After Rob Gronkowski missed 14 games over the past two seasons, there are plenty of interested observers in his recovery and return to the gridiron. The Patriots have said the big tight end is cleared to play, but so far his action on the practice field has been limited, and Gronkowski admits that he's not 100 percent.
With all the surgeries he's racked up the past couple of seasons, it makes sense that both the team and the player would take things slowly. While it would be nice to see Gronk going full speed in the preseason, Patriots fans and fantasy enthusiasts alike would be just as happy to see him take it easy and be ready for Week 1.
As long as things continue to progress in a positive method, Gronk will be the second tight end off the board behind Jimmy Graham. It's hard to deny the value of a player who has scored 42 receiving touchdowns (and one rushing score) in 50 career games. It's also encouraging that Gronk says he has no plans to change his playing style; after all, that's what helped so many fantasy owners fall in love with him ... well, that and the 43 touchdowns. There's just that nagging fear that injuries could once again derail a promising season.
Houston, we don't have a problem
While the Marshawn Lynch holdout continues to play out in Seattle, the Houston Texans seem to have forged at least a tentative peace with star receiver Andre Johnson. After avoiding all of the team's offseason workouts, Johnson arrived for the start of Houston's training camp, saying he was ready to work and professing that he feels "very comfortable in where the organization is going."
Whether or not that's lip service, we may never know. But the fact remains that the veteran still is one of the top receivers in the league. The question is whether Johnson can be at his best with the likes of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him the football. If there's reason for optimism, it's that Johnson topped 1,200 receiving yards for the fifth time in six seasons while catching passes from Matt Schaub, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates -- not exactly anyone's dream trio.
In that case, it's fair to ask -- can it really be any worse with Fitzpatrick? Over the past four seasons, Fitzpatrick has averaged nearly as many yards and more touchdowns as Schaub. That last part might be the best news considering the big frustation with Johnson throughout his career has been a dearth of touchdowns. It's a little hard to fathom that in more than a decade of being one of the NFL's top receivers, Johnson has never had a double-digit touchdown season. But that's where we are.
It doesn't seem extremely likely to happen this season as the team transitions to Bill O'Brien's new offense, but there doesn't seem to be much that could prevent Johnson from retaining his status as a low-end WR1 or high-end WR2 again this season.
» How quickly things change. A week ago, the Browns quarterback competition looked to be a dead heat between Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer. But as we approach the end of the first week of training camp, things seem to have shifted in favor of the incumbent. Some of it has to do with Cleveland's concern that Manziel's high-profile partying has caused his development to fall behind schedule. And while it's still early, the feeling in the Browns locker room is that it will be Hoyer under center when things go live in Week 1. This race certainly isn't over, but it could be getting late early for Johnny Football.
» Sam Bradford's spot on the depth chart in St. Louis is a little more secure -- especially in light of the news that the Rams' quarterback is "full-go" for training camp. While there's a chance that Bradford could be held out of the preseason opener, coach Jeff Fisher expects his quarterback to be ready for Week 1. Entering his fifth season, 2014 is a make-or-break year for Bradford and he could get the chance to showcase his skills in Brian Schottenheimer's offense. But until Bradford proves otherwise, he won't rank better than a QB2 in most leagues.
» Good news for DeMarco Murray -- the Cowboys plan to run the ball more in 2014. At least that's the plan according to team vice president Stephen Jones. Jones envisions the Cowboys as a potential top 10 running offense in 2014, noting Murray's strong finish to the season and the team's 11-0 all-time record when the versatile back has 20-plus carries. If Jones' desire becomes reality it means big things for Murray, who has also proven himself to be a capable pass-catcher. The idea that he could become a 20-plus carry running back (he averaged 15.5 attempts per game in 2013) could take him from an early second round pick to a late first-rounder.
» Add another page to the "Chris Johnson is primed to rebound" file. The Jets new running back continues to impress in camp -- this time by going in motion and lining up as a wide receiver. It's not only a new potential wrinkle in Gang Green's offense, but could be a new role for Johnson. It might also lend itself to having two running backs on the field if and when Chris Ivory can get completely healthy, though things appear to be heading that direction.
» The outside expectations for Bishop Sankey were that the rookie would step into a prominent (read: No. 1) role in the Titans offense and carry a significant workload almost immediately. Head coach Ken Whisenhuntisn't quite ready to anoint Sankey as the new top Titan in the backfield. There will almost definitely be opportunities for Dexter McCluster and Shonn Green to contribute for Tennessee this season, but it would be surprising not to see Sankey eventually take the lead at some point.
» When it rains, it pours for the Jaguars. First, Justin Blackmon gets arrested again. Then Ace Sanders gets suspended. Now Cecil Shorts is forced to leave practice because of hamstring tightness. Hopefully it's nothing serious and Shorts can get back to work soon. In the meantime, it could mean more reps for the rookie duo of Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. It still might not be enough to make either of them more than end-of-draft fliers.