AFC Update: Training Camps Open, Teams Prepare For NFL Season
By Christian S. Kohl
Baltimore Ravens: First round pick Matt Elam signed this week, agreeing to $6.67 million over four years. In dietary news, Courtney Upshaw is apparently 20 pounds lighter and back to 275 pounds, while Bryant McKinnie is also evidently in outstanding shape as well.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals signed their first rounder, TE Tyler Eifert to a four-year deal. They also inked DE Carlos Dunlap to a six-year, $40 million deal. Andy Dalton’s position as the starter is still solid, but Cincy is hoping he’ll make a big step forward this year if he is to remain the QB of the future.
Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson claims his leg is completely healed and he’s a full go this training camp, leaving Montario Hardesty’s roster spot in jeopardy. Hopes are higher this week, with high expectations for Josh Gordon in this new scheme, and with the greatest name in this year’s draft, Barkevious Mingo, now officially under contract for four years and $16.3 million.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Uncertainty is the name of the game this week for Pitt. All eyes are on Emmanuel Sanders to become the star WR with Wallace gone. Jonathan Dwyer is not impressing many and may lose his roster spot. Similarly, Cameron Heyward still has yet to produce as expected, and may be an emergency option at best. A lot needs to click for Pitt in the coming months.
Houston Texans: No word on how much the Texans knew about Ed Reed’s health prior to signing him, but it appears for now they may just have well have paid for magic beans. What Baltimore knew is as uncertain as any timetable for a possible Reed return. In further underwhelming news, third rounder Brennan Williams underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee this week.
Indianapolis Colts: Not much happy news in Indy, either. TE Weslye Saunders was suspended eight games for a second violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. RB Delone Carter was also ordered by a judge to pay $40,000 to a man he punched in the face.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars made a signing of their own this week, inking S Josh Evans to a four-year deal. Maurice Jones-Drew mentioned that players follow fantasy updates perhaps a bit too closely during actual games, and his workload is uncertain for this season pending further evaluation of his foot. In further bleak news for Jacksonville, when they all woke up this morning, they were still all playing for the Jaguars.
Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson will likely see an expanded role in the passing game once again in 2013. The presence of Greene will likely reduce his workload between the tackles and, the Titans hope, free him up to recapture glory as a terrifying threat in open space.
Buffalo Bills: Sources expect Jairus Byrd to hold out before signing his franchise tender, but is unlikely to extend his holdout into the regular season. T.J. Graham is also studying the routes of Mike Wallace in an attempt to improve. Unfortunately, the great speed of Wallace is his true weapon, and the Bills possess nobody with comparable burners.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins also landed a big signing this week, agreeing to terms with #3 overall pick Dion Jordan for four years. Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle is also evidently pleased with LB Cameron Wake, asserting he would not trade Wake “for anybody in our league.” Wake’s abilities are undeniable. Whether or not Miami assembled anywhere close to the requisite pieces around him to contend, however, is a far different story.
New England Patriots: Rob Gronkowski has been placed on the PUP list along with Julian Edelman and Jake Ballard. The Pats are reportedly not going to cut Alfonso Dennard in the wake of his DUI arrest, and instead appear to be willing to eat the suspension of their DB which is very likely forthcoming.
New York Jets: Mark Sanchez appears to be the favorite to emerge as the Jets starter in week 1. The Jets, apparently having learned much from last season, are reportedly considering using rookie QB Geno Smith as a “change of pace quarterback” should Smith not emerge as the starter. Chris Ivory is apparently being groomed to be the Jets version of Marshawn Lynch in terms of both style and workload.
Denver Broncos: Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller is being suspended for four games by the NFL for a recreational drug violation. Ronnie Hillman looks to currently lead the Broncos RB depth chart, and some internal reports indicate Peyton Manning still may have lingering issues when gripping the football. As always with Manning, only time will tell what year he finally runs out of gas.
Kansas City Chiefs: No news was not good news for KC this week, with no deal reached to extend Branden Albert. For this year at least, their line looks far more stable should Albert remain healthy as a tandem along with #1 overall pick Eric Fisher.
Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden is apparently extremely motivated to produce this year, no surprise given that it’s a contract year. His motivations are seldom in question, however his ability to remain healthy remains an enormous red flag when considering him as a long-term investment. Meanwhile, David Ausberry appears to be leading the depth chart currently for Oakland at TE.
San Diego Chargers: Coach Mike McCoy has high hopes for Ryan Mathews to make the jump this year as an elite back. McCoy also wants it made clear that the amount of vertical passes Rivers attempts this year will be drastically cut down. Why McCoy is so intent on the world knowing his strategy is unclear, though it makes a good amount of sense provided Mathews can stay healthy and keep the ball off the turf.
That’s it this week from the AFC. Come back next week for more updates about fantasy options, training camp, and activities off the field. That first kickoff, followed swiftly thereafter by that first touchback, inches ever closer.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.