2021 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.

2021 Preseason Notes: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3
2021 Fantasy Football Stock Pages: Preseason Stock Week 1 | Preseason Stock Week 2 | Preseason Stock Week 3

Colts 21, Panthers 18

  • Most of the starters didn’t play in this game. This includes the two quarterbacks. Carson Wentz’s absence can be explained by his injury. Sam Darnold’s, on the other hand, was puzzling. Given that Darnold is on a new team, one would think that he needs as many reps as possible.

    Nevertheless, there was an intriguing quarterback battle in this contest between Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger. The two are currently competing to be the Colts’ starting quarterback if Wentz can’t return from injury in time for the season opener. Eason got the nod in this game and was the better quarterback until the very end. He got off to a rocky start with some inaccurate throws, but looked comfortable in the 2-minute drill leading up to halftime. Eason went 15-of-20 for 183 yards. Ehlinger, conversely, threw an interception when he stared down his receiver, and he’s lucky he wasn’t picked off a second time. However, he bounced back on a drive in the middle of the fourth quarter when he hit Tarik Black with a 47-yard bomb. He then fit the ball into the perfect spot on a pass toward Tyler Vaughns, setting up an eventual touchdown. Ehlinger then made a great scramble on the ensuing drive, moving the Colts into range to kick the game-winning field goal. Ehlinger finished 9-of-14 for 146 yards and the pick. I’d say this battle is currently a stalemate.

  • One of Eason’s best passes was a 37-yard bomb he launched in Paris Campbell’s direction. This was Campbell’s only catch and target of the afternoon, but it showed what the Colts have been missing amid his numerous injuries throughout his young career.

  • Speaking of inexperienced receivers, second-round rookie receiver Terrace Marshall hauled in a 60-yard bomb on a busted play in the opening quarter. Marshall looked good – he logged three catches for 88 yards – but it’ll be difficult for him to post great numbers this year unless one of D.J. Moore or Robby Anderson suffers an injury.

  • Fellow Panthers rookie Chuba Hubbard made a big play as well. Hubbard ran into the line of scrimmage in the second quarter and appeared like he would be tackled for a loss. He somehow bounced outside to pick up a gain of 59 yards. Hubbard finished with 80 yards on seven carries. Carolina’s offensive line did nothing to open any sort of running lanes for Hubbard in this game. He’s not worth drafting, but should be added if Christian McCaffrey gets hurt again.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: There was no bias from the Colts announcers. When the color analyst yelled, “We need to bring that heat!” I’m sure he was being fair and unbiased.

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    Texans 26, Packers 7

  • This is the final game I watched Saturday night. I was very much looking forward to it because all I saw on Twitter was people praising Jordan Love for this performance. I wanted to see if all the fuss was warranted.

    Love started the evening with some checkdowns, but then hit Jace Sternberger down the seam for a gain of 34 yards. Love followed that up with a third-down conversion with a bullet throw. Following some other solid passes, however, disaster struck when Love fumbled the ball upon a defender knocking it out of his hand.

    Love went 12-of-17 for 122 yards and a touchdown. He played above expectations in this game, though it’s still way too early to determine if this will translate to real game action.

  • The Packers were criticized for not addressing receiver this offseason outside of the Randall Cobb trade. However, they’ll have a forgotten man, Devin Funchess, back from an extended absence. Funchess opted out of the 2020 season after playing just one game in 2019, but he looked good in the 2021 preseason opener. He made a great, diving catch in the first half and then a nice, 16-yard reception while dropping to the ground. Funchess ended up leading the team with six catches for 70 yards. Funchess has great fantasy potential this year if he starts across from Davante Adams in an Aaron Rodgers-run offense.

  • Aaron Jones, like Rodgers, was nowhere to be seen in this game. A.J. Dillon started, but turned his only carry into a single rushing yard.

  • Speaking of Green Bay running backs, Kylin Hill had a cool-looking receiving touchdown. He had a great block and then avoided some bad tackling attempts to score on a 22-yard reception. Hill, however, lost two yards on his five carries.

  • Moving on to the Texans, Tyrod Taylor played one drive in this game. He threw just four passes, but completed all of them. He made a great toss to Chris Conley along the sideline. Taylor’s four completions went for 40 yards.

    Here were Taylor’s targets:

    Chris Conley: 3
    Keke Coutee: 1

  • Once Taylor’s lone drive was done, third-round rookie quarterback Davis Mills took the field. Mills had a mostly negative performance. He took a sack because he mishandled a snap, then missed out on a touchdown pass because a short toss of his was too high. He later heaved an interception into double coverage.

    Mills went 11-of-22 for 112 yards and the pick. It wasn’t all bad for him, as he converted a series of third-and-longs on one drive, including an impressive third-and-13 connection to Conley. Still, Mills has a long way to go in his development.

  • In a surprise move, the Texans started Phillip Lindsay over David Johnson in the preseason opener. Lindsay rushed for 14 yards on five carries, while Johnson lost a yard on his only attempt. It’s unclear if this will be a trend moving forward, but I suppose we’ll have a better idea next week.

  • Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan made a nice, 11-yard diving reception in the second quarter. Unfortunately for him, he dropped a pass a few plays later. That catch was his only one of the evening.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: This has more to do with the officials rather than the announcers, but the Texans missed a field goal in the middle of the first quarter. What’s significant about this? The officials ruled that the kick was good! I don’t understand how they botched something like that, but the announcers were befuddled as well.

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    Raiders 20, Seahawks 7

  • There’s not much to say about this game, so this recap won’t be very long. Barely any starters played. Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, Chris Carson, Josh Jacobs, D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Henry Ruggs and Darren Waller all sat out. Nathan Peterman was the only quarterback to play for the Raiders, while Geno Smith got the nod for the Jets. This was not an exciting game.

  • Speaking of Peterman, he continued to play like the Joe Montana of the preseason. Peterman has always been awful in real action, but there’s no stopping him in these exhibition contests. Peterman went 29-of-39 for 246 yards and an interception. I’ll say this: Those numbers are not cosmetic. Peterman made some unbelievable, downfield passes in this game. He really does look like the Montana of the preseason. I still wonder if he can survive mentally when teams are actually scheming for him, but it appears as though Jon Gruden and Greg Olson have done a terrific job developing him.

  • I watched Raiders first-round tackle Alex Leatherwood closely. He played about a quarter and did a good job of opening up running lanes. He allowed one pressure, which forced Peterman into an incompletion.

  • Geno Smith suffered a crushing hit in the first quarter. He was blasted by a nasty, but legal hit from the blind side that he never saw coming. He was down for a while and had to leave the game. The good news is that he missed just one play. The bad news is that Smith was just 4-of-10 for 46 yards.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Matt Millen was one of the color analysts in this game. Fortunately, he had one of his patented quotes for us:

    “Everybody is on top of somebody!”

    Is that something he shouts when a group of his 100-percent USDA men gather together in a hotel room?

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    Jets 12, Giants 7

  • This recap will focus completely on the Jets because no one of note played for the Giants. They started all of their backups on the opening drive, so we learned nothing about them.

    The Jets, conversely, played their No. 2 overall rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson, for about a quarter. Wilson looked good for the most part. He had a bad, early miss on a pass to Corey Davis, but made up for it when he hit Davis on third down to move the sticks. Wilson later fired a bullet to Keelan Cole to convert another first down on third-and-long.

    Wilson didn’t do anything spectacular, but he was solid in his debut. He finished 6-of-9 for 63 yards. His numbers would have been slightly better if a gain of about 12 to Jamison Crowder wasn’t wiped out by offensive pass interference.

    Here were Wilson’s targets:

    Keelan Cole: 1
    Jamison Crowder: 2
    Corey Davis: 4
    Tyler Kroft: 2
    Vyncint Smith: 1

  • Corey Davis was Zach Wilson’s favorite receiver in the preseason opener. Wilson targeted Davis twice as often as any other player. Davis converted two of his four targets for 18 yards in about a quarter of work. If this game was any indication, Davis should have another solid year.

  • Ty Johnson started for the Jets at running back in this game, but promising rookie Michael Carter was mixed in during the opening drive. The two split the workload almost evenly. Johnson was given nine carries, which he turned into 33 yards, while Carter’s seven attempts went for 22 yards.
  • Denzel Mims ended up leading the Jets in receiving with three catches for 51 yards. However, Mims wasn’t on the field at all with the starters. He does not appear to be in the Jets’ plans at all, so this may have been a showcase game to trade him.

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    Bengals 19, Buccaneers 14

  • I was shocked that Tom Brady played in this game. Brady was on the field for one drive, which was very risky, considering that he took a sack on third down. If he had gotten hurt, Bruce Arians would’ve looked incredibly foolish for using a 44-year-old quarterback in an utterly meaningless game.

    Nevertheless, Brady went 1-of-2 for nine yards. His lone incompletion was a deep shot to Antonio Brown, which was nearly complete. It’s impossible to determine anything with this minuscule sample size.

    Here were Brady’s targets:

    Giovani Bernard: 1
    Antonio Brown: 1

  • We had just one series of seeing Tampa’s primary running backs, but Leonard Fournette played on first and second down, while Giovani Bernard was on the field on third down. Bernard caught Brady’s sole completion, a 9-yarder.

  • Buccaneers second-round rookie quarterback Kyle Trask played most of the second half. He posted a ghastly stat line, going 4-of-15 for 35 yards. Those numbers were misleading, however.

    Five of Trask’s incompletions were dropped. He endured three consecutive drops at one point, and two of the five drops were deep shots that should’ve been long gains. Trask isn’t blameless because he overthrew an open receiver for a potential deep touchdown, but that was just one of his two or three bad misses. Trask’s best completion was a 12-yard connection to his target that he was able to fit through a very tight window.

  • The Bengals used none of their starting backfield members, though the young receivers were all on the field for a drive. Ja’Marr Chase caught the second pass of the game, snatching the ball near the line of scrimmage and then turning the completion into a 16-yard gain. That was Chase’s only target, and it came from Brandon Allen, who went 7-of-10 for 77 yards and an interception.

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    Chargers 13, Rams 6

  • No starters played in this game, but it wasn’t a lost cause. There were some promising young talents who impressed in their first opportunity.

  • The Chargers are very high on sixth-round rookie running back Larry Rountree. He didn’t disappoint in this contest. He rushed for 63 yards on just eight carries, which featured a 25-yard burst where he made a great juke in the open field once making a good read to find a big running lane. Rountree then hit a gain of nearly 30 at the end where he carried a defender toward the end of the rush. Rountree is someone I’d like to roster toward the end of my fantasy draft.

  • Another Charger rookie, third-round wide receiver Josh Palmer, also impressed. Palmer made some nice catches throughout the opening half of the preseason opener, ultimately hauling in six balls for 36 yards. The Chargers have needed a third wideout to go along with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and Palmer appears to be the solution.

  • As for the Rams, they allowed Xavier Jones and Jake Funk audition for the No. 2 running back job behind Darrell Williams. I’d say Jones won. Jones displayed some nice cutting ability versus the Chargers, rushing for 21 yards on seven carries. He also caught two passes for six yards, and he did a nice job in pass protection. Funk, conversely, mustered only 12 yards on five attempts.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: All three announcers in this game – yes, there were three for some reason – sang John Wolford’s praises during the second half. Yet, they didn’t once mention that Wolflord is now capable of casting Hurtmore, making him extremely dangerous.

    If there were only two announcers, I could see how they’d miss it, but three? Shame on them.

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    Chiefs 19, 49ers 16

  • Trey Lance played an entire half in his first-ever NFL action. It was a tale of two quarters for the No. 3 overall pick, as he was on fire early on, but faded as the evening progressed.

    Lance made a nice play-action fake on his first pass attempt and fired an absolute strike to Brandon Aiyuk, but the ball was dropped. Lance then went back to the play-action on the ensuing drive and hit Trent Sherfield with an 80-yard touchdown bomb. Lance continued to throw nice passes after that, but three of his first seven attempts were dropped. This includes a great throw Lance made to Richie James on a third down while under pressure.

    Things got worse after that, however. Lance made some inaccurate tosses during the 2-minute drill and then was strip-sacked. He was lucky to recover, and he was also fortunate that a potential interception of his was dropped when he heaved the ball into double coverage.

    Lance finished 5-of-14 for 128 yards and a touchdown. The completion percentage looks miserable, but Lance endured three drops. Lance had some positive and negative moments, but this was expected. He is a very raw player, but possesses immense upside.

  • Believe it or not, but there was another 49er quarterback to play during the early stages of this game. Jimmy Garoppolo started and played one drive. He showed nothing special, but was able to convert all four of his passes for 23 yards. This was a very small sample size, but Garoppolo at least appeared to be healthy following last year’s injury-ravaged season.

    Here were Garoppolo’s targets:

    Brandon Aiyuk: 1
    Josh Hokit: 1
    Deebo Samuel: 1
    Trey Sermon: 1

  • As mentioned earlier, Brandon Aiyuk dropped Lance’s first pass. He was able to make a catch from Garoppolo. It was a nice gain, but it was negated by a teammate’s offensive pass interference. Aiyuk remained catchless.

  • Raheem Mostert sat out, so Trey Sermon started. Sermon rushed for 26 yards on nine carries, but had a scary moment. He fumbled (and recovered) because he injured his hand on the play. Fortunately, Sermon was able to return to the game.

  • The Chiefs, meanwhile, weren’t expected to play their starters, but Patrick Mahomes took the field for one drive. He threw just two passes, completing one of them for three yards.

    Here were Mahomes’ targets:

    Mecole Hardman: 1
    Travis Kelce: 1

  • Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were on the field for two drives, with each logging a single reception. Mecole Hardman didn’t catch any passes, thanks to his drop. There’s a chance that Byron Pringle – two catches, 10 yards, one touchdown – could pass him on the depth chart.

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire also saw some action, ripping off a 10-yard burst on his first attempt. Edwards-Helaire gained 16 yards on four attempts.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: One of the announcers called Trey Sermon “Trey Sherman.” Also, what’s up with the 49er announcer’s tie?

    And what’s with the flower on his suit? If there’s no crying in baseball, then there are no flowers in football.

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    Ravens 17, Saints 14

  • Lamar Jackson didn’t play, but the two Saints quarterbacks took the field because they’re currently battling for the starting job. Taysom Hill was given the initial opportunity in the preseason opener, and his first drive was a thing of beauty. It featured a great throw to Marquez Callaway while under pressure to convert a third down. Hill led the team into the red zone, where the drive concluded with a Latavius Murray lost fumble.

    However, things got much worse following the first possession. Hill threw an interception on what was a horrible throw wide of Ty Montgomery. Hill was lucky he tossed just one pick because Ravens cornerback Anthony Averett jumped the route on the next drive, but dropped the ball. Hill didn’t redeem himself; he took a big sack when he held the ball way too long.

    Hill finished 8-of-12 for 78 yards and an interception. The numbers don’t look terrible, but Hill was worse than what the box score shows. Hill also didn’t run, though I expect that to change during the regular season if he claims the starting job.

    Here were Hill’s targets:

    Marquez Callaway: 4
    Devonta Freeman: 2
    Lil’Jordan Humphrey: 2
    Ty Montgomery: 2
    Latavius Murray: 2

  • Jameis Winston was better than Hill, but only by default. He went 7-of-12 for 101 yards and one touchdown, but he didn’t battle Baltimore’s starting defense like Hill did. Winston threw some ugly passes and took a bad sack – made by rookie edge rusher Jayson Oweh – but Winston rebounded and eventually led a touchdown drive with a score to Lil’Jordan Humphrey.

  • Marquez Callaway has generated lots of buzz with a great training camp, and he lived up to the hype in his preseason debut. He saw more targets than anyone catching passes from Hill (4), hauling in three of them for 60 yards. With Michael Thomas out for a long time, Callaway projects as a viable fantasy receiver.

  • Alvin Kamara was sidelined, so Murray started. He lost the aforementioned fumble, and he didn’t get much on his five carries, tallying just six yards. Devonta Freeman wasn’t very good either, losing a fumble early in the game. Freeman’s five carries went for just four yards.

  • Fourth-round rookie quarterback Ian Book had a mixed debut. His stat line – 5-of-8, 64 yards – is a bit misleading because his longest completion, a 33-yarder, was caught right near the line of scrimmage. Book, however, made some quick, decisive throws to start. He ended up making some bad decisions later in the game, however, including a terrible sack and a poorly thrown ball that was picked.

  • The Ravens didn’t play any of their starting passing game. J.K. Dobbins was on the field, but Baltimore’s injury-ravaged offensive line couldn’t open up anything for him. Dobbins lost one yard on three carries.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Mike Nolan was one of the color analysts of the Ravens broadcast. If you recall, Nolan was head coach of the 49ers before Jim Harbaugh took over the role. I don’t know what happened since Nolan was fired, but Nolan looks like he has aged 50 years.

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    Browns 23, Jaguars 13

  • Trevor Lawrence was set to make his NFL debut in this game, and following Cleveland’s initial drive, he took the field to a loud applause. He ended up playing a quarter, and for the most part, he did not disappoint.

    That said, Lawrence’s first snap didn’t go too well. He held the ball too long in the pocket and was strip-sacked as a result. However, he was able to hit Marvin Jones on a third-and-9 to convert a first down. Lawrence then went back to Jones on a later drive with a great, 35-yard connection over first-round rookie cornerback Greg Newsome.

    Lawrence didn’t lead the Jaguars to any points, and he overthrew Jones on his final possession, but the night was a positive one overall. Lawrence finished 6-of-8 for 71 yards.

    Here were Lawrence’s targets:

    Carlos Hyde: 1
    Marvin Jones: 4
    Chris Manhertz: 1
    Laviska Shenault: 3

  • Marvin Jones led the Jaguar receivers in targets from Trevor Lawrence (4). D.J. Chark didn’t play, but it was apparent that Lawrence and Jones were clicking. Jones hauled in three of his four targets for 52 yards.

  • Laviska Shenault was targeted thrice in the opening quarter, converting two of those passes for 14 yards. Chark didn’t play, but Shenault looked good.

  • We didn’t see much of Travis Etienne. James Robinson started and rushed for 13 yards on three carries. Etienne, however, was given just one rush, which he turned into two yards. This could be Urban Meyer saving Etienne for the regular season, but Robinson will be handling most of the workload on the ground.

  • As for the Browns, they didn’t play any of their starters. Thus, there’s not much to say outside of Donovan Peoples-Jones’ performance. Known as the star of Cleveland’s training camp, Peoples-Jones caught the initial pass of the game, a 15-yard connection from Case Keenum. He then made a nice reception on the second drive while falling down to move the sticks on third down. Peoples-Jones will be worth adding on the waiver wire if Odell Beckham Jr. or Jarvis Landry were to suffer an injury.

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    Broncos 33, Vikings 6

  • Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater are engaged in a quarterback competition, with the former drawing the start in the initial preseason contest. It was a small sample size, but Lock appeared to be vastly improved from the inconsistent performer we saw last year.

    Lock looked sharp, going 5-of-7 for 151 yards and two touchdowns. His best throw was a perfectly placed 80-yard bomb to K.J. Hamler. He took another deep shot on the next drive, but just barely missed Jerry Jeudy. However, he later came back to Jeudy, locating him in the end zone for his second score.

    Here were Lock’s targets:

    Trinity Benson: 1 (1 end zone)
    Royce Freeman: 1
    K.J. Hamler: 3
    Jerry Jeudy: 3 (1 end zone)

  • K.J. Hamler looks like a completely different receiver in his second year. The Vikings had no answer for him, as he hauled in two of his three targets for 108 yards. If Courtland Sutton continues to have issues with his knee, Hamler could be in for a strong 2021 campaign, especially if Drew Lock performs like he did in his preseason debut.

  • Teddy Bridgewater entered the game in the middle of the second quarter and played into the third frame. He drove the team down the field immediately, even scoring a rushing touchdown that was negated by a penalty. Bridgewater later threw a touchdown to finish his evening. He went 7-of-8 for 74 yards and a touchdown, though it’s worth noting that he was battling Minnesota’s second- and third-team defense.

  • Javonte Williams enjoyed a spectacular post-draft offseason, and his NFL debut backed up what was written about him since May. Williams was stellar in his first-ever preseason game. His first carry featured a nice cutback that allowed him to pick up 10 yards. Williams then used a stiff-arm on his second rush to get to the edge and generate 13 yards. Williams ultimately broke a tackle to score a touchdown, but a hold negated it. Still, Williams was terrific in his four touches, which he turned into 28 yards. He’s going way too late in fantasy drafts.

  • The Vikings didn’t use any of their primary players, and frankly, it didn’t seem like they were prepared to play this game. This is unusual for a Mike Zimmer-coached team in the preseason, but perhaps things have changed. Zimmer has spent the past several weeks incoherently ranting like an old man, so perhaps he’s not very focused on his duties right now.

  • Third-round rookie quarterback Kellen Mond entered the game following some ineffective drives by Jake Browning. Mond’s stat line was a ghastly 6-of-16 for 57 yards. He didn’t play well, but wasn’t as bad as those numbers indicate. There were some drops, including one in the end zone. Mond also used his legs well to navigate the pocket. However, some of the accuracy on his throws was poor, and I don’t know what he was thinking when he tossed a 2-yard pass on a fourth-and-5. It must be noted that Mond has practiced just three times, so perhaps he’ll be better later this month.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: I always enjoy the Viking play-by-play guy because he has so much energy. It wasn’t lacking on the kickoff: “BOOM! THERE GOES THE KICK IN THE AIR!!!”

    There were some negatives, however. The broadcast really screwed up. Sayre Bedinger summarized it well:

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    Bears 20, Dolphins 13

  • Justin Fields saw his first professional action against the Dolphins, entering after two unsuccessful Andy Dalton drives. The consensus was that Fields performed at a high level, and I would agree with that assessment. However, Fields looked shaky to start his debut.

    Fields endured a disastrous drive in the second quarter. He fumbled a shotgun snap on first down, then was nearly intercepted by two players on the next play because he launched a pass off his back foot while drifting backward. He then tried to scramble on third down, but fumbled once again. He was fortunate enough to recover.

    Things got much better after that, and it all started during the 2-minute drill to close out the opening half. Fields began using his legs to buy enough time to find open receivers. He moved his team in position for a field goal. We then saw more of the same in the third quarter, as Fields often bought himself time to locate open targets, including Riley Ridley for a 17-yard connection. Fields followed that up by lofting a pretty touch pass to Rodney Adams for 25 yards, then scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown.

    Fields’ penultimate drive was a thing of beauty. He scrambled for a 22-yard gain, using terrific speed. Then, using a play-action fake that fooled the entire Miami defense, Fields found a wide-open tight end for a touchdown.

    Fields finished 14-of-20 for 142 yards and a touchdown to go along with four scrambles for 37 rushing yards and a second score. One of his incompletions was a drop. Fields did extremely well to rebound from a rocky start. If the Bears see more of this during August, they’ll have no choice but to start Fields at the beginning of the regular season.

  • Dalton started this game and played two drives. Lacking Allen Robinson, David Montgomery and Jimmy Graham, Dalton went just 2-of-4 for 18 yards. The Chicago announcers praised his accuracy, but we all know what this is.

    Here were Dalton’s targets:

    Rodney Adams: 1
    Cole Kmet: 2
    Darnell Mooney: 1

  • Fields wasn’t the only young quarterback playing in this game. Tua Tagovailoa was on the field for three drives. The first ended quickly because of an Adam Shaheen drop, but the second possession was much more successful. It featured an accurate touch throw to Mike Gesicki for a 50-yard gain, ultimately leading to a chip-shot field goal. The third drive was also promising. Tagovailoa fit the ball into Mike Hollins through a tight window to convert a third down with a 13-yard completion. However, Tagovailoa made his lone mistake shortly later when he heaved a ball into double coverage toward Shaheen for what he thought would be a touchdown. A Chicago player intercepted the pass instead.

    Tagovailoa finished 9-of-14 for 98 yards and the interception. He played well before the pick, showing some great accuracy. Despite the blunder, Miami should be optimistic about Tagovailoa’s outlook.

    Here were Tagovailoa’s targets:

    Malcolm Brown: 1
    Myles Gaskin: 1
    Mike Gesicki: 2
    Mack Hollins: 3
    Adam Shaheen: 3 (1 end zone)
    Durham Smythe: 1

  • Tagovailoa didn’t have DeVante Parker or Will Fuller at his disposal, but he was able to throw to Mike Gesicki, who caught a 50-yard pass. Gesicki, who finished with two grabs for 56 yards, should have a strong 2021 campaign.

  • Anyone who drafted Myles Gaskin should be very concerned right now. Malcolm Brown started and received most of the workload in the first quarter. He was given nine carries – which he turned into only eight yards – before Gaskin saw his second attempt. Gaskin then played with the backups in the second quarter. I don’t understand this running back rotation because Gaskin is far superior compared to the pedestrian Brown. Still, the Dolphins are the ones making the decision regarding these running backs, and Gaskin’s usage should be troubling for anyone who owns him.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: This came from a Bears announcer: “I can’t remember this much hype about a Chicago Bears quarterback in my lifetime!” Talk about revisionist history. According to this guy, there wasn’t major hype with Mitchell Trubisky, Cade McCown and Rex Grossman. Trubisky was even selected way before Fields was in their respective drafts!

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    Cardinals 19, Cowboys 16

  • This was another mostly a useless preseason game because neither Kyler Murray nor Dak Prescott took the field. That said, there are a few players worth discussing…

  • The Cardinals used second-round rookie Rondale Moore in a variety of ways in his preseason debut. They utilized him via jet sweeps and end-arounds, and he was also a receiver out of the backfield. Moore tallied 39 total yards on five touches. Arizona will apparently use him as a gadget threat this year. He won’t have a huge workload, so I wouldn’t recommend him in fantasy, but he’ll be fun to watch during his rookie campaign.

  • Chase Edmonds was given all of the carries in the opening quarter. He rushed for 10 yards on three attempts, and he also caught a 10-yard pass. Edmonds looks good enough to be chosen around the sixth round of fantasy drafts.

  • As for the Cowboys, the only player of note was Michael Gallup, who was the only starter to play for Dallas in this game. Gallup dropped a pass on third down, but redeemed himself with a fourth-down reception to move the sticks. Gallup hauled in two receptions for 23 yards.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Ron Wolfley was the color analyst in this game, meaning we were bound to hear some crazy quotes. I caught two:

    “That’s a blood farm, right there!”

    “Look at the jets in the pants!”

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    Titans 23, Falcons 3

  • This game was utterly useless from a fantasy perspective. Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, Mike Davis, Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones, A.J. Brown and Kyle Pitts all sat. The preseason was once very useful for fantasy football analysis, but that’s definitely not the case anymore.

  • I’ve seen undrafted rookie Javian Hawkins get some hype. He didn’t do very well with his six touches, however. He turned five carries into just two yards, while his sole reception went for just as many receiving yards.

  • With Henry out, the Titans rode Darrynton Evans in the first quarter. Evans looked solid, gaining 26 yards on four carries, albeit against some Atlanta scrubs.

  • The most exciting player in this game was Falcons undrafted rookie quarterback Feleipe Franks. His rushing ability was on full display in this contest. He used a stiff-arm to pick up a first down, and then he broke out of a potential sack to scramble for a 52-yard gain. He ultimately ran four times for 76 rushing yards.

    Franks’ passing was a different story. Franks, who played the entire second half, went just 2-of-9 for 16 yards. That stat line is a bit misleading, however. Two incompletions were drops, including one pass that would’ve gone for a reception of about 20 yards. Two other incompletions were thrown away because of pressure. A fifth incompletion was batted down.

    Franks looked better than expected, and he was an upgrade over the miserable A.J. McCarron (5-of-11, 36 yards). Perhaps Franks will win the backup job this year.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: This was a real quote from one of the announcers: “How do you expect the Falcons to look tonight with A.J. McCarron leading the team?” I imagine the broadcast lost 75 percent of its viewers as soon as this was said.

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    Bills 16, Lions 15

  • There was no reason for Josh Allen to play in this game, but because Jared Goff happened to be playing with a new team, Lions head coach Dan Campbell had his quarterback take the field for two drives.

    Goff’s first possession was a disaster. His initial pass was a short toss that was nearly intercepted by a backup linebacker. Goff was then sacked on third down when Bills rookie defensive end Gregory Rousseau easily beat first-round rookie tackle Penei Sewell. Goff dealt with pressure on the next drive, scrambling for no gain on a third-and-8. However, a defensive penalty kept the drive alive for the Lions, and Goff took advantage with some nice connections to his primary receivers, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyrell Williams. The drive ultimately stalled in the red zone.

    Goff went 7-of-9 for 56 yards. The numbers look solid, but it must be noted that the Lions did this with their entire starting offense, save for D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson, all while battling Buffalo’s backups.

    Here were Goff’s targets:

    Jason Cabinda: 1
    Darren Fells: 1
    Khalif Raymond: 1
    Amon-Ra St. Brown: 3
    Tyrell Williams: 4 (1 end zone)

  • The Detroit announcers made it clear that the coaching staff was very impressed with Amon-Ra St. Brown. The rookie receiver would have converted on all three of his targets from Jared Goff if a 12-yard reception of his wasn’t negated by a hold. St. Brown finished with two catches for 12 yards. The announcers noted that Goff and St. Brown have nice timing with each other, and that was apparent in the preseason opener.

  • Tyrell Williams led the Lions’ starters in targets (4) during the preseason opener. He caught two passes for 30 yards, and he was targeted with a pass in the end zone that a Buffalo defensive back deflected. It’s nice to see Williams have some nice chemistry with Jared Goff, but I’m not holding my breath for consistent fantasy production.
  • As mentioned, Swift didn’t play. Jamaal Williams handled the entire workload by himself, but mustered just 15 yards on nine carries. The blocking just wasn’t there for him.

  • With Zack Moss hurt, Devin Singletary and Matt Breida shared the workload in the first half. Singletary looked good; he rushed for 42 yards on eight carries, and that doesn’t include a gain of about 12 that was negated by a hold. Singletary also caught a 6-yard touchdown. If Moss is out for a while, Singletary will be an intriguing pick in the middle rounds.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Here’s a gem from one of the Detroit announcers: “The Lions are not as familiar with Mitchell Trubisky because there are new players on the roster.” Oh no, I wonder if the Detroit coaches and players lost sleep wondering how they could ever stop the only man to ever win NVP in the NFL?

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Patriots 22, Redskins 13

  • The primary story of this game centered around the two Patriot rookies in the backfield: Mac Jones and Rhamondre Stevenson. The first-round rookie quarterback entered the game in the final minute of the opening quarter and played into the second half.

    Jones performed well, but his stats were underwhelming; he finished 13-of-19 for 87 yards. The completion percentage looks good, but the 4.6 YPA is abysmal. Jones spent most of the evening tossing checkdowns, especially during the no-huddle look at the beginning of the third quarter. That wasn’t the case the entire time, however. Jones skipped his first pass to Jakobi Meyers, which would have been ruled a reception had Bill Belichick challenged. Jones bounced back to complete his next throw to move the chains. He followed that up with a 13-yard strike over the middle of the field to Kendrick Bourne, and the drive concluded with a dropped touchdown by someone named Kristian Wilkerson. All of this occurred during Jones’ initial possession, though it’s worth noting that he did this with the starters versus the Redskins’ backup defense. I imagine things would have been much different had Chase Young been on the field.

    Most of Jones’ passes were checkdowns the rest of the way, though he impressively completed an 8-yard pass to Wilkerson through a tight window on one of his final throws. Overall, this was a fine debut, but it’s still unclear if Jones can become a viable starter in the NFL.

    Meanwhile, Stevenson made the play of the game. There was a hilarious moment in the final minutes of regulation when the Patriots, up 15-13, took a knee. Ron Rivera called timeout, prompting a frustrated Belichick to mouth, “Come on.” Two plays later, Belichick’s staff called a run for Stevenson, who broke a 91-yard touchdown run. Stevenson looked great, tallying 127 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. It’s likely that he’ll pass Sony Michel on the depth chart sometime soon.

  • Cam Newton started this game and played two drives, one of which resulted in a field goal. Newton went 4-of-7 for 49 yards, but two of his incompletions were met with some boos from the crowd, presumably from those who wanted to see Mac Jones. Newton, who looked skinnier than he did last year, made a couple of nice throws, but also had some negative moments. One occurred when he was guilty of being strip-sacked on the initial third down of the evening when Chase Young easily beat left tackle Isaiah Wynn. Newton also threw behind James White on an attempted screen.

    Here were Newton’s targets:

    Jakobi Meyers: 1
    Jonnu Smith: 2
    James White: 3

  • Jonnu Smith looked good in his debut for the Patriots. He caught a single pass for 16 yards, but that was an impressive play in which he broke out of a tackle to get the first down. Smith was targeted twice, and while that’s a small sample size, it seems as though Cam Newton will rely on him and Hunter Henry throughout the season.

  • While Rhamondre Stevenson thrived in his first game, Damien Harris started and performed well, too. Harris rushed for 17 yards on four carries, but that doesn’t include a burst of about 15 that was negated by a Jonnu Smith hold.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick had an uneven debut for the Redskins, going 5-of-8 for 58 yards in two possessions. Fitzpatrick missed Antonio Gibson on a routine throw, but then hurled a great, back-shoulder pass to Logan Thomas. It’s difficult to tell anything from this small sample size, but it was apparent that Fitzpatrick liked targeting Terry McLaurin, as you’ll see below:

    Here were Fitzpatrick’s targets:

    Antonio Gibson: 2
    Adam Humphries: 2
    Terry McLaurin: 3
    Logan Thomas: 1

  • Antonio Gibson was heavily involved in the offense. He rushed for 15 yards on five carries, and he also caught both of his targets for 14 receiving yards. He looked good, but one has to wonder why he played so much. Running backs are brittle, so the Redskins’ playoff chances would’ve taken a hit had he gotten injured during meaningless action. Ron Rivera needs to tell reporters why he risked Gibson’s health.

  • This is something that is insignificant, but it irked me that Rivera punted on a fourth-and-1 on the New England 41 during the opening drive. Why not stick with the starting offense and see if it can convert a crucial situation?

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: There was an odd exchange during the first half: “Do you have a fantasy team?” “No, I don’t have time to be a fantasy GM.” You don’t have time to be a fantasy GM? Well, excuuuse me, princess. In my opinion, every single NFL announcer should be required to play in at least one fantasy league. Then again, if they did that, we wouldn’t have ridiculous comments from these inept preseason announcers.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Steelers 24, Eagles 16

  • Jalen Hurts was the only starting quarterback to take the field in this game, as Ben Roethlisberger is far too old to be playing in these meaningless August games. Hurts played two snaps and had mixed results.

    Hurts’ best throw in his preseason debut was an accurate, 34-yard connection to Dallas Goedert in which he did a good job to avoid pressure. However, he skipped a pass to Jalen Reagor on his next attempt despite seeing no pressure in the pocket and having Reagor wide open for a medium gain. Hurts later missed Quez Watkins for a 98-yard touchdown. Hurts finished an underwhelming 3-of-7 for 54 yards, with one throw being tossed away as a result of pressure. Hurts’ accuracy desperately needs to improve after last year’s 52-percent completion result, and this game showed no evidence that this aspect has been upgraded.

    Here were Hurts’ targets:

    Zach Ertz: 3
    Dallas Goedert: 1
    Jalen Reagor: 1
    Quez Watkins: 1

  • Zach Ertz led the Eagles in targets from Jalen Hurts in this game. He caught two of the three balls thrown to him for 20 yards. However, he dropped a pass on third down to stall the initial drive. There’s a reason why teams had no interest in trading for Ertz, so I wouldn’t expect him to have a big year. What he’ll do, however, is take opportunities away from Dallas Goedert.

  • Miles Sanders didn’t play. Jordan Howard and Boston Scott shared the touches with the first-team offense. They each received just one carry.

  • The box score will show that Joe Flacco posted a great stat line – 10-of-17, 178 yards, one touchdown – but most of that was a 79-yard touchdown thrown to Watkins that he caught close to the line of scrimmage. Watkins did all the work, blowing by all of Pittsburgh’s backup defenders.

  • Rookie running back Kenny Gainwell had some nice runs. He gained 14 yards on two carries, and he also had a burst of seven yards that featured a nice stiff-arm. That run, however, was negated by a hold.

  • Moving on to the Steelers, Najee Harris had a misleading stat line versus the Eagles. He rushed for 10 yards on two carries to go along with a 9-yard reception. However, he had gains of 13 and eight negated by a pair of holds. He also picked up a 6-yard rush despite getting hit at the line of scrimmage. Harris looked good, but his offensive line struggled, even against Philadelphia’s backups on the second possession. This will likely continue to be a problem throughout the 2021 season.

  • The box score will show that Diontae Johnson caught a 33-yard pass in this game. It was a pretty play, but it was done so against Philadelphia’s backup defenders.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Things weren’t going well right away for the Eagles’ broadcast, as the picture and voices weren’t aligned during the introduction. It looked like a cheap Japanese movie.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Steelers 16, Cowboys 3

  • If you missed the annual Hall of Fame Game this year, you didn’t miss much. Many of the starters didn’t play, though the Steelers utilized some of their key young players in this game, with one being involved in what could’ve been a disastrous turn of events.

    The player in question is Chase Claypool. The second-year receiver dropped an early pass, but then went on to haul in a 45-yard diving catch in the second quarter. Claypool (3-62) got hurt on the play, with the telecast going to commercial break as he was in pain while on the ground. Luckily, Claypool was OK, but the question must be asked: WHy were he and Dionate Johnson (2-19) even playing? They’re not rookies, so they don’t need experience, especially in the opening preseason game of the summer. Had Claypool suffered a serious injury, Pittsburgh’s slim playoff chances would have evaporated completely.

  • Pittsburgh’s primary rookie, Najee Harris, received a healthy workload in the opening half. Harris rushed for 22 yards on seven carries and caught a 3-yard pass. He looked fine, but the same can’t be said of his blocking. The Steelers’ new offensive line couldn’t open up substantial running lanes against Dallas’ backup defensive front. The Steeler blockers were even responsible for a turnover, as rookie center Kendrick Green had a botched exchange with Mason Rudolph on the opening drive.

  • Speaking of Rudolph, he started for the Steelers. He went 6-of-9 for 84 yards. A huge chunk of his yardage was the 45-yard bomb to Claypool. Rudolph struggled otherwise. There was one pass where he had James Washington directly in front of him for a short gain, yet threw way behind him. Rudolph may lose his No. 2 job to Dwayne Haskins, who was 8-of-13 for 54 yards. Haskins has reportedly looked good in training camp, though that wasn’t exactly apparent in this contest.

  • Of Dallas’ quarterbacks, Garrett Gilbert was the best; he went 9-of-13 for 104 yards, though he didn’t make any spectacular throws. Ben DiNucci (7-of-17, 89 yards) threw a ghastly interception in the third quarter that set up a Pittsburgh score. None of Dallas’ signal-callers had the services of Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb or Amari Cooper.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 Preseason Notes: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3
    2021 Fantasy Football Stock Pages: Preseason Stock Week 1 | Preseason Stock Week 2 | Preseason Stock Week 3

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