NFL Training Camps 2014: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for August 11
Welcome to the National Football League.
That was the refrain of the past several days. Whether it was fans settling in to watch their first game of the year or rookies preparing to play the first game of their NFL careers, this past weekend brought it with the first big taste of the NFL in 2014.
Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars made the most of it with a strong preseason debut. Teddy Bridgewater of the Minnesota Vikings wasn't so lucky. The much-heralded first game action for Cleveland's Johnny Manziel fell somewhere in between.
A new week means it's back to work though, and with that in mind here's the latest from around the league.
Rookie RB Storm Johnson Climbing Depth Chart for Jaguars
It appears that Bortles isn't the only rookie making a good first impression on his new head coach in Jacksonville.
That's the latest from Alex Marvez of Fox Sports, who came away from his visit to training camp with the Jaguars very impressed with running back Storm Johnson.
Marvez tweeted Monday that Johnson, the Jaguars' seventh-round pick in May's NFL draft, "has a legitimate chance to pass Jordan Todman as top backup behind Toby Gerhart."
Johnson, who rushed for over 1,100 yards as Bortles' teammate at Central Florida, gained 21 yards on nine carries in Jacksonville's preseason opener.
JohnnyWatch 2014: Fallout from "The Debut"
All eyes were tuned to the Motor City Saturday night, where Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel made his NFL debut against the Detroit Lions.
After some early jitters, Manziel fared pretty well, completing 7 of 11 passes for 63 yards and picking up another 27 yards on the ground.
However, Brian Hoyer also had a decent outing, leading head coach Mike Pettine to tell Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com (via colleague Marc Sessler) that "nothing has changed" in the pecking order under center in Cleveland.
"If there was a significant change on the depth chart," Pettine said, "it would be reflected on the field."
There were reports last week that Manziel would start the team's second preseason game against Washington, but Pettine insisted that no decision has been made. "It's such a long time going to Monday night, so it will probably be a few days," Pettine said.
Things aren't a bit clearer in the Cleveland locker room, according to what safety Donte Whitner told Peter King of the MMQB.
King tweeted Saturday that "Whitner told me he thinks the Browns locker room's 50-50 Hoyer/Manziel. They'd be okay with either starting."
Giants' WR Odell Beckham Back at Practice
The New York Giants drafted wide receiver Odell Beckham in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, hopeful the LSU star could help fill the void left by the departed Hakeem Nicks.
Beckham's transition to the NFL has been slowed by a pulled hamstring suffered on the first day of camp, but the lanky pass-catcher has finally made an appearance on the practice field.
According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, "Odell Beckham (was) in pads and on the field for individual drills," Monday, "doing at least some of them."
Vacchaino's colleague Ebenezer Samuel writes that head coach Tom Coughlin said the team will take it slowly with Beckham, who isn't expected to play against the Indianapolis Colts this weekend.
"He is going to practice on an individual basis and then they are going to assess where he is," Coughlin said. "If he can do a little more, then maybe he will do a little bit more. But if he can’t then we will keep it strictly with individual."
The hope is that Beckham will be available for the Giants' "dress rehearsal" the following week.
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski Takes Step Forward in Rehab
When he's on the field, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is among the most dominant players in the NFL at any position.
The problem, at least the last two years, has been staying on the field, and this summer Gronkowski is rehabbing the torn ACL that cut his 2013 campaign short.
As is usually the case with the tight-lipped Patriots, there's been very little news regarding Gronkowski's recovery, nor has any timetable been given for his return.
However, there was a positive sign on the practice field Monday. Tom Curran of Comcast Sports Net Northeast tweeted Monday that "Gronkowski (was) involved in 7 on 7 work at practice today," adding "First time he's been out there for that."
Granted, it was in a red non-contact jersey, but any step in the right direction is a step in the right direction.
A Patriots team that struggled throwing the ball at times last year badly needs the big man traumatizing defenders over the middle again in 2014.
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch Being Investigated for Assault
It's been a rocky offseason for Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who recently failed in his attempts to hold out for a new contract with the team.
Things just got quite a bit rockier.
As Stephen Cohen of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, police in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Washington, are investigating Lynch's role in an alleged assault over the weekend:
Bellevue police officers are investigating Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch after receiving an “allegation of an assault and personal property damage” from a female victim at a Bellevue apartment, according to a news release from the department.
According to police, the alleged incident was reported to have occurred early Sunday morning, but “no domestic violence or sexual assault was involved in the allegation.” Bellevue police have assigned the case to a detective and it is under investigation.
It's worth pointing out that no arrests have been made, and it's not even certain Lynch was involved.
In any event, it's not the sort of headlines the defending champions want to be generating with the season opener against the Packers getting closer by the day.
Titans RB Bishop Sankey Draws Praise from Coaches
After letting Chris Johnson go in free agency, the Tennessee Titans wasted no time filling their vacancy at running back, selecting Washington's Bishop Sankey in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Sankey got off to a bit of a slow start in the NFL, but it looks like the youngster is picking up steam.
Granted, Sankey's 37 yards on 13 carries in the pouring rain against the Green Bay Packers wasn't eye-popping. But after adding 38 more yards on three catches, Sankey drew the praise of head coach Ken Whisenhunt, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.
"There's a number of guys who did good things, but there's also a lot of work to do,'' Whisenhunt told Wyatt.
Sankey is expected to see more work with the first team when the Titans travel to face the New Orleans Saints on Friday.
Bengals WR Marvin Jones Breaks Foot
If there was a silver lining to the first full week of the preseason, it's that it came and went without any players suffering significant injuries.
Unfortunately for the Cincinnati Bengals, they didn't get much farther than that.
As Geoff Hobson of the team's website reports, wide receiver Marvin Jones, who burst onto the scene with 10 touchdown catches last season, will miss several weeks after requiring surgery to repair a broken foot.
According to Hobson, it's unclear when exactly Jones suffered the injury:
It’s unclear how or when Jones suffered the injury. But after practicing during the spring and attending Andy Dalton’s July 7-8 passing camp, Jones arrived at training camp with what he said was a nagging ankle problem that just needed rest. He practiced for the first time last week and did team drills for the first time Saturday.
With Jones out, third-year pro Mohamed Sanu will move into the starting lineup for the Bengals.
Saints WR Brandin Cooks Continues to Shine
Rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks of the New Orleans Saints certainly didn't disappoint in his preseason debut, reeling in five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown in the Saints' win over the St. Louis Rams.
Well, that performance doesn't appear to have gone to Cooks' head, as Mike Triplett of ESPN reports Cooks continues to stand out on the practice field:
Are people tired of hearing about Brandin Cooks' daily exploits yet? I honestly don't think that we in the media are over-hyping the Saints' rookie receiver. He simply makes one or two of the biggest plays on the practice field every day.
Backup quarterback Luke McCown told Triplett Cooks has made a believer out of him:
He's got next level speed ... and quickness. We find him in positions where he's just separating from guys regularly.
He's a special player. I think that's easily recognized for any amount of time you spend watching him. He's a smart, heady player that you only have to teach a certain route or step or technique once, and he's got it down, and he begins to operate like a veteran. So the sky's the limit for that kid.
If Cooks can also make believers out out of head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, then given his speed and athleticism the sky may well be the limit.
Jets CB Dee Milliner's Week 1 Availability in Doubt
A few weeks ago, New York Jets cornerback Dee Milliner made some waves across the NFL when he proclaimed himself the league's best player at his position.
It looks like it may be a while before Milliner gets the opportunity to back up that boast.
As Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports, the second-year cornerback suffered a high ankle sprain over the weekend after landing awkwardly during practice.
That leaves Milliner's Week 1 availability up in the air, and even if Milliner does hurry back, as Mehta points out, the early part of the season doesn't play out well for a hobbled cornerback:
(Rex) Ryan’s team will face a steady stream of top-notch quarterbacks and receivers in the first seven weeks of the season.
Milliner, the team’s top cornerback, is slated to face a who’s who of wideouts in the first couple months: Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
Ouch. In more ways than one.