Friday night brought us the second set of preseason games. The night was highlighted by an electric performance by Matt Stafford and the Detroit offense. While some player performances like Stafford’s left us salivating for more, others left us with more questions than answers. Let’s review Friday nights action on a game-by-game basis.
Lions 34, Bengals 3
Matt Stafford played in a couple of series and looked fantastic, finishing the night 6-for-7 for 71 yards and two touchdowns. Calvin Johnson was spectacular as well, catching two passes for 37 yards, including a beautiful 26-yard touchdown strike from Stafford on the opening series. If Stafford can stay healthy, there’s no reason to think Johnson won’t validate our number one receiver ranking in the Dynasty Essentials Guide.
All wasn’t bright for the Lions. They’re still looking for a backup running back after losing Mikel Leshoure. Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell combined for 13 yards on 11 carries. Aaron Brown can’t be forgotten in dynasty leagues. He was the most productive runner of the night with 70 yards on nine touches. He’s not roster worthy quite yet, but will be if Bell or Harrison fail to show up.
There weren’t too many positives on the Bengals side of things – their offense simply looked putrid. Andy Dalton finished the night 11-for-15 for 69 yards and had his first NFL pass intercepted. It looks like he could be an efficient player and does go through his progressions well, but asking for any type of explosiveness from this group is going to be asking too much. AJ Green was solid in his debut with 29 yards on four catches, but you just have to wonder if his talent is going to be wasted in the short term.
Dolphins 28, Falcons 23
If there was ever a score that wasn’t indicative of the quality of teams involved, it was this one. The Dolphins first unit looked terrible on both offense and defense as the Falcons whipped them in the first quarter to the tune of a 17-0 nothing lead before sitting their starters.
In case you haven’t noticed, Miami has serious issues at quarterback. Chad Henne finished 4-of-8 for 77 yards with one touchdown and two dreadful interceptions. Keep in mind that Henne’s touchdown pass came against the Falcons backups. Matt Moore wasn’t as awful, but he played entirely against the backup units.
The Falcons offense looked to be in mid-season form. Matt Ryan finished 6-for-10 for 90 yards and one touchdown. The star of the night had to be rookie Julio Jones, who finished with two catches for 43 yards. Jones showed precision route running ability, a knack for gaining yards after the catch and elite NFL speed. In short, this kid is the real deal. Jones could be the last piece the Falcons need to be a truly dynamic offense.
Redskins 16, Steelers 7
The worst quarterback competition in the history of training camps is on and Rex Grossman has the lead! Grossman was surprisingly accurate and finished 19-for-26 for 207 yards and one touchdown pass to Santana Moss. The Redskins were without John Beck, so it’s still too early to start thinking about who the starter will be.
The running back rotation was a little surprising, though can that ever really be the case with Mike Shanahan as Coach? Tim Hightower started, as expected, and played well with 44 yards on ten carries. He also showed the ability to block, which is pretty important considering the quarterbacks on the roster. Evan Royster played ahead of Roy Helu, which was unexpected. He finished a solid night with 66 yards on 15 carries and he also blocked well. This is likely not going to be the case next week, as Helu was likely being punished for having a bad week of practice where he was burned on multiple blitzes. He did play and finished with 38 yards on nine touches.
For the Steelers, Isaac Redman is the best backup nobody has heard of. It still amazes us at DLF how much he’s ignored as a handcuff for Rashard Mendenhall. He had 42 yards on 5 attempts with a touchdown last night. Meanwhile, Jonathan Dwyer is running out of chances and had just seven yards on five carries.
Buccaneers 25, Chiefs 0
Tampa played their offense a little longer than most teams chose to and they looked sharp. Josh Freeman was sharp and finished 9-for-13 for 73 yards. The stars of the night for the Bucs had to be Josh Johnson and Dezmon Briscoe. Briscoe played a ton with Arrelious Benn still out and had 60 yards on four catches, making a case for more time in the regular season. Johnson is a starting caliber NFL player. Every time he plays, he does great things. Last night, he finished the game by throwing for 108 yards and a touchdown, while adding another 57 yards rushing. You have to wonder if the 49ers may be thinking twice about re-signing Alex Smith instead of trading for Johnson, who was said to be available. We’ll get to the 49ers in a moment.
The Chiefs had few highlights, as indicated by their score. The one area of concern for dynasty league owners seems to be Jonathan Baldwin. He finished the night with one catch for 14 yards, but is said to be really struggling in camp.
Saints 24, 49ers 3
Alex Smith finished 2-for-7 for 10 yards, generating one first down in multiple series. Braylon Edwards had one catch for 12 yards as well. It’s clear after one night that this offense is Frank Gore and that’s about it. Colin Kaepernick is nowhere near ready for prime time and finished the night 9-for-19 for 117 yards with two interceptions. He did add 47 yards rushing, but Jim Harbaugh’s offense didn’t look impressive on night one.
The Saints looked great. The offensive star of the night was Mark Ingram. He played behind Pierre Thomas, but was easily the better back, finishing with 23 yards and a touchdown on six carries and adding four receiving yards on one catch. Ingram showed power and elusiveness in his limited action. Let’s just say he’s a lot different than Reggie Bush.
Things to look for on Saturday:
Green Bay vs. Cleveland
It should be nice to see Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant back in action. For the Browns, we’ll get our first look at Greg Little and rookie runner Armond Smith, who seems to be making some noise in camp.
Buffalo vs. Chicago
The battle for the number two wide receiver begins for the Bills. Who takes advantage? For the Bears, let’s see what that receiver depth chart really looks like, shall we.
UPDATE: Looks like Donald Jones is going to get the start for the Bills tonight opposite Steve Johnson.
Minnesota vs. Tennessee
The Donovan McNabb and Jake Locker eras begin.
Indianapolis vs. St. Louis
The Colts are notorious for not playing their starters much, so don’t expect to see too many fireworks there. For the Rams, they’re still trying to figure out what their receiver rotation will be. Tonight is the first opportunity for players to step up.
Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK