Camp Reports: AFC

Jeff Haverlack



You can write Terrell Suggs off until very late in the year, at the earliest.  In all likelihood, he’s done until 2013.  Torrey Smith is running well and making plays, looking much more polished on the field.  More importantly, he’s showing no ill effects from his hernia surgery this past off-season.  He could be a very nice undervalued prospect in upcoming drafts as he builds greater chemistry with Joe Flacco.  The two are hooking up often thus far in OTAs.

Rookie running back Bernard Pierce saw some first-team action and looked good as he fights for the RB2 spot behind Ray Rice.  LaQuan Williams, a second-year receiver, has been impressing in camp and is outshining the more  experienced Jacoby Jones.  Jones looked good early, but has faded in the past week.  Rookie Tommy Streeter out of Miami (FL) has looked extremely raw and has not shown great hands – not the start desired by the speedster with great size.

If you’re looking for good trivia for the dinner table –  Joe Flacco’s passes were clocked at 58 mph as the ball left his hand.  Just for reference, Joe Caldwell (quarterbacks coach) said that the quarterbacks in Indianapolis, including Peyton Manning, were clocked at no more than 51 mph.  I guess that shows that speed doesn’t matter all that much.

Both tight ends, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, are said to be looking comfortable, relaxed and ready to go.


Jordan Shipley is close to 100% and is participating during camp.  The slot receiver missed nearly all of the 2011 campaign to a torn ACL in the second game of the season.  Until the injury, Shipley had looked like a reasonable facsimile of the ultra-productive Wes Welker, but without key ingredient Tom Brady at the helm.  Still, it will be good to see Shipley back in action and he should be at 100% when training camp opens.  Mohamed Sanu continues to shine and looks to be in the lead for a starting gig.  He’s showing NFL style experience and poise and is impressing everyone in the organization, veteran players and coaches alike.  Marvin Jones is fading a bit, but it’s early.

Quarterback Andy Dalton’s arm strength has looked better and he’s shown poise and confidence now beginning his second year.

It appears that the undrafted and troubled rookie linebacker out of Arizona State, Vontaze Burfict, has looked great for two weeks running and the belief is that he’ll do more than just make the roster in his first year.  Let’s not get too excited after just two weeks, but it’s great to hear that the rookie has his nose to the grindstone and is working hard.


Greg Little has lost 11 pounds in the off-season, but hasn’t lost any strength or speed.  He’s said to be appearing quicker and more “sudden.”   Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden is working hard and has handled the transition to the game rather well and is showing good arm strength. He remains the favorite to be the starter when the 2012 season kicks off and has been drawing praise with nearly every pass.  He’s locked in a battle with Colt McCoy for the starting role (if you believe the words coming from ownership anyway), but they already know who the starter is.  It’s hard not to feel for McCoy who has handled everything with class.

Montario Hardesty has returned from injury and is ready to compete!  Game over before it even began.  However, he’s working hard, has a positive attitude and is going to give it all he’s got, fully understanding that every team needs two backs.  No word on how Trent Richardson has looked, but it should be noted that Jim Brown continues to be a skeptic.  Richardson has been running with the first team.

Former Browns running back Jamal Lewis has filed for bankruptcy.  Sad.  I can’t imagine living your dream, earning that kind of money while doing it and allowing the lifestyle that comes with it to to ultimately lead to bankruptcy.  There must be a better way to help players to prepare for their post-NFL lives.


All fantasy eyes, at least in Pittsburgh, are on both the Mike Wallace contract situation and running back Rashard Mendenhall’s recovery process. Judging from the continual emerging news regarding Mendenhall, it seems that the general feeling is that he’ll begin the year on the PUP list.  He’s not participating in OTAs, but is continuing to work out.  You’re likely going to see a lot of backup running back Isaac Redman in replacement.  Don’t sleep on Redman, he’s no slouch and has better hands out of the backfield than does Mendendhall.  Redman is on record as saying that Haley’s system will also feature the backs a bit more than we’ve come to expect.   The Mike Wallace situation isn’t getting any better and his frustration is growing by the day.  In the end, a deal is going to get done.  It’s a classic game of contract “chicken” and the team usually ends up the winner.

With much of the emphasis this year on the offense picking up Todd Haley’s system, many of the reports have been centered on that topic.  With the exception of Big Ben, most players seem to be grasping the concepts thus far.

Rookie runner Chris Rainey is very fast.

Word is that tight end Heath Miller may be seeing an expanded role under new coordinator Todd Haley’s system.  Haley has never featured a tight end in his system, but he was relatively successful with Tony Moeaki in Kansas City.

Hines Ward has called it quits and will be joining NBC’s Football Night in America.  Kordell Stewart has officially retired – it’s only been seven years since his last game.



Seems like most of the news surrounding Texans camp thus far has been in the area of receiver.  Andre Johnson isn’t participating as he recovers from knee surgery, but all reports are that he’ll be fine and ready to go for camp.  Rookie receivers are in focus for a team desperately needing players to step up in that position.  Lestar Jean is getting a lot of positive press as he runs with the starters during OTAs.  He’s had a few drops, but continues to impress.  He’s been hot as a later add in fantasy rookie drafts as well.  Rookie DeVier Posey has the size and speed needed to make the roster and he’s got a great work ethic.  Interviews of Posey show him to be comfortable and confident – two things that every young player should show.  I like any player who is serious enough to spend time on the small things that can show up big in their play.  Posey catches 500 balls from a tennis ball cannon every day in order to hone his hand-eye coordination.  Judging coach Kubiak’s comments, Posey needs to work on his conditioning, but he’s obviously got the work ethic to accomplish that.

One other receiver note:  Rookie wideout Dwight Jones, a fast riser in value prior to the combine, informed the Texans that he is retiring from football. The troubled Jones had a difficult combine and never regained his confidence.  He’ll likely reconsider his decision over the coming years, but for now, you can take him off your list.

Kubiak has gone out of his way to mention undersized quarterback Case Keenum multiple times, saying that he believes he has a future in this league. In OTA’s, any player not cut has a future … of at least one more day.

IDP’ers should take note of new inside linebacker Bradie James, who comes over from Dallas.  James is already calling the plays and could see an uptick in production within the Texans scheme.  Brian Cushing has had knee soreness and was sent for an MRI.  Results came back negative.


Not much news coming out of Indy.  Andrew Luck is close to being signed and can’t workout until he is.  T.Y. Hilton, the likely return specialist, signed a four year deal.

The Colts are said to be utilizing a heavy mix of two tight-end sets featuring both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.  Once again, the Patriots are leading the way in establishing new trends that fantasy leaguers should stay abreast of.  Fleener is now a regular at the bottom of the first round in fantasy drafts and Allen isn’t registering until the late third or fourth round.  Should the Colts, indeed, “rely” on two tight-end sets, Allen could be a sneaky sleeper selection.

The Colts defense has been almost completely revamped and IDP results are nearly impossible to project.  Keep in mind that with that fact it also means there will be plenty of opportunities for those needing IDP help.  Once we get into pre-season, keep an eye peeled on defensive players and production as a precursor of what may come during the season.


The hot news in play centers on rookie receiver Justin Blackmon as you’d expect.  Blackmon blew a reported .26 blood-alcohol level, exceeding three times the legal limit.  This, now his second occurrence (first in the NFL), waves warning flags to fantasy coaches as it’s likely he’ll open the season on the suspended list.  Expect no suspension as this is his first NFL infraction of the conduct policy.  I hate to see high profile rookies have to watch the opening ceremonies for their respective teams from the sidelines.  Your first regular season NFL game should be the culmination of all your dreams to that point.  As a result of Blackmon’s latest issues, Arizona’s Michael Floyd is now seeing time as first rookie receiver off the board in rookie drafts. Don’t forget that Floyd, himself, has a pair of alcohol infractions.  Kendall Wright anyone?

Blaine Gabbert looks comfortable and has taken on a more natural leadership role.  He’s been working hard on footwork and mechanics and is ready to take the next step.  All reports from camp have been positive on Gabbert’s progress.


Chris Johnson owners will love to hear that CJ2K is aiming to regain his nickname in 2012.  Coaches and players have all commented on the return of Johnson and the work he’s putting in.  He’s also added muscle in the off-season and says it hasn’t come at the expense of his speed.  I’ve noted fantasy “experts” starting to mention CJ2K in their top five of running backs again.

Kenny Britt is still recovering from his second clean-up procedure following his ACL surgery.  Owners were dismayed that Britt ended up back under the knife, but all reports have been that it was just a simple procedure and that he’ll be fine for training camp.  Thus far, Kendall Wright continues to impress in camp showing great energy and speed.

Anyone’s guess as to who’ll be under center come opening day.  Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker are splitting first team reps.  I’m going to give the nod here to Hasselbeck, but with the full belief that Locker will have taken over by week 12.  The South looks to be up in the air this year outside of Houston and anything could happen.  Locker is the long term answer either way, though.



Ryan Fitzpatrick was off to a slow start, but has come on strong of late.  This is likely his make or break year.  He’s been showing a lot of chemistry with the under-owned tight end Scott Chandler and receiver Stevie Johnson.  Johnson has been active late in camp after missing the first few days. Vince Young is getting adjusted in his new setting and is seemingly throwing plenty of interceptions, which is not completely unexpected.

In the backfield, Fred Jackson is back and has been looking refreshed and strong.  The challenge is now in integrating both he and C.J. Spiller into the offense, which the Bills are committed to doing.  That said, coach Chan Gailey doesn’t want to build the offense such that they are overly reliant on an even split.  All signs point to Jackson being the lead back with Spiller being moved around to get him into space.  Spiller has been said to be supremely confident this year as he looks to build upon a successful 2011 campaign.

The Bills are in dire need for a true number two receiver.  Marcus Easley is back after sitting out 2011 with a heart ailment.  He’s making progress and coach Gailey was quoted as saying, “He’s got an uphill battle ,but I think he can do it.”   Derek Hagan and Donald Jones have been targeted often and are having good camps.

Defensiviely, Kelvin Sheppard is looking good and both he and Nick Barnett will be ones to watch in IDP leagues.


The Dolphins will host the 2012 season of Hard Knocks on HBO.  Really, what do they have to lose?  A team that is most certainly in full rebuild mode with first-time head coach Joe Philbin, the Dolphins look likely to end up with a high draft selection in 2012 and have numerous holes to fill on both sides of the ball.

The most notable news coming out of Miami seems to be focused, literally, on Ryan Tannehill’s wife (Lauren) and her recent photo shoot.  Get ready for numerous shots of her on game day.  Speaking of Tannehill, it certainly appears as though he is going to open the season under center.  Matt Moore is in the running, but for a team that is young and likely not of playoff caliber, all signs point to Tannehill getting the nod despite early camp struggles. Don’t count out David Garrard who has looked good as well.

Lamar Miller has been signed.  Daniel Thomas continues to work on his blitz reads which were a major concern in 2011.  Reading between the lines, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of confidence surrounding Thomas.

At receiver, word is that Clyde Gates isn’t showing well.  This is a major concern for Dolphans, who know receiver is the team’s biggest need.  Starter Brian Hartline is still sidelined by an unknown leg injury and Davone Bess is capable, but not a receiver who can take a team upon his shoulders.  With Gates’ inability to emerge thus far, the Dolphins could be looking for a trade sooner rather than later.  If not, Legedu Naanee, who is performing relatively well in camp, may get an opportunity.  Undrafted rookie Jeff Fuller has received a few mentions as well.

Tight end Anthony Fasano is in the final year of his contract and rookie Michael Egnew is more athletic.  Draw your own longer term conclusion there.

New England

Tom Brady is looking sharp.  Brian Hoyer has looked so-so and Ryan Mallett has struggled.

At receiver, Brandon Lloyd is catching everything in sight and you can cement him in as a starter.  Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker are catching a ton of balls thus far.  It’s the end of the road for Chad Ochocinco.

New York Jets

Let the Sanchez/Tebow circus begin, or should I say continue.  In actuality, things have been relatively quiet on that front.  Sanchez has looked healthy and motivated.  Tebow has been struggling with a few interceptions but is picking up things quickly.

Many are watching the running back situation as to whether or not Shonn Greene can gain any fantasy consistency.  It appears as though Greene is very much in the plan and could be in line for an increase in carries.  Joe McKnight moves up to second on the depth chart and has added muscle mass. He’ll take over on third down duty in most cases as long as he can pick up the blitz and actually hold onto the ball.

Rookie Stephen Hill is doing very well on the field, but it seems as though coaches are playing catch up as fast as they can as Hill’s route tree is very underdeveloped.  That should go well on a team whose offense is largely underdeveloped.



As expected, all eyes are on Peyton Manning as he returns from his injury.  To date, all reports are very positive and it’s been said that if the season started tomorrow, Manning would be under center.  His arm is drawing rave reviews from coaches and receivers and his legendary command of the huddle is unchanged. He is being limited, however.

Eric Decker’s value in fantasy is sky rocketing, along with fellow receiver Demaryius Thomas.  Both are likely to have career years as long as Manning can stay healthy.  Receiver Andre Caldwell has shined on occasion as has undrafted receiver Gerell Robinson.  Robinson has had numerous positive comments thrown his way and is one to watch as an ultra-deep sleeper.

Rookie quarterback Brock Oswelier has been a pleasant surprise and can learn the offense without the pressure of needing to start anytime soon. Without injury to Manning, Osweiler should have two to three years to learn the offense, adjust to the speed of the NFL and prepare for when his chance does arise.  That doesn’t mean that he can be lazy as Manning hasn’t gotten any younger and is far from a lock to stay healthy.

In the backfield, Knowshon Moreno is fighting for a spot on the roster and is on the bubble.   Fellow runner Willis McGahee is entrenched as the starter and Lance Ball has been passable when given carries.  Moreno will certainly find a home elsewhere should he be cut, but it’s been a disappointing career thus far for Moreno and his fantasy owners. Not much to report on the Ronnie Hillman front yet.

Kansas City

Dwayne Bowe remains unsigned.  This likely isn’t a concern just yet, but the Chiefs need to get him signed soon to ensure he doesn’t miss camp.  If the two are too far away from a deal, there is the chance he could be traded, but that doesn’t look likely.  Jonathan Baldwin is making catches in camp, but missed a day due to a migraine.  Tight end Tony Moeaki is working on the side as he returns from an ACL injury.  Devon Wylie has looked fast, nimble and has been able to get beyond the defensive secondary on occasion.

Matt Cassel is the starter and both Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi are alternating with the second and third string offenses.  Stanzi may have a slight edge for the backup duty as he has flashed numerous times in camp thus far.

Many will be watching the battle at running back between Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis.  It’s not likely to be a battle in the truest sense as it appears the Chiefs are fully expecting to utilize both backs early and often.  They are different backs, but both have a role.  Where that leaves Dexter McCluster and rookie Cyrus Gray is anyone’s guess at this juncture, but their snaps will be limited this season.  McCluster is transitioning back to the slot in OTAs.  Charles owners may have more to fear than Hillis owners as Hillis does catch the ball very well and brings more power than does Charles. Charles, however, is ultra-dynamic and as he regains confidence in his knee, the Chiefs will be hard pressed to keep him off the field.

Much like many other teams in the league, it appears as though the Chiefs are looking to get both Kevin Boss and Tony Moeaki on the field at the same time in two tight-end formations.


Carson Palmer was in full control in OTAs as he looks to recover from a disappointing 2011 campaign.  Backup Matt Leinart is getting acclimated and Terrelle Pryor is training hard to eventually be a starter in the league, having reached out to former Raider Rich Gannon for help with his footwork.

Darren McFadden is looking quick and fully recovered from his ankle ailment that sidelined him for much of 2011 – he’s running and cutting at full speed. Mike Goodson, acquired from Carolina, is being moved around in the offense and will be used as a receiver perhaps more than he will as a backup to McFadden.

Rookie receiver Juron Criner has been showing well in camp and has drawn praise from Palmer as well.  Second year receiver Denarius Moore is the top receiving threat and realizes he’s a marked man heading into the 2012 season. The explosive Moore is looking to significantly surpass his 33 total receptions in 2011.

Middle linebacker Rolando McClain is back with the team following his assault charges and is present for OTAs.  He has apologized for the distraction and has apparently re-focused on his football career.

San Diego

Not a lot to report from camp unless you happen to be a Ryan Mathews owner.  All indications and news emerging are that Mathews is going to see a ton of time in the backfield and should vie for the most carries of any running back in the NFL in 2012.  He’s ready and looking forward to the challenge, but owners should be concerned about his ability to stay healthy.

Philip Rivers will be throwing to many new receivers in 2012.  Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal are having nice camps thus far and Robert Meachem, acquired from the Saints, is being counted on to start immediately and stretch the field.  Malcom Floyd is in camp and is likely already guaranteed a starting role.

jeff haverlack