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Volume 6, Issue 126 (Monday, August 22nd)

Tonight's update brought to you by:
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Hi Folks,

If the Fantasy Football Season were a football game, this third week of the preseason games is without question, the Red Zone. You're gearing up and so are we. Many leagues are drafting this week and we'll continue to ramp up our coverage to bring you everything you need to Dominate Your League. From Training Camp Updates, to Player Spotlights, to Fantasy Articles to the latest in Cheatsheets and up to the minute Stat Projections. We'll keep you covered. Thanks to our Footballguy Mark Wimer for the help rounding up these stories tonight. Let's get to it.

Joe Bryant

SITE NEWS

A. Footballguys is Hiring Game Recap Writers
One of the best in season features we offer are our Game Recaps. You can check out a sample Game Recap here http://apps.footballguys.com/04gamerecapsplayoffs4.cfm For every game we have writers watching every play and bringing you all that you need to know. Several of our current Staff Writers got their start as Game Recap writers and we're hiring a few more. If you're interested, pick a game this week and submit a sample game recap to our Cathy Fazio at Fazio@footballguys.com. We of course pay for the in season work you do. Good luck!

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INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. CHI - QB Hutchinson's Play Provokes QB Controversy in Windy City
2. PIT - WR Ward Close to Deal With Steelers
3. CHI - RB Benson's Deal Shrinking?
4. MIA - RB Williams Loses Focus, Leaves Playbook in Hotel
5. DAL - PK Cundiff On the Way Out? Cowboys' PK Position Wide Open
6. NYG - QB Manning's Elbow Bruised, Slight Sprain - Will Miss Friday's NYJ Game
7. CLE/NE - WR Andre Davis Dealt to Patriots
8. PHI - QB McNabb on T.O. ""It's very important that we be able to get some work"
9. CAR - RB Davis Makes 2005 Debut in Monday's Practice
10. MIN - RB Bennett Out of Preseason Game Due to Sore Neck
11. MIA - OL Trouble Obvious, According to HC Saban
12. WAS - WR Patten Making an Impact With His New Team
13. BAL - More of the Same: QB Boller Struggles
14. CIN - QB Palmer Comes Out of the Gates Sluggish
15. DET - QB Harrington Is The Man (Commentary)
16. CLE - WR Bryant Makes His Mark
17. CLE - QB Frye Ready for #2? (Commentary)
18. ATL - WR Price Expected Back Sooner Rather than Later
19. JAX - Camp Wrapup (Commentary)
20. ARI - RB Shipp Makes Case for #2 Role
21. CAR IDP - S Branch Out for Season with Torn ACL, MCL
22. CAR IDP - DE Peppers Misses Monday's Practice; Sore Ankle
23. BUF - D Team Needs Work in Secondary (Commentary)
24. NYJ IDP - DL Thomas Taking Over for AWOL Abraham?

1. CHI - QB Hutchinson's Play Provokes QB Controversy in Windy City

Clipped from: Chicago Tribune article by K.C. Johnson, 8/21/05

Hutchinson acted more flabbergasted than annoyed when questioned about his mediocre performance in Saturday night's Bears exhibition victory over Indianapolis. Rightly or wrongly, his night placed the words "quarterback controversy" on talk shows and in chat rooms a full three weeks before the Bears' season opener.

At this rate, the next time Hutchinson throws an interception, Bears fans will be casting the bronze for Kyle Orton's bust and polishing off a final draft for his Hall of Fame acceptance speech.

Even Jeff Blake, who was throwing passes to his sons in Austin, Texas, just over a week ago, is being mentioned in some circles as the savior.

After all, with the Bears apparently possessing a ready-to-win-now defense, fans' patience, if not the leash on Hutchinson, will be short.

"I thought he ran the offense fairly well," coach Lovie Smith said. "But we need to make a couple of plays. He'll play better the next time out."

By now the numbers are well documented. In his first start since Rex Grossman went down with a season-threatening broken ankle, Hutchinson went 5-for-8 for 40 yards, with two interceptions, one fumble and three sacks. The numbers came against a Colts defense minus six starters, which is probably why Hutchinson responded with three words and some nervous laughter when asked to assess his performance.

"Uh, not good," he said.

"The things he didn't do well will fuel the fire inside of him to come out and have a better performance next time," receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. "That's what you look for from your leader."

Hutchinson said late Saturday that he'd watch film to determine if his sacks were a byproduct of offensive line breakdowns, his well-documented tendency to hold the ball or a combination of both.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Everyone knew that things would be rocky in Chicago when Rex Grossman went down with the broken ankle. Now, we're starting to see just how bad things might be in Chicago this year. As we observed last night, Hutchinson had a tough game over the weekend. You'll want to think twice before drafting Muhsin Muhammad (among others), because receivers (even the most talented receivers) still need to have the ball delivered on target - and that could be a problem for the Bears this year.

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2. PIT - WR Ward Close to Deal With Steelers

Clipped from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article by Ed Bouchette, 8/22/05

While acknowledging that he really does not know the terms being discussed, Hines Ward said he and the Steelers are "close" to a contract extension.

Ward said he talks to his agent often and while "I don't know numbers, I don't want to know numbers." Nevertheless, "it's just a matter of when" and not if a deal gets done before the season begins.

Sources close to the contract negotiations, however, say there is no deal "imminent."

"It's close, as far as what he told me," Ward said of agent Eugene Parker. "I mean, we're close. It's just a matter of when. I don't know when. I just have to go out there, continue to practice, get better and try not to get hurt."

Ward said that Parker, "gave me a ballpark figure somewhere, but I don't know where they're at with their ballpark figures."

Ward reportedly is seeking guaranteed money of between $16 million and $18 million over the first three years of what likely will be a six-year contract. Those so-called guarantees come in the form of a signing bonus this year, a roster bonus next year, annual salaries and other possible bonuses. The money, technically, is not guaranteed but when the bonuses are high, it would be prohibitive -- for salary-cap purposes -- for the team to cut the player in the first three years, thus virtually guaranteeing the payout.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Hines Ward has caught 287 passes and rushed the ball 30 times during the past 3 regular seasons - he's a major cog in the Steelers' offense. He deserves (and will get) a contract to reflect his elite status.

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3. CHI - RB Benson's Deal Shrinking?

Clipped from Chicago Tribune article by K.C. Johnson, 8/21/05

Bears management held internal discussions Sunday about if and when it might reduce its final offer to holdout running back Cedric Benson.

The offer has been on the table since Aug. 13 and is believed to include a guaranteed $17 million.

In a statement released Thursday, and in comments to reporters Saturday night in Indianapolis, general manager Jerry Angelo hinted at cutting the offer.

Benson and agent Eugene Parker let last Monday's deadline pass without responding to that offer. The next step could be informing Benson's camp how much the offer will be trimmed.

Benson is keeping a low profile while working out in Austin, Texas, including having little or no contact with Bears management.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

The word for this situation is "deadlocked". Nobody is winning in this negotiation right now. Neither side is budging from their stance - at this point Benson's rookie campaign is in serious jeopardy. With Rex Grossman sidelined and the passing game in a shambles, there won't be much room to roam when rushing the ball anyway, as defenses don't have to respect the passing game. At this point, we're getting a little nervous.

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4. MIA - RB Williams Loses Focus, Leaves Playbook in Hotel

Clipped from Miami Herald article by Armando Salguero, 8/22/05

Dolphins running back Ricky Williams caused something of stir over the weekend when he left what is believed to be part of his playbook in his room at the team hotel Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

Williams apparently realized he didn't have the material that contains team information and plays after checking out of the Marriott City Center where the club stayed overnight Friday. The club dispatched two officers from the Allegheny County Sheriff's Department to help retrieve the book that was found by the housekeeping department.

''We really don't have a playbook, but we do have a little preparation plan for these games that we give,'' Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. ``So if he left anything at the hotel, that would be the only thing he could have left. But I don't know if it did or didn't happen.''

Sheriff's department public information officer Sgt. Pat Hirsh was unavailable to comment Sunday afternoon, but a department source confirmed that the booklet was retrieved by some off-duty deputies who escorted the Dolphins to the game.

The booklet had Williams' name and number on it, the police source said. A supervisor at the Marriott City Center, who would not divulge her name, also confirmed the incident.

Losing one's playbook is a fineable offense for the Dolphins and around the NFL. Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams can fine players no more than $5,000 for such an offense.

But it is unclear if Williams will be fined.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

This is a non story but you know us - we try to let you know about everything that's out there. It's just more fuel for the fire for those that are looking to rip Williams. If this had been anyone else, you'd never have heard a peep about it.

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5. DAL - PK Cundiff On the Way Out? Cowboys' PK Position Wide Open

Clipped from: Dallas Morning News article by Todd Archer, 8/22/05

Billy Cundiff may have played his final game for the Cowboys.

Cundiff suffered a hip flexor in Saturday's practice and could miss three to four weeks, according to coach Bill Parcells, jeopardizing his spot on the 53-man roster. Because the injury could linger into the season, Parcells does not believe he could carry an extra kicker - even for a couple of weeks.

"That puts us in a little dilemma at that position now," Parcells said, "so we'll have to see what we have to do about that."

The Cowboys had a similar circumstance last season, when kicker Matt Bryant suffered a hamstring injury and was released. The Cowboys hoped to bring him back, but Bryant signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Jose Cortez, who was signed Aug. 6, will handle the kicking duties tonight against Seattle and for the rest of the preseason. Parcells said the team will work out some kickers when the team returns to Valley Ranch, but he said he expects some veterans to be available after cuts are made.

Cundiff said he was extremely disappointed about the injury. He missed what would have been a go-ahead 53-yard field goal Aug. 13 at Arizona, but Parcells said he was doing "fine" in camp. Last season, Cundiff connected on 20 of 26 field goal attempts. Cortez made a 33-yard field goal in the preseason opener at Arizona, and Parcells said Cortez has improved since arriving in Oxnard. Cortez has not attempted a field goal in a regular-season game since 2002, when he was with the Washington Redskins. He spent parts of the previous two seasons as the Minnesota Vikings' kickoff specialist.

For his career, Cortez has connected on 41 of 57 field goal attempts, including a career-high 52-yarder with San Francisco in 2001. With the 49ers, he was coached by Cowboys special teams coach Bruce DeHaven.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Well, it looks like you need to drop Cundiff from your PK cheat sheet. We'll keep an eye on the battle to replace Cundiff and keep you on top of the situation as developments occur. Whoever wins the kicking job in Dallas will likely be dirt cheap in your draft yet could deliver decent stats. Stay tuned.

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6. NYG - QB Manning's Elbow Bruised, Slight Sprain - Will Miss Friday's NYJ Game

Clipped from: CBS Sportsline.com Wire reports, 8/22/05

Eli Manning will miss the New York Giants' preseason game against the New York Jets on Friday with a sprained elbow, but said that the injury might not prevent him from playing in a regular season game.

The Giants' quarterback was examined Monday morning by Dr. Russell Warren, the team doctor, who confirmed he had a sprain and bruise on the inside of his right elbow. Coach Tom Coughlin said Manning's status is "week to week."

The injury occurred Saturday night in the first half of the Giants' 27-21 win over Carolina when Julius Peppers stripped Manning of the ball, recovered it and returned it for a touchdown. Manning remained in the game and threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer despite the injury.

Manning said that since it is the preseason he will not throw this week and will see how the elbow feels next week before attempting to resume practicing.

"If it was the first game of a long season you wouldn't want to risk doing anything worse, but if it was an important game then I could still throw the football. Right now I could probably go and throw, but I might have to make adjustments to the way I throw it to avoid pain, maybe not consciously, and then it could end up being worse," he said.

Manning wasn't sure if the injury occurred when Peppers caused the fumble or when his arm followed through and his hand hit Peppers' helmet. Regardless, he took some of the responsibility for not getting out of harm's way.

"After looking at it, I probably could have avoided it if I had just moved up in the pocket and kept two hands on the ball," Manning said Monday. "I saw the guy coming and thought I could get the ball off before he got to me. I should have just moved up, held the ball a second longer and then tried to throw it."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

It looks like Giants fans and Manning owners can breathe a sigh of relief. Coach Coughlin sounded pretty worried earlier but after the team doc examined Manning, it appears that the young QB escaped without serious ligament or tendon damage - the best possible outcome given the location of the injury.

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7. CLE/NE - WR Andre Davis Dealt to Patriots

Clipped from: Palm Beach Post AP article by Tom Withers, 8/22/05

Wide receiver Andre' Davis, pushed to the bottom of Cleveland's depth chart, was traded to the New England Patriots by the Browns for an undisclosed draft pick Monday.

For New England, Davis adds a veteran presence to an already deep receiving corps. He arrived at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Monday to begin practicing with the Super Bowl champions.

"Whatever I can do, I'm going to make sure that I do it to the best of my ability and make sure that I'm a smart player because I know (Patriots coach) Bill Belichick wants smart players," he said.

Davis had been mentioned in trade talks for several months. He became expendable after the Browns drafted rookie Braylon Edwards, and Antonio Bryant and Dennis Northcutt both emerged during training camp.

Davis also had lost his job as Cleveland's No. 1 kick returner to rookie Joshua Cribbs.

Last week, the Browns gave the 26-year-old Davis and his agent, Kennard McGuire, permission to seek a trade. The Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks also expressed interest.

"All he wanted was an opportunity to go out and utilize the talents he has shown he has," McGuire said. "The Browns were great about giving Andre' a chance to find another place to play."

Davis was selected in the second round (No. 47 overall) of the 2002 draft by former Browns coach Butch Davis, who thought the former Virginia Tech track star's speed would open things up for Cleveland's offense.

However, injuries have slowed Davis' development.

Because of a nagging toe injury, he started only seven games and had 16 receptions for 416 yards and two touchdowns last season. One of those TDs was a 99-yarder from Jeff Garcia, the longest pass play in Browns history.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

The drama of the New England Patriots' wide receiver stable grows - why is Deion Branch being held out of pre-season games? Whatever happened to David Terrell? Why did the Patriots add Andre Davis to the mix at this late date? Can Tim Dwight stick on the roster? What about Troy Brown's role?

The bottom line here is that there is an awful lot of talent at WR in New England, and there are only so many balls to go around. Considering the coaching staff's tendency to spread receptions amongst the crew, predicting who will emerge as the #1 Patriot receiver this year is quite a chore. At this point, we think Branch and David Givens will headline the corps, with Terrell, Davis and Dwight in reserve roles. Although we'll be watching this very closely as Davis is a talented guy and we could see him making noise if he picks up the system quickly. We may have been unfairly judging him in Cleveland without a great QB throwing to him. He'll certainly have that now.

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8. PHI - QB McNabb on T.O. ""It's very important that we be able to get some work"

Clipped from: Palm Beach Post AP article by staff, 8/22/05

Donovan McNabb acknowledges that he needs preseason playing time with Terrell Owens even if he doesn't talk to him off the field.

Owens has yet to play this preseason. He missed the Eagles first game after being dismissed from the team for a week and sat out Saturday night's victory over the Ravens to rest his sore groin.

Owens returned to practice Monday afternoon and did not appear limited by the injury.

The Eagles' next preseason game is Friday at home against Cincinnati.

"It's very important that we be able to get some work," McNabb said. "It's valuable time right now, what we're doing on the practice field. But once we get out on the playing field, we want to keep that same mentality - what we've done in practice is the same thing we've done in a game."

Owens is in the second year of a seven-year contract worth nearly $49 million, and he has demanded that the team redo his deal. He and McNabb have sparred in public, with Owens calling McNabb a "hypocrite" and with McNabb saying he doesn't need to talk to Owens to be successful on the field.

Owens, who has not spoken publicly was hurt early in camp and aggravated it Thursday.

"He obviously wants to play and would have played Saturday, but I didn't think it was a smart thing to do coming off his injury," coach Andy Reid said Monday. "I think that it is good that he gets that timing down."

The Eagles have now lost two wide receivers for the season because of injuries.

Todd Pinkston, expected to start with Owens, ruptured his Achilles tendon on Aug. 5. On Saturday against the Ravens, second-year pro Justin Jenkins injured a knee on the opening kickoff.

Reid said second-year man Carlos Perez will replace Jenkins on the depth chart behind Owens, Greg Lewis, rookie Reggie Brown and Billy McMullen.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Welcome to another installment of "The Days of the Eagles' Lives", the ongoing soap-opera in Philadelphia. Donovan McNabb keeps trying to be the team leader and peace-maker. How long until T.O. melts down again? Stay tuned... Seriously, though, the relationship between these two premier players is strained at best. We have yet to see how the tension translates into on-field chemistry but understand it's a factor for fantasy owners who may consider adding Owens to their 2005 roster. Unless the Ravens trade Ray Lewis to the Bengals, we expect to see Owens against Cincinnati...

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9. CAR - RB Davis Makes 2005 Debut in Monday's Practice

Clipped from: Palm Beach Post AP article by Jenna Fryer, 8/22/05

Stephen Davis was on the field Monday for the first time at the Carolina Panthers' training camp, participating in a few individual drills. Contact will have to wait at least another day.

Davis was scheduled to participate in his first full-contact action Monday afternoon, but a threat of lightning forced the Panthers to move their practice inside for a light walkthrough. The change of plans was frustrating for Carolina's star running back, who is eager to get back to work.

"I want to get back on the field, period," Davis said. "I'm a football player. I want to be out there on the field with my teammates."

The Panthers thought Monday would be the day after Davis passed a morning physical that cleared him to test his right knee. He had microfracture surgery last November and the Panthers have been hesitant to allow him to practice, placing him on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp.

Anxious to get on the field, Davis was temporarily held up when he couldn't find his helmet. Once it was located, he jogged outside and received a loud cheer from the fans in attendance.

His teammates also applauded him as he was the final player to get on the field.

"I appreciate those guys," he said of the applause. "They've been behind me 100 percent, pushing me along. You can't ask for a better group of guys."

Davis is not expected to play in Friday night's preseason game against Cleveland. He has targeted the Sept. 1 preseason finale against Pittsburgh as his first game.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

DeShaun Foster has the starting job at this point. If he can overcome a history of injuries, Foster looks like the guy who will carry the load for the Panthers. However, Foster has struggled to stay on the field during his career, so backups Shelton and/or Davis could become major fantasy contributors if Foster goes down to yet another injury. Keep an eye on the Panther's backups in case of another Foster injury - they could be a steal in the late rounds of your draft (or a valuable waiver-wire acquisition).

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10. MIN - RB Bennett Out of Preseason Game Due to Sore Neck

Clipped from: the StarTribune.com article:

Running back Michael Bennett sprained his neck Friday against the Jets. Bennett did not participate in today's early practice (it was more of a walk-through) and Tice didn't sound as if he expects the team's No. 1 running back to play Friday against San Diego at the Metrodome. Tice said Mewelde Moore will get the start but made it clear Bennett remains atop the depth chart.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Let's not panic yet but you'd be silly not to take notice of a Michael Bennett injury. Stay tuned. If Bennett's injury turns out to be more serious, Moore would shoot up the rankings. Moe Williams would also likely benefit as would Ciatrick Fason when he returns.

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11. MIA - OL Trouble Obvious, According to HC Saban

Clipped from: Palm Beach Post article by Jeff Darlington, 8/22/05

The offensive line was the Dolphins' real problem. Starting quarterback Gus Frerotte, who completed seven of 18 passes, was constantly being run down by Pittsburgh's ever-blitzing defensive front. He fumbled twice and was sacked twice.

And Williams, also a victim of the lack of blocking, rarely was given room to run. "(Williams) didn't have many opportunities to do much, because he didn't have much space or much air other than one play where he gained 7 or 8 yards," Saban said. "We've had three games now. We need to knock a hole in (the defense) more consistently so that we have space to run the ball.

"And we need to protect the quarterback more consistently so that we have a chance to develop the timing in the passing game that we need to be able to throw it effectively."

So how will the team fix the issues on the line? The ability is there, Saban says, but the players must work on the mental aspect of their job.

"I don't think that it's physical ability (that's missing)," Saban said. "Mentally, we have to play with a sense of urgency, an intensity and an intelligence that is going to allow us to be more effective in the consistency of our performance."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Our Chris Smith has updated his extensive review of all 32 NFL offensive lines (http://www.footballguys.com/05smith_offensivelines.php) , and it's no surprise that he ranks the Dolphins 27th out of 32 teams - they just aren't very good. Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams enthusiasts should take note of this situation (if anybody is a Gus Frerotte booster, they would do well to pay attention too).

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12. WAS - WR Patten Making an Impact With His New Team

Clipped from: Washington Post article by Jason La Canfora, 8/22/05

He has three NFL championship rings, has played in two Super Bowls -- even scored a touchdown in one -- and once piled up over 100 yards in an AFC playoff game. Yet on Friday night at FedEx Field, David Patten, 31, alumnus of the New England Patriots dynasty and one of the Washington Redskins' key offseason acquisitions, brimmed with nervous energy.

"I was telling the guys that I felt like a rookie all over again," Patten said. "It's just a whole new atmosphere. It seemed like in New England everything had become normal, because we're just expected to win. And this is a whole new challenge -- getting this team off on the right note -- and just to be a part of that is exciting."

Patten was making his debut in front of what are now his home fans, and the butterflies hardly diminished his play as he caught three passes for 109 yards in only a half of work, providing the first tangible evidence that indeed there are signs of life in Washington's deep passing game. Patten and fellow starting receiver Santana Moss were brought in for their speed and game-breaking ability, and are expected to ignite the league's 30th-ranked offense. But while the unit remains under intense scrutiny -- with Coach Joe Gibbs and starting quarterback Patrick Ramsey firmly atop that list -- Patten has something positive to take out of the opening three weeks of training camp.

Washington's lengthy quest for plays of 20 yards or more led to Patten becoming a favorite target of Ramsey's, as he hauled in passes of 46, 33 and 30 yards; no Redskins receiver had more than three receptions of 30 or more yards through the entire 2004 season. The Redskins completed only nine passes of that length over 16 games (514 passing attempts).

Ramsey is still getting familiar with his new receiver, but appears to trust Patten. He has looked to the veteran on third and long throughout the preseason, and, after Friday's connections, figures to continue calling on him in all situations.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Until we find out more, it's tough to speculate on what Branch's injury could mean to the Panthers. They had pretty much locked down all of the starting spots back in minicamp, so a major shakeup in the secondary could be a big blow to a team that had hoped to seamlessly transition into the regular season. The Panthers turned their season around in a big way last season, and the defense was of course a big part of that. Hopefully, this injury turns out to be less serious than it seems, but it's not looking too promising at the moment.

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13. BAL - More of the Same: QB Boller Struggles

Clipped from: Baltimore Sun article by Jamison Hensley, 8/22/05

Kyle Boller's preseason struggles were summed up by a play that should never have materialized.

On the Ravens' third drive of Saturday's 20-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Boller missed a handoff to his running back but still tried to make something happen by giving the ball to receiver Derrick Mason on a reverse. Expecting only a fake, a surprised Mason nearly fumbled the exchange before taking a 7-yard loss.

Watching his quarterback compound one mistake upon another, Ravens coach Brian Billick put his right hand on Boller's shoulder and calmly told him, "[Mason] wasn't expecting the ball, so you have to eat that one."

Boller's difficulties can't be attributed to a lack of effort. If anything, the third-year starter tries too hard.

When a receiver isn't open, he needs to learn to throw the ball away. When his pass protection collapses around him, he needs to learn to take the sack.

It all goes back to the one lesson he has yet to fully grasp: how to show poise in the pocket.

"I'm going to continue to talk to him," said Mason, the team's top free-agent signing this offseason. "He just needs to calm down a little bit. He wants to make a play so bad sometimes. A couple of times, he got pressured and tried to get the ball out quickly. But with guys on your back, it's hard to do that. He needs to stay composed like the player he is."

After an uneven preseason opener in Atlanta, Boller regressed further against an Eagles defense that brought more blitzes.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Fantasy owners who are considering using a high draft pick on TE Todd Heap and WR Derrick Mason for their 2005 squads should weigh the distressing lack of development on Bollers' part before pulling the trigger on a Raven receiver. Frankly, Boller looked pretty bad out there, and he hasn't improved measurably since his rookie season. The backups in Baltimore, Anthony Wright and Derek Anderson, don't inspire much confidence either - there just isn't much talent at the crucial QB position in Baltimore right now. It's preseason and preseason is no time to panic but we'd be lying if we said we liked what we're seeing there.

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14. CIN - QB Palmer Comes Out of the Gates Sluggish

Clipped from: Cincinnati Enquirer article by Mark Curnutte, 8/22/05

The Bengals first-team offense scored touchdowns on its last two possessions Friday night against Washington, but coach Marvin Lewis wants more productivity early from quarterback Carson Palmer.

"He didn't play as well as he needs to play, and he needs to keep playing better," Lewis said Sunday of Palmer. "He knows there are some things he needs to do to get better. He's learning a lot in these areas of what we can and can't do. But we've got to be able to handle things early in the game.

"We've got to go out and make first downs and get the field position turned around." In the first four possessions Friday night at Washington, the Bengals starting offense gained just 61 yards on 22 plays. Drives ended in punts three times and a Palmer interception.

"His whole theme of starting fast you want to come out and score on the first drive," Palmer said. "In a perfect world you do that 16 out of 16 times. That's what our goal is. "There's progress in a lot of areas but a lot of things we have to execute better. Our main thing is you want to get better week to week and be ready for opening day, and we got better last week."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Palmer is an up-and-coming fantasy talent. We think he'll be solid this season, and currently project him as the 13th best fantasy QB in the land (http://footballguys.com/currentproj-qb.php).

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15. DET - QB Harrington Is The Man (Commentary)

Clipped from: Detroit News article by Mike O'Hara, 8/22/05

Whether it was real or a made-for-training camp fantasy competition, the Lions' Great Quarterback Challenge of 2005 has ended with two winners.

Joey Harrington's performance in the first two exhibition games has removed any doubt that he is the starting quarterback.

Jeff Garcia, signed as a free agent to compete with Harrington, will remain the No. 2 quarterback. That's a victory for the offense because Garcia provides a competent backup that has been lacking for several seasons.

Coach Steve Mariucci is more definitive than ever in talking about Harrington's starting status.

"He's been our starter, he is our starter, and he will be our starter," Mariucci said Sunday. "I don't know how else to explain it."

Whether Harrington has been pushed by Garcia, or he has improved from a typical career progression as he begins his fourth season, he has taken a step up this year. Harrington improved his statistics in narrow increments the first three years: 12 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions as a rookie in 2002, a 17-22 differential in '03 and 19-12 in '04. His passer rating rose from 59.6 to 63.9 to 77.5.

Harrington has completed 14 of 15 passes for 146 yards in two exhibition games. He has been decisive and accurate with his passes. Harrington hasn't thrown a touchdown pass or had an interception.

Garcia has completed 16 of 26 for 151 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Harrington's only incomplete pass was a throw intended for Roy Williams in the end zone in the first quarter of Saturday's 21-13 loss to Cleveland. Harrington looked to Charles Rogers in the right side of the end zone, then came back to his left and hesitated slightly before trying to hit Williams.

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Joey Harrington has responded to the pressure that Garcia provided in a big way. With Roy Williams, Mike Williams and Charles Rogers to throw at, he could be in for a breakout season. There is definitely upside potential with Harrington - we'll see how much once Harrington starts facing "real" NFL defenses during regular season. As I keep saying over and over, I love the Harrington / Garcia handcuff. You'll have a QB in a great situation and unless it's a local league in Detroit, you'll likely have them cheaply.

16. CLE - WR Bryant Makes His Mark

Clipped from: Akron Beacon-Journal article by Terry Pluto, 8/22/05

While fans will rave about Braylon Edwards' leaping touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, the best receiver in camp has been Antonio Bryant. Fans forget that he caught 42 passes (four touchdowns) in seven starts for the Browns last year. Project that over 16 games, and it's 84 catches.

Bryant has impressed the new regime. He's the reason Andre Davis has been given permission to seek a trade, and why he might not be with the Browns by the opener. Bryant has good hands, and he's very strong. He might have pushed off on his 51-yard touchdown catch, but that's what the better receivers will do because they can outmuscle a defensive back.

Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer on Bryant: ``I want to try and get him the ball every chance I get. He made a very average pass look good (the 51-yard touchdown); he attacked the football in the air. I've not had many guys who will do that in my career. It makes you willing to make more aggressive decisions.''

Edwards is more than just a gifted athlete. I love how he has an excellent sense of where to find the sideline, and how he can make a tough catch while covered. Edwards and Bryant give the Browns two big, physical receivers. Both are at least 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds.

The Browns traded Quincy Morgan to the Dallas Cowboys for Bryant. Morgan is fighting for a spot on the roster. That deal could be one of the best moves made by former coach Butch Davis.

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At this time of year, every team is undefeated, and optimism reigns supreme. However, by all accounts, Antonio Bryant is a stand-out of the Browns' camp and may be poised to make a lot of noise during 2005.

17. CLE - QB Frye Ready for #2? (Commentary)

Clipped from: Canton Repository article by Steve Doerschuk, 8/22/05

Remember when the Browns' quarterback controversy was about No. 2, Tim Couch? Now - pardon the drama - it's a No. 2 quarterback controversy.

Then, it was Couch vs. Kelly Holcomb. Now, it's Charlie Frye vs. Doug Johnson in a battle to back up Trent Dilfer.

Through two preseason games, Frye has been no wilting rookie. He has completed 19-of-28 passes for 136 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception and a strong 87.8 passer rating. He has been sacked just once, and has bought himself time by moving around in the pocket.

Johnson, who will turn 28 six games into the coming season, is a veteran of five NFL seasons. As such, he was ahead of Frye, but he missed the Detroit game with a sore shoulder.

Frye has made some clutch throws, including a touchdown pass that gave the Browns a 14-7 lead over the Giants, and a fourth-and-goal lob to Braylon Edwards that delivered a victory in Detroit.

Is Romeo Crennel ready to give the backup job to Frye?

"Not yet," the head coach said. "But he's making good improvement. I like what I see from him. He's conscientious. He makes plays."

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Trent Dilfer is a veteran signal caller (and owner of a Super Bowl ring) - given that the Brown's WR corps has made strides this year (see story above), it's possible that their passing attack may surprise during 2005. If Charlie Frye ends up #2, he could be a valuable waiver wire pickup in the event of a Dilfer injury. The Browns are in transition this year, so don't bet the farm on Dilfer and company - but don't ignore them either.

18. ATL - WR Price Expected Back Sooner Rather than Later

Clipped from: Atlanta Journal Constitution article by Steve Wyche, 8/22/05

Wide receiver Peerless Price could return to practice today or Tuesday "at the latest," coach Jim Mora said Sunday.

The veteran flanker suffered bruised ribs and a mild concussion when he was hit by Tennessee Titans defensive back Norman LeJeune following a 13-yard, third-quarter reception during Friday's exhibition game. Price did not return after making his only catch of the game.

Price, who was demoted to second team behind Michael Jenkins, is expected to play in the Falcons' fourth exhibition game Thursday at Jacksonville, but the number of snaps he'll receive is uncertain because starters will play at least the first half and possibly longer, Mora said.

Plus, Jenkins has been getting additional repetitions after the first unit has been pulled because the Falcons are trying to give the second-year player as much experience as possible. He has just two catches for 34 yards --- Price has four for 54 --- but Mora said he has no plans to alter the receiving rotation.

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Clearly, Price is down-and-out with the Atlanta coaching staff right now. He may still land in the starting lineup at some point this year, but don't count on him for anything more than spot fantasy duty this year (if that).

19. JAX - Camp Wrapup (Commentary)

Clipped from: Jacksonville Times-Union article by Vito Stellino, 8/22/05

Del Rio said the team had a "businesslike approach the entire way'' to training camp, which wrapped up over the weekend.

"No distractions,'' he added. "I thought it was as smooth an operation as we could hope for. I know maybe it doesn't make for as fun a time for you [writers] to cover it. Kind of 'ho-hum, here comes another practice,' but that's how the coaches like them.''

Del Rio's top priority in the three-week camp was to avoid major injuries and the Jaguars did that, mainly by avoiding hitting. They also only had a brief holdout by top draft pick Matt Jones. But there were no controversies or heat incidents.

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The article goes on to summarize the high points of/remaining question marks after the Jaguar's training camp. A must read if you are considering adding some Jaguars to your 2005 fantasy mix.

20. ARI - RB Shipp Makes Case for #2 Role - Hambrick Released

Clipped from: Arizona Republic article by Odeen Domingo, 8/22/05

Then there's Marcel Shipp who in his first game in 589 days may have won the No. 2 running back job. Shipp missed that many days because of major knee and ankle injuries. On Saturday, he averaged 8 yards on seven carries. One rushing attempt should have gone for 5 yards; instead, Shipp powered and spun his way to a 26-yard gain.

"I didn't think about the leg once when I was out there," Shipp said. "I just kept wanting the ball more and more.

"Actually, I thought it was a little stiff because I didn't get in until the end of the second quarter, third quarter. But I was right on. I didn't really warm up too much. I just went out there. I was just so anxious to get out there and play."

Sixth-year veteran Charles Lee has been the favorite to win the No. 4 wide receiver spot, and it doesn't seem like that's going to change. Lee caught three passes for 37 yards, including one for a 19-yard touchdown.

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For you guys keeping track at home, the Cardinals released RB Troy Hambrick today. We believe that JJ Arrington will carry the load for the Cardinals this year, but if he goes down Shipp could be a big-time waiver wire acquisition. Keep Shipp's name filed away as a possible move.

21. CAR IDP - S Branch Out for Season with Torn ACL, MCL

Clipped from: CBS Sportsline Wire reports, 8/21/05

Panthers safety Colin Branch will miss the entire season because of a knee injury during Carolina's preseason loss to the New York Giants.

General manager Marty Hurney said Sunday it was too early to say how the Panthers will replace Branch, or if first-round draft pick Thomas Davis will return to safety after one week at linebacker.

"We're still going over the film," Hurney said. "The players aren't even back yet, so we haven't even started those kinds of discussions yet."

Branch tore both the anterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during the first quarter of the 27-21 loss Saturday night at Giants Stadium. It appeared that Carolina linebackers Will Witherspoon and Dan Morgan rolled onto Branch's leg as they went after receiver David Tyree, who slipped past on what became a 90-yard touchdown.

Branch started last season at free safety, but spent much of training camp battling for a starting spot at strong safety while the Panthers retooled the secondary to make room for Davis.

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If Branch was on your draft list, it's time to drop him. Idrees Bashir may be the heir apparent now that Branch is sidelined for the year. Stay tuned during the final preseason games to see if Bashir can lock down the position.

22. CAR IDP - DE Peppers Misses Monday's Practice; Sore Ankle

Clipped from: CBS Sportsline.com wire reports, 8/22/05

Julius Peppers sat out practice with a sore right ankle Monday, two days after the Carolina Panthers defensive end returned a fumble 29 yards for a touchdown against the New York Giants.

Peppers was wearing a heavy black boot on his foot as he watched practice from the sidelines.

"It's been sore over the last couple of weeks and it got a lot sorer after the game," he said. "We're just being extra careful with it right now. It's nothing major, let's not make it a bigger deal than it is."

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The good news is that Peppers doesn't consider this injury a big deal. The bad news is, Julius Peppers is already a little banged up. We'll keep an eye on this one for you. Peppers brings freaky physical skills to the position so he's clearly a guy in the IDP spotlight.

23. BUF - D Team Needs Work in Secondary (Commentary)

Clipped from: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle commentary by Leo Roth, 8/22/05

After driving the Green Bay Packers 75 yards to a touchdown on the game's opening series, quarterback Brett Favre took his football and went home.

And there was nothing the Buffalo Bills proud defense could do about it.

Favre, the Packers' venerable 15-year veteran, played just a series in his team's 27-7 loss to the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium Saturday night. But it was more than enough time to serve up a slice of humble pie to Buffalo's first-unit defense that had been flying high this summer. He showed the NFL's No. 2 unit that it has some things to work on.

"We wanted another crack at him," linebacker Jeff Posey said. "But we understand you can't take a chance of getting a guy that important to his team hurt in a preseason game. But most definitely, we wished he could've stayed in the game after that good first drive."

Favre went 4 of 6 passing for 41 yards, capping the 13-play drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ahman Green. Favre converted two third downs with long passes, and drew a defensive holding call on Jabari Greer to convert another. On his TD pass, he beat Buffalo's dangerous zone blitz by finding Green single covered in the end zone by defensive end Aaron Schobel.

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There is always room for improvement. That's why the NFL has these pre-season games. The Bills will be a top defensive team this year, despite their poor showing vs. Green Bay.

24. NYJ IDP - DL Thomas Taking Over for AWOL Abraham?

Clipped from: New York Times article by Karen Crouse, 8/22/05

Thomas, who started 15 games in his first three seasons, has been practicing against the Jets' first-string offense while Abraham the sack man continues his invisible-man routine as a holdout. He is upset that he was not offered a long-term contract or at least assurances that the franchise-player tag he wears today will remain next year.

Abraham's absence at defensive end has become Thomas's opening.

"I've got to take advantage of it," Thomas, a former first-round draft pick out of Alabama-Birmingham, said Sunday before an afternoon practice at Hofstra. "It's an opportunity to go out there and showcase my talent."

It must be awkward for Thomas, having to make plays while maneuvering around the 260-pound elephant on the team that is Abraham.

"I don't know what's going to happen with John," said Thomas, 26. "I'm not going to say that I don't think about it. I mean, I'm going to practice and get in shape and get better and try to get the trust of my coaches while I'm out there so they know I can do what needs to be done."

Coach Herman Edwards said that even if Abraham were to report to the Jets this week, he could not be sure how much he would be able to play in the season opener at Kansas City on Sept. 11. Abraham, 27, sat out the final four games of last season and the playoffs with a sprained knee.

Thomas's progress is drawing less notice than Abraham's stalemate. While Abraham makes headlines for doing things other than signing his one-year, $6.7 million contract, Thomas is doing, in Edwards's estimation, "a great job."

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Abraham is yet another holdout player who may be doing himself more harm than good. We'll see how this situation plays out, but it looks like Bryan Thomas will be the starter come September - and perhaps beyond. Abraham owners would be wise to snag Thomas off the waiver wire, if he's available.

That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great day and we'll see you tomorrow with the update.

J

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