Cooks wants to win d-Rx his bet

What could’ve been a 50-50 ball, perhaps even should have been a 50-50 ball, was made into no such thing at all.

Brandin Cooks saw to that.

The rookie receiver sped down the right side of the field, crossed in front of his defender, kept his body between his opponent and the football and uncoiled to make a leaping grab, falling to the turf at The Greenbrier resort about 45 yards from where Drew Brees launched the pass.

“It was an interesting play because there are some different things you see on film and it is harder for a player with his stature, farther down the field you go,” New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton said. “Often times it is harder to make plays above your head, but it was a good play in traffic. It was good to see.”

Pyro's take: I bet d-Rx $50 that Brandin Cooks would not reach 1,000 yards this season.

Cooks is a tremendous talent, and having Drew Brees and Sean Payton makes him even more potent. Brandin is a player who fights for every ball. He has amazing speed and should be a starter from day one, and I could be forced to pay d-Rx if he continues his rapid development.

07/28/14, 10:41 PM CDT by Houdini

Evans learning the importance of technique

Mike Evans, six-foot-five and somewhere north of 220 pounds, is a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new super-sized corps of pass-catchers already nicknamed the "Dunkaneers." He is adept at fighting off defenders for contested passes and he was drafted seventh overall in May because he's expected to create mismatches with smaller defenders.

Given his stature, one would think that the line of scrimmage would be his domain. Try to press a receiver of his size, who also has the speed to get downfield in a hurry if he slips by, and you're asking for trouble. The problem is, this is the NFL, and even cornerbacks of average size know how to deal with big receivers at the line.

Evans found that out on Saturday when he encountered a worthy opponent in Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner, who checks in at 5-10 and 186 pounds. The rookie from Texas A&M is eagerly working on all aspects of his game to speed his transition to the NFL, and getting off the line against press coverage is one of the most important issues.

"It's really technical," said Evans. "[Wide Receivers] Coach [Andrew Hayes-]Stoker, we work releases all the time. Even in walk-through we work releases. I found out today, Alterraun was right there and he didn't budge. I gave him so many moves and he didn't budge. So you've got to be real technical and give it all you've got.

"At this level, every inch matters. You need that inch to make the catch. Any separation you can get is great."

Pyro's take: Evans has the size and skill to be a beast in the NFL, but he also has to have the desire to be better at his craft. His experience with Verner is a wake up call that he will need to be precise in everything he does to excel at this level.

The good news is they have yet to put the pads on, and he has the drive to get better at his technique. In my opinion Evans should post the best fantasy numbers of all the rookie receivers.

07/28/14, 09:53 PM CDT by Houdini

Stafford embracing new offense

Stafford said he’s doing everything he can to immerse himself in Joe Lombardi’s offense and has benefitted from the jump he got on training camp when he reported Tuesday with the rookies and other quarterbacks.

There’s a lot of pressure on Stafford to pick up this offense quickly and be the floor general for what’s expected to be a potent Lions attack.

“Learning a new offense and learning new coaches, just getting to know them on both sides of the
football. Learning new teammates. That part of it is fun. It’s a challenge, but we’re excited about it.”

“When you can master yourself, which takes time and effort, it’s proven (this offense) can be successful,” Stafford said.

Pyro's take: Stafford has more weapons at his disposal, than he has had in his previous five seasons in Detroit. In Joe Lombardi's offense Stafford may not throw as much as he has the past the three seasons (2,024 attpempts or 674 per season), but he should be more effective. The Lions were an undisciplined team under Jim Schwartz, and Stafford was forced to overcome those mistakes. This should be the year Second half Staff becomes full-time Staff.

07/28/14, 09:43 PM CDT by Houdini

Sanu impresses while Jones remains on PUP

Marvin Jones, the No. 2 receiver, hasn’t had the ball because he tweaked an ankle early in July and they’re making sure it takes time to heal so it won’t linger. So he’s still on PUP. In the meantime, Sanu, the slot receiver has had a monster camp. Just on Monday alone he threw a touchdown pass, caught a touchdown pass in the red zone, and took a handoff for a run.

Lapham saw him on the sidelines and said, “You the man,” and Sanu said, “I’m just a guy behind the other two guys.”

Pyro's take: Sanu lost his mojo midway through last season, and Marvin Jones emerged. Jones is dealing with an ankle injury, and Sanu is taking advantage of the extra reps. There is a new coordinator in town, and while the Bengals plan to go to more of a balanced offense, Sanu is an X-factor receiver. His ability to run and throw the ball will give him extra looks, and his ADP is very low. If Mohamed looks like he did in the second half of last season then it won't matter. So far it looks like he is turning a corner in the new offense.

07/28/14, 09:20 PM CDT by Houdini

Rookie John Brown impresses in AZ

Brown was an unknown before the Cardinals drafted him in the third round in May, but has thus far wowed the organization with his progress. The
Pittsburg State product picked up significant buzz with his offseason production and played well on the first two days of training camp.

Monday was the first day of full pads, and coach Bruce Arians was interested to know how he would handle the change.“Can he play that fast? Can he get off the jam?” Arians said. “It’ll be more physical.”

Brown did his part to give answers, highlighting the practice with an 82-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Drew Stanton in 11-on-11 action.

Pyro's take: Brown landed in a perfect situation in Arizona. The rookie is only 5'10", but he has blazing 4.34 speed. That speed in Bruce Arians offense is a weapon that will be used. Arians has always favored a speedster that can challenge defenses, stretching the field and creating big play opportunities. Brown has a good chance to win the slot job, and hit on some long touchdown plays this season.

07/28/14, 09:03 PM CDT by Houdini

Chip Kelly giving his tight ends a new look

As the Eagles offense worked on the zone read and run plays during team drills on Sunday, the usage of the tight ends is something to note. The Eagles showcased a look with Brent Celek lined up in the slot to the right of the formation. Second-year tight end Zach Ertz was flexed out wide of Celek. This gives the Eagles a lot of flexibility with the ability to run wide with two good-sized blockers paving the way or to move the ball vertically thanks to the tight ends' pass-catching ability.

"All of our tight ends are very versatile in myself, Brent and James (Casey). We can all do different things and excel at different things. I think that's what makes us very dangerous, especially in the run and the pass game," Ertz said. "I think when you have the three of us out there - Brent in the slot and me out wide – there are a lot of mismatches."

Ertz demonstrated how dangerous his size can be as he used his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame to shield out cornerback Curtis Marsh and catch a pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez later during a 7-on-7 drill.

"I think just growing up playing basketball," Ertz said. "It's the same thing as going up for a rebound, using your body. You see that's how it is now with a lot of tight ends."

Pyro's take: This type of innovation on offense is why you should feel comfortable drafting Ertz this season. Kelly is looking to create mismatches, and Ertz has the ability to be the play-making tight end in the Eagles offense. For young players it is all about situation, and the situation for Ertz is a good one.

07/27/14, 11:06 PM CDT by Houdini

Green learning from Gates all the time

Tight end Ladarius Green is looking to capitalize on his sophomore season with the Bolts.

Within the first few days of training camp, Green has shown why he’s quickly become a fan favorite in San Diego. With superior hands, he’s made some tremendous catches in 7-on-7 drills, yet trying to become more versatile, the tight end mentioned he’s been working on his blocking.

“It’s always good to have Gates back on the field and back in the locker room as well. He’s a great person in the locker room and on the field he’s a great player. He always comes and coaches me up, teaches me stuff I don’t know so it’s always good to have him back.”

“I had to work on route running, getting in and out of routes and trying to perfect that as much as I can, but I’ve got Gates in front of me so (it’s easy to) watch him and try to compare myself to him.”

Pyro's take: Green is an explosive talent, but he is also a very team oriented player. He just wants to help the Chargers win, and he works hard in practice, and his relationship with Antonio Gates is only going to help his growth.

Gates is one of the best tight ends of the past decade, and if Green is able to absorb any of that wisdom, with his amazing talent he will be a force this season. Last season he only had 17 catches, but they went for 376 yards and three touchdowns. He has big play written all over him, averaging 22.1 YPC last season. Ladarius is being drafted as a backup, but his one of the backups that has a very high ceiling, which is the kind of backup I like.

07/27/14, 10:54 PM CDT by Houdini

Lattimore on PUP list

On Thursday, Jim Harbaugh explained the reason for the second-year running back's pre-camp designation.

"The trainers, doctors evaluate and they make those decisions," Harbaugh said. "As an organization, we do what’s best for the member of the team, the youngster on the team, because, ultimately, that’s in our best interests."

Harbaugh said Lattimore's setback was due to hamstring and knee issues.

"It’s a combination of the two," the coach said. "Again, doctors would be in a better position to talk about that. [Vice President of Football Operations] Jeff Ferguson, our trainer, would probably be in a better position to talk about that. We believe, talking to them, we’re doing the best thing for Marcus.”

Pyro's take: This is rough news for Lattimore, who now will see rookie Carlos Hyde jump him on the depth chart. This is especially frustrating when you consider that Kendall Hunter was lost for the season, and LaMichael James just suffered an injury that will cost him at least a month. If you stashed Lattimore last season this is bad news. The more time that he misses being on the practice field will see chances of being an impact player fall by the wayside.

07/27/14, 10:43 PM CDT by Houdini

Percy shows his skill set

Harvin, who had hip surgery last August and missed most of last season, sat out Saturday’s practice. But the receiver/returner/runner picked up Sunday where he left off on Friday.

In the 1-on-1 drill during the first full-pads practice of camp, Harvin made a nice catch of a Russell Wilson pass near the goal line despite All-Pro coverage by All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas. In the first full-team drill, it was Wilson to Harvin for a 4-yard gain on fourth-and-3. In the 7-on-7 drill, Harvin made a falling catch of a Wilson pass.

Just three more examples of what the passing game was missing last season while Harvin was sidelined.

“We want to work our way into camp and make sure we don’t overload him early,” coach Pete Carroll said of Harvin starting camp on an every-other-day schedule. “We’re trying to figure out what kind of work load he can handle. He works so hard and so fast at practice that we think we can do this for a while. We’ll see how it goes and we’re just going to learn as we go.”

Even on Saturday, Harvin participated in the walkthrough and meetings.

Pyro's take: Harvin is going to be a big part of the Seahawks offense this season, and the coaching staff is doing the right thing by giving him an every other day work schedule. I am a firm believer that Percy is going to thrive this season in Seattle, and be employed in multiple positions to attack defenses. If you are thinking about drafting him, or own him in a Dynasty/Keeper, the news has been nothing but positive to this point.

07/27/14, 10:37 PM CDT by Houdini

Eli learning a new offense

With the first preseason game one week away for the Giants, coach Tom Coughlin was asked about the progress of the new offense, saying it’s “two steps forward and one back.” Eli Manning took one of those steps forward today at training camp, opening up with a sharp drive at practice. Later on in 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 drills, Manning was also on point, completing strong passes to his wide receivers. “The more we can stay together, keep people healthy, and keep working; small gains, as I say,” Coughlin said. “It’ll come. There were parts of this drill today that were very good.”

Pyro's take: It's a good thing that Eli won't be running the same offense that led to pathetic fantasy numbers last season. Eli is looking to regain the form he had in 2011, and with the weapons around him he could come close. With the team undertaking a new offense, it is understandable if it takes a little time for the offense to really click, but the focus is there from Eli and the offense to bring them back to their glory days. He is going to be a great fantasy value as a backup this season.

07/27/14, 10:25 PM CDT by Houdini

Bortles off to a good start

This is what they wanted from Blake Bortles.

The cheer from the crowd following a two-minute, 11-on-11 drill midway through the second practice of Jaguars 2014 Training Camp Saturday confirmed that much.

Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, led a blisteringly, three-play touchdown drive during the period, a drive that had players celebrating, the crowd cheering and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley praising him afterward.

“He had a good day today,” Bradley said of Bortles following a two-hour, 10-minute practice Saturday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.

Bortles, who impressed coaches with his ability to recover and progress after difficult practices in organized team activities and minicamps, is still in no way a finished product. And Saturday’s practice in no way means he is ready to be the starting quarterback Week 1.

That role still goes to quarterback Chad Henne, who has been solid in the first two days of training camp practice.

Pyro's take: The Jaguars have said that they are not going to rush Blake onto the field, and will be going with Chad Henne to start the season. There have been rumblings the organization would like to have him sit his rookie season and learn.

I have a feeling he is going to continue to show the coaching staff he has the stuff to be the starter, and deserves the chance. He is more of a Dynasty play at this point, but he should be the starter by November.

07/26/14, 05:36 PM CDT by Houdini

Johnson in camp with the Texans

The normally soft-spoken Andre Johnson wanted to be heard and the Texans listened.

“I just think when you’ve been through so much with an organization, and I’ve been here going on 12 years now, there has been a lot of things that have happened,” Johnson said on Friday from NRG Stadium. “I’ve never really just voiced opinion on it, but I think at times there comes a time where when you don’t agree with something things that need to be said. That is pretty much what it was.”

Johnson reported for the start of training camp on Friday after missing OTAs and minicamp this offseason.

(After his first day at camp Johnson had this to say)

“So far, the first day install I picked up pretty well," Johnson said. "I went out there and wasn’t really thinking a lot. I got with Fitz (Ryan Fitzgerald) after everything last night and me and him went over some stuff. Everybody has been very helpful with me picking up everything. It’s just fun to be back out here and be with my teammates and getting back to football.”

Despite all the rumors circulating around a possible holdout, the two-time All-Pro did not consider sitting out for the year and said the underlying issue was never about the Texans draft strategy or their quarterback situation as many speculated.

Pyro's take: Andre just wanted to make sure his voice was heard this off-season, and it has been. Now he needs to focus on becoming a major part of Bill O'Brien's offense.

Johnson is still the best receiver on the Texans, and at 33 years old has yet to show signs of slowing down. He should quickly become the favorite target of Ryan Fitzpatrick, and once again see a lot of targets in 2014.

07/26/14, 04:50 PM CDT by Houdini

Romo's back is a major concern

On Friday, the Cowboys held another glorified walk-through but the starting quarterback Tony Romo wasn’t included. And that’s actually a major change from what we’ve seen from Romo when he’s been held out of practices this summer because of his back injury.

Romo typically stays engaged with the offense, giving pointers to both the quarterbacks and receivers about the routes and play-calling. But on Friday Romo started off on the field but left quickly after the stretching period.

“He wanted to not push it here this afternoon,” Cowboys VP Stephen Jones said Friday after practice. “He’s been going pretty good between all the conditioning and running and getting himself back into shape and then having a big two or three days here, that he wanted to take this afternoon and rest up a little bit and get ready. He said he doesn’t want to miss anything that’s competitive, and everybody agreed that was a good idea.”

Pyro's take: It is early at camp and Tony Romo is already being held out of practice, and a walk through at that. Romo's ADP is falling with this concern, and tough schedule this season. I am not a believer in Romo this season, and would only consider drafting him as a backup.

07/26/14, 03:07 PM CDT by Houdini

West turns heads on day 1

On the first day of Cleveland Browns open training camp, one player kept hearing his name chanted in roaring ovations from the loud and proud Browns faithful.

Unpredictably, it happened to be rookie running back Terrance West.

In a one-on-one passing drill going against linebackers, West put on a clinic, so much so, that coach Mike Pettine wondered for a second whether if that was actually his running back.

“I was a little shocked with Terrance today,” Pettine said, pleasantly surprised. “I had to double check my roster card to make sure I was looking at the right number. He did some nice things in the one-on-one period. That’s always a bonus when you have a running back that’s not just one-dimensional.”

Pyro's take: Terrance West comes from small Towson University, but he has big skills. Now that he is in camp he is doing what we talked about on our podcast episode 14, back in May. I love what this kid can do, and playing behind Ben Tate gives him a real opportunity. The fact that West can be a true asset in the receiving game only makes him more valuable. If you are looking for a sleeper, who is not going to be for long...look no further.

07/26/14, 02:29 PM CDT by Houdini

Shorts to Miss a Few Weeks

Cecil Shorts, the team's No. 1 pass-catcher, will miss multiple weeks of camp, coach Gus Bradley said Saturday, per the team's official website. Shorts missed time in OTAs with a calf injury and pulled a hamstring on Friday.

Bradley wasn't worried about Shorts' readiness for the season, but it's a discouraging start to camp. The injury helps to highlight the lack of experience at the position for the Jaguars.

Pyro's take: Shorts is just another injury to the Jaguars pass catchers that is already missing Ace Sanders and Justin Blackmon to suspensions. Rookie Wide Receiver Marquise Lee also missed all of OTA's with an ankle injury. Cecil should retain his spot as the number one receiver in the pecking order as he has the longest history with Chad Henne, but this injury gives rookies Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson a chance to develop chemistry with Henne working with the first team.

While the injury may seem insignificant now, just remember that hamstring injuries tend to linger, just ask Miles Austin. I just moved Marquise Lee ahead of Cecil on my tiers as someone will have to catch passes in Jacksonville, and coaches have been talking about moving the rookie around the formation and letting him work out of the slot. Shorts and Lee could be in a dogfight for the top receiver on the Jaguars come season end but my money is on the Biletnikoff Award winner.

07/26/14, 02:25 PM CDT by Stagg Party

Stewart looking for bounce back season

The last time the Panthers produced a 1,000-yard rusher was 2009, when Williams and Stewart became the only teammates in NFL history to top 1,100 rushing yards in the same season.

Last season was a tough one for Stewart. He started the year on the physically unable to perform list recovering from offseason surgery on both ankles. He ended the year trying (unsuccessfully it turned out) to return from a partially torn medial collateral ligament. All told, he saw action in six games.

Stewart looked ready to go the last few weeks, and there's no reason to believe he can't return to form. Despite foot problems that often limited him in practice, Stewart only missed two games in his first four NFL seasons, both because of a concussion. He's missed 17 games the last two seasons, but the ankle surgeries last offseason strengthened that trouble area.

Pyro's take: Stewart is going to have a very hard time getting back to his 1,100 yard form, especially with the crowed backfield in Carolina. Now that Cam Newton has less options at receiver, it is conceivable that he will run even more this season. Once Cam came to Carolina, the running backs have taken a backseat, and the biggest problem is that there are three guys on that seat.

07/26/14, 02:21 PM CDT by Houdini

Hunter Tears ACL

"The San Francisco 49ers suffered a significant injury on the second day of training camp when valuable reserve running back Kendall Hunter tore his ACL in a non-contact drill, the team confirmed Saturday morning.

Hunter was hurt Friday while catching a swing pass. He went down to the grass, and several teammates and coach Jim Harbaugh quickly attended to him. Hunter was able to walk off on his own power and was escorted to the locker room without a noticeable limp."

Pyro's take: Hunter was part of what looked to be one of the most talented backfields in the league but is looking thinner and thinner by the day. Hunter will now miss the rest of the season and Carlos Hyde's ADP should begin a rise over the next few weeks, especially with Marcus Lattimore still nursing a number of ailments.

Hunter will now spend the season rehabbing and try to prove to teams he is healthy for next season as he was in the final year of his contract with the 49ers. Frank Gore still remains the starter but he is in the last year of his deal as well so getting Hyde in dynasty leagues just became even more enticing.

07/26/14, 02:07 PM CDT by Stagg Party

Julio is on the field for the first day of camp

(Head Coach Mike Smith's Press conference)

On WR Julio Jones:

“I thought it was very good. You guys saw it. He was running routes very well. I thought the timing between he and Matt [Ryan] were good. You know we have a plan or prescription that we’re going to try and stay by for the first couple weeks and make an evaluation after that. It was great to see Julio back on the field and when you looked on the other side and saw 84 [WR Roddy White] out there, I know not only me, but I think the quarterback and the whole coaching staff was excited about seeing both those guys.”

Pyro's take: Julio is coming back off of a horrible foot injury, and the Falcons have said they are going to take it easy on him early. That prospect could be an issue for fantasy owners who are thinking about drafting him as a top three receiver. The fact that he is on the field on day one is encouraging. Julio is dynamic, but the health of his foot is worth monitoring.

07/26/14, 02:00 PM CDT by Houdini

Ballard Tears Achilles

Two days into training camp and the Colts already are dealing with their first major injury.

Running back Vick Ballard, only now returning from season-ending knee surgery last September, suffered what team owner Jim Irsay said is a likely torn left Achilles tendon during a non-contact drill Friday. Ballard was set to undergo an MRI Friday night or Saturday morning to confirm the initial diagnosis, made by team medical personnel.

Pyro's take: Ballard missed all of last season after tearing his ACL and now will miss his second straight year with another major injury. While not an elite athlete in the first place it has to hurt his chances of staying in the league for much longer. Ballard was a solid fantasy performer his rookie season when he led the Colts in rushing but has been a non factor recently due to injuries.

The worst part of the injury might be the the mental toll it takes on Ballard after spending the last 12 months battling back in rehab. The carries behind Trent Richardson look to fall solely on the shoulders of Ahmad Bradshaw now, and if Trent runs like he did last season then Bradshaw will be a major factor in leagues this season and should move up your tiers with this news.

07/26/14, 11:52 AM CDT by Stagg Party

Nelson Gets Extended

The Green Bay Packers signed star wide receiver Jordy Nelson to a contract extension Saturday.

The Packers have not disclosed terms of the deal, but a league source confirmed to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Nelson signed a four-year extension worth $39 million.

Pyro's take: Great news for fantasy owners and Packer fans alike, Nelson is a top 10 wide receiver in this league. When both he and Aaron Rodgers are healthy good things tend to happen on the field. Jordy has a knack for making his quarterback look good with an array of highlight reel sideline catches to choose from.

Nelson and Rodgers have proved to be a great pair so far in their careers and we should continue to see that magic happen on the field for at least the next 4 years

07/26/14, 11:08 AM CDT by Stagg Party




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