Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2007 [Print without images]

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Around the AFC: Brown or White in Tennessee?

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

What have the coaches been saying in their weekly news conferences? Here's a quick-hitting look at the goings-on for each of the 16 AFC teams:

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: The Bills were hit hard by injuries in Week 1, most notably to TE Kevin Everett, who underwent cervical spine surgery this past Sunday. He's out for the season and there is some concern he might not be able to walk again. "Our thoughts are with Kevin and his family as we move forward, and we will move forward because it's what we do," said coach Dick Jauron in his Monday news conference. "Kevin certainly understands that, and it's what Kevin chooses to do too." Among the Bills' other injuries: FS Ko Simpson (broken ankle) underwent surgery Monday and is out for the season; CB Jason Webster (broken forearm) had surgery Monday and is also likely out for the season; and LB Coy Wire (Grade 2 knee sprain) is out indefinitely. The latter three injuries further deplete a Bills defense that already was looking fairly shaky heading into the season. Downgrade the unit further, and keep it in mind if you have players slated to face the Bills in the coming weeks (Week 2 at Steelers; Week 3 at Patriots; Week 4 versus Jets). Among the likely stand-ins for Buffalo: Jim Leonhard (for Simpson) and Ashton Youboty (for Webster). Wire was stepping in for the injured Keith Ellison (high ankle sprain, out the first 3-5 weeks); Mario Haggan replaced him Sunday.

Miami Dolphins: SS Yeremiah Bell suffered a torn Achilles tendon in Week 1 -- though it's unclear whether the tear is complete or partial -- and will be placed on injured reserve. "He had done everything to have a great year," said coach Cam Cameron in his Monday news conference. "This is the tough part of the business, where you sit down with a guy that has given everything he's had and is a wonderful young man and now his season is over." No replacement was named, though Travares Tillman, who stepped in for Bell this past Sunday, is a candidate. CB Jason Allen could also be shifted there. The Dolphins secondary takes a bit of a hit as a result, as Bell was one of the team's most reliable parts in that area, and note, in Week 2 they play the Cowboys, who logged 345 yards and four scores through the air in Week 1. ... RB Ronnie Brown out-carried Jesse Chatman 11-7, though Cameron offered little new insight into their time-share on Monday. Brown lined up as a fullback on occasion in Week 1, yet got the football in those arrangements, but it's clear Chatman will be a factor in the Miami backfield this season.

New England Patriots: Several published reports -- including one in the Boston Herald -- indicate the Patriots were caught stealing signs from the Jets with a sideline camera in Week 1, and might lose a draft pick as a result. The NFL declined comment, and the allegations bring to mind multiple reports last season, when the Patriots were accused of stealing signs during September and in a Nov. 19 game against the Green Bay Packers. ... WR Randy Moss stepped up with a nine-catch, 183-yard, 1-TD effort in his Patriots debut in Week 1. "I've been in the training room for so long and the training staff has done a fantastic job of getting me back and rehabbing me to get me on the field knowing what I had to do for at least two weeks," said Moss in his postgame news conference Sunday. "It just felt good. I'm happy, but at the same time we know it's just the first game of the season and we have a lot more to play." So much for QB Tom Brady needing time to develop a rapport with Moss, who sat out the preseason schedule with a hamstring strain.

New York Jets: QB Chad Pennington suffered an ankle injury in Week 1, showing significant signs of swelling and walking with a noticeable limp after the contest. Coach Eric Mangini had no specific news on Pennington's status at his Monday news conference, and the team will continue to monitor the quarterback's progress throughout the week. "I am sure I will see the doctors frequently this week and we'll see what happens," Pennington said in his postgame Sunday news conference. Kellen Clemens came on briefly in relief of Pennington against the Patriots, with fans cheering his name, and was 5-for-10 passing for 35 yards. Regardless of which quarterback gets the start in Week 2, the matchup isn't appealing; the Jets play at the Ravens, who boast a stellar defense.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: QB Steve McNair tweaked his groin on the first series of Monday's game, and was pulled late in the game as a precaution. "He looked as if he was doing OK, and he did not want to come out," said coach Brian Billick in his postgame news conference. "On that final throw he made, the ball got away from him. After the initial pull, I could tell he could not get the ball off like he should be able to." Kyle Boller, who was 2-for-6 passing for 19 yards and the game-ending interception, would stand to start should McNair miss any more time. ... LT Jonathan Ogden, who started Monday despite a turf toe injury, left in the second quarter. His absence diminishes the appeal of players like McNair and RB Willis McGahee, so check back on his status leading into Week 2. RT Adam Terry shifted to Ogden's spot Monday, with backup Marshal Yanda sliding into Terry's old spot. ... LB Ray Lewis battled a triceps injury he apparently suffered on the Bengals' first play Monday, and will undergo an MRI on Tuesday. Several reports indicate he tore the muscle, but the Baltimore Sun reports he only has a strain. Keep tabs on Lewis throughout the week, as he's an integral part of arguably fantasy's best defense.

Cincinnati Bengals: K Shayne Graham was limited by a hip injury during Monday's game. "I was in pain," he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I fell on a previous injury I already had and re-aggravated it, but I did everything I could to get back on the field." Graham hasn't been 100 percent since being forced from an Aug. 27 preseason game with a hip pointer, though he continues to play through the pain. Fantasy owners shouldn't bother with less-than-healthy kickers, so if he's not getting clear medical reports heading into Week 2, it shouldn't be hard to find a safer, healthier alternative. As of Tuesday, though, the Bengals had no plans to bring in other kickers for tryouts. ... OT Willie Anderson started his 113th consecutive game, but played only minimally after missing the preseason with a right foot injury. Scott Kooistra stepped in for Anderson several times, though the veteran's absence didn't seem to affect the Bengals' offense Monday night.

Cleveland Browns: All it took was one week for speculation to begin on when rookie QB Brady Quinn might take over the starting job. Charlie Frye, who was 4-for-10 passing for 34 yards and an interception while being sacked four times, and Derek Anderson, 13-for-28 passing for 184 yards, one score and one interception in relief of Frye, each disappointed in limited action in Week 1, leading fans to cheer for Quinn before halftime. On Tuesday, Frye was dealt to Seattle and Ken Dorsey was brought back. It remains to be seen who will start in Week 2 against the Bengals. Coach Romeo Crennel said in his postgame news conference that a decision has yet to be made. "I haven't decided yet," he said. "We'll look at the film of the game [Sunday] and then decide." Quinn, the No. 22 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, served as the No. 3 QB in Week 1, and should see action at some point this season. ESPN's Chris Mortensen, in fact, reports that despite the team's original plan to wait until after the Week 7 bye to install Quinn as the starter, the Browns are now seriously considering advancing that timetable. The rookie is keeper-worthy only, but it'd help his development in those formats if he squeaks into the starting lineup sooner.

Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger stepped up with a stunning 161-yard, 4-TD passing effort at the Browns in Week 1, perhaps the first step in his attempt at a bounce-back season. "I thought he did a great job," said coach Mike Tomlin in his postgame news conference. "We got on a little roll there in the first half. All in all, I think he did an excellent job managing the game. Great starts are always great, but we have to play football regardless as to what happens early in the game. That has been our focus and mentality. Great starts are always important, though." Tomlin's more passer-friendly system should help pay huge dividends for Roethlisberger this season, making him a fringe weekly starter/elite backup for fantasy. It also helps the fourth-year quarterback that WR Santonio Holmes, who hauled in two passes for 55 yards and a score Sunday, has shown tremendous signs of development this preseason. Each seems on track for a breakout campaign.

AFC South

Houston Texans: FS Jason Simmons suffered a torn patellar tendon in Week 1, and will be placed on injured reserve, ending his season. That hurts the Texans, who were already thin at safety, and it could press Michael Boulware into an expanded role quickly, once he picks up the defense. A disappointment with the Seattle Seahawks last year, Boulware was acquired on Sept. 1 in exchange for DE Jason Babin. Don't expect much in terms of fantasy value from the Texans defense this season; more significant is how facing it is a favorable matchup for opposing players. ... Coach Gary Kubiak spoke highly of QB Matt Schaub in his postgame news conference, noting his new starter "did some real good things," particularly in the chemistry he displayed with top WR Andre Johnson. Schaub and Johnson connected for seven catches for 142 yards and a score in Week 1, which bodes well for future weeks. Johnson was a must-start regardless of Schaub's development in a full-time role, but this only stabilizes his weekly value. In addition, it could mean Schaub is a decent sleeper selection in weeks in which he faces weaker secondaries.

Indianapolis Colts: OLB Freddy Keiaho, who had six tackles, an interception and a pass defensed in Week 1, suffered a shoulder stinger but played through it this past Thursday. He's expected to play in Week 2 at the Titans, though he missed practice Monday and might be questionable. One strong week doesn't make Keiaho an IDP standout for fantasy, but he's one to watch, coming off his debut as a full-time starter. ... Rookie WR Anthony Gonzalez didn't record a catch, and was targeted only once, in his NFL debut in Week 1. So much for the notion that he'll be a significant part of the offense in his first season, in a "Brandon Stokley 2004" kind of way. Gonzalez might someday become Marvin Harrison's successor, but barring a significant injury to Harrison or WR Reggie Wayne, he won't offer much in terms of fantasy value this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: K Josh Scobee suffered a right quadriceps injury kicking the ground during a field-goal attempt in warm-ups in Week 1, and the Orlando Sentinel reports he'll be out "a couple weeks." "I don't know how badly he pulled it," said coach Jack Del Rio in his postgame news conference. "I'll know more after I visit with the doctors." Fantasy owners shouldn't fiddle with kickers; there are plenty of quality healthy alternatives on most waiver wires right now. Expect the Jaguars to work out a few kickers on Tuesday to prepare for Scobee's possible absence; John Carney, Billy Cundiff and Mike Vanderjagt are three possibilities to be short-term replacements.. ... WR Reggie Williams was inactive for the Jaguars' Week 1 contest, with Dennis Northcutt starting opposite Ernest Wilford. The Times-Union reports Williams might be on his way out of Jacksonville, though Del Rio denied those rumors, noting he expects Williams to play a significant role this year. Though Jaguars receivers were hot fantasy sleepers a year ago, their revolving-door approach to the position late last season and this preseason makes guys like Northcutt, Wilford and Matt Jones awfully risky fantasy bets.

Tennessee Titans: RB LenDale White got the start and 18 carries total in Week 1, though RB Chris Brown outperformed him in carries (19-18) and rushing yards (175-66). In addition, Brown out-carried White after halftime, earning 12 to White's six, a potential window into the team's future plans at the position. "We have two fine backs," said coach Jeff Fisher in his postgame news conference. "Both of them contribute. It was good to see Chris cut back and hit the hole quick and protect the football. They provided us a nice one-two punch." It's that "one-two punch" phrase of Fisher's that raises eyebrows. Brown's effort seems to paint him as the Week 2 starter, though it's possible that, like in the preseason, the team will continue to split the workload between the two. Brown is a hot pickup in fantasy leagues and has value in a No. 2/flex role depending on matchups, for at least as long as he remains healthy. One interesting note about the position: Rookie RB Chris Henry was inactive Sunday, a sign how far down the depth chart he is.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: CB Domonique Foxworth suffered a sprained right ankle in Week 1, one severe enough to put him on crutches. The team's official Web site speculates he might have a high ankle sprain, which would keep him out for an extended period. With CB Karl Paymah (concussion) also sidelined, the Broncos' depth at the position -- both players are backups -- could be challenged the next couple weeks. Fortunately, that the team has All-Pro caliber starters in Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly ahead of those two helps keep the defense stable, so don't go downgrading the Broncos defense, not yet. ... Coach Mike Shanahan indicated during Monday's news conference that the Broncos might install the option, which it used in its first offensive series in Week 1, on a weekly basis. "I'm not sure he was too excited about that, but he executed it pretty well," said Shanahan of QB Jay Cutler's reaction to its installation. "Jay's first two years at Vanderbilt, they ran the option. For a guy that's done it a couple of years at the college level, it's pretty easy to run it at the pro level." Cutler finished Sunday's contest with 304 passing yards, one score and one interception, and should be a fine back-end starter/elite backup this season.

Kansas City Chiefs: Though coach Herm Edwards stood by his kicker in his postgame news conference, the Kansas City Star reports K Justin Medlock was placed on waivers on Monday. Medlock missed a 30-yard field goal attempt in the team's Week 1 loss at the Texans, and will be placed on the practice squad if he clears waivers. K Dave Rayner, the Green Bay Packers' kicker last season, was signed to a two-year contract Monday. He's not worth adding to fantasy teams, though. ... WR Eddie Kennison left the Week 1 contest with a pulled hamstring on the game's first play, pressing rookie WR Dwayne Bowe into action. Bowe caught three passes for 42 yards, though he had a costly drop on another throw early in the game. Despite the gaffe, Edwards wasn't down on his rookie receiver, noting "[Bowe] came back later and made a heck of a catch to get us back down there." Expect Bowe to only see an increased workload with time depending on his performance, especially if Kennison misses time. He's worth adding in deeper leagues, and keeper-league owners in particular should consider picking him up.

Oakland Raiders: The San Francisco Chronicle reports QB Josh McCown will start for the Raiders again in Week 2 at the Broncos. "I thought Josh did really well today," said coach Lane Kiffin in his postgame news conference Sunday. "We go back and look at the film and he was close to 70 percent completions, two picks, one's a drop, defensive end tips the ball and the other one it's right there but it's popped up. I thought he managed the game well and he completed a number of balls in the first half." McCown was 30-for-40 passing for 313 yards, two scores and two interceptions in Week 1, though it should be noted he was facing the Lions. The Broncos, with their tough cornerbacks, should shut him down, perhaps leading to more calls from the fans for Daunte Culpepper. ... ESPN.com Len Pasquarelli reports that QB JaMarcus Russell officially will sign a six-year contract Tuesday and should be on the field for the team's Wednesday practice. Russell is unlikely to make a fantasy impact this season, but he could be a candidate to start before season's end. Keeper owners can feel free to keep him around now.

San Diego Chargers: Rookie WR Craig Davis stepped in as a Week 1 starter, yet finished with a disappointing two catches for 15 yards, only targeted those two times. The Bears' stout defense locked down the team's deep receiving threats, with WR Vincent Jackson managing only three catches for 28 yards, being targeted five times. Things should be better for the team in future weeks, though better defenses should be able to limit both receivers. ... ILB Stephen Cooper managed an impressive eight tackles and one fumble recovery in Week 1, in his debut as a full-time starter. He took over for Randall Godfrey, who departed for the Washington Redskins during the offseason, and was an immediate standout against the Bears. Cooper isn't a trustworthy IDP option based on one standout game, but he's absolutely someone to watch in the next couple weeks.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.