The starters are getting a few more reps, some of the younger talent is starting to emerge… and more than half of the exhibition slate is in the rear-view mirror. The third week of preseason is usually the best barometer, but there are plenty of nuggets to be culled from the second round of glorified scrimmages to help you set your fantasy draft board.
Andy Dalton vs. Falcons, 8-14-125-1 – Not an overwhelming stat line, but also not bad for three series of work. The Bengals’ first drive ended with a Brian Leonard fumble, the second with a field goal (after Dalton took a shot down the field at A.J. Green). The third also ended with a deep shot to Green, and that’s what’s worth noting: a 50-yard connection between the second-year players past veteran corner Asante Samuel. So much for Dalton’s lack of arm strength, eh?
Aaron Rodgers vs. Browns, 12-24-100-0-2 passing, 2-24 rushing – Rodgers was mostly on track through the air; he missed a wide-open Jordy Nelson in the end zone, but made it up to him two plays later with a 20-yard TD despite blanket coverage from Joe Haden. But the notable number is Rodgers’ team-high 24 rushing yards, underscoring two points: first, Rodgers is mobile and a consistent source of rushing scores (16 over the past four seasons); second, the Green Bay ground game is in dire straits. Alex Green carried four times for 16 yards and is the only Packer back worth rostering—even then with a late round pick.
Chris Johnson vs. Buccaneers, 10-46-2 – Those who suffered through CJ last year have plenty of venom for him, and after collecting the big payday and falling flat his heart has been questioned. Friday night, however, we saw flashes of the old CJ2K with 4.6 yards per carry and a couple of pretty touchdown runs that showed his elusiveness and burst. Granted, it came against a Bucs defense that surrendered more fantasy points to running backs than any other team last year, but… baby steps.
Calvin Johnson vs. Ravens, 5-111-1 – He’s really, really good. On a somewhat related note, the two highlight package catches Megatron made came against Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams—not Lardarius Webb. And last week against the Falcons Webb spent an inordinate amount of time on Kerry Meier as opposed to Julio Jones or Roddy White. If that’s the scheme, seems like a strange way to use your highly-paid cover corner. Not that anyone could stop Calvin Johnson.
And now, on with the countdown.
Fred Jackson vs. Vikings, 5-27 rushing, 3-14 receiving; C.J. Spiller vs. Vikings, 2-(-3) rushing, 1-(-5) receiving – Both Buffalo backs were in the starting lineup—the official game book lists Spiller as the fullback—but their performances were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Jackson totaled 41 yards on eight touches; Spiller averaged a loss of two yards each of the four times he touched the ball. This sure doesn’t look like a 50/50 split waiting to happen; it looks a whole lot more like the beginning of the 2011 season, when Jackson was a top-five fantasy back and Spiller was averaging 2.6 fantasy points per game.
Rashad Jennings vs. Saints, 11-62 rushing, 1-5 receiving – Maurice Jones-Who? Jennings now has 118 yards on 23 preseason carries—that’s 5.1 yards a pop. There’s apparently plenty of confidence Jones-Drew will show up, because Jennings is still going off the board in the 9th or 10th round of most drafts. Feels like a steal for a guy who worst-case you can hold over the MoJo owner’s head and best-case will take the workhorse role on a team that needs to run the ball a lot.
John Skelton vs. Raiders, 3-3-23-1; Kevin Kolb vs. Raiders 3-6-22, 3 sacks – By the time you read this the Cardinals should have taken the initiative and named Skelton the starter, but it’s the Cardinals so don’t hold your breath. Kolb was beaten and battered by the Raiders’ defensive front, after which Skelton came on and was perfect in directing a short scoring drive. Ken Whisenhunt wisely removed his soon-to-be starting quarterback from the game at that juncture, but afterwards the hits just kept coming as Kolb endured both insult (Oakland’s Tommy Kelly called him “skittish” and “scared”) and injury (left tackle Levi Brown will miss three months with a torn triceps, further weakening an already feeble line). Meanwhile, fantasy owners of Larry Fitzgerald are salivating at the thought of Skelton taking over for good.
New York Jets vs. Giants, 24-65 rushing, 14-25-128-0-1 passing, 148 total net yards of offense – The Jets are still looking for their first preseason touchdown, and while yes it is just the preseason there are more red flags here than at an Olympic diving medal ceremony (bonus points if that one scores with you). Mark Sanchez (9-11-59-0-1) completed a high percentage of his passes; he also didn’t have a gain longer than 12 yards and was sacked thrice. Tim Tebow was 5-for-14, carried twice for five yards, and was sacked four times. Shonn Greene (11-36) averaged 3.3 yards per carry—hey, midseason form!—and the guys battling to take his job combined for 24 yards on nine carries. No Jets runner bit off a chunk larger than eight yards. Bottom line, the Gang Green offense looks like a colossal mess with very little time to right the ship and produce anything of fantasy value.
Michael Bush vs. Redskins, 5-21-2 rushing, 1-4 receiving – Bush’s first carry of the game came after a Jay Cutler-to-Alshon Jeffery completion set up the Bears up at the one; he converted. Bush’s next carry came after the Bears recovered a fumble at the Washington eight; he took that one in for a score as well. Then he got a series to himself later on, but the damage was done. We told you back in early July that Matt Forte wasn’t going to get goal line love; now you have your proof.
Sam Bradford vs. Chiefs, 6-9-102-2 – Bradford is back in an offense much more like the one he found success in as a rookie, and it’s starting to show. Bradford threw a 23-yard TD to tight end Lance Kendricks (is this the year Code Red steps up?) and hit Danny Amendola thrice—including a pretty 35-yarder on the opening drive and a short touchdown in which he fought off interference to make the grab. Still plenty of questions about his receivers, especially with Brian Quick exiting with a back injury, but maybe the Bradford-to-Amendola connection is back; after all, he’s only one year removed from an 85-catch campaign.