Team Notes week 1 2022

By Bob Harris
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Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...

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Arizona Cardinals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

The Arizona Cardinals will open the 2022 regular season at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. It is a huge afternoon matchup between Cardinals QB Kyler Murray and Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes.

The Chiefs have been to the playoffs seven straight seasons and have made it to the Super Bowl twice with Mahomes as their starter, winning one title.

The Cardinals made the postseason last season for the first time since 2015 and hope to return. They have improved each season with Murray as their starter and Kliff Kingsbury as their head coach.

Murray is with the Cardinals for the foreseeable future after signing a $230.5 million, five-year deal during the offseason. Entering his fourth season, he's already a two-time Pro Bowl selection and is one of the league's most exciting players with his ability to scramble and extend plays.

James Conner is back after scoring a career-high combined 18 touchdowns last season and DeAndre Hopkins -- when he returns from a six-game suspension -- is still among the league's best pass catchers.

The Cardinals traded for receiver Marquise Brown on the first day of the NFL draft, reuniting him with Murray, his college quarterback. Having that kind of familiarity -- Brown and Murray throw often in the offseason -- should help Brown hit the ground running in Week 1.

When Hopkins gets back, the Cardinals will have one of the best receiving duos in the NFL

Tight end is a deep spot with Zach Ertz, Maxx Williams and rookie Trey McBride. DE J.J. Watt is still a potent pass rusher who other teams must account for in the game plan. The Cardinals are also solid at the safety position with Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson.

Until then, the team will ask Rondale Moore to play a greater role.

Moore saw 65 targets as a rookie, a number that should climb in 2022 with Hopkins suspended and former Cardinal Christian Kirk now plying his trade in Jacksonville.

As's Matt Bowen notes, a player with dynamic traits and open-field juice, Moore can be schemed manufactured touches in Kingsbury's offense, in addition to what he brings as an interior route-runner with quarterback Murray.

A.J. Green has a lot of miles on his body at 34 years old, but the seven-time Pro Bowl selection has a history of making plays. He could have some vintage production over the first six games of the season. TE Ertz should also get a lot of looks, too -- if he goes.

The Cardinals don't have to put out an injury report until later Wednesday, but in the open portion of practice Monday the players not working were Ertz, linebacker Markus Golden, defensive end J.J. Watt, cornerback Trayvon Mullen.

Asked specifically about Golden's availability, Kingsbury said Golden -- who hasn't practiced since Aug. 1 -- can do something in practice on Wednesday.

"He's a guy even with limited practice; there will be a role for him," Kingsbury said. "But we'll see how it plays out.

"(Ertz) is the same deal. He's going to be day to day. Wednesday will be a big day to see how he feels when we get back out there."

The good news is Ertz, who has beeen dealing with a calf injury since last month, returned to practice Wednesday. I'll be following his progress closely and report back via Late-Breaking Update as the weekend draws nearer. ...

Also of interest. ... The Chiefs didn't offer Darrel Williams a contract to return in free agency, but the running back doesn't hold any hard feelings toward the organization.

Now a member of the Cardinals, Williams looks forward to the home opener against Kansas City on Sunday.

"It's going to be exciting," Williams said. "I get to face my former teammates, the players I played with the past four years. It will be different, but I know it will be a great feeling."

Williams has competed with Eno Benjamin, Jonathan Ward and Keaontay Ingram for the RB2 job behind Conner. It's unknown how much Williams will play, but on Monday Kingsbury included Williams in running backs deserving of playing time.

Williams had 558 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 144 attempts, adding 452 receiving yards on 47 receptions and two touchdowns for the Chiefs last season.

Worth pointing out: Although Williams has spent time with both Murray and Mahomes, he didn't want to play the comparison game.

"They're both great in their way," Williams said. "It's going to be a great show to watch them go against each other."

One last note here. ... The Cardinals placed No. 2 quarterback Colt McCoy on injured reserve today and promoted Trace McSorley to be Murray’s backup. McCoy has been dealing with an arm issue through much of training camp, and now must miss at least the first four games.

QBs: Kyler Murray, Clayton Tune
RBs: James Conner, Michael Carter, Emari Demercado
WRs: Marquise Brown, Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Zach Pascal
TEs: Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

As The Associated Press noted, the Falcons are being molded to fit the vision of general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith, creating a more youthful look with such players as Kyle Pitts and Drake London positioned as leaders of the rebuild.

Pitts, the tight end, and London, a wide receiver, are Atlanta's top picks of the past two NFL drafts with the new leadership team of Fontenot and Smith.

As of Wednesday, the active roster includes 14 players from those two drafts. Two more Falcons picks from the 2021 and 2022 drafts were signed to the practice squad.

Among the new defensive leaders on a team looking to end a streak of four consecutive losing seasons are linebacker Arnold Ebiketie and safety Richie Grant, second-round picks in 2022 and 2021, respectively.

The most dramatic change has come at quarterback, where Marcus Mariota was signed as the new starter after 14-year starter Matt Ryan was traded to Indianapolis.

With the 6-4 frame to play as a boundary X receiver or bump inside as a big slot target, London should be a legitimate fantasy option, given the volume he should see opposite Pitts. Stretch the seams, work the outside matchups and win in the red zone. As's Matt Bowen put it, "Bet on traits and skill with the rookie here."

Given all that, it's no surprise London is slated to open the season as a starter if healthy. He has been held out after suffering a left knee injury in the preseason opener against Detroit on Aug. 12.

Smith has said the injury is not serious, but hasn't confirmed the rookie will be available Sunday, when Atlanta opens its season at home against New Orleans.

"We're excited about Drake's progress and we'll see how that goes," Smith said Wednesday.

If London misses the opener, Darby won't be the only option available on the practice squad. The Falcons also added wide receivers Cameron Batson and Josh Ali to the practice squad.

Of course, Pitts is plenty capable of picking up some of the slack.

The 2021 fourth-overall pick was historically good as a rookie (68 catches for 1,026 yards and a touchdown), which is especially impressive when you consider that he was only 20 years old and that it usually takes tight ends a while to develop.

As's Michael Rothstein notes, Pitts' skill set allows him to break away from defensive backs and linebackers, and his lack of touchdowns last season feels like an aberration. Don't be surprised if Pitts is pushing for the top five -- and maybe higher -- among tight ends this season.

But much will depend on the play of Mariota.

As Rothstein reminded readers this week, the Falcons were pursuing Deshaun Watson, who was facing 22 lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions. During that process, Atlanta allowed Ryan to pursue potential trade partners, and Ryan felt comfortable with the Colts. When Houston traded Watson to Cleveland, the Falcons then dealt Ryan to Indianapolis. The same day, the Falcons signed Mariota, who played under Smith when Smith was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee.

In this year's draft, the team also selected rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third round.

The best-case scenario for the Falcons is Mariota rediscovers what made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft and the quarterback who threw for 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016. If Atlanta can have an improved version of what Mariota was with the Titans, he could have a chance to be the long-term starter, giving the Falcons more flexibility in the 2023 draft.

But Rothstein pointed out, Mariota's accuracy was an issue in Tennessee -- he's a career 62.8 percent passer -- and he was eventually benched in 2019 in favor of Ryan Tannehill.

If Mariota has the same precision issues in Atlanta, he could lose his job to Ridder.

Smith is not focused on that scenario. In fact, Smith bristled on Monday when he was asked how many games he thinks Ridder needs to play to get an accurate assessment of the young quarterback.

"I'm not answering the hypothetical, fantasy football, that kind of BS. It's hypothetical," Smith said in his press conference. "We want to know what we have in Marcus Mariota. If you want to make this about '23, I mean, you can ask every which way. We're focused on Week 1.

"I'm not going to hear about some hypothetical -- that's not where our focus is right now. Our focus is on the New Orleans Saints. If you want to hang out with the bots on Twitter and social media and get all of these hypothetical G.M. scenarios or great team-building -- some of these other asinine narratives -- go ahead, but we're focused on the New Orleans Saints. I'm not going to answer questions about hypotheticals."

According to's Myles Simmons, Smith's reaction is understandable.

Now that the regular season has begun, of course all of his focus has to be on beating the Saints and making sure Mariota is prepared to do so. And because Ridder was a third-round pick, there isn't the same urgency to get him on the field as a rookie.

"But," Simmons added, "if Mariota doesn't look any better than the last time Smith was calling plays for him back with the Titans in 2019, then the calls for Ridder to play will only get louder as the 2022 season. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... Running back remains a question for fantasy managers.

According to's Dave Choate, Cordarrelle Patterson is the de factor starter after his terrific 2021 campaign, but the Falcons have hinted that they'll keep his workload manageable to ensure he's fresh all season long. He's also plenty capable of being an asset split out wide, given his size, speed, and history at wide receiver, so there will be snaps available for other backs.

Patterson's just the obvious favorite to be the most productive back.

What does that mean for the rest of the depth chart?

Damien Williams has traditionally done his best work as a runner on early downs (where Patterson will get a lot of run) and as a receiver on third down, where his career numbers (52 grabs on 68 targets, 486 yards and 6 touchdowns) suggest he can be effective for Atlanta. Avery Williams also profiles as a player who would benefit from being a pass catching option. That's assuming he gets any real playing time in 2022 after just shifting to a new position, of course.

Then there's Tyler Allgeier, the most obvious candidate for early down and short yardage besides Patterson, given his physicality as a runner. Allgeier is still Choate's pick to lead the backfield in carries this season, as he appears to have all the tools necessary to succeed in Smith's scheme, but he likely won't start the year with a huge role.

For now, Patterson is probably most trustworthy as a flex-level play with huge upside.

QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Desmond Ridder, Logan Woodside
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson
WRs: Drake London, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Van Jefferson, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

Less than a week before the season opener, quarterback Lamar Jackson was throwing passes on the practice field Monday, showing once again that he's focused on playing for the Ravens this season despite no contract extension.

After Monday's practice, head coach John Harbaugh was asked whether there's ever been a discussion that Jackson would hold out and not play this season without a new deal.

"No," Harbaugh said before adding, "Lamar has said he's focused on the season, he's under contract and he's going to have the best season he can have. He's hopeful to get a new contract and we're hopeful to get him a new contract. All the rest of it is business. There is nothing other than coming to something that is mutually agreeable."'s Jamison Hensley reminded readers that Jackson missed the voluntary workouts this spring for the first time in his five-year career, but the former NFL MVP reported on time for training camp and didn't miss a practice all summer.

Harbaugh is unaware whether talks between the Ravens and Jackson have been suspended. Last month, Jackson said Week 1 would be the cutoff point in negotiations until the end of the regular season.

"I don't have any updates," Harbaugh said. "My interactions with Lamar have been all football. He's been focused and locked in on that, 100 percent, from a football standpoint."

Jackson is one of the few players in the NFL without an agent and represents himself.

Neither Jackson nor Ravens officials have ever hinted at any animosity in negotiations, which is why Harbaugh said you don't hear about "conflicting reports."

"He's hopeful to get a new contract; we're hopeful to get him a new contract," Harbaugh said. "But all the rest of it is business. There's nothing other than coming to something that's mutually agreeable. That's the way that all of these deals are done. So, obviously, I'm very hopeful, and I know everyone is really hopeful to get it done."

In March, Deshaun Watson reset the quarterback market when he signed a record-setting five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract. Shortly afterward, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged that Watson's deal complicates future negotiations with quarterbacks.

The two franchise quarterbacks who have most recently signed deals since -- Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson -- both received less guaranteed money than Watson. Murray received $189.5 million guaranteed in July, and Wilson got $165 million guaranteed on Thursday.

Jackson is playing on his fifth-year option, which will pay him $23.016 million this season. If the sides can't reach a new deal by next March, Baltimore would have to put the franchise tag on Jackson to keep him from becoming a free agent. Jackson would receive $45 million under the exclusive tag.

"Being around him here and also being beside him in the locker room, he's calm, cool and collected," offensive tackle Morgan Moses said about how Jackson has handled the contract talks. "It's no better feeling than to see your quarterback comes out every day and is willing to work."

With Jackson, the Ravens have high expectations entering the season.

Jackson's weapons -- beyond star tight end Mark Andrews -- remain a bit of a question following the trade that sent Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals the first day of this year's NFL Draft.

The team has high hopes, however, for receiver Rashod Bateman.

They're not alone. ESPN's Matt Bowen sees Bateman as a prime candidate to make that second-year jump as the primary wide receiver for Jackson in Baltimore. As a rookie, Bateman dropped just two of 68 targets, and he showed some upside over the final month of the season, posting 100 receiving yards in one contest, a touchdown and a game with double-digit targets.

Bowen also noted that Bateman can get loose at the second and third level of the Ravens' play-action passing game as well.

What about Isaiah Likely?

Likely emerged as a popular target for Jackson and as a pass-catching complement to Andrews this summer. Likely didn't play in the third preseason game, but finished the preseason with 12 targets, 12 catches, 144 yards, and a touchdown.

Likely won't get the volume of Andrews, but with fellow rookie tight end Charlie Kolar missing the start of the season and the Ravens short on wide receivers, he figures to play significant snaps from the jump.

In fact, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec believes Likely is the "closest thing to an answer that [the Ravens] have" as a third receiving option.

According to Baltimore Sun staffer Jonas Shaffer, the best-case scenario: "Likely's preseason form carries over into the regular season, where he earns more than 50 percent of the offensive snaps. With Andrews attracting double teams, Likely becomes a go-to receiver for Jackson. His understanding of zone coverages earns him regular targets, and his slippery ability as a ball carrier makes him the Ravens' most dangerous weapon after the catch."

Shaffer's worst-case scenario?

"Likely's shortcomings as a blocker make him a liability on early downs and near the goal line for the run-heavy Ravens. In obvious passing situations, he's not dynamic enough to earn regular snaps over Andrews, the team's top option in the slot, or wide receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche II. ..."

At running back, J.K. Dobbins opens the season on the 53-man roster, but the Ravens have to be convinced that Dobbins is healthy and fit enough to be a productive back from the jump.

According to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, it would be optimistic to bank on Dobbins maintaining a heavy workload early in the season. According to Jackson, it might be unrealistic.

Speaking at his Wednesday press conference, the quarterback told reporters that Dobbins, who was listed as limited Wednesday, might not be ready this week.

Jackson said, “Hopefully he’ll be out in a couple of weeks.”

Jackson isn't on the medical staff, but that's noteworthy.

The Ravens like Mike Davis' experience and ability out of the backfield. The team also added Kenyan Drake to the mix to go Dobbins, Davis and Justice Hill while Gus Edwards (knee) opens the season on the physically unable to perform list.

Meanwhile, starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley was an All-Pro in 2019, but his 2020 season was cut short by an ankle injury, and he only played in one game last year. It's still not clear what his status will be for Sunday's opener on the road against the New York Jets. Stanley was at practice Monday, but Harbaugh wasn't saying anything definitive about his outlook.

"It just depends on how he's doing. A lot of it has to do with how he's feeling and if he's ready to go," Harbaugh said. "If he feels strong, if he's moving and feels like he can be successful, and if we see what we need to see. Same thing with J.K., Marcus (Peters) or any of those guys."

I'll be watching for more on Dobbins in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for pertinent developments.

QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Melvin Gordon, J.K. Dobbins, Keaton Mitchell
WRs: Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Mark Andrews

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

As the Associated Press noted, Josh Allen refuses to live in anything but the present.

The fact the Bills have won the AFC East the past two years is nice, and so is having made the playoffs three straight seasons while building a bright future.

It's all about this season, though -- a year that could be pretty special in Buffalo. And the Bills have that in perspective.

"Nothing that we did last year is going to carry over to this year," Allen insisted. "Nothing that we're going to do next year is going to affect us this year. It's a brand-new season. Everybody's starting 0-0.

"We're a new team. We're a different team, we know that, we understand that. We've got new pieces. We've got a new offensive coordinator. We've got a new mindset."

Same goal, though.

The Bills were a wild, wacky overtime loss to Kansas City from getting to the AFC championship for the second year in a row. And just getting there again this season won't be good enough.

"We know what we want to accomplish and it's no secret," Allen said. "I think there's 31 other teams that say they want to win the Super Bowl. And if they don't say it, they're lying. That's our goal. Everything that we do is toward that goal."

And many believe they'll have a great chance at that, with the Bills listed by FanDuel as the Super Bowl favorite.

With the depth Buffalo has all over its roster, it's hard to argue.

If there's one question mark on offense in Buffalo, it's how Ken Dorsey transitions to being a first-time offensive coordinator.

Dorsey, a former NFL QB, has Allen's backing after serving as the Bills' quarterbacks coach the past three seasons.

"He's doing a really good job," Allen said. "His call sheet, how he's talking to us before games and in preparation for games, making sure that the call sheet that he has for whatever quarterback is out there is the plays that we are comfortable with. And I really appreciate how he's doing that."

Dorsey landed the Bills quarterbacks coaching position in 2019. While former Bills OC Brian Daboll gets a great deal of credit for developing Allen's game, Dorsey has been a key component as well over the last three seasons in making Allen a top tier quarterback in the game.

"I trusted Daboll with my life and I think I'd be willing to say the same thing for Dorsey," Allen said. "That's only going to continue to grow. He's been in the room with me for the last three years, so that trust and that faith that I have in him, and him in me is already through the roof and it's only going to grow as time goes on. He knows my likes and my dislikes, just by being in the room with me. I couldn't be happier. Just knowing the verbiage, the terminology, the competitive spirit that he and I share.

"It's a very, very good fit and I'm excited for him to call live plays for us."

They'll need all Dorsey's acumen in Los Angeles this week.

Among the challenges, Stefon Diggs will see plenty of Rams star cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

The last time the two faced off was in Week 3 of the 2020 season. Ramsey played well, only allowing two catches on four targets for 13 yards in 1-on-1 coverage. However, Diggs also played well in the Bills 35-32 win, catching four balls for 49 yards and a TD.

Gabriel Davis will likely match up with Rams veteran CB Troy Hill. Look for the third-year wideout to build on his last performance -- eight catches, 201 yards, four TDs in the playoffs vs. the Kansas City Chiefs -- and have a great game to start his 2022 breakout season.

With more anticipated volume in one of the league's top offenses,'s Matt Bowen believes Davis has serious breakout potential as a No. 2 target for Allen. A wide receiver with vertical ability and red zone chops, Davis caught five of his seven touchdowns last season inside the 20-yard line.

In addition,'s Alaina Getzenberg notes that Isaiah McKenzie is in line for a big season. The speedy wideout won the camp battle at slot receiver over Jamison Crowder, and the offense is going into the campaign with an emphasis on improving yards after catch (last in the league in YAC per reception in 2021), which could mean big things for McKenzie.

For what it's worth McKenzie was among the players listed on the team's first injury report of the season Monday.

Head coach Sean McDermott didn't express much concern about McKenzie missing the season opener against the Rams on Thursday night during his Tuesday press conference, however. McKenzie's groin injury kept him out of practices at the end of August, but he was back on the field for a full practice session on Monday and McDermott said he thinks the wideout will be "ready to go" in Los Angeles.

Two other Bills were listed as full participants on Monday. Safety Jordan Poyer (elbow) and defensive tackle Tim Settle (calf) are also expected to play on Thursday. Tackle Tommy Doyle (foot) and tight end Quintin Morris (hamstring) were the only Bills out of practice.

I'll have more on McKenzie via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant in advance of Thursday night's kickoff. ...

According to Getzenberg, it certainly will be another fun season of breaking down the running backs' fantasy impact.

Devin Singletary is in line to get the bulk of the carries as the season begins. But Zack Moss and rookie James Cook are also carving out their own roles. Moss has been the most consistent goal-line and short-yardage situation back and had one of the most consistent camps, per McDermott. The Bills will likely integrate Cook as well, including as a receiving option.

There is no rush there with the rookie, however, and for now his role appears smaller behind Singletary and Moss while he develops. But these roles are likely to change as the season progresses, similar to last year.

And finally. ... The Bills and tight end Dawson Knox reached agreement Wednesday on a four-year contract extension that ties to him Buffalo through 2026 season, according to multiple reports. The deal is expected to place Knox in the top five highest-paid tight ends in the league. He will sign it after Wednesday's practice.

QBs: Josh Allen
RBs: James Cook, Latavius Murray, Ty Johnson
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir, Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dalton Kincaid, Dawson Knox, Quintin Morris

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

As the Associated Press reported it, "Baker Mayfield went to his denial play call."

Carolina's starting quarterback said that he never said anything malicious about the Cleveland Browns, who traded him to the Panthers this summer.

"First, I didn't say that," Mayfield said following last Wednesday's practice. "Everybody is going to write what they want (because) there is history there the last four years."

NFL Network analytics analyst Cynthia Frelund, who was working as a Buffalo Bills sideline reporter for the team's final preseason game against Carolina, said on a podcast that Mayfield had some choice words for his former team following the game.

Frelund said Mayfield said "I'm going to (expletive) them up," when talking about Panthers' Sept. 11 season opener against the Browns while a guest on the "Around the NFL" podcast.

"I walked up to him and said, 'I'm so excited to see you, like, go kick some butt,' I didn't say that word," Frelund said with a laugh in the podcast. "... Go kick some butt, especially Week 1, I like cannot wait. And he uses some expletives and I was like, 'I just hope you're like ready.' He was like, 'I'm gonna bleep them up."

Mayfield said he was shocked to hear about the report on Tuesday.

"If I wasn't wanting to win then there would be a really big issue of me being the quarterback here," Mayfield said. "I want to win at everything I do and that will never change. That is not how I phrased it, that is not even what I said, so we will leave it at that."

The Browns traded Mayfield to the Panthers on July 6 after acquiring Deshaun Watson in a deal with the Houston Texans,

Cleveland agreed to pay $10.5 million of Mayfield's scheduled $18.8 million contract. The Panthers will pay him $4.8 million this year, while Mayfield took a pay cut for the remaining portion of the contract to help facilitate the trade and get out of Cleveland.

Since being traded to Carolina, Mayfield has been careful in choosing his words in news conference settings when talking about the Browns.

He has said the game will mean a little extra to him, but nothing inflammatory.

"I have taken this approach this offseason to go about my business and let people say what they want and just control what I can," Mayfield said. "I have always had fun playing football and that's never going to change. I'm passionate about it and nobody can take that away from me. But off the field I have learned to keep it to the minimum and keep it within house and just talk to our guys and our people -- that's what matters."

Cleveland's All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett said Tuesday the Browns will use the comments as "motivation" and "fuel" for the game.

Garrett said he's not surprised that his former teammate would say something to fire himself up.

"I know he has that swagger, that confidence that borders on arrogance in some people's eyes," Garrett said. "But he's always played with a chip on his shoulder, and I think we have as an organization as well. So however he feels or goes about it in his mind scape to prepare for the game to play us at the highest level for him, it's whatever."

According to's David Newton noted this week, the Panthers 2022 season will be a success if Mayfield becomes the player the Browns thought he would be.

If the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick plays close to his 2020 level -- when he had an 11-5 record and a playoff win -- there's enough talent around him on offense and the defense is good enough to make Carolina a playoff contender.

Of course, much will also depend on Christian McCaffrey.

He has missed 23 of the past 33 games due to injuries, which in part contributed to the Panthers' inconsistencies at quarterback. (Sam Darnold was 3-0 with McCaffrey to start 2021.) McCaffrey hopes a change in preparation he received, in part, from Marshall Faulk will keep him healthy and help him return to the level he was in 2019, when he had 1,000 yards rushing and receiving.

If not, free-agent addition D'Onta Foreman and second-year back Chuba Hubbard will be standing by.

At wide receiver, D.J. Moore opens the 2022 season as one of the NFL's most consistent producers at his position. Beyond that, it seems like a crapshoot here.

Asked if WR Robbie Anderson can rebound from a mediocre 2021 season, The Athletic's Joe Person expressed some skepticism.

He noted that Anderson's precipitous drop in production last year was bad enough. But the optics looked especially bad because the Panthers had signed him to a two-year, $29.5 million extension before the season.

In 2020, Anderson's first season with head coach Matt Rhule and the Panthers, he caught 95 passes and topped 1,000 yards receiving. Rhule said when Anderson was effective in 2020, he was stretching the field both horizontally and vertically with his top-end speed.

Rhule said that's something the Panthers have to get back to under Ben McAdoo, who replaced Joe Brady as offensive coordinator. A healthy McCaffrey will take targets away from Anderson, as will the addition of Laviska Shenault Jr., acquired in a trade with Jacksonville.

"So it's tough to envision Anderson matching his numbers from his breakout season two years ago," Person summed up.

Still, Newton believes with Mayfield's deep ball ability, Anderson should see an increase in volume and opportunity. Newton advised readers to keep an eye on second-year wideout Terrace Marshall Jr. here too. ...

A few final notes. ... The Panthers placed Sam Darnold on injured reserve, meaning the backup quarterback will miss at least the first four games of the regular season.

Darnold sustained a high ankle sprain during Carolina's preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 19. Rookie Matt Corral suffered a season-ending foot injury earlier in the month. The Panthers say they are comfortable going into the season with P.J. Walker as Mayfield's backup.

The Panthers did, however, add 6-foot-6, 231-pound quarterback Jacob Eason to the practice squad.

Carolina also announced the signing of kicker Eddy Pineiro, who will take Darnold's spot on the 53-man roster. Pineiro takes over for Zane Gonzalez, who injured his groin against Buffalo and is out for the season.

And last. ... Newton notes that Rhule has gone 5-11 and 5-12 his first two seasons. He has overhauled his staff to add more experience and strengthened the overall roster. His issue has been bad choices at quarterback. If he has made another one with Mayfield, and the Panthers don't contend for the playoffs, team owner David Tepper might not have the patience to give him a fourth year.

QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Mike Strachan
TEs: Tommy Tremble, Stephen Sullivan, Ian Thomas, Hayden Hurst

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

According to the Associated Press, Matt Eberflus can appreciate the moment. He's a first-time head coach trying to turn around a founding NFL franchise, and the next big step comes this week when the Chicago Bears host the San Francisco 49ers in the season opener.

"It's always special when you do something for the first time, you're calling a defense in the NFL for the first time or back when I called it in college way back when or when you step into a new role as the head football coach," Eberflus said Monday.

"It's part of the journey. It's part of your story that you're writing, that you help write with everybody else that's helping you. And you certainly reflect on that as you go."

The Bears hired general manager Ryan Poles and Eberflus to replace the fired Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy after going 6-11 and missing the playoffs for the ninth time in 11 years.

They have since been restructuring the roster and implementing a culture they hope points the franchise in a different direction. As he looked ahead toward the opener, Eberflus took time over the weekend to look at the franchise's past.

Chicago's history includes nine NFL championships -- but just one since the 1963 team gave founder George Halas his final title. The 1985 team, of course, won the Super Bowl.

Chicago's only other appearance came at the end of the 2006 season, when the Bears lost to Indianapolis. Since then, they have just three trips to the playoffs and one postseason victory.

The 52-year-old Eberflus spent the past four seasons as Indianapolis' defensive coordinator. He had a seven-year run coaching linebackers in Dallas prior to that.

Eberflus was also on staff in Cleveland after several college stops, including time as defensive coordinator at Missouri. Eberflus, a former linebacker at the University of Toledo, began his coaching career at his alma mater and hometown school.

In Chicago, he has drawn praise from Poles and players for his organization and the tone he is setting. He stresses the "HITS" principle -- his acronym for Hustle, Intensity, Takeaways and playing Smart -- and counts loafs in practice.

"I love that dude," Poles said last week. "He is detailed, he is organized, he has people around him to help him be organized. He is consistent. His message is clear. There is no gray area. When he approaches the team meeting and gets in front of the guys, he's got juice. But it's not fluff. It's not fake. It's real."

He said the energy Eberflus exudes is palpable and the players "love it."

"I love it," Poles added. "I'm so pumped about his leadership and how he's going to lead this team."

According to's Courtney Cronin, Eberflus' first season will be a success if Justin Fields shows tangible signs of improvement.

The Bears have a lot of work to do in building around the former first-round pick, and they won't truly know whether he's their long-term option until the end of this season. Chicago hasn't put Fields in position to succeed yet, but if he can prove he is the right player to build around, the Bears will take a step toward solving their chronic quarterback issues.

From a fantasy perspective,'s Matt Bowen believes Fields has an opportunity to produce lower-end QB1 numbers this season in a new offensive system that will cater to his dual-threat traits. In 2021, Fields rushed for 420 yards -- and two scores -- in just 12 games played.

And with more play-action and misdirection concepts, the Bears can set the table for Fields on schemed throws to the second and third level of the defense.

Darnell Mooney will serve as the team's WR1 this season, beyond that, it's fair to believe Cole Kmet will be next in the pecking order.

The tight end more than doubled his targets, catches and yards from his rookie season to Year 2. The chemistry he has built with Fields has consistently been on display throughout the offseason and only projects to increase as he becomes one of the quarterback's top weapons in 2022.

With Jimmy Graham gone, Cronin believes the third-year tight end can expect to inherit those red zone opportunities and cement himself as a foundational player in the Bears' offense.

Asked who will step up in the passing game after Mooney and Kmet, the Athletic's Kevin Fishbain noted the Bears have a pair of reliable pass catchers at running back who both have experience with Fields: David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert.

That could help in PPR leagues, but they could also eat into each other's opportunities, and rookie Trestan Ebner could also get some looks out of the backfield. Montgomery is probably the most reliable fantasy player after Mooney, but someone at receiver has to step up, right?

Equanimeous St. Brown is in line to be the No. 2, but keep an eye on Byron Pringle, who appears to be on track to return from a quad injury that sidelined him since the first week of August.

Pringle, rookie receiver Velus Jones Jr. and offensive lineman Lucas Patrick all returned to practice Monday after extended absences due to injuries. It's unclear whether the trio will play in Sunday's season opener against the 49ers at Soldier Field, but more will be known Wednesday when the Bears release their first injury report of Week 1.

"I feel great being back out there with the guys," Pringle said Monday. "I know they've been putting in a lot of hard work. I've been putting in a lot of hard work inside the training room and trying to get back as soon as possible."

Asked whether he thinks he'll be able to play Sunday, Pringle said: "We'll see what happens throughout the week. We'll have a practice Wednesday and we'll see. Today I felt great though."

Returning after such a long absence presents some challenges for Pringle.

"It's a guy who's played some snaps and I think it'll be easier for him," Eberflus said. "But like I've said since the beginning, it hurts when you're not on the grass and you don't have that timing with the quarterback and the other guys running a route with you. It'll be a lot of work ahead of him to get that done, [but] I think he'll be able to get it done."

In Kansas City, the percentage of offensive snaps Pringle played nearly doubled each of the last two seasons, from 14 percent in 2019 to 27 percent in 2020 to 49 percent in 2021. The 6-1, 203-pounder made the most of his expanded role last year, establishing career highs with 42 catches, 568 yards and five TDs.

Jones, a rookie third-round pick from Tennessee, missed two of the Bears' three preseason games with an undisclosed injury. In his only appearance, he flashed his speed and playmaking ability on a 48-yard punt return in a win over the Seahawks in Seattle. As long as he stays healthy, Jones is expected to make an impact on both offseason and special teams as a rookie.

Because of injuries, Chicago kept seven wide receivers, including Dante Pettis and Tajae Sharpe, who fought their way onto the initial 53 after flashing in preseason action. N'Keal Harry (ankle) was placed on injured reserve today with the hopes of a return this season, but there's still no timetable for when Sharpe (hamstring) will return to practice.

The Bears claimed receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette off waivers from the Vikings after Harry went on IR.

I'll have more on Pringle and Jones via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

One last note here. ... According to's Dan Graziano, the new staff seems to like Montgomery just fine, but there is some skepticism about whether his style fits the new offense as well as Herbert's does. Graziano believes Montgomery opens the season as the starter and gets the chance to show he deserves to hold the job.

But Montgomery is in the final year of his contract, and the team made no move this offseason to extend him. Don't be surprised if Herbert is a factor.

QBs: Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame
WRs: D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Trent Taylor, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

Out to prove last season was no fluke, the Bengals will rely on one of the league's most explosive offenses and a clutch kicker.

As's Ben Bay noted, anyone who watched the Bengals for five minutes last postseason knew the offensive line needed to improve its pass blocking.

Cincinnati added guard Alex Cappa, center Ted Karras and tackle La'el Collins in free agency to keep Burrow upright after he was sacked an NFL-high 51 times in the regular season, 19 in the postseason.

Meanwhile, expectations are sky-high for wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, the Offensive Rookie of the Year following a 1,455-yard, 13-touchdown debut. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd round out a terrific trio of targets.

Kicker Evan McPherson was money as a rookie in the playoffs, making made all 14 field-goal attempts, two of them game-winners.

The goal is simple: another AFC title.

"That's what we strive to work for this year, to get back," fourth-year coach Zac Taylor said.

Fortunately, one major concern appears to be alleviated: What initially felt like discomfort for Joe Burrow turned into a more serious and pressing matter.

In his first news conference after an appendectomy on July 26, Burrow said his appendix ruptured, which prompted surgery.

Burrow said upon return add weight and return his body to its pre-surgery form ahead of the team's Sunday's opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While Burrow was on the mend, he watched practices from a medical cart. Even though he couldn't participate for much of training camp, Burrow said he wanted to be with his teammates so he could mentally get back into the swing of things with the defending AFC champions.

He declined to reveal how much weight he lost because of the surgery. Burrow said doctors permitted him to start tossing footballs two weeks after the procedure. Upon return Burrow said that he lacked the preferred velocity on his throws, a side effect of the surgery.

"When they cut into you and do all that stuff your core is going to lose some muscle and some strength just getting that back," Burrow said.

As's Ben Baby notes, this marks the latest preseason abnormality for Burrow since he entered the NFL. In 2020, his rookie preseason was upended by COVID-19 and featured no games. Last year, Burrow played one series in the preseason finale following major knee surgery that ended his rookie season.

"I'd like to have a normal offseason at some point," Burrow said. "That would be great. Going into the season feeling as good as I can, but that hasn't been the reality for three years. Make the most of what you got. We'll try again next year."

As for where things stand now?

After Monday's practice, Higgins, with a smile, said Burrow looks all the way back to full strength. ...

In fact, the Bengals -- on the while -- looked comfortably healthy on the Monday practice before their season-opening contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Those Bengals got especially good news at tight end as both Drew Sample and Mitchell Wilcox returned to practice at the spot.

Another question area -- cornerback -- got some good news as well with veteran Eli Apple returning to practice. That comes on the heels of the team moving second-round rookie Cam Taylor-Britt to injured reserve.

As an aside and as expected, Higgins returned to practice after being out last week for non-injury reasons.

The Bengals' third-year wide receiver will be up for a contract extension in 2023. He has had a strong start to his career and is coming off a 1,000-yard season. The Bengals will be looking to see how Higgins will fit in their long-term future while being mindful that Burrow (2023) and Chase (2024) will need new deals in upcoming years too. ...

I'll have more on Burrow and Higgins as developments warrant in coming days. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more, but assume both will play until further notice. ...

Also of interest. ... According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, there's a good argument for running back Joe Mixon getting another large workload this year: Taylor is committed to taking whatever the defense gives him.

With arguably the game's best trio of receivers in Chase, Boyd and Higgins, defenses will be daring Cincinnati to hand it off. That plan resulted in 292 rushes for 1,205 yards and 12 touchdowns for Mixon last season. "We know some games we're going to rely heavily on the run. We have to," Taylor said. "And then there are other games we will spread them out and throw. ... We're at a point now where we don't have to force the ball to anybody. [Burrow] can make sound decisions as a quarterback and get the ball where it needs to go based on what's been given to him. ..."

Cincinnati players and coaches are unanimous in saying Mixon is one of the game's best at wearing down defenders late in the game. He thrives off it. "If you keep pounding the defense and wearing them down, that's going to play in your favor," Mixon said. "That's when we end up delivering."

For what it's worth, Geoff Hobson of the team's official website, has been a regular visitor with the FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio all offseason, and he's been adamant that Mixon isn't just a top-10 fantasy back; Hobson believes Mixon is a top-five player at his position. ...

According to Baby, each of the Bengals' backup running backs have carved out a role behind Mixon. Samaje Perine will continue to be used in pass protection while Chris Evans could spell Mixon on early downs and serve as the team's kick returner.

According to The Athletic's Jay Morrison, Evans looked poised to supplant Perine as Mixon's primary backup, but he hasn't developed in pass protection as fast as the coaches had hoped. ...

And finally. ... Hayden Hurst is a fluid tight end who should give the Bengals a great receiving option as teams look to stop Higgins and Chase. Hurst is out to show he can be a quality starter in the league and could be a key player for a Bengals team looking to field one of the best offenses in the NFL.

QBs: Jake Browning, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Chase Brown, Chris Evans, Trayveon Williams
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, Andrei Iosivas, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Tanner Hudson, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox

Cleveland Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

The NFL and NFL Players Association last month reached a settlement in the Deshaun Watson disciplinary matter, agreeing that the quarterback will serve an 11-game suspension after he was accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.

Watson will also pay a fine of $5 million that will go to charity, the source said. The deal still has not been signed but is agreed upon. As notes, the fine equates to half of his salary from 2021. He didn't play at all. But for the off-field issues, he would have been traded (most likely to the Dolphins) and he would have played.

Additionally, Watson -- who told CBS Sports' Aditi Kinkhabwala he has been undergoing counseling for months -- is required to "promptly undergo a professional evaluation by behavioral experts and will follow their treatment program. ..."

Watson's suspension commenced as of August 30. He'll be eligible to return on November 28.

For now, Jacoby Brissett, a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency QB throughout his career, will have to keep Cleveland's season afloat.

Fortunately, the Browns can turn to running back Nick Chubb, behind one of the league's best lines, to carry even more of the offensive load. He rushed for 1,259 yards last season despite missing three games.

All that said, The Athletic's Zac Jackson noted that over the last four years, teams that run the ball for at least 8 yards per carry are 12-12. Teams that average at least 12 yards per pass over that same time are 32-1.

So no matter how incredible Chubb might be, dominating a game by running the ball assures you nothing anymore. Teams have to throw it effectively to win.

And that's an issue for Cleveland.

Amari Cooper came over in a trade from Dallas to be new No. 1 receiver, but the Browns lack quality depth at that position and need Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz or rookie David Bell to pick up the slack.

Bell, the third-round pick from Purdue enters a relatively wide-open wide receiver situation with the skills to provide immediate aid in catches out of the slot.

In addition, the Browns paid David Njoku as a front-line NFL tight end this offseason.

Asked if this is the time for Njoku, or if Harrison Bryant continue the shared tight end frustration, Jackson offered some optimism for Njoku investors.

Although Jackson believes Bryant will still see plenty of snaps and get his share of opportunities in the passing game, he also believes it's finally Njoku's time. For all of Njoku's inconsistencies, he has never been in a better fantasy situation. Brissett is sturdy enough to stand in the pocket and throw short passes over the middle, and it's clear that Njoku and Brissett have built chemistry.

He's not likely to be a top-five fantasy tight end, but some big games are coming -- and multiple targets are coming Njoku's way every week.

In addition, Kareem Hunt can chip in as a receiver.

Beyond all that, rookie Cade York is a major upgrade on an inconsistent kicking game.

But fantasy managers will want to temper expectations here until we see what this offense looks like with Brissett at the helm. ...

Also worth noting. ... The Browns added depth at two key positions in advance of the season opener, signing offensive tackle Joe Haeg and tight end Jesse James, who both previously played for rival Pittsburgh.

Haeg was released by the Steelers last week. He'll give Cleveland some insurance in case All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin isn't ready to open the season. Conklin underwent extensive knee surgery after tearing his patellar tendon in December.

Conklin has been doing more in team drills during practice lately, but didn't play in the preseason.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski said there's still a chance Conklin will face the Panthers.

"Definitely want to see how today's practice went," Stefanski said following the Browns' one-hour workout. "It's all about for Jack stacking days on top of each other, back-to-back practices and those type of things."

Cleveland's not deep at tackle. Veteran Chris Hubbard, who has suffered season-ending injuries the past two years, hasn't practiced in two weeks, and James Hudson III, a fourth-round pick in 2021, may not be ready for significant playing time.

All this could obviously add to the concerns outlined above.

QBs: Joe Flacco, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Jerome Ford, Kareem Hunt, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

Dak Prescott is without one of his top receivers and a starting tackle from last season as the star quarterback tries again to lead the Dallas Cowboys to a playoff breakthrough they've been seeking for more than 25 years.

As the Associated Press noted, the questions on offense are bigger than those of the Micah Parsons-led defense, a rarity for a franchise with so much attention on Prescott and Tony Romo before him, not to mention two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott.

Prescott prefers to focus on the return of new No. 1 receiver CeeDee Lamb and right tackle Terence Steele, rather than the offseason departures of Amari Cooper and La'el Collins.

"You're never going to catch me looking at anything in my life as a step back," Prescott said. "You've got an opportunity to move forward. You've got an opportunity to grow. If you don't do that, you're in trouble and you've already lost to begin with."

Anything less than a deep postseason run could mean trouble for Mike McCarthy. The third-year coach is almost six seasons removed from his most recent playoff victory in the 2016 season with Green Bay.

The Super Bowl won by McCarthy's Packers at the home of the Cowboys was 12 seasons ago, and the shadow of Sean Payton will follow him with one of owner Jerry Jones' favorites out of football but expected to return to coaching in 2023 after leaving New Orleans.

"I know every single day when I get up, in my younger days as a head coach, my whole thought process was, 'How am I going to win today?'" McCarthy said. "You understand the negatives, the narratives, that's part of the job. That's about as far as it goes with me."

McCarthy's latest playoff moment wasn't his best, when the Cowboys ran out of time on a designed quarterback run that was supposed to give the NFC East champions one more play in a 23-17 wild-card loss to San Francisco at home.

Dallas hasn't even reached an NFC championship game since the last of the franchise's five Super Bowl titles to finish the 1995 season -- the sixth longest active drought in the NFL.

Prescott is ready to run it back with Elliott, Lamb, tight end Dalton Schultz and an offensive line in transition.

Five-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is the only anchor at the moment with eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith probably out until December with a torn left hamstring and knee injury.

Statistics show that the Cowboys' fantasy standouts, like Elliott and Prescott, haven't been nearly as effective when Smith is out of the lineup.

Receiver Michael Gallup should return early in the season after tearing an ACL last season, and backup running back Tony Pollard could line up anywhere in the strongest effort yet by offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to get the speedy back involved.

"Our offense, we're not reinventing the wheel by any means," said Schultz, who is playing on the franchise tag. "Collectively, we have made the saying of we need to find an identity and really harp on, 'We do X, Y and Z really, really well. That's what we rely on.' I think that's been a big focus for us in the offseason."

Schultz lists two identities: The efficiency of Prescott throwing deep and the effectiveness of the run game. Elliott is entering a make-or-break season because a cost-cutting move to replace him becomes more realistic next offseason.

Prescott and Elliott emerged as rookie stars together in 2016, leading the Cowboys to the NFC's top seed before a divisional-round loss to Green Bay. Now they take a 1-3 playoff record into their seventh season.

"It is surprising because we had some good years, but I think that's the next step for this team," Elliott said. "We got the ability. We had the production. None of that means anything if you don't go and handle the situations, more specifically, that last situation, that last two-minute versus San Fran."

On Sunday night, the Buccaneers visit the Cowboys. The matchup will be historical, in one specific way.

According to the NFL, it's the first time in league history that the top two scoring offenses from the prior season will meet in Week 1.

Last year, the Cowboys averaged 31.2 points per game; Tampa Bay scored 30.1. They started the season on the opening Thursday night, with Tampa Bay winning 31-29.

In that game, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady and Prescott set a single-game record for combined completions in a game, with 32 and 42 respectively for a total of 74.

FanDuel has the over-under at 50.5 for the rematch.

Which makes sense, since both teams have some questions on the offensive line. The Bucs are a slight favorite, with a spread of 1.5. ...

Other notes of interest. ... According to Dallas Morning News staffer Michael Gehlken, Lamb has improved fluency at playing every receiver position. According to McCarthy, "We fully anticipate him to be targeted as far as double teams and things like that," starting Week 1.

"He's the guy. ... Our job is to make sure he gets the opportunities to perform."

The good news?

Prescott is healthy. As's Todd Archer notes, the surgically repaired right ankle is not an issue. The shoulder strain that kept him off the practice field last summer is 100 percent. So is the calf strain that limited his movement from the middle of last season and the left shoulder injury that required minor surgery in the offseason.

The Cowboys are asking a lot of Prescott, but that is what's expected of a $40 million quarterback.

Physically and mentally, he appears ready for whatever comes his way in 2022.

Meanwhile, Archer notes there is no more guaranteed money in Elliott's deal beyond this season, which would make it easier for the Cowboys to move on from him in 2023.

But what if Elliott has a terrific season?

He was on pace for more than 1,500 yards last season, before a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee took away his burst. He looked as quick and smooth as he ever has this summer, and with Smith's injury, the Cowboys will lean on the run. If Elliott lights it up, the Cowboys could look to rework his contract similarly to what they did with DeMarcus Lawrence this offseason.

QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Brooks
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

Russell Wilson agreed to terms on a five-year, $245 million extension with the Broncos on Sept. 1, including $165 million guaranteed. As notes, the quarterback had two seasons remaining on his deal signed in Seattle, so the extension ties him to Denver for the next seven years.

After shelling out players and draft picks to acquire Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks in March, the plan was always to extend Wilson.

Sides waited for the new Walton-Penner ownership group to be approved and weigh in before striking the long-term contract.

The $49 million per year in new money on the five-year extension puts Wilson right behind back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers ($50.3 million) and ahead of Kyler Murray ($46.1 million). But the $165 million guaranteed falls short of Deshaun Watson's fully guaranteed $230 million deal.

After a decade in Seattle under Pete Carroll's ground-first approach, Wilson now takes over in Denver under former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Expectations have soared a Mile High in Denver since acquiring Wilson, who helped generate 10-plus wins in eight of his 10 seasons in Seattle.

As the prettiest deep-ball thrower in the NFL, Wilson will help open up a restricted Broncos offense, and it's his opportunity to prove he can win while cooking.

Remember: Wilson's 292 career touchdown passes are the second most in league history for a quarterback in his first 10 NFL seasons, behind only Peyton Manning's (306). Tom Brady (324) and Rodgers (317) are the only two players with more touchdown passes than Wilson over the past 10 years.

Wilson, who quarterbacked the Seahawks to the only Super Bowl title in franchise history -- beating the Broncos after the 2014 season in Super Bowl XLVIII -- also has been a consistent winner in his NFL career. His 113 wins as a starting quarterback (regular season and postseason combined) are the most for any NFL player in his first 10 seasons.

Wilson's Broncos debut will be a homecoming of sorts on Sept. 12 when Denver visits Seattle on Monday Night Football.

Wilson's arrival has to be good news for the team in general and their receiving corps in particular.

As's Jeff Legwold reminded readers, the Broncos' stumble through the quarterback wilderness over the past six seasons has been a big part of their playoff drought. Wilson's arrival changed everything, and if he plays near a Pro Bowl level, a lot of folks are going to say the five picks and three players the Broncos gave up to trade for Wilson aren't going to seem like that big a price tag.

Even with wideout Tim Patrick's season-ending knee injury, the Broncos have enough playmakers to make it all go.

They have to keep Wilson out of harm's way, and he has to be willing to get the ball out more quickly than he has at times previously in his career.

As for that receiving corps, Courtland Sutton has a 1,000-yard season and Pro Bowl trip on his résumé and looks like the Broncos' WR1. But if you are looking for a guy primed for a big jump, Legwold believes that's Jerry Jeudy. Wilson has spent plenty of time getting in sync with Jeudy, who has been a regular in the quarterback meetings to try to speed up that process.

Jeudy is simply too good a route runner, and few things symbolized the quagmire of the Broncos' offense last season more than the fact Jeudy finished a season without a touchdown.

In addition, K.J. Hamler is a true downfield threat who is back to health after an ACL tear in his left knee. Hamler figures to break out to some degree in his third season.

The question is to what degree that happens and if the team's tight ends will be a factor.

Asked if Hamler or Albert Okwuegbunam could emerge as Wilson's third option -- and whether it matters if they do, The Athletic's Nick Kosmider expressed his belief that neither player will establish himself as the clear No. 3 option from the very start of the season.

We can count on consistent targets and receptions for Sutton and Jeudy, but Kosmider reminded readers that Hamler just played in his first game in 335 days during the preseason finale against the Vikings, and Okwuegbunam is stepping into the starting tight end role after an up-and-down first two seasons plagued by injuries. Both players are capable and will be needed to help the Broncos reach their potential on offense, but it's too early to trust either one as Wilson's consistent third option.

That role, for now, will be a group effort.

That group won't include promising rookie TE Greg Dulcich, who is starting the season on IR due to a hamstring injury. He will be eligible to return Week 5.

And last but certainly not least, the situation at running back is obviously of major interest to fantasy managers.

According to's Dan Graziano, we shouldn't be surprised if Javonte Williams wins you your fantasy league. ... Graziano went on to explain the fantasy community is concerned about a repeat of last year's 50/50 running back split between Williams and Melvin Gordon, but the Broncos have major plans for Williams, and they start now.

They were ready to let Gordon leave before he failed to find what he was looking for on the market and returned to them late in free agency. Graziano thinks Gordon, who has had a strong camp by all accounts, still has a role, but that it's a far more secondary role than he had last year as Williams takes control of the backfield and piles up yards and catches. ...

Finally. ... The Broncos did, and to little surprise Wilson is one of four captains for 2022.

The others are Sutton, linebacker Bradley Chubb, and kicker Brandon McManus.

Via Nick Kosmider, Hackett confirmed that the players picked the captains, and that "the greatest testament" to the process was the number of players who received votes.

QBs: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Samaje Perine
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich

Detroit Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

As the Associated Press reported, the Lions desperately needed an influx of talent after winning just three games in Dan Campbell's debut season.

The emotionally charged coach is convinced they took a big stride in the offseason, adding at least one key player on offense in free agency and drafting a potentially game-changing player on defense.

"We're a lot further ahead than we were last year," Campbell said Monday.

After struggling to stretch the field vertically in quarterback Jared Goff's first year with the team, general manager Brad Holmes signed receiver D.J. Chark to a $10 million, one-year deal.

Following a season that saw opposing quarterbacks have plenty of time to pass, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was drafted with the No. 2 pick overall to address what appeared to be Detroit's greatest weakness in 2021.

"All the preseason, all the camp stuff, it's good, but man, you just want to get to that Week 1 and get into the season and get rolling," said Hutchinson, a former Michigan star playing near his hometown of Plymouth. "Just getting a little antsy."

The Lions learned how to win late in Campbell's first year, closing with a 3-3 record after losing their first eight games and starting 0-10-1. During training camp this summer, establishing a winning mentality was a top priority even in preseason games.

"It's very important, especially with a young team and where we've been," Campbell said. "It has got to be part of our DNA. It has got to become part of who we are, and we have to embrace every moment and treat it like it's your last moment.

"If you don't and you just kind of accept it, then you'll just be average or above average and that's not good enough in this league."

The Lions possibly have a chance to get off to a much-needed strong start.

They open the season with home games against Philadelphia and Washington and have a road game against Minnesota before coming back to Ford Field to play Seattle. Detroit hosts Buffalo on Thanksgiving. Three of the last four games are on the road, including at Green Bay in the final week of the regular season.

Meanwhile, the Lions were tied for last in the league with five passes of 40-plus yards last season. They attempted to address the problem by signing Chark and moving up in the draft to take Alabama's Jameson Williams No. 12 overall.

Detroit is banking on both bouncing back from injuries.

Chark played in just four games last year in Jacksonville. The fifth-year player had 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019.

The Lions are practicing patience with Williams, who tore a ligament in his left knee during the national championship game and may not make his NFL debut until midseason. The speedy receiver averaged 20 yards a catch last season and scored 15 times.

Detroit also needs Goff to prove he has the ability to throw deep, a topic he is clearly tired of talking about.

"No, we don't do that here," Goff said, looking and sounding annoyed. "We don't throw the ball down the field at all."

Indeed,'s Dan Graziano contends we shouldn't be surprised if Goff sets career highs in yards and touchdown passes.

Goff's current career highs are the 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns he had in 2018 with the Rams. Graziano believes an extra regular-season game makes those numbers attainable. The Lions look good on the offensive line. They added Chark to go with the promising Amon-Ra St. Brown. They're strong at running back with D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams.

Graziano isn't saying the Lions make some major jump into the playoffs this year, and he's not just caught up in "Hard Knocks" hype, because Goff was an invisible man on that show this year. But Graziano is saying the Lions feel very, very good about how Goff has looked in camp, and he may be better set up for statistical success than you think he is.

Beyond all that, is it fair to believe Swift can be the new Austin Ekeler?

According to The Athletic's Colton Pouncy, the Lions would love for him to put it all together in Year 3. Pouncy would hesitate to put him on Ekeler's level, but the traits are there to get it done. He just has to do it. ...

One concern here. ... The Lions recently placed starting guard placed Halapoulivaati Vaitai on injured reserve. He is out the first four games and the team will determine at that point if he's able to return at all this season. A potentially significant blow to their OL and a development worth watching. ...

One last note here. ... Whether he's doing it to gain a competitive advantage ahead of Sunday's season opener against the Eagles or because he really is torn on his decision, Campbell still is not ready to name an offensive play caller.

Campbell said Monday he feels like offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is ready to handle play-calling duties after doing so all preseason. "But I think I am, too," Campbell said at his weekly Monday news conference. "So this is going to be good. This'll be fun. And he's done a great job."

Campbell called offensive plays for the final nine games of last season, after stripping those responsibilities from then-offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn following the Lions' 0-8 start.

The Lions went 3-5-1 in the second half of last season and got substantially more production from their offense. Goff saw his passer rating rise by nearly 20 points and the Lions averaged 4.5 points more per game.

Johnson doubled as pass game coordinator during that stretch, was promoted to offensive coordinator this winter and has drawn rave reviews in his new position.

He called plays in practice all spring and throughout training camp and manned the Lions' offensive communication system in all three preseason games.

Asked who will call plays Sunday against the Eagles, Campbell said, "Well, this is going to be interesting. We'll find out. I'm excited to know, too."

Johnson, who has meshed his own coaching philosophies with Campbell's ties to Sean Payton and Goff's experience with the Los Angeles Rams in the Lions' new playbook, kept the offense deliberately vanilla this preseason, and Campbell said there may be an edge in waiting to name a play caller, too.

"I mean, maybe, maybe not, I don't know," Campbell said. "I'll be honest with you, I'm just not quite there yet. I mean, I still have this eagerness to want to call it myself and so I'm just -- man, it's going to be. I don't know. Pretty good."

I'll be watching for more on that in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.

QBs: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Jameson Williams, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green
TEs: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, James Mitchell

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

The transition for the Green Bay Packers has been ongoing for a few years, starting with their first-round draft picks in the spring and extending to the field in the fall.

Despite the transcendent presence of four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers have quietly evolved into a defense-driven team.

"You've got do the work and see it," outside linebacker Rashan Gary said, "but you see the type of guys we've got and the type of ball we're playing, and you also see the standard we're holding each other to."

The Packers defense has not finished in the top quarter of the league in either fewest points or yards allowed since the 2010 championship season, when they ranked second and fifth in those categories during Rodgers' third year as the starter.

They were close in each of the past three seasons, landing ninth in yards in both 2021 and 2020 and ninth in points in 2019, and they've frankly amassed enough talent now that failing to do so this year would be an underachievement.

The requested offseason departure of wide receiver Davante Adams, via trade to Las Vegas, could well serve as the seminal moment in the shift. Not only did the deal remove a five-time Pro Bowl pick and elite pass-catcher from the offense, it netted the Packers the 22nd overall pick in the draft that became Georgia linebacker Quay Walker.

So when the Packers start the season Sunday at division rival Minnesota, most likely their primary competition in an NFC North they have won three straight times, they are expected to field a starting base defense with seven homegrown players.

Nose tackle Kenny Clark (2016), cornerback Jaire Alexander (2018), outside linebacker Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage (2019), cornerback Eric Stokes (2021) and Walker were all first-round draft choices.

"This defense has obviously a really good opportunity to be a top defense in the league," said Rodgers, who will turn 39 on Dec. 2. "I don't want to crown anybody before we get to the season, but the expectations are definitely high."

Meanwhile, the Packers, who went 39-10 over the past three years but stretched their absence from the Super Bowl to 11 straight seasons, have found themselves in a transitional phase on offense.

The strength of the line will hinge largely on the health of David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins in their recovery from torn ACLs. A.J. Dillon has been taking some of the workload from Aaron Jones at running back. LaFleur took the backfield-by-committee trend to a new level when he coined the term "1A and 1A" to describe Jones and Dillon.

But at least in Green Bay's case, there should be enough work for both of them in the passing game to earn that title.

That said, in an offense leaning on the run game,'s Matt Bowen looks for Dillon to emerge as the lead ball carrier this season. The 6-foot, 247-pound back can hammer the ball between the tackles with the footwork to scoot past defenders. Bowen believes Dillon will see the necessary volume to push Jones in rushing totals.

Rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs offer plenty of promise as pass-catchers, though the amount of time they'll overlap with Rodgers is not guaranteed.

Rodgers has never been shy about challenging his young wide receivers, and he's spoken plenty over the past month about the need for them to establish more consistency at a position that's essentially wide open following the trade of Adams.

"You keep dropping the ball," Rodgers said recently, "you're not going to be out there."

So the Packers have a lot of new faces in their receiving corps this year and one of the familiar faces from recent seasons may be missing for the opener.

Allen Lazard did not practice with the team last Wednesday and he remained out when the team returned to work on Monday. The injury keeping Lazard off the field is undisclosed and head coach Matt LaFleur said only that the team will monitor his condition as the week goes on.

"Allen's doing better but we'll see as the week progresses, where he's at," LaFleur said.

LaFleur sounded more optimistic about second-round pick Watson, who has missed time this summer after having knee surgery, but stopped short of ruling him in for the matchup with the Vikings. Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins, Doubs, Amari Rodgers
and Samori Toure are the other wideouts on the 53-man roster.

I'll be watching for more on Lazard and Watson in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...

After taking the long route to an NFL starting job -- from undrafted free agent to being signed by the Packers off of the Jaguars' practice squad -- Lazard has a shot at being the Packers' WR1 now that Adams is gone. Lazard established career highs last season with 40 catches for 513 yards and three touchdowns in a secondary role.

As Rodgers said, "I really think Allen is ready to make a jump and be a No. 1 receiver, and I'm excited about the opportunity to work with him."

With all the focus on Watson and Doubs, the veteran Watkins will actually start the season ahead of them on the receiver depth chart. When asked recently about the pecking order behind Lazard, Rodgers said: "There's definitely some guys that you feel really good about. Obviously, I can play with [Cobb] in my sleep, and when he's healthy, he's a premier slot receiver in the league, [and] I feel better with Sammy."

Doubs also seemed to earn the trust of Rodgers and had a big preseason. That might be all it takes to supplant one of the afore-mentioned veterans.

QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Patrick Taylor
WRs: Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks, Samori Toure, Malik Heath
TEs: Tucker Kraft, Ben Sims, Josiah Deguara, Luke Musgrave

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

New head coach Lovie Smith and the Texans will open the 2022 regular season at home against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Last year, the Colts outscored Houston by a combined score of 62-3 with RB Jonathan Taylor rushing for 288 yards and four touchdowns. Smith, who served as defensive coordinator in 2021, believes the Texans have come a long way this offseason, working on execution and adding new players through free agency and the draft.

"Any of us that were here last year remember what happened and we feel like as coaches we've addressed all those issues that we had," Smith said. "Now it's about doing it. If a player is still here right now, we feel like they buy in to what we needed to do to catch the people that went ahead of us. I think it's as simple as that. From what I've seen in practice, saw in the preseason games, I think we have improved. I'm anxious to see it this Sunday also."

As Deepi Sidhu of the team's official website notes, Smith will be reunited with a former division rival in QB Matt Ryan, traded to the Colts this offseason. During his tenure as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Smith faced the Ryan twice a year with the Atlanta Falcons.

"He can make all of the throws," Smith said. "He's smart. That's who he is. Going to the Colts, adding him, a quarterback that can make all the throws like that with the great running back causes problems. They have a good offensive line too. That's why the challenge is here for us. To meet their force, we know they're going to come in here ready to play and we'll be ready to go too."'

As strong rushing attack would help. In fact, any improvement over last season would be a plus. Houston ranked 32nd in the league with 1,422 yards. The Texans averaged 3.4 yards per rush and scored only eight rushing touchdowns in 2021.

The team hopes they've found an answer to that this summer.

As reminded readers, it wasn't that long ago that rookie running back Dameon Pierce was third on the Texans' depth chart.

On Tuesday, Pierce's spot in the starting lineup became official.

The team released its updated depth chart, and Pierce is listed as RB1.

He began training camp behind Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead. But Mack no longer is with the Texans, who cut him from the active roster and the practice squad roster, and Burkhead is Pierce's backup.

Pierce quickly established himself in the preseason, rushing for 86 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in two games. According to's DJ Bien-Aime, Pierce's vision, along with his explosiveness to power through defenders, "is eye-popping."

There's no question he is the Texans' best running back. He should take quite a bit of pressure off of Davis Mills, power the run game and allow the Texans to have an efficient and balanced offense.

Meanwhile, as Bien-Aime noted, the connection between Mills and wide receiver Brandin Cooks continues to grow stronger.

The result is one that Mills is excited to show off to the world.

"When you have Brandin lined up out there, especially if he gets one-on-one, there's not really anybody in the league who is going to be able to match up with him," Mills said. "His speed and his ability to start and stop is at such a high level. You always can go there and count on him getting open."

Cooks finished last season with 1,037 yards and six touchdowns, taking part in 16 out of the Texans' 17 games. He also finished with a career high in receptions (90) and targets (134).

And even though Cooks was held out of the team's three preseason games, the chemistry that was displayed throughout camp is a reason why Smith is confident in what the Texans' passing attack will look like.

"It's good excitement that I have about where we are offensively. ... The chemistry that I've seen throughout, it's been really good," Smith said after the team's preseason finale. "They like playing together, and that's gonna lead to positive results."

Sunday's game against the Colts will be the first chance to show off this potentially potent connection. And the chemistry between them could lead to Cooks' seventh 1,000-yard receiving season in Year 9 and potentially a big jump in Year 2 for Mills.

This is critical.

According to Bien-Aime, the season will be a success if Mills takes that next step.

If Mills improves and shows he could be the Texans' long-term answer at QB, the team will be in a great spot -- even if it doesn't make the playoffs. Houston could use its two 2023 first-round picks to build around him instead of replacing him.

Also working in Mills' favor, ESPN's Liz Loza reminded readers that Nico Collins emerged as the Texans' No. 2 wide receiver during the last five weeks of 2021, when the former Michigan Wolverine averaged six targets per contest and had two games with at least 65 yards and a score. At 6-4 and 215 pounds, Collins thrives in contested situations, dominating on the outside and in the red zone.

According to Loza, Collins is in line for upward of 90 targets, with 10 percent to 15 percent of them in the red zone. ...

And finally. ... After the Bills released tight end O.J. Howard last Tuesday, there was word that Howard was set to visit with the Bengals and had the intention of signing with the defending AFC champions. Howard instead traveled to Houston and signed with the Texans.

The Texans only had two tight ends -- Pharaoh Brown and Brevin Jordan -- on their active roster after placing Teagan Quitoriano on injured reserve Thursday. So Howard could ultimately get some opportunities.

QBs: C.J. Stroud, Case Keenum, Davis Mills
RBs: Devin Singletary, Dameon Pierce, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Noah Brown, Robert Woods, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson, Tank Dell
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Brevin Jordan

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

Asked to describe the Colts' QB situation in three words,'s Stephen Holder wrote: "Colts significantly upgraded."

It remains to be seen how much 37-year old Matt Ryan has left, but the Colts are confident they will see better results than they did with Carson Wentz under center last season.

Wentz wasn't that.

As Holder explained, the Colts' passing game became heavily restricted by the coaching staff's lack of trust in Wentz late in the 2021 season. The Colts adopted primarily a power-run offense behind running back Jonathan Taylor, but they decided they needed more from their passing game. The Colts were 26th in passing yards last season.

Ryan could inject more big plays into the offense with his ability to throw to receivers with timing, enabling more yards after the catch. His accuracy and timing are also good fits for head coach Frank Reich's offense, which emphasizes timing and rhythmic throws.

At minimum, Ryan gives the Colts a more efficient passing game, given his career numbers in completion percentage and yards per attempt, to say nothing of the improved talent around him. Ryan is also more apt to utilize checkdown throws to his running backs. It's never a bad idea to get the ball into the hands of Taylor and Nyheim Hines in space.

That said, look for a much-improved passing game.

Perhaps that will be enough to help them get over an obstacle that's plagued them in recent seasons.

In fact, as Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot notes, receiver Michael Pittman Jr. just smiles in anticipation of the question.

He's heard it each September since being drafted in 2020 and Pittman and his teammates know it will continue until they snap the NFL's longest active opening day losing streak.

The Colts last celebrated a Week 1 victory in 2013 when Andrew Luck scored on a late 19-yard TD run to give Indy a 21-17 victory over the then-Oakland Raiders.

Since then, it's been eight straight losses with the reminders evident everywhere from talk radio to the words of team owner Jim Irsay.

Indy thinks it can finally break through on Sunday at Houston.

"I've probably heard that 1,000 times since I've been here," Pittman said Monday, referring to the drought. "We're just looking to break that streak. We're just willing to do whatever it takes."

So far, nothing has worked. They changed general managers in 2017, coaches in 2018 and players annually as the losses piled up.

Ryan, the 2016 league MVP, is the next great hope. He'll be the sixth opening day starter in six years and, like the Colts, is trying to end his own opening day skid. Ryan lost his last four in Atlanta.

It hasn't mattered who or where the Colts have played.

Five losses came on the road and the list of foes has included Super Bowl contenders such as Denver in 2014 and the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 as well as the six-win Cincinnati Bengals in 2018 and one-win Jacksonville in 2020.

Reich made a training camp switch this year -- moving practices from mid-morning to midday, hoping the extra rest would keep guys healthy and give them a better game day simulation. With only five players starting the season on injured reserve, the first part seems to have worked.

Now comes the bigger test.

But there are some advantages this year. Ryan, unlike Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz, has had a full offseason, training camp and preseason to work with his new teammates. Defending NFL rushing champ Taylor opens his third season, like Pittman, better prepared for the load they'll be asked to carry.

Defensively, the Colts have added pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue and Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, to a unit that was already excelling.

And now all they need is a win Sunday.

"I think it's been like 2014 or something like that," Pittman said. "OK, 2013? Even worse. We're going to fight our hardest, we're going to prepare and that should put us in a great position to go out there and excel. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... Asked who is more likely to be the more valuable receiver -- Parris Campbell or rookie Alec Pierce, The Athletic's James Boyd advised readers that Pierce, drafted 53rd overall, looked the part in his first training camp with the Colts.

The former Cincinnati standout boasts a 6-3, 211-pound frame and 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash that make him a more versatile -- and therefore valuable -- option than Campbell for Ryan.

Boyd went on to note that Campbell, who has had an injury-riddled career, is the more dynamic slot receiver, but he isn't likely to get the same number of targets, especially in the red zone, that Pierce should get given his physical attributes and ability to win jump balls.

Another player to watch is tight end Mo Alie-Cox.

The Colts signed Alie-Cox to a three-year deal worth $18 million ($8.2 million guaranteed). Given that financial investment and more than 150 targets vacated in Indy (including 40-plus via TE Jack Doyle's retirement), ESPN's Liz Loza contends the converted basketball star could emerge as one of the team's primary pass-catchers.

"With tight end-friendly Ryan under center, Alie-Cox could post career numbers and emerge as the sneakiest breakout of the season," Loza added.

And finally. ... According to's Dan Graziano, we shouldn't be surprised if Hines catches 63 (or more) passes this season.

We've heard this before.

Hines had 63 catches in 2018, when Luck was the Colts' quarterback, and 63 catches in 2020, when Rivers was the Colts' quarterback. He had 44 catches in 2019, when Jacoby Brissett was the Colts' quarterback, and 40 last year, when the checkdown-averse Wentz was his quarterback.

Beyond that, Graziano points out the Colts want Hines and his pass-catching ability to be a big part of what they do on offense, and they believe Ryan won't be shy about finding him when the play calls for it.

Won't that hurt Taylor, who was pretty much the consensus first pick overall for fantasy managers this summer?

According to Holder, those who landed Taylor shouldn't panic.

"There is still good reason to pick Taylor No. 1 overall because of his propensity for big plays," Holder wrote. "Even with fewer touches -- and I do expect his touches to be lower -- Taylor has the potential to make the most of those opportunities. He recorded explosive plays (10-plus yards) on 15.1 percent of his runs last season. Among 1,000-yard rushers, only Nick Chubb had a higher rate (18 percent).

"And, don't forget, Taylor was 12th among running backs with 9 yards per catch, so he can do damage in the passing game, too."

QBs: Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond, Anthony Richardson
RBs: Zack Moss, Jonathan Taylor, Trey Sermon, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs, Alec Pierce, Isaiah McKenzie, D.J. Montgomery
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

The Jaguars have another new coach, this time in Doug Pederson, a young quarterback in Trevor Lawrence and confidence that this time they've made all the right moves to turn around a franchise whose four wins combined over the past two seasons are the fewest in the NFL in that span.

Jacksonville has spent more than $200 million in free agency over the past two years along with all the draft capital earned from those poor finishes to stockpile talent.

The Jaguars didn't ignore the offense, signing Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram. They signed left tackle Cam Robinson to a new deal and added five-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff in free agency.

Travis Etienne Jr. also is back after the running back missed his rookie season with an injured foot.

And it turns out James Robinson might be ready sooner than anybody expected.

In fact, Robinson should play in Sunday's season opener against the Washington Commanders, Pederson said Monday.

Robinson's return comes less than nine months after he suffered a torn left Achilles tendon in a loss to the New York Jets on Dec. 26. He had been limited to individual work throughout much of training camp but did participate in team drills during the team's joint practices with the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 24 and 25.

It's uncertain how much Robinson will play against the Commanders; Pederson has said throughout camp that he wanted to be careful with Robinson and not risk reinjury.

Since he also hasn't appeared in any preseason games, it's safe to assume Robinson won't have his normal workload.

Etienne has been the Jaguars' No. 1 back in camp and the preseason, and rookie fifth-round draft pick Snoop Conner has worked as the No. 2.

Robinson has rushed for 1,837 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught 80 passes for 566 yards and three touchdowns over two seasons with the Jaguars.

In 2020, Robinson posted the most scrimmage yards (1,414) and second-most rushing yards (1,070) by an undrafted rookie in the common draft era.

Assuming nothing happens to either player in the next few days, that will set the Jaguars up to have Robinson and Etienne in the lineup at the same time for the first time.

Does that mean we overpaid for Etienne in our drafts this summer?

Not necessarily.

As ESPN's Liz Loza notes, Etienne has elite acceleration and an uncanny ability to spin and slip through a variety of tackles. Recording 16 career touchdowns of 40-plus yards at Clemson, there's no denying Etienne's skills in space.

He's also a deft pass-catcher who connected with former college teammate and Lawrence on 95 passes for 1,083 yards and seven receiving TDs from 2018 to 2020.

Indeed,'s Matt Bowen predicts Etienne will catch 60 passes in Pederson's offense. Bowen added, (Etienne) has been explosive and fast and will be deployed on backfield releases, screens and flex from the formation to create favorable matchups."

Beyond that, DiRocco reminds readers that Kirk is now the Jaguars' No. 1 receiver after playing as the No. 3 in Arizona behind DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald. He had career highs in receptions (77) and receiving yards (982) last season, but based on training camp and his play in the preseason (eight targets and five catches in two quarters), he should not have trouble surpassing both if he stays healthy.

In addition,'s John Shipley has noted that Zay Jones outperformed Kirk and Engram in camp, emerging as Lawrence's favorite target in August. Kirk's strong finish lends credence to DiRocco's view of the former Cardinal, but Jones will be interesting to watch in a receiver corps that also includes Marvin Jones Jr.

QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Jamal Agnew, Christian Kirk
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks

Kansas City Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

The AFC West no longer looks like such a cakewalk for the Kansas City Chiefs now that Tyreek Hill is dashing past defenders in Miami.

Not only did the Chiefs shockingly send Patrick Mahomes' top receiver to the Dolphins for a fistful of draft picks, but their rivals all made major moves in hopes of ending Kansas City's divisional dominance.

The Chiefs can't replace Hill's explosive speed, but they did provide Mahomes with plenty of new playmakers to complement TE Travis Kelce. They signed JuJu Smith-Schuster away from Pittsburgh and Marquez Valdes-Scantling away from Green Bay and used a second-round pick on Skyy Moore of Western Michigan.

"We're going to be different," Mahomes said, "but I think we'll still be able to go out there and have a ton of success."

Maybe, but it's not going to be easy for the Chiefs to host a fifth consecutive AFC championship game. Aside from playing in the toughest division in football, where all four teams have legitimate playoff aspirations, the Chiefs also face the AFC South and NFC West along with the Bills, Buccaneers and Bengals.

In addition, the Chiefs wanted to get younger around Mahomes and the rest of their veteran core.

They couldn't have done it much better through the draft.

The Chiefs selected 10 players in April, their most in 14 years, and all but one made the final cutdown. Some of them, such as first-rounders Trent McDuffie and George Karlaftis, were locks from the moment their names were read while others played their way onto a perennial Super Bowl contender.

That includes two seventh-round picks -- the time of the draft when teams are typically throwing darts at the board in the hopes of landing a hidden gem. Defensive back Jaylen Watson and running back Isiah Pacheco made the team.

McDuffie, who will start at cornerback, and Karlaftis, who could start at defensive end in the opener at Arizona, join Watson in a young defense. Second-round pick Bryan Cook made the team at safety, third-round pick Leo Chenal carved out a role at linebacker and fourth-rounder Joshua Williams survived the cut at cornerback.

Moore will be counted upon heavily to help overcome the loss of Hill in the passing game. And the one rookie that appeared to be on the fence after a rough training camp, fifth-round pick Darian Kinnard, was kept around as a developmental backup on the offensive line.

Suddenly, a team that had grown old during a streak of six straight AFC West titles is among the youngest in the league.

"I've never gotten caught up in how young or how old guys are. As long as they can play, I'm good," head coach Andy Reid said. "I like this group. I like the way they went about business up in St. Joseph (at training camp) and then down here, we didn't have a big letdown when we moved back, which can happen with the young guys.

"It's a tribute to the veteran guys and also the scouting department for bringing these guys in."

The Chiefs did keep a couple of intriguing veterans on the roster.

Ronald Jones II was largely an afterthought throughout much of training camp, often working with the third-string offense in team drills. But after Derrick Gore was placed on injured reserve, Jones proceeded to run for 53 yards on just eight carries in the Chiefs' preseason finale against Green Bay, and that was enough to earn a spot on the roster.

"I thought RoJo did a nice job down the stretch," Reid said. "We know what he's capable of. It's a matter of him being comfortable in the offense. It looked like he was starting to get it down the stretch. He's done a good job."

The news on cutdown day wasn't as good for Josh Gordon, the once-elite wide receiver that has spent most of the past year trying to rebuild his career in Kansas City. Gordon was let go along with 2016 first-round pick WR Corey Coleman and special teams standout Daurice Fountain, though there's a chance he could be signed back to the practice squad.

"I'm proud of Josh for all that he did," Reid said. "There's a chance he's potentially back here if it doesn't work out somewhere else, but just from a football standpoint but also a bigger picture, he's done a heck of a job."

Of course, as long as Kelce is on Kansas City's roster, he's going to be the lead dog at tight end.

But the Chiefs' second tight end is also an important role within the offense.

Veteran Blake Bell held down that role in 2019 and 2021, spending the 2020 season with Dallas. Last year, Bell was on the field for 27 percent of the offensive snaps, recording nine catches for 87 yards. He was primarily used as a blocker.

But Bell will be out for a while after undergoing hip surgery. Kansas City still has Noah Gray -- a 2021 fifth-round pick -- and Jody Fortson on the roster. On Monday, Reid said both players are capable of filling in for Bell.

"We'll mix and match people in," Reid said, via John Dixon of "Noah probably did more of it than what Jody did in that particular spot. But they're all going to play; those are good players."

Gray, who was also on the field for 24 percent of offensive snaps and 65 percent of special teams snaps last year, caught seven passes for 36 yards with one touchdown as a rookie. Though Fortson has been with the Chiefs since 2019, he appeared in his first games last year, catching five passes for 47 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

Reid also noted that the Chiefs will likely place Bell on injured reserve by the end of the week. But the club hasn't made a decision on how to use Bell's roster spot going forward. ...

All that aside, in trying to divine the pecking order at wideout in Kansas City, The Athletic's Nate Taylor advised readers the Chiefs didn't really give any indication of an answer to the Cardinals, their Week 1 opponents, during the preseason.

Based on the experience of the receivers, Taylor believes the safest estimate is that Smith-Schuster will lead the group, at least early in the season. Although he didn't record a reception in the preseason, Smith-Schuster did have the strongest connection among the receivers with Mahomes during camp.

ESPN's Liz Loza believes Smith-Schuster could draw upwards of 120 looks in an offense with more than 250 vacated targets. He's a well-rounded pass-catcher, whose experience as a Z offers fantasy managers a steady share of regular opportunities. At 25 years old and with solid YAC ability (top 15 in 2020 prior to the shoulder strain that forced him to miss 12 games last season), Smith-Schuster could be a top 25/30 receiver.

Next should be Mecole Hardman because he's the fastest in the group and has been in the Chiefs' system the longest. Hardman spent his first three seasons with the Chiefs in Hill's shadow, which can at least partly explain his inconsistent production since being drafted in the second round in 2019.

That obstacle is removed, which means it's time for Hardman to prove he's more than just a fast, gadget-type of player. His next contract depends on it.

Following Hardman should be Valdes-Scantling and Moore. ...

As for the backfield,'s Dan Graziano contends we shouldn't be surprised if this is the year Clyde Edwards-Helaire breaks out.

Graziano acknowledged we've heard this before. But this year might be his last chance. The Chiefs have to decide on Edwards-Helaire's fifth-year option next May, and if he doesn't live up to his 2020 first-round pedigree, it'll be really easy for the Chiefs to cut ties after this year.

But Graziano went on to note the coaching staff remains high on Edwards-Helaire and what he can do in this offense. They believe his biggest issue so far in his career has been staying healthy, and that he has done a good job of that this offseason. He's set up for a post-hype breakout kind of year.

Pacheco's emergence this summer could lead the Chiefs to decline that option if Edwards-Helaire, who rushed 119 times for 517 yards, caught 19 passes for 129 yards and scored six total touchdowns in 10 games last season, doesn't produce at a higher rate this year.

QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Rashee Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Kadarius Toney, Richie James, Justyn Ross, Skyy Moore, Mecole Hardman
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson

Las Vegas Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

According to Las Vegas Review-Journal staffer Vincent Bonsignore, one of the first things All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams noticed upon beginning his first training camp with the Raiders should send shivers down the backs of every opposing defensive coordinator and secondary member on the Raiders' schedule.

It had to do with the offensive talent now surrounding him in Las Vegas and the mindset of the coach entrusted with maximizing it.

Bonsignore went on to point out in most offenses, every pass play contains a pass route executed by a player that has little to do with the actual play, other than to take the focus away from where the ball will ultimately end up.

As Adams explained, it's called a "dummy route."

A week or so into training camp, Adams came to an important conclusion absorbing a Josh McDaniels offense featuring Adams, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and a slew of other playmakers.

"There's really no dummy routes in this offense," Adams said, smiling.

Welcome to the new world order of the Raiders, whose offensive talent stands as tall if not taller than any team in the NFL thanks to the monumental decision of Adams to push his way out of Green Bay, where he had spent eight seasons, to join the Raiders.

Adams brings to the Raiders the distinction of being one of the best, if not the best, wide receivers in the game after accumulating 669 receptions, 8,121 yards and 73 touchdowns over eight seasons.

While it is easy to chalk up some of that production to playing with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a virtual lock to reach the Hall of Fame, Adams played a vital role in helping Rodgers achieve that status.

All of which is abundantly clear just watching Adams operate on a day-to-day basis. According to Bonsignore, the former Packer makes something extremely difficult seem almost effortless as he appears to do almost whatever he wants, whenever he wants, on the football field.

Or, as new teammate and fellow Raiders wide receiver Tyron Johnson puts it: "Just route-savvy, the way he gets open. He doesn't use speed at all. He uses deception, head faking and more hip movement."

Adams' challenge is proving he wasn't just the beneficiary of playing with Rodgers. That he gets to state that case playing alongside quarterback Derek Carr, his former Fresno State teammate and one of the driving forces in Adams making his way to Las Vegas, is an added bonus.

It will help, of course, that he now gets to operate alongside a fellow route-running savant in Renfrow and the ultra tight-end weapon in Waller to create a three-headed monster with few peers in the NFL.

It's everything he wanted in leaving Green Bay for Las Vegas to play for the team he grew up rooting for in East Palo Alto, California.

But make no mistake, this wasn't a fan boy-motivated move, or one to simply reunite with his good friend Carr.

Adams wants to take care of business. As he has said more than once since joining the Raiders, he has goals he wants to reach. Those include winning a Super Bowl and earning football's highest individual honors. He would not have chosen the Raiders if he didn't believe those things were possible in Las Vegas.

"At this point, my motivation is my kids, my family, my legacy, stuff like that," Adams said. "I want a uniform feeling that Davante Adams is ultimately wanting to be a legend, or going to be a legend, or when they look back on it, he was a legend.

"So that's what I'm looking about doing. And you got to win a lot to do that, and you got to go out there and stack a pretty decent resume. So, I'm still going. ..."

Despite his previous reputation as a checkdown king, ESPN's Liz Loza notes that Carr recorded 142 deep-ball attempts over the past two seasons. He also managed a top-eight YPA and a top-12 true passer rating in back-to-back seasons.

Bottom line?

Adams is the best receiver in the NFL, and rejoining his old Fresno State running mate in Carr -- along with a modern playcaller in Josh McDaniels -- is expected to pay off with another playoff appearance.

The chemistry with Carr is real, and so is Adams' ability to get open and come down with the tough catch. The key, then, is a questionable offensive line giving Carr enough time to find Adams downfield.

The question then becomes, is Adams' arrival is going to hurt the chances of a Waller bounce-back season or a Renfrow repeat of 2021?

According to The Athletic's Vic Tafur, of the two, Waller might be more likely to face a slight drop-off in targets and yards, but he should more than make up for it with an increase in touchdowns. Waller had only 14 touchdowns in the past three years combined, but he has said that McDaniels actually has a plan for him in the red zone.

As for Renfrow, a peek at McDaniels' past shows that Patriots slot receivers' numbers only improved when the team traded for Randy Moss.

Tafur added, "Adams and Renfrow are also Carr's best friends on the team, for what that's worth."

Worth watching, Waller missed most of the second half of training camp with what was described as a hamstring issue, even as rumors floated that the 2020 Pro Bowl tight end was "holding in," waiting for a contract extension. Only the 17th-highest-paid tight end in the NFL, Waller is a game-breaker when healthy but missed six games last season because of back and knee issues, and McDaniels would not commit to Waller playing in the season opener.

For the record, Waller said he plans to play against the Chargers. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

And finally. ... Asked if Josh Jacobs' role as a true RB1 is in jeopardy,'s Paul Gutierrez recently wrote, "In a word, yes. In two words, most definitely. ..."

If for no other reason than McDaniels seems to prefer a committee approach (even after Kenyan Drake's release).

Rookie Zamir White has shown in three preseason games how hard he hits the hole, former Patriots pass-catching back Brandon Bolden didn't make an impact this summer while Ameer Abdullah had an impressive camp.

Jacobs, whose fifth-year option was not picked up by the Raiders' new regime, wants a new contract and proved a point by having so many touches in the Hall of Fame Game -- five carries for 30 yards and two catches for 14 yards. And while Jacobs may indeed end up being the Raiders' starting RB in name, Gutierrez believes it's hard to see him as reliable for fantasy purposes with Bolden and Abdullah possibly used more as pass-catchers and White near the goal line.

Buyer beware.

QBs: Aidan O'Connell, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker, Hunter Renfrow, DeAndre Carter, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Michael Mayer, Austin Hooper, Jesper Horsted

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

As's Lindsey Thiry noted, the preseason provided few hints of what to expect from the Los Angeles Chargers in 2022.

Second-year coach Brandon Staley opted into the progressive preseason approach, keeping most starters on the sideline for all three contests.

Coming off a 9-8 season and a third-place finish in the AFC West, the Chargers invested in all three phases over the offseason.

Here are the burning questions that remain as they prepare for a season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 11 at SoFi Stadium.

First, is this roster ready for a playoff run?

According to Thiry, the offense was ready last season.

The defense, after an offseason makeover, should be ready now, despite playing in a division loaded with quarterback talent that includes Super Bowl winners Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson.

Coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, quarterback Justin Herbert returns for a third season with a full complement of playmakers, including receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and running back Austin Ekeler. Plus, Herbert gained more protection up front when the Bolts selected right guard Zion Johnson with the 17th overall pick.

Remember: Nobody has had more passing yards, completions and TD throws in his first two years in the NFL than Herbert, and he could take a big leap in production this season now that he's grown more comfortable in the Chargers offense. "He's just a lot looser than usual. He's just a lot more comfortable. When you come in year one, kind of shy, don't want to talk a lot," Williams said. "But now, he's taken control and been himself."

Defensively, the Chargers significantly bolstered the cast around edge rusher Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James.

Coming off season-ending foot surgery, pass rusher Khalil Mack, acquired via a trade with the Chicago Bears, is determined to prove he's still among the league's top playmakers. Cornerback J.C. Jackson, who signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal in free agency, is eager to test his ball-hawking skills behind arguably the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL.

The Bolts also added defensive linemen Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson and Morgan Fox.

The Chargers' significant defensive upgrades can only help Herbert's burgeoning confidence.

"I'm really excited for this team. I think we are miles ahead of where we were at this point last year," said Herbert, who threw for a franchise-record 5,014 yards and had nine 300-yard passing games last season.

Will Staley still go for it on fourth down?

Short answer: Yes.

Staley will continue to be aggressive, and the second-year coach won't apologize for it.

"We want to have a team that's fearless, it's not scared to meet a moment," Staley said.

The Chargers went for it on fourth down 32 percent of the time, the highest rate in the NFL, and converted 65 percent of their fourth-down tries, which ranked tied for fourth in the league, in 2021.

However, don't expect Staley to make decisions for the sake of reputation.

"Every decision has a life of its own," Staley said. "You're going to take it case-by-case."

What happens if the Chargers miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season?

Expect changes.

The Chargers have made one playoff appearance in the past eight seasons and, now entering their sixth season in Los Angeles since relocating from San Diego, cannot afford to continue into mediocrity.

Will the changes include the head coach? They could if the season comes down to game-management issues.

What about the general manager? Tom Telesco is entering his 10th season, and although several star players, including Herbert, Bosa, Allen, Williams and Rashawn Slater, are counted among his draft picks, wins, losses and postseason appearances are ultimately what matters.

And what will define success?

According to Thiry, success will be the Chargers advancing to the AFC Championship Game. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Hoping to find a reliable backup to Ekeler, the Chargers signed running back Sony Michel last week

Michel, a first-round pick by New England in 2018, was with the Miami Dolphins during the preseason, but was released in the final round of roster cuts on Tuesday.

In a corresponding move, the Chargers waived second-year running back Larry Rountree III, leaving rookie Isaiah Spiller and Joshua Kelley in the mix along with Michel.

"I think he's a veteran presence. A guy that's had a lot of success in the league and carried the ball a lot with New England and then the Rams," offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. "He can add some value to our running back room. Nothing against the guys we have, we thought he was a good player that surprisingly became available."

Michel spent his first three seasons with New England before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams last season. He rushed for 845 yards and had a pair of 100-yard games down the stretch, including 131 in a Week 16 win at Minnesota.

Michel's addition should help solidify a Chargers running game that was looking for a strong backup for Ekeler, who tied for the league lead with 20 scrimmage TDs last season and was third among running backs with 1,558 scrimmage yards. ...

Asked if Josh Palmer is ready to be a top-40 receiver as Herbert's No. 3 option, The Athletic's Daniel Popper advised readers Palmer is definitely ready from a developmental standpoint.

Popper went on to note that Palmer arrived with the Chargers last season with polished route running and strong, reliable hands, especially on contested catches. He has looked even better in camp this year, particularly on his releases.

Palmer said he watches Allen film every day, and it is clear he has picked up a trick or two in how he gets off the line of scrimmage. But will he be a top-40 fantasy receiver? It is hard to say for sure because of target share. The Chargers have so many other pass-catching options, from Allen to Williams to Ekeler to Gerald Everett.

There is only one ball to go around, and Popper just does not see Palmer getting to 75-plus targets this season unless there is an injury.

It is not an ability issue. Palmer has that. It comes down to opportunity.

Meanwhile, Popper also notes the Chargers feel like they can maximize Everett's skill set as a yards-after-the-catch option and even a runner on jet sweep concepts. That said, Popper believes Donald Parham Jr. could be in line for a breakout season. He was one of the most productive receivers in training camp.

QBs: Easton Stick, Justin Herbert
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Josh Palmer, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis, Mike Williams
TEs: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Stone Smartt

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

The reigning Super Bowl champions have several major players dealing with hopefully minor ailments. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has been nursing a sore elbow since last season, while running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson just returned from soft tissue injuries this week.

All three appear to be on track to play in Week 1, though.

As the Associated Press reported, Stafford followed up the Los Angeles Rams' Super Bowl victory by not throwing passes in any offseason workouts, participating sparingly in training camp and sitting out all three preseason games -- all to avoid aggravating the elbow condition that head coach Sean McVay called "a little bit abnormal for a quarterback."

Stafford understands, but he's also a bit tired of talking about it himself.

"I feel great," Stafford said Sunday. "Ready to go play. Can always be better. Can always try to feel like I'm 21 again. I'll keep trying. But no, I feel really good. Feel I can make every throw. I don't know what else you need to hear from me."

The veteran passer is eager to end the discussions Thursday night when he takes the field at SoFi Stadium for the NFL's regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills. Stafford and McVay both say the quarterback will have no limitations while leading the Rams' high-octane passing offense against the NFL's best team in pass defense last season.

The discussion around Stafford's elbow has done nothing to minimize the impressiveness of his achievements last season, After 12 prolific seasons of frustration with the Detroit Lions, he transformed his NFL story and moved to the brink of the 50,000-yard club -- he'll become the 12th member in NFL history with his first 5 yards passing this season.

But Stafford also played through elbow pain last season when he was still learning the intricacies of McVay's offense and building chemistry with his new receivers. A year later, that chemistry is established with most of his potential playmakers, and he knows the offense inside-out.

That gives him more leeway to rest his arm, and the Rams decided he should use it.

"I think we've got a really good plan in place, no different than last year," McVay said. "These were things that he was kind of working through in his own way ... but he's throwing the ball excellent. Everything I'm seeing is reflective of everything he's saying to me."

McVay said the Rams are "always cognizant of a pitch clock," but Stafford has no inherent limitations. If the quarterback needed to throw 50 times, McVay said they wouldn't hesitate to do it.

Stafford and the Rams have been purposely imprecise when talking about the specifics of his elbow soreness, but he had an offseason injection that helped. He is on a regimen of exercises and workouts to keep the joint in good shape.

"I've been doing some things that made it feel better," Stafford said. "Probably going to continue to do those things if you need to, and if you don't, then you just go out there and play ball."

Stafford has a year of history with all of his potential receivers except Allen Robinson, the Rams' biggest offseason free agent signing on offense. Last season's plummet in Chicago was disturbing, and he just turned 29, but's Mike Triplett reminds readers that Robinson has been one of the NFL's most talented receivers for nearly a decade.

Stafford and Robinson worked together whenever possible since the start of training camp, and they expect to have much less trouble getting on the same page than two players without their years of experience.

Robinson caught several long passes from Stafford on Sunday in the first periods of practice.

Meanwhile, Akers and Henderson spent much of August dealing with soft-tissue injuries. Still, McVay dubbed both of them "good to go" last Friday and neither appear on the injury report this week.

Akers missed most of 2021 after suffering a torn Achilles tendon before the start of training camp. He returned for the regular-season finale, and he generated 172 rushing yards in the postseason, along with 76 receiving yards.

Henderson appeared in 12 regular-season games last year with 10 start, rushing for a career-high 688 rushing yards. Injury kept him out of three postseason games, and he had only four carries in Super Bowl LVI.

The presence of both could help keep honest defenses that may be inclined to focus on stopping receivers Cooper Kupp and Robinson. And the fact that the Rams have two very good running backs provides insurance against one of them getting injured. ...

On the injury front. ... Van Jefferson truly might be day-to-day, as McVay said, but Tuesday was not the day. The Rams' receiver remained the only player on the roster not to practice as the team listed him as nonparticipant for a second-straight day.

On Wednesday, Jefferson was officially ruled out.

Jefferson underwent "minor" knee surgery Aug. 2 after an earlier surgery on the same knee in the offseason.

The Rams will have to figure out how to replace him in the short term. Jefferson caught 50 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns last season after making 19 receptions for 220 yards and one touchdown as a rookie in 2020.

Second-year receivers Ben Skowronek and Tutu Atwell are expected to see more opportunities as long as Jefferson is out. ...

The Rams have gained a little cap relief by restructuring the contract of their starting tight end. Per Field Yates of ESPN, Los Angeles has converted $4.75 million of Tyler Higbee's base salary in 2022 into a signing bonus, creating $3.8 million in cap space. L.A. also added three void years to Higbee's deal.

Higbee is entering the penultimate year of the four-year, $31 million extension he signed with the team on the eve of the 2019 season. Higbee was slated to make $6.25 million in base salary in 2022 and 2023.

A fourth-round pick in 2016, Higbee has spent his entire career with the Rams. He broke out as a receiving threat in 2019, catching 69 passes for 734 yards with three touchdowns. Last season he had 61 catches for 560 yards with five TDs.

Higbee caught nine passes for 115 yards in Los Angeles' postseason run last year, but missed Super Bowl LVI after suffering a knee injury in the NFC Championship Game. ...

One last note. ... When reporters were allowed into the Rams' locker room at the team's training complex Sunday for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the locker of one player in particular stood out: Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham is currently a free agent recovering from knee surgery after he made a touchdown catch in the Super Bowl and then tore knee ligaments, but the Rams have actively recruited the veteran to return for several months.

That pitch clearly includes keeping Beckham's locker free for him -- complete with nameplate -- if he decides to return.

The former Giants and Browns wideout joined Los Angeles as a midseason acquisition and turned into a key component of the Rams' offense. He caught 27 passes for 305 yards and five touchdowns in eight regular season games, and he added 21 catches for 288 yards and two more scores in the Rams' four playoff games.

QBs: Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Stetson Bennett
RBs: Kyren Williams, Royce Freeman, Zach Evans, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Hunter Long, Davis Allen

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

As's Myles Simmons suggested, Mike McDaniel has the unenviable task of making his head coaching debut against New England's Bill Belichick in Week One.

But McDaniel isn't making more of that than what it is, cracking a couple of jokes when asked about the head coaching matchup during his Monday press conference.

"Yeah, I mean, can there be a larger disparity in career win-loss total? It would be a bigger deal, I think, if coach Belichick and I were on the field maybe doing like an Oklahoma drill. But I don't foresee that happening," McDaniel said. "I don't think the fans would really pay for that.

"I know one thing, that coaches in the National Football League, especially experienced NFL head coaches, especially arguably the best coach of all time, Bill Belichick, he's going to be prepared. So you know that as a head coach, you better prepare your team and leave no stone unturned. Otherwise, you'll end up kind of coaching with regret after the fact. Luckily, the schedule came out a long time ago, so I digested that and knew what Week 1 was.

And luckily, it's the Miami Dolphins versus the New England Patriots, not a one-on-one square off between head coaches."

While McDaniel is the seventh full-time head coach the Dolphins have hired since Belichick became the Patriots head coach in 2000, recent history may be on McDaniel's side. Miami has won each of its last three and four of the last five contests against New England.

Meanwhile, like his head coach, receiver Tyreek Hill will make his Dolphins debut against the Patriots on Sunday.

Hill told reporters on Monday that he's looking forward to scoring his first touchdown in a Dolphins uniform. Though that may not exactly come easy against New England's defense.

Hill has gone against plenty of Belichick-led teams before. But he's not entirely sure what the New England head coach will have in store for him now that he's with Miami.

"Coach Belichick, obviously, he's one of the greatest coaches in this great game that we got," Hill said, via David Furones of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "The way that he thinks is just next level. I would be honored to be singled out, but I just feel like, when we play them, there are some plays that I do get doubled when I was with the Chiefs.

"But who knows? I don't know what to expect going to a new team, different system. Who knows what to expect? But I'm sure Coach Bill has a plan up his sleeve, but I feel like our coach has one up his, too."

In four regular-season games against the Patriots, Hill has 24 catches for 401 yards with five touchdowns. But a lot of the production came in Hill's first two games against New England. He caught seven passes for 133 yards with a touchdown in Kansas City's season-opening win in 2017. Then he caught seven passes for 142 yards with three scores in a Week Six loss in 2018.

In the 2018 AFC Championship Game, Hill had just one 42-yard catch. He had six receptions for 62 yards in the 2019 matchup and four catches for 64 yards with a TD in the 2020 contest between Kansas City and New England.

If the 51-yard bomb from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to Hill in the preseason game against the Eagles was any indication, the Dolphins may come out firing against the Patriots in Week One. We'll see if New England has much success trying to take Hill out of the equation.

By the way, for the first time in his NFL career, Tagovailoa is being surrounded with elite talent.

As's Marcel Louis-Jacques notes, the third-year quarterback enters a pivotal season -- after which Miami will have to decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option -- but he does so with three-time All-Pro Hill, the NFL's record-holder for rookie receptions in Jaylen Waddle, a revamped backfield and an offensive-minded coach in McDaniel.

"Breakout" might be a little strong, but Chase Edmonds is staffer Mike Triplett's "bang for your buck" choice in the Dolphins' backfield. Triplett added: "Edmonds has impressed this summer and seems to have emerged as the guy they'll count on most -- in his usual pass-catching role and maybe more.

Raheem Mostert also appears to have secured a key role in Miami, while fellow veteran Sony Michel was released.

In trying to get a handle on potential workloads for Edmonds and Mostert, The Athletic's Greg Auman believes Edmonds should have the upper hand from a fantasy standpoint on Mostert.

In Arizona last year, Edmonds had the weak half of a split with James Conner, who had twice as many touches but an 18-2 edge in touchdowns. Auman contends there's no way it's that uneven in Miami. Mostert has shown flashes in the preseason, but he has only two 100-yard games in his career and has never had more than 16 catches in a season.

Compare the salaries and you'll see they've invested much more in Edmonds.

But the bigger picture is the Dolphins invested heavily in the supporting cast for Tua, their most important player. ...

Also of interest. ... Because of the presence of Hill and Waddle, there aren't many targets for other players in Miami's offense, but Louis-Jacques believes rookie receiver Erik Ezukanma, a fourth-round pick in April, has a real shot at becoming the Dolphins' No. 3 receiver by the end of the season.

He's a vertical threat who can generate yardage after the catch and win contested catches. He will need to beat out Cedrick Wilson Jr., but the opportunity is there for the Texas Tech product.

Meanwhile, nobody had a more unexpected fantasy plummet this summer than Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, who went from receiving the franchise tag to being dangled in trade talks while being relegated to more of a blocking role. "Gesicki might be the No. 2 tight end on his own team right now, so it doesn't make much sense to make him the No. 1 tight end on yours," Louis-Jacques cautioned. ...

On the injury front. ... Waddle was not practicing the last two weeks of August because of a lower body injury, but there's no sign of concern about his status for Week 1. Indeed, Waddle was on the practice field Monday and McDaniel said he will be fine for Sunday.

I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update if that changes.

QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane, Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Christopher Brooks
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, Chase Claypool, River Cracraft
TEs: Durham Smythe, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

The Vikings started over off the field with a new general manager (Kwesi Adofo-Mensah) and a new head coach (Kevin O'Connell) after going 15-18 over the past two seasons and missing the playoffs both times. They did no such thing with their offense, though with almost their entire starting lineup staying in tact on that side of the ball.

For all the problems the Packers could pose for Kirk Cousins in the opener, the 11th-year veteran will again have a tantalizing core of wide receivers to throw to with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn. Running back Dalvin Cook has returned to lead a deep backfield, and tight end Irv Smith Jr. has recovered from the knee injury that kept him out in 2021.

"I just have faith in the coaching staff and for them to call the right plays at the right time and getting the ball to the playmakers," Jefferson said. "So I'm really excited about the whole new offense and the whole new coaching staff."

According to's Kevin Seifert, O'Connell quickly won the team over.

Not long after he was hired, O'Connell made a request. He wanted a logo designed to capture the values he planned to impart on the team. The final product was shaped like a shield and carried these words: Our Way, Our Process, Our Team.

The Culture Shield, as it is known around the Vikings' practice facility, provided a clear metaphor for O'Connell's first summer in Minnesota. He stood behind it as he pursued an alternative training approach that prioritized health over preseason playing time, teaching over browbeating and technique over hitting.

It revealed a coach who is confident in his approach but itching to justify it with some early success in a schedule that opens with consecutive opponents -- the Packers and Eagles -- who are considered consensus playoff teams.

"You never want to say [imposing culture] was easy," O'Connell said, "but I just think it was the right time and the right place for me with these players."

Initially, at least, O'Connell's style prompted whiplash amid an organization inured to the cantankerous ways of former coach Mike Zimmer. Veteran players waited for emotional outbursts that never came.

"Sometimes it almost feels awkward," Thielen said. "You're like, 'Is he not going to rip us? What's going on here?' And it has nothing to do with the old coaching staff we had here. That's how it's been my whole life, whether high school, college, first year in the NFL when I had a different coach. It's different, but it's exciting because it's like now we can go in there and we can teach. We can learn. Even if we do some things wrong, and have some mental errors, it's like, 'Hey, that wasn't OK, but let's focus on the process.'"

They also appreciated the relative lack of pounding on their bodies.

No established starter played more than 14 snaps in the preseason, and all of them came in Week 1. Nine of their top-line players -- Cousins, Cook, Thielen and Jefferson, linebacker Eric Kendricks, pass-rushers Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith and defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith -- were healthy scratches for the entire preseason.

Cousins, for one, said he wouldn't have minded some preseason work. But he noted the Vikings lost Smith for the entire 2021 season because of a knee injury he suffered in the Vikings' final preseason game last summer.

"There is a reason for what we're doing," Cousins said. "There is drawbacks to it too, but you have to make the best decision you can and go with it. No excuses and be ready to go [when the season begins]."

The immediate results, however, seem obvious. Only one Vikings player suffered a significant injury during training camp practice; Smith injured a thumb ligament while blocking on the first day of pads, requiring surgery. Reserve receiver Olabisi Johnson suffered a torn ACL in exhibition play, but otherwise, the team was so healthy that Adofo-Mensah did not need to make a single roster move until the first NFL-mandated cutdown.

The Vikings have left no confusion this summer about their postseason expectations.

Instead of tearing down a roster that missed the playoffs three times in the past four seasons, they retained and supplemented the core. When they waived second-year quarterback Kellen Mond last week, O'Connell noted the risk of an untested backup "being a snap away" on a team with a strong competitive outlook.

Did his "way" and "process" put the Vikings in position to open the season strong against two tough opponents? We're about to find out.

If nothing else, Cousins has a coach that not only believes in him, but has the kind of even-keeled personality that almost certainly fits him best. He's got one of the NFL's best groups of skill position players around him, and at 34, he is still in his physical prime.

Cousins is already an above-average quarterback, but this is probably the best opportunity of his career to jump a level into the leagues' top 10.

In case you missed it, NBC's Matthew Berry pointed out only six quarterbacks in the NFL threw at least 30-plus touchdown passes each of the last two years. Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert are five of them. Cousins was the other.

Berry went on to note that last season, Cousins was top four in the NFL in terms of games with two or more passing touchdowns and for games with 275 or more passing yards. He did all that while playing for a defensive minded head coach and an offense that was bottom 14 in passing rate.

This year, expect O'Connell to leverage the talents of Cousins using the considerable talents of that supporting cast.

And even though Jefferson is a truly elite talent and fantasy producer, don't overlook Thielen, whose 24 TD catches over the past two seasons leave him behind only Davante Adams and Mike Evans in that category.

Also. ... Seifert reports that Osborn stood out throughout training camp, even while sharing the field with Jefferson. He has earned the trust of Cousins, whose advocacy last season helped spur Osborn to seven touchdown receptions.

QBs: Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Josh Dobbs, Kirk Cousins
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu, Cam Akers
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor
TEs: Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse, T.J. Hockenson

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

In a break from the norm, the Patriots traveled to South Florida on Tuesday this week and will hold three practices in the heat and humidity leading up to the game against the Dolphins. They usually depart Saturday for road games.

Longtime captain Devin McCourty previously said weather is "always a little bit of a shock in pregame" in Miami, so this gives players time to acclimate.

The trip was planned months ago.

Of course, had Belichick known the team would have an uncharacteristically hot and humid training camp in New England, he might have planned differently.

Belichick rarely says anything, too. He was asked on Sunday to explain the decision to travel to Miami on Tuesday instead of Saturday.

"I think there are a combination of factors, but in the end it all looks like it's set up fairly well here," Belichick said. "So, make the travel on Tuesday instead of on Saturday. We'll already be down there. We'll be able to just focus on the Dolphins."

That's assuming the players don't get distracted by other things.

The CBA likely prevents teams from keeping players on 24-hour confinement. And it seems very unreasonable to keep them tucked away in the hotel for five full days.

But this decision highlights Belichick's role.

As's Mike Florio notes, whether it's Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia, Joe Judge, or someone else calling the plays, there's only one person calling the shots in New England. Same as it ever was.

Belichick has reiterated the reality that he runs the show in New England.

"We have a lot of people on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, everybody contributes," Belichick told reporters on Sunday. "Ultimately, I have responsibility for everything that happens on the field. In the end, I'll take responsibility for that. But we have a lot of great members of the staff. A lot of different ideas come from different areas or a collaboration of ideas. We'll see how it goes."

Indeed we will. It's one of the biggest questions for the 2022 Patriots. Who will control the offense, and will the offense work?

Reporters are nevertheless concerned, as they should be, about certain details. Such as who sets the script?

"Script what?" Belichick said. "What are you talking about?"

Scripting of plays. You know, planning in advance what will be called, especially in specific situations.

"[G]enerally if you were to talk about a situation like that, you talk to the entire staff there and say, 'Okay, first third-and-one here's what we practiced, what are we thinking?' Somebody might say, 'Let's do that,' or 'This will be a real good time to do that and then come back with that one the second third-and-one.' Those suggestions, those ideas, can come from everybody and anybody. And I'd say that's the way it's always been."

"Anybody and everybody" is a little broad, especially for a team that continues to rely on the "do your job" mantra.

And that's really what he means. The suggestions and ideas can come from anybody and everybody whose job it is to make those suggestions and offer those ideas. Good luck knowing who those people may be.

Ultimately, however, it's Belichick responsibility. But we already knew, even with McDaniels gone, the new boss would be the same as the old boss. ...

According to's Zack Cox, Rhamondre Stevenson will likely remain the 1B to Damien Harris' 1A to open the season, and Cox anticipates Stevenson playing a much larger role in the passing game than he did as a rookie. Cox believes the pass-catching back position becomes more of a shared role than it was during James White's tenure, with Ty Montgomery, Stevenson and potentially even Harris all contributing.

It was hard to glean much from the Patriots' running back usage during the preseason, as they would play each of their top three backs for a full series before rotating to the next for the following drive. (When all three were healthy against the Carolina Panthers, it went Harris, then Stevenson, then Montgomery, then once more through the order before the reserves came in.) Cox added, "There's a reason Stevenson has been getting so much fantasy buzz this summer, though. Along with his growing role as a receiver, it wouldn't shock me if eventually leapfrogs Harris and becomes New England's top early-down option, as well."

Cox acknowledged the Patriots still have a lot of run-blocking issues to work out, but Stevenson showed legit star potential last season and had a good camp.

Indeed,'s Mike Triplett contends the 230-pound Stevenson has the most breakout potential of the trio and has shown some passing-down growth this summer, along with his running ability.

According to's Dan Graziano, we shouldn't be surprised if Nelson Agholor is Mac Jones' favorite target. Graziano reminded readers that Agholor had a quiet first season in New England, and the team traded for DeVante Parker and drafted Tyquan Thornton in the second round to bolster a WR corps that already included Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers.

Oh, and don't forget Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, the two free agent tight ends the Pats signed in 2021.

It's a crowded group of pass-catchers, to be sure, but Graziano advised readers the buzz out of New England this camp has been that Jones and Agholor have developed a reliable connection. "There are many things we don't know about how this offense will function in New England this year," Graziano added, "but watch out for Agholor as a guy Jones has grown to like."

The same could be said of Parker.

Injuries have limited him for stretches over his seven-year career, but's Mike Reiss reports the former Dolphin hasn't missed a practice in camp while developing a quick rapport with Mac Jones. Parker's 6-3, 219-pound frame has given him an edge on slants and on 50-50 balls that Parker refers to as 80-20s in his favor.

Jones likes the way Parker attacks the ball, and pairing him with three other capable receivers in Meyers, Agholor and Bourne gives the Patriots a diverse set of options.

Worth noting: Bourne, in his second season with the team, remains stuck on the second string. Receivers coach Troy Brown addressed Bourne's status with reporters on Monday.

"Obviously, he hasn't had the type of offseason that he had last year, but he's been working at it just like everybody else," Brown said, via Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. "He's coming along, and he's getting more and more reps as the camp goes on here. As we go into the first game here, he's getting more and more reps. We're going to play the guys who deserve to play."

Last year, Bourne was targeted 70 times in 17 games, with 55 catches, 800 yards, and five touchdowns. He had seven catches for 77 yard and both touchdowns in a 47-17 postseason blowout loss at Buffalo.

On the injury front. ... During an appearance on WEEI Tuesday morning, Belichick said that everyone on the active roster should have a shot to play this weekend. He had a press conference a short time later and was asked if that meant Montgomery and right tackle Isaiah Wynn would be making the trip after missing time with injuries recently.

"It does," Belichick said.

Montgomery hurt his ankle in the team's final preseason game and Wynn is dealing with an undisclosed injury. The Patriots will disclose it on Wednesday's injury report and that will also provide information on how much work the two players are able to do in practice, but Montgomery was at least on the field for portions of that session.

QBs: Bailey Zappe, Mac Jones
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott, JaMycal Hasty
WRs: DeVante Parker, Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte, Matt Slater, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, Pharaoh Brown

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

The New Orleans Saints are set to begin their 56th NFL season on Sunday when they take on their most bitter rival, the Atlanta Falcons.

Over their previous 55 years, the Saints have 17 seasons with a winning record, all of those in the last 35 years. They have 13 playoff appearances, 9 division titles, and one Super Bowl championship to their credit.

But as noted, season openers have not been kind to this franchise.

New Orleans has won their last three regular season openers, but have mostly struggled to open the year. They lost the first four regular season openers in franchise history, all at home, before finally recording a 24-20 win over the Rams to open the 1971 season.

They hope to change that this weekend and they expect Jameis Winston to help get them there.

The good news is Winston showed an improved ability to protect the ball in 2021.

In Winston's seven starts before a season-ending left knee injury against Tampa Bay, the Saints went 5-2. Winston passed for 14 touchdowns against just three interceptions. In his final season as a starter in Tampa Bay in 2019, he passed for 33 TDs with a league-high 30 interceptions.

"I want my touchdown-to-interception ratio where it needs to be, but I want my winning ratio to be where it needs to be," Winston said. "I'm just grateful to have that chance to go out there, throw some touchdowns, win some football games and keep y'all smiling."

Forced to use four quarterbacks last season, the Saints finished 9-8 and missed the playoffs, ending their run of four consecutive division titles.

But Winston is ready to go now.

In the Saints' final preseason game, he made his return from last season's injury and was 4-for-4 passing for 59 yards in a drive that ended with a touchdown.

The Saints believe an improved receiving corps will help Winston as we head into the regular season.

Last year's initial 53-man roster included players like Ty Montgomery and Lil'Jordan Humphrey, while Michael Thomas began the season on the physically unable to perform list and never played.

The Saints added free agent Jarvis Landry and first-round pick Chris Olave this offseason, and they get back Thomas, who returned from last year's ankle injury but is currently nursing a hamstring issue.

As's Katherine Terrell notes, Thomas, who was the 2019 Offensive Player of the year, can run the deep routes, and he has excelled running crossing routes and slants. Winston has never gotten to establish that chemistry with Thomas in a game, with their only snaps together coming while Winston was filling in for an injured Drew Brees in the second half of a 27-13 win against the San Francisco 49ers in 2020.

Winston was 1-for-5 while targeting Thomas that day.

When the Saints open the season in Atlanta on Sunday, Winston will be 315 days removed from what he called the biggest injury of his life. It will also be his second chance to finally move on from the 2019 version of himself -- when he led the league in passing yards (5,109), averaged 8.2 yards-per-throw and threw 30 interceptions to 33 touchdowns.

He has pointed out that he didn't get much time to work with the first-team offense last summer because he was in a quarterback competition with Taysom Hill, who has converted to tight end this season, and spent this offseason recovering from the injury. He then missed a significant part of training camp this summer due to a sprained foot.

But Winston said he's changed and grown even since the injury, noting that while "last year was an improvement," he's ready to step back on the field and build off 2021.

"I'm a different quarterback today than I was with my last game with the Saints," Winston said. "I take a lot of pride in trying to and preparing to get better every single year ... knowing everyone's strengths and weaknesses and being more honest about my strengths and weaknesses. Every practice, every day, I'm evaluating myself to get better."

And of course, there is reason for optimism. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that they'll have Thomas making his long-awaited return at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. Rapoport shared what he's learned during a Tuesday appearance on the "Pat McAfee Show."

"So I believe Thomas will go, and we've talked about that before," Rapoport said, interrupted by McAfee exclaiming that "it's a big deal." Rapoport agreed and continued, "I think it's a big deal, Dennis Allen kind of said it. I think he's gonna go and I think he's gonna be really good. I drafted him on my fantasy team, so if he was really good that would be really great."

Thomas was enjoying a productive training camp until the hamstring injury suffered in practice against the Green Bay Packers prompted the Saints to put him on ice. Now that he's well-rested and getting back up to speed, it sounds like Thomas, who was able to take part in a Monday walkthrough practice, is set for a return in Week 1.

That said, I'll be following Thomas' progress closely -- he was officially limited Wednesday -- in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Udpate section for more. ...

Meanwhile,'s Mike Triplett believes we should temper expectations for all of the Saints' pass-catchers since Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Olave and Landry will have to share the pie. But Triplett contends that Olave is a smooth route-runner who looks polished for a rookie -- and Winston will love his downfield ability. Olave is an especially good choice in dynasty formats.

For what it's worth. ... Dual-threat back Kamara looks "exceptionally explosive" and has had as "good a camp" as Allen has seen.

Meanwhile, as's Gregg Rosenthal reminded readers, the Taysom Hill-at-tight-end experiment is a real thing. He should get significant snaps for the Saints under play-caller Pete Carmichael. In fact, Triplett, during a recent appearance with the FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, told listeners that Hill is the Saints tight end of interest for fantasy managers because he will still see opportunities in a variety of spots -- especially in scoring situations.

QBs: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Jake Haener
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller
WRs: Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Keith Kirkwood, Lynn Bowden, Michael Thomas
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan reported, at age 25 and entering his fourth NFL season, Daniel Jones isn't feeling any different in the stretch run to the season opener against the Tennessee Titans.

His excitement level was up and the butterflies were floating in his stomach Tuesday as the Giants began work on the game plan for Sunday's opener in Nashville. It also will be Brian Daboll's debut as a head coach.

"It's all a good thing and it helps you know that you're getting ready to go," Jones said after practicing in light rain. "Once we get out there and the ball gets snapped, that normally calms down a little bit and you get into the flow of the game. I'm excited to get going."

This is a major year for Jones, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 draft. His first three seasons have been marked by inconsistency, losing and injuries. He missed the last six games of last season as New York went 4-13 and fired Joe Judge after two years as coach.

Daboll, the former Bills offensive coordinator, will be Jones' third head coach in his four years. He started with Pat Shurmur. Mike Kafka is his fourth offensive coordinator. They'll be running the offense Daboll brought from Buffalo.

Even co-owner John Mara admitted after last season the Giants, who have had five straight losing seasons, have seemingly done everything they can to mess up their quarterback.

The pressure on Jones increased earlier this year when new general manager Joe Schoen and the organization opted not to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. It's made this season: either produce or pack up.

Jones knows the stakes, but he has repeatedly said he is focused on this week and getting better.

"It's been fun this week," Jones said. "You kind of switch into game-plan mode, you're preparing for certain looks, scheming up our offense to put us in the best position to make plays and succeed. It's about us. It's about us executing our plays and doing what we need to do as a unit and an offense."

According to Canavan, Daboll likes Jones' work ethic, his knowledge of the game and his leadership abilities.

"You want to have the quarterback feel as comfortable as he can, and you also want to tell him some of the reasons why you're doing things you want to try to do against the opponent you're going against," Daboll said. "But he's had really good dialogue with us; I think he's in a good spot."

Jones should benefit from an improved offensive line which added center Jon Feliciano and right guard Mark Glowinski in free agency. Right tackle Evan Neal was drafted No. 7 overall and left tackle Andrew Thomas has developed into an elite player.

Almost two years after an ACL injury, running back Saquon Barkley is looking very much like the back who was the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The running back might not ultimately be what he was in his rookie year (1,307 rushing yards), but's Jordan Raanan is among those who believe this is the most explosive he has looked in a while. Most importantly, he has been healthy.

Barkley is also more confident, something he admitted this offseason, and it has made a discernible difference. He is running more decisively and harder than last year post-ACL injury.

The concern is the receivers. Kenny Golladay is coming back from a bad season (no TDs). Kadarius Toney needs to show he can stay on the field, but he missed all the preseason games with nagging injuries. Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger is unproven.

It's unknown how much veteran Sterling Shepard can contribute after missing most of camp rehabbing an Achilles injury -- although Shepard fully plans on playing Sunday in Tennessee.

"Yep, ready to go," he told Raanan.

Whatever the case, Jones likes the offense, which employs a lot of movement. He also likes that Daboll is constantly finding new ways to run a play.

"I think it allows the quarterback to do a lot in the pocket, outside the pocket, in the run game," Jones said. "It allows us to get into advantageous looks depending on what the defense does, easily getting in and out of plays. I think from all those perspectives, it's very quarterback friendly for any quarterback."

On the injury front. ... QB Tyrod Taylor is "good to go" after suffering a back injury in the team's preseason finale, Daboll told reporters.

While Shepard, who was listed as a limited participant Wednesday, will be back for Week 1, there is a little less optimism for Giants outside linebackers Kayvon Thibodeaux (sprained right MCL) and Azeez Ojulari (calf). Both Thibodeaux and Ojulari returned to the practice field Tuesday for the first time since suffering their injuries, but they were extremely limited. Neither was seen jogging in the 20 minutes open to the media.

According to Raanan, Shepard and Toney (hamstring) did not appear to be limited at all in practice. They were running well. So was Golladay, who the Giants revealed recently had a "little procedure" this offseason that perhaps slowed him this summer.

Having Shepard available is important. He has been a favorite of Jones -- when healthy. He caught 16 balls for 217 yards in the first two games last year before injuries started derailing his season.

Shepard, the longest-tenured Giants player (he has been with the team since 2016), has consistently produced when healthy. He has 349 receptions for 3,884 yards and 21 touchdown receptions in his career.

I'll have more on all the wideouts via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

A few final items here. ... Wide receiver Darius Slayton agreed to a paycut Monday that will keep him on team, according to Newsday's Tom Rock. Prior to that his spot on the roster seemed tenuous. Slayton is listed as the only third-string wide receiver on the team's depth chart with David Sills and Richie James joining Shepard on the second team.

And finally. ... Kafka's offseason, training camp and preseason audition has earned him a new job for 2022: play-caller. The Giants will enter the regular season with Kafka in charge of the offense, Daboll announced Monday.

Kafka spent much of the offseason getting comfortable in the role, handling play scripts during OTAs and minicamp, and retained the duties in the preseason. He called plays during New York's 23-21 win over New England to open the preseason, and Daboll seemed pleased with Kafka's performance.

The buzz regarding the Giants' play-caller died down since then, but Daboll has apparently seen enough out of Kafka to give him play-calling power to open the season.

It's a notable decision because of Daboll's background. The coach earned the top job in New York largely because of his work with the Buffalo Bills as their play-caller, which included guiding Josh Allen toward stardom and transforming the Bills' offense into an explosive, prolific unit.

New York hired Daboll with the hopes he'd be able to do the same with Jones and the Giants. Daboll has not deviated from that goal, but he's taking more of a managerial approach -- as many successful head coaches do -- and delegating to Kafka, the former NFL quarterback who has proven capable of handling the job in the preseason.

His first true test arrives this Sunday in Nashville.

QBs: Tommy DeVito, Tyrod Taylor, Daniel Jones
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray
WRs: Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Darren Waller, Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. first reported, the Jets made it sound like there was still a chance Zach Wilson would open the season for the Jets under center instead of on the sideline.

Head coach Robert Saleh told reporters that Wilson did some throwing on the field Monday while testing out his surgically repaired right knee, which was injured in the preseason opener at Philadelphia on Aug. 12.

"He looked good, felt good," Saleh said after Monday's session.

While Wilson might look and feel good, things changed significantly on Wednesday, when Saleh announced that Joe Flacco will start in the team's season opener against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

But wait. There's more. ... Flacco will be starting all of their September games as long as he remains healthy enough to play.

Shortly after word that Flacco will get the nod for Week 1 broke, Saleh said in a press conference that Wilson will not be available until Week 4 at the earliest.

The timeline is a major change from what Saleh and the Jets have been saying recently. All word from the team was that Wilson had a chance of playing in the opener, but it appears that was just misdirection from the team about their plans.

After hosting the Ravens, the Jets travel to Cleveland and return home to face the Bengals in Week 3. They face the Steelers on the road in Week 4, so Flacco could get a long walk down his AFC North memory lane if Wilson remains out into October.

As's Josh Alper notes, the Jets have maintained that Wilson will be the team’s quarterback as soon as he’s healthy enough to play, but an extended absence opens the door to the possibility of the team playing well enough under Flacco that some might argue against rocking the boat.

While that would be a good thing for the Jets in the standings, it wouldn’t be the ideal way for Wilson’s second NFL season to unfold.

This is an important season for the 23-year-old Wilson, who struggled at the beginning of his rookie year, then missed four games with a sprained PCL in his right knee before returning and showing marked signs of improvement to finish. He threw no interceptions in his final five games and appeared to be quicker at making decisions and reading defenses.

Wilson was having a good training camp before the injury, putting together nearly two weeks of solid practices entering the preseason game at Philadelphia.

The challenge for Wilson, whenever he returns, will be to get back quickly into a similar groove on the field despite missing nearly two months of work.

Saleh said Wilson would not need a ramp-up period to play once he's healthy. He would step into the starting QB spot again at that point.

"Eventually, he's got to get back in there," Saleh said. "Whether it's this week, next week, the week after, it doesn't matter. So, you just have to rip the Band-Aid off.

"When Zach's ready to play and he's healthy, like I've said from the beginning -- when he's healthy and he feels good, he's going to play football."

Flacco, 37, has run the offense since Wilson's injury, with Mike White serving as the backup. Flacco impressed teammates and coaches in training camp, but he sputtered in his only preseason game. He threw a pick-six against the New York Giants.

"Joe has a lot more experience, with Zach being in his second year in the league, but Zach is a special player," guard Laken Tomlinson said. "The way he handles himself operating this offense, we're really impressed with his work."

Wilson played nine snaps in his only preseason game. He threw an interception, and on the second series, he tried to gain additional yardage on a scramble instead of running safely out of bounds. His knee buckled and he fell awkwardly to the grass.

Saleh said Wilson will not go on injured reserve because he wants the signal-caller to practice the next few weeks. "This week, he's going to be off to the side with the trainers," Saleh explained, "and we'll slowly -- part of his rehab schedule -- start implementing him back into practice of the next couple of weeks."'s Rich Cimini believes the season will be a success for the team only if Wilson makes a leap.

What's "a leap?"

According to Cimini, Wilson needs to improve significantly in every area and leaves no doubt that he has the talent, durability and mental makeup to lead the Jets to a championship. No one expects a title or even the playoffs this year; we're talking about 2023 and beyond. He has the arm, but he has to be better at reading coverage and playing within the structure of the offense.

In addition, recovering from another knee injury, Wilson must eliminate the emerging narrative that he's injury prone.

Another rocky season will spark speculation about finding a replacement in the QB-rich 2023 draft. ...

In a semi-related note. ... Saleh announced that the players voted Wilson as the Jets' offensive team captain. Linebacker C.J. Mosley was selected as the defensive captain and Justin Hardee for special teams. All three were captains last year. Saleh said the coaching staff will select one player every week to join the other three as game day captains. ...

Other items of interest. ... Lots of intriguing fantasy prospects on the Jets with rookies Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall. But don't let the new kids make you forget about the flashes we saw from Elijah Moore as a second-round pick in 2021. He was a top-eight receiver in Weeks 8-12 in receptions, yards and TDs before getting hurt. He has remained the Jets' top playmaker this summer.

And what about Michael Carter?

Will Hall be the clear lead back, or is it looking more like a 50/50 split with Carter?

According to The Athletic's Zack Rosenblatt, Hall is clearly the more talented back -- and that is no slight on Carter, who brings a lot to the table. But for a few reasons, Rosenblatt would be surprised if Hall was anything resembling a bell cow in this offense until later in the season.

Carter will likely be the "starter" at the beginning of the season, but the two of them will split reps pretty evenly. LaFleur comes from the Kyle Shanahan school of running back rotations, and that won't change for a little while. Eventually, Hall's talent will win out, but fantasy owners will have to be patient.

Beyond that, Cimini reminded readers this week the offensive line is a bigger question mark than anyone could've imagined.

The starting five had only 21 game reps together in the preseason, and it didn't look good. The problems started when 2020 first-round pick Mekhi Becton lost the left tackle job to George Fant, then suffered a season-ending knee injury at right tackle. They signed Duane Brown, 37, and moved Fant to right tackle, where he's not as good. Prepare for early-season struggles against some stout defensive fronts.

And finally. ... OL Conor McDermott was re-signed and rookie RB Zonovan Knight was released. McDermott, who was among the Jets' final cuts last week, has spent the last three seasons with New York mainly as a backup. Knight signed with the Jets in May as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina State.

QBs: Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, Kenny Yeboah

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

Not everyone is convinced that Jalen Hurts is the quarterback of the future for the Philadelphia Eagles.

A.J. Brown isn't one of those people.

The Eagles' new star wide receiver is clearly pumped for their Week 1 contest against the Detroit Lions. He also made sure to give his 100 percent support to his QB as they embark on what fans are hoping is a playoff season.

"I'm ready to go to war for him," Brown told Josh Tolentino of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I'm ready to go to war with him. This upcoming Sunday, I'm excited for the season. We definitely put in a lot of work this offseason, this camp. We're in a good place, and we're ready to go."

This is largely seen as a make or break season for Hurts, who can either cement his place as the Eagles' QB1 or raise questions about whether they need to move on by season's end.

Brown represents Hurts' most lethal weapon yet as he enters his third year in the NFL.

Forming a connection with the former Pro Bowler will be vital for Philadelphia's offense to score at the level it should given the offensive line protecting Hurts.

According to's Dan Graziano, we shouldn't be surprised if Brown has more than 1,000 receiving yards this year.

Graziano acknowledged the Eagles haven't had a wide receiver go over 1,000 yards in a season since Jeremy Maclin in 2014. (Tight end Zach Ertz did it in 2018.) Last year's Eagles ranked second in rushing attempts (one behind Tennessee) and first in rushing yards. No team last year attempted fewer passes than Philly's 494.

But they traded for Brown because they felt he was what their offense was missing. And with Brown in the fold, Graziano believes we should expect the Eagles to throw more.

While Brown is coming off an impressive training camp, it's worth noting DeVonta Smith is coming off an impressive rookie season. The two comprise a strong tandem on the outside.

"They're as good as any pair that's in the league right now, and if I look at Eagles history, they're potentially as good" as any pair, said former Eagles star Mike Quick, who has been the team's radio analyst since 1998. "When you haven't done it, you have to say 'potentially.' But they bring a tremendous skill set to the game, and they're different."

And they put the onus on Hurts.

Head coach Nick Sirianni said the joint practices with the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 24 were Hurts' best practices since Sirianni arrived in Philadelphia. "It seemed like everything had slowed down for him and he was getting the ball out on time," he said. "I thought he was at the top of his game and that's a great development for us."

According to's Tim McManus, Hurts' growing comfort in the system is leading to quicker decisions, and his accuracy has jumped up a notch as well. He needs to carry those improvements over to regular-season action, of course, but signs are pointing to an improved Hurts in 2022.

Adding to Hurts' comfort level is the presence of Brown. The newcomer's ability to operate over the middle and create after the catch is making Hurts' job easier.

They are good friends off the field and already seem to have a strong connection between the lines, with Hurts targeting Brown early and often this summer.

All in all, the Eagles have one of the best rosters in the NFL top to bottom and are especially strong along the offensive and defensive lines. The NFC East is very winnable -- even more so following the injury to Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith -- and the conference overall looks kind of weak.

A trip to the NFC title game is within reach assuming Hurts makes strides in his second season as the full-time starter. ...

Elsewhere on the roster, it's fair to wonder if the Eagles will have a true committee backfield.

According to The Athletic's Zach Berman, if Miles Sanders is healthy (which he's not at the moment), he's still the clear lead running back. This is not an equal timeshare between Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. Gainwell will play -- especially in pass-catching situations -- but he hasn't caught up with Sanders.

Still, as's Eric Moody pointed out, Gainwell averaged 19 fantasy points per game in his best four games last season. During those contests, Gainwell averaged 15 opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets). With Sanders' struggles catching passes, Gainwell could see even more targets as a receiver out of the backfield in 2022.

Still, Berman believes if you want to identify the "committee" part of the backfield and determine who will eat into Sanders' usage, focus less on Gainwell and more on Hurts.

Remember, Hurts, not Sanders, led the Eagles in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns last season. In the 12 games before Hurts' injury last season, he rushed for 695 yards and eight touchdowns. Hurts' legs will be a major part of the offense, and Berman believes he's the player who poses the biggest threat to a big statistical season from Sanders. ...

As for Sanders' health. ... He's been sidelined by a hamstring issue since mid-August. Sirianni said his concern level for Sanders injury is "not high." There's been optimism he'll be back Week 1, but this week's practices will be important. I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Trey Sermon, the running back who was waived by the 49er, was claimed by the Eagles. As noted, the 49ers' decision to trade up to select Sermon in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft turned out to be a big mistake, as he lasted just one year in San Francisco and ran for just 167 yards.

The Eagles apparently think he's talented enough to make an impact on their offense, but Sermon is not currently listed on the depth chart. Sermon certainly could be inactive against the Lions, but not showing up on the depth chart is unusual. We'll be watching for more.

One last note here. ... With Philadelphia only carrying four wide receivers on the 53-man roster, USA Today notes that former Colt Zach Pascal is the backup at all three receiver positions and a considerable part of the rotation. Quez Watkins is the team's third receiver.

Expect Dallas Goedert to play a significant role as well.

QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, Albert Okwuegbunam

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

Head coach Mike Tomlin made it official Tuesday: Mitchell Trubisky will start Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The declaration comes a day after the Steelers released their unofficial depth chart with Trubisky atop the quarterback pecking order.

"As you guys have seen because of the release of our depth chart, Mitch Trubisky is our starting quarterback and our captain," Tomlin told reporters. "Man, we're just really comfortable with what Mitch has shown us. He's a guy that came to us with franchise quarterback experience, if you will. He's comfortable in those shoes. He's been the focal point of a football team and an organization before, he's had success in doing so. Like I mentioned when we acquired him, he took the Bears to the playoffs two out of four years. He has a winning record as a starting quarterback. Those things were attractive to us. His athleticism and mobility were attractive to us. He took care of the football in-stadium. All of them did, and I think I'd be remiss if I didn't say that.

"It's good to come to decisions based on what people are doing as opposed to what people are not doing, and I thought all three of our quarterbacks represented themselves and us really well through this process. I thought they made plays. I thought they moved their units. I thought they took care of the football, so that made the decision-making a challenging one, but also a fun one as well. Mitch, as I mentioned, is really comfortable in those shoes and displayed that daily just about in any circumstance that you put him in."

Even with the Steelers selecting Kenny Pickett in the first round of this year's draft, Trubisky entered training camp as the leader for the starting gig. The 28-year-old did nothing to lose ground, even as the rookie shined. Trubisky played well during preseason action despite shaky play from his O-line.

Pickett improved during camp, pushing him to the No. 2 role ahead of Mason Rudolph, who Tomlin noted likely wouldn't be active Sunday.

"Really pleased with the growth and development of Kenny, that's why he's listed as No. 2," Tomlin said. "I thought his acceleration of development really took off once we stepped into stadiums. His decision-making, the fluidity of it, his competitive spirit, his pinpoint accuracy, all of those things I thought really came to the forefront once we started coming into stadiums, and I thought he grew and grew at a really fast pace once we got into stadiums. And I also think it's reasonable to expect that growth and development to continue as we push into the regular season.

"We're excited about where he is, and the ground that he's covered to this point, and the ground that he is going to continue to cover as we find our regular season rhythm and he gains an understanding of what that is, what preparation is like, what the rhythm of a seven-day process is like, in terms of getting ready for regular season ball and so forth. Just really excited about where he is and what he's capable of."

If Trubisky falters at all -- or goes down with injury -- the Pickett era will begin in earnest in Pittsburgh.

For now, it's Trubisky's chance to prove he can lead another team to the postseason, with a stiff test out of the gate against the reigning AFC champs.

Meanwhile, we now know for certain that Trubisky will be the starting quarterback against the Bengals, but it remains unclear if wide receiver Diontae Johnson will be available to catch his passes.

Johnson hurt his shoulder during the team's final preseason game. Tomlin said at the time that Johnson might have returned had it been a regular season game, but he wasn't willing to say on Tuesday that Johnson will be able to play in the season opener.

Tomlin said at his press conference that "participation will be our guide" to Johnson's availability and the team's first injury report of the season on Wednesday will be the first hint about how things look on that front.

Johnson was limited in Wednesday's session.

Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Miles Boykin, Steven Sims, and Gunner Olszewski are the other wideouts in Pittsburgh.

After making his 2022 preseason debut in the exhibition finale, Najee Harris said that he'd been dealing with a Lisfranc sprain in his foot that he reportedly suffered on the first day of training camp.

Although that sounds concerning, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported that Harris remains on track to start Week 1 at the Cincinnati Bengals.

"We saw him the other day in the game (and) that is a sign that he is good to go, ready for the season," Rapoport said. "Judging from the initial injury, it seems like he was out about four weeks with this Lisfranc. That's the general timeline -- usually a month or a little more. So, just based on watching him, the timeline, knowing what they do about the injury, it seems like he's going to be fine for the regular season, which is a good sign because he's certainly going to be depended on in Pittsburgh."

I'll have more on Harris' and Johnson's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

For what it's worth. ... Jaylen Warren is listed as the Steelers' RB2 behind Harris on the team's official depth chart.

When Harris is active, the Steelers' RB2 offers little upside from a fantasy perspective. However, Warren has proven capable of working as both a runner and receiver and will be next man up -- at least for now -- if something happens to Harris. Warren beat out Benny Snell Jr. for the spot. ...

Other notes of interest. ... According to's Brooke Pryor, Pickens will be an instant playmaker for the offense. He has already shown his chops at training camp and earned a reputation for good footwork, impressive hands and otherworldly body control. If that seems hyperbolic, Pryor insists it's not.

Pickens fell in the draft after an ACL tear in his right knee in 2021, but he has shown no lingering effects from the injury. No matter who's throwing the football, Pickens will undoubtedly make plays.

Also worth noting, Pat Freiermuth tied for first among tight ends in 2021 with 20 red zone targets. In 2022,'s Eric Moody believes Freiermuth could see his numbers skyrocket now that Eric Ebron is no longer on the roster.

QBs: Mason Rudolph, Mitchell Trubisky, Kenny Pickett
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

Trey Lance won't be making his first NFL start against the Bears this weekend, but he will be making his first start since being installed as the 49ers' full-time starter.

While Lance stepped into the starting lineup for Jimmy Garoppolo a couple of times last season, he wasn't running an offense designed around his skills.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said on Monday that he doesn't think those outings will be overly informative about how the 49ers offense is going to look this year.

"You're projecting a little bit," Eberflus said, via Curtis Pashelka of the San Jose Mercury News. "You have to project how they're going to use the young man and where they're going to use them in their offense. We certainly have an idea of what this offense looks like. But how they're going to use him, no one really knows. You have to use your rules, have your calls and make sure you're sound."

The 49ers will have to do some feeling out themselves as it is the first time Eberflus and his staff will be coaching the team in a regular season game, but there will likely be more eyes on how they deploy Lance given the bets they made on the quarterback at the top of the 2021 draft and this offseason.

Meanwhile, before the news about Garoppolo staying in San Francisco as the backup quarterback became public last week, head coach Kyle Shanahan gathered a group of his team leaders in his office to explain the situation.

Shanahan told them he and general manager John Lynch had talked it over with Garoppolo and Lance and believed that keeping Garoppolo as an experienced backup on a reduced contract would ultimately help the team.

While the situation may seem awkward -- and nearly unprecedented -- on the outside, the Niners believe the personalities of the two quarterbacks and the leadership in the locker room will make sure it doesn't cause a problem.

"I think the core nucleus of the guys that we have here and the culture that we've established over the last five or six years with Kyle and John, our locker room is in a position where we can handle things like this and it doesn't derail our focus or our enthusiasm," offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey said Monday.

"Because of that it's seamless and everybody's excited about it, excited to keep our friend in the building and also help a guy that's immensely talented and help us win games. At the end of the day, that's all it's about is just winning games. I think having both of them here helps us do that."

After Garoppolo spent the offseason away from the team rehabilitating from offseason shoulder surgery and training camp throwing on his own on a side field and not attending meetings, he got back into the fold last week. He agreed to reduce his 2022 salary from a non-guaranteed $24.2 million to a guaranteed $6.5 million with the chance to make about $9 million more in roster and playing time bonuses.

The move came after no team was willing to trade for Garoppolo and give him a chance to start.

It also makes him the first QB in 30 years to start in a conference title game one season and begin the next as a healthy backup on the same franchise the following season.

All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams said he was happy to have Garoppolo back, calling him a brother whom he loves after spending two seasons together. Williams said he was surprised this worked out the way it did, but not because he didn't think Garoppolo would be willing to stay as a backup.

"I was surprised that nobody stepped up and made him their guy," he said. "That surprised me more than anything. But him knowing what he was looking against and choosing to come back here that was probably the go-to answer. I would assume that he would do that knowing the circumstances. But I expected him to be somewhere as a starting quarterback."

So what does it mean for Lance?'s Nick Wagoner contends the Niners won't ask Lance to be the focal point of a team with championship aspirations.

Their defense and surrounding offensive talent should help lighten the load. But they will ask Lance to take care of the ball, make the occasional big play and, most important, improve as the year goes on. If he does that and the Niners stay healthy, they believe they can return to the Super Bowl.'s Eric Moody believes Lance will thrive in Shanahan's fantasy-friendly offense.

With Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk among the 49ers' receiving playmakers, the dual-threat quarterback will add a vertical element to the 49ers' offense.

In a related note: Lost in the shuffle of Aiyuk's slow start to last season was the fact that he was one of the 15 most productive receivers in the league from Week 9 on.

Aiyuk followed that strong finish with his first full "normal" offseason spent working out with Lance and honing his route-running ability. On a team with Samuel and Kittle, Wagner advised readers not to be surprised if it's Aiyuk who leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. ...

Will Elijah Mitchell still be the lead back in Week 1, or is the door open for Jeff Wilson Jr. or Tyrion Davis-Price to cut into his workload?

According to The Athletic's Matt Barrow's advised readers that Mitchell's still in the lead.

He was back at practice last week after recovering from a hamstring strain, and the plan is to ramp him up to the point where he starts against the Bears.

The massive caveat, of course, is that Mitchell tends to get hurt. This prompted Barrow to suggest that a smart fantasy manager might want to hedge his or her bet on Mitchell by also selecting Wilson, who will begin the season as the No. 2 back.

Barrow added: "A really smart and patient manager would pick up Davis-Price, whom the 49ers drafted for his bulk and, they hope, his durability."

On the injury front. ... We learned on Wednesday that Kittle has a groin injury, suffered in Monday’s practice. The veteran tight end will not practice Wednesday and it's unclear right now if it will keep him out this week. We'll have an eye on that, Mitchell and Samuel (knee bruise) in coming days, although Samuel returned to practice this week. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.

QBs: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell, Danny Gray
TEs: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

Of course there is plenty of attention building surrounding the reunion happening in Seattle next Monday night.

As soon as the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson to the Broncos, the NFL knew one of the marquee games of the season would be his return to Seattle.

And so the schedule put Broncos at Seahawks as the Week 1 Monday Night Football game.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll liked that.

"I thought it was awesome," Carroll said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

Carroll said he has never prepared for an opponent he knows as well as he knows the opposing quarterback in Week 1.

"I do have as much information as you can have. I've probably never known a player any closer than knowing Russ, his quarterbacking, and his playing and his mentality and all of that. He knows me, too. He knows us. So, we'll see what happens," Carroll said.

While Wilson returns, new Seattle defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant are about to face their old team.

Fant was Denver's first-round pick in 2019 and last season had 68 catches and four touchdowns. Both of those totals would have ranked third on Seattle's stat sheet from a season ago. But there was a sense that Fant underachieved during his three seasons with the Broncos and that moving to Seattle can be a fresh start.

How he fits entirely into Seattle's offensive plans is the unknown. It's an offense that appeared to be predicated around the run game and finding wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in the pass game.

The hope for Seattle is that Fant can be used downfield across the middle, something the Seahawks struggled to develop in previous seasons.

"I think that's something that has been shown by (offensive coordinator) Shane (Waldron) looking to get the tight ends involved downfield and I'm just excited," Fant said. "I think this year, I'm just letting him go with it obviously being my first year, and I'm excited to learn from him and try to execute everything he wants me to execute."

Of course, Wilson's departure means the Seahawks had an opening at quarterback.

Former Bronco Drew Lock, also acquired in the Wilson trade, has flashed plenty of talent. But he hasn't done enough in Carroll's view to overtake former Wilson backup Geno Smith, who will start Week 1. Smith had the edge from the jump thanks to his experience in Waldron's system and hasn't relinquished it.

It seems likely that Lock will find the field at some point this season. And the Seahawks seem likely to be drafting a QB early next April. ...

On the injury front. ... Will impressive Seattle Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker III be ready for Week 1 of the regular season after a recent hernia surgery?

That's a pressing, unanswered question for the Seahawks, but there are signs that Walker is about to return. Perhaps just in time for the first game of the season.

He had the surgery after the first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, Walker has returned to practice -- although he wasn't on the field Tuesday, and there's a shot that he's ready for the first game of the year. It sounds more likely that he'll be ready for the second game, but he hasn't been ruled out yet.

A league source emphasized to Pro Football Network's Aaron Wilson that Walker is extremely tough and has made a speedy recovery from the hernia.

"This is really uncharted territory for him and for us too in that regard in what he's coming back from," Carroll told reporters. "He feels way better, he's moving around, he was throwing the football around today. It's just going to be one day at a time, and I told him I'm going to start punching him in the stomach here pretty soon, a couple days from now."

If Walker isn't ready, the Seahawks will lean on Rashaad Penny. He rushed for 100 yards in four of Seattle's final five games last year and had six touchdowns in that span.

Walker has made a big impression on Penny, replacing Chris Carson, who retired due to a chronic neck injury.

"He's fast," Penny said during camp. "This dude can play and reminds me of a smaller Chris. Just watching highlight tapes, and who he is, he's very outgoing, can talk, and he isn't afraid of anything. He fears nothing. I like the way that he just wants to learn and wants to be great. I have a special feeling about him. He's a great dude."

Still, Penny is the lead back in the Seahawks' committee. Over the last six games of the 2021 season, he averaged 19.5 fantasy points for a Seahawks team that relies heavily on the running game.

I'll have more on Walker via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

QBs: Geno Smith, Drew Lock
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jake Bobo, Cody Thompson, Dareke Young
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

As the Associated Press notes, in only two seasons in the NFC South, Tom Brady has cast a shadow that stretches from Charlotte to Atlanta to New Orleans.

In those two years, Brady's dramatic impact with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has forced other teams in the division to scramble. It's no easy task trying to keep up with the quarterback regarded by many as the best in NFL history.

Brady won his record seventh Super Bowl in his 2020 debut season with the Buccaneers. He added a division title -- Tampa Bay's first since 2007 -- last season.

Brady is 45, but he has looked sharp since rejoining the Bucs following what head coach Todd Bowles described as a planned, 11-day break from training camp for personal reasons. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 44 yards and led the Buccaneers to a field goal on his first and only drive in the team's final preseason game on Saturday night.

Teammates expect another big year from the future Hall of Famer.

"He hasn't lost a step," running back Leonard Fournette said. "He is who he is."

Make no mistake, Brady was the difference-maker last season. He led the NFL in completions, attempts, passing yards and touchdowns. The Bucs set a franchise record with 13 regular-season wins.

But there are concerns.

The Bucs likely will open the season with at least two inexperienced starters on the offensive line. There is reason to worry about how well the revamped unit will be able to protect Brady, who threw the ball more than any other quarterback in the league last season.

Veteran right guard Shaq Mason was acquired from New England to fill an opening created by losing Alex Cappa in free agency. Young players must step in at center and left guard, where Ryan Jenson and Aaron Stinnie were lost to knee injuries.

Meanwhile, Chris Godwin seemed to take a big step toward being in the lineup for the season opener against the Cowboys this week when he was spotted practicing without a knee brace to protect the ACL he tore late last season, but he's not ready to rule himself in for Sunday night just yet.

Godwin was a guest on the installment of the In the Moment with David Greene podcast released on Tuesday and was asked about the likelihood of him playing in Week 1. Godwin declined to put a percentage on his chances.

"That's a great question," Godwin said. "I don't think any of us know that yet. ... In the grand scheme of things, I don't think it matters that much. I would love to be there for the entire season, but I think what's more important is being there for the second half of the season. Being there for what I missed last year."

All that said, Godwin was listed as a full participant Wednesday. I'll have more on his progress via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

If there are issues, the Bucs have other pieces in place.

Head coach Todd Bowles thinks wide receiver Julio Jones has plenty of good years left in him. And Bowles thinks Brady has shown why.

Asked how many years Jones has left, Bowles didn't answer with a specific number, but he noted that Brady is still playing well -- and Brady is 12 years older than Jones.

"That's a good question. I think Tom has set the bar high," Bowles said.

The 33-year-old Jones has struggled to stay healthy, missing seven games in each of the last two seasons, but Bowles said that while Jones was out of shape when he arrived at Bucs camp, he is now looking like he did when he was an All-Pro in 2015 and 2016 with the Falcons.

"He can play," Bowles said of Jones. "He's kind of returned to his old self."

Jones' "old self" was among the best players in the NFL, and it seems unlikely that he'll ever play at that level again. But Bowles still expects an aging Jones to have a big impact.

ESPN's Jenna Laine agrees. She noted that Jones is a future Pro Football Hall of Famer and will help offset the loss of Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski's productivity in the red zone.

And what about Gronkowski?

In the second-season debut episode of Let's Go!, Brady commented on the tight-end position, post-Gronk.

"You're missing someone that was one of the all-time greats, which is, you know, you can't replace that," Brady told Jim Gray. "And we all love him, but we miss him and he just decides not to play. So he's retired, so we've had to, you know, move on to try to, you know, solve some things without him. And, you know, we've done a good job. Cameron Brate’s taken on a big role. Kyle Rudolph, we've got. We drafted a few young players (Cade Otton and Ko Kieft).

"So that position, although it's different without Gronk, you know, we're gonna have to go out there and earn it, and earn the respect of everyone by our work, and by our performance. So I'm excited to see what we can do. And, you know, I'm never one to make a bunch of predictions, other than, you know, we're gonna work hard to get it right. And it's not gonna be perfect all the time. It's got to be perfect enough to win."

Brady said nothing about the possibility of Gronk returning at some point during the season. Gronk has insisted that he's done. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has suggested on multiple occasions that Gronk could be back.

As a free agent, Gronk can return at any time, regular season or postseason, with no deadlines at all. He could, in theory, join the Bucs for the Super Bowl, if they make it. He could also sign with any other team, if he wants.

For now, he doesn't. Whether that changes will be one of the lingering mysteries of the 2022 season.

Whatever the case, the retirement of Gronkowski and O.J. Howard's departure opens up a larger workload for Brate in 2022.

Howard and Gronkowski combined for 110 targets, 937 yards and seven touchdowns last season. ...

And finally. ... According to The Athletic's Greg Auman, Fournette's usage will be interesting to track -- he only hit 80 percent of offensive snaps once in first 10 games, then basically did in three straight games before the hamstring injury. Auman believes they'd much prefer him in 60-70 percent range, utilizing the depth to help.

That 80 percent number is high. Only one back last season -- Indianapolis standout Jonathan Taylor -- hit 80 percent last season.

Rachaad White will be next man up. The rookie is listed as the No. 2 running back on the team's unofficial depth chart heading into Sunday.

Giovani Bernard is listed as the No. 4 back, with Ke'Shawn Vaughn in third.

While White will see work in that No. 2 role, notes the youngster has league-winning upside if Fournette gets hurt. But barring an injury, fantasy managers shouldn't be concerned about Fournette's workload.

QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Sean Tucker, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

According to's Turron Davenport, as quarterback Ryan Tannehill was running reps with the first-team offense, something was different.

He didn't have his star wideout since he became the starter in 2019, after A.J. Brown was traded in the offseason, but that wasn't it.

A lot of it had to do with his safety blanket being stuck in. ... A sandpit?

That's right, star running back Derrick Henry wasn't on the receiving end of Tannehill's handoffs like normal in the offseason, he was instead working in a sandpit.

"It's real," Henry said of the sandpit with assistant strength and conditioning coach Brian Bell keeping a close watch on things. "I love it. It gets me in shape. It's just good work. It's good restricted running. You have to really dig, and it gets your legs burning."

Henry has found a new source of motivation from those who doubt he'll be himself after a Jones fracture of his right foot derailed his 2021 season, but the sandpit is one of the many ways that Henry goes about attacking each day in search of bouncing back.

He admitted to being fueled by the doubters and responded with "We gonna see" when asked about the rumblings that he was on the decline. As Henry ran through the sandpit, it became clear that his upper body was bigger. But he doesn't seem to have lost the breakaway speed that led to many big runs over his career.

But the questions are still there as Henry, who missed the final nine regular-season games in 2021, enters his seventh season.

Should fantasy managers share in those concerns?

Despite only playing in eight games, Henry finished in the top 1o in rushing yards (937) and rushing touchdowns (10) and tied for the second-most runs of 40 yards or more (two) last season.

Henry, who was leading the league in rushing at the time of his injury, was on pace for his third consecutive season with at least 300 carries. He was trending toward becoming the first player to rush for 2,000 or more yards in two seasons.

Neither Henry nor the Titans were ever concerned about Henry's workload. They had their eyes on the bigger picture: Winning.

"Getting Derrick the ball gives us a better chance to win," offensive coordinator Todd Downing said early last season. "The balance is wins and losses."

Added Henry, "Whatever I can do to help, I am always for it."

The Titans' physical style of play starts with giving Henry plenty of carries to set the tone on offense. Henry's 900 total carries over the last three seasons are more than any other back.

"Derrick's a volume guy," general manager Jon Robinson said. "He wants the ball. He likes it when we give it to him. That's a balance that you have to, from a coaching standpoint with trainers, with the strength coaches, just figure out what's best for the football team. The most important thing is the availability of the player a lot of times, more so than the ability of the player."

Henry said it was good to get back for the divisional playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals last January, despite the outcome. It allowed him to conquer most of the rehab process and offered a chance to see how the foot held up in live action.

Getting game action carried over into the offseason and allowed him to come back ready to go.

Once minicamp rolled around, it was clear that Henry put in the necessary work during the offseason. Head coach Mike Vrabel, vice president of sports medicine Todd Toriscelli, head strength and conditioning coach Frank Piraino and Henry collectively came up with a program to manage Henry's workload during training camp.

"He's in a good spot," Vrabel said. "Derrick wants to be as involved as possible. We have open dialogue. He's been great, and he's been all for whatever it is that we decide and we think is best for him, and ultimately the team."

Meanwhile, Davenport advised readers the workload has started to ramp up over the past week with Henry taking part in more team periods.

In a relevant development. ... The Titans reworked Henry's contract to give him a $2 million raise in 2022. Henry will now earn $14 million this season -- the most of any RB. According to, Henry gets a $9 million signing bonus, $4 million base salary, and $1 million in 46-man roster bonuses in 2022. No new years were added. Two voidable years were included for cap purposes.

The 2023 season remains the final year of Henry's contract. If he's still playing at a high level after this season, he'll likely get a new contract next year. ...

And what about that passing attack?

According to Davenport, the Titans season will be a success if Tannehill reverts back to the QB who was one of the league's best comeback players in 2019.

Tannehill has 13 game-winning drives since joining the Titans in 2019, one behind Derek Carr for the most over that span, including the playoffs. He had an opportunity to lead the Titans on a game-winning drive against the Bengals in the divisional playoff game last season, but he joined Brett Favre and Don Strock as the only quarterbacks since 1980 to throw an interception in the final minute of a tie game in the postseason.

Tannehill's four red zone interceptions last year were the most in the league, as well.

That's a big difference from 2019, when Tannehill led the Titans to an NFL-best 75 percent red zone touchdown scoring rate and the AFC Championship Game.

As for his receiving corps. ...'s Dan Graziano believes we shouldn't be surprised if Treylon Burks leads all rookie receivers in catches.

Graziano acknowledged Robert Woods is slated to be the No. 1 receiver in Tennessee, but the Titans have a major role planned for Burks and have been giving him extra reps in the preseason to get him up to speed quickly after a difficult spring. This is a run-first team that will lean on Henry, but the Titans have big plans for Burks and would like to feature him prominently in the passing game.

Graziano added that even if he has some bumps in the road early, the Titans will keep going to him in order to help him work through it, and he's a major part of things there in the second half of the season.

Davenport also noted the most important discovery at camp was Kyle Philips emerging as the top slot receiver and punt returner.

It's rare that a fifth-round pick emerges as a likely starter and contributor on both offense and special teams. Tannehill has already shown a tendency to go to Philips in third-down situations because of his sure-handed pass catching and ability to find open windows.

Philips' 35-yard punt return in the second preseason game was an example of the dynamic playmaking ability that resulted in nine returns of 22 yards or more last year at UCLA.

QBs: Will Levis, Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis
RBs: Derrick Henry, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Kyle Philips, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco

Washington Commanders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 September 2022

On the eve of Carson Wentz's third training camp with three different teams in as many years, Ron Rivera welcomed the new quarterback with a handshake and a message even an NFL veteran may have needed to hear.

"You were wanted here," Rivera told Wentz.

As Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno noted, once wanted by Philadelphia as the second overall draft pick before eventually falling out of favor with the Eagles and with Indianapolis a year later, Wentz no longer seemed like a hot commodity after the Colts fell apart late last season and missed the playoffs.

But Rivera and Washington's front office targeted the 29-year-old in hopes of solving the organization's seemingly endless search for a starting QB. The Commanders are now Wentz's team, with all the pluses and minuses that come with job security and belief from coaches to the pressure and expectations to reach the postseason.

"He has stabilized that position for us," general manager Martin Mayhew said. "We're excited about what he brings to the table in terms of his physical talent and also what he brings to the table as a person, as a leader."

According to Whyno, Wentz the leader already has emerged, from gathering receivers for private workouts to escape room outings he treated like a game situation. The physical talent that made him a highly touted prospect out of North Dakota State is still there, though some of the mistakes he made with Philadelphia and Indianapolis left him available.

Now with Washington, Wentz is eager to move past his journey from one NFC East rival to another and start over.

"I feel confident in myself," he said. "I feel belief in myself from the people around me, which means a lot."

The Colts believed in Wentz when they acquired him, and that faded to the point that team owner Jim Irsay called the move a "mistake" and blamed inconsistency in the passing games for causing them major problems. The same sort of belief evaporated in Philadelphia after Wentz threw a league-high 15 interceptions in 2020 and was replaced as the starter by Jalen Hurts.

Wentz revived his career with Indianapolis last season, throwing 27 touchdown passes and just seven picks, though a horrendous loss to Jacksonville in Week 18 that included two turnovers ended the Colts' season -- and his tenure with them -- on a sour note.

Rivera and the Commanders saw the good in Wentz: A strong arm that could expand the offense's reach downfield, a prototypical 6-foot-5 frame fit for the modern game and a seasoned leader who could take over a team that has had eight different quarterbacks over the past three years.

The hope is not to change Wentz but to get the most out of what he does well and try to limit some of the errors that derailed him at times.

"It's just about making the right decision over and over again," offensive coordinator Scott Turner said. "I just want him to be himself and just understand the game and understand situations. There's a time and place to go for it and there's a time and place where, hey, it's not there."

Practices and preseason action showed the good and the bad of Wentz. He completed 16 of 22 passes and led strong drives in limited exhibition game time, though at times in camp some inaccuracies stuck out.

Interceptions by teammates in 11-on-11 drills in August don't count, and after a particularly rough practice day, Rivera put an emphasis on what Wentz and the other QBs on the roster could do to learn from their errors.

"It's about decision-making at that point," Rivera said. "As you go through the film with him, it is listening to the explanation of: 'Why this read? Why that decision? Hey, did you see this? What got you to do that?' That's what it's really about."

Going into his seventh pro season, Wentz still has things to improve on. He seems to understand where those deficiencies are. Addressing them will go a long way toward determining whether the Commanders are playing in mid-January and, ultimately, if he'll be back for a second season.

"I'm always trying to figure out, how can I get better?" Wentz said. "How can I look at myself first? Where can I get better? Where can I help the team be better? All of those things. And so, for me, it's just coming in and distributing the ball to these guys and being efficient, being effective, being consistent."

As's John Keim put it, "Wentz has issues -- he can be inaccurate and make questionable decisions under duress. ... But Washington owns the NFL's worst combined Total QBR over the past four seasons with 10 different starting quarterbacks."

Wentz represents a solid upgrade and gives the Commanders potentially their best passing attack since they had Kirk Cousins in 2017. ...

As for the other components in that passing attack. ... Keim reports the most important discovery at camp was Curtis Samuel's health.

Washington eased Samuel into training camp as the team wanted to be extra cautious about some hamstring tightness after a year in which soft-tissue injuries limited him to five ineffective games. But Samuel soon started practicing daily and looks like the player he was in Carolina two years ago, when he finished with 1,051 combined yards from scrimmage.

He won't be Washington's top offensive threat, but his versatility and quickness underneath will impact their offense.

As for the starters,'s Eric Moody believes it is fair to say that rokie Jahan Dotson had one of the best performances among offensive skill players during OTAs and minicamps, and that continued into training camp and the preseason.

Dotson will play a key role in the offense, finally giving Washington an outside receiver to complement Terry McLaurin.

Tight end Logan Thomas came off the physically unable to perform list before the cut to 53 players last week and that move suggests confidence that his knee is well enough for him to play in the first four weeks of the regular season.

Thomas may not be ready to go in Week 1 against the Jaguars, however.

Thomas told reporters on Monday that he's not sure if he'll be in the lineup for the first game of the regular season, but that he expects to be cleared for game action "this week or next" because he is already playing without limitations.

"Still feel things here and there, but not anything that affects the way I play," Thomas said, via John Keim of

Thomas missed six games with a hamstring injury last year and then injured his knee in his second game back. He had 18 catches for 196 yards and three touchdowns when he was healthy enough to play.

I will, of course have more on Thomas via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

And finally. ... The Commanders have resisted setting any kind of timeline for when running back Brian Robinson Jr. will be ready to resume football activities after being shot twice (once in the knee and once in his gluteus) the last weekend of August, but his addition to the non-football injury list means Robinson, who was able to ditch his crutches on Wednesday, will be ineligible to play in the first four games of the season.

That said, he could be activated at any point after that if he's deemed ready to return to the field.

Robinson emerged this summer as Washington's primary early-down back as the coaches liked his ability to run inside, showing consistency and power. But he was still going to share duties with Antonio Gibson and third-down back J.D. McKissic. Now that will be delayed with Gibson set to handle the primary role.

QBs: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Jamison Crowder, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates