With the first week of preseason nearly finished, many questions still seem to linger around the league. This week, there wasn't a lot of information to ascertain but there were a few highlights and recaps that may be of some interest to many fantasy football fans.
A few stars did not see action this week. This includes, but is not limited to, Adrian Peterson, Julio Jones and Randall Cobb. A few other high-profile rookies, however, DID make their NFL debut showing flashes of why they were so highly regarded in this year’s past draft.
Let’s quickly run through every game (sans INDY vs. BUF) and try and pick out a few key observations fantasy fans will want to log into their research notebooks.
Editor’s Note: the article was completed BEFORE Sunday's contest between IND and BUF. A separate piece covering those this game will follow early Monday morning.
NE vs. PHI: I really like what I saw from both first-team offenses. Tom Brady led the Pats on two 80 yard scoring drives, while both Eagles’ QBs Mike Vick and Nick Foles led their own individual TD drive as well.
What I did not like was the play of the Philadelphia D-line against the run. The birds gave up 101 yards to LeGarrette Blount on just 11 carries, signaling there is still a lot of work to do.
New England also featured Tim Tebow who showed very little in the passing game, but showed much more with his legs. Tim Tebow could be used as an alternative offensive weapon this year.
Player to watch - Aaron Dobson, WR: The young but sizable WR only caught 2 balls, but still showed what he is capable of. I believe New England plans on using him more than many think, and with his talent-set, he should easily prove to be a great late-round selection in your draft.
BAL vs. TB: This game was mostly Baltimore and little Tampa Bay, but I wouldn’t read too much into it as most of the Ravens’ success came against a bunch of newbies and rookies.
What I liked in this game was the re-vamped Baltimore defense showing its ability creating four turnovers.
I also liked Josh Freeman over Joe Flacco in regard to performance. Flacco looked stiff; Freeman looked sharp—both starting QBs should flourish this year regardless though.
One issue I did see was the continued shaky play of the Tampa pass coverage, and an equally shaky performance from that O-Line. Again, this IS the first game of preseason, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Dane Sanzenbacher should be on your watch radar!
CIN vs. ATL: This was an interesting game to observe for a few reasons. One the one hand, neither RB committee did much to show anything convincing. Steven Jackson looked stiff, and both BGE and Giovanni Bernard did little to prove who should be getting the bulk of the carries.
What DID look good was the play from the Cincinnati defense. Both the D-line and backers looked crisp and played very effectively, continuously bringing pressure from all over the place thanks in part to newly added James Harrison.
If this trend become the norm in Cincy, Harrison will be a solid top tier IDP option at LB.
Player to watch – Dane Sanzenbacher, WR: The Bengals viewed Sanzenbacher as a viable replacement for Jordan Shipley but there was a question with Andrew Hawkins being in the mix—not anymore. Hawkins is likely to be tagged for IR recall according to Geoff Dobson on Twitter, which would mean Hawkins will be out for half the season. You would be wise to keep a close eye on this developing situation.
STL vs. CLE: This was a total lopsided contest in my opinion. Cleveland looked sharp and focused while the Rams looked out of synch and sloppy.
For the Browns, QB Brandon Weeden seemed to have more zip to his throw and a better grasp of the offensive approach. Back in May, I proposed TE Jordan Cameron a Sleeping Giant in this offense and we caught a glimpse of that possibility.
Cameron did have a crucial drop, but we can’t determine yet whether it was due to mechanics or first game jitters.
The Rams coverage showed they have a ton of work to do and so did rookie Tavon Austin who failed to record a catch in the contest, but the Sam Bradford/Chris Givens connection looked pretty good.
WSH vs. TEN: Prior to the contest there was a good viewpoint of RGIII working out on the field. For those wondering, he looked pretty good. There was a slight diminish in his overall speed and ability to cut, and an ever so slight limp, but that is to be expected. RGIII did suit up, but did not play.
Otherwise there was plenty to be happy about from both ends here. Washington’s D-line did a superb job maintaining pressure from all points while the Titans O-line did an equally impressive job countering—especially rookie Guard Chance Warmack.
Kirk Cousins did a fine job standing in for the most part, and Jake Locker didn’t look all that bad.
I was happy to see Tennessee playing Nate Washington on the outside after months of fevered rumors the team was letting him go. I believe Washington still holds some back-end value in most fantasy formats as a late-round flyer.
Austin Collie could be this year's hidden sleeper! More to come on that!
DEN vs. SF: I will officially dub this game the Preseason WK 1 snoozer because this was a hard game to stay focused on with so little happening.
Denver did focus quite a bit on TE Julius Thomas who could wind up being an interesting player to watch as the weeks go by, while San Francisco looked sloppy on the offensive side of the ball.
Players to watch - A.J. Jenkins and Austin Collie: The trendy "fancy" right now in fantasy is A.J. Jenkins, but to be honest, the kid did nothing to show he has moved forward in this offense which is a very bad thing. The 49ers absolutely need Jenkins to step things up if they plan on spreading defenses. Austin Collie on the other hand is going to be the one player that nobody even looks at…which is a very good thing.
While Collie has had injury troubles, many forget that he is an outstanding route runner and a very reliable receiver who can play both the slot and on the outside. If he remains healthy, Collie WILL have a solid bounce back year in SF, mark my words.
SD vs. SEA: We weren’t able to ascertain much from either team’s starters in this one.
I did like an apparent improvement from San Diego in pass protection, considering the drubbing Phillip Rivers took last season, but the D-line looked terrible against the run.
Tarvaris Jackson basically stole the show in this game going 8 for 9, 128 yards and two TDs, which only really means he is one step closer to securing the backup QB job, nothing more.
Player to watch – Doug Baldwin, WR: Baldwin did not compete in this one but I do feel he warrants a closer look as the preseason continues. The Seahawks need a competent and experienced player to man the slot with Percy Harvin not expected back any time soon and Baldwin does fit the mold here.
In two years with the Hawks, Baldwin has racked up a modest 80 catches for 1,154 yards and seven TDs and he enters 2014 as an RFA, so there is reason to assume he may be advertising for a job. We’ll have to wait and see what develops before going any further, though.
I'm a second round ADP RB again?
DET vs. NYJ: This one is easy. Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson haven’t missed a beat and we have little info suggesting any separation in the Jets’ QB battle between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith…period!
I did like the play of the Jets’ secondary, specifically with rookie Dee Milliner who will make for a fine IDP addition to any team, and I would seriously recommend keeping a close eye on Reggie Bush this preseason.
Milliner is said to have already passed Kyle Wilson on the Jets’ depth charts and Reggie Bush will be the first viable RB Detroit has had in a long time which only helps Bush’s arrow point up.
MIA vs. JAX: After a shaky first-game start against the Cowboys a week ago, Miami bounced back with a much more consistent performance against Jacksonville.
The Jags also showed a great deal of improvement on the defensive side of the ball in the early goings; the offense however showed virtually nothing to speak of.
I did notice some struggles from the Miami O-line in the beginning with some back end settling, but it is cause for concern if the struggles continue.
All in all, not a lot to highlight here.
CHI vs. CAR: For anyone wondering, the Bears defense looked just as good as they did last season and the offensive line looked just as bad as it did last season, giving up a whopping seven sacks.
Deep breath, it’s only the first preseason game.
Carolina moved the ball well, albeit slowly, as they Cam Cameron put together a nice offensive drive, but they too showed early offensive line struggles.
Player to watch – Josh Norman: Another IDP highlight in this contest is second year man Josh Norman who had two picks in the game. This is a guy you can buy low on as he is not necessarily seen as a top IDP candidate. Another few games like this one, however, and people will be singing a different tune.
ARI vs. GB: A lot of what I expected to see from GB (as a fan) is exactly what I saw from the first team in this preseason game. A heavy forward focus on short-pass setups with the big outside fades to follow—all spot on so no worries there.
The Packers were without Randall Cobb (minor ankle injury), Eddie Lacy (minor hamstring injury) and Brian Bulaga (out for the season, ACL).
The Packers focused on the ground game as the contest progressed but there really wasn’t anything special to mention outside of James Starks looking healthy again.
The Cardinals offense on the other hand looked very comfortable for a WK1 preseason game. Carson Palmer moved the ball around well and looked tight and focused.
I like Larry Fitzgerald’s potential of returning to top 5 fantasy WR status this season so long as Palmer stays healthy...bout time, right?
Player to watch – Michael Floyd, WR: Floyd has already “surpassed” Andre Roberts on the depth charts but this is to be expected as Roberts is better suited as a slot WR. Floyd is a prime candidate for a breakout player this season especially considering Bruce Arians will be deploying a vertical passing attack.
HOU vs. MIN: The Vikings first team saw very little action in this contest and Adrian Peterson was inactive. Literally there is nothing yet to highlight here.
On the Houston end of things we saw the immediate faith in WR DeAndre Hopkins who was utilized quite a bit, and he made every moment count. This is a kid who will find success early in the Houston offense.
I liked what I saw from Houston’s defense as well. They showed the same tenacity and aggression that helped them last season, and they should pick right back up where they left off this year.
KC vs. NO: The Andy Reid – Alex Smith era got off to a fast-paced start that warranted a superb 80-yard drive.
Alex Smith looked very good, moving the ball all over the place and taking his time to dissect the defensive looks he was given. I think Smith has a very good chance of becoming a much better QB than a few believe in this system, and we all know how much of a QB guru Andy Reid is.
The Saints also looked solid on the offensive side of the ball and there is a great battle to follow as preseason progresses between Lance Moore, Kenny Stills and Preston Parker.
Moore has always been a hot/cold fantasy receiver, but he is expected to see a greater share of the workload this season which could help remedy that. Stills was originally expected to take a back seat this year, but is showing signs of real life. He will have to fully beat out Steve Breaston for a full time gig though.
Preston Parker is the new kid in town, but he has a great deal of talent and upside in an offense that shares the love. In his quest to earn a starting job, Parker caught four balls for 43 yards and two TDs against the Chiefs’ defense.
DAl vs. OAK: Another wild game from the Cowboys! The tandem of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant looked as smooth as ever and the revamped Cowboys defense looked very, very good.
The Oakland Raiders defense also showcased their talents staying on par with Dallas.
Oakland’s offense looked a bit rough however, showing a few areas of weakness, particularly on the line.
One bright spot was rookie QB Terrelle Pryor who dazzled onlookers with his speed and management of what resembled the good old fashion college option plays.
The battle for QB in Oakland, however, is far from being decided for sure.
NYG vs. PIT: As expected in this one, neither starting team gave much time, but there were one or two things I noticed here last night.
The Giants looked really good defensively, getting to the ball and the QB. I like Cullen Jenkins in this system and he could be a nice addition to IDP roster this season.
Victor Cruz’s 57 yard TD would be the final difference maker in this one, and both he and Eli Manning looked pretty good as well.
The Steelers’ O-line seemed to struggle for half the game or so which could be cause for concern moving forward if not taken care of.
As expected from the first week of preseason there was a lot of uncertainty, heavy focus on second and third string RBs and a few curious highlights for all of us to follow. As the preseason progresses we will begin to uncover better information to analyze, but for now, it’s just nice to see the boys hittin’ again!
Join me for continued coverage of the 2013 preseason and be sure to check back regularly for additional news and fantasy information!