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Fantasy Notebook: Jackson Aiming High & More
Another Sunday, another Fantasy Notebook. ... Hey now, it's been a good week for those with an eye out for news of specific interest to Fantasy owners. In addition to Trent Green's trade to Miami, a handful of teams hit their respective practice fields -- with a number of those workouts featuring players who have changed teams.

While it's still only June, and these workouts by no means lock anybody in our out of potential roles this fall, being a well-informed Fantasy owner is an ongoing process. So we'll remind you to take the information provided as data points in ongoing stories and work forward. Comparing what's happening now to what happens in July and August will work to your advantage on draft day.

With that out of the way, let's get the ball rolling in St. Louis, where Rams tailback Steven Jackson verified his desire to run down at least one of predecessor Marshall Faulk's records.

"My goal is 2,500 total yards from scrimmage," Jackson said Thursday. "And how I get it doesn't matter. But I want to get to that number."

I'll note that Jackson told me the same last month, in an exclusive interview that will appear in this year's Fantasy Football DraftBook magazine.

If he does, Jackson would replace Faulk as the NFL's single-season record-holder.

As St. Louis Post Dispatch staffer Bill Coats reminded readers on Friday, Faulk piled up 2,429 yards in 1999 -- 1,381 rushing, 1,048 receiving -- a season that culminated with a Rams Super Bowl championship.

Only Faulk, Tiki Barber (2,390 in 2005), LaDainian Tomlinson (2,370 in 2003), and Barry Sanders (2,358 in 1997) have topped the 2,334 yards that Jackson amassed last year.

"Some people may feel that I'm reaching," Jackson said of shooting for 2,500. "But I believe goals are to be set, and then you just go after them."

Jackson fell slightly short of his goal of 1,600 rushing yards in 2006, but he supplemented his 1,528 yards by catching 90 passes for 806 yards. The breakout season earned Jackson a Pro Bowl selection in just his third year after the Rams drafted him in the first round out of Oregon State.

"Once Marshall was unable to play last year, I thought Steven took full advantage of the added opportunity and showed everybody why he was a No. 1 draft pick," head coach Scott Linehan said. "He proved a lot to a lot more people than just his coaches and teammates. He's one of those guys that teams have to try to find a way to stop."

The 6-2, 231-pound Jackson was particularly proud of his 436 carries and catches combined. Only Kansas City's Larry Johnson had more, with 457.

In the DraftBook interview, Jackson told me: "Some guys are home-run players. They can make something happen with just two or three touches. Then I think some guys -- like me and [Johnson] -- wear down defenses.

"I'm a big back; I'm not the average-sized back.

"[Defenders] don't want continue to hit on me in the fourth quarter. They don't want to be the guy to take the first blow from me. So I think as the game goes on, I wear them down. I pride myself on making my first carry of the game look exactly like the last carry of the game.

"I want to play at the same speed the whole game. ..."

And he believes he can, even with a heavy workload.

Nonetheless, the Rams would like to lessen Jackson's workload a bit, which is partly why they drafted Rutgers running back Brian Leonard in the second round this year.

"We've just got to be able to manage how much [Jackson] plays," Linehan said. "I don't know if it's exactly like a pitch count in baseball, but there's got to be times when we give him a break. ... It's hard to take one of your best players out of a game ever. But you have to in football."

As much as you have to, I'm still convinced Jackson will be among the league leaders in touches this fall -- as his current ranking on our 2007 Live Cheatsheet bears out.

One last note on this one. ... I've interviewed some of the biggest names in the game in recent years (Johnson, Tomlinson and Priest Holmes to name just a few), but Jackson stood out to me. He was open and genuine throughout our conversation and I believe it comes through in our Q & A.

Those interested can order the 2007 DraftBook (as well as the rest of this year's FSP annual) on our Secure, On-line Order Page. ...

Moving along to other Fantasy-related news and notes of interest. ...

In New England. ... After being a disgruntled malcontent for much of his time with the Raiders, Sports Ticker staff writer Bill Bernardi reports that Randy Moss brandished a vaguely unfamiliar facial expression after his workout with the New England Patriots on Wednesday.

A smile.

Is this the dawn of a new beginning for the wide receiver?

"I've had two of those," Moss said, referring to his previous stints with Minnesota and Oakland. "I don't really want to call it a new beginning. Like I said, it's something that you dream of knowing that the New England Patriots sit high on a lot of people's charts and as a wide receiver to come in and play with the core guys, with Tom Brady and Kevin Faulk and the offensive line. It's a great group of guys that we have here on the field and off the field.

"That's something that I can really enjoy."

And it's something he's done at a very high level. He just hasn't done it at a high level recently.

The 30-year-old Moss has 676 receptions for 10,700 yards and 101 touchdowns in nine seasons, but did not make much of an impact with Oakland -- admittedly a team with issues greater than just Moss.

But last season, bothered by hamstring, Moss had career-lows of 42 catches for 553 yards and three touchdowns. Along with the low numbers, Moss has faced questions about his effort and commitment to the game.

"I think I get a bad rap just for the fact that I'm not that open," Moss said. "Hopefully, you all don't take it in a negative way. I don't really like to do interviews because that's not my job. My job is to catch touchdowns and help the team win. I don't really plan on being too much in front of this mic all year. Take it how you want to take it."

So what was Brady's "take" on his newest receiver?

"As with every new player, Randy has to come in here and find a role for himself," Brady said. "Obviously he's proven he's capable of some great receiving, but I think we're going to have to put in a lot of hard work over these next few months. I know he's excited about it, and so am I."

It's a feeling Moss echoes as well.

"I've always been a big fan of his and now that I'm here playing alongside him, I don't want anything to change," Moss said. "I'm not going to even try to get in his way in anything that he does and hopefully it doesn't get in the way of anything that I do."

Moss joins an improved receiving corps that has added Donte' Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelley Washington.

But as Boston Herald staffer Albert Breer reported Thursday, with a dozen players battling for what's likely to be six roster spots, the receiver situation couldn't be more muddled at this point.

Breer added that holdovers Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney are getting lion's share of the first-team reps, along with newcomer Wes Welker.

According to Boston Globe beat writer Mike Reiss, how newcomers mesh with the holdovers will play a significant part in the Patriots' success.

Reiss went on to explain it a two-pronged chemistry. There is the work among receivers, such as perfecting the combination routes New England relies on. And then there is the chemistry with Brady, who got a bit defensive when asked only about the new receivers earlier this week.

Brady isn't ready to adopt an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new approach. He wants to see the new and old come together as one.

"You hear so much about the new guys, and I kind of take offense a little bit to the guys we had last year and how hard they worked," Brady said. "We were in the AFC Championship game. I think over the last half of the season we threw the ball pretty effectively, and Reche had the best year of his career, Jabar had one of the best years of his career, Troy [Brown] had a great year, Ben [Watson] had the best year of his career."

Needless to say, if every receiver makes it through training camp healthy, the Patriots will have to make some difficult roster decisions. And as Reiss summed up: "How it shakes out will be one of the intriguing subplots of the months ahead. ..."

However it shakes out, Pro Football Weekly suggested on Monday that talented speed receivers like Moss and Stallworth -- the likes of whom the Patriots have not had during Bill Belichick's reign -- make it clear we'll see the Pats utilizing more of a downfield passing game in 2007.

Considering that the Patriots weren't afraid to throw deep post passes to journeyman speedster Andre' Davis when he was on the team a couple of years ago, PFW believes Belichick will be even more likely to attempt the same type of deep passes to Moss and Stallworth. ...

In a related note. ... According to Reiss, Garrett Mills -- a fourth-round draft choice in 2006 who spent his rookie season on injured reserve -- is going to be a player to watch when the pads come on, potentially in a Larry Centers-like role. ...

Also according to Reiss, while the Patriots will likely miss Corey Dillon's hard-charging running, specifically at the goal-line, it looks like Sammy Morris is going to provide a more diverse set of skills at that roster spot. ...

In Baltimore. ... Make no mistake about it: Willis McGahee is absolutely convinced the only thing keeping him from achieving superstar status was playing in Buffalo. He's eager to prove that theory as a Raven.

"Perfect scenario, perfect situation, perfect team. It doesn't get any better than this," McGahee said. "When I got here, at first I was little nervous. But it's all love right now."

According to Associated Press sports writer David Ginsburg, the Ravens share McGahee's joy.

"He does a lot of things," head coach Brian Billick said, "and is going to give us a lot of versatility in our running game that maybe we haven't had the last few years."

Unlike his predecessor Jamal Lewis, McGahee is a slashing runner and a threat as a receiver.

And, while McGahee's attitude was perceived by some to be a problem in Buffalo, the Ravens are delighted with the enthusiasm he has thus far displayed with his new team. McGahee showed up at involuntary camps last month and ran hard at the three-day mandatory camp that ended Thursday.

A star at the University of Miami, McGahee quickly formed a friendship with former Hurricanes Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Lewis has provided the Ravens' defense with a swagger for the past 11 years, and now he expects McGahee to do likewise for Baltimore's attack.

"There's a certain attitude that you have to have on the offensive side of the football," the linebacker said. "The same attitude we have on defense, he has on offense."

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs didn't attend Miami, but he expressed a similar measure of respect for McGahee after getting a firsthand view of his quickness this week.

"He's a hard runner. I can't wait to see him in action in that purple," Suggs said. "He has that black visor like the rest of the defense. He has that Miami swagger, and you know we could use a little bit of that. It's good to have him here. It's good to have a guy who's so sure of himself."

McGahee twice rushed for more than 1,000 yards with Buffalo, but is rarely mentioned among the league's best backs. With Baltimore, however, he's now part of a team that has long relied on its running game and fully expects to be playing in the next Super Bowl.

Willis McGahee: Best running back in football. That sounds pretty good to him.

"Talk is cheap," he said. "You know what? I don't want it given to me, I want to take it."

Love that attitude, but I remain skeptical about McGahee's ability to perform at the expected level -- especially in terms of catching the ball. Both Billick and offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel seem to be convinced that McGahee is plenty capable of emerging as a dangerous receiver out of the backfield.

I'll go ahead and remind you again, McGahee pulled in a career-low 18 receptions last season and ranked 25th among running backs in all-purpose yardage in 2006.

I'm not saying McGahee can't do better -- he can. But I'll remain a bit skeptical until I get a better feel for the team's plans and McGahee's ability to execute them. ...

Also in Baltimore. ... PFW reports that receivers Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams have made strong impressions in the team's off-season workouts.

Clayton, who caught 67 passes for 939 yards and five touchdowns in 2006, could be even more productive this season. Williams, Baltimore's No. 3 receiver, is also progressing nicely.

In fact, Baltimore Sun staffer Mike Preston advised readers on Friday that Williams looked to be in midseason form during the team's final session of mandatory mini-camp.

On a seven-on-seven passing drill, Williams split the cornerback and safety for an uncontested long completion from Kyle Boller. Several minutes later, Williams out leaped cornerback Evan Oglesby to haul in a pass from quarterback Steve McNair in the end zone.

Both examples served as another example of Williams' potential in the NFL.

"It's not second nature yet, but it's definitely getting better than last year," Williams said of his progression, which included 22 catches for 396 yards and two touchdowns during his rookie season a year ago. "Things are starting to appear a lot clearer, and I'm starting to understand the whole offense instead of just my position. ..."

Clayton and Williams could make life very difficult for opposing defenses -- and much easier for McGahee -- if they establish a legitimate deep-strike capability. One concern? McNair's arm.

Per Preston, McNair can still throw the deep ball, but not consistently well. ...

In Buffalo. ... Running backs coach Eric Studesville told PFW that he's encouraged by what he has seen from McGahee's expected replacement, rookie Marshawn Lynch.

"He's got a lot of speed, and he's got a lot of vision. He is really quick and aggressive in both the run and the pass. I think right now we don't know about the other stuff he has, but certainly those things flash at you right away. ... Anytime we can get him in space, he does catch the ball really well and he obviously has speed and elusiveness in the open, so if we can get him the ball in space one-on-one with somebody, we like our chances with that."

And attitude?

Studesville added, "He's outstanding. He's got a great attitude, great personality, and he is fun to work with. He is great that way."

As I've mentioned before, others might be better long-term prospects, but Lynch is my highest-rated rookie running back heading into training camp and I fully expect him to finish the 2007 regular season in that same position. ...

In Indianapolis. ... With each flick of Peyton Manning's right wrist during passing drills Thursday, Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell squeezed a "counter."

That's right. As Indianapolis Star beat man Mike Chappell explained, even a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player must adhere to limits. During the Colts' summer school and off-season conditioning program, it's what amounts to a pitch count.

"It's Thursday," Manning said, "and we might do a little more (throwing). ... Maybe 75 balls. Jim kind of has a number (in mind)."

Caldwell, who has served as the Colts quarterbacks coach since 2002, monitors the workload for all of his QBs. That's been a point of emphasis for Manning the past few seasons. Consider that he's 31, entering his 10th season and has delivered 5,365 passes in 157 regular-season and postseason starts. That doesn't take into account the thousands he has pitched in practice, training camp and the preseason.

Caldwell's counter, Manning said, "has made a difference."

So has an altered practice approach during the season. Manning used to take virtually every snap with the No. 1 offense, but in the past year or two, backup Jim Sorgi has taken some of the repetitions.

"That's been a change and it's made a difference," Manning said. "In November and December last year, I didn't have any of the arm fatigue problems because of what we do now."

Caldwell conceded it can be difficult to keep the reins tight. This offseason, he tried to persuade Manning not to start throwing until May 1. Manning balked.

"I was like, 'May 1st? That's a long time not to throw. At least give me the 24th (of April),"' Manning said.

When the voluntary summer school concludes next Thursday, Caldwell again will attempt to limit Manning's workload. "He'll give me (a schedule) between now and training camp the number of throws to do (each week)," Manning said. ...

In a related note. ... With Pro Bowl performers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne spending some time away from the voluntary practice sessions, Manning has directed his attention to the development of a group of young, inexperienced wide receivers that includes first-round draft pick Anthony Gonzalez.

It's a role that the 10-year veteran quarterback has accepted, quickly embraced and has seemingly enjoyed so far this spring.

"Peyton likes new people," head coach Tony Dungy confirmed Thursday. "He's taken these new guys, just like he did some of our guys last year. He'll do that all the time. He understands that's what football is all about. [It's] bringing people in and getting them ready to go so that when you need them, they're ready.

"And we had that situation last year, not necessarily with the receivers, but with some of our offensive linemen and tight ends and Joseph Addai. So you want to get those guys ready to go as quick as possible. And [Manning] believes in that. He's going to help those guys as much as he can."

Manning admits that while he knows already what Harrison and Wayne can do on a football field, this is the time of year to find out what some of the team's younger receivers are capable of.

That said, PFW reports that coaches are trying to Gonzalez to rein himself in just a tad and not press so hard to try to fully grasp the team's multi-faceted offensive system. ...

In another Manning-related note. ... According to insider Peter King, when he reported to the offseason program, Manning was told three veterans had not reported to the voluntary workouts and did not plan to report.

"Give me their phone numbers," Manning said, and he called them, and he got at least two of them to come in for some of the workouts.

"He hasn't changed a bit," Dungy told King. "His love of the game is so great to see. ..."

Following up on an item in a previous Notebook. ... The Colts have steadfastly maintained their desire to retain last year's running back rotation system, this time manned by Addai and most likely either DeDe Dorsey or Kenton Keith.

But according to Terre Haute Tribune-Star correspondent Tom James, even if Addai splits the duty, he may very well be seeing more work overall. James went on to explain that coaches have been toying with the idea of using him more in the team's pass offense.

After watching Addai catch a game-high 10 passes for 66 yards in the team's Super Bowl XLI win over Chicago, the decision shouldn't come as too much of surprise to anybody.

"It's a real credit to Joe for being here this whole off-season," Manning said. "I think that's where he's really tried to expand his game. As far as maybe putting him in the slot or putting him out wide, he's worked on his [pass] route running. To me, that's important. ..."

"You like to get those kind of matchups with them on linebackers, who probably aren't as good as cover guys as safeties and corners. That would be a good matchup for us."

This just in: Good matchups for the Colts quickly turn into point totals for Fantasy owners. ...

In Seattle. ... Shaun Alexander's left foot is fine and this time he made it very clear.

The veteran running back admitted he likes to "crack jokes," when asked about the cracked bone in his foot. This time, he was kind enough to explain the foot isn't a problem.

"I think by the time we get to the season I will be in the best shape of my life," Alexander said. "I'll be faster and stronger than ever and hopefully I'll be able to do some good things for our team to win."

According to Seattle Times staff reporter Jose' Miguel Romero, Alexander said he decided he needed to let his loved ones know he was OK when, while hanging out with some kids he mentors, the news of his comments that his foot might still be cracked flashed on the ESPN news ticker.

Then Alexander's grandmother called, inquiring about the story. He made sure she knew he was fine.

Alexander cracked a bone in the foot early last season and missed six games. He created a stir during the Seahawks' May mini-camp when he talked about possibly getting an X-ray of the foot. Alexander was smiling as he talked about it, indicating it was nothing serious.

He did say X-rays taken right after the Seahawks' playoff loss to the Chicago Bears this past January showed the crack was still there, but has looked very good in subsequent workouts.

Meanwhile, the AP reports that Alexander's jokes continued when he was asked if Fantasy Football fans were panicking after hearing the foot might still be cracked.

"They were," he said. "Some people were pulling me over on the side: 'Should I pick you?'

"I am like, 'You are in good shape. We are going to be all right."

When asked if he was lighter than this time last year, Alexander joked again.

"No, I weigh 225. I was thinking that maybe I was just running so slow last year, I don't know what it was," he said. "I thought, 'Did the foot break make you look that bad?"

Speaking as a Fantasy owner with Alexander on my roster last season, he certainly didn't look very good watching from the sidelines. ...

Also in Seattle. ... Matt Hasselbeck ran Seattle's starting offense through an entire practice Monday for the first time since surgery in January repaired torn cartilage in his left (non-throwing) shoulder.

"I am happy that the surgery went so well and I haven't had any setbacks and I'm so far ahead of schedule," Hasselbeck said of his recovery from the Jan. 18 procedure.

Hasselbeck added: "Early on, I was hoping to be able to throw a little bit in this camp. Now, I'm really not limited at all in this camp."

He apparently needs the work.

"There are no restrictions, but he is working through some of the rust, I would say," head coach Mike Holmgren said. "I think he is fine, physically."

Hasselbeck has pushed himself so hard in the weight room in recent weeks, Seahawks doctors told him Monday to back off. It would appear that initial predictions indicating the veteran quarterback will be at full speed for training camp were on the money. ...

In Tampa Bay. ... According to the St. Petersburg Times, head coach Jon Gruden all but anointed free agent pickup Jeff Garcia the Bucs' starting quarterback while addressing an audience of business people and fans during a question and answer session at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast Friday morning.

"There's not a lot of controversy in my eyes right now," Gruden said. "If you want to catch up to Jeff Garcia, our young quarterbacks have some work to do. Garcia has done a great job from day one, since he's been here.

"He understands the position, he's moved offenses wherever he's been, and right now Jeff Garcia has a big lead, to me, on the quarterback position. He brings a lot of juice and enthusiasm to our offensive team.

"I'm not discounting that there won't be a competition in training camp. I do believe Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski can make it interesting, and Luke McCown is also doing some good things.

"But Jeff Garcia is clearly the leader in the clubhouse right now, and we are excited about that."

According to NFL Network insider Adam Schefter, those around the organization are surprised at how quickly Garcia has picked up the offense.

It's partly due to the time that Garcia has been spending at the team's training facility, partly due to the overtime hours that Garcia has been studying at home, and mostly due to the fact that the quarterback has proven he is a quick learner.

It obviously gives him an advantage as he gears up for the battle for the starting job. ...

In Tennessee. ... The AP is reporting that Vince Young is going all out to bring some of the Titans receivers to Houston to work out during a break in training in Nashville. Since being drafted in April 2006, the Houston native has talked about the importance of establishing a bond with his new teammates.

Receiver Brandon Jones said Young, who's footing the bill for his teammates, made it clear their attendance was important.

"And he wasn't going to take no for an answer," Jones told the Nashville Tennessean. "At first I was like, 'I can't get down there until Wednesday,' and he was like, 'No, no, get your butt down here.' Everybody had to put their excuses aside and we are now here and having fun and working."

The Titans finished their last mini-camp May 31 and aren't scheduled for another workout until June 19.

"Vince thought it would be a good idea to keep working, and it's definitely beneficial in a number of ways," Jones said.

The Titans need their receivers to fill the void following the departures of Drew Bennett and Bobby Wade, the team's top two receivers last year. Third-year receivers Courtney Roby and Roydell Williams are also in Houston, along with undrafted rookie Clinton Solomon.

"Once I heard they were thinking about doing this, I wanted to be a part of it, and I switched some things around to make it happen," Roby said. "It is good to get away and into a new element and continue training and building more of a bond. It is something that will definitely help us."

Meanwhile, PFW suggests that newcomer Justin Gage's early struggles have not been an issue in recent practices.

Gage has picked up his performance after some early yips, and considering the rumors that David Givens could be an injured-reserve candidate, the Titans -- who offered Keyshawn Johnson a contract before he retired -- couldn't be happier. ...

In New York. ... Though Plaxico Burress was absent from OTAs again, Jeremy Shockey was on the field. He returned to the area this week to get a few workouts before the start of mandatory mini-camp next Wednesday. He participated in Friday's session -- his first work with quarterback Eli Manning since a week or so of passing drills last month.

Shockey has been criticized over the last three off-seasons for working in Florida instead of up here with his young quarterback.

"I think leaders are made in the season, not in the offseason. That's just how I feel," he said.

Still, head coach Tom Coughlin believes it does benefit both Shockey and the team for the tight end to be here. "That's what this is all about -- being able to work yourself through some of the individual stuff and some of the just knowing each other stuff," Coughlin said.

Manning agreed.

"It's good to have someone who knows what's going on," the young quarterback said, once again demonstrating his superior grasp of the obvious. ...

For what it's worth, Shockey is clearly in great shape even though he tipped the scales at 265 pounds (11 more than his previous top weight).

According to Newark Star-Ledger staffer Mike Garafolo, Shockey claims he's faster than he was last year.

One last note here. ... Garafolo went on to suggest Shockey apparently has been away too long.

The highlight of his little press conference came when he said if working here was a big deal, former GM Ernie Accorsi would have put a huge workout bonus in his contract to make sure Shockey was in East Rutherford in the off-season.

"He's the general manager," Shockey said. "He's one of the best in the game."

Well, not really, considering he's no longer in the game and retired back in February. ...

That's it for this week's Notebook. I'll check in again next Sunday. ... In the meantime, keep an eye on the News & Views section of this site for late-breaking news and other tidbits of interest. Watch the Headline News section for more in-depth reviews of current events -- including the Fantasy Notebook.