Tue Aug 16 3:27pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) greets teammates running back John Lovett (37) and running back Christian McCaffrey (22) during an NFL football joint practice with the New England Patriots, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones warms up during an NFL football joint practice with the Carolina Panthers, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold runs with the ball during an NFL football joint practice with the New England Patriots, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Derrick Brown (95) warms up in front of defensive end Frank Herron (69) during a NFL football joint practice with the New England Patriots, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Carolina Panthers cornerback Duke Dawson reaches for the ball during an NFL football joint practice with the New England Patriots, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Andre Roberts makes a catch during an NFL football joint practice with the New England Patriots, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones steps on the field at the start of an NFL football joint practice with the Carolina Panthers, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick steps on the field at the start of an NFL football joint practice with the Carolina Panthers, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule steps on the field at the start of an NFL football joint practice with the New England Patriots, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton warms up during an NFL football joint practice with the Carolina Panthers, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The Patriots and Panthers opened two days of joint practices Tuesday both hoping to see progress on the offensive side of the ball.
Carolina is trying to sort out its situation at quarterback after bringing in Baker Mayfield to compete alongside Sam Darnold. New England is still working through tweaks it's made since former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left in the offseason for Las Vegas.
Both teams had their moments during the two-hour session. Patriots receiver DeVante Parker continued to be a magnet for catching deep passes. And despite being under relentless pressure from the Patriots defense for a good portion of the day, Mayfield and Darnold both successfully guided the team down the field during hurry-up situations.
The highlights came after two fights broke out minutes apart during the first half of practice that resulted in five players being kicked out.
''That's what happens when you're competing, trying to get better,'' Parker said. ''Things are going to happen.''
Mayfield shined late in the session, completing long balls to Christian McCaffrey and Shi Smith. Darnold also was efficient, leading the team to the red zone before having a ball tipped by defensive tackle LaBryan Ray and intercepted by cornerback Shaun Wade.
Still, Panthers coach Matt Rhule called the time his quarterbacks were able to spend in different simulated game situations productive.
''I was happy to see the two-minute (offense), happy to see us move the ball in the two-minute,'' Rhule said. ''That's a really tough situation. There's no timeouts. The chances of going that far and scoring a touchdown are probably in the high teens, low 20s. So, it was good to get that work.''
Meanwhile, Parker's emergence as a potential go-to deep option for quarterback Mac Jones would fill a gap in the Patriots offense from last season. As a rookie, Jones averaged just 5.8 yards in the air for every completed pass.
Asked about his ability to win most of the ''50-50'' deep passes thrown his way, Parker said it's always been a staple of his game.
''That's something I've been having since I was in high school and I brought it to the NFL,'' he said. ''If it's thrown in the area, it's mine.''
The Panthers didn't come out of Tuesday's session unscathed.
Center Bradley Bozeman left on a cart after suffering an apparent leg injury after getting tangled up during an 11-on-11 period.
He was able to sit upright and get to his feet on his own power. But he walked gingerly with trainers to a nearby cart before heading to the locker room.
The 6-foot-5, 325-pounder signed with the Panthers as a free agent this offseason after starting 48 of 49 games the previous three seasons for the Baltimore Ravens.
Bozeman was brought in to improve the Panthers offensive line, which allowed 52 sacks in 2021 - the fifth most in the NFL. He played left guard in 2019 and 2020 before moving to center last season.
He has been competing for the starting job at center with Pat Elflein, who began the day lined up with Carolina's projected first-team offense.
With the first and second units for both teams split on different fields for simultaneous 11-on-11 drills, tempers flared on an otherwise mild afternoon.
The first incident occurred after Patriots receiver Kristian Wilkerson made a catch near the sideline. As he was going out of bounds, a Panthers player appeared to try to jar the ball loose. Wilkerson took issue and a large scrum ensued.
Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne was in the middle of it as well and could be seen shoving a few players. Once it was broken up by coaches, all three players were ejected - a pre-practice agreement between coach Bill Belichick and Rhule on how they'd handle any potential fights.
The brief scuffle didn't stop another one from erupting about 10 minutes later, this time involving Panthers defensive tackle Phil Hoskins and Patriots offensive lineman James Ferentz. They were soon sent to the locker room as well.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) missed training camp practice on Tuesday due to a sore knee. It's not great to see Smith-Schuster injured after he missed most of his final season with the Pittsburgh Steelers due to injury, but it's likely that the Chiefs are just being cautious with him. The 25-year-old will be a starter in his first year in KC and should see a lot of work out of the slot, giving him a lot of fantasy upside as a WR3 with quarterback Patrick Mahomes now throwing him the pigskin. The former second-rounder was a Pro Bowler in 2018 when he had his only 1,000-yard season. The Chiefs are expected to spread the ball around more in 2022, but if healthy, Smith-Schuster will be a big part of their passing attack.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers Mike Evans (hamstring) and Russell Gage (leg) will not take part in joint practices with the Tennessee Titans this week, according to head coach Todd Bowles. Chris Godwin (knee) is also still out while recovering from a torn ACL last year, so veteran Julio Jones, Tyler Johnson, Cyril Grayson Jr., Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden and Scotty Miller will see more repetitions. Evans usually deals with hamstring injuries this time of the year, but he's been extremely durable in his eight-year career and has eight 1,000-yard seasons. He's an easy top-10 fantasy wideout in 2022. Gage was a popular breakout pick in fantasy football before the Bucs signed Jones this summer. However, he's still worth a late-round flier with Godwin questionable for the start of the season.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle was present on Tuesday but didn't take part in training camp practice for undisclosed reasons. Even if Waddle is dealing with an injury, it's likely to be a minor one that won't keep him off the field for long. The 23-year-old second-year wideout didn't play in the team's preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Saturday. In his rookie campaign, Waddle impressed with 104 catches on 140 targets for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games played. The addition of All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill will take valuable targets away from Waddle and lower his fantasy ceiling, but the former sixth overall pick is still a plenty attractive WR2 for fantasy managers in a Dolphins offense that's expected to take a big step forward.
New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen believes that wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) will be ready for Week 1 of the regular season. "When the ball kicks off for real, Mike Thomas is going to be ready to go, and we're excited about that," Allen said. Thomas missed all of the 2021 season due to an ankle injury, but he's been practicing at training camp and is on track to be ready for the start of the regular season. The 29-year-old was the best pass-catcher in the league before injuries struck in 2020, but fantasy managers shouldn't expect him to return to that level in 2022. He could become quarterback Jameis Winston's top target, but the offense also includes first-rounder Chris Olave and veteran slot man Jarvis Landry. Thomas' stock is on the rise as a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 with upside.
The Washington Commanders still like running back Antonio Gibson a lot and he can provide big plays, but the team wants him to be more consistent in the way he runs and to be more "one-cut and go." Gibson gets himself in trouble when he becomes indecisive about when or where to cut, which leads to the ball swinging away from his body and causes fumbles. If Gibson continues to have fumbling issues, the Commanders can turn to rookie Brian Robinson and pass-catching back J.D. McKissic. Gibson had a poor first preseason showing and also fumbled, so Robinson could become just as intriguing, if not more, in fantasy football drafts to begin the 2022 season.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said that linebacker Roquan Smith, who is still seeking a new contract and has asked to be traded, will travel with the team to Seattle to face the Seahawks in their second preseason game. Smith won't play on Thursday, but Eberflus described him as "engaged." The 25-year-old All-Pro's future with the team remains in doubt, but when on the field, he's the No. 1 target at the linebacker position in IDP leagues. The former first-rounder has had 100-plus combined tackles in all four of his NFL seasons, and he finished 2021 with a career-high 163 tackles (95 solo), three sacks, 12 tackles for loss, four QB hits, an interception returned for a touchdown and three passes defensed in 17 games.
Dynasty | Packers rookie receiver Christian Watson is well behind fellow rookie Romeo Doubs Dynasty Analysis: Doubs remains one of, if not the best, offseason rookie stories of 2022 while Watson has yet to get his feet under him due to injury. Now back in camp, Watson is still running well behind Doubs and veterans Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins and even Randall Cobb, putting him no better than WR5 at his juncture. Watson, a size-speed freak, still has plenty of opportunity to show his value and athleticism but dynasty player's looking for rookie-year production are likely going to be disappointed. He is listed as DLF's WR47 and should eventually benefit from learning the position on the end of Aaron Rodgers' passes, though his prospects are brighter in 2023 and beyond.
Dynasty | Regardless of who is under-center, Steelers rookie receiver George Pickens figures to be a significant factor this season Dynasty Analysis: Pickens wasn't expected to be relied upon in his rookie season but injury opened up an opportunity and the first-year player drove through it with authority. Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool still figure to be starting but Claypool's injury issues and play have been less than stellar, possibly opening up further snaps for Pickens. Once expected to have a diminished role in 2022, Pickens, DLF's WR43, now factors prominently this year and beyond.
Dynasty | 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk has been the team's most consistent offensive performer this offseason Dynasty Analysis: Reports out of San Francisco have been mixed on Aiyuk's status with some claiming he's still in Kyle Shanahan's offense, while most reports are that the head coach has been effusive in his praise of the third-year receiver's work ethic and focus. All expectation is that Aiyuk remains a starter and could be considered the team's WR1 due to Deebo Samuel's "hybrid" role though the safer and more logical role suggests Aiyuk as the WR2. Averaging 58 receptions and 785 yards over his first two seasons, the stars seem aligned for DLF's WR34 to have a career-best season in 2022.
Dynasty | Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin has participated in 7-on-7 drills over the past two days in camp Dynasty Analysis: Godwin continues to rehab from a torn ACL suffered in December and is still uncertain for week one regular season participation. That said, taking part in 7-on-7 drills is a very positive step and would seem to suggest that the 26-year-old is trending in the right direction to be on the field with the team takes the field to start the season. Coming off a career high (98) in receptions in 2021, Godwin's availability for the start of the regular season would be a huge boon for his fantasy coaches and Tom Brady. He's listed as DLF's WR15.
The San Francisco 49ers have made it clear that they aren't going to ask too much of quarterback Trey Lance in his first full season as the starter. They have a strong defense, plenty of talent at the skilled offensive positions and a good running game. Lance has been inconsistent in training camp, which will likely carry over to the early portion of the regular season, but his upside is hard to deny, especially because he brings a running element that can offset whatever accuracy issues he has. ESPN's Nick Wagoner said expectations for Lance should be kept in check, but he's certainly not a bad QB2 stash in fantasy football for later in the season. The Niners expect the 22-year-old to get better as the season progresses.
ESPN's Turron Davenport believes Tennessee Titans wide receiver Robert Woods should be a higher fantasy priority than rookie Treylon Burks because he'll get plenty of targets as the team's No. 1 wideout. Before his injury last year with the Los Angeles Rams, Woods averaged 132 targets per season. The Titans won't throw the ball as much as the Rams did, but Woods' 1.3 percent drop rate over the last five years (tied for sixth-lowest among receivers with at least 200 targets) and precise route-running will make him one of quarterback Ryan Tannehill's top targets. The 30-year-old veteran is on track to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season, and although he's coming off a major knee injury, his fantasy stock should continue to rise as a WR3/4 as the regular season approaches.
Atlanta Falcons TE Tucker Fisk, LB Rashad Smith, DB Tre Webb and P Seth Vernon were released Tuesday, Aug. 16. The Falcons also placed CB Cornell Armstrong (undisclosed) on the Reserve/Injured list with an undisclosed injury.
Pittsburgh Steelers S Karl Joseph (ankle) and WR Anthony Miller (shoulder) were placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Aug. 16.
Dynasty | Texans running back Dameon Pierce continues to excel and could be starting early in the regular season Dynasty Analysis: With only Rex Burkhead and Marlon Mack ahead of him on the depth chart, there's little reason to not project Pierce as the starter in short order. By all accounts, the rookie has had a fantastic few months and looked the part in his first preseason action. A popular second-round rookie selection, Pierce, DLF's RB38, is looking to be a fine upside-potential back for dynasty coaches looking for a well-valued rookie asset.
Dynasty | Giants contract-year running back Saquon Barkley has looked explosive in camp Dynasty Analysis: The narrative on Barkley all offseason has been about his health, explosiveness and his expected bounce-back season. Truth be told, Barkley has always had the capability and potential but a combination of unavoidable significant injury and poor offensive play has rendered the once-great back to almost to dynasty afterthought status. Barkley's value has been percolating higher once again as hopes rise that 2022 is the year he returns to his rookie-year form. Now in a contract year, the chances of him returning to the team in 2023 seem remote though a big year could bring franchise tag consideration. In any case, 2022 is as true a make-or-break season as can be had for the running back for another stretch of missed games due to injury will likely send him to the dynasty doghouse for good. Saquon Barkley is found as a tenuous-but-rising RB11 on DLF's running back rankings.
Dynasty | Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton should have a career-best season Dynasty Analysis: Both Sutton and third-year receiver Jerry Jeudy are said to be in for big seasons as the addition of Russell Wilson should allow both to finally realize their potential. Sutton has been somewhat of a safety blanket for Wilson thus far in camp and both have established working chemistry. He only has two touchdowns and 18 games played over his past two seasons as injury and poor quarterback play have combined to make for disappointing production. As such, Sutton's ADP has been mired in a slide but has stabilized following the Wilson trade. Playing in his age-27 season, the DLF WR3-valued (WR30) asset may be considered an upside value target for enterprising dynasty coaches but another lost or poor season will send him back to out-of-favor status.
Kansas City Chiefs WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) missed practice Tuesday, Aug. 16, due to a sore knee.
Fantasy Spin: When healthy, Smith-Schuster has a solid chance to out-produce his draft price as a WR3.
ESPN's Nick Wagoner doesn't believe it's outrageous to think that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk could lead the team in receptions and yards in 2022, barring another injury. He has been the team's most consistent offensive performer in training camp, and the rapport he built with quarterback Trey Lance in the offseason is a real thing. Aiyuk looked good last summer before tapering off at the start of the regular season when he suffered a hamstring injury late in the preseason. The 24-year-old finished with 56 catches (84 targets) for 826 yards and five touchdowns in 17 regular season games in his second NFL season. With Deebo Samuel and George Kittle still around, Aiyuk should be considered a WR3 with upside in fantasy football drafts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DB Ross Cockrell, TE Ben Beise, LB JoJo Ozougwu, WR Kameron Brown, and OL Curtis Blackwell were released Tuesday, Aug. 16.