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ProCanes NFL Preview: News and Notes, What’s up with the running backs, HOF Nominations

Travis Benjamin was charged up on Monday Night Football, will that continue for his fellow ProCanes in wk 2?

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Week one of the NFL season is in the books, so let’s bring on week two. The ProCanes on the defensive side of the ball created more highlights than their colleagues on the offense. WR Travis Benjamin’s touchdown late Monday night, was the only offensive touchdown scored by a ProCane all week. Surely we’ll see more scoring from the ProCane contingent this week.

There is certainly some concern regarding bigger-named ProCanes. Running backs Frank Gore, Lamar Miller, and Duke Johnson were unable to get the ground game going. The play of their offensive lines had a huge role in their inefficiency running the ball. One week does not make a season, and these players will look to prove that week one was an aberration, not a trend.

Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens 1PM EDT

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns
Celebrating DeShone Kizer’s TD last week, this week provides another shot at the end zone for TE David Njoku
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Baby Browns looked great in the first quarter of their season opener. TE David Njoku caught his first NFL pass, and Duke Johnson made plays from the slot as a receiving option. However, that moment did not stay with them, as they ultimately lost to a good Pittsburgh Steelers squad. On Sunday the Browns square off against that other conference stalwart, the Baltimore Raven, who are coming off a shutout win against the Bengals in week one.

Could this possibly be the week that Njoku scores his first TD? Like most defenses, the Ravens have holes to be exploited. Andy Dalton was unable to do so a week ago, so will DeShone Kizer be able to take advantage? Njoku is uber-talented, and if Kizer improves on his accuracy, we could see the rookie scoring his first TD in the pros.

One takeaway from last week’s game for the Browns is that Johnson did not receive a single carry, the first time this has happened in his career. One game is a limited sample size, so we’ll see if it becomes a trend. Despite the lack of carries, Johnson got plenty of looks in the passing game in week one, with five targets for two receptions totaling 20 yards. In the two games against Baltimore in 2016, he caught seven passes for a combined 69 yards. He could be a flier at the flex position if you’re in a deep fantasy league.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1PM EDT

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns
LB Anthony Chickillo celebrates after recovering a fumble in the end zone, scoring the first touchdown for the ProCane familia in 2017
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

When LB Bud Dupree was ruled out for week one, LB Anthony Chickillo seized an opportunity to shine, sliding in the end zone to recover a blocked punt and score the lone ProCanes touchdown of the week. While the TD recovery is the highlight of the day, Chickillo added four tackles, two of which were sacks. He’ll be looking to bring more of that same pressure this week against Sam Bradford and the Minnesota Vikings’ offense. Bradford is a veteran who likes to get the ball out quickly.

That will put pressure on Artie Burns and the rest of the secondary to hold up in coverage. Last week it was Burn’s corner-mate, CB Joe Haden, who got picked on by his former club. Burns will be in a dogfight against either WR Stefon Diggs or WR Adam Thielen, who is coming off an incredible performance Monday against the Saints. Talk in the preseason focused on Burns’s thirst for competition and improvement; he often shadows WR Antonio Brown in practices and scrimmages. Perhaps this week we’ll see how much he’s actually improved in the second year of what appears to be a promising career.

Stacy Coley is third-string on the Vikings’ depth chart at the moment, behind Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell. He was active Monday against the Saints but did not register a stat.

New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints 1PM EDT

A week ago WR Phillip Dorsett arrived at New England, and he will need to be a quick study to become an effective player on the Patriots’ offense. The Patriots opened the season with a loss, with Dorsett getting in on 18 of the 81 team snaps. Dorsett’s snap count should rise as the season progress, and he could see a huge uptick in week two. WR Danny Amendola is dealing with a head injury and could miss the game, providing an opportunity for Dorsett to be paired with Brandin Cooks to create one of the fastest duos the Patriots have started on offense.

Al-Quadin Muhammad made his NFL debut on Monday Night Football when the Saints took on the Minnesota Vikings. Muhammad, who is a third-stringer on the Saints’ depth chart, did not register any stats. The question for this matchup against the Patriots is whether the Saints feel the need to rotate as many pass-rushers, since the Chiefs showed last week that the best way to disrupt Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is to hit him as often as possible. Sacking a legend like Brady would be an incredible story to tell if you’re Muhammad. However, I think he would be just as happy to get on the stat sheet.

Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 1 PM EDT

DL Calais Campbell had the most sacks in his 10-year NFL career in 2013 with nine. Last week against the Texans, Campbell piled up four, as the Texans had no answers for the Jaguars. Jacksonville will look to keep the sack attack going when they host the Titans in week two. The Titans boast one of the best offensive lines in the league, so it will be a battle in the trenches.

With WR Allen Robinson injured last week with a torn ACL, the opportunity has arisen for Allen Hurns to showcase himself. Rumored to be on the trading block in the off-season, Hurns is listed on the Jaguars’ website as their third-string wideout. He was the leader receiver last week, catching three passes for 42 yards. The legs of running backs Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory also helped propel the team to victory. The Jags may continue running this game plan, as there is considerable doubt that Blake Bortles can be an efficient passer. The Titans are coming off a disappointing home loss to the Raiders and looked vulnerable through the air. Hurns will try to fill Robinson’s role in the offense, with Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook working as the two or three.

ProCanes Fantasy Player of the Week

Jimmy Graham

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers
Graham looks post up the Niners in the redzone this Sunday.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Three receptions for eight yards is not the type of day that Graham or the Seahawks expected out of the All-Pro tight end. I know—I picked TE Greg Olsen to have a big day against the 49ers last week, and he only had two receptions for 18 yards. This time around, the belief is that QB Russell Wilson should be prepared to get the ball to his ProCane tight end. While many people may not remember that Graham got mugged in the end zone against the Packers, which wasn’t called, I expect more red zone targets for him. He’s going to prove why he is viewed as a top-tier TE.

Quick Outs

Early this week ProCane legends RB Edgerrin James, LB Ray Lewis, and head coach Jimmy Johnson were named to the NFL Hall of Fame’s nominee list. 108 former players and coaches were named to the list.

  • P Justin Vogel made his NFL debut with 5 punts, with an average of 42.4 yards per punt. One was downed inside the 20.
  • RB Frank Gore is 152 yards behind Eric Dickerson for seventh on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.
  • With his four sacks last week, Calais Campbell now has 60.5 sacks in his career. He sits 109th all-time in NFL history in that category. He was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after breaking the Jaguars’ single-game record for sacks in week one.
  • After missing most of the 2016 season, DE Allen Bailey returned in the Chiefs’ opener to get his first sack and five tackles.
  • WR Phillip Dorsett was profiled this past week by ESPN staff writer Mike Reiss.
  • LB Sean Spence has re-signed with the Indianiapolis Colts after being released by the team in the preseason.
  • LB Ray-Ray Armstrong filled in for LB Reuben Foster after he went down with a high ankle sprain.
  • DE Olivier Vernon had a long day against the Cowboys last week. While he did secure his first full sack since week 12 of the 2016 season, he surely would have preferred a win.
  • CB Ladarius Gunter was released by Green Bay Packers. He was claimed by the Carolina Panthers.