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Footballguys #92 - 7/22 - What's going to happen in the BAL, CLE, DET and GB Backfields?, News and Notes and More

Volume 20, #92 -- Sunday Night, July 22nd, 2018

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Howdy Folks,

Good Monday to you. It's another big day of content as we dive deep into what's going to happen in some of the NFL backfields with major question marks. For Fantasy GMs like you who do their homework, there's a huge opportunity. Take it.

Plus we've got the News and Notes you need.

Let's go.

Joe

SITE NEWS

A. FREE Feature - What's Going to Happen in the Baltimore Backfield?
The Ravens were a team many expected to add a running back in the 2018 NFL Draft. Then they didn't, which indicates the team is happy with their backfield. But how does it shake out? Is Alex Collins the unquestioned workhorse on first and second downs? Can Javorius Allen and/or Kenneth Dixon eat into Collins' touches? Who is the primary third-down back?

The Footballguys Staff dives in.

B. What's Going to Happen in the Cleveland Backfield?
Early in free agency, Cleveland signed Carlos Hyde to fill the hole left when Isaiah Crowell departed. Hyde's role was unclear through much of the run-up to the 2018 NFL Draft as Saquon Barkley was commonly thought of as a target of the Browns. When Cleveland passed on Barkley, Hyde's stock soared. That excitement was dampened when Nick Chubb was selected in Round 2. How do these two back co-exist? What kind of split is expected? Also, will Duke Johnson Jr still be their primary third-down weapon out of the backfield? Everyone expects improvement from the Cleveland offense, but can these three backs all be viable fantasy options?

The Footballguys Staff dives in.

C. What's Going to Happen in the Detroit Backfield?
The Lions have had one 1,000-yard rusher since 2004, but this offseason seemed to indicate more of a commitment to improving the backfield. Veteran LeGarrette Blount and rookie Kerryon Johnson were brought in, while Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah remain. Will the Detroit running back production pie increase this season? How will these four backs slice it?

The Footballguys Staff dives in.

D. What's Going to Happen in the Green Bay Backfield?
In what could be the most wide-open backfield in the NFL, Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Ty Montgomery return in Green Bay. Will they have defined roles? Is this truly a committee, or will there be a noticeable pecking order? Does Jones' two-game suspension change anything once Week 3 rolls around?

The Footballguys Staff dives in.


1. MIN - OL Coach Tony Sparano Dies

Source: ESPN - Courtney Cronin

ESPN reported Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano has died unexpectedly at the age of 56, the team announced Sunday afternoon.

"I am at a loss for words with Tony's sudden passing. Tony loved the game of football and his players. More importantly, he was a strong man of faith who treasured his family. My heart is with the Sparanos today. As an organization we will support them in whatever ways we can," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement.

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Our condolences to Family and Fans and Friends of Coach Sparano. Peace and Grace.

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2. CHI - RB Jordan Howard to play every down?

Source: NFL.com - Jeremy Bergman

Chicago Bears RB Jordan Howard 'can play all three downs,' according to head coach Matt Nagy. 'We're going to do that,' Nagy said. 'We're going to use him and we're going to use other guys on first and second down when we need to.'

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Howard isn't going to get as many heavy workload games under Nagy and Tarik Cohen will have a larger role, but the offense will also be improved - maybe vastly improved - and Howard could have more scoring drives to finish and more production per touch. He is a heavily debated pick in the third round, but this note helps the idea that he won't be pigeonholed as an early down back.

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3. SEA - RB Chris Carson the top back in Seattle?

Source: The Seattle Times - Bob Condotta

Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson is the No. 1 running back on the depth chart entering training camp, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

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We think this is mostly July talk. We expect Rashaad Penny to take over but for now, Carson is the guy on paper.

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4. NYG - Saquon Barkley agrees to terms with NYG

Source: NFL.com - Ian Rapoport

New York Giants RBs Saquon Barkley agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth $31.2 million with the New York Giants on Sunday, July 22, according to a source. The deal will contain a fifth-year team option and includes a signing bonus worth a reported $20.76 million.

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Barkley instantly becomes one of the highest-paid running backs in the league. He should get all of the work he can handle, especially as a receiver out of the backfield, and have a chance to justify his first-round ADP.

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5. DEN - RB Devontae Booker to open season as starter?

Source: 9News.com - Mike Klis

Denver Broncos RB Devontae Booker has 'good command' of the offensive playbook and become a competent pass protector, according to Mike Klis of 9News, who added Booker is expected to start the season opener over Royce Freeman against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 9.

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Booker should be the favorite to start Week 1 with his experience in the offense, but Freeman has more to offer as an inside runner and is capable in all aspects of a running back's job. Freeman's higher ceiling justifies his earlier ADP, but maybe not the large gap. Booker should be a very cheap early season flex as long as his ADP doesn't trend up.

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6. CHI - More freedom for QB Mitchell Trubisky

Source: NFL Network - Tom Pelissero

Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky is going to be allowed to 'cut it loose' more often this year, according to head coach Matt Nagy.

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Trubisky had some great moments last year when he was allowed to do more, but the Bears offensive staff didn't allow him to get into a groove. Jared Goff had a breakout year with a more creative staff and retooled offense in 2017, and that could happen for Trubisky this year. Trubisky opens with the Packers defense and might be an option for quarterback streamers to start the season.

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7. CHI - QB Mitchell Trubisky inconsistent early on

Source: Chicago Tribune - Rich Campbell

Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky is 'riding the rollercoaster on a play-to-play basis' during the early stages of training camp, according to Rich Campbell of The Chicago Tribune.

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Trubisky is learning a new offense and it appears the team isn't going to take it slow with his acclimation. We'll be watching him closely in the preseason.

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8. BAL - QB Joe Flacco showing off athleticism

Source: ESPN.com - Jamison Hensley

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is 'moving and grooving better than he has in several years,' according to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

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Flacco had a serious knee injury recovery and then back issue to work through during the last two camps. This year, it appears he is at full speed, and first-round pick Lamar Jackson is already impressing to put pressure on him. Flacco could have an 2017 Alex Smith-like resurgence if he can harness these factors.

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9. BAL - Lamar Jackson impressing coaches

Source: ESPN.com - Jamison Hensley

Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has shown 'accelerated improvement' and is 'way ahead of the curve now,' according to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

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If Jackson doesn't play this year, it will only be because the Ravens are winning and Joe Flacco is playing well. On a team with a less-established starter, Jackson would be on the fast track to playing and shaking up fantasy leagues a la Deshaun Watson. Keep him on your radar.

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10. HOU - D'Onta Foreman could be ready for opener

Source: Houston Chronicle - Aaron Wilson

The Houston Texans are hopeful that RB D'Onta Foreman (Achilles') will be fully recovered from a torn Achilles' tendon by the start of the regular season.

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There isn't a running back who came all the way back to top physical form after suffering an achilles injury. Foreman's size/speed combination made him a potential heir to early down work in the Houston backfield, but his future contributions are up in the air. Lamar Miller has a limited ceiling, but could still be a fine discount RB2 with the uncertainty around Foreman.

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11. BAL - Hayden Hurst confident

Source: NFL.com - Kevin Patra

Baltimore Ravens TE Hayden Hurst said he knows there is pressure on him to produce immediately, but he has 'a lot of confidence' in his football ability.

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Hurst was a first-round pick, but he isn't the physical marvel that 2017 first-round trio OJ Howard, David Njoku, and Evan Engram presented, and he's not an elite two-way tight end. There's a lot of targets at tight end up for grabs for the Ravens, but Hurst should go undrafted in fantasy leagues and only get interest with a hot start. Third-round pick Mark Andrews is also very capable as a receiver and should figure into the tight end picture immediately.

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12. BAL - WR Breshad Perriman under pressure

Source: The Baltimore Sun - Edward Lee

Baltimore Ravens WR Breshad Perriman said he has some nervousness as he enters a 'make-or-break year,' but he is trying to avoid putting extra pressure on himself.

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Perriman has a rare/length speed combination, but injuries and inconsistency have him squarely on the roster bubble. He would likely catch on elsewhere considering some of the weak wide receiver depth charts around the league, but the Ravens aren't exactly stacked at wideout and can use his speed, so if he can't make it there, it's probably time to close the book on Perriman in dynasty leagues.

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13. SF - Jonathan Cooper may be top option

Source: San Jose Mercury News - Cam Inman

San Francisco 49ers OG Jonathan Cooper may be the leading candidate for the starting right guard job because he is receiving starter money. He is scheduled to make $4 million in 2018. He will compete with OGs Josh Garnett and Mike Person for the starting job.

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Person has experience with Kyle Shanahan from their time together in Atlanta. Garnett was a first round pick in 2016, but only Cooper has the top 10 pedigree. Certainly with that price tag, Cooper will be a free agent bust if he doesn't win the job.

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14. PIT - Matt Feiler could back up several spots

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Joe Rutter

Pittsburgh Steelers OT Matt Feiler worked at offensive tackle and offensive guard during offseason workouts and could be the backup at multiple positions if he makes the 53-man roster.

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The Steelers lost swing tackle Chris Hubbard to the Browns in free agency and then his replacement Jerald Hawkins went down for the season with a knee injury during the offseason. Feiler's versatility could be key to his chances of making the final roster.

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15. PIT - Joshua Dobbs to practice squad?

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Joe Rutter

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Joshua Dobbs will be eligible for the practice squad if he does not make the 53-man roster.

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Dobbs won't make the roster over Mason Rudolph, so this is his most likely destination. He has intelligence and athleticism, but his game has a long way to go.

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16. CHI - Kyle Long back on field

Source: Chicago Tribune - Rich Campbell

Chicago Bears OG Kyle Long (ankle) participated in practice Sunday, July 22.

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Long is coming back from multiple injuries, including neck, shoulder, and elbow surgeries. The team is taking it slow with their best offensive lineman, but so far things have gone well.

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17. CHI - Several players miss practice

Source: Chicago Tribune - Rich Campbell

Chicago Bears LB Danny Trevathan (hamstring), LB Aaron Lynch (hamstring), LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe (shoulder), CB Sherrick McManis (hamstring) and TE Daniel Brown (ankle) did not participate in practice Sunday, July 22.

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The Bears need Lynch to play a big role as an edge rusher, but he could also end up on the roster bubble if his camp and preseason are torpedoed by injuries. His name is the most worrisome one on this list.

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18. BAL - Tim White off to good start

Source: The Athletic - Jeff Zrebiec

Baltimore Ravens WR Tim White has performed well during the early part of training camp and appears to have decent lead over other receivers for one of the final roster spots, in the opinion of The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.

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White had a good summer last year, but a thumb injury ended his preseason. His ability to return punts should give him an edge to make the final roster.

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19. BAL - Hayden Hurst remains out

Source: ESPN.com - Jamison Hensley

Baltimore Ravens TE Hayden Hurst (undisclosed) did not participate during practice Sunday, July 22. Hurst has missed the last two practices.

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Hurst has a minor soft tissue issue, but the team will be cautious with the first-round pick. If this stretches out for a week or more, it could affect how ready he is at the demanding tight end position.

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20. CHI - WR Kevin White staying busy

Source: Chicago Tribune - Rich Campbell

Chicago Bears WR Kevin White was targeted 'way more frequently' during practice Sunday, July 22, than he was all of last summer, according to Rich Campbell of The Chicago Tribune.

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White actually has a chance to win the outside receiver job opposite Allen Robinson this year, and has a fresh start with a new coaching staff. He's not worth a late round pick, but could find his way onto early season waiver wire lists if he stays healthy and finally plays up to his considerable physical gifts.

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21. IND - Darius Leonard agrees to rookie deal

Source: NFL.com - Ian Rapoport

Indianapolis Colts LB Darius Leonard agreed to terms on a four-year contract Sunday, July 22. Financial terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

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The Colts linebacker group is one of the weakest in the league, so they'll need Leonard to get up to speed quickly. He has great range and ability to play pass coverage and could be the team's leader in tackles this year if he's a quick study.

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22. TEN - Tennessee puts two on NFI list

Source: NFL.com - Ian Rapoport

Tennessee Titans LB Rashaan Evans (undisclosed) and Michael Campanaro (undisclosed) were placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list Sunday, July 22.

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Campanaro was seen as a possible candidate to be the Titans return specialist and sometimes slot receiver, but it appears the injury bug may have bit him again. Evans battled a groin injury last year at Alabama, it's unknown whether this delay has anything to do with that issue.

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23. TEN - Jack Conklin begins camp on PUP list

Source: NFL.com - Ian Rapoport

Tennessee Titans OT Jack Conklin (knee) was placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Sunday, July 22.

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Conklin was injured in the playoffs and may not be ready to start the season. Dennis Kelly would start in his place if Conklin can't go Week 1. The Titans face Cameron Wake and the endless edge rushers of the Dolphins in Week 1, and then the Texans, Jaguars, and Eagles.

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24. TEN - OLB Kevin Dodd fails to report to camp

Source: NFL.com - Ian Rapoport

Tennessee Titans LB Kevin Dodd was placed on the Reserve/Did Not Report list Sunday, July 22.

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The 2016 second-round pick has contributed very little in his first two years with the team and 2018 isn't looking much better at this point. He also did not report to voluntary offseason team activities. The team probably isn't counting on him for any contributions this year.

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25. SEA - D.J. Fluker could be used at right tackle

Source: The Seattle Times - Bob Condotta

The Seattle Seahawks may consider moving OG D.J. Fluker from right guard to right tackle if OT Germain Ifedi struggles during training camp, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.

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Fluker was originally drafted to be a tackle, but he is best-suited to be a massive road grader inside on a team that wants to recommit to the run. If Fluker has to start at tackle, it's not a good sign for the Seahawks offensive line.

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26. SEA - Delano Hill could become starter

Source: The Seattle Times - Bob Condotta

If the Seattle Seahawks trade FS Earl Thomas, S Delano Hill appears to be the favorite to start at strong safety, with S Bradley McDougald moving over to free safety, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. If Thomas remains with the club, Hill would likely back up McDougald at strong safety.

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Hill wasn't as publicized as Jabrill Peppers at Michigan, but he's an ideal box safety and replacement for Kam Chancellor long term. Even if he doesn't start this year, he should figure into the Seahawks long term plans and reside on the bench of deep dynasty IDP rosters.

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27. NE - Sony Michel agrees to terms

Source: NFL Network - Ian Rapoport

The New England Patriots agreed to terms with RB Sony Michel on a four-year contract Sunday, July 22, with an option for a fifth year, according to a source. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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The final unsigned rookies should start to get their deals done with training camps opening around the league. Michel has a chance to be the most productive back in one of the most productive backfields in the league, and deserves more buzz among rookie back in redraft leagues.

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28. PIT - James Washington likely to struggle?

Source: NFL.com - Marc Sessler

Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington's production in college won't translate to the NFL, according to an NFL scout. 'In college, he used his body against a lot of people to get separation,' the scout said. 'He's not going to do that. They're going to cover him up in the NFL. He can be a No. 4, or maybe a No. 3 on a bad team.'

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Washington's ball tracking and play at the catch point made big plays more than blistering speed and separation. Juju Smith-Schuster wasn't known for top-end physical ability and he had no problem shining in Pittsburgh last year as a rookie. Washington's application might be limited, but like Martavis Bryant, he can be a deep-ball specialist in an offense that gives defenses too many quality options to account for in the passing game.

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29. NE - Riley McCarron built for the slot

Source: The Providence Journal - Mark Daniels

New England Patriots WR Riley McCarron has 'a lot of the qualities you look for in an inside receiver,' according to Houston Texans assistant coach Wes Welker, and Welker said he enjoyed working with McCarron before he was cut from Houston's practice squad.

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Jordan Matthews has been getting all of the attention as the potentially productive replacement for Julian Edelman during his four-game suspension, but McCarron has more time in the Patriots system and as Welker pointed out, he's more of the prototype slot that has excelled in the Patriots offense. We'll be monitoring him during camp and the preseason.

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30. ARI - New scheme to help DE Robert Nkemdiche?

Source: AZCardinals.com - Darren Urban

Arizona Cardinals DT Robert Nkemdiche's production could be helped by Arizona's move to a permanent four-man front on defense, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.

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Nkemdiche never seemed like an ideal fit for a two-gapping 3-4 defensive end. His elite size/athleticism combination can flash a lot more attacking one gap in the new defensive scheme. His development is crucial for a team that is lacking talent on the interior defensive line.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Thanks for reading and thanks for being part of Footballguys. We'll see you tomorrow with the Update.

Peace,

J