Mon Jul 22 11:20am ET
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
Players: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Benjamin Watson, Rob Gronkowski, Nick Foles, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Odell Beckham Jr., Jameis Winston, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Sam Darnold
In this Jan. 30, 2019 file photo New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski speaks with members of the media during a news conference ahead of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta. As teams settle in at sweltering training camps this week, playbooks are distributed (digitally, of course), rookies and other youngsters try to catch the eye of decision makers, and fans wonder what their teams will look like in early September. And beyond. Except, perhaps, in New England. Were not likely to see much of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady until opening day. We wont see any of his buddy and standout tight end, Rob Gronkowski, whose battered body caused him to retire. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)
In this June 4, 2019, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) talks with coach Freddie Kitchens at the team's NFL football training facility in Berea, Ohio. Of all the new hires, Kitchens might be under the most pressure considering the ramped-up expectations in Cleveland--and the potential for major disruptions. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
In this June 11, 2019, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles (7) looks to hand off the ball to a running back during the NFL football team's practice in Jacksonville, Fla. Foles was perfect for Philadelphias offense, and the Jaguars want to be more of a running team. There is something special about Foles, though, so dont doubt him. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
In this Sept. 23, 2018, file photo, Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas, left, reaches for a pass he intercepted that was intended for Dallas Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin, right, during the second half of an NFL football game in Seattle. The pick was Thomas' second of the game. Thomas, whom Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has coveted for years, should become a leader in the Cowboys' secondary and locker room, and will never give less than his all. (AP Photo/John Froschauer, File)
In this Jan. 20, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) calls a play during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo. Were not likely to see much of Brady until opening day. We wont see any of his buddy and standout tight end, Rob Gronkowski, whose battered body caused him to retire. Its a big blow for the 42-year-old Brady, who somehow manages to overcome such obstacles. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
Until the NFL shortens its preseason, there will be one goal in late July and early August.
Unfortunately, nearly every team sustains significant injuries, some of which can be devastating for the regular season. Coaches and general managers will curse under their breath when they lose a key regular, then claim the ''next man up'' policy will take care of the problem.
Sometimes, they are right. Often, the swearing becomes more intense and louder.
As teams settle in at sweltering training camps this week, playbooks are distributed (digitally, of course), rookies and other youngsters try to catch the eye of decision makers, and fans wonder what their teams will look like in early September. And beyond.
Except, perhaps, in New England.
Some things to keep an eye on until the Packers and Bears kick off on Sept. 5 to open the league's 100th season.
BRADY, YES; GRONK, NO
We're not likely to see much of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady until opening day. We won't see any of his buddy and standout tight end, Rob Gronkowski, whose battered body caused him to retire.
It's a big blow for the soon-to-be 42-year-old Brady, who somehow manages to overcome such obstacles.
''Yeah, it's the first time in a long time and he was such a great player for our team,'' Brady says of Gronk. ''I think like any season, things are different and we're going to have to adjust differently and teams are going to play us differently without him. We've seen it even when he's been on the team.
''That's got to be a position of strength even if it's not one player but multiple players doing different roles. There were times in my career before that where we had similar approaches. No one's going to make any excuses for our offense, we're going to do everything we can to be the best we can be, score every time we touch the ball, and the tight end position's a big part of our offense and those guys are going to have to do a great job for us.''
Those guys include veteran Ben Watson, who also was ready for retirement before opting to come back to New England. But Gronk's absence is the most critical difference for last season's champions.
When the spinning stopped, new head coaches landed in Tampa, Miami, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Arizona, Denver, and New Jersey.
Bruce Arians, Buccaneers - One of two hires with previous head coaching experience (Adam Gase is the other), Arians is charged with developing the talent and instilling maturity in Jameis Winston. The quarterback never has lived up to his top overall draft pick status, but if anyone can push Winston toward elite status, it is QB whisperer Arians.
Brian Flores, Dolphins - For a while, it looked as if Miami was ready to tank this season as it reorganizes from top to bottom. But this is not the worst roster in the league. Still, Flores has to prove a Belichick protege can succeed as a head coach.
Matt LaFleur, Packers - Aaron Rodgers isn't the easiest superstar passer to work with, so keep an eye on the transition in Cheesehead Land. The offense should be pretty good if A-Rod is healthy, so the biggest chore is upgrading a previously unreliable defense.
Zac Taylor, Bengals - Good luck, Zac. The Bengals have the weakest talent group in the AFC North, with even their stars such as A.J. Green and Geno Atkins carrying big question marks. Of course, if Taylor ever wins one postseason game, he will have outdone Marvin Lewis.
Freddie Kitchens, Browns - The idea here is that Kitchens, QB Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will blend their skills and personalities to create a dynamic offense. And, yes, a winner on the shores of Lake Erie. Of all the new hires, Kitchens might be under the most pressure considering the ramped-up expectations in Cleveland - and the potential for major disruptions.
Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals - Perhaps the strangest hire of this group because Kingsbury had a mediocre record at Texas Tech and was fired. But he specializes in the kind of offense top draftee Kyler Murray favors, and he is innovative. Kingsbury also is stuck with a weak roster.
Vic Fangio, Broncos - A career assistant who has built strong defenses for years - including in Chicago last season - Fangio is the latest sideline boss hired by John Elway. He has some studs on D with Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Chubb, so improvement is possible. Can the offense, with Joe Flacco behind center, do the same?
Adam Gase, Jets - Developing Sam Darnold into the franchise QB the Jets believe he will become is Gase's responsibility. While there's been substantial turmoil in New York's front office, the roster has been upgraded with the likes of RB Le'Veon Bell and LB C.J. Mosley. That gives Gase a chance to do what predecessor Todd Bowles could not: make the playoffs.
WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?
New addresses for veterans now with the Jets, Browns, Raiders, Broncos and Jaguars on offense could have huge impacts. Defensively, the Cowboys, Chiefs, Cardinals, Rams and Redskins made major moves.
Le'Veon Bell, Jets - Bell will get plenty of work as a runner and receiver, and is critical to turning Darnold into a dangerous quarterback - and the Jets into a contender.
Odell Beckham Jr., Browns - If the histrionics and selfish attitude disappear, Beckham could link with Mayfield for the best pass-catch combination in football.
Antonio Brown, Raiders - If the histrionics and selfish attitude disappear, Brown might make Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock look very wise with this trade.
Joe Flacco, Broncos - Flacco got hurt and lost his job to Lamar Jackson last year; he would have lost it eventually anyway. So Flacco gets a fresh start in the Rockies, but his receiving group is very questionable.
Nick Foles, Jaguars - The most intriguing move of the offseason. Foles was perfect for Philadelphia's offense, and the Jaguars want to be more of a running team. There is something special about Foles, though, so don't doubt him.
Earl Thomas, Ravens - Jerry Jones coveted this premier safety for years and didn't get him for Cowboys. Baltimore gets a somewhat battered player who should become a leader in the secondary and locker room, and will never give less than his all.
Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu, Chiefs - Had the Chiefs boasted any sort of defense in '18, they probably would be NFL champions. Now, they can boast a little bit, with Clark supplying a pass rush and Mathieu playmaking everywhere.
Terrell Suggs, Cardinals - This is likely Suggs' last stop in a Hall of Fame-caliber career. He might get a lot of sacks, but the end game is the Cardinals won't contend even if he does dominate blockers.
Eric Weddle, Rams - Savvy and versatile, though a bit beyond his prime, Weddle joins an already stout defense that lost an important cog in safety Lamarcus Joyner.
Landon Collins, Redskins - It was bad enough the Giants allowed their best defender to leave in free agency. Then he goes to a division rival, where he immediately is a huge upgrade. Collins should be very active in Washington - especially when the Giants are the opponent.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown has had communication 'with a few teams that are interested,' according to agent Drew Rosenhaus Saturday, Sept. 21. Rosenhaus adds those teams 'want information regarding his legal situation and the NFL investigation.' A deal isn't likely to happen until the league's investigation is resolved, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
New England Patriots S Nate Ebner (groin) was added to the injury report Saturday, Sept. 21, and is considered questionable for Sunday.
Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson won't be traded, according to general manager Steve Keim Friday, Sept. 20. 'We're not trading Pat and that's something we've been very consistent with, from (team President) Michael (Bidwill) to myself to coach (Kliff Kingsbury),' Keim said. 'When you look at the kind of player Pat is, and I think arguably the best corner in the National Football League, all you have to do is say, 'Does this make your team better or worse?' And I think to lose someone like Pat Peterson would make us worse.' Peterson remains under contract with the Cardinals through the end of next season when he'll carry a $13.2 million cap hit.
Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (concussion) could be 'weeks' away from a return to the field, according to a source Saturday, Sept. 21. Reed hasn't played yet this season and has already been ruled out for Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears.
Fantasy Spin: Reed is free to drop in all formats with fantasy managers best off streaming the position based on weekly matchups.
Detroit Lions DE Da'Shawn Hand (elbow) was ruled out for Week 3 Saturday, Sept. 21. Hand had been considered questionable.
Detroit Lions WR Marvin Hall was added to the active roster from the practice squad Saturday, Sept. 21. WR Chris Lacy was released from the active roster and DE Jonathan Wynn was signed to the practice squad.
Washington Redskins DL Jonathan Allen (knee), CB Fabian Moreau (ankle), OT Morgan Moses (knee), S Montae Nicholson (foot) and WR Robert Davis (knee) were all full participants in practice Saturday, Sept. 21. CB Quinton Dunbar (knee), QB Colt McCoy (fibula) and LB Cassanova McKinzy (hip) didn't participate. Allen and Dunbar are considered questionable for Monday against the Chicago Bears. McCoy and McKinzy have been ruled out.
Seattle Seahawks DE Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) will make his season debut Sunday, Sept. 22, against the New Orleans Saints. 'Ziggy's ready to play,' Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Friday, Sept. 20. 'Ready to play football. We're excited to see that. It has been a really good process to get him to this where he's in good shape too. He's worked hard and long, so he's in better shape than sometimes when a guy is just coming back. We'll be able to get him a bunch of plays here in this game, and we're looking forward to his participation with us.'
Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (concussion) was ruled out for Week 3 Saturday, Sept. 21. He'll miss Washington's game against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.
Fantasy Spin: Backup Vernon Davis has seven catches for 88 yards and a touchdown through two games in place of Reed this season. Fantasy managers should be moving on from Reed at this point with Davis just one of the viable replacements available on the waiver wire.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has seen his production capped by Kirk Cousins' rough start, though he secured 5-of-8 targets for 75 yards in Week 2. He has a golden opportunity to break out in Week 3's tilt as the Vikings will face the Raiders and their tissue-soft secondary at home. Thielen lines up everywhere, but he should see Daryl Worley (4.64 40-yard dash) the most in coverage on Sunday. Advantage - Adam Thielen. The Vikings are big favorites (-8.5), which will likely lead to featuring Dalvin Cook and the rushing attack. However, Thielen should still be started as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 as his 26% target share leads the team and he should be able to torch the Raiders even on limited opportunities. He's also a sneaky tournament play in daily formats as he could go under-owned and has a high ceiling.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs is coming off a Week 2 performance where he caught just 1-of-7 targets, but the catch resulted in a 49-yard touchdown that saved his fantasy day. He had another touchdown called back in the contest. Diggs has been a victim of Cousins' erratic play and low passing volume, but his Week 3 matchup against the Oakland Raiders is enticing. He'll square off against Gareon Conley and the rest of the Oakland defensive backfield, a group that has gotten absolutely ripped by receivers this season. They've allowed a combined 104.9 PPR points to wide receivers through Week 2 (vs. DEN, vs. KC). Start Diggs as a mid-range WR2 in this beatable matchup. His high target share in this offense gives him a decent floor and a high ceiling, which also puts him in play for daily tournaments as a reduced-ownership play.
Chicago Bears DT Bilal Nichols (hand) did not participate in practice Saturday, Sept. 21 and has been ruled out for the team's Week 3 game Monday, Sept. 23. OG Kyle Long (hip) also did not practice Saturday and is listed as questionable. TE Trey Burton (groin), S Eddie Jackson (shoulder) and PK Eddy Pineiro (knee) were limited as are listed as questionable. DT Eddie Goldman (oblique) fully participated in practice and was removed from the Week 3 injury report.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) attracted interest from the Seattle Seahawks after his release from the Oakland Raiders, but that no longer appears to be the case after he was released Friday, Sept. 20, by the New England Patriots. 'We're pretty well set (at wide receiver) right now,' Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said when asked about Brown at a Friday news conference. 'We kind of know where we're going with that.'
Fantasy Spin: With the issues surrounding Brown morphing from bizarre to decidedly more serious, don't expect to see him in the league for the rest of the season.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is leading the league in rushing through two weeks, carrying 41 times for 265 yards (6.5 YPC) and three touchdowns. His 20.5 attempts/game only trails Marlon Mack, and his three runs of 20 or more yards also lead the NFL. Minnesota has run the highest percentage of run plays in the NFL and that is unlikely to change this week as they are 8.5-point favorites at home. The Oakland Raiders have only allowed 98 rushing yards (vs. DEN) and 31 rushing yards (vs. KC) through Week 2, but they haven't faced a running back like Dalvin Cook and the likelihood of seeing 20+ touches yet again pushes him way up the rankings. Consider "Chef" Dalvin a top-tier RB1 in this delicious matchup at home.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson had a huge game versus the Oakland Raiders in Week 2. He caught all six of his targets for 172 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. Robinson was one of the most popular pickups throughout the week, but fantasy owners should get ready for disappointment. Robinson will once again be involved in the offense, but Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman will see targets as well. It was rare that Robinson caught all of his targets, and one of them being a 44 yard touchdown due to blown coverage. The Baltimore Ravens secondary isn't much better, but fantasy owners shouldn't expect the same result twice. Robinson is someone to be looked at as a shaky WR2 or a reliable WR3 for Week 3.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce came to play in the Week 2 victory over the Oakland Raiders. Kelce caught seven of his nine targets for 107 yards and one touchdown. The Chiefs offense doesn't seem to ever slow down and that should be the case again in Week 3. The Baltimore Ravens Defense is coming off a game where they gave up 349 passing yards to rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. Earl Thomas should be able to slow down Kelce somewhat, but fantasy owners should expect a TE1 type of performance from him once again.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman was able to make some noise for the team in the victory over the Oakland Raiders in Week 2. Hardman caught four passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in that contest. Tyreek Hill (shoulder) remains sidelined, so Hardman will continue to have decent fantasy value. Demarcus Robinson outplayed Hardman last week, but who knows if that will happen again. The Baltimore Ravens secondary is shaky, so the Chiefs should have no issues on offense. Hardman has WR2 upside, but at worst he's a solid WR3 for Week 3 against Baltimore.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins saw a team-high 13 targets in the victory over the Oakland Raiders in Week 2. However, Watkins hauled in just six of those balls for 49 yards and didn't find the end zone. It was a disappointing game for fantasy owners as Watkins was expected to be much better with Tyreek Hill (shoulder) sidelined. Watkins will get a chance to rebound here against a Baltimore Ravens Defense in Week 3. The same defense that just got carved up by rookie quarterback Kyler Murray last week for 349 passing yards. Fantasy owners can hope that Watkins will fulfill his WR1 potential in Week 3.
Chicago Bears WR Cordarrelle Patterson has a fan in Bears head coach Matt Nagy, who is trying to find the best way to utilize Patterson's speed and play-making ability on offense. 'Now what he's morphed into as a player throughout his (NFL) career, it's pretty unique,' Nagy said. 'As a play-caller it allowed you to be flexible with what you can do. You saw (against the Broncos) we were able to get him on the edge. He's a big dude that's flying around there with a lot of speed.'
Fantasy Spin: Courtesy of a big 46-yard run in Week 2, Patterson only has 51 yards on four touches, including a 3-yard reception, this season, meaning he's most likely to play the role of fantasy vulture -- as he did a season ago in New England -- stealing valuable touches and points from the rest of the Bears' already fringe fantasy cast.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy should be looking at a heavier workload for Sunday's Week 3 contest versus the Baltimore Ravens. Lead back Damien Williams (knee) has already been ruled out for this one. McCoy has been battling an ankle issue, so the Chiefs will be cautious about that. Darwin Thompson is going to see some snaps as well, so McCoy isn't overloaded. McCoy is a low-end RB2 for Week 3, but he could have more upside. It all depends on how McCoy's ankle is feeling on Sunday.