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J.W. Gordon | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer


Training Camp Report - AFC
News, Notes and Post-Game Report for Preseason Week 2
8/19/13


Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four

AFC WEST: DEN | KC | OAK | SD
AFC SOUTH: HOU | IND | JAX | TEN
AFC NORTH: BAL | CIN | CLE | PIT
AFC EAST: BUF | MIA | NE | NYJ

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning put in some extra work with newcomer Wes Welker this week and the practice unsurprisingly paid off. Welker caught three balls against the Seahawks, including an 11-yard touchdown from Manning but also suffered a minor sprained ankle. TE Julius Thomas also posted his second straight solid performance after getting extended playing time after most of the first-team exited. Thomas, a third-year player out of Portland State, has played himself into a battle with Jacob Tamme who just returned from a quadriceps injury. If Tamme is slow to get back to full strength, Thomas could have fantasy relevance this season.

Ronnie Hillmanís costly fumble at the 1-yard line ruined a perfect opportunity to separate himself from Montee Ball. What should have been a short plunge into the end zone turned into seven points for Seattle. In a game where Ball struggled in pass protection Hillman failed to capitalize netting 34 yards on 13 carries. As with most rookie running backs, the ability to pass protect is keeping Ball from overtaking Hillman.

LT Ryan Clady was able to practice with the first team offense for the first time since undergoing off-season shoulder surgery. He is on track to be ready for the season opener September 5th.

Kansas City Chiefs

Jamaal Charlesí status as a first rounder for 2013 is a bit cloudy these days and even Charles himself isnít quite sure what to make of his latest injuryÖ ďThis is one of the weird injuries Iíve had. It started in my foot and it traveled all the way to the top of my foot and now itís stuck in the middle of my right leg.Ē Charles did return to practice but he may be held out of games for the remainder of the preseason. If the Chiefs are worried about exposing him to further injury risk, how much risk are you willing to take with your first pick of a team you plan to manage for the next four months? The name that should now be on your radar is Knile Davis, who started in place of Charles and rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries against the 49ers. Should the opportunity present itself, Davis could provide RB2 production in Andy Reidís offense. For the time being, drop Charles down a few pegs until more information surfaces on his condition and make sure Davis is on your list of worthy handcuffs to target this draft season.

Beyond the backfield, the effectiveness of Dwayne Bowe in the new offense has yet to materialize. Both he and Jonathan Baldwin failed to catch a single pass against San Francisco leaving more questions than answers regarding their fantasy value. As the top wide receiver, Bowe should see enough targets to make him a viable WR2 this season. However, Alex Smith has never thrown more than 18 touchdowns in a given season. Knowing the running game is nicked up, Smith and Bowe have a perfect opportunity to show some signs of life leading into next week.

Oakland Raiders

Darren McFadden continues to see his workload limited this preseason as he carried the ball five times for 17 yards. By all accounts, he is as healthy as he can be entering the 2013 season. Of greater concern to the Raiders offense at this point is the news that starting LT Jared Veldheer will have surgery to repair a torn triceps instead of playing through the injury. Consequently, he becomes a candidate for the IR.

Matt Flynn may have pushed ahead in the QB battle as he was given the majority of the time under center against the Saints this week. He finished up 12 of 16 for 124 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. However, he was sacked five times and his touchdown didnít come until just before halftime when he connected with WR Denarius Moore on an 18-yard strike. Moore has the talent to be a fantasy contributor this season but fantasy owners shouldnít expect the third-year wideout from Tennessee to do more than match last seasonís output given the quarterback situation.

San Diego Chargers

Philip Riversí fantasy stock appears to be stagnant heading into the 2013 draft season. Already without Danario Alexander for the season (torn ACL), top receiver Malcom Floyd sat of the teamís second game of the preseason with an ongoing knee issue. In their place, neither Vincent Brown nor Keenan Allen stood out against the Bears. Eddie Royal coming out of the slot sounded like another option, but he suffered a bruised lung and concussion in practice this week making his availability uncertain. TE Antonio Gates has seen his production decline in recent years, but he may open the season as the best receiving threat for the Chargers.

In the backfield, Ryan Mathews put together a nice outing rushing for 45 yards on 9 carries. He is the best fantasy option San Diego has to offer, but his injury history makes him nothing more than a RB3 with upside in shallower formats or a low end RB2 in 12+ team leagues. Meanwhile, Danny Woodhead came back to practice this week but was unable to suit up against the Bears. San Diego is not disclosing the injury but if I was speculating, I might think it was concussion related due to the Chargers being extremely cautious with his return. Woodheadís role as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield becomes even more vital to the offense with the current state of the wide receivers. Despite his current injury status, Woodhead remains a nice speculation play in PPR formats due to his inexpensive tenth round price tag. In Woodheadís absence Fozzy Whitaker got an extended look. He flashed some potential but would enter the year with little fantasy value by being buried behind Woodhead and Ronnie Brown on the depth chart.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

Arian Foster missed another week of practice and the early word out of Houston is that the focal point of the offense is expected to miss practice on Monday as well. Heading into what is largely considered the most important week of the preseason, Foster has fantasy owners nervous. The latest comments from the team indicate that Foster is getting through some pain stemming from the back injections he is receiving as part of his treatment. Foster has missed time in the preseason before only to have solid fantasy seasons so owners shouldnít rush to a conclusion just yet. There are still two weeks of the preseason left to get Foster ready for the regular season. In the meantime, backup RB Ben Tate returned to practice as expected from his groin injury this week. He did play sparingly on Friday night and should see his reps increase this week. Tate may be one of the most important handcuff options this season and owners looking to invest in Foster early should not wait too long before grabbing Tate.

Indianapolis Colts

TE Coby Fleener exited the Colts preseason game against the Giants with a sprained knee. He will have an MRI today but the injury isnít expected to be severe. Itís likely heíll be Questionable for Week 1 and given the depth at the tight end position this season, thereís no reason for fantasy owners to take a gamble on him as a TE2 at this time. Wideout T.Y. Hilton continues to impress as he hauled in two catches for 36 yards and a touchdown Sunday night. He has yet to be named a starter Darrius Heyward-Bey continues to lineup on the outside, but itís likely that Hilton will be the second best fantasy wide receiver option from the Colts.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Blaine Gabbert rebounded from a week ago and has been named the starting quarterback for Week 1 but did suffer a minor thumb injury to his throwing hand. Heís been diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his thumb and wonít play in anymore preseason games. His status as the starter is shaky given his history and it won't be a surprise if Chad Henne gets an opportunity to start at some point during the season.

Maurice Jones-Drew was able to dress and play during Jacksonvilleís first series. Though he didnít play much (9 yards on 3 carries), fantasy owners should keep an eye on reports during this upcoming week to make sure he continues to progress. If so, heíll move steadily up draft boards towards the early second round. Also returning to action was WR Justin Blackmon who hauled in four of five passes thrown his way for 46 yards. Cecil Shorts, however, is working his way back from a calf injury and did not play. Shorts is the better fantasy asset to target, however Blackmon should not be completely overlooked due to his impending suspension. If Jacksonville can get even average quarterback play, Shorts and Blackmon will be decent flex options once the bye weeks start.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans rushing game was not as spectacular as it was a week prior, but the trio of Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene and Jackie Battle combined for 117 yards on 25 carries against a good Bengals defense. If the Titans can continue to run the ball this effectively it will go a long way towards helping Jake Locker improve in his second year under center. That would translate into a more productive atmosphere for the passing game.

Speaking of the passing game, owners looking for a classic boom or bust play in the middle of the draft should look no further than former Rutgers standout Kenny Britt. He returned to practice this week and did register a catch against the Bengals. His upside is not as high as it used to be prior to injuries, but he is a solid threat in the red zone and should get plenty of targets as long as he stays upright. Adding to Brittís status as the best fantasy option in the Titansí passing game is the news that fellow wide receiver Kendall Wright sustained a sprained knee. It appears Wright escaped serious injury but he will miss the rest of the preseason with his status for the regular season opener uncertain.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Reinforcements have arrived for Joe Flacco but will it be enough? TE Dallas Clark and WR Brandon Stokley were brought in this past week and have had good practices but HC John Harbaugh was quick to remind reporters that it will take some time to get the veterans up to speed with the offense. Both players should provide immediate help in the short passing game, especially on third downs. Torrey Smith is having a fine preseason flashing his big play ability on a 77-yard pass play against the Falcons. He is shaping up to be a solid WR2 this season even if he sees more double coverage. Ray Rice failed to impress on the score sheet, but he is expected to see a heavy workload even if Bernard Pierce cuts into his carries. The touches will be there for Rice and his fantasy owners, especially if he sees an uptick in his receiving stats due to the limited options in the passing game.

IDP leaguers should have LB Daryl Smith on their radars. Replacing one of the all time greatest defensive players in NFL history may be a tall order but Smith is finding the ball carrier and making plays in the middle of the Ravens defense. Following an uneventful 2012 season that ended with a hernia issue, the 6-2 Smith looks poised to become a leader on the post Ray Lewis Ravens defense.

Cincinnati Bengals

WR A.J. Green and RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis were kept out of action during the teamís second preseason contest against the Titans. Both are expected to get back onto the practice field next week and be ready to go for the season opener. Andy Dalton spread the ball around and made positive strides completing 9 of 14 passes for 115 yards and 1 touchdown. Dalton isnít likely to emerge as a fantasy starter this season but can be used as a match up play for fantasy owners employing a QBBC strategy. Giovani Bernard was able to punch it in from the 1-yard line late in the first quarter. He likely wonít be asked to carry the load even if The Lawfirm goes down with an injury but he adds a nice safety valve for Andy Dalton that should translate into fewer turnovers and more sustained drives in 2013.

Cleveland Browns

Trent Richardson returned to practice this week and played in his first career preseason game, grinding out 22 yards on six carries against the Lions. He also survived a huge hit from DT Ndamukong Suh as his dynasty owners held their breath. If Richardson isnít dealing with an injury, someone else is probably going to be unlucky. And that was the case this week after Montario Hardesty underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and Dion Lewis broke his fibula. Hardesty will be back in about six weeks, but Lewis is likely out for the rest of the year. Consequently, former Packer Brandon Jackson steps into the picture as the primary backup behind Richardson while Chris Ogbonnaya continues to fill the FB position.

The second week of the preseason also saw more of what many fantasy experts were expecting to see from the new Browns offense. TE James Cameron making plays and WR Josh Gordon running under deep passes. The athletic tight end snared a pair of touchdowns from QB Brandon Weeden as he continues to be drafted outside the top 10 at his position. HC Ron Chudzinski helped rekindle Greg Olsenís career a year ago and chances are good that Cameron will see plenty of chances this season. Additionally, the fingerprints of Norv Turner could also be seen as Gordon emerges as a potential breakout player. Expectations should remain tempered as the offense will flow through Richardson, but Gordon should be able to improve upon last seasonís production despite starting the season suspended for the first two games.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Injuries are sinking this team behind the line of scrimmage as rookie LeíVeon Bell re-aggravated a knee injury from earlier this preseason. Also, Isaac Redman is dealing with a stinger making him a game-time decision against the Redskins. That leaves Jonathan Dwyer and LaRod Stephens- Howling holding down the running game heading into the first Monday night game of the year. Despite the injuries, the Steelers still expect Bell to compete for the starting job when the season opens.

In case fantasy owners couldnít figure it out, QB Ben Roethlisberger felt the need to name Antonio Brown the teamís top receiver. Brown hasnít had much luck getting the ball into the end zone but should see enough balls thrown his way to make him a low-end WR2 in most formats. If Heath Miller misses the first three to four weeks of the season as is being reported while he works his way back from an ACL injury, look for Emmanuel Sanders to be get more involved.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

EJ Manuel had minor knee surgery and will miss the final two weeks of the preseason. Manuel had been considered the front-runner to open the season as the teamís starting quarterback and he will be re-evaluated for Week 1. That means Kevin Kolb gets a very important look over the next 14 days. The former Eagle and Cardinal has started slow this preseason and lacks the play-making ability of Manuel. That could lead a conservative offensive approach for the Bills as they open the 2013 season.

Fortunately for Buffalo, they have the stable of running backs to keep the pressure off the quarterback. If you are the fantasy owner who liked C.J. Spiller as a top five overall fantasy option this season, you should still like him. If you feel like the quarterback play will hinder the offense and Spiller, you likely wonít end up with him on your squad anyway. Spiller enters his fourth season out of Clemson as the undisputed lead dog in the backfield and he figures to get as many touches as he can handle. The presence of Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice has helped limit the wear and tear on Spiller early in his career, but he should see his touches eclipse the 300 mark in 2013. Fred Jackson should be the primary backup but his injury history should give the new coaching staff more reason to work in Choice. Consequently, a true handcuff option may not reveal itself until the first few weeks of the regular season.

Miami Dolphins

TE Dustin Kellerís season is over after tearing up his knee this week, taking one more pass-catching threat off the field for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins. Whoever fills the void at TE (Charles Clay, Michael Egnew) will be a downgrade from a fantasy perspective as Keller was expected to help attack the seams with the speedy Mike Wallace keeping opposing safeties deeper than usual.

Ryan Tannehill had a solid week of practice and it showed during the teamís game against the Texans. Despite being sacked twice, the second year pro tossed the ball up 15 times and connected on 10 to rack up 141 passing yards. More importantly, free agent acquisition Mike Wallace connected on a 33-yard gain and 9-yard TD reception. This is a step in the right direction, but it is too soon to trust Wallace as anything more than a low-end WR2 in most formats. In the running game, Lamar Miller found the end zone for the first time this preseason. For a guy who was considered a bit of an injury risk coming out of college and hasnít shown anything spectacular this preseason; fantasy owners are being quick to anoint him a solid RB2. The opportunity is there for him to emerge as a quality second stringer in the fake game, but drafting him as such following 51 career carries is risky.

New England Patriots

Tom Bradyís knee was the scare of the week, however, an MRI revealed no structural damage. He will wear a brace into the start of the regular season but fantasy owners should not be worried about this injury when drafting the Patriots quarterback. New England looks they will be able to run the ball on most teams this season so anticipation for Bradyís numbers to decline slightly is logical. At the same time he can carve up defenses with precision and should offer consistent production week-to-week. Danny Amendolaís status as the top fantasy receiver on the team was exhibited with a six-catch performance that included a touchdown against the Bucs. Amendola has 100-catch potential in this offense but fantasy owners need to weigh his upside against his injury risk and Rob Gronkowskiís red zone prowess before reaching for him in upcoming drafts.

Is this what Bill Belichick and company envisioned when they selected Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the 2011 draft? Vereen looks dynamic in a dual threat role and Ridley is finding plenty of room to run behind his offensive line. Keeping both players fresh doesnít appear to be an issue with Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount ready to go when called upon. Ridley has all the makings for a double-digit touchdown campaign but may not tally enough yards to enter the discussion as a top 10 RB this season. Vereen, on the other hand has showed the ability to be a solid flex starter in PPR leagues right out of the gate.

New York Jets

Bilal Powell continues to do well even with Chris Ivory returning to action. However, Ivory did get some work in with the first team and it is clear that the Jets like Ivoryís skill set. As long as both running backs are healthy to open the season a RBBC seems likely. I would prefer Powell simply because he has shown he can handle the workload better than that of the fragile Ivory. The Jets have also indicated plans to use both players in the backfield at the same time. Neither should be counted on as more than a flex option in standard leagues, yet both running backs should be drafted in all but shallow leagues. Khalil Bell, formerly of the Bears, was signed to add depth. He scored a pair of touchdowns this week but wonít be a factor for fantasy purposes unless injuries open up an opportunity during the season.

At the quarterback position, Geno Smithís ankle injury has helped Mark Sanchez get a grip on the starting job in New York. Sanchez responded with a decent week of practice, but still turned the ball over against the Jaguars. New Yorkís offense, especially the passing game, is a work in progress that will yield inconsistent results throughout the season. It is quite possible that the Jets will have the least to offer fantasy owners in 2013.