April 28, 2017

The Long View: Bush and Hawk Get Cut

The Green Bay Packers cut linebacker A.J. Hawk on Wednesday, the same day the Detroit Lions said goodbye to running back Reggie Bush. If this is the end for them it’s fitting that they go out together because they came into the league together, burdened with huge expectations.

Did they meet them?

Bush, a Heisman trophy winner at Southern Cal, was taken by the New Orleans Saints with the second overall pick in the 2006 draft. Hawk went to the Packers three picks later, fifth overall.

When a player is picked in the first round they’re expected to be a Pro Bowler. When they’re taken in the top five the hope, and the hype, is that they’ll end up in the Hall of Fame. Bush and Hawk have zero Pro Bowls between them and neither will make the Hall of Fame.

But are they busts?

Bush, who has been a hybrid in the NFL playing running back, receiver and returning kicks, accumulated 1,326 all-purpose yards and nine total touchdowns his rookie year and helped the Saints reach the NFC title game for the first time in franchise history (they lost to the Bears.)

Bush, despite battling injuries, contributed more than 1,000 yards in total offense in each of the next two seasons for the Saints (including three punt return TDs in 2008) and was a vital contributor in 2009 when the Saints advanced to their first and only Super Bowl, pulling off a huge upset of the Indianapolis Colts.

In 2011 Bush went to the Miami Dolphins and did something many thought he could not, rush for a thousand yards, 1,086 to be exact while also catching 43 passes for 296 yards and seven total touchdowns, numbers that he almost duplicated the next season in Miami.

Bush’s first year with Detroit in 2013 was the best of his career, statistically, with 1,512 yards from scrimmage and seven scores. This past season Bush appeared in just 11 games for Detroit with 550 total yards.

On draft day nine years ago if you had a crystal ball and saw that Reggie Bush would never win a rushing title, never make a Pro Bowl and play for three different teams you might have said he was going to be a disappointment.

But what if you looked into that very same mystical forecaster and saw that Bush would last nine seasons in a league when most players (especially small running backs) don’t last half that? And what if you were also told Bush would help a moribund franchise play in two conference title games and win one Super Bowl?

A.J. Hawk joined the Packers in 2006 and started all 16 games with 82 tackles, a number that he would never reach again.

But there are other numbers. Aaron James Hawk appeared in every game his rookie year and would do that again every year of his career except 2011 when he missed a grand total of two games.

Hawk was a starting linebacker in 136 of the 142 regular season games the Packers have played since 2006. He never had fewer than 53 tackles in a season, compiled nine career regular season interceptions and 19 sacks.

With Hawk, the Packers had the league’s second best defense in 2009 and fifth best in 2010, the year Hawk helped Green Bay win a Super Bowl, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Let’s jump in the wayback machine and break out that crystal ball again. No Pro Bowls for Hawk, never led the league in tackles, didn’t create a lot of turnovers…but nine years as a starter means something. It means a lot of things.

If you’re still not impressed with Hawk or Bush we understand.   If you’ve read this far you’re obviously the demanding type and we respect that.

So let’s see how Reggie Bush and A.J. Hawk measure up with other first rounders from 2006.

The first overall pick that year was defensive end Mario Williams who went to the Houston Texans. Williams played in two Pro Bowls for the Texans and two more since joining Buffalo in 2012 including the last two seasons and appears to still be going strong.

The third overall pick was quarterback Vince Young who went to the Titans. He was the offensive rookie of the year and appeared in two Pro Bowls. But his career came to an end with the Eagles in 2011.

Offensive Tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson went fourth overall to the Jets. He has made three Pro Bowls and is still going. Other future Pro Bowlers in the 2006 first round were Vernon Davis, Jay Cutler, Haloti Ngata, Chad Greenway, Antonio Cromartie, Tamba Hali, Davin Joseph, Jonathan Joseph, DeAngelo Williams, Marcedes Williams, Nick Mangold and Joseph Addai.

They all made at least one Pro Bowl but we confess there are a few in that group we’ve never heard of. And more importantly, perhaps, which one of those would you have rather had than Hawk or Bush? Ngata and Mangold almost certainly. The others spark a good debate.

The last player taken in the first round of 2006 was defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka who went to the Giants. Like Bush and Hawk, Kiwanuka was released this week. And like Bush and Hawk, Kiwanuka has a Super Bowl ring. Two of them.

Bush and Hawk might have a kindred spirit in Keith Van Horne, the All-American offensive lineman from Southern Cal who was taken by the Chicago Bears with the 11th overall pick in 1981. Chicagoans expected Van Horne to be a stud, a killer, an All-Pro, a legend.

He wasn’t. He was, however, a very solid football player, starting 169 games from 1981 until 1993. The Bears had great teams with Van Horne, making the playoffs seven times and winning one Super Bowl. There may have been other right tackles the Bears could have plugged in and had the same success. But the point is they didn’t need to look for another tackle because they had a good one.

Van Horne, Bush and Hawk are on the football’s Mount Rushmore of “take the long view.” All first round picks are expected to be great. Everyone wants a Lawrence Taylor, Peyton Manning, Patrick Peterson or J.J. Watt. But just because a first rounder doesn’t become a star doesn’t mean he was a bad pick. We all want winners, we all want stars and we all want it now. But patience can pay off. Availability, durability and determination cannot be measured at the combine.

Or maybe they can be and that’s really why Reggie Bush and A.J. Hawk were taken so high, and lasted so long.

The future…what can you do with it?

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: QB Kevin Kolb returned last week and the Cardinals won, but Kolb still didn’t play all that well. He was constantly throwing passes into the ground…..RB Beanie Wells is battling knee, thumb and hamstring injuries which has limited his practice time this week, but he still should play versus the 49ers on Sunday.

Atlanta Falcons: QB Matt Ryan has just not been able to take that next step this season. For the Falcons to advance deep into the playoffs, they will need him to do so or they will have no chance of beating the Packers or Saints…..RB Michael Turner is dealing with a groin injury that certainly seemed to slow him down last week, but the Texans’ defense may also have had something to do with his performance. This week he gets the Panthers, a much better matchup.

Baltimore Ravens: Some consider the Ravens to be the best team in the AFC, but I’m just not feeling it. I’m not sure I trust QB Joe Flacco to raise his game to an elite level when it matters. Even though the Ravens beat the Steelers twice, I still think the Steelers may be the best overall team…..LB Ray Lewis still isn’t practicing due to turf toe and is unlikely to play once again on Sunday.

Buffalo Bills: The injuries just keep coming for Buffalo as TE Scott Chandler won’t play this week due to an ankle injury and K Rian Lindell was officially placed on IR, ending his season…..LB Nick Barnett has had a very good first season for the Bills, already racking up 97 tackles. He would seem to be a must play in IDP leagues.

Carolina Panthers: WR Steve Smith’s production has been down of late even though the Panthers running game has picked up. Smith could certainly use some help to take the defense’s attention off of him. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give QB Cam Newton another target to throw to, not to mention Smith is getting up there in age and could see a drop off in his numbers at any time.

Chicago Bears: Things just keep getting worse and worse for the Bears. First they lose QB Jay Cutler with a thumb injury, now they may have lost RB Matt Forte with a knee injury…..What makes the Forte injury even more interesting is that this is the last year of his contract as he and the Bears have been at odds all season long on an extension. It would seem business wise that it would be a good decision for Forte not to rush himself back, making sure he’s 100% healthy next season.

Cincinnati Bengals: It seems the sand may be running out in the hourglass for the Bengals as they were wrecked last week by Pittsburgh. They’re going to be a good team, but they still need time…..RB Cedric Benson is dealing with a foot injury that caused him to miss practice Thursday. He could still play though as he missed practice last Thursday as well.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are going to have to make a decision this off-season. Do they believe in QB Colt McCoy, or do they draft a QB in the first round of April’s draft? They should have a top ten pick and could select one of the more highly rated quarterbacks that will be available. Of course they still need WRs and may need a RB also if Peyton Hillis leaves. Yeah, they don’t have many playmakers on this team.

Dallas Cowboys: Head coach Jason Garrett has been lit up this week for “icing” his own kicker. That isn’t actually what happened. You can clearly see special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and kicker coach Chris Boniol ask Garrett to call timeout…..What Garrett should be taking criticism for was not calling a timeout after WR Dez Bryant caught the pass at the Cardinals 32-yard line with 26 seconds left. Dallas had two TOs left and should have used one there so they could run a couple more plays to get in better FG range. It wasn’t like K Dan Bailey was having a great day. He missed a FG earlier in the game from 50+ and banked another one off the goalpost, not to mention the league percentage on 50+ yard FGs is 50.2. This is the reason why it’s extremely bewildering that Garrett keeps insisting that he didn’t make an error. Garrett has cost the Cowboys two games this season with conservative play calling (New England). If they miss the playoffs, the blame should fall squarely on him…..The good news is that WR Miles Austin should return this week as should FB Tony Fiammetta.

Denver Broncos: It is hard not to be a believer in QB Tim Tebow after last week’s performance. I know it came against a terrible secondary in Minnesota, but still this was the first game that Tebow had to win with his arm and not his legs…..The Broncos have to be considered the favorite to win the AFC West. Scary I know, but I still think they are one-and-done as they will most likely play Pittsburgh or Baltimore in the 1st round.

Detroit Lions: Head coach Jim Schwartz has done a great job of turning around the Lions, but he needs to get control of his team. They make way too many personal foul penalties and are playing way out of control which may be costing them games as well as yardage…..RB Kevin Smith is still being hampered by an ankle injury and is having a difficult time finishing games. He also hasn’t practiced this week which could lead to RB Maurice Morris having a bigger role this week.

Green Bay Packers: That’s 18 straight wins now for the Packers if you count the playoffs. The only team that I believe can beat them would be the Saints in a shootout. It might just come down to which team had the ball last or who had to kick a FG instead of a TD in a cold weather playoff game in Green Bay that hindered the passing attack (think Brett Favre versus the Giants when the G-Men last won the Super Bowl – it was close to zero degrees that night).

Houston Texans: The Texans just keep finding ways to win even without their best players. WR Andre Johnson’s return to the lineup was short-lived as his hamstring acted up once again and he had to leave the game last week. He has already been labeled as out for this week’s game. The Texans may want to keep him out multiple weeks to get him as healthy as they possibly can for the playoffs…..Another player who is really banged up is LB Brian Cushing who is dealing with injuries to various parts of his body. He’s not going to miss any game time, but certainly won’t be anywhere near full strength either.

Indianapolis Colts: I know the final numbers for QB Dan Orlovsky looked good, but keep in mind a good percentage of those numbers came when the game was out of hand and basically over…..The Colts have finally admitted that it is unlikely QB Peyton Manning returns this season. It seems we have known that for months, yet they still haven’t placed him on IR. It should be very interesting in early March when Manning is due a $28 million bonus. It will be decision time!

Jacksonville Jaguars: It is hard to believe that RB Maurice Jones-Drew leads the league in rushing on a team with virtually no passing game. QB Blaine Gabbert had what may be his best game of the season Monday night versus the Chargers yet was only 19 of 33 for 195 yards and two scores. That is hardly lighting up the scoreboard, but every journey starts with a first step. Hopefully, that’s what this is for the Jaguars and Gabbert.

Kansas City Chiefs: So much for QB Kyle Orton. He comes in for one play, a flea flicker, gets hit and dislocates a finger on his throwing hand. Now he is questionable at best to play this week…..My first question would be if Orton was mentally prepared enough to come in the game in the first half, why didn’t he start? Were the Chiefs really thinking Tyler Palko was going to improve?

Miami Dolphins: RB Daniel Thomas has played better of late, but RB Reggie Bush has so far proven that he can be an every down back. He’s not posting out of this world numbers, but they are solid numbers week in and week out…..LB Kevin Burnett is starting to justify his contract of late as his play has really picked up the past couple of weeks…..The Dolphins are playing great and are certainly one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but this still may not be enough to save Tony Sparano’s head coaching job.

Minnesota Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson is questionable to play Sunday versus Detroit, but Peterson came out Friday and said he is still having a difficult time cutting on that ankle. Assuming that’s true, I wouldn’t let Peterson play. He is your franchise player and you don’t need to be risking his health in a meaningless game…..WR Percy Harvin has picked up the offense with the absence of Peterson, showing why many people believe he is a threat to score anywhere on the field when he has his hands on the ball. He did however tear a ligament in his finger. He’ll play Sunday but could have a problem catching the ball.

New England Patriots: With the Patriots’ schedule for the remainder of the season, I still believe they end up with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs…..We’ve heard a lot of news this week concerning the health of WR Wes Welker as he is dealing with knee and wrist issues. He may be banged up, but it won’t keep him from any game action.

New Orleans Saints: You have to be rooting right now for a Saints-Packers NFC Championship game. If the weather was decent in Green Bay (big if), that could be a game for the ages. It would remind me of the Cowboys versus 49ers in the 90s…..RB Mark Ingram will miss this week’s game with turf toe. This guy just can’t stay healthy. What is even more annoying is that he comes off of two productive weeks where he was finally starting to show why the Saints drafted him so early.

New York Giants: You have to admire the bravado of S Antrel Rolle. After the Giants have lost four straight games, given up close to 80 points and 1,000 yards in the past two games, he still comes out and states the Giants have a great defense.  Yeah, not so much Antrel…..RB Ahmad Bradshaw returned last week. Although his numbers were not great, he should force defenses to respect the run again and not go all out to stop QB Eli Manning and the passing game…..The Giants seemed to have every call go against them last week, including a couple that maybe shouldn’t have. Even if that’s so, it just makes up for the Arizona game where a terrible call gave them the game.

New York Jets: I’m not a big Mark Sanchez fan, but you actually hear some of the talk shows in New York mention that the Jets should sign Peyton Manning (if he becomes available) in the off-season and trade Sanchez. It seems they forget that Sanchez is coming off back-to-back championship game appearances. He must have done something right and no one will know if Manning can truly come back from his neck surgery until he gets into a game, plus it’s not like he’s going to come cheap.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders look like they are in the middle of a late season collapse. They barely showed up last week, getting crushed by Miami, and now they get the Packers. Sure they have injuries, maybe even more than most, but you still have to play the game…..Speaking of injuries, RB Darren MacFadden is out once again this week. This is longest day-to-day injury I’ve ever seen.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick and WR Jeremy Maclin are both expected to return this week. This should give the Eagles’ offense a boost, and it will certainly be interesting to see if Vick does play with more caution as he stated he will earlier this week…..How much money has WR DeSean Jackson cost himself with his play and attitude so far this season?  Jackson is still signed for another season, but the Eagles can’t go through this again. They either need to sign him to a long-term deal and make him happy or ship him to a team that will.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I wrote earlier in this column that Pittsburgh may be the best overall team in the AFC. Well that was before QB Ben Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain in Thursday’s win over Cleveland. Ben probably won’t miss any game time as the Steelers don’t play again until a week from Monday, but Ben’s mobility will certainly be hampered…..Another concern for the Steelers is the health of C Maurkice Pouncey who also suffered a high ankle sprain in the same game.

San Diego Chargers: QB Philip Rivers looked real good Monday night. Granted it came against a Jaguars team that lacks a pass rush or a solid secondary, but it also shows what Rivers can do when all of his receivers are healthy…..Speaking of healthy, RB Ryan Mathews also looked good and could be a future star in San Diego…..I have a feeling the Chargers offense lights it up again this week against Buffalo, everyone else has of late.

San Francisco 49ers: Because of their record, the 49ers are listed as #2 in most power rankings. I just don’t see that and have a very strong feeling they are one-and-done in the playoffs. I think their record is more because of a terrible division and nice schedule. I love their defense, but in the playoffs you need to score points and I just don’t see QB Alex Smith being able to beat Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, their most probable playoff opponent.

Seattle Seahawks: You have to love the way RB Marshawn Lynch is playing of late. He’s actually making the Hawks offense somewhat interesting…..OT Russell Okung was placed on IR this week after tearing his pectoral muscle, a tough blow for Lynch and that running game…..QB Tarvaris Jackson reported this week that his arm strength is back to 100% after his pectoral injury earlier this year.

St. Louis Rams: As if the Rams offense isn’t bad enough, there is a pretty good chance that Tom Brandstater is going to start against Seattle on Monday Night Football. I’m sure ESPN is just thrilled with this game, not to mention RB Steven Jackson can’t be very happy with seeing what is sure to be an overloaded front to stop him…..WR Brandon Lloyd should probably be benched in fantasy leagues.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Here’s a stat I didn’t see coming–the Bucs have trailed for longer this season in term of minutes than any other team in the NFL, including the winless Colts…..QB Josh Freeman missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury. His replacement, Josh Johnson, suffered a dislocated shoulder on his non-throwing arm. Ouch! Now Freeman looks like he will start this week but how long he goes is anyone’s guess, not that it matters much right now.

Tennessee Titans: Tough game for the Titans this week as they host the Saints. I doubt the Titans would have a chance if this game were being played indoors, but in Tennessee in the elements and with RB Chris Johnson looking like he has returned to his normal self, stranger things have happened. Not to mention the Titans need the game much more than the Saints. Yeah, I’m not buying that either.

Washington Redskins: As if this wasn’t a dismal enough season for the Redskins, now they lose TE Fred Davis and OL Trent Williams for violating the league’s drug policy. Apparently they were supposed to be suspended for a year but were able to get it down to four games because of a technicality (the players thought there was a grace period after the lockout–like it’s even legal to do these drugs)…..Because of their dismal finish, the Skins should be in good shape to draft a franchise QB next year.

Unlucky 13

There are some people in the world who think that the number 13 is good luck.  I am not one of those people.  Week 13 of the NFL season had the Oakland Raiders traveling to Miami to take on the Miami Dolphins.  The Raiders were coming off a 25-20 win over the Chicago Bears and the Dolphins lost 20-19 to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.

But, in a way, I guess I was lucky.  Due to the fact that I had to do some traveling last weekend, I was unable to see what occurred on Sunday.  I had my cell phone working and I saw the score elevate from 3-0 to 6-0 to 13-0 and so on.  When the score reached 34-0, I said to my wife “I sure am glad I can’t see what’s going on!”  But, as I watched the sickening replay on game-pass on NFL.com, I saw a totally uninspired Raider team and a totally focused Dolphin team.  The Dolphins won this game in the trenches and their defense shut down Michael Bush from the beginning as he finished the game with 18 yards on ten carries.  As a team, the Raiders rushed for 46 yards.  The long run of the day was a gain of 15 on a reverse by wide receiver Louis Murphy.

If you look at the statistics for quarterback Carson Palmer, you would think he had a pretty good day as he completed 20 of 41 for 273 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Miami linebacker Kevin Burnett.  Most of those yards came when the game was well out of hand.  Palmer was also sacked twice and pressured throughout the game.  Wide receiver Chaz Schilens led all receivers with six catches for 89 yards.

For the Dolphins, quarterback Matt Moore had a good game as he was never sacked and barely had any pressure applied to him from the Raider defense.  He completed 13 of 25 for 162 yards, one touchdown pass and he ran for a six-yard score.  Tight end Anthony Fasano led all receivers with four catches for 66 yards.  Running backs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas found gaping holes in the Raider defense and combined for 173 yards on 35 carries.  Bush also scored on a one-yard run.  As a team, the Dolphins shredded the Raiders for a total of 209 yards rushing.  The Dolphins ended up winning 34-14, but it could have easily ended up being 48-0 if the Dolphins hadn’t taken it easy in the fourth quarter and allowed the Raiders to score two touchdowns.

So, what’s the problem with the Raiders?  Did they watch too much ESPN?  They were singing high praises last week and even former Denver Bronco Tom Jackson had some kind words for them.  Did it get to their heads?  Was it too hot in Miami to wear those black uniforms?  Maybe they were distracted by the arrest of linebacker Rolando McClain.  He didn’t seem too distracted.  He led the team in tackles and even had a tackle for a loss.  Maybe they were looking ahead to the game next week on the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field against the Packers.  But, if Matt Moore can stand in the pocket for 10 seconds looking for a receiver, what do you think Aaron Rodgers will do?

Now, I know that Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore weren’t active and that definitely didn’t help.  But, from what I saw on the replay, they looked totally uninspired and listless.  Defensive tackle Richard Seymour was ejected again for throwing a punch.  That wasn’t much of a punch, but I’m sure he was frustrated with the way things were going.  The Raiders were flagged 10 times for a total of 91 yards.

Of course, there is the optimistic approach.  Upsets happen every week and this time it happened to the Raiders.  Maybe they were overconfident because the Dolphins were three and eight?  Maybe Raider fans should treat the loss to Miami like a U.F.O.  We saw something, but we weren’t quite sure what it was.  Whatever it was, Hue Jackson and the rest of the coaching staff better get these players into shape and focused on the game next week.

The loss to Miami was bad, but the chances for a playoff berth also took a hit.  With a 35-32 win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Broncos took over first place in the AFC West.  As I look at the schedule for next week, the Chicago Bears are heading out to play at Denver.  Not only have the Bears lost quarterback Jay Cutler, they lost running back Matt Forte last week in a 10-3 loss to Kansas City.  Their defense is still playing well, but their offense has got to find a way to score some points against Denver’s defense.  It’s not impossible to score on Denver.  The Viking offense put up 30 points against them without running back Adrian Peterson.

The odds are still pretty low that running back Darren McFadden will be back and ready to go against the Packers.  Hopefully running back Taiwan Jones can return from a hamstring injury and share some carries with Bush.  It would be nice to see Ford and Moore back this week because the Raiders certainly are going to need as many weapons as possible.  Aaron Rodgers and the high powered Green Bay offense can’t score if they aren’t on the field and I’d love to see the running game get established and take lots of time off the clock.  Next week, I’ll be back with my regular play by play format.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: RB Chris Wells is listed as a game-time decision for the game Sunday with a hamstring injury. Backup LaRod Stephens-Howling is also dealing with an injury (hand) which means Chester Taylor could be in line for a bigger role than expected Sunday versus Seattle…..QB Kevin Kolb and WR Larry Fitzgerald continue to develop the chemistry team officials were hoping for when they made the trade with Philadelphia in the off-season.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Roddy White has a thigh injury but is listed as probable and will be good to go for the game versus the Bucs Sunday. But keep in mind that in past meetings with CB Aqib Talib, White hasn’t had the best of games…..The NFL keeps saying they will suspend flagrant violators of the hit to the head rule, but instead chose to fine CB Dunta Robinson $40,000 for his hit on Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin last week. Reasoning being that Maclin had a second to protect himself and Robinson didn’t launch himself. You have to wonder if they would’ve felt differently had Maclin been injured.

Baltimore Ravens: I wouldn’t want to be the Rams this week. One must have to think Baltimore comes out with an angry attitude after laying an egg last week…..WR Lee Evans, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, won’t play Sunday. A bigger problem is that WR Torrey Smith has had a terrible case of the drops in practice and may not have the trust of QB Joe Flacco…..Ravens are also having problems at CB as Jimmy Smith isn’t expected to play until Week 6 and Domonique Foxworth, who is dealing with a surgically repaired knee, may need to be rested for the near future.

Buffalo Bills: If the Bills can truly “circle the wagons” and defeat the Patriots, than it may be time to take them for real. With that being said, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied for the NFL lead with seven touchdown passes, RB Fred Jackson leads the NFL in rushing, and WR Steve Johnson is showing no problems with tighter coverage since the departure of Lee Evans…..RB C.J. Spiller is one Bill who hasn’t found his niche yet, but with the injury to Roscoe Parrish, may start to see an increased role on the offense. He will also take over the punt return role.

Carolina Panthers: To all those who thought QB Cam Newton was going to need a season or two to get acclimated to the NFL: think again!  You bet WR Steve Smith is a happy guy…..One player who hasn’t performed up to expectations so far this season is RB DeAngelo Williams. Matter of fact, his partner Jonathan Stewart has looked better than Williams so far, but the Panthers didn’t give Williams that fat contract in the off-season not to use him.

Chicago Bears: RB Marion Barber is set to make his season debut Sunday. I doubt that is going to help the protection problem the Bears are having. Once again, OC Mike Martz has forgotten that he has a good RB in Matt Forte and is throwing the ball every chance he gets. Problem is the Bears don’t have the receivers to truly take advantage of that pass/run ratio, and QB Jay Cutler is getting crushed. Martz was on his way to the same kind of ratio last season before he changed philosophies in the early going. He needs to do the same again this season.

Cincinnati Bengals: What a week for the Bengals.  First, WR Jerome Simpson was detained by authorities after a significant amount of marijuana was delivered to his home. Then, RB Cedric Benson was suspended three games for violating the leagues’ code of conduct. Simpson is questionable at best to play Sunday as they are still trying to figure out his legal situation, while Benson will play as he appeals his suspension. You shouldn’t wonder why we call them the Bungles.

Cleveland Browns: RB Peyton Hillis had to leave practice Friday with an illness and is now questionable to play Sunday. Seems unlikely that he would miss the game though unless this is one serious illness…..QB Colt McCoy could be a sneaky play in some fantasy leagues this year as the Dolphins will be without CB Vontae Davis, and possibly CB Will Allen. It’s not like the Dolphins were all that successful stopping the pass even with them in the lineup.

Dallas Cowboys: What a difference a week can make.  One week after wearing the goat horns for his fumble and late interception versus the Jets, QB Tony Romo became a hero for playing with a punctured lung and fractured rib while leading the Boys to victory. Although the lung is healed, the rib has not and Tony may have to play in some pain for a little bit…..The Cowboys are a walking MASH unit right now. RB Felix Jones has a separated shoulder but should play this week–not that he has been doing much anyway. WR Miles Austin injured his hamstring on an ill-conceived reverse last week and will most likely not be back until after the Cowboys Week 5 bye. The good news is that CB Terrance Newman will play Monday, and WR Dez Bryant also may be able to go.

Denver Broncos: RB Knowshon Moreno is dealing with a hamstring issue. Doesn’t it always seem like Moreno is dealing with one injury or another. It will be a game-time decision this week to see if he plays or not…..DE Elvis Dumervil is still dealing with a shoulder injury and will miss another week…..WR Brandon Lloyd’s groin seems to be feeling much better this week and is likely to play Sunday…..Speaking of groin injuries, WR Eddie Royal is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with one.

Detroit Lions: DT Nick Fairley is getting closer to his first game as he was able to participate in individual drills this week. He won’t play Sunday, but could return in Week 4 or 5…..Guess who holds the NFL record for most games played for one team with 297 games–that would be K Jason Hanson…..Since we’re playing guessing games, guess which team has yet to give up a sack this season–that would be Detroit. It would certainly keep QB Matthew Stafford healthier much easier if he never gets sacked.

Green Bay Packers: Tough loss for the Packers as S Nick Collins is lost for the season with a neck injury. This happens to a defense that has been shredded through the air in the first two weeks…..It’s starting to look like WR Jordy Nelson is the number two behind Greg Jennings….Big game this week between Chicago and Green Bay. Chicago wants revenge for last season’s playoff loss, but they are unlikely to get it here.

Houston Texans: This hamstring injury for RB Arian Foster is turning out to be a major problem for fantasy owners as he is once again a game-time decision. Even if he does play, Ben Tate could get a majority of the carries. Not to mention this injury could linger for weeks…..DC Wade Phillip’s new defense is certain to get tested this week against QB Drew Brees and the Saints, especially in New Orleans.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Dallas Clark has a foot injury and is now questionable to play Sunday against Pittsburgh. Just what the Colts need in a primetime game that is certain to be a blowout…..QB Peyton Manning stated that he is feeling better after having yet another neck surgery, but there is still no timetable for his return…..Receivers like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie are being dropped like flies in fantasy league. No one has much faith in QB Kerry Collins.

Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s good to see the Luke McCown era lasted all of a game and change. Either they never really had all that much faith in him or David Garrard was indeed released because of the $8 million he was due to make this season…..QB Blaine Gabbert will start this week. Don’t expect him to put up the same kind of gaudy numbers Cam Newton is for Carolina…..Anyone else think that RB Maurice Jones-Drew is going to be pretty busy, or at least busier than normal this week.

Kansas City Chiefs: Losing RB Jamaal Charles for the season with a torn ACL is a devastating blow for a team that was barely alive anyway. In the short term, Thomas Jones will handle the load, but Dexter McCluster will also see a bigger role. Not the same role that Charles had, he’s just not built that way…..Losing Charles could have a ripple effect as the focus of the defenses attention will now fall on WR Dwayne Bowe. Only bright point may be that they will be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

Miami Dolphins: With 107 yards on 18 carries last week, RB Daniel Thomas has taken over the starting role from Reggie Bush. It is not that big a shock as Bush wouldn’t last half the season if he touched the ball 20+ times a game. Thomas did put the ball on the ground once. He can’t make a habit of that…..The Dolphins have already had a tough time stopping the pass this season and will be without CB Vontae Davis and possibly Will Allen this week. Good thing they play the Browns, good for the Browns that is.

Minnesota Vikings: DT Kevin Williams returned to practice this week after serving his two game suspension, but is now dealing with plantar fasciitis and still may not be at full strength for Sunday’s game versus Detroit–good news for Javhid Best…..WR Percy Harvin has only been on the field for approximately half of the offensive snaps. This is the Vikings answer to trying to keep him healthy? Unfortunately, they don’t have much of a threat in their passing game besides Harvin.

New England Patriots: TE Aaron Hernandez is out for at least a week and probably two with a knee injury. Hernandez is listed as a TE but is basically a receiver in the Pats offense. Perhaps this could be the opening that WR Chad Ochocinco needs to get his act in gear…..S Patrick Chung is out for Sunday which certainly won’t help the Pats defense as they try and stop the suddenly high flying Bills.

New Orleans Saints: WR Robert Meacham was expected to take on a bigger role with the loss of Marques Colston, but that also means defenses will play closer attention to him. That seemed to happen last week as Meacham only caught one pass, granted though it was a touchdown…..LB Jonathan Vilma will not play this week as he is dealing with a knee issue. Not good news when the Saints are dealing with a team that has been extremely successful running the ball the first two games.

New York Giants: Giants players have been running their mouths this week about how much they want to beat the Eagles with QB Michael Vick. In other words, at full strength. G-Men be careful what you wish for though, you just may get it…..Look for the Giants to run the ball as much as possible for two reasons: one–to keep the Eagles offense off the field, and two–outside of WR Hakeem Nicks, the Giants don’t have anyone to throw to at the moment.

New York Jets: The Jets are 2-0 and averaging close to 30 points a game, yet WRs Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason aren’t happy about not seeing the ball enough. You just have to love receivers…..Speaking of WRs, one who is not complaining about receptions, but is dealing with a quad injury is Santonio Holmes. He has been limited at practice, but should play versus the Raiders on Sunday…..One who will miss the game is C Nick Mangold, and possibly a couple of other games as he recovers from an ankle injury.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders receiving corps is getting a little bit healthier this week as Darrius Heyward-Bey and TE Kevin Boss are expected to return from injury this week. Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy however will not…..The Raiders have been using the Jets’ Mark Sanchez eating a hot dog on the sideline of a lopsided win over the silver and black as motivation for this game. Guess you have to use whatever you believe will work. Truth is–I just don’t see the big deal, not like he ordered a pizza.

Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick will play this week after missing part of the second half last Sunday with a concussion. Somehow I don’t think this is the last time we will be talking about Vick missing game action…..The Eagles better tighten up their run defense as that will be the preferred method of attacking their defense, especially when it looks as bad as it does. You know the Giants are going to target that weakness this week…..WR Jason Avant has been pretty busy in the early going this season. If he wants to keep the slot job, he’ll have to
continue to keep busy as Steve Smith is getting healthier each week.

Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger missed a couple of plays last week with a knee injury but did return to the game and has practiced all week. But this could just be the beginning of his injury worries as that offensive line would have trouble protecting a cheeseburger from the Hamburglar…..With that line, I’m worried about running room for Rashard Mendenhall as well.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates had zero receptions for the Chargers last week. Now I know the Pats bracketed him, but one has to wonder if that foot injury is starting to rear its ugly head again…..WR Malcolm Floyd is listed as doubtful for this week with a groin injury. It should be noted that in the past four seasons no player listed as doubtful has played that week for the Chargers. It also should be noted that the Chargers may be in no rush to push him since they’re playing the Chiefs this week.

San Francisco 49ers: TE Vernon Davis was virtually invisible last week as the 49ers kept him in to help block. With injuries to both WRs Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards, the 49ers are going to need Davis to run pass patterns and catch passes no matter how bad their offensive line is…..The line is also the probable culprit for Frank Gore’s lackluster start to the season…..Crabtree is likely to play this week while Edwards is out for a couple of weeks after having his knee scoped.

Seattle Seahawks: Which is worse, that the Seahawks didn’t trade for QB Kevin Kolb, or that they didn’t resign QB Matt Hasselback? Looks like they are going to regret both decisions…..Good news though, WR Sidney Rice is expected to make his season debut Sunday…..Bad news, OG Robert Gallery will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. Seems to be a lot of that going around…..TE Zach Miller is another player who is being dropped en masse in fantasy leagues. Perhaps, the addition of Rice to the passing game will open things up for Miller.

St. Louis Rams: This week RB Steven Jackson is a game-time decision with a quad injury, and backup Cadillac Williams is questionable with a hamstring injury. Of course the Rams are going up against what is sure to be an angry defense in Baltimore. Not a bad week to take off…..WR Danny Amendola is unlikely to play as he still recovers from his elbow injury…..The Rams did complain to the league about the Giants faking injuries Monday night. Look, we all know they did it, but unless someone admits it, it can’t be proven.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Fantasy owners are worried about WR Mike Williams thanks to his miserable stat line last week of one catch for -4 yards. Relax! It was just a bad game, a game in which the Vikings decided to take him out and force someone else to beat them. It happens, time to move on, and Williams did have a TD catch called back…..TE Kellen Winslow practiced Friday but is dealing with a knee injury and may not be at full strength for Sunday.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans are playing pretty well offensively, and RB Chris Johnson hasn’t even gotten started yet…..LB Mason Foster, who many thought could be a replacement for Barrett Rudd, will finally get that chance as he will be a three down player starting Sunday…..Is it me or does QB Josh Freeman seem to play better when he is behind?

Washington Redskins: QB Rex Grossman predicted that the Redskins would win the NFC East during camp. We laughed at the time, but with all the injuries suffered by the Cowboys and Giants, it’s not so funny anymore. Even the Eagles are a bit banged up…..RB Tim Hightower may be listed as the starter, but one can just feel that Roy Helu is gaining on him. Not that Hightower has done anything wrong, but Helu just has that extra burst that could bring a big play at any moment.

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Not that this should come as a shock to anyone, but RB Ryan Williams was officially placed on IR this week…..The Cardinals may be paying the price now for trading away CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as Greg Toler’s knee sprain may force the team to bring along 1st round pick Patrick Peterson faster than the team would like…..QB Max Hall will miss the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Julio Jones is my pick for offensive rookie of the year in the NFC…..The reason I make that statement, QB Matt Ryan threw the ball an amazing 42 times last week. That’s unheard of in the preseason. The Falcons seem to be trying to make a statement to opposing teams: don’t load up at the line of scrimmage to stop the run or you will get burned by the passing game. RB Michael Turner has to like this as the safeties can’t play too close to the line of scrimmage anymore.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Lee Evans was still in a protective boot earlier this week, but the injury is still not considered serious and he should be good to go for Week One…..Coach Cam Cameron came out this week and stated that tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are pretty much running neck and neck for the starting job. Dickson is a much better athlete and has the higher upside, but needs to display that upside on a more consistent basis before he is handed the starting job.

Buffalo Bills: Linebacker Shawn Merriman looks to be ready to play in Week One. Merriman can certainly help the pass rush if he’s healthy, but he can’t seem to remain so for any length of time…..RB Fred Jackson was upset last week for not knowing what his exact role is in the offense. He did receive the start last week and is the odds on favorite to begin the season as the starting back with CJ Spiller playing more of a 3rd down role and being lined up in the slot on occasion.

Carolina Panthers: I believe the Panthers are going to be an improved team over last season. It is hard not to be, but they are still going to be lucky to win 10 games. I still believe they would benefit by having a veteran quarterback tutor Cam Newton who has looked awful throwing the ball so far this preseason…..Fantasy wise, it will be next to impossible for me to draft any Panther in re-draft leagues.

Chicago Bears: RB Chester Taylor looked like he was going to be released this week. He was told as much, but the injury to Marion Barber gave him a reprieve–although that may be short lived…..I have the Bears third in the NFC North…..LB Lance Briggs may have three years left on his contract and be north of 30 years old, but he still wants a new contract and may demand a pay raise if he’s not given one.

Cincinnati Bengals: We learned earlier today that QB Carson Palmer had a face to face meeting with GM Mike Brown in late July about his situation. Palmer is still demanding a trade. However, he could really force the Bengals hand by reporting to camp late this week or next, thus forcing the Bengals to either pay him or trade him…..RB Cedric Benson elected to serve his 20 day prison sentence immediately instead of during his bye week. He will only be required to actually serve seven days, so he should be ready for Week One.

Cleveland Browns: Each and every week I’m more impressed with QB Colt McCoy. Once again, he’s never going to be a stud who puts up big numbers, but he has the look of a QB who will do whatever it takes to get the job done…..RB Montario Hardesty is finally starting to look healthy after tearing his ACL last season. He has the talent to be a starting back, which will give the Browns a strong 1-2 punch between himself and Peyton Hillis.

Dallas Cowboys: I was a little bit surprised by the release of C Andre Gurode this week. Gurode can still play but Dallas didn’t think he was worth the five plus million he was owed in salary…..By cutting Gurode, Dallas is now a little over $11 million under the salary cap. Remember, the dollar amount a team is under the salary cap this season, it can be added to next season’s cap. So even though Dallas may not have been big players in the this year’s free agent crop, don’t expect the same next season…..The release of Gurode also means that Dallas’ offensive line went from old and slow to extremely young and athletic. If QB Tony Romo can withstand the hits he is going to get, he will have a big season.

Denver Broncos: DE Elvis Demervil looks to be fully recovered from last year’s surgery. He and first round pick Von Miller should give the Broncos a pass rush that has to be game planned for by the opposition…..QBs Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn are still battling for the backup job to start the season. One has to wonder, if and when the Broncos are out of playoff contention, will they decide to make a switch to Tebow just to see what he can do, regardless of how well Orton is playing.

Detroit Lions: The reason I picked the Bears for third in the north is that I’m hopping on the Lions bandwagon and predicting a second place finish for them. Granted though, this all depends on QB Matthew Stafford and RB Javhid Best remaining healthy–two big ifs…..Best has already had a problem this preseason with a concussion suffered early on. He is expected to play in the last preseason game and be ready for Week One.

Green Bay Packers: TE JerMichael Finley won’t play in the final preseason game due to an ankle injury, but this injury is not considered to be serious and he should be good to go for Week One…..WR Randall Cobb returned to practice this week. Cobb has plenty of talent, but he will make the most noise for the Packers on special teams as they are loaded at WR…..Speaking of WRs, Donald Driver had a cortisone injection in the same foot he injured in the Super Bowl. It would seem to be a red flag to me. Have to think that Driver will slowly be phased out of a starting role as the season rolls along.

Houston Texans: RB Arian Foster’s hamstring injury has to worry fantasy owners. He was considered to be a top three back heading into the season, and now some believe he could miss up to a month. Of course, Foster and the Texans deny that he will miss any time, but one would have to think he won’t be at full speed and could re-injure the hamstring at some point during the season…..If you do draft Foster, better grab Ben Tate as his handcuff.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning was taken off the PUP this week, but still won’t play in the final preseason game. He is still questionable to play in Week One. Without Manning, the Colts are a bad team. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team so reliant on one person…..Fantasy wise, Manning would scare me. I couldn’t take him as one of my top five QBs anymore, but top eight is not out of the question.

Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Rashard Jennings was seen on crutches this week after suffering a knee injury. Jennings was expected to become more than just a backup to Maurice Jones-Drew this season. The Jags don’t want to abuse MJD, but if this injury is serious than Jones-Drew may get more carries per week than first thought…..RB Fred Taylor signed a contract with the Jags Thursday for the sake of retiring as a Jaguar.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jonathan Baldwin is running routes but not catching passes yet as he still has pins in his thumb after his fight with RB Thomas Jones…..I have the Chiefs finishing second in the AFC West this season. Not because they are not a better team than last season, but because I don’t believe the Chargers will have as many problems on special teams as they did last season. Chiefs will battle the Jets for that final wildcard spot.

Miami Dolphins: RB Daniel Thomas has aggravated the Dolphins coaching staff so much that he may no longer be the main ball carrier for the team. Reggie Bush could get more touches than first thought. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins reverse their thinking. However, the more Bush touches the ball, the more likely he is to get hurt…..QB Chad Henne has actually looked good so far this preseason. This is a make or break year for Henne. Perhaps the light bulb has finally turned on for him.

Minnesota Vikings: I’m not sure anyone in the NFL was happier for the contract that RB Chris Johnson received than Adrian Peterson–cha ching…..Speaking of Peterson, he’s not expected to come off the field in passing situations anymore. He is in store for a massive season and should be the first RB off the board in fantasy leagues.

New England Patriots: WR Wes Welker injured his neck making a tackle last week. Although he doesn’t remember the play, he doesn’t have a concussion. Once again, he should be good to go for Week One…..RB Kevin Faulk still isn’t fully recovered from ACL surgery and is likely to begin the season on the PUP list…..WR Brandon Tate has not impressed this season and could be the odd man out in the Pats WR corps.

New Orleans Saints: K Garrett Hartley will miss at least the next six weeks with a hip injury. Jon Kasay has been signed to take over the kicking duties…..I like the Saints again this season, but also believe they finish behind the Falcons in the NFC South…..Big things seem to be expected from WR Lance Moore this season, but don’t forget he has a nagging groin injury and RB Darren Sproles will also take some of the snaps that would’ve previously gone to Reggie Bush.

New York Giants: In order for the Giants offense to work this season, WR Mario Manningham is going to have to have a good season to take the defensive pressure off of Hakeem Nicks. Not to mention QB Eli Manning is going to have to play better and limit his mistakes…..Third round pick WR Jerrel Jernigan, who was the leading candidate to take over punt returns, blew that opportunity with four fumbled punts versus the Jets Monday.

New York Jets: K Nick Folk won the kicking battle over Nick Novak…..WR Plaxico Burress and QB Mark Sanchez clearly weren’t on the same page in last week’s game versus the Giants. This is clearly a work in progress…..Jets finish behind the Patriots in the AFC East.

Oakland Raiders: TE Kevin Boss has yet to practice since injuring his knee a couple of weeks ago. He’s questionable to play in Week One…..QB Terrelle Pryor reportedly scored a seven on the Wonderlic Test. That’s incredibly low. The test has nothing to do with his ability to play football, but does show you that he is probably not the sharpest pencil in the box.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR Steve Smith is unlikely to play in Week One, and could miss most of September. This is why the Giants didn’t sign him…..WR DeSean Jackson could be the next player on the Eagles to sign a big contract after the Eagles rewarded QB Michael Vick with a $100 million contract this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers: LB James Harrison is still not at 100% after undergoing off-season back surgery and may get fatigued as games get into the fourth quarter during the regular season…..Due to the foot injury that has cost WR Emmanuel Sanders a good portion of training camp, Antonio Brown may be the Steelers 3rd WR to open the season.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates practiced all week and will be ready to go for Week One….. The Chargers offense looks explosive and could put up a bunch of points week in and week out…..They are going to win the AFC West…..I love the trio of QB Phillip Rivers, WR Vincent Jackson and TE Antonio Gates, not to mention the RB duo of Mike Tolbert and Ryan Matthews–just scary.

San Francisco 49ers: RB Frank Gore also signed a new contract this week. It’s good that he received a lot of upfront money because that offensive line is going to get him killed…..As good a preseason as Kendall Hunter has had, he still hasn’t passed Anthony Dixon on the depth chart…..WR Michael Crabtree is still not practicing at full strength and is unlikely to play in Week One.

Seattle Seahawks: The signing of TE Zach Miller is all the more important now with the loss of John Carlson for the season with a torn labrum…..The Seahawks are still going to roll with Tavares Jackson as their starting QB even though the offense has looked abysmal so far this preseason and Charlie Whitehurst has outplayed him…..RB Marshawn Lynch has an ankle injury that will keep him from playing this week but he is expected to play in Week One.

St. Louis Rams: LB James Laurinaitis is still battling a pectoral muscle that he injured in the early days of camp and may not be at 100% when the regular season starts…..The Rams signed WR Mark Clayton to a one-year contract this week but he still might begin the season on the PUP. He is still recovering from a torn patellar.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs remind me of the Chiefs in that they may be a better team this season but it won’t show in their record. Not to mention, it certainly doesn’t help playing in the same division with Atlanta and New Orleans…..RB Earnest Graham is expected to be the Bucs third down back this season, at least at the beginning…..TE Kellen Winslow hurt his ankle in his preseason debut last week. It didn’t look to be a major injury, but the Bucs haven’t talked much about it this week.

Tennessee Titans: Everyone in Tennessee had a big sigh of relief today when RB Chris Johnson finally signed his new contract and reported to camp. The Titans don’t have the best of offenses to begin with, and without Johnson it would be non-existent…..More good news for the Titans, WR Kenny Britt is feeling close to 100% and expects to be so before the season opener.

Washington Redskins: I know RB Tim Hightower has had a great camp and is climbing up fantasy draft boards, but does anyone really think it’s going to last all season. What happens when he starts to fumble the ball or the Shanahans want to see what rookie Roy Helu can do? Plus the Skins don’t have a QB and teams may sell out to stop the run…..S Laron Landry has injuries to his Achilles and hamstring, but isn’t expected to miss more than a couple of games at this point in time.

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Adrian Wilson has a partial tear in his right bicep muscle that will limit what he can do this pre-season, and may even eliminate how many games he will play in during the regular season. Matt Ware is likely to take his place at SS…..As of now, it looks like Beanie Wells will be the primary ball carrier at the beginning of the season, but Ryan Williams is catching up fast.

Atlanta Falcons: The re-signing of Jason Snelling might have caught some off guard but you can never have too many backs. Jacquizz Rodgers still may touch the ball more than Snelling though. Rodgers will be the 3rd down back and the player who catches the ball out of the backfield; whereas Snelling would only play when Michael Turner needs a breather or if he were to get injured.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens let it be known this week that even with the signing of RB Ricky Williams, Ray Rice will still be the short yardage and goal-line back. That’s all fine and good, but I still have my doubts…..Losing WR Derrick Mason to the Jets has to hurt, as once again, the Ravens look a bit short in the receiver department.

Buffalo Bills: Looks like the Bills would trade WR Lee Evans if they could find the right deal. Problem is the receiver market has dried up and it may be too late to get the kind of value they are looking for (apparently the right price is a 4th round pick)…..Living on Long Island in Jets territory, the fans down here are not happy about the team not re-signing QB/KR/RB/WR Brad Smith and letting him go to a division rival. Smith sometimes gets a bad rap as just a return guy, but he can fill quite a few roles whether it be on special teams or on offense.

Carolina Panthers: Word is the Panthers are doing everything they can to get QB Cam Newton ready to start the 1st game of the season…..The Panthers did a great job in free agency this season, apparently signing everyone they wanted to, but still these are players that finished last season with one win.

Chicago Bears: Does it seem as strange to you as it does to me that WR Johnny Knox is not listed as a starter right now? He had a pretty good season last year and seems to have a good rapport with QB Jay Cutler. Seems even stranger that Devin Hester would be listed above him…..RB Matt Forte had initially stated that he wouldn’t play in any exhibition games as he wasn’t pleased with his contract, but he has softened on that stance.

Cincinnati Bengals: I know the Bengals just drafted QB Andy Dalton, but with the way this team is structured, would it surprise anyone if they ended up in the hunt for the first overall draft pick and QB Andrew Luck…..The Bengals are still receiving calls about the availability of QB Carson Palmer, but they are still being told that he won’t be traded.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns had hoped that RB Montario Hardesty would be 100% recovered from ACL surgery and could take some carries away from Peyton Hillis; thus allowing Hillis to be fresher as the year goes on. However, Hardesty has yet to practice and may not be able to take that much of a load off of Hillis, at least in the early part of the season…..With Hardesty having trouble with his knee once again, Brandon Jackson could be the backup to Hillis to begin the season.

Dallas Cowboys: Lots of rumors coming out of camp that Tashard Choice could find himself released. I fine that highly unlikely, but head coach Jason Garrett has never seemed to taken a shine to Choice…..One player to keep an eye on in camp is TE John Phillips. He was extremely impressive in camp last season before tearing his ACL. He has picked up right where he left off in camp this season and already seems to be ahead of Martellus Bennett.

Denver Broncos: Anyone listening to head coach John Fox after the Broncos pre-season game Thursday on how he thought QB Tim Tebow played? Knowing where Tebow is on the depth chart, he used the phrase “work in progress.” Kyle Orton will definitely start the season under center for the Broncos. That’s no guarantee he will finish there, but Tebow still needs a ton of work…..The bigger question is will Tebow be the 2nd or 3rd QB, as Brady Quinn could be the backup behind Orton.

Detroit Lions: Rookie RB Mikel Leshoure tore his Achilles on Monday and will miss the season. This would seem to be good news for Javhid Best fantasy owners as he looks to get the lion’s share of the carries. But the Lions don’t want to put to much on the second year player, especially after dealing with turf toe last year, so they have signed RBs Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell. Plus they still have Maurice Morris…..Leshoure’s injury is the second to hit the Detroit rookie class as DT Nick Fairley is also out after having surgery on his foot.

Green Bay Packers: LB Clay Matthews apparently played the last half of the 2010 season with a stress fracture in his lower leg. Imagine what he can do with two healthy wheels…..I know the Eagles made a bunch of high profile moves, but the Packers are still the best team in the NFC in my opinion…..RB James Starks has looked good in camp and put on some weight, he could be a serious threat to Ryan Grant’s playing time.

Houston Texans: WR Andre Roberts has recovered from his finger injury and looks to be completely healthy. If TE Owen Daniels plays as well this season as he did the end of last season, than the Texans offense could be tough to stop…..RB Arian Foster would like a new contract but owner Bob McNair has stated that he won’t get one off a single good season…..The Texans would like to trade RB Steve Slaton but Ben Tate continues to miss practice with a hamstring injury; thus the Texans have to hold onto Slaton.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Dallas Clark let it be known Thursday that he will have to wear a brace all season on his surgically repaired wrist. You have to wonder if this might affect him as the season goes on…..One of the new rules this season regarding game day rosters is that they have been expanded to 46 on game days. But there is no such thing as an emergency 3rd QB anymore. If you think you might need an emergency QB, than you have to activate him as part of your 46. Why do I bring this up? With the surgery to Peyton Manning’s neck this off-season, the Colts have already made it known that they will carry three QBs on game day.

Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Matt Roth stated earlier this week that he would sign with any team that offered him a $3 million deal. Well the Jags stepped up and gave him that contact. Roth has his issues, but he’s a solid LB in a 4-3 defense…..The Jags might need LB help after Clint Session suffered what is a probable concussion in the pre-season opener Thursday.

Kansas City Chiefs: TE Tony Moeaki is back practicing with the team. I still think he’s a sneaky play in fantasy leagues with defenses paying most of their attention to RB Jamaal Charles and WR Dwayne Bowe…..Speaking of Charles, you have to love coach Todd Haley who continues to play games with Charles’ head and fantasy owners draft picks by listing him 2nd on the depth chart…..For those of you wondering if Le’Ron McClain would take away any carries from Charles or Thomas Jones, hmmm, no.

Miami Dolphins: With all of the things that have gone on around WR Brandon Marshall, you have to wonder if the Dolphins are suffering from buyer’s remorse…..The Dolphins stated this week that RB Reggie Bush will not return punts this season. Why not? Shouldn’t your best playmakers be put in a position to do the most damage?…..LB Kevin Burnett will start with the 1st team defense Friday despite only having six practices with the Fish; shows you what the Dolphins think of him.

Minnesota Vikings:  Not sure how the Vikings could have let WR Sidney Rice leave via free agency when their starting wideout opposite Percy Harvin is Bernard Berrian…..Perhaps the lack of receiving talent is why the Vikings plan on getting RB Adrian Peterson more involved in the passing game…..Apparently one of the reasons the Vikings waived OT Bryant McKinnie was that his cholesterol was so high they were worried he wouldn’t be able to make it through practice.

New England Patriots: G Logan Mankins, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the NFL during the lockout, signed a new long term deal with the club…..TE Rob Gronkowski has looked unstoppable during camp and could be a highly sought after TE in fantasy drafts, but remember, Aaron Hernandez is still there, and he’s not so bad himself.

New Orleans Saints: WR Marques Colston still isn’t practicing much and it’s time to start wondering how healthy he will remain this season…..I like rookie RB Mark Ingram, but there are so many offensive players on this team that need to get their hands on the ball. It’s difficult to see Ingram having a huge season.

New York Giants: You have to wonder if the Giants would’ve made a stronger effort to sign WR Plaxico Burress had they known that Steve Smith would sign elsewhere. It has to hurt even more that he went to the division rival Eagles…..Mario Manningham however could be a sleeper in fantasy leagues as he is now the clear cut #2 option for QB Eli Manning.

New York Jets: Speaking of Burress, his ankle is still bothering him and is unlikely to play in the Jets first pre-season game. Missing the game is no big deal, but after not playing football for two seasons, he needs to get on the field and get in a rhythm with QB Mark Sanchez…..I know Jet fans are upset with the loss of WR Jericho Cotchery, but Derrick Mason would seem to be a nice solid upgrade.

Oakland Raiders: Memo to general manager Al Davis, signing TE Kevin Boss does not make up for losing Zach Miller…..Boss may not be the talent that Miller is, but he’s likely to have the best season of his career this year as QB Jason Campbell still doesn’t have a true number one receiver to throw to and may look for his big TE quite often.

Philadelphia Eagles: What is wrong with WR Jeremy Maclin? It doesn’t seem like the Eagles or Maclin have any idea. They both keep insisting that the illness won’t cause him to miss any regular season playing time, but I’m starting to have my doubts and you have to wonder if the signing of WR Steve Smith is an insurance policy against Maclin not being ready to go…..Word out of Eagles camp is that QB Vince Young is being outplayed for the backup job by Mike Kafka.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Jericho Cotchery, who signed with the Steelers this week, is slated to be their 5th receiver…..The Steelers biggest weakness could be along their offensive line which could force TE to stay in and block more often than he usually does…..WR Emmanuel Sanders has already recovered from foot surgery and should be back this week. He will once again be the teams #3 wideout.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are trying to send a message to RB Ryan Mathews by sitting him out of the pre-season opener. Apparently he’s not doing all that well in practice…..It’s looking more and more like Mike Tolbert will get his fair share of carries this season, and if Mathews doesn’t pick up his play, maybe even more than his fair share…..LT Marcus McNeil had foot surgery this week, but is expected back in the lineup before the regular season begins.

San Francisco 49ers: Anyone who saw the 49ers first pre-season game witnessed QB Alex Smith take a beating as the offensive line couldn’t block anyone…..WR Michael Crabtree is expected to be back on the practice field before the last pre-season game…..So far there are no takers for SS Taylor Mays and the 49ers are still trying to figure out how to use him.

Seattle Seahawks: If there is a true quarterback competition in Seattle, than after the first pre-season game, Charlie Whitehurst is well ahead of Tarvares Jackson…..OT Russell Okung had to be helped off the field with an ankle injury. This is the same injury that cost him six games last season. Not what the Hawks needed.

St. Louis Rams: WR Donnie Avery is still not practicing due to a hamstring injury and could be in danger of not making the team if he doesn’t get on the field…..Danny Amendola and Mike Sims-Walker would seem to be the Rams starters at WR.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Arrelious Benn seems unlikely to play this pre-season as he is still recovering from knee surgery. The best case scenario looks like a return for the regular season opener…..If you’re looking for a rookie to take in your IDP league, you may need to look no further than LB Mason Foster who should start the season for the recently departed Barrett Rudd…..RB Earnest Graham looks to be the favorite for the third down back.

Tennessee Titans: Due to the depth of the Tennessee secondary, Cortland Finnegan has spent the majority of his time at nickelback…..The Titans would like RB Chris Johnson to report to camp before they start talks on a new contract…..TE Jared Cook could be the teams 2nd receiving option outside of WR Kenny Britt.

Washington Redskins: TE Chris Cooley is likely to miss at least the next two weeks with a knee injury…..Tim Hightower had an impressive first preseason game for the Skins and could be the lead running back come Week One…..The injury to QB John Beck may give Rex Grossman a leg up on the QB competition, not that it really matters.

All Out Blitz

After finishing my column last week I started to worry about what I would write about in this column. The NFL was still in a lockout, and a news and notes column was getting more and more difficult to fill out. Well as we have all seen this week, the NFL players, general managers, and owners are trying to cram 136 days of non-action into a single week. It’s been a smorgasbord of roster moves and transactions. I mean wow, it’s been a wild week. Let’s get started.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cards got their man when they acquired QB Kevin Kolb from the Eagles for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick in next year’s draft. This instantly puts them back in contention in the NFC West and makes WR Larry Fitzgerald the happiest man in the state. Some might argue that this was too steep a price to pay, but the Cards did draft CB Patrick Peterson this past April in the 1st round, and without a franchise QB, you’re just not going to get very far in this league.

Atlanta Falcons: Earlier this week, the Falcons stated they would not be able to sign DE Ray Edwards. Now they have reversed course and stated they would be able to sign him, but at their price…..The Falcons have signed all of their drafted rookies including WR Julio Jones. It should be just a matter of time before Jones makes his presence felt in the NFL.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens released WR Derrick Mason earlier this week, but would like him back at a reduced rate. The problem is Mason’s former team, Tennessee, is also interested in his services…..If the Ravens don’t sign a WR, 2nd round pick Torry Smith could end up starting from the get go opposite Anquan Boldin…..Like Mason, the Ravens decided to cut TE Todd Heap, but would like him back if they can agree on a smaller contract.

Buffalo Bills: Although he signed a three-year contract and has played for head coach Chan Gailey in the past, Tyler Thigpen should not be a threat to start over Ryan Fitzpatrick, unless Fitzpatrick falls on his face…..Although RB CJ Spiller is expected to touch the ball more, Fred Jackson is still expected to be the lead back for the Bills.

Carolina Panthers: I understand DeAngelo Williams is a great RB and the Panthers had plenty of money under the salary cap, but with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson also on the roster, couldn’t that money be spent elsewhere…..I do love the move of adding TE Greg Olsen. They have a rookie QB in Cam Newton, and rookie QBs need a good TE as a safety blanket…..The player to be named later in the Olsen trade is not WR Steve Smith who stated on Thursday that he wants to finish his career in a Panther uniform.

Chicago Bears: You had to know the Bears would eventually trade TE Greg Olsen. In a Mike Martz offense, there just isn’t much use for a TE…..The Bears are said to be very close to signing WR Roy Williams. They want a tall receiver to make those catches over the middle, and Williams has played for Martz before…..Rumors are going around that RB Matt Forte could hold out for a better contract. He is only scheduled to make about $550,000 this season.

Cincinnati Bengals: I understand about standing on your principles but it seems kind of stubborn to not trade QB Carson Palmer and get a draft pick or two rather than just force him into retirement…..The Bengals are still expected to sign RB Cedric Benson as teams may be shying away from him due to yet another arrest this off-season…..The Bengals made yet another error when they let CB Jonathan Joseph sign with Houston. They have the money, but just don’t spend it wisely…..The trade of Chad Ochocinco to New England opens up a starting job for Jerome Simpson.

Cleveland Browns: Browns have a ton of money they could spend under the cap, but so far have not been able to sign anyone…..The Cowboys are interested in S Abram Elam. The Boys might be interested in quite a few of the Browns defensive players that played under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan while he was in Cleveland.

Dallas Cowboys: Dallas has solidified their offensive line with the signings of Doug Free and Kyle Kosier, but have lost defensive lineman Stephen Bowen to Washington…..The Cowboys are said to be in negotiations to bring in DT Cullen Jenkins. This would be an interesting signing as Jay Ratliff would normally play that position. Would Ratliff move to DE if the boys sign Jenkins? If the Cowboys can’t sign Jenkins and start to worry about their defensive line, one has to wonder if they will make a push to sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha. If you can’t get to the QB, better make sure you can cover those wideouts for as long as possible.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos and Dolphins are playing a game of chicken when it comes to QB Kyle Orton. The Broncos want to trade. The Dolphins want him to be their starting QB. However, Denver wants at least a 3rd round pick, and Miami doesn’t want to give up more than a 4th.  The Broncos are currently around $8 million over the cap; they must be under the cap by Aug. 4. Orton makes almost $9 million. So by the 4th, they must trade or release Orton. Miami knows this and right now there are no other suitors for his services. Miami might just wait Denver out unless someone else decides to step in with a better offer.

Detroit Lions: The Lions have a terrific defensive line. Unless they find a CB or two, it might not much matter…..Things aren’t any better on the linebacker front, as the Lions seemed to have dropped out of the running for Stephen Tulloch…..LT Jeff Backus has a shoulder injury that will force him to miss at least a couple of weeks of action. This is certainly not good news for QB Matthew Stafford, who needs his offensive line to be at full strength to protect him.

Green Bay Packers: Although the Packers want to retain WR James Jones, it looks like he will sign with Minnesota today…..The Pack picked up the bonus in Ryan Grant’s contract, assuring that he should once again be the starting RB for that high scoring offense…..LB Nick Barnett was a cap casualty but kicker Mason Crosby received a five-year deal.

Houston Texans: The Texans were said to be hot after CB Nnamdi Asomugha but seemed to be pretty happy with their signing of Jonathan Joseph on Wednesday. There biggest need was a CB and, although they may not have signed the number one guy on the board, they still got a very good player…..The signing of SS Danieal Manning and Joseph makes a weakness, now a strength. Could this finally be the year Houston makes the playoffs?

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are another team that has been quiet this week, and now we’re hearing rumblings they may not sign RB Joseph Addai…..They did sign one of their own, S Melvin Bullitt…..We should find out the severity of QB Peyton Manning’s neck surgery by how much money the Colts guarantee him in his new contract.

Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Marcedes Lewis is expected to get a new contract shortly, as the Jags don’t want to lose his services…..The Jags did sign Clint Session, an unspectacular, yet solid LB who should help the Jags in the middle.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Steve Breaston signed with the Chiefs, reuniting with head coach Todd Haley. This gives the Chiefs a legitimate threat opposite Dwayne Bowe and gives rookie WR Jonathan Baldwin time to grow into the job…..I’m getting a bigger and bigger feeling each day that RB Jamaal Charles is going to have a huge season, providing he can stay healthy.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins signed the scatback they were looking for Thursday in Reggie Bush. Some might think this is bad for Daniel Thomas, but the Dolphins were always planning on signing a back to share the load. Bush will get his 12-15 touches a game, but Thomas will still be the main ball carrier, including when the Dolphins are in scoring position.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings upgraded their QB situation with the addition of Donovan McNabb, but lost their best WR in Sidney Rice. Good thing they have RB Adrian Peterson…..One WR the Vikings did sign was former Bear Devin Aromashodu. Aromashodu has talent, but just never fit in Mike Martz’s offense.

New England Patriots: You have to hand it to coach Bill Belichick. He has no problem taking on other teams problem children. First he makes a trade with Washington to take DT Albert Haynesworth off their hands, and then makes another trade for WR Chad Ochocino. Good luck to you Mr. Belichick…..One might think the Haynesworth deal has no chance of working, as the Patriots also play the 3-4 defense that he hates, but what Haynesworth really hated was lining up over the center. In New England, he will play one of the end positions, as Vince Wilfork will do that bit of dirty work.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints wasted no time in replacing RB Reggie Bush by agreeing to a contract with Darren Sproles on Thursday…..New Orleans seems to be in a battle with Denver and Dallas for the services of DT Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins isn’t really needed in New Orleans so one might think they wouldn’t be the favorite to land him.

New York Giants: The G-men received good news this week when the Dolphins dropped out of bidding for RB Ahmad Bradshaw; would almost seem a lock that he returns to them…..Things could get very ugly with DE Osi Umenyiora. Osi believes he was promised a new contract and may hold out until he gets it…..Could the Giants really be interested in re-signing WR Plaxico Burress? Seems if coach Tom Coughlin believes that he and Burress can get along; a second go around could be possible.

New York Jets: The Jets signed their number one priority this off-season in WR Santonio Holmes, but his $50 million contract will probably cost them any chance at signing fellow wideout Braylon Edwards…..The Jets are also trying to lock up CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Can you imagine trying to pass against that secondary?…..The Jets fallback option if they are unable to sign Asomugha is expected to be Antonio Cromartie, not a bad second choice.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders are said to still be in the market for a QB to challenge Jason Campbell for the starting job. It seems unlikely they would go after Kyle Orton however, as those two franchises don’t like each other.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles found their backup to QB Michael Vick with Vince Young all but signed and delivered. You can certainly question Young’s maturity, but he would seem to be a good fit for the Eagles offense as he is sort of a Vick clone…..The addition of CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gives the Eagles a really strong twosome with Asante Samuel, good thing too because their competition in the NFC East is strong at receiver. Dallas has Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, while the Giants boast Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.

Pittsburgh Steelers: If the Giants don’t sign WR Plaxico Burress than the Steelers might. It seems only his former teams are interested in him at this time…..The Steelers number one off-season priority was retaining CB Ike Taylor; mission accomplished with a four-year deal…..The Steelers are doing their best to sweep LB Jerome Harrison’s comments under the rug, but you still have to wonder if the team is getting tired of his act.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates is likely to begin camp on the PUP list, but that’s not anything to worry about as he should be ready to join the rest of the team in no time. One still has to wonder if Gates will be suffering from plantar fasciitis all season again…..It seems to be just a matter of time until WR Malcolm Floyd signs with another team.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers seem to be out of the running for CB Nnamdi Asomugha…..For the third straight season, WR Michael Crabtree will miss most if not all of training camp, and you wonder why he hasn’t taken that next step to stardom. This time it’s a foot injury that will keep him out…..The 49ers did upgrade their kicking situation with the addition of David Akers…..RB Frank Gore looks like he is going to be a holdout.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks decided to sign former Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson to compete with Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job. Whichever one wins the job will have Sidney Rice to throw to as he also went from Minnesota to Seattle…..I’m not sure the Seahawks QB situation got any better with Jackson, and have no doubt it would be much better with Matt Hasselbeck.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams have yet to sign that big time WR to help QB Sam Bradford make the jump to the next level…..The Rams are in the market for a solid RB to backup Steven Jackson. They realize Jackson has plenty of mileage on those tires and is unlikely to be able to play all 16 games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are yet another team that has backed out of the Asomugha sweepstakes. Kind of surprising since they have a need, and have the money…..They have also let LB Barrett Rudd know that they will no longer require his services. He was a tackle machine, but to many of those tackles were 2-3 yard up field.

Tennessee Titans: The good news for the Titans is that the signing of QB Matt Hasselbeck gives the team a solid QB. The bad news is that he has about as much a chance of starting all 16 games behind center as I do…..More bad news is that RB Chris Johnson is a holdout waiting to happen…..The NFLPA will indeed fight the commissioner’s right to discipline players who got in trouble during the lockout. This could be good news for WR Kenny Britt who is a lock to be suspended if Roger Goodell is allowed to suspend players for sullying the NFL shield.

Washington Redskins: The Redskins have made a slew of moves; signing DE Stephen Bowen, WRs Dante Stallworth and Jabbar Gaffney, and CB Josh Wilson. It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if they don’t have a QB, and they don’t have one…..The trade of DT Albert Haynesworth was addition by subtraction…..The re-signing of WR Santana Moss is nice, but he’s still not a real number one wideout. Skins seem to be pretty far behind the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles in the NFC East.