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Paul Maland | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer


Training Camp Report - NFC
News, Notes and Post-Game Report for Preseason Week 1
8/11/14


Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four | AFC - Week One

NFC WEST: ARI | SF | STL | SEA
NFC SOUTH: ATL | CAR | NO | TB
NFC NORTH: CHI | DET | GB | MIN
NFC EAST: DAL | PHI | NYG | WAS

NFC WEST


Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals took the field Saturday for their preseason opener against the Houston Texans. Quietly, the Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 4,274 yards last season, with 24 touchdowns and a devastating 22 interceptions. Looking to improve on that turnover ratio, Palmer took the field commanding a precise offensive drive hitting 5-of-5 of his passes for 84 yards and a touchdown toss to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The more impressive statistic is that those numbers were posted against a Houston pass defense that ranked third overall in 2013. Fitzgerald will be a low-end WR1 while fellow wideout Michael Floyd projects as a solid WR2 after establishing himself on the opposite side of the field. Floyd missed the first preseason game with a groin injury, but one wide receiver made a name for himself. Rookie third-round selection John Brown led the team with 5 receptions on a team high ten targets producing 87 yards. In combination with a strong camp, coaching praise, and apparent gameday explosiveness, Brown could find himself on the fantasy sleeper list sooner than later. The ground game will be headed by Andre Ellington who amassed 652 yards in just 118 carries in 2013. There wasnít much to be said for the ground game against the Texans as the team carried a total 37 times for just 81 yards. We should see just how Ellington fares as a feature back next week when the starters could play close to 30 minutes.

St. Louis Rams

The St Louis Rams took the field against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday without quarterback Sam Bradford who was held out in precaution. The Rams havenít generated much buzz in the fantasy world this off-season. Running back Zac Stacy sits atop the Rams initial depth chart. He played briefly taking 4 carries for 22 yards. The questions in the backfield arose when the Rams drafted Tre Mason in the third round. Mason ran with the reserves on Saturday taking a team high 15 carries for 51 yards. Wide receiver Tavon Austin is the most explosive weapon on the team and hauled in all 3 of his targets on Saturday for 20 yards. Austin finds his value on quick screens and YAC due to his quickness and agility. His fantasy ceiling is capped however, due to quarterback play and lack of weapons on the Rams offense to deter coverage. Austin projects as a late round wideout but could be a great pickup with an ADP in the ninth round. If Zac Stacy can continue to solidify himself as their clear cut feature back, he will maintain his RB2 value.

San Francisco 49ers

The Harbaugh brothers faced off again Thursday night when the 49ers traveled to Baltimore. A few things became very apparent this week. The first is just how important it will be to keep QB Colin Kaepernick healthy. Kaepernick didnít play long but made his reps count while rolling out of the pocket to hit a striding tight end Vance McDonald. Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert looked absolutely terrible hitting just 3 of his 11 targets for 20 yards and an interception. The second thing that stood out was the assurance of running back depth for the team. After losing Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James to injury there was speculation as to how the teams rushing attack would fare. Starting running back Frank Gore did not play Thursday which gave coaches and fans their first glimpse of rookie Carlos Hyde. Hyde looked extremely powerful as he carried 5 timed for 39 yards. Hydeís performance bodes well for his credibility as a fantasy handcuff, but as long as Frank Gore is healthy his value is limited. Kaepernick is a top ten quarterback in all formats with Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree seeing WR2 value. Frank Gore is currently the No.21 overall RB according to FFToday.com.

Seattle Seahawks

The reigning champion Seahawks took the field in a Super Bowl rematch Thursday night. The starting offense led by QB Russell Wilson did little to impress in their brief outing. Wilson looked efficient completing 4-of-6 passes for 37 yards, while the ground game sputtered. To their credit, the team was without three starting linemen including Russell Okung, James Carpenter, and Max Unger. Wilson was continually keeping plays alive with his feet, despite being sacked twice. He figures to be a low end QB1 if his receiving corps including WR Percy Harvin can stay healthy. Harvin has elite potential and should be started in all formats. At his current draft position in the fifth round he could be worth rolling the dice on, but thatís if you believe he will make it healthy through 16 games. After ending a brief camp holdout starting RB Marshawn Lynch did not travel for the game. Lynch will maintain his ranks as a top ten fantasy back in 2014. Backup running back Christine Michael carried 7 times for 16 yards, 1 touchdown and a fumble.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons kicked off their preseason schedule against the Miami Dolphins. Unlike most NFL teams, there arenít too many camp battles for starting fantasy positions. The Falcons boast arguably one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league today. Julio Jones and Roddy White both figure to be big fantasy contributors once again. Jones, coming off a season ending foot injury, is an elite WR1 whose ceiling is infinite. White is having an impressive camp and will benefit from the presence of a healthy Jones. Matt Ryan led the first-team offense down the field hitting 7-of-7 throws for 53 yards. Ryan is the seventh ranked passer according to FFToday.com. The backfield operated without impending starter Steven Jackson who is nursing a hamstring injury sustained in the early stages of camp. Rookie fourth-round RB Devonta Freeman led the team in rushing with 50 yards on 10 carries averaging 5.0 YPC. Neither Jackson nor Freeman will be elite fantasy options this year due to a potential committee approach in Atlanta. Jackson is in no real danger of losing his starting role due to his pass protection skills. After winding up last in the league in rushing in 2013, look for a strong evaluation of the RB situation throughout the preseason.

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers put up a mere 190 yards passing per game in 2013. Add to that statistic the departures of the teamís top three receivers Steve Smith, Brandon Lafell, and Ted Ginn Jr and you can almost feel the pressure on first-round Kelvin Benjamin to produce immediately. Coming back from a brief camp injury, Benjamin suited up for the game against the Bills. He only saw two targets but made a spectacular grab in the end-zone for a touchdown. Not bad for your first NFL catch. Cam Newton did not play on Friday while he is completing the final steps of his ankle rehab. Barring an injury setback, Newton will produce as a QB1 despite a lack of elite receiving options. He finds his value from his legs and nose for the end-zone. He is currently falling in drafts due to injury concerns and will likely outperform his current ADP of seventh-round. Benjamin, although unproven, will be an instant starter for the Panthers and his height makes him an intriguing red-zone threat. He is worth a late round flyer, but donít bite on him before his tenth-round ADP. The Panthers running back committee posted a mere 2.9 YPC on Friday. DeAngelo Williams is the apparent starter, but the most valuable rushing asset to this team might end up not being a RB at all. It may in fact be Newton himself, who was second on the team with 585 yards rushing and 6 TDís last year. Throw into that mix goal-line specialist Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) and you have a recipe for fantasy frustration.

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints took the field Friday without QB Drew Brees, who is nursing an oblique injury. Fortunately, we have seen enough of Brees throughout the years to know that he of all players does not need the pre-season evaluation. The Saints high octane pass offense will continue in 2014 with the addition of speedy first-round WR Brandin Cooks. While running with the reserves, Cooks produced 55 yards on 5 catches while being targeted a team high eight times. Itís apparent that he has the skills to make a fantasy impact immediately but his impact will be limited with production of the best tight end in the game, Jimmy Graham, and veteran wide receiver Marques Colston. The breakout performance of the preseason so far goes to running back Mark Ingram who blew up for 87 yards on 8 carries including a 22 yard scamper for a touchdown. Ingram is penciled in as the starting RB with Khiry Robinson working in to keep his legs fresh. With the backfield being in RBBC form the past few seasons it would be worth examining the roles that Robinson and Pierre Thomas will play before jumping on Ingram as your starting fantasy option.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers depth chart is far from solidified heading into pre-season. QB Mike Glennon was unseated from his starting job by free agent acquisition Josh McCown. McCown and Glennon both played in the opener against the Jaguars. McCown struggled as he went 2-of-4 for 20 yards and an interception. Glennon, though running with the reserves, performed well marching the team down the field completing a 6-yard touchdown strike to Tommy Streeter. Glennon ended with 11 completions on 19 attempts for 140 yards and 1 TD. Regardless of who is named starter, neither quarterback should be on your fantasy radar. Running back Doug Martin will head the backfield after missing majority of last season after being placed in IR. New head coach Lovie Smith explained that Tampa Bay will employ a RBBC backfield, however the only real threat to Martinís workload should be third-round rookie Charles Sims. Despite their talent, the Buccaneers run game failed to gain any traction against a Jaguars defense that allowed over 130 rush yards per game last year. Martinís talent alone will justify him as an RB2, but with so many variable factors around him his production could be limited. Rookie Mike Evans has all the components to make a fantasy splash, but needs to unseat Chris Owusu as the penciled in starter across from Vincent Jackson. Jackson caught his lone target for 18 yards against the Jaguars. Evans failed to reel in a catch on two targets. This receiving corps situation should start to clear up as we head into Week 2 of the preseason.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears opened up their preseason schedule against the Philadelphia Eagles. This could be one of the most explosive offenses in terms of fantasy points. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are both expected to have monster seasons as the eighth and ninth ranked receivers according to FFToday.com. In his season debut Jay Cutler looked more confident than ever stepping up into throw to hit his favorite weapons. Marshall showed incredible hands while reeling in a one-handed catch thrown behind him. Cutler is emerging as a value fantasy QB2 with low-end QB1 potential as his rapport grows with his receivers. Backup tight end Zach Miller caught all 6 of his targets for 68 yards and 2 touchdowns on Friday. Unlike the passing game, not much could be said for the Bears rushers as they were consistently swallowed up by and Eagles top-ten ranked rush defense. Starting running back Matt Forte is a safe bet for double digit touchdowns and 1200 yards if he can stay healthy. He is a RB1 in all formats because of his field vision, productivity in the pass game, and no danger of losing goaline carries. The TE situation will be something to monitor in the coming weeks to see how Martellus Bennett adjusts after a brief team conduct suspension. There will be fantasy value for any starting TE in this offense, especially one with Bennettís skillset.

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions opened up their preseason schedule against the Cleveland Browns. NFL superstar and fantasy monster Calvin Johnson was held out of the game as a precautionary measure. Johnson remains arguably the best fantasy wide receiver coming into the season. The Lions bolstered their receiving arsenal by bringing in free agent Golden Tate and first-round rookie TE Eric Ebron. Tate hauled in his only target on Saturday and looks to be a beneficiary of the coverage distraction of Megatron. It remains to be seen how Ebron will be used, or if he will obtain the starting role by the regular season after being listed third-string on the initial depth chart. Ebron played a small role in the offense this week, being targeted twice and catching one pass for 2 yards. With one thing certain, Matthew Stafford who hit 2 of 4 targets on Saturday for just 18 yards, will have a substantially improved receiving corps than prior years he could produce QB1 numbers. He is currently the ninth overall passer on FFToday.com. Tate will produce as a WR3 but should not be relied upon until his role in this offense is defined. Reggie Bush will be the starting running back for the Lions but it remains to be seen just how much Joique Bell will eat into his workload. Bushís playmaking ability and hands out of the backfield make him an intriguing low-end RB2. It will be worthwhile to keep watch on the tight end and running back situations heading into Week 2.

Green Bay Packers

The Green Back Packers took the field without their three most fantasy relevant players. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Jordy Nelson, and running back Eddie Lacy were all healthy scratches from Saturdayís game against Tennessee. Backup quarterback Matt Flynn looked mediocre at best as he went 5-of-10 for 49 yards. Veteran backup running back James Starks proved why he is continuing his tenure with the team by toting 6 carries for 49 yards. With elite QB1 Aaron Rodgers back healthy, the Packers are attempting to define their receiving corps. The team is attempting to groom rookie second-round wide receiver Davante Adams into their number three receiver after he started slow in OTAís. Adams caught 2 passes for 22 yards in his debut making use of his targets. With a healthy Rodgers, the receivers will see fantasy relevance once again. Jordy Nelson projects as a top ten prospect at the wide receiver position followed closely by Cobb at number twelve according to the latest FFToday.com rankings. Lacy proved to be a worthy feature back in 2013 and will remain a low-end fantasy RB1 coming into the season. Continue to monitor the battle for the teamís third receiver spot between Jarrett Boykin and Adams as they could be worth a late round flyer. Donít expect to see much of Rodgers or Eddie Lacy this preseason as the Packers typically use their starters sparingly.

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings set out against the Raiders looking to clear up any ongoing quarterback battle between first-round Teddy Bridgewater and veteran Matt Cassel. Cassel took the first reps going 5-of-6 for 62 yards. Cassel looked smart in his reads and was overall very efficient. Bridgewater was off his mark hitting just 6-of-13 throws for 49 yards. It appears that Cassel will have the leg up on the rookie going into week two of the preseason. Cordarrelle Patterson led the team in receiving with a 3-38-0 line and is primed for a breakout season. Regardless of quarterback play, Patterson will be a legitimate WR2 in an offense where new coordinator Norv Turner will look to get the ball in his hands in space and increase completion percentages. Another player to keep a close eye on is tight end Kyle Rudolph who grabbed his only target for 22 yards this week. Norv Turner has a way of developing systems to make tight endís thrive. Evidence comes from Antonio Gates in San Diego and Jordan Cameron in Cleveland. The backfield will once again be headed by fantasy monster Adrian Peterson, who is coming off yet another offseason surgery. Peterson is one the lone feature backs in the NFL and will maintain his elite status alongside McCoy and Charles. If you are drafting a 29 year-old AP you should take a good long look at his handcuff, third-round pick Jerick McKinnon who led the team with 12 carries for 45 yards against Oakland.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

An injury riddled Cowboys team took the field against the San Diego Chargers on Friday evening. Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant were the most notable players not in action for the teams opening pre-season game. Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden looked very comfortable and efficient leading the team down the field and rifling a 4-yard touchdown to tight end James Hanna between two defenders. Weeden ended the night 13-of-17 for 107 yards and 1 touchdown. With Murray not playing, second year running back Joseph Randle got to showcase his talents. Randle made use of his reps notching 50 yards on 13 carries as he continues to fight for the backup role. Rookie WR Devin Street led the team in receiving after hauling in all 4 targets for 43 yards. Murray will open the season as a low end RB1, but his durability makes him a high-risk high-reward selection. Romo could find himself in a very opportune situation in 2014 with a young and extremely talented offensive line in front of him. Romo is currently the thirteenth overall QB according to FFToday.com and ranks as a QB2 with upside. Bryant has drawn rave reviews in camp and is a WR1 that should see 90+ receptions. TE Jason Witten should be a safe pick as he looks to continue his streak of 70+ catches for the eighth consecutive year.

Philadelphia Eagles

After winning the division in 2013, the Eagles look to continue their offensive success under second year head coach Chip Kelly. The truth for this offenseís success though is the efficiency of quarterback Nick Foles. After notching 27 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions last year, the pressure will be on Foles to maintain that form. The teamís biggest off-season acquisition was running back Darren Sproles. Sproles has been taking reps from both RB and WR positions throughout camp and has brought ďwowĒ factor with his speed and quickness. But the backfield in Philly will continue to belong to the 2013 rushing leader LeSean McCoy. McCoy boasted a league high 1,607 rushing yards while adding another 539 yards receiving. The Eagles took on the bears Friday, but the starters couldnít capitalize on drives. Nick Foles threw two interceptions in the first quarter and McCoy had 1 carry for 0 yards. First round rookie WR Jordan Matthews had a rocky first game as he hauled in just four of his targets and had three drops. Foles remains a high upside pick, but will have to sharpen up this pre-season to maintain his current status as the number four quarterback according to FFToday.com. Regardless, he is a high upside QB1 with top receiving weapon Jeremy Maclin a solid WR2 barring an injury setback. Sproles will be a value handcuff, but should see only 5-7 touches a game with ďShadyĒ McCoy owning the backfield.

New York Giants

The Giants got two chances to roll out their new quick throw offense under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. The G-Men played against Buffalo in the Hall of Fame game last week followed by the Steelers on Saturday night. The team will have to wait until at least their Week 2 preseason game to see their first round selection Odell Beckham Jr. in action. Beckham has been sidelined for the majority of camp while nursing a hamstring injury. In the HOF game Eli began to find his rhythm on the second drive before being stripped by a swarming Bills pass rush. He finished 6-9 for 43 yards through both games. Starting at running back, Rashad Jennings looked good in his feature role carrying 12 times for 108 yards and a TD (73 yards came on one play), but the rushing show was stolen by rookie Andre Williams toting 14 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown. Williams is a powerful downhill runner with a nose for the endzone. This could very well be a timeshare in New York leaving neither back a value greater than RB2. Manning figures to be a borderline QB1 with his favorite target Victor Cruz maintaining his value as the current 12th ranked wideout on FFToday.com.

Washington Redskins

With Robert Griffin III out of his knee brace, the Redskins looked to shake off the rust from a 3-13 campaign in 2013. Playing only one drive Griffin looked tremendously more comfortable outside of his knee brace. He completed two of his four passes for 9 yards and led the team into scoring position where Kai Forbath converted a 39-yard field goal. A now healthy RGIII undeniably has a huge fantasy upside and should be considered a solid QB1 in all formats. Griffinís top two receiving targets were both sidelined with injuries, although neither DeSean Jackson (ankle) nor Pierre Garcon (hamstring) is expected to miss significant time. Jackson and Garcon are both strong WR2 selections who could amass 70-80 receptions apiece. The top five rushing attack of the Redskins looks on track to pick up right where they left off. Starting RB Alfred Morris carried the ball five times for 27 yards during his brief appearance. The depth of the offense also shined through as arguably the best backup QB in the league, Kirk Cousins, went 9 of 13 for 103 yards including a 10-yard touchdown strike to Aldrick Robinson.

AFC Camp Report - Wk 1