NFL Training Camp 2014: 8 Storylines You Should Know at the Midway Point
Each day is one step closer to some “real” football being played. Two weeks of preseason games are in the books and the NFL Opening Night matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks is less than three weeks away. Training camp hasn’t failed in providing storylines to keep fans occupied while waiting for Week 1.
Trying to keep track of everything since the start of camp is tough. Here are eight things that have happened and you should know about, all having fantasy football implications.
8. Holdouts from Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch
A pair of elite fantasy RBs didn’t start training camp on the field because they wanted new contracts. Charles’ holdout lasted about an hour before the Chiefs agreed to a two-year extension with the tailback, making him the second-richest RB in the league and keeping him in KC for the next four seasons. He’s the most important player on the Chiefs’ offense right now, so making him happy was vital to their success.
Lynch has enjoyed being on one of the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL, but wasn’t happy with his current four-year, $31 million deal. The 28-year-old rusher wanted more money up front. He reported to training camp just over a week late, and while he didn’t get a new contract, Seattle slightly re-worked his deal. The front office ended up guaranteeing him $1.5 million instead of that money being non-guaranteed in the form of roster bonuses and incentives.
While Charles is in full swing with his role in the offense, Lynch just made his preseason debut over the weekend and didn’t get a touch in the few snaps he played.
7. Percy Harvin is actually healthy
The Seahawks are doing their best to keep Harvin healthy leading up to Week 1. Since Golden Tate is no longer with the organization, he must step up and fill the void for QB Russell Wilson.
So far, so good.
He wasn’t supposed to practice more than three days in a row throughout camp, but the wide-out has participated more than expected and is getting results even he hasn’t seen before. Kevin Patra of NFL.com caught this quote that is sure to make Seahawks and fantasy football fans giddy:
“My body is feeling tremendously good. I’ve actually reached some gears that I didn’t know I had. I’m feeling very, very fast right now.”
If he can actually stay on the field and show the extra gears he’s talking about, it will be interesting to watch the kind of impact he has on a week-to-week basis.
6. Josh Gordon’s immediate future is still up in the air
The top wide receiver for the Browns is coming off a stellar 2013 season, catching 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games played. He’s facing a year-long suspension for his marijuana use and an appeal hearing to get his ban shortened ended August 4. Despite that, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported a decision won’t be announced until later this week.
This not only affects this season, but also next season. He can’t be reinstated until a full calendar year has passed if the ban stands as is, meaning he wouldn’t be allowed to rejoin the Browns until right before Week 1 of 2015. With fantasy football drafts around the corner, he’s not worth a pick in one of the early rounds. It’s possible his suspension could be shortened to eight games instead of 16, so grabbing him in one of the late rounds if he’s still around could be worthwhile.
5. Teddy Bridgewater is behind Matt Cassel in Vikings’ QB battle
After a shaky preseason debut, Bridgewater had to put together a solid performance against the Arizona Cardinals to stay in the starting QB conversation with Cassel. He looked great in the second half while putting together a game-winning drive, but it might not be enough for him to be under center for the season-opener.
Cassel once again looked comfortable and confident while running the first-team offense. Getting a second consecutive start in the preseason shows he’s in control of this battle, and he further solidified his spot by completing 12 of 16 pass attempts for 153 yards and a touchdown. Bridgewater has impressed at times throughout camp and his future is bright, but he’ll probably have to wait for his chance later this season.
4. Arian Foster reminded of media responsibilities
Foster is coming back from a season-ending back injury for the Texans and he doesn’t want to be distracted by answering questions from the media. He saw what that did for Lynch last season, so it’s a strategy he’s trying out. The RB had fun with reporters earlier in camp by responding with the same answer to every question he was asked.
The NFL warned him of a possible fine if he didn’t fulfill his media responsibilities. After dodging reporters since that first encounter, he gave another less than stellar interview last week. He’s not helping the media much this summer, but that could equal a return to the top of the fantasy RB leaderboard.
3. Falcons RB Antone Smith is the only one not impressed with Jadeveon Clowney
Clowney was selected first overall by the Texans in May’s NFL draft and has been impressive throughout his first training camp. Having both him and J.J. Watt on the defensive line is a happy thought for everyone within the organization, but a scary one for every team that must deal with it. Houston played the Atlanta Falcons August 16 and Clowney made his presence felt with two big hits on consecutive plays. First, he wrapped up running back Antone Smith in the backfield, followed by a sack of Atlanta QB Matt Ryan.
After the game, Smith stated he wasn’t impressed with Clowney. He’s “just a guy” and that he doesn’t see anything special. As a rookie, Clowney’s game is far from perfect, but he’s looked pretty darn good so far. What Smith said sounds like some positive self talk if anything else. He’s also fourth on Atlanta’s RB depth chart, meaning we probably won’t get to see Clowney get any on-field revenge.
2. Sammy Watkins is going to be really good
Watkins was the first wide receiver taken in May’s draft by the Buffalo Bills, and for good reason. His final season at Clemson was his best, catching 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Bills are so confident in his skills they traded Stevie Johnson away and put their rookie on top of the depth chart to play with second-year QB EJ Manuel.
He’s had an eventful training camp with all the insane plays he’s made. First, he slipped on his route, but made up for it with a one-handed grab. He followed that up with another one-handed catch to bail out his QB. Then, he pulled this amazing double move to make his defender look foolish. Watkins’ actual production on the field is unknown because of his quarterback, but there’s no doubt he’ll make his fair share of outstanding plays as long as the ball is within reach.
1. Johnny Manziel building his case to be Browns’ starting QB
This is easily the biggest and most covered storyline in all of football right now. Manziel and Brian Hoyer have been battling in Cleveland Browns camp to see who will emerge as the Week 1 starting QB, and it’s currently too close to call. They’re both set for their next audition Monday night against the Washington Redskins, with head coach Mike Pettine planning on rotating them every two series to see how they both play with the first team offense.
Each of the QBs have had their moments in camp, but it’ll be tough for Hoyer to have any success with the media circus following Manziel’s every move. It’s seems inevitable that Manziel will come out victorious, even if Hoyer does start the season as the starter. Fans and analysts are split as to who should be the Week 1 starter, but we probably won’t find out what Pettine decides until after Cleveland’s third preseason game.