Here's a look at some of the top rumors for Friday, August 28:
Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey is a likely candidate to be placed on injured reserve/designation to return after fracturing his fibula last week. Still, he may not be ready to return as soon as he becomes eligible to do so, according to Mark Kaboly of TribLive.com. While the designation rules players out of practice for six weeks and out of games for eight, Kaboly suggests that Pouncey may not be ready to return until Week 12, which falls after Pittsburgh's bye week, meaning Pouncey would miss 10 games. Kaboly also reports that the team won't alter its plans or schemes in Pouncey's absence the way they did in 2013 when Pouncey went down in the first quarter of Week 1 and missed the entire season. Considering Le'Veon Bell shined in the Steelers' current scheme a year ago, avoiding change seems like a smart plan, but Bell will still almost certainly be less effective with Pouncey out.
Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien wasn't inclined to answer questions on Friday about Ryan Mallett's absence from Thursday's practice. However, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday evening that Mallett missed practice because he overslept. According to Aaron Wilson of the Chronicle, Mallett was the third quarterback in the practice rotation Friday, after second-year QB Tom Savage, although O'Brien said Mallett is still No. 2 on the depth chart. Getting in the head coach's dog house is a poor follow-up to losing the quarterback battle to Brian Hoyer, which O'Brien announced on Monday. Mallett's work ethic and maturity drew concerns when he came out of Texas A&M in 2011, and O'Brien's repeated praise of Hoyer's consistency and reliability speaks to the lack of trust the head coach has in Mallett. Thursday's mishap will only make it harder for Mallett to get another chance, even if Hoyer doesn't dazzle as the starter.
In the league's other QB battle, it seems that, as we discussed yesterday, EJ Manuel is still a long shot to win the Buffalo Bills' job, despite getting the start in Saturday's game against the Steelers. ESPN's Mike Rodak suggests Manuel "will need to light the field on fire... and even then, that might not be enough" to win the starting job. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News adds, "There has been nothing at camp that indicates that EJ Manuel is in the competition." More and more, it seems clear that Rex Ryan is either trying to disguise his hand or give Manuel the courtesy of first-team reps, or both. Still, that may not get us any closer to knowing who the preferred option is between Tyrod Taylor and Matt Cassel. And that's just how Rex wants it.
For the record, we expect Taylor to be the answer for one particular reason: It would make no sense for Ryan to waste first-team snaps on Manuel if he were still judging the Taylor-Cassel battle, and by most accounts, Taylor has been the more impressive of the two to this point. Ryan may value deception more than getting his starter extra time with the first team -- hence giving Manuel the start -- but he surely wouldn't mess around before seeing enough from Taylor and Cassel to make a decision.
Mike Klis of 9News.com offers an update on Evan Mathis' contract: According to Klis, the deal -- originally reported as one year for $2.5 million with up to $1.5 million more available in incentives -- will pay Mathis the full $4 million value if the 33-year-old plays in all 16 games and exceeds 85 percent of the team's offensive snaps. Up to $750,000 can be earned by Mathis in game-day roster bonuses ($46,875 per game), while another $750,000 is dependent on how many snaps he plays. With Mathis already installed as a starter, it seems like his ultimate earnings will be based entirely on his health.
After weeks of practices and games, the Dallas Cowboys still don't appear to have a clear No. 1 tailback. Drew Davison of the Star-Telegram reports the Cowboys "intend to take a committee approach" with Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Darren McFadden all getting reps. It's not a good sign that Randle couldn't separate himself from the pack, especially considering McFadden missed a huge chunk of training camp with injuries to both hamstrings. This situation seems to be getting stickier for fantasy owners, and it's sure to change in the regular season when week-by-week performances and injuries affect the rotation.
Confusion over backfield reps doesn't appear to be an issue for the Oakland Raiders. Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com relays offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's high praise for Latavius Murray, who appears locked in as the top back in Oakland. Perhaps the most important sign of Musgrave's confidence was his acknowledgment of Murray's work as a receiver, suggesting the third-year back should stay on the field in many third-down situations. Helping Murray's cause has been the absence of Roy Helu, who was signed in free agency as a receiving back but has missed much of camp with a hamstring injury. It remains to be seen how often Oakland will have the lead, but with Rodney Hudson installed at center and a lack of competitors for carries, Murray should be a reliable fantasy option this season.
In what could be his last chance to make the team, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor is "on track" to play Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi. The former quarterback made overwhelmingly positive impressions at his new position early in training camp but has been bothered by a hamstring injury for the last few weeks. Head coach Mike Pettine has made it clear that Pryor needs to impress on the field in order to earn a roster spot, so Saturday will be crucial for Pryor's future. With a weak collection of receivers in Cleveland, we wouldn't rule out Pryor making a regular-season impact if he can stay healthy enough to produce this preseason.
The food chain at wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts hasn't been completely established, other than the fact that T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson should be the first two on the field. After that, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star suggests that first-round rookie Phillip Dorsett has the "inside track" over 2014 third-rounder Donte Moncrief to be the No. 3 wideout because he can run more routes from any position on the field. That line of thinking makes sense, but perhaps the more important question is how often the Colts will use three wide receivers instead of two tight ends. Fantasy owners should monitor this situation carefully early in the season to see where Pep Hamilton and Andrew Luck spread the wealth. Any injury could throw a wrench into things as well.
Finally, for any New York Giants fans or fantasy owners who are worried about Odell Beckham Jr. coming back to earth, NJ.com's Jordan Raanan offers some reassurance, saying Beckham continues to dominate practice every day. Some regression of Beckham's per-game efficiency should be expected if only because he'll draw more attention, but the only thing to fear with ODB should be injury.