Training Camp Notes: Pack Back Taking Flak

With some teams already preparing for their third preseason games, depth charts and starting spots are beginning to firm up, but there’s still a lot of practice reps to go — and a lot of surprises in store — before Week 1. Let’s take a look at what news came spilling out of Wednesday’s training camps.

  • Ty Montgomery, who has been struggling in pass protection, hasn’t practiced in a couple of days due to a soft tissue injury in his leg that the Packers are downplaying. Nonetheless, fewer first-team reps for Montgomery means more of them for rookie Jamaal Williams, who increasingly looks like a possible threat to at least a chunk of the converted wideout’s workload, and maybe even his starting job. Neither RB showed much during Thursday’s game against the Eagles, so there’s plenty of time for Montgomery to end any thought of a job battle, but he should really start putting some effort into keeping Aaron Rodgers upright against a blitz if he wants to be any kind of long-term answer in the Green Bay backfield.
  • Bilal Powell seems fully recovered from the neck injury that kept him off the field during the Jets’ preseason opener, which puts him ahead of Matt Forte (hamstring) in the race to see who can stay healthy. Forte’s still the nominal starter if both RBs are on the field, but Powell’s younger legs and larger role as a receiver make him the better fantasy option, especially considering the woeful state of the Jets’ receiving corps and passing game in general. If he plays 16 games, it’s entirely possible that Powell will lead the team in catches.
  • speaking of woeful passing attacks, Brock Osweiler seems to be ahead in the battle to be the Browns’ Week 1 starter, although DeShone Kizer should make his presence felt before the season is over. Osweiler’s disastrous showing in Houston last year came with DeAndre Hopkins as his top target and a defense that took a lot of pressure off him to score, luxuries he won’t enjoy in Cleveland. Even in two-QB or superflex leagues, it’s hard to imagine Osweiler being much of a fantasy contributor.
  • after just over a week’s worth of practices with the Dolphins, Jay Cutler has been deemed ready to take the reins and will get the start Thursday against the Ravens. Cutler’s experience in coach Adam Gase’s offense is nice and he does have a set of young WRs with some upside to chuck it to, but he had Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett to target with the Bears (when they were healthy, anyway) in 2015 and Gase’s system didn’t magically turn the QB into a Pro Bowler back then. Cutler’s a caretaker, not a savior, for Miami this season.
  • Vance McDonald’s job seemed to be on thin ice earlier in the offseason, but the tight end has drawn praise in camp from both GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, so it looks like his starting spot will be safe heading into Week 1. While it’s tempting to anticipate a breakout for McDonald given the lack of established options at WR for the Niners who can benefit from Shanahan’s offensive scheme, that scheme hasn’t exactly been a bonanza for tight ends in the past — Chris Cooley in 2010 with Washington was the last TE to make any kind of fantasy splash for Shanahan.
  • hamstring issues continue to limit Eric Ebron in camp, and he has yet to make it through a full practice session. The story remains the same for the 24-year-old, as he has tremendous upside running routes over the middle and up the seam in Jim Bob Cooter’s short-strike offense but can’t stay healthy enough to take full advantage of his opportunities. His targets and yards have increased every year, though, and if you miss out on the elite options at TE, it won’t cost much to take a chance on 2017 being the year he stays on the field and erupts.
  • Eric Decker (ankle) and Emmanuel Sanders (shoulder) both got hurt during practice Wednesday. Neither injury is considered serious, but both toil for teams that can ill afford to lose them for any length of time given their lack of WR depth.