Fantasy Football News

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Early News and Previews from Training Camps (Part 1 of 4)

With six more teams reporting to camp today, and the rest of league reporting by Sunday (Colts and Giants last two teams to report), the dog days of two-a-days can officially begin. What happens to teams and players during camp will have a major affect on how the rest of the season turns out, so it is important to stay aware and pay attention to injuries and holdouts.

Here are my personal notes and thoughts on what has happened, sorted in alphabetical order by city name (note: This is only eight of the 32 teams. I will be posting the rest of the teams in parts two, three and four within the next couple of days).

Arizona
Report dates: July 30 (rookies and vets)
Players to watch in camp: Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson
Key offseason acquisitions: Derek Anderson, Alan Fancea, Joey Porter, Kerry Rhodes, Jay Feely
Key offseason losses: Bertrand Berry, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle, Neil Rackers, Kurt Warner (retirement), Bryant McFadden, Mike Gandy, Chike Okeafor

The biggest headline in Arizona will be the quarterback competition between the unproven first rounder Matt Leinart and the former one-time Pro Bowler with Cleveland, Derek Anderson. Leinart seems to be the favorite to win the job, but he will most likely be on a short leash.

Second year player Chris "Beanie" Wells will be battling it out with Tim Hightower for the starting running back spot. Wells should win the job, but Hightower may be used on third downs and in the red zone.


Atlanta
Report dates: July 29 (rookies and vets)
Players to watch in camp: Dunta Robinson, Sean Weatherspoon (R)
Key acquisitions: Matt Giordano, Dunta Robinson
Key losses: Tye Hill, Chris Houston

The core of the offense seems to be set with 25-year Matt Ryan under center and weapons such as Roddy White, future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner coming out of the backfield.

The questions in camp revolve around the team's secondary. Last year the team allowed 241.9 passing yards a game (28th in league). Some may blame it on the lack of pass rush, which sacked the opposing quarterback just 28 times. But, John Abraham is hoping to get back to his '08 form after recording just 5.5 sacks last season. Plus, despite the loss of two of their corners (Hill and Houston), Atlanta added a pure talent in Dunta Robinson.
Baltimore
Report dates: July 26 (rookies) and July 28 (vets)
Players to watch in camp: Anquan Boldin, Fabian Washington, Tom Zbikowski
Key acquisitions: Anquan Boldin, Donte' Stallworth, Corey Redding
Key losses: Justin Bannan, Dwan Edwards, L.J. Smith, Adam Terry, Kelley Washington

Baltimore's 13th ranked offense got a huge boost this offseason with the addition of wide receivers Anquan Boldin and deep-threat Donte' Stallworth. Ray Rice's breakout 2009 season is just the beginning for his career, meaning be prepared for another great performance from him coming out of the backfield. With McGahee being the short-yardage and red zone back again this year, Rice will be able to get some breaks in the action, as well, to keep his short legs fresh.

Believe it or not, the concern in Baltimore is on the defensive side of the ball. All Pro safety Ed Reed is likely to miss the first six weeks of the season, which is the reason that Tom Zbikowski is one of the 'players to watch' in camp. Baltimore's second round pick, linebacker Sergio Kindle, will most likely miss at least a majority of camp after suffering a neck injury from falling down a flight of stairs. If Fabian Washington doesn't improve his technique during camp, this secondary could be in a lot more trouble than they think.


Buffalo
Report dates: July 29 (rookies and vets)
Players to watch in camp: C.J. Spiller (R), James Hardy
Key acquisitions: Andra Davis, Dwan Edwards, Marlon Favorite, Cornell Green
Key losses: Terrell Owens, Ryan Denney, Chris Draft, Josh Reed

Trent Edwards lost a lot of production in the wide receiver position after both Terrell Owens and Josh Reed parted ways this offseason. But with the addition of Clemson's C.J. Spiller (taken 9th overall in draft), who will battle it out with projected starter Fred Jackson during camp, Buffalo may have to focus more on the running game.

The Bills have possibly the best secondary in the game, led by Pro Bowl free safety Jairus Byrd, who will be entering his second season. Byrd, Bryan Scott and corners Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin make up a secondary which ranked second (184 yards/game) in passing defense last season despite just 32 sacks from the rest of the defense. The big question mark on the defensive side this season will be how well the team adjusts to switching from the 4-3 to the 3-4 scheme this season.


Carolina
Report dates: July 29 (rookies and vets)
Players to watch in camp: Jimmy Clausen (R), Chris Gamble
Key acquisitions: Aaron Francisco, Ed Johnson, Jamar Williams, Wallace Wright, Marcus Hudson
Key losses: Jake Delhomme, Julius Peppers, Na'il Diggs, Chris Harris, Brad Hoover, Maake Kemoeatu, Damione Lewis, Dante Wesley

Carolina is currently undergoing major remodeling, yet still may make a strong run for a playoff spot thanks to their top-tier rushing attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Just last year Williams and Stewart combined to be the sixth rushing pair to in league history to run for 1,000 or more yards in a single season. And, because of that Carolina won 8 games despite Delhomme's career-high 18 interceptions and 59.4 rating.

Carolina's pass defense was ranked fourth in the league last season, but the loss of Julius Peppers and Maake Kemoeatu may cause a bit of a drop in sacks. It will be up to defensive ends Everette Brown, who started just one game in his rookie season last year, and Tyler Brayton, who has started 78 games in seven professional seasons, to anchor Carolina's defensive line. The linebacking corps, led by the two-time Pro Bowler Jon Beason, is the strongest point in the Panther defense. Beason has accumulated at least 100 tackles in all three of his NFL seasons and is looking to take this team to the next level.
Cincinnati
Report dates: July 28 (rookies and vets)
Players to watch in camp: Jermaine Gresham (R), Rey Maualuga, Terrell Owens
Key acquisitions: Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Matt Jones, Mike Mugent, Dave Rayner, Gibril Wilson

Cincy's front office spent most of the offseason working on getting Carson Palmer some weapons to add to his arsenal. The latest acquisition? Future Hall of Famer Terell Owens. This addition is a pretty big risk, but if it works out it could pay huge dividends. Having Owens and Ochocinco in the same backfield will certainly bring ticket sales up, but it may also take the Bengals to the next level. Cedric Benson is still finding himself getting in trouble, but with Ochocinco, Owens, Bryant and Gresham, Palmer can focus a little more on throwing the ball 30-40 times a game and not rely on the run.

Cincinnati's linebacking core is also pretty solid, led by young names such as Maualuga and Keith Rivers. The Bengals, in fact, were ranked fourth in total defense last season, and could have won more than the 10 games they won last season had the passing offense succeeded a little more. At this point, things are looking decent in Cincinnati, but because of the division they are in, they still may miss the playoffs.


Chicago
Report dates: July 30 (rookies and vets)
Players to watch in camp: Jay Cutler, Devin Aromashodu, Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher
Key acquisitions: Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor, Chris Harris, Tim Jennings, Brandon Manumaleuna
Key losses: Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Orlando Pace. Nathan Vasher

Fans and experts alike will be keeping a close watch on Cutler, who struggled last season throwing a career and league-high 26 interceptions. Whenever Cutler wasn't throwing the ball to the opposing team, Chicago's running backs were being stuffed in the backfield. As a team, the Bears gained just 93.2 yards a game on the ground, good enough for 29th overall. Therefore, Matt Forte and former Minnesota Viking Chester Taylor will be in the spotlight during camp as well. The run game should improve thanks to the addition of Taylor, who will be used primarily on third down and possibly in the red zone. If Chicago's underrated, breakout receivers improve on their 2009 campaigns, and Cutler limits his turnovers, Chicago's offense should see improvement throughout camp.

Chicago overpaid Peppers, but he should still be a nice addition to the 17th-best defense of last season. Urlacher should be under much scrutiny in camp as well, seeing as his numbers have declined since the 2007 season and he missed 15 games last season.
Cleveland
Report dates: July 23 (rookies) and July 30 (vets)
Players to watch in camp: Jake Delhomme, Jerome Harrison, Joe Haden (R)
Key acquisition: Sheldon Brown, Scott Fujita, Peyton Hillis, Jake Delhomme, Tony Pashos, Chris Gocong, Seneca Wallace, Benjamin Watson
Key losses: Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Hank Fraley, Michael Gaines, Rex Hadnot, Steve Heiden, Jamal Lewis, Brodney Pool, Corey Williams, Kamerion Wimbley

New President Mike Holmgren has completely re-done the Cleveland Browns roster, and it looks like they are finally turning the franchise around. Jake Delhomme will be the starting quarterback, making a fresh start for a new team in a new city. Jerome Harrison will be a focal point in the offense as well, looking to add to his strong finish from last season.

On defense, Cleveland added a couple of role players to add on to a full roster. Cleveland's defense ranked 21st last season, but will hopefully make improvements with a healthy D'Qwell Jackson back on the field and Sheldon Brown in the defensive backfield. Rookie corner Joe Haden will be looking to make an immediate impact with Cleveland.

Part two (Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Kansas City) coming soon.

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