Thu Aug 11 12:29pm ET
By BRIAN HALL
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks runs at the NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, right, signs the shirt of a fan after drills at the NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) For Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks, a decade of playing next to Anthony Barr made it easy to be on the same page with his close friend and former roommate - simply with a knowing glance.
Kendricks and Barr, first at UCLA and then with the Vikings, developed a sense of mutual understanding on the field that allowed them to rapidly adjust to what opposing offenses presented. Sometimes all it took was just ''the look.''
Now Kendricks, in his eighth season with Minnesota, glances at Barr's familiar purple No. 55 and instead sees former Green Bay standout Za'Darius Smith. In new coordinator Ed Donatell's 3-4 defense, former Arizona linebacker Jordan Hicks is now to Kendricks' side.
The familiarity for Kendricks is gone, but a new bond has been forming quickly with Hicks.
''Him being in the same position I've been in, us to have multiple looks, multiple defenses, I feel like we just kind of have a general understanding of football,'' Kendricks said. ''Shoot, we just get each other. It works out nice.''
A week after being a salary-cap cut by Arizona, Hicks signed a two-year, $10 million contract in March with the Vikings. Donatell was already set to implement the 3-4 after Minnesota had used a 4-3 defense for years under coach Mike Zimmer.
Hicks, who posted at least 100 tackles each season while starting every game the last three years for the Cardinals, was paired with Kendricks inside. Barr became a free agent and recently signed a one-year contract with Dallas.
''It's special because you don't always get that opportunity to play next to somebody that sees things the way you do and thinks the way you do and plays football at such a high level for that long,'' Hicks said. ''It's all jelling, and we're still working and we're still growing.''
The Vikings have enjoyed instant cohesiveness on the outside, too, with Smith and Danielle Hunter forming an immediate connection. The togetherness is even more vital inside, where Kendricks and Hicks have worked to quickly create that.
''To have Jordan Hicks come in here and fit in, to have Eric feel comfortable, that's special,'' Donatell said. ''With those two guys playing together, right now how they play off each other, I haven't been around much better. I've been as good but nothing better than that.''
Donatell said both Kendricks and Hicks, separately, approached him during the spring and mentioned how much they liked playing alongside the other.
''You can go out and recruit players, but it's important to bond them and they bonded themselves,'' Donatell said. ''What a special plus for us, for the coaches. We're happy with those two guys. It's really a neat relationship. It's almost like Za'Darius and Danielle: They're inseparable, and they didn't know each other five months ago.''
Kendricks and Hicks both pointed to their career similarities as reasons for their fast connection.
Both were drafted in 2015 - Kendricks in the second round out of UCLA and Hicks to Philadelphia in the third round out of Texas. Hicks played with Kendricks' brother, Mychal, with the Eagles. They both have led their teams in tackles. Kendricks has been a leader on and off the field during his time in Minnesota. Hicks was a captain the past two years for Arizona.
Only two players in the league registered at least 100 tackles and four sacks last season: Kendricks and Hicks.
''We're starting to figure out things on the fly,'' Kendricks said. ''Our offense shows us different looks. We may see different looks in two-minute, different situations, and we're starting to figure out how we're going to play those situations. A lot of communication between the two of us, but we're very much on the same page when it comes to everything.''
So much so that the nonverbal communication - like that enjoyed by Kendricks and Barr before - is also coming together. Kendricks and Hicks have even discussed ''the look.''
''We're getting there,'' Hicks said. ''We actually talked about `the look' the other day. Nonverbal communication where we just know what each other is thinking and reacting off of it. That's what we're practicing. That's the beauty in training camp and going against our offense that has so many different wrinkles to it. We've been able to have a lot of things that we've had to talk through and work through, and it's making us better.''
New England Patriots wide receivers Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, DeVante Parker and rookie Tyquan Thornton have regularly been taking first-team repetitions in training camp. The Patriots think Thornton has earned first-team reps and they want to see how he responds to the increased workload, according to a team source. If Thornton proves himself, the Pats will have too many high-priced receivers, especially since they're mostly expected to use two tight-end sets. A source close to the situation expects one of the team's veteran receivers to be traded or released, and that source thinks Agholor is the prime candidate. He's been productive through two weeks with the offensive schematic changes, but he might be the odd-man out. The best-case scenario for Agholor in fantasy and real life might be a trade out of New England.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky will start Saturday's preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, according to head coach Mike Tomlin. Although Trubisky hasn't really impressed all that much to this point in training camp practices, he remains the favorite to open the regular season as the starter under center for Pittsburgh. Mason Rudolph and rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett will follow Trubisky in the first preseason game this weekend. The 27-year-old Trubisky will likely play only the first quarter against Seattle. While he'll open the year as the Week 1 starter, what happens after that remains to be seen, and he's unlikely to have a very long leash if he's not playing well early on.
Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said he's "encouraged" by the idea of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa not playing in the team's preseason opener on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although the Dolphins have a new coaching staff and new offense under McDaniel this year, it's still pretty typical for NFL teams to rest most of their starters early in the preseason. With a top-two duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle now at his disposal in the passing attack, Tagovailoa is expected to take a step forward in Year 3. There's certainly QB1 upside with a game-changing player like Hill now in the fold, but until he proves it, Tagovailoa will be drafted as a QB2 with upside in most fantasy football leagues.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich said that quarterback Matt Ryan will play the first quarter of the team's preseason opener on Saturday against the Buffalo Bills. A lot of NFL teams are resting their starters in the first week of preseason action, but the Colts want to see Ryan operate the offense heading into his first season with the team. The 37-year-old has been impressive and decisive so far in training camp practices, and he should be an upgrade over what Carson Wentz gave them in 2021. It's good news for all of the Colts offensive weapons, perhaps most notably running back Nyheim Hines, who the Colts want to get more involved in the short passing game. The Colts will remain a run-first squad with running back Jonathan Taylor around, but Ryan should be a steady QB2 presence for fantasy managers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said that quarterback Tom Brady won't be back with the team until after the preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, which is on Aug. 20. Brady wasn't at training camp practice on Thursday for personal, non-football reasons. The 45-year-old GOAT will miss some valuable time to gain chemistry with the likes of receivers Russell Gage and veteran Julio Jones, but he'll probably be just fine in the long run. In his absence, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask and Ryan Griffin will get more work with the offense in practices and preseason games. Fantasy managers shouldn't be too concerned right now, as Brady is expected to be ready to go by Week 1 of the regular season.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that quarterback Josh Allen won't play in the team's preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Even with Ken Dorsey stepping in to replace Brian Daboll as the team's offensive coordinator in 2022, the Bills are comfortable sitting Allen out of the first preseason action. The 26-year-old finished as the QB1 in fantasy football last year by throwing for 4,407 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, adding 763 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 122 rushing attempts. As a result, he should be the first signal-caller to come off the board in the early rounds of your upcoming fantasy drafts.
New England Patriots running back James White announced his retirement from professional football on Thursday on his official Twitter account. White played in just three games in 2021 due to a hip injury that he was still attempting to come back from this summer. The 30-year-old former fourth-rounder will now hang up his cleats and will finish his eight-year career (all with the Patriots) with 381 catches (511 targets) for 3,278 yards and 25 touchdowns, adding 1,278 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 319 carries in 95 games. With White out of the picture in 2022, it will mean bigger roles for Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty Montgomery and rookie Pierre Strong Jr.
Detroit Lions rookie first-round wide receiver Jameson Williams (knee) will miss Week 1 of the regular season. The Lions aren't putting a public timetable on Williams' return. 'We're going to be very smart with him," general manager Brad Holmes said. "He's in a good place right now." The 21-year-old tore his ACL last December in college, and he won't be ready for the start of the regular season. There's also a chance he'll miss up to the first four games of the season if he remains on the Non-Football Injury list to open Week 1. Williams will cost a pretty penny in dynasty/keeper leagues, but he'll be nothing more than a late-round flier in redraft formats in 2022. Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark will be Detroit's top two pass-catchers for much of the year.
Miami Dolphins running back Chase Edmonds looks like the favorite to lead the backfield this season, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Edmonds has adapted well to the Dolphins' new offensive scheme, which is something that tailors well to his speed and explosiveness as a ball carrier. The backfield is crowded as of now, with Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel, as well as Myles Gaskin, who is on the roster bubble, in the mix. Still, Edmonds could return fantasy managers RB3/flex value as he should see a significant workload early on. If Mostert or Michel, who have missed their fair share of action in the past, miss any time this season, Edmonds could vault into RB2 territory.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard could have an increased role in his fourth season, as the team has made it known that they would like to get their dynamic playmaker more involved. The 25-year-old has been working in the offseason as a slot receiver, which would mean that he and Ezekiel Elliott could be on the field at the same time, something that we have not seen much of during his first three years with the team. With the Cowboy's wide receiver room more shallow than last season, it may be a necessity that Pollard takes on a bigger role in the passing game. "In the offseason, during the season, it's not going unnoticed. Guys are noticing the things that I can do with the ball to help the team, just knowing that I can contribute more and more to the team." As one of the most explosive weapons on the Dallas offense, a significant role as a receiver would mean some standalone value for Pollard as an RB3/ FLEX option. If his running mate misses any time, his fantasy value would skyrocket.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and the rest of the first-team offense are not expected to play in Thursday's preseason opener against the New York Giants, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN. Brian Hoyer and rookie Bailey Zappe will get some playing time with Jones not suiting up, so the two will need to battle to earn the backup job behind the former Alabama collegiate star. Zappe has been impressive during his first training camp with the team and has a good opportunity to show what he can do in a game situation. The fourth-round pick out of Western Kentucky is likely the best option for any preseason DFS tournaments
Chicago Bears wide receiver N'Keal Harry (ankle) will undergo tightrope surgery on Thursday after suffering a high ankle sprain and is expected to be held out of action for eight weeks. The 24-year-old was looking for a fresh start in Chicago after being acquired from New England, as the former first-round pick couldn't live up to expectations with his former team. Harry played three seasons with the Patriots, racking up just 57 receptions for 598 yards and four touchdowns. With a thin wide receiver room in Chicago, Harry likely could have earned some playing time as the depth chart seems to be wide open behind Darnell Mooney locked in as the No. 1 option. When he returns to action, the newly-acquired wideout will be competing with Byron Pringle, Velus Jones Jr., and Equanimeous St. Brown for targets, which will keep him off the fantasy radar for now.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff said that wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is his go-to receiver. "I'm looking for him when things break down, and I'm looking for him when we need a play. Right now, he's that guy," Goff said. In his rookie year in 2021, St. Brown emerged as the Lions best receiver, catching 90 of his 119 targets for 912 yards and five touchdowns in 17 games (nine starts). The 22-year-old should remain a big part of Detroit's offense this year, but there will be some more competition for targets, namely DJ Chark, who has looked good in training camp. Rookie first-rounder Jameson Williams (knee), might not be ready for the start of the year, but he'll eventually have a role as well. St. Brown should still have big games, but he might not be the target hog he was in 2021. Target him as a WR3 in fantasy football drafts.
Dynasty | There have been no substantial talks between the Vikings and Alexander Mattison in terms of a contract extension. Dynasty Analysis: Mattison has always fared very well as the backup to Dalvin Cook, but it seems Minnesota is unwilling to pay two different running backs big contracts. While Mattison wouldn't cost nearly as much as Cook, it would be easy to argue he'd be a better value. Regardless, it looks like Mattison may end up as a free agent at the end of the season and he'd be in line for a nice value increase should that come to fruition.
Dynasty | Damien Harris could be traded ahead of roster cuts, according to Sports Illustrated. Dynasty Analysis: Any ticket out of New England would be good for Harris, who is stuck in Patriot purgatory, sharing a backfield with the likes of Rhamondre Stevenson, James White, Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong, JJ Taylor, and Kevin Harris. There's simply no way the Pats can keep everyone in this group and it appears they've soured on Harris, our RB32. If Harris stays, expect his value to dip even further. Dynasty managers should be hoping for a deal.
Free-agent cornerback Deandre Baker worked out for the Cardinals on Wednesday. Baker was selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Giants and finished his rookie year with 61 total tackles (48 solo) and eight passes defensed. However, after he was charged with four counts of armed robbery in May 2020, New York opted to part ways with him. The charges were eventually dropped, and he went on to appear in 10 games for the Chiefs over the last two seasons before being released in August of 2022. Nonetheless, Baker has proven he has more than enough to play at the professional level. Yet, even if he ends up signing with the Cardinals, he may not receive enough playing time to become a viable IDP fantasy option.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Julio Jones has already established a rapport with Tom Brady. During Wednesday's joint practice session with the Miami Dolphins, the duo continued to look in sync, with Brady connecting with Jones on a well-placed deep ball. Fantasy managers were undoubtedly let down by the veteran wideout over the last few years. However, with arguably the greatest signal-caller ever targeting Jones throughout the season, he should have more than enough chances to get back on track, despite guys like Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Leonard Fournette looking to stay involved.
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris is rumored to be on the block. The Pats are reportedly taking calls, and it comes after the 25-year-old finished the 2021-22 campaign with 929 yards and 15 touchdowns off 202 attempts. If Harris does remain in New England, he's expected to share touches with Rhamondre Stevenson, which won't do his fantasy outlook any favors. However, if the Alabama alum gets traded, Stevenson's fantasy value should increase significantly, especially with James White (hip) still on the shelf.
Free-agent wide receiver Chris Lacy inked a deal with the Raiders on Wednesday. Lacy was introduced to the NFL after the Patriots signed him in 2018. After being waived, he went on to suit up for the Lions, where he appeared in eight unproductive games over two seasons. Since then, he has made stops in Dallas and Chicago. Nonetheless, it's unknown if the 26-year-old will be on the roster come Week 1. However, even if he is, he isn't expected to do much to benefit fantasy managers.
The Saints released running back Malcolm Brown on Wednesday, only a few weeks after inking a contract with the team. The 29-year-old played his first six years in the league with the Rams, finishing with 11 touchdowns during that span. However, after signing a one-year deal with Miami last offseason, he went on to play just seven games for the Dolphins before landing on injured reserve. Brown is a capable runner, so he may draw interest from other teams throughout the NFL. Still, even if he signs with another club this season, he's not expected to receive enough touches to make any noise on the fantasy end.