Buying or Selling NFL's Latest Training Camp Buzz Entering September

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2021

Buying or Selling NFL's Latest Training Camp Buzz Entering September

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    The 2021 NFL preseason has ended. Teams are making the transition from training camp to Week 1 preparation and, on Tuesday, will have to trim rosters to 53 players. By now, we have a good idea of what each team will look like year, though we certainly don't know everything.

    Teams are never eager to reveal details about roles, schemes and other plans for the upcoming season. Likewise, they can be tight-lipped about injury situations. Coachspeak reigns supreme in these matters, leaving outsiders chasing the latest buzz for insight.

    Naturally, not all buzz coming out of training camps is accurate. This time last year, the Philadelphia Eagles found rookie wideout Jalen Reagor to be "impressive" and it looked like he could be in store for a strong season. The TCU product went on to have just 396 yards and a touchdown as a rookie.

    Camp buzz must be taken with a proverbial grain of salt, and it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. We'll try doing exactly that here, though, as we buy or sell some of the biggest buzz coming out of 2021 training camps.

The 49ers Should Start Trey Lance over Jimmy Garoppolo

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers have a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo who helped take them to a Super Bowl in 2019. They also have a quarterback in rookie Trey Lance who has far more physical upside than Garoppolo.

    While Garoppolo is a more traditional pocket passer, Lance is a dynamic dual-threat dripping with arm talent.

    According to ESPN's Jordan Schultz, the idea that the rookie should start over the veteran is gaining momentum.

    "Growing buzz inside league circles that the 49ers should start Trey Lance over Jimmy Garappolo," Schultz tweeted. "Spoke w/two executives, two coaches and one scout, all of whom believe Lance gives SF the best chance to win. Despite being raw, Lance’s freakish arm talent/athleticism is scary."

    While there's no doubting that some inside the league believe Lance should be the starter, it's hard to believe that the 49ers feel the same way. Head coach Kyle Shanahan unleashed a two-quarterback system in the preseason finale, utilizing both quarterbacks interchangeably during a pair of touchdown drives.

    By using a two-quarterback system, the 49ers can keep the seasoned vet under center while still taking advantage of Lance's physical tools. This is likely to be the approach throughout 2021, unless Garoppolo, who has missed 23 games over the past three seasons, incurs another injury that sidelines him again.

    Verdict: Sell

Odell Beckham Jr., Baker Mayfield Poised to Find Chemistry

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    Cleveland Browns wideout Odell Beckham Jr. didn't appear in the preseason as he continues recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee. However, Beckham is expected to be ready for the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

    The question is whether Beckham and quarterback Baker Mayfield will find the chemistry that eluded them in their first two seasons together. Reports out of Browns camp indicate the pair have been building that chemistry together, even though it's been on the side of practices.

    Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt  sees value in the duo's approach.

    "I go back to the body language, the technique of the route-running, the depth, just being in the right place at the right time and having the timing with the quarterback's feet, that you can get on air," Van Pelt said, per Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal.

    While Beckham may be on a pitch count early in the season, he will be a factor. He and Mayfield will also have a better connection than they had early in 2020 when Mayfield was still adjusting to Kevin Stefanski's offense.

    Verdict: Buy

Bengals Remain Confident in Ja'marr Chase

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    It's been a disappointing preseason for Cincinnati Bengals receiver and No. 5 pick Ja'Marr Chase. The LSU product had a rocky start to training camp, which he openly admitted.

    "I had to take my time," Chase said, per Geoff Hobson of the team's official website. "The first couple of days I wasn't doing so well."

    Chase's struggles continued through the preseason, where he dropped four of his five targets, including Joe Burrow's only exhibition pass attempt.

    However, the Bengals insist that they aren't concerned with Chase's slow start.

    "Zac Taylor shrugging off any concerns about Ja'Marr Chase's drops in the last two preseason games. Said those who have been at practice (aka us) have seen some great plays from him," ESPN's Ben Baby tweeted.

    While the Bengals aren't going to state it publicly, they have to be concerned with Chase's drop issue. He and Burrow worked fantastically together at LSU, but if Chase cannot be a dependable pro target, Burrow will eventually stop looking in his direction. That's a potential issue Cincinnati cannot simply shrug off.

    Verdict: Sell

Jaguars Experiencing a Disconnect with Urban Meyer

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Urban Meyer is a decorated college coach who won national championships with the Florida Gators (twice) and Ohio State Buckeyes. However, he had no NFL experience before the Jacksonville Jaguars hired him in January.

    Meyer has reportedly tried taking his college approach to Jacksonville, which has created a disconnect with at least some of the players.

    "He brought a bunch of college-like things to the program, which I don't necessarily agree with," CBS Sports' Pete Prisco told The DA Show on Tuesday (beginning at the 3:25 mark). "And I've heard some of the players aren't thrilled with him either."

    It's going to take time for Meyer to adjust to coaching professionals rather than unpaid players on scholarship. In college, he had full control over his players, including the roster and the recruiting process. In Jacksonville, he largely inherits a team put together by others.

    It's entirely believable that not everyone is buying into his approach. The real question is whether the players will begin buying in during the regular season or whether Meyer will have to adjust.

    Verdict: Buy

A Deshaun Watson Trade Could Be on the Immediate Horizon

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    Justin Rex/Associated Press

    Quarterback Deshaun Watson reported to Houston Texans camp but didn't appear in the preseason. According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, some believe that Houston will trade Watson in the not-too-distant future.

    "Multiple executives from teams not directly involved in the discussions tell PFT that there’s mounting chatter that Watson will be traded in the coming days," Florio wrote on Saturday.

    While the Texans may want to deal Watson, they're going to find it difficult to do so. Watson faces 22 civil cases and 10 criminal complaints alleging sexual misconduct. A team isn't going to part with a massive trade package unless that package is conditional and likely dependent on Watson being fully exonerated.

    According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Miami Dolphins have been "intrigued" by Watson but unwilling to meet Houston's asking price—believed to be three first-round picks and two second-round selections.

    With the start of the season less than two weeks away and Watson's future very much uncertain, the Texans aren't going to move Watson unless they dramatically reduce his price tag.

    Verdict: Sell

Boogie Basham Not Looking Like an Early Contributor

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    David Banks/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills defense was tied for 15th in the NFL with 38 sacks last season. Looking to get more out of the pass rush, Buffalo used its first two 2021 draft selections on pass-rushers—Miami's Gregory Rousseau and Wake Forest's Boogie Basham.

    While Rousseau may make an immediate impact, it appears that Basham will not.

    According to The Athletic's Matthew Fairburn, Basham has slid down the depth chart during camp and may need Buffalo to make some moves to see the field this season.

    "If the Bills trade a defensive end, that could open a path to more playing time for Basham," Fairburn wrote. "His development may be a longer track, though."

    This isn't a total surprise, as Basham came in with a lot to learn.

    "Basham possesses the raw skills to become a starting-caliber pass-rusher, but the defensive system he played in did not make the most of developing him," Justis Mosqueda of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    Second-round picks are generally expected to contribute right away. Basham probably won't.

    Verdict: Buy

Kyle Pitts Could Set Rookie Records

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    We didn't see much of Atlanta Falcons rookie tight end Kyle Pitts in the preseason, though he did have an impressive 27-yard catch-and-run against Cleveland on Sunday. In camp, however, he has reportedly been a star.

    "If you were concerned that rookie TE Kyle Pitts wouldn't continue his dominant start to training camp once the pads and contact began, I can tell you with complete confidence not to worry," Kevin Knight of the Falcoholic wrote.

    Pitts' development has some believing he's set to break records as a rookie.

    "I've covered Pitts pre- and post-draft, we talked about him on the podcast, and the fact is that Pitts is ready to create history," The Athletic's Jake Ciely wrote.

    Dominating in camp isn't the same as dominating in games, however, and Pitts isn't going to be the same star in the regular season. He's still a rookie, and he'll be competing for targets with the likes of Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and fellow tight end Hayden Hurst.

    Expect Pitts to make a Year-1 impact, but don't expect him to instantly be an all-time great.

    Verdict: Sell

Jaelan Phillips Facing Steep Learning Curve

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Dolphins used the 18th pick this past April on former UCLA and Miami pass-rusher Jaelan Phillips. Ideally, Phillips will have an early impact on a defense that was already pretty darn good in 2020.

    Miami finished last season ranked sixth in points allowed.

    However, it's looking like Phillips will need some time to work his way onto the field. He was listed as a third-string linebacker on Miami's initial preseason depth chart, and the Dolphins are still working to teach him the basics.

    "The focus first is learning to play with technique and fundamentals," linebackers coach Rob Leonard said, per Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post. "The way we play. It's pretty obvious he knows how to rush the passer. In college he did it pretty well."

    Phillips may get onto the field early as a situational pass-rusher, but he has a long way to go before being an every-down contributor in Miami.

    Verdict: Buy

Dak Prescott Is 'Good to Go'

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    We didn't see Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in the preseason as he continues to recover from injury. It isn't only the fractured and dislocated right ankle he suffered in 2020 that's been an issue, either. He has also been dealing with an injury to his throwing shoulder, too.

    However, Cowboys general manager Jerry Jones insists that Prescott is "good to go" for the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    While there's little doubt that Prescott will be on the field in Week 1, there's a difference between being available and at 100 percent. The reality is he may not be at 100 percent at any point this season.

    "He's not fully back. He may not be back all season long," ESPN's Adam Schefter said during a preseason broadcast (h/t Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk).

    After missing all of the preseason and the bulk of training camp, Prescott certainly won't be in Pro Bowl form right out of the gate. He'll be on the field on September 9, but calling him "good to go" feels like an overstatement.

    Verdict: Sell