Rounding Up the Latest Buzz Surrounding NFL Training Camps
NFL training camps are winding down, and soon each team will have their 53-man rosters set before the regular season kicks off on Sept. 5.
Every development feels like a major one, and they are being analyzed as such. That said, we've only just hit the midway point of the preseason, so there's still a long way to go.
Here we will get you caught up on the latest and most buzzworthy items around the league.
Tom Brady Injures His Knee in Practice, Sending Patriots Fans into Shock
You could call it the bull-rush heard 'round the world. In a practice on Wednesday, Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn got up under Patriots left tackle Nate Solder's pads and pushed him back into the lap of quarterback Tom Brady.
People bumped. Brady fell. Fans gasped. Chaos ensued.
Forget about a bullet, the Patriots dodged a freight train. The reports over the coming hours would reveal it as a knee sprain, with Ed Werder of ESPN classifying it as a "bruise."
Brady practiced the next day (Thursday), sporting a knee brace as the team held a walkthrough in the final of three joint practices with the Buccaneers.
Any questions about how he would look in Friday's preseason game were quickly put to bed. He participated in 25 offensive snaps, and completed his first 11 pass attempts before finally misfiring. He went 8-for-8 on the opening drive and threw a 26-yard touchdown to Danny Amendola.
The Patriots might consider limiting Brady's snaps for the rest of the preseason to avoid anything serious happening, but 25 snaps on Friday night was more than he played against the Eagles the week before. It would be smarter for them to continue with the plan and allow Brady to build chemistry with his brand-new core of receivers.
Jamaal Charles' Foot Injury Is Nothing to Be Alarmed About
In other "holy crap we might lose that guy?!" injury news, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles went down on Monday after he took a tumble when he twisted his ankle.
I don't know if there's ever been so much concern over a running back in an Andy Reid offense.
Either way, it turns out the concern was an overreaction. According to Dave Skretta of the Associated Press, Charles saw two different orthopedic doctors and "everything checked out okay" with his foot. He was spotted working out on the hill next to the practice facility the next day.
However, he did not play in Friday's preseason game against the 49ers.
Fear not, Charles' fantasy owners. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Charles would have played if it were a regular-season game, so while we're not completely out of the woods on this yet, it appears the end to this drama is in sight.
Roddy White Injures His Ankle in a Preseason Game
High-profile players going down left and right. Here's hoping none of you have held your fantasy draft yet.
Fortunately, it appears none of the injuries mentioned here are all that serious.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Falcons wide receiver Roddy White suffered a low-ankle sprain in Thursday's preseason game against the Ravens. White is day-to-day with his injury, which is as good as Falcons fans could have hoped for.
White and Julio Jones have teamed up to form one of the most feared one-two punches at wide receiver in the league, but with Harry Douglas and Drew Davis backing them up, the Falcons would probably like to keep their top two receivers in tip-top shape headed into the season.
White averaged 98 receptions for 1,297 yards and nine touchdowns in four seasons since Matt Ryan joined the Falcons. So, yeah, they don't want to lose that guy.
Who's Emerging at WR for the Seahawks with Percy Harvin on the Sideline?
Seahawks general manager John Schneider famously quipped that he was watching Percy Harvin highlights during the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, after trading for the talented Vikings receiver earlier in the month. Highlights may be the most they see of Harvin for quite some time after he suffered a hip injury that required surgery.
According to Danny O'Neil of ESPN 710 Seattle, Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate could be the one making highlights in Harvin's absence. For a player who once admitted to relying on his athleticism to make plays instead of refining his route-running and other fundamentals. Now?
"He's the highest tester in terms of assignments," head coach Pete Carroll said, according to O'Neil.
This could be a breakout year for Tate; the opportunity is certainly there, and his 2012 stat line of 45 catches, 688 yards and seven touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at, especially in the run-heavy offense Seattle favors.
Daryl Washington's Appeal Is Denied, Cardinals LB Will Be Suspended for 4 Games
After appealing his suspension, Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington will still be suspended for four games by the NFL for violating its substance-abuse policy.
"I thought it was a good interview, but I didn’t get the news I wanted to hear," Washington said of his meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, according to AzCardinals.com. "It’s just motivation for me to come back stronger for these last 12 games."
Washington was the third-highest-rated inside linebacker in the NFL last year by Pro Football Focus (subscription required), a website that analyzes every play in every game. He also ranked sixth among inside linebackers in PFF's metric for pass-rushing productivity on a play-by-play basis.
Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby are currently listed as the team's starting inside linebackers, but with Washington's rare athleticism at the position, he's tough to replace.
Duke Ihenacho Is the Pleasant Surprise of Broncos Camp
It's a situation ripe for an up-and-coming defensive player to fly under the radar. Safety Duke Ihenacho has supplanted Mike Adams as the starting strong safety opposite Rahim Moore, and he has been "the surprise of camp," according to Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post.
Ihenacho was added to the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012, but he floated on and off the roster and practice squad all season. The second-year safety had seven tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break-up in the Broncos' first preseason game against the 49ers.
At 32, Adams' best years may be behind him. He was solid in run defense, but he allowed a 127.7 passer rating into his coverage (69 percent completions, 468 yards, six touchdowns, no picks). The Broncos may want to get younger at the position, and Ihenacho is stepping up at just the right time.
Is Jordan Cameron the Next Breakout Tight End Under Rob Chudzinski?
Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski has coached some pretty talented tight ends in his career, including Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., Chargers tight end Antonio Gates and Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. Now, we can add Jordan Cameron to the list of tight ends that could flourish under Chudzinksi's coaching.
Cameron had a superlative performance against the Detroit Lions in their preseason Week 2 showdown, with three catches for 42 yards and two touchdowns in under one half of football.
He's been building up to this point by not missing a single day of camp, according to ESPN Cleveland, and he's been targeted early and often in Browns training camp.
Cameron has 26 receptions for 259 yards and a touchdown in 22 career games with the Browns, but he could double those numbers (and then some) this season if he is given a prominent role in the Browns offense.
The Packers Running Back Battle Is Starting to Take Shape
In drafting running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, it's clear the Packers are taking an interest in improving the rushing attack that finished with 3.9 yards per carry in 2012, which ranked 22nd in the NFL.
They were one of just eight teams to score fewer than 10 rushing touchdowns.
To this point, according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Lacy is expected to get the most carries. Reports on Wednesday indicate he looked good in pass protection as well, and given the pass-happy nature of the Packers offense, that ability could prove vital to Lacy earning more playing time.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy recently told USA Today's Tom Pelissero that he views DuJuan Harris as the starting running back, but McCarthy was singing a different tune about Harris last year when he said the Packers didn't have a true starter at running back after Harris' 14-carry, 70-yard day in the team's Week 17 game.
Harris has missed time, and that has allowed Lacy to show what he can contribute to the team. The Packers running game has taken a backseat to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the high-powered pass attack, but the Patriots can tell you how important it can be to have a respectable running game in your back pocket in case of emergency.
Daryl Smith Is Emerging as a Leader for the Ravens Defense
Breathe easy, Ravens fans. Perhaps the linebacking corps isn't doomed with the retirement of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. It looks like former Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith is making quite the impression on his new team, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun.
Smith earned praise from Ravens head coach John Harbaugh for his leadership.
"Daryl is that kind of player. Nothing different than what he's done all those years in Jacksonville. He played really well, becoming somewhat of a quarterback of the defense, because he calls the defenses."
It shouldn't come as a surprise, since Smith anchored the Jaguars defense as their signal-caller for most of his career and finished as the Jaguars' all-time leader in tackles with 696. He has, however, played mainly on the outside in his career, so a full-time move to the inside could have posed a problem.
Now, though, it looks like the only problem could be the one the Ravens front seven will pose to opposing offenses with a front four that can rush the passer and linebackers that can tackle and cover.
What's the Status on 49ers 2012 First-Round Pick A.J. Jenkins?
It says a lot when a first-round pick from a year ago can't make an impact even when his team desperately needs players to step up at his position.
With wide receiver Michael Crabtree lost for much of the season with an Achilles injury, the 49ers could use a breakout season from one of their receivers. A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers' 2012 first-round pick, does not sound like the man for the job.
Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee has some harsh words on Jenkins' status among the 49ers receiving corps:
If the 49ers keep him, they will say it's because they believe Jenkins has a bright future. But that will be a tough sell to the five or six others who are cut and to the remaining players in the locker room, who will privately conclude that Jenkins' first-round status bought him another year on the roster. One more note about Jenkins: He gives the team almost no value on special teams.
Barrows is not the first to postulate that Jenkins may not be safe. CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco reported the same over a week ago. He isn't even the last to make that conclusion. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora said the same on Thursday.
That's not all. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that the 49ers believe Jenkins has talent, but that he lacks confidence and "swag" to translate it to the field.
Between Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams and rookie Quinton Patton, the 49ers may still have the firepower to be a successful passing offense. But unless Jenkins turns it around, his job may be in danger.
Geno Smith's Sprained Ankle Leads to Another Preseason Start for Mark Sanchez
The Sanchize gets another chance to prove himself worthy of being the Jets starting quarterback, as the team announced he would get the start on Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It's not hard to understand why the Jets would want to see something different at quarterback. What they've seen from Sanchez has not been good. He has the lowest passer rating (71.7) of any quarterback to start at least 32 games over the past four years. He has more turnovers (52) than anyone else in the league over the past two years.
That being said, the decision was an easy one. Geno Smith twisted his ankle while trying to scramble in the team's preseason opener against the Lions, and he did not return to the game. Smith tried to practice on Wednesday, but it didn't look good.
"It was brutal," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. "That was Geno’s worst day. Obviously the ankle is part of it. (He threw) way too many picks and things. (He) did not look comfortable today."
Ryan did indicate that it's a "possibility" that Geno could miss the game entirely. Forcing Geno to play Saturday would be a big mistake.
If he sprained his ankle, the best medicine is rest. At the same time, too much missed time for Smith could force the Jets hand in the decision-making process.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or via team news releases.
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