Fri Jul 19 3:23pm ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) takes a hand off from quarterback Joe Flacco during drills at the team's NFL football training camp Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco throws a pass during drills at the team's NFL football training camp Friday, July 19, 2019, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders runs a route during drills at the team's NFL football training camp Friday, July 19, 2019, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello directs tight end Troy Fumagalli (84) during drills at the team's NFL football training camp Friday, July 19, 2019, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos' revamped offense features a half-dozen key players coming back from injuries that ended their 2018 seasons prematurely.
Right guard Ronald Leary thinks so.
Like receiver Emmanuel Sanders, Leary is coming off a torn Achilles tendon.
Tight ends Troy Fumagalli (sports hernia) and Jake Butt (ACL) are also embarking on comebacks, as are Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay (wrist) and new quarterback Joe Flacco , whose hip injury cost him his starting job last year in Baltimore when the Ravens turned over things to rookie Lamar Jackson.
All six players say their injuries forced them to reflect during rehab and gave them a newfound appreciation for football.
Collectively, Leary suggested that will prove a benefit as the Broncos embark on another new scheme under new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello.
''All the guys you named coming back from injury are big parts of this offense,'' Leary said Friday. ''And especially when the game's taken away from you with a significant injury, you appreciate everything more. Not saying we didn't appreciate it already, but when it's just like anything in life, when something's taken away from you, you appreciate it even more.
''I think we got a lot to bring the offense, a lot of juice. We've got the right mentality coming into camp. I mean, all of our teammates are happy to see us coming back.''
Leary said he realized during his recovery that he has more resilience and patience than he thought, and he's sure he's not alone in that discovery.
''With the type of injury I had there was so much down time in the beginning where you can't do anything,'' Leary said. ''You're just sitting around. So, I started reading more, just talking to my wife more, just learning more about myself and just realizing how much I appreciate the game, how much harder I wanted to work in rehab to get back out on that field.''
Leary was cleared near the end of OTAs, but Sanders and Lindsay missed the Broncos' entire offseason program. Both were back on the field this week, however, when the Broncos became the first NFL team to open training camp.
''Moving around, feeling no pain, feeling good and feeling like myself,'' Sanders declared. ''I know a lot of people didn't expect that, so it's just a testament of all the hard work I put in, all the pain that I went through to be standing here.''
Although Sanders is limited, he's building a rapport with Flacco by being on the field during camp instead of the sideline .
''Flacco is a baller,'' Sanders said. ''I think things are going to be OK. I think we're going to be OK. I like the way he spins the ball. I think we will have a lot of success this year. ... I call him `Pretty Boy' Flacco. That's his name. He's just smooth.''
Much like Peyton Manning did in 2012 after missing an entire season in Indianapolis following a series of neck fusion surgeries, Flacco is coming to Denver with a shot at resurrecting his career following an injury.
''There is an energy about coming here and an excitement that I feel about coming to this new team and getting another chance to be a starting quarterback in this league,'' Flacco said.
General manager John Elway said, ''Any time you get traded midway in your career or two-thirds of the way through your career, you've got something to prove.''
''Yeah, there's no doubt,'' Flacco agreed. ''Listen, I think I've got a lot left in the tank. And I feel like I can do a lot more than I've shown in my 11-year career. I'm excited about that.''
And starting his first training camp outside Baltimore, Flacco said, ''I feel like a little kid.''
So does Lindsay, who hated having to watch fellow running backs Devontae Booker and Royce Freeman get carries while he continued his rehab during OTAs.
''I like the grind. I like being tired. I like the sweat, the blood, the tears,'' Lindsay said. ''That's what I'm here for.''
NOTES: Alexander Johnson was the first of many ILBs who filled in for Todd Davis, the team's leading tackler last season, who is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a partial tear of his right calf.
Cincinnati Bengals undrafted rookie wide receiver Damion Willis is expected to serve as the X receiver in A.J. Green's absence to begin the season. It means that Willis should be in three-receiver sets right away in Week 1 against the Seahawks alongside Tyler Boyd and John Ross in the slot. Willis has good size and speed and could be a deep DFS sleeper in the regular season opener. With Green not expected to miss much time, Willis probably isn't worth taking in redraft leagues, but he's certainly one to watch and could be worth a flier in dynasty formats.
Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Hakeem Butler(finger) was placed on Injured Reserve Sunday afternoon. The rookie receiver will be ineligible to return this season, which ends his rookie campaign. Even if Butler would have remained eligible to play this season, the likelihood of him making an impact was very slim. The fourth-round selection will have a better chance next year with aging vets Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Crabtree more than likely out of Arizona. Butler's injury will give fellow rookies Keesean Johnson and Andy Isabella a better shot at contributing in 2019. Johnson is the more polished wideout right now and is worth a late-round flier.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that wide receiver Dante Pettis was kept in the preseason game on Saturday against the Chiefs late into the game because the team wants to see him "earn a role on the team." It's been assumed all along that Pettis would be the No. 1 receiver across from Marquise Goodwin this year, but apparently San Fran's coaching staff hasn't been very impressed with Pettis so far. He's still the most likely option to be fantasy relevant in an inexperienced receiving corps, but we'd label Pettis as more of a risky WR3 now. He's much more attractive in PPR leagues.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that running back Jerick McKinnon (knee) and defensive end Dee Ford (knee) are on schedule to return to practice this week. McKinnon was a very popular fantasy pick last year, but he tore his ACL before the season even started and never played in 2018. Now he's behind Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida in the backfield and isn't even a lock to be ready for Week 1. That makes McKinnon as strictly a late-round flier in deeper leagues. Ford is looking to make an impact in his first year in San Fran after totaling 55 tackles and career-high 13 sacks with the Chiefs. He should help improve San Fran's defense overall. Their unit should be more interesting but can be ignored for fantasy purposes to begin the year.
New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon is dressed in full pads on Sunday, which is an indication that he has been taken off the Non-Football Injury list. It puts Gordon on track to be ready for Week 1. The controversial wide receiver has had his fair share of problems off the field, but he proved in 2018 that he had great chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady late in the year. The 28-year-old finished with 40 receptions for 720 yards and three scores in his 11 games with the Pats, and he should be a top weapon through the air behind Julian Edelman. His return hurts Phillip Dorsett and rookie N'Keal Harry the most. Gordon, if healthy and active, has clear WR2 upside.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross (hamstring) returned to practice on Sunday. Ross should be ready for Week 1 and could have an expanded role with A.J. Green out to begin the season, but fantasy owners still shouldn't place much trust in the 23-year-old speedster. Despite his physical talent and top-notch speed, Ross has only played in 16 games in his first two seasons and has 21 catches for only 210 yards and seven touchdowns. He'll only be a late-round flier in deeper leagues until he shows us that he can produce at the highest level.
Washington Redskins QB Case Keenum has been named the starter for Week 1, head coach Jay Gruden said Sunday, Aug. 25.
An MRI exam confirmed that Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller (knee) tore his ACL and is out for the entire year, according to a source. It stinks for Miller, the Texans and for anyone that already drafted the running back in fantasy. Houston will surely look outside the organization for another running back to help with their depth behind Duke Johnson, who will now handle as much work as he can in 2019. Johnson was underutilized in his time with Cleveland but still made for an RB3/flex option in PPR leagues. With a much larger workload expected, he now has RB2 upside and his fantasy value is up tremendously.
Cincinnati Bengals WR John Ross (hamstring) is participating in practice Sunday, Aug. 25.
Fantasy Spin: Ross has deep-threat ability in the passing game but has dealt with injuries since entering the NFL. Fantasy players probably can avoid him during fantasy drafts, but he could be a waiver wire option during the season.
The Miami Dolphins have yet to decide on who their starting quarterback will be between veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. Head coach Brian Flores said on Sunday that he's not leaning a certain way. Fitzpatrick has been viewed as the favorite to win the job, but Rosen's play in the preseason might have given the team second thoughts. Rosen has a better completion percentage (62.2 to Fitz's 53.1), more yards per attempt (7.8 to 5.2) and more touchdown drives led (three to one). Fitzpatrick, Rosen and Jake Rudock could all play in Thursday's preseason finale. Rosen has more upside and long-term appeal, but neither he nor Fitzpatrick will be appealing in fantasy, even as a QB2.
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden named quarterback Case Keenum the starting quarterback heading into the Week 1 matchup against the Eagles. This was expected to be the case with rookie Dwayne Haskins not quite ready to start in the NFL. Keenum is league average, at best, and will be operating behind a sketchy offensive line without many established weapons in the passing game. It probably won't be too long before Haskins gets his shot in 2019. Keenum offers very little upside for fantasy owners. You can do better with your QB2.
Miami Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake (foot) did not participate in practice Sunday, Aug. 25.
Fantasy Spin: The Dolphins are optimistic about Drake's status for Week 1, so fantasy players should monitor his status over the next few weeks. He likely will share playing time with Kalen Ballage this season and could be a No. 3 or No. 4 running back depending on his role.
Miami Dolphins QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen have been competing for the starting job during the preseason, and head coach Brian Flores said he is still not ready to name a starter at the position. Flores indicated both quarterbacks may play in the final preseason game.
Fantasy Spin: Both Fitzpatrick and Rosen have had their moments during training camp, but neither player has been the clear favorite for the job. Fitzpatrick probably would be the more valuable fantasy option, but fantasy players should avoid both quarterbacks.
Miami Dolphins safety Reshad Jones, linebacker Kiko Alonso and wide receiver Kenny Stills are among those available on the trade market, according to league sources. However, a high-ranking official said on Saturday that he doubts the Dolphins will find a taker for Alonso or Stills because other teams would wait for them to be cut. Jones isn't expected to have an every-down role anymore, and Alonso's playing time is also expected to diminish drastically. Stills can still have an impact in fantasy as a deep threat, but his boom-or-bust ways make him frustrating to own, especially with Miami's QB situation less than ideal. Stills could have more fantasy appeal as a WR4 if he were dealt to another team.
Miami Dolphins LB Kiko Alonso (undisclosed) participated in practice Sunday, Aug. 25.
New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell could be eased in early in the season after sitting out all of the 2018 campaign with Pittsburgh. Bell hasn't played a game in 20 months and isn't playing at all this preseason. He also hasn't practiced at all with the starting offensive line. There will be rust and timing issues, which is why Ty Montgomery could share the load with Bell to begin the season. Bell skipped training camp and preseason in 2017 and had only 180 rushing yards (3.5 average) over the first three games. There might be rust and more shared touches with Montgomery, but Bell remains a RB1 worth considering late in the first round or early in the second. Montgomery is a solid handcuff in the later rounds.
Buffalo Bills OG Quinton Spain (ankle) and CB Tre'Davious White (quadriceps) will not participate in practice Sunday, Aug. 25.
Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson has become the team's starter with Lamar Miller (knee) looking at missing the entire season. Johnson will get all the playing time he can handle in 2019 despite never functioning as a lead back in the NFL in his time with Cleveland. Mainly useful in PPR leagues as a pass-catcher in the past, Johnson will be a full-time player in Houston in Week 1, although the Texans will surely look for outside help to boost their depth. Houston's offensive line is a concern, but Johnson's increased role could put him in RB2 territory in a potent offense.
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said that quarterback Cam Newton (foot) is progressing and shed his walking boot on Sunday. There's a chance that Newton returns to practice as early as Monday, which would be a great sign that he'll be ready to suit up in Week 1 against the Rams, where he'd be in play as a QB1. Many fantasy owners were already skeptical of Newton after he had offseason surgery on his right shoulder for the second straight year, but reports in the preseason were positive about his throwing motion. There's certainly injury risk with his foot as well now, but Newton should be in play as a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 with upside. Keep a close eye on his status this week as the regular season approaches.
New England Patriots rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry's (ankle, hamstring, toe) status for the Week 1 opener against the Steelers could be in question after he hobbled off the field in the Aug. 8 preseason opener. Since then, he hasn't practiced in full and has been jogging lightly when at practice. The rookie hasn't passed the eye test in terms of looking comfortable this preseason and could struggle in the early going. There also might not be much of a role for Harry to open the season behind Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Josh Gordon. He'll also have to compete with Demaryius Thomas for playing time. Consider Harry a late-round flier in redraft leagues.