By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Evans a huge key to offense
This is the seventh preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.
The Falcons window might be closing some, so this could be a make or break year for the team. The talents is still there now, but some of their key veterans are close to moving out of the prime years of their careers. So much of this camp will be focused on managing the health of those older players and fixing the flaws from last year to get them over the hump. Atlanta is very talented, but not getting any younger.
Position battle: Julio Jones is the clear No. 1 receiver for the Falcons but the addition of rookie Calvin Ridley clouds things a little at receiver after Jones. Ridley could compete for the starter's job opposite Jones. Mohamed Sanu has been a decent starter for the Falcons but not off the charts in recent years, meaning if Ridley shows well, he could emerge as a starter for the team. This is something to watch this training camp.
Injury watch: Receiver Julio Jones did not miss a game last season but was banged up from time to time once again. Jones always seems to have some nagging injury slowing him at times. A healthy Jones is vital for the Falcons to have big-time success offensively. They can't afford for Jones to get nicked in training camp and preseason action. He needs to start the season 100 percent healthy.
The Saints had a great rebound season last year, returning to the playoffs behind a top rushing attack and much improved defense. New Orleans will look for more of the same this year and try to take their game to an even higher level. Much of camp might be focused on Drew Brees, who is getting up there in age but still playing at a high level. The Saints can't afford for him to slip if they hope to make a Super Bowl run. How much does Brees have left in the tank for the coming year?
Position battle: The Saints have some spots available at receiver after No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas. Ted Ginn, Cameron Meredith and Brandon Coleman are the top options to start opposite Thomas. It really is a wide open competition for the job. The Saints do like to rotate receivers, though, so if a player doesn't emerge as the clear starter, the team could just continue to rotate players. It is a situation to watch, though, because a player like Meredith could be a big fantasy factor if he is starting and getting a lot of targets.
Injury watch: Receiver Cameron Meredith is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last year. The Saints say he is way ahead of schedule in his recovery. He shouldn't be slowed by the injury in training camp, but it is something to watch because he has a chance to play a big role offensively. Meredith is a talented player but hasn't played in a top offensive system to showcase his talents.
The Panthers are another talented team in a stacked division. Carolina will compete for the division title, having a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Cam Newton might be the key to the team, though. When he is playing at a high level, this is a different team. Newton was a little up and down last year, so he will try to smooth out the bumps. Some new weapons in the passing game should be a positive for Newton. He will try to get on the same page with these players, starting in training camp.
Position battle: Torrey Smith and rookie D.J. Moore should compete for the starter's job at receiver opposite Devin Funchess. Moore is the favorite to start, but he will have to show he knows the offense and is ready to play before given the job. Smith is a veteran with plenty of starting experience and some 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, so don't discount him to start. This should be a fierce competition in training camp.
Injury watch: Tight end Greg Olsen had injury issues for really the first time in his career, playing just seven games because of a foot ailment. He is apparently completely healed now, but his injury situation is something to watch going forward after last year. Olsen is 33 years old with a lot of game action under his belt. Recurring injuries could be more of a norm going forward for the veteran tight end.
The Bucs were a big bust last year. Many thought Tampa was going to have a breakout season but that wasn't the case. The team really struggled on both sides of the ball, especially defensively. Tampa will need to shore up the defensive side of the ball in a hurry if they hope to compete for a playoff spot. The offense also has some questions marks, especially at running back. Tampa hopes rookie Ronald Jones is the answer at running back, but nothing is certain with Jones. This should be an interesting team to watch progress in training camp.
Position battle: The Bucs should have a battle on their hands at receiver with veteran DeSean Jackson and second-year receiver Chris Godwin looking to start opposite Mike Evans. Godwin didn't have a big rookie season but showed well at times when given the chance. Jackson was a bit of a disappointment last year, so he will need turn it around if he hopes to hold off Godwin to start. Both players are similar talents, so the younger option might be given the edge. We'll see.
Injury watch: Receiver Mike Evans is not injured but missed a game and didn't live up to expectations last year. He has played a full season just once in four seasons. Evans will play injured but is a much better player when healthy and near 100 percent. Hopefully, injuries aren't an issue this year. Keep an eye on his health in training camp to make sure Evans doesn't have any setbacks for the coming year.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette could see more action on third down this year, according to head coach Doug Marrone. The Jaguars used Fournette on third down plays with the first team offense in Saturday's preseason game against the Vikings and Marrone said the second-year back seems to be doing a good job in the situations. If Fournette can be a true three-down back for Jacksonville this year, he could see his value in PPR formats vault into the top five by the end of the season.
Detroit Lions RB Theo Riddick (undisclosed) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon should be on the practice field very soon, according to head coach Hue Jackson.
Cleveland Browns WR Antonio Callaway (groin) worked on the side during practice Tuesday, Aug. 21, and may not be able to play in the third preseason game.
Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith (knee) will miss the next two-to-four weeks with a sprained knee. Smith looked like he had suffered a much more serious injury in practice but was luckily diagnosed with just a sprain. This is good news for Tampa, but bad news for Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bucs' line will look to be pretty ugly come Week 1 of the regular season if Smith is still out.
Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson's one-year deal is worth $1.015 million, according to a source.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Jay Ajayi (undisclosed) has been missing practice because of a lower body injury, according to head coach Doug Pederson.
Free-agent FS Eric Reid (49ers) could be an option for the San Francisco 49ers if he is willing to accept a backup role and a salary close to league minimum, but head coach Kyle Shanahan said he does not believe Reid would be willing to accept that type of role.
San Francisco 49ers QB C.J. Beathard (foot) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Aug. 21, because of a foot injury, but head coach Kyle Shanahan said the hope is that Beathard will practice Wednesday, Aug. 22.
Free-agent LB Junior Galette (Redskins) will not sign with the Los Angeles Rams, according to head coach Sean McVay. McVay said Galette underwent a physical during his visit but is not sure if Galette worked out for the team.
Miami Dolphins CB Tony Lippett (ankle) participated in practice Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Miami Dolphins WR Kenny Stills (ankle, calf) participated in practice Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Miami Dolphins RB Kalen Ballage (concussion) is still going through the concussion protocol and did not participate in practice Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Free-agent LB Nick DeLuca (Titans) signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars Tuesday, Aug. 21. Terms of the contract were not disclosed. The team also placed FS Don Carey (undisclosed) on the Reserve/Injured list.
Detroit Lions CB Antwuan Davis was claimed off waivers by the Oakland Raiders Tuesday, Aug. 21. The team also waived/injured S Tevin Mitchel (undisclosed).
Dallas Cowboys DE Datone Jones (knee) is expected to miss a few weeks because of a knee injury, according to head coach Jason Garrett.
Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley (groin) returned to practice Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch (groin) is not expected to practice this week as he nurses a groin injury.
Seattle Seahawks RB J.D. McKissic (foot) suffered a Jones' fracture in his foot and is expected to be out four to six weeks, according to a source.
Seattle Seahawks SS Bradley McDougald (pectoral) did not practice Tuesday, Aug. 21, with a pectoral strain, according to head coach Pete Carroll.