2011 NFL Preseason Recap and Fantasy Football Notes: Week 4
**** NOTES FOR EVERY GAME WILL BE UP AS SOON AS I WATCH THEM **** Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Seahawks 20, Raiders 3
In four preseason games, the Seahawks' first-string offense has scored a grand total of six points against the opposing team's starting defense. That's not good.
Tarvaris Jackson went 5-of-7 for 88 yards and a pick. That stat line doesn't look terrible, but most of Jackson's throws were short dump-offs. His interception, which occurred inside Oakland's 20, was abysmal. I was watching this game with several people, including two girls who don't know much about football, and even they remarked, "Wow, that's bad."
Here were Jackson's targets:
Doug Baldwin: 1
Justin Forsett: 1
Michael Robinson: 1
Golden Tate: 4
If you're wondering why Jackson targeted Golden Tate non-stop, it's because neither Sidney Rice nor Mike Williams played. Marshawn Lynch sat out as well.
Jason Campbell played three drives for the Raiders, and went 8-of-11 for 76 yards (one incompletion was dropped by Taiwan Jones). He was solid, but unspectacular, especially in the red zone - pretty much the usual for Campbell.
It was nice to see Jacoby Ford on the field in the finale after he missed the other three preseason games with an injury. Unfortunately, he caught only one pass, as Darrius Heyward-Bey was targeted more often.
Lions 16, Bills 6
Matthew Stafford played only one drive. He went 1-of-2 for 39 yards, as his sole completion was a beautiful deep bomb that dropped right into Calvin Johnson's arms. However, the Lions couldn't convert a first down after that. Following two Jahvid Best runs for minimal gains, Stafford was incomplete when he tried to force the ball into tight coverage to Brandon Pettigrew.
Jahvid Best started for the Lions, but saw only two carries. The good news is that he was actually on the field following his minor concussion.
Ryan Fitzpatrick played two drives. He was 2-of-5 for minus-1 yard. He overthrew a wide-open Steve Johnson for a potential long touchdown. However, he was victimized by two drops; one by Johnson (though technically it was knocked out of his hands), and the other by Marcus Easley.
Here were Fitzpatrick's targets:
Marcus Easley: 1
Steve Johnson: 2
C.J. Spiller: 2
C.J. Spiller started for the Bills. He showed off his great speed on a 27-yard carry on the first drive, thanks to a good block from Andy Levitre. Despite what the stats may say, Spiller has been the more impressive Buffalo running back this preseason. He deserves more touches.
Colts 17, Bengals 13
Andy Dalton played two drives. He went 6-of-9 for 43 yards, but two of his passes were very ugly. He horribly overthrew Jordan Shipley about eight yards past the line of scrimmage. Several plays later, he threw behind Jermaine Gresham for what could have been a 12-yard touchdown.
Here were Dalton's targets:
A.J. Green: 2
Jermaine Gresham: 2 (1 end zone)
Brian Leonard: 1
Jordan Shipley: 3
Jerome Simpson: 1
With three balls thrown to him against the Colts, Jordan Shipley finished second in Andy Dalton's targets behind A.J. Green this preseason (go here to see a full list of preseason receiver targets). Dalton loves throwing slants to Shipley, so the former Longhorn makes for a decent late-round flier in PPR leagues.
A.J. Green caught both targets thrown to him for 14 yards. Unfortunately, he fumbled inside the 10-yard line. Try to avoid him in re-draft fantasy leagues unless you can get him very late; he'll probably be overdrafted because of name recognition.
Cedric Benson didn't play. Brian Leonard started.
Taylor Mays stinks. He had the most obvious pass interference penalty ever on Indianapolis' opening drive, as he tackled the receiver 10 yards before the ball got to him.
Kerry Collins went 5-of-10 for 45 yards, though it's hard to judge him because none of the Colts regulars played. Collins also drew that aforementioned long pass interference on Mays.
Delone Carter had just 11 yards on five carries, but that stat line is meaningless to me. On two separate occasions, the Cincinnati defensive front blew up Indianapolis' line, and Carter was swallowed up by tacklers. He's still a solid late-round sleeper.
Eagles 24, Jets 14
None of the starters played in this game, so there's not much to say. The only news is Vince Young's hamstring injury. Young limped off the field at the end of the second quarter, but was smiling and laughing on the sideline after halftime. Even if he's out for a few weeks, it won't matter unless QB Dog Killer gets hurt right away.
Speaking of backup quarterbacks, New York's Dr. Willy threw a touchdown in relief of an injured Greg McElroy. The Eagles were clearly using Metal Blades or Quick Boomerangs at this point, but they wised up at halftime and switched to Bubble Lead. As a result, the Jets' offense didn't score again. In fact, New York had just eight first downs.
I was surprised when I looked at the box score and saw that Eagles defensive Phillip Hunt had only one sack. He seemingly invaded the Jets' backfield on every single snap, constantly harassing Dr. Willy.
Alex Henery missed a 43-yard field goal on the opening drive. However, he quelled some concerns by drilling a 49-yarder in the middle of the fourth quarter. Andy Reid had a wry smile on his face as the kick went through the uprights.
Dolphins 24, Cowboys 14
This was yet another game in which no starters played. In fact, NFL.com's headline is that Larry Johnson and Matt Moore sparked the Dolphins to victory. Yeah, I'm not going to delve too deep into this contest.
I do want to discuss three running backs. Rookie DeMarco Murray had 32 rushing yards (10 carries) and 64 receiving yards (four catches). The bulk of Murray's latter yardage came on a 48-yard screen pass that he took up the left sideline. There's a chance Tashard Choice could be cut, which would obviously make Murray a nice waiver-wire addition should anything happen to Felix Jones.
From young to old, Larry Johnson totaled 39 yards and a 22-yard, first-quarter touchdown on 10 carries. Johnson looked pretty spry; in fact, Dolphins announcer Dick Stockton thought Daniel Thomas scored that touchdown. Thomas had 36 yards on eight attempts.
Giants 18, Patriots 17
One team played its starters. The other sat most of its top guys. Kind of ironic that the latter won.
No Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Hakeem Nicks or Mario Manningham for the Giants. Instead, it was David Carr, who went 13-of-21 for 116 yards and an awful interception in the first quarter. There's nothing worth noting here.
The Patriots, on the other hand, went with Tom Brady and company for a full quarter. Brady rebounded from last week's performance at Detroit to go 5-of-9 for 116 yards.
Here were Brady's targets:
Deion Branch: 1
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 1
Rob Gronkowski: 1
Aaron Hernandez: 2
Chad Ochocinco: 2
Matt Slater: 2
Danny Woodhead: 2
More inefficiency from Chad Ochocinco, albeit a small sample size. The former Bengal was targeted twice in one quarter of action in the preseason finale, but caught only one pass for nine yards. Tom Brady has so many weapons, so it's hard to be excited about No. 85 after two lackluster performances.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis saw four of the six first-string carries in the exhibition finale. He gained just 10 yards, but scored twice. He's someone to own in touchdown-only leagues.
Shane Vereen saw some action in the second half. I didn't get a chance to watch him with more important games going on, but he rushed for 34 yards on 11 attempts.
Another Patriot rookie I didn't get to see was Ryan Mallett. He went 6-of-16 for 57 yards.
Ravens 21, Falcons 7
This was an absolutely dreadful game in which Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco sat out. The backup quarterbacks combined for two fumbles and four interceptions, including one by John Parker Wilson that was tipped and returned 65 yards for a score by rookie Chykie Brown.
None of the starters (save for Julio Jones) played. Jones caught one ball for 25 yards and had a 14-yard end-around, so nothing worth noting there. Let's move on to more important games...
Rams 24, Jaguars 17
Sam Bradford looked pretty sharp in the preseason finale at Jacksonville, going 7-of-11 for 133 yards and a touchdown in a quarter of action. The score was the result of a beautiful play-action fake and a perfect 44-yard pass to Lance Kendricks. Bradford cemented his status as a borderline fantasy QB1 with major upside in Josh McDaniels' scheme. If he had better receivers, he'd be much higher in my 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings.
Speaking of which, here were Bradford's targets:
Danny Amendola: 1
Billy Bajema: 2
Brandon Gibson: 1
Steven Jackson: 1
Lance Kendricks: 4
Cadillac Williams: 2
Lance Kendricks caught three passes (out of four targets) for 73 yards and a touchdown in the preseason finale - in just one quarter of action. If you like to carry two tight ends, MAKE SURE YOU GET KENDRICKS ON YOUR ROSTER. He's going to get better and better as the season moves along.
David Garrard didn't fare as well as Bradford. He went 1-of-5 for 11 yards, but you can't blame him for that abysmal stat line because he kept getting hit on nearly every play. On one occasion, Garrard walked slowly off the field, clutching his right hand in pain. If the offensive line is this bad during the regular season, there is no way Garrard will start all 16 games.
Here were Garrard's targets:
Jason Hill: 1
Greg Jones: 1
Maurice Jones-Drew: 1
Kassim Osgood: 1
Mike Thomas: 1
Maurice Jones-Drew started this contest after missing the first three games of the preseason. He had 14 yards on five carries; all of his yardage came on one scamper that was mostly the byproduct of good run-blocking. Jones-Drew hasn't proven that he's close to 100 percent yet. Draft him with caution.
I got a kick out of watching the Jaguars Television Network. Whereas other teams say that tickets are available, the Jacksonville announcers actually pleaded, "We need to make sure our stadium is filled!" Pathetic.
Redskins 29, Buccaneers 24
If last week wasn't clear enough, Rex Grossman has all but won the starting job. Grossman, Tim Hightower and Santana Moss all sat, as John Beck started with the first-string offensive line. He was pretty bad.
Beck went 10-of-21 for 108 yards and an interception. He nearly tossed a second pick on the third drive, and once again showed poor pocket presence. There is no way Mike Shanahan can start Beck over Grossman with a straight face. The latter has had a terrific preseason and deserves to have the job. Anyone who says otherwise hasn't been watching these games or paying close attention to the situation.
I'm not going to bother with Beck's targets because none of the starting wideouts and running backs played.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, sat all of their starters, so there's nothing worth noting.
Steelers 33, Panthers 17
Ron Rivera hasn't announced anything, but Cam Newton will be the starting quarterback on Sept. 11. Though he played against Pittsburgh's second-string defense, Newton had a solid performance, going 3-of-5 for 25 yards and one touchdown to go along with a 19-yard scramble.
Newton's two incompletions weren't too bad. One was an instance in which he and Steve Smith weren't on the same page. During the other, Newton was being taken down by a Pittsburgh defender, yet he impressively got the ball off and nearly completed a pass to Jeremy Shockey.
Here were Newton's targets:
Legedu Naanee: 1
Jeremy Shockey: 3 (1 end zone)
Steve Smith: 1 (1 end zone)
I'm giving Greg Olsen a stock down because of Jeremy Shockey, who was targeted three times during Cam Newton's only drive in the preseason finale. Shockey is definitely not as talented as Olsen at this stage of his career, but he's going to take targets away from the former Bear tight end. If you don't believe me, take a look at whom Cam Newton has targeted this entire preseason.
The Steelers sat their starters. Charlie Batch performed well (6-of-8, 59 yards). The only other players of note were Emmanuel Sanders, who caught four balls for 60 yards coming off a foot injury, and second-year back Jonathan Dwyer, who rushed for 88 yards and a 50-yard touchdown on 13 carries.
Bears 24, Browns 14
Jay Cutler, Colt McCoy, Matt Forte, Peyton Hillis and most of the other starters didn't play in this game. Before I move on, two things:
1. If the Bears think they're even getting a seventh-round pick for Chester Taylor, then I want to have some of what they're smoking. Taylor's done. He gained 27 yards on 10 carries and fumbled once.
2. Meanwhile, Caleb Hanie, who actually could be traded for a good selection, went 7-of-10 for 83 yards and a touchdown. He hooked up with Johnny Knox for a 19-yard score in the first quarter. Knox caught two balls for 33 yards.
Packers 20, Chiefs 19
I sometimes wonder if Todd Haley is a heroin addict. No, really, I'm being completely serious. Not only does he look like he's on that stuff; some of his decisions make absolutely no sense.
For instance, Haley had Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and the starters play well into the third quarter despite the fact that both Matt Cassel and Tony Moeaki left with injuries.
Cassel should be OK, which has to be a huge relief. He played pretty well in this contest, albeit mostly against Green Bay's backups and scrubs. Cassel went 15-of-17 for 129 yards and a touchdown. He also had an 11-yard completion to Bowe wiped out because inept right tackle Barry Richardson karate-chopped a Green Bay defender and was called for a hold.
Here were Cassel's targets:
Dwayne Bowe: 7
Steve Breaston: 1
Jamaal Charles: 2
Thomas Jones: 1
Dexter McCluster: 3
Tony Moeaki: 2
Leonard Pope: 1
Jerheme Urban: 1
Dwayne Bowe saw seven targets from Matt Cassel and finished with eight receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown in two-and-a-half quarters of action in the preseason finale. Kansas City's offense is due for a major decline this season, but Bowe is still a stud.
Tony Moeaki limped off the field with an apparent knee injury in the second quarter. He couldn't stay healthy at Iowa, and it appears as though he's going to have similar issues in the NFL. Don't bother with him in fantasy.
Jamaal Charles oddly played for two-and-a-half quarters in the exhibition finale. He carried the ball nine times for only 19 yards, and also caught two passes for 18 receiving yards. It gets worse - Charles lost two fumbles. If he keeps putting the ball on the ground, Todd Haley will take touches away from him. Remember, Haley has the mind of a heroin addict and is incapable of making logical decisions. Those expecting Charles to post top-three fantasy running back numbers this year will be sorely disappointed. He's way overdrafted in fantasy leagues.
Mike McCarthy was smarter about using his starters, as Aaron Rodgers was under center for only one drive. He went 3-of-4 for 20 yards and a touchdown despite the fact that he played with scrub receivers like Tom Crabtree and Tori Gurley. I won't list his targets for that reason.
Vikings 28, Texans 0
The starters didn't play in this game, so the only thing worth noting are the two Viking rookies.
Christian Ponder went 10-of-16 for 83 yards, and also rushed eight times for 61 yards. He didn't make any overly impressive throws, but I was really impressed with his pocket presence and ability to elude defenders to avoid taking sacks. He's not ready to start yet, but this performance has to be encouraging for Minnesota fans.
Caleb King went undrafted in the supplemental draft, but based on this game, you have to wonder what all 32 teams were thinking. King looked good, using his impressive power and sharp vision extremely well to find running lanes. He gained 62 yards on 19 carries and scored twice. He won't be a factor unless Adrian Peterson suffers an injury.
Titans 32, Saints 9
There's nothing of note for the Saints - they started Sean Canfield, for crying out loud - so I'm going to focus entirely on the Titans in this capsule.
Matt Hasselbeck played two drives against New Orleans' starting defense, but couldn't come up with any points. He went 2-of-5 for 37 yards. There were no excuses this time, as Kenny Britt finally suited up. Britt didn't catch a pass.
Jake Locker had a great final preseason performance, albeit against New Orleans' scrubs, going 15-of-17 for 132 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed three times for 39 yards and another score on the ground.
Cardinals 26, Broncos 7
The Broncos didn't play their starters, but there is still something worth noting because of the Tim Tebow situation. Brady Quinn started and was dreadful, going 4-of-12 for 26 yards and a really ugly interception. Tebow, meanwhile, went 7-of-11 for 116 yards and a touchdown. Tebow wasn't as good as those numbers indicate - he laid out his receivers on a couple of occasions - but he was solid enough to earn the No. 2 job behind Kyle Orton.
On the other side, Kevin Kolb played just one series. He attempted two passes. One was a 3-yard dump-off to Chris Wells, while the other was an incompletion thrown into double coverage, as Kolb targeted Jeff King.
Chris Wells rushed twice for 11 yards in the preseason finale. More importantly, he was targeted once and caught a 3-yard pass from Kevin Kolb. This is important because he could be a high-end RB2 if he catches 25-30 passes.
If Kolb fails or gets hurt, John Skelton will not be Arizona's starting quarterback. Richard Bartel will handle that job, as he's been really sharp all preseason. Bartel went 12-of-16 for 216 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Denver.
49ers 20, Chargers 17
The 49ers had more first downs (8) in the first quarter than they had all game last week (6). All it took was playing San Diego's backups. Too bad they won't have that luxury in the regular season.
Alex Smith went 8-of-10 for 45 yards. There's nothing worth noting aside from two passes. On a positive note, one of his incompletions was almost a touchdown to Braylon Edwards, but the new wideout couldn't land inbounds. On the flip side, however, one attempt was a dangerous throw that Smith forced into Ted Ginn on the opening drive that could have been picked off. Other than that, it was a ho-hum performance from Smith, who feasted on the Charger reserves.
I have some good and bad news about both young running backs in this game. First, San Francisco's:
Kendall Hunter once again had a dominant preseason performance, gaining 57 yards on 11 carries. Frank Gore sat, so Hunter saw tons of action with Alex Smith, Braylon Edwards and the other starters. However, he rotated with Anthony Dixon and didn't get the goal-line opportunities. Hunter is worth picking up when Gore gets hurt, but don't expect much with Dixon stealing touches.
Ryan Mathews carried the ball only five times, but generated 78 yards and a touchdown. You may have seen his 56-yard score on SportsCenter, but he had two other really impressive runs in which he broke tackles. That's the good news. The bad news is that Mike Tolbert, along with Philip Rivers and the other starters, didn't suit up. With Mathews and Tolbert splitting carries, Norv Turner obviously values the latter more this season because of his receiving and pass-blocking ability.