At dynasty blitz, I am watching each preseason game and let my readers known what I’m seeing. The NFL landscape is very fluid, so please consider that this is only the beginning. My efforts concentrated on the younger players and/or new team additions. Here are some quick observations after watching the first half of each game:
New Orleans seems committed to running the ball a bit more. Former first round pick, Mark Ingram, ran hard and powerfully, using a stiff-arm while looking more physical than he did at any time last season. The back bounced off defenders and pulled out a rare spin move. Backup rusher, Khiry Robinson, looked good in space, caught the ball well, and jumped over the line of scrimmage to score a short touchdown. Training camp reports have been positive about second year quarterback Ryan Griffin. The signal caller has a quick release, shows good pocket presence stepping up to get away from danger, but still needs work. If you are looking for speed/quickness, Brandin Cooks is willing to answer the call. The rookie offensive weapon returned punts, ran inside and outside routes taking a few hard shots in the middle of the field.
The Rams 2013 leading rusher, Zac Stacy, ran low to the ground with good leg drive and does a great job pass blocking. The second year back looked far and way the best man for the lead RB job. I was impressed with Stedman Bailey’s beautiful touchdown grab over a larger corner which saw the young wide out contorting to make the catch. Sure Bailey has a four game suspension, but he might be the best receiver in St. Louis. Rookie defensive back LaMarcus Joyner also stood out to me. He was aggressive and physical in coverage, making sure the Saints receivers knew he was there.
What can you say about Maurice Jones-Drew and his return home to California? The runner remains quick and squatty with some gas left in the tank. Fourth year receiver, Andre Holmes, started the game and got targeted early twice by Matt Schaub. They did not connect due to inaccurate throws, but the depth chart having James Jones below him looks to be justified. Mychal Rivera, the second year tight end, just missed converting on a few passes in the middle of the field. Schaub seemed to have a lot of chemistry issues with his targets. It doesn’t seem that rookie quarterback, Derek Carr, is any threat for playing time at this point, though. While the young signal caller has a strong arm, the former Fresno State Bulldog hung his receivers out to dry with poorly thrown passes, forcing them into unnecessary contact, and did not seem to be ready for the speed of the game (this was against the second team of the Vikings).
On the other hand, the Vikings appeared ready to make the next step on offense. Second year receiving sensation Cordarrelle Patterson got separation quickly with fluid cuts, adjusted to low throws, and shielded the defender from the ball. It didn’t matter to him whether Matt Cassell or Teddy Bridgewater threw him the ball. The rookie quarterback has a quick release and seemed very comfortable and accurate rolling out to either side. Cassell looked more polished, but my money is on the rookie starting sometime in September and never letting go of the job. First year rusher, Jerick McKinnon, looked agile, and took on blockers in pass protection. The young runner has quick feet, leans forward, and uses a good stiff-arm to keep defenders away from his body. Adrian Peterson owners keep him in your sights. Defensively, rookie linebacker Anthony Barr got good initial penetration off the line and ended the first quarter with a sack. The defender has a good motor that keeps him looking to smash someone until the whistle blows.
There wasn’t a lot of excitement on the Carolina side of the ball outside of rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The wide out showed off his huge jumping radius on one play splitting two defenders down the seam. He then made a highlight worthy pitch and catch, adjusting to a rainbow in the end zone for his first NFL touchdown (I know it was preseason). Most of the Panthers offensive weapons did not play in this first game: Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams, or Jonathan Stewart.
The Bills offense improved on their abysmal Hall of Fame game showing. Second year quarterback, EJ Manuel, appeared more confident and did a good job hitting receivers in stride throwing downfield. Rookie superstar, Sammy Watkins, caught the ball well out in front getting the most out of his catches. The wide out demanded double coverage and showed off his amazing catch radius. CJ Spiller was explosive, demonstrated good balance, but was not used for short yardage work. Former Eagles rusher Bryce Brown moved up to be the third back to get touches. He has a lot of quickness and agility making the defense miss, but still tries to bounce everything outside. If Brown has any aspiration of being a fulltime starter, he will need to improve in that area.
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