Mon Jul 29 10:49am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Newton is a question mark
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 didn’t have the season as expected last year, failing to finish above .500. The big issue was the defense, allowing more than 400 points last year. The offense was very good with the passing game excelling. So much of this camp will be focused on getting the defense right. If that happens, the Falcons can make a playoff push.
Position battle: Receiver Calvin Ridley had a solid rookie season but was a little up and down. Mohamed Sanu is the starter opposite Julio Jones right now but could lose that starting spot to Ridley. Sanu has been a productive NFL player but isn’t off the charts by any means. Ridley is the more talented player of the two with more upside for the big things. He should push Sanu for playing time and likely take over as the starter at some point.
Injury watch: Running back Devonta Freeman played just two games last year, needing surgery to fix a groin injury. He is back to full strength and will be back to his lead duties for the Falcons. Atlanta needs him healthy with Tevin Coleman gone. Freeman will be counted on to carry the load a little more, so being healthy is pertinent for the Falcons and Freeman’s fantasy owners.
The Saints don’t have a lot to be decided this training camp. Much of camp could be getting this team primed for a Super Bowl run. There are high expectations for the team after a good showing last year. Drew Brees doesn’t have a whole lot of time left to make another Super Bowl, so this season could be a big one for his legacy.
Position battle: The Saints like to rotate receivers, giving plenty of guys chances during the season. But the starter opposite Michael Thomas still has a little more value than the other guys. Right now, Ted Ginn is the favorite to start but Tre’Quan Smith and a healthy Cameron Meredith could push Ginn for the starting spot. This will be a battle to watch because it has fantasy implications. Smith is an intriguing player that showed his rookie year he is capable of the huge game.
Injury watch: Receiver Ted Ginn played just five games last year because of a knee injury. If he hopes to have a big role this year and keep his starting job, he will need to be healthy and stay healthy. Ginn seems back to his old self during offseason workouts but his age and last year is a concern going forward for him.
The big thing to watch in Panthers camp this year is Cam Newton. How is he going to recover from another surgery to his throwing arm? Newton really is the key to the season for the Panthers. The team needs him healthy and playing at a high level if they hope to have any success this year. The offense really goes through Newton.
Position battle: D.J. Moore is going to start at one of the receiver spots and Curtis Samuel will work out of the slot, but the No. 2 receiver is up in the air. Devin Funchess is gone, leaving a hole at the position. The candidates to start are Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith and Chris Hogan. It really is a wide open battle without a favorite. We’ll know more as camp and the preseason progresses.
Injury watch: Quarterback Cam Newton had major shoulder surgery this offseason. He is throwing but will be on a pitch count in camp. The Panthers will take it slow with their star quarterback. Newton has progressed well from the surgery but seeing how he is throwing the ball will be something fantasy teams should monitor closely. Newton is a real wild card this year after having shoulder surgery once again.
The Bucs made changes to the coaching staff once again, hiring Bruce Arians. He should be a big plus for the offense, including starting quarterback Jameis Winston. So the big focus of camp is likely being the Bucs getting up to speed both offensively and defensively with their new schemes. Hopefully, the offense picks things up quick because it could be pretty potent from a fantasy perspective.
Position battle: The Bucs should have a real battle on their hands for the starting running back spot. Peyton Barber was the starter last year and has a leg up for the job, but second-year back Ronald Jones is looking to rebound from a poor rookie year. A new coaching staff should be a plus for Jones, who had a strong offseason of work. Jones should be given a fair shot to unseat Barber.
Injury watch: Tight end O.J. Howard had a breakout season last year but missed six gams because of an ankle injury. He is yet to play a full season since entering the NFL. He has a chance for another big year but needs to be on the field for that to happen. Howard has not shown he can on the field to date but hopes to change that perception this season. He could be a star.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Updating a previous report, Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (wrist) returned to the Week 2 game against the Ravens after injuring his wrist in the first quarter. Johnson's owners can let out a sigh of relief now. It'll be tough for him not to turn out being a bust this week, though, as he has only four carries for 11 yards (2.8 yards per carry) and one catch for no gain at halftime. Baltimore's defense is very stingy, although Johnson could salvage his day with short passes in the second half with Arizona in comeback mode. Johnson's injury serves as a reminder that Chase Edmonds is his handcuff.
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (wrist) suffered a wrist injury in the first quarter of Week 2 against the Ravens and is questionable to return. Johnson ran three times for seven yards and caught one pass for no gain before getting injured. A first-round pick in fantasy leagues, losing Johnson would be devastating for the Cards and fantasy owners. Chase Edmonds will take over lead-back duties if Johnson can't return to this contest, and he'd be a top waiver wire pickup if Johnson's injury forces him to miss any time. Losing Johnson in the backfield moving forward would also be a downgrade to rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. Stay tuned for more on Johnson's status.
Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis (eye) was injured in Week 2 against the Cowboys and is questionable to return. Davis wasn't targeted at all in the passing game before going down. With Jordan Reed (concussion) inactive for the second straight week, Jeremy Sprinkle would be the only tight end left active for the 'Skins if Davis can't return to this game. Sprinkle has one catch for 11 yards as things stand now against Dallas. Whoever is Washington's tight end merely has TE2 value with quarterback Case Keenum under center. Reed has the most upside, but he has trouble staying on the field.
New England Patriots left tackle Isaiah Wynn (foot) was injured in Week 2 against the Dolphins and is questionable to return. Right tackle Marcus Cannon is inactive on Sunday with an injury of his own, so injuries are already wreaking havoc on the team's offensive line early in the year. It remains to be seen how serious Wynn's injury actually is, but it's a bit concerning for quarterback Tom Brady and is something worth watching. It probably won't make much of a difference the rest of the way against the Dolphins poor defense, however.
While there are reports spreading that the Miami Dolphins have had trade talks with other teams surrounding running back Kenyan Drake this week, the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero is reporting that the team has had zero conversations with other teams about trading him, according to a club source. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Dolphins traded Drake, as they've already sent several others packing this year and are expected to trade former first-rounder Minkah Fitzpatrick soon. On the worst team in football, Drake has become nothing more than an unappealing RB3/flex, although a trade out of Miami could make him more attractive to fantasy owners. If he were to be dealt, Kalen Ballage would be the leader of this backfield.
Updating a previous report, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (illness) said he's feeling much better and hopes doctors let him rejoin the team this week. He was told to take 21 days to recover from mononucleosis and is hoping to come back after the team's Week 4 bye. Darnold said he hasn't lost much weight at all. His illness likely affected his Week 1 performance in the loss to the Bills, but Darnold is nothing more than a backup fantasy quarterback until he proves otherwise. Trevor Siemian will start until Darnold can return, but he presents owners with limited upside as a low-end QB2. The Jets figure to give Le'Veon Bell a lot of touches to take pressure off of Siemian.
New England Patriots rookie running back Damien Harris and rookie wide receiver Jakobi Meyers are both healthy scratches for Week 2 against the Dolphins. Both players have exciting long-term appeal for those in dynasty leagues, but the Patriots are just too stacked at running back and receiver now for either of them to make an impact. If anything were to happen to Sony Michel this year, Harris could be in line for a big role and would be an immediate addition off the waiver wire in redraft leagues. With the Antonio Brown signing last week, Meyers gets pushed out of the rotation among Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper is being extra patient in contract-extension talks and is the only Dallas player less likely to re-sign this season, according to league sources. With Saints wideout Michael Thomas landing a deal that pays him $20 million a year and Falcons receiver Julio Jones earning $22 million per year, Cooper is intentionally being patient. The 25-year-old caught six passes for 106 yards and a score in the team's Week 1 win over the Giants, and he has an excellent matchup with the Redskins in Week 2. He's locked in as a WR1 in the second game of the season.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) is inactive in Week 2 against the Steelers. Ansah will have to wait another week to make his debut with the team. The Seahawks are being very cautious with the injury-prone pass-rusher, but he should be back soon. It's good news for Ben Roethlisberger and company as they look to bounce back from their 33-3 drubbing at the hands of the Patriots last week. Big Ben will have QB1 appeal this Sunday, while fantasy owners are best off leaving Seattle's defense on the bench.
Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft (foot) is inactive in Week 2 against the Giants for the second straight week. Kroft is improving, though, and should be able to make his season debut in Week 3. However, Kroft will be a bottom-barrel TE2 whenever he does suit up. Rookies Tommy Sweeney and Dawson Knox will continue to split snaps at the position in the meantime. Neither of them are options in redraft leagues, although they have some stash appeal in dynasty/keeper formats.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (knee) is active for Week 2 against the Lions. It was reported early Sunday that Williams would likely be just a red-zone threat for the Bolts on Sunday if he played. That means that the Chargers will predictably lean on running back Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen with tight end Hunter Henry (knee) out indefinitely. Williams is an extremely risky and touchdown-dependent WR4/5 while playing through his injury. Travis Benjamin has a better shot at big-play potential with Williams' snaps being limited, but he's an even worse flex option in deep leagues.
Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Andy Isabella is a healthy inactive for Week 2 against the Ravens. The 22-year-old didn't have a single target in Week 1 and is well behind fellow rookie teammate Keesean Johnson on the depth chart. He also has Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Michael Crabtree and Damiere Byrd ahead of him, so Isabella definitely belongs on the waiver wire in redraft leagues. The only place you're stashing him is in dynasty/keeper leagues. Expect the Cardinals to mix in the veteran Crabtree more against Baltimore, which hurts the upside for Johnson.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram (shoulder), tight end Mark Andrews (foot) and rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown (hip) are all active in Week 2 against the Cardinals, as expected. All three players had huge weeks in the season opener and could all shine again against a weak Cardinals Defense at home. Ingram has clear RB1 upside in what could be the team's second straight blowout win. Andrews is a firm TE1 after rookie T.J. Hockenson lit up Arizona's D last week. Brown is the most risky flex play at wideout after playing just 14 snaps in his NFL debut. There's big-play potential with the Cardinals without their top two cornerbacks, but Brown will be as boom or bust as they get.
San Francisco 49ers rookie defensive end Nick Bosa (ankle) is active in Week 2 against the Bengals. Bosa had his snaps limited in his NFL debut last week against the Buccaneers, but when he was on the field he was productive, so his presence on Sunday won't be good news for quarterback Andy Dalton in front of a shaky offensive line. Bosa cannot yet be trusted in IDP leagues as the Niners try to get him past his nagging ankle issue. While San Fran's D looked much-improved last week, they also shouldn't be in fantasy lineups just yet.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (ankle) is active for Week 2 against the 49ers. Mixon does have a good matchup against a Niners team that gave up healthy ground yardage against Tampa in the season opener, but Mixon will have a lot of volatility and could have his snaps limited while playing through his injury. Consider him a risky low-end RB2/high-end RB3/flex, with Giovani Bernard mixing in to spell him. Bernard would've had RB2 upside if Mixon was inactive, but instead he'll revert back to being an unexciting flex option.
The Los Angeles Chargers have declared DL Cortez Broughton, TE Hunter Henry, C Michael Davis, LB Jatavis Brown, PK Mike Badgley, QB Easton Stick and S Roderic Teamer inactive for Week 2.
The Tennessee Titans have declared OT Kevin Pamphile, LB Reggie Gilbert, C Hroniss Grasu, CB Tye Smith, DL Brent Urban, RB David Fluellen and OG Nate Davis inactive for Week 2.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared CB Justin Layne, DL Isaiah Buggs, FB Roosevelt Nix, LB Jayrone Elliott, OT Chukwuma Okorafor, OL Fred Johnson and TE Zach Gentry inactive for Week 2.
The Dallas Cowboys have declared OG Adam Redmond, S Donovan Wilson, DE Taco Charlton, WR Tavon Austin, DT Trysten Hill, OL Brandon Knight and LB Luke Gifford inactive for Week 2.
The Seattle Seahawks have declared WR David Moore, S Tedric Thompson, C Joey Hunt, CB Neiko Thorpe, WR Gary Jennings, DT Poona Ford and DL Ziggy Ansah inactive for Week 2.