Welcome to today's dose. The NFL is here. We are watching its every move. It can try to Belichick us into submission, but we will persevere! And our first bit of persevering info? Yes, it's about Le’Veon Bell's weight loss. Down 12 pounds to start the season he is now at a slimmer, but still large 232 pounds. He told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette that he feels better when he is lighter and that he moves better. "I'm still strong, I'm still a big back -- 230 is still big. So I don't feel like I need to be 240,” he said. “Looking at my film, when I was lighter, I made cuts a lot quicker, I was faster.” That sounds good to me, especially after his poor yards per carry last year, he needed to find some spring in his step. And now with the Steelers new zone-blocking scheme; he should fit the bill perfectly. In many ways he’s like Arian Foster. He has nice hands and good patience when finding the crease in stretch/zone-blocking plays, which he’ll be seeing much more of this season.
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Knowshon Moreno was activated from the PUP list on Wednesday. He has a lot of ground to make up after getting his knee scoped in June, but is a better pass protector and more physical runner than Lamar Miller. Miller has looked good in camp, so probably already has a piece of that starting gig wrapped up even if Moreno looks good, but Moreno’s skill set should keep him in the picture.
Ronnie Hillman will get the start in the Broncos first preseason game. Even though the first team won’t play much, it will be a good time for us to get a look at him in live action after hearing good things all camp. He will turn just 23 in September and for all the naysaying on his size, he has a similar build to Jamaal Charles and Chris Johnson, so it’s not out of the question for him to be a lead back. Add to that it looks as if he has matured after figuring out that nothing was going to be handed to him. The Broncos have three upside backs right now with Montee Ball the firm leader, but getting the next running back up for that offense is a worthwhile fantasy investment.
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The Bengals rookie running back Jeremy Hill has been running with the second team all training camp and looks like he’ll contribute quite a bit this season under Hue Jackson’s run heavy offense. Beat reporter Paul Dehner expects him to get 10-15 carries per game. That seems a little optimistic, but shows you just how much he thinks Jackson plans on running the ball. Gio Bernard is still the lead back and a very good one at that, so Hill will have to get those looks in short yardage and in a supplemental role. And if the Bengals defense plays like it can, there’s a decent possibility the Bengals will have the lead in the second half of games and we'd see plenty of Hill.
From the hype machine files: DeAndre Hopkins is catching “nearly everything” and has looked great in camp according the Texans' site. This of course makes perfect sense because he is a stud and in the right situation would be high on most fantasy rankings already. But of course the Texans aren’t ready to support many fantasy wide receivers with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback and what they hope to be a tough defense and run game. He will most likely need Andre Johnson to miss time for him to be more than a bench warmer on your fake teams.
Coach Trestman talked with Martellus Bennett on Wednesday and said they had a positive conversation. This suspension was mainly to get the veteran receiver on the same page as the rest of the team as far as practice habits and to have him lead by example. That’s how I see the conversation going in my head at least. Bennett will be back sooner than later.
Josh Gordon will play in the Browns season opener on Saturday while his appeal is being mulled over by the powers that be. Make sure to watch that game because it might be the last time we see last year’s number one receiver play for a long while.
Rex Ryan told reporters on Wednesday that he expects the Jets will have a committee approach to the backfield. "When you have Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell, I would think that’s a pretty safe bet,” he said. Of course this is a bit of coach speak because a pure committee between three running backs just doesn’t happen with the way games flow. Beat reporter Rich Cimini expects Johnson to lead the way, but not come that close to his 290 carries he averaged while with the Titans. I think the biggest factor will be if Chris Ivory can stay healthy. If he does, which he has had trouble doing in the past, he could easily become the hot hand in that offense, an offense that likes to run the ball. But there is also a good chance Ivory has nagging injuries and Johnson ends up with 250-300 touches.
Toby Gerhart won’t play in their first preseason game with his hip flexor tightness, but right now it looks like they are being overly cautious with their top running back since he is going to get a ton of work in this offense. I wouldn’t worry for now.
Giants’ rookie receiver Odell Beckham is close to returning to practice. He’s been fielding punts and catching passes from the JUGS machine and started to run on Tuesday. Beckham would be a nice fit in the more West Coast, up-tempo offense the Giants are trying to implement, so it would be good to see him get healthy and on the field.
Peyton Hillis looks to be out for a while with an ankle/foot injury. He is behind Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, so this isn’t a huge blow, but it does let me talk about Williams and Jennings. My take is that Williams will remain the goal line back, but that’s about it. Bringing him in at any other point just shows their hand too much since Williams is not a good receiver. His fantasy production will be dependent on touchdowns.
Coach Ron Rivera believes Jonathan Stewart will be back at some point in the preseason. He has been dealing with a hamstring injury for most of his career it seems, so any timetable for a return seems optimistic. He was a major talent, but nagging injuries have sapped much of his ability and kept him from showing what ability he has left.
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is getting plenty of praise before his second season gets underway. NFL Films Greg Cosell mentioned that Ertz could catch 70-75 passes this year and now beat reporter Sheil Kapadia believes he will be the Eagles best red-zone threat and wouldn’t be surprised if he led the team in receiving touchdowns. The ability is there, so now it just comes down to opportunity. Ertz on the Saints would be a top three tight end without question, but in Chip Kelly’s offense you have to know the offense and be proficient in blocking. Now in his second season it looks like he’ll be able to take that step forward.