After a couple of weeks of putting a hurting on fellow teammates in ardous camp practices, the full roll-out of preseason over the last several days was reason for celebration across the league. Saturday saw a modest three games unfold, mirroring Friday’s slate. As usual, there was also a handful of news happening across camps. Without further ado, let’s catch up on the latest from both practices and game action in the last 48 hours:
Saturday News and Notes:
- Give the Bucs credit for not being afraid to cut their losses early on second-year kicker Roberto Aguayo, who missed both an extra-point attempt and 47-yard field goal in Friday’s loss to the Bengals and was released Saturday. While they’ll be abundantly second-guessed for having invested a second-round pick on the former FSU star a year ago, the veteran presence of Nick Folk appears to have given the team the confidence to settle the placekicker competition after just one exhibition contest.
- Redskins head coach Jay Gruden expressed his hope Saturday that talented tight end Jordan Reed (toe) will be able to take the field in the team’s second preseason game against the Packers next Saturday night. Stem-cell treatment on Reed’s injured toe has had an unexpected side effect, leading to his placement on the PUP list to open training camp.
- Markus Wheaton returned to Bears practice Saturday after missing the prior 13 days with an appendectomy. Solid but unspectacular in his first two Steelers seasons (97 receptions, 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns), the fourth-year pass catcher was limited to three games in his final Pittsburgh campaign in 2016 due to a shoulder injury. He’s competing for the third receiver role in Chicago with the likes of fellow veterans Kendall Wright and Victor Cruz.
- Elsewhere in Bears camp, both Joshua Bellamy (ankle) and Kadeem Carey (thigh), incumbents vying for backup receiver and running back spots, respectively, missed practice.
- The Jaguars’ defense got a nice boost Saturday with the return to the field of two notable IDPs. Calais Campbell jumped back into practice for the first time since the early days of camp after missing time with an undisclosed injury, while shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey was activated from the PUP list, which he’d landed on to open camp due to an abdomen injury.
- Finally, fresh from the Foregone Conclusion Department, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill was officially placed on injured reserve after opting for surgery on the partially torn ACL that resides in his left knee. While the good news is he should be a full go for 2018 training camp, Miami now faces the prospect of a full season with Jay Cutler as its starting signal caller. How quickly the veteran can develop rapport with the potential-laden Devante Parker and the accomplished Jarvis Landry will likely be one of the keys to the team’s 2017 campaign, and to the fantasy fortunes of all three players.
Saturday’s Preseason Game Notes:
- While he only saw action on the first two possessions, the sight of Marcus Mariota (2-for-3 for 15 yards, one rush for six yards) on the field and healthy was naturally a welcome one for Titans coaches, fans and Mariota’s fantasy owners. The third-year quarterback’s fibula looked to be at full health by all accounts, the first step towards what is shaping up as a promising year for an emerging Titans squad.
- With DeMarco Murray sitting with a hamstring injury, Derrick Henry provided a solid eight-carry, 29-yard effort, while Ole Miss product and undrafted rookie Akeem Judd flashed with 53 yards on just five carries. Although Henry is slated to once again serve as Murray’s understudy in Year 2 of his career, he’s likely due for a boost in the 110 carries he saw in his rookie campaign.
- A hamstring injury may have felled fellow rookie Corey Davis for Saturday night’s contest, but third-rounder Taywan Taylor represented the Titans’ 2017 draft class well with a team-leading four receptions for 56 yards, which also was a high-water mark on the night. Taylor was targeted a team-best nine times as well, making an impact while kicking off what is expected to be a productive first season.
- The Jets’ dismal quarterback situation is somewhat stabilized by veteran Josh McCown, but with head coach Todd Bowles knowing what he has in the 15-year pro, he pulled him after a four-yard touchdown to Charon Peake, a play that had been preceded by a 53-yard strike to Robby Anderson that got the ball down to the Titans’ two-yard line. Christian Hackenberg then saw the bulk of the work, completing 18 of 25 passes for 137 yards.
- With the Jets’ equally bleak receiver depth chart taking another hit earlier in the week in the form of Quincy Enunwa’s season-ending neck injury, Anderson now sits atop the totem pole at the position. His overall performance Saturday (three receptions, 71 yards) was certainly encouraging, but the second-year wideout will have to prove that he can produce on a wide variety of routes in order to fulfill the role of a true No. 1 pass catcher.
- Cowboys fans and coaches got a preview of a movie they’re not very keen on watching, Life Without Zeke, on Saturday, as Darren McFadden helmed the Dallas backfield and contributed a solid 28 yards on six rushes while adding one reception for eight yards. Fellow vet Alfred Morris was stymied to the tune of just 11 yards on five carries, and recent acquisition Ronnie Hillman showed up on the stat sheet with two receptions for 15 yards. While the aforementioned trio brings plenty of experience and solid-to-impressive resumes to the table, none naturally come close to matching Elliott’s upside. From a fantasy perspective, however, it’s worth noting that McFadden did prove his mettle as a No. 1 tailback two seasons ago in this same system (1,089 rushing yards, 328 receiving yards).
- Jared Goff (3-for-4, 34 yards) and Todd Gurley (four rushes, two yards, one catch, 10 yards) had cameo appearances for the Rams on Saturday, while the newly acquired Sammy Watkins was naturally not yet in uniform this week. Former Bills teammate Robert Woods, expected to share starting duties with Watkins, posted one reception for five yards.
- One deep-format fantasy sleeper who may see some playing time this season in Los Angeles is 2017 third-rounder Cooper Kupp, who racked up a whopping 428 receptions for 6,464 yards and 73 touchdowns in a four-year college career at Eastern Washington. The rookie has impressed throughout the offseason and training camp, and he tallied two receptions for 35 yards while also recovering a Woods fumble in the end zone Saturday.
- E.J.Manuel has enjoyed a solid offseason by all accounts, and that translated into his first taste of preseason action Saturday. The former Bills draft pick completed 10 of 12 passes for 107 yards as he continues his bid to serve as Derek Carr’s primary backup.
- The Oakland running game didn’t exactly enjoy the best of nights. Marshawn Lynch didn’t take the field, while talented incumbents Jalen Richard (five carries, seven yards) and DeAndre Washington (five carries, 16 yards) found tough sledding on the ground. The potential role of both players is difficult to judge from a fantasy perspective at this point, as it remains to be seen to what degree head coach Jack Del Rio will opt to ride Lynch, particularly in the season’s second half.
- Amari Cooper (leg) didn’t suit up Saturday, giving the likes of the promising Clive Walford (three receptions, 44 yards) and Cordarrelle Patterson (two receptions, 22 yards) the opportunity for some extra run. Walford boasts the athleticism of a receiver in a tight end’s body, but he’ll need to take a step forward in his third season to eventually push offseason acquisition Jared Cook for snaps.
- Carson Palmer got some modest work in (4-for-8 for 39 yards and one touchdown) for the Cardinals, while backups Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert both turned in solid efforts as well. Meanwhile, David Johnson (three carries, 16 yards) made his preseason debut alongside Palmer.
- Andre Ellington’s bid to stick on the roster for a fifth straight season got off to a solid start, as he totaled 20 yards on seven rushes and added four receptions for 31 yards. Ellington is in a hotly-contested battle for the third running back spot with Kerwynn Williams, who impressed on special teams with a 35-yard kickoff return and 13-yard punt return in addition to seven rushing yards.
Friday’s Preseason Game Notes:
- The Bucs’ dynamic duo of Jameis Winston and Mike Evans appears to already be in mid-season form. Winston led an impressive 92-yard opening drive in which he connected with Evans on three occasions, including a pretty 29-yard throw deep down the right side of the field. The third-year signal caller targeted his top passing game weapon on seven occasions overall, far outdistancing any other pass catcher. While DeSean Jackson notched only one reception for six yards and heralded first-round pick O.J. Howard was held catchless, the first-team offense’s time on the field was largely a success, and it’s highly unlikely that the aforementioned pair will make such a minimal impact on the stat sheet for a second straight week when the Bucs tangle with the Jaguars next Thursday.
- The Tampa ground game appears to be in good all-around health, even with the looming three-game league-mandated absence of Doug Martin to open the season. The matching and non-descript four-carry, 11-yard tallies for Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers on Friday belied the decisiveness both ran with, while backups Charles Sims, Peyton Barber and promising rookie Jeremy McNichols also made solid contributions in limited opportunities.
- Not to be outdone, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green were looking sharp in their own right, with the latter following up what has been a strong camp with a pair of receptions before exiting. Dalton was solid save for an ill-advised throw near the Tampa goal line that was picked off by second-year Bucs corner Vernon Hargreaves.
- One of the more intriguing job battles this summer involves Jeremy Hill and promising rookie Joe Mixon, and neither player disappointed Friday. Mixon (six rushes, 31 yards and one reception for 11 yards) slightly outpaced Hill (seven rushes, 26 yards) but both ran hard and had the opportunity to work behind the first-team offensive line. The likely timeshare situation to open the season — as well as the presence of Gio Bernard — caps the entire group’s fantasy value to an extent, but Mixon’s next-level talent could well step to the forefront sooner rather than later once the regular campaign kicks off.
- Tyreek Hill is likely to cause even more headaches for defensive coordinators this coming season. The fleet-footed wideout/returner hit the ground running, literally, in the Chiefs’ preseason opener on Friday night, snagging a 32-yard pass on the team’s first play from scrimmage. Hill was also targeted on the very next play with a pass that ultimately fell incomplete, and he and many of the starters made a quick exit from the contest after the opening possession. However, with Jeremy Maclin now in Baltimore and a year of experience under his belt, Hill is poised to see a boost of the 418 snaps he saw on offense last season, although some may come at the expense of return opportunities.
- Chris Conley got his tenure as a starting receiver off to a good start with two receptions for 46 yards, although he managed to nullify his own 83-yard touchdown with an offensive pass interference penalty. Meanwhile, Spencer Ware made a strong case to retain the top running back spot with a rushing touchdown and three receptions.
- The 49ers are in rebuilding mode, but could meet with success a lot sooner than expected if some of the young players that shined Friday turn out to be legitimate. Third-round pick C.J. Beathard fired two touchdowns as part of a 101-yard performance in second-half duty against the Chiefs, while rookie tailback Matt Breida, he of the prodigious college career at Georgia Southern, flashed his explosive speed on the way to 54 total yards on 13 touches. Third-year running back Raheem Mostert led all rushers with 89 yards on 15 carries as well, and Aldrick Robinson, long thought to have untapped potential, hauled in a 63-yard catch as part of a two-reception, 83-yard night.
- Steelers rookie QB Joshua Dobbs had the ups and downs expected for a rookie, but managed to fire a beautiful 28-yard touchdown to Cobi Hamilton just prior to halftime to offset two earlier interceptions. On the other side of the ball, 2017 first-round pick T.J. Watt contributed a performance worthy of his star older brother, compiling five tackles (three solo), two sacks, a pass defensed and three quarterback hits overall. Even with the mandatory caveat of it just being the preseason opener, it’s notable that Watt started and got both of his takedowns against the Giants’ first-team offensive line.
- Geno Smith, looking to secure the top backup spot behind Eli Manning, saw extended action and looked serviceable while completing 10 of 16 passes for 114 yards, although he was guilty of one interception. Despite that stumble, Smith did appear to outplay his principal competition for the job, the well-traveled Josh Johnson, who started the game.