Training Camp Battles: Week in Review, Preseason Week 3
With the regular season now just a week and a half away from starting, we’ve seen pretty much all of the training camp battles wrap up and gotten a better feel for how some of the workload distributions will be handled.
Let’s take a look around the league and see what we now know.
Tennessee running back: Once again, Shonn Greene started and played the entire time with the first-team offense, though he got just six carries for 15 yards. Rookie Bishop Sankey had a team-high 16 carries, but didn’t fare much better, gaining just 44 yards against in the second half working against Atlanta’s backups. But at least Sankey, who has had some fumbling issues, didn’t put the ball on the ground again. Greene will likely open the season as the starter after gaining 81 yards in the preseason on 19 carries, but look for Sankey’s carries and receptions to increase as the season goes on.
Atlanta running back: Steven Jackson’s injured hamstring is nearly healed enough for him to return to action. How long he lasts, however, remains to be seen. Jacquizz Rodgers looks to have held off rookie Devonta Freeman for the No. 2 job. Rodgers started the team’s Week 3 preseason game against Tennessee and got eight carries for 33 yards and five receptions for another 31. Both running backs saw action with the first team. Both could wind up having value if/when Jackson goes down again, but Rodgers looks to be the main backup.
Seattle running back: We all know Marshawn Lynch is the starter. But he racked up 301 carries in the regular season and a lengthy playoff run put him close to 400 touches. Robert Turbin entered the game after Lynch in Preseason Week 3 against the Bears, though Christine Michael also played in the first half. Turbin finished with six carries for 26 yards (4.3 average), while Michael had eight carries for 28 yards (3.5). But Michael also caught three passes for 36 yards, including a touchdown from Russell Wilson. Turbin looks like the top backup, but Michael could see some time as a third-down back.
New Orleans running back: It appears that the pecking order in New Orleans has been set. Mark Ingram will get the bulk of the work when the Saints run it – he has 148 yards rushing on 21 preseason carries – and Pierre Thomas will see work as a change-of-pace and third-down back. Both should have decent value. Khiry Robinson hasn’t done much this preseason to press Ingram for more playing time.
New England running back: Camp phenom James White has fizzled in the preseason games, allowing Steven Ridley to keep the No. 1 position and Shane Vereen to play the pivotal third-down role in the Patriots’ offense. He caught two TD passes in the Patriots’ preseason game against Carolina. Ridley’s fumbling issues could land him back on the bench at any time. Vereen could be the ultimate winner of this three-way battle. He’s especially valuable in PPR leagues.
Denver placekicker: Matt Prater owners weren’t concerned that the Broncos had brought in Mitch Ewald to be the camp leg this season. But Ewald looks like he’ll had the lucrative position of being Denver’s kicker in the first four games after Prater was suspended for the first four games of the season for an alcohol-related suspension. Prater had 150 points last season. Ewald might not average nearly 10 points per game, but he’ll score his share – at least for the first month.
Denver No. 2 receiver: Emmanuel Sanders had five catches for 128 yards and a pair of scores – in the first half – against Houston. With Wes Welker out for the time being with yet another concussion, Sanders should be the biggest beneficiary.
Minnesota quarterback: Head coach Mike Zimmer officially named Matt Cassel Minnesota’s starting QB over rookie Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel played into the third quarter against Kansas City and was 9 of 17 for 152 yards a touchdown and an interception. Bridgewater threw a pair of TD passes against the backups in Minnesota’s rout of Kansas City. Cassel’s not flashy and Bridgewater is the future starter in Minnesota, but for now, Cassel is the man.
Green Bay tight end: It appears that rookie Richard Rodgers will be Green Bay’s opening day starter at tight end. Brandon Bostick is out for several weeks with a fracture in his leg and Rodgers had already been playing ahead of 2013 starter Andrew Quarless. Both will get playing time, but Rodgers will be the starter, for what that’s worth. None are great tight end options, but you never know with Aaron Rodgers under center.
Oakland No. 1 receiver: If there was any question about who will be Oakland’s No. 1 target, it was answered Friday night against Green Bay. James Jones was targeted 10 times in the preseason game. He only had four receptions for 36 yards as he and Matt Schaub work to get on the same page. Denarius Moore had two catches for 46 yards on his three targets, but Jones is the more proven target.
Jacksonville quarterback: Chad Henne has been named the opening day starter in Jacksonville over impressive rookie Blake Bortles. Beyond that, however, who knows? Bortles, the third-overall pick in this year’s draft, looked good this preseason. If Henne – or the Jaguars, for that matter – struggle, Bortles could be playing sooner rather than later.
Philadelphia wide receiver: The Eagles put Jeremy Maclin in the slot with Riley Cooper and rookie Jordan Matthews on the outside while working on their hurry-up offense in practice. That cuts down on some of Maclin’s chances for explosive plays, but he did catch a team-high six passes for 43 yards on eight targets against the Steelers. Cooper had three receptions for 25 yards on five targets, while Matthews had two grabs for 16 yards on three targets.
Cleveland quarterback: Brian Hoyer in the starter. Johnny Manziel is the backup – for now. Neither has looked great in the preseason. At some point this season, Manziel will replace Hoyer, most likely after the team’s Week 4 bye.
Indianapolis No. 2 receiver: Reggie Wayne was back in action this week for the first time since tearing his ACL last season. He played two series against New Orleans, working from the slot and did not record a catch. T.Y. Hilton is the clear-cut No. 1 and it appears that it will take a while for Wayne to get back up to speed. Hakeem Nicks should benefit, especially if the Colts plan on using Wayne in the slot.
Houston No. 2 running back: Jonathan Grimes gained 22 yards on five carries and scored a touchdown, while also catching a 24-yard pass against Denver. Alfred Blue also played with the starters and got a team-high nine carries, but he managed just 27 yards. Both will have some value if Arian Foster can’t play, but it appears Grimes will be a little more valuable.
New York Jets quarterback: To the surprise of virtually no one, Geno Smith has been named the starting quarterback for the Jets over Michael Vick. Smith was going to have to completely fall on his face not to be the starter. That didn’t happen, as Smith completed nearly 70 percent of his preseason passes.
New York Jets running back: Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory showed they could both have value against the Giants Friday night. Johnson had nine carries for 42 yards and two receptions for another 35. Ivory had a team-high 50 yards on six carries and caught one pass for 23 yards. The Jets look like they’ll favor Johnson with a 60-40 split in the carries, giving both value as No. 3 fantasy backs.
Miami running back: Knowshon Moreno’s Miami debut was worth the wait as he carried 10 times for 64 yards against the Cowboys. Lamar Miller had 34 yards on seven attempts and caught two passes for three yards. Head coach Joe Philbin said nothing has been decided in regard to a starter, but it’s obvious Moreno took a big step forward.