Feb
10

Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker want to stay in Denver

Moreno, Decker set for free agency: Like every other team, the Denver Broncos will go about the process of evaluating their free agents and preparing to build for another run at a Super Bowl. Among the key names set to hit the open market are running back Knowshon Moreno and wide receiver Eric Decker. Both players had career years playing in Denver’s record-setting 2013 offense, so it’s little surprise that both have expressed their desire to remain with the Broncos. The biggest question will be whether the team can afford to re-sign both players … and if not, which one will be Denver’s biggest priority. There’s little doubt that both players’ best option would be to remain with the Broncos. We’ll make further judgments if and when they make a move.

Smith excited about year two in Kansas City: It was a pretty successful first season for Alex Smith in K.C., posting career-highs in completions, passing yards and touchdowns. Part of that can be owed to the team relying more on the passing game later in the season — something Smith thinks bodes well for 2014. It could also bode well for tight end Travis Kelce, who is looking to play in his first NFL game after missing all of 2013 with injuries. The young player is expected to see significant snaps next year and could find himself ahead of Anthony Fasano and Sean McGrath in the passing game pecking order. As an unproven player with a quarterback who didn’t do much to shake his “Captain Checkdown” reputation last season, it’s not likely Kelce will be on many draft boards. But he will be a player to watch once we hit the preseason.

Miller on the spot for 2014?: Last season was supposed to be Lamar Miller’s time to shine as the primary back in the Miami Dolphins offense. The reality was quite the opposite. Among fantasy backs, Miller barely cracked the top 40. Now heading into 2014, the team is expecting a little more physicality from the young running back. However, the Dolphins are doing their due diligence and looking a running backs that they can add through the draft. With a new general manager in town, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see Miami stage a competition in the backfield – Daniel Thomas is also still in South Florida — but the idea that Miller could be a workhorse back is likely to be challenged this offseason.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Feb
07

Norv Turner planning big changes for Adrian Peterson

Turner looking to spread field: Having landed in Minnesota, Norv Turner hopes to bring his creative brand of offense to a team that has been one-dimensional for a number of seasons. The new offensive coordinator plans to start by spreading the field for running back Adrian Peterson by re-introducing him as a pass catcher. It’s a part of Peterson’s game that has been forgotten a bit, but he has caught 40-plus passes twice in his career (2012 and 2009). The next question will be … who is throwing the passes? Matt Cassel is planning to test free agency, while Josh Freeman is likely to be released and Christian Ponder hasn’t proved to be the answer. As for Turner’s opinion, the answer could be somewhere in the draft. Regardless of who the QB is, Minnesota’s offense will continue to run through Peterson. He’ll once again be a top five fantasy back in 2014.

Browns interested in Cousins?: During his introductory press conference, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan spent a fair amount of time talking about the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback situation. Now a new name could be added to the mix – Kirk Cousins. Shanahan worked with Cousins as part of Washington’s staff for the past two seasons and called him “a hell of a player.” With the young backup likely to be on the trading block this offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him land with the Browns. And it wouldn’t hurt Cousins’ value to have Josh Gordon as a top receiving target. However, there don’t seem to be any real trade talks between the two teams at the moment.

Jets eye free-agent WRs: It’s little secret that one of the Jets’ biggest problems in 2013 was a lack of quality wide receivers. So it makes sense that the early talk this offseason is that Gang Green will pursue some pass catchers through free agency. At the top of the list reportedly are Jeremy Maclin and Emmanuel Sanders with Eric Decker possibly also on the radar. Decker has easily been the most productive of the three, but there are questions about his ability to be a No. 1 receiver. It’s a similar question that will be asked of Maclin — as well as questions about his recovery from ACL surgery that forced him to miss the 2013 season. As for Sanders, he acquitted himself very well last season as Pittsburgh’s No. 2 receiver, although he has yet to make more than 11 starts in a season and caught a career-high 67 passes in 2013 (his fourth NFL season). Still, at least two of those three options would be an upgrade from what New York currently has.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Feb
06

Kyle Shanahan looking to evaluate Browns QBs

Shanahan praises Hoyer: In his introductory press conference as the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan had kind things to say about Brian Hoyer. Shanahan believes that Hoyer can be successful in the NFL, but added that he still plans to evaluate the team’s quarterback situation. With Hoyer, Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell all having taken significant snaps during the season, at least one of them is going to be on his way out of Cleveland. And what of the Johnny Manziel talk? Don’t expect it to die down, but Shanahan wouldn’t necessarily feed it, either. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Hoyer is starting under center for the Browns in Week 1.

Bernard excited about new O.C.: Bengals running back Giovani Bernard is no stranger to Hue Jackson. The two worked together closely when Jackson was Cincinnati’s running backs coach. Now that Jackson has been elevated to offensive coordinator, Bernard is excited about what that means for the Bengals offense. Considering how Jackson has called plays in his other stops as a coordinator, it’s easy to believe that Cincy’s rushers are going to see an immediate benefit. That benefit could favor Bernard, who began to take over as the Bengals’ back of choice midway through the season. Look for the young rusher to be a low-end RB1 heading into next season.

Romo recovering from surgery: After missing the Cowboys season finale because of back surgery, Tony Romo is reportedly progressing nicely in his rehab. While it’s expected that the team will take things slowly, the quarterback appears on track to be ready to go by the start of training camp. That’s good news for a player who has been one of fantasy football’s most consistent signal-callers over the past few seasons. If your strategy is to wait on quarterbacks, you could do worse that rolling with Romo in 2014.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Feb
05

Broncos set to bid on Eric Decker

Decker to test free agency: Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker appears ready to test his value on the open market this offseason while his team seems ready to match most any offer that comes across the table. Like many of his teammates, Decker had a miserable day in the Super Bowl, catching just one pass for six yards. However, that shouldn’t totally outweigh the best regular season of his career. The fourth-year receiver set a career high in receiving yards (1,288) and with his 11 receiving touchdowns he was the ninth-highest scoring receiver in fantasy. Decker will look to be paid like a No. 1 receiver, but having always played second fiddle to Demaryius Thomas, it remains to be seen if he can fulfill that role. If he remains in Denver, he certainly retains value as a low WR1/high WR2. If he leaves … who knows?

Cassel to void his contract: Speaking of players testing free agency, Matt Cassel appears likely to void his contract with the Minnesota Vikings to see what else is out there. It’s a bold move for a player who has appeared in just 27 games over the past three seasons and has more interceptions (30) than touchdowns (27) during that stretch. The Vikings would like to keep Cassel in town, but it might be as a backup. Then again, it’s hard to imagine too many teams interested in signing the veteran quarterback as a starter. It’s not likely that Cassel will be on too many fantasy draft boards in 2014.

Rice likely to be cut: Signs are pointing toward the Seattle Seahawks cutting ties to veteran wide receiver Sidney Rice in an effort to re-sign free agent-to-be Golden Tate. Since joining the ‘Hawks in 2011, Rice has never been able to stay healthy. He’s played in 16 games just once. This season, he suited up just eight times and caught 15 passes for 231 yards. In his stead, Tate and Doug Baldwin stepped up as playmakers in Seattle’s passing game. With just one 1,000-yard season in his career, Rice has never reached his potential. Still, it’s likely that some team will take a chance on him next season. That doesn’t mean you need to do the same over the course of your fantasy draft. If you’re intrigued, he’ll likely be available on the waiver wire.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Feb
04

Texans eyeing Blake Bortles at No. 1?

Bortles moving up draft boards: The 2014 NFL Draft is still a little more than three months away, so now is the perfect time to begin the hype and speculation that leads up to the first name being called. And as of this moment, there’s talk that that first name could be Blake Bortles. The Houston Texans, who own the first pick, are reportedly enamored with the University of Central Florida quarterback. The team has made it clear in recent days that it is interested in drafting a new signal-caller — not a surprise when you consider the struggles the Texans faced at the position with Matt SchaubCase Keenum and T.J. Yates on the way to a 2-14 record. It’s already been a remarkable journey up draft boards for Bortles and we haven’t reached the combine yet, even though all the scouts aren’t quite sold. If the UCF quarterback does land in Houston, he’ll have a healthy Arian Foster in the backfield and will have the services of an aging (but still productive) Andre Johnson and the young and talented DeAndre Hopkins on the outside. It won’t be enough to make Bortles a coveted fantasy prospect, but it should make him someone to watch during the preseason.

Schaub to Oakland?: With the Texans most likely selecting a quarterback in the first round, it means Matt Schaub is the odd man out. It seems inevitable that he will be released by the team and there is talk that Schaub could land with the Oakland Raiders. The Silver and Black has been a rumored landing spot for a number of potential free agent quarterbacks this offseason. The problem for fantasy owners is that there is little reason to think a move to Northern California would do much for the fantasy value of any of these signal-callers. The Raiders offense is long on potential, but short on proven producers. Schaub’s best fantasy days could be behind him at this point.

Shanahan hired as Browns OC: It didn’t take long for Kyle Shanahan to find a new job. A little more than a month after being fired by Washington, the younger Shanahan has landed as the new offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. The hire would add steam to the rumors that the Browns are interested in drafting Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The young quarterback’s skills are well-suited to the read option offense that Shanahan ran for the past couple of seasons with Robert Griffin III. Regardless of who is under center, Shanahan’s job will include making sense of a quarterbacking corps that rotated between Brandon WeedenBrian Hoyer and Jason Campbell during the 2013 season.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Feb
03

New Lions OC out to help Matthew Stafford succeed

Brees praises Lombardi: When Joe Lombardi was hired as the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator, most described him as “Vince Lombardi’s grandson.” Drew Brees describes him in a different way, saying he thinks the former Saints quarterback coach is ready to be a great playcaller. The Saints quarterback believes his former coach is primed to help Matthew Stafford take the next step. For the sake of Lions fans and fantasy owners, hopefully that next step involves throwing fewer interceptions. Over the past three seasons, only Eli Manning (58) has thrown more picks than Stafford (52) — and that’s including Manning’s league-leading 27 interceptions in 2013. If Stafford can curb his habit of throwing it to the wrong team, he’s a top-five fantasy quarterback.

Cousins open to trade: In a classic case of “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us,” Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins says he’s open to being traded as the team solidifies Robert Griffin III as its top quarterback. There will certainly be offers for the young signal-caller, but it remains to be seen what his value could be long-term. In four career starts, Cousins has as many touchdowns (6) as interceptions. His success will depend heavily on what team he lands with. At the moment, it’s hard to imagine the former Michigan State standout being drafted in many fantasy leagues.

Jackson ’90 to 95 percent’ healthy: Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson says he’s nearly completely healthy after struggling with broken ribs late in the 2013 season. There was very little fear that he wouldn’t be ready for the start of next season. It’s encouraging news for a back who is consistently one of fantasy’s better running backs … when healthy. However, the statement is also a reminder that Jackson’s biggest bugaboo has been his inability to stay healthy. Yet if 2013 was any indication, he might still be the rusher of choice for Buffalo with C.J. Spiller assuming a change-of-pace role. We’ll see how it goes.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Jan
31

Julian Edelman unsure of return to Patriots

Edelman talks new deal: New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman had a breakout 2013, far surpassing his career highs in receptions (105), yards (1,056) and touchdowns (6). It also happened to coincide with Edelman becoming a free agent, which means he’ll likely be in the position of fielding some quality offers. That seems to have made him uncertain whether he’ll be back in New England next season. Edelman became the Wes Welker replacement that many expected Danny Amendola to be. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots let Edelman walk away one season after letting Welker leave — especially with rumors swirling that Amendola could be a cap casualty. It could also force a decision between Edelman and the injury-prone Amendola — who was a disappointment in 2013. Depending on where Edelman lands, he has value as a WR3 in most formats. Amendola likely rates the same.

Welker not expecting to retire: Speaking of Wes Welker, the Broncos receiver says he doesn’t have any plans to retire after the Super Bowl. Welker’s first season in Denver was nothing to complain about. While his reception and yardage totals declined, he produced his first 10-touchdown season. As long as he remains in Peyton Manning’s merry band of pass-catchers and stays healthy, he’ll have plenty of fantasy value — even if there are plenty of mouths to feed in the Broncos offense.

Vick says he’ll be a Week 1 starter: Ousted from his job as the starting quarterback in Philadelphia, Michael Vick told Around the League that he’ll be starting under center for an NFL team in Week 1 of the 2014 season. In theory, his options will be limited. The Jets and the Raiders could be two such places where he can contend for a starting job, although a lack of pass-catchers in New York could hinder his value there. If Vick is indeed able to land a starting job, it’s hard to imagine him being anything more than a fantasy reserve at the position at this point in his career, regardless of where he might land.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Jan
30

Former scout: C.J. Spiller ‘can’t be a workhorse back’

Scout dissects Spiller’s role: Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller was easily one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of 2013. Some of that struggle can be placed on a high-ankle sprain that hampered the running back all season. But according to one scout, maybe Spiller isn’t suited to be the workhorse back he was pegged to be at the start of last season. On the one hand, it’s a valid criticism. In 61 career games, Spiller has had 20-plus carries just five times — with varying results. He’s also never had more than 26 touches in a game. Contrast that with a lead back like LeSean McCoy, who logged 20 or more carries in eight games in 2013. There’s also the Fred Jackson factor. When healthy, Buffalo’s veteran back has proven to be an equally versatile and productive option. After last season, fantasy owners will understandably be wary of drafting Spiller. It’s probably best to approach 2014 thinking of the former Clemson standout as a Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead-type back and drafted as a RB3.

Jordan Reed earns rave reviews: Although we didn’t see a whole lot of Jordan Reed, there was plenty for fantasy owners to like about Washington’s rookie tight end. After taking over for Fred Davis as the team’s tight end of choice, Reed became a big mid-season surprise. From Weeks 7-10, the Florida product averaged 11.6 fantasy points per game — including a breakout 19.4-point performance against the Chicago Bears. Unfortunately a concussion cut Reed’s season short. But Washington’s new offensive coordinator, Sean McVay, reportedly is enamored with Reed’s skills. With Robert Griffin III seeking another consistent target to complement Pierre Garcon, Reed has plenty of fantasy potential heading to 2014.

Bell wants to stay in Detroit: Restricted free agent-to-be Joique Bell has said he’d like to remain with the Detroit Lions going forward on a long-term deal and that the feeling from Detroit’s front office is mutual. Bell was arguably fantasy football’s best handcuff option last season. He scored just 21.5 fewer points than teammate Reggie Bush and landed among the top 20 fantasy running backs — better than players like Maurice Jones-Drew, C.J. Spiller and Ray Rice, among others. If Bell indeed remains in the Motor City, he’ll remain a quality handcuff option for Bush and an occasional spot-start for fantasy owners.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Jan
29

Matt Forte expects to be a workhorse in 2014

Forte wants the ball: When it came to running backs in 2013, the fantasy football world was agog over Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy. When it came to the Bears, many were fawning over Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Through it all, Matt Forte quietly was a top 15 overall fantasy player and the third-best running back. No surprise, the Bears back says he’s ready for the same type of workload next season. Through the first six years of his career, Forte has been one of the NFL’s best dual-threat backs — a position that is only gaining in importance as more teams center their offenses on the passing game. With Marc Trestman’s offense firmly in place in Chicago, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Forte go as high as third in plenty of 2014 fantasy league drafts.

Kubiak optimistic about Ravens run game: Earlier this week, new Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was excited about the prospects of Dennis Pitta. Now Kubiak is turning that optimism toward the Ravens running game, saying he has “tremendous expectations for them.” From his lips to the fantasy football gods’ ears. Last season, Ray Rice was one of the biggest fantasy disappointments around. However, it’s fair to note that some of his struggles can be attributed to poor work by his offensive line. Until there’s some change among the group up front, it’s probably best not to get too excited about Rice’s 2014 prospects.

Make long FGs worth more?: File this away as one man’s opinion, but Adam Vinatieri suggested to Around the League’s Dan Hanzus that the league should consider making field goals over 50 yards worth four points. It’s an interesting idea in light of the talk about abolishing extra points — even if it’s one that’s not very likely to happen. However, it could spawn an interesting change in the value of fantasy kickers. In leagues where all FGs are three points regardless of distance, there would be added value — especially for players like Justin Tucker and Stephen Gostkowski, who are consistently good from long range. But as this is likely to remain a pipe dream for the foreseeable future, kickers will probably remain last-round draft fodder, prone to being streamed all season long.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Jan
29

A Football Life: Jerry Rice’s amazing streak

It’s not exactly a news flash, but the numbers Jerry Rice posted during his Hall of Fame career are pretty astounding. Whether it’s the career catches, the total yards or the number of touchdowns, some of the things Rice accomplished in the NFL aren’t likely to be duplicated anytime soon. That and more will be part of this week’s edition of “A Football Life“.

For instance, Elliot Harrison took a look at Rice’s incredible 1987 campaign. In just his third season, the young receiver scored 23 total touchdowns (22 receiving) — in just 12 games! That year, Rice averaged nearly 21 fantasy points per game. By contrast, Drew Brees averaged 22.4 points per game during the 2013 season while Jamaal Charles posted 20.5 ppg.

What perhaps gets overlooked is how much of a volume scorer Rice was during the prime years of his career with the San Francisco 49ers. It probably shouldn’t be surprising; after all, in order to become the league’s all-time leader in touchdowns scored, you’ll have to post them in bunches. But when you look at the stats and see ten straight seasons of double-digit touchdowns, it boggles the mind. Beginning with his breakout 1986 season and going through the 1995 league year, Rice averaged 15 end zone visits per year. The current king of wide receivers – Calvin Johnson — has scored 15-plus TDs just once in his first seven seasons in the league. That’s the reason Rice was frequently a first-round fantasy pick during his heyday.

While the Hall of Famer never scored ten or more touchdowns again after 1995, he did post nine scores on three different occasions (the final time coming in 2001 with the Oakland Raiders). Nonetheless, he had long since cemented his place in the Hall of Fame — both real and fantasy.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Jan
28

Cowboys add another play-caller to the mix

Cowboys hire Linehan to call plays: Never being a group to shy away from out-of-the-box ideas, the Dallas Cowboys have hired former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to call plays. But there’s a twist — the Cowboys are also retaining Bill Callahan to be the team’s offensive coordinator. Linehan spent the past five seasons leading the Lions’ offense and turned them into a top 10 outfit over the past three campaigns. While life in Detroit has centered on the passing game, Linehan has had some success running the football in the past. In 2002-03, his Minnesota Vikings were in the top five in rushing yards. The biggest issue could be a divergence of opinion among the team’s braintrust in how to operate the offense. Don’t look for it to have a drastic effect on Tony Romo or Dez Bryant. But it will be interesting to see how the team uses a player like DeMarco Murray going forward.

Big potential for Pitta?: Now that Gary Kubiak is the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator, he has been quick to express his desire to get tight end Dennis Pitta more involved in the offense. Pitta had been an emerging option in Baltimore’s offense before a hip injury put him on the shelf for the bulk of the 2013 season. Upon his return, the tight end immediately went to work and reminded everyone why he can be a quality option at the position next year. He’s likely to be undervalued but could be a later-round steal in many drafts.

More work for Dobson?: In a season when the Patriots struggled at times to find consistent pass-catching options, there is hope that Aaron Dobson can step up and be a playmaker next season. Midway through the season, he started to assert himself a little more in the offense. With the chance that Danny Amendola could be a salary cap casualty and Julian Edelman facing free agency, there might be an opportunity for Dobson to be a more regular option for Tom Brady.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Jan
27

Chris Johnson knee surgery worth watching

Johnson to have surgery: Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson will reportedly undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. It was the same injury Johnson played a bulk of the season with, likely contributing to a season in which he ran for just 1,077 yards — the second-lowest total of his career. It’s with that production and now a knee surgery that the speedy running back heads into free agency. Since he is adamant against taking a pay cut, it’s hard to imagine Johnson returning to Tennessee next season. However, it could be interesting to see how many teams have an interest in the veteran and what role he would potentially fit into.

Amendola could be cut: Speculation is rising that the New England Patriots could cut ties to wide receiver Danny Amendola in the wake of a disappointing first season with the team. When Amendola signed with the Pats last offseason, it was assumed that he would be the replacement for Wes Welker. Instead, that role ended up going to the more productive Julian Edelman. Edelman is headed toward free agency while Amendola is owed a significant chunk of guaranteed money that could he spread around if he were released. The biggest knock on Amendola has been his inability to stay healthy. If he indeed leaves New England, he can be a productive receiver wherever he might go. The question for fantasy owners will be how much they can trust a player who has missed 24 games in the past three seasons.

Wallace has high hopes: Mike Wallace‘s first season with the Miami Dolphins wasn’t what he likely hoped. While he set a new career-high with 73 catches, he racked up just 930 yards and a career-low five touchdowns. However Wallace believes he could have had a significantly better season, saying he should have had “15 or 20 more touchdowns.” Twenty more touchdowns would have meant setting a single-season record for receiving scores. That seems unlikely, but it’s not crazy to think that he can do better in 2014. Four of his five touchdowns came in the final six weeks of the season. If Wallace truly is building a rapport with Ryan Tannehill, he could have elevated fantasy value next season.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Jan
24

Pettine: Brian Hoyer is a ‘winner’

Pettine praises Hoyer: For a short time (read two-plus weeks), Brian Hoyer was the Browns Quarterback du Jour. But a torn ACL in Week 5 ended his season and left Cleveland scrambling. Nonetheless, new head coach Mike Pettine sang the praises of the journeyman QB Thursday, calling Hoyer a “winner” and adding that his “intangibles are off the charts.” It’s nice to hear those props (especially if you’re Hoyer), but it doesn’t obscure the idea that Cleveland is going to chase a potential starting quarterback in the draft. Look for Hoyer to return to backup status in 2014.

Wilson says he’s healing: New York Giants running back David Wilson tweeted the good news that his surgically-repaired neck is healing well and that he’s optimistic about his return to the field. The running back underwent a procedure last week to repair a herniated disc in his neck. When (or if) he is able to play again will depend on how the rehab process goes. Right now, Wilson appears to have a long road ahead of him and it’s possible that he won’t be in an NFL uniform in the 2014 season.

Peterson surgery successful: Adrian Peterson has successful groin surgery, according to a statement released by the Vikings. With the rehab time placed somewhere around six weeks, there’s no reason to think Peterson will be affected heading into the 2014 season. There might be some reason to be concerned about the running back having surgery for the third time in as many seasons, but his toughness and durability shouldn’t frighten fantasy owners away.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Jan
23

Pettine has work to do as new Browns coach

The Cleveland Browns have found their man. Former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has been hired to take the reins after the firing of Rob Chudzinski.

In his five seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator (he held the job with the Jets from 2009-12), Pettine’s defenses have been in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed. That includes this year with the Bills, a defense he took from 22nd in 2012 to 10th in 2013. Now he takes over a Browns defense that has plenty of talent but finished ranked 23rd in the NFL. Look for Pettine to help improve that standing.

From a fantasy standpoint, there’s much to like on the defensive side as well. Pettine’s defenses have excelled when it comes to takeaways, ranking eighth or better in four of his five seasons as a coordinator. During that same stretch, those units have been top 10 fantasy options.

The bigger task will come on the offensive side of the football. The Browns are going to be in the market for a new starting quarterback, likely focusing their energy on Johnny Manziel. Similarly, Cleveland’s backfield is a mess. Willis McGahee finished 2013 as the team’s leading rusher, but the 32-year old back was merely a stopgap after the Trent Richardson trade and a number of injuries. The only sure thing for next season is Josh Gordon, who was a playmaker regardless of who was under center. Once Pettine has filled out his staff and the team makes a couple of personnel moves, we’ll start to have a better idea of what Cleveland’s overall draft value will look like.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

Jan
23

Jay Gruden says he’ll let RGIII ‘be himself’

‘Foolish’ to make RGIII a pocket passer: When Jay Gruden was hired as Washington’s new head coach, the biggest question was what would he do to help Robert Griffin III return to being the dynamic quarterback we saw in 2012. So far, we know one thing Gruden won’t do — confine Griffin to the pocket. The coach says he’d be “be foolish to try to turn RGIII into a pocket passer” and will mold the offense to fit his quarterback’s natural abilities. The biggest question will be whether or not Griffin has learned (or can be taught) to protect himself better on the field. His propensity to take big hits in his first two seasons has led to doubts about his ability to stay healthy long term. Now that he is a full season removed from major knee surgery, he should look more confident running the football. But until questions about his durability have been sufficiently answered, he’ll remain a low QB1 or high QB2 in 2014.

Giants offense to go up-tempo: Allow the New York Giants and new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to remind us that the NFL is a copycat league. Big Blue’s new O.C. says he plans for the team to run a more up-tempo attack in 2014. Certainly teams like the Broncos, Patriots and Eagles have found success running a more high-speed offense. It’s a move that has Victor Cruz excited, but it will be interesting to see if Eli Manning‘s predilection toward throwing interceptions will make this a viable change. In the meantime, the idea that Cruz, Andre Brown and the rest of the Giants offense could see more snaps will help their draft value. Now if we only knew who the team’s second receiving option was going to be.

Jaguars not counting on Blackmon?: Suspended Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon will be eligible to apply for reinstatement sometime before the beginning of next season. When that is, however, is unknown. In the meantime, the team reportedly is looking at having the young WR’s presence as a “luxury“. That seems to imply that the Jags aren’t certain Blackmon will be reinstated for the start of 2014 and could start looking for other options to pair with Cecil Shorts. Blackmon’s talent is undeniable, but with two suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, he has become a major risk.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

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