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The time is drawing near. Preseason game three is the dress rehearsal for every NFL franchise and the most important game for fantasy football. The players get placed in real game scenarios and get game planned against. The only evansconstant about the NFL is that it is always evolving and this week’s games are no different. I watched at least three-quarters to get the best idea about how these players would be used. My focus is on the first three-year players and this year’s free agents.  Here are my observations:

Bills vs. Bucs

The Bills defensive  front four collapsed the Tampa Bay pocket well, which hurried a lot of throws and shortened a lot of running lanes.  Unfortunately for Buffalo fans, EJ Manuel is looking worse, not better each week.  He does not set his feet, and rushes most of his throws.  The young quarterback got strip sacked for a touchdown and threw a pick when his tight end fell down on a route. Manual played better in the third quarter, but that was against the Buccaneer second and third team defenses.  Former Tampa receiver, Mike Williams, made a nice jump and stick the landing catch on the sidelines.  He also got behind his corner to score a red zone touchdown.

Doug Martin caught the ball well in stride, showed off a little wiggle, and got low on the way to a short yardage touchdown.  None of his backups are standing out in the preseason, so he should get the bulk of Tampa’s carries this season.  Rookie receiver Mike Evans does a great job of shielding his coverage away from the ball, and catches the ball at its highest point.  The young wide out gets sent out in motion to create the best one on one matchups.  He sprinted down the field 30 yards untouched to make a nice jump ball catch in the end zone.  I would be excited if I had him on my dynasty squad.

Saints vs. Colts

Drew Brees looked in top form.  Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks did not play due to a stomach bug.  It’s a little tough to get excited about Khiry Robinson right now.  He was the third back in the game and has the least defined role.  There were a few too many times he ran east and west when he should run north and south.  The young back catches the ball well, but is not outstanding at anything.  Mark Ingram continued to run hard and look explosive, but the runner isn’t always what he appears to be once regular season starts.  Safety Kenny Vaccaro continues to create positive buzz.  He looks like a receiver out there high pointing the ball in front of Fleener.

The chemistry seems out of whack between Andrew Luck and TY Hilton.  There were at least four targets they could not connect on.  Luck looks stronger in the pocket with bodies around or on top of him. The young signal caller only runs when there are not other options.  Trent Richardson can look quick and explosive one-quarter, then revert back to the plodding, heavy-footed guy the next.  I don’t trust him, but Ahmad Bradshaw hasn’t lit it up either. Dan “Boom” Herron isn’t anything special, but he looks like the best runner in the preseason for the Colts.  Both tight ends look to rebound this year.  Dwayne Allen is coming back from injury and looks powerful delivering blocks and hits after he catches the pigskin.  Coby Fleener got targeted twice near the end zone, one was nice deep target that ended with the touchdown and the other was a pass thrown behind him.  Fleener needs  Allen to do the dirty work so he can be an impact player.

Washington vs Ravens

The Ravens running game is now officially a mess with Bernard Pierce getting a concussion during the game.  Rice didn’t play with his impending suspension.  Backups Justin Forsett looked like a backup who knows the system; while rookie back Lorenzo Taliaferro played with more explosion, but is still quite raw.  Former Panther Steve Smith is playing as feisty as ever.  He developed good chemistry with Flacco and made a nice sliding end zone catch towards the end of the first half.

Robert Griffin III continued his inconsistent play using happy feet, mishandling the ball, and general awkwardness.  His confidence, poise, and leadership seem to be waning.  Tight end Jordan Reed did a good job getting open ten yards down the field catching the ball in stride.  He has a good center of gravity that helps him gain additional yardage after contact.  Runner Albert Morris looked great during his first carry when he caught the defense by surprise, but then struggled to generate much after that.  I am concerned about both of these offenses.

Broncos vs Texans

The Texans held out Arian Foster, starting once again journeyman running back Jonathan Grimes.  The runner gets good lean, runs low in short yardage situations, and keeps his feet well.  When the Texans got Grimes out in space, he looked even better.  If something were to happen to Foster, Houston would use him before the rookie Alfred Blue.  Senior Bowl alum, CJ Fiedorowicz, got used as the primary inline blocker tight end role.  He ran crisp routes, caught the ball well, and could be a threat near the goal line.

The return of Montee Ball gave the Broncos a nice one-two punch in the running game with Ronnie Hillman.  Ball has good leg drive, catches the ball well with dump-offs and screens (only played first quarter).  Hillman seems to have carved out a role, until Ball is completely healthy, with his smooth running.  The smaller back struggles to not catch the ball with his body though, but both backs are clearly ahead of CJ Anderson at this point.  For those fantasy owners that clambered for Emmanuel Sanders got a huge lift.  The former Steelers wide out scored two touchdowns within the last two minutes of the first half.  One was a beautiful 70 yard rainbow from Manning.  The chemistry is certainly there between Sanders and Peyton.  I was sorry to see Wes Welker take another concussion.  On the defensive side, outside backer Von Miller still has a great first step and is disruptive as ever.  Rookie corner Bradley Roby manhandled both Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins getting his hands on the ball to try to catch the ball or swat it away.

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