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


Training Camp Report - AFC
News, Notes and Post-Game Report for Preseason Week 3
8/26/13


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

All Ronnie Hillman needed to do was show up and be average while not missing any blocking assignments and he would have fallen into a productive fantasy campaign. Instead, heís done OK and fumbled at crucial moments to cast serious doubt in the eyes of the coaching staff. Rookie Montee Ball clearly demonstrates running ability, but his pass protection will still keep him off the field. Knowshon Moreno? At least he has been through the trenches alongside Manning and not completely fallen on his face. In a week where fantasy owners are expecting to see the final preseason tune-ups from the starting units, the Broncos backfield situation looks muddled as ever.

Jacob Tamme returned and reminded everyone that Peyton Manning still looks his way. Tamme will likely retain his status as the top TE on the team, but Julius Thomas will also see the field. Both guys figure to be too far down in Peytonís Manningís passing attack to be a reliable starter but one could emerge by the time bye weeks begin to be a useful plug and play option.

Kansas City Chiefs

As expected, the Chiefs spent more time working through the air. Alex Smith completed 70 percent of his passes and threw for one touchdown showing fantasy owners that he will be a definite upgrade at the QB position over last season. Dwayne Bowe took center stage of the passing attack hauling in 6 of 8 passes to lead the Chiefs with 73 receiving yards. Keep in mind that Bowe could have left Kansas City as a free agent but opted to stay with the team. Boweís 59 receptions in 2012 were his lowest since 2009. However, he missed the final three games of the regular season and caught only 51 percent of his targets due to poor quarterback play. Fantasy owners should expect a solid rebound to make Bowe a strong WR2 this year.

Kansas City also traded WR Jonathan Baldwin to the 49ers, clearing the path for Donnie Avery to start opposite Bowe. Averyís fantasy value is probably capped as a bye week replacement for 2013 but he now becomes more attractive in deeper leagues. Dexter McCluster missed some practice time with the flu this week but he should anchor a strong return game with Knile Davis once the season begins.

Oakland Raiders

As they head down the stretch it is Terrelle Pryor getting the starting nod for the preseason finale. Part of the decision was based on Matt Flynnís shoulder tendonitis returning. Flynn will rest and be re-evaluated for the season opener. If Pryor can go out and play well heíll probably get the starting nod for Week 1, however the coaching staff has not made a decision just yet. If tabbed the starter, Pryor would represent an interesting flier in deeper formats due to his running ability-he rushed four times for 37 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. The passing attack under Pryor isnít likely to post big numbers, rendering all Oakland wideouts less than ideal for fantasy purposes.

Darren McFaddenís shoulder is the latest ailment to hinder the running back. Although the injury isnít considered serious itís just another reminder of how fragile the Oakland running back truly is. Backup RB Rashard Jennings did not mind as he rushed 12 times for 35 yards and caught two balls out of the backfield. In the event of an injury to the Raidersí lead back, FB Marcel Reece would also factor into the mix.

San Diego Chargers

RB Ryan Mathews posted another solid outing to build from heading into the 2013 season. More importantly, he is running hard and was able to get the ball into the end zone from the 1-yard line. Injury risks and an uninspiring offensive line persist, pushing him down most drafts boards. Nevertheless, he is becoming valuable considering other injury plagued players such as DeMarco Murray and Darren McFadden are going a round earlier. Danny Woodhead returned this week and heíll begin working his way back into the mix with Ronnie Brown and Fozzy Whittaker. Whittaker tallied 54 total yards and looks like a solid bet to make the team.

Philip Rivers isnít going to be an elite quarterback this season but there are flashes of potential in the new Mike McCoy system. The injuries at the wide receiver position have certainly been felt but Rivers isnít forcing throws and taking as many sacks. The short passing game is being utilized to keep an up-tempo, move the chains approach. TE Antonio Gates will see his share of targets, but I fear that the rest of the passes will be spread between the running backs and receivers resulting in less favorable fantasy output.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

WR DeAndre Hopkins (concussion) sat out this weekís game. He hasnít passed the first of five phases per NFL protocol so monitor his status as your draft approaches. In other injury news, Ed Reed is going to have his hip evaluated by a specialist this week. If he has progressed as expected, Reed will get some practice in and be on schedule to play for the Texans in Week 1. Of course, the biggest injury status in Houston belongs to Arian Foster. Houstonís feature back was able to practice in full late last week, but the Texans are not going to push him. His ADP has slipped to about 8 overall and that is still pretty high for a player that has missed all of training camp and half of the preseason. In Fosterís place, Ben Tate showed why running the football for the Houston Texans is a good gig to have piling up 74 rushing yards on 11 carries. Tate would be a low-end RB1 if Foster misses any time.

LB Brian Cushing (knee) returned to the field for his first game action since Week 5 of last season and promptly registered a sack. He not only adds to the attractiveness of the Texans defense as one of the first three units off the board, but is going to be working his way back up the IDP ranks.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luckís blindside takes a hit with starting LT Anthony Castonzo suffering a MCL sprain this week. Luck completed 64 percent of his passes versus the Browns and seems to have a good handle on the offense. Darrius Heyward-Bey was more involved this week, but T.Y. Hilton appears to have better chemistry with Luck, making him the better fantasy asset to own in 2013. The Florida International alumnus should provide reliable WR3 production in most formats with some upside if Reggie Wayne ever slows down.

The Colts also cleared up some congestion in the backfield by trading RB Delone Carter to the Ravens. Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are atop the depth chart with Donald Brown serving as the teamís third RB. Bradshaw (foot) returned to practice this week but did not participate in the teamís third preseason game. Expect the ex-Giant to be handled in similar fashion as recent years. That means he wonít practice much, be a permanent fixture on the injury report and provide inconsistent production. The overall numbers may add up to a decent RB3, but he will be a headache to own. That could lead to some fluctuation in Vick Ballardís production as well.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Cecil Shorts (calf) returned to practice this week and did make a nice catch during the teamís game against the Eagles. Heís going to have some value out of the gate in deep leagues due to Justin Blackmonís suspension. However, Blackmon will undoubtedly be the primary weapon in the passing game upon his return. Provided he keeps himself out of further trouble he could easily wind up being a valuable WR4 to fill in during bye weeks and possibly flex when the matchup is favorable. The QB situation is still a work in progress while Blaine Gabbert waits for his broken thumb to heal. Heís expected to start Week 1.

Maurice Jones-Drew looks as healthy as he has been and if it werenít for his quarterback situation, heíd have more upside. Jordan Todman made a strong case to be MJDís backup with a nice 63-yard touchdown scamper. Justin Forsett is slated to be the regular backup and MJD handcuff but he is dealing with turf toe. Until he returns Todman and converted quarterback Denard Robinson are the best alternatives.

Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker continues to show modest improvement. He has plenty of talent around him but the play calling seems to be helping as well. If he can limit turnovers he should be good enough to make Kenny Britt and company useful in the fake game. If he should falter, backup Ryan Fitzpatrick has enough talent to keep the passing game afloat. Two of his six completions went for touchdowns on short pass plays.

The running game rebounded with a decent outing. Chris Johnson may not be the old ĎCJ2Kí but all signs point to him posting solid yardage totals this season. Touchdown potential limits his stock to being a RB2 but heís worth an extra dollar or two in leagues that award bonus points for big plays. Jackie Battle stepped up this week to post 41 yards on 13 carries. Shonn Greene, who left last weekís game early with a foot injury, will likely enter the season number two on the depth chart but an injury to Johnson would probably result in Greene and Battle splitting carries.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

If fantasy owners take anything away from the Ravens in Week 3 of the preseason, it should be that Ray Rice is one of the safest fantasy picks in the first round. Bernard Pierce isnít ready to eat into Riceís playing time after fumbling and netting 7 yards on his 10 chances to impress. Meanwhile, Rice looked good during his 16 rushes for 62 yards and a touchdown.

In the passing game, Brandon Stokely is settling in as the teamís slot receiver nicely while Jacoby Jones is outlasting his competitors to hold on to the #2 WR job. TE Dallas Clark shouldnít be completely ignored on draft day. Although he was held without a catch this week, he may end up starting the season opener following Visanthe Shiancoeís release this week. TE Ed Dickson is starting to work his way back from a hamstring injury but may not be at full strength for Week 1. Even if he does, Clark could eventually become a TE2 as a reliable set of hands on a team lacking other options right now.

Cincinnati Bengals

A.J. Green showed no ill signs of a bruised knee that kept him out of the first two preseason contests and looks poised to have a great season. As a borderline first rounder for fantasy purposes he is a safe bet to finish the season in the top 5 at his position. Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones continue to be mediocre opposite Green. Jones did lose a fumble and will probably find himself starting the season behind Sanu; however both will see a handful of targets each game limiting the value of both players.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis logged 278 touches last season, good for 8th most in the league. Based on what we are starting to see this preseason, the Bengals have no intention of letting The Lawfirm tote the rock that many times in 2013. Rookie newcomer Giovani Bernard looks like OC Jay Grudenís new toy in an offense that has lacked a true threat out of the backfield in recent years. This week Green-Ellis and Bernard received roughly the same amount of carries. If this ratio carries over to the regular season, Bernard may wind up being the better fantasy option of the two.

Cleveland Browns

QB Brandon Weeden wasnít able to carry over the same success he had last week, failing to complete 50 percent of his passes. Inconsistent quarterback play can plague a teamís fantasy production (just ask Steven Jackson or MJD) so it is telling to see Weedenís struggles translate into lackluster production from the rest of the offense. Rolling with breakout tight end candidate Jordan Cameron may net you a two touchdown performance one week and a two catch performance the following week. WR Josh Gordon has become the top receiving threat on the team but his upside may be more limited than other WR3 options.

On a more positive note, Shayne Graham connected on both his FG attempts, including a 50-yarder to get the Browns on the board in the third quarter. Ultimately, any hope for a rebound in the kicking game hinges on the effectiveness of the running game. RB Trent Richardson failed to record at least 18 touches in a game only three times during his rookie 2012 season (not counting week 17 when Richardson didnít play). Richardson is healthy, rushing the ball 7 times for 31 yards last week, and in line for plenty more work in 2013.

Pittsburgh Steelers

RB LeíVeon Bellís foot has Steelers fans and fantasy owners concerned. Bell wonít need surgery but the earliest return date is probably Week 6. Whoís next? It wonít be LaRod Stephens-Howling as he is dealing with a sprained MCL. Isaac Redman is capable when healthy but a stinger has hindered his ability to win the job. Jonathan Dwyer has a chance but heís not a long term answer. Enter Felix Jones, obtained in a trade with Eagles and immediately thrust into action. Jones actually led the team in carries despite not knowing the playbook. This looks like a RBBC comprised of less talented running backs clinging for a roster spot. The picture will only get blurrier as players start returning from injury so proceed at your own risk!

A rather bland rushing attack left Pittsburgh quarterbacks exposed to the tune of five sacks allowed. Antonio Brown will be the lead man in the passing game and is a good bet to eclipse 70 receptions for the first time in his young career. He should get plenty of action as the running game sorts itself out but he will need to make a leap in the touchdown and yardage before being trusted as a fantasy WR1.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

When names like Leinart and Beck are being thrown around, you know things are not good. Such is the case in Buffalo as Kevin Kolb couldnít manage to hold down the starting job for a week. Kolb is experiencing concussion-like symptoms and his status for opening day and perhaps his career isnít looking good. EJ Manuel had minor surgery this week and figures to work his way back into the starting lineup at some point during the first half of the season. In the meantime, QB Jeff Tuel and Matt Leinart will get the reps with the top unit and Kolb will undergo more tests. No doubt defenses will be gearing up to stop the run when the season begins.

The rushing game that will be vital to the Bills playoff chances this year took a scare when C.J. Spiller clutched his knee following a TD run. However, it was in response to a cut he suffered from another playerís spike and not related to anything structural. He was deemed OK and fantasy owners should still be investing a first round pick on him.

Lastly, the Bills released long-time kicker Rian Lindell in favor of rookie Dustin Hopkins. A 6th rounder from Florida State, Hopkins is far from a sure thing and Buffalo is not likely to produce a high scoring kicker this year.

Miami Dolphins

When people talk about Daniel Thomas being a threat to Lamar Millerís touches this season I just glance at Thomasí 256 career carries, 906 rushing yards and a whopping 4 touchdowns. His outing versus the Bucs this week was even less impressive as he managed 3 yards on 7 carries. Miller remains unproven, but he is hands down the main guy in Miami rushing for a respectable 35 yards on 8 carries. Brandon Gibson led the Dolphins with 8 targets and 43 receiving yards. He and Brian Hartline should see a few more targets as Miami moves on from the loss of TE Dustin Keller. QB Ryan Tannehill has been effective thus far in the preseason and thatís all fantasy owners should be hoping for from the second year quarterback. Mike Wallaceís 3 for 31 stat line might be a familiar one if he fails to connect on at least one deep ball a game.

Josh Freeman was sacked five times by a Miami pass rush that looked fast and hungry. Fantasy owners going with a defense by committee approach may want to give Miami an extended look.

New England Patriots

While the Patriots struggled against a hungry Detroit defense, Kenbrell Thompkins continued to stand out for this offense. Against the Lions this week he was targeted 12 times by New England quarterbacks in route to 116 receiving yards on the day. At this point he has separated himself as the second best fantasy wideout on the team. Heís still an afterthought in most drafts, but steady looks from Tom Brady give him enough upside to warrant a look during the end game of your draft.

New Englandís defensive unit has shown glimpses of improvement, especially in the secondary where the team ranked 29th against the pass in 2012. Improved coverage will translate into more sacks and less third down conversions. For owners that choose to wait on a defense, keep the Patriots in mind

TE Rob Gronkowski is being slotted as the consensus #2 TE this draft season despite lingering injury concerns. The latest update has Gronk on schedule for a mid-September return that would coincide with Week 3 of the regular season. His recovery has progressed well enough to see him avoid the PUP list; however prospective owners who take on Gronkís risk/reward will need to roster a second TE heading into the season.

New York Jets

The Jets are on Broadway again, as their quarterback battle takes on another turn. Mark Sanchez injured his shoulder this week and while X-rays were negative, itís safe to say that he isnít likely to play in the teamís final game of the preseason. Geno Smith did not impress following Sanchezí injury but he will be the starter to close out the preseason. Even with a strong week of practice, Sanchezí shoulder is likely the only hope Smith has to start the season under center when the team suits up for Week 1.

Running backs Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory shared the workload as expected. Running room was scarce but Powell did manage to find pay dirt from 2 yards out. WR Santonio Holmes was removed from the PUP list and placed on the active roster. He isnít pain free following surgery on his foot but has been working out for awhile now. Holmesí return, or lack thereof, has been criticized so it will be interesting to see how he performs this week in practice. Even the best of scenarios paints a gloomy picture for Holmesí fantasy outlook so it is best to let someone else gamble on him.