Fri Jul 24 10:02am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Lazard could start for Packers
This is the sixth preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.
The Packers should have an interesting training camp because of friction between Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur. The two will need to get along if the Packers hope to reach their potential, which is high. Green Bay holds training camp at the Don Hutson Center in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin.
Position battle: The Packers continue to search for a legit No. 2 receiver opposite Davante Adams. The candidates to start this year are Allen Lazard, Devin Funchess and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Lazard might have the leg up to start right now but this job is up for grabs. There is nothing certain with this position. Hopefully, one of these guys can emerge and be a real help to the passing game, which hasn’t been the case in recent years.
Injury watch: Star receiver Davante Adams missed four games last year because of injury and has failed to play a full season three straight years. The Packers need a healthy Adams in their lineup for a full season if they hope the passing game has any success. There is a huge drop in talent after Adams.
Minnesota is close to making a Super Bowl run but just haven’t gotten over the hump in recent years. The Vikings will hope to take things up a notch this season, starting in training camp. Minnesota needs Dalvin Cook to stay on the field a full year and for Kirk Cousins to play a little more mistake free football. Training camp for the Vikings takes place at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minnesota.
Position battle: Kyle Rudolph has been the starter for years in Minnesota but second-year tight end Irv Smith could push him for the job this year. Rudolph is a better blocker, which probably helps his chances to start over Smith. But Smith is a better, more explosive player in the passing game. Both should play a role offensive even if they don’t start, but the starter might hold a little more fantasy value, especially if Smith can wrestle away the job from Rudolph.
Injury watch: Dalvin Cook is a supreme talent but injuries have been an issue for him to start his career. He is yet to play a full season in three years. He had a huge season last year despite missing two games. Cook needs to shed his injury prone label and get a full season under his belt. He also is threatening a holdout this year because he is searching for a new contract, which is something else to watch during camp.
The Lions didn’t have quite the season as expected last year, mainly because Matthew Stafford went down with injury. Getting a healthy Stafford back might be the key to the season for the Lions. The offense just didn’t function nearly as well with Stafford out. Stafford and teammates will train at the Detroit Lions Training Facility in Allen Park, Michigan.
Position battle: Kerryon Johnson has performed well in a starting role the last two seasons but hasn’t been able to stay on the field. The Lions added D’Andre Swift in the draft this year to give Johnson some competition for the job. Swift is a very talented back that can be a three-down player in the NFL. He has a good chance to unseat Johnson for the starter’s job in Detroit. You’ll want to keep a close eye on the competition in camp. It should be a good one.
Injury watch: Marvin Jones battled an ankle injury much of last year, causing him miss games while playing hurt in others. This impacted his production. He should be just fine for the start of training camp, but keep an eye on his health just to be sure. Jones could be a surprise fantasy player this year after his injury issues last year. He has the talent to produce well in this pass-friendly offense opposite Kenny Golladay.
The Bears should have a very interesting training camp, mainly because of their quarterback battle. This should be something entertaining to watch, seeing who emerges as the starter for the Bears. Obviously, getting solid quarterback play is very important for the success of the Bears season. They need one of these guys to steady the ship. Chicago holds training camp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Position battle: The Bears brought in some competition for Mitchell Trubisky, adding Nick Foles to the roster. This will be a wide open competition for the starter’s job. Trubisky has a lot of talent but just hasn’t progressed as expected. Foles is a steady veteran that seems a good fit for the Bears offense. Foles might have the upper hand right now, but don’t rule out Trubisky if he can show improvements from the last few years.
Injury watch: Anthony Miller needed shoulder surgery this offseason. He might not be quite 100 percent for the start of training camp. His health is something to watch, especially since he has injured the same shoulder two straight years. This is an injury concern going forward for Miller. He has a wealth of talent but hasn’t quite reached that potential and this injury might be something that holds him back from reaching that potential.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are retaining defensive coordinator Keith Butler for at least one more season, according to a source. The 64-year-old has been with the team since 2003 and in his role as the defensive coordinator since 2015. Pittsburgh's defense was a top-five unit in 2020, finishing first in total QBR (55.9) and sacks (56). However, they began to fall apart in the final month of the season. They allowed 111.4 rushing yards per game and 4.31 yards per carry after being the best run defense in the first half of the year. They ranked third in the NFL in passing yards per game (194.4) and yards per attempt (5.91). Losing linebackers Devin Bush and Bud Dupree to injuries during the season was a big reason why Pittsburgh's defense wasn't as strong to close out the year. Despite the disappointing finish, this unit should be a top target for fantasy managers late in drafts in 2021.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said on Wednesday that he's "not apologizing" for quarterback Lamar Jackson's style of play or the team's run-first approach on offense. Baltimore scored just three points in the Divisional Round loss to the Bills, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman received criticism for what looked like a simplistic passing attack. The Ravens finished last in the NFL in passing for the first time since 2003. Harbaugh points out that they finished seventh in scoring in 2020, averaging 29.3 points per game. While Baltimore doesn't air the football out like other teams, they've also led the league in rushing each of the last two years, and Jackson has been a big part of that. Despite his limitations as a passer, Jackson remains a high-end QB1 for fantasy managers entering the 2021 season. Running back J.K. Dobbins will only see his stock rise as well in one of the NFL's most run-heavy offenses heading into his second season.
The Buffalo Bills Defense has improved dramatically since their Week 11 bye, allowing only 17.1 points per game, fewer than 340 total yards per game and just a 35.1 third-down conversion rate since Week 12. Buffalo's D held the Baltimore Ravens to just three points and 340 total yards in the their win in the Divisional Round last weekend. The Bills defense made a point to limit big plays in their Week 6 loss to the Chiefs. They held wide receiver Tyreek Hill to three catches for 20 yards and tight end Travis Kelce to five catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns. KC carried the ball 46 times for 245 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Buffalo will have their hands full again and will probably be avoided in most DFS formats this weekend, making them mostly a contrarian play if Patrick Mahomes (concussion) is active.
Former Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins has a visit with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, according to sources. Haskins could represent potential quarterback depth and upside. The free agent and former first-round pick also had a recent visit with the Carolina Panthers after being cut by Washington after their Week 16 loss. Although Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return for another season in 2021 following a disappointing end to their season, the Steelers could use more depth behind Big Ben and Mason Rudolph, with Joshua Dobbs being the other signal-caller currently on the roster. The 23-year-old Haskins has struggled mightily in his two seasons in the NFL, and he hasn't helped himself with some off-field issues. He's hoping to rehabilitate his image and eventually get another shot with a new organization.
Miami Dolphins WRs Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Allen Hurns are all potential cap casualties, in the opinion of The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees dealt with more injuries than were previously known as, according to a post from his wife on Instagram, the veteran played with a torn rotator cuff and a torn fascia in his foot. Those are in addition to the 11 broken ribs and collapsed lung that were previously reported. Brees is expected to retire during the offseason, though he has not made that official, yet.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to let WR JuJu Smith-Schuster 'walk' in free agency, in the opinion of ESPN's Brooke Pryor, who notes the team's cap issues and presence of WRs Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and James Washington on the roster.
Chicago Bears WR Anthony Miller was warned not to get involved with New Orleans Saints CB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson ahead of the team's Wild Card matchup but ended up getting ejected from the game, which team chairman George McCaskey had a 'problem' with. That's 'bad news' for Miller's future with the team, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Patrick Finley, who noted that Miller has just one year left on his contract.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone agreed to become the new offensive line coach at the University of Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Seattle Seahawks S Jamal Adams has posted 78 quarterback pressures since the start of the 2017 season - 32 more than any other defensive back over that span - according to Pro Football Focus.
Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker has posted 46 quarterback pressures since the start of the 2017 season - the second-highest total of any defensive back over that span - according to Pro Football Focus.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis (37) and Green Bay Packers CB Jaire Alexander (30) rank first and second, respectively, in the league in most forced incompletions since the start of the 2019 season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Free-agent CB Tramon Williams (Ravens) worked out for the Green Bay Packers Wednesday, Jan. 20, and is expected to sign to either the practice squad or the 53-man roster.
Cleveland Browns DT Larry Ogunjobi said he'll assess his options in free agency as it's unknown if he'll return to the Browns. 'When I go into training this offseason, just kind of figure out what fits best for me and then obviously when you get into March, you figure out where the team wants you as, what they see you as and what role they want you to play here or somewhere else,' Ogunjobi said Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (quadriceps) and wide receivers Mike Evans (knee) and Chris Godwin (quadriceps) were all limited participants during Wednesday's practice. Jones was able to practice in a limited fashion last week before ultimately suiting up against the Saints, while Evans' and Godwin's reps are being managed as precautions. Jones has a good matchup against Green Bay's front, though he and Leonard Fournette are trending towards a timeshare after head coach Bruce Arians described them as a "1-2 punch." Meanwhile, Evans will likely tango with star corner Jaire Alexander on the outside, as tough a matchup as any. Godwin is due for a rebound performance after dropping a surefire touchdown last week and could see more targets if Evans struggles and Antonio Brown (knee) is banged up.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is wanted on a long-term contract, according to head coach John Harbaugh Wednesday, Jan. 20. 'Absolutely, we want Lamar to sign a long-term deal and be with us,' Harbaugh said. 'I'm totally certain that's going to happen. When it happens, that's the details.'
Fantasy Spin: Harbaugh also said they aren't going to adjust the offense to be more pass-heavy. So long as Jackson is healthy, he'll be a top fantasy QB for the foreseeable future due to his added production on the ground.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones (quadriceps) said Wednesday, Jan. 20, he already feels better than last week and he's all good for the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) was listed as a non-participant for Wednesday's practice. Brown sustained the knee injury during the divisional-round win over the Saints, with Tampa Bay officially listing him as day-to-day. The veteran wideout will look to ramp up his activity during Thursday and Friday's sessions to give him a chance at suiting up against Green Bay in the NFC title game. Fellow wideouts Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson- who both made big plays in the victory over New Orleans- would be in line to receive more targets if Brown isn't healthy enough to play.
Philadelphia Eagles DB Nickell Robey-Coleman was removed from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, Jan. 20.