Thu Aug 18 5:43pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ambry Thomas, right, breaks up a pass intended for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson during in a joint practice at NFL football training camp in Eagan, Minn., Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance takes part in drills during a joint practice with the Minnesota Vikings at NFL football training camp in Eagan, Minn., Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins looks on while taking part in joint drills with the San Francisco 49ers at NFL football training camp in Eagan, Minn., Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell speaks to his team while taking part in joint drills with the San Francisco 49ers at NFL football training camp in Eagan, Minn., Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance takes part in joint drills with the Minnesota Vikings at the NFL football training camp in Eagan, Minn., Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) The buses bound for the Twin Cities left southwestern Minnesota at 6:30 a.m. sharp, carrying the biggest Trey Lance fans that San Francisco's young quarterback will ever meet.
Players and staff from the Marshall Tigers football team - the team Lance led as a prep star just five years ago - attended the joint 49ers-Vikings practice Thursday, with more than 100 guests from his hometown flanking the practice fields in orange and black T-shirts.
''The kids are all wearing Marshall today, but they all have their Trey Lance jerseys in their bag ready to go,'' said Tigers head coach Terry Bahlmann, whose son played baseball with Lance in the backyard, the two families living a block apart.
The Vikings covered the team's 150-mile ride from the prairie town of 13,000 people to the team's sprawling suburban headquarters, where Lance and the 49ers worked out against the Vikings for a second straight day. The third overall selection in the 2021 draft picked up the tab for all of their meals.
Bahlmann also wanted to make sure his team didn't skip a practice, so the Vikings helped arrange for the Tigers to use the fields at nearby Eagan High School before returning home.
Lance became a quarterback in eighth grade when the Tigers needed a backup, and that's where this journey began in earnest.
''When Trey wants to do something, he puts his mind to it,'' Bahlmann said.
After taking Marshall to the Class 4A state tournament, Lance had FBS schools considering him at safety or linebacker. Adamant about remaining a quarterback, he picked FCS power North Dakota State. Lance had only one full season as the starter there, because the pandemic wiped out the 2020 schedule, but his big arm and fast feet were too appealing for the 49ers to pass up.
Lance's rise to second-year starter on a confident, talented 49ers team that finished a few points short of the Super Bowl last season came full circle this week with his old high school watching him throw passes across the field for his current NFL team.
''That was always the dream, but it happened fast,'' Lance said.
After Jimmy Garoppolo helped guide the 49ers to the NFC championship game, where they led the Super Bowl champion Rams midway through the fourth quarter, the decision was made to move on from the nine-year veteran and turn over the offense to Lance.
In the preseason opener against Green Bay, Lance finished one of his two series with a 76-yard touchdown pass. He is not expected to play Saturday against the Vikings.
''Things have slowed down a lot, both mentally and physically,'' Lance said. ''I feel like I'm in a much better spot at both ends.''
The 49ers have repeatedly expressed faith in his ability to handle the job despite the little experience.
''I've seen him continually make strides every day,'' left tackle Trent Williams said. ''I've seen him poised in the pocket, getting through his reads, not getting chatter feet and just looking for somewhere to run. That's all we can ask for. He's going to continue to improve, and we've got a ton of confidence in the kid.''
The Vikings gave Lance and his offensive line plenty of valuable practice, particularly facing outside linebackers Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith. Williams has been an offseason training partner with Hunter for several years, and the nine-time Pro Bowl pick shared with reporters an amusing perspective on their relationship.
In head-to-head matchups in 2016 and 2017 while Williams played for Washington, Hunter used some of Williams' tips against him.
''We used to get together after a workout, and I would kind of go through what we think on this side and what he should be thinking and he gave me those same type of jewels,'' Williams said with a smile. ''I kind of regret doing that sometimes, but he's a great friend of mine. He's an outstanding player. He definitely makes us better.''
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan won't play in the team's second preseason game against the Detroit Lions on Saturday. Along with Ryan, head coach Frank Reich said most of the starters won't play. Nick Foles will likely play around a quarter, followed by Sam Ehlinger and Jack Coan. Ryan has mostly looked good in training camp heading into his first season with the Colts, but the 37-year-old shouldn't be relied on as a QB1 in fantasy football. The Colts will likely remain a run-first team with running back Jonathan Taylor at their disposal. Ryan should be better than he was in his final year with the Atlanta Falcons, though, behind a much better offensive line. He should be a solid fantasy backup in 2022.
New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (knee) wasn't in pads for training camp practice on Thursday, but he took part in individual drills and looked spry. Toney did not take part in the team's preseason opener last week and hasn't seen much work at training camp as the Giants try to make sure he's healthy for the start of the regular season. The 23-year-old former first-rounder is already developing a reputation for being injury-prone, but he was impressive in the 10 games he played in his rookie season, catching 39 of 57 targets for 420 yards and no touchdowns. With quarterback Daniel Jones healthy in 2022, Toney is an intriguing WR4/flex flier with upside late in fantasy drafts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles didn't have a timetable for quarterback Tom Brady's (personal) return to the team when asked on Thursday. "We'll see. We'll talk about it next week. I'm not concerned about it right now. We're trying to practice against Tennessee and play a game. I said sometime after Tennessee. There's no definitive date for me. We'll keep in touch and find out." Bowles said. The Bucs initially expected Brady to return at some point after their second preseason game this weekend against the Tennessee Titans, so nothing has really changed at this point. If Brady still isn't back with the team by next week, then we can start to panic. Even if he was with the team, he'd be without receivers Mike Evans (hamstring), Russell Gage (leg) and Chris Godwin (knee).
Minnesota Vikings rookie running back Ty Chandler (ankle) isn't practicing at training camp on Thursday due to an ankle injury, but the team is hopeful that he can play in the second preseason game on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers. Chandler stood out in the preseason opener with 50 yards rushing as he competes for the No. 3 running back job against Kene Nwangwu and fellow rookie Bryant Koback behind starter Dalvin Cook and backup Alexander Mattison. The fifth-round selection should only be considered as a late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues this fall.
New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (Achilles) looked great while running routes on a back field at training camp on Thursday, and he was very involved on the offensive sideline during practice. Shepard remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list at camp, but it appears that he's getting closer to returning from a torn left Achilles that he suffered late last year. It remains to be seen if the 29-year-old pass-catcher will be ready for Week 1 of the regular season, and with all the other bodies in New York's receiver room, he'll likely go undrafted in most standard-sized fantasy leagues. As of right now, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and rookie Wan'Dale Robinson appear to be the team's starters in three-wide sets.
According to Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, there's a good chance that wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) returns to training camp practice next week. Smith-Schuster will be held out of the team's second preseason game this Saturday against the Washington Commanders, but barring any setbacks, he should be good to go for Week 1 of the regular season. The 25-year-old played in only five games in his final season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021 due to a shoulder injury, but he's past the shoulder issue and is in line for a substantial role as one of quarterback Patrick Mahomes' primary targets in his first year in KC. However, Mahomes is expected to spread the ball around in the offense, making Smith-Schuster more of a WR3 with upside in fantasy drafts.
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski announced that quarterback Deshaun Watson will not play in anymore preseason games after it was announced on Thursday that he will be suspended for 11 games in 2022 for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. Watson can practice with the team until Aug. 30, and then he'll return to the practice field in November while preparing to make his debut with the Browns in Week 13 against his former team, the Houston Texans. The 26-year-old's fantasy value as a QB2 stash takes even more of a hit from a six-game suspension to an 11-game suspension. Meanwhile, Jacoby Brissett will fill in as the starter to begin the season. In a run-first offense, Brissett will be more of a game manager and will be a low-end QB2 in fantasy.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Thursday that quarterback Mitch Trubisky will start the team's second preseason game on Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his first preseason action last week against the Seattle Seahawks, Trubisky completed four of his seven attempts for 63 yards and a touchdown, and he'll continue to work with the first-team offense this weekend. Barring something unforeseen, the 27-year-old is fully expected to open Week 1 as the starter, but how long he remains in the role is the most interesting part as the season unfolds. If Trubisky falters early on, the Steelers could easily turn to Mason Rudolph or rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett.
Dynasty | Deshaun Watson and the NFL have reached an agreement on a settlement that will close his peronsal conduct case and result in a final suspension of 11 games. Dynasty Analysis: Watson will also be given a $5 million fine and have to undergo mandatory behavioral counseling as part of the agreement. Watson was clearly concerned the NFL was going to come back and suspend him for another full season and worked fast to find middle ground beyond the six-game suspension he was given by the independent judge. This finally gives us some clarity on what's going to happen and gives Watson managers the ability to go to "Plan B." As for the Browns, they could stick with Jacoby Brissett or look to get Jimmy Garoppolo as a bridge to Watson. After all, a lot can be decided in 11 games. As for Watson, his ranking of QB12 seems secure at the moment, though it should rise when he comes back.
Dynasty | Jaguars running back James Robinson is on track to be ready for the season opener. Dynasty Analysis: This has been trending to happen for the better part of the Summer, but Doug Pederson is now on record saying that's the expectation. It's a quick recovery from a torn achilles last season, but it looks as if Robinson is going to join Cam Akers in the group of quick healers from the ailment. While much of the talk of the Jaguars running back room has been centered around Travis Etienne, Robinson has been likely undervalued by the dynasty community. At RB41, he's looking like a screaming buy at the moment.
Dynasty | Zack Moss could be headed towards meaningful playing time this season. Dynasty Analysis: This is shaping up to be a fantasy disaster as both Devin Singletary and James Cook seem to be destined for a lot of time as well. With Moss showing well in camp and the preseason, this could turn out to be a dreaded three-headed committee. At this point, none of these players have emerged enough to trust completely at the beginning of the season. At RB68, Moss looks like he could have the best value amongst the three at the moment. Stay tuned.
Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said that running back J.D. McKissic (groin) missed training camp practice on Thursday due to a little tightness in his groin. McKissic's groin injury is unlikely to be very serious, but the Commanders will take a cautious approach with the regular season quickly approaching. He's probably unlikely to play in the team's second preseason game this Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs either. The 29-year-old might have a smaller role in 2022 as a pass-catcher with third-round rookie Brian Robinson now in the fold alongside Antonio Gibson. With 986 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns on 123 receptions the last two years in D.C., McKissic is more valuable in PPR formats as an RB3/4 in deeper leagues.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that the starters, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes, would play as much as the first half in Saturday's second preseason game against the Washington Commanders. Backup Chad Henne will get the game off, so it will be Mahomes and Shane Buechele under center this weekend. Fantasy managers will be crossing their fingers that nothing happens to Mahomes against Washington. With receiver Tyreek Hill now in Miami, Mahomes is expected to spread the ball around through the air more, and tight end Travis Kelce could be his go-to guy when needed. The 26-year-old former MVP and Super Bowl champion finished as the QB4 in fantasy last year and should be one of the top three signal-callers off the board in fantasy drafts.
Buffalo Bills rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir has had an outstanding training camp this summer, to the point where the team is likely trying to find ways to get him involved on game days. He was initially projected as a slot-only receiver, but he has also received a lot of work on the boundary. Shakir could be the top reserve if anything happens to Stefon Diggs or Gabe Davis. The 22-year-old is also a candidate to be the primary punt returner, which could enhance his game-day role. Shakir shouldn't be on the redraft radar heading into his rookie season, but he should certainly be on the radar of those drafting in dynasty/keeper formats in 2022. In the preseason opener, he caught all five of his targets for 92 yards.
Buffalo Bills tight end O.J. Howard has been a slight disappointment this summer in training camp. He's a solid blocker who can help in two-tight end formations, but he doesn't look to be an immediate threat to Dawson Knox for playing time. Howard is a big body, but he's looked slow and has been predictable on his routes. It was slightly alarming that he was playing deep into the fourth quarter in the team's first preseason game last weekend. Meanwhile, Tommy Sweeney is on the roster bubble but has stepped up the last two weeks. He's not much of a special teams asset but is a glue guy in the locker room, and the Bills would love to keep him around. Knox should be considered a low-end TE1, while Howard should be ignored in fantasy football drafts.
The Athletic's Joe Buscaglia writes that there isn't much standing in the way of Buffalo Bills wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis being on the field for 90-plus percent of the offensive snaps this year. Diggs continues to look explosive, and the team will give him more chances for yards after the catch. Davis has the makings of the most talented No. 2 wideout that quarterback Josh Allen has had in Buffalo. He looks primed to play a huge role in 2022 and is also the top run-blocking receiver, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him lead the receivers in snaps this year. Diggs is a lock as a top-five fantasy receiver target in your upcoming drafts, while Davis should continue to rise up draft boards as a WR3 with considerable upside.
The Athletic's Joe Buscaglia writes that the Buffalo Bills running back situation could devolve into a muddy three-person committee this year between Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and rookie James Cook. Singletary is the most experienced in the system, and how he finished last year as the sole trusted back shouldn't be ignored. But the Bills have sought a more versatile skill set the last few offseasons, and he's underwhelming in short-yardage situations and as a pass-catcher. The Bills continue to believe in Moss. He's completely healthy now and has looked more explosive. Cook is buzzworthy as a second-round pick, but if Singletary and Moss continue to get looks with quarterback Josh Allen, Cook's offensive role could be smaller than some expect. The Bills have taken it slow with most of their rookies under head coach Sean McDermott, and Cook's pass protection hasn't been the best.
The NFL and Players Association reached an agreement in Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson's case on Thursday, and he will be suspended for 11 games and fined $5 million. Watson will also undergo a treatment program and will be eligible to return against the Houston Texans, his former team. There had been talks between the league and Players Association this week on a settlement with designee Peter C. Harvey expected to hand down an even harsher penalty for Watson if the two sides didn't agree on a settlement. While Watson will be allowed to play in 2022, the longer suspension makes him even less attractive as a QB2 stash in fantasy leagues. Jacoby Brissett will be the team's starter under center until Watson returns, lowering the value of the rest of the team's offensive skill players.
The Athletic's Bob Sturm expects the 2022 season to be running back Ezekiel Elliott's last with the Dallas Cowboys. Elliott has lacked explosiveness in recent seasons and his rushing yards per game have fallen every year of his career. His yards per game receiving have also dropped every year since 2018, and he's unlikely to suddenly improve in those areas in 2022. His salary cap number next year isn't guaranteed and will be about $17 million. The Cowboys said they are fully committed to the 27-year-old this year, but fantasy managers probably aren't expecting much despite the fact that he rushed for 1,000 yards in 2021 for the fourth time in six seasons. Tony Pollard, who looked much more explosive last year, should continue to steal valuable touches away from Zeke, making Elliott a clear RB2 instead of an RB1 at this point.
Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson was suspended for 11 games and fined $5 million by the NFL, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 18. His first game back will be Week 13 against the Houston Texans.
Fantasy Spin: Even though Watson avoided the full-year suspension, fantasy managers should avoid using a draft pick on him given the length of the suspension. He has QB1 upside when he does return, but it's a risky bet burning a bench spot for that long.