Buying or Selling NFL's Latest Training Camp Buzz Entering Preseason
The collective buzz coming from all 32 NFL training camps only intensifies as the first full slate of preseason games approaches.
Usual factors such as roster battles ahead of a trio of cutdown days, unexpected performances and reports create a whirlwind that can be difficult to navigate for onlookers.
There are also unexpected elements like new trade rumors, twists and turns at the quarterback position and even some out-of-nowhere drama with one of the league's best wide receivers.
Leaning into the biggest buzzworthy items out there, let's buy or sell them before the preseason fully gets going Thursday.
Corey Clement Will Be Saquon Barkley's Short-Term Replacement
New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley recently came off the PUP list after rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered last year.
But he could debut as late as Week 3.
According to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, Corey Clement has emerged as the lead back for the Giants and will eat most of the snaps if Barkley can't go. He's outplaying Devontae Booker and the rest of the depth chart.
It's easy to buy on all counts. Since 2017, Clement only received 163 rushing looks with the Philadelphia Eagles but averaged four yards per carry, scored seven times and caught 37 passes. In four years at Wisconsin, he ran for 3,092 yards on a 5.4 per-carry average with 36 scores.
In short, Clement could break out if Barkley can't go in the first few weeks. And the Giants don't have a reason to rush their star and risk another long-term setback, considering the 2018 draft's second pick has already missed 17 games over the last two seasons.
QB Controversy in Indianapolis Behind Wentz?
It sure sounds like the Indianapolis Colts are in a state of disarray after new starting quarterback Carson Wentz had foot surgery.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Wentz might make it back in time for Week 1, but his nine missed games since 2019 and the missed first-team reps should have the Colts closely watching the backup situation.
Jacob Eason seemed like the obvious starter with Wentz out. He was a 2020 fourth-round pick who ran a steady offense in college at Washington. Before that, he was starter material at Georgia in the SEC.
But sixth-round rookie Sam Ehlinger out of Texas is apparently making a competition of this thing by developing a rapport with T.Y. Hilton and getting plenty of camp reps.
"Sam (Ehlinger) really has been impressive, a very good grasp of the offense very quickly with limited offseason work," Colts head coach Frank Reich said, according to Sports Illustrated's Josh Carney. "He's really come in and worked hard, done extra work."
Reich classified whether Ehlinger should see more work as a "fair question," too, so things could really heat up if the Texas product flashes in the preseason.
Still, we're selling any Eason-Ehlinger controversy for two reasons. One, Eason simply has more experience, both in the offense and in the pros. And two, if he falters, one would think the Colts still might go after a veteran quarterback for emergency purposes such as Robert Griffin III or Blake Bortles.
Darnold's Camp Struggles Portend a Rough 2021
The Carolina Panthers continued a risk-heavy approach to quarterback this offseason.
After going from Cam Newton to Teddy Bridgewater, the Panthers have swapped out the latter for Sam Darnold, the No. 3 pick in 2018 acquired from the New York Jets via trade.
According to ESPN's David Newton, the 24-year-old has struggled in camp, throwing one notable interception despite a "wide-open" target and making overthrows in situational drills.
It was always going to take Darnold time to get adjusted to life with a new team, something that could extend into the regular season. On paper, he's got a couple of strong targets at tight end, plus rookie Terrace Marshall Jr., DJ Moore and Robby Anderson at wideout.
But the Jets were willing to give up on Darnold for a reason. Over three seasons, he's completed just 59.8 percent of his passes with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. The Panthers are all-in on him for one season regardless, but a rocky start during what is usually a time of unending optimism is buyable and suggests it could continue.
Saints-Michael Thomas Breakup?
Following Drew Brees' offseason retirement, the New Orleans Saints face a tough situation with another high-profile name.
Star wideout Michael Thomas had ankle surgery in June after the injury hampered him for most of 2020, and the buzz only picked up from there. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport has said the Saints and the player could eventually split.
The drama allegedly stems from the offseason handling of Thomas' injury. Following last season, the Saints recommended surgery, per Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com. Yet the 28-year-old sought a second opinion, which resulted in his bypassing surgery and opting for rehab, with the support of the team.
The receiver then fell out of contact with the Saints, ignoring their calls until June, when he returned to the team and it was discovered the ankle hadn't progressed as expected, resulting in the procedure.
Saints head coach Sean Payton was bemused that the surgery didn't happen earlier so Thomas could be available for Week 1.
Still, no trade will happen soon. He is on the PUP, and Rapoport reported in late July that the operation could mean a four-month recovery. If that unfolds, not only will Thomas be unable to help the Saints for most of the season, they also won't likely be able to trade him at the Nov. 3 deadline, especially if other teams can't see him on the field and know he'll be able to help right away.
In addition, the Saints don't gain anything financially by moving Thomas right now. But his recent contract restructure means they would save $15.8 million if he's moved in some fashion after June 1 next summer, so there's incentive to prolong the relationship before a possible breakup.
Verdict: Selling, for now
Carl Lawson Is the Best Player in Jets Camp
Of the many headlines that could come out of the Big Apple for the New York Jets, Carl Lawson is generating the biggest of all.
The 26-year-old has looked like the best player in Jets camp, according to ESPN's Rich Cimini. The former Cincinnati Bengals defender recently had three more sacks in 11-on-11 sessions and "has been the best player on the field from day one."
That's saying something, considering Lawson joined a defense with an elite guy like safety Marcus Maye. It's also not shocking—and there's a chance it could continue well into the regular season.
The Auburn product went underutilized with a rebuilding Bengals team right as a coaching staff overhaul occurred. He played on more than 50 percent of his defense's snaps just once over four seasons yet generated 81 pressures and 11.5 sacks over his last three campaigns.
As Lawson's an elite pressure creator, it's easy to buy his terrorizing almost any training camp, let alone a Jets camp with an offensive line trying to find its footing in front of rookie passer Zach Wilson.
Will the Jaguars Trade CJ Henderson?
It's not as high-profile as the Thomas situation, but the fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars might be considering trading a top-10 pick just one year into his career is pretty noteworthy.
So goes the report from ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, which says the Jaguars are open to moving 2020 ninth overall pick CJ Henderson.
It's odd, to say the least. The 22-year-old got in eight games as a rookie and gave up four touchdowns in coverage, allowing 33 catches on 51 targets. But he became steadier the more he got on the field, and his upside as an elite man-to-man corner on the boundary is still huge.
In fact, it feels like things should go in the other direction, with Griffin the veteran mentor to a prospect with top-10 positional potential on a team still mired in one of the league's most significant rebuilds.
It's hard to see what the Jaguars would gain in this sort of trade flirtation outside just getting a valuation on their most notable asset.
Salary-cap info via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.