the job.
Anthony Fasano and Sean McGrath appear assured of spots on the roster, which means the Chiefs might have to cut loose Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris or Richard Gordon. Kelce missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury that has continued to keep him out of offseason workouts. Harris is still raw, considering he played basketball rather than football in college. And while Gordon is the most experienced, he also may have the lowest ceiling. ''We're excited as a staff to really see Kelce getting back out there at some point,'' offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. ''The emergence of Demetrius Harris, he's a tremendous talent. He mixes in there with those guys. They're having a good offseason.''
There is opportunity in the Chiefs offense at tight end given the team's problems at receiver, but someone has to beat out Anthony Fasano and/or Sean McGrath. Kelce was supposed to be that guy, but Harris has been turning heads in practice.
Bengals RB Giovani Bernard's biggest goal for Year 2? To break bigger runs. "If you're a running back, you always want to be able to have explosive runs," Bernard said. "Maybe not so much just the 10-yard runs or 15-yard runs or the 20. "I want to be able to break the 50s, 60s and 70s. And who knows? Maybe the 80s and 90s. Things like that take hard work and dedication. That's really where your skills come into play is on those explosive runs." No longer a first-year player, he has no doubts that he will be able to create more opportunities for explosive plays this fall. "Your rookie year you don't want to take too many chances, so you get what you can, you get the yardage you can and you live on the next play," Bernard said. "This year, I'll take a few more chances. A lot of people talk about the Miami run [last season]. That was a chance that I took. But that was a run where, I don't do that often."
Bernard was the #16 RB in 2013, but his touches weren’t truly consistent until Week 9. Jay Gruden is gone, so the Bengals have turned to Hue Jackson, who was the team’s RB coach last season. Jackson likes to run the ball, so the team's total carries should increase. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was serviceable as a between-the-tackles grinder and the team picked Jeremy Hill to be the Law Firm’s eventual (or immediate?) replacement. Bernard’s carries are still under pressure, but it sounds like he’ll see an increased role in the passing game. 300 touches are not out of the question.
Friday, June 6, 2014, 6:49pm
Raiders beat writer John Lund on the team's QB situation: "Since you never have to ask me about quarterbacks, Matt Schaub is clearly in control of the offense, as you would expect from a veteran and if Derek Carr doesn’t make it, it won’t be due to a lack of arm strength, he has that."
Friday, June 6, 2014, 6:37pm
Cardinals TE Rob Housler, Bruce Arians said, has had a “fantastic” offseason so far. And that’s at least a start. Where Rob Housler goes from there, we’ll see. It seems that Housler’s “make-or-break” year, or “year to make a leap” has been every year except his first. The Cardinals are still waiting, and now the reality of the NFL means time grows short. Housler is in the last year of his rookie contract. The Cardinals signed John Carlson (who has looked very good so far), brought Jake Ballard back to health and drafted Troy Niklas. Even, at least in the heat of OTAs, Darren Fells has looked the part. Arians has called his tight ends group “an NFL room right now” and they all certainly look the part. Making this team — and getting playing time — won’t be simple.
We're not expecting much from any of the Cardinals tight ends. It's not a featured spot in Arians' offense and the pecking order is too murky with Housler, Carlson and rookie Niklas all in the mix.
Friday, June 6, 2014, 6:31pm
After showing improvement in the first practice open to the media, Patriots WR Josh Boyce followed that up with another solid workout in the rain on Thursday. He was one of the few receivers who managed to catch the wet ball consistently, and he took several reps returning kicks as well. His speed and dynamic ability, which was on display briefly down the stretch a year ago, should serve him well in that capacity. At this point Boyce just hopes he's in the position to push someone for playing time once the dust settles after training camp. With Edelman, Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Brandon LaFell all likely to fall into the "roster lock" category, Boyce could be battling fellow second-year receiver Kenbrell Thompkins among others for as little as one remaining spot.
As advertised, Sam Bradford took part in a pair of seven-on-seven throwing drills Friday during OTAs at Rams Park. But as an added and totally unexpected bonus, Bradford also took part in an 11-on-11 hurry-up _ or 2-minute _ drill. Coach Jeff Fisher had indicated Thursday that Bradford most likely would be held out of 11-on-11 drills during the OTA sessions in June as a precaution as Bradford completes his rehabilitation from knee surgery last fall. But either Bradford did some lobbying, or the Rams merely felt good enough about where he's at physically to have him he participate in the full "team" session. At one point Friday, Bradford even scrambled a few steps to his right because of pass-rush pressure and completed a short pass to tight end Jared Cook.
Through the first seven games of the season, Bradford averaged 16.9 FP and was the #11 QB before injuring his knee late in a game against the Panthers. Fantasy-wise, he may have turned a corner, but he's going to have to put together a full, productive season to get a sizable extension from the Rams.
Raiders QB Derek Carr already has shown the talent and intelligence during OTAs to get the organization thinking about turning to the rookie sooner rather than later. Although Matt Schaub continues to take the bulk of the first-team practice reps, NFL Media's Albert Breer reports there is now internal belief that the veteran will be pushed by Carr.
Neither player will have a ton of fantasy value in the Raiders' offense, though there are decent options in the receiving game in James Jones, Rod Streater, Denarius Moore and Andre Holmes.
Friday, June 6, 2014, 3:00pm
Kenny Britt signed a one-year deal with the Rams in April and has quickly found the fresh start he sought at the outset of free agency. "It’s everything to me, to tell you the truth," Britt said. "My mind is free and relaxed right now. I’m taking this year as a rookie year, like when I first came into the league. That’s my mind state right now."
Britt has a good opportunity to revive his career in an unproven receiving corps, but he's not a safe pick on draft day.
Friday, June 6, 2014, 2:56pm
One of the primary beneficiaries of the Chargers' no-huddle attack will be Ladarius Green, who was limited to a deep threat role as the No. 2 tight end last season. Bucky Brooks believes Green is ready to outproduce Antonio Gates as long as OC Frank Reich uses more two-tight end sets this season. The Bolts need Green's speed and playmaking ability down the seam to complement Keenan Allen on the outside.
This sounds good, but there's no guarantee that the team will run more two-TE sets. This sounds more like conjecture than a solid prediction at this point. Stay tuned.
We have reason to believe Philip Rivers will be running Peyton Manning's old Colts offense in 2014. On Friday's edition of the "Around The League Podcast," NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks revealed that Rivers is running the same heavy no-huddle scheme that the Colts used when new Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich was Manning's position coach in Indianapolis. "I think they're going to give Phillip Rivers more leeway than he's ever had," Brooks explained. "I think you're going to see them play at a pace that we haven't seen them play at, and I think they're ramping up and they'll be far more exciting than we're used to seeing the Chargers in terms of passing." That faster pace should lead to more plays and scoring opportunities while limiting defensive substitutions, in similar fashion to offenses run by the Broncos, Patriots and Eagles.
If successful, this could benefit the entire Charger offense.