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With camps winding up and something resembling real football happening on our screens, we can get a good idea of what to adjust from expectations going into training camp and what to continue to track to fill in variables in draft value equations the best we can. It’s time to take a breath before the second and third preseason games give us even more to (over) react to.
There’s no end to the Ezekiel Elliott holdout in sight, but many reports have been positive about the likelihood of something getting done before the season begins. Fourth-round pick Tony Pollard appears to have separated him as the biggest winner if Elliott doesn’t report before Week 1, and Pollard could have a “weapon” WR/RB role even after Elliott does report...Amari Cooper is dealing with a heel issue that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but one report said it is a ligament issue as opposed to a bruise, which is the type of injury that could linger all year...Michael Gallup has gotten universal praise and appears to be ready for the second-year leap. He could be a big hit if Cooper is up and down like he was in Oakland...Center Travis Frederick says feels back to normal after missing last year with an immune system disorder. Guard Zack Martin had a precautionary MRI on his back that showed no structural damage… Jason Witten has reportedly picked up where he left off in 2017 and will play a big role in the offense, although his snap count might be lower than it was two years ago...Demarcus Lawrence hasn’t returned yet from offseason shoulder surgery and the team’s other starting defensive end, Robert Quinn, has a broken hand and will be suspended for the first two games (Giants, at Washington).
Daniel Jones was perfect in the preseason opener, although the team continues to insist that there is no quarterback controversy. That could change if Jones performs well in the second and third preseason games… Wayne Gallman is banged up with a foot strain and Paul Perkins is back, muddying the backup running back battle. Rod Smith was added in the offseason and his special team prowess could give him an edge… Golden Tate has had a solid camp but will serve his four-game suspension as his appeal was denied… Sterling Shepard has been practicing and catching passes despite having a broken thumb… Evan Engram has generated buzz from multiple observers heading into his third year and could have increased targets early in the season while Tate is sitting.
Carson Wentz is healthy in camp for the first time in three years and has carried over his connection with free-agent signing Desean Jackson to practices...Dallas Goedert has continued to look like a player on the rise in his second camp but he currently week-to-week with a calf injury...Miles Sanders wowed observers at training camp but it still appears that the team will use him and free-agent addition Jordan Howard in a committee to begin the season...Backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld suffered a broken arm and will be sidelined for a week or two into the regular season...Kamu Grugier-Hill was the best linebacker in camp until an MCL sprain knocked him out of action into mid or late September...Zach Ertz has had a great camp, but at least one beat writer expects his targets to drop from his career-high 156 last year.
Trent Williams still has not shown for camp and most reports say that he has played his last down for the team. The team is insisting that they will not trade him. Donald Penn was signed to replace him...The quarterback competition is wide open between Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, and first-round pick Dwayne Haskins. Haskins has looked not ready for the starting job yet. The team said that the decision will be made after the third preseason game at the latest...Derrius Guice did not start camp on the PUP list but he hasn’t yet been cleared for game action...Third-round pick Terry McLaurin has impressed throughout camp and should have a role in the offense to begin the season...Trey Quinn has captured the starting slot receiver job and should be a main target...Jordan Reed is as healthy in camp he has been in years.
Mitchell Trubisky’s camp drew mixed reviews, but at least one beat writer chalked it up to Nagy experimenting and installing new looks and plays to see what worked the best. The team is saying they are cautiously optimistic...David Montgomery impressed in camp and the first preseason game and he is expected by at least one beat writer to lead the team in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns. Just how much it will take to do that if the team has a three-man committee is yet to be seen...Tarik Cohen’s role is expected to be smaller with two pass-catching backs added to the mix in Montgomery and Mike Davis...Allen Robinson is looking more explosive in his second camp with the Bears...Anthony Miller was amidst second-year progress when he suffered an ankle injury. It’s unknown whether it will affect his regular-season availability or effectiveness...Javon Wims has had a great camp and should easily make the team, if not have a role in the offense...Trey Burton was eased back in after offseason hernia surgery, but the team insisted he did not have a setback.
Theo Riddick’s release opened the door for Kerryon Johnson to get a workload that can put him among the RB1 ranks. Sixth-round speedster Ty Johnson is now a near-lock to make the team and should get a few touches a week to put his game-breaking ability into play...TJ Hockenson was universally impressed observers, but the team is likely to ease him in as the second tight end. Hockenson’s play should force them to increase his snaps and targets in short order… Jermaine Kearse went down with a gnarly leg injury during the first preseason game, leaving the team without their top inside and outside backup receiver, and one that had experience in Darrell Bevell’s offense back in Seattle. Chris Lacy and sixth-round pick Travis Fulgham have a better chance of making the roster now, and Brandon Powell could make it as the backup to Danny Amendola, although the team could also look to make a deal or salvage someone from final cuts to provide more experience… Danny Amendola is developing chemistry with Matthew Stafford and could be a frequent short-range target… The team snapped up Mike Daniels after division rival Green Bay released him to strengthen a defensive line that also gained Trey Flower this offseason.
Aaron Rodgers bristled at questions about his relationship with new head coach Matt LaFleur, but there are no outward signs that it is a problem...Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones have been sidelined with hamstring injuries, with Williams costing him more time. Tra Carson and sixth-round pick Dexter Williams are battling for the #3 job. Carson has been out with neck spasms this week, while Williams has had trouble catching the ball in recent practices… Marques Valdez-Scantling and Geronimo Allison haven’t done anything to lose their spots as the #2 and #3 receivers, while Jake Kumerow has had a good enough summer to make the team as long as he stays healthy. He’s worth remembering because of his rapport with Rodgers… Robert Tonyan Jr may get a chance to be the field-stretching receiving tight end before third-round pick Jace Sternberger. He worked with George Kittle in the offseason and has been the subject of numerous positive items.
The backup running back battle between third-round pick Alexander Mattison, SPARQ freak Mike Boone and failed Detroit Lions second-round pick Ameer Abdullah wasn’t made any clearer by the preseason opener when all three did things to help their stock. It’s possible that a committee will be employed if Dalvin Cook goes down… Chad Beebe has added a holder feather to his cap and appears to be in line to be the #3 receiver… The kicker picture got cloudy when the team traded a fifth-round pick to the Ravens for Kaare Vedvik. Vedvik could push both Dan Bailey and Matt Wile off of the roster because he can handle both kicker and punter duties.
Calvin Ridley is back on the field after a hamstring injury cost him a good portion of camp. Expectations are still very high for him in his second year… Ito Smith’s grip on the backup running back job is slipping, with Brian Hill coming on following a strong finish to 2018. Fifth-round pick Qadree Ollison looks like a non-factor for now. Kenyon Barner may make the team as a returner… Eric Saubert was traded to the Patriots for a conditional seventh round. Luke Stocker is locked in as the #2 tight end… Devonta Freeman has stayed healthy throughout camp and the team appears to be ready to ride him as a feature back this year… Julio Jones has been brought back slowly from offseason foot surgery, but is still on schedule to play in the season opener… First-round right tackle Kaleb McGary had a heart procedure that cost him all of camp and probably a few weeks of the regular season. It might hold back his efforts to push Ty Sambrailo out of the starting lineup this year.
National NFL writer Albert Breer reported that the team hopes to delegate Christian McCaffrey’s short-yardage and goal-line work to a backup this year… Cam Newton has returned from offseason shoulder surgery with no ill effects or signs that it will hold him back this year… Curtis Samuel has caught the attention of local, national, and even the beat writers of the Bills while they practiced with the Panthers. Some have posited that he may be the #1 receiver over DJ Moore… Greg Olsen has stayed healthy and is poised to be a key target for Newton after being a non-factor last year… Tre Boston was signed to bolster a secondary playing behind one of a new-look front seven in a 3-4 defense that might be one of the best in the league.
Latavius Murray looked great in Mark Ingram’s role in the preseason opener. The team has said they want to keep Alvin Kamara at last year’s workload once Ingram returned from his suspension. They made a bid to sign Theo Riddick, but lost out to Denver… Rishard Matthews abruptly retired from camp, making a path for standout UDFA Emmanuel Butler to make the team…. Tre’Quan Smith and Ted Ginn Jr appear to be splitting WR2 duties… Jared Cook has generated a lot of excitement and positive quotes from teammates and the belief is that he’ll revive parts of the playbook left dormant since the team traded Jimmy Graham.
Ronald Jones has done enough to carve out a role in the backfield, but he hasn’t overtaken Peyton Barber yet. Dare Ogunbowale is having a great summer and could turn this into a three-man backfield. He is expected to get a ton of work in the preseason… Chris Godwin is not going to leave the field according to head coach Bruce Arians… Mike Evans is having a dominant camp by most accounts… Sixth-round pick Scott Miller has a hamstring issue and last year’s fifth-rounder Justin Watson had a mixed preseason opener, so Breshad Perriman seems safe as the outside receiver when Godwin moves into the slot… Vita Vea suffered a knee injury and will miss the beginning of the season. Lavonte David had a knee procedure, and while the team says he’ll be ready for Week 1, watch the practice reports for confirmation.
We haven’t seen much of the Air raid with Kyler Murray as the preseason opener focused on safe, quick-hitting plays mostly to the edges of the field. We might not see a true reveal of anything meaningful during the preseason… Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald are entrenched as the top two receivers and what happens after that is anyone’s guess. KeeSean Johnson has outperformed earlier drafted rookies, Andy Isabella, and Hakeem Butler. Trent Sherfield is making a strong bid for a roster spot… The defense lost two players that were expected to take significant snaps at defensive end. Robert Nkemdiche wore out his welcome with the team and Darius Philon had an off-field incident. Third-round pick Zach Allen will play a huge role in the front three now.
Todd Gurley avoided the PUP list and has been practicing every other day. Most observers say he is looking like Gurley of old. He is not going to play in the preseason and won’t travel with the team to Hawaii… Darrell Henderson was fifth on the initial depth chart and struggled on inside zone runs in the preseason opener… It doesn’t look like Gerald Everett will unseat Tyler Higbee as the starting tight end as the team will continue to use both in a way that keeps either from having fantasy relevance… Cooper Kupp avoided the PUP list and appears to be on track to be full speed for the open of the season.
The offense hasn’t looked sharp with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm, at least in part because of an inconsistent summer from the wide receivers. Dante Pettis has been up and down and Kyle Shanahan appears to be motivating him to play with more toughness. Trent Taylor was having a great summer in the slot but has a broken bone in his foot. Third-round pick Jalen Hurd had a strong preseason opener and could start in the slot. Second-round pick Deebo Samuel could also push to start. Marquise Goodwin appears to safe as the field stretcher, with Richie James, Jordan Matthews, and Kendrick Bourne fighting for one or two spots… Jerick McKinnon had a setback with his knee and received a platelet-rich plasma injection. Starting the year on injured reserve is not out of the question...Nick Bosa has a sprained ankle and Dee Ford has knee tendinitis as the 49ers very expensive defensive line is still failing to meet expectations… Jason Verrett suffered an ankle injury in his bid to start opposite Richard Sherman and will miss the rest of the preseason as will slot corner K’Wuan Williams, who had knee surgery and is iffy for Week 1 vs Tampa.
Chris Carson is still decisively ahead of Rashaad Penny in the backfield and the team has said he will have a larger role in the passing game this year… DK Metcalf has impressed in camp and is pushing for a starting job, with David Moore and Jaron Brown the other contenders… Fourth-round pick Gary Jennings was having a quiet camp until this week when he dominated and probably secured his roster spot...Jacob Hollister has been impressive in camp since coming over from New England in a trade and could have a role in the offense...Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), first-round pick L.J. Collier (ankle) and Bobby Wagner (knee) are key defensive players who are working to get ready in time for the Week 1 matchup vs Cincinnati.