Wed Aug 17 6:57pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell, left, talks with quarterback Kirk Cousins before joint drills with the San Francisco 49ers at the Vikings NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance takes part in joint drills at the Minnesota Vikings NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, left, talks with former NFL head coach Mike Shanahan as the San Francisco 49ers, coached by Shanahan's son Kyle Shanahan, take part in joint drills at the Vikings NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, left, and general manager John Lynch watch their team take part in joint drills with the Minnesota Vikings at the Vikings NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins takes part in joint drills with the San Francisco 49ers at the Vikings NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) This absence for Kirk Cousins was far more convenient for him and the Minnesota Vikings.
After catching COVID-19 and staying home for five days in line with the current guidelines, Cousins returned to practice Wednesday with the Vikings for their first of two joint sessions with the visiting San Francisco 49ers.
Though Cousins has said throughout the offseason that he can't afford to miss any on-field repetitions as he continues to soak up new head coach Kevin O'Connell's offense, the timing of his latest quarantine was such that he only missed one full-speed practice last Thursday.
The Vikings had a light workout Friday, traveled Saturday and played Sunday at Las Vegas, where Cousins was already unlikely to play more than a series or two if at all. Players were off Monday.
''I was commenting to my wife that if I was to miss five days and you had to pick which five, strategically we probably picked a good five,'' Cousins said.
Last season, when the NFL had strict COVID-19 protocols in place, particularly for unvaccinated players, Cousins was sidelined for five days early in training camp after being deemed a close contact because backup Kellen Mond tested positive. Three of the four quarterbacks on the roster at the time had to sit out.
Then Cousins himself contracted the virus two days before the Jan. 2 game at Green Bay and had to stay home while the Vikings lost with Sean Mannion at quarterback and were eliminated from contention for the playoffs.
With Cousins watching from home, Mannion and Mond split the snaps almost evenly in the preseason opener against the Raiders. Mond has taken steps this summer toward becoming the second-stringer, after he was firmly entrenched as the No. 3 option as a rookie. Mond went 9 for 14 for 119 yards and two touchdowns without a sack or a turnover, for whatever those statistics can mean in a meaningless game.
''There was some resiliency there,'' offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said. ''There were a couple plays he'd probably like to have back or maybe would've liked to have let go and throw into a window, and you know what? He just kept playing. There was no flinch.''
Cousins played crisply during the full-team drills against San Francisco's defense, even uncharacteristically punctuating his catch phrase - ''You like that?'' - with an expletive after a completion to Adam Thielen.
''I love it when any of my teammates get fired up,'' said rookie Ed Ingram, who has moved into the starting right guard spot.
The 49ers had defensive lineman Arik Armstead (knee) and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley (hamstring) back on the field for individual drills, though safety Jimmie Ward is missing with a hamstring injury that will keep him out for awhile.
The 49ers and Vikings had their share of predictable jawing after certain plays here and there. Unlike the fight that broke out Wednesday between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots in their joint practice, there were no visible problems.
''That's a pretty big emphasis. We have a deal with Kevin. Anyone throws a punch, we're going to kick them out of practice,'' 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. ''We know how important it is to get this practice work in right now.''
Particularly with a young, new starting quarterback in Trey Lance.
Just like in the preseason game Friday against Green Bay, Lance hit rookie Danny Gray on a deep ball for a long touchdown. The connection Wednesday came in a 7-on-7 drill against veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson.
''Some ups and downs,'' said Lance, a native of Minnesota who was the third overall pick in the 2021 draft out of North Dakota State. ''I'm excited to watch it, for sure. It's just good to go against another defense - 1-on-1s, 7-on-7, red zone, everything against another team.''
The 49ers were enjoying their extended road trip, having arrived Tuesday in advance of the game Saturday. Some of them spent time at the Mall of America the night before, and Minnesota's 4-year-old gleaming suburban complex turned plenty of heads from the visitors.
''Beautiful facility. Change of scenery,'' tight end George Kittle said. ''It's been a great day.''
New England Patriots wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson (head) was taken to the hospital after leaving Wednesday's joint practice. Wilkerson was leveled by Carolina Panthers safety Kenny Robinson. A hit that appeared to have knocked out Wilkerson. He is currently being evaluated for a head injury. Wilkerson is already battling for a roster spot, so missing time won't help his case. Regardless, it's unlikely that Wilkerson has any fantasy relevance this season, but hopefully he can get back on the field soon.
Arizona Cardinals tight end Trey McBride (back) has been cleared to play in the second preseason game. The second-round pick missed nearly two weeks of action due to a back issue. Luckily, he's back and hopeful ready to make an impact here soon. Although, fantasy managers shouldn't expect too much from McBride during his first season. He'll likely end up as the third tight end to begin the season. He could be worth a deep league stash and remains someone worth targeting in dynasty formats.
The Green Bay Packers have claimed wide receiver Travis Fulgham off waivers from the Denver Broncos. The former sixth-round pick wasn't able to make the first line of roster cuts. Although, he immediately landed on his feet with a new team in the Packers. This is a nice landing spot for Fulgham with the Packers needing extra bodies at wide receiver. He finished with 38 receptions, 539 receiving yards, and four touchdowns through 13 games with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020. Fantasy managers shouldn't bother adding Fulgham, but he's a nice addition as depth for Green Bay.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Andrew Ogletree (knee) was forced to exit early during Wednesday's practice. The organization believes that Ogletree has suffered a serious knee injury. Head coach Frank Reich mentioned the team will wait and see what the doctor says, but the injury didn't look good. The organization will likely wait until further testing before releasing anymore information. Fantasy managers should stay tuned for more updates on his status.
Dynasty | Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker will miss the remainder of the preseason after undergoing a "procedue" Dynasty Analysis: There was not explanation by Pete Carroll as to what the surgery was for and no guarantee that Walker would be back by week one of the regular season, though he said that was the goal. Rashaad Penny has returned from a minor injury and now looks to have the starting role all to himself though other depth chart names will still factor. The Seahawks are a leaking ship in multiple spots but there has been excitement surrounding the run-game following the team's selection of Walker. As long as the rookie returns quickly and without setback, he'll remain a highly selected rookie. He's listed as DLF's RB17.
Seattle Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker III (hernia) underwent a procedure to fix a hernia -- not a "sports hernia" or core-muscle injury -- and is expected to make a full recovery. If all goes well, the plan is for him to be available in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. Walker's hernia came to light on Tuesday, with head coach Peter Carroll saying the hope is to have the 21-year-old ready for the start of the regular season. The second-rounder's hernia doesn't appear to be a major issue, but it shouldn't be ignored by fantasy managers. Walker is expected to have a role alongside the injury-prone Rashaad Penny. He's definitely worth a handcuff for those that draft Penny, and he could also have RB3/flex appeal in 2022. If he misses any time to start the year, Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas will be asked to step up behind Penny.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced on Wednesday that quarterback Lamar Jackson won't play in the team's second preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Jackson was also held out of the preseason opener last week. The 25-year-old is determined to bounce back strong in 2022 after a disappointing end to his 2021 season in which he missed some time down the stretch with an ankle injury. Even though Jackson isn't a prototypical passer, his elite rushing ability on the ground continues to make him a top-five fantasy option at the position.
The Atlanta Falcons signed former Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver KeeSean Johnson to an undisclosed deal on Wednesday. The Falcons can never have too much receiver depth after losing Calvin Ridley to a year-long suspension and Russell Gage in free agency in the offseason, but Johnson will merely be trying to win a spot on the roster to open the 2022 season. The 25-year-old was cut by the Niners on Monday. The former sixth-round selection by the Arizona Cardinals in 2019 spent the 2021 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he didn't play in a regular season game. In two years with the Cardinals, Johnson had 36 catches on 65 targets for 360 yards and one touchdown in 18 games (five starts).
The New England Patriots have been manufacturing touches for tight end Jonnu Smith, and he made some notable plays in Wednesday's joint practice with the Carolina Panthers. The Patriots are trying to get the ball in Smith's hands in several ways and there's a clear emphasis on getting him involved. Smith was making plays last summer as well, but a minor injury slowed his development. His overall production was down in his first year in New England, but he still ranked eighth in yards after the catch over expected among receivers with at least 45 targets. The 26-year-old should produce better numbers in his second year with the team in 2022, but Hunter Henry's presence, especially in the red zone, makes Smith a low-end TE2 in fantasy football.
New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen had good things to say about wide receiver Michael Thomas on Wednesday. "When I watch Michael Thomas at practice, I see the Michael Thomas that I saw pre-injury. I see a big, strong, physical, receiver that makes a ton of contested catches. I saw it in these practices. I see a guy that looks pretty good," Allen said. Thomas missed all of last year with an ankle injury, but he's expected to be full-go for Week 1 and should continue to slowly rise up fantasy draft boards as long as he stays healthy in training camp. A lot has changed since the 29-year-old was the best pass-catcher in the league in 2019, but Thomas could return to being the team's No. 1 wideout in 2022, even after the additions of rookie Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (foot, knee) will not play in the team's second preseason game on Friday against the Green Bay Packers, according to head coach Dennis Allen. Winston is still out after spraining his foot last week, and he's also attempting to return from a torn ACL in his knee last year. The Saints aren't going to rush the 28-year-old back in meaningless games, but they'd like to get him some action in the final preseason game next week. New Orleans won't ask him to do much on offense in 2022, especially early in the year, but he has plenty of weapons through the air with Michael Thomas (ankle) looking like his pre-injury self this summer. Winston will be a midrange QB2 in his second year as the team's starter under center.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (foot) isn't practicing on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Chargers due to a foot injury, but he's walking around without a protective boot. Lamb will almost certainly be held out of the team's second preseason game this week, but it remains to be seen if this is an injury that fantasy managers should be concerned about. Michael Gallup (knee) and James Washington (foot) won't be ready for the start of the regular season, so Dallas' receiving group has been thinned out considerably. While Lamb is likely to see plenty of attention from opposing defenses with Amari Cooper now in Cleveland, a big target share is guaranteed, making him a no-doubt WR1 in fantasy football.
Jacksonville Jaguars DL Malcom Brown was released on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III said that the coaching staff wants Javonte Williams "to be the guy" after he received the first snaps at training camp practice on Wednesday. It was expected that Williams would be more of the 1A to Gordon's 1B this year after the two basically split carries down the middle in 2021. The second-year running back is much more explosive with more big-play ability in an offense that should be more productive with quarterback Russell Wilson now in town. However, Gordon isn't going away, which caps Williams' fantasy ceiling in Year 2. Still, Williams will be a high-end RB2 target in fantasy drafts, and he has obvious RB1 upside if Gordon gets injured or put in the doghouse at any point in 2022.
New Orleans Saints QB Jameis Winston won't play in preseason Week 2, head coach Dennis Allen said on Wednesday, Aug. 17. Winston was dealing with a foot injury recently but has been taking part in practices.
Fantasy Spin: Considering Winston hasn't played in live-game action since October of last year after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament, getting some preseason reps would no doubt be beneficial. It remains to be seen if that will happen, though. Winston is a QB2 entering 2022.
New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas looks like he did before his injury, head coach Dennis Allen said on Wednesday, Aug. 17. 'When I watch Michael Thomas at practice, I see the Michael Thomas that I saw pre-injury,' Allen said. 'I see a big, strong, physical, receiver that makes a ton of contested catches. I saw it in these practices. I see a guy that looks pretty good.'
Fantasy Spin: From all accounts, Thomas has been having a good training camp and looks to be back to form ahead of 2022. Thomas could prove to be a major steal if he falls to the middle rounds of drafts. We'll tentatively call him a WR2 with elite upside for now until we see it on the field.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers estimated that it's realistic to think both running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon could surpass 50 receptions in 2022. Jones has had 49, 47 and 52 catches the last three seasons in head coach Matt LaFleur's offense, while Dillon had 34 in 2021. "We have runs to both of them, we have swing passes to them, we have screens, we have down-the-field stuff, we have action stuff, we have scat protection, we have six-man, seven-man protection stuff," Rodgers said. "There's a lot in the offense for those two guys." It confirms the fact that Jones and Dillon have standalone fantasy value, especially in PPR leagues as the Packers look for pass-catchers to step up with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown all out of town.
Dynasty | Texans sophomore receiver Nico Collins is having a good training camp and is a breakout candidate in 2022 Dynasty Analysis: The team is looking for ways to get Collins singled up in coverage so he can use his size and body to gain separation and make plays. He's reportedly been working with Texans great Andre Johnson in his routes while emulating Johnson's work ethic as well. As a rookie, Collins produced a 33/446/1 stat line and is a good bet to well outproduce those numbers in his second season. Opposing secondaries will prioritize Brandin Cooks, allowing Collins to win on single coverage with his size. Found as DLF's WR62, Nico Collins is a low-valued starting receiver with a long runway to greater production in the future. As such, he makes for an intriguing "buy now" candidate ahead of kick off of the 2022 regular season.
Dynasty | Giants receiver Collin Johnson is in a groove in training camp and has been lauded by head coach Brian Daboll for his flexibility and intelligence. Dynasty Analysis: Johnson's name continues to emerge nearly every day from Giants training camp and, with high priced asset Kenny Golladay continuing to struggle, it could be Johnson to the rescue. At 6'6", Johnson is a huge target who has been modestly productive in the past but without the role to produce at a higher degree. That may be changing in 2022 should the soon-to-be 25-year-old continue his camp momentum. Unranked on DLF's receiver rankings, it's difficult to project Johnson to any material production given his size and history, but he's a name to stay abreast over the next few weeks as camps grind to a close.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said that wide receiver Julio Jones will not play in the team's second preseason game this Saturday against the Tennessee Titans. Jones is taking part in joint practices with the Titans this week, but the Bucs will hold the veteran pass-catcher out as a precaution. Mike Evans (hamstring), Russell Gage (leg) and Chris Godwin (knee) are also sidelined at training camp, so Cyril Grayson Jr., Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden, Scotty Miller and others will see more playing time against Tennessee on Saturday. Jones will be competing for targets in a crowded receiver room in Tampa this year, but he could see plenty of targets early in the year if Godwin isn't ready to return from his ACL tear.