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 second slate of exhibition games and what they might mean for fantasy owners.
Jordan Cameron 3-42-2 vs. Lions – If like me you’ve been enjoying Cameron’s sleeper status, picking him up as the last tight end off the board in a round that contains double digits… well, it was a nice run. The cat’s out of the bag thanks to his two-touchdown performance against Detroit, and with Josh Gordon slated to miss the first two games he may enter Week 3 as the Browns’ go-to receiver—hardly a surprise in a Norv Turner offense under the direction of tight end guru Rob Chudzinski.
Reggie Bush 8-15 rushing, 5-44 receiving vs. Browns – No Calvin Johnson in this one, and the 1.8 yards per carry Bush produced suggests there won’t be much of a ground game in Detroit again this year either. But that’s not what your drafting Bush to do; you’re into the five receptions as Matthew Stafford leaned heavily on Reggie sans Megatron. Why wait for a second receiver to emerge opposite Calvin; the Lions already have Reggie to fill that role.
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Brandon Marshall 4-38-1 vs. Chargers – Jay Cutler threw five passes, and none of them hit the ground—and all of them were directed at Marshall. Sure, one was picked but any concerns about Marc Trestman’s offense spreading the ball around to the point that it would bite into Brandon’s production seem unfounded.
Kenny Stills 4-64-1, Nick Toon 1-56 vs. Raiders – Drew Brees and the Saints looked to be in midseason form against a hapless Oakland defense. Brees rolled up 202 yards sans Marques Colston, with Toon hauling in a deep ball and Stills doing the volume work. Shortly after this performance the Saints released Steve Breaston and Patrick Crayton, suggesting they’re at ease with the young tandem as their third and fourth receivers. And they’re just one of Colston’s frequent injuries away from WR2/WR3 status in one of the league’s top offenses.
Giovani Bernard 7-37-1 rushing, 1-22 receiving vs. Titans – With BenJarvus Green Ellis and A.J. Green sitting this one out the Bengals turned to Mohamed Sanu (3-36-1) and their rookie running back for some playmaking. Bernard delivered, scoring another short-yardage touchdown and averaging better than seven yards each time he touched the ball. The question now is whether Bernard will be carry-blocked by BJGE like C.J. Spiller in Buffalo or Jamaal Charles in Kansas City, or whether he can leapfrog the Law Firm like Doug Martin did to LeGarrette Blount in Tampa last year.
Bilal Powell 7-68 rushing, 1-5 receiving vs. Jaguars – When Chris Ivory (6-13) is healthy he’s the starter here, but given his track record Powell is a nice backup plan. He demonstrated his ability to handle the load in this game, looking more than capable of giving you a Shonn Greene-like 1,000-yard season if called up on to be the Jets’ feature back.
Eddie Lacy 8-40 rushing, 1-11 receiving vs. Rams – Green Bay’s first-team offense is still looking for its first touchdown of the season, but Aaron Rodgers did direct a couple of scoring drives thanks in no small part to the running of Lacy. Much of Lacy’s yardage was gained after contact, which is good because given the state of the Packers’ offensive line he’ll be fighting off tacklers before he gets back to the line of scrimmage. If and when the Packers run the ball, though, the gig seems to be Lacy’s.
Julius Thomas 4-70 vs. Colts – If your league has already wised up to Jordan Cameron, here’s your sleeper tight end replacement. Thomas continues to run with the first team and caught all four targets from Peyton Manning. And even with Demaryius Thomas (3-53) and Wes Welker (3-31-1) getting theirs, Thomas still managed to carve out a nice slice of production in the Denver passing game.
Matt Schaub 8-11-92-1-1 vs. Dolphins – With Arian Foster still nicked up the Texans may ask Schaub to carry a larger portion of the offense. Houston supplied Schaub with a quality WR2 in DeAndre Hopkins (2-22), plus he still has Andre Johnson (1-20) and Owen Daniels (2-26-1) at his disposal. For a guy you can get as your QB2 at the end of the draft, there’s plenty of upside here.
Matt Forte 8-74-1, Michael Bush 11-37-1 vs. Chargers– No catches for Forte, but he busted a 58-yard run that reminds you he can still give you some help on the ground as well. Plus, he actually scored on a three-yard run—highly unusual for him. During the regular season those carries will likely go to Bush, who had a three-yard TD of his own in the third quarter. Bush still has value in TD-heavy leagues, but this is clearly Forte’s show.