NFL Training Camps 2014: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for Aug. 5
Numerous storylines are swirling around the National Football League with training camps in swing and a full slate of preseason action just around the corner.
However, where the biggest one surrounding the Cleveland Browns is concerned, it's hurry-up-and-wait time.
That's the latest regarding wide receiver Josh Gordon, who completed the appeal of his one-year suspension on Monday. As John Breech of CBS Sports reports, a decision regarding that appeal isn't expected for another one-to-three weeks.
As we take a moment to bask in the swift and even-handed justice that is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, here's a look at what else is going on around the NFL on Aug. 5.
JohnnyWatch 2014: More First-Team Reps for Manziel
The Twitterverse was sent into a frenzy on Monday, when rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel took all the first-team reps in practice with the Cleveland Browns.
Well, as Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland reports, Manziel and Brian Hoyer split the reps with the starters on Tuesday, but it may have been an even better day for Manziel than Monday was:
Maybe Tuesday will be regarded as the day the light went on for Johnny Manziel. Or maybe for the entire offense as a whole. Manziel had his finest practice throwing the ball, and so did Brian Hoyer. Both quarterbacks had different periods with the first-team offensive line, but Hoyer definitely received more reps with the starters as the practice went on, a tip-off that he will start the preseason opener in Detroit on Saturday. According to ESPNCleveland’s Jason Gibbs, Manziel completed 15 of 27 passes in 7 on 7 and team drills – his highest completion percentage of camp and only his second day above 50 percent.
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau apparently thinks Manziel is going to continue pushing Hoyer. In fact, LeBeau told Tom Reed of the Northeast Ohio Media Group he expects to see Manziel under center when the Browns face the Steelers in Week 1:
I'm expecting (Johnny) Manziel to be the starter. That's what I'm expecting. What he did in college is not an accident. He did it often enough against good teams. I think he is going to be a handful for all of us. You watch all his games and he created plays, he made plays, he kept plays alive. He has the ability to see people and the touch with the football to get it in there late in the down. I think he will be successful at this level.
This position battle is only just beginning, and all eyes will be on the pair when the Browns meet the Detroit Lions in their exhibition opener later this week.
Packers OL Don Barclay Injures Knee
The Green Bay Packers won the AFC North in 2013 but had to overcome a litany of injuries on offense.
Those injuries thrust offensive lineman Don Barclay into a starting role last year, and after acquitting himself fairly well, the Packers were counting on him as their top reserve again in 2014.
Those plans took a hit on Tuesday. As Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, Barclay was carted off the practice field with a knee injury.
Head coach Mike McCarthy, who said Barclay was caught in a "compromised position" on the play, voiced his frustration: "You don't want to see anybody get hurt. Donnie, they don't come any better than him. He's exactly what you're looking for. Somebody to emulate a Green Bay Packer, on and off the field, he's definitely one of your guys. We hope it's not serious."
It's shades of last year, when Barclay was elevated to starter status after the team lost Bryan Bulaga for the year early in August.
For years in New York, opposing receivers were terrified of being marooned on "Revis Island," relegated to obscurity on Sunday by Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Revis was miscast as a zone corner for much of his one year in Tampa Bay, but it appears that "Revis Island" will not be making a return in his new home in New England.
The Revisphere will. (That's better than "Revis Hemisphere," because I say so.)
As Ben Volin of The Boston Globe reports, rather than shadowing the opponent's No. 1 receiver (as he did with the Jets), Revis has been lining up predominantly on the left side, a la Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks.
Former NFL quarterback (and current Seattle radio host) Brock Huard thinks it's a role Revis can thrive in, per Volin:
It’s been pretty good for Richard. You’re still taking away half of the field, and making the righthanded quarterback throw to his backside. We’ve all seen it be very, very dominant, especially if you’ve got a good supporting cast. And a lot of time, cover-3 ends up — once that receiver runs anything intermediate or deep, it turns into man coverage, anyway, and you’ve still got to have tremendous ball skills.
The move makes sense for the Patriots, as presumptive second starter Brandon Browner was used almost exclusively as a right cornerback during his time with Sherman and the Seahawks.
Eagles WR Jordan Matthews Running with Starters
Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews of the Philadelphia Eagles generated quite a bit of positive buzz in OTAs, but the Eagles' second-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft has been running almost exclusively with the second team.
With Riley Cooper nursing a foot injury, however, Matthews got his chance to run with the starters Tuesday. The youngster from Vanderbilt didn't disappoint, according to Zach Berman of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who tweeted, "Big day for Jordan Matthews. Not just lining up with 1s, but also playing on outside."
As Eliott Shorr-Parks of NJ.com reported, tailback LeSean McCoy has been impressed by the youngster:
That rookie we got. (Jordan) Matthews. He has done real good. I think there has been a lot of talk about this (past) draft class being deep at wide receiver, but I'm real confident in (Matthews) being the best one out of the class.
With Cooper looking iffy for Friday's preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, this may be just the opportunity Matthews needed to make a move up the depth chart.
Trent Richardson Looking to Break out in 2014
To say that the Trent Richardson trade has been something of a disaster for the Indianapolis Colts would probably be offensive...to typhoons.
Still, Richardson told The Indianapolis Star (h/t Rotoworld) that he intends to bounce back in a big way this season: "A thousand is not the goal. For me, it’s personal. I’m going to keep it to myself. But a thousand is not it for me. It’s higher. I want to be involved in the passing game. I’m trying to be a three-down back."
It's a noble sentiment, and much has been made of Richardson's increased comfort level in his second year with the Colts. But, the fact remains that he wasn't all that effective in Cleveland, either.
Now, with Vick Ballard already sidelined by yet another season-ending injury, there's more pressure than ever on Richardson to perform, beginning Thursday against the New York Jets.
Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. Still on the Shelf
Jordan Matthews may be making the most of his opportunities with the Philadelphia Eagles, but the same can't be said for the player the New York Giants brought in to (hopefully) replace the departed Hakeem Nicks.
That's because first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. has been sidelined by a hamstring injury since the first day of camp. It kept him out of last week's Hall of Fame Game, and head coach Tom Coughlin indicated to Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com there's still no timetable for Beckham's return.
"There's progress," coach Tom Coughlin said. "There is progress with all of them...We're making progress but we're not ready to turn them loose."
Granted, there's still plenty of time before Week 1, but all these missed practice reps aren't helping Beckham's chances of making an early-season impact in 2014.
CB Cortland Finnegan Shining for Dolphins
In an offseason that's already seen their free-agent acquisition at running back and starting center suffer significant injuries, the Miami Dolphins were badly in need of some good news.
It appears the team has gotten it in the form of another veteran offseason acquisition.
According to Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post, cornerback Cortland Finnegan is making short work of the training-camp battle to start opposite Brent Grimes:
(Ryan) Tannehill threw three interceptions in practice today after throwing three yesterday. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan had two of the three INTs and Finnegan had a third interception off a Matt Moore pass.
Finnegan is running away with the starting job over Jamar Taylor. If Finnegan can come close to resembling his 2011 self, Miami’s secondary could be dangerous this year.
The 30-year-old Finnegan struggled with injuries a year ago but topped 100 tackles as a 15-game starter for the St. Louis Rams in 2012.
Bears TE Martellus Bennett Fined and Suspended by Team
The Black Unicorn has been corralled.
That's the self-appointed nickname of Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett, who finds himself in hot water with head coach Marc Trestman after a training-camp dustup.
As Nick Schwartz of USA Today reports, Bennett has been fined and suspended from the team after slamming cornerback Kyle Fuller to the ground after a tackle.
Bennett was unrepentant when speaking with ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson:
I come to training camp for one reason and that's to prepare to win a championship," Bennett said later at lunch. "I play hard and go hard every single day. I'm probably one of the most violent people on the field. That's just my style of play. I'm going to continue to play the same way I always play. That's what I'm here for.
Bennett was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, which carries a maximum penalty of four weeks' suspension and a fine equal to one game check.
'Huge Gap' in Negotiations with Chiefs OLB Justin Houston
Entering the last year of his contract coming off a breakout 2013 season, outside linebacker Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs skipped OTAs over unhappiness about the progress of negotiations.
However, he showed up at training camp, perhaps in hopes of greasing the wheels a bit.
No such luck.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, a league source indicates that a "huge gap" exists between Houston and the Chiefs in regard to compensation for the 25-year-old star.
With quarterback Alex Smith also in the final year of his contract, the Chiefs could be facing a franchise-tag pickle in 2015 if they can't get either player re-upped before next year.