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NFL Training Camp Notes: Notable Receivers Nursing Mystery Injuries

As most training camps wrap up their second week, there's plenty of news emerging about players trending up or down, job battles, and naturally, injuries. There's also already one preseason game in the books, giving us some actual game tape to draw conclusions from with respect to certain players. With no shortage of developments, let's take a quick tour around the league to see what was notable Friday:

Around the AFC

Bengals: Tyler Eifert seemed to validate his recent assertion that he hadn't suffered any setbacks in his recovery from back surgery by coming off the PUP list and hitting the practice field for the first time Friday. The 27-year-old tight end saw Tyler Kroft pull the 'ol Wally Pipp on him last season to an extent, as Kroft finished with a solid 42 receptions for 404 yards and an impressive seven touchdowns while Eifert missed the last 14 games of the season. The 2013 first-round pick has played in only 10 games total over the last two years, and given the confidence that Kroft earned with last season's performance, a much closer playing time split than what Eifert had been used to previously could come to pass in 2018.

Colts: The news that Andrew Luck will play about a quarter in next Thursday's preseason opener isn't much of a surprise at this point, given how good the former Pro Bowler has looked in early practices while increasing the workload on his shoulder. However, it still serves as a tangible reminder of how far Luck has come, after there'd been rumblings at times last year that his career could be at risk. Reports out of Colts camp have him looking more and more like his pre-injury self and re-establishing what was once a prolific connection with the speedy T.Y. Hilton. Preseason games should serve as a good barometer of how well Luck is adjusting after not facing a live rush or taking hits for more than a year.

Dolphins: Second-round pick Mike Gesicki walked into a favorable situation in terms of potential playing time when the Dolphins nabbed him in April's draft, and the talented Penn State product appears to be making good on the opportunity thus far. It was reported Friday that Gesicki is now increasingly working with the first-team offense, this after incumbents A.J. Derby and MarQueis Gray had opened training camp primarily running with the starters. Ryan Tannehill seemed to enjoy the pass-catching acumen of Charles Clay when the latter was on the roster, and Gesicki brings exponentially more impressive measurables overall. The rookie has the height (6-foot-6), speed (4.54 40-yard dash) and resume (105 receptions, 1,252 yards, 14 touchdowns over last two college seasons) to raise expectations, and his play in camp is apparently doing the same. Gesicki should be one of the more intriguing fantasy assets on the Dolphins to monitor in preseason games, although how new receivers Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola slot in will also be of interest.

Jaguars: Donte Moncrief was able to jump back into practice Friday, a week after having exited with an injury that was originally believed to be to his ankle and was eventually revealed to be knee-related. Moncrief has some ground to make up despite a presumed No. 2 role, as Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole have been showcasing their considerable talents to the coaching staff during his absence.

Patriots: Two players for whom it was particularly important to get back on the practice field from a roster-spot perspective managed to suit up Friday, as Mike Gillislee and Kenny Britt both returned from an undisclosed injury and a hamstring ailment, respectively. Gillislee's job prospects look a bit more bleak, as there's a talented cast of thousands at the running back position, and to a man, they all boast better pass-catching skills and/or special teams prowess than the veteran, at least among the top five candidates. Britt appears to have more of an inside track to making final cuts, as the combination of Julian Edelman's four-game suspension and the recent placement of Jordan Matthews (hamstring) on injured reserve opens up opportunity. However, New England also brought the accomplished Eric Decker – who has plenty of experience with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels from their time together in Denver – into the fold Thursday.

Ravens: Esteemed colleague Corey Smith had an informative recap of first-round pick Lamar Jackson's NFL preseason debut in yesterday's blog entry here, but another athletic signal caller also vying for a spot on the depth chart got a chance to make his case in Thursday's Hall of Fame Game. Robert Griffin III, who'd last taken an NFL snap in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns, completed seven of 11 passes for 58 yards with one touchdown and one interception while also rushing three times for nine yards. While not the prettiest of stat lines, it's worth noting that half of his four incompletions were drops and the one interception was much more receiver Breshard Perriman's fault than Griffin's. With Joe Flacco and Jackson locks to make the roster, Griffin will have to presumably stand out to such a degree in preseason that the Ravens contemplate keeping three quarterbacks... Undrafted rookie running back Gus Edwards had a chance to helm the Baltimore rushing attack with the top trio of Alex Collins, Kenneth Dixon (hamstring) and Javorious Allen all held out and compiled 58 total yards (35 rushing, 23 receiving) over 11 touches.

Steelers: The Steelers were without their two biggest names in practice Friday (factoring out Le'Veon Bell, who's yet to arrive in camp), but for different reasons. Ben Roethlisberger, he of the slimmer physique, was apparently given a veteran's day off, while Antonio Brown was actually tending to a doctor's appointment. The Steelers sent Brown to Pittsburgh for an evaluation of an undisclosed injury, one that head coach Mike Tomlin has labeled as a day-to-day issue. Brown didn't participate in Wednesday's or Thursday's practices either, although he was present at the former session on the sidelines before being absent altogether Thursday. While Tomlin is a forthright guy and all, this is naturally a situation for fantasy owners to monitor closely in the coming days... One important component of the Pittsburgh offense who was at work and accounted for Friday was JuJu Smith-Schuster, who returned to practice after missing a few days with an undisclosed injury. The second-year wideout is slated to see plenty of volume in a No. 2 role this season, but his workload will likely be that of a No. 1 receiver while Brown remains out.

Around the NFC

Eagles: Carson Wentz immediately raised hopes when he opened Eagles camp with 11-on-11 work, but he's subsequently seen his activity level taper down. The recovering quarterback was limited to individual drills and 7-on-7 work in subsequent practices, and reports Friday indicate that he was held out of full-team drills for a fifth straight session. There's been no reported setbacks to Wentz's knee, a point that head coach Doug Pederson was apparently emphatic about Friday. The abundance of caution appears to stem from the fear of Wentz taking incidental shots to his leg, or in a worst-case scenario, being on the back end of a collision between two linemen. Whether Wentz will see any preseason action remains up in the air, even as there seems to be a fair amount of certainty he'll be ready for Philadelphia's prime-time season opener Sept. 6 against the Falcons.

Packers: Running back Aaron Jones won't play during the first two games of the regular season due to suspension, but he's missing valuable conditioning and practice time at present with a hamstring injury that's now sidelined him for a full week of practice. Jamaal Williams – who's reportedly been impressive thus far in camp – and Ty Montgomery are currently receiving the most reps among the running backs. Jones made a splash last season as a big-play back by averaging 5.5 yards per rush and racking up six runs of more than 20 yards, including one over 40.

Redskins: Any time your head coach singles you out in training camp, you're either that much closer or further from a roster spot, depending on what gained you the notoriety in the first place. Maurice Harris was on the favorable side of that equation after Thursday's practice, as Jay Gruden labeled Harris as potentially "the best route-runner" on the team. The third-year receiver has only logged 12 catches over his first two seasons, but he's apparently making good use of his opportunity while the often underwhelming Josh Doctson is sidelined with a shoulder injury...Rob Kelley has gotten his share of criticism over his first two seasons for not maximizing his talent, with his weight often a focus of his detractors. However, the third-year running back has arrived in Redskins camp this year slimmer than ever, sporting a svelte 221-pound physique that's apparently already translating into more quickness on the practice field. Kelley has undoubtedly been motivated by the very strong possibility that he could be without a roster spot absent a strong camp and preseason, as the Redskins' running back depth chart is a crowded one.

Saints: Wide receiver Cameron Meredith suffered a devastating multi-ligament tear last preseason with the Bears, so any caution on the part of the Saints less than a year removed from the injury is understandable. That's likely why even though Meredith was cleared for full-contact drills from the beginning of training camp, he's still seeing his workload monitored. At times, such as when he was held out of team drills Thursday and didn't practice at all Friday, it's also notably restricted. The team had enough faith in Meredith's recovery to ink him to a two-year, $10 million contract this offseason, a price tag that could prove to be a steal if the receiver can return to the form that helped him produce 66 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns in a breakout 2016 in Chicago.

Seahawks: Another receiver on the mend who's actually not seeing any reps at the moment is Doug Baldwin, whose current knee problems remain shrouded in mystery. Head coach Pete Carroll stated Friday that he didn't have any concerns about Baldwin not being ready for Week 1, despite the fact that the veteran has been held out of all practices with what has only been described as "soreness". There may be something more at play here that Carroll naturally is declining to let on, but only time will tell. In the interim, Tyler Lockett is serving as the de facto No. 1 wideout, while former Cardinal Jaron Brown and oft-injured veteran Brandon Marshall – who was able to participate in portions of a full-pads practice Friday despite a hamstring issue – back him up.

Vikings: Minnesota skill players are not only in the midst of adjusting to a new field general in Kirk Cousins, but to a new coordinator in John DeFilippo as well. There's plenty of excitement about the arrival of both, particularly for one Kyle Rudolph. The veteran tight end has to like Cousins' body of work with respect to his position (see Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis), and he certainly has to be chomping at the bit to be deployed like Zach Ertz was on occasion last season in Philadelphia, where DeFilippo served as quarterbacks coach. Ertz was frequently lined up out wide or in the slot, something Minnesota saw up close much to their chagrin in a 38-7 loss to Philly in the NFC championship game. Rudolph is slated to be utilized in similar manner during the coming season, which should create mismatches for either him, the team's receivers, or both on any given play. Vikings quarterbacks generated a 106.6 passer rating when throwing to Rudolph last season, and that already impressive number could potentially see an uptick in 2018 with Cousins under center and DiFilippo designing the plays.