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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 constant hydeabout 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:

Chargers vs 49ers

For the Chargers, it looks like tight end Ladarius Green will play as much as Antonio Gates.  Green went in motion quite a bit, got behind the defense a couple of times, but did not do anything of note.  Finally a defensive linemen stepped up for  San Diego, defensive end Corey Liuget applied pressure against the run and pass.  He knocked a ball in the air and stripped the ball out of Kaepernick’s hands while sacking him.  The Chargers need to find a pas rush to make up for their limited corner backs.

Signal caller, Colin Kaepernick, did not have a memorable first quarter.  He lost two fumbles within six minutes of the game starting.  It looks like he feels the pressure of the offense and holds onto the ball too long trying to free receivers downfield. While the young quarterback can throw darts past double coverage, it is in his best interest to find his dump off receivers first.  Rookie back Carlos Hyde has trouble running the ball without a clear lane.  He does get physical swatting defenders around, using a spin move, and showing good leg drive when he has room.   I am still leading the charge on rookie receiver/returner Bruce Ellington.  He looks good playing the slot, adjusting to the ball in the air, and making catches in stride. If the versatile playmaker needs to take a handoff or return kickoffs/punts, Ellington can do that too.  IDPers don’t sleep on safety Eric Reid.  He is a great open field tackler who likes to play the ball hawking role.

Bengals vs Cardinals

While the Cardinals offense didn’t light it up against the Bengals, they seem ready to take the next step.  Andre Ellington was the first look on many pass plays and occasionally lines up in the slot.  He shows good leg drive, burst, wiggle, and downfield vision.  If the second year back can stay healthy, he could join the dynasty elite. Speaking of near dynasty elite, third year receiver Michael Floyd failed to connect on two back to back long touchdown plays (one was an overthrow and the other was a great defensive play).  I expect Floyd to start out-playing Fitzgerald this season.  Even though rookie receiver John Brown was relatively quiet with the starters, he broke free near the end of the third quarter for a nice 30 yard touchdown.   The Cardinals defense went thru a major upheaval so expect them to get into a few more shootouts this season, which beefs up the Arizona offensive production.

Third year receiver Mohammed Sanu looks a bit more buff, catches passes in traffic, and has become a steady third option for Dalton in the passing game.  Despite everyone expecting a nice one-two punch with Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill,; Bernard saw all the running back touches in the first quarter.  Hill got worked in starting the second quarter showing off his strong leg drive, battering ram persona.  The rookie runner does a good job stepping up to take on blitzers and has good hands to be used as a weapon in the passing game.  If the Bengals truly want to be a run-first team, both running backs will be fantasy relevant.

Cowboys vs Dolphins

The biggest story of the preseason for the Dolphins is Ryan Tannehill still cannot find Mike Wallace deep in their new offense.  It surprised me to see a called run with the young quarterback early too.  Miami’s running game still seems a bit uneasy with starter Lamar Miller not looking anything special.  Knowshon Moreno has some explosion and wiggle that they need in this new quick striking Eagles based offense.  Both backs appeared in the same backfield, at times, so that might be enough to create some space in the running game.

Linebacker Bruce Carter still managed to get some time with the starters flying all around the field; this included a nice pass breakup.  Second year back, Lance Dunbar, came in early. While the former North Texas Eagle isn’t the most powerful runner or blocker, he is slippery and shows good vision making smooth cuts.  When Dez Bryant got pulled from the game, rookie Devin Street came in for him.  Street runs crisp routes and does a good job at catching the ball at its highest point.  I expect him to take over the third receiver job sooner than later from Cole Beasley.

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