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10 Stats That Matter From Week One of the Pre-Season
John Tuvey
August 16, 2010
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10 Stats That Mattered From Week Two »

Ah, the preseason—full-price tickets for a quarter 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.

Some memories—say a kick return for a score or two short-yardage touchdowns  in the fourth quarter of a meaningless game—are better than others. But some performances might actually open eyes, influence coaches, and earn players playing time—playing time which can be turned into fantasy productivity.

Here’s a look at some of the more notable performances from the first weekend of the preseason, and what they might mean for fantasy owners.

Josh Freeman at Dolphins, 4-4, 53 yards, 1 TD — The Bucs’ second-year quarterback battled both the Dolphins and the elements in directing Tampa’s lone scoring drive. He connected with rookie wideout Mike Williams for a 30-yard gain to set up a TD toss to Sammie Stroughter. He also moved nimbly enough to scramble twice for four yards, a skill he’ll need if the Buccaneers’ line underachieves as dramatically as they did last year. But ultimately Freeman’s performances showed signs of a quarterback who is “getting it”—and will be in more of a position to put up gaudy fantasy numbers (read: playing from behind) than fellow sophomore Mark Sanchez.

Jahvid Best at Steelers, 6-29 rushing, 1-9 receiving — With Kevin Smith out of the lineup, Best got the start and averaged almost five yards per carry over Detroit’s first three series. Matt Stafford also threw to him twice, though one was picked off. Not surprisingly, Best found the most success running outside, where he snapped off a 15-yard gain; however, the Lions also tried him up the middle with mixed results. It’s an indication that Detroit views their “other” first-round pick as more than just a third-down back, and his showing against Pittsburgh should have his fantasy stock on the rise.

James Jones vs. Browns, 3-46 — It wasn’t a huge statistical night for Jones, but it was significantly better than the one catch for nine yards produced by Jordy Nelson—his competition for the No. 3 job in Green Bay. One of Jones’ catches (a 12-yard completion) came from Aaron Rodgers, and Jones was thrown at twice by the Packers’ starter; Nelson’s only looks came with backup Matt Flynn at the helm.

Arian Foster at Cardinals, 4-31 rushing — In a solid overall showing for the Houston offense, Foster took the starting job and ran with it—literally—in averaging almost eight yards per carry. By contrast, Steve Slaton averaged just over two yards a tote with a long gain of eight yards; he also fumbled at the goal line. Further thinning the competition, second-round pick Ben Tate handled the ball three times before injuring his ankle; his season is likely over.

Chris Wells vs. Texans, 11-36 rushing, 2-8 receiving, receiving TD — Starter Tim Hightower (4-16, 1-6) was underwhelming, but Wells did nothing on the ground to suggest he deserved more carries—especially when you consider his carries stretched from the second to the fourth quarter and came primarily against Houston backups. On the bright side, Wells proved he could catch the football.

Ryan Mathews vs. Bears, 9-50 rushing, 2-11 receiving — Mathews was already the top rookie on almost every fantasy board, but his strong NFL debut might have pushed him into the first round in redrafts as well as dynasty leagues. Put another way: after the five or six sure things are gone, every back has issues; Mathews’ showing could answer enough of the “he hasn’t done it at this level yet” questions to garner serious RB1 consideration.

Anthony Dixon at Colts, 21-100-1 rushing, 3-22 receiving — Michael Robinson started, but the Niners didn’t score an offensive touchdown until Dixon started toting the rock in the second quarter—doing all the heavy lifting in getting San Francisco to the three-yard-line only to have Robinson steal the touchdown. No matter; Dixon got one himself as he proved worthy of filling the void left by Glen Coffee’s sudden retirement. It didn’t hurt that the Niners’ revamped offensive line also received extended playing time and showed significant improvement in their run blocking. Bottom line, with Coffee gone Dixon is making a strong case to be the handcuff to Gore—and the line is playing well enough that if Gore does go down it wouldn’t spell the end of the San Francisco ground game.

Kyle Orton at Bengals, 8-13-84-2 — Tim Tebow got all the press and also went 8-13 for 105 yards against the Cincinnati scrubs, but it was Orton’s fast start that should catch fantasy owners’ attention. Orton directed 72- and 68-yard scoring drives before giving way to Brady Quinn, actually taking some chances down the field rather than depending on the dink and dunk. Once Orton has rookie DeMaryius Thomas at his disposal he’ll really be able to open it up; for now Jabar Gaffney (2-37) and Eddie Royal (1-12-1) are doing enough to make Orton worth considering as a capable fantasy backup.

Dexter McCluster at Falcons, 5-25 rushing, 3-23 receiving — The diminutive rookie is still listed as a wide receiver, but in the second quarter—when he received all of his touches—he spent a series carrying the ball and another targeted five times in the passing game. If McCluster’s eight touches for 48 yards in one quarter of action is indicative of how the Chiefs plan to use him, you may not want to lobby your commissioner to move him to running back; he’ll have even more value as a wideout.

Keiland Williams vs. Bills, 11-51-2 rushing, 1-7 receiving and Ryan Torain vs. Bills, 17-62 rushing, 1-22 receiving —As if the presence of Mike Shanahan wasn’t enough to scare you regarding the Redskins backfield, check out the performances of undrafted rookie Williams—whom Shanny has already praised as being very good in pass protection—and Torain, a guy Shanahan has already given carries to ahead of more highly-regarded backs. Granted, Washington was in the process of having its way with the Bills to the tune of a 42-17 final, but 30 touches for 142 yards and two scores are more than enough reason for Shanahan to give Williams and Torain touches—at the most inopportune times, and at the expense of Clinton Portis and/or Larry Johnson. Here we go again.

10 Stats That Mattered From Week Two »

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