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C.J. Englander | Archive | Email
Staff Writer

Training Camp Hype ("TCH")
News, Notes & Quotes from Week 1

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hype 1 (hip) Slang
1. Exaggerated or extravagant claims made especially in advertising or promotional material
2. Something deliberately misleading; a deception.

Usage: Only days after training camp has been open, the hype runs rampant with reports that Randy Moss "absolutely has something left.”

How do we analyze a statement such as the one above, when preparing our draft cheat sheets? Does it mean that Moss should be viewed as WR1/WR2, a WR3/WR4 or do we simply discard this report into the circular file?

Hype is seen in all sorts of industries. Imagine you are a record producer for a major label and some manager dumps a demo on you by an unknown female vocalist with the last name Jepsen, stating that “this is going to be the hottest song on the charts." You toss that CD into your computer and you listen to it over and over again, laughing at its sheer lack of musicality…as you utter under your breath “I just met you.” On the fifth listen, you find you know all the words and you can’t stop listening to this drivel. You dump it on the market, hype it to radio stations and, Voila!, society believes it is the best song since Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you get it wrong. And sometimes you may just do society a disservice.

Last season provided us with the good, the bad and the ugly of hype. It was exactly a year ago that the Carolina Panthers were actually mired in a quarterback controversy between Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen. Early reports had all eyes on Newton with statements like “when this guy is on the field, you can’t help but keep your eyes glued to him. Not only is he a physically imposing figure, but he’s simply exciting to watch. He may struggle as a rookie, but he’s also going to make his fair share of plays. He's an exciting player. And it’s going to be fun to watch.” Newton’s rookie campaign definitely lived up to the hype. As did that of A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

But, what about the flip side? Pete Carroll was high on Leon Washington. Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman and Michael Williams were only going to improve from their 2010 numbers.

TCH’s sole purpose is to provide you with news and notes from around the league for you to process into your own rankings. If any of this news catapults you to your league championship, call me….maybe.

Arizona Cardinals

QB: Kevin Kolb is taking first team reps and got the start in the Hall of Fame game, despite a thigh contusion. Kolb did not make great strides in that game to protect his hold on the starting quarterback position, and then he left with a bruised rib muscle and diaphragm. However, he has returned to practice since. John Skelton came in and delivered on his first drive. Some reports out of Arizona suggest that many of the Cardinal players are gravitating more toward Skelton because he has better command of the huddle. Neither quarterback is presently distancing himself from the other.

WR/TE: Due to the quarterback issues, there is little to read on the receiver situation at this time. First-round draft pick Michael Floyd has not made significant strides and is presently fourth on the depth chart behind Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Early Doucet.

RB: The Cardinals are suffering preseason running back woes. Beanie Wells is on the physically unable to perform list with a knee issue. Ryan Williams is being held back because of his torn knee ligaments and is receiving limited snaps. However, he has shown some flashes in his limited reps. The Cardinals have discussed using fullback Anthony Sherman but are using a wait-and-see approach. Little has been mentioned about using LaRod Stephens-Howling. Although Wells says he’ll be ready for the opener and Williams is running, the Cardinals may just end up knocking on the door of free agents before the season starts.

Atlanta Falcons

QB: The signs are all positive for Matt Ryan, who beefed up over the offseason by gaining muscle weight and arm strength. With the positive reports on Julio Jones and the experience and consistency of Roddy White, the Falcons are anticipating that Ryan will have his breakout year. In their first scrimmage with the Tennessee Titans, Ryan went 16 for 17 and looked extremely sharp.

WR/TE: All of the buzz this summer is about Julio Jones. The Falcons plan on reducing the looks of all their former bell cows like Roddy White and Michael Turner and expect much from Jones, who is identified as a “composite” receiver: a la Terrell Owens, but faster.

RB: Jacquizz Rodgers has exhibited that he can handle all responsibilities in the backfield, from running to blocking. Some reports suggest that Rodgers’ and Jason Snelling’s workload together will be equal to Michael Turner’s. While Rodger’s appears to be the sexier selection, Snelling still holds down the No. 2 position on the depth chart.

Baltimore Ravens

QB: Joe Flacco is having his “best training camp in terms of focus and execution.” While we have heard this same song last year, coach Harbaugh is predicting a breakout year for Flacco. He looks “sharp…very sharp.” His decision making, decisive; his throws, on target; his level, consistent. Backups Tyrod Taylor and Curtis Painter are fighting it out for second, if that means anything to anyone other than their families.

WR/TE: Anquan Boldin remains the No. 1 wide receiver in the Ravens offense, but keep an eye out for Torrey Smith, who “is the most efficient improver, if that’s a word, I’ve ever seen,” said his coach John Harbaugh. “He gets the most out of every day and that’s why I think he’s going to be a great player." He has improved his route running and his hands according to Coach Harbaugh who also said that Smith has improved his understanding of the blitz package. However, he still runs hot and cold. Smith himself states he is more confident and not worrying about assignments like he did in his rookie campaign. Jacoby Jones has virtually locked up the No. 3 spot, with the hamstring concerns of Tandon Doss and the limited reps of LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson. Ed Dickson should secure the No. 1 tight end role, with Dennis Pitta breaking his hand and being out until opening day. More importantly, with Jones's speed, he and Flacco have developed a “connection” during training camp.

RB: The Baltimore backfield is a lot like the early version of the Gilligan’s Island theme song. There is Ray Rice and “the rest.” Rice received the proverbial keys to the city with a new contract, and there are no running backs on the depth chart who present any risk of bringing Rice off the field other than when he needs a breather. No. 2 Bernard Pierce has a hamstring injury, and No. 3 Anthony Allen has been unimpressive to date.

Buffalo Bills

QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been doing relatively well throughout training camp, is not feeling any heat at starting quarterback. Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen, meanwhile, are nipping at each other’s heels for the No. 2 position. Neither Young nor Thigpen have done anything to stand out at this point, and Young is having a difficult time adjusting to the Bills’ shotgun spread offense.

WR/TE: Steve Johnson appeared to be in regular-season form and ready to go at the beginning of training camp but was pulled from drills with a sore groin one week later as a “precaution.” Fitzpatrick has discussed his level of trust with his wide receivers and it is clear Johnson leads the pack. David Nelson is following behind him at wide receiver, but Donald Jones is focusing on limiting his dropped balls in camp in an effort to secure the No. 2 spot. However, tight end Scott Chandler appears to be more in sync with Fitzpatrick at this point. From the start of training camp, Chandler has been making tough catches with defenders all around him.

RB: Fred Jackson returned to camp fully healed from his fibula fracture. The only concern for him now is that his time off allowed C.J. Spiller to develop, and the Bills are looking for a contribution from both.

Carolina Panthers

QB: Cam Newton is looking “comfortable and confident” thus far through training camp. Derek Anderson is presently in command of the backup duties, with Jimmy Clausen lagging behind him.

WR/TE: Thus far, Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell are holding down the No. 1 and No. 2 wide receiver spots. Seyi Ajirotutu has had a very good camp and has made himself a part of the conversation at to the No. 2 position. David Gettis has missed most of training camp due to a hamstring injury, and Louis Murphy rounds out the true threats for targets in the Panthers passing game.

How many times can one be expected to buy into tight end Greg Olsen? But this time it sounds legit, as Ron Rivera has compared Olsen to Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Rivera has said, “This will be his first real opportunity to step up and be the guy. You watch him catch footballs, you watch him run routes, and you see those traits that he can fit right into that group.” The impediments to Olsen’s taking off as a receiving tight end are removed (Shockey and Martz), and with Mike Tolbert there to take over much of the blocking (see below), Olsen’s impact has the potential to skyrocket. Some food for thought: Last year, the Shockey-Olsen one-two punch accounted for the third most tight end receptions in the league, just behind Gronkowski and Graham. Olsen could have "sleeper" written all over him.

RB: Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers add Mike Tolbert to the mix. However, Tolbert does not appear to be in line to receive the type of touches he got in San Diego. He will likely be used as a true fullback to relieve the tight ends of their blocking duties.

Chicago Bears

QB: Jay Cutler has been “shining” through training camp. Just in case anything happens to Cutler, the Bears feel quite confident in his backup, Jason Campbell, who has also shined in practices, showing poise in the pocket, command of the offense, and the physical tools to make the necessary throws and runs. “He’s doing a great job of coming in and giving us that security blanket,” says center Roberto Garza

WR/TE: “It’s like Easter,” said Cutler upon entering training camp, referring to all of his receiving weapons. Brandon Marshall insists he is the most focused he has ever been. Wide receiver coach Darryl Drake considers Devin Hester the most improved receiver in the bears lineup; and as camp opened, Hester lined up opposite Marshall. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, a second-round draft pick, started off slow and is picking up some steam, but it still looks as though he's being used in limited circumstances.

RB: Matt Forte got his contract, which, given the Bears history, suggests they are unconcerned with his 2011 MCL sprain. Forte says he feels the healthiest he has felt since leaving college. The fantasy downside to Forte, however, is that Michael Bush appears to be a lock in short-yardage and goal-line packages. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice says that Bush is “the guy who can move the pile.” Bush has received the majority of red zone work in training camp.

Cincinnati Bengals

QB: Andy Dalton was throwing an "inconsistent" deep ball through the first few days of Bengals camp. He was throwing effectively, however, by their first scrimmage.

WR/TE: There is no question that the Bengals offense revolves around one player, and that all signs are pointing in an upward direction. A.J. Green reels in virtually everything thrown to him. Green feels far more comfortable in the offense and has made strides from his rookie season, stating, “I feel like I know this (offense) and am coming out of my breaks quicker and stuff like that.” Green has added ten pounds of muscle and spent the offseason working out with Megatron. The "grandfather" of the receiving corps is four-year veteran Brandon Tate, who entered camp as the starter opposite A.J. Green and is staying there for now. Also turning some heads is rookie Armon Binns. The other wide receivers have all improved from last year, but Gruden expects to use them interchangeably in a committee format. Tight end Jermaine Gresham is looking at an increased role and a “big year."

RB: No news yet regarding the running back position, other than the initial depth chart showing BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the one position of which he was assured when Bernard Scott got shelved with a hand injury, keeping him out for most, if not all, of the preseason.

Cleveland Browns

QB: No quarterback competition here (for now) as Brandon Weeden will begin the season as the Browns' starting quarterback and Colt McCoy, if still on the team, will be the backup.

WR/TE: While Mohamed Massaquoi is having his best camp and is listed as the starter opposite Greg Little, plans are for rookie Josh Gordon to inch his way up into that position. Gordon has shown smooth routes, good hands and an ability to separate from defenders. The Brown’s other rookie wide receiver, Travis Benjamin, has also shown good development and has been listed with Gordon ahead of Joshua Cribbs.

RB: Trent Richardson has been practicing well but has been held out of practice to give a surgically repaired knee a rest due to some soreness. While the Browns are intent on downplaying this, it appears Richardson will undergo a minor procedure to clear some loose cartilage. Behind Richardson, Montario Hardesty is looking faster than he was last season, "maybe by a lot." He looks fresher and quicker than he has in the past and is clearly edging out Brandon Jackson to spell the rookie Richardson.

Dallas Cowboys

QB: Tony Romo is experiencing some frustration with centers. That’s about it.

WR/TE: Dez Bryant has been "wonderful," “fantastic,” "beating up corners for deep and short passes," leaping above his defenders. Miles Austin is sidelined with a hamstring injury which the team does not appear worried about at this time. Kevin Ogletree has been exhibiting outstanding speed and quickness, is continuing to improve, and is showing an ability to master all the routes and positions on the offense. Dwayne Harris is another candidate for the No. 3 receiver position, having been the most consistent and having made the most quality catches.

RB: Cowboys are expecting big numbers from DeMarco Murray. Jason Garrett says Murray is “a mature player from a technical standpoint. You can tell he's a good runner. He has good vision…He has kind of an instinct, an intuition, that the really good players have." Murray “looks fantastic, running with vision and power and showing no signs of the ankle injury that ended his 2011 season early.” Not a good start for Felix Jones, who had to take a second crack at his conditioning test before entering camp.

Denver Broncos

QB: Early reports from camp indicate Peyton Manning is still feeling the effects of his neck injury and that his arm strength has not entirely returned. His throws "have been short and intermediate….” Although Caleb Hanie is second on the depth chart, it appears clear to those around the Broncos that rookie Brock Osweiler is second in command, taking most of the second-team reps. Osweiler has shown impressive footwork and mobility for a quarterback of his size. Conversely, he has exhibited some of the inconsistency expected of a rookie quarterback.

WR/TE: Demaryius Thomas experienced some tightness in his Achilles tendon, which kept him out of practice a few days. This causes concern only because it may have been the right tendon that he tore in his rookie year. Otherwise, Thomas has Manning’s eye, to which Manning has stated: "His size, and strength and speed just allow you to do certain things with him that other players just can't do." According to Champ Bailey, Thomas is “running his routes as crisp as can be and he's catching the ball.” Out for a few days with a groin strain, Eric Decker returned to camp once again as the talk thereof. Where Manning and Thomas are not completely on the same page, Manning “appears to be in sync with Decker.” Decker appears more suited for the short and intermediate passing game. Andre Caldwell has impressed with his speed and developed enough of a rapport with Manning that he is in line for the No. 3 receiving role. Brandon Stokley rounds out the top four and leaves the remaining receivers far behind in the rearview mirror.

But wait, there’s more. The Broncos are relying heavily on their tight ends in camp, with Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen being two of the most targeted receivers thus far.

Don’t underestimate the time Manning has spent with Tamme and Stokley. Early in camp, they seemed to receive a lot of the passes when Manning was under pressure, simply because of their familiarity with each other.

RB: Willis McGahee has gained a few pounds—ten to be exact. Apparently every pound was muscle, however, as McGahee entered camp with a “ripped” upper body and dropped body fat to nine percent. McGahee has secured first-team reps and is the unquestioned starter. Although rookie Ronnie Hillman has been inspiring rumors of unseating McGahee, it is Lance Ball who is spelling McGahee on first-team reps on passing downs. Hillman is being groomed to step into the passing attack, but he has been set back by a minor hamstring pull that has kept him out for a week. Hillman appears secured as the speed back. Although Knowshon Moreno is listed deep on the depth charts and appears to be fighting to make the squad, he has been spotted taking numerous first-team reps, and the debate appears to be between he and Lance Ball for who will emerge as the No. 2 back. Mario Fannin is once again out of the running, this time with a torn Achilles tendon.

Detroit Lions

QB: About Matthew Stafford, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan says, "it's hard to say a 24-year-old kid is as mature as he is, but he's in his fourth year…He's taken such command of everything we do offensively, and naturally so….It just comes with the territory and just the ownership he's taken in the offense and all the little things we do on a daily basis just really shows me he's really now a true veteran."

WR/TE: Calvin Johnson is in better physical condition than last year. Does this make him Super Megatron? Is Titus Young the pupil or has he surpassed the master, Nate Burleson, elevating himself to the No. 2 wide receiver spot? It does not appear so yet, but keep monitoring this during the preseason. Linehan touts Young as “outstanding." “…Titus has been always on an upward trend since he got here…finished really strong for us at the end of last season. And he's picked up where he left off….He's really going to be a heck of a player, and he is already." Ryan Broyles rounds out the top four.

Tight end Brandon Pettigrew remains "one of the favorite targets" of Matthew Stafford early in Lions camp, but it's more as an outlet and in red zone plays.

RB: Mikel Leshoure’s hamstring and Jahvid Best’s concussions have landed Kevin Smith, if by default, in the starting running back position. Best is still being held out, and head coach Jim Schwartz says it’s a matter of weeks, not days, before he returns. Others suspect that any return for Best is questionable. Leshoure, on the other hand, has resumed running as part of rehab and is targeting a return at around Week 3 of the preseason. However, Smith has said he feels the best he has ever felt, both physically and mentally—before leaving practice on Wednesday with a right quad strain, that is. While it is far too early to think about drafting him, Stefan Logan has been a camp standout and might be worth putting on your radar while waiting to see what happens with Best and Leshoure. The other healthy backs in Detroit include Keiland Williams and Joique Bell.

Green Bay Packers

QB: If there is any worry surrounding the play of Aaron Rodgers this year, it is not on Rodgers, per se, but rather on the depletion of offensive tackles in the Packers’ lineup.

WR/TE: Greg Jennings suffered a concussion during a scrimmage and has not returned to practice yet. Jordy Nelson has been a bright spot throughout training camp. "This guy just continues to improve. He is an elite receiver…. a difference-maker," said coach Edgar Bennett. James Jones is also having an impressive camp, dropping very few passes (a prior problem for him). However, the receiver to watch for appears to be Randall Cobb. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Cobb has made the most “big plays” of any wide receiver in camp. Donald Driver has had a terrific summer and is well conditioned but is still mired in the depth chart as the fifth receiver. Tight end Jermichael Finley is off to a slow start, with a concussion and his not performing up to expectations in those practices he has attended.

RB: James Starks' practices "aren't as good as they could be, and he seems to have regressed as a receiver" and "hasn't made strides as a pass blocker or ball carrier." It appears Starks is now dealing with turf toe and is week-to-week. Alex Green has impressed the coaching staff with his speed through the middle. Brandon Saine has also been showing improvement and appears to be the No. 2 back at this point. But apparently no one has wowed the coaching staff, who brought Cedric Benson in for a look this week and ultimately signed him to a one-year contract.

Houston Texans

QB: No noteworthy comments regarding the Houston quarterbacks.

WR/TE: Andre Johnson returned to practice for limited reps after a week off due to tweaking his groin. Upon his return Johnson looked as good as ever. Earlier in camp, Lestar Jean looked to be the No. 3 wide receiver, with size, good work habits and smarts. But as camp has moved along, fourth-round draft pick Keshawn Martin has "come on so strong that he's separating from the pack" as the Texans' third wide receiver. He has been “outstanding” throughout camp. Kubiak said Martin is “very professional in his approach. Doesn’t say a word, just works, and he’s going against [Johnathan Joseph] every day. That’ll make you good real quick." Some suspect that Kevin Walter may even lose reps to these two young and talented receivers.

RB: No noteworthy comments regarding the Houston running backs.

Indianapolis Colts

QB: Andrew Luck has “the look of being the most complete quarterback talent to enter in the NFL in decades. He makes all the throws. He's mature beyond his years. He's the real deal….” Tom James of the Tribune Star reports that “One week into training camp…Luck has met, or exceeded, most expectations….His grasp of the Colts’ offensive playbook, along with his on-field awareness, tops the list….” Luck has posted good numbers but has not gone up against full-speed NFL pass rushing yet.

WR/TE: Reggie Wayne is moving all around the formations during training camp. He's learning the slot and also shifting to the right side. Austin Collie is getting the chance to secure the outside receiver job opposite Wayne, despite the fact that he is already a lock at the slot position. Donnie Avery has been "the surprise" of camp, according to John Clayton. Avery’s injury history has reared its ugly little head, as he is likely to be held out of the first preseason game with a thigh contusion. Sixth-round rookie LaVon Brazill is "gobbling up first-team reps," and the third-round rookie has impressed at least some writers with "spectacular" speed and hands. Hilton has looked "sharp" while working with every unit early in camp. Bruce Arians has said that tight end Coby Fleener is “solid…a really good blocker on the offensive line….We need to get him better as a receiver. But he's making progress."

RB: Nothing like having Andrew Luck to distract the world from looking at your run game. Donald Brown entered camp as the No. 1 running back, but Delone Carter, Vick Ballard and Mewelde Moore are close behind him. There has been little news reported about any advances being made by the Indianapolis running backs.

Jacksonville Jaguars

QB: Offensive Coordinator Bob Bratkowski admits the passing game is “not very good,” but he has expressed that Blaine Gabbert has made "quite a bit of improvement on a day-to-day basis.” Other observers state that Gabbert does not appear to have made any significant strides and that he is still struggling with accuracy and pocket presence. Fortunately for Gabbert, his backup, Chad Henne, has looked no better through camp, and there seems to be little risk of Gabbert’s losing control as the starter.

WR/TE: Because he didn't sign until on August 6, Justin Blackmon has missed most of camp. According to Laurent Robinson, Blackmon is loaded with raw talent, great hands, and great work ethic, but he is behind the proverbial eight ball from missing so much practice. Robinson is not as positive about his own performance, stating "I’ve been struggling…I just can’t catch the ball deep right now. But it’s a work in progress." Even Mike Mularkey says Robinson hasn’t looked like a $32-million receiver. Mike Thomas has also been struggling through camp, and Cecil Shorts has moved ahead of him on the depth chart. Marcedes Lewis showed up to camp out of shape.

RB: Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars are not talking and the holdout is expected to last “a long time,” whatever that may mean. And in the Why It’s Called “Hype” department , reports out of Jags camp are that backup Rashad Jennings has been the “standout player” of camp, which translates into a desperate plea for MJD to come back.

Kansas City Chiefs

Matt Cassel has earned praise from coach Jim Zorn, who has stated that he has dramatically improved since last season and has been impressive in camp. Cassel should be feeling no pressure from backups Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi.

WR/TE: Dwayne Bowe has not yet reported to camp, but it is anticipated he will be in the lineup on opening day. Until then, Jonathan Baldwin will be filling in for him. Once again, in the Why It’s Called “Hype” department, all news regarding Bowe’s “replacement” is scintillating. Baldwin has “put on a show,” “displayed greater maturity and focus,” “his weight is down,” his development has been "sensational," he has an “ability to make spectacular catches seem routine, and he has "started to figure out how to utilize his superior physical traits to dominate on the perimeter." And in other news, Dexter McCluster has practiced almost exclusively at wide receiver, lining up mostly in the slot.

RB: Jamaal Charles recently declared "I feel good...I feel like I got my mojo back. I feel happy. I feel comfortable out there, and I'm ready to go. My legs feel fresh." According to Peyton Hillis, Charles is one of the best backs in the league. Hillis also reported to camp in "outstanding shape" and is running with "the urgency and physicality” he was known for before last season. All accounts have Hillis and Charles equally sharing the load as the featured running backs.

Miami Dolphins

QB: David Garrard was taking most the first team reps and had been named the Dolphins’ starting quarterback and the job appearred to be his to lose. Unfortunately, he may have lost it, when he had his knee scoped. As camp has trudged along Ryan Tannehill has continued to improve from his impressive early training camp and in a recent scrimmage looked to be the best quarterback on the staff. Bob Griese thinks that Tannehill is “the real deal.” Matt Moore struggled in this same scrimmage.

WR/TE: No consistency in the reports coming out of Miami. Some reports have Chad Johnson as the best receiver on the squad. But other reports place Davone Bess as the receiving star over the early part of camp. You can forget about Johnson however as his arrest on domestic battery charges this week has cost him a place on the team. Brian Hartline has missed training camp due to a calf injury. In Hartline’s absence Legedu Naanee has stepped into the third starting wide receiver role, receiving accolades as the standout receiver in camp, with his good size, good hands and ability to block. According to the Palm Beach Post, Naanee looks to be the team’s possession receiver heading into the regular season.

RB: Little to note about Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas at this point, but there has been some buzz about the 4th running back on the depth chart, Lamar Miller, who has quickly exhibited the ability to pick up the block in passing packages. There still seems to be some concern about Miller’s dancing in the hole, instead of making single cuts, but there is some talk he should be ahead of Thomas.

Minnesota Vikings

QB: Christian Ponder has "gotten head over heels better than last year" says Percy Harvin. Ponder is making better decisions.

WR/TE: Percy Harvin was carted off the field at Vikings practice with a hand injury. The injury appeared serious at first, but probably is not. Jerome Simpson has been receiving first team reps and has been an early camp standout. But the undisputed MVP of training camp is Tight End Kyle Rudolph, who according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has "10-foot fishing nets for hands." There is "no question" Rudolph will be a favorite target of Ponder who declared that he's confident throwing to Rudolph even if he's just "barely" open.

RB: Adrian Peterson admits he's still experiencing numbness in the patellar tendon area of his surgically reconstructed knee. Coach Leslie Frazier stated there are no indications that Peterson should not be ready for Week 1 and he has just come off the active/PUP list, which supports that he is ready to play. Jordan Todman who is battling Lex Hilliard for the Vikings' third-string job has shown more wiggle and explosion than Hilliard.

New England Patriots

QB: Tom Brady is as hard on himself in practice as he is come game time. “You’ve got to bring emotion to practice, and you’ve got to bring emotion to games. This is not a game where you come out flat for practice. You’ve got to come out, work hard, try to get everything you can out of practice. Everyone seems to be doing that.”

WR/TE: The Boston Globe reports that Brandon Lloyd “has looked great throughout training camp, already displaying a chemistry level with Brady that Chad Johnson never reached.” While comparing Lloyd to Chad Johnson may be meaningless, Lloyd has been one of, if not the star of camp so far. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald says that “smooth routes and effortless sideline catches have become a daily occurrence” for Lloyd. Deion Branch has missed a lot of camp and may be in on the losing side of the battle for the last roster spot against Donte Stallworth who has had an impressive camp and is probably the fastest receiver on the team according to Imala Weligamage of the Boston Globe. The other notable receiving standout in camp has been Aaron Hernandez who has been "on fire."

RB: According to Boston ESPN, Stevan Ridley looks like “the top horse." Ridley has been praised for his speed and “decisiveness” as he receives the Lion’s share of the first-team reps, "generating forward push." Shane Vereen started camp off slowly and looked to be far behind the Ridley train. However, by the Pats preseason game with New Orleans, albeit against 2nd and 3rd team defenses, Vereen posted very good numbers exhibiting good speed. Undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden has turned some heads in training camp, with “strong running, impressive burst and good hands.”

New Orleans Saints

QB: Never mind the off-season distractions, what with a contract dispute and other overly discussed off the field issues. In his pre-season opening Hall of Fame game, Drew Brees looked “razor sharp” completing 4 of 5 passes for 41 yards and a masterful drive down the field for a touchdown. As good as Brees’ numbers were against the Cardinals defense, he only completed one pass of four, for four yards against the Patriots.

WR/TE: Brian Allee-Walsh of Sports reports that the consensus top three receivers are Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson. With Robert Meachem out of the way, one would think that Devery Henderson was bound to seize the opportunity. However, Henderson has thus far been “unimpressive.” According to the Times-Picayune, Henderson has “reverted back to his earlier inconsistent years with dropped pass and incorrect route running." Henderson still has a lock on the number three because the next two expected to make the roster have been notably absent. Adrian Arrington, who was “perhaps the biggest star” early in camp, appears to be heading for the operating table with a knee injury likely requiring a scope procedure. Rookie Nick Toon consistently misses time due to a recurring foot injury. Accordingly, Courtney Roby, Joseph Morgan and Andy Tanner are all in position to make the roster. According to Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham is “self-motivated…driven. He's got a fire that burns inside of him." Graham is reportedly “uncoverable” in camp.

RB: The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Mark Ingram is looking "awfully healthy… strong, fast and healthy." However, for being awfully healthy, he was held out of the preseason game against New England for precautionary reasons.

New York Giants

QB: Love the New York Post - David Carr is the Giants’ backup quarterback, “which you might not have known because the Giants’ starter is Eli Manning and the backup isn’t Tim Tebow” writes Mark Hale. ‘Nuff said!

WR/TE: Victor Cruz has perhaps become the most polarizing player in Giants camp. While Giants’ fans chants of “Cruuuuz” during the season was music to the ears of the defense, it’s not so much during camp as the fans continue to chant his name on catches. The Newark Star Ledger reports that stopping Cruz and stopping the chants, has become a daily game plan for the defense. Celebrating a stop on Cruz outshines any other moments in camp. But that has not proven all too successful as stated by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell: “He does what he wants to do…I don’t know if we can stop him.” Hakeem Nicks is en route to his projected week one return and is running routes on the sideline at practice. Nicks proclaims he has felt "no pain." With Nicks sidelined, Domenik Hixon is presently the starter opposite Cruz. Jerrel Jernigan has been the "surprise player" of camp exhibiting "flashes of brilliance," speed and reliable hands. Although Hixon is higher on the depth chart Rueben Randle and Jernigan have drawn more attention, with Jernigan outplaying both in the first week of camp. Hope springs eternal for Ramses Barden, but nothing noted yet.

Tight End Martellus Bennett insists he's in the best shape ever stating, "I'm stronger than I've ever been. I'm faster than I've ever been. I could run all day. I'm kind of like a black unicorn out there. It's amazing to watch." However, with no supporting statements to be found, he may be as self promoted – oh wait, Unicorns aren’t real…are they?

RB: Ahmad Bradshaw insists, "I feel great.” Yes, he has said that before, but this year he’s serious. He better be, because rookie RB David Wilson is lighting up practices. In the preseason opener, Wilson rushed seven times for 43 yards and caught a pass for ten yards. The only drawbacks are that he is raw in pass protection and his knowledge of the playbook. He has lightening fast speed and is explosive. As stated by the New York Daily News, it's been "impossible not to notice" Wilson's "flash." If ever an endorsement, Bradshaw must be feeling the strain as he criticizes Wilson for over-flashing, "…he’s fast and he can make moves…It’s just the way he does it. At times, it’s not even needed." Eli Manning stated that Wilson is "the fastest running back we've ever had…." While preseason reports had D.J. Ware maintaining the edge on Wilson, Wilson’s camp placed a quick end to that concept.

New York Jets

QB: And as we move from one New York team to its neighbor, the quarterback position is anything but stable. Oh hell, the entire Jets team (at least through the mouths of the media) is anything but stable. Please…somebody…please, find me a publication which discusses Jets football without reference to its back-up quarterback. Nearly every other article in the Post and the Daily News, as it relates to the Jets, centers around Tebow.

“Elway got it right getting rid of Tebow,” says Boomer Esiason. He’s a “distraction,” “combustible” and “frustrates” linemen. “Wrong city, wrong franchise, wrong circumstances,” elaborates Esiason. He is not a good thrower of the football, not even close. But, if one former QB has something negative to say, another can always be found to say something positive. Ron Jaworski observed improvements in Tebow's throwing motion, “his stroke is much better…It’s cleaner. It’s not as elongated. He’s not dropping the football. That means the ball will come out quicker.” The Jets’ starter’s name nearly escapes me. It is far too much work to read through all the Tebow articles to get a read on how Mark Sanchez is performing thus far.

WR/TE: Assuming for a moment that the Jets’ don’t have an under-achieving starting quarterback or an over-achieving back-up, wide receiver has been a problem. The obvious number one receiver Santonio Holmes showed up to camp with general soreness and then was knocked out with an observably protruding broken rib. According to Antonio Cromartie, the number two receiver on the team is…Antonio Cromartie. This may not be an unfair statement, since the starter opposite of Holmes, is second round draft pick Stephen Hill who has had a “very quiet camp.” While Hill is “freakishly athletic” his skill set, such as route running has not come along quite yet. Jeremy Kerley, who was slated for the slot position, has been accused of malingering with a phantom hamstring injury and was deep in the coaching staff’s doghouse. Chaz Schilens has impressed somewhat and is making his claim to the slot position. Seventh round receiver Jordan White has also turned some heads and is making a push for the slot as well.

Not to lose all hope, Tight End Dustin Keller represents the Jets number two receiving threat.

RB: While Bilal Powell has been outplaying Joe McKnight during camp, it appears that McKnight is for now holding onto the number two role. Starter Shonn Greene is being used as a power running back who will be spelled on third downs and passing plays. Powell has been praised as the best RB in camp thus far and in addition to leap frogging McKnight, he could cut into Greene’s carries.

Oakland Raiders

QB: Head coach Dennis Allen said Carson Palmer has been "exceptional" so far at camp. Palmer has looked sharp, at ease with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s West Coast offense, making every throw and displaying leadership. Guard Stefen Wisniewski stated that Palmer has a very good command of the offense and is looked up to by all the players. Camp watchers are impressed with how good backup Matt Leinart has looked. "His arm is fine…His feet have been outstanding” says Gregg Knapp.

WR/TE: Denarius Moore is listed as the Raiders’ No. 1 wide receiver, but he has been in and out of camp with a minor hamstring issue. Darrius Heyward-Bey should be locked in as the number two with Jacoby Ford as the third wide receiver. But there is still some fight in the rookies. Rod Streater and Juron Criner have both been mixed in with the first group. Knapp has kept open the chance for the undrafted free agent (Streater) and the fifth rounder (Criner) to make the starting unit, stating “they have made some plays that have caught our eye. They're still learning the system, and being assignment-perfect is where they're still growing.” Tight end Brandon Myers looks to be number one on the depth chart, but is primarily a blocking tight end.

RB: Darren McFadden is determined to play a full season. It would be a really good year to do that as Michael Bush is no longer in Oakland, and Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson (who has no return date after a neck injury which had him taken off the field by ambulance) have been laid up with injuries. All signs are a go for McFadden. But with McFadden under wraps so far during the preseason, Lonyae Miller is getting all the first team reps and he has opened some eyes on the coaching staff. "I’ve been impressed with what Lonyae’s been able to do," Allen said. "He’s a different type of back than the other backs that we’ve got. He’s a little bit more of a downhill, pounder-type guy. He doesn’t have quite the same explosiveness as those other guys but he’s been a consistent runner.

Philadelphia Eagles

QB: There is something ironic when a quarterback vows to make a conscious effort to avoid injury and then in the opening preseason game bangs up his thumb. But, it was a minor hiccup and Michael Vick is back in the huddle. In addition to vowing to steer clear of injury, Vick says he is about 90 percent comfortable with the offense now (three times where he was last Summer). While Vick is injuring himself one finger at a time, his back-up, Mike Kafka is going straight for the full hand, having broken his non-throwing left hand and is now sidelined until opening day. In the Let’s State the Obvious Department, the Eagles would rather not have to resort to Kafka, who has exhibited a lack of ability to get the ball deep to the Eagles speedy receivers. Rookie Nick Foles impressed in the preseason opener, albeit against third team defenses. Nonetheless, he showed good arm strength and mobility.

WR/TE: Jeremy Maclin sat out the preseason opener with a hamstring injury. Undrafted rookie Damaris Johnson has been impressive with his short field speed, but he is no DeSean Jackson when it comes to the deep speed. But for now, Jason Avant and Marvin McNutt look to round out the top four while Riley Cooper heals his broken collarbone. Tight end Brent Celek has missed a significant portion of training camp with a MCL sprain.

RB: Should anything happen to LeSean McCoy, the Eagles are talking up his back-up Dion Lewis. Marty Mornhinweg proclaims "Dion has had an excellent camp up to date" who is excellent with his protections. Do not overlook Bryce Brown, who at least early in camp looked to be edging out Lewis with his pass catching abilities and short yardage game.

Pittsburgh Steelers

QB: Ben Roethlisberger does not seem as concerned about his "little torn rotator cuff" Roethlisberger looks as sharp as ever.

WR/TE: Mike Wallace is not wasting away during his holdout. He has been working out in Florida with Tom Shaw (Tom Brady’s conditioning coach) focusing on his speed and performance. "He's fast as lightning right now," says Shaw. "He’s not going to put himself in a bad situation (conditioning-wise) so that he couldn’t play in the first game." Roethlisberger has kept in touch with Wallace and is confident that Wallace’s holdout will not linger. Expectations are that Wallace will return to the team during the preseason, mid-August to be exact. Antonio Brown has been the receiver in camp during Wallace’s hold-out. In fact, the Steelers awarded him with a fat contract. But Roethlisberger is not fooled by Brown’s game time performance. The primary reason Brown gets open, Roethlisberger admits, is due to all of the double and triple teams Mike Wallace pulls down. Emmanuel Sanders is healthy, but Mike Tomlin is exercising caution due to his durability concerns. Rounding out the top three in Wallace’s absence is Jerricho Cotchery. The receiving depth behind these three is thin and it would just as much behoove the Steelers to get Wallace back as it would Wallace. If Wallace does not return, keep an eye on tight end Heath Miller who might be utilized more in the passing game with an improved offensive line.

RB: Isaac Redman has secured the role of the third down back, but he has not been all too impressive. Is this a sign that the door is open to other backs or is Redman going to start as well? It’s not Jonathan Dwyer who has been turning Steelers’ heads, rather, 4th round rookie Chris Rainey has been wowing his teammates with his speed and elusiveness. “The more I see of Chris Rainey, the more I like this little scatback... His speed surely has intrigued offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who’s giving Rainey a lot of reps to show what he can do,” says Mike Boires of the Beaver County Times.

St. Louis Rams

QB: Sam Bradford is still feeling the effects of his season ending ankle injury, no pain, but nevertheless it is not 100% healed. This has not worried head coach Jeff Fisher who stated "There's going to be residual effects from high-ankle sprains, especially when you come back into practice like he is….But we don't anticipate it to be a problem, and it hasn't been one. He's moving around fine."

WR/TE: Rookie Brian Quick is not being handed the reins and has had some struggles in camp. However, he has had some promising bounce back days too and has been starting to show signs of progress. Fourth round pick Chris Givens had been slightly ahead of Quick when camp opened but both rookies are presently behind veterans Steve Smith and Brandon Gibson. Givens has the speed, but exhibits trouble catching the ball in traffic, while Quick has shown inconsistency. Steve Smith is “on the verge of a rebirth.” He has shown “more speed than anticipated” and has a realistic shot of taking the number one receiver role. However, the St. Louis Dispatch reports that Danny Amendola is a lock for the number one receiver role. At present, the Rams depth chart has Quick and Givens lining up one and two, but its Smith and Gibson who are getting the first team reps. Tight End Lance Kendricks is expected to figure more prominently into the offense but little has been reported out of camp.

RB: Steven Jackson reported to camp lighter and leaner then he has in the past and is ready to be a true workhorse, stating that he expects to touch the ball 25-30 times a game. While Jackson’s estimates are high, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been unequivocal in the fact that it his plan to wear teams out with a physical running game. His back-up, rookie Isaiah Pead is receiving all sorts of accolades with comparisons to Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles and Chris Johnson, with explosive speed, good hands and ability to run up the middle. "I think Isaiah's shown it from the first day he was here," says Schottenheimer. "The most impressive thing is he's done a great job of picking up the system.” Rookie Daryl Richardson missed much of camp with a hamstring injury, but is trying to land the number three spot. Jeff Fisher states "He's very explosive. Because of his speed, he can get to the outside zone.”

San Diego Chargers

QB: Philip Rivers (See WR/TE below).

WR/TE: All fantasy reports have Robert Meachem being the go to guy in San Diego. Truth be told however, Meachem and Rivers are experiencing chemistry problems and instead, Vincent Brown and Malcom Floyd are Rivers’ "primary targets" in camp. Says Rivers. “For example, I can tell when Malcom's looking at me and has an idea in mind. I know because we've been playing together so long and we're generally thinking the same thing. I can't tell when Robert's doing that yet. I don't know how subtle or overt we have to be in communicating before a play.” "We're getting better each day," Meachem said. "We're a long ways from where we started in the offseason, when we were lining up in the wrong spot and not getting the right split. Those mistakes are long gone, but we still have work left to do. What Philip sees, I need to see too." Eddie Royal was having a good camp until he injured his groin and is out for a couple of weeks.

Tight end Antonio Gates "hasn't looked this good since my rookie season" says safety Eric Weddle. "He's going to be the best tight end in the NFL this year…The best. You can't guard him ... " Gates is in great shape and has shed some unneeded weight.

RB: Camp has been designed to prepare Ryan Mathews for a heavy workload this season. Mathews seemed to be handling the load well and was showing as billed in camp. But then came a minor car accident, which caused him to miss a practice or two and then came the big hit on his first carry of the first preseason game, which landed Mathews with a broken clavicle. His timetable for return is 4-6 weeks, likely to be 6. But the real question becomes whether or not Mathews is durable enough to shoulder the load the Charges wish to place on him. Mathews back-up is Ronnie Brown, who was brought in to take 3rd down reps. According to Norv Turner, Brown is a “very, very explosive player” and is a "complete back." Behind Brown is Jackie Battle, who was brought to San Diego primarily for special teams and Le’Ron McClain. The Chargers have significant depth of veteran running backs who have logged significant game time experience carrying the rock.

San Francisco 49ers

QB: Smith’s back-up, Colin Kaepernick has been having an up and down camp. Kaepernick is criticized as having a mentality wherein he "would rather run the ball than throw it." Nevertheless, according to coach Harbaugh as it stands now, Kaepernick is the No. 2 quarterback.

WR/TE: He may have a lot of gas left in his tank and he may be the starting wide receiver, but pictures are sometimes worth 1,000 words, and Randy Moss is not seeing “a lot of action come his way" during practice. However, despite missing a significant portion of camp with a calf injury, the 49ers' initial preseason depth chart lists Michael Crabtree as the team's only starting wide receiver. While a number of spectators have questioned rookie A.J. Jenkins on his conditioning, coach Harbaugh has come to his defense stating that Jenkins has shined while filling in for Crabtree. Much of this sounds like attempts to motivate Crabtree to get into camp. Also having an illustrious camp is Ted Ginn who Harbaugh reports has been doing it all, running good, getting in and out of his cuts.

Prior to camp, reports have been that tight end Vernon Davis has been having "an outstanding offseason." Harbaugh states "Every facet of the tight end position, he's really excelling in that right now."

RB: It is no secret that Frank Gore is in line for reduced carries this season with Kendall Hunter, rookie LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs all battling for play time. Says Gore, "that's how you know how good your team is getting. I'm cool with it." If this line-up of running backs causes any confusion, there is one back who seemingly is rising like cream to the top of the coffee. Harbaugh states that Hunter "really has a chance to have a big year." “It just seems the feel, the experience is there and [he’s] in tremendous shape, very strong, running with a lot of confidence. Says offensive coordinator Greg Roman, "I've never seen Kendall Hunter have a bad day or a bad snap where he wasn't totally tuned into football.” Hunter has had an “exceptional camp." Jacobs appears to be in line for short yardage and goal line drives, and has thinned down.

Seattle Seahawks

QB: Although Tarvaris Jackson started off camp as the lead quarterback, Matt Flynn appears to be gaining a stranglehold as the starter. Flynn has shown "superb accuracy and ball placement" and "repeatedly connected on deep throws after eluding pressure." Head coach Pete Carroll states "Matt has done a fantastic job so far…He's learned the system. He's on it." Carroll is not displeased with Jackson’s performance, it is more a testament to how Flynn has come through, which Carroll attributes to have grown up in a Mike McCarthy offense. Rookie Russell Wilson has also proved to be coming along in camp.

WR/TE: Per Matt Flynn, Terrell Owens is “very smooth... He’s obviously a physical specimen. Big guy, big hands, big strong hands. And he got out there the first day and ran some routes that aren’t easy to just get out there and run your first day and haven’t run them in a while. Ran them smoothly. I could read him out of his break, so it was good." General Manager John Schneider says “Here is a 38-year-old man that came in, weighed 220 pounds, and ran 4.45, 4.43 and once he did that ... I didn’t see that coming... He ran really well, dropped his hips really well, worked his way back to the ball, didn’t drop a ball and was really quite impressive." Golden Tate is having an "outstanding" camp, impressing coaches with his "speed, explosiveness and ball skills. Braylon Edwards immediately looked good in camp as well. With Tate emerging as a go to receiver the signing of Braylon Edwards, and T.O. running in the starting flanker position, the writing is on the wall for Sidney Rice after multiple off-season shoulder surgeries. While Rice is confident he will be starting week one, his lack of preseason contact drills suggests otherwise.

Tight ends Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow look to be afterthoughts in the passing game, which itself may be an afterthought to the running game.

RB: While the Lynch camp suspects no suspension relating to his DUI arrest, keep an eye on rookie Robert Turbin who has been the most impressive rookie in Seahawks camp, who is labeled as a physical running back. Nickname of the Year award goes to Turbin – “SeaHulk.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB: Josh Freeman has been solid throughout camp under new offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. "Josh is progressing very nicely," Sullivan said. “…His feet are set underneath him and he doesn't over-stride or throw off balance." Quarterback coach Ron Turner says Freeman's athleticism and intangibles are impressive. "He's got a tremendous skill set…Being around him, I like his intelligence. And what I like best is he wants to be good and he's willing to be coached." But if anything should happen to Freeman, reserve Dan Orlovsky has been a training camp surprise reports the Tampa Bay Times. “…he has shown an ability to deliver the ball on time and with accuracy.”

WR/TE: Vincent Jackson has been the best player early in camp. Jackson and Josh Freeman have already formed an impressive rapport. No reason to believe at this time that Mike Williams will not be the No. 2 receiver where he sits presently on the depth chart. Coach Greg Schiano states the depth chart is fluid at this time and not to put much stock in it. Arrelious Benn will miss most of the preseason with a sprained right MCL. Dallas Clark has been one of camp’s most pleasant surprises, exhibiting great work ethic, gaining chemistry with Josh Freeman and looking healthy. He hasn't missed one practice, barely takes breaks during workouts and is coming on strong as a safety blanket for Josh Freeman. “He wins matchups with linebackers, runs good routes and is catching intermediate passes with more yards after the catch” reports Stephen Holder of the Tampa Bay Times.

RB: The Bucs running back situation appears to be more volatile, in a positive way. Sure, LeGarrette Blount is listed as the starter on the initial depth chart, but it is Doug Martin who has been running with the first-team. Martin has outplayed Blount on nearly a daily basis. Coach Schiano states the backfield is a "fluid situation," in which he'll let the "lead back emerge." According to the Tampa Bay Times, LeGarrette Blount "more than evened" the competition in the preseason opener.

Tennessee Titans

QB: The race for the starting job is tight, with all hope that Locker emerges as the starter. Locker started camp highly inconsistent, completing only 30% of his passes. However, as camp moved along, Locker strung together more consistent practices. Hasselbeck is less physical but far more consistent.

WR/TE: All of the news relating to Kenny Britt is about his off field woes. While a suspension appears imminent and Britt keeps sticking his foot in it, there are no reports about his football skills since he is still rehabbing from knee surgery. In the preseason opener, Kendall Wright caught all three balls thrown to him and showed his quickness. Wright is working with both the first and second team offenses and is the favorite to see playing time with Britt out.

RB: Chris Johnson gained eight pounds of muscle this offseason. Johnson has rededicated himself spending the offseason at the Titans' training facility. “,,.you don’t see hesitation," says Mike Munchak. "I think C.J. looked quick, he was hitting things decisively. When he decided to go outside he hit it hard and showed some speed around the edge." All reports are that Johnson is back to his "old self.”

Washington Redskins

QB: Robert Griffin III has been "up and down" early in camp, which includes a tendency to hold onto the ball too long. However, when he throws the ball, he throws bullets. He struggles “underneath with some of his ball placement.” In the preseason opener, Griffin looked composed and had an obvious rapport with Pierre Garcon, throwing to him 4 of 6 times and completing three for 58 yards and a touchdown.

WR/TE: Mike Shanahan says Pierre Garcon is "everything we’re hoping for." "He has speed and explosion. He’ll block. He’s competitive. He has great hands. He will definitely be a big time receiver for our team." Leonard Hankerson has been "one of the team’s more consistent pass-catchers in practices." Josh Morgan has struggled due to a hamstring injury. Santana Moss is in the slot. Tight end Fred Davis may perhaps be the most skilled receiver in camp and is “a true mismatch-type player.”

RB: For now, Evan Royster is the top back on the team. Heck, according to Kyle Shanahan, he can be “a top back in this league.” “He’s a very natural runner.” Mike Shanahan declares “You can't tackle him. He makes people miss. He knows how to cut and he knows when to cut.” The Redskins seem to believe that Royster has a higher upside than Roy Helu and that Helu is best utilized in a change-of-pace role. So far, Royster is working with the first team and Helu the second. With a Shanahan staff, it never hurts to pay attention to the bottom of the depth chart, so keep an eye on Alfred Morris. Tim Hightower is not close to 100 percent. The preseason provided little to glean from Royster’s or Helu’s performances.