Each week I’ll bring you 10 names you need to know heading into the next week’s games during the regular season. Here is a special preseason addition. Let’s dive in!
1) Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions – People … I have sung his praises since before the draft. He is going to be a stud for the Lions this year. He will be the explosive back that the Lions thought they had with Reggie Bush. I would like to add a disclaimer in here, though: I believe that he will split carries with Joique Bell and not be the true No. 1 back for this team at least for the start of the season. He is the future of the Lions at running back. Start thinking about him as such.
2) Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, New England Patriots – Here is his stat line against the second and third team defenses of the Green Bay Packers: 20-for-30, 159 yards, 5.3 yards per throw, one interception, and took seven sacks. Let that soak in for a moment … This man took seven sacks and only threw for 159 yards on 20 throws not against the first team defense of the Packers. This tells me that the Patriots are going to stick hard to the short passing game while Garoppolo starts for the first few games of the season. This also means that if you were banking on taking Garoppolo as your starter after you drafted Tom Brady in your fantasy league, maybe you should think twice. You want to see improvement heading into their second preseason game against New Orleans (who was subpar against Baltimore last Thursday).
3) Justin Hardy, WR, Atlanta Falcons – The coaching staff likes him, and the preseason game against Tennessee showed that. Many plays and throws were heading his way all night. Right now, he is looking to be the No. 3 guy from the slot, which will earn him some targets in this offense. He looked good running crisp routes and finding ways to get open. If Roddy White can’t stay healthy again, you could see Hardy putting up numbers like Harry Douglas did last year as the No. 3 guy on the roster that had to be asked to do more. I’ve always been a big fan of Hardy’s game and the coaches in Atlanta see the potential for him to be a big part of the offense.
4) David Cobb, RB, Tennessee Titans – For all we heard about how he struggled in practice on third downs picking up pass protection, he looked like the perfect back for coach Ken Whisenhunt to help rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. He runs north-south, finds the hole and hits it hard. Bishop Sankey looked average with the first team offensive line while Cobb was able to find daylight with the backups. He is a back who takes more than an arm tackle to bring down, and Whisenhunt will look to see if he can be somebody to take pressure off Mariota. I’m watching Cobb to see if he can keep moving up the depth chart and become the between-the-tackles running back for the Titans and a possible flex-play with good matchups throughout the season.
5) Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals – There was a lot of buzz coming out of Bengals camp about Eifert and how he was dominating. He did look good in the few plays he was involved in on Friday against the New York Giants. He had two catches for 30 yards and looked smooth after missing the 2014 season. He will be one that I want to see if he can repeat his performance for the rest of preseason. If he can, he will be a legitimate TE2 at the beginning of the season due to play-action off of a solid run game with Jeremy Hill. Hue Jackson is a pretty good offensive coordinator and if Eifert can prove he can be a big play threat, Jackson will find a way to use him.