Training Camp Battles: Week in Review, Preseason Week 2
With the preseason now halfway over, it can only mean one thing: The regular season is just a couple of weeks away.
We’re seeing some clarity in some of the training camp battles taking place around the NFL, though there are still some things to be sorted out.
Let’s take a look around the league at what’s happening now.
Seattle No. 2 running back: Everyone assumed that second-year running back Christine Michael was going to be the backup to Marshawn Lynch, who has carried a heavy load for the Seahawks. Everybody, that is, except for Robert Turbin. Turbin got the start in Week 1 with Lynch sitting out and didn’t do much. But this week, Turbin ripped through the Chargers for 81 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Michael got eight carries for 45 yards, but also fumbled for the second time in two games. At this point, it looks as if Turbin is the guy to stash on your bench rather than Michael.
St. Louis No. 2 running back: Isaiah Pead was likely lost for the season to a knee injury this week and rookie Tre Mason struggled with his pass protection, though he did get a team-high 12 carries. That leaves Bennie Cunningham as the top guy backing up Zac Stacy at this point. Mason will be given opportunities to improve and will be a guy a lot of people draft because they’ve heard of him, but Cunningham, who had 261 yards on 47 carries in 2013, could be the more viable backup moving forward.
Arizona wide receiver: Usually, when you mention Arizona and wide receiver in the same sentence, it’s with Larry Fitzgerald in mind. But some in Arizona feel that’s third-year wideout Michael Floyd could be ready to overtake Fitzgerald as the team’s top WR. Fitzgerald was more active in 2013, catching 82 passes compared to 65 for Floyd, but Floyd had 1,041 yards compared to 954 for Fitzgerald. With Fitzgerald closer to the end of his illustrious career than the beginning, Floyd could be the top dog this year, though Fitzgerald is still one of the top red zone receivers in the NFL.
New Orleans running back: Mark Ingram continues to be the front-runner for the most carries in New Orleans. He had a team-high five carries and 19 yards this week, compared to four carries for 11 yards for Khiry Robinson. Pierre Thomas didn’t get a carry in the Week 2 win over Tennessee, though he did catch three passes for 27 yards. Ingram caught just one pass, but it went for a 23-yard touchdown, while Robinson had three receptions for two yards. The depth chart reads Ingram, Robinson, Thomas, but Ingram and Thomas could have fantasy value as the starter (Ingram) and third-down back (Thomas).
Carolina wide receiver: Head coach Ron Rivera has named rookie Kelvin Benjamin and veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant as the team’s top three wide receivers. The Panthers had hoped Benjamin would be ready to go from Day 1, and he hasn’t disappointed. Benjamin is a solid WR No. 3 with some upside, while Cotchery and Avant could have value as No. 4 or five receivers.
Atlanta running back: With Steven Jackson still sitting out, Jacquizz Rodgers got the start and was followed by Antone Smith. Rookie Devonta Freeman was used third. Freeman, however, did have a team-high 31 rushing yards on six carries. At this point, Rodgers is looking like the primary backup for Jackson, but Freeman is probably worth stashing on the bench in deeper leagues.
Minnesota quarterback: Matt Cassel played the entire first half of the second preseason game with the starters, while Teddy Bridgewater worked the second half with the backups. Both QBs actually played well, with Cassel throwing for 153 yards and a touchdown and Bridgewater putting up 177 yards and two scores. Cassel has done nothing to lose the job at this point. It appears he will at least open the season as the starter.
Philadelphia kicker: The Eagles weren’t necessarily unhappy with Alex Henery’s accuracy on field goals last season, but they didn’t like the depth on his kickoffs. Carey Spear was brought in for competition, but head coach Chip Kelly said last week that Henery is clearly ahead of Spear.
Oakland running back: The Raiders are sticking with Maurice Jones-Drew as the starter ahead of Darren McFadden. Both will play, and given the injury history of each, both could be worth a shot as a No. 3 or 4 fantasy back.
Kansas City wide receiver: With Dwayne Bowe being handed a one-game suspension to open the season for marijuana possession, Donnie Avery could be the beneficiary, at least in the short term. Junior Hemingway also will likely start the opener, for what that’s worth. Bowe is still the best of a mediocre bunch, but Avery’s the next closest thing to a proven NFL receiver.
Tennessee running back: Both Shonn Greene and Bishop Sankey lost a fumble against the Saints, doing little to clarify this situation. Greene started and left after injuring his knee. It’s not considered serious. Sankey replaced him. Greene finished with nine carries for 46 yards, while Sankey had 31 yards on six attempts. This could wind up as a committee, for the time being.
Jacksonville quarterback: The Jaguars didn’t plan on a quarterback competition in training camp, but Blake Bortles has played so well, he’s forced head coach Gus Bradley’s hand. Bortles has outplayed starter Chad Henne and will get some time with the first-team offense this week. Henne has had his moments the past couple of seasons, but only because he’s been better than Blaine Gabbert. This will likely be Bortles’ job sooner rather than later.
Houston running back: With Ryan Fitzpatrick now settling in at quarterback – as if there were any other options – the focus returns to who will back up oft-injured Arian Foster. Jonathan Grimes put his best foot forward last week, gaining 42 yards on nine carries and adding three catches for 25 yards. Rookie Alfred Blue had just 22 yards on six carries and caught one pass for a 4-yard loss. Grimes is looking like he’ll be the guy.
Pittsburgh running back: Yes, I know Mike Tomlin said this week that LeVeon Bell and LeGarrette Blount will both get their share of carries. But what exactly is their share? Some read that to mean that it will be a split. It will not. Bell will get the lion’s share of the carries, spelled on occasion by Blount. Blount could steal some goal-line attempts, however. Bell will still be top dog.
Cleveland quarterback: Head coach Mike Pettine is expected to name his starting quarterback on Tuesday, and given that Johnny Manziel said he doesn’t feel he’s ready to start against the Steelers in the opener – but he might be ready in two weeks – look for it to be Brian Hoyer. The plan in Cleveland is still to give Hoyer the first three starts before the bye and then see where things stand.
N.Y. Jets running back: Bilal Power returned to action after missing the preseason opener with a hamstring injury and split first-team carries with Chris Johnson. Powell had four carries for 41 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 13 yards. Johnson was effective as well, gaining 63 yards on 10 attempts. Chris Ivory, the third back in this three-headed hydra-like running back mess, is still out with injured ribs. Johnson’s probably going to get the most carries of the group, but this could continue to be a fantasy mess all season.
New England running back: James White has now gotten 14 preseason carries and done little with them, gaining 36 yards, an average of just 2.6 yards per carry. Working with Tom Brady, he had six carries for just nine yards against the Eagles. Steven Ridley, meanwhile, had nine carries for 45 yards.
Miami running back: With Lamar Miller gaining just three yards on three carries last week, Knowshon Moreno is expected to make his debut in the Dolphins’ next preseason game. If Moreno shows anything close to a pulse, he’ll be the starter.
Buffalo running back: Fred Jackson got the start at running back against the Steelers and had six carries for 27 yards. C.J. Spiller had six attempts for 16 yards. Both guys are going to get their carries in what is a true committee approach in a run-heavy offense.