News and Notes
This time of year the upcoming NFL season brings with it hope and optimism for both teams and fans alike. The opportunity to start again. The chance to put last year’s short comings in the rear view mirror and focus on one common goal. Fantasy owners begin to get the itch to draft early and often. Sometimes thinking better of it in hopes of avoiding the big one. The injury that occurs seemingly every NFL pre-season. When a star, poised for a breakout year, makes a sharp cut and goes down seemingly without contact to anyone or anything. The 2017 pre-season is starting out no differently than past years. Injuries have already claimed the seasons of Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon and TE Crockett Gillmore. Miami Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill appears to be in need of season ending knee surgery. Tannehill went down during a scramble out of the pocket without contact. The Dolphins are reviewing their options in hopes of avoiding surgery. The team has signed ex-Chicago Bear Jay Cutler to a 1 year, $10 million deal to fill the position. Cutler worked along side Miami head coach Adam Gase in Chicago. With numerous injuries that will impact the results of position battles league wide, fantasy owners need to be aware of how these battles shape rosters. An unexpected injury may seem to have healed only to reappear midseason and destroy any well-built fantasy roster.
Texans’ QB Battle
Deshaun Watson continues to impress the Houston Texans’ coaching staff. Reports out of camp indicate that Watson is progressing ahead of most quarterbacks that head coach Bill O’Brien and quarterback coach George Godsey have ever worked with. The majority of Watson’s reps are coming with the 2nd team offense. It appears that Tom Savage will be the starter at the beginning of the regular season. The team shows major confidence in Savage, the 4th round pick out of Pitt in 2014. Watson is the team’s future. A future that could be here sooner rather than later. That all rides on how Savage preforms this season. The Texans defense is one of the top units in football. They have been waiting on the offense to catch up. When that day comes, Houston will be a force to reckon with. They will travel to Carolina Wednesday, August 9th to play the Panthers in their first pre-season action.
Receiver Depth in Pittsburgh
As is the case most years in recent memory, the Pittsburgh Steelers are once again blessed with an abundance of talent at the wide receiver position. Antonio Brown leads the way as the unquestionable #1 receiver on the depth chart. It gets a little more interesting behind Brown. Martavis Bryant is expected to be reinstated at any time. Bryant will be the #2 wide out opposite Antonio Brown, when that time comes. The battle for the 3rd receiver position in the slot, between Eli Rogers and rookie Juju Smith-Schuster, is starting to heat up. Juju missed the first few practices of training camp with an injury. Now healthy, the more physical 6’2” Smith-Schuster is looking to be the preferred option on trips into the red zone for the high-powered Steeler offense. Eli Rogers came onto the scene last year as a rookie. Rogers had some very impressive performances in 2016 but there are doubts if he can compete with the taller, more physical Smith-Schuster. It appears that Eli Rogers will be the slot option for Big Ben between the 20s to start the preseason. While Smith-Schuster will get the majority of red zone snaps. The Steelers open up the pre-season Friday the 11th in New York to take on the Giants.
Cleveland QB update
The race for the starting QB job in Cleveland is off and running. Brock Osweiler has been named the starter for the first pre-season game against the Saints. It’s a start. Even for a team that has used 26 different starters since their return to Cleveland in 1999. Cody Kessler and Deshone Kizer round out the depth chart in that order.
Ravens RB situation
Javorius Allen has opened up camp strong. The 3rd year back out of USC is currently behind Terrance West on the depth chart but is making his case on the field. With Kenneth Dixon out for the year, it is anybody’s job to lose. New addition Danny Woodhead will also get his touches and looks as a pass catcher out of the backfield. There will be plenty of eyes on this battle the rest of the pre-season. The Ravens will play host to the Redskins on Thursday the 8th of August at 7:30pm.
- Jay Ajayi is recovering from a concussion and is listed as questionable.
- Melvin Gordon is side lined with a knee injury and is listed as questionable. Gordon has returned to practice.
- Demarco Murray is dealing with a sore hamstring and is listed as questionable.
- Travis Kelce has missed the last three practices with a knee problem.
- Alshon Jeffery has returned to practice.
- Andrew Luck is still named on the PUP list. Colts GM Chris Ballard says he expects Luck to come off the PUP list before the start of the regular season. The organization remains tight-lipped, however.
- Joe Flacco received a second opinion for his back injury. A slow return to action was deemed the best coarse of action. No time-table was set.
- Cam Newton has thrown on the side during practice but there is no time-table for a full return. His shoulder injury is not expected to affect Newton’s regular season.
- Jets WR Quincy Enunwa is out for the season with a neck injury
The upcoming week will help paint the picture a little bit more clearly. Every NFL team will play a pre-season game. Battles for positions will start to tilt to one side or the other. Injuries will occur that force players into positions regardless of if they are ready or not. It is a much awaited time when a man can hit someone on the other team for a change. The regular season is coming. Hopes are high now, but that can all change with the one devastating injury every team hopes to avoid.