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7/22/2014
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News and Views
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Report: Josh Gordon's Hearing Expected In Next Two Weeks (7/22 12:58 PT)

The Facts: The NFL hearing on Gordon's offseason positive drug test is expected to be held within the next two weeks, according to a source.  Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: As ESPN.com's Pat McManamon notes, if a decision on Gordon's status for failing a drug test in the offseason comes out of the hearing, that means the Browns could know soon after. However, the timetable remains in the hands of the league."Until it all comes down, we're really in the same situation of waiting," HC Mike Pettine said. ... Pettine indicated, though, that releasing Gordon was not in the plans. At this point, drafting Gordon shouldn't be in fantasy football owners plans -- at least not until we get some resolution in his status.

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Pettine: Browns Will Name Starting QB By Third Pre-Season Game (7/22 12:55 PT)

The Facts: In a Q&A published Monday, HC Mike Pettine told the Akron Beacon Journal the club will pick a starting quarterback by Cleveland’s August 23 preseason game vs. St. Louis. “I don’t know if I’ll set a date and kind of paint ourselves into a date, but it will be sooner than the third preseason game,” Pettine said.  Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: Brian Hoyer will try to hold off the rookie Johnny Manziel, a first-round pick and the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. As PFT notes, teams typically play their starters more in the third exhibition game than in any of the other preseason contests, so if the Browns stick to the plan, the No. 1 quarterback will get an extended stint with the first-team offense in an important dress rehearsal for Cleveland. ... Stay tuned.

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Aaron Dobson Opens Training Camp On PUP; Gronk Not On PUP (7/21 5:37 PT)

The Facts: Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com reports that Dobson is among the Patriots who will start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.  Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: Dobson, whose return from foot surgery was generating optimism he’d be ready on day one, won't be. But looking on the bright side, Rob Gronkowski isn't on the list. Stay tuned. We'll follow up as needed.

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Marvin Jones Opens Camp On Non-Football Injury List (7/21 5:33 PT)

The Facts: Jones (ankle) opened Bengals training camp on the Non-Football Injury list.  Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: The NFI designation means something happened away from the team's facility. So, Jones, who participated in the offseason program, apparently injured the ankle during the down time after OTAs. According to PFT's Mike Florio, it’s unclear how long Jones will be unavailable to practice in advance of the 2014 season. We will follow up as needed.

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Cowboys Agree To Terms With WR Dez Briscoe (7/21 5:31 PT)

The Facts: According to agent Erik Burkhardt, the Cowboys have reached a deal with Briscoe.  Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: Briscoe has hauled in 43 passes for 502 yards and seven touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2010. Briscoe has had NFL stints with Cincinnati (2010), Tampa Bay (2010-2012) and Washington (2012-2013). His best season came in 2011, when he caught 35 passes for 387 yards and six TDs for the Buccaneers. He will compete for a reserve role with Dallas, which had 10 receivers before bringing him into the fold. The Cowboys begin training camp on Wednesday.

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David Wilson Claims He's Fully Cleared (7/21 10:17 PT)

The Facts: Wilson just tweeted that he's been "cleared for everything." Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: As PFT's Darin Gantt reminded readers, the Giants have been hoping to get Wilson back after offseason neck surgery, but made contingency plans in case. They signed running back Rashad Jennings this offseason, but Wilson can add an explosive element Jennings lacks. That said, fantasy football owners might want to take a wait-and-see approach with Wilson to make sure he's truly ready to re-claim that change-of-pace role -- and how significant a role it might be.

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Robert Griffin III Not Battling The Learning Curve With New Offense (7/21 12:05 PT)

The Facts: The Redskins used their offseason practices to begin the transition from former coach Mike Shanahan’s offensive system to that of Shanahan’s successor, Jay Gruden. The early indications, according to Redskins players, are that the shift will be more about tinkering than overhauling. “It’s not much of a difference from the offense last year, to tell you the truth,” WR Pierre Garcon said following one offseason practice. “It’s the same offensive coordinating guys from last year.” Reported by the Washington Post

Diehards Line: As Post staffer Mark Maske notes, Gruden promoted Shanahan’s TEs coach, Sean McVay, to OC and vowed to retain ingredients of Shanahan’s offensive system, particularly those involving the running game. Players say they indeed have found Gruden’s system to be similar. “I think having two years’ experience running an offense, a pro-level offense, West Coast type, this is very similar,” Robert Griffin III said during offseason practices. “So it’s not been as tough as you might think. ..." All of which adds to the positive vibe already surrounding Griffin and the rest of the team's skill players.

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Trestman All In On Jay Cutler (7/21 12:03 PT)

The Facts: The biggest question facing the Chicago Bears last summer was whether new HC Marc Trestman would come out of the season believing in Cutler as his franchise QB. We got our answer when the team signed the passer to a seven-year, $126-million deal while allowing Josh McCown to flee to Tampa Bay in free agency. Trestman says the decision to hitch his wagon to Cutler was a no-brainer. "Jay has been emotionally and selflessly invested in ways that he wouldn't talk about," Trestman told the Chicago Tribune. "But he really cares about this organization and every day he's a very, very observant person and he's a very proactive person in terms of inserting himself in all areas of this building to help this organization get better. It has been very, very impressive to watch how he has worked intelligently and selflessly to do that." Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Trestman also pointed to the analytics study GM Phil Emory compiled on Cutler's play, while touting his QB's ability to grasp offensive concepts from the neck up. "I have great respect for Jay's football intelligence and his skillset. When we came in here, we knew he had the skillset," Trestman said. "The issue was, 'Could we work together on a daily basis?' because we both love football and we want to help our football team. And the answer to that question was a clear yes." As NFL.com notes, Cutler's arm strength and athleticism have never been questioned. Injuries and on-field mistakes have been the issue. But now, in his second season under Trestman, with a new high-end contract and an outstanding supporting cast, this might be the season fantasy football owners get what they expect out of Cutler.

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Cam Newton's Mobility Still A Bit Limited (7/20 12:27 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... The Charlotte Observer notes that Newton was throwing to receivers last week in Greensboro, North Carolina, but he was limited in his mobility. That is to be expected less than four months removed from major surgery, but it's a reminder that this was a major surgery.  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: As NFL.com suggests, Newton's ankle surgery has surprisingly received relatively little attention this offseason. Perhaps that's because he was able to participate in some of the team's 7-on-7 drills in mid-June. Or because there's been so much attention on the changes in Carolina at wide receiver and on the offensive line. Maybe it's because Newton looks like Superman, and we all assume he can discard surgeries like arm tackles. The Panthers are asking Newton to handle more responsibility than ever this year. He needs to carry an otherwise flawed offense. That will be a lot easier if he maintains his explosiveness as a runner, which means fantasy football owners will watching his ankle closely in August.

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Patriots Sign FA TE Nate Byham (7/20 12:17 PT)

The Facts: The New England Patriots and Byham have agreed to terms on a contract, according to a league source. Byham will fill the 90th and final spot on the roster, pending a physical. Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: More of a blocking tight end, the 6-4, 264-pound Byham played the last two seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under coach Greg Schiano, who is a close friend of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Byham totaled six receptions for 56 yards and one touchdown in 15 games with the Buccaneers. Byham adds depth at tight end for the Patriots, where top player Rob Gronkowski is recovering from a torn ACL. Five-year veteran Michael Hoomanawanui is next on the depth chart, followed by D.J. Williams (fourth year) and undrafted rookies Justin Jones and Asa Watson. Like Gronkowski, Byham is recovering from a torn ACL after being placed on season-ending injured reserve last Oct. 1. He had worked out for the Patriots on May 21.

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Fox: Peyton Manning Can Get Better (7/20 12:25 PT)

The Facts: Manning mastered the quarterback position during the regular season in 2013, putting up passing records that could stand for decades. The question now becomes: How do you follow that up? HC John Fox was asked Friday if Manning can get better in the season after throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns on his way to a fifth MVP award. "I think so, we talk about that every day," Fox said.  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Fox added: "He has worked very hard, he is in the best shape he has ever been in, all his numbers in our weight and conditioning program are all up from a year ago, even before that. There are areas he can improve in and he knows it and he will. ..." But will that lead to an increase in production? That's a huge reach. But as NFL.com suggests, Manning could throw 20 fewer touchdowns in 2014 and conceivably still lead the league in that category. So fantasy football owners should assume regression is coming. But they shouldn't panic.

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Bradley: Toby Gerhart Faster Than Jags Realized (7/20 12:14 PT)

The Facts: In an Q&A with the Florida Times-Union published Saturday night, HC Gus Bradley indicated Gerhart was ready to be the team’s featured back. “His work ethic, his knowledge of the game, his ability to fit in with our team, his competitiveness — he checks all those boxes,” Bradley said. “The one thing we saw during the OTAs was that his speed -- he’s even faster than we gave him credit for.” Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: The team's belief that Gerhart is ready to be their feature back has been obvious since they signed him. Gerhart showed some playmaking ability in limited action a season ago, racking up 283 yards on 36 carries -- an average of 7.9 yards. Four of his carries went for 20 yards or more. By contrast, in his previous three seasons, he averaged one rush of 20-plus yards for every 48 attempts (5-of-240). ... Now, of course, we'll all get to see what Gerhart might be capable with a larger sample size.

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Rob Gronkowski Planning On Playing Entire Season (7/19 11:30 PT)

The Facts: Gronkowski, who underwent surgery for a torn right ACL on Jan. 9, is optimistic enough about his progress to the point that playing in the regular-season opener is on his radar. "I'm planning on playing the whole season this year," Gronkowski said Friday. Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: The Patriots open the season Sept. 7 at the Miami Dolphins. "I'm always antsy to get back on the field, no matter when it is," he said. "I just want to play football. I love playing the game. ..." Gronkowski played all 16 games in each of his first two NFL seasons. But he was limited to seven games last season, first playing in Week 7 once his previously broken forearm was medically cleared before tearing his ACL on a hit by safety T.J. Ward in a Dec. 8 game against the Cleveland Browns. In 2012, Gronkowski played 11 games. While Gronkowski is hopeful to be ready for the 2014 season opener, he is less certain about his status for the start of training camp on July 24. He would seemingly be most likely to start camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. Whatever the case, fantasy football owners hoping to secure his services will need to plan on drafting Gronk as the second TE off the board (based on current ADP).

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Cam Newton Gets In Some Time With His Receivers (7/19 12:14 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Newton, two other quarterbacks, nine receivers and one tight end assembled this week at Proehlific Park, owned and operated by Panthers receivers coach Ricky Proehl, to build chemistry. “This is like a brotherhood, and you need everybody in this group to go,” Panthers rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin said. “Just a like a car, we need every part of this to keep it going.” Reported by the Charlotte Observer

Diehards Line: The Panthers will hold their first training camp practice on July 25, so this week's sessions (which ran Wednesday through Friday), give the group some time to get a feel for each other. Of the 13 players there, no one other than Newton threw or caught a pass for the Panthers in the 2013 regular season. Newton, close to but still not 100 percent on his surgically repaired ankle, has missed nearly all of the offseason workouts while rehabbing and has not been able to throw as much as he would like with his brand-new receiving corps. Fantasy football owners will get a chance to see how much progress might have been made next week. We'll be following up.

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Alex Smith Still Waiting For New Contract (7/19 12:09 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... HC Andy Reid said in May that he was "sure" the team would sign Smith to a long-term contract. Two months later: crickets. So what gives? "Who knows," Smith said on Thursday's NFL Total Access. "Certainly there's been a lot of continued, open conversation between both sides. For me, come camp, that's all gonna get forgotten about, for me it's all about football. If it gets done, it gets done, but until then I'm just focused on that first game, really." Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Entering his contract year, Smith told The Kansas City Star this week: "I'd love to have it done." But that obviously doesn't mean it will be. Smith's camp wants to be paid close to Jay Cutler's $18 million annual average. Not unlike Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, though, determining an asking price for the 30-year-old Smith hasn't been easy. If talks fail to produce an agreeable deal, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported in May that Kansas City is indeed willing to slap the franchise tag on the steady-but-unspectacular QB.

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Rosenhaus Confirms Josh Gordon's Appeal Hearing Coming Soon (7/18 11:31 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed that Gordon's appeal hearing will arrive "in the near future," echoing a report indicating session would take place at the end of July.  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Gordon already faced a potentially lengthy suspension for a positive drug test before his arrest earlier this month on suspicion of DWI. Rosenhaus plans to huddle with the Browns next week to discuss the future of his troubled All-Pro client. "I'm sure I'll get together with the Browns at some point before training camp to talk to them some more about all of our clients," Rosenhaus told the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Thursday. "I'm sure we'll talk about Josh some more and continue to work together and do the best job we can for him collectively." As NFL.com notes, the receiver's appeal could be nixed if the NFL and NFL Players Association strike a deal on a reduced suspension for Gordon, who was the NFL's leading receiver in 2013. The expectation, though, is that Gordon could miss the entire season, something fantasy owners drafting early should take into account. ... We'll continue to follow up.

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Don't Look For LeSean McCoy's Touches To Tail Off (7/18 12:07 PT)

The Facts: The pressing question: Will Chip Kelly lighten McCoy’s workload? The answer, as I see it, is no. McCoy often mentions how his running style lends itself to fewer big hits, and the numbers suggest there could be something to that. In the Eagles' final four regular season games, he piled up 519 yards and averaged 6.3 YPC. In the fourth quarters of games, he led the NFL with 441 yards and averaged 6.0 YPC, according to STATS, Inc. In other words, there were no signs that his production took a hit because of the heavy workload. Reported by Philly.com

Diehards Line: So wrote PhillyMag.com's Sheil Kapadia, who went on to remind readers that on his way to setting the franchise record for rushing yards, McCoy led the NFL in carries (314) and touches (366) last season. Only Chicago's Matt Forte played more snaps. The Eagles added Darren Sproles in the offseason. But that doesn't mean they're looking to lighten McCoy's workload. McCoy is only 26 years old and the focal point of the Eagles' offense. Given that, Kapadia believes matching last year's number of touches would be no surprise. "Assuming (good) health," Kapadia wrote, "he's as close to a lock as there is to finish as one of the top three rushers in the NFL." And fantasy football owners will have to draft him as such.

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Brian Hoyer Says He's Fully Cleared For Training Camp (7/18 12:04 PT)

The Facts: Despite suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last October after he led the Browns to back-to-back wins, Hoyer said he has been cleared to practice without limitations when training camp begins July 26. “[I’ll be] practicing full go, so it’s exciting for me,” Hoyer said.  Reported by the Akron Beacon Journal

Diehards Line: Hoyer participated in spring practices but sat out 11-on-11 drills -- except for simulated, toned-down versions -- so teammates wouldn’t accidentally run into his surgically repaired knee. Now, Hoyer is on the verge of ditching the restrictions as his competition intensifies with rookie Johnny Manziel for the starting quarterback job. Browns coach Mike Pettine said Hoyer would enter training camp as the starter, adding that the veteran is “securely ahead” of Manziel — but the lead is not “insurmountable.” Which obviously leaves the door open. But if Hoyer picks up where he left of before he was hurt last season, Manziel will have his hands full.

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Green Expects Andy Dalton To Get A New Contract Before The Season Starts (7/17 5:38 PT)

The Facts: A.J. Green told NFL Network last week that he doesn't want anyone but Dalton throwing him the ball in Cincinnati. Green is in favor of the team re-signing their young quarterback, and he expects that money to come soon. "I know they know he's the guy," Green told the team's official site. "... I feel like they're going to get something done before the season starts." Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Three of Dalton's 10 lowest single-game QBR scores were produced in Cincy's trio of playoff losses, but Green went out of his way to defend his passer's January troubles. "A lot of people give him crap about not winning a playoff game, but we've made the playoffs the last three seasons," Green said. "We've won 10 or more games (twice). Playoff games. ... We're still young. I feel like we're going to win them, it just takes time." The Bengals repeatedly have come to the defense of their young quarterback, but as NFL.com points out, team owner Mike Brown is on record saying that he preferred Colin Kaepernick over Dalton in the 2011 Draft. Given that, assuming that Dalton's deal is going to be easily consummated might be a reach.

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Marcus Lattimore Will Open Camp On Non-Football Injury List (7/17 5:35 PT)

The Facts: Lattimore was placed on the club’s non-football injury list on Thursday, according to the NFL’s official transactions.  Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: Lattimore missed the 2013 season after suffering multiple torn knee ligaments in October 2012, including his ACL. He participated in workouts this spring for San Francisco. HC Jim Harbaugh expressed hope over the runner's rehab, but Lattimore will continue to watch from afar as rookie back Carlos Hyde challenges veteran Frank Gore for snaps in San Francisco's run-heavy attack.... The 49ers’ rookies reported to camp on Wednesday. Veterans report on July 23.

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