Training Camp Notes: August 12

Training Camp Notes: August 12

This article is part of our Training Camp Notes series.

Here are the top fantasy news notes from Wednesday.

-Colts coach Frank Reich said Wednesday that "[Marlon Mack] is the starter" for the Colts at running back, but all but undid any initial meaning of the quote by adding that they would also go with the hot hand, theoretically opening the door for Jonathan Taylor, Jordan Wilkins, and Nyheim Hines for involvement in the run game. Hines has his own separate specialist role and has shown limitations as a runner, so the quote more so applies to Taylor and Wilkins.

It's Taylor, of course, who poses the greatest danger to Mack. Reich certainly has the authority to stick with Mack as a starter as long as he likes, but if the determination is left to the hot hand then there's only so much that Mack can do to defend himself. Taylor is much denser, much faster, much more powerful, much more productive as a runner, and no worse of a passing-down back than Mack. Mack couldn't outplay Wilkins or Jonathan Williams, so to choose Mack over Taylor is to likely choose lesser returns, which it's difficult to imagine Reich doing. The one caveat is that Taylor did have profound fumbling issues at Wisconsin, and NFL coaches will only tolerate that to a point. If Taylor isn't fumbling, though, then it's all but impossible for Mack to remain starter beyond a ceremonial sense. Very few running backs league-wide offer Taylor's credentials as a pure runner, and Mack isn't one of them. If Mack comes out the winner, it's likely because Taylor quite literally dropped the ball.

 
-The Athletic team beat writer Vic Tafur passed along a handful of tidbits regarding the Raiders offense, including Josh Jacobs' pursuit of 60 or more receptions for the 2020 season. Jacobs could probably catch 60 passes easy enough if given the opportunity to do so, but it's not clear whether the structure of the Raiders offense can realistically offer that. It's a deep and qualified group of skill position players, so even if the Raiders air it out it might be tough to allocate 60 receptions toward Jacobs with all of Darren Waller, Henry Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow, Tyrell Williams, and Bryan Edwards running routes. Not just them, but fellow running backs Jalen Richard and Lynn Bowden are both pass-catching specialists. Jacobs saw 27 targets on his 469 snaps last year, catching 20 for 166 yards, so 40 receptions might be a more reasonable goal for Jacobs. Of course, if Jacobs does manage to catch 60 passes then it will mean he potentially returned a top-five overall value. His rushing production is all but assured to register among the league leaders.

 
-Tafur also offered the prediction that Nelson Agholor would play a significant role in the 2020 Raiders offense, enough to upset those who invest in Henry Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams. Agholor was mostly a slot project for the Eagles, but be it due to bad hands, poor focus, or perhaps both, Agholor was a memorable drops victim during his time in Philadelphia. Agholor is a fast and twitchy athlete who can get open and run well in the open field, but it might be asking him too much to hold on to the ball over the middle. Rather than a definite fixture in the offense like Tafur suggests, it's possible that the Raiders simply look at Agholor as helpful depth in the event that any of their receivers struggle or get hurt, which Williams and Renfrow both did last year. If injuries strike again or the rookies struggle, then the Raiders can turn to Agholor this time instead of wasting snaps on Zay Jones like last year. 

 
-John Ross left Bengals training camp to go to California, where his son and the child's mother were unfortunately both diagnosed with COVID-19. Ross knows the Bengals offense well enough and has a unique enough skill set that his role should more or less remain set aside for him pending his healthy return. Hopefully everything goes well for them in these perilous times.

 
-ESPN's Rich Cimini relayed that Le'Veon Bell slimmed down to the 210-to-215 pound range. The exact goal isn't really clear, but it's presumably in the pursuit of speed, quickness, explosiveness, etc. As much as shedding weight could very well help Bell acquire greater functional athleticism, losing the weight has its own cost, and it's not clear whether sacrificing anchor ability for greater athleticism is a productive trade-off for Bell. He was 230 pounds when he ran a 1.55-second 10-yard split at the combine, a 73rd-percentile mark at an 88th-percentile weight, according to Mockdraftable.com. Bell also logged his exceptional 6.75-second three-cone drill time (95th percentile) at 230.

Perhaps the loss of weight will help Bell regain explosiveness that he's lost over the course of his career, but it hopefully won't come at the expense of his ability to withstand contact. Whatever the nature of Bell's 2020 loadout, the Jets appear poised to give him a heavy workload again. If he fails his fantasy investors it likely won't be for lack of opportunity.

  
-Eagles coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles are "[expecting] some really big things" from Greg Ward, referring to the 2019 practice squad call-up as "in the starting mix" for Philadelphia. The Athletic beat writer Zach Berman passed along the quote, but it's not clear how serious Pederson was in saying it. Ward should at least make the final Philadelphia roster, but it might be hard to find snaps for the slot specialist given the Eagles' intention of running Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert at the same time on 80 percent or more of the snaps. A lot of these plays will technically be three-wide formations, so Ward's snap count ceiling is quite low.

With that said, on whatever percent of the time where the Eagles do have a slot rep to dole out, it might be Ward who's first in line among Eagles wide receivers. DeSean Jackson is supposed to mostly function outside side, and Jalen Reagor should mostly do the same despite occasional slot dabbling. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower, Quez Watkins and Deontay Burnett may have something to say about the slot role, but it's not clear whether they'll get much of an audition for it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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