Preseason Week 3; The Takeaway

Preseason Week 3; Thursday Night Football

Preseason week 3 is finally upon us as most teams consider this game the official tune-up to the regular season. Find out what the Thursday games revealed including the bounce back play from Jake Locker, Torrey Smith’s 11 targets and the quarterback competition down in Desert.

 

Green Bay 27, Cincinnati 13

Packers

In case you forgot, Aaron Rodgers is a stud. In this game he reminded us of his athleticism gaining 52 yards on 6 rushes including 2 touchdowns.

Alex Green started in the Green Bay backfield but quickly replaced by Cedric Benson. Making his Packers debut, Benson played the nearly the entire first half looking solid while averaging just over six yards per carry.  We should also note that Benson received a goal line carry, although unable to convert. With rumors of James Starks on the roster bubble, Benson has sudden appeal as a mid RB3 with upside.

Greg Jennings returned for the Packers after dealing with lingering concussion issues.  Jennings would prove he’s ready by leading his team with 37 yards receiving including a sick tippy-toe catch along the sidelines.

Bengals

Andy Dalton had a tough outing as the Packers defense came to play.  Green Bay was getting consistent pressure throughout the first half with multiple blitz packages as Dalton took a number of big hits. In case you didn’t see this game, Dalton just missed a wide open AJ Green for a deep pass that would have resulted in an 80 yard touchdown. Just saying.

The continued absence of Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis (turf toe) should begin raising concerns.  Also absent was backup running back Bernard Scott giving way once again to Cedric Peerman and Justin Leonard for the second straight game. Neither has fantasy value.

 

Jacksonville 17, Baltimore 48

Jaguars

Blaine Gabbert got the full brunt of one of the league’s best defensive units as all the Ravens key players were in the game. Despite the low score, Gabbert again played at a high level continually hooking with rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Blackmon would finish the game totaling 72 yards on 4 receptions and now has him pegged as a bonafide sleeper entering 2012.

The prolonged holdout of Maurice Jones-Drew has held open the door for Rashad Jennings to start in Jacksonville. Jennings solid play throughout the preseason continued picking up 57 yards on 15 carries. Jennings value is dependent on the return of MJD, but certainly worth a later round flier.

Ravens

Joe Flacco had a great game force feeding wide receiver Torrey Smith who garnered 11 Targets for the Ravens in just over one half of play, 11!  Smith caught eight of those balls for 103 yards.  It’s overtly obvious that Flacco is a much, much better quarterback with Smith in the lineup, but remains a mid / high QB2 with spot start potential.

Boldin has clearly lost a step, but still effective utilizing his body to shield off defenders and catch the ball underneath.  Boldin is a low end WR3.

Ray Rice didn’t play long giving way to Chris Rainey and Bernard Pierce.  Both Rainey and Pierce had a solid performance adding confusion to which player will develop into the Rice handcuff, giving us reason to monitor week 4 of the preseason.

 

Arizona 27, Tennessee 32

Cardinals

The questions circling the Cardinals starting quarterback remains unanswered. John Skelton took first team looks but threw and ugly interception on the Cards opening possession. Kevin Kolb took over in the middle of second quarter only to throw an ugly interception of his own. Kolb would put together a sustained touchdown drive just before half, but returned to the game in the 3rd quarter only to throw another terrible interception.  Neither quarterback has seized the opportunity, as Skelton has proven to be the better of two evils.

Ryan Williams started the game managing a mediocre 15 yards on three carries. Beanie Wells replaced Williams, but only able to muster 12 yards on six rushing attempts. In fact, 3rd string RB William Powell looks to be the most complete player running like his hair’s on fire picking up yardage in huge chunks.

The limiting factor to this Arizona team could be the porous play of the offensive line. This unit has been downright terrible in both run and pass blocking as all viable Cardinals players should be downgraded accordingly.

Titans

How about the bounce back play from Titan’s quarterback Jake Locker. One game removed for a pathetic week 2 performance Locker completed 11 of 20 pass attempts for 134 yards and two touchdowns.  Being from Seattle I know this young man better than most and I can attest to his immeasurable heart, work ethic, determination and toughness. He will win games at the pro level, but still not fantasy worthy.

Chris Johnson continues to find it tough running, continually hindered by sub-par run blocking.  The Titans need to be more creative and find alternate means to get Johnson the ball in open space.  Backups Darius Reynaud and Jamie Harper continue to impress, albeit against opposing team’s second string defenses

 

Preseason Week 3; Monday Morning Takeaway

Philadelphia 27, Cleveland 10

Eagles

Coming off a short week very few Eagles starters stayed in the game past the opening two series.

With Michael Vick and Mike Kafka still hobbled by injury it was rookie quarterback Nick Foles getting the nod once again in Philly.  He would throw an early interception, but atone for his mistake finding Brent Celek for a seven yard touchdown and again locating Deon Lewis for a second touchdown on consecutive drives. Foles has been proficient in two preseason starts with quick, accurate passes over the middle while hitting his intermediate and deep targets with regularity.

LeSean McCoy only played the opening two series with little production. He was replaced by Deon Lewis saw a majority of action at tailback for the Eagles putting together a very mediocre outing. Lewis should be viewed as nothing more than McCoy’s handcuff.

The Eagles were able to completely disrupt the Browns offense with unrelenting pressure.

Browns

Cleveland rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden began the game with a strong opening drive, immediately halted by a forced fumble. After that Weeden was relatively ineffective and later replaced by Colt McCoy. I’ll say this, McCoy is a competitor having greater control of offense while marching the Browns down the field in the late 3rd quarter for the only touchdown drive.  Cleveland may have given up on McCoy to early.

Just when we thought Greg Little was the man, it was Josh Gordon’s turn totaling 3 reception for 50 yards including a deep pass down the left sideline. In fact, Coach Shurmur mentioned Gordon by name during his half time interview. History has proven lesser known wide receivers who lead their team in targets have emerged as viable fantasy starters. My money is on Gordon.

Montario Hardesty continues to garner first team carries and goal line work in the prolonged absence of Trent Richardson. In this game Hardesty found very little running room as the Eagles were swarming to the football. Hardesty would also put the ball on the turf which is never endearing to the coaching staff. Brandon Jackson came in for relief and played better finding some running room also picking up a critical 3rd and 1.

A brief applause for the return of Mohammad Massaquoi. He’s one tough SOB after suffering another violent shot to helmet two weeks ago.

 

Atlanta 23, Miami 6

Falcons

This game only provided confirmation of our current knowledge;

1) Julio Jones has passed Roddy White as the Falcons most potent wide receiver threat.

2) Matt Ryan is going to finish the season inside the top six in fantasy scoring.

3) Michael Turner is straight line runner who has lost a step while being hindered by age.  Turner will be sharing time with Jaquizz Rodgers, who is likely to become the more prolific running back

Enough said.

Dolphins

New Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill is showing a small amount of progress but still making bad rookie mistakes. In his defense, he is greatly hindered by a complete lack of wide receiver talent.

Devone Bess achieved 6 targets pulling down 4 and gaining 59 yards.  Although still not draftable, Bess is the Fins wide receiver most likely to emerge as the leader in targets by season’s end and should remain on our watch list.

Running back Reggie Bush played sparingly as Miami is surely saving their best player for the regular season. He continues to impress, but the lack of team talent will hinder his 2012 fantasy production. Bush makes good use of a 5th round pick.

 

New England 28, Tampa Bay 30

Patriots

Despite all the starters in this game (minus Wes Welker) the Patriots were uncharacteristically slow as the 1st team offense was only able to muster one good drive. New England’s offense is severely hindered by a suspect offensive line as Tom Brady was subjected to a number of big hits. I’m sure Belichick will solve this problem before week 1.

Steven Ridley was the lone bright spot for the Pats 1st team offense. After being bottled up early, Ridley found his stride consuming yards in big chunks adding a short yardage touchdown in the early 2nd quarter (love those running backs who are able to convert goal line touchdowns). Shane Vereen came in relief, but rather ordinary. Despite New England’s long history of a RBBC, Ridley’s risk / reward is worthy of a 8th round pick.

Buccaneers

With LeGarrette Blount still ailing it was Doug Martin’s turn to take first team carries. Martin managed 53 yards on 13 carries grinding out a consistent 4 yards at a time. On the plus side, Martin took a goal line carries punching in a 1 yard touchdown.  Blount later entered the game tacking on 22 yards. Martin’s ADP in the late 3rd round is a reach, but could pay off.

In a run first offensive system the Bucs passing game is becoming scary. Vincent Jackson finally showed up with a very quite 3 receptions for 49 yards.  Perhaps Freeman just needs more time to get comfortable with his new weapons.

We should recognize the loss of right guard Davin Joseph.  A mauling lineman Joseph will cause a downgrade to the projected fantasy value of all Bucs players.

 

San Diego 12, Minnesota 10

Chargers

No Phillip Rivers, No Antonio Gates, No Ryan Mathews, minimal Robert Meachem and very little Malcolm Floyd.  Not much to detract from the Chargers performance.

Charlie Whitehurst started under center for the Super Chargers putting together an “OK” performance with all backup wide receivers.

The answer in the San Diego backfield may just be an RBBC as every Chargers running back saw carries including; Le’Ron McLain, Curtis Brinkley, Jackie Battle, Jacob Hester, Edwin Baker and Brown. Definitely a situation to avoid.

Vikings

This was the worst of Christian Ponder’s preseason games as he regressed slightly making tyical rookie mistakes such as staring down Harvin leading to a Chargers interception or hanging onto the football way to long resulting in a sack. This type of performance should be expected from time to time as Ponder has almost zero fantasy value.

 

With Jerome Simpson being held out in preparation for his suspension, it was Percy Harvin taking the deep ball.  Ponder missed on his first attempt to Harvin but immediately returned connecting for a 40 yard gain.  Harvin hasn’t played much this preseason, thus flying under the fantasy radar and giving him decent pre-draft value in the 5th round. Ponder.

Kyle Rudolph continues to be a player of intrigue working underneath and should emerge as the Vikings big red zone threat.

Still no Adrian Peterson, however he did state during an in-game interview that he will be ready for a 20+ carries come week one. I not buying it as the Vikings won’t be quick to rush him back into action. Also, Toby Gerhart is running like a Mack truck hitting the defensive line with power dragging multiple defenders for extra yardage. Lex Hilliard took second team carries, but fourth stringer Matt Asiata is the better backup.

 

Chicago 20, New York 17

Bears

Matt Forte found it tough running agains the Giants stiff front four picking up most of his 39 yards on a 24 yard scamper.  Otherwise 9 carries for 15 yards. He’s overvalued in the 1st round so long as he is relinquishing goal line carries to Michael Bush.

Jay Cutler is making it a point to get Brandon Marshall the football going his direction continuously.  This game was no different as seen by the 10 targets in which Marshall corralled 5 for 51 yards, including a 21 yard touchdown.  Marshall is a beast.

Giants

Eli Manning had a decent performance finding multiple wide receivers including rookie Reuben Randell who received plenty of action with Hakeem Nicks still sidelined with a foot injury. Ramses Barden and Martellus Bennett also got involved, but it was Victor Cruz becoming the old faithful moving the Giatns down the field resuting in a Ramses Barden touchdown.

With Ahmad Bradshaw sidelined due to a hand injury it was David Wilson starting the game for the G-Men at tailback. Wilson was the Giants highlight reel shedding tacklers and picking 9.8 yards per carry.  Oddly Wilson was replaced by Andre Brown amidst a long drive by the Giants with most of the work coming as the product of Wilson’s hard running.  Andre Brown even managed a goal line carry just before half adding a preseason touchdown to his resume. This could be another case of the old Earth, Wind and Fire, aka; RBBC.

Justin Tuck has the coolest facemask in all of football. If you haven’t seen it do a quick Google searc

 

Houston 27, New Orleans 34

Texans

Houston quarterback Matt Schaub put together another solid performance marching his team straight down the field on the opening drive capped off by goal line touchdown from Ben Tate.  Schaub then took the second drive for another quick touchdown. Schaub does have good value as a backup / low end QB1 with upside.

During the offseason many speculated the fantasy value of Owen Daniels would be on the rise after the release of Joel Dreessen (myself included).  This game would indicate our assumption was false as tight end Garrett Graham led the team in production with 4 receptions for 94 yards. Worth noting if Daniels was on your “sleeper” radar as an every week starter.

Arian Foster did not start the game, but was sprinkled in and later seen breezing into the endzone for a short yardage touchdown.  I can only assume the Texans are be conserving their stud for regular season. Taking a majority of the carries backup Ben Tate is a monster, and a must handcuff to Foster.

Did anyone notice Andre Johnson getting up gingerly in the mid 2nd quarter after a good hit from the defensive back?  I love me some “All Day Dre”, but I won’t draft him unless he falls to the early 4th round.

Saints

Oddly Chris Ivory started in the NO backfield, but we continue to see an even mix of Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram (Darren Sproles still recovering from injury). If you don’t know by now, we should expect the RBBC all season long as Sproles is the only player worth trusting.

Brees spread the ball around to multiple wide receivers including Lance Moore who ended the Saints second drive with a touchdown. Marques Colston and Moore look to be the WRs to own.

Jimmy Graham led the Saints in receiving with 3 catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. Even though Graham had a solid game, his production is not a correct indicator of his involvement as Brees threw his direction 6 times including multiple deep shots and a red zone target. He should be the number one tight end selected due to a lack of competition for targets.

 

Seattle 44, Kansas City 14

Seahawks

Russell Wilson received his first NFL start. A proficient quarterback Wilson has an excellent delivery while adding yardage with a couple of long runs.  Wilson later hit tight end Kellen Winslow on a wide open touchdown after blown coverage from the Kansas City secondary. Wilson has zero fantasy value.

Sydney Rice sees his first live action since landing on injured reserve last season. Rice was limited to two targets, but does have last round flier value due to a high level of talent and likely to lead the Hawks in targets.

With Marshawn Lynch being held out due to precautionary reasons, it was Robert Turbin carrying the load.  A bruising downhill ball carrier Turbin has clearly grabbed hold of the backup position as the Marshawn Lynch handcuff.

Chiefs

Peyton Hillis once again opened the game behind Matt Cassell, but Charles continues to outperform his bruising teammate.  My problem with drafting either Charles or Hillis the ongoing presence of 3rd stringer Shaun Droughn stealing first team carries and running hard. Personally, I’m going to pass on the Chiefs backfield in favor of later round players such as; Toby Gerhart, Rashad Jennings and Alfred Morris.

Dwayne Bowe did not start the game, but saw plenty of action. The Chiefs prolific wide receiver, Cassell made numerous attempts to utilize his favorite target whenever he entered the lineup. Bowe is presenting good value with an ADP in the early 6th round.

 

Buffalo 7, Pittsburgh 38

Bills

Another tough outing for the Bills offense, albeit against a tough defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick is still struggling to find continuity with his wide receivers, including Steve Johnson. This is really ugly football and should send up a red flag considering we are now in week 3 of the preseason.

Fred Jackson is fully healthy and taking first team reps. Jackson displayed his explosiveness running with excellent vision and power including a short yardage touchdown. CJ Spiller relieved the veteran, but his only notable play was a lost fumble. Even though the difference in talent is obvious, Spiller and Jackson continue sharing the workload

Buffalo’s defense unit is playing awesome, but heavily hindered by a Bills offense unable to sustain drives.

Steelers

We’ve been hearing all offseason how the Steelers are going to return to their roots and “run the football”. This game was a prime example as Issac Redman carried the ball 12 times in the first half as the primary tailback.  However, Redman only managed two yards per carry but did squeeze in a goal line touchdown.

In the two minute drill, while pinned on their own one yard line, the Steelers opened up the aerial attack moving the ball 99 yards before Antonio Brown caught a six yard touchdown. This single possession should remind the coaches that they need to throw the football in order to win football games.

The Steeler already weak offensive line took a devastating hit losing 1st round right guard David DeCastro for 3-5 month due to a knee injury. Already thin, we should downgrade slightly all players affected.

 

Indianpolis 17, Washington 30

Colts

Andrew Luck continues to play extremely well.  He is doing an amazing job of correctly reading the defense, evading the rush while throwing the ball with touch and accuracy. Although Luck will utilize multiple receivers, he is clearly making it a point to search out Reggie Wayne as the preferred target.  Wyane should eclipse 1,000 yards this season becoming a legit WR3 or better.

Donald Brown started once again behind Andrew Luck but quickly pulled from the game in favor of Vick Ballard. Both were bottled up by the Skins defense as it appears the Colts backfield is headed for an RBBC.

Redskins

Robert Griffin III isn’t finding the success his fellow rookie Andrew Luck is enjoying.  Griffin is suffering from typical rookie woes including, failing to see the blitzing linebacker and staring down his wide receivers. We have also learned with great certainty that Pierre Garcon is Griffin’s go-to-guy as evident by the 7 targets. Garcon’s consistency on the season could waiver along with the growing pains of Washington’s young quarterback.

Alfred Morris took the start once again in the Skins backfield.  Morris was absolutely studly rushing 14 times for 107 yards and 1 touchdown. We should also note his TD came on a 2 yard goal line carry (love those goal line backs). Currently undrafted in many leagues, Morris is absolutely worthy of a late round stab, and likely climbing in the mock drafts.

 

Detroit 20, Oakland 31

Lions

Mathew Stafford gave the fantasy world a scare after leaving the game with an apparent hand injury.  Rest easy Stafford belivers as reports have since surfaced of no serious damage.

Mikel Leshoure finally received a start for the Lions, but found little running room picking up 1 yard on 5 carries. Projected regular season starter Kevin Smith came in for relief of Leshoure, but limped off the field after suffering the dreaded high ankle sprain which typically requires 3-5 weeks of recovery. In stepped third stringer Keiland Williams who also found it tough sledding.

Brandon Pettigrew caught a touchdown for the Lions in the opening of the 3rd quarter. However, fellow tight end Tony Scheffler was heavily involved with the first team offense from the outset of this game.  Without Scheffler on the roster Pettigrew would surely be a top 4 tight end, but the Lions remain one of the few teams in the league to implement the TEBC (tight end by committee).

Titus Young has been highly publicized in the media as a potential 2012 sleeper. This game told a different tale featuring more Nate Burleson than Titus Young as both have been relatively quite this preseason. Young is a player with upside, but shouldn’t be drafted until the 9th round or later.

Raiders

A buddy of mine said to me over the weekend; “if injuries weren’t a part of fantasy football, Darren McFadden would be the number one overall pick”.  I couldn’t disagree as the man is the personification of a beast. Therefore selecting McFadden is all about your risk / reward tolerance. If you do take DMC, note that Taiwan Jones is now consuming the role of the 2nd string running back with amazing speed and quickness. Jones is also an injury risk.

Wide receiver Rod Streater’s emergence continues to roll on after leading the first team offense in targets with seven.  He is becoming Palmer’s preferred threat after catching the first two passes of this game, but also the safety blanket as the chain mover in critical situations. It’s worth mentioning that Streater was also highlighted in the pre-game introductions.  In most leagues Streater will go unselected, but you could do a lot worse with your last pick of your draft. Streater is certainly worth a flier.

The Raiders defense has played surprisingly well holding the Lions first team offense to two field goals. Not sure if they are a viable fantasy commodity, but most definitely on the “watch list”.

 

St. Lious 19, Dallas 20

Rams

What a tough game for the Rams as Sam Bradford’s protection was shoddy, at best, taking big hits from many of the Cowboys defensive linemen. This offensive line will be a limiting factor to all Rams players.

Neither Danny Amendola, Steve Smith nor Brian Quick did anything in this game, however Lance Kendricks number is being called with consistency.  Kendrick is quietly developing into the classic tight end mismatch.

I’ve continued to mention that Isaiah Pead had underwhelmed this preseason, and apparently the Rams have been listening. With the Rams coaching staff sidelining Steven Jackson to evelaute the backups, Daryl Richardson received 10 carries picking up 51 yards including short yardage first down conversions. Richardson is much more decisive runner than Pead showing a quick downhill burst at the point of attack. Pead was expected to be the Jackson handcuff, but preseason game four will likely be the determining game.

Cowboys

Like Run DMC, Demarco Murray is brimming with talent but the durability remains in question. Once again, your tolerance for injury prone players will determine Murray’s draft status.

Tony Romo absolutely torched the Rams’ secondary all over the field, despite the absence of Miles Austin, Dez Bryanat and Jason Witten.  Romo exited in the early 2nd quarter giving way to Kyle Orton who also torched the Rams’ secondary.  I see trend forming here.

 

San Francisco 29, Denver 24

49ers

I have yet to reach a conclusion of what to make of the 49ers offense?  My answer came when television announcer Troy Aikmen informed us; “the 49ers are intentionally running a vanilla offense to not expose their hand before the regular season opener versus Green Bay.” I understand, but it doesn’t make my job any easier.

I can report that Alex Smith hit Vernon Davis for a quick 44 yard touchdown on the 49ers second series. I’ve also observed the use of multiple running backs along with a rotation of wide receivers. Other than Vernon Davis, not sure who to recommend off the San Francisco roster.

Broncos

Much to my surprise, Willis McGahee has been playing extremely well all preseason, and this game was no different.  I’m a bit nervous to recommend McGahee as he is nearly 31 years of age, an infamous milestone for a running backs sudden decline.  I’m also reluctant because fellow running back Lance Ball is sharing time with the first team offense, as seen entering the game on the Broncos first possession.

 

Eric Decker has clearly emerged as Manning’s preferred receiver gobbling up another seven targets including two red zone touchdowns. Manning was then pulled from the game, but it’s hard to not fall in love with his preseason performance. Manning is a tempting player in the late 5th round.

 

The “sleeper value” of Jacob Tamme should be put to rest after witnessing Joel Dreesen start the game at tight end for the second straight week, while garnering more targets (Ugh).

 

 

Carolina 17, New York 12

Panthers

Carolina running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are once again sharing a committee backfield.  That was until the sudden ankle injury suffered by Stewart. Although we are reading reports of mild “grade 1 sprain”, Stewart has fought ankle injuries much of his young career.  Once overrated, D-Will suddenly has decent value with an ADP in the late 8th round.

It is overly apparent that Cam Newton suffers greatly without Steve Smith on the field.  Thankfully all indication suggest Smitty (foot infection) will be available come week one of the regular season.

Depending on which website your read, every player in the NFL has been touted as a potential sleeper. However no player has been mentioned more than Greg Olsen. Do yourself a favor and draft this guy in the 13th round.  You can thank me later.

Jets

The Jets first team offense started the preseason ugly, and nothing has changed. I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but the Jets are the only team who has yet to score a touchdown in the preseason.

Mark Sanchez did start finding his wide receivers, but couldn’t string together a complete drive. Shonn Greene is still being provided every chance to emerge as a 3-down-back having decent production, but doesn’t have the vision or the wiggle to be an every week fantasy starter, while being inhibited by a very poor offensive line

And then there’s Tim Tebow. Oh Tim Tebow. In my humble opinion Tebow kills the value of every other player on the Jets roster once they unleash the Tony Sporano wildcat offense. The Jets are a mess, and I’m avoiding them all.

About Eric Hartvigson