GENEVA (AP) — FIFA has fined Qatar's soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country's Emir at a World Cup qualifier.
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Adrian Beltre just wanted to work hard, be consistent and earn respect in the game. As a young player, he never even thought about historical numbers like 3,000 hits.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — With Clayton Kershaw sidelined by injury, the Los Angeles Dodgers are in need of a dominant left-hander.
NEW YORK (AP) — A Las Vegas gambler linked to golfer Phil Mickelson was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison by a judge who said the businessman collected tens of millions of dollars illegally in the stock market to seem like "a winner" to himself and others.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh says Joe Flacco will miss at least the first week of training camp because of a back injury.
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Valtteri Bottas feels like he finally belongs at Mercedes, and that is not as a support driver to Lewis Hamilton.
MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Teddy Bridgewater says he hasn't had any setbacks in his recovery from the massive injury to his left knee he suffered nearly a year ago in practice with the Minnesota Vikings.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — President Donald Trump's new communications director is getting sacked on social media for quoting Joe Paterno while making a point about honor and dignity.
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey says Aaron Hernandez was in great spirits when they talked on the phone the day before the former New England Patriots tight end hanged himself in his cell in a maximum-security prison in Massachusetts.
GENEVA (AP) — The corruption crisis in world soccer has removed another top FIFA official.
CHICAGO (AP) — One after another, the starting pitchers for the Chicago Cubs are delivering every night.
OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott stopped for a few moments to greet military personnel and pose for a few pictures on the opening day of training camp.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Cam Newton was back doing what he does at practice — dancing, playing up to the crowd and, most importantly, throwing passes.
A look at what's happening all around the majors Thursday:
SEATTLE (AP) — When Chris Sale woke up Wednesday, he was unaware the Red Sox were on a four-game losing streak.
WASHINGTON (AP) — On the eve of training camp, the Redskins announced they'd moved on from one of their longest relationships.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — All-Star left-hander Dallas Keuchel is set to rejoin the Houston Astros' rotation on Friday at the Detroit Tigers.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert spent more than 30 minutes presenting a positive portrait of his franchise.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Petersen and Mike MacIntyre engineered two of the biggest breakthroughs in college football last season when they got Washington and Colorado into a Pac-12 title game matchup that absolutely nobody saw coming.
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Lane Kiffin went out and spoke to some colleagues earlier this week.
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) — An NFL star's diamond earring valued at more than $100,000 is now presumed lost on the murky bottom of a Georgia lake.
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Public opposition is growing against the planned induction of former football star Michael Vick into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis called the latest medical report on brain injuries involving former football players "alarming," and said it's something NFL players are talking about.
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Ryan Blaney will drive a third entry for Team Penske in NASCAR's top series next year.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Pac-12 will shorten halftime and reduce the number of commercial breaks during its non-conference schedule this season as part of a trial program to reduce the length of its football games.
GENEVA (AP) — The Olympic family of sports is in a period of turmoil one year after a troubled Rio de Janeiro Games.
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas isn't overreacting despite some recent spells with memory loss.
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The Cleveland Browns already have their first win: Myles Garrett is ready for training camp.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California is the preseason pick to win the Pac-12 in a poll of football media, and defending champion Washington is favored to win the North Division.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies tried to speed up the pace of play on Tuesday night and it was hardly noticed.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped all charges against a two-sport star at a suburban Pittsburgh high school who had been accused of raping a 17-year-old girl.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The daughter of Joe "Smokin' Joe" Frazier has started a petition calling for a Philadelphia boulevard to be named after the Hall of Fame boxer.
The two-a-day football practices that coaches once used to toughen up their teams and cram for the start of the season are going the way of tear-away jerseys and the wishbone formation.
SEATTLE (AP) — Guillermo Heredia provided the early punch with a home run, then turned an extra 90 feet into the winning run for the Seattle Mariners some four hours later.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Taylor wasn't even in the Los Angeles Dodgers' plans when the season started. Now they've got to wonder where they'd be without him.
CHICAGO (AP) — Restoring Penn State's reputation and returning its star near the top of the college football galaxy once again should have earned James Franklin some long-term job security. The fourth-year coach isn't taking any chances.
A look at what's happening all around the majors today:
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Harrison Bader started the day in Memphis and ended it sliding across home plate with the game-winning run for the St. Louis Cardinals in his major league debut.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright went on the disabled list with back tightness, and St. Louis put outfielder Dexter Fowler on the DL because of a strained left wrist.
CHICAGO (AP) — Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green was sued Tuesday by a couple who claim he and his entourage assaulted them last year in Michigan.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Though Zach Davies showed he's a triple-threat, the starting pitcher's best weapon was the one you'd least expect.
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Katie Ledecky breezed to her third gold medal of the world championships, backing off a bit on her most grueling night of the meet.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Nationals are hopeful that Stephen Strasburg will make his next scheduled start despite exiting Sunday's outing after two innings with pain in his forearm.
BOURBONNAIS – What is the biggest difference in the 2017 Bears since we left them at 3-13 in January?
Over the past six months, it has become clear to anyone paying close attention that the Bears are now general manager Ryan Pace’s team, while head coach John Fox just works there.
In the past two-and-a-half years, we can count on one hand the number of times Pace has spoken publicly without Fox by his side, and until January it was always Fox who dominated those occasions, at times feeling the need to add to Pace’s comments and even finish answers for him.
Meeting with Pace and Fox on Wednesday at the opening of the Bears’ training camp, it was clearly Ryan Pace’s show, completing the turnaround in control he’s been asserting this offseason.
For anyone keeping score, after each gave a brief opening statement, the first 12 questions were all directed at Pace, with Fox only weighing in on two of them because Pace asked him to, and many of them were about how Pace was handling the quarterback position, playing time and other decisions often left to the head coach.
Asked how he will measure the progress of this year’s Bears, Pace replied, “I know that the culture and the vibe of the locker room is really good right now.
“When we talk about playing with toughness and intelligence and passion and all those traits we strive for, I feel like we’ve got a team that embodies those traits.”
Asked about the pressure on Fox to perform well enough to keep his job entering the third year of his four-year deal, Pace was careful to accept some of the pressure to win on himself while acknowledging it is time to win more.
“I hear there’s pressure on this – there’s pressure on all of us. There’s a lot of pressure on me, and we all know what we signed up for,” he said. “I think the focus now is winning games, but if there’s one thing I can stress with John and things I appreciate every day it’s, look, it’s very difficult to change a culture.”
How much pressure is on Fox to win now remains unclear, but Pace did acknowledge the ultimate judgments come from the McCaskeys and he did talk about what he believes they expect.
“That conversation is always ongoing. I just think they want to see continued improvement,” he said. “I think they know there’s no quick fix. We talked about that. It’s about building this team the right way with the right kind of guys. And we’ve just got to show progress.
“I think as we go forward, our fans are going to see a tough, blue collar, grind-it-out kind of team that’s on the ascension, and it’s something they can be part of.”
I suspect Pace is right about how he will be evaluated and that he remains very safe in the eyes of the McCaskeys.
But while the culture may be improving, 2016 was a regression from six wins to three rather than progress, and whether Fox can expect that same leeway as Pace remains a serious question as practices begin Thursday.
• Write to Pro Football Weekly editor Hub Arkush at email@example.com or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — The most injury-plagued team in the NFL last season seemed to have good news on the health front at the start of camp.
Ryan Pace said Wednesday that he’s feeling “pretty optimistic” about the health and conditioning of his team. Players underwent physicals and the strength and conditioning test in the afternoon.
That optimism took a turn late Wednesday, though, when the team announced Pernell McPhee would begin camp on the PUP list for the second year in a row because of a knee injury. McPhee's knee limited him in the second half of 2015 and kept him out for camp and the first six games last season.
McPhee, who had four sacks this season and is the emotional leader for the defense, can be taken off the PUP list and return to practice at any time. He did participate in OTAs and minicamp.
Danny Trevathan, who tore his patellar tendon late last season, may even avoid the PUP list.
“There’s a chance he’s ready to roll,” Pace said. “We don’t have to PUP him but again, we need today to kind of evaluate and we’ll go from there.”
One player who we know is healthy is wide receiver Kevin White, entering Year Three after back-to-back season-ending injuries.
“He’s ready to go. He’s had a great summer, a great offseason, so he’s ready to go,” Pace said. “You can just feel his confidence gaining, knowledge of the offense and just being comfortable with his body. He’s pretty much unleashed.”
Next steps for Floyd: Pace’s 2016 first-round pick, Leonard Floyd, begins his second training camp with more muscle on his frame and, the Bears hope, better tackling technique after two concussions during his rookie campaign.
Floyd also is expected to have an expanded pass-rush arsenal we should see on display during camp.
“You see his speed, his quickness off the edge and I think you see his pass rush repertoire kind of developing, his ability to quickly counter,” Pace said. “He has a lot more kind of in his tool box as far as his pass rush moves, which is going to be exciting to see.”
High praise for Goldman: The Bears have high expectations for third-year defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, and Akiem Hicks has seen the potential.
“I wish I could put it into words, I’m never short on words, but he’s dominant,” Hicks said. “You can feel him next to you because I know that that guard isn’t going to come out and try to help or whatever the scenario is, I know I’m more likely to have a one-on-one with a guy when Eddie’s playing nose.”
Quick hits: Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton will not report to camp until this weekend because of the birth of his child. … Hicks said he is “completely open to ending my career here.” His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was spotted around the Olivet Nazarene campus late Wednesday afternoon, as Hicks is in the final year of his deal.
On Wednesday, the Bears made their way to Bourbonnais, IL for their annual training camp and as expected, all eyes are on the Quarterback position. As Mike Glennon begins his starting role for the Bears under center, the question remains, will they play their 2017 first round pick Mitch Trubisky if Glennon can’t deliver success? Ryan Pace and company are invested in Glennon, but it will be interesting on how the start of the season plays out. Kevin Fishbain has the report from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL.
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The 2017 Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football magazine is on newsstands now and available online. In addition to rankings, mock drafts and loads of player reports, it features 32 team fantasy depth charts. Here's a small taste of the Panthers information you'll receive by purchasing your copy today.
QB1: Cam Newton — Unfortunately I need someone with more time on their hands to confirm, but the guess here is the regression of the 2015 MVP last season, when he went from QB1 to QB18 (a staggering 131-point reduction) is as dramatic by a "relatively" healthy fantasy player as we've seen. Newton was banged around relentlessly, a troubling and continued trend from the Super Bowl, and underwent surgery in March to repair a torn right rotator cuff; "available" (he played 15 games) may be more apt than "heathy." But 2016's disappointment, the second time in three seasons Newton finished QB17 or lower after three top-five finishes to begin his career, paired with the team's commitment to using him less as a runner, clouds his 2017 outlook, to say the least.
RB1: Christian McCaffrey — He may not be Carolina's RB1, but the eighth overall pick and triple threat is poised to lead the backfield in touches — rushes, receptions and returns combined. It's all about improving Newton's efficiency and, subsequently, overall health after targeting his backs just 70 times last year contributed to the growing bullseye on his back. McCaffrey is likely to cede a lot of early-down and short-yardage work to Jonathan Stewart... until J-Stew inevitably gets hurt. Risk accompanies McCaffrey's RB14-RB15 price tag, third amongst rookie backs, but that's the cost of unique versatility and opportunity converging.
RB2: Jonathan Stewart — The 30-year-old missed three games due to injuries for the third consecutive season — an improvement from 2012-13, when he totaled nine appearances — and parlayed nine rushing TDs (same number as in 2014-15 combined) into an RB22 finish and one-year contract extension. Nonetheless, he's exceeded 4.1 yards per carry just once since 2011 and likely will be over-drafted on name recognition despite McCaffrey's arrival.
WR1: Kelvin Benjamin — It'll be interesting to see what condition Benjamin's condition is in when Panthers camp commences Wednesday. An offseason practice video of a waddling Benjamin, reportedly hovering over 250 pounds, instantly became prime Twitter comedian fodder. And that was preceded by Benjamin, in his return from a lost 2015 following ACL reconstruction, slumping from WR16 in PPR formats as a rookie to WR27. Theoretically, the underneath presence of McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel should unlock 50-50 chances for Benjamin downfield. It'll also eat into the opportunity of a boom-or-bust receiver who absorbed a whopping 146 targets as a rookie, which helps explain his WR33 price tag.
WR2: Curtis Samuel — He was listed at Ohio State as a running back, but Samuel improved as a pass-catcher each year, culminating in 74-865-7 receiving in 2016. With Samuel's 4.3 jets, even the erratic Newton will have a hard time overthrowing his new slot receiver. How sporadically he'll likely be targeted, however, as no better than Newton's fourth option to begin his rookie season will put a cap on Samuel's initial fantasy value.
WR3: Devin Funchess — He took a step back in Year Two, after seemingly gaining traction in camp, and should see the writing on the wall with the offense being recalibrated to feature McCaffrey and Samuel, each with divergent skill sets compared to Benjamin, still the unit's top dog, and Funchess, potentially the unit's odd man out.
TE1: Greg Olsen — The first tight end in NFL history with three consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns clearly still has plenty to offer entering Year 11. And unlike fellow stalwart J-Stew, Olsen's role isn't in jeopardy, as the rookies simply can't mimic his massive target and catch radius in the middle of the field. Olsen may lack the ceiling of Gronk, Kelce and Reed, but only Kelce has as high a floor.
When Derrick Johnson tossed his helmet on the ground in frustration against the Oakland Raiders on a Thursday night in December, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl hopes might have been thrown away with it. Johnson was gone for the rest of the season.
WIth most NFL clubs opening training camp this week, the evaluation process of every player on each club begins. While things will be a little different from team to team, they are also fairly similar. It goes without saying, all 90 players on the roster are evaluated on a daily basis.
Usually during the first seven to ten days of camps, most of the college scouts are in town meeting with the decision-makers as they prepare for the college season. At many NFL camps, the college scouts help evaluate their own team while in camp. A scout will be assigned a position to watch and then will write up each player in that position group before he leaves camp. These reports often go to the general manager, and those evaluations help the GM when he is in player meetings with the head coach.
In many cases, if a club's coaching staff has been around for a few years, the emphasis will be on the young players— especially the rookies. While the veterans still are being evaluated, the coaches know what those players can do. What they are looking for when watching the veteran player is if there is a significant drop-off in his play. This can be a difficult evaluation, as a veteran knows how to show he can still play. Coaches trust players who know and understand their assignments, so if a veteran player comes into camp and plays mistake-free football, even if he is losing some of his physical skill set, he can "fool" the coach into thinking he can still play. This is where a second set of eyes is needed to help the coach with the evaluation. That may be a scout or scouts from the pro or college scouting department and/or the GM and scouting director.
Many veteran players whose play is on the decline know how to get through camp without letting evaluators know their skill set is eroding. This can be dangerous for the club because that vet may play fairly well for a few games during the season, but as the season wears on their level of play drops off. That’s why many head coaches and general managers believe it is better to get rid of a player a year early than a year late. Keeping a veteran too long can cost you ball games!
On clubs that have a new coaching staff, the evaluation process is a little different for the coaches. Other than watch tape form the previous season, the position coach does not really know that much about the players in his group. With no pre-set opinions, the veteran player has to work harder in camp to show his new position coach that he can play. Often in new coaching situations, the first camp is a little more physical than others. The reason being is the staff needs to find out the talent level of all their players. It can be a lot harder for a veteran to “fool” a new staff.
With rookies, the process is a little different. Coaches know that they are new to the system and are often lost mentally at the beginning of camp. What coaches and scouts want to see is if the player improves every day. He has to always be ascending, so to speak. There will be a time when his play levels off. This happens with almost all rookies. What evaluators want to see is, after a few days of level play, the rookie starts to show improvement again at each practice. If that doesn’t happen, then the player has most likely hit his “ceiling” and it’s time to move on.
In recent years we have seen many clubs spend a few days practicing against another team. Often this is with thier upcoming preseason opponent. During these practices, evaluators can get an excellent "feel" for their own players because they see their players going against another club's players in a more intense practice setting. Where it is also benificial is it gives a club an excellent opportunity to evaluate the players on the opposing team in a practice situation. Becasue of this setting, it can help a club (especially a weaker club) when it comes time for cutdowns and waiver acquisitions. The club is getting a much closer look than just viewing tape from preseason games.
Before all game tape was digitized, clubs often sent scouts to many of the preseason games to watch younger players who they feel may be cut. While scouts still may attend some preseason games, it is not nearly as many as they used to. The reason being is that with digitized tape, clubs often have the game tape of every preseason game within 24 hours of it being played. That makes viewing the game tape that much easier for scouts. As long as they are somewhere with an internet connection, they have access to game tape. This makes the evaluation process of young players so much easier than it was even 10 years ago. Not only is it easier, but much more thorough, and there is no reason a club doesn’t have a good “book” on just about every player in the league — young and old.
Andy Reid was the first coach to give Michael Vick a second chance at playing in the NFL. This summer, he has given the former Pro Bowl quarterback another opportunity.
The 2017 Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football magazine is on newsstands now and available online. In addition to rankings, mock drafts and loads of player reports, it has features 32 team fantasy depth charts. Here's a small taste of the Falcons information you'll receive by purchasing your copy today.
QB1: Matt Ryan — His blistering MVP campaign seemingly came out of nowhere, but Ryan had four top-8 fantasy finishes prior to his plummet to QB19 in 2015 preceding a QB2 overall finish last season. Yet, here we are again asking ourselves, who exactly is Ryan? Although I'm admittedly leery over Kyle Shanahan's exit/Steve Sarkisian's arrival — and who wouldn't be? — the facts are Ryan still has the NFL's most physically dominant wideout and its most dynamic backfield pairing. Even with an expected regression from his awesome 38:7 TD-to-INT ratio and 4,944 yards (9.3 per attempt), Ryan's floor seems to be as middle-of-the-pack QB1; his current myfantasyleague.com ADP of QB6 avoids too much MVP inflation.
RB1: Devonta Freeman — One of the game's more complete backs, unfortunately for fantasy owners, resides in one of the NFL's more diverse offenses. And although there's no shame in him following up his eye-opening RB1 overall finish in 2015 with an RB6 placing in PPR leagues a year ago, Freeman likely is closer to the latter moving forward, as long as a healthy Tevin Coleman looms. How Freeman's imminent extension affects Sarkisian's plans for him is hard to predict; our guess is Atlanta will look to protect its investment while Coleman remains cheap by continuing to expand the latter's role.
RB2: Tevin Coleman — He was RB19 overall in PPR formats, a true fantasy breakout after just 406 scrimmage yards and one total TD as a rookie. So with our aforementioned prediction of more work coming for Coleman, he should exceed last year's results, right? Not necessarily. Coleman parlayed just 149 touches into fantasy gold last year. By contrast, RB18 Carlos Hyde and RB20 Lamar Miller commanded 244 and 299 opportunities, respectively. As much as we love Coleman's speed and burgeoning receiving ability, his 11 TDs and 6.3 yards per touch appear to be unsustainable, and it's unknown how a big usage spike will impact a player who's struggled with injuries. Nonetheless, his summer price tags (RB25/RB23 on fantasypros/mfl, respectively) are enticing.
WR1: Julio Jones — That catch (pictured) from the Super Bowl was pretty good, right? Lest we forget, that, and much of Jones' WR6 production, occured with just one good wheel. Jones underwent offseason foot surgery and healed, the Falcons say, beautifully. He's just 28, with unusual pain tolerance, but it hasn't prevented him from missing time in four of his first six seasons. Ryan's greatness last year was in part due to his relying less on Jones, and Sarkisian has vowed to keep with what worked. Sark also promised more red zone involvement for Jones, never an Alpha TD scorer with "just" 40 through six regular seasons. He's going off second or third among fantasy wideouts in July drafts, and though there are a few concerns, we can't argue.
WR2: Taylor Gabriel — It's a toss-up between Gabriel and Sanu, the former a potential home run on every play and the latter more of a singles and doubles guy but better at driving them in. PPR players likely will lean slightly toward Sanu, but there's no denying Gabriel's superior upside. If there's a player in this offense, though, whose value could really crumble with Shanahan's exit, we think it's the gadgety Gabriel.
WR3: Mohamed Sanu — He exceeded our expectations in his Atlanta debut... and it resulted in a WR51 PPR finish (Gabriel was WR56). Sanu will do the dirty work, not of importance to fantasy owners, but also attract a lot of red-zone looks; his 13 last season led Atlanta wideouts by a wide margin (Jones was No. 2 with nine). If the Falcons finally give Jones the attention near the goal line he's long deserved, Sanu's fantasy outlook dims... and we never viewed it as particularly bright to begin.
TE1: Austin Hooper —We're not reccomending you jump through hoops to obtain him, per se, but if there's a breakout candidate in this offense, you're reading about him now. Hooper was nothing if not efficient as a rookie. He caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl and reportedly built on the growing rapport with Matt Ryan during the break. Jacob Tamme, whose 11 red-zone chances were tied with Coleman for third in Atlanta (31 targets tied for sixth), is gone. Is Hooper poised to follow fellow former third-rounder Coleman's Year Two arc? The cost to find out — middling TE2 in yet another muddled TE crop — is hardly prohibitive.
The 2017 Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football magazine is on newsstands now and available online. In addition to rankings, mock drafts and loads of player reports, it features 32 team fantasy depth charts. Here's a small taste of the Cowboys information you'll receive by purchasing your copy today.
QB1: Dak Prescott — Is a sophomore slump imminent for last year's QB6 overall and one of the best rookie success stories in recent memory? Prescott's current ADP (QB12 on myfantasyleague.com and QB9 on fantasypros.com) suggests owners are anticipating at least a minor one, and with two new blockers and an offseason for defensive coordinators to try and catch up to Prescott, it's logical. Also logical: a healthy Dez Bryant for a full season, plus Prescott's own Year Two improvements and added value with his mobility may stave off any regression.
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott — Wonder why the NFL is taking so ridiculously long with the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year's domestic violence investigation, which ESPN's Adam Schefter has repeatedly hinted will end with a one- or two-game suspension? The league is conspiring against fantasy football owners, of course. Seriously, though, prospective Elliott owners must reconcile Elliott, the already-dominant runner in a picture-perfect fantasy environment, with Elliott, the just-turned-22-year-old who, despite never being charged with a crime, has put himself in some unnecessarily precarious situations early in his adjustment to NFL stardom. The volatility of Elliott — and Le'Veon Bell, for that matter — has us leaning toward David Johnson as our top RB1 preference.
RB2: Darren McFadden — Missed charter to camp and all, McFadden is the Alpha fantasy handcuff this summer because of Elliott's impending ban, to be sure. It's also because he's two years removed from an RB14 finish and the brittle 29-year-old has handled just 27 touches since then, as the Cowboys offense has morphed into a fantasy juggernaut.
RB3: Alfred Morris — He's one year younger and a heck of a lot more durable than McFadden, but we struggle to find additional compelling reasons to get excited about Morris, whose idea of consistency doesn't exactly match what we're looking for: his total yards and per-carry average have sunk in each of his five NFL seasons.
WR1: Dez Bryant — Is dominant Dez back? He torched the Packers secondary in January with 9-132-2 receiving and has at least 80 receiving yards or a touchdown in seven of his last 10 games. Bryant, by all accounts, has clicked with Prescott this offseason after the two needed additional time rapport building following Bryant's missed time due to injuries. He's being drafted as WR8 and WR10, according to fantasypros and mfl, respectively, and that seems about right for a 28-year-old who maxed out at WR3 way back in 2012 and has been saddled with lower leg injuries the past two seasons.
WR2: Cole Beasley — WR33 in PPR format last year, Beasley hauled in five touchdowns for the second consecutive season, upping his three-year total to 14 — not bad for a [insert diminutive slot receiver jargon here]. He led Dallas with a career-high 98 targets, too, converting them into 75-833 receiving (also personal bests). Although a healthy Bryant figures to even out the target share a bit, Beasley (WR52 in PPR leagues in 2015, when the Cowboys had the league's worst QB situation) has grown into a solid if unspectacular WR3/WR4 PPR commodity.
WR3: Terrance Williams — He landed $9.5 million guaranteed this offseason as part of his new four-year deal after averaging 44-697-4 receiving in four seasons while never missing a game. Williams will miss some catches, and assignments, however, and didn't create as many big plays last year, when his average (13.5 yards) was down more than two yards from his career mark. Although Williams got paid, we fully expect the Cowboys to find a role for rookie Ryan Switzer, which won't help Williams' fantasy prospects.
TE1: Jason Witten — The end of an institution: for the first time since his rookie season in 2003, Witten didn't finish as a TE1 (TE14 overall in standard leagues). Approaching his 15th season, at age 35, Witten could rejoin the fringe starter group. But with his scoring stagnant while TD hog Bryant was hobbled the past two seasons and Beasley becoming more of a short and intermediate weapon, Witten's best fantasy days are obviously behind him.
NFL training camps will be opening around the league this week. By the end of next week, most of the major college football programs will have started practice. It used to be when training camps opened the annual late summer ritual of double sessions had begun. That is no longer the case in both NFL and college football. Why is that?
There are a number of reasons for the decline of double sessions, but one of the main reasons is year-round conditioning. Back when I was playing football, and when I started working in the NFL in the early 1980s, there was no such thing as OTAs and offseason programs. Players used to have to be motivated to train on their own. I started working for the New York Giants in January 1985 and that was just after the Giants had built their first “State of the Art” weight room at the old Giants Stadium. It was in the early 1980s that clubs were beginning to hire full-time strength and conditioning coaches.
Double sessions began because football was a fall-only sport and the money being paid to professional football players was minimal compared to today. Many players had offseason jobs. Once training camps opened, there needed to be double sessions just so the players could get in shape and prepare for the long grueling season.
In the colleges, players weren’t around all summer preparing for the season. They were home during the summer months, and many participated in other sports. As the game evolved, double sessions stayed more because of the tradition than anything else.
Not only were double sessions prevalent when I started working in the NFL but they were also much more physical. I remember very vividly my first training camp with the Giants at Pace University in Pleasantville, New York. The players reported on a Sunday and double sessions began the very next day. At the opening practice, just after the players finished stretching, the first period of practice was 20 minutes of the old “nutcracker” or “Oklahoma” drill. Head Coach Bill Parcells said at the time, ”I just wanted to see who was ready to play”.
There was “live hitting” for a good part of both practice sessions seven days a week. You never see that anymore. One of the reasons is the players are being paid too much money and you can’t afford to get them hurt and another is the players are just about ready to start the season the day camps opens.
“Back in the day”, the vast majority of a team’s offense and defense wasn’t installed until the team got to training camp. Now clubs get a good portion of their offense and defense installed during the offseason program and OTAs. Once camp opens, after a short review, clubs just pick up where the left off in late June. While there is always some “hitting” going on, it isn't nearly as aggressive or all-out as it used to be. Training camps are now about more of the mental part of the game, with the preseason games being used to take care of the physical.
The exception seems to be when a new coaching staff comes on board. They don’t know the players and have to use part of training camp to find out who their “players” are. Training camps are now “country clubs” compared to the way they used to be run. In all honesty, I miss the “old days;" camps were fun and you could see your team “come together”. I'm not sure we see that now, and that makes the game a bit more boring.
It’s telling and entirely unsurprising that, even for a team facing disciplinary issues across its roster, the Cowboys spent the majority of Sunday morning answering questions about Ezekiel Elliott.
With uncertainty surrounding their linebacker corps, the Cowboys added a familiar face with the signing of Justin Durant on Thursday.
The PFW podcast is back, with the voice of the Cowboys, Brad Sham (@Boys_Vox), and the Green Bay Press Gazette's Ryan Wood (ByRyanWood) joining host Arthur Arkush to break down the offseasons in Dallas and Title Town. What do Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott have left for their encores?
The Cowboys 'D' is going to be vastly different — but from a personnel standpoint, is that necessarily a bad thing? Wood analyzes the Packers' defense, particularly at corner and edge rush, and explains why Ty Montgomery has the look of a back ready to shoulder a greater load. Too, plenty of great information on Jaylon Smith, Dez Bryant, Martellus Bennett, Damarious Randall and so much more!
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As have seen in recent history, top corners are always worth a premium whether it be the draft or NFL free agency. Teams can never get too many good corners. Four corners were drafted in thie past April's draft and that number would have been higher if it weren’t for some unfortunate injuries suffered by some of the top corner prospects.
While it’s still too early to say how strong the corner class will be in the 2018 NFL Draft because we don’t know how many underclassmen will enter the draft, there is one who many clubs will be looking at closely once college training camps open up in a few weeks.
That player would be Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden. McFadden is entering his junior year at Florida State and was a full-time starter in 2016. Coming out of high school, McFadden was rated as a 5-star prospect and one of the better prospects in the country, regardless of position. He chose Florida State over some of the best programs in the country. As a freshman he played as a backup and special teams player before becoming the starter a year ago.
Top cornerbacks are always worth a premium, and when that corner has height and length his value can be even higher. McFadden is listed as being 6-2, 195 poundsand to go along with that height he has very long arms. Watching tape, he looks as if he may be a bit “high cut” with very long legs also. While he is a very smooth athlete, he is not what I would call a burner. He can run but he is a long strider and his speed can be deceiving. That said, I have seen him lose a few foot races versus speed receivers and while in pursuit. At this time I would estimate his speed as being in the 4.48 to 4.50 range.
While he is a strider, he is smooth and quick-footed with top body control, flexibility and change of direction. He can flip his hips as well as any and transitions very quickly. In the Florida State scheme, they play a lot of press man and McFadden is very good playing press. He can jam and re-route a receiver and has very good mirror skills versus moves.
On tape we see mostly press, but FSU also plays a lot of off and McFadden is very good with that skill. One of the most important traits a top corner has to have is ball skills and that is where McFadden excels. He had eight interceptions last year to go along with another five passes broken up. Not only does he track the ball well but he has very good hands. His length really stands out when playing the ball and he high points the ball very well.
Where McFadden needs to improve is with run support and tackling. He has a narrow lean frame and he can be slow off blocks and misses some tackles because of his lack of top upper body strength. He is not a real aggressive type and we don't see him "attack" when in run support. Except for some run blitz plays, he often waits for the play to come to him. Being that he will be only a third-year junior and 20-year-old, I expect that he will show vast improvement in those areas this coming season. If that happens he will easily be one of the top corners in the next NFL Draft class.
With the college football season opening weekend only five weeks away, we will find out soon enough.