The NFL preseason is now over. Many younger and/or fringe players are fighting for roster spots on NFL and fantasy football teams as you read. We got slight glimpses into the thought pattern of some teams with how much or how little these athletes played and others we will never know. Here are my general thoughts about some of the more interesting younger players or free agents from the first half of their last preseason game.
Patriots vs. Giants
Don’t be fooled by Rashad Jennings two super carries in front of his first team offensive line against the Pats second and third team defense. Rookie Andre Williams once again showed off a low center of gravity, powerful legs, a nice stiff-arm, and some open field burst. The dreaded running back by committee seems inevitable in New York. Oh by the way, Eli Manning and Rueben Randle still haven’t worked out their timing issues.
I wouldn’t get dramatically excited about the young class of Patriots just yet. Rookie James White looked his best on a draw and a wheel route. The young back doesn’t see the holes well, can get strung out east and west, and lacks the power to break many tackles up the middle. He might be a replacement for Shane Vereen if the vet leaves via free agency, but White is no short yardage guy. Jimmy Garoppolo is still learning, which is understandable for a rookie quarterback from a smaller school. He seems most comfortable in shotgun where the young signal caller has more time to find a seam. When Garoppolo steps up in the pocket, he can be quite accurate, but that suffers when crowded for space. Newly acquired Tim Wright lined up mostly out wide, he catches the ball well and in traffic, but the tight end won’t break any speed records. Wide out Aaron Dobson made his 2014 preseason début in this game. He made a nice adjustment to a lob by Garoppolo for a touchdown. It looked like he rounded off a few routes though. Rookie receiver Jeremy Gallon had his most activity returning punts and getting used as the third receiver. He has a lot of quickness and agility, but might be a practice squad player in 2014.
Broncos vs. Cowboys
If you own Tony Romo in your fantasy league, don’t count on Brandon Weeden to give you more than 70% of Romo’s production in case of injury. Sure Weeden shows a little more mobility than one would expect, but the older quarterback makes up for it with an inaccurate arm and inconsistent decision-making. The signal caller demonstrated almost zero chemistry with his receivers. The only one he counted on was tight end James Hanna, who does a good job shielding the defender from the ball and blocked well enough at the point of attack.
While anyone taking over for Peyton Manning will certainly have a letdown, Brock Osweiler has nice touch on the ball and could have a stronger arm at this point than the future Hall of Famer. The quarterback got plagued by drops early, and just missed Cody Latimer with a rainbow throw near the end of the first half. The forgotten receiver, Andre Caldwell, adjusted well to the ball in the air and made a nice catch at the one yard line. Second year CJ Anderson looks good when his linemen create space for him, but when they don’t, he doesn’t go far. While the young back has power and lean, wiggle and burst are not in his skill set tool belt.
Washington vs. Bucs
The Bucs rolled out two of last year’s starters in quarterback Mike Glennon and running back replacement Bobby Rainey. Even though they only played the first series or so, Glennon had poise, made quick decisions with accurate throws. While Rainey, had quick feet and a decent wiggle even though the young back got strung out a time or two.
On the Washington side, Kirk Cousins, the backup quarterback, didn’t play leaving more room for speculation on the RG3 front. One of my favorite 2014 Senior Bowl receivers, Ryan Grant, showed off his big hands and good concentration. He does a good job blocking downfield, but lets the ball come to him instead of attacking the ball in the air. The young wide out probably won’t have much of a redraft impact, but could see time in four wide sets. There is a good battle brewing between Chris Thompson and Silas Redd for a backup running back position. Thompson has better hands, quick feet, but needs open space to work. On the other hand Redd does better between the tackles, runs with more power, and still has a little wiggle.
Ravens vs. Saints
Rookie back Lorenzo Taliaferro is more of a battering ram using his leg drive and power to get past his would be tacklers. There is a little smash mouth Jamal Lewis look to his game as he squares his shoulders hitting the line of scrimmage. With the suspension and injuries to the Ravens backs, he might be pressed into action early than you would think. Quite the opposite is rookie receiver, Michael Campanaro, who is a good returner with a little wiggle. The young wide out spent some time as the slot receiver when Baltimore went to three wide. He isn’t much of a blocker yet, but he does like to mix it up on running plays. Perhaps Steve Smith Sr. is rubbing off on him.
For the Saints, they played a little musical chairs with their backs. Robinson and Ingram saw a few carries, but it was mostly Travaris Cadet gliding around. It’s too bad Cadet is so smooth, he sometimes slips over himself. Second year quarterback, Ryan Griffin, showed off his strong arm with a decent touch. He has the look of a franchise quarterback in 2016 with his grit and good footwork. First round pick Brendin Cooks isn’t afraid to make catches in traffic and fight for extra yardage.
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