Rex Grossman's recent ankle knocked him out of action for 3-4 months and added question marks to the value of RBs Thomas Jones/Cedric Benson and WR Muhsin Muhammad. Although the Bears denied early trade reports, they made a deal for veteran Jeff Blake and listed him third on the current depth chart. Rookie Kyle Orton may have the skills to become an eventual NFL starter, but any quarterback thrown in to the unsettled situation in Chicago does not bode well for fantasy stats. Don't be tempted by Muhammad's 16TD 1400 yard performance last season with Carolina.
Mike Tice suggested that his breakout candidate this year is Michael Bennett. Even with Randy Moss moving to Oakland, Vikings running backs should have every opportunity to put up big numbers. Bennett is a very talented speedster, but has never been durable. A huge season may be in the mix, but plan on handcuffing Bennett with sophomore Mewelde Moore as a late round selection.
After recovering from knee surgery in January, Fred Taylor has seen some extensive work in camp and is expected to make an appearance in preseason. Travis Henry landing in Tennessee rather than Jacksonville was a boost, but Taylor's history of injuries continues to make him a risk in 2005. Taylor worked to shed his "Fragile Freddy" tag the past three years to start in 46 of 48 games after beginning his NFL career with several injury plagued seasons. If he stays healthy in 2005, Taylor will put up significant yardage. Touchdowns, however, will be sporadic as he is spelled in goal-line situations by Greg Jones.
Some question whether Terrell Owens' recent groin injury was legitimate. Terrell's ability to perform sit-ups on his driveway combined with his mandatory week off was an indication that his groin has healed. To Owens' credit, he is perhaps the most conditioned athlete in the NFL and has never been regarded as injury prone. Although attitude has never been considered an injury, the current riff with Donovan McNabb and the Eagles should be watched very closely before spending a high draft pick on Owens. Terrell claims he will play this season and can be expected to put up top numbers upon resolving the current situation.
Duce Staley was primed to put up some big yardage before suffering a lateral meniscus tear on his right knee. It now looks unlikely that he will be in uniform prior to the start of the season. Upon his return, look for Staley to split carries with Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis until he gradually is capable of handling the bulk of the load. Pittsburgh led the AFC in rushing last season with Staley as their primary rusher, but he missed six games due to knee/hamstring injuries. Assuming he stays healthy after recovering from his current knee injury, he will continue to be pulled in goal-line situations and passing downs as long as Bettis is healthy.
NY Jets quarterback Chad Pennington has been progressing nicely from off season rotator cuff surgery on his throwing arm. Pennington claimed last weekend that his arm was 90-95% and looked forward to throwing longer passes. Jets coach Herman Edwards kept Pennington out of the Lions game, but his return to the lineup against the Vikings on Friday showed early signs that Pennington's arm had no lingering affects. New offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger wants to air it out in attempt to break up the oft criticized conservative offense used under Paul Hackett. This new approach should help the return of former Jet Laveranues Coles and current wide receivers Justin McCareins/Wayne Chrebet who combined for 87 catches last season. Pennington, who is better known for accuracy than arm strength, will be put to the test with the implementation of more deep routes in the Jets playbook. Give Pennington and his receivers another game to prove that his recently repaired arm proves up to the test.