Chris Johnson (hamstring) returned to Cardinals practice on Friday.
Johnson should be all systems go moving forward. He's competing for playing time in Arizona's backfield with David Johnson and Andre Ellington. We suspect Ellington will open the season as the Cardinals' lead back, but the coaching staff may ultimately opt to "ride the hot hand" in committee fashion.
Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey's fractured left fibula/ankle is expected to sideline him until Week 12.
He'll miss the first eight games on I.R./return, then is expected to miss two more weeks rehabbing and conditioning. The Steelers' bye falls in Week 11, and the early expectation is Pouncey will be available in Week 12. Pittsburgh remains strong at guard and tackle, but will ask a lot of Cody Wallace to replace Pouncey at the pivot. 26-year-old Wallace has made six spot starts the past two seasons, earning positive PFF grades in 2013 but floundering mightily last year.
Ryan Mallett returned to Texans practice Friday after oversleeping on Thursday, and was the third quarterback through practice drills.
Coach Bill O'Brien did insist after the session that Mallett remains second on the depth chart behind Brian Hoyer. "The situation with Ryan not being at practice that's between Ryan and I," O'Brien said. "Some things are left within the team." Mallett should open the season carrying the clipboard for Hoyer.
ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss suggests Brandon LaFell (foot) could open the season on the reserve/PUP list.
WEEI Boston's Chris Price suggested the same thing earlier this week. The Patriots provide no details on injuries, and LaFell's has been a mystery since he showed up at spring practices with a walking boot on his foot. If LaFell isn't ready to play in Week 1, Jimmy Garoppolo's three-wide set would presumably consist of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Reggie Wayne. Not ideal.
Raiders OC Bill Musgrave praised Latavius Murray's hands, body, agility, and vision Thursday.
"He’s made very positive impressions," Musgrave said. "He has been working a lot on his hands so he can be a good receiver out of the backfield. He’s got great vision." The Murray buzz was in full-force earlier this offseason but has quieted down since camps opened, suggesting his value peaked pretty early. But Murray has done nothing to relinquish his spot atop the depth chart. Roy Helu has been hurt, and Trent Richardson hasn't stood out. It's possible Murray opens the year getting all the early-down work and even some pass-game reps. His ADP has risen to the middle of the third round where he's being taken as RB16.
The Bucs converted DT Matthew Masifilo to guard this year.
Masifilo, a 2012 undrafted free agent out of Stanford, has spent the better part of the past two seasons on Tampa Bay's practice squad. He's appeared in one regular-season game. Two weeks into the preseason, Masifilo has graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 2 overall guard, receiving strong marks in the run game.
Chargers RBs coach Ollie Wilson said Melvin Gordon's pass-protection concerns are overblown.
"When he matches up, he’ll put his head in and strike somebody," Wilson said. "He’s a big-bodied guy, and he’s long, so he keeps people off of him. I don’t see what people say, that he won’t pass protect. I’ve had no problem with it." Gordon didn't pass protect much in college, and has reportedly been hit-and-miss in that area this summer. But the Chargers don't seem concerned. Gordon will be an early-down workhorse for the Bolts, but Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver will more than likely handle all of the pass-game work.
Texans LT Duane Brown "will miss some time" with a hand injury.
Brown's hand/wrist are in a cast. He's expected to miss the rest of the preseason. Coach Bill O'Brien said Brown should be back for Week 1, but left the door open for the injury to linger into the regular season. Brown's expected to avoid surgery. Brown was a top-nine left tackle at Pro Football Focus last year.