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 bunch of NFL t-shirts and some great memories to tell their friends… but hey, it’s still football!
Nonetheless, 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 guy previously buried on the depth chart. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the more notable performances from the first weekend of the preseason, and what they might mean for fantasy owners.
Andrew Luck vs. Rams, 10-16-188 passing with two TDs, 1-9 rushing – The first overall pick wasted no time making Indianapolis forget their previous quarterback, shoveling a 63-yard touchdown pass to Donald Brown on his very first snap as a Colt. Luck directed three first-half touchdown drives and at this rate will shatter Cam Newton’s rookie marks with 64 touchdowns and 6,016 passing yards. Okay, maybe that’s taking extrapolation to the extreme. It is worth noting, though, that Luck demonstrated a fondness for Austin Collie (3-45-1).
Kendall Wright vs. Seahawks, 3-47 receiving – On it’s own, 3-47 doesn’t necessarily stand out. But consider that Wright caught almost half of Jake Locker’s completions; Locker went 3-3 to the rookie and 4-10 for 33 yards elsewhere. Also, each of Wright’s catches went for at least 14 yards; none of Locker’s other completions went for as much. Wright is already rising on cheat sheets and should rise even further if (when?) Locker gets the nod over Matt Hasselbeck .
Peyton Hillis vs. Cardinals, 4-41 rushing, 1-11-1 receiving – Both Hillis and Jamaal Charles touched the ball on the Chiefs’ opening drive, which Hillis capped with a touchdown grab. Hillis finished with 52 yards on five touches, while Charles had 23 on three carries and a catch. If you were frustrated with Charles losing touches to Thomas Jones in the past, don’t expect things to change now that KC has a legitimately talented back sharing the workload. As for Hillis, the reunion with OC Brian Daboll promises to be very rewarding.
Roberto Wallace vs. Buccaneers, 4-71 receiving – Wallace caught one ball from starter Matt Moore but really seemed to bond with Ryan Tannehill with three catches for 50 yards and another near-touchdown overturned by replay. Also in Wallace’s favor is that he didn’t head-butt his wife over a Walgreens receipt for a box of condoms; with Chad Johnson no longer on the roster Wallace has a clear shot at playing time in Miami and has already demonstrated a rapport with the Dolphins’ franchise quarterback.
Julio Jones vs. Ravens, 6-109-1 – There was a buzz surrounding Jones’ fantasy potential this offseason, a buzz that continued into training camp and picked up steam as Jones popped eyes and dropped jaws. The hype train is now an express after Jones blew the doors off the Ravens, displaying what the Falcons and new OC Dirk Koetter have in store for him. He caught short passes, which he turned into longer gains with his size and speed; he caught long balls; and he made a touchdown catch that will topped the preseason highlights for Week 1. Note that 12 of the 13 passes Matt Ryan (9-13-155-1-1) threw on the evening were to Jones and Roddy White. This offense is no longer Michael Turner and a cloud of rubber turf pellets.
Shane Vereen vs. Saints, 11-64 rushing, 2-17 receiving – Typical Bill Belichick; just as we were all ready to concede the carries in New England to Stevan Ridley, Vereen averages almost six yards a carry—and looks good doing so. Yes, all the carries were in the second half against Saints backups, but let Vereen’s showing serve as a reminder that Ridley isn’t just walking into the touches (and fantasy numbers) vacated by BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Matt Flynn vs. Titans, 11-13-71-0-1; Russell Wilson vs. Titans 12-16-124-1-1 passing, 3-59-1 rushing – Check out the Seattle quarterbacks completing almost 80 percent of their passes! Tarvaris Jackson didn’t play (Pete Carroll said they already know what he can do), but he’d be hard-pressed to complete 80 percent of his passes in undefended warm-ups. Flynn’s efforts indicate he’s very capable of helming this offense; Wilson’s showing provide a glimpse of what you might see if and when he takes over the reins.
Pierre Garçon vs. Bills, 3-58-1 – While the larger story may have been Robert Griffin III debuting with 4-6-70-1, note that Garçon was the target on two-thirds of Griffin’s passes and accounted for 75% of his completions and 81% of his yardage. It’s a developing relationship, one that—given Mike Shanahan’s propensity for throwing the football—promises some very fantasy-friendly results.
David Wilson vs. Jaguars, 7-43 rushing, 2-23 receiving – The Giants’ first-round pick opened the game with a 28-yard kickoff return, but he didn’t see any work with the offense until late in the third quarter—after Ahmad Bradshaw, Danny Ware, and even Andre Brown got touches. Once he hit the field, his seven-plus yards per touch—albeit against deep Jaguar reserves—electrified the offense. However, Wilson also served up a truckload of rookie mistakes: a missed block in pass protection, a botched play in which he failed to take a handoff, and failing to get out of bounds to stop the clock late in the game. Rookie mistakes all, but enough that Tom Coughlin may not overwhelm Wilson with as much playing time as his fantasy owners would like—at least not until Bradshaw goes down with his next injury.
Rashad Jennings vs. Giants, 12-56 rushing – With Maurice Jones-Drew still not in camp, Jennings was the Jaguars’ offensive workhorse. He carried six times on Jacksonville’s scoring drive, then six more on a drive that bridged into the second quarter and ended with a Blaine Gabbert fumble. If MoJo remains away, Jennings will continue to get the workload; for one game, at least, he demonstrated he’s capable of handling it.