Training Camp News and Notes 8/9/2012


Bill Belichick spotted kissing Aaron Hernandez’s elbow after a “boo-boo?” With those detailed road maps, the TE’s elbow wasn’t hard to find. That, and more substantive info from Bob Henry’s Training Camp Update at Footballguys.com Photo by Jeffery Beall.

With the help of numerous Footballguys.com writers, Bob Henry creates a weekly aggregation of camp news titled (simply enough) Training Camp Update. I can’t recommend it highly enough. The first issue is free to the public.

I’m going to quote some of the notes and provide my own take.

Carolina Panthers FB Mike Tolbert: Why I want to see All-22 analysis of Carolina this year.

“Rivera said on the NFL Network Friday that the team sees Tolbert as the replacement to Jeremy Shockey, but that Tolbert brings more versatility to the team.”

– Footballguys Training Camp Update

My Take on Tolbert: It appears that Tolbert will play the role of the moveable chess piece in this offense as a running back, fullback, wing back, and tight end split from the formation. If you think the Panthers were conceptually a red zone nightmare last year, the team the addition of Tolbert should compound the pain. The former Charger will be Cam Newton’s new Philip Lutzenkirchen; a utility knife that will help the offense create match up advantages in a variety of situations.

I believe Carolina’s offense has the the combination of players and conceptual imagination to take another incremental step towards the playoffs. If I were studying All-22 tape, the Panthers in the red zone and short yardage situations would be top priority. I expect this offense to have several breakaway plays (20 yards or more) on down and distance situations with only 3-4 yards needed.

Cincinnati Bengals WR Marvin Jones: The longer it takes for a player to distinguish himself from the pack in this horse race for the No.2 spot, the more hope there is for Jones to make a late move on the outside

Be patient with Marvin Jones. It will pay off. Photo by John Martinez Pavliga.

“Armon Binns drew praise for his good play during the OTA season, but rookie Mohamed Sanu and Brandon Tate are also in the mix for the team’s WR2 snaps. Fifth round pick Marvin Jones has also come on quickly and briefly switched over to the first team at the end of this weekend’s mock game.”

– Footballguys Training Camp Update

My Take: I don’t expect Marvin Jones to win the starting job in August. However, I won’t be surprised if he’s a serious threat to earn it next year. Leon Hall has praised Jones this week for his skills, commenting on his “sneaky speed.” Every time I search my Twitter resources for camp updates I’m reading about Jones making acrobatic grabs or big plays in tight coverage. This is nothing new.

Jones was a steal for the Bengals. Armon Binns and Brandon Tate have the head start of experience in the league and the offense, but it’s just a matter of time that Mohamed Sanu and Jones make up ground. Sanu will be a factor, but I believe Jones is going to emerge as the best all-around receiver on this team after A.J. Green.

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray: Undervalued Stud of the Year

DeMarco Murray is the “Yabut” player of most of my colleagues. I think that will change after this year. Photo by E.A. Sanabria.

“DeMarco Murray has been the star of training camp, looking every bit the franchise runner he appeared to be in mid-season stint of starts last year. Murray talked to reporters about the need for the team’s running backs to improve their scoring, calling last year’s five rushing touchdowns “unacceptable.” Murray is locked in as the starter, and appears to stand a chance at being a real workhorse.”

– Footballguys Training Camp Update

My Take: Murray has been the ultimate “Yabut” player among my peers. For the past two years, all I ever hear from my colleagues about Murray are nitpicking reasons why they don’t like him: “YEAH he has great physical skills, BUT he runs too far over his pads…”  or, “YEAH he had great moments in college, BUT he was always hurt.” No “Yabuts” here, he’s a terrific young back with an all-around game. If you don’t respect it, you’ll regret it.

Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez: Why Gronkowski is Over Valued in Fantasy Leagues

In addition to Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez has been on fire during the first week of camp. After one practice, he and Brady stayed late to work on hand-off exchanges. Hernandez has shown some unreal open-field moves while putting on a clinic with his body control and versatility. “Our offensive coordinator’s a monster,” said Hernandez. “He knows how to create plays to get people open. I love playing for him.” Last Wednesday, Bill Belichick even had a little fun with Hernandez, as he got tangled with LB Jerod Mayo during 7- on-7s. Hernandez was shaking his arm after the play, prompting Belichick to come over and give his elbow a kiss. “I had a little bruise on my elbow and I was whining about it, and he was just showing me the love of a father figure and he gave me a kiss on the elbow,” Hernandez said. Did he ask for the kiss? “No, I didn’t ask him… I damn sure liked it though. Felt some love.”

– Footbalguys Training Camp Update

My Take: Listen, I think Rob Gronkowski is among the best all-around tight ends in football. He’s a physical monster with excellent hands, skill after the catch, sound skill as a blocker, and a mentality that he’s indestructible. I love his game.

But anytime I have a conversation or listen to a conversation with a person who studies the game at the highest level, the name that comes up more often is Hernandez. We’ve seen flashes of Hernandez’s dominance between bouts of injury. He’s the only tight end in the league to defeat cornerbacks with his athleticism in the air and agility on the ground.

If he stays healthy, Hernandez will be the reason Rob Gronkowski has a very good, but not great, fantasy season. This is nothing new, just a common sense reminder.

Rams Kicker Greg Zuerlein: Jeff Fisher picks accurate, strong-legged kicker again…

Jeff Fisher is excellent at getting big gains from moves that seem to fall below the radar. Photo by Rex Hammock.

The two rookie specialists are expected to win their respective jobs over the two second year players – Greg Zuerlein at kicker over Garret Lindholm and Johnny Hekker at punter/holder over Tom Malone. Zuerlein has captured the attention of fans and media early in camp by hitting multiple long field goals with distance to spare. Quarterback Sam Bradford appears ready to settle for field goals over touchdowns, “Yeah, our kicker, wow, it’s been pretty impressive to watch. To have that in your back pocket, to know we don’t have to get to the 30-yard line to give ourselves a chance.”

My Take:

The two rookie specialists are expected to win their respective jobs over the two second year players – Greg Zuerlein at kicker over Garret Lindholm and Johnny Hekker at punter/holder over Tom Malone. Zuerlein has captured the attention of fans and media early in camp by hitting multiple long field goals with distance to spare. Quarterback Sam Bradford appears ready to settle for field goals over touchdowns, “Yeah, our kicker, wow, it’s been pretty impressive to watch. To have that in your back pocket, to know we don’t have to get to the 30-yard line to give ourselves a chance.”

My Take: Jeff Fisher may not win awards for having innovative offenses, but he is good at finding ways to make his teams more competitive, especially with under the radar selections like Zuerlein, William Hayes, and Steve Smith. Add Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins, and Michael Brockers to that combo, and this team will be better this year.

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2 comments

  1. Matt, I just wanted to compliment you on the thoroughly great work you put out. I really enjoy and appreciate it.

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