As early training camps fire up, so too does the NFL rumor mill.
Since the 2014 draft came to an end seemingly long ago, the NFL has been rather quiet in regards to rumors, something that drastically changes with the onset of camps as injuries occur, positional battles ensue and front offices look to upgrade rosters via free agency or trade.
It is an exhilarating time to be a fan, even if the preseason contests typically stink and have starters in for just a brief glimpse in three of the four contests.
Without further ado, let's dive right in to three of the more interesting tidbits making the rounds with training camps just getting underway.
Aaron Dobson's Future Might Be in Jeopardy
The weapons around Tom Brady always seem to be the topic in New England during the preseason, and for good reason. Whether it's Rob Gronkowski battling an injury or the relative inexperience of the wideout corps, it's something that will, without fail, be a hot-button issue.
This year, Aaron Dobson is the early reason for the topic. According to ESPN's Mike Reiss, the second-year wideout is recovering from surgery after a stress fracture and might be on track for camp:
It would be a surprise and disappointment if he's not ready for the start of training camp, as he's the type of outside receiver (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) who can help balance out the attack playing alongside Julian Edelman (5-11, 198) and Danny Amendola (5-11, 195) in the three-receiver package.
“It’s doing better, man,” Dobson told Adam Kurkjian of the Boston Herald. “It’s getting better every day. Every week it’s getting better, so we’re just going to see where it’s at by the time camp starts.”
Dobson is quietly a major piece of the plans in 2014. He caught 37 balls for 519 yards and four scores a season ago, with his deep speed on full display via his average of 14 yards per catch.
Simply put, there isn't much behind the Marshall product on the depth chart. Julian Edelman is a nice weapon, but Danny Amendola is an injury risk, Kenbrell Thompkins has some development to do, and Brandon LaFell has mostly been a dud to this point.
Should Dobson start the year on the PUP list, not only does it hurt the Patriots, it hurts him in terms of development.
More Giovani Bernard?
Under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, the Cincinnati Bengals are set to be a run-first team next year in the hopes the approach better protects quarterback Andy Dalton.
As if taking Jeremy Hill in the second round this year wasn't enough with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard already on the roster, it sounds like the second-year back out of North Carolina alone could see in the neighborhood of 300 touches, per Paul Dehner Jr. of The Cincinnati Enquirer:
His ability won't be new this year and much talk early will revolve around new offensive toy Hill. But this team will feature Bernard early and often. His expansion as a receiver will only help create a scenario where he can crack 70 receptions and 230 carries for 300-plus total touches. Buckle up.
The uptick in usage is not all that hard to fathom considering Bernard tallied 170 totes and 56 receptions during his first year as a pro. He accumulated 695 yards rushing, another 514 through the air and eight total touchdowns to boot while in a committee with The Law Firm.
What will be interesting to watch outside of how Jackson doles out the responsibilities, assuming all three make the roster (BJGE may be in danger of losing his job with one year left on his contract), is how the usage impacts Bernard's health, as he's a smaller back at 5'9" and 208 pounds.
Regardless, more of Bernard is certainly not a bad thing.
Less Beast Mode?
The Seattle Seahawks have been preparing for this moment for quite some time.
With two years left on his deal that pays him $7 million in 2014 and $9 million the year after, per Spotrac, and significant usage rates in recent years, Marshawn Lynch and the organization may very well reach an impasse this preseason.
Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times suggests that Lynch's camp may be unhappy in the pay department, and that his touches may see a decrease next season:
At the moment, it’s probably not worth worrying too much about any potential contract holdout. It’s possible he does — no one on his side is saying anything right now — and it’s hard to know if the Seahawks will give him anything more (specifically, he wants some added money for this season, knowing that he might not be with the team for the final year of his deal in 2015).
The guess here is that Lynch maybe gets a few less carries per game — he averaged 18.8 per game last season, so maybe that becomes 15-16 this season — but that he is still the focal part of the running attack.
It was merely a matter of time before the 28-year-old California product was going to ask for more cash, which is the custom for a back nearing the age of 30. The writing is on the wall—his carry totals the last three seasons have been entirely too much and all parties seem to think a downfall in production is near:
Add in the fact that Robert Turbin, a former fourth-round pick who has flashed his potential at times, is waiting for a chance, and things might get messy on the depth chart. Don't forget about Christine Michael either, a second-round pick a year ago who flirted with being the best back overall in the class.
It's an unfortunate reality that violent runners such as Lynch have a rather short shelf life in the pros. That cliff may be here sooner than anyone could have thought, though.
Well, except for the forward-looking Seahawks, it seems.