It’s the most important week of the preseason (if there really is such a thing) as teams typically treat this weekend as a dress rehearsal of sorts. For dynasty enthusiasts, this promises us our most extended look at our shiny new rookies and veterans who have changed places in the off-season. As always, we’ll be updating the action each day and giving you our takeaways to keep you as informed as humanly possible. We continue our coverage with a Saturday full of action.
Pittsburgh at Buffalo
All eyes were on Buffalo’s quarterbacks as we try to determine just who will be under center come week one. The prevailing thought going into this week’s game was Tyrod Taylor looked to be in the lead for this honor. If there was any doubt prior to today’s tilt, it was short lived as Taylor completed 12-of-13 passes for 122 yards. EJ Manuel refused to go quietly, putting together a solid effort himself as he finished going 7-for-8 passing with two touchdowns as he started against the Steelers’ first team defense. In all likelihood, it is “too little, too late” as Taylor showed undeniable dynamic abilities both in and out of the pocket once again.
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We welcomed back the ageless Fred Jackson who wasted no time in making noise, ripping off a long 41-yard scamper. He finished with five carries, 48 yards and a single touchdown on the night. With most of Buffalo’s backs down with an injury, Cierre Wood and Ricky Seale received most of the carries, neither looking particularly adept. Tight end Charles Clay looked great with a long 67-yard touchdown reception and Marquise Goodwin went down with an injury early and was done for the afternoon, tallying 48 yards on three receptions. Marcus Easley made the most of his time with Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins as he finished with six receptions and 48 yards. Of course, Easley seems to always shine in the preseason.
There’s not a lot of remaining intrigue in Pittsburgh. Martavis Bryant, fresh off the news of a pending four game suspension, looked unstoppable as he finished the game with 138 yards and a touchdown on just three receptions. Rookie tight end Jesse James caught all three of his targets but only amassed 12 yards. It looks like it could be another great year for Big Ben and the Steelers’ offense.
Atlanta at Miami
Ryan Tannehill continues a strong preseason and ended this tilt with 145 yards and a touchdown. For Atlanta, Matt Ryan saw very limited time.
Fantasy ballers were excited to see Tevin Coleman, but he only managed two yards on four carries. Uninspiring, but it was his first action and the season is young. I have significant concerns about the Falcons’ run game this season, though. For the Dolphins, we also got a look, finally, at Jay Ajayi, who amassed 25 yards on seven carries. Lamar Miller had a similar night on the ground but reeled in all five targets for 31 yards in the passing game.
There was no Roddy White or Julio Jones, but we did get another healthy dose of Leonard Hankerson, who put together another fine performance with three receptions and 50 yards. He looks like the Falcons’ WR3 for certain now and with White aging, he has upside as a big receiver working underneath. For the Dolphins, Jarvis Landry continues to shine, catching five of six targets for 84 yards. No doubt he’s got the focus of Tannehill. Kenny Stills finally got on the stat sheet with 26 yards on two receptions.
Seattle at San Diego
I still believe there’s reason to be concerned with Seattle’s passing game as it looks largely the same as 2014 except for the presence of one Jimmy Graham. And admittedly, that is a big addition. Russell Wilson only completed 7-of-15 passes for 56 yards while adding 23 yards on the ground. Philip Rivers had a so-so performance with 140 yards on 13-of-19 passing, while neither quarterback had a touchdown.
Christine Michael led all Hawk rushers, running seven times for 37 yards. Thomas Rawls and Robert Turbin both chipped in about 20 yards and Beast Mode even saw two carries for six yards. For the Chargers, we saw Melvin Gordon extensively for the first time. He rushed for 34 yards on 14 carries and caught both targets for seven yards. Watching Gordon run, I’m a little concerned. Without clear holes and seams available, Gordon looked extremely hesitant. Even with some obvious space ahead of him, he looked tentative. On at least three carries, however, he did show determination and recognition. Again, it’s very early yet and we have to give the rookie time to find his confidence. For the record, none of the San Diego runners saw any consistent success. Philip Rivers himself admitted after the game that things seem to be moving really fast right now for Gordon.
Rivers spread the ball around and Stevie Johnson managed four receptions for 63 yards. It’s good to see Johnson active in the passing game and Rivers finding him. He was targeted six times during the tilt. Branden Oliver saw a single target but made good with it, going 70 yards for a touchdown.
Cleveland at Tampa Bay
Josh McCown looked capable for the Browns, passing for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Jameis Winston? Not so much. Winston finished the evening going 6-for-15 passing for 90 yards with no touchdowns and an interception on his way to a quarterback rating of 32. More concerning are his four sacks taken.
I was watching Doug Martin as he’s put together a solid preseason. He didn’t disappoint with 40 yards and a touchdown on nine rushes. However, much of his damage came from his 19-yard scamper. He looks like he’s locked up early down work for the Bucs. On the Browns’ side of the ball, we finally got to see Duke Johnson, who promptly carried a single time for four yards and exited with a concussion. Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West nearly evenly split 14 carries, both amassing similar yardage. It’s a hot mess at running back for the Browns. Again.
Not much for the Bucs in the receiving game. Vincent Jackson led Tampa Bay with 38 yards on two receptions, but with five targets. No receiver caught more than two balls. For the Browns, both Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel had four receptions, each on four targets. Dwayne Bowe? Zero catches on three targets. Get used to it. I have.
Minnesota at Dallas
This was an interesting and entertaining game.
Teddy Bridgewater was perfect on the night going 7-for-7 passing for 76 yards. Tony Romo saw limited time but not before completing 5-of-8 passes with a long touchdown to Terrance Williams.
In the running game, chalk one up for the aging Darren McFadden. He looked quick and decisive on his way to 37 yards on his four carries. Joseph Randle could only muster 15 yards on six carries. Both backs caught a single pass. I’m still expecting Randle to receive the bulk of the carries this year and perhaps even more when McFadden inevitably falls to an injury.
Speaking of Williams, he finished with 60 yards on a single reception and that touchdown. He nearly had another long catch but couldn’t keep his feet in on the sideline. No other receiver was noteworthy for Dallas. Mike Wallace caught all of his three targets for 50 yards on the Vikings’ side of the ball. Stefon Diggs had a good night as well, catching three of five targets for 49 yards. WR3 duties remain up in the air and Diggs looks capable as long as Cordarelle Patterson remains on special teams duty.
Chicago at Cincinnati
Andy Dalton looked better on Saturday, completing 6-of-6 passes for 52 yards. Dalton eventually left for precautionary reasons after injuring his neck on a goal line plunge. AJ McCarron had a productive day with 149 yards and a 31 yard touchdown strike to Marvin Jones. Jay Cutler threw for 98 yards and had a 16-yard run.
Jeremy Hill rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown, looking good in the game while Giovani Bernard looks more and more like only a third down change-of-pace style back. For the Bears, Jeremy Langford and Matt Forte’ both garnered six carries for 17 and 16 yards, respectively. Not much to see here.
In the passing game, Martellus Bennett was featured for the Bears, securing all seven of his targets for 45 yards, yet his long of the night was for only nine yards. Jones looked terrific for the Bengals, especially on his 31-yard touchdown. He had another long pass called back due to holding. Jones plays a perfect complement to A.J. Green on the outside and should be starting over possession receiver Mohamed Sanu in my opinion. Tyler Eifert chipped in with two receptions for 30 yards. The aforementioned Green notched two receptions for 19 yards.
New York Jets at New York Giants
Ryan Fitzpatrick outplayed Eli Manning on the day, as he went 9-for-14 passing for 127 yards and two touchdowns compared to Manning’s 12-of-16, 91 yards and an interception. Both are starting for their respective teams with little drama remaining.
Chris Ivory continued his strong preseason by running for 38 yards on six carries. He wasn’t involved in the passing game but his stock is on the rise as he’s healthy and running well. Backup Zac Stacy had a good game with 60 yards on 13 carries. On the Giants’ side of the ball, Rashad Jennings does what he does, rushing for 28 yards and a touchdown while Andre Williams couldn’t muster a single yard, but on only two carries. Shane Vereen, who is likely the passing down back, managed nine yards on three attempts.
Receivers Eric Decker, DeVier Posey and Brandon Marshall caught a combined ten passes. Decker reeled in three of those for 52 yards including a touchdown. Manning and the Giants still struggled to find rhythm but looked much better here in week three of the preseason. Newly signed James Jones saw five targets, catching four of them for 54 yards while Odell Beckham caught five of six for 31 yards. As expected, Vereen caught all three of his targets for 30 yards. Last year’s preseason sensation, Corey Washington, seems to be fading and is on the outside looking in for a spot on the 53-man roster. The signing and solid performance of Jones likely makes him the odd man out.
Washington at Baltimore
Oh, the drama of the Redskins.
After being cleared earlier in the week, RGIII was again benched due to a secondary opinion of a neurologist. This stinks of collusion, ulterior motive and deception to me, but the Redskins swear that is not the case. In any case, Kirk Cousins got the start and looks like the week one starter, as reported earlier in the day. I think RGIII may be done in Washington and the Skins likely botched any ability to move him earlier and still get value. Cousins did finish 20-for-27 with a touchdown and an interception. Colt McCoy followed and tossed two touchdowns of his own. The Ravens’ Joe Flacco turned in a solid performance, throwing for 137 yards and a touchdown of his own.
There were no significant notes in the run game other than rookie Matt Jones having another good day. Jones, for his part, tallied 57 yards on seven carries. Fellow rookie Javorius Allen could only muster 24 yards on a healthy 12 carries.
Virtual unknown receiver Rashad Ross for Washington caught six of seven targets for 56 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Grant tallied 64 yards on five receptions. If you’re asking who? You’d be correct. It could be a long season in our nation’s capital. Steve Smith Sr. of the Ravens looked youthful and feisty, notching four receptions, 95 yards and a touchdown before being ejected for ‘fighting.’ Smith did nothing more than refuse to let go of an opponent’s jersey as tempers flared and got tossed for it. He was likely pleased at the early exit after his production and showed as much by showing up on his son’s twitter account after joining him in the stands. I’m sure he’ll here about it, but I’m also sure he won’t care.
The big question remaining revolves around just who will be the starting tight end for the Ravens. It sure looks like Crockett Gillmore, who had a nice touchdown called back due to offensive holding. Rookie Maxx Williams is still missing in action and is quickly running out of time to make an early impact.
Philadelphia at Green Bay
The big story here is receiver Randall Cobb falling to a shoulder injury in the first half. Reports now emerging suggest it is only a minor injury and Cobb may not miss much time. No Aaron Rodgers on the night. Rookie Brett Hundley was under center primarily and looked better than expected. He completed 22-of-31 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns with a single interception. Not bad for the rookie. On the other side of the ball, Sam Bradford was perfect on the day, throwing for 121 yards and three touchdowns on just ten attempts in what may have been the story of the night. There was also something in the water as Mark Sanchez followed Bradford and tallied an additional two touchdowns. Tim Tebow was perfect as well, although only throwing two passes.
DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews split 13 carries between them, both tallying 20+ yards. Eddie Lacy found no daylight on his four carries, nor did James starks.
Myles White was the big target in the second half catching nine passes on 12 targets. Ty Montgomery seemed to start ahead of Jeff Janis after Cobb’s injury, but Janis mixed in as well. Montgomery notched two of three targets for 71 yards while Janis caught all three of his targets for 72 yards and a touchdown. My money remains on Janis to start over Montgomery but the competition is VERY tight. For the Eagles, Jordan Matthews continues to look like a WR1, making good on all three of his targets for 51 yards. Both Darren Sproles and Jeff Maehl caught a touchdown as well. Rookie Nelson Agholor looked rather pedestrian and could only secure two of four targets for 11 yards.
Indianapolis at St. Louis
Both quarterbacks had solid games with Andrew Luck throwing a single touchdown and posting 161 yards passing and Nick Foles also throwing a touchdown with 128 yards of his own. Rookie Sean Mannion, who had a nice week two, had less success on Saturday throwing an interception while posting a meager 47 yards passing.
There really isn’t much to report here in terms of the running game. No player on the Colts or Rams had more than 25 yards rushing and 13 different players recorded carries on the night. Tre Mason did pull his hamstring, but the injury is considered minor. Expect him to sit out the final preseason game next week. Josh Robinson of the Colts also exited with an injury (concussion) and didn’t look overly impressive this week, either. The Colts are going to simply ride on the back of Frank Gore for as long as he holds up.
In the passing department, Andre Johnson caught a 32-yard touchdown pass, showing he likes playing with quarterbacks who actually good (though he did score on a blown coverage). TY Hilton added 44 yards on three catches. For the Rams, Chris Givens caught a 44-yard touchdown pass and finished the night with two catches for 63 yards.
San Francisco at Denver
Peyton Manning threw for 124 yards as he finished 14-of-21 on the night with no touchdowns and one end zone interception. Manning didn’t look great, but he should be just fine as long as his arm holds up. His protection needs some work, though, as he was sacked three times. He’s only led the Broncos to six preseason points on 11 possessions, but it’s no time to panic. Colin Kaepernick attempted just five passes (he completed two for 13 yards), but added 53 rushing yards on three carries. San Francisco just looks lost on offense as Kaepernick got sacked three times himself and even gave up a safety. It could be a really long year for the 49ers if they don’t circle the wagons.
Carlos Hyde rushed for 28 yards on four carries for the 49ers and will undoubtedly open as the featured runner for San Francisco. The only question is just how much players like Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter will be involved. Preseason darling Jarryd Hayne played sparingly and looked to be squarely behind Mike Davis as the fourth running back. CJ Anderson was solid for the Broncos, as he picked up 49 yards on 13 carries. The resurgent Ronnie Hillman also gained 35 yards on just five carries. Montee Ball seems like a totally forgotten player.
There really aren’t many receiving performances to note from this game as no player posted more than 38 receiving yards as the defenses really dominated. Cody Latimer was expected to have a big night, but he caught only one pass for four yards and dropped a likely touchdown pass. The supposedly “back to form” Vernon Davis capped off his unproductive preseason with no catches in any preseason game this August, including this one.
You can find Jeff on Twitter at @dlf_jeff