Tue Jun 11 4:01pm ET
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
In this Oct. 14, 2018, file photo, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith warms up before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, in Nashville, Tenn. During a busy offseason, the Baltimore Ravens put a high priority on fortifying a secondary that last season played a huge role on the top-ranked defense in the NFL. That included retaining Jimmy Smith. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
In this Dec. 30, 2018, file photo, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr warms up before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, in Baltimore. During a busy offseason, the Baltimore Ravens put a high priority on fortifying a secondary that last season played a huge role on the top-ranked defense in the NFL. That included retaining Brandon Carr. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) During a busy offseason, the Baltimore Ravens put a high priority on fortifying a secondary that last season played a huge role on the top-ranked defense in the NFL.
First-year general manager Eric DeCosta offset the departure of safety Eric Weddle by signing six-time Pro Bowl standout Earl Thomas. DeCosta also provided nickel back Tavon Young with a three-year extension, retained over-30 cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith, and signed free agent cornerback Justin Bethel.
Throw in 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey and six-year pro Tony Jefferson, and it would seem as if the Ravens have a secondary capable of being among the best in the league.
''I'll tell you one thing: The standard is high for those guys,'' coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday after the first session of the team's three-day mandatory minicamp.
Given that the Ravens lost linebackers Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith to free agency, the defense's hope of carrying on the franchise's tradition of excellence likely depends on the guys on the back end.
''We've got a lot of resources committed to the secondary,'' Harbaugh said. ''We value coverage. We think it's important with the way we structure our defense. We love having those guys back there.''
Carr has played 11 seasons in the NFL and has never missed a start, a streak of 176 games. A regular participant this spring at OTAs, he can't wait for the season to begin.
''We've got a lot of talent in this backfield, a lot of guys who have made plays throughout their careers, and new guys who are rising,'' said Carr, who shed the braids that protruded from under his helmet for the past five years.
The Ravens, like every team, focus first on stopping the run. Tackles Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce form a sizable duo up front, although Pierce's weight proved to be an issue Tuesday; he was told to leave the field shortly after the team stretched.
''He's not ready to practice, from a safety standpoint, for his own health,'' Harbaugh said.
Jimmy Smith, on the other hand, reported in excellent shape. With nine seasons behind him - all with Baltimore - the 31 year old made certain his stamina and strength would not be an issue as he prepares to enter the final year of his contract.
''When you're young, you eat chicken wings, hot wings, pizza. You go out and play a game and it's no problem,'' he said. ''The older you get, you start to actually feel like one candy bar kind of slowed me down today. You have to pay attention to that, but when you're young you don't really notice it.''
Smith and the rest of the secondary expect to be noticed during the 2019 season, when the Ravens strive to reach the playoffs for the second year in a row after a three-year hiatus.
''(Owner Steve) Bisciotti believes in us. Our coaching staff and the people upstairs, they believe in our secondary,'' Smith said. ''We've got a lot of vets back there and we kind of have to be the driving force for the defense since we are the ones with the most experience.''
Thomas, like Smith, is a nine-year veteran whose athletic skill is supplemented by the ability to provide experience and leadership.
''He's a dog. Very passionate,'' Smith said. ''I can tell he's going to bring a lot of energy to our team.''
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed wide receiver Emanuel Hall off of waivers earlier this week. Hall had been with the Bears earlier but could not make it through camp. The Buccaneers present a solid opportunity given their lack of depth beyond starters Mike Evans and Chris Godwin along with Hall's fit in their new offense. Although Hall is unlikely to make much of an impact in 2019, he could be a solid project for head coach Bruce Arians to groom.
It appears Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown has not gotten over his ongoing helmet issue as hes left the teams training camp once again. General manager Mike Mayock showed his frustration Sunday by saying it's time for him to be all-in or all-out." Brown submitted his old helmet in for testing, which it failed, and hes now left the team with no information on when, or if, hell return. The Raiders believe his frostbitten feet issues are behind him and hes healthy enough to practice, but they can only hope the seven-time Pro Bowler suits up for Week 1. Browns red flags make him a player to fade in the second round despite his immense talent.
Oakland Raiders WR Antonio Brown wasn't at practice Sunday, Aug. 18, because he's upset about his ongoing helmet issue with the NFL. General manager Mike Mayock said the team has 'exhausted all avenues' and it's time for Brown to be 'all in or all out.'
Fantasy Spin: And we're right back to square one with AB. While he's indisputably one of the best receivers in fantasy football, there's once again a legitimate chance he sits out the entire season, or more. He's far too risky to draft in the first round.
The Philadelphia Eagles released veteran LB Paul Worrilow Sunday, Aug. 18.
New England Patriots WR Josh Gordon was placed on the Non-Football Injury list Sunday, Aug. 18, upon his conditional reinstatement.
Fantasy Spin: It's largely a procedural move for the Patriots while Gordon is brought up to speed. He remains one of the most tantalizing fantasy prospects at wide receiver, but his off-field issues continue to carry immense risk when drafting him.
The New England Patriots granted WR Dontrelle Inman's request to be released Sunday, Aug. 18.
The Buffalo Bills released CB E.J. Gaines (groin) from injured reserve with an injury settlement Sunday, Aug. 18. Gaines will be free to sign with another team.
New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard (thumb) said Sunday, Aug. 18, his thumb has healed pretty fast and he is 'feeling good.'
Fantasy Spin: Shepard's injury was a near disaster for the Giants' offense with WR Golden Tate suspended to begin the season. Shepard is in line for a huge target share and has top-end WR3 upside with the Giants' poor passing attack holding him back.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (finger) ran off the field Sunday, Aug. 18, after appearing to dislocate his finger, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.
Fantasy Spin: The injury shouldn't affect Graham's draft stock, as he's unlikely to miss any regular-season action. He remains a fringe TE1 target, but he has upside based on his past resume.
Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Williams (chest) was diagnosed with a broken rib Sunday, Aug 18. The injury isn't believed to be a long-term issue.
Fantasy Spin: Williams is near the bottom of a depth chart led by RB Marlon Mack and also featuring Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins and D'Onta Foreman. The injury further hurts his chances of making the final roster.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant looks to separate himself from his teammate tight ends on the roster for the Broncos, as the team drafted him with high expectations this spring. Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello has spoken highly of Fant's preseason, as the rookie looks to follow-up a prolific career at the University of Iowa with similar results in the NFL. Fant's main competition is returning tight end Jeff Heuerman, who has been battling injury this preseason after a sub-par 2018 campaign.
Washington Redskins QB Case Keenum is on track to the be the Week 1 starter under center, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter Sunday, Aug. 18. Head coach Jay Gruden said Colt McCoy (leg) may not be ready to return from a broken leg until 'two or three weeks into the season.'
Fantasy Spin: Keenum has much more fantasy appeal than McCoy and boosts the potential of the rest of the Redskins' offense, as well. He'll be a low-end QB2, but he offers more hope for the likes of WRs Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn and Terry McLaurin as late-round fliers.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton sees an opening for the number one receiver spot on the roster entering his sophomore season. The SMU product has a new-look offense, with quarterback Joe Flacco at the helm, and colleague Emmanuel Sanders aging and coming off an injury in 2018. Sutton looks to take the next step in his career, and he has looked the part with an impressive preseason.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders anticipates that he will be able to play week one, as the Broncos take on the Raiders in Oakland. Sanders season ended early last year due to an Achilles injury, but he has eased his way into practice this offseason and seems to be ready to go for 2019. The veteran receiver will have to be on his A-game to keep his role as the primary receiver in Denver, as the young guns alongside him fight for his job.
Buffalo Bills TE Tyler Kroft (foot) is 'moving in the right direction' in his recovery from foot surgery, according to head coach Sean McDermott Sunday, Aug. 18. McDermott didn't provide a timeline for Kroft's return to the field but added he has been working on his own behind the scenes.
Fantasy Spin: Kroft was a candidate to be a late-round fantasy pick for those punting the tight end position, buy fantasy roster managers will now likely be able to wait to see how he starts the season before picking him up off of the waiver wire.
Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten said he experienced some jitters Saturday, Aug. 17, as he made his return to live action for the first time since ending his one-year retirement. Witten caught one pass for 10 yards in the Cowboys' preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. 'A year away from the game, all the work to get back here since March, getting in shape, getting your body ready, having an opportunity, I know I've got a lot to prove,' Witten said. 'It wasn't perfect. I thought we're on schedule with the things I want to work on. Able to get a third-down conversion. Dak showed he had the confidence on that. Some of the other things in the passing game, running game, I felt good with. It's always tricky when you're coming back out here ... so the jitters were real. A lot of work to get back to here, but it felt good.'
Fantasy Spin: Witten's return to the Cowboys will mean a lot more in reality than fantasy, where he isn't a consideration outside of super-deep and tight end-premium leagues.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Marcell Ateman is fighting for a roster spot in his second season in the NFL. He's currently listed behind Tyrell Williams on the WR2 depth chart, but he's been outplayed throughout most of the preseason by his teammates. With two catches for 33 yards in two preseason contests, Ateman hasn't seen as many looks or gotten as much praise as other receivers so far in camp. He appears to be on the outside looking in as of now, but there is still time for the roster to shake out. Even if Ateman does crack the roster, he won't hold any fantasy relevance in 2019.
Oakland Raiders tight end Foster Moreau is having a strong preseason, but likely won't find much success in the passing game this year. Rookie tight ends are notorious for starting slow offensively, and Moreau will likely follow this trend. With standout Darren Waller thriving as a pass-catcher so far in camp, the Raiders can afford to ease their fourth-round selection into the passing offense. The good news is Moreau has already surpassed veterans Derek Carrier and Luke Willson on the depth chart, but he remains a stash in dynasty formats for now.
Washington Redskins QB Colt McCoy (leg) said Sunday, Aug. 18, that he has visited a foot specialist to have his injured right leg examined as he's had trouble getting a full push off the leg when passing. McCoy said there has been no setback, but there's still no timetable when he'll be 100 percent.
New York Jets RB Le'Veon Bell hasn't played in the team's first two preseason games, and head coach Adam Gase is noncommital about Bell playing in the third. 'We'll kind of see how next week goes,' Gase said Friday, Aug. 16. 'He's played a lot of football. And I like where he's at right now. I love how he's working. If I feel like there's a need to play him next week, we will. If he has a good week of practice and it's not worth it for us to get him out there, then we won't.' If Bell doesn't play in Week 3 of the preseason, then there's little chance of him playing in Week 4 when starters typically rest.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy GMs and Jets fans are anxious to get a glimpse of Bell in a N.Y. uniform, but it likely will have to wait until the regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills. In the meantime, he remains steady as a solid RB1 fantasy pick.