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.
Seattle Seahawks DE Frank Clark (elbows) disclosed via Twitter on Tuesday, Jan. 15, that he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in both of his elbows in Week 14 against the Minnesota Vikings and played 'the whole season at 60 percent.'
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (shoulder) is not guaranteed to play at all in 2019 as the team considers all of its options regarding his injured shoulder. Per ESPN.com's David Newton, the organization has been in discussions with medical personnel on the best plan to strengthen the shoulder - whether that's with rest or another surgery. A surgery opens the possibility Newton could miss a season - just as Andrew Luck did in 2017 - after undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder.
Fantasy Spin: It sounds as if missing all of 2019 is only a worst-case scenario, but the fact it is even on the table this early in the offseason is concerning. Kyle Allen played well in the regular-season finale and could conceivably be asked to fill in, but Carolina will probably try hard to secure a capable placeholder in free agency or spend a relatively early pick in the draft at quarterback to protect itself. At this point, it's probably best if fantasy owners assume the worst and hope for good news sometime this summer.
The Denver Broncos reached an agreement on Tuesday to make former Chicago Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell their next defensive coordinator, according to a source. Donatell served behind Vic Fangio in Chicago, who is now Denver's head coach. Expect Fangio to have most of the say with defensive play-calling moving forward. Denver still has a solid pass rush in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, as well as a top cornerback in Chris Harris Jr. They ranked 22nd in yards allowed per game (365.1), 20th in passing yards allowed (245.6), 21st in rushing yards allowed (119.6) and 13th in points allowed per game (21.8) in 2018. Their strength was creating turnovers, coming in tied for fifth in the league with 28 takeaways.
Free-agent QB Alex McGough (Seahawks) was signed to a Reserve/Futures deal by the Jacksonville Jaguars Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper said he has "no idea" on whether quarterback Cam Newton (shoulder) will need offseason surgery. Newton's right shoulder hampered him down the stretch and he was shut down for the final two games with the team eliminated from postseason contention. We'd be surprised if he didn't undergo right shoulder surgery for the second straight season based on how he looked in the second half of the season. While a second straight year of surgery would have many scared to take Newton as a QB1 in 2019 drafts, he'd still have QB1 upside based on his running abilities.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton's (shoulder) offseason recovery remains unclear as team owner David Tepper admitted he has 'no idea' if Newton will have surgery.
Fantasy Spin: Newton's rushing numbers were down in 2018 - including a career-low four rushing touchdowns - but his passing statistics were better. He even completed a career-high 67.9% of his attempts. His rushing ability will always have him in QB1 territory.
New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas is just the fourth player since 1970 to achieve multiple playoff games with at least 130 receiving yards.
Fantasy Spin: Thomas led his position in catches in the regular season (125) and has kept it going in the playoffs. Drew Brees may not play much longer, but Thomas will be a WR1 candidate no matter who his quarterback is.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce is just the fifth tight end since 1999 to achieve multiple 100-yard playoff games.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce's value is sky high as long as Patrick Mahomes is on the field. He was the No. 1 fantasy tight end in both PPR and standard scoring and deserves to be the first tight end selected in 2019 fantasy drafts.
Cincinnati Bengals WR Tyler Boyd (knee) is about two weeks away from being fully recovered from his sprained medial collateral ligament.
Fantasy Spin: When they're full go, Boyd and A.J. Green form one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. Boyd broke out in his third season to the tune of 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games. He's on the WR2 radar heading into the offseason.
The Indianapolis Colts want to re-sign impending free-agent kicker Adam Vinatieri, according to a source. Despite a missed kick and extra point in the divisional round loss to the Chiefs, the 46-year-old had a fantastic season, making 85.2 percent of his 27 field-goal tries in 2018. Vinatieri has said he's open to another season, so he should return to an Indianapolis offense on the rise. The ageless kicker should remain fantasy relevant in 2019.
The New York Jets are finalizing a deal to make former Cleveland Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams their next defensive coordinator on Tuesday, according to a source. Williams was previously the defensive coordinator in Cleveland before he was promoted to interim head coach when they fired Hue Jackson midway through the 2018 season. He oversaw a rising Browns defense and overall team led by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Jets ranked near the bottom of the league in most major defensive categories in 2018, so Williams has his work cut out for him.
Former Cleveland Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams is finalizing a deal to become the next defensive coordinator of the New York Jets, according to a source. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Indianapolis Colts impending free-agent PK Adam Vinatieri may return to the Colts if the Colts have their way, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Vinatieri has been historically accurate and consistent, but he's avoided No. 1 fantasy kicker numbers for two consecutive years now. Even if he's brought back in one of the league's best offenses, there are plenty of better options at kicker.
Free-agent DT Tyrunn Walker (Bills) is signing with the New Orleans Saints Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles is a player the team would like to have return even though Foles can buy out of the final year of his contract if the Eagles pick up his 2019 option. 'We would love to keep Nick Foles,' Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the team's year-end news conference. 'You talk about a guy we've drafted here and grown incredibly close with. Certainly, as we go into the substance of those discussions, no question ... we'd love to keep him.'
Fantasy Spin: With the Eagles already saying earlier Tuesday that they remain fully committed to Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback, Foles appears to be luxury who will become too expensive to retain. The ideal situation for Philly might be retaining or placing the franchise tag on Foles and then find a team willing to to pay the price in a trade.
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reiterated that quarterback Carson Wentz remains the team's QB of the future, not Nick Foles. Wentz's season-ending injuries the last two years and Foles' improbable Super Bowl run in 2017 and his short playoff run this year has many questioning who is the better signal caller for the team. But while Wentz is now injury-prone, he's the better quarterback when healthy and is also heading into only his fourth season in the NFL. Wentz had 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in 13 games in 2017 before his knee injury. He'll be a risk/reward QB1 pick in 2019 drafts, while the Eagles will likely look to trade Foles this offseason.
Philadelphia Eagles WR Golden Tate's trade-deadline acquisition from the Detroit Lions 'no question' worked out the way the Eagles hoped it would, general manager Howie Roseman said Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Fantasy Spin: It didn't exactly work out for Tate's fantasy owners, who saw the wideout catch only 30-of-44 targets for 278 yards and a TD in eight regular-season games with the Eagles. Tate added seven catches for 64 yards and a TD in two playoff contests, but there's little doubt his fantasy-WR stock will be down next summer.
Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz (back) is the team's 'starting quarterback going forward ,' head coach Doug Pederson said Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the team's season-ending news conference.
Fantasy Spin: As expected, the Eagles remain fully committed to Wentz even though he's been unable to finish each of the last two seasons. Look for Nick Foles to return on the final year of his current deal and be dealt if Philly can receive any kind of decent return in a trade.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (knee) said he has roughly two weeks left of rehabbing the sprained MCL he suffered in Week 14. Boyd should be fine for organized team activities in the spring and will go into training camp at 100 percent. The 24-year-old had a career year in 2018, catching 76 passes for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games. It helped that he was the team's top wideout for a stretch after A.J. Green's season-ending injury. Still, Boyd will be on the radar as a strong WR3 next season after putting himself on the fantasy map in 2018.
Former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith said on Sirius XM Tuesday, Jan. 15, that he has no desire to coach again.