Volume 3, Issue 1 – 8/02/07 Training Camps are in full swing and we want you to feel like you have attended every practice and seen every preseason game.
To keep all our Footballguys subscribers on top of everything, we've created our incredibly detailed Camp Updates. They're an exhaustive look each week covering every bit of news you need to know to stay completely on top of every team. Quite simply, they're the key to Dominating Your Draft.
This is the first of five training camp updates from us. We'll break down every team's skill positions and position battles. It's the stuff you'd see if you were there at every camp. This Camp Update was created by our own Bob Henry and reflects the most up-to-date info regarding each of these teams.
Happy reading and let's have a great 2007 season,
Joe Bryant and David Dodds
QB: For Matt Leinart, training camp is unchartered territory. Leinart spent just two nights in camp last year following a contract dispute even though he wound up being the team’s starter for most of the year. The playing experience gives Leinart some added confidence coming into his second season. "It's weird," he said. "I feel totally different. I feel like I'm more in command. I'm more of a leader. I can speak up. It's a total different vibe." Leinart is joined in camp by veteran backup Kurt Warner with Shayne Boyd and Toby Korrodi competing for the 3rd spot.
RB: The Cardinals begin camp with four tailbacks: Edge James, Marcel Shipp, J.J. Arrington, and Steve Baylark. Edge reported to camp on-time sporting a new look – no more gold teeth. "It was time to take them out," he said. "I had them for a long time, but I took off my mask. Now the real 'Business Edge' will surface." The Cardinals hope so. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt and assistant HC Russ Grimm hope to run the ball more this year, promising Edge 300+ carries this year. Never a fan of the preseason, Edge appears to be ready for the challenge. "If (Whisenhunt) wants me to go out there and get five, six carries, I'm not going to say no. If they want me to do it just to save face, so there's no complaining, I'll do it,” said James. Shipp enters camp with a solid grasp on the backup job. Baylark is an undrafted rookie out of UMass (as Shipp was when he joined the team). He is competing for a spot hoping to contribute on special teams. Baylark ran for 5,199 yards and 42 touchdowns as a collegian, only the third player in DI-AA with four 1,000-yard seasons.
WR: Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson all return healthy and motivated. Johnson is a free agent following the season. In offseason workouts, Boldin has lined up at all three receiver positions as well as the backfield. It appears that Whisenhunt will use him in creative ways, much like he did Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle-El in Pittsburgh. Boldin made his 2nd Pro Bowl last year and he became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 300 receptions (in 47 games). The Cardinals signed Sean Morey and Ahmad Merritt to free agent contract to provide competition for LeRon McCory, who missed all of 2006 with a thumb injury. Morey followed Whisenhunt from Pittsburgh. He and Merritt hope to contribute on special teams. Like Boldin, Michael Spurlock is a former college QB. He spent most of 2006 on the practice squad along with Todd Watkins and Greg Lee (who also played in NFL Europa this spring). The Cardinals added Steve Breaston in the 5th round of the draft, who led Michigan last year with 58 receptions for 670 yards and two touchdowns. Breaston’s strength, however, is on returns; he finished as the Big Ten’s all-time leader in punt returns (127) and punt return yards (1,599). Matt Trannon went undrafted, but he could be fun to watch in the preseason given his 6’6” frame and athleticism (he also played basketball for Tom Izzo). Trannon has been impressive in offseason workouts; he finished with148 receptions for 1,755 yards and nine touchdowns at Michigan State.
TE: Leonard Pope has the size and receiving skills to be emerge as a deep sleeper in his 2nd season. He’s 6’7” but struggles as a blocker in the running game. He’s penciled in as the team’s starter, but Troy Bienemann and rookie 7th round pick Ben Patrick could push him to playing time. Bienemann might be a better blocker than Pope, but he’s coming off an injury. Patrick slid in the draft after being projected as a first day pick. Tim Euhus was picked up recently after being with Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Buffalo in previous stints. Pope and Patrick have the most promise to make a fantasy impact, but if Pope can learn to block he could emerge as a legitimate red zone thread with defenses more focused on the team’s other star players.
Defense: The Cardinals are switching to the 3-4 this year. Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor are making the transition to OLB and the team added behemoth DT Alan Branch with the first pick of the 2nd round. Branch projects as the team’s starting nose tackle, though he could be moved around to take advantage of his talents. He and another former Wolverine Gabe Watson will anchor the middle of the defense. Branch is adjusting quickly to the NFL and his first training camp. "Someone just told me we ain't got TVs in there," said Branch. "It's going to be crazy to me, because I'm addicted to television." Toting a large cooler to his dorm room, Branch was asked what’s inside. "Healthy snacks,” said the rookie, who dropped some weight since last season. Branch is eager to get started, "It's been a lot of time since I hit somebody, so I kind of been having an itch about it," he said. The Cardinals have plenty of talent at LB as Karlos Dansby moves inside where he’ll be paired with Gerald Hayes along with backups Monty Beisel and rookie Buster Davis, a productive, but undersized player with a nose for the ball. Calvin Pace and Darryl Blackstock added depth and experience on the outside. SS Adrian Wilson is the team’s biggest playmaker and the unquestioned leader of the defense. Opposite him, free agent signee Terrence Holt will compete with Aaron Francisco for a starting job.
Special Teams: Neil Rackers hopes to regain his magic from long range this year. After making nearly everything in 2005, he struggled on field goals from 50+ yards last year. He may be spelled during preseason by dual-purpose camp leg Ricky Schmitt, a rookie punter/kicker from Division II Shepherd. Rookie WR Steve Breaston out of Michigan is the favorite to be the return specialist. His strength is punt returns, and his only real competition at that position is second year WR Michael Spurlock, who played QB in college. Breaston will face a larger number of competitors at kickoff returner during camp. Foremost is the incumbent, RB J.J. Arrington. Spurlock and free agent acquisition CB Roderick Hood are also options.
Cardinals Depth Chart
QB: Matt Leinart, Kurt Warner, Shayne Boyd, Toby Korrodi
RB: Edgerrin James, Marcel Shipp, J.J. Arrington (KR), Diamond Ferri, Steve Baylark
FB: Terrelle Smith, A.J. Schable (inj), Tim Castille, Brandon Snow, Roshon Vercher
WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson, LeRon McCoy, Sean Morey, Steve Breaston (KR/PR), Todd Watkins, Greg Lee, Michael Spurlock (KR/PR), Ahmad Merritt, Matt Trannon
TE: Leonard Pope, Ben Patrick, Troy Bienemann, Tim Euhus, John Bronson, Alex Shor
K: Neil Rackers
DT: Alan Branch (NT), Gabe Watson (NT), Chris Cooper, Ross Kolodziej, Jonathan Lewis, Ray Blagman
DE: Darnell Dockett (DT), Antonio Smith, Joe Tafoya, Rodney Bailey
ILB: Gerald Hayes, Karlos Dansby (W/S), Buster Davis, Monty Beisel, Pago Togafau, Nathan Hodel
OLB: Bertrand Berry (DE)(inj), Chike Okeafor (S/DE), Calvin Pace (S/DE), Darryl Blackstock (W), Brandon Johnson, David Holloway
CB: Antrel Rolle, Eric Green, Roderick Hood, Ralph Brown, Matt Ware, Darrell Hunter, Travarous Bain, Michael Adams
S: Adrian Wilson (SS), Aaron Francisco (FS), Terrence Holt (FS), Hanik Milligan, Brandon Keeler (FS)
QB: With Michael Vick sidelined due to his ongoing legal woes (in case you haven't heard, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered Vick to stay away from camp when it opened on Thursday), the team has turned to Joey Harrington as the starting QB. Vick's trial is scheduled for November 26th and he is not expected to play football during 2007. The change leaves fantasy owners wondering what to expect from the Falcons' new starter Harrington. Our Jason Wood and Mark Wimer offer contrasting viewpoints about this topic on the Footballguys.com Blog here - as the debate rages on, one thing is clear: the Falcons' are moving on without Michael Vick at QB. The depth chart as of Sunday stands: Harrington, 2nd-year player D.J. Shockley, Chris Redman and ex-arena leaguer Lang Campbell. Just prior to training camp, head coach Bobby Petrino said of Harrington, "I think the thing that impressed me the most at OTAs is his take-charge attitude, the way he jumped in the classroom and studied. He's a very quick learner. A very intelligent young man." On Sunday 7/29, Petrino gave an early assessment of Harrington's performance so far in training camp, "First, I like his knowledge of the game and he understands what the defense is trying to do. He does a good job in his post and pre-snap reads, being able to see how the safeties and linebackers move after the ball. I think he is really going to be able to execute our offense and distribute the ball where it needs to be. That’s going to help us in our run game when you understand the defenses and the fronts like that. He has a real good sense of timing as well. Unfortunately, guys don’t get very open so you have to hit them when they are open. I think that’s a good starting point and he has a really good since of timing.” Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson commented on Shockley Friday, stating "D.J. has been around, played in some preseason games a year ago, played at the University of Georgia, so he knows those particular elements, too. It's just him getting the chance to play to show what he can do." Redman played for one season under head coach Petrino in college at Louisville.
RB: Just before camp opened, we learned that Warrick Dunn had surgery for a herniated disk in his back and is expected to miss 3-6 weeks due to his ongoing rehabilitation. It was the second surgery during the offseason for Dunn, who also had arthroscopic surgery on his injured shoulder earlier in the year. With Dunn out, Jerious Norwood has stepped into the starting role. Norwood showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie and he’s not wasting any time in his second season either. "Jerious is a guy that you look at, you watch him on video and you say: 'Wow, this guy has a chance to really make some big plays for us,'" HC Bobby Petrino said. "He can accelerate and cut very quickly and he has home run speed. He's a very good receiver out of the backfield so we're looking forward to seeing how we utilize him catching the ball out of the backfield. He just needs to continually work on his blitz pickup and protecting the quarterback." A huge camp battle is brewing for the #2 RB spot on the squad. As of Sunday 7/29, Jamal Robertson is working at the #2 spot, with rookie Jason Snelling (7th round draft pick) in hot pursuit. Coach Petrino stated, "Jamal understands what we're doing, so he's probably ahead of everybody else. I like what I see of Snelling. It's going to be a question of how he does once we get into preseason games. He has good vision and makes nice cuts. He has some power when he runs the ball, and we're hoping he will be able to run through some tackles." Meanwhile, Norwood is working to perfect his pass blocking skills. Coach Petrino said, "He still needs to improve on his pass protection. He's working hard at that, and he's certainly gotten better at that." The team may add a veteran RB to the mix at some point during training camp, but no move has been made just yet.
WR: New starting WR Joe Horn is making a difference for the Falcons according to coach Petrino, "Joe has added a lot with his energy and his excitement, the way he takes the field every day. His competitiveness is unbelievable. Every drill he does, he wants to be the best, beat whoever he's going against. That rubs off. We're very unproven, but they left OTAs with a great deal of confidence and feel they're a lot better." Fred Gibson was released on Saturday after only 3 days with the club - he was apparently not playing up to coach Petrino's standard. Gibson missed a special teams meeting due to misunderstanding the team’s schedule. Rookie Laurent Robinson is still on the squad and is striving to get into the rotation.
TE: Alge Crumpler has been partially participating in practices while he continues to rehab his surgically repaired knee. He took part in some of the drills on Friday and Saturday. Coach Petrino commented on Crumpler's level of participation on Saturday, 7/28: “It’s great to see Alge out there. He is a really good player and there is no question about it. He knows his trade very well and he’s got a tremendous amount of energy when he’s out there. We are really trying to manage his knee so he’s only practicing once a day. He doesn’t do the two-a-days. I’m really excited to see how he fits and how he makes this offense better. I’ve really liked what I’ve seen so far.” Petrino also went on to say, “The tight ends are doing well so far. (Dwayne) Blakley has done a nice job and he had really good OTA practices. He did better yesterday and today. I still like (Martrez) Milner and he’s doing a really nice job. He can both run block and catch the ball. I feel good about the position, especially when Alge (Crumpler) is out there with us because he makes us better.” Martrez Milner has risen to #3 on the depth chart as of Sunday.
Defense: Rookie Jamaal Anderson started working with the first team at LDE on Sunday. "We need to get him in, no question about it," new head coach Bobby Petrino said. "He's come back from the break in very good condition. He's not been timid at all. He's been really good going against the run, and he already had the ability to rush the pass. Right now, it's just getting used to lining up with the Ones." On Sunday, Anderson stated, "I'm getting a better IQ for football. This is only my fourth year playing defensive end. So just learning formations, looking at a lineman's alignment, recognizing down and distance, a lot of things that come with repetition — those are things that are starting to come to me now, and I'm only going to get better." Chaucey Davis is now working with the second team. Second-round pick CB Chris Houston has been getting some reps with the first team, although Lewis Sanders is #1 on the depth chart - for now. Starting weakside LB Demorrio Williams, returning from offseason chest surgery, is working to get back into game shape. Rookie Stephen Nicholas has been getting first team reps but he'll probably end up moving down the depth chart once Williams is fully up to speed. At MLB, offseason FA acquisition Orlando Huff has moved to #2 on the depth chart behind Keith Brookings, bumping 3rd year MLB Jordan Beck to 3rd team. Backup DE Josh Mallard has seen some time at DT - coach Petrino praised Mallard's hard work, stating, "I really like his effort. He gives you everything he has on every play." In other notes, DT Rod Coleman (thigh injury) and DT Grady Jackson (conditioning) did not practice on Sunday.
Special Teams: The Falcons once again enter preseason without a set starter at kicker. The competitors this year are Billy Cundiff and Aaron Elling. Cundiff handled kickoffs for New Orleans the latter part of last year. Elling was out of football last year, after handling kickoffs for Baltimore in 2005. At this juncture, punter Michael Koenen does not appear to be a contender. He emerged as the clear winner last August, but failed miserably in the first two games of the regular season. On kickoff and punt returns it essentially comes down to two players. Can the aging and slowing CB Allen Rossum once again retain the job? Or, will second year WR Adam Jennings step into the return specialist role? If Atlanta’s year continues to be as troubled as it has started, whoever wins the returner job could be very busy this year.
Falcons Depth Chart
QB: Joey Harrington, D.J. Shockley, Chris Redman, Lang Campbell, Michael Vick
RB: Warrick Dunn (inj), Jerious Norwood, Jamal Robertson, Jason Snelling, Justin Vincent, Taurean Henderson, Sha-Ron Edwards
FB: Ovie Mughelli, Corey McIntyre
WR: Michael Jenkins, Joe Horn, Roddy White, Laurent Robinson, Adam Jennings, Jamin Elliot, Vincent Marshall, Eric Weems, Eric Newman, Noriaki Kinoshita (KR), Ben Nelson, Brian Finneran (IR)
TE: Alge Crumpler, Dwayne Blakely, Martrez Milner, Daniel Fells
K: Billy Cundiff, Aaron Elling
DT: Grady Jackson (NT), Rod Coleman (inj), Darrell Shropshire (NT), Jonathan Babineaux, T.J. Jackson (NT), Trey Lewis (NT), Michael Bozeman, David Patterson, Kelly Talavou
DE: John Abraham, Jamaal Anderson, Paul Carrington, Chauncey Davis, Josh Mallard, Nic Clemons
MLB: Keith Brooking (W), Jordan Beck, Tony Taylor
OLB: Michael Boley (S), Demorrio Williams (W) (inj), Stephen Nicholas (W), Orlando Huff (W), Marcus Wilkins (S), John Leake (S), Travis Williams
CB: DeAngelo Hall, Chris Houston, Lewis Sanders, Allen Rossum (KR), David Irons, Brent Grimes, Antoine Harris
S: Lawyer Milloy (SS), Chris Crocker (FS), Jimmy Williams (FS), Omare Lowe (SS), Daren Stone (FS), Nick Turnbull (FS), Jeramie Johnson (SS)
QB: Steve McNair enters his 2nd season as the Ravens QB with former starter Kyle Boller as the backup. Boller will be a free agent following the season and the team doesn’t know if McNair will be around for another year either. That’s why it will be a battle worth watching in training camp between 5th round picks Troy Smith and Drew Olson, a practice squad player last year from UCLA. On the eve of camp the Ravens released Cullen Finerty, who won three Division II championships at Grand Valley State. The QBs will be coached by Rick Neuheisel, who made the following comment regarding the competition for that third spot, “Fortunately, I don’t have to make those decisions yet. It’s going to be a hard decision. When you’re dealing with a roster, the more hard decisions you have to make, the better team you have.” Olson had a busy spring while leading NFL Europa’s Amsterdam Admirals to a 4-6 record, completing 170 of 310 passes for 1,967 yards with 13 TDs and 13 INTs. Smith, of course, was a 1st team All-American and Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State before imploding in the National Championship game against Florida. He’s undersized, but the team has already been impressed with his confidence and leadership abilities during offseason workouts as he displayed a strong arm and good mobility while Olson got plenty of work overseas.
RB: Willis McGahee enters camp with great expectations. A regular at headquarters since he signed during the offseason, McGahee hopes to be the workhorse the Ravens envision. Backup Musa Smith finished last season on IR with a neck injury, but he was healthy in the OTAs earlier this year and he hopes to remain healthy, for once, and serve as the primary backup. Veteran Mike Anderson is back and provides some insurance along with P.J. Daniels, a 4th round pick a year ago, who got plenty of work during OTAs showing some speed and an ability to contribute on special teams. Cory Ross and Greg Pruitt Jr. have uphill battles to win a roster spot in camp. Ross made the roster last year and helped on special teams after B.J. Sams went on IR late in the season. Fourth round pick FB Le’Ron McClain signed prior to camp meaning the Ravens were able to ink all eight of their picks on time. "It's good to have each of our draft choices finished prior to the start of Brian's team meeting on Sunday," said general manager Ozzie Newsome.
WR: Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton return as the team’s starters, but 2nd year Demetrius Williams’ blend of size, speed and body control makes him a potential breakout player this year. He could possibly overtake Mason in the starting lineup, considering their play late in the 2006 season, but Mason could be tough to unseat given his experience and competiveness. The team added the explosive Yamon Figurs in the draft. Figurs clocked a 4.3 40 at the combine (best among all players) and he promises to give the Ravens special teams a boost, although the Ravens coaching staff will take a look at him during the preseason to see if he can contribute offensively, as well. Devard Darling and Clarence Moore return for another training camp battle, but it’s unlikely both players will stick with Figurs now in the mix.
TE: Entering his 7th season, Todd Heap feels like a rookie thanks to an offseason free of rehabilitation or surgeries. “This is the first time in a couple years that I have felt this good,” Heap said. “I am a lot further ahead than where we were the last few years, and that just makes me a little more excited for the season.” Heap played all 16 games last year but didn’t make the Pro Bowl. With a full offseason to think about the offense instead of rehab, HC Brian Billick thinks that might change. “I think he is one of the best tight ends in the league,” Billick explained. “He is excited about spending an entire offseason of basically just getting ready for the season and not rehabbing. He is in a very good place right now.” Daniel Wilcox and 2nd year Quinn Sypniewski give the Ravens solid depth while Marcus Freeman and Kendrick Ballantyne hope to make the roster or stick on the practice squad. Rob Abiamiri was released prior to training camp after spending two seasons on the practice squad.
Defense: The Ravens lost Pro Bowl LB Adalius Thomas during the offseason, but little else. The defense returns largely intact with two rookies last year looking to improve and have a greater impact in 2007; first round pick DT Haloti Ngata and 5th round pick SS Dawan Landry. Plus, a healthy Dan Cody could make an impact for the first time in his career. DT Kelly Gregg reported to camp sporting ten pounds of muscle gained during the offseason. "I'm stronger than I've been in about four or five years," Gregg said. "I really wasn't sore this offseason, so I got into the weight room. I'm 30 years old, and I'm pushing weight like I'm 25. I feel good about that, and I'm looking forward to the season."
Special Teams: He may be one of the oldest players in the NFL, but we know that Matt Stover will be the Ravens’ placekicker once again this year. The only question is whether he will also handle kickoffs this year. He resumed doing so last year, after several years in which Baltimore had kept a separate kickoff specialist on the roster. Vying for that role in camp will be Rhys Lloyd. He spent this spring in NFL Europa and was in the Ravens’ camp in 2005. DB B.J. Sams was one of the top return specialists in the league in recent years; however he missed the final four games last year with a fractured ankle. He also had off field troubles with a second DUI charge, although he was acquitted during the offseason. Even if he's fully recovered from his foot surgery, he faces a potentially strong challenge for his job from third round draft pick WR Yamon Figurs out of Kansas State. Figurs posted the fastest time at the NFL Scouting Combine, and was considered by some to be the best returner in this year's draft.