After having to earn a roster spot as a rookie free agent last summer, the main target this time for Damien Williams was solidifying his spot as the primary backup to starting running back Lamar Miller.
His two-touchdown performance against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte likely was a big step in that direction.
In the bigger picture, though, Williams is more concerned about continuing to improve as a running back and having that one year of experience has made a clear difference for him.
“Last year I was rookie,” Williams said. “It is kind of hard trying to catch up to game speed with guys who have been in the league five-plus years. This is going into my second year. I just have to get experience.”
Williams ended last season splitting time as the primary backup to Miller with Daniel Thomas, who wasn’t re-signed as a free agent. That left Williams to battle LaMichael James, Mike Gillislee and rookie fifth-round pick Jay Ajayi this summer for the No. 2 job.
Williams was listed as the second-team back when the first depth chart of the season was released, and he got the first carries after Miller in each of the first two preseason games, the story says. He looks to have the edge. James got some positive press a few weeks but Williams seems to be the favorite to get the RB2 job as it stands now. He could have deeper-league fantasy in the Dolphins offense under Bill Lazor, who worked in Philly for Chip Kelly.
Wayne, who had triceps and knee surgery this offseason, took a physical with the Patriots over the weekend. It would appear he proved healthy enough for the Patriots to see if there’s still enough left in the tank for Wayne to help their offense during the 2015 season.
It’s an interesting signing by the Patriots, who seemingly have plenty of depth at receiver. Wayne joins Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Brandon Gibson. He’s likely going to compete with Amendola, Dobson and Gibson for WR3 snaps, though the signing may have something to do with LaFell’s mysterious foot injury. We’re not expecting much out of Wayne assuming Edelman and LaFell are (and remain) healthy, but he could work his way into fantasy relevancy in PPR formats if there is an injury or two ahead of him.
Monday, August 24, 2015, 1:24pm
When the Washington Redskins returned to practice on Sunday, wide receiver DeSean Jackson was back in action for the first time, according to the Washington Post. Jackson only participated in individual drills, but it's a great step in the right direction.
The Redskins have a lot of talent at the wide receiver position heading into 2015, but they need to get them back on the field. Jackson and fellow promising wide receiver Jamison Crowder have been sidelined until recently.
It is becoming apparent that the No. 2 quarterback in Washington will have a good shot at becoming No. 1 at some point during the season.
It’s not too much of a stretch to concoct a doom and gloom scenario for Robert Griffin III. Watching him on Thursday against the Lions and throughout his career since 2013, it seems almost inevitable that his season will be interrupted by either injury or ineffectiveness. That means that the winner of the competition for the No. 2 quarterback job is likely to start some regular season games and perhaps sooner rather than later.
So who is the leader in that competition between Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy? Jay Gruden said during training camp that performance in preseason games would be the primary determining factor. If there is a leader in the battle, Gruden has not tipped his hand to reveal which one it is.
“They’re doing extremely well,” said Gruden of the play of the two backups during the preseason.
The story went on to say throughout OTAs, minicamp and training camp, Cousins and McCoy have split the work with the second and third teams about as evenly as you can. Cousins has completed 77 percent of his passes averaging 9.4 yards per attempt while McCoy is completing passes at a 75 percent clip and also averaging 9.4 yards per pass. Both have been behind center for seven drives. Cousins has had better results, with the team scoring three touchdowns and a field goal with him in the game while McCoy’s possessions have resulted in two touchdowns, the story all said. As you can see, things are pretty close. It's a situation to pay attention to especially if you play in deeper leagues or leagues that start two QBs.
Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim was impressed by his team’s deep threats at receiver last Saturday night against the Chargers. But he’s also concerned that quarterback Carson Palmer won’t have enough time to pass the ball if the Cardinals don’t protect him better.
The Chargers had six sacks in the first half of the victory, including two on Palmer, who dropped back just nine times.
“If we can protect Carson, we have some guys who can not only create separation, but can be explosive,” Keim said Monday morning on his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The story said both tackles gave up sacks, even though Keim didn't blame the offensive line entirely. He also pointed to missed assignments by running backs, which also happens to be an area bit by the injury bug so far in camp for the Cards. Palmer is a potential late-round starting option at QB who has a lot of weapons to throw to . But as the story said, he needs to be protected to allow his talented WRs to get open - on top of staying healthy.
In an interview on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan radio show this morning, Gronkowski said that he's ready to go whenever summoned, but he's always taking his marching orders from Belichick.
“It’s always up to the coach’s decision,” Gronkowski said. “I’m ready to play when my number’s called, whenever they want me to go in. I mean, it is preseason, we’ve been practicing hard, we’ve been going against each other. We had great practices with the Saints; it’s been going well.”
The good news is there isn't anything keeping Gronk from playing in preseason games outside of the coaching staff. It's a trend we're starting to see more and more - teams just aren't risking losing players in a game that doesn't count. He's still the top TE available in fantasy drafts.
Mark Ingram on Saturday showed he can play a big part in the New Orleans Saints' passing game. The fifth-year NFL running back caught the first two pass attempts from Drew Brees and gained 11 yards on the first play, and 29 on the next.
The 25-year-old Ingram said Sunday he always had the hands and route-running ability but "I really wasn't asked to do it much early in my career, when we had (Darren) Sproles, Pierre (Thomas)."
With running back C.J. Spiller reportedly having undergone arthroscopic knee surgery to keep him out of practice, Ingram has received more chances to catch passes. Ingram in 2014 set career highs in rushing and receiving marks, with 226 carries for 964 yards and nine touchdowns, and 29 catches for 145 yards, the story said. The Saints won't be able to throw to Spiller every time he's on the field, so changing things up will be key to the Saints passing success. With Ingram a threat to catch passes, it will only keep defenses on their toes and it could be a nice bonus for fantasy owners.
Green didn't have a bad year, but the Chargers want, and likely need, better from him now.
With Antonio Gates guaranteed to miss the first four games, Green will be asked to move the chains and make blocks.
The Chargers, to put it in culinary terms, need him to supply something hearty and reliable -- along with his rare long speed that is fine etoufee.
Green, 25, got that done Saturday against the Cardinals in a preseason game the story pointed out. It was a workmanlike, if limited, performance, and that was encouraging. He moved the chains on third down, with a Gates-type play we've seldom seen from him. As the story said, Green has a chance to open some eyes as he fills in for Gates for the first four games. The team will likely include Gates back in the offense upon his return, but this is a big chance for Green to prove he's at least in the conversation as future TE1 for the Bolts.
Monday, August 24, 2015, 10:37am
Whether the problem was with Bishop Sankey or the offensive line, the Titans’ running game came under plenty of criticism after the preseason opener.
“The line was doing really well initially making holes, and I was just hitting the holes,” Sankey said. “This week, the big emphasis was (running backs coach Sylvester Croom) telling us to just hit the hole and not hesitate — and when I see a crease, hit it.”
Sankey is a bit of a forgotten man in drafts this year, mostly because of rookie David Cobb starting to get a lot of press. But it's also because of the Titans poor offensive line. If that part of the Titan offense can come together, Sankey could be a guy to take a shot on as he falls in drafts.
Through the first drive of the third quarter, Dion Lewis played 23 offensive snaps as he made his case to be considered the top option to replace Shane Vereen as the team's top "passing back." His combination of blitz pickup, pass-catching ability, knack for picking up yardage after the catch, and determination in the red zone (11-yard touchdown run) was impressive.
Up to that point in the game, Lewis' primary competition for the job, James White, had played three snaps. All three of those snaps came out of the "pony" grouping in which he was on the field at the same time as Lewis.
"I thought Dion did a good job with his opportunities," coach Bill Belichick said in his day-after-game conference call. "He's had a solid spring and camp for us. He missed a few days there [because of injury], but I thought he ran well [Saturday] night."
As it turned out, White did too, the story said. Essentially taking over for Lewis from the second drive of the third quarter until the end of the game (the two were on the field together six snaps after that point), it was almost as if White felt the urgency to match Lewis.
That was what stood out most to me when reviewing the offensive snap counts from the game; how the competition between the two has raised the bar at a critical position in the Patriots' offense. White was drafted by the team for this role so he may have the edge because of that. Whoever wins the job should get a Shane Vereen-like role in the offense which would have PPR league value.
Both QBs really struggled in their last preseason game with the Broncos. Mallett got the start, going 5-of-7 passing for just 23 yards on two drives. Despite boasting a strong arm, not once in his seven passes did Mallett even look to throw deep, an NFL.com article said.
Hoyer entered the game and didn't fare any better, going 7-of-11 for 52 yards. He did try to look deep but failed to connect. Hoyer does have a WR1 in DeAndre Hopkins and could have QB2 or streaming value to fantasy owners. He's said to be a much better fit than Mallett in Bill O'Brien's offense.
Monday, August 24, 2015, 9:05am
Jacksonville Jaguars rookie receiver Rashad Greene got a lot of early playing time against the New York Giants on Saturday night and it sounds like that's going to continue throughout the rest of the preseason.
Coach Gus Bradley said the team made the decision to use more three receiver formations with tight end Julius Thomas (fractured hand) out for the rest of the preseason. With Marqise Lee out with a hamstring injury, Greene got the extra work. He was on the field a lot with the first-team offense during its three drives and was targeted four times and caught two passes for 14 yards.
"With the injury to Julius it put us in a position where we wanted to play with three-wide a little bit more and really evaluate that position," Bradley said. "[Greene] took advantage of it [with] a nice catch in the game and just some of the things that we've seen in practice."
Greene had a quiet start to training camp and that might have partly because of a sore Achilles, Bradley said. Once that eased, Greene started making plays, the story said. One might assume that once Thomas returns, the Jags may use less three-WR sets. Greene's fantasy value is still a question mark with so much young talent at the position and a young QB behind a line that sometimes struggles. He's at least a name to monitor as he seems to be taking advantage of the injuries.
Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is moving Johnson all around the Colts offense, lining the seven-time Pro Bowler up both outside and in the slot, more frequently than he did in Houston.
“One of the things that’s allowed Andre to be such a good pro for so long is his ability to focus and pay attention to the details,” Hamilton says.
“He approached joining our team as if he was a rookie. He took copious notes and he was always focus and engaged in meetings. He’s constantly asking questions and he’s working overtime to build a relationship with Andrew Luck and the rest of our guys.”
Moving Johnson around the formation is a way to create mismatches. Johnson is already a mismatch against a lot of corners but seeing him in the slot more could provide a nice option for Luck. The Colts have plenty of talent at the position to allow Johnson to do this, but it sounds like the team is doing what it has to to make Johnson a key part of the passing attack.
Sunday, August 23, 2015, 8:49pm
Giants wide receiver Rueben Randle's knee tendinitis continues to keep him out as the days tick down toward the regular season. And HC Tom Coughlin said the whole thing has thrown him for a bit of a loop.
"This thing with Rueben has really confused me," he said. "He's been able to handle this so well over the years. And yet this circumstance has been bothersome."
To recap: Randle has battled knee tendinitis since high school, but has always been able to play through it. Things flared up during the Giants' joint practices with the Bengals, and Randle left the first day's session early and missed the entire second day.
Despite struggling to get through warmups, Randle inexplicably played in the preseason game and hobbled off after three plays. He has not practiced since. Victor Cruz hasn't been cleared to play in the preseason yet, the story added.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy almost certainly won't ask any one player to take on the kind of yeoman's work that WR Jordy Nelson gave them, but they've made it clear throughout the offseason that Davante Adams was ready to a step forward even with Nelson in the mix. This spring, McCarthy called him the MVP of the offseason after Rodgers said he has a "humongous upside, and he's starting to reach that upside."
The Packers might look to add a veteran receiver but if not, then Jeff Janis and Ty Montgomery will get increased opportunities. Physically, Janis (at 6-3, 219) most resembles Nelson, but he remains raw. He played in only three games last year as a rookie, although he has three preseason touchdown catches in his career. The rookie Montgomery, a third-round pick, has proven to be a quick study and can probably play on the edge or in the slot. Packers college scout Sam Seale described the 6-foot Montgomery as a bigger Cobb.
"We've got a lot of guys right now fighting for spots, and we're still trying to figure out who's going to be the impact players for us on our team," Aaron Rodgers said. "That could change after this week or that could not. We'll see what happens."
The Packers seem confident in their depth but it remains to be seen how they react to the potential loss of Nelson if the ACL reports prove to be true. The story went on to say in the red zone, they already were preparing for Richard Rodgers to play a bigger role, and the second-year tight end showed his potential in that area of the field with a 21-yard touchdown catch from backup quarterback Scott Tolzien in the second quarter Sunday.