Sirius Business: Titans, Falcons, Bucs Notes

Fellow senior writer Matt Camp and I hosted a special edition of Sirius XM Fantasy Football on Saturday, and we had a handful of interesting guests filling us in with some worthwhile tidbits about the teams they cover. If you didn’t get to listen in, here’s a brief summary of our guests had to say.

John Glennon covers the Titans for The Tennesseean (@glennonsports on Twitter):

He doesn’t think Vince Young will be suspended for the recent strip club incident, but it does reflect poorly on Young and the franchise. One of the biggest hurdles for Young in becoming a worthwhile NFL QB was his maturity, and this represents a step back in an area he had made a lot of strides. It’s upsetting because Young has been working hard this off-season. Still, Glennon believes Young has taken more steps forward than backward in recent months, especially in regard to his on-field performance.

The Chris Johnson situation isn’t yet resolved, although Glennon believes he’ll report at some point during training camp. Johnson is scheduled to make about a half-million dollars this year, which will make him the lowest-paid player on the Titans’ projected starting offense. For a guy who gained more yards from scrimmage in a single season than any player in history, that seems a bit ridiculous. But with the current labor situation, the Titans don’t want to be locked down with a deal to Johnson without full understanding of what the rules could be, nor do they want to commit a ton of money to a guy who has three years left on a five-year rookie deal.

With Johnson out of the lineup, Javon Ringer has been getting the Titans’ first-team reps at RB. The team likes Ringer (and so do we), but the fact remains that he has only 8 career carries, and behind him are two rookies. Glennon wouldn’t be surprised if the Titans add a veteran with more experience to round out the backfield, even if Johnson reports on time for camp.

Second-year TE Jared Cook “passes the eye test,” according to Glennon. He didn’t make much of an impact as a rookie, but he has all the skills to be a prime receiving threat at the position in the NFL. He’s currently backing up Bo Scaife, but he’s more athletic than Scaife and will have all the opportunities to take reps from him. He’s almost like a “mini Jermichael Finley” in that respect, in that Finley was backing up a more seasoned (but more boring) player in Donald Lee last season before truly breaking out.

D. Orlando Ledbetter covers the Falcons for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (@AJCFalcons on Twitter):

Will QB Matt Ryan bounce back from a mediocre 2009?

QB Matt Ryan is 100% over the toe injury that limited him in 2009, and he’s been working with his receivers to mix the ball around more (almost out of necessity, he had to lock on to Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez) and get the ball down the field. The Falcons completely lost the vertical element of their passing game in 2009, and it hurt the offense in a big way. Not only that, but it made Michael Jenkins basically irrelevant. Look for the Falcons to take more shots down the field this year.

RB Michael Turner is about 90% recovered from the high ankle injury that ended his 2009 season early, according to Ledbetter. Ideally, Turner will be 100% by training camp, but even if he shows no ill effects from the ankle heading into the season, the Falcons plan on cutting into his touches. Jason Snelling proved he could play a “Turner-lite” role last season, while Jerious Norwood remains a guy with a ton of potential who can do more things as a third-down type of back. Ledbetter put it perfectly when he called Norwood “a tease” for fantasy purposes. Norwood has trouble staying healthy, but he is always capable of making wow plays that make him look like a viable flex guy. Ledbetter predicts, assuming Turner is healthy, Norwood would see more touches than Snelling, but if Turner is banged up again, Snelling is probably going to start.

A guy we loved last year, WR Harry Douglas, missed the 2009 season with an ACL injury. Douglas’ absence was one of the big reasons the Falcons lost dynamism in their pass game. He’s a speedy guy who can play the slot or on the outside effectively, and he’s also a home-run threat in the return game. The team likes Douglas a lot, and Ledbetter wouldn’t be surprised if he caught 60 balls and scored a handful of TDs this season. If Douglas gets off to a hot start, remember that. He should be available on the Waiver Wire.

Rick Stroud covers the Buccaneers for the St. Petersburg Times (@NFLSTROUD on Twitter):

The Bucs are being cautious with TE Kellen Winslow, who has persistent pain in his knee. It’s something Winslow has learned to play through, but he’s not taking any more reps than he absolutely has to in camps. Still, with Winslow’s uncertain health, the Bucs are really going to need a lot of help from their young WR position. They spent two picks on the WR position, a 2nd-rounder on Arrelious “Rejus” Benn and a 4th-rounder on Mike Williams. While Benn has been going off the board late in some drafts, Stroud believes Williams is actually ahead of Benn at this point in time. Williams was an early-round talent, but off-field issues led him to drop to the Bucs in the 4th round. But he signed a contract early and has been doing everything right thus far.

Elsewhere at the WR position, Stroud believes young Sammie Stroughter has the inside track on the Bucs’ slot receiver job. Where does that leave veteran Michael Clayton, if the rookies pan out as hoped? Maybe off the roster. The Bucs also brought in Reggie Brown this off-season, and Clayton might have one more shot left, if any. In fact, the money he’s owed is probably the only reason he has a job at this point.

QB Josh Freeman doesn’t even resemble the raw rookie he was at this point last year, according to Stroud. If the Bucs had their druthers, Freeman wouldn’t even have any game experience at this point, but injuries and poor QB play thrust him into the lineup earlier than expected in 2009. Fortunately, Freeman has taken a leadership role with the Bucs. He’s been spending extra time in practice, extra time in the film room, and extra time in the gym. He has the physical tools to succeed, and it’s refreshing to see he doesn’t act like the “entitled” JaMarcus Russell.

Interesting point about RB Derrick Ward: Stroud believes Ward entered the 2009 season believing he’d be handed the Bucs’ starting RB job because of the large contract he signed last year. Well, as Ward found out, he actually had to compete for work with Cadillac Williams, to whom the Bucs have a strong sense of loyalty. Williams outperformed Ward, and while the Bucs would like Ward to have a bigger role in the offense this season, he’s going to have to earn it. He knows that now.

Stroud had the line of the day in reference to LT Donald Penn: “you don’t need Sandra Bullock to tell you that the left tackle position is important.” Penn is currently holding out for a new deal, and there’s no end in sight. But it’d be right for both parties to get something worked out. Penn underperformed and was out of shape last season, but Stroud said he has lost the weight the team asked him to, and he looks great. A rebound season from Penn would be great for Freeman’s development.

Category: Joe Dolan

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