As part of the premium content package, we’ll be reviewing each week of the preseason and sharing our observations, thoughts and analysis all the way up until the regular season. As you know, the preseason may seem meaningless to the novice fantasy football player, but it’s essential for the dynasty league owner. After all, this is where we unearth sleepers, see the future stars and make long-term evaluations for our precious roster.
Let’s go through the week and the relevant events.
The Bengals survived a scare when Jermaine Gresham twisted his knee and escaped serious injury. It doesn’t look good for Dan Herron at this point. He was a late round flyer in a lot of rookie drafts and he has his work cut out for him to make the team. AJ Green is going to go as far as Andy Dalton can take him. He took him to a 50 yard touchdown reception this week, so that works.
Matt Ryan has been a chic pick as a quarterback who may enter the dynasty league elite class this year. He’s making good on that prediction so far by completing almost 80% of his passes during preseason action. If you’re reading this, you gained three more yards than Michael Turner did this week as he carried the ball three times for -3 yards. It’s painfully obvious that Jacquizz Rodgers is going to have a significant role this year. It’s also very apparent this team is going to throw the ball. A lot. I mean A LOT.
Montario Hardesty is continuing his surprising run of production and good health and looks like the clear handcuff to Trent Richardson this year. While T-Rich is going to be a workhorse, Hardesty is actually starting to regain some dynasty value as Richardson recovers from his injury. Josh Gordon is starting to pull away from the pack and is on target to start the season opposite Greg Little. It’s going to take some time for this offense to get it and they play in a brutal division – don’t expect to see much early this season, especially with a rookie quarterback.
Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been incredible this preseason, but that shouldn’t worry his owners much. However, the backup quarterback situation is a mess. If you’re holding on to Graham Harrell and thinking he’d put up Flynn-like numbers if Rodgers went down, you might be wishing on a star. Greg Jennings is still recovering from his concussion(s), but it sounds like he’ll be ready to go when the season starts. This running back situation is a mess. Cedric Benson is the likely starter, but the Packers and Falcons may both be poised to break the passing attempts record this year.
Jake Locker earned the starting quarterback job by going 4-for-11 for 21 yards and an interception this week. Yikes! His accuracy is in question, but his athletic ability gives the Titans a chance to win each and every week. If you want a deep prospect to watch this week, look no further than Darius Reynaud, who continues to make plays.
The big news this week is the injury to LeGarrette Blount. While it’s not overly serious, it’s going to open the door for Doug Martin to take hold of the primary running back job and run with it. Make no mistake, though, Blount is still going to get some carries this year and Martin is far from a guaranteed bell cow runner. Is anyone else concerned that Vincent Jackson has been so silent thus far? Sure, he hasn’t played more than a handful of series, but it would be nice to see Josh Freeman and Jackson building some rapport.
This just in – nobody can defend Calvin Johnson. That’s no big story, but the return of Ryan Broyles sure is. He made his much anticipated debut and caught two passes for 26 yards. While that’s no line to write home about, his mere presence on the field this soon after tearing up his knee is incredibly promising for the Lions and for the owners of Broyles. He’s moving up the rookie draft chart as a possible PPR gem at the very least. In the end, you just have to be happy for the kid.
The Ravens have been pretty vanilla so far on offense and there really haven’t been too many big developments. The one player starting to make a mark is Bobby Rainey and he may just beat out Bernard Pierce for the backup job to Ray Rice, despite his undrafted status. Pierce seems to have the backup job at the moment, but he hasn’t been impressive at all.
Ryan Tannehill hasn’t needed to be great in order to beat out Matt Moore and he’s done exactly that so far. He’s going to have some growing pains and he has to hope Reggie Bush can stay healthy or it’s going to be a long season with that receiving corps. The hope was someone would step up this week in the wake of the Chad Johnson release, but it didn’t happen. We’ll see what happens this week.
Cam Newton looks to be in mid-season form, or in his case, his early 2011 season form. He’s ready to make good on his potential and avoid a Sophomore slump – I wouldn’t bet against him. Meanwhile, how is Jimmy Clausen this bad? When you can’t beat out Derek Anderson in a fair fight, there’s something seriously wrong. Watch out for Greg Olsen this year – he’s being undervalued.
I’m not going to be shocked if Vince Young starts some games this year, but I am going to be shocked if he plays well in them. He was fine in action this week and looks to have the backup job wrapped up, but how many people thought we’d be talking about Vince Young battling for a backup job a few years ago? He just hasn’t developed at all since his rookie year. Meanwhile, TJ Graham continues to make plays and he had two catches for 69 yards this week, including a 64 yard reception – it’s going to be tough for the Bills to keep the youngster off the field this year.
Toby Gerhart continued his strong preseason play this year with 30 yards on just six carries this week. His performance in camp and in the preseason thus far has to give the Vikings some confidence they can ease Adrian Peterson back a little more slowly than they anticipated. Christian Ponder really needed to show some life and he played pretty well this week, though he really needs the receiving corps to step up and help him out.
In what might have been the most shocking development of week two, Blaine Gabbert didn’t look terrible, completing 13-of-16 for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Even better, Justin Blackmon was on the receiving end of one of those touchdown passes in his professional debut as he showed his ability to break tackles en route to a four catch, 48 yard night. The Jaguars are in dire need of anything positive on offense and this was a step in the right direction. As the MJD holdout continues, it seems the Jaguars are gaining more and more leverage every time Rashad Jennings runs the ball. While Jennings is nowhere near the player that MJD is, he’s not exactly forcing Jags management to board a plane and knock on MJD’s door to beg for forgiveness with a new contract.
New Orleans Saints
The story in New Orleans continues to be the preseason battle between Chris Ivory and Travaris Cadet. Ivory had a solid outing with 43 yards on ten carries, but Cadet is making things very difficult on the coaching staff as he again played exceptionally well as he posted 90 yards and a touchdown on just eight touches. If you want a deep rookie sleeper this year, you could do a whole lot worse than Cadet right now. The Saints backfield is loaded, but this kid just keeps making plays. At this point, he has 19 catches for 171 yards and two scores to go along with 51 yards rushing during the preseason – that might be more than the entire offensive unit of the Jets.
There’s no doubt that Rod Streater is gaining steam in his effort to earn a roster spot. With Jacoby Ford displaying hands of stone and experiencing yet another setback due to injury, there’s an opening for Streater to take advantage of and he has done just that so far. His seven catches and 43 yards led the Raiders this week. With Denarius Moore still coming back from injury himself, the door is open for Streater to carve out an early role on offense. Carson Palmer hasn’t looked great and really needs a solid third preseason game to cement his status as a quality high end QB2 this year.
It’s hard to say one position can really hold a team back this much, but it’s obvious the quarterback play in Arizona has to improve or this team is doomed. John Skelton has pretty much wrapped up the job and the Kevin Kolb trade is looking like an epic disaster for the Cardinals at this point. Some players on the Raiders even went so far as to say Kolb was scared this week. No amount of coaching is going to fix that and it really looks like Kolb has been “David Carr-ed” by poor offensive line play. On a positive note, it was great to see Ryan Williams back on the field and he looked pretty solid this week with 25 yards and a touchdown on just five carries.
It’s truly amazing this team can win the Super Bowl and still play second fiddle to the circus of the Jets. Regardless, they’re ready for the season and the only real question marks for them are at receiver where the health of Hakeem Nicks and authenticity of Victor Cruz are both in question – I wouldn’t bet against either of them. David Wilson has played really well thus far and should see time in the offense as Bradshaw’s backup. In a shocking development, Bradshaw ins’t 100%.
Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow combined to go 14-for-25 for 128 yards and one interception. Shonn Greene rushed for 36 yards on 11 carries. No Jets receiver had more than three catches or 28 receiving yards. You can chalk all that up to the Jets playing a lot of players, but you’d be fooling yourself – this offense has looked really bad so far and has all of nine points and no touchdowns in two preseason games. It’s not time to freak out, but I’d be, well, freaking out if I owned any Jets players.
Robert Griffin III continues to impress and there’s really not much more you can say about him. Alfred Morris played the bulk of the time with the starting unit and carried the ball ten times compared to just two for presumed starter Evan Royster. With Roy Helu nursing two bad achilles tendons now, it’s hard to say just who the back to own in Washington is going to be this season. Shocking development, eh? Kirk Cousins bounced back from a poor week one to post three touchdown passes and that puts him back on the deep league roster stash radar.
Alshon Jeffery was one of the toughest rookies to rank this year, but all signs have been positive thus far. It really looks like Brandon Marshall and Jeffery are going to provide Jay Cutler with the legitimate weapons he’s been lacking in Chicago since arriving there. Now, if the offensive line can just block for him, we could really have a developing story. Cutler and Matt Forte played and didn’t get hurt – that’s all that matters.
Brandon Jacobs looks to have escaped a serious injury and his owners are breathing a sigh of relief. The only problem with that is the fact Jacobs really has no value either way at this point. With Frank Gore starting and Kendall Hunter looking like a solid change of pace back, it’s tough to see where Jacobs could possibly fit in, especially with LaMichael James in the mix. Randy Moss finally caught his first two passes for the 49ers, but looks to be in a bit of a rotation at receiver. If all the reports are true about Moss looking like his old self, that won’t last long and he’ll be on the field more often than not.
The battle between Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin continues to be one of the most fun to watch this preseason. Jean won the battle this week with four catches for 42 yards and a score. Martin had three catches for 36 yards of his own and seems to still have a leg up on Jean. Stay tuned this week as it’s going to go a long way in determining which of these two is going to carve out a significant role on offense this year.
When the biggest preseason battle going on is the backup quarterback battle between Ricky Stanzi and Brady Quinn, go ahead and change the channel. On the positive side, Dwayne Bowe is back and that should help the offense immensely. Jamaal Charles is being limited, but hasn’t experienced any setbacks – music to the ears of his owners, for sure.
Isaiah Pead has been one of the hottest names in rookie drafts so far, but he put up one ugly line this week. It’s almost impossible, but Pead scored a touchdown on a total of negative eight yards on eight touches. So far this preseason, Pead has 16 carries for 28 yards and five catches for six yards in two games. While this is no time to panic, there’s no reason to think Steven Jackson isn’t destined for another season of heavy lifting. Sam Bradford looked solid with two touchdown passes in limited action. His ankle issues seem to be overblown as well.
Matt Flynn only threw for 31 yards, but that shouldn’t fool you as Terrell Owens dropped a would be 42 yard touchdown reception. The good news is Owens got behind the defense. Of course, Flynn probably wasn’t impressed with that. With Tarvaris Jackson seemingly on the way out, it looks like Flynn is going to get the starting job. However, it’s young Russell Wilson who continues to steal the show with the second unit – he had 155 passing yards and two more touchdowns this week to go along with another 33 yards rushing. While Flynn is likely going to start, his leash isn’t going to be too long as Wilson has showed a tremendous amount of talent this off-season. It would be really interesting to see what Wilson could do with the first team.
Peyton Manning’s line again doesn’t look great, but he’s in total command of the offense and needs to be given a little bit of slack. After all, he hasn’t played football in a long time. Dynasty league owners are salivating to see Ronnie Hillman play and they should finally get that chance this week. Is it too late for him to infiltrate the offense at this point?
A week after Ryan Mathews goes down with a shoulder injury, Vincent Brown broke his ankle. That’s just great. It seems the Chargers are snakebit right now and the preseason can’t end soon enough. With Brown’s injury, it’s time Philip Rivers and Robert Meachem get on the same page. Their chemistry issues have been a minor concern thus far in camp, but with Brown’s injury, it’s a major story. None of the Chargers running backs separated themselves from the pack this week.
Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are both hurt. What’s new, right? The Cowboys hope to have them both back for week one, but there’s no guarantee. Throw in the spleen injury to Jason Witten and this season is starting to look a whole lot like last year. At least DeMarco Murray has looked good. Cole Beasley has also thrown his hat in the ring for the third receiver job with a seven catch, 104 yard performance this week.
Andrew Luck threw his first two interceptions, but still didn’t back down from the Pittsburgh defense and led the team on three different scoring drives. Austin Collie now has three concussions in 22 months. It’s getting pretty scary for him and you hope he knows what he’s doing by still wanting to play. Reggie Wayne and LaVon Brazill are both on the rise as Collie will likely miss some time.
We had a Jonathan Dwyer sighting as he ran for 43 yards on eight carries. Color us skeptical on Dwyer, but the Steelers may not have much of a choice but to use him with the injuries piling up in their backfield. Ben Roethlisberger continues to be undervalued in dynasty leagues and is likely going to be throwing a whole lot this season. Mike Wallace should report here soon, but Antonio Brown is quickly replacing him as the go-to player in this offense.
There’s a lot of concern that Michael Vick can’t make it through the season healthy. Those worries seem to be warranted since the Eagles can’t seem to protect him through one quarter so far the preseason. If you own Vick, you better have a good backup on your roster or it’s going to be a long season. Bryce Brown and Dion Lewis have quietly performed very well behind LeSean McCoy. The surprise in camp so far has to be Nick Foles. After being downgraded at the combine and considered a reach for the Eagles in the draft, he’s been fantastic so far. It’s going to be no surprise to see him start some games this year and he merits a roster spot in most leagues.
Let us know if you have that running back situation figured out.