Archive for the ‘Position Battles’ Category


I’d like to take full and exclusive credit for being the first to jump aboard the Zach Sudfeld sleeper train, but then I’d be a filthy liar. Usually I’d be just fine with that, but in truth, I was just one of many who began to populate that fast-moving Sudfeld vessel back in June.

That’s when the Aaron Hernandez situation began to unravel, and when Rob Gronkowski continued to be the human form of the Operation board game guy, having surgeries just for fun. It was obvious that someone — anyone at all, really — needed to step up to receive passes at tight end from Tom Brady in Week 1 if Gronk starts on the PUP list (which is still very likely). And since it’s also become increasingly obvious that someone isn’t Jake Ballard because his knee is still assembled with cardboard and gum, an opportunity has presented itself for an undrafted nobody.

That nobody’s name is Zach Sudfeld, and he’s now running with the Patriots’ first-team offense in camp. Exclusively.

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Pictured: Breakaway speed

One exhibition game has now been played, but although Hall of Fame weekend is a great celebration and it’s a yearly opportunity to indulge nostalgia and peer into the football history looking glass, the Hall of Fame Game itself barely meets the standards of exhibition play. Starters who have even a minor ailment quite rightly sit (see: Mike Wallace), and even the healthy ones play only a series, or don’t play at all (see: the entire Cowboys first team Sunday night).

But hey, that happened, and now it’s over with. Football is back, sort of, and in a few days the other 30 teams will begin their own preseason schedules, which means that any and all position battles which are even remotely serious haven’t truly reached the proving ground stage yet.

Alright, so having said all that, I’m just going to leave this here…

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In the wild jungle that is depth charts at the beginning of training camp, an interesting development emerged Monday. Ronnie Hillman will open camp as the Broncos’ starting running back.

What does this mean? Likely nothing, and maybe something. But likely nothing.

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The adjectives we can use to describe the movement of a football player are numerous. He can be fast or slow, agile or physical, or maybe a shifty little dude. But nearly a month ago when OTAs were wrapping up, a rather unfortunate one was used to describe Jake Ballard and how his bones and muscles were moving on a football field: rigid.

Yes, Ballard wasn’t exactly moving fluidly throughout offseason workouts, which shows the severity of his injuries suffered in the 2011 Super Bowl. Oh and also, it shows that despite how much we often view NFL players as something far above human, getting your knee repeatedly sliced up isn’t an easy thing for any person whose body is structured according to normal design. Ballard tore his ACL and then had microfracture surgery, and although no one would have ever associated one of the above adjectives with him (agile), he still plays a position where a certain amount of cutting and shifting is required.

And he’s not really capable of that yet.

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Lamar Miller’s fantasy value is exceedingly high right now considering he hasn’t, you know, won a starting job yet.

Everything said by everyone in Miami this offseason has led to the idea — no, the belief — that Lamar Miller will be more than just the Dolphins’ starting running back. He’ll be this year’s Alfred Morris x roughly 1,000, busting out quickly and easily.

There’s still one minor hindrance, though: Daniel Thomas.

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Yesterday we dealt with the perplexing problem of a backfield that’s come straight from the depths of hell over the past few seasons. But alas, with word that Jonathan Stewart likely won’t be healthy for the beginning of training camp, there’s fleeting hope that at his current draft price, DeAngelo Williams may actually provide some flex value. Hope, it’s all we have.

But now we move on to another backfield which is equally confusing, though there’s a difference in our feelings towards this particular quagmire. In St. Louis, the man who earns the title of backfield headmaster has an opportunity to be very productive, very quickly.

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One of the glorious things about being an NFL fan in Canada is that you have no regional ties to a team. When you begin to follow the league and decide that you’d like a team to latch onto, you can pick any team, any team at all. This is why I know a fan of nearly every team, with some picking their affiliation based on a player they liked at the time, and others even went with the then expansion Panthers and Jaguars. A poor decision, but a noble one since they wanted to support a team from its very inception.

But my specific location in the world is home to many Bills fans, with Toronto only a short drive from the place where far too many September dreams have met their untimely death. Surely you recall last season when I gave our boy Devang Desai a weekly pool for his tears, and he ruined many keyboards each Sunday while going through his therapy. This is why although the chances remain slim, I fear for the state of my city (or maybe that’s a bit much…OK, my office) if Kevin Kolb is named the Bills’ starting quarterback.

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