Adam Levitan

Training Camp Lowdown

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NFC Team-by-Team Camp Notes

Monday, August 05, 2013

An unbelievable amount of information bubbles to the surface during training camp. Position battles at skill positions, young players rising quickly and injury rehabs are among the topics we try to follow closest on our News Page.

In case you haven’t been F5-ing the hell out of that News Page over the last two weeks (shame on you), this column will get you caught up. Evan Silva will be back in few days with the AFC notes.

After you digest all this information, be sure to check out our Draft Guide. We’ve been adjusting our rankings and projections to reflect everything that’s been happening at camp. You’ll also find exclusive columns, unparalleled player profiles and tons more.

The Cardinals’ rushing “attack” is predictably in shambles. Rashard Mendenhall is battling tendinitis in his right knee – the same one he had reconstructed following the 2011 season. Ryan Williams is on crutches because his own problematic right knee is acting up. Combine that with a bottom-five offensive line and we have a fantasy situation to avoid. I already had Mendenhall on my ADP Overvalued list before camp began. … Bruce Arians’ offense doesn’t normally feature tight ends. Luckily for Rob Housler, Arians sees him as an oversized and highly athletic wideout. Housler has been buzzing throughout camp. … The Cardinals haven’t officially named Michael Floyd their No. 2 receiver yet, but it’s coming. He’s followed up his big spring with a strong camp. Andre Roberts will still play plenty because Arians loves three-wide sets (see T.Y. Hilton last year).

The Falcon that has raised the most eyebrows is Julio Jones. He’s reportedly quicker, showing better body control and has improved his route-running. … Tony Gonzalez has barely been at camp as he gets the Brett Favre legend treatment. He’ll still be more than ready for Week 1. … Steven Jackson is getting tons of work in the screen and dump-off game.  

Under new OC Mike Shula, the Panthers are installing a more conventional offense. Less read-option plays for Cam Newton may sound bad, but it’s the same scheme they ran over the final half of last year. During that span, Newton accounted for 394 rushing yards, 17 total touchdowns and the team went 5-3. … Jonathan Stewart (ankle surgeries) hasn’t even come off the active/PUP list yet. His availability for Week 1 is in doubt and his ability to sustain health is in even graver doubt. DeAngelo Williams has been handling all the first-team reps. He’s undervalued in fantasy circles right now. … Brandon LaFell has gone unchallenged for the No. 2 WR job. It’s Ted Ginn vs. Domenik Hixon for the yawn-worthy No. 3 role.

Brandon Marshall was coming off hip surgery, but reported to camp at a rock-solid 235 points with 6.2 percent body fat. His physical condition is not an issue. … New coach and passing-game guru Marc Trestman is happy with Jay Cutler’s performance so far. You won’t find many QB2s with more upside. … Cutler is being implored to locate Matt Forte in the passing game. GM Phil Emery admitted that one of the reasons he fired Lovie Smith was because Forte was underutilized as a receiver. … Alshon Jeffery has been impressing and has the starting “Z” job locked up. The problem is that he’s third on the target totem pole, behind Marshall and Forte.

Dez Bryant had a flawless offseason and carried that over to camp. The beat writers can’t stop buzzing about how he’s dominating practices. … Third-round WR Terrance Williams was working his way toward the No. 3 receiver gig until a concussion took him out of action. He’ll have to scrap his way back toward Dwayne Harris once cleared. … Tony Romo (back) has been practicing without issue and reiterated that he’s 100 percent. Owners practicing the very viable “wait on a QB” strategy can safely target Romo. … The Cowboys barely played any starters in Sunday’s night’s Hall of Fame game win. … Lance Dunbar did play and rushed four times for 22 yards as the starter. Phillip Tanner came on next for a 10/59/1 line. Joseph Randle was third. Dunbar remains the favorite to enter the season as DeMarco Murray’s handcuff.
Ryan Broyles (ACL) was cleared right from the start of camp and we haven’t heard about any setbacks. In fact, he’s getting open at will. Impressive. Broyles has a chance to close on Nate Burleson for primary possession duties and will have value as the third wideout in a pass-happy offense anyway. There aren’t many better late-round fliers. … Mikel Leshoure continues to slog his way through camp unimpressively. It’s safe to consider Joique Bell the heavy favorite for backup duties behind Reggie Bush. … Brandon Pettigrew got himself in supreme physical condition this offseason, showing up to camp rocked up. Unsurprisingly, it’s his contract year. Still, he’ll have to show a major leap in explosion to get on the TE1 radar. Last year, Pettigrew ranked 38th among tight ends in catches of 20+ yards with just three and scored a grand total of three touchdowns despite ranking eighth in targets (100).

Eddie Lacy became the talk of the internet when a photo surfaced of him looking like he swallowed Precious. It turned out that the photo was just taken from a bad angle, and Lacy is in fine physical condition. The Packers’ coaches confirmed he passed his conditioning tests. Then Lacy starred during Saturday night’s intrasquad scrimmage, picking up 65 yards on eight carries. … Speaking of the running back battle, it’s a still a little muddy. James Starks has reportedly looked very good, outplaying Johnathan Franklin and Alex Green. All four (including Lacy) have been getting first-team reps. DuJuan Harris (knee) is still a couple weeks away from even practicing. Note that at that Saturday scrimmage, Starks started and then was followed by Lacy, Franklin and then Green. Lacy remains the best talent here and the heavy favorite for goal-line work. He’s the one to won. … Jermichael Finley reportedly hasn’t been involved much during drills and scrimmages, but coach Mike McCarthy said his contract-year tight end is “having a heck of a camp.” The lack of looks is worth noting as Finley recorded just 87 targets last year (5.4 per game) even though Aaron Rodgers attempted 552 passes. … Randall Cobb is still considered the primary return man even though he’s going to be an every-down receiver. No one has stepped up and seized the returner role. … Mason Crosby is in danger of losing his job. He’s 12-of-19 during camp while challenger Giorgio Tavecchio is 16-of-19.  

Freakishly talented yet raw first-round WR Cordarrelle Patterson hasn’t cracked the first team yet. Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright have been the receivers in three-wide sets. It’s going to take some time for Patterson to win that starting “X” job. … Just like last year, Adrian Peterson isn’t expected to play very much if at all in the preseason. He’s ready to rock. … The Vikings reportedly “won’t hesitate” to turn to backup Matt Cassel if Christian Ponder struggles. The report on Ponder’s camp so far has been “consistently inconsistent.”

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Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
Email :Adam Levitan

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