While Houston's defense played well - particularly linebackers Xavier Adibi and Bryan Braman - the fans at Reliant Stadium didn't have much to cheer for on offense. The first-team scoring unit looked really flat, as Matt Schaub went 2-of-5 for 20 yards and just was off. It seemed like he was trying to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible to avoid getting sacked, when there was no pressure on most of his dropbacks. Without Andre Johnson and Arian Foster in the lineup, you can't really blame him though.
From a fantasy perspective, something I really didn't like from Houston's offense was that Jacoby Jones saw just one target from Matt Schaub. Jones finished the 2010 season on a hot streak, so this was disappointing. Even Kevin Walter saw one more target. I'm not ready to give up on Jones as a late-round sleeper just yet, but I could drop him in my 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings if he continues to be ignored.
There really isn't anything else to say about the Texans, so let's move on to the Jets. Picking up where he left off during his impressive playoff run, Mark Sanchez had a solid performance. He went 6-of-7 for 43 yards, with his only misfire coming on a Matthew Mulligan drop. Insert your own "Matthew wants a Mulligan" joke here.
It appears as though Shonn Greene is going to be a fantasy stud this year. Greene was on the field for every single first and second down with New York's first-team offense in the preseason opener at Houston. He even caught a 5-yard pass. Greene looked great, finishing with 32 rushing yards on five carries even though he had an 11-yard gain wiped out by a penalty. LaDainian Tomlinson was nowhere to be seen outside of third-down situations.
Derrick Mason led all Jets receivers in targets during the exhibition opener at Houston. Mason showed no signs that he's slowing down, and if he keeps this up during the preseason, he should definitely be considered as a viable flex option in PPR formats.
ESPN should apologize to viewers who were eating while watching this game in the first half. On multiple occasions, both Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden talked about Mark Sanchez "pulling out early." As someone on the forum joked, this goes well with Gruden slooging over every single player that he compliments.
If you missed the final two minutes of the game, I really feel sorry for you because there was so much fail that it was hilarious. Greg McElroy tried to engineer a game-winning drive, launching a deep pass toward one of his receivers from midfield - only the attempt fell about 20 yards short of its mark. As this happened, forum member Link said the following:
McFloat just needs to switch his masturbating hand to his throwing arm and he will be dropping bombs in no time.
Several Shiloh Keo whiffed tackles later, McElroy managed to hit a downfield target right on the numbers - only some soon-to-be-cut bum named Campbell dropped it.
Later, on the final play of the game, McElroy avoided pressure, rolled right, ran, ran some more, ran even more, kept on running, didn't stop running, and then fired a pass toward the end zone. The problem? He was 10 yards over the line of scrimmage when he attempted his futile pass. Not even whacking off can improve that terrible awareness.
Rams 33, Colts 10
Not exactly what I was looking for from Sam Bradford. Bradford went 7-of-12 for 45 yards and a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Colts. He settled for mostly short stuff and didn't really test the defense downfield. Bradford played only four drives, so I'm not going to downgrade him in my 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings just yet. I'm expecting much more next weekend though.
Two players who weren't targeted by Sam Bradford in the exhibition opener: Mike Sims-Walker and Danario Alexander. Sims-Walker started, but left the game with a groin injury. He's doubtful to suit up for next weekend's game, which is a major disappointment. Meanwhile, Alexander caught three passes for 43 yards - all from A.J. Feeley. I don't know what he has to do to earn a spot in the starting lineup, but if Josh McDaniels doesn't like him, there might not be anything he can do about it.
Sam Bradford targeted rookie tight end Lance Kendricks more than anyone else in preseason opener against the Colts. Kendricks caught five balls for 47 yards and a touchdown, and was Bradford's most trusted weapon on third down; Bradford went Kendricks' way thrice in those situations. This didn't surprise the Rams broadcasters, as one of them said, "Kendricks looked grrrrreat in training camp." I don't need to tell you how important this is. Bradford's No. 1 target is going to be a huge fantasy producer in Josh McDaniels' offense. Kendricks is only a rookie, but if he continues to shine this preseason, he has to be considered a borderline TE1 in PPR leagues.
The Rams have some awesome running backs behind Steven Jackson. Jackson didn't play, but Cadillac Williams (11-40, TD) and Jerious Norwood (8-37) both looked great. This will allow St. Louis to manage Jackson's workload so that he's 100 percent come fantasy playoff time.
Fantasy kicker alert: Josh Brown hit a 60-yard field goal at the end of the first half with plenty of room to spare. In the third quarter, he nailed a 53-yarder. Just something to keep in mind if you're into taking kickers prior to the penultimate round.
I have nothing to say about the Colts. Peyton Manning obviously didn't play, and the main starters (Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, etc.) were in the game for only one drive. Indianapolis has made it known over the years that it doesn't take preseason games seriously, so I won't waste any of my time dissecting them.
Actually, I take that back. They are a bottom-five team if Peyton Manning gets hurt because both Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky are awful. Painter is definitely better than Orlovsky though; the latter is simply not a functional NFL quarterback.
Perhaps the Colts should trade for A.J. Feeley, who put together an awesome performance. Feeley looked even better than his numbers indicate (10-of-14, 100 yards, one touchdown). Feeley had just two legitimate incompletions, as two of his misfires were dropped by Alexander and Kendricks; the former losing control of the ball in the end zone on what would have given Feeley a second score. Feeley has never had a legitimate chance to be a starting quarterback. The Dolphins traded for him back in 2004, but that was the season Ricky Williams smoked weed and the whole Miami team was in chaos as a result. I'm not saying Feeley should be a starter now (though I'd rather have him over Tarvaris Jackson, Chad Henne and the like), but he's one of the top backups in the NFL.
OK, my Feeley rant is over, so let's switch to a lighter subject. As you may know, I love making fun of biased team announcers during the preseason. I've watched every exhibition game thus far, and I can confidently say that the most biased analyst is Ross Tucker, the color guy on the Rams Broadcasting Network. Consider the following exchange he and the play-by-play announcer had in the first quarter of this game:
Play-by-Play Guy: Wow, that was an obvious pass interference on Na'il Diggs.
Ross Tucker: I don't care! The Rams did it, so it was perfect!
Bears 10, Bills 3
Want to know how bad Chicago's offensive line was in this game? Jay Cutler dropped back to attempt a pass three times, yet the only throw he managed to get off was a desperate, underhanded flip to Matt Forte for no gain.
Cutler was pressured by Marcell Dareus on that play. On the ensuing snap, Cutler was under siege by two Buffalo defenders, but managed to scramble 10 yards for a first down. Three plays after that, both Dareus and Shawne Merriman combined to sack Cutler despite the fact that overwhelmed left tackle J'Marcus Webb committed a holding penalty.
If there's anyone who can clean up this mess, it's offensive line coach Mike Tice, but he has his work cut out for him.
Like Cutler, Forte played just one drive. He gave way to Chester Taylor (3 carries, 3 yards), who looked sluggish and slow. Marion Barber (7 carries, 45 yards) was much more impressive. Though Barber played against Buffalo's backups, he showed some nice shiftiness and more speed than he had last year.
Buffalo's defensive front seven was very impressive - Dareus and Merriman constantly abused Chicago's front - while the first-team offense did a good job scoring a field goal in two possessions against a Bears defense that featured most of its starters.
Ryan Fitzpatrick went 7-of-9 for 44 yards. One of his misfires was a drop by tight end Scott Chandler that would have been a 15-yard completion. I wonder if the Bills still think they don't need an upgrade at that position.
Here were Fitzpatrick's targets:
Scott Chandler: 3
Steve Johnson: 3
Donald Jones: 1
David Nelson: 1
C.J. Spiller: 2
Fitzpatrick wasn't the only player lining up at quarterback. The newly acquired Brad Smith was utilizing in the Wildcat a couple of times, going 1-of-3 for 11 yards. In his only attempt with the first-team offense, Smith converted a 3rd-and-3 with a 3-yard run.
Steve Johnson caught all three of his targets for 15 yards in one quarter of action in the preseason opener at Chicago. It's nice to see that he's still a big part of the offense following his breakout 2010 campaign. Don't have any reservations about drafting him to be your WR2.
Scott Chandler was targeted three times as he caught two balls for 13 yards in the exhibition premiere against the Bears. It looks like he could be one of Ryan Fitzpatrick's primary "weapons" (using the term "weapons" very loosely), but don't expect much. He's probably not even a TE2.
Fred Jackson didn't play much. He had three carries for 18 yards, including a nice stiff-arm on a Chicago defender during an 11-yard gain. C.J. Spiller entered the contest in the middle of the second drive and immediately showed great speed and a nice spin move on a 6-yard carry. He later caught a 10-yard pass. It's nice to see that Spiller was being utilized on offense, but he won't be much of a fantasy factor with Jackson getting most of the work.
You know how teams have to kick off from the 35-yard line this year? I'm sure you've heard about this new rule. Well, the Bears spit on Roger Goodell's new decree, opting to kick off from the 30 to start this game. Buffalo returned the kick to the 29. Way to stick it to the man, Lovie Smith.
A strange quote from Bears color analyst (and former quarterback) Erik Kramer:
"Mike Martz really likes to run the football."
Are you sure about that, Erik? That's like saying Rosie O'Donnell really likes to eat celery sticks.
Panthers 20, Giants 10
Despite the anticipated debut of Cam Newton, Jimmy Clausen started to the chagrin of everyone in the stands. Clausen was booed on nearly every opportunity, as the 2010 second-rounder played a full quarter.
Clausen went 4-of-7 for 69 yards, one touchdown and an interception (one incompletion was dropped by fullback Tony Fiammetta). After seeing the interception (a pick-six to Michael Boley) on a highlight reel, I was ready to bash Clausen for yet another dreadful performance. However, I have to say that I came away a bit surprised after watching this game for myself.
Clausen's pick-six was a miscommunication between he and DeAngelo Williams. I'm not sure whose fault it was, but the Carolina TV announcers seemed to think the latter was to blame, citing that Williams ran a careless or incorrect route and wasn't aware of what was going on.
Going into the game, I was also aware of the fact that Clausen rebounded with a touchdown drive to Greg Olsen. Careless observers may criticize Clausen for throwing behind his new tight end on the 18-yard score, but he actually put it in the right spot; if Clausen had placed the ball in front of Olsen, it would have resulted in a collision with a charging safety (and perhaps a consequential incompletion or injury).
Clausen made several other quality plays. He opened the game with a great slant pass to Brandon LaFell for 31 yards. He also found LaFell for a 20-yard connection, hooking up with the second-year wideout after escaping pressure and rolling right. That completion was nullified, however, because LaFell stepped out of bounds prior to making the grab.
Clausen had far from a perfect performance - I still don't like how he handles pressure in the pocket - but although the sample size was very small, he has definitely made strides after his dreadful rookie campaign. The Dolphins should definitely trade a draft pick for him. Just kidding, Wraith.
Cam Newton entered the game in the second quarter and played two full periods. He went 8-of-19 for 134 yards. Overall, he was pretty impressive considering that he had just three possessions with the first-team offense.
Here's a drive analysis for Newton:
- First drive: After a short completion and a deep misfire, Newton's third pass was a strong, accurate, 30-yard dart to Greg Olsen. In the red zone, Newton targeted Brandon LaFell twice, but both passes were broken up by New York defensive backs.
- Second drive: This possession fell apart because of a sack and a holding penalty. Newton was sacked because of a poor snap.
- Third drive: The Panthers went three-and-out again because Newton took another sack. This time, a Giant blitzer ran into the backfield unblocked. Newton actually dodged that player, but a second New York defender got him to the ground.
- Fourth drive: Newton found a wide-open Armanti Edwards downfield for a 36-yard completion. However, he couldn't convert in the red zone again; he missed an open Edwards for a possible touchdown, though he had to hurry his throw because of pressure.
- Fifth drive: Pretty nondescript. Newton had a short completion to Fiammetta, but his next pass was dropped by David Clowney on third down.
- Sixth drive: With Newton missing Edwards earlier, Edwards returned the favor by dropping what could have been a 15-yard completion on a slant on what was a really nice throw. The drive ended on an incompletion along the right sideline to Clowney, who was covered well.
- Seventh drive: Newton threw the ball only once on this possession - a 7-yard completion to Gary Barnidge on a 3rd-and-8. Olsen will show more awareness in terms of running past the first-down marker.
Here were Newton's targets with the first team (Steve Smith didn't play):
Mike Goodson: 1
Brandon LaFell: 2 (2 end zone)
Legedu Naanee: 1
Greg Olsen: 3
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both looked great in the preseason opener against the Giants (aside from Williams' possible gaffe on the Jimmy Clausen pick-six). However, Williams clearly played ahead of Stewart, seeing all of the action on Carolina's first two drives. Williams will be the primary running back and should be able to post solid numbers with opposing defenses concerned about Newton's rushing ability. Stewart, unfortunately, will rot on the bench until Williams suffers his annual injury.
Greg Olsen is a fantasy sleeper. He was terrific in Carolina's exhibition premiere versus New York. Targeted heavily by both quarterbacks, Olsen hauled in three receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown in less than a half of action.
Armanti Edwards still isn't worth the No. 33 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but he's going to provide some excitement this year on punt returns. Edwards averaged 16 yards per attempt in this contest.
This was not a good showing by the New York first-string offense. Eli Manning and company managed just three first downs on five drives. They couldn't even sustain a possession in the second quarter against the Carolina reserves.
Manning was a pedestrian 4-of-9 for 36 yards. He missed a wide-open Hakeem Nicks on what would have been a huge gain in the first quarter, though Nicks repaid the favor by dropping a deep ball on the ensuing drive.
Here were Manning's targets:
Jake Ballard: 1
Ahmad Bradshaw: 1
Mario Manningham: 1
Hakeem Nicks: 4
D.J. Ware: 2
Forum member Daniel Brown told me to check out Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. I knew Pierre-Paul had two sacks in the first quarter, so I was interested to see how he looked. Well, Pierre-Paul is an animal. He abused stud left tackle Jordan Gross, and if this is any indication, he'll be among the league leaders in sacks this year. If Osi Umenyiora gets his act together, New York could have one of the fiercest pass rushes in the NFL.
There's nothing humorous to note about the Carolina TV announcers, though the production team posted a weird graphic. When displaying Steve Smith's stats last year, the following was written: "Averaged 8.884 yards per catch in 2010."
Really? I know Smith is your team's only competent wide receiver, but you needed three decimal places for that?
Titans 14, Vikings 3
Matt Hasselbeck was on the field for one drive in this contest. He was a solid 5-of-6 for 55 yards, impressively leading the Titans down the field all the way to Minnesota's 16-yard line. The drive stalled because there was a fumble on the quarterback-center exchange, and the ball humorously bounced all the way back to the 40. Still, it was a promising offensive sequence that bodes well for the regular season. Hasselbeck looks every bit as healthy and good as he was during Seattle's surprising playoff run.
No Chris Johnson? Apparently no problem. Javon Ringer started the preseason opener against the Vikings and rushed for gains of 11, 7 and 8 on the opening drive, though the former was wiped away by a penalty. He also had two receptions for 17 yards. Ringer is a talented runner, and the Tennessee offensive line is looking stout again. If Johnson continues his holdout into the regular season, Ringer will be an RB2. I don't see the holdout lasting much longer, though Ringer remains one of the top handcuffs to own.
Jake Locker had a great debut for the Titans. He went 7-of-10 for 89 yards and a touchdown. He made a couple of mistakes, but they were overshadowed by several exceptional plays. Here's a breakdown:
Jake Locker - The Good:
- First quarter: Locker avoided a sack, stepped up in the pocket and converted a 7-yard pass to Nate Washington for a first down on 3rd-and-5, showing nice poise in the pocket.
- Second quarter: Locked converted a 3rd-and-10 with a 13-yard dart to Jared Cook. Cook had to make a leaping catch because the ball was slightly overthrown, but it moved the chains.
- Second quarter: Jake Locker fumbled the quarterback-center exchange. He recovered and fired a 45-yard touchdown bomb to Yamon Figurs, who was wide open because corner Chris Cook ran toward the backfield in anticipation of a Vikings fumble recovery.
- Second quarter: On a play-action bootleg, Locker rolled right and hit Craig Stevens for a 15-yard completion on what was a really accurate throw.
Jake Locker - The Bad:
- First quarter: Locker's second attempt was an incompletion in which he missed Marc Mariani by a mile; the 15-yard pass was thrown way behind Mariani, who had no chance to make a catch.
- Third quarter: Locker's final pass was a misfire; he couldn't get the ball to a wide open Mariani.
Jake Locker - The Ugly:
- Second quarter: On the play in which Locker fumbled the ball and connected with Figurs on a 45-yard touchdown, he also fumbled his mouthpiece when he ran down the field to celebrate the touchdown. I hope he didn't put that thing back into his mouth.
Donovan McNabb played two series. He was a pretty nondescript 6-of-11 for 40 yards. One pass was dropped by Jim Kleinsasser and another was thrown away because of heavy pressure. One attempt was a deep shot for Bernard Berrian, who was covered extremely well by Jason McCourty. McNabb was otherwise solid, but unspectacular.
Here were McNabb's targets:
Bernard Berrian: 4
Greg Camarillo: 1
Toby Gerhart: 1
Percy Harvin: 2
Jim Kleinsasser: 2
The first thing that stands out on that list is Bernard Berrian's four targets. He converted two of them for 12 yards. Berrian was thrown to deep on a go route running down the right sideline, but couldn't get any separation from McCourty. If the Vikings are counting on this guy to be their No. 2 receiver, their offense is going to be really stagnant.
Adrian Peterson had just one carry for three yards, so nothing of note there. Peterson was taken out of the game on the team's second third-down situation, but maybe the Vikings were just trying to preserve him. I look forward to seeing how much Peterson plays on third downs next week.
As for Christian Ponder, he went 8-of-13 for 84 yards. He was betrayed by two drops (Jaymar Johnson, Allen Reisner) but overall wasn't as good as Locker.
Here's a breakdown:
Christian Ponder - The Good:
- Third quarter: Ponder avoided a sack, ran around in the pocket, rolled right, and converted a first down on a 17-yard completion. Unfortunately, it was all for naught because the Vikings were whistled for a bogus personal foul penalty.
- Fourth quarter: On perhaps Ponder's best throw, the rookie quarterback bootlegged right and showed great touch on a very accurate 16-yard completion to Reisner.
Christian Ponder - The Bad:
- Third quarter: On two separate occasions, Ponder hurried his throws in anticipation of a pass rush. He didn't set his feet and consequently misfired.
- Fourth quarter: On another two occasions, Ponder had receivers open downfield, but settled for checkdowns instead.
The Vikings play-by-play announcer had some major issues. He called Ahmard Hall "Ahmad Hall" and Jamie Harper "Daniel Harper." More hilariously, when Rob Bironas missed a 38-yard field goal wide left, he shouted, "And the kick is good!"
Saints 24, 49ers 3
It's odd that the Saints would be involved in one of the most sluggishly played offensive games of the preseason, but that's exactly what happened. Neither scoring unit managed a first down until there was 3:46 remaining in the first quarter. New Orleans was the team that finally moved the chains, but Drew Brees was already out of the game.
Brees went 1-of-4 for 6 yards. It's hard to blame him for that stat line. Robert Meachem dropped a deep bomb that would have set up the Saints with a first-and-goal at the very worst. Brees was also heavily pressured from the exterior; both Jon Stinchcomb and Jermon Bushrod struggled mightily in limited action with the first-team offense.
Brees targeted Jimmy Graham, Robert Meachem and Lance Moore once each, and that's it. The fourth pass was thrown away.
Robert Meachem was targeted once in half a quarter by Drew Brees in the preseason opener against the 49ers. However, he didn't take advantage of it, dropping what would have been a long conversion. Making things worse, Meachem hurt his back trying to make a block on the ensuing drive and left the game. It wasn't a major injury, but it's a reminder that Meachem is brittle and difficult to trust.
Mark Ingram didn't really do much in New Orleans' preseason opener aside from one carry at the end of the first half. He scored a 14-yard touchdown by making a defender miss and then eluding a second one with a fancy spin move. However, Ingram did this against San Francisco's backups, and his five other carries went for just nine yards. Even worse, he played behind Pierre Thomas when the first-team offense was in the game. Ingram will eventually take over as the starter, but it's no guarantee that this will happen prior to the regular-season kickoff in Lambeau. Like all rookies not named Julio Jones, Ingram has been hurt by this lockout.
Alex Smith went 2-of-7 for 10 yards, but he didn't play as bad as those numbers indicate. He just never had a chance. Smith was pressured on nearly every single pass attempt, as there were major protection scheme issues. Strong safety Roman Harper ran clean into the backfield almost every time. It was ridiculous. Even the Saints broadcast announcers took notice, as one of them joked, "Alex Smith has more hits than pass attempts tonight."
Here were Smith's targets:
Vernon Davis: 2
Anthony Dixon: 1
Braylon Edwards: 2
Delanie Walker: 1
The 49ers actually ran the Pistol offense with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. The second-round rookie had an up-and-down game. He showed off his howitzer arm on some throws, but he often held on to the ball too long in the pocket and consequently took too many sacks and hits. Kaepernick finished 9-of-19 for 117 yards and two interceptions. He was nearly picked off a third time at the end of the first half.
David Akers nailed a 59-yard field goal at the end of the first half for the 49ers. You have to wonder if the Eagles let him walk prematurely.
Usually I like to make fun of inept, homer announcers. For this game, let's review something an official declared in the third quarter:
Time out, St. Louis. This is their first charged team timeout.
No wonder both offenses sucked. They were both playing the Rams and didn't even know it.
Browns 27, Packers 17
I had to pinch myself several times to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Did Colt McCoy really look like an All-Pro quarterback? McCoy performed well for a rookie last year, but he played like the second coming of Joe Montana in a quarter-and-a-half of action against the Packers in the opener. McCoy went 9-of-10 for 135 yards and a touchdown. He was extremely accurate and displayed good enough arm strength, looking very comfortable in Pat Shurmur's new West Coast offense.
Overreacting to one preseason performance isn't very wise, but it's almost hard not to. McCoy is a smart, industrious, natural leader (he worked with Jon Gruden this offseason), and the West Coast offense is tailor made for him. He won't go 9-of-10 to open every game, but it certainly looks like he's capable of being Cleveland's franchise quarterback for the next 10 years or so.
Here were McCoy's targets:
Joshua Cribbs: 2 (1 end zone)
Peyton Hillis: 1
Greg Little: 2
Owen Marecic: 1
Evan Moore: 2
Brian Robiskie: 1
Ben Watson: 2
The bummer regarding Cleveland's offense, fantasy-wise, was that McCoy didn't favor any of his targets. He spread around his throws, with no player receiving more than two targets. This is good in real life, but come on, Colt. Us fantasy players need receivers to draft.
One of the Browns who saw two targets was Greg Little (2 catches, 20 yards). Little could eventually emerge as a trusted No. 1 receiver in Cleveland, but it doesn't appear as though that'll happen soon. Don't pick him before the final couple of rounds.
It took Aaron Rodgers a series to dust the cobwebs off - the Packers went three-and-out on their first drive - but the reigning Super Bowl MVP was in mid-season form the following drive. He finished 6-of-8 for 74 yards and an impressive back-shoulder touchdown to Greg Jennings.
Here were Rodgers' targets (keep in mind that Jermichael Finley didn't play):
Donald Driver: 1
Ryan Grant: 1
Greg Jennings: 4 (1 end zone)
Andrew Quarless: 2
Neither James Jones nor Jordy Nelson received a single target from Aaron Rodgers, playing behind Donald Driver in the preseason opener at Cleveland. This is obviously bad news for both wideouts. Driver probably won't maintain his job the whole season, but Jones and Nelson will cancel each other out.
I'll be shocked if James Starks isn't Green Bay's starting running back before long. Ryan Grant started the exhibition opener at Cleveland, but gave way to James Starks on the second possession. Starks displayed a great combination of power and speed, and clearly looked like the superior running back. After Starks carried twice for 14 yards during the touchdown drive, he left the game for good. Grant came in afterward despite the fact that Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings both were finished. Grant had 13 yards on three attempts to go along with a 5-yard reception.
Second-round rookie receiver Randall Cobb was impressive when he was on the field. Though he played with the second unit, he flashed his elite speed and quickness as he hauled in three receptions for 60 yards. He won't be much of a factor on offense this year, but he's someone to keep an eye on in 2012 and beyond.
Redskins 16, Steelers 7
There isn't much to note from a fantasy perspective regarding the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger and the starters played just one drive. With Hines Ward and Emmanuel Sanders both out, Big Ben targeted Antonio Brown, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace once each. The drive concluded when Roethlisberger was sacked as a result of a failed blitz pick-up.
Antonio Brown caught four passes for 64 yards, though only one reception came from Roethlisberger. He could push for the No. 3 receiving role if Emmanuel Sanders can't come back from injury. Unless there are injuries though, he won't be much of a fantasy factor.
The story of this game is Washington's offense. Rex Grossman was 19-of-26 for 207 yards and a touchdown in one full half of action. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Grossman looked very good. He didn't make any mistakes, and he was able to release the ball quickly. The Steelers were missing Jerome Harrison and Troy Polamalu, but all of the other starters played. With this performance, Grossman has to be the favorite to become the Redskins' starting quarterback, though I imagine Mike Shanahan will give John Beck lots of work next week. Shanahan previously turned Jake Plummer into a functional signal-caller, so it's not inconceivable that Grossman could be solid for Washington this year.
Here were Grossman's many targets:
Anthony Armstrong: 4
Terrence Austin: 1
Fred Davis: 2
Jabar Gaffney: 5
Tim Hightower: 2
Santana Moss: 9 (1 end zone)
Donte Stallworth 1 (1 end zone)
Darrel Young: 1
Santana Moss saw nine targets in the first half of the preseason opener against the Steelers, catching seven balls for 64 yards and a touchdown. If Rex Grossman can continue to play well in Mike Shanahan's system, Moss should have a solid 2011 fantasy campaign, at least in PPR formats.
I was disappointed to see that Fred Davis saw just two targets from Rex Grossman in the exhibition opener against Pittsburgh. With Chris Cooley out, I imagined that Davis would play a larger role. It's only been one game, but Davis' sole 11-yard reception indicates that you shouldn't bother with him as a late-round flier.
Tim Hightower pretty much cemented the starting running back gig for the Redskins with his impressive performance versus the Steelers in the preseason opener. Hightower rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries against nine Steeler starters, running with power and showing a nice burst. Hightower is tailor made for Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, and since most members in your league won't know about him becoming the starting running back, he could make for a nice mid-round sleeper.
Graham Gano has to be Washington's kicker. Shayne Graham, who was a perfect 12-of-12 for the Patriots last year, missed from 29 and 49 yards out in this contest. Graham's 29-yard whiff was hideous; it was so wide left that it was actually wide right because it circled around the globe. Gano, meanwhile, was good from 32, 34 and 45.
The Redskins TV sideline reporter was named Doc Walker. They displayed his name on one occasion in the third quarter, but a graphic was covering up the C in his name, so it looked like his name was Dog Walker. I saw that and did a double take.
I now want to name my second future son Dog Walker. So there's Hans Heiser and Dog Walker. Again, I don't think my future wife would approve of that. Ugh, she's the worst.
Dolphins 28, Falcons 23
Ladies and gentlemen, the next Mike Williams! Julio Jones played like a stud against the Dolphins in the preseason opener. In three drives, he caught two balls for 43 yards and had a 12-yard end-around. Matt Ryan threw to him a whopping five times, as he made it no secret he wanted to feature his new wideout early and often. Jones was quick and powerful, dragging poor defenders along after contact. Jones could have a Williams-esque rookie campaign.
As for Ryan, he misfired on his first three attempts (though one incompletion was a result of getting hit as he threw), but finished 6-of-10 for 90 yards and a touchdown to Harry Douglas. Excluding his initial misfires, Ryan appeared as though he was in mid-season form.
Here were Ryan's targets:
Harry Douglas: 1 (end zone)
Tony Gonzalez: 1
Julio Jones: 5
Jason Snelling: 1
Eric Weems: 1
I've been down on Michael Turner all offseason, but I'll admit it when I'm wrong. Turner ran more spryly and far quicker than he did last year, taking advantage of some really good run-blocking, totaling 21 yards and a touchdown on four carries against Miami in the exhibition opener. He's still an injury risk because of his high carry totals the past three campaigns, but I'll definitely be moving him up in my 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings.
Michael Turner's inexplicable new-found burst in Friday night's exhibition game against the Dolphins means that Jason Snelling won't receive as much work this season. Snelling was Turner's direct backup and Atlanta's third-down specialist versus Miami, rushing for 27 yards on six attempts and catching one ball for another eight yards.
Chad Henne may have finished 4-of-8 for 77 yards, one touchdown and two picks, but those numbers are deceiving. Henne's numbers against Atlanta's starters were 1-of-5 for 5 yards, no scores and two interceptions. His touchdown was a 44-yard bomb in which Brian Hartline torched a soon-to-be-cut Chris Owens.
If you're wondering what the turnovers looked like, Henne's first pick bounced off Anthony Fasano's hands, though the pass was a bit behind the mediocre tight end. Henne's second interception was much worse, as it was severely underthrown off play-action to Davone Bess. Brent Grimes didn't have to work too hard to catch Henne's misfire.
Henne stinks. Instead of working on his game this offseason, he spent time pretending to be a woman at the Bahamas (Google the TMZ pictures). He clearly has no desire to be a successful NFL quarterback, which is why he continues to regress. He'll eventually lose his job to Matt Moore, who is also garbage. The Dolphins might as well just save time and start Andrew Luck this year. They can create a cardboard cutout of him or something. It won't throw for any yards, but it won't toss any interceptions either, making it an instant upgrade over Henne.
Here were Henne's targets:
Davone Bess: 4
Anthony Fasano: 1
Brian Hartline: 2
Daniel Thomas: 1
Brandon Marshall didn't play in the preseason opener at Atlanta, but he needs to have a stock down because Chad Henne is absolute garbage. I was really hoping for a rebound campaign from Marshall with Kyle Orton as the quarterback, but the Dolphins are stuck with the putrid Henne.
Despite Henne's immense struggles, Davone Bess shined in this contest. He received four targets from his quarterback, catching two of them for eight yards, including a 3-yard, diving, one-handed reception out of the backfield. I still love him as a flex in PPR formats.
Dolphins rookie running back Daniel Thomas did nothing on the ground in the preseason opener at Atlanta. Though Thomas had a 25-yard reception out of the backfield in which the Falcon reserves forgot to cover him, he rushed for just five yards on four carries, as he seemed content just to run into a pile in front of him. To be fair, Miami has an atrocious offensive line, but that'll only hurt Thomas in terms of fantasy football. He's going way too high in fantasy drafts, so I'd stay away.
The Falcons' TV broadcast of this game was strange. There were weird pauses throughout the entire telecast where neither announcer said anything, and when they did, their words didn't seem to make any sense. For example, the play-by-play guy said, "The Falcons have thrown three times so far," despite the fact that Atlanta had just run its second play of the game. It's almost as if the audio wasn't synced up with the video for the first quarter of this broadcast.
On a positive note, the sideline reporter's name was Hans Heiser. How cool is that? I think I may just name my future son Hans Heiser, though my futue wife may object to that.
Lions 34, Bengals 3
Matthew Stafford played two drives against the Bengals in the preseason opener, and he was incredible. That's not an exaggeration by any means. He looked every bit as good as Philip Rivers did against the Seahawks on Thursday night. Stafford went 6-of-7 for 71 yards and two touchdowns. His sole incompletion was an easy drop by Jahvid Best out of the backfield. Even better, Stafford was not pressured on a single attempt. This will obviously change when he battles a tougher defense in the regular season, but it's encouraging nonetheless. If Stafford can stay healthy, he'll easily be a top-eight fantasy quarterback.
Here were Stafford's targets:
Jahvid Best: 3
Nate Burleson: 2 (1 end zone)
Calvin Johnson: 2 (1 end zone)
Jahvid Best really flashed in the preseason opener versus Cincinnati. There's no doubt that he has recovered from his turf toe injuries; he showed off his quickness, and he utilized heavily on offense. Best rushed for 12 yards on four carries and also had two receptions for 17 more yards, as he was targeted thrice on Matthew Stafford's seven throws. Best is made out of glass, but he'll be a huge fantasy producer while he's healthy.
Calvin Johnson caught two balls for 37 yards and an impressive 26-yard back-shoulder touchdown in the exhibition opener against the Bengals. Megatron is in the best shape of his life, and his quarterback is healthy. He'll be fantasy football's top receiver if Matthew Stafford can somehow stay in the lineup.
Nate Burleson had two grabs for 17 yards and a touchdown in two drives in the preseason opener versus Cincinnati. Burleson was targeted twice on Matthew Stafford's seven throws, and it appears as though he'll be a big part of the offense as long as his quarterback can remain on the field. He's a fine sleeper as a No. 2 receiver in a high-octane offense.
The highlights on Andy Dalton were terrible. I'm sure you've seen his interception by now. It was on the first throw of the game, and it was a desperate heave downfield along the right sideline, easily picked off by Chris Houston.
The rest of Dalton's evening was a mixed bag. He overthrew a wide-open Chris Pressley in the flat and should have been picked off by Lions corner Brandon McDonald on a post throw to Jermaine Gresham late in the second quarter. However, Dalton did some nice things. He displayed good short accuracy and was able to connect with Green on four other tries. Dalton also threw a nice fade into the end zone to Jerome Simpson early in the second quarter, but Simpson couldn't get his feet inbounds.
Here were Dalton's targets:
Chase Coffman: 1
Jay Finley: 1
A.J. Green: 5
Jermaine Gresham: 2
Brian Leonard: 1
Bo Scaife: 1
Jordan Shipley: 1
Jerome Simpson: 3 (1 end zone)
A.J. Green caught four passes for 29 yards in one half of action during the Bengals' preseason opener at Detroit. The good news is that Green was targeted five times, and since Andy Dalton seems content on attempting only short throws, he should get a boost in PPR formats. The bad news is that Dalton is extremely raw and won't lead too many touchdown drives, thus limiting Green's upside. Green will also have a pretty low receiving average.
Jerome Simpson (the Lions announcers kept calling him Jeremy Simpson) hauled in two receptions for 17 yards in Cincinnati's preseason opener at Detroit. Simpson nearly had a third catch and a touchdown, but he couldn't get his feet inbounds in the end zone. Unlike A.J. Green, Simpson didn't play the whole first half because suffered a hit to the helmet in the middle of the second quarter. He was down for a few seconds, but ran off the field on his own power. Simpson won't have much of a fantasy upside with Andy Dalton learning on the job, but the encouraging thing is that his late-season surge doesn't seem like it's a fluke.
One positive note regarding Cincinnati's offense in its preseason debut at Detroit was Cedric Benson. Benson uncharacteristically looked quick and spry, thanks in part to his 1-year contract. Benson, who finished with 37 yards on six carries, ripped off gains of 6, 5, 16, 4 and 4 on the opening drive, all of which were run on the right side behind massive right tackle Andre Smith, who is finally in shape after two wasted years.
Speaking of the Bengals rushing right, I guess Ndamukong Suh was pissed that Cincinnati was running at him because he ripped off Andy Dalton's helmet to draw a 15-yard penalty. The bottom line: Don't mess with Suh.
Kolb finished 4-of-7 for 68 yards. The knock on this is that most of that yardage came on a 43-yard completion to Larry Fitzgerald. Well, I think it's ridiculous and extremely biased to just discard that throw because it was a beautiful bomb that sailed over Fitzgerald's head and landed into his arms as he was running up the left sideline. Raiders rookie corner DeMarcus Van Dyke actually had good coverage on the play, but there's nothing he could have done about that.
But what about Kolb's other attempts? Well, one pass was thrown away because of pressure. Kolb was actually under siege on his first three drop-backs, and he turned one of those situations into a 15-yard scramble. Another of Kolb's tries was deflected at the line of scrimmage, though it nearly bounced into the hands of a Raider defender. Later, Kolb hit Fitzgerald with a solid 17-yard strike near the right sideline.
All in all, Kolb should probably get a B+ or a B for this performance. He didn't exactly light up Oakland's secondary, but he made some nice plays despite the fact that he's only practiced five times with his new team.
Here were Kolb's targets:
Early Doucet: 1
Larry Fitzgerald: 3
Todd Heap: 1
I thought Chris Wells looked really good in the preseason opener at Oakland. He had 22 yards on six carries, including a 15-yard rush where he shoved off Raider corner DeMarcus Van Dyke with a powerful stiff-arm. Wells didn't produce much on his other attempts because three of them came inside the 5-yard line. Wells was unfortunately stuffed twice inside the 1 by Oakland's defensive front, as Arizona's inept offensive line couldn't provide any sort of push. Still though, Wells definitely looks like he's poised for a rebound 2011 campaign.
There's nothing of note in terms of fantasy football regarding the Raiders, since Jacoby Ford, Darren McFadden and Louis Murphy sat out. Despite this though, Jason Campbell played pretty well, going 6-of-9 for 66 yards. Not included in that stat line is a 40-yard pass interference penalty Campbell drew on a deep ball to Marcel Reese.
Fifth-round rookie receiver Denarius Moore will eventually make his way into the starting lineup. He's a pretty talented player, finishing with three catches for 37 yards. His most impressive reception was a 26-yard gain in which he caught a ball from Jason Campbell on a crossing route and flashed his elite speed while running away from several defenders.
That was the only time Moore was targeted by Campbell, as he played behind Darrius Heyward-Bey and Chaz Schilens. He did have a blunder in the second half when he dropped a ball that went right through his hands. In all fairness, Trent Edwards tossed that pass, so maybe Moore wasn't expecting the ball to be there.
I was a bit concerned about Sebastian Janikowski when I saw him on the opening kickoff. He seriously looks like he weighs 300 pounds. However, Janikowski hit 4-of-4 field goals, including a 57-yarder, so maybe the key to being an awesome kicker is to eat as many doughnuts as possible.
Here are three stupid and/or ridiculous comments from the homer Raider announcing team:
1. "Marcel Reese is a matchup nightmare."
Yeah, I'm sure opposing defensive coordinators will be tossing and turning in their sleep trying to figure out how to stop Oakland's fullback.
2. "You thought Chris Wells was a little guy coming out of Ohio State."
Wells weighed 235 pounds when he declared for the 2009 NFL Draft, though I guess compared to Glandor, Wells is pretty little.
3. "Al Davis has had a lot of great draft classes."
I'm pretty confident that Al Davis' cyclopses, mummies and gargoyles were standing behind the announcers to make sure they said this.
Cowboys 24, Broncos 23
It's not really a quarterback competition, but you can't say Kyle Orton outplayed Tim Tebow, or vice versa. Orton was in the game for just one drive, so there's not much of a sample size. He did manage to lead the team down all the way to Dallas' 1-yard line, but was just 2-of-6 for 37 yards. The major knock on Orton is his ineptness in the red zone, so it wasn't surprising to see Denver stall near the goal line. Three of Orton's four incompletions occurred down there.
Here were Orton's targets:
Eric Decker: 1
Brandon Lloyd: 3 (2 end zone)
Knowshon Moreno: 1
Brandon Lloyd didn't catch any passes, but saw three targets of Kyle Orton's six passes in the preseason opener at Dallas, including two in the end zone. Don't downgrade him because of his zero-reception performance; if anything, it was encouraging that Orton is still looking his way despite Josh McDaniels' absence.
Knowshon Moreno ran pretty well in the preseason opener at Dallas, as he broke free from several Cowboy tackles. He started and received carries on the first two sets of downs, and then gave way to Willis McGahee for a set. It appears as though Moreno and McGahee will share a 2:1 timeshare, at least for now. Moreno's four attempts went for 23 yards, and he also had an 8-yard reception. The downside is that McGahee saw the only carry inside the 5-yard line, though he was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. It's not yet clear who the goal-line back will be. Stay tuned.
It was a mixed bag for Tim Tebow, who finished 6-of-7 for 91 yards and two scrambles for 15 rushing yards. He was so off during warmups that the Cowboys color analyst commented, "I don't think I've seen anyone throw the ball this inaccurate at this level." Even worse, Tebow had an interception nullified by a penalty on his first drive.
Things improved after that. Tebow lofted a nice, accurate deep ball to Matt Willis for 43 yards in the second quarter. On the next drive, he fired an impressive 10-yard dart to David Anderson on a 3rd-and-6. He would later score a touchdown on the ground, but it was negated by a holding penalty.
Tony Romo was solid in his first action since he broke his collarbone. He went 3-of-5 for 33 yards, with one of his incompletions a result of a Jason Witten drop.
Here were Romo's targets:
Dez Bryant: 1
Chris Gronkowski: 1
Felix Jones: 1
Jason Witten: 2
If you're wondering about the second name on that list, it was Gronkowski who was responsible for the missed block that resulted in Romo's injury last year. The Cowboy play-by-play guys hinted that Jason Garrett set up that throw to Gronkowski intentionally to let everyone know there are no hard feelings.
The most impressive Dallas starter in the preseason opener against Denver was running back Felix Jones, who looked both quick and strong during his limited action. Jones' second carry was a burst up the middle in which he broke two tackles for a gain of 18 yards. Jones finished with 23 rushing yards on three attempts as well as a 16-yard reception. I really like him as an RB2, especially in PPR leagues. With Marion Barber gone, Jones is poised for a huge season.
Looking at the box score, the following might stand out: Dwayne Harris had five grabs for 127 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was for 76 yards. That catch wasn't impressive - it was a simple reception five yards past the line of scrimmage - but as soon as he caught it the Cowboy announcers yelled, "Here we go!" and for good reason. Harris blazed past all defenders down the field and into the end zone. He's a raw rookie, but might eventually develop into a potent slot receiver for Romo.
Buccaneers 25, Chiefs 0
The Chiefs didn't take this game seriously. Todd Haley opened it up with a carry by Shane Bannon, and then two more rushes by Dexter McCluster. Jamaal Charles didn't play, and Thomas Jones didn't touch the ball until the second drive. Matt Cassel, meanwhile, didn't even attempt a single pass, as Haley tried his hardest to cheat the paying customers at Arrowhead. The only thing of note from Cassel was a fumbled snap from center.
Jonathan Baldwin caught only one pass for 14 yards. He nearly made a second impressive grab on an underthrown Ricky Stanzi pass, but it fell incomplete. Baldwin reportedly has had a lousy training camp, but he's still the second-best receiver on the roster.
As for Stanzi, he went 4-of-8 for 34 yards with 11 rushing yards on three scrambles. He didn't really get a chance to do much because he was constantly under pressure. On one fourth-down attempt, he could have ran for a first down, but decided to throw the ball instead. This was an error, as the pass fell incomplete.
The difference between the Kansas City and Tampa Bay game plans were staggering. While Haley refused to throw the ball with his starting quarterback, Raheem Morris played Josh Freeman into the second quarter. Freeman was solid, going 9-of-13 for 73 yards and a rushing touchdown, though it's tough to judge this performance because the Chiefs treated this game like a practice session. Mike Williams saw two targets from Freeman, while second-year Dezmon Briscoe hauled in four of his five targets for 60 yards. Briscoe will be a reserve behind Arrelious Benn, however, so he should only be considered in fantasy if Benn can't get healthy.
LeGarrette Blount notched 18 yards on five carries in the preseason opener at Kansas City. The notable thing here is that Blount caught the ball out of the backfield for a gain of seven yards. This is a huge development because he had just five receptions last year.
The Dolphins really should consider trading for Josh Johnson. The Tampa backup went 7-of-12 for 108 yards and a touchdown, and his stats could have been even better because two drops and a penalty negated three completions. Johnson, who also rushed five times for 57 more yards, did a good job of keeping his eyes downfield amid pressure. He's a good leader, and will definitely be an upgrade over Chad Henne, though Miami might be smarter just to Suck for Luck.
There's nothing else of note regarding this game, so I'd like to post this gem from FOX play-by-play guy Tom Brennaman:
"Last year, the Chiefs stayed relatively injury-flea."
And with that, the injury bug has evolved into the injury flea. Everyone, you have been warned.
Patriots 47, Jaguars 12
There's not much to note in terms of fantasy football. Tom Brady, Chad Ochocinco, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Shane Vereen didn't play. For the Jaguars, David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew were both out.
Rashad Jennings started for Jacksonville in the preseason opener at New England, and he looked pretty good. Making defenders miss and breaking tackles, Jennings rushed for 28 yards on six carries. Make sure you pick him up late in your fantasy draft because Jones-Drew's knees are very questionable.
Based on what I saw on SportsCenter, I was expecting Blaine Gabbert to perform poorly because that's how ESPN made him look during the highlights. Well, it was a mixed bag. Gabbert's second throw was an impressive 15-yard dart to Jason Hill between two defenders. His overall stats (9-of-16, 85 yards) could have been better because he suffered two drops, including a surprising Mike Thomas miscue which would have been an 8-yard reception along the sideline for a first down on 3rd-and-7.
However, Gabbert's stat line could have been worse. Patriots safety Patrick Chung had an easy interception hit him right on the helmet in the second quarter. Gabbert also took three sacks and looked uncomfortable in the pocket at times. He also missed a wide open receiver on a 3rd-and-3. As New England color analyst Randy Cross said, "Gabbert looks about a half-step off with his receivers right now."
Though Brady didn't play, New England's quarterbacks were the stars of this game. Both looked awesome:
I'm really impressed by Brian Hoyer's short and intermediate accuracy, as well as his lightning-quick release. He also aired out a nice deep ball on a 42-yard bomb to Matt Slater along the right sideline, though his arm strength isn't very good. Hoyer finished 15-of-21 for 171 yards and a touchdown. The only blemish is that he was nearly picked off in the second quarter.
As for Ryan Mallett, Bill Belichick just may have earned himself a future first-round pick. Physically, Mallett was extremely impressive. His best throw was a 15-yard laser to Taylor Price between multiple defenders. His longest completion was a 50-yarder to Price. Although it was really just an 8-yard out, Mallett showed great arm strength on the pass. On his first attempt, Mallett made a defender miss in the pocket and completed a 5-yard throw.
Before anyone gets too excited, Mallett didn't have to do much thinking against Jacksonville's third-stringers. Real defenses will provide much more of a mental challenge for Mallett, who was guilty of twice throwing a pass to a receiver behind the first-down marker on third-down situations despite having the time in the pocket to possibly move the chains.
Overall though, it was a really promising performance. I have to believe Belichick will land a first-round pick for Mallett if his quarterback keeps lighting up defenses in the preseason.
Stevan Ridley took 16 carries and rushed for 64 yards, notched seven receptions for 47 receiving yards and scored three total touchdowns in the preseason opener against Jacksonville, though he didn't take the field until the Patriots reached the end zone on their third drive of the game, playing behind Danny Woodhead. It's unclear if Ridley will get carries ahead of BenJarvus Green-Ellis or even Shane Vereen, but he looked pretty good. He made defenders miss on several occasions, and converted two of his three attempts inside the 2-yard line for a touchdown. He's worth picking up late in fantasy drafts as a nice sleeper with tremendous upside. If he's New England's goal-line back, he could post double-digit scores.
Taylor Price looked as good as his numbers (5 catches, 105 yards, TD). However, he's not a fantasy factor because he'll need an injury to Chad Ochocinco or Deion Branch to play during the regular season. Come to think of it, I'm sure Price will get some snaps once Branch gets hurt.
With Gronkowski out of the lineup, Aaron Hernandez had all of the tight end targets all to himself. He caught six balls for 68 yards, though he had a lost fumble on the first New England play after a 7-yard reception.
Oh, and I nearly forgot. Thanks for running up the score, Belichick. I'm glad football is back.
Eagles 13, Ravens 6
Although Philadelphia's quarterback had an impressive scoring drive in his sole possession, there's not much of note, fantasy-wise, regarding the Dream Team. Both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were out of the game, and LeSean McCoy had just one carry for minus-1 yards.
Jason Avant was targeted twice on six of QB Eagles No. 7's throws in the preseason opener against Baltimore, including once in the end zone. If Jeremy Maclin is out for a while - and no one knows what the hell is going on there - Avant will apparently see an increase in production.
Like Jason Avant, Brent Celek was targeted twice on six of his quarterback's attempts in the preseason opener versus the Ravens. One of the targets was in the end zone, which Celek converted for a 3-yard touchdown. It's possible that Celek could rebound off a dismal 2010 campaign, and you can definitely get him late in your fantasy drafts right now.
Joe Flacco played on two drives. He went 3-of-6 for 60 yards, leading the offense to three points via a 53-yard Billy Cundiff field goal. He was betrayed by an offensive line that embarrassed itself all night.
Here were Joe Flacco's targets:
Anquan Boldin: 1
Dennis Pitta: 2
Ray Rice: 2
Second-year tight end Dennis Pitta received two of Joe Flacco's six targets in the preseason opener at Philadelphia. Pitta actually ended up with four receptions for 47 yards, including an impressive 27-yard grab from Flacco in which he made the catch over an Eagle defender. With Todd Heap and Derrick Mason gone, it's certainly possible that Pitta could emerge as Flacco's favorite target. We'll definitely know for sure in the next couple of weeks, but keep Pitta in the back of your head for now.
Ray Rice looked great. Though his five carries went for only seven yards, he also had a 21-yard reception. Baltimore's offensive line was dreadful, particularly tackle Oneil Cousins, but keep in mind that two starters on the Ravens' front didn't play.
This was not a good showing by the two Raven rookie wideouts. Torrey Smith didn't catch any of his three targets. Tandon Doss managed three receptions, but all were with Tyrod Taylor, who was awful. Taylor tossed two picks and had a third one nullified by a penalty.
Speaking of crappy Ravens, Cousins had one of the worst performances I've ever seen from any offensive lineman. Cousins seemingly allowed a pressure on every play. On one occasion, Eagles reserve linebacker Keenan Clayton ran around Cousins without much effort.
Here's my analysis of the NFL's new stupid rule to move kickoffs up to the 35-yard line, based on what I saw in this game:
There were seven kickoffs in this game, and SIX of them resulted in a touchback. If Roger Goodell's plan is to make people fall asleep while watching football, he's doing a great job.
I love making fun of the team announcers because they are such ridiculous homers. This includes Eagles' play-by-play guy Don Tollefson, who had the following to say about Philadelphia's new cornerback:
I'm sure many young women in the Delaware Valley would love to cook and clean for Nnamdi (Asomugha), but he's so versatile that he could probably cook and clean for them.
A combination of sexism, stupidity and homerism? Only in the preseason.
Seahawks 24, Chargers 17
The Seahawks' worst nightmare came true in this game. Left tackle Russell Okung, the best lineman on Seattle's front, limped off the field on the first drive. He was carted off into the locker room minutes later. On the first play without him, Tarvaris Jackson was pressured and took an intentional grounding penalty.
Okung was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain - the same injury that plagued him as a rookie.
It might be unfair to judge Seattle's offense because Okung suffered that injury, and the two starting receivers (Sidney Rice, Mike Williams) were out as well, but the Seahawks just looked really dreadful. Aside from one impressive first-down run, Jackson was awful, finishing 3-of-5 for just 13 yards.
Zach Miller did not have a good showing against the Chargers in the preseason opener. He received no real targets out of Tarvaris Jackson's five attempts. He was thrown to twice, but both occasions were after pre-snap penalties.
Marshawn Lynch opened the game with a pair of 2-yard runs. No surprise there. He had one other carry (4 yards) and then gave way to Leon Washington, who looked more impressive when the first unit was on the field.
Philip Rivers looked like he was in mid-season form against the Seahawks in the preseason opener. He went 5-of-6 for 87 yards and a touchdown, with the sole incompletion being a downfield shot to Vincent Jackson. Antonio Gates didn't play, making Rivers' performance that much more impressive.
Here were Rivers' targets:
Vincent Jackson: 3
Ryan Mathews: 1
Kory Sperry: 1
Mike Tolbert: 1 (1 end zone)
Vincent Jackson had an awesome preseason debut against Seattle. It's worth noting that Antonio Gates didn't play, but Jackson had three of Philip Rivers' six targets on San Diego's one and only drive. Jackson caught two of those three passes for 54 yards, including a breathtaking 47-yard bomb. Now fully healthy and holdout-free, Jackson is poised for a monstrous 2011 campaign.
Mike Tolbert started the preseason opener versus the Seahawks. He didn't do anything with his two carries (minus-3 yards) and then gave way to Ryan Mathews, whose two rushes were more impressive (5 yards). Each caught one pass; Mathews for nine yards, and Tolbert for eight and a score. Mathews looked good, but is still injury-prone and won't receive the goal-line carries. This looks like an even two-back rotation.