Football is back! Of course, for the moment it’s a series or two of starters followed by a glorified scrimmage between a bunch of guys who’ll finish the month with a couple NFL t-shirts and some great memories to tell at the bar, but… hey, it’s still football!
Still, amongst the seasoned veterans tuning up for the regular season and young bucks looking to make a name there’s bound to be a glimpse of what we can see once the games start to count, or a bustout performance from a player previously buried on the depth chart. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the more notable performances from the first full weekend of the preseason, and what they might mean for fantasy owners.
Eagles offense vs. Patriots, 86 offensive plays; Bills offense vs. Colts, 85 offensive plays – With Chip Kelly and Doug Marrone taking over in Philly and Buffalo, respectively, the expectation is for a dramatic increase in offensive tempo. Through one game, at least, that held true; last year the Patriots led the NFL averaging 74 offensive plays per game, and both the Eagles and Bills zoomed past that number in the pro debuts for Kelly and Marrone. For what it’s worth, the Patriots ran 72 offensive plays against Philly, right around their average from a year ago.
LeGarrette Blount 11-102-2; Stevan Ridley 8-92-1; Shane Vereen 3-12 rushing, 2-18-1 receiving vs. Eagles – Speaking of the Patriots, in case you were wondering how they might compensate for the loss of… well, just about all of their receivers that question was answered on the opening drive. Tom Brady didn’t bother throwing a pass as the Patriots marched down the field on the ground. Of course, New England’s second drive was all throwing so don’t drop Tom too far in your rankings. Blount’s showing is a bit worrisome for Ridley as he could take a bite from time to time, but it was nice to see Vereen as involved in the passing game as expected—including his beautiful diving touchdown grab.
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Kenjon Barner vs. Bears, 9-37-1 rushing, 2-17 receiving, 34 return yards – The Panthers need another running back in the mix like Jesse Pinkman needs another million dollars, but Barner’s 88 all-purpose yards suggest he’ll find a role in Carolina. It might come at the expense of DeAngelo Williams if Jonathan Stewart ever returns, or it may be in the return game. But it will be tough for the Panthers to keep Barner’s speed out of the mix for long regardless of which backs are available in Carolina.
Cordarrell Patterson vs. Texans, 4-54 receiving, 50 return yards – Maybe it was the plan all along, or maybe after Patterson took the opening kickoff 50 yards to midfield the Vikings decided they should get the ball into the rookie’s hands. Patterson was targeted eight times, making four grabs and looking as if he’ll slide right into the role vacated by Percy Harvin. Considering that Harvin put up 790 and 6 as a rookie while adding 1,156 return yards and two more TDs, he’s pushing for attention in redrafts as well as dynasty leagues.
Alex Smith vs. Saints, 7-8-68 yards – Smith looked mighty efficient operating Andy Reid’s pass-happy offense; then again, only one of his seven completions went to a wide receiver—and that was to Dexter McCluster, so it hardly counts. Jamaal Charles (5-13-1 rushing, 3-27 receiving) was the focal point of the offense, and at this rate his PPR numbers look to be headed into the stratosphere.
Carson Palmer vs. Packers, 4-6-77-1 – After dinking and dunking in Oakland there was concern Palmer had become another Captain Checkdown. Instead, Palmer expressed excitement at the vertical element of Bruce Arians’ Arizona offense and it showed in his Cardinals debut. Moreover, of Arizona’s 16 completions 15 went to wide receivers and 10 went for at least 17 yards. That’s your Arians offense in a nutshell, and with no ground game to speak of the Cardinals will be in full “bombs away” mode all year long.
Christine Michael vs. Chargers, 16-89 rushing – Michael’s pro debut strongly suggests that he’ll not only push but sooner rather than later usurp Robert Turbin as Marshawn Lynch’s caddy. And when the league finally gets around to disciplining Lynch for that two-year-old DUI…
Jay Cutler vs. Panthers, 6-8-56-0-1 – It’s still early, and it will take time for Cutler and the Bears to acclimate to Marc Trestman’s offense. But Cutler throwing a pick on his first pass of the season isn’t how anyone hoped to open Trestman’s tenure. Also notable: none of Cutler’s completions went for more than 13 yards, and despite the shorter drops inherent in Trestman’s West Coast offense Chicago quarterbacks were sacked seven times in 41 dropbacks. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Chris Johnson 2-60-1 rushing, Shonn Greene 5-32-1 rushing vs. Redskins – CJ was back to 2K form, bursting 58 yards for a touchdown during his brief evening’s work. But perhaps more telling in regards to the Titans’ upgraded offensive line (free agent signee Andy Levitre, first-round pick Chance Warmack) was that they freed up Greene for a 19-yard touchdown. We may have a goal-line back situation brewing in Tennessee, but so long as CJ keeps hitting the long ball it shouldn’t matter all that much.
E.J. Manuel vs. Colts, 16-21-107-1, 3-28 rushing – At this point the Bills may as well make official what everyone expects: Manuel will be Buffalo’s starter in Week 1. He found success by both air and land against the Colts, and while he’s no RG3 he looks more than capable of directing the Bills’ new up tempo offense.