There were plenty of developments on the field Thursday night, but the biggest news of the day involved arguably fantasy’s biggest star: Le’Veon Bell. Bell will return to action before week one, according to ESPN. Bell has not yet signed his franchise tender, and while everyone expected him to return before the start of the season, managers who already drafted him inside the top two are sleeping easier tonight following this update. He has not been with the Steelers yet this preseason, and there is still no indication of when, exactly, he will return.
As for the rest of the league, here’s the rundown:
- DeAndre Hopkins (hand) is apparently dealing with a hand injury, according to the Houston Chronicle, and has not practiced since before the preseason opener. The Texans coaching staff has attempted to downplay the absence, and has not admitted that there is an injury. The top three Texans wide receivers are all sidelined right now, which would probably mean extra work for tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin if it continues into the regular season.
- Blake Bortles looked dreadful in Thursday’s preseason game, badly under-throwing a wide open Allen Robinson and receiving boos from the Jacksonville crowd. After the game, coach Doug Marrone said that Bortles and Chad Henne were in an open competition for the starting job, and that either player could take it.
- Tyrod Taylor looked bad in his first start without Sammy Watkins. But Jordan Matthews (sternum) was out. Taylor is an established fantasy presence who has performed will with and without Watkins, and so one half of one game is not enough to get concerned about.
- Jay Cutler made his Dolphins debut. It went fine. He went three for six for 24 yards, though he did have a 31 yard pass called back on a holding penalty. The most notable part of the night was in the post-game press conference, when he raved about DaVante Parker, comparing him favorably to Alshon Jeffery, the latter of whom Cutler played with in Chicago.
- I’d normally use this space to report in on the Ravens backfield, but both Danny Woodhead and Terrance West played very poorly, and a lot of the blame should be assigned to the players around them. Ryan Mallett is not a good quarterback, which prevented Woodhead from catching the passes allegedly thrown to him. West logged negative yards on six carries, but some of that is due to poor offensive line play, and some due to the opposing defense worrying more about the run than about Mallet. The real story here is that Ryan Mallet is not looking like an NFL caliber backup, which is especially problematic because Joe Flacco (back) remains sidelined. Expect Colin Kaepernick rumbles to renew in Baltimore.
- All of the Buccaneers starters looked very good. Jamies Winston looked great (21-29 for 196 yards), Mike Evans looked very good (caught five of six for 57 yards), and Adam Humphries was a reliable possession receiver (caught all five targets for 42 yards). DeSean Jackson (ankle) only caught two of his four targets, but he is hurt and also added a 15 yard running play. Doug Martin continued his strong preseason with 30 yards on five rushes on top of 20 yards on two receptions. This offense is looking very strong.
- Mike Gillislee (hamstring) did not travel with the Patriots to their joint practices with the Texans. He missed the preseason opener, and will likely miss Saturday’s game as well. Given the Patriots’ loaded and healthy backfield this preseason, these missed games for Gillislee should be tanking his fantasy value. While the optimism around Gillislee is understandable, this backfield also feature James White and Dion Lewis, in addition to free agent acquisition Rex Burkhead. Coach Bill Belichick will ride a hot hand, and if any of these healthy backs catch fire while Gillislee is sidelined, managers who drafted him with a fifth round pick may find themselves in hot water.
- Eddie Lacy will start, and Thomas Rawls (ankle) will be sidelined for the Seahawks Friday. The Seahawks have three running backs – Lacy, Rawls, and C.J. Prosise – who all possess major upside, as well as significant risks. Rawls’ major risk is his injury history, and so it is concerning to see him missing games already, even if it is only as a precautionary measure. Lacy looked bad in the preseason opener, and so he will look to take advantage of an opportunity to redeem himself without Rawls, who offers a similar skill set, around to challenge him or take away carries.
- Matt Barkley has been demoted to third string, behind Brian Hoyer and now C.J. Beathard, at least for Friday’s preseason game. The move is not necessarily a permanent change, but it makes plain that Hoyer has some wiggle room ahead of whoever ends up as the backup in San Francisco. Hoyer is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league, but his depth chart is bad enough that a quarterback controversy is unlikely.
- Josh Gordon’s potential reinstatement is “not under active consideration,” according to commissioner Roger Goodell. There has been some buzz lately amongst Browns and Gordon enthusiasts that a return for Gordon might be on the horizon. But, alas, Goodell squashed those dreams, at least for now.