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FANTASY OBSERVATIONS: Preseason Week 2 – Part 1

Here are some fantasy related takeaways and gut reactions from the NFL preseason Week 2 games played.

Baltimore 31, Miami 7

Baltimore – Key Takeaways

Quarterback: Baltimore might be in deep trouble if Joe Flacco misses any regular season time. After a disastrous outing against Washington last week, backup quarterback Ryan Mallett struggled again with ball placement and decision making in about three quarters of action, going 13-of-22 for 113 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Once of Mallett’s interceptions was particularly egregious, where he overthrew wide receiver Quincey Adeboyejo, and the errant pass was snatched by Xavien Howard, who ended up looking like the intended receiver on the play.

Running Back: The running back snap counts for Baltimore’s first four drives were as follows: Terrance West (11), Danny Woodhead (seven), Javorius Allen (five). West started the game and managed a paltry -2 yards on six carries and caught his lone target for 6 yards. West also fumbled deep in Baltimore territory, but again the offense was able to recover. Woodhead rushed just once for 2 yards, and failed to reel in any of his three pass targets. While it makes sense for Baltimore to scale back Woodhead’s touches in the preseason with him coming off ACL surgery, it would be helpful to know how the team plans to deploy the points per reception specialist in order to justify spending a mid-round draft pick on him. Allen rushed 10 times for 40 yards, and caught all three of his pass targets for 16 yards, albeit most of the yardage came against Miami’s backups. If Allen continues to play well (he did amass 867 total yards in 2015 after all), it’s conceivable he could turn the Baltimore backfield into a three-way committee, which helps no one for fantasy purposes.

Receiver: Jeremy Maclin made his Baltimore debut, catching his only target for 5 yards. Mike Wallace also started after sitting out last week, and caught both of his targets for 33 yards. Wallace did fumble on his first catch, but the ball was recovered by an offensive lineman. Personally, until I see Joe Flacco on the field with Maclin and Wallace, I cannot endorse anything more than an end-of-the bench roster spot for them in fantasy leagues.

Miami – Key Takeaways

Quarterback: Jay Cutler started the game, and actually looked decent. He went 3-of-6 for 24 yards in under a quarter of action, but had a 31-yard gain to DeVante Parker nullified due to a holding penalty. It was a very small sample size, but maybe the Miami offense won’t be as incompetent as I initially feared with Cutler running the show. It’s worth noting, however, that Cutler has missed at least one game with an injury in each of his last seven seasons.

Running Back: Jay Ajayi, cleared from his concussion earlier this week, started the game and rushed twice for -2 yards, and caught his only pass target for 11 yards. The offensive line had a tough time opening up any running lanes for Ajayi with starting center Mike Pouncey held out of the game, although Ajayi did have a 19-yard scamper on a third-and-forever draw play that was wiped out due to offsetting penalties (holding against Miami, late hit against Baltimore). As owners of Ajayi last season will attest, you will have to take some pedestrian statlines to go with his blowup games.

Receiver: DeVante Parker led the first-team offense, catching 1-of-4 targets for 16 yards. Parker was yanked after just a few offensive series, but it was encouraging to see Cutler looking his way often. Not so encouraging was seeing wide receiver Jarvis Landry lose 3 yards on his only target of the evening. It’s fair to wonder how involved Landry will be in the Miami offense, as Cutler tends to shy away from making the short/safe throws that Landry has made a living off of.

Tampa Bay 12, Jacksonville 8

Tampa Bay – Key Takeaways

Quarterback: One of the big stories of this game is how Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston carved up the Jacksonville defense to the tune of 21-of-29 and 196 yards in one half of football. Winston and his fully stocked arsenal of receiving options did whatever they wanted against the Jacksonville secondary that was missing Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. The only blemish on Winston’s evening occurred when he carelessly heaved a pass into the end zone to avoid being sacked, and although the pass was intercepted, the officials ruled Winston was down by contact.

Running Back: Doug Martin started the game and looked like a man who knows he needs to justify his contract, rushing for 30 yards on five carries, as well as Tampa Bay’s only touchdown of the game. He also caught two of three targets for 11 yards. Martin’s backup, Jacquizz Rodgers, did virtually nothing, rushing for just 4 yards on three carries, and adding 2 yards on his only pass target. I think it is becoming clear Tampa Bay wants Martin to be its starting running back, meaning Rodgers won’t have much more than a change-of-pace role after Martin returns from his three-game suspension in Week 4.

Receiver: Mike Evans led the way, catching 5-of-6 targets for 57 yards, although he did drop a long touchdown that Winston put right in Evans’ bread basket (to be fair, I think Evans lays out for that pass if it were the regular season). DeSean Jackson caught two of his four Winston targets for 17 yards, and also had a nifty end around for 15 yards. Tight ends Cameron Brate (2-of-2 for 17 yards) and O.J. Howard (2-of-3 for 28 yards) looked solid working the middle of the field. Howard looked particularly dangerous running after the catch. Two preseason games in, this looks like a passing offense that I want to grab shares of wherever I can.

Jacksonville – Key Takeaways

Quarterback: On the opposite side of the spectrum from Jameis Winston’s performance sits the one put on by Blake Bortles. The Jacksonville starter went 8-of-13 for 65 yards, but failed to connect with open receivers (namely Allen Robinson) all evening. In the second quarter, Robinson was open for what could have been a long touchdown, but Bortles’ pass was badly underthrown, and ultimately hit Robinson in the leg. Later in the second quarter, on a botched play-action pass, Bortles threw a pass behind Robinson that would have gone for about 20 yards. It makes me wonder if Robinson’s fantasy situation would actually improve with Chad Henne under center. During Jacksonville’s 2012 season, Henne managed to prop Cecil Shorts up to a WR22 finish, and it is safe to say Robinson is a much more talented receiver than shorts.

Running Back: With Leonard Fournette sitting due to a foot injury, Jacksonville’s first-string rush offense was predictably in mid-2016 form. T.J. Yeldon started the game and finished with two carries for 2 yards and caught his sole target for another 2 yards. Chris Ivory was not any better, going for 4 yards on seven carries and catching both his targets for 14 yards. Fortunately for Jacksonville, Fournette’s injury is not considered serious, so us viewers should hopefully be spared from having to watch Yeldon and Ivory repeatedly plod for 2-yard gains again anytime soon.

Receiver: Allen Robinson was a target hog in this one, going 5-of-10 for 40 yards. As mentioned above Robinson’s night could have been much bigger had his quarterback not missed him on a couple of long throws. This performance did not instill much confidence that Robinson’s 2017 won’t be 2016 all over again. Allen Hurns also started the game, but was strangely absent from the box score. It’s worth noting that fourth-round rookie DeDe Westbrook caught six balls on seven targets for 131 yards. With Marqise Lee out for the next month or so while he recovers from a high-ankle sprain, there’s a chance for Westbrook to move up the depth chart.

About Will Weiler

An NFL Red Zone addict and all-around data nerd, I've been obsessed with the NFL and stats ever since I started playing the virtual pigskin game in 2005.