Six games last night, another half-dozen tonight… sure it’s only preseason, but football is in the air! Here’s a rundown of what fantasy owners can be looking for tonight, whether it be for an abbreviated series with the starters or a backup receiving extended playing time as the coaches try to determine if they’re ready for prime time.
The expectation is that Miami is following the lead of new OC Bill Lazor, who came from Chip Kelly’s high-octane Eagles, and will be speeding up the tempo of the game. This game will provide a first-hand glimpse as to how Ryan Tannehill is handling that change, as well as show us if he and Mike Wallace have managed to get on the same page with regards to the deep ball. Also keep an eye on what the Dolphins have patched together in front of Tannehill, as their offensive line has undergone a complete makeover. How that unit holds up carries a great deal of sway as to whether or not Tannehill, Wallace, and Lamar Miller can be fantasy values this season.
Something olds, something new from the Falcons as we hope to see at least a brief glimpse of a healthy Julio Jones and a longer look at two youngsters bucking for playing time. Running back Devonta Freeman is pushing to usurp Jaquizz Rodgers and maybe even threaten Steven Jackson’s workload, while Levine Toilolo attempts to fill the shoes of future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez at tight end.
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We’ve seen the Bills once already, but the development of quarterback EJ Manuel and the roles of wideouts Robert Woods and Mike Williams warrant further scrutiny. So too does the backfield rotation, especially with whispers about a CJ Spiller trade floating around training camp.
If Cam Newton plays at all it will likely be only a brief appearance as he works his way back from offseason ankle surgery. But even if it’s Derek Anderson or Joe Webb slinging the ball you’ll want to see if anyone can emerge from the Panthers’ collection of receivers that includes rookie Kelvin Benjamin and veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant.
Bucs fans and fantasy owners will get their first game-action look at Jeff Tedford’s version of Chicago South, with rookies Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins teaming with Vincent Jackson to give ex-Bears quarterback Josh McCown more than 13 feet of pass-catchers. The battle to back up Doug Martin will also be worth keeping an eye on.
Don’t look for Blake Bortles with the Jacksonville first team, as he has yet to take a snap with the starters this training camp. And you’ll also miss injured starters Toby Gerhart and Cecil Shorts. You will, however, get to see second-round pick Marqise Lee, who may be the only healthy wideout of interest.
The Eagles have already indicated the starters will be limited to 10-15 snaps, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention. Rookie wideout Jordan Matthews may get some work with the starters with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin unlikely to play, and if he stuck around for some snaps with the second team that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Aside from Martellus Bennett taking this weekend off due to his training camp scuffle earlier in the week, the Bears’ lineup is relatively set. However, keep an eye on the contingent battling for Marquess Wilson’s WR3 gig, a group that includes Eric Weems, Josh Morgan and Chris Williams. Also, if you’re planning to invest a high pick in Matt Forte you’ll want to watch the competition to be his caddy, with rookie Ka’Deem Carey the early favorite.
No Adrian Peterson, but you’ll want to check out the battle to be his backup. Matt Asiata is the incumbent but rookie Jerick McKinnon has impressed and should get ample opportunity against Oakland backups tonight. Also expect first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater to see a few snaps with the starters and a little more action with the second team as he pushed Matt Cassel for the starting gig.
The Raiders’ rookie QB Derek Carr might see some time of his own with the first team as he presses Matt Schaub for the job. It’s also worth keeping an eye on who might be on the business end of Carr or Schaub passes, with Andre Holmes having only limited time to improve his fantasy stock as he’s expected to be shut down early along with the rest of the Raiders’ regulars.
Finally, few if any fantasy players have been more hyped this training camp than Saints rookie Brandin Cooks. He won’t be catching passes from Drew Brees, but perhaps we’ll get a glimpse at how New Orleans intends to use him as well as what he can do.
The Rams will also be sitting a bunch of starters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t glean something from the heated competition for roles in the receiver rotation. Kenny Britt seems rejuvenated in St. Louis, and fantasy owners will get another opportunity to get sucked into the Britt fantasy vortex if he shows well this evening.
Welcome back, football!