2014 NFL Preseason Recap and Fantasy Football Notes: Week 1

**** NOTES FOR EVERY GAME WILL BE UP AS SOON AS I WATCH THEM **** Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

2014 Preseason Notes: Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1
2014 Fantasy Football Stock Pages: Preseason Stock Week 4 | Preseason Stock Week 3 | Preseason Stock Week 2 | Preseason Stock Week 1 | Training Camp Stock

Cardinals 32, Texans 0

  • It’s rare to begin with a defensive player in these recaps, but I feel obligated to because Jadeveon Clowney was making his debut. Clowney definitely did not disappoint. He didn’t register a sack, but he helped J.J. Watt collect one. Both rushed Carson Palmer from the right side on the second play from scrimmage. A blocker picked up Clowney, but no one could do anything about Watt, who brought Palmer to the ground. Clowney also managed to get a couple tackles for loss, as he was able to crash into the backfield on several occasions.

  • As for Houston’s offense, there’s not much fantasy analysis that can be done, given that Arian Foster, Andre Brown and Andre Johnson were all out. Ryan Fitzpatrick did start, and he actually played the entire half.

    To be blunt, Fitzpatrick was absolutely dreadful. He went 6-of-14 for 55 yards and two interceptions, but that doesn’t even tell the entire story because he could have easily had a couple more picks. His interceptions were his fault as well. He didn’t see Kevin Minter in coverage, and the linebacker tipped the ball into Antonio Cromatie’s hands. The second interception was worse, as Fitzpatrick threw the ball across his body in the 2-minute drill at the end of the opening half.

    In addition to causing turnovers, Fitzpatrick was also completely inaccurate, as he skipped balls or hurled passes wide of his mark on numerous occasions. He’ll improve once Foster and Johnson return to the lineup, but I’d be surprised if he lasted the entire season as the starter.

    Here were Fitzpatrick’s targets:

    Alfred Blue: 2
    Garrett Graham: 1
    DeAndre Hopkins: 1
    Keshawn Martin: 2
    DeVier Posey: 2
    Mike Thomas: 5

  • Carson Palmer, on the other hand, was completely flawless. He went a perfect 5-of-5 for 84 yards and a touchdown despite not having Michael Floyd on the field. He actually threw two scores, but his end-zone pass to John Carlson was wiped out by illegal hands to the face. Palmer did take one sack, but as mentioned, he had to deal with Watt and Clowney being blocked by one man on that play.

    Here were Palmer’s targets:

    Jaron Brown: 1
    John Brown: 1
    John Carlson: 1 (1 end zone)
    Larry Fitzgerald: 2 (1 end zone)
    Rob Housler: 1

  • Michael Floyd didn’t suit up in the exhibition opener, but that was OK because it allowed rookie John Brown to shine. A third-round rookie out of Pitt State, Brown has enjoyed a fantastic camp, and it translated into preseason success. He registered five catches for 87 yards, and that doesn’t even count a deep pass-interference penalty that he drew. He also got behind a defensive back in the end zone, but Drew Stanton overthrew him. Some have compared Brown to Marvin Harrison, so he’s worth monitoring – even this year.

  • An Andre Ellington update: The second-year running back looked good. He gained just seven yards on two carries, but one of his attempts, a 6-yarder, showed off his incredible ability. Have no regrets if you take him in the third round of your league.

  • I have to mention Logan Thomas. I was absolutely amazed by how well he played. The stat line is completely indicative of how awesome he was; the Virginia Tech rookie went 11-of-12 for 113 yards and a touchdown. He showcased his trademark arm strength, but also was very accurate on most of his throws, which was a surprise. Bruce Arians should be able to keep getting the most out of him, so perhaps Thomas will be ready to start come 2016 or so.

  • I’ve discussed Arizona’s color analyst before. He’s some lunatic who says the strangest things ever. For instance, last year:

    Color Analyst: He’s the meat-grinder, and he’s the beef!

    Play-by-Play Guy: Uhh… what?

    This year, he came up with this gem:

    “I bet if you were able to measure John Brown’s femur, and Marvin Harrison’s femur, you’d have the same femur.”

    I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking of flying out to Vegas just so I can make that bet.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Titans 20, Packers 16

  • It’s difficult to take very much away from this game. Two reasons: First, the entire first half was played in a torrential downpour. If you didn’t see highlights of this game, I’m not exaggerating. The announcers called it “monsoon-like conditions,” while Eddie George said that he had “never seen anything like this.”

    Second, Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson were all out. The Titans should have sat their starters as well because the couldn’t do anything in those terrible conditions. This was apparent right away, as a Jake Locker pass to Justin Hunter sailed way out of bounds. The Titans then had a botched snap. Locker completed just one of his two passes for only five yards.

    Here were Locker’s targets:

    Justin Hunter: 2
    Nate Washington: 1

  • Shonn Greene started for the Titans. He gained 20 yards and a touchdown on four carries, but those numbers are misleading. Greene scored on a 13-yarder that was a complete byproduct of his offensive line’s excellent blocking. Greene looked like the same, slow plodder. It’ll be difficult for the Titans to score points consistently if he’s getting most of the carries.

    Luckily, Tennessee has a better running back. Bishop Sankey paced the Titans in rushing in the preseason opener, tallying 37 yards on 13 carries. He also had three catches for 38 receiving yards and a touchdown. Sankey was much more impressive than Shonn Greene, and Eddie George agreed. George said that he really liked Sankey’s feet. I’m sure Rex Ryan feels the same way. Sankey should finish the year as the Titans’ top running back, so he’s not a bad RB3 option.

  • The Titans are featuring a new 3-4 defense. It’s difficult to gauge how effective it was, given that Green Bay didn’t have many of its starters in the game, but it wasn’t promising that the Packers marched down the field on the opening possession with nothing but James Starks runs. On the bright side, Derrick Morgan made a nice break-up in pass coverage. This is significant, as Morgan’s transition to outside linebacker has been scrutinized.

  • Some potential bad news for the Titans: Backup interior lineman Chris Spencer was helped off the field with an ankle injury. Fortunately, Tennessee has plenty of depth here.

  • Some potential good news for the Titans: Zach Mettenberger could be a future starter. I was impressed with Mettenberger’s performance, as he went 4-of-7 for 87 yards and an interception that wasn’t his fault; his pass bounced right off Jackie Battle’s hands. Mettenberger fit a nice pass into a tight window right away and then completed a great, deep throw to set up the game-winning score. His only mistake the entire night was getting strip-sacked because he didn’t secure the ball well.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Giants 20, Steelers 16

  • There’s not much to analyze about Pittsburgh’s passing attack, as Ben Roethlisberger attempted just two passes on his only drive. One was an overthrow to Lance Moore in the end zone, but the other was very significant. Roethlisberger tossed the ball to Dri Archer on a slip screen, and the speedy rookie turned it into a 46-yard gain. Archer gives Pittsburgh a dimension it hasn’t possessed in a very long time, and the coaching staff has to be thrilled that Archer seems ready to contribute right away.

    Here were Roethlisberger’s targets:

    Dri Archer: 1
    Lance Moore: 1 (1 end zone)

  • Le’Veon Bell didn’t have much aerial support, but that didn’t stop him from dragging tacklers throughout the evening. Bell rushed for 18 yards on three carries, and he also caught a 6-yard pass from backup Bruce Gradkowski. Bell looks well worth a second-round pick in all fantasy formats.

  • I was keeping an eye on athletic rookie wideout Martavis Bryant. He didn’t see action in the opening half, but he managed to draw two pass-interference penalties, one of which was very deep downfield. However, Bryant made numerous mistakes. He dropped a pass in the 2-minute drill and then fumbled the ball away after making a nice reception on the very next play. He also muffed a punt. Bryant has loads of potential, but it doesn’t appear as though he’s anywhere close to contributing.

  • The Giants, meanwhile, struggled to convert first downs in the Hall of Fame Game, and that once again proved to be the case in this contest. Eli Manning actually failed to complete a single pass, misfiring on his two attempts. The issue has been the offensive line, which hasn’t been able to block at all. Manning was sacked on the third drive of the game by the second-year Jarvis Jones.

    Here were Manning’s targets:

    Jerel Jernigan: 1

  • The Giants were able to score a touchdown against the Steelers, thanks solely because of one play. On their second drive, Rashad Jennings burst through a giant hole up the middle for a 73-yard touchdown. Jennings (5 carries, 85 yards, TD) has looked solid so far this preseason, and with David Wilson done, he has good fantasy potential.

  • Andre Williams also played well. He gained 35 yards on seven carries, and that doesn’t include a 17-yard dash up the middle that was called back because of a penalty. He runs with great force, but he won’t get most of the touches anytime soon because of his deficiencies in the passing game.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Lions 13, Browns 12

  • Johnny Manziel was the final prominent quarterback to see action during the first week of the preseason. He didn’t start in this contest, but the NFL Network reported that he would get the nod next week. Manziel played with all of the backups, but that didn’t stop him from having a solid outing.

    Manziel went 7-of-11 for 63 yards in his debut. There was some good and some bad from him, though there was more of the former. He overthrew a short pass along the sidelines in the third quarter and also missed an open wideout while scrambling for a first down. However, he also showed great zip on several of his passes, including one in which he hit a sharp, 14-yarder over the middle off play-action. His completion percentage should have been better; he suffered through drops, one of which was really an oblivious receiver not even looking for the football.

    Manziel actually did most of his damage on the ground. He failed to pick up a first down out of the pistol on his first drive, as he was tackled short of the marker. However, he would later run for gains of eight and 16, ultimately finishing with 27 rushing yards on six carries. Two of his runs resulted in first downs.

    As for the actual quarterback competition, Manziel appears to have the edge right now, and he’ll lock up the job with a solid showing next week. It helps Manziel that Brian Hoyer looked very mediocre in this contest. He missed having Jordan Cameron, but that had nothing to do with overthrowing Josh Gordon for what would have been a gain of 20 yards, or launching a high ball toward Andrew Hawkins for what would’ve moved the chains, or hurling a pass too low to Miles Austin along the sideline.

    Hoyer finished 6-of-14 for 92 yards. He made some nice throws, and one of his passes was dropped by Austin, but he was responsible for too many inaccurate tosses. He appears to be the inferior quarterback.

    Here were Hoyer’s targets:

    Miles Austin: 3
    Jim Dray: 1
    Josh Gordon: 4 (1 end zone)
    MarQueis Gray: 3
    Andrew Hawkins: 2

  • The running back competition is a lot closer. Ben Tate received most of the first-team work, tallying 25 yards on six carries. He ran extremely well, though he made a mistake by fumbling on the second drive. Luckily for him, the Browns recovered. The concern with Tate, of course, is his durability. It’s not a surprise that he ran very well.

    As for Terrance West, the rookie mustered 22 yards on 10 carries. He struggled to find running room on most of his attempts, but he did gain 10 yards on one scamper in which he broke numerous tackles.

  • Josh Gordon will probably be suspended for at least half the season, but he was allowed to play in this contest. He caught two balls for 32 yards, but let a potential touchdown slip through his fingers. Still though, Cleveland’s offense is going to be much less potent without him.

  • I’ve discussed two of Cleveland’s rookies, so how about two more? Linebacker Christian Kirksey played with the backups, but I thought he made numerous quality plays when he was on the field. Cornerback Pierre Desir, meanwhile, whiffed on a tackle.

  • As for the Lions, there’s not much to talk about because Matthew Stafford was on the field for only one drive. Stafford went 2-of-4 for 18 yards. One pass was dropped.

    Here were Stafford’s targets:

    Reggie Bush: 1
    Kris Durham: 2 (1 end zone)
    Golden Tate: 1

  • Reggie Bush and Joique Bell both had touches on the opening drive in Detroit’s preseason debut, and it’s no surprise that Bell was the superior player. Bell pummeled through for an 11-yard gain, while Bush managed just three yards on two carries. However, the big take-away is that Bush dropped a pass. It was only one mistake, but Bush was benched multiple times late last year because of mental blunders. We’ll probably see more of the same from him in 2014, as Bush is a very overrated fantasy commodity. Avoid him because he’s going way too early in fantasy drafts.

  • Some fun with the homer preseason announcers: The Cleveland play-by-play guy sounded like a raging lunatic. He was yelling incoherently throughout the evening. For example:

    “What does it mean to be a Brown? Being physical!”

    That, and losing double-digit games every year, am i rite?

    “That’s gotta make Brian Hoyer feel like a million bucks!”

    He said this after a 10-yard completion. I’d comment on this guy’s expectations being very low, but these are the Browns we’re talking about, after all.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Bills 20, Panthers 18

  • Cam Newton didn’t suit up for this contest. DeAngelo Williams, Charles Johnson and several other Panthers were also absent, so there’s not much to say about their team. It was all Derek Anderson for the first quarter-and-a-half, as Newton spent his time jumping up and down on the sidelines and cheering on both Anderson and his defense. He was so active that the Carolina announcers joked that he was burning more calories pumping up his team than if he were actually playing in the game.

  • The Bills, conversely, had E.J. Manuel stay on the field for three drives. Manuel struggled in the opener Sunday night, but rebounded a bit at Carolina. He began with a nice, 32-yard pass down the sideline to Chris Hogan. He made some other quality completions, but was also guilty of a few mistakes. For instance, he took a sack because he held on to the ball too long, while a couple of his attempts were off the mark. He finished 9-of-13 for 96 yards.

    Here were Manuel’s targets:

    Scott Chandler: 1
    Chris Hogan: 1
    Fred Jackson: 1
    C.J. Spiller: 2
    Sammy Watkins: 4
    Mike Williams: 1
    Robert Woods: 4

  • Sammy Watkins caught three of the four passes thrown his way for 21 yards. He had a nice outing, but he’ll post inconsistent numbers this year because Manuel can be so up and down.

  • As for the other Buffalo receivers, Robert Woods tied Watkins for four targets. He snagged all four of them for 31 yards. Mike Williams, meanwhile, made an impressive, leaping, 28-yard catch over the middle of the field, but that was the only pass he saw come his way.

  • C.J. Spiller started, but he and Fred Jackson split touches once again. Spiller was much more impressive, tallying 22 yards on three carries. Fred Jackson was limited to 10 yards on five attempts, and he was stuffed repeatedly near the goal line on the opening drive. Bryce Brown led the team in rushing (11 carries, 64 yards), but he played exclusively with the backups.

  • There’s not much to say about the Panthers. All I’ve got is an update on Kelvin Benjamin. The first-round rookie nearly made a leaping grab early on, but Anderson’s pass was too high. However, he came back to haul in a 29-yard touchdown in the second quarter, as he fell to the ground to come up with an impressive catch. That was Benjamin’s only reception of the night.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Vikings 10, Raiders 6

  • Matt Cassel and Matt Schaub started this game, but let’s be real here: All anyone really cares about are the two rookie signal-callers. Both Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr played extensively, and one of them at least looked somewhat promising.

    That would be Teddy Bridgewater. The Louisville product came out with a play-action bootleg and hit Greg Jennings with a 21-yard dart. The play was nullified by an illegal formation, but it was still impressive. Bridgewater eluded a sack on the next play, prompting the crowd to chant: “TED-DY! TED-DY! TED-DY!”

    Unfortunately, things went downhill for Bridgewater from there, as he struggled when the starters left the game. He was strip-sacked because he held on to the ball too long. He made a Trent Green-esque throw (passing short of the first-down marker on third down without bothering to look downfield). He missed Jerick McKinnon on a screen. He skipped a pass to Jarius Wright.

    Bridgewater finished 6-of-13 for 49 yards. If I had to grade his performance, it would be a “C,” maybe a “C+.” He showed signs of promise, but was too inconsistent.

    Here were Bridgewater’s targets (when playing with the starters):

    Cordarrelle Patterson: 1
    Greg Jennings: 1
    Jerome Simpson: 1

  • Matt Cassel was the much better quarterback Friday night. He went 5-of-6 for 62 yards. He nearly had a touchdown pass, but Kyle Rudolph stepped out of bounds inches short of the goal line. Matt Asiata flopped into the end zone one play later.

    Here were Cassel’s targets:

    Cordarrelle Patterson: 2
    Greg Jennings: 2
    Kyle Rudolph: 1

  • Cordarrelle Patterson looks like he’s in for a huge year. He caught three balls for 38 yards in just one quarter of action in the preseason opener. There’s no battle with Jerome Simpson for playing time this year. Patterson is Minnesota’s clear-cut No. 1 wideout.

  • Adrian Peterson sat out because there was no point for him to suit up. Matt Asiata started and looked decent, gaining 13 yards and the aforementioned score on three carries. Rookie Jerick McKinnon was the next back to take the field. He was more impressive, accumulating 45 yards on 12 attempts. He showed good patience and vision, as well as a nice burst on his runs.

  • Anthony Barr made his presence known, registering a sack in the first half. He was able to get by a pass-protecting fullback to bring down the quarterback. NFL.com credited him with half a sack, but he should have been given an entire one.

  • Moving on to the Raiders, Derek Carr took the field in the second quarter. He did not look good whatsoever. Carr spent most of the night tossing short passes. His first three completions were a dump-off, a quick slant and a wide receiver screen. He then missed his tight end over the middle of the field and heaved an interception, which was a high, short pass that tipped off his fullback’s fingers. Carr later showed some zip on an attempt to Denarius Moore, but that was his sole bright moment of the evening.

    Carr finished 10-of-16 for 74 yards and the pick. If Bridgewater got a “C” or “C+,” Carr deserves a “D.” He just didn’t show any signs that he can be a quality NFL starter.

  • Matt Schaub also struggled. The stats pretty much say it all; he went 3-of-7 for 21 yards, and in three drives, he failed to cross midfield. Schaub nearly hurled a pick on his first attempt to Andre Holmes. A later pass to Mychal Rivera didn’t have enough zip, so a Minnesota defender was able to break it up. A ball of Schaub’s was dropped by Rivera as well, but this was a dreadful showing by Oakland’s first-team offense.

    Here were Schaub’s targets:

    Andre Holmes: 3
    Maurice Jones-Drew: 2
    Jamize Olawale: 1
    Mychal Rivera: 2

  • Maurice Jones-Drew at least thrived in the preseason opener. He started and played the first two drives. He rushed for 10 yards on two carries, and he also had an 8-yard gain wiped out by a face mask. Jones-Drew also caught two balls for 14 receiving yards. He looked like the MJD of old, so it’s time to buy low.

  • As for Darren McFadden, he entered the game on the third drive and immediately had a 23-yard rush. He seemed very spry, but didn’t get another touch the rest of the evening.

  • I don’t know where they found the Vikings’ play-by-play guy, but if I had to guess, I’d say they borrowed him from the WWE. He sounded like a wrestling announcer, and he nearly gave me a heart attack when he shouted this at the top of his lungs as the teams kicked off:


    Here were some other things this man yelled incoherently throughout the telecast:





    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Bears 34, Eagles 28

  • It’ll be extremely difficult for Nick Foles to repeat what he did last year. In addition to navigating through a tougher schedule – he battled only one top-15 pass defense in the regular season once he took over as the starter in 2013 – opposing teams will have a better idea of what to expect from Chip Kelly’s offense after studying film of the Eagles during the offseason.

    Foles did not get off to a good start in 2014. He went 6-of-9 for 44 yards and two interceptions in his preseason debut. I wouldn’t put the first pick on him – his arm was slightly tipped – but the second one was all his fault, as he threw off his back foot into double coverage toward Zach Ertz. Foles also had a third possible interception dropped by Lance Briggs. On the bright side, he did have two completions negated by a hold and a face mask, and in fairness, he was missing Riley Cooper, but this was a disappointing showing overall.

    Here were Foles’ targets:

    Brent Celek: 3
    Zach Ertz: 2
    Jeremy Maclin: 1
    LeSean McCoy: 1
    Ifeanyi Momah: 3
    Brad Smith: 1

  • Philadelphia was actually sloppy overall. Jason Peters and Evan Mathis, two of the top offensive linemen in the NFL, were whistled for three combined holding penalties. The Eagles were also flagged on four occasions during their first two drives. On top of that, there were numerous drops, particularly by Jordan Matthews, who was a huge disappointment. He managed to catch four balls for 14 yards, but he had a whopping three drops. He let a deep ball from Mark Sanchez fall through his hands in the second quarter, and then he let Matt Barkley down twice in the third frame. This was strange, as Matthews was catching everything during training camp.

  • LeSean McCoy was used sparingly – he had just two touches – so Darren Sproles got some action on the third drive. He fell down on his first attempt, but showed a nice burst on his second, gaining nine yards on the ground. He finished with 11 yards on three carries, but didn’t catch any passes.

  • Zach Ertz led Philadelphia with four catches for 60 receiving yards, but those numbers are misleading. Only one reception came with the starters, as he did most of his damage with Sanchez under center. Sanchez, by the way, looked surprisingly decent (7-of-10, 79 yards). It’s amazing what superior offensive coaching can do.

  • As for the Bears, Jay Cutler was very sharp in his preseason debut. He went 9-of-13 for 85 yards and a touchdown. One of his best passes, a 40-yard bomb to Alshon Jeffery, was negated by offsetting penalties.

    Here were Cutler’s targets:

    Alshon Jeffery: 2
    Brandon Marshall: 5
    Zach Miller: 1 (1 end zone)
    Dante Rosario: 3
    Eric Weems: 2

  • It’s no surprise that Brandon Marshall had an outstanding performance. He led the team with five targets, and he was able to snag all five balls for 31 yards. He managed to make a great, one-handed, diving catch that’s worth watching.

  • Pay no attention to Dante Rosario; he finished second on the team in terms of targets from Cutler, but he was just starting for the suspended Martellus Bennett.

  • Matt Forte posted some ugly numbers, losing five yards on three carries. If you’re a Forte owner, I wouldn’t be concerned. Not yet at least. The Eagles can’t stop the pass at all, but they have one of the tougher run defenses in football.

  • I didn’t have the Bears’ broadcast, but I saw on Twitter that Bears’ color analyst (and former quarterback) Jim Miller was taking tons of flak for referring to Northern Illinois as a Division III school. People, pay no attention to Miller. He inhaled so much fried chicken and beer prior to the game, it’s a miracle he was able to even be a functional human being for three hours.

    Speaking of fat people, that’s all the Eagles’ announcers talked about for a while. The “analysts” made fat jokes throughout a portion of the second quarter, saying things like, “That nose tackle cannot fit into one seat on an airplane, hurr hurr hurr!” It was some great TV.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Jaguars 16, Buccaneers 10

  • Blake Bortles should be the starting quarterback of the Jaguars. Right now. He’s so much better than Chad Henne at this point, it’s not even close.

    Bortles entered this contest in the middle of the second quarter to a standing ovation. He did not disappoint his fans at all. He immediately showed off his impressive arm strength with a 24-yard dart. His first possession was promising, but it was disrupted by a bogus offensive pass interference call. Bortles ran off the field to applause from a surprisingly loud crowd.

    Bortles continued to be impressive until he was taken out of the game at the end of the third frame. He finished 7-of-11 for 117 yards, but all but one of his passes should have been completed. Three were dropped, while two other completions were negated by infractions. He also drew a pass interference.

    The Jaguars’ coaching staff would be doing their team and fans a huge disservice by keeping Bortles on the bench. I understand that they are afraid of throwing a young quarterback into the fire after what transpired with Blaine Gabbert, but they have to understand that Gabbert didn’t bust because he started right away; he busted because he was terrible. Gabbert was never going to be successful in the NFL, not even if he waited 1,000 years for his first snap. Bortles is ready, and he needs to be under center when Jacksonville battles Philadelphia in the opener.

  • Another reason Bortles should get the nod? Chad Henne sucks. Henne went 4-of-7 for 30 yards, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He had an interception dropped on a horrible overthrow to an open Marcedes Lewis. Henne’s two other incompletions were terrible, and it prompted the crowd to constantly boo him. It didn’t help that his center sailed two snaps over his head, but it’s always been obvious that Henne is just backup material.

    Here were Henne’s targets:

    Mike Brown: 2
    Marcedes Lewis: 3
    Jordan Todman: 1

  • Toby Gerhart was out with an injury, so Jordan Todman started. Todman did nothing, mustering just five yards on five carries. Rookie Storm Johnson only had a bit more success (9 carries, 21 yards), but didn’t do anything special.

  • If Bortles starts this year, Jacksonville will be very competitive. In fact, the Jaguars could contend for a wild card spot. I kid you not. The defense will keep the team in games. The pass rush has improved tremendously. Sen’Derrick Marks was unblockable in this contest; he had numerous pressures in brief action and also forced two fumbles, though one was negated by a penalty. Newly acquired Chris Clemons was also a force.

    The Buccaneers had no answers for Marks or Clemons, so they obviously had issues blocking. Josh McCown struggled as a consequence, going 2-of-4 for 20 yards and a pick-six. The interception happened because McCown couldn’t step into the pocket amid pressure, which resulted in an overthrow. McCown was also strip-sacked because he held on to the ball too long. He did have a 17-yard completion to Chris Owusu that was negated by a holding penalty, but he struggled for the most part.

    Here were McCown’s targets:

    Mike Evans: 1
    Vincent Jackson: 1
    Doug Martin: 2
    Chris Owusu: 1

  • Rookie running back Charles Sims took no touches away from Doug Martin (3 carries, 6 yards). He played with the backups, tallying 13 rushing yards on six carries as well as three catches for 32 receiving yards. He had a solid run of about 13 yards wiped out by a hold, but he wasn’t very impressive overall.

  • As for the other two Buccaneer rookies, Mike Evans failed to log a single reception. He was targeted on McCown’s pick-six, but that turnover wasn’t his fault. Austin Seferian-Jenkins hauled in two balls for 29 yards, but managed to do so from Mike Glennon.

  • Some homer announcer fun: The play-by-play guy opened the telecast with this:

    “An offseason of change in Jacksonville, leads to a season of anticipation!”

    Later in the game, he had this to say:

    “The Jaguars turn the ball over on downs. This is Jaguars football.”

    Maybe he should have combined both and said something like, “An offseason of change in Jacksonville, leads to a season of utter disappointment!”

  • On the bright side, the Jaguars have a pool in their stadium for their fans to take a dip in. It’s true! Take a look at this screenshot:

    Caption options:

    1. Come see the Jaguars, where you will be decapitated in our brand new pool!

    2. Come see the Jaguars, where you can swim if our team bores you to death!

    3. Come see the Jaguars, where creepy fat men stare at chicks’ a**es in our new pool!

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Saints 26, Rams 24

  • Neither starting quarterback played in this game, but the NFL Network didn’t care. They wanted to televise this contest because Michael Sam was making his preseason debut. Sam had some nice moments in the second quarter. He made a quality hustle play to force a pressure and then stuffed a running back for a loss. He didn’t do much else of note.

    Of course, a more significant player was also seeing his first action as a Ram. Aaron Donald, chosen No. 13 overall, is expected to be a force for St. Louis. However, he was partly for a responsible for a 22-yard Mark Ingram touchdown in the second quarter, so this wasn’t a promising start.

  • Drew Brees and Sam Bradford were sidelined for different reasons. Brees was out with a minor oblique injury. As for Bradford, I’ll let one of the St. Louis announcers explain: “They want him to play, but with some injuries on the offensive line, they want to be careful.” With Jake Long, Rodger Saffold and Scott Wells all inactive, it’s difficult to blame Jeff Fisher for this strategy, especially considering how brittle Bradford has been throughout his career.

  • With nothing noteworthy in terms of either passing game, let’s focus on the running backs. The most prominent one in this affair, at least in terms of fantasy relevance, was Zac Stacy. The second-year pro had a solid showing in the preseason opener, gaining 22 yards on four carries. It was nice to see him get off to a good start because it’s not a rare occurrence to see a running back endure a sophomore slump.

  • Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson spent time rotating series in the first half during the preseason opener. Robinson looked good (5 carries, 23 yards, touchdown), but Ingram was far more impressive. It doesn’t feel right to say this, but Ingram put on a show. He tallied 83 yards and a touchdown on just eight attempts, thanks to some nice cuts and stiff-arms. The fact that Ingram is in his contract year must be brought up. With money on the line, perhaps he’ll finally live up to expectations.

  • Another rookie making his debut, Brandin Cooks didn’t do much until the second half. He caught a short pass, then dodged a defender with a stop-and-go and scored a 25-yard touchdown. Cooks finished with five grabs for 55 yards and a score. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of damage he can do when Brees returns to the lineup.

  • It didn’t happen on Sunday or Thursday, but it finally occurred Friday night: There was a missed extra point on one of these stupid 33-yard attempts. Shayne Graham’s try doinked off the left upright and was no good. How exciting. Thanks for trying to ruin football, Roger Goodell.

  • Speaking of ruining football, you need to see what Gregg Williams looks like now if you haven’t already. He has inexplicably painted a fake goatee onto his face in order to disguise himself. I am not kidding. This guy really is insane.

  • Some fun with preseason announcers: The Rams’ homers opened the telecast by proclaiming that Torry Holt would soon join Marshall Faulk in the Hall of Fame. Uhh… what? Tim Brown can’t even get in, so how is Holt going to qualify?

    Also, the play-by-play guy had a Toyota ad to promote. You know how Toyota’s new stupid motto is “Toyota, Let’s Go Places?” Well, he said, “Toyota… Let’s… Go… Fast…” Derp.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Falcons 16, Dolphins 10

  • It’s a shame the starting quarterbacks in this game didn’t play the entire 60 minutes because they both were flawless. That’s not an exaggeration. Matt Ryan and Ryan Tannehill combined to go a perfect 13-of-13 for 115 yards. They were on the field for just one drive each, unfortunately.

    Tannehill is obviously more of a surprise. He was inconsistent in 2013, thanks in part to his offensive line’s struggles. Those issues were non-existent Friday night, as the Falcons couldn’t get any pressure on him. With plenty of time in the pocket, Tannehill was able to dissect Atlanta’s linebacking corps and secondary, finishing 6-of-6 for 62 yards and a touchdown to Brandon Gibson.

    Here were Tannehill’s targets:

    Brandon Gibson: 2
    Rishard Matthews: 2
    Lamar Miller: 2

  • Excluding the improved play from the offensive line, Lamar Miller is the biggest story coming out of the preseason opener from Miami’s perspective. Miller was highly involved on the opening drive, gaining 11 yards on four carries and also catching two balls for eight yards. He did drop a pass, but that was his only blemish. With Knowshon Moreno injured, Miller could have a big season. Get him in your fantasy draft.

  • If you can do any sort of math, you probably realized that Matt Ryan went 7-of-7. His yardage went for 53 yards. He targeted Roddy White almost exclusively, as Julio Jones sat out for precautionary reasons.

    Here were Ryan’s targets:

    Harry Douglas: 1
    Antone Smith: 1
    Levine Toilolo: 1
    Roddy White: 4

  • With Steven Jackson out, Jacquizz Rodgers started over Devonta Freeman. Rodgers had some nice runs and even converted a telegraphed goal-line attempt. He gained 20 yards and the touchdown on seven carries. Meanwhile, third-stringer Antone Smith was equally impressive. He really put on a show, as he blew past helpless Dolphins on numerous occasions. You may notice that the stat box says otherwise (3 carries, 5 yards; 1 catch, 5 rec. yards), but that’s because Smith had gains of 34 and 74 wiped out by penalties. His speed was apparent, and he showcased some terrific moves, especially on the latter attempt.

  • As for Devonta Freeman, he didn’t do very much early on. He had a misleading first-half stat line (5 carries, 16 yards) because he had a 9-yard gain that came on a meaningless draw on third-and-34. Freeman almost came up with a receiving touchdown, but the pass from T.J. Yates was too high. However, Freeman made numerous outstanding plays after intermission. He showed nice burst on a 14-yarder and then caught a pass along the sideline for 57 yards. It was a perfect throw from Sean Renfree, but Freeman deserves credit for making the reception. Freeman capped off his night with a 12-yarder in which he made a nice cut. He finished with 50 yards on 10 carries.

    It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Freeman moves up the depth chart. He had a terrific debut for the most part, but the backs ahead of him also performed admirably. It’s also hard to see Mike Smith stay away from Steven Jackson once the 31-year-old runner returns to the lineup.

  • Devin Hester made his (preseason) debut for the Falcons. It was a disappointing one at first because he lost a fumble. Though it was ultimately negated because of a penalty, it still brought us this quote from one of the Atlanta announcers: “This is why Devin Hester was brought here.” Uhh… what? Hester was brought in to fumble punt returns? Hester did make amends for his blunder with a nice return late in the second quarter.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Chiefs 41, Bengals 39

  • It’s bizarre to see a 41-39 score in the preseason, especially in the first week. It helped that there was a punt returned for a touchdown and a Jason Campbell pick-six by Sean Smith. Most of the other damage was done by the backup quarterbacks, as Andy Dalton and Alex Smith combined to play just three drives.

    Dalton was on the field for only one. He helped validate his new contract right away by launching a 53-yard bomb to A.J. Green, when the stud wideout got by a secondary that was missing Eric Berry. He didn’t do much else, however, overthrowing Tyler Eifert for a potential touchdown later on the possession and then missing Mohamed Sanu for a first down in the red zone because he had pressure in his face.

    Here were Dalton’s targets:

    Giovani Bernard: 1
    Tyler Eifert: 1 (1 end zone)
    A.J. Green: 2
    Mohamed Sanu: 1

  • Giovani Bernard was the only Bengal running back who took the field with the starters. Rookie Jeremy Hill was the second back to enter the game, but he did so with Jason Campbell and the rest of the backups. Bernard looked solid in his brief action, gaining 10 yards on three carries to go along with a 9-yard reception.

  • Speaking of Campbell, he was atrocious. He tossed two interceptions, including a pick-six, and nearly had a third. He finished just 6-of-15 for 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns otherwise. Third-stringer Matt Scott was much better, though one preseason game isn’t much of an indication.

  • As for the Chiefs, Alex Smith didn’t show much. Peter King joined the Chiefs’ announcers in the third quarter to rant about how Smith is underappreciated, but he just sounded ridiculous in doing so. Smith went 3-of-5 for 19 yards, and as usual, most of his throws were of the checkdown variety. He also lost a fumble because he held on to the ball too long.

    Here were Smith’s targets:

    Dwayne Bowe: 2
    Jamaal Charles: 2
    Anthony Fasano: 1

  • The Kansas City announcers discussed something that was reported over the summer. Dwayne Bowe looks very fit. He’s much leaner than he was last year, and it seems like hiring a dietitian for the first time in his career is paying off. Bowe saw a pair of targets in two drives, catching one of them for 10 yards.

  • Jamaal Charles was on the field too much for my liking. Andy Reid left him in way too long, unnecessarily risking injury. Charles did look great though, rushing for 12 yards on three carries and also catching two balls for nine receiving yards.

  • Tyler Bray is worth mentioning. The Chiefs’ coaching staff likes Bray, but he showed flashes of inconsistency in this contest. He started by shaking off a potential sack and stepping up into the pocket to find a target for a 30-yard gain. This was impressive, but he couldn’t maintain his success because he was strip-sacked shortly afterward because he held on to the ball way too long.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Broncos 21, Seahawks 16

  • The Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl was a disaster, and this game was just as unwatchable. Both Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson played well for a change, but the flow of this contest was continuously disrupted by penalties. When the starters from both teams exited, at the 7:12 mark of the second quarter, the officials had called a whopping 15 infractions.

    It was terrible. The refs whistled every single possible defensive holding or illegal contact. Even if a defender had just a fingernail on an opposing receiver, a flag was thrown. This absolutely needs to stop. I know that Lord Peyton Manning whined about how his team couldn’t score in the Super Bowl because the Seahawks, like the Patriots in 2003, mugged his wideouts, but these rule changes are ruining the game.

  • As mentioned, Manning was sharp. He went 10-of-13 for 78 yards, and he had just two poor throws. He missed Demaryius Thomas on third down of the opening drive and then overthrew C.J. Anderson, but he was on the mark otherwise. It helped that he had time in the pocket for a change, a luxury he didn’t enjoy in the Super Bowl. Having Ryan Clady back at left tackle made all the difference.

    Here were Manning’s targets:

    C.J. Anderson: 2
    Andre Caldwell: 2
    Ronnie Hillman: 1
    Demaryius Thomas: 6
    Wes Welker: 2 (1 end zone)

  • Demaryius Thomas is going to have a huge year. With Eric Decker gone, Thomas will likely receive more targets than he did in 2013. It showed in the preseason debut, as he saw six balls come his way in just two drives. He caught five of them for 52 yards.

  • Wes Welker, meanwhile, saw just two targets. He snatched both balls for just seven yards. It’s worth noting, however, that he barely missed out on a touchdown, as he was tackled at the 1-foot line on the second possession.

  • Ronnie Hillman started this contest for Montee Ball, who is sidelined with an appendectomy. He gained 15 yards on six carries and converted a goal-line attempt for a touchdown. C.J. Anderson didn’t see as much of a workload, as he was limited to only one carry with the starters, but that was nullified by a penalty. Manning did throw to him twice, but Hillman was on the field for the majority of the snaps. Anderson did eventually have a 5-yard rush when Brock Osweiler was under center, but he had to leave soon after with a concussion.

  • The most impressive Denver running back was actually undrafted rookie Juwuan Thompson, who gained 59 yards on six carries. Thompson ran with good power and also showed nice patience. With Ball out and Anderson concussed, Thompson could get a lot of work next week.

  • Some notes on the new Denver defenders: T.J. Ward was one of the many players whistled for bogus defensive holding in this contest. Aqib Talib got a bit banged up when he hurt his shoulder while making a tackle. DeMarcus Ware, meanwhile, managed to sack Russell Wilson on the first drive – which is not an easy thing to do.

  • Speaking of Wilson, his numbers weren’t very impressive (4-of-6, 37 yards; 1 carry, 7 rush yards), but he performed better than the stats indicate. Wilson displayed his trademark elusiveness in the pocket to avoid numerous sacks, and he probably should’ve had a touchdown to Doug Baldwin. The Broncos were whistled for pass interference on the play, which set up a short, Christine Michael touchdown run.

    Here were Wilson’s targets:

    Doug Baldwin: 3 (1 end zone)
    Christine Michael: 1
    Zach Miller: 2
    Robert Turbin: 1
    Bryan Walters: 1
    Luke Willson: 1

  • Marshawn Lynch didn’t play, so Robert Turbin started. He was unimpressive, plodding for five yards on four carries, though he didn’t have much running room. Michael was only a bit better, gaining 16 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts. I was disappointed that Turbin got most of the work with the starters. Michael is the far superior player, so playing Turbin ahead of him makes little sense.

  • Second-round rookie receiver Paul Richardson was also on the field with the backups. He managed to lead Seattle with four catches and 37 receiving yards, though he made a big-time mental error in this contest. On one of his receptions, he lazily waltzed out of bounds just short of the first-down marker. One of the Seattle coaches gave him an earful after the play.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Redskins 23, Patriots 6

  • With Tom Brady sitting out and Robert Griffin playing only one series, the three young quarterbacks were the most noteworthy players in this game. Let’s break them down:

    – Ryan Mallett was atrocious. The stats indicate that – 5-of-12, 55 yards – but they don’t tell the entire story. Mallett did start well, as he stepped up in the pocket, under pressure, and completed a first down on an early third-down situation, but a penalty wiped that out. Things got progressively worse after that. He skipped an easy throw to a wide-open Brandon LaFell and then seemed to injure himself while awkwardly sliding. Mallett continued to trend downward as the game progressed. He repeatedly threw at the feet of his receivers and eventually displayed horrific body language. It also seemed like he was afraid of getting hit. Based on this showing, and what I’ve known about Mallett dating back to his college days, I wouldn’t surrender an eighth-round draft choice for him. He has no value at this point.

    – As for Jimmy Garoppolo? WOW. I was amazed. The Patriots’ announcers were too. They noted that he struggled a bit in practice, but the light just seemed to turn on for him. He had so many beautiful downfield throws. He placed a perfect 53-yard bomb to one of his receivers at one point, and then came back to the same guy for a 26-yard fade that turned out to be a touchdown. He also had a potential second score that was dropped despite placing a perfect, 38-yard rainbow into his receiver’s arms. Garoppolo displayed great leadership. He was elusive in the pocket, using his mobility to avoid a sack. He also released the ball unbelievably quickly.

    Garoppolo finished 9-of-13 for 157 yards and a touchdown, but as mentioned, he should have tossed two scores. I know it’s a very small sample size, but the last time I was this excited about a young, backup quarterback in the preseason was Marc Bulger when he was Kurt Warner’s backup in St. Louis.

    – Kirk Cousins had the same completion percentage as Garoppolo, as he went 9-of-13 but for 103 yards and a touchdown. His performance was the complete opposite of Mallett’s; he began slowly, nearly tossing a pick that was dropped on his first throw, but then he improved as the game progressed. Cousins had a solid showing and appears to have improved with Jay Gruden’s coaching.

  • As for Washington’s starting quarterback, Robert Griffin went 2-of-4 for just 9 yards. He didn’t have Pierre Garcon or DeSean Jackson at his disposal, so it’s difficult to take anything away from his performance. I will note that Griffin’s stat line is misleading because he would have thrown a touchdown to Aldrick Robinson, but the receiver couldn’t get two feet inbounds.

    Here were Griffin’s targets:

    Roy Helu: 1
    Alfred Morris: 1
    Jordan Reed: 1
    Aldrick Robinson: 1 (1 end zone)

  • Alfred Morris received most of the carries when he was on the field during the preseason opener. He looked great, running with terrific power. He rushed for 27 yards on five carries, and it appears as though he doesn’t miss Mike Shanahan’s blocking scheme at all. It’s also worth noting that Morris saw a target thrown his way. His fantasy owners will be thrilled if he becomes even the slightest factor in the passing game.

  • No surprise from the Patriots’ running backs. Stevan Ridley started and saw work on first and second downs before giving way to Shane Vereen on third down. Ridley struggled to find running room on his two carries, churning out only two rushing yards.

  • Another running back worth noting is Redskins’ rookie Lache Seastrunk. He fell to the sixth round because of his deficiencies in the passing game, but he was very impressive in this contest. He showed great quickness and made multiple jukes to extend runs, including one where he broke a defender’s ankles on a 21-yard gain. He finished with 63 yards on 12 carries.

  • Some preseason announcer fun: The Patriots’ analysts knew about their team well enough, but they had zero clue about the Redskins. They called Roy Helu “Santana Moss” despite seeing him line up in the backfield. I had no idea Moss turned into a running back this offseason!

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Chargers 27, Cowboys 7

  • I’ll concentrate mostly on San Diego’s offense in this recap because the Cowboys sat Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten and even Lance Dunbar. Philip Rivers, meanwhile, was on the field for just one drive. He made it count. Rivers was extremely sharp, completing all four of his passes for 61 yards, which doesn’t include a drawn pass interference in the end zone. Granted, he was battling what could go down as one of the worst defenses in NFL history, but it was still an encouraging showing.

    Rivers led his team down to inside the 5-yard line, but Ryan Mathews fumbled the ball when he stupidly tried to dive from about the 4. The Cowboys recovered for a touchback.

    Here were Rivers’ targets:

    Malcom Floyd: 1 (1 end zone)
    Ladarius Green: 2
    Eddie Royal: 1
    Danny Woodhead: 1

  • It’s a shame Antonio Gates still exists in this league because Ladarius Green looked like a stud in this game. Green caught both balls thrown to him for 26 yards, including a leaping grab to move the chains on a third down. Green would be a strong TE1 without Gates, but the old tight end will take away some targets.

  • As mentioned, Mathews fumbled on the goal line. It spoiled a solid showing, as he managed 19 yards on five carries. Mathews shared snaps with Danny Woodhead on the sole opening drive in which the starters played. Woodhead was also decent, tallying 10 rushing yards on two carries and one catch for 22 receiving yards. They’ll likely rotate during the regular season with Donald Brown coming in sparingly. Brown took the field with the backups, but he also ran effectively, registering 22 yards on three attempts.

  • One player to keep an eye on in the future is running back Brandon Oliver. An undrafted rookie out of Buffalo, Oliver had some terrific, quick runs, gaining 64 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Oliver was also robbed of a second score by Dallas rookie defender Ken Bishop, who was whistled for a horse-collar infraction. The analysts on NFL Network compared Oliver to Darren Sproles because of his height (5-foot-6), but he’s much more compact at about 210 pounds. Oliver won’t see much action this year unless there are some injuries, but he’s definitely someone who might make a fantasy impact in the future.

  • A few, quick notes on the Cowboys:

    – Brandon Weeden was surprisingly not inept, as he went 13-of-17 for 107 yards and a touchdown. He showed some surprising mobility on a 10-yard rush, though he got away with throwing across his body during the score.

    – Terrance Williams led the “starters” with two catches for 19 yards. He had a third reception wiped out by a penalty. This prompted one of the Dallas color analysts to remark, “That’ll hurt fantasy owners.” Yes. All of those poor Terrance Williams preseason fantasy owners will surely cry themselves to sleep because they didn’t get that extra catch.

    – It amazes me how bad Dallas’ defense is. Rivers was faced with a first-and-20 at one point, and he was able to move the chains without any sort of effort. Rookie cornerback Terrance Mitchell was especially bad. One of the San Diego announcers – the broadcast changed at some point – said he was “ballroom dancing” with Malcom Floyd when he was flagged for pass interference in the end zone. The other analyst then chimed in, “That’s terrible.” Sadly, that wasn’t Mitchell’s only pass interference.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Jets 13, Colts 10

  • There was a scary moment for the Colts in this game. Center Khaled Holmes went down on the team’s opening drive and grabbed his leg in agony. It didn’t look good initially, but Holmes was able to walk off the field on his own power. He didn’t return, though he was considered questionable to come back in. His absence hurt; the first possession, which looked so promising, stalled because the backup center sailed a snap over Andrew Luck’s head on third-and-goal at the 3-yard line. There was also another botched snap later in the opening half.

    It’s a shame for Luck, as he was nearly flawless. He marched down the field on his sole possession; New York’s putrid defense showed little resistance until the very end when Holmes had left the game. Luck finished 4-of-5 for 53 yards despite not having Reggie Wayne at his disposal, and his only incompletion was a nice pass break-up by Dee Milliner, who was covering Hakeem Nicks.

    Here were Luck’s targets:

    T.Y. Hilton: 4
    Hakeem Nicks: 2

  • If the preseason opener is any indication, T.Y. Hilton is going to have a big year. Hilton was targeted four times on the first drive alone, catching three of those balls for 38 yards. Granted, Reggie Wayne didn’t play, but Hilton has been enjoying a fantastic offseason, and he seems poised to dominate in 2014.

  • Trent Richardson talked about how he’ll improve this year based on his new knowledge of the playbook. This contest was not a promising indication. Richardson looked like the same slow plodder, mustering only 13 yards on five carries. He had a nice, 8-yard run, thanks to a quality block by second-round rookie guard Jack Mewhort, but otherwise did nothing of note. Ahmad Bradshaw didn’t play.

  • While Luck played just one drive, Geno Smith was on the field for two. He was pretty mediocre for the most part in terms of passing, going 4-of-6 for 33 yards. His best play was a 10-yard scramble to the left in which he showed off some surprising athleticism. Smith didn’t distance himself from his backup, but he didn’t face plant either like Mark Sanchez has done in many preseasons over the years. Smith is still the heavy favorite to start Week 1.

    Here were Smith’s targets:

    Tommy Bohanaon: 1
    Jeff Cumberland: 1
    Eric Decker: 3
    Chris Johnson: 1
    David Nelson: 1

  • As for the Jets’ backup, the former Falcon and Eagle went 3-of-6 for just 17 yards. He had an impressive rush as well – a 15-yarder – but he cost his team later by taking a sack when he failed to recognize a blitz against a backup defense. The Jets will not win with him.

  • Speaking of overrated players, Chris Johnson looked awful in his debut with the Jets. He scored a touchdown, but rushed for just two yards on four carries. He also dropped a pass. Chris Ivory is clearly the superior running back (7 carries, 17 yards), and New York will soon realize this and phase Johnson out of the offense. He’s a waste of a fantasy pick.

  • Two things of note concerning New York’s offensive line: New right tackle Breno Giacomini, who is replacing Austin Howard, did not show well in his debut. He surrendered a sack to Bjoern Werner, who struggled last year. Giacomini projects to be a big downgrade. Meanwhile, there was a funny moment when guard Willie Colon began fighting his own teammate. He pushed fellow guard Brian Winters around, and the officials had to break them up.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Ravens 23, 49ers 3

  • Neither Colin Kaepernick nor Joe Flacco played more than one drive in this game, so the most prominent takeaway was what we saw out of three running backs.

    All eyes were on Ray Rice in the preseason opener, as it was unknown how he would look in the wake of all the offseason controversy. Rice had just four touches, but looked much better than he did last year. He showed some quickness that was lacking in 2013, as he took his three carries for 17 rushing yards. Rice will be suspended for only two games, thanks to Roger Goodell’s incompetence, so he’s an intriguing buy-low option right now.

  • Bernard Pierce also ran well. He played well into the second quarter, finishing with 37 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. His only blemish was a fumble, but he managed to recover the football.

  • Carlos Hyde was the most impressive running back on the field in the 49ers-Ravens matchup. Starting for Frank Gore, who was dressed but didn’t take the field, Hyde gained 39 yards on just five carries. Granted, he had excellent blocking from both his offensive line and fullback, but Hyde showed off some great vision on his rushes. He also displayed solid pass-protection abilities. With Gore slowing down, Marcus Lattimore not yet recovered, and Kendall Hunter injured, Hyde is a recommended fantasy option this year.

  • As for the quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick completed his only pass, hitting Vance McDonald for a 17-yarder. He also drew a pass interference on an attempt to Stevie Johnson.

    Here were Kaepernick’s targets:

    Stevie Johnson: 1
    Vance McDonald: 1

  • Joe Flacco was also sharp. He went 4-of-5 for 52 yards on his only drive, though he was battling a defense that was missing Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and several other starters.

    Here were Flacco’s targets:

    Jacoby Jones: 1
    Kyle Juszczyk: 1
    Dennis Pitta: 1
    Ray Rice: 1
    Steve Smith: 1
    Torrey Smith: 1

  • I love making fun of preseason homer announcers. The 49ers’ color analyst was atrocious. He said many stupid things, even calling what happened to Jonathan Martin “Bountygate.” Here’s a quote of his about someone else:

    “The fans feel much better about the backup quarterback situation with Blaine Gabbert on the team.”

    Really? Did you interview yourself? Gabbert embarrassed himself in this contest, going 3-of-11 for just 20 yards and an interception. He sailed numerous passes over his targets’ heads and stared down his receivers. Gabbert is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL, and the 49ers should be ashamed of themselves for giving up any sort of draft pick for him.

  • More from the 49ers’ color analyst:

    “That was a poor throw by Gabbert. I mean, it was a good throw, but a poor throw by Gabbert.”

    This guy must be a firm believer in this meme:

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Giants 17, Bills 13

  • The Giants have told Eli Manning that they believe he can complete 70 percent of his passes this year. While that initially seemed far-fetched, considering that Manning had never converted more than 62.9 percent of his throws in a given season, he might just have a chance, given what we saw tonight.

    Thanks to a horrific offensive line that couldn’t block Buffalo’s starters, Eli Manning had to check the ball down to Rashad Jennings repeatedly. Of his seven throws, three were quick flips to Jennings. The former Raider and Jaguar running back may not score many touchdowns this year – rookie Andre Williams will handle the goal-line duties – but Jennings seems like he’s going to be a PPR machine. He could easily exceed his career high of 36 receptions.

    As for Manning himself, he could be in for a rough year. He managed to go 6-of-7 for 43 yards, but it must be noted that most of his positive production came when Buffalo’s backups entered the game. Manning also lost a fumble on a strip-sack. He once again didn’t have the appropriate blocking, as the offensive line appears as though it’ll continue to be a huge problem.

    Here were Manning’s targets:

    Daniel Fells: 1
    Rashad Jennings: 3
    Jerrel Jernigan: 3

  • Don’t read into Jerrel Jernigan’s targets; he was starting in Odell Beckham’s spot, and he’ll return to the bench once the first-round rookie makes a recovery. Jernigan will be worth looking into if either Beckham or Victor Cruz goes down, however.

  • Neither Victor Cruz nor Rueben Randle was targeted by Eli Manning in three drives during the Hall of Fame Game. While this is obviously a small sample size, it was discouraging to see how little time Manning had in the pocket. This is not good news for Cruz’s fantasy outlook.

  • Jennings, as mentioned, will catch lots of passes this year. He won’t have much running room, however. He managed 23 yards on seven carries, but a 12-yard burst of his came when Buffalo’s reserves were in the game. His three catches went for 20 receiving yards.

    As for Williams, the fourth-round rookie led the Giants with 48 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts. Williams looked very good as a runner, though like Jennings, everything positive he accomplished came against the Bills’ second-stringers. Williams also offers nothing on third down, so it’s difficult to imagine him overtaking Jennings anytime soon.

  • The Giants don’t have any sort of answer at tight end. One publication tried pushing Adrien Robinson this entire offseason, but that’s not going to pan out. There’s no fantasy value here.

  • Ryan Nassib went 7-of-12 for 139 yards and a touchdown. His big play was a 73-yard bomb to Corey Washington, but he otherwise was very mediocre. He nearly got some of his receivers killed on numerous occasions, and he doesn’t appear to have any sort of long-term starting ability, though his preseason action has obviously been a small sample size.

  • As for the Bills, E.J. Manuel went 2-of-7 for 19 yards on two drives. Manuel did not look very sharp, as he had a very possible interception dropped in the red zone when he stared down his target. It appears as though Buffalo is in for another disappointing season.

    Here were Manuel’s targets:

    Lee Smith: 1
    Sammy Watkins: 3
    Mike Williams: 2 (1 end zone)

  • The good news for Sammy Watkins is that he was targeted three times in two drives during the preseason opener. The bad news is that he failed to come up with a single reception. E.J. Manuel looked very pedestrian against a mediocre defense, and it’s a sign of things to come in 2014. Watkins is WAY overdrafted in the seventh round of mock drafts thus far. I wouldn’t take him before Round 10 of 12-team leagues.

  • C.J. Spiller rushed just once for two yards, compared to Fred Jackson’s two carries and six yards in the Hall of Fame Game. It’s discouraging that Buffalo’s coaching staff refuses to utilize Spiller and his athletic ability. They are in love with Jackson and use him in what forum member Leelee calls the “Ancient Dumb Dumb Offense.” Spiller is being overdrafted, and he’ll once again disappoint his fantasy owners.

  • One positive for Buffalo was the play of left tackle Seantrel Henderson. A first-round mega talent, Henderson fell to the seventh frame in May because of a poor work ethic and off-the-field concerns. He put on a show Sunday night, shutting down Jason Pierre-Paul for the most part. If he continues to perform like this, he’ll be used on the blind side, which will kick Cordy Glenn to right tackle.

    Speaking of the right tackle position, second-rounder Cyrus Kouandjio looked awful. I don’t understand why the Bills thought he was a second-round talent, given how horrifically he performed against Oklahoma in that meaningless bowl game.

  • While the offense didn’t look good outside of Henderson, Buffalo fans can at least be encouraged by the play of the defense. The front completely dominated the trenches, making life extremely difficult for Eli Manning. With no impending first-round selection in the wake of the Watkins trade, there is an extreme amount of pressure on the Bills’ defensive line to somehow carry the team into the playoffs.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2014 Preseason Notes: Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1
    2014 Fantasy Football Stock Pages: Preseason Stock Week 4 | Preseason Stock Week 3 | Preseason Stock Week 2 | Preseason Stock Week 1 | Training Camp Stock

    More 2014 Fantasy Football Articles:
    Fantasy Football Rankings

    2014 Fantasy Football Rankings:
    2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks - 8/30 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs - 9/3 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers - 9/3 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends - 8/27 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defenses - 6/4 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers - 6/4 (Walt)
    Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings - 5/18 (Walt)
    Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: Dynasty - 8/22 (Walt)

    2014 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts:
    2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: 2-QB - 8/21 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Standard - 8/14 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: PPR - 8/12 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: 3-WR - 8/7 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Standard - 7/31 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: 3-WR - 7/24 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: PPR - 7/17 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Standard - 7/10 (Walt)

    2014 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets:
    2014 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 - 9/3 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 - PPR - 9/3 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 - 2-QB - 9/3 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 - TD - 9/3 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Custom - 9/3 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Spreadsheets - 8/28 (Walt)

    2014 Fantasy Football Articles:
    2014 Fantasy Football Stock Report: Training Camp - 9/3 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football: It's All About Value - 9/1 (Kenny)
    2014 Fantasy Football Sleepers - 8/31 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Busts - 8/31 (Walt)
    2014 NFL Preseason Recap, Fantasy Football Notes - 8/30 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Preseason Stock - 8/30 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Quarterback Targets - 8/30 (Walt)
    FanDuel $1 Million Contest - 8/30 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Simulator - 8/30 (Walt)
    Fantasy Football Round-by-Round Strategy - 8/17 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football Stock Report: Running Backs - 3/28 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football: Overdrafted Players - 2/16 (Walt)
    2014 Fantasy Football: First-Round Bust History - 2/14 (Walt)
    Running Backs with Most Carries - 2/14 (Walt)

    2024 NFL Mock Draft - April 22

    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

    Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19

    NFL Picks - Feb. 12