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


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


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


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


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


Teams interested in Mark Sanchez, says coach

Could Sanchez start elsewhere?: When Mark Sanchez was lost for the 2013 season due to a shoulder injury, it was widely assumed that he would never play another down for the New York Jets. But it also added some question as to whether he would ever have a shot at another NFL starting quarterback job. According to at least one unnamed coach, the answer is yes. Without knowing who exactly made the statement, it’s hard to get too fired up about it. But when you look around at the dearth of quality starting QBs in the NFL, it’s not a ridiculous idea. But simply the idea of Mark Sanchez once again being a starter shouldn’t excite fantasy owners. In his career, he’s thrown more interceptions (69) than touchdowns (68). Unless he finds himself surrounded by an amazing array of pass-catchers — which seems unlikely — he’ll need to prove himself before he can be considered to have any real value.

Amendola’s injuries hampered production: It seems like an obvious statement, but Danny Amendola’s continued injury issues played into his depressed fantasy totals in 2013. The veteran receiver finished the season ranked just 60th in fantasy points at his position — a far cry from the expectations that he’d replace Wes Welker in the Pats’ pecking order. While it’s probably a fair caveat, it’s also the reason that it will be hard for fantasy owners to take an early shot on Amendola in drafts next season. Over the past three seasons, he’s missed 24 games (out of a possible 48). His ability to play through pain is admirable, but when you’re counting on a player’s production, his best ability is often his availability.

Myers’ status up in the air: When Brandon Myers moved from the Oakland Raiders to the New York Giants, it appeared that the sleeper tight end would be ready to wake up and produce. It didn’t happen in 2013. Some of that is owed to Eli Manning’s erratic season. Some of it can be blamed on Big Blue’s offensive scheme under former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Now that Ben McAdoo has taken over the OC duties for New York, it will be interesting to see if he agrees with Gilbride’s assessment that Myers is a No. 2 tight end. Regardless, after falling out of the top 15 among fantasy tight ends, Myers should best be left at the tail end of draft boards — if at all.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


LeGarrette Blount could confound Pats RB situation

Blount wants to return to NE: It’s not a surprise that LeGarrette Blount says he’d like to return to the New England Patriots backfield in 2014. However, if the veteran running back is back with the Pats next season, it creates an interesting conundrum for fantasy enthusiasts. With Blount added to a healthy Shane VereenStevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden, there won’t be nearly enough touches to go around. Add in Bill Belichick’s propensity to frequently rotate his running backs and this committee has the potential to be highly-frustrating next season. That doesn’t mean you should avoid any of those backs. But you’ll want to draft a couple more consistent running back options before you give the Patriots crew a look.

Lance Moore out in New Orleans?: As the New Orleans Saints prepare for the offseason, the Times-Picayune notes that Lance Moore has a salary cap number of $5.1 million — a big number for a player who saw his spot on the depth chart challenged by the much more budget-friendly Kenny Stills. Moore, who turns 31 in August, has posted just one 1,000-yard season  in his eight-year career. Wherever he will be hard-pressed to become anything more than a No. 3 or 4 wide receiver on the depth chart. It’s hard to envision him being drafted in many fantasy leagues next season.

QB changes coming in Cleveland: After yet another season of frustration, the Cleveland Browns are likely to overhaul their quarterback situation … again. With talk that the team is heavily targeting Johnny Manziel, it doesn’t bode well for the likes of Jason Cambpell and Brandon Weeden. Whoever the quarterback is, hopefully he’ll be smart enough to target Josh Gordon frequently. Don’t look for the wide receiver’s value to take a hit considering the success he had with a myriad of signal-callers throwing him the football. As for the draft value of Cleveland’s next starting quarterback — it’ll all depend on who that player is.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


Harvin ruled out for NFC title game

Still on the shelf: Percy Harvin is still dealing with concussion symptoms — among other ailments — and has been ruled out for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
Harvin didn’t practice even once this past week because he didn’t pass concussion protocol. The only chance we’d possibly have of seeing Harvin again would be in the Super Bowl if Seattle makes it that far. For this week, fill your roster with others from the Playoff Challenge Roster.

Bess case: Davone Bess was arrested for assaulting a police officer Friday morning at the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Airport. Bess hAs been making the news for all the wrong reasons lately, and there’s a fairly good chance he won’t be with the Browns in 2014. I can’t imagine he’d have much fantasy value unless hw went to a pass-happy offense that found a way to work him in.

Sam I am: Sam Bradford is recovering from a torl ACL, but he is confident he’ll be ready for the start of training camp. I think the Rams really meant it when they said they’d give Bradford another chance to prove himself. The Rams are in urgent need upgrades at positions other than quarterback, which is why I think they won’t take a QB if they stick around at No. 2 in the draft. The biggest boost to Bradford’s fantasy value could be a bookend offensive tackle.


Good news or bad news for Doug Martin?

Run, baby: New Bucs OC Jeff Tedford likes to spread the wealth in the backfield, as he made no secret of his plans to use multiple running backs in Tampa Bay’s gameplans in an effort to keep personnel fresh. The Bucs don’t really have a franchise quarterback, so Tedford is probably wanting to implement a running game to compensate for that. It’s too early to tell if Doug Martin’s fantasy value will take a hit, although Mike James likely played well enough at times in 2013 to earn himself some carries this coming year.

Moving on: More reports continue to emerge that suggest RB Chris Johnson won’t be with the Titans next season. He’s looking for a mega deal that many teams won’t be willing to give after two straight subpar seasons as well as a league-wide shift towards building a passing attack. Some team will pick him up, and he is still a very capable back when he’s motivated and healthy. Depending on where his change of scenery lands him, he could be a decent fantasy bargain in 2014.

Crab claw: Michael Crabtree is practicing this week despite dealing with a lingering wrist injury. Crabtree’s injury came in the first quarter of a very hard-hitting divisional playoff game between the Niners and Panthers last Saturday. For those of you chasing after Playoff Challenge perfection, this shouldn’t deter you from starting him. Crabtree didn’t leave last week’s game and should play the full 60 in Seattle this week.


Megatron undergoing some major repairs

Tune up: So, yo know how Megatron had offseason knee surgery? Turns out that wasn’t all he had worked on. Calvin Johnson is also recovering from a finger operation, which may explain some of the inexplicable drops he had late in the season which he’d usually grab in his sleep. Both the finger and knee operations were done to correct issues which go back well before this season. He has missed just six games in his seven-year career, so he may have been running a couple quarts low for some time now. Heaven help opposing secondaries if he comes out even stronger and more fit than usual.

Back in action? Kenbrell Thompkins has been officially diagnosed with a concussion, which is why he was limited in practice on Wednesday. Thompkins hasn’t registered a catch in any game since December 1st, although if he is listed as limited in practice, chances are we’ll see him this Sunday. Will he be an active target, though? I wouldn’t take the chance in my Playoff Challenge lineup.

Making up? All the animosity between Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders seems to have taken a turn torwards reconciliation as Pryor has fired agent Jerome Stanley. Stanley somehow believed the Raiders were intentionally trying to get Pryor to fail, but he was pretty productive as a dual-threat at times early in the regular season. Many expect the Raiders to go QB shopping with the fifth pick in the draft, although I’m not entirely convinced they don’t give Pryor one more go of it in 2014.


Mike Zimmer has work to build Vikings fantasy viability

The Minnesota Vikings filled their head coaching position Wednesday, hiring Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to fill the vacancy left by the firing of Leslie Frazier. The move seems to point to Minnesota’s need to shore up a defense that finished the 2013 season last in yardage and points allowed. Of course, it will take more than a head coaching change to improve a unit that was abysmal last season. Keep an eye on what the Vikings do both in the draft and free agency.

On the offensive side, much of Minnesota’s value will depend on what Zimmer decides to do with the offensive coordinator position. There is little doubt that the offense will continue to run through Adrian Peterson with occasional bursts of Cordarrelle Patterson. However, look for the team to upgrade at the quarterback position this offseason. There’s a lot of work to be done to give the Vikings offense more widespread fantasy credibility. Zimmer will have a lot of work to do.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


Jim Caldwell’s top job: Corralling Matt Stafford

After missing out on making Ken Whisenhunt their head coach, the Detroit Lions moved quickly to lock up Jim Caldwell as the man to take over the franchise.

Caldwell has spent the past season and a half as the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, helping the team to a victory in Super Bowl XLVII. During that championship run, Caldwell re-emphasized the running game with Ray Rice, although it was Joe Flacco’s on-point passing that was the biggest story of Baltimore’s post-season success. This year, the Ravens’ offensive line woes led to major struggles in the rushing game — as any Ray Rice fantasy owner can attest. As such, a larger burden was placed on Flacco and the results were mixed.

Of course, this won’t be Caldwell’s first go-round as a head coach. He led the Indianapolis Colts from 2009-2011 after the departure of Tony Dungy. In his first season at the helm, Caldwell led Indy to a 14-2 record and an ultimate loss in the Super Bowl. The next season, the Colts finished 10-6 with a first-round playoff loss to the Jets. Things weren’t quite so rosy in 2011 when Peyton Manning missed the entire season with neck surgery and Indianapolis finished 2-14.

Now Caldwell heads to Detroit where he will once again find himself in charge of a pass-first offense. It would seem to bode well for Matthew Stafford to have Caldwell now on his side. The biggest question will be whether the coach can curb the quarterback’s sometimes-reckless ways in the pocket. In his final six games in 2013, Stafford threw 11 interceptions compared to just eight touchdowns. That was bad news for fantasy owners and even worse news for the Lions, who lost seven of their final eight games to miss the playoffs.

As goes Stafford, so goes the Lions offense. That means the success of the quarterback will have a direct impact on the fantasy fortunes of Calvin JohnsonReggie BushJoique Bell (if he returns to Detroit) and others. For now, Stafford remains a QB1 in most leagues, but it will be interesting to see what influence Caldwell has on him.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG


Whisenhunt will improve Titans’ fantasy production

Ken Whisenhunt becomes the 17th head coach in Tennessee Titans franchise history on Thursday, and of the remaining candidates with head coaching experience, he was considered the best of the bunch. The Vikings and Browns remain the only teams without a head coach.

Whisenhunt served as the offensive coordinator this past season with the Chargers. Before that, he won a franchise-record 49 games during his time with the Arizona Cardinals and also took the team to its first ever Super Bowl appearance. The Titans have spent plenty of money and also a high draft pick in 2013 to try to upgrade their offensive line, so if Russ Grimm comes on board as a coordinator, you have to like Chris Johnson’s chances of improving his poor 2013 numbers — assuming he sticks around.

It’ll also be interesting to see whether Whisenhunt will decide to try to better Tennessee’s quarterback production by sticking with Jake Locker or possibly looking to the draft. When he has a capable quarterback to work with, Whiz can get results. Check out Kurt Warner’s numbers under Whisenhunt’s first three seasons in Arizona:

3.417 yards, 27 TDs
4.583 yards, 30 TDs
3.753 yards, 26 TDs

The first year was Warner’s lowest of the three, but part of that probably had to do with learning Whisenhunt’s new offensive system,

Until the decision is made on which direction the Titans will go at quarterback, all we really have to go on is Whisenhunt’s history. He’s going to implement a tougher-than-you attitude among the Titans roster that they really didn’t have under Mike Munchak. Of all the off-season coaching hires, this is probably the biggest upgrade to both the team and the potential fantasy production of the offense.


Reason to believe in E.J. Manuel for 2014?

Sling it! Bills coach Doug Marrone recently said the Bills plan to expand Buffalo’s passing attack in 2014. Only eight teams attempted fewer passes than the Bills last year, but no team had more rushing attempts. The results were pretty poor — the team only reached the 30-point mark in two of their 16 regular season games in 2013 and were held at 24 or under the rest of the time. “We would like to be able to take more shots, throw it more on first down and become more productive from the standpoint of scoring,” said Marrone. Hmm. Does E.J. Manuel’s fantasy value get an uptick?


Not his year: Coach Pete Carroll said the Seahawks won’t know Percy Harvin’s status for the NFC Championship gzame until Wednesday or Thursday. After missing the huge majority of the regular season, Harvin is in the concussion protocol after getting blasted by Saints safety Rafael Bush. It just seems like Harvin is destined not to be an effective player this year. If you were thinking Playoff Challenge sleeper … well, I can’t blame you. Your next step is to think again and look elswhere.


Outdated fad: Bengals OC Hue Jackson hinted he may try to persuade the team to chase after Darren McFadden in free agency. The Bengals have already expressed some desire to run the ball more effectively in 2014, but there are two huge obstacles standing in the way — Giovani Bernard seems poised to make the leap to fantasy freak, and McFadden doesn’t seem capable of pouring himself a glass of water without picking up some kind of major injury. Even if McFadden does land in Cincy, it’s not going to help his fantasy value. I’ll pass.


Gio’s value just got a tremendous boost

Rush hour: New Bengals OC Hue Jackson said, “In order to win, we have to run the ball.” That certainly means good news for Giovani Bernard’s fantasy value in 2014. The Bengals ran the ball plenty in 2013, although a good percentage of those can be attributed to their having a large lead over an opponent and wanting to wind down the clock. The problem is their yards per carry (3.6) was very low, and when Jackson knows he’s going to need to improve on that number if he wants to be able to ride his running game throughout the season as opposed to just in mop-up time. I’m starting to wonder if Gio might be knocking on the door of Round 1 in 2014 drafts.

Wanna go outside? Packers WRs coach Edgar Bennett sasid he expects Randall Cobb to see more time outside in 2014 after he ran a huge majority of his snaps from the slot position last season. Depending on the defensive formations he sees, this should give Cobb more opportunities to make plays if he faces more one-on-one coverages as opposed to running routes over the middle in heavy traffic. Right now, Cobb is a very solid WR2. He could be even better than that next season. This might be one of those rare situations where a player’s preseason production could give a glimpse into what he’ll do once the real bullets start flying in September.

We already knew: In what should come as no surprise to anyone, Redskins coach Jay Gruden declared Robert Griffin III will be his starting quarterback, and there will be no competition for the spot. Kirk Cousins looked a lot better in 2012 than he did in 2013, and while his trade value took a big hit, at least the Redskins have a potentially capable backup in case their starter goes down again.

Powered by WordPress.com VIP | Subscribe (RSS)