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7/31/2014
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News and Views
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Brandin Cooks Making Waves Early In Training Camp (7/29 1:04 PT)

The Facts: Cooks turned a screen pass into a long touchdown catch from Drew Brees, living up to his "Lightning" nickname during Tuesday's practice session. It's the second time he's produced the top play of practice during training camp. Reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Diehards Line: Cooks stepped back after the snap from his slot wideout spot. Brees fired the ball at Cooks immediately after taking the snap. Left tackle Terron Armstead helped open up a hole for Cooks on the outside, and then Cooks took off. No one was catching Cooks. ... According to Times-Picayune staffer Larry Holder, Cooks also found plenty of rhythm with Brees outside the screen. The speedy receiver hauled in about a 20-yard back-shoulder throw from Brees along the sideline with Champ Bailey in coverage. It's a throw and catch that's challenging to perfect without much time together. Brees and Cooks made it look routine. ... Cooks has been of great interest to fantasy football owners due in large part to the Saints' scheme and quarterback. Early indications are that interest is merited.

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Still No Timetable For Aaron Dobson's Training Camp Debut (7/29 12:59 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Dobson continues to remain hopeful he’ll be cleared to practice any day, but one of the most important Patriots on injured lists is in a holding pattern. HC Bill Belichick often discusses the day-by-day nature of rehabilitation work, and Dobson is in the thick of it, rebuilding strength to prevent re-injury upon his return. As of yesterday, Dobson doesn't have a scheduled date for his training camp debut, according to sources. Reported by the Boston Herald

Diehards Line: According to Herald staffer Jeff Howe, sources revealed a new detail about the March 10 surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot. The surgery actually required the insertion of a permanent screw to aid the healing process, which speaks to the magnitude of the procedure. The initial timetable was estimated at 2-3 months, but that is now an overly optimistic projection. Dobson didn’t even begin running until July, and that progression ultimately leads to aggressive planting and cutting. The second-year wideout and potential starter has been conditioning off to the side of the first four training camp practices, but his change-of-direction work hasn’t been showcased much out in the open. Because stress fractures come with a high re-injury risk before a completed healing process — the injury popped twice on him last season -- the Patriots medical staff is making sure Dobson is able to handle the rigors of the job before allowing him on the field. Stay tuned. The Patriots have high hopes for Dobson, but he needs to get on the field to meet them.

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Report: Tests Determine Odell Beckham's Injury Isn't Serious (7/29 12:55 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Tests Monday on Beckham came back negative, according to two people briefed on the injury. Reported by the Newark Star-Ledger

Diehards Line: Beckham wasn't on the practice field Monday because he was undergoing tests on his troublesome hamstring. He is expected to be sidelined at least another week. Beckham was oringially injured in OTAs and aggravated it during the first training camp practice this summer. Beckham hasn't practiced since last Tuesday. HC Tom Coughlin said on Sunday the Giants were more than a little disappointed in the situation. Coughlin would love to have his top pick on the field to get him acclimated in the new offense and prepared for the speed of the NFL. According to the Star-Ledger, the Giants have big plans for the speedy Beckham. They are hoping he can be a play-making receiver in their new West Coast-style offense that seems ideal for his skills. But he needs to get back to work -- the sooner, the better.

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49ers Sign Former Cardinals RB Alfonso Smith (7/29 12:54 PT)

The Facts: The 49ers addressed their injury-riddled running back corps Monday by agreeing to terms with Smith, according to a league source. Reported by the San Jose Mercury News

Diehards Line: Smith joins a unit hit hard by injuries since training camp practices began Thursday. Kendall Hunter, the incumbent No. 2 back behind Frank Gore, sustained a season-ending knee injury Friday, then LaMichael James dislocated an elbow Sunday that could sideline him for a month. Marcus Lattimore still isn't ready to return to full work after a season off. ... Smith (6-foot-1, 208 pounds) spent the past four seasons with the Cardinals, establishing himself as a pass-protecting back on third downs and as a core special-teams player. None of which is likely to keep rookie Carlos Hyde from getting a much greater opportunity to work behind Gore this summer.

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Drew Brees Wants To Play 10 More Years (7/29 12:09 PT)

The Facts: Brees may be 35 years old, but the QB's not afraid to say he doesn't feel that old. And to prove it, on Friday, he dropped into his press conference that he'd like to play for another 10 years. "There's no question," Brees said. "I'm not getting ahead myself, like it's a pipe dream, at 45. I understand the challenges that come along with that. But why not? If I can stay healthy, and I'm having fun and playing at a high level, why wouldn't I wanna do that?"  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Brees cited the late-career success of contemporaries Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as evidence that continuing into his 40s is realistic. Remember: Brees sits fifth all time in career passing yards with 51,081 and fourth all time in passing touchdowns with 363, and is under contract with the Saints through 2016. He'll turn 36 during this year's playoffs. While fantasy football owners shouldn't bank on him to make it those 10 years (Brees himself jokingly tweeted on Monday that his comments about playing until 45 might have had something to do being “randomly” selected for drug tests the last two days), Dynasty owners hoping they get five more good seasons probably aren't reaching.

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Andre Johnson Tweaked A Hamstring In Monday's Practice (7/29 12:07 PT)

The Facts: Johnson, who skipped all of the 2014 offseason workout program due to concerns regarding the direction of the team and his future role in it, tweaked his right hamstring muscle in practice on Monday. Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: After practice, both Johnson and HC Bill O’Brien downplayed the situation. “I just got a little tight, it was just a precaution,” Johnson said. “We’re going to go in and see what’s what. Just from the feeling of it, it’s not anything bad.” O’Brien called the injury “minor. ..." Still, as PFT's Mike Florio suggests, it makes sense to pay attention to Johnson’s health or lack thereof as he tries to make up for lost time. Look for the team to take a more cautious approach going forward. Meanwhile, we’ll follow up as needed.

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Larry Donnell The Top TE On Giants Initial Depth Chart (7/29 12:03 PT)

The Facts: The Giants had a surprising name listed as the starting tight end when their official depth chart was released on Monday. Donnell holds the advantage over former fourth-round draft pick Adrien Robinson and veterans Daniel Fells and Kellen Davis. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Robinson was viewed as the favorite to emerge this past offseason, but his immense physical gifts have never translated on the gridiron. A favorite of the Giants coaching staff, Donnell went undrafted out of Grambling State in 2012 after beginning his college career as a quarterback. He spent his rookie year on the practice squad and played all 16 games last season as a special teamer. Donnell caught just three passes in 2013 after managing just 38 receptions in four years at Grambling. In other words, he's a blocking specialist valued for his work ethic and 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame. As NFL.com put it: "The upshot for fantasy footballers is that the Giants' tight ends can be ignored in summer drafts."

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Josh Gordon Hires High-Powered Attorney For Looming Appeal (7/28 10:02 PT)

The Facts: Gordon, facing a one-year suspension, has hired attorney Maurice Suh, who helped Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman win his appeal of a contested positive test, a league source said. Suh will work alongside NFLPA attorney Heather McPhee, who has an excellent reputation in league circles, to try to help salvage as much of this season as possible for Cleveland's Pro Bowl wide receiver. Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: As ESPN's Adam Schefter suggests, at the very least, Gordon has recognized how important it is to have such strong legal representation. Gordon began working with Suh earlier this month in preparation of an appeal that has been scheduled for Friday. McPhee has been on the case all along. McPhee and Suh -- a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, in Los Angeles -- helped Sherman avoid a suspension when they argued that a cup with a broken seal was used during Sherman's urine test. ... We don't expect Gordon to get off lightly -- high-end lawyers notwithstanding. But we'll obviously continue following up as needed. Gordon's hearing is scheduled for Aug. 1.

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Steven Jackson No Longer Believing His Own Hype (7/28 9:56 PT)

The Facts: Jackson left St. Louis because he wanted to win. Like most others, he got drunk on the expectations for a Falcons franchise that came close to reaching the Super Bowl the year before. But when last season ended, the Rams had a better record (7-9) than the Falcons (4-12). Jackson believed he had let himself, the team and a city down. “There were quite a few of the years in St. Louis when I shouldered a large burden, and I knew going into every season what I was going into,” Jackson said. “When I came here last year, I kind of believed my own hype." Reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Diehards Line: So what changes in 2014? “This year I know I don’t have to shoulder the burden of carrying the franchise," Jackson said. "I’m not the missing piece, I’m just one piece. I feel comfortable knowing that I can still compete at a high level. But all of the unnecessary stress is gone. ...” As the AJC noted, it’s natural to wonder what an NFL running back has left after 10 seasons and at the age of 31, but it’s not fair to judge Jackson on last season, when he rushed for a career-low 543 yards and 3.5 per carry (his previous career average: 4.2). He was injured in Week 2, ironically against St. Louis, and ran behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines. Injuries to wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White further limited the offense. Now, the Falcons’ expectations for Jackson in 2014 aren’t much different than they were a year ago. Fantasy football owners should take the same approach -- with those who wind up with the veteran back on their roster hoping he can live up to those expectations even at his much more reasonable draft value.

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Coaches Impressed With Matthew Stafford's Off-Season Improvement (7/28 9:51 PT)

The Facts: New HC Jim Caldwell said he's been impressed with Stafford's improvement from minicamp to the beginning of training camp. "He is getting better," Caldwell said, per The Detroit News. "His command of the offense has been good. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: "I was impressed when he came back that first of all he did not miss a beat," Caldwell added. "He's a very, very smart guy. You could tell he's worked at it even during the summer. ..." As NFL.com reminded readers, one reason Caldwell and OC Joe Lombardi were brought in was to help improve Stafford's sometimes wayward mechanics, which were often excused by the last regime. The coach said his quarterback has displayed positive developments in that area. "In every facet when he came back, I could see improvement -- footwork, accuracy, timing, command of the offense, all of those things," Caldwell said. "Now we get a chance to see if we can put it together a little bit more, add a few more things, keep progressing and then get some real challenges from our opposition as we start preseason. ..." While Stafford must continue to show improvement if the Lions are to make any noise in the NFC North, fantasy football owners will be fine as long as Stafford continues to throw the ball at past rates (something that seems all but certain with Lombardi calling the shots).

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GM: Ben Roethlisberger Extension Just A Matter Of Time (7/28 9:42 PT)

The Facts: As far as Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is concerned, Roethlisberger's contract extension is just a matter of time. "I don't see any circumstances where Ben does not finish his career here," Colbert told reporters Monday, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Team president Art Rooney II explained last week that the Steelers told Roethlisberger they won't extend his contract until after the 2014 season. The QB has two years remaining on the eight-year, $102 million contract he signed in 2008. He will make $12.1 million this season with a nearly $19 million cap hit. The quarterback has spoken positively about his team -- especially the offense -- this offseason, but eventually he wants to get paid along the lines of other top QB. "Playing this year at my current salary, it's kind of taking a hometown discount," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I've played seven years on my current contract, which is the most of any (NFL) player or any quarterback. ... It is kind of taking a discount compared to maybe where it could be compared to other quarterbacks." A deal will get done -- eventually. And Roethlisberger's salary will be in line with the tops in the league.

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Patriots Claim RB Tyler Gaffney Off Waivers From Panthers (7/28 9:38 PT)

The Facts: The Patriots on Monday claimed rookie running back Tyler Gaffney off waivers after the Carolina Panthers tried to sneak their sixth-round pick through waivers and onto injured reserve. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Gaffney suffered a knee injury over the weekend that will require surgery. He'll miss the season, but when he returns, he'll wear New England's red, white and blue. It's reminiscent of Bill Belichick claiming injured Giants TE Jake Ballard off waivers in 2012 after New York also attempted to whisk the veteran by for a trip to IR. The Patriots' top three running backs -- Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden -- all enter the final year of their contracts. Rookie James White, the team's fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin, is signed through 2017. Gaffney's contract also extends through the 2017 season. Fantasy football owners should keep Gaffney on their 2015 watch lists.

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Browns Sign WR Marlon Moore (7/28 9:36 PT)

The Facts: The Browns announced the signing of Moore. The wideout will miss the first game of the 2014 regular season serving an NFL suspension, Howard Balzer of The Sports Xchange reported in May. Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: Moore, 26, has appeared in 43 regular season games, catching 19 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns in stints with Miami (2010-2012, 2013) and San Francisco (2013). Moore’s addition will give the Browns 13 wide receivers on the roster. However, the WR count includes Josh Gordon, who could be facing a lengthy NFL suspension.

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Marshawn Lynch's Holdout About To Start Costing Him Serious Money (7/28 2:45 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... If Lynch is looking at his holdout from a standpoint of financial losses, he might want to show up on Tuesday when the players return to the field after an off day Monday. Here are the actual dollars Lynch stands to lose if his holdout continues into the middle of this week: Lynch is incurring fines of $30,000 a day for each day he holds out. It’s up to the team’s discretion how they count those days, but camp officially started last Thursday. If the team counts the player’s off day Monday, Tuesday will be the sixth day of training camp.  Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: That's when it gets serious. Starting with the sixth day, a player is subject to losing 15 percent of his signing bonus. For Lynch, that’s $900,000. He was paid a $6 million bonus when he signed his four-year contract in 2012. For each day he continues to hold out going forward, he can lose another 1 percent of his signing bonus ($60,000) for up to 25 percent of the total bonus. So if Lynch held out an additional 10 days, starting with Day 6 of camp, he would forfeit $1.5 million of his signing bonus. Also, Lynch will lose one regular-season paycheck for each preseason game he misses -- not a preseason game check, a regular season check. For Lynch, that’s $312,500 lost for each preseason game he misses. If he holds out for all four preseason games, Lynch would lose $1.25 million in regular-season game checks. ... Anybody else starting to get the feeling we'll learn more about Lynch's resolve next month?

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Rivera: Kelvin Benjamin Has A Bone Bruise; Injury Isn't Serious (7/28 2:42 PT)

The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... According to Charlotte Observer staffer Joseph Person, HC Ron Rivera told reporters that Benjamin has a bone bruise. It's stable, but swelling. Reported by FootballDiehards.com

Diehards Line: NFL Network's Ian Rapoport adds that Benjamin's recovery will be a matter of "days, not weeks." That's good news for the Panthers and to fantasy football owners who might not be relying so much on Benjamin as a high-end prospect, but who need Cam Newton to have as many weapons possible at his disposal.

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Julio Jones Looking Sharp When On The Field (7/28 2:35 PT)

The Facts: The Falcons are bringing Jones back slowly after his second foot surgery, but when he's been on the field during training camp the receiver has looked like his dominant self. ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure reported that Jones looked explosive on Sunday in his most extensive practice session. McClure wrote that Jones didn't have problems cutting, was "stopping on a dime" and displayed no apparent effects of the surgery.  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: As NFL.com notes, when healthy, Jones is a transformative piece for the Falcons' offense. Now that Tony Gonzalez is retired, Jones represents the team's one weapon that defenses must scheme to slow down. According to McClure, Jones was "spectacular and in sync with Matt Ryan" during Sunday's session. Not having to dust the cobwebs off their chemistry is a big positive early in training camp, especially considering the Falcons will continue to hold Jones out of some practices (including today's fully-padded session). ... Stay tuned. We'll have a close eye on Jones over the next six weeks.

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Giants Setting Unreachable Goal For Eli Manning's Completion Rate? (7/28 2:33 PT)

The Facts: The Giants are setting a high goal for Manning’s completion percentage this season. A very high goal. Giants QBs coach Danny Langsdorf told reporters today that he wants Manning to reach a 70 percent completion rate this season.  Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: As PFT's Michael David Smith put it, "Frankly, that’s preposterous." Manning completed just 57.5 percent of his passes last season, and his career completion percentage is 58.5 percent. The highest rate he’s ever had in any season was 2010, when he completed 62.9 percent of his passes. Smith went on to suggest that unless the Giants are planning an offense that consists of nothing more than dump-offs to running backs, the idea that a career 58.5 percent passer is suddenly going to become a 70 percent passer is silly. A 70 percent completion rate has only been reached five times in NFL history: Twice by Drew Brees and once each by Ken Anderson, Steve Young and Joe Montana. It’s less common than a 5,000-yard passing season or a 2,000-yard rushing season.

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Coughlin Disappointed That Odell Beckham Is Missing Time (7/28 2:31 PT)

The Facts: The Giants believe Beckham is exactly the type of talent who can help Eli Manning put last year's struggles in the rearview. Beckham has to be on the field to make a difference, of course. The rookie wide receiver missed his fourth straight training camp practice on Sunday with a hamstring injury. Afterwards, HC Tom Coughlin was asked about being disappointed. "It's more than that," Coughlin said, according to ESPN.com. "We're trying to put a team together. We saw too much of that in the spring." Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Beckham was held out of several practices during OTAs and minicamp because of the same hamstring injury. Coughlin called out Beckham last week after he stopped short on a deep route, leading to a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie interception. "He's got some work to do, just like they all do," Coughlin said after that practice. On Sunday, Coughlin made it clear his frustration is not with Beckham, but the lingering nature of the hamstring injury. There are just six weeks to go before the New York Giants begin the regular season against the Detroit Lions. And the more Beckham misses before then, the less likely he is to make an impact when Week 1 hits.

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Pierre Garcon Has Minor Hamstring Issue; Dealing With It Appropriately (7/28 2:16 PT)

The Facts: Garcon tweaked his right hamstring early in Monday’s practice and opted to take it easy for the remainder of the session as a precaution. “Just being smart,” Garcon said. “There’s no real need to keep playing through it right now, early in the season. Just got to be smart and get it healed up.” Reported by CSNWashington.com

Diehards Line: Garcon was hurt as he reeled in a fade pass over cornerback David Amerson. After securing the ball, Garcon reached for his right hamstring and was in obvious discomfort. He watched the remainder of practice from the sidelines. The Redskins do not have an afternoon walkthrough Monday and are off Tuesday. “I’ll be good,” Garcon said, stopping short of saying he’ll return Wednesday. “No need to really rush it, or trying put everything to the wall right now. It is the first week of training camp.” HC Jay Gruden also did not sound concerned. “He had a little soreness in his hamstring,” he said. “He’ll be okay. ..." We'll be following up.

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Don't Expect To See Much Adrian Peterson In Preseason Games (7/28 1:11 PT)

The Facts: Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that HC Mike Zimmer said there is “nothing to see” from Peterson in the preseason that the team needs to prepare for the season. Zimmer allowed that Peterson may make a cameo appearance if the running back feels it will benefit him to see action in a preseason game, but it doesn’t look like the coaching staff views it as any kind of a priority. Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: As PFT's Josh Alper pointed out, whatever the Vikings offense winds up looking like this season, Peterson is going to be playing a major role in it. The injury risks involved with playing Peterson, then, are pretty great when the rewards for preseason reps are going to be low for a player of his stature. There are more rewards to be found in giving the rest of the offensive players work, though, and that sounds like the priority in Minnesota this summer. And that's something fantasy football owners can appreciate.

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