Mon Aug 8 2:57am ET
By MARK LONG
AP Pro Football Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Travis Etienne hadn't been tackled so violently since his final college game nearly 20 months ago.
He wanted it. He needed it. He enjoyed it.
The former Clemson standout and the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time leading rusher got leveled when Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson dialed up a lengthy stretch of live tackling during training camp Monday. Pederson's decision came three days after a lackluster performance against Las Vegas in the Hall of Fame game.
The Jaguars allowed 159 yards rushing - 4.8 yards a carry - in that 27-11 loss in Canton, Ohio. The meaningless exhibition seemed to have the attention of players and coaches when they returned to the practice field. Etienne welcomed it as much as anyone.
Safety Andre Cisco knocked Etienne off his feet on the opening play of the somewhat rare, hard-hitting session. Etienne easily could have stepped out of bounds, but the second-year pro who missed his entire rookie season following a foot injury cherished the contact as the final part of his yearlong comeback.
''It feels great to be back out there,'' Etienne said following practice. ''It's been a long time since I've played football. It reminded me quickly that it's a physical game. That's why we play. That's why we love it.''
Etienne, the 25th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot in Jacksonville's second preseason game last August and had season-ending surgery. He felt ''kind of lonely'' rehabbing by himself for much of the season but took the approach of ''falling in love with the mundane'' while pushing toward a full recovery.
''You have to fall in love with it to be great,'' he said. ''And I feel like every day I have to get better at something. If I keep stacking great days on top of each other, it's going to show. There's nothing more mundane than being (injured). I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.''
Although Etienne has been fully cleared to do anything and everything since organized team activities began in May, he hadn't taken part in any contact drills. Pederson even held him out of the preseason opener as a precaution. So Etienne figured he hadn't been waylaid like that since Clemson's 2020 season finale, a 49-28 loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.
Etienne was hit a few times during camp last year and even carried twice up the middle for 3 yards in two preseason games. But none of those tackles compared to the one Cisco delivered on an outside run Monday. Etienne popped up, smiled and ran back to the huddle - eager for another.
''I need that!'' he insisted. ''I haven't played in so long (that) I want to get tackled. I need to get tackled just to get my body back acclimated with that. I've just been at home, working out, chilling on the couch, stuff like that, so to come out here and get some bumps and bruises . I miss that contact. It may sound crazy, but I miss kind of being in those car crashes.''
Etienne was one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football history when the Jaguars chose him 24 picks after landing college teammate Trevor Lawrence. Etienne led the country with 55 runs of 20 or more yards between 2017 and 2020, rushing for 2,053 yards and 21 touchdowns on those big plays and averaging 37.3 yards a touch.
He finished his college career with 4,752 yards on the ground, ranking 28th in NCAA Division I history.
The Jaguars had hoped to use him as a matchup nightmare, a running back who could be effective out of the backfield, in the slot or from a wideout position. His NFL debut ended up getting delayed a year when he hurt his foot at New Orleans on Aug. 23, 2021.
He's back now and is expected to be an integral part of Jacksonville's rebuild.
''Honestly just glad to have him back,'' Lawrence said. ''He looks like he's in better shape than I thought he was our last year at Clemson. I mean, obviously he was great, played great, all that. He was fine. But I think his body looks great. He's running really well. He's picking up the offense, done a great job, and protections, all the all those things that we're asking him to do. He's done a great job.''
And he's ready for more.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield has the inside track on the starting job over Sam Darnold to open the 2022 regular season. Mayfield and Darnold opened training camp in an open competition and have been splitting first-team repetitions pretty much down the middle. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport says it's clear that it's Mayfield's job to lose. Darnold might be the more steady and safe option, but Mayfield has more ability and more "wow" plays. Mayfield should only gain more of an edge as he gets a better grasp of the team's playbook as well. The best-case scenario for the Panthers is if Mayfield wins the job outright. In the end, Carolina will be a defense-first team, and whoever wins the QB competition will be just a low-end QB2 for fantasy purposes.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk limped off the field at training camp practice on Monday with a trainer with an undisclosed injury. We'll get you more details when we know what is ailing Kirk. The 25-year-old didn't suit up for the Hall of Fame game last Thursday against the Las Vegas Raiders, and it remains to be seen if he'll play in the team's second preseason game this Friday against the Cleveland Browns. The Jags spent big on Kirk in the offseason to give second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence some more firepower. Consistency might be a problem for Kirk and the rest of Jacksonville's pass-catchers, though, even if Lawrence takes a step forward with new head coach Doug Pederson.
Philadelphia Eagles OT Le'Raven Clark (hamstring), DL Javon Hargrave (groin), CB Jimmy Moreland (ankle), SS Jaquiski Tartt (personal) and CB Kary Vincent Jr. (groin) were added to the injury report and did not practice Sunday, Aug. 7.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt was spotted doing 11-on-11 work during Sunday's practice. The veteran didn't participate in team drills over the last few days and recently requested a trade. However, with the Browns denying the demand, it appears Hunt has already raised the white flag. Although the 27-year-old is listed behind Nick Chubb on the depth chart, a spot he's very familiar with, he has historically been a relatively reliable PPR option due to his pass-catching ability. Still, he's dealt with injuries and off-the-field issues over the years, which remain concerns for fantasy managers heading into the 2022-23 campaign.
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll reported he expects everyone healthy to suit up for Thursday's preseason opener against the Patriots. Daboll hopes to expose his players to as many live reps as possible, allowing everyone to become familiar with the new coaching staff. Although it's unknown how much work guys like Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor, and Saquon Barkley, among others, will receive versus New England, it will offer a small glimpse of what's to come for fantasy managers heading into the regular season.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has been featured in different parts of the field throughout training camp. In an attempt to exploit opposing defenses this year, head coach Kevin O'Connell, who served as the Rams offensive coordinator last season, plans on utilizing Jefferson the same way Cooper Kupp was showcased in 2021-22. The 23-year-old has been a fantastic addition to fantasy rosters, accumulating 3,016 yards and 17 touchdowns off 196 catches since being drafted in 2020. Although Kupp should continue to be a reliable asset for managers in all formats, Jefferson's skill set could allow him to finish as the year's top fantasy wideout.
Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin isn't a lock to be the No. 1 option on the depth chart. With the Dolphins having a crowded backfield consisting of Salvon Ahmed, Sony Michel, Chase Edmonds, and Raheem Mostert, it's anyone's guess who has the edge during training camp, especially with head coach Mike McDaniel remaining non-committal to reporters. While Gaskin may end up as McDaniel's preferred runner, it's unlikely he'll be a week-to-week fantasy option this season. As a result, fantasy managers may want to avoid this situation altogether, although Gaskin, Edmonds, Mostert, and Michel could have some potent showings in 2022-23.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs isn't on the trade block, at least for now. After the 24-year-old was on the field for multiple series throughout the exhibition bout against the Jaguars, rumblings began to swirl about a potential move. However, head coach Josh McDaniels was quick to squash any rumors, indicating his preference to subject his players to "live hits" during the preseason, which can't be replicated at practice. Jacobs, whose fifth-year option was declined this offseason, had a down year running the ball in 2021, finishing with only 872 yards and nine touchdowns off 217 carries. Yet, he compiled a career-high 54 catches for 348 yards. While some fantasy managers expect the Alabama alum to bounce back this season, doing so may prove difficult with Kenyan Drake and Zamir White forecasted to also receive touches out of the backfield.
Seattle Seahawks CB Sidney Jones (concussion) remained sidelined at practice on Sunday, Aug. 7, due to a concussion.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt shocked many when he decided to request a trade from the organization. He started skipping team drills in camp while he seeks a new contract. The organization has responded by fining Hunt and declining his request for a trade. This ultimately might backfire on Hunt since the Browns do have depth at the running back position. Nick Chubb is a stud and D'Ernest Johnson has proven himself to be a capable option. The Browns would likely move Hunt if the team received real assets in return. However, it seems unlikely that the Browns are going to move Hunt just because he requested a new deal.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been on the trade block all offseason long. Despite that, there doesn't appear to be a clear trade partner for the veteran quarterback. At this point, it sounds like the team is fine with waiting until cutdown day to make a final decision on Garoppolo. There isn't much of a market for Garoppolo, so the team is waiting to see if another quarterback suffers an injury in camp. It's also worth noting that Garoppolo is working his way back from injury, so that could be part of the reason his trade market is slow. Regardless, fantasy managers shouldn't expect this situation to be resolved anytime soon.
Free-agent DBs Darryl Roberts (Commanders), Daryl Worley (Ravens) and Ken Crawley (Saints) worked out for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Aug. 7.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. could very well move up the depth chart quickly during training camp. The rookie wideout has reportedly hit the ground running in Chicago. The Bears took Jones in the third round, so clearly they believe in his ability on the field. It's also worth noting that Byron Pringle (quad) and N'Keal Harry (ankle) are sidelined right now. The Bears have little reliable depth, so they might be forced to use Jones to begin the season. He'll be a possible late-round target on draft day.
Chicago Bears wide receiver N'Keal Harry (ankle) was forced to exit Saturday's practice due to an ankle injury. It has now been revealed that Harry suffered a high-ankle sprain, which is not good news. The former first round pick was already having to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. There is a good chance he misses a few weeks from this injury. The loss of Harry should mean more snaps for players such as Velus Jones Jr. and Dazz Newsome. This is a tough blow to a player who has struggled to make a name for himself in the league. Hopefully, Harry won't miss too much time, but it'll likely mean more looks for some younger players.
Dynasty | With no bell-cow running backs on the roster, there's fierce competition between all of them for the Dolphins starting role. Dynasty Analysis: The Dolphins currently roster Myles Gaskin, Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel and Salvon Ahmed so there's no shortage of noteworthy backs competing for the top spot. Gaskin and Ahmed have history with the team and are likely on the outside looking in due to prior experience. Newcomer Chase Edmonds is/was the favorite to receive the bulk of the regular-season work but fellow new back Raheem Mostert is said to be looking explosive in camp. It's anyone's guess who will emerge on top early in September but our money remains on a combination of Edmonds and Mostert leading the way in a rotation. Edmonds is found as DLF's RB35 while Mostert comes in at RB65.
Atlanta Falcons DT Vincent Taylor (Achilles) was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Sunday, Aug. 7, with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.
Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt participated in team drills on Sunday, Aug. 7, after not doing so in previous practices because of his desire for a new contract or trade.
Fantasy Spin: Despite Hunt's demands, the Browns reportedly won't oblige, and his participation in practice on Sunday may mean he's accepted that fact. This situation still bears monitoring, but Hunt will be a borderline RB2 in a contract year.
Dynasty | Bears receiver N'Keal Harry suffered what appeared to be a significant ankle injury during practice Dynasty Analysis: After washing out in New England, Harry caught in with the receiver-needy Bears in an attempt to get a fresh start. No word yet on the severity as the team is awaiting further evaluation and results but best case scenario would seem to suggest at least a multiple week injury. We'll hope for the best for Harry and his loss would be another blow to an already suspect receiving corps. in the Windy City. Harry has fallen from the dynasty radar and remains unranked on DLF's receiver rankings.
Dynasty | No signing is imminent for free agent receiver Odell Beckham Dynasty Analysis: Expected to miss at least the first half of the 2022 regular season, Beckham will continue to rehab while waiting for his next best opportunity to present itself. Now in his age-30 season, OBJ would seem to be a fit for the Rams once again though the Packers are also said to be interested. As DLF's WR64, he's a dynasty "hold" while we wait and see where the mercurial receiver ultimately ends up. In any case, he's best rostered by competitive dynasty teams looking for late-season magic due to bye weeks or injury.
Dynasty | Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs won't be traded Dynasty Analysis: Twitter was all ablaze after Jacobs garnered seven touches in the team's pre-season game believing the veteran was on the trade block or behind in the running back competition. In the end, it was just new head coach Josh McDaniels trying to get his backs 'live' hits that can't be reproduced in training camp. The team also declined Jacobs' fifth-year option, adding further fuel to the fire that he could be moved. Jacobs' dynasty value continues to fall, now found as DLF's RB23, but he's still expected to carry a majority of the load for the Raiders in 2022 before becoming a free agent in 2023. As a back end RB2, there's value present for enterprising dynasty coaches with the intestinal fortitude of risk-on assets.