NFL Training Camps 2015: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for August 7
Friday brings with it the end of the first full week of training camps around the NFL.
For some teams, it's been a good week. Young players have taken to the NFL more quickly than expected. Older ones have looked strong in their return from injury.
For other teams? Not so much, largely because old injuries have given way to new ones.
So, let's take a look at the latest news and notes from around the NFL on Friday.
No Timetable for Michael Floyd's Return
The Arizona Cardinals are one of those teams not having the best of weeks, largely due to the hand injury suffered by wide receiver Michael Floyd.
The real problem isn't the injury itself. It's that it's an injury that just doesn't happen much—leaving the Redbirds with no real idea when the former first-round pick might return.
Original reports had Floyd breaking three fingers. Then it was changed to dislocated. Then, as Darren Urban of the team's website reports, it was revealed that Floyd underwent surgery because the dislocation was so severe it broke through the skin.
Varying timetables have been offered that call for the fourth-year veteran to miss anywhere from three weeks to six, with the latter putting his early-season availability very much in question.
When asked about Floyd's return Friday, per Rotoworld, head coach Bruce Arians offered no definitive information, stating only that Floyd's injury was "unique."
Well, now that that's cleared up.
Niners Nix Aldon Smith After Latest Arrest
And the offseason from hell in San Francisco continues.
As ESPN reported, Friday opened with news that equally talented and troubled outside linebacker Aldon Smith had been arrested for DUI, hit and run and vandalism in Santa Clara.
At the time, a team spokesperson told ESPN's Josina Anderson that there wouldn't be a rush to judgment:
He [Smith] was on a track and he was making good decisions. But I'll say one thing, there shouldn't be a rush to judgment. We need to figure out what happened and not go into a instant panic. There is usually much more to a story. Let's not overreact and say his career with the 49ers is over just yet.
So much for that idea. As ESPN's Jim Trotter reported later in the day, the 49ers are cutting ties with the 25-year-old, who posted an eye-popping 33.5 sacks over his first two NFL seasons.
As Bleacher Report's own Wesley O' Donnell told me, it's just the latest hammer blow to a San Francisco team that's been bleeding out for months:
They've lost Smith, ILB Chris Borland, DE Justin Smith, RB Frank Gore, coach Jim Harbaugh, both coordinators and most of the coaching staff, ILB Patrick Willis, LG Mike Iupati, CBs Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver, WRs Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson, OLB Dan Skuta, and RT Anthony Davis.
Other than that though, what's the problem?
Cement Shoes for Christian Jones in Chicago
Back in the 1920s and 1930s, that headline in Chicago would have most assuredly been bad news for Mr. Jones (and me).
Now? It's good news, both for the young linebacker and a Bears defense that badly needs players to step up after a disastrous 2014.
The Bears are switching to a 3-4 front in 2015 under new coordinator Vic Fangio, and as Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune reports, Jones has been turning heads in training camp:
A year ago at this time, Christian Jones was an undrafted rookie out of Florida State clawing to win a roster spot. Now, the 24-year-old linebacker seems to be cementing himself as a starter at inside linebacker, showcasing his athleticism in the middle of coordinator Vic Fangio's defense. Bears coach John Fox has been pleased with Jones through the early parts of camp.
"He is athletic. He does care. He does compete," Fox said. "So if a guy does that, really it doesn't matter what round he came from. If they are ultra-competitive, to me that is kind of the difference maker in choosing your team and choosing football players."
Not bad for a player who saw his NFL draft stock torpedoed a year ago by a failed drug test.
Or for a Bears team in dire need of playmakers at every level of the defense.
Dee Milliner Hurt...Again
Two years ago, when Darrelle Revis left the New York Jets, Gang Green spent a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft on Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. He was going to pick up the slack.
Since then, about the only thing Milliner has picked up are paychecks and prescriptions, and the draft bust's injury woes just keep on keeping on.
This year, with Revis and Antonio Cromartie back in the Big Apple, Milliner was looking at a reduced role defensively. Early in the season it's now going to be no role at all.
As Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reports, Milliner will be sidelined at least six weeks after suffering a tendon injury in his wrist that required surgery on Friday.
And frankly, given how badly Milliner has struggled during the rare times he's been healthy during his short NFL career, it's fair to wonder if there will even be a roster spot available for him once he's healthy.
Young Lions Struggling
Entering the NFL last year, North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron was considered a wildly athletic young talent who sometimes struggles with concentration and dropped passes.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That's the latest from Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press, who reports that Ebron continues to look like gangbusters one minute and God-awful the next:
Eric Ebron, who continues to refuse interview requests after practice, had an uneven day. Ebron dropped two passes in one-on-one drills - one out route against James Ihedigbo was thrown a little low and he stumbled on the other route - and couldn't hang onto another 50-50 ball in team drills. He did make a nice leaping catch in between three defenders in seven-on-seven drills. Ebron has plenty of talent, but his inconsistency is maddening.
Not what the Lions were looking for from a player they were hoping for a big second-year leap from.
It's a similar refrain with outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who is also entering his second NFL season. Van Noy has shown flashes as a pass-rusher, but defensive coordinator Teryl Austin admitted the youngster has a ways to go in coverage:
Well, it's a little bit different for him. We're asking him to do some more things than he probably did at BYU pass coverage-wise. But he's a bright guy. He'll pick it up just like a lot of people who have to have some reps at it, they have to see it one time, and once he sees it I think he'll be better.
And if Van Noy is going to earn an every-down role, the former Cougars standout is going to have to improve his all-around game.
Bell Set to Ring?
It wasn't all bad news in the Motor City, however.
After spending all of OTAs and the first week of camp on the shelf, it appears that Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell might finally be ready to join in the fun.
That's the latest from Tim Twentyman of the Lions' website, who tweeted Friday that "Bell is progressing nicely. Sprinting, cutting and doing cone drills off to the side. Doesn't look like it'll be much longer on PUP."
That's good news for the team, but it might be even better news for the player.
Yes, Bell topped 1,200 total yards as the Lions' lead back last year. But the 29-year-old averaged fewer than four yards a carry.
With rookie Ameer Abdullah turning heads in camp, if Bell doesn't get it in gear and get on the field, the fifth-year veteran may find himself returning to a role as a reserve.
Update on Arian Foster
If there's a team more in need of good news right now than the Houston Texans, I'd like to know who it is.
And on Friday, it appears the Texans may have gotten that good news.
After being dealt a hammer blow earlier in the week when running back Arian Foster suffered a serious groin injury in practice, it appears the Texans may have caught a break where the severity of that injury is concerned.
That's the latest from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who tweeted Friday following Foster's surgery that the 28-year-old could be out less than the three-month timetable originally discussed.
It's at least a glimmer of hope for the Texans, who Bill Barnwell of Grantland reported were about fresh out after Foster went down:
More than the numbers, Foster has to have given Houston some level of comfort. He was the player the Texans could turn to as they broke in a new quarterback, as they tried to find a replacement for (Andre) Johnson, as they desperately recharged (J.J.) Watt’s alien batteries on the sideline. While Johnson had been the franchise icon and Watt became the transcendent superstar, Foster was the guy who showed up and put the Texans on his back right as they started to win. He and left tackle Duane Brown were the only two offensive starters left in the lineup from the team’s first playoff win, just four seasons ago. When Foster lost most of 2013 to injuries, the Texans spent most of the year losing in his absence, going 0-8 in the games he missed. Things won’t be quite that bad this year, fans who had hopes of the Texans making the playoffs in 2015 have to be discouraged.
We'll see if the Texans share that optimism when the time comes to decide whether to place Foster on injured reserve/designated for return.
Rams Not Rushing Gurley
The St. Louis Rams turned a few heads back on April 30 when they made Georgia running back Todd Gurley the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. After all, the Rams already have a young back on the roster in Tre Mason, and Gurley is rehabbing a torn ACL.
Of course, the presence of Mason means the Rams don't need to rush Gurley back onto the field. And it appears the team is in no hurry to do so.
According to Kevin Patra of NFL.com, head coach Jeff Fisher indicated during an interview with the NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano that the Rams aren't about to get hasty with their tailback of the future:
We are going to take our time. I don't have to see him in a preseason game to play him in a regular season game. It's unlikely that you'll see him in a preseason game, because he's got some work to do. There is a significant difference between eight months and 10 months and he's about eight and a half months right now. So he's a few weeks away.
Our intention is to have a rotation. Even if Todd is 100 percent, I still want to have the rotation with Tre, because Tre is special. I think that one-two combination is going to be great.
Oh yeah. I'm sure "special" is exactly how Mason felt when he heard Gurley had been drafted by St. Louis.
Jennings? Williams? Bueller?
Back on Tuesday, I passed along word that New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings looked very good in practice.
You might want to, um, hold that thought.
Granted, it's very early in camp, and the G-Men have been mixing and matching personnel with some regularity. But Dan Graziano of ESPN passed along word that there just might be a depth chart shakeup in the works in the Big Apple:
And though it's hard to be sure about these things, since the Giants are mixing position groups so much in practice right now, I did not see Rashad Jennings on the field with Eli Manning or the first-team offensive line either of the past two days. He did take a lot of reps with the second team, while Andre Williams and Shane Vereen got a bunch of the first-team work.
If health were the concern with Jennings, I don't think we'd be seeing him take as many special teams reps as he's taking right now. That as much as anything might indicate a bit of a slide down the depth chart.
It's an interesting development given that (when healthy) Jennings outplayed Williams by a fair margin a year ago, but it appears at first glance that the Giants might be affording Williams an opportunity to make a second-year push in training camp.