Evan Silva

Training Camp Lowdown

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Preseason Tale of the Tape

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Running Backs

Chris Johnson, Titans
Stats: Five rushes for eight yards; no catches.

Recap: Johnson played 13 offensive snaps against Seattle, which fielded one of the league's top run defenses in 2011. The Seahawks appear poised to keep it up, often getting backfield penetration on Johnson's rushing attempts in the preseason opener. Johnson was tackled for a loss twice and held to two yards or fewer on two of his other five carries. The fifth run went for nine yards on a cutback, inside zone play. Johnson didn't display much acceleration or elusiveness, although it's difficult to confidently evaluate him when Johnson really had room to run just two or three times. Johnson did drop his two pass targets, both on screen play attempts.

Takeaways: I want to see more of Johnson this preseason, but he did nothing against Seattle to suggest he's headed for a rebound year. Johnson needs to get better in the passing game in a hurry because the Titans are opening up their offense. Already a poor pass blocker, unreliable hands could cost Johnson significant snaps. The Titans can pull him for Javon Ringer.

Evan Royster, Redskins
Stats: Seven rushes for 21 yards; no catches.

Recap: Competitor Roy Helu rushed four times for 17 yards and lost three on his lone reception. Helu played strictly with the second-team offense, while Royster took every first-team tailback snap in the opener (13 in all). Royster's depth chart positioning was promising against the Bills, but his on-field play wasn't. Royster lost a fumble on Washington's sixth play from scrimmage and continued to show little to no burst and acceleration. He gained 12 yards on an outside zone run and five on another inside zone play, but was held to three yards or fewer on each of his other five carries. He was not targeted in the passing game, nor asked to pass protect.

Takeaways: Redskins coaches seem infatuated with Royster as a potential workhorse runner, but he's going to have to play better than this to keep the job. And Royster will always be an ordinary talent, so he must compensate with error-free football while soaking up every blocked yard. One thing we can say confidently: Washington's 2012 run game will be productive with dual-threat Robert Griffin III at quarterback in the zone-blocking scheme. The adventure of pinpointing which runner will lead the backfield in carries remains a work in progress. No one has stepped up.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Stats: Seven rushes for 21 yards and a touchdown; one catch for seven yards.

Recap: Competitor LeGarrette Blount rushed seven times for 30 yards and a touchdown. Blount dominated first-team carries on Tampa's opening drive in Miami, with Martin functioning as the designated third-down back. The rookie executed on a third-and-two carry on a draw play, and successfully cut block a blitzer on third-and-four. The Bucs pulled their starters after the first possession and Martin was an every-down back on the second drive, running behind the Bucs' second-team line while facing the Dolphins' starting defense. He busted a tackle for a gain of ten and caught a pass in the flat for a gain of eight. It took Martin three tries, but he dove over the pile for a goal-line touchdown to cap Tampa's second possession. Martin wound up playing 11 snaps.

Takeaways: Blount ran hard and productively enough that he deserves continued long looks from the coaching staff. He is a physical runner and can wear down a defense. Martin's versatility has already earned him clear-cut passing-down back duties, however, and he'll at least have a share of early-down work early in the season. I thought Martin played very well, making no mistakes in the preseason opener. He will be a major, major factor in the Bucs' 2012 offense.

Wide Receivers

Austin Collie, Colts
Stats: Three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.

Recap: Andrew Luck played four possessions and attempted 16 passes in Indianapolis' preseason opener against St. Louis. No Colts pass catcher saw more of Luck's targets than Collie (5). Although Collie didn't play in one-receiver sets, the Colts used him all over the formation on 17-of-20 first-team snaps. He lined up at X receiver six times, worked in the slot on seven occasions, and was the Z wideout on four plays. Collie gained ten yards on a drag route on Indy's sixth play from scrimmage, and Luck found Collie for a 23-yard touchdown on a flag route five plays later. Lined up at flanker on the Colts' final possession, Collie picked up 12 yards on a dig.

Takeaways: New Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians appears to be using Collie like he once did Antonio Brown. The ability to play multiple positions will help Collie get open, and he's always been underrated in the red zone (16 touchdowns, 16 career starts). I think there's a good chance Collie will emerge as Luck's top target this season. His current ADP is the 14th round.

Kendall Wright, Titans
Stats: Three catches for 47 yards.

Recap: Wright played 23 snaps in Tennessee's preseason opener against Seattle, seeing three targets and securing all three for gains of 15 (slant), 14 (curl), and 18 (slot route). Although Wright played extensively with Matt Hasselbeck's group, each of his targets came from "second-teamer" Jake Locker. Wright appeared to line up at the outside X position on 21 of his snaps. I saw him in the slot just twice. Wright looked willing to go over the middle and played fast and physical, racking up yards after the catch. It was clear that Wright is an explosive football player.

Takeaways: Wright is playing the featured position in OC Chris Palmer's system, where Kenny Britt would be lining up were he healthy and an accountable player. While he's clearly still learning Palmer's complex offense -- Wright is not yet involved in every personnel grouping -- he appeared to be a natural moving around the formation and getting open on a variety of patterns. I think there is reason to believe Wright will lead the Titans in receiving, especially if Locker starts.

Roberto Wallace, Dolphins
Stats: Four catches for 71 yards.

Recap: Although Wallace has been in the league for two years, I'd never really seen him before this. He's been a special teamer. Wallace played 30 snaps against the Bucs and at 6-foot-4, 225 was an inviting target for Matt Moore and Tannehill. Playing Z receiver -- Chad Johnson's position -- Wallace secured a 21-yard pass from Moore on a slant, and hooked up with Tannehill for gains of 19 (touch pass), 13 (slant), and 18 (skinny post) on the second-team offense. Wallace appeared to be a relatively stiff receiver short on quickness, but he got open regularly against Bucs backups and isn't afraid to grab the football in traffic. He also came off as a strong blocker.

Takeaways: In addition to his 71 yards, Wallace had a touchdown called back on replay. He is a big wide receiver who's paid his dues and now has an opportunity to play extensively on offense. With Johnson out of the picture, Wallace has ascended to No. 1 on the depth chart at Z receiver in Dolphins training-camp practices. He's someone to keep an eye on in deep leagues.

Tight Ends

Jacob Tamme, Broncos
Stats: One catch for 12 yards.

Recap: Tamme played seven snaps in the Broncos' preseason opener against the Bears, lining up five times on the line of scrimmage and as an in-line blocker twice. He was curiously left on the sideline for all of Denver's first-quarter red-zone series, exiting in favor of Joel Dreessen and slot receiver Brandon Stokley. Tamme was targeted twice, the first broken up by Bears WLB Lance Briggs and the second caught after being tipped into the air by Bears SLB Geno Hayes.

Takeaways: I thought it was pretty clear that Tamme will be Denver's "move" tight end, lining up often in the slot and focusing on the passing game. He did not embarrass himself as a blocker, though. Still, it's a bit concerning that Tamme wasn't involved in the red-zone possession. He's not going to score many touchdowns if he doesn't earn a job in those personnel groupings.

Jordan Cameron, Browns
Stats: Two catches for 58 yards.

Recap: The Browns' first-team offense played 14 snaps in the preseason opener against Detroit. Cameron was on the field for 11 of them, working as an in-line tight end on nine and a slot weapon on two. He stayed in with Colt McCoy's group and played seven more snaps, mostly on the line. Cameron gained 16 yards on a swing pass from Brandon Weeden, and made a highlight-reel catch for a 42-yard pickup down the seam on a throw from McCoy. Cameron also gave strong effort as both a pass and run blocker. He's clearly a very good athlete with pass-catching skills.

Takeaways: It should be noted that Ben Watson (undisclosed) was inactive for this game. So Cameron got the nod as the Browns' primary tight end. There is speculation in Cleveland that Watson's roster spot may be in danger going on age 32 with a $2.88 million salary. If Watson gets cut, the athletic Cameron could take over as an every-down tight end. A basketball player at USC, Cameron has Jimmy Graham-like measurables and has already bypassed Evan Moore. I'd recommend grabbing Cameron in dynasty leagues and putting him on the TE2 radar in re-draft settings.

Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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