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.
Monday, July 27, 2015, 5:53pm
It's common for the Patriots to be overly cautious with their injured players before camp by placing them on PUP or NFI, the story went on to say. Each player can be removed from the list and begin practicing at any point. However, players can't be placed on PUP once they begin practicing.
Browns coach Mike Pettine views veteran journeyman Josh McCown as the team’s projected starting quarterback, former first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel as the clear-cut No. 2 and converted wide receiver Terrelle Pryor as a former signal caller who might eventually moonlight at the position.
Atop the depth chart, it’s status quo at the game’s most important position. As the Browns wrapped up mandatory minicamp in mid-June and prepared for vacation, Pettine and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo made it clear McCown was the favorite to start the Sept. 13 regular-season opener against the New York Jets.
“I don’t think anything’s changed,” Pettine said. “The repetitions will be handled that way, with Josh as the one. Now I wouldn’t say I’m guaranteeing today that Josh McCown is going to be the starter against the Jets. A lot can happen in a preseason.”
Pettine didn't rule out Manziel making a move, but did note there is a clear separation between McCown and Manziel right now. McCown is 31st on our QB rankings and isn't getting a lot of attention in drafts.
Monday, July 27, 2015, 5:44pm
Tucker, 24, joined the Eagles as an undrafted free agent following the 2013 NFL Draft. He spent the better part of two seasons on the Eagles practice squad and played in two games as a rookie in 2013.
Monday, July 27, 2015, 2:31pm
With the Redskins offense now preparing for its second season under head coach Jay Gruden’s scheme, WR Pierre Garçon believes the Redskins are “further ahead than we were last year, as a team, as a playbook, as an offense.” The players are more familiar with the playbook, and “can keep getting more in depth…instead of starting back at step one,” as well as one another.
“Now we know each other,” Garçon said. “First year under our belt with each other, more camaraderie, hanging around the guys, seeing them, it’s definitely beneficial for us.”
In organized team activities earlier this offseason, Garçon and DeSean Jackson spent some time practicing at different spots from where they spent the majority of their time in 2014. After Garçon mostly played as the “X” receiver and Jackson became a stalwart as the “Z” in their first year working in Gruden’s offense, they practiced lining up in both positions this offseason. Wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard, who played in the NFL for 12 seasons as a receiver, expects this to allow receivers to better understand plays as a whole by looking at them through multiple angles and perspectives, the story said. Garcon saw a major drop in targets last year, perhaps in part to instability at QB and perhaps also in part to the arrival of Jackson. Either way, Garcon takes a huge drop in our rankings this year, coming in at 50th with an ADP of the 10th round, so he's more of a flier or depth guy at this point. A lot of questions need to be answered in the Washington offense, but if Garcon get get back to his previous form he could be a nice value at that point of drafts.
Monday, July 27, 2015, 1:52pm
Jaguars rookie receiver Rashad Greene was impressive during the offseason program.
The fifth-round pick out of Florida State continued the momentum during the six-week break. Greene joined quarterback Blake Bortles and other receivers at Bishop Kenny to throw during the time off.
Greene spoke about the sessions Monday as the Jaguars' quarterbacks and rookies reported to training camp. The team's first practice is at 9:55 a.m. Friday after the veteran's report on Thursday.
"The majority of the time I was here, working with Blake and some of the receivers," Greene said. "[Our chemistry] has grown a good amount. We're getting comfortable with each other. He's understanding how I get in and out of my breaks and I'm getting used to how he throws the ball."
Greene has a lot of competition at the WR spot with a boatload of young talent at the position on the Jags roster. He ranks way down our list at 133.
Monday, July 27, 2015, 1:47pm
Back with the coaches for the first time in six weeks, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said he spent most of his short vacation trying to further his knowledge of new offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s scheme.
Aside from a week in Lake Tahoe, Calif., for a celebrity golf tournament, Bortles was in Jacksonville. He threw to teammates during several sessions at Bishop Kenny High School, but did not make a return trip to southern California to work with Tom House.
Asked what his camp goals, Bortles said: “To come out of camp with a clear ownership of the offense. I got a brief overview of it going through the spring and had an opportunity this month to stay on top of it by continuing to review things.”
When the offseason program was completed, Olson and quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett gave Bortles plenty of homework, chiefly on pass protection. Bortles’ leadership developed last year when he started the final 12 games. He feels comfortable being in that role from the hop this year, the story went on to say. Bortles enters 2015 with Julius Thomas as his new TE and a young group of WRs looking to take the next step in the Jags offense. Despite that, Bortles is still buried on our QB list at 25th. There's some potential there, but he likely won't see a lot of draft day action in typical leagues. If he shows improvement, he could at least be a streaming option at some point this season.