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Victor Cruz Working His Way Back Up To Speed Monday, August 3, 2015 | Time: 8:39 PT |  Reported by the Newark Star-Ledger
The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Cruz tore the patellar tendon in his right knee last October. He was back on the field practicing -- on a "pitch count" -- the first day of Giants training camp this summer. Cruz took around 10 total reps in live drills and caught the one pass thrown in his direction. For a player coming off such a serious injury, he looked solid.
Diehards Line:This according to Star-Ledger staffer Jordan Raanan, who went on to stress that Cruz is an ongoing process. Every practice this summer (and even beyond for at least the first half of the 2015 season) will be a test for his right knee. Being back on the field isn't the question that hovers over the Pro Bowl receiver. It's whether he can return to his previous form and, if so, when? Was he quite as shifty and explosive as the player who topped 1,500 yards receiving in 2011 in initial sessions? Probably not. But the Giants are still optimistic about what they've seen so far. "He seems to be doing well," HC Tom Coughlin said after Sunday's practice. "There's no complaints and he's gone through some things that I think he's maybe challenged himself and came out the other end. So far, so good. ..." Stay tuned. We'll be following up throughout the month.
DeAndre Hopkins Practicing After February Wrist Surgery Monday, August 3, 2015 | Time: 8:36 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: Hopkins, who sat out OTAs following wrist surgery in February, is working in training camp. "He’s had a good training camp so far," HC Bill O'Brien said Sunday. "He came back early and he really performed well in the early training camp. He’s had two good days here too.”
Diehards Line:That's good news. The team's decision to part ways with Andre Johnson this offseason is a good indication they believe Hopkins is ready to take over as their receiver of the future. He notched his first 1,000-yard season in 2014, his second year in the NFL. He caught 76 of 126 targets last season for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns. He was a favorite target on deep balls and assuming Houston gets even decent play from their quarterbacks, Hopkins will have ample opportunity again this season working in a group that also includes Jaelen Strong, Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington.
Michael Crabtree Impressive Early In Training Camp Monday, August 3, 2015 | Time: 8:34 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: In crossing the bay, Crabtree has gone from third option to potential superstar. Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the former 49er has been the early “star” of camp for the Raiders.
Diehards Line:As PFT's Mike Florio suggests, there's a long way to go until Crabtree becomes a star during games that count. Drops and limited opportunities punctuated his last season in San Francisco, which ended with 68 catches for 698 yards. In six seasons with the 49ers, the 2009 top-10 pick had only one 1,000 yard receiving season, cracking the barrier with 1,105 in 2012. Once he became a free agent, Crabtree generated little interest, eventually signing a one-year, $3.2 million contract with the Raiders, who also drafted Amari Cooper in the first round of this year's draft. While hopes are for Cooper, Crabtree would provide huge value if he can get his career on track. It's worth watching.
Odell Beckham Starts -- And Finishes -- A Training Camp Practice Monday, August 3, 2015 | Time: 8:33 PT |  Reported by the Newark Star-Ledger
The Facts: The first Giants training camp practice of the summer also marked a first for its star receiver. It was the first time Beckham started and completed a training camp practice since he was drafted in the first round last year.
Diehards Line:With 91 receptions in 12 games as a rookie, Beckham overcame training camp hamstring issues with a series of dominant performances and highlight reel grabs, often against double coverage -- despite the missed time in OTAs and training camp. In his final nine games, he caught 10-plus passes four times and had at least six in the other five with seven 100-yard games. In the other two, he had 90 and 93. He dominated the division and even with the Eagles' offseason overhaul, Beckham won't face a single one-on-one matchup in the NFC that's worrisome. He clearly has the trust of quarterback Eli Manning, who targeted Beckham 21 times in one game (vs. Philadelphia) and 115 times in November and December. Those looking to draft him can expect to pay a first-round price.
Will Experience Be Enough For Matt Cassel? Monday, August 3, 2015 | Time: 8:32 PT |  Reported by the Buffalo News
The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... EJ Manuel’s woes continued Sunday. He dropped a shotgun snap one play of 11 on 11 and overthrew Chris Hogan the next. Working against air, he missed a receiver. The Bills probably wish they could mold Manuel’s measurables, Tyrod Taylor’s speed and Cassel’s experience into one quarterback. They can't. Cassel is probably the leader in the clubhouse right now.
Diehards Line: All that said, News staffer Tyler Dunne notes that Sunday’s practice did offer a glimpse of what Taylor could bring: scrambling ability. He looks to run… but it doesn’t always pan out. It may be because of his shorter stature --Taylor is listed at 6 foot 1-- but he doesn’t always scramble with a purpose. Still, it’s something. It’s athleticism. And Taylor could run some read option with LeSean McCoy from the shotgun, as Colin Kaepernick did with Frank Gore in San Francisco under Greg Roman. ... Bottom line? The QB competition is ongoing and nobody should expect a quick resolution.
Philip Rivers Will Have A New Deal Soon... Or He Won't Have One Until Next Year Monday, August 3, 2015 | Time: 12:13 PT |  Reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune
The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... The first Chargers preseason game has added significance this month. One way or another, it'll bring clarity to Rivers' contract situation. The Chargers will host the Cowboys on Aug. 13. If the quarterback and team have not agreed to an extension by then, they aren't expected to this year, sources said Sunday.
Diehards Line: According to SDUT's Michael Gehlkin, negotiations between the two sides are considered amicable. There is thought to be a general understanding that talks will be revisited in 2016 if no deal is completed soon. Rivers is entering the final year of his contract. His preference is for discussions not to linger much further toward the season. In camp, Rivers seems unaffected by the uncertainty. The 33-year-old is off to another productive one, building a rapport with new wide receiver Stevie Johnson. He also is working closely with rookie running back Melvin Gordon, among other Chargers newcomers, to gain chemistry. His work ethic and attention to the detail were a constant even in the spring, as Rivers scheduled throwing sessions with receivers while others speculated about his future.
Contract Won't Change Dez Bryant's Game Or The Way He Acts Monday, August 3, 2015 | Time: 12:11 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: A little more than two weeks ago, Bryant signed a $70 million contract that will change his life but not much else. "It's no pressure, man," Bryant said after the Cowboys finished their first day of training camp practice. "It's not going to change the way I play. It's not going to change the way I act. I'm here. Like, thank you, I can go buy me a home and now I'm able to take care of my family. Yeah, I love that, but as far as me performing on the field, like, I take full pride in that."
Diehards Line: The contract made Bryant among the NFL's highest-paid wide receivers and included $45 million in guaranteed money. And if you think the talk about dialing back the intensity is just lip service, think again. Bryant took a swing at teammate Tyler Patmon at training camp Sunday. The two were first exchanging words on the sideline, and then Bryant reached out and took a shot at Patmon. Other teammates and coaches stepped in and things did not escalate. According to reporters on the scene, QB Tony Romo and HC Jason Garrett both talked to Bryant on the field, and Bryant then went over to Patmon and gave him a hug. Apparently cooler heads prevailed. The good news is that Bryant uses his emotion to fuel his game. And it's worked well. He's been named to the Pro Bowl the past two years and is the only receiver in Cowboys' history with three straight seasons with at least 85 catches, 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last year he led the NFL with 16 touchdown receptions. Look for more of the same going forward.
Eli Manning, Giants Offense Looking To Score 28 Points Per Game Monday, August 3, 2015 | Time: 12:10 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: GM Jerry Reese seconded a notion passed along by his quarterback, Manning: The Giants would like to score between 27 and 30 points per game this season. "If you don't score 28 points, it's hard to win," Reese said.
Diehards Line:As's Conor Orr suggests, that's true in theory. The Giants have only lost two games since the beginning of the 2012 season when they've scored 28 or more. But can it really happen? In Ben McAdoo's first season as OC, the team only scored 28 points or more in six games. Orr concedes that one might argue that the team has gotten better with the return of Victor Cruz and the additions of James Jones and Shane Vereen in free agency. In addition, the personnel in general should be more comfortable in the second season under McAdoo. Offensive line play will be key. Orr summed up: "Keeping Manning upright and giving Vereen room to run are the true keys to an offense that can score 28 points a game. Odell Beckham, Cruz and Jones together sounds like a deadly combination. But right now, that's only true in theory."
Report: Trent Richardson 50-50 To Make Raiders Monday, August 3, 2015 | Time: 12:08 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: Richardson's tenure in Oakland may be over before it even really begins. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that the chances that Richardson makes the Raiders' Week 1 roster are "about 50-50."
Diehards Line: "The reality is (Richardson) has some very real competition, thanks to some newfound depth on this roster," Rapoport added. "He needs to do exactly what they ask on the field and off the field just to make this roster. ... It's possible at this point that Trent Richardson is the odd man out." Richardson is currently on the non-football injury (NFI) list and will have to battle Latavius Murray, Roy Helu and Michael Dyer for a spot on the Raiders' depth chart. Murray appears to be solidifying his grip on the top spot while Helu is running with the second team. HC Jack Del Rio singled Dyer out for praise on Sunday. In the end, there may not be room for Richardson and his career rushing average of 3.3 yards per carry.
Tomlin Addresses Martavis Bryant's Elbow Monday, August 3, 2015 | Time: 12:07 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... Bryant, primed for a big jump in the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense this year, will miss several days of training camp after undergoing a minor procedure Sunday to remove an elbow infection. "He should be back to us sooner rather than later," HC Mike Tomlin said. "But it will be a couple of days. Making sure that's behind him. ... He had a bump or something on his elbow and it kind of graduated to [surgery]. We just exercised a little caution and got it removed."
Diehards Line: Bryant could miss Sunday's Hall of Fame preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings in Canton, Ohio. As a rookie in 2014, Bryant averaged 21 yards per catch and scored a touchdown on eight of his 26 receptions. He's also dazzled early in training camp, consistently making athletic, difficult plays. Despite Ben Roethlisberger's contention that Markus Wheaton is in line for the No. 2 role, Bryant is still the Steeler receiver not named Antonio Brown on the minds of fantasy owners. We'll be watching for indications that should change in coming days.