Tue May 17 8:20pm ET
By GENE CHAMBERLAIN
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) From his work ethic to understanding a new offense, quarterback Justin Fields has convinced his new coaches with the Chicago Bears that he is making progress.
The real question facing the Bears is whether they have made enough progress supporting Fields.
''I've seen him just develop day to day, just keep getting better and keep learning the system and now he's starting to take control,'' Bears coach Matt Eberflus said Tuesday after the second organized team activity practice.
''In terms of getting guys lined up, helping guys after the play, you need to do it this way, you need to do it that way and he does it in a good way.''
The Bears didn't draft a receiver in Round 2 when they had their first two picks, and didn't sign any of the top free agent receivers to help Fields. Nor did they add a top-level guard or tackle to bolster an offensive line that struggled protecting Fields.
Center Lucas Patrick from the Green Bay Packers was their key offensive line addition. Patrick says the support for Fields will be there from players, but a big part will be help from the new offense being installed by Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, Aaron Rodgers' former quarterbacks coach in Green Bay.
''Every time I've seen him work with players I've seen the progress,'' Patrick said of Getsy. ''In the wide receiver room he started with in Green Bay, I mean, (they had) a bunch of studs that he made better. He went into that QB room and I'm pretty sure that guy won an MVP.''
''That guy,'' was Rodgers.
''Now he's coming to be our OC,'' Patrick said. ''I mean, everything he does well and he's like a really good person and it's really easy to go and run through a brick wall for a coach that you believe in.''
Patrick's confidence in Getsy's ability to elevate a dormant Bears offense?
''Unshakable,'' Patrick said.
As far as protecting Fields, the Bears believe they have this covered. They'll need to prove it, just as they'll need rookie wide receiver Velus Jones and veteran receiver additions such as Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown to prove they can complement top receiver Darnell Mooney.
Lining up with second-year tackles Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins in starting spots, and with former Bears center Sam Mustipher at right guard is not quite the same as bringing in a group of first-round linemen and top free agents to block for Fields.
''I mean, it should be extremely competitive, that's at every position,'' Getsy said.
The Bears are counting on competition to bring out the best in an unproven line that is still forming. On Tuesday, they signed free agent tackle Shon Coleman to add to their competitive mix.
''That's what we're in here doing every single day, is giving guys an opportunity to compete,'' Getsy said. ''There's no jobs that are locked up right now. When you get the pads on, that's when real ball starts.
''Everything will be evaluated about that, right? The way they get off the football, the way they execute, their mentality, their finish - all that stuff is going to get evaluated. I'm excited to see that.''
The receiver group they've given Fields consists of well-travelled veterans such as Dante Pettis, Tajae Sharpe and David Moore besides the lower-cost free agents they signed.
It's third-round pick Jones who has created some excitement at Halas Hall. Jones signed his rookie contract on Tuesday.
''I think he has hunger,'' said passing game coordinator and receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. ''And you hit the nail right on the head: he has maturity. He already has his master's degree. So he's a smart guy, mature beyond his years, takes his job very seriously.''
Backup quarterback Trevor Siemian calls it a matter of proving to skeptics they can support their quarterback, and they won't get the real opportunity until September.
''He's got all the tools,'' Siemian said of Fields. ''We've gotta play well around him and give him a chance. But yeah, he's got everything.''
NOTES: Defensive linemen Robert Quinn, Mario Edwards Jr. and Al-Quadin Muhammad were not in attendance at the voluntary workouts, and had also missed the earlier voluntary veterans minicamp. ... Cornerback Jaylon Johnson missed the earlier minicamp but is at OTAs.
Free-agent QB Robert Griffin III (Ravens) said he trains every day and remains ready if a team were interested in him.
Free-agent quarterback Robert Griffin III has quickly embraced his new role as a broadcaster after playing eight seasons in the NFL, but he hasn't shut the door on a potential return to football. "I am ready to go right now. I train every day. I throw and work out. I know what it takes to get my body ready and I am doing those things. Yes, it is a little bit tougher when you are flying around everywhere doing stuff for TV, but when you really want something, you make it work. So, if I get that call this year, next year, or five years from now I will be ready to play," Griffin said. The 32-year-old last played in the NFL in 2020 with the Baltimore Ravens, and it's probably a long shot that he'll return to an NFL roster since his commentating gig is going so well.
New England Patriots sixth-round rookie running back Kevin Harris has a good shot at making the team's final roster, in the opinion of Patriots.com's Paul Perillo. Harris has a solid build and a reputation for being a physical power back who can run between the tackles. Perillo said he can see Harris earning some carries in the Patriots committee approach alongside Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris. Rookie offensive linemen Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber also have a good chance to stick around as depth up front in their rookie seasons. The 21-year-old Harris won't be worth selecting in single-year fantasy drafts, but he could end up being a steal for the Pats down the road.
Buffalo Bills cornerbacks Siran Neal, Dane Jackson and Kaiir Elam will all be competing throughout training camp to win the No. 2 cornerback job opposite Tre'Davious White. Neal, who is the oldest of the three, has embraced more of a leadership role heading into his fifth season with the team. He's been a key special teams contributor, but he's also seen time at safety, outside corner and nickel corner. Since 2019, Neal has played at least 10% of the snaps on defense and more than 60% of the snaps on special teams. Neal and Jackson have more experience, but Elam is coming in as a first-round rookie. Neal has the most tenure of the three, but he might be best suited moving around the secondary because of his versatility.
New York Jets safety Ashtyn Davis was viewed as a developmental player when he was taken in the third round in 2020. He was robbed of valuable repetitions when organized team activities and minicamp were canceled in his rookie year, and then he suffered a foot injury midway through his first NFL season that put him on Injured Reserve and kept him out throughout the 2021 offseason program and training camp. But this year, Davis has been able to prepare and looks significantly improved while working with the second-team defense. The 25-year-old is flying around, but the Jets also haven't used pads yet, so it'll be interesting to see if Davis has improved while defending the run, which is what he struggled the most with last year.
The New York Jets kicking competition between Greg Zuerlein and Eddy Pineiro this offseason has been "neck and neck," according to special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, but it's mainly because neither kicker has impressed all that much. The Jets brought in Greg the Leg this offseason after Pineiro made all 17 of his kicks in five games. Zuerlein made 29 of his 35 field-goal attempts for the Dallas Cowboys last year, but he was released in March. The kicking competition will continue in training camp and into the preseason, and it remains to be seen who will come out on top, but fantasy managers can probably avoid the situation in drafts.
The New York Jets drafted Jason Pinnock as a cornerback in the fifth round last year but converted him to safety toward the end of 2021 out of necessity. Pinnock impressed in the role and finished with six tackles, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup in 175 defensive snaps. The Jets have made his position switch permanent, and it's paying off already. The 23-year-old received the majority of the first-team repetitions next to Jordan Whitehead in offseason workouts with Lamarcus Joyner working his way back from injury. Pinnock looks like he belongs, but he's unlikely to be in contention to retain a starting job once Joyner is healthy. If Pinnock continues to improve, he could wind up being a steal for Gang Green.
It's still early in the offseason, but The Athletic's Connor Hughes writes that New York Jets second-year quarterback Zach Wilson wasn't overly impressive through four media-open organized team activity practices. Wilson struggled with his accuracy, and his decision-making was questionable, at best. It wasn't all bad for the 22-year-old, but Hughes was hoping to see more conviction and decisiveness. For what it's worth, the Jets aren't concerned and see signs of improvement as he trusts his reads much more. If Wilson's struggles continue into training camp, then there might be a little panic from the Jets, but for now, it's just something to watch. Wilson has some new toys in the passing game and he should take a step forward in 2022, but he'll still only be a low-end QB2 in fantasy.
New York Jets tight end Tyler Conklin seized the majority of the repetitions at tight end during offseason practices because of the absences of C.J. Uzomah and Jeremy Ruckert. Conklin made the most of his extra work in the spring, and quarterback Zach Wilson is looking Conklin's way more often, especially in the red zone. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur will use all of his tight ends this year, but Conklin might be separating himself as the top option heading into training camp. The 26-year-old had a career-high 61 catches for 593 yards and three touchdowns in 17 games with the Minnesota Vikings last year and he can be a valuable red-zone weapon, but he'll likely have a low fantasy ceiling while sharing snaps with Uzomah and others.
New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur was impressed with rookie second-round running back Breece Hall during offseason workouts. "He's 220 pounds, and he's covering a lot of yardage when he doesn't look like he's covering a lot of yardage," LaFleur said. "He's fast, so he gets up on people pretty quick. And then he's such a fluid, big-body target that when he makes his move it's not like a smaller running back when you feel like you have to put it on them. He's got a big catch radius and I know the quarterback is going to feel that." Hall and Michael Carter are expected to share RB duties in 2022, but Hall is expected to take over the lion's share of duties sooner than later, making him an RB2 target in fantasy in his rookie season.
New York Jets safety Lamarcus Joyner (triceps) is still the starter despite missing organized team activities and minicamp, but there's a chance that Ashtyn Davis and Jason Pinnock could push him for playing time this year if their strong OTAs turn into strong training camps. Joyner is 31 years old and his future with the team is unlikely to extend beyond the 2022 season. Joyner is reportedly healthy heading into training camp at the end of July after he played in just one game in 2021 due to a season-ending triceps injury. He projects to open the season as a starter next to Jordan Whitehead, but Joyner will have to play well and stay healthy to hold off both Davis and Pinnock in the Jets secondary.
The real star of the New York Jets organized team activities was tight end Lawrence Cager, who was converted from a receiver. He worked mostly with the third-team offense, but he was making two or three catches every day. Cager is clearly the most athletic player the Jets have at the tight end position, and it has led to mismatches when the defense tries to cover him with a linebacker or safety. The 24-year-old's chances of making the final roster will come down to his blocking ability, which he didn't do much of throughout OTAs. Cager isn't on the fantasy radar at all, but he'll be one to watch this summer and might be a dark horse to make the team heading into the regular season.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings is reportedly having the best offseason of his career, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. The second-year receiver is likely to become the No. 3 option in this offense. Last season, Jennings finished with 24 receptions, 282 receiving yards, and five touchdowns in 16 games. It was a decent rookie season for Jennings considering he was a seventh round pick. Despite that, it's unlikely that Jennings has standard league value heading into next season. There probably won't be enough targets for him to have success on a regular basis. Although, he could be an interesting stash in dynasty formats.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard is expected to see a heavier workload heading into next season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers mentioned that he's excited about Lazard getting a chance to be the No. 1 receiver. Last season, Lazard set career highs in receptions (40), receiving yards (513), and touchdowns (8) in 15 games last season. The departure of Davante Adams has opened up a door for Lazard to make an even bigger impact on the roster. Fantasy managers shouldn't expect Lazard to produce like a No. 1 receiver, but his value should be on the rise.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (knee) is expected to be limited early in training camp. The superstar receiver underwent MCL surgery in December. That being said, the Cardinals are going to be cautious with Hopkins. It's worth noting that Hopkins is going to be suspended for the first six weeks of the regular season. The Cardinals have no reason to rush Hopkins during his recovery process. Fantasy managers should expect Hopkins to be a major factor on offense once he does get back on the field.
Arizona Cardinals RB James Conner forced 26 broken or missed tackles on his 202 carries in 2021, according to Sports Info Solutions. That number ranked fourth in the league, while his broken/missed tackles forced percentage of 12.9 ranked second among running backs with at least 150 carries.
Fantasy Spin: Conner enjoyed a resurgent 2021 in many areas, but there is reason for concern with him in 2022 that goes beyond his injury history. He averaged a mere 3.7 yards per carry and over 40 percent of his fantasy point total from last season came via his 18 total touchdowns. The offensive line doesn't figure to be any better this year either. Last but not least, Eno Benjamin reportedly has enjoyed a fantastic offseason and could carve out a bigger role than Chase Edmonds ever did if he can carry it over to training camp.
Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny averaged 3.7 yards after contact per carry - the most among running back with at least 100 carries in 2021 - according to Sports Info Solutions.
Fantasy Spin: The biggest caveat of Penny's fantastic finish was that at least three of the final five teams he faced over that stretch struggled to stop the run in a big way at the end of last season. It also coincided with Russell Wilson looking like his usual self following his injury. Penny will not have the benefit of Wilson taking the attention away from him this season and will be challenged by explosive rookie Kenneth Walker III, making Penny a likely hit-or-miss RB2 for fantasy purposes in 2022.
Cincinnati Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson hurried the quarterback 43 times in 2021, according to Sports Info Solutions. The number ranked fourth in the league.
Cleveland Browns DE Myles Garrett recorded a league-high 85 pressures in 2021, according to Sports Info Solutions.