Mon Jul 16 9:41 am
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.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell will not join the team for their Week 8 game against the Cleveland Browns. There had been a report a few weeks earlier that Bell would be back after the Week 7 bye. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport hinted on Monday that Bell may not join the team until after the October 30 trade deadline. Bell has missed all six of the Steelers' games this season to show his displeasure over the lack of a long-term contract. James Conner will remain the team's lead back in Week 8.
Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch is headed to Injured Reserve, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Lynch was ruled out for about a month last week after their game against the Seahawks and now officially on IR. He is able to return in 8 weeks, but until then the backfield work will be split by Doug Martin, Jalen Richard and potentially Deandre Washington, but their roles are unclear as of now.
The Jacksonville Jaguars released running back Jamaal Charles on Monday after he had only six carries in two games. With the team acquiring Carlos Hyde last Friday, there's no need for Charles on the roster with Leonard Fournette (hamstring) likely sidelined through the team's Week 9 bye.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich said kicker Adam Vinatieri (groin) has been dealing with a groin injury, and the team will work out kickers in the next few days. However, no decision on whether Vinatieri will play in Week 8 against the Raiders will be made until later in the week. The ageless wonder made a 36-yard kick in the 37-5 blowout win over the Bills but missed two of his four extra-points attempts and aggravated his injury. The 45-year-old will remain a strong fantasy kicker against Oakland's porous defense if he's active, but it's looking like he might be held out.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Brock Osweiler has already been confirmed as the starter for the Dolphins Week 8 matchup against the Houston Texans. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) has been ruled out for the third-consecutive game. Osweiler has played well as a starter having thrown for over 600 yards and five touchdowns in the past two weeks. Osweiler is an option at QB2 but isn't an excellent option as the Dolphins receiving core continues to be littered with injuries.
While Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles will start in Week 8 in London against the Eagles after being benched in Week 7, backup Cody Kessler will receive practice repetitions with the first-team offense, according to a source. If Bortles struggles early again in London, the team could turn to Kessler again. Bortles has earned the short leash with his poor play this year. He's gone over 300 yards in a game three times but also has under 200 yards passing in three other contests, not counting Week 7. Bortles has nine touchdowns and eight interceptions and a 60.6 completion percentage. It hasn't helped that running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) hasn't played in a full game this year. Bortles will be a low-end QB2 for Week 8 across the pond.
Free-agent QB Tom Savage (49ers) was re-signed to an undisclosed deal by the San Francisco 49ers Monday, Oct. 22.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Daesean Hamilton (knee) is dealing with an MCL sprain after being injured in the Week 7 game against the Cardinals last Thursday. Hamilton has been serving as a punt returner and No. 4 wideout behind Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Courtland Sutton, so he doesn't have any immediate fantasy value to speak of. Expect Hamilton to be sidelined for a few weeks.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott announced that quarterback Derek Anderson will start in Week 8 against the Patriots on Monday night with rookie Josh Allen (elbow) set to miss another week. In his first start for Buffalo after signing the previous week, Anderson was pitiful, going 20-for-31 for 175 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions and a lost fumble. Although New England's defense has been giving up a ton of yards and points, Anderson isn't a starting option, even in two-QB leagues. The Patriots defense/special teams will be a popular streaming option this week.
Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper was pursued by the Philadelphia Eagles before being traded to the Cowboys. Whether or not the Colts made an offer was not disclosed.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will stick with Blake Bortles as the team's starting quarterback for the Week 8 meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles. Though the team benched Bortles during a rough Week 7 performance against the Texans for backup Cody Kessler, they'll keep Bortles in the starting lineup for at least another week. Don't expect much from Bortles in this matchup, and continue to monitor the situation to see if the Jaguars turn to Kessler if Bortles has another bad week.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (groin) has been ruled out for Week 8 on Thursday against the Texans and could possibly be out longer. It's been downhill ever since Stills caught four passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener. He hasn't had more than three catches or 61 yards in any game since then and can now be dropped in most leagues. With Albert Wilson now possibly out for the season as well, Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant and Devante Parker will be featured in three-wide sets on Thursday. Amendola is the most attractive fantasy option in PPR leagues and will be a popular waiver pickup this week.
In an estimation of the injury report, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Danny Amendola (shoulder) and rookie tight end Mike Gesicki (shoulder) would've both been limited in practice on Monday. Both should be fine to play this Thursday against the Texans. With Albert Wilson (hip) and Kenny Stills (groin) both out, Amendola and Gesicki could see bigger roles in the passing game. Amendola will be a WR3/flex for PPR leagues as a waiver pickup, while Gesicki remains a desperation TE2. Tight end A.J. Derby (foot) missed practice again and seems unlikely to play this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles will return as starting quarterback in Week 8, according to head coach Doug Marrone. Marrone said he believes Bortles gives the Jaguars the best chance to win.
Fantasy Spin: Bortles has played abysmally in his last three contests, throwing two touchdowns and five interceptions. His rushing ability makes him more fantasy relevant, but he simply can't be trusted as a starting fantasy quarterback at this juncture.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith followed up his performance against the Washington Redskins in Week 7 with a decent showing against the Philadelphia Eagles. Smith finished the game with four receptions for 61 yards. Smith has largely been ineffective for fantasy so far this year, however, it cannot be ignored that Smith has had two good performances back to back. Smith isn't yet considered to be a good addition to fantasy rosters as of yet with receiving options Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Greg Olsen looking to try and compete with the current team leading receiver Devin Funchess
Carolina Panthers rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore had a quiet week against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7. Moore had seen an increase in this opportunity over the previous weeks since his bye week, finishing the Eagles game with 29 yards from three receptions. Moore will continue to struggle for fantasy relevance with quarterback Cam Newton preferring the passing options of Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey regularly.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess was able to take this team-high 11 targets to have a productive game against the Eagles. Funchess finished the game with six receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. Funchess by far and away had the biggest opportunity in the game, attracting around a third of all of the pass attempts by quarterback Cam Newton.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen finished his game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a touchdown which enabled him to have some fantasy relevance. Olsen had a difficult outing in his second week from injury. Olsen finished the game with just two receptions for five yards and a sole touchdown. Olsen attracted five targets in the game, which was far off the team's target leader Devin Funchess but Olsen will attract enough targets to be fantasy relevant going forwards.
Miami Dolphins QB Brock Osweiler will be under center again this week as QB Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) remains sidelined.
Fantasy Spin: Osweiler has held his own in the two games he has started in place of Tannehill, throwing for 609 yards and five touchdowns in that span. Despite the recent success, he's not a recommended start versus the Houston Texans Thursday night.
Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (quadriceps) is expected to play in Week 8, according to head coach Adam Gase.
Fantasy Spin: Despite Parker's tenure to forget in Miami, the Dolphins need him with both Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson nursing injuries. However, it is best to wait at least a week before deploying Parker into starting lineups. He has played sparingly in 2018 as he has not been able to stay healthy.