Training Camp Notes: August 7

Training Camp Notes: August 7

This article is part of our Training Camp Notes series.

-The biggest news of the day is dreadful – Derrius Guice was arrested Friday on domestic violence charges in Virginia, one component of which was a felony strangulation charge. Washington released him upon the breaking of that news. The remaining running backs on the roster are Antonio Gibson, Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love, J.D. McKissic, and Peyton Barber.

 
-Pittsburgh activated James Washington from the COVID reserve list, clearing the third-year former Oklahoma State star to begin logging reps on the practice field. For all the talk of a competition for the 'WR2 role' in Pittsburgh, supposedly between Washington and Diontae Johnson, it should be noted that they play different positions and almost certainly aren't competing for the same snaps. As was the case last year, Washington (15.2 ADOT, 89th percentile) will almost certainly play more of a downfield specialist role than Johnson (9.1 ADOT, 26th percentile), who should function in the underneath and intermediate more than Washington. The question of which of the two will emerge as the second-leading fantasy contributor behind JuJu Smith-Schuster is basically a matter of how far Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) throws the ball. If it's going deep, it's probably not going to Johnson. If it's going short, it's probably not going to Washington, and so on.

The picture is certainly complicated somewhat by the addition of second-round Notre Dame product Chase Claypool, who is both the biggest Pittsburgh receiver (6-4, 238) and the fastest (4.42 40). The Steelers indicated that they'll give Claypool his snaps at outside receiver, which is interesting given that Johnson played the highest percentage of his snaps outside between himself, Washington, and the especially slot-centric Smith-Schuster. It's possible that Claypool mostly preys on Washington's reps for downfield routes, but the lower Claypool's ADOT the more he threatens the target share of Johnson and to a lesser extent Smith-Schuster.

 
-It was revealed that Corey Davis landed on the Tennessee PUP list due to his recovery from an offseason toe injury. It's not clear where Davis is at in his recovery, but he's supposed to be good for Week 1. If Davis was playing on a bad toe last year, then it's fair to suggest he might be a better version of himself if the toe's full recovery can be assured. As much as he can't realistically compete with the utterly dominant A.J. Brown for WR1 targets in Tennessee, it's probably worth remembering that Davis has mostly played well the last two years and is probably at least a decent starting NFL receiver.

 
-Panthers coach Matt Rhule made clear what was previously assumed, all but naming Ian Thomas as Carolina's new starting tight end with Greg Olsen gone to Seattle. A fourth-round pick out of Indiana in 2018, Thomas has largely struggled to this point (65.8 percent catch rate, 5.9 YPT) but he also is only 831 snaps into his pro career. Now 24, Thomas still has time to come through as a prospect.

Despite his poor NFL production results to this point, there's no doubt that Thomas (6-4, 259) is a good athlete, boasting a dense frame to go with slightly above average speed (4.74 40). Thomas' jumps indicate more explosiveness yet (36-inch vertical, 123-inch broad jump), and his 11.35 agility score was strong, too. Determining Thomas' skill set potential is a little more difficult, but in terms of athletic tools he is clearly at a standout level.

Thomas' skill set variable could turn out favorable all the same, because he has at least flashed productivity going back to his college career. It's concerning that he couldn't earn targets as a third-year player upon transferring to Indiana from the JUCO ranks, but in his age-21 senior season the light went on at least a little bit. In the nine games for which he was vaguely healthy, Thomas caught 25 receptions for 376 yards and five touchdowns on 35 targets. The Hoosiers offense completed 60.2 percent of its passes in those games at 6.5 YPA, so Thomas' catch rate of 71.4 percent and 10.7 YPT average qualify as well above baseline. The only concern is that while highly efficient, Thomas didn't draw usage at a high rate, implying his skill set might only be situationally viable. Thomas' 376 yards constituted a market share of just 15.0 percent of Indiana's passing yardage in those games, so while it's true he was making big plays, he wasn't necessarily making them often. That could simply be the fault of Indiana's coaches at the time, but there's no way to know for sure.
 

-Although there's reason for persisting optimism with Ian Thomas, the Panthers offense heard some potentially bad news Friday when it was reported that presumed starting left tackle Russell Okung might choose to retire rather than play through the COVID risk. The Panthers traded starting guard Trai Turner to the Chargers for Okung earlier this offseason, so if Okung walks then the Panthers handed away Turner literally for nothing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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