Week 2 of the NFL preseason is another opportunity for positional battles to be decided and relatively unknown players to try to make a name for themselves. With Week 3 of the preseason being more of a dress rehearsal for the regulars, this week is the last chance for many players fighting for roster spots to make their teams or perhaps latch onto another roster later in the preseason. Here are some of the things I took away from Week 2 of the NFL Preseason.
NFL Preseason Week 2 Fantasy Takeaways
Washington 15, New York Jets 13
The focus was on rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, as it has been all preseason in New York. The rookie got the start and played the first half. Darnold finished with just 62 yards and an interception. Teddy Bridgewater played the second half and looked good. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception. I still give Darnold a slight edge in the ongoing quarterback competition but no firm decision has been made by Todd Bowles yet.
Another week, another running back injury for Washington. Semaje Perine took his only carry of the night 30 yards but came up lame with an ankle injury. He is expected to miss at least a week of action. This is why so many teams and fans dread preseason action. This latest injury may give Rob Kelley a chance to open the year as Washington’s early-down back, but he only had 17 yards on seven carries. Washington desperately needs an upgrade at running back and is entertaining visits from Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson among others.
New England 37, Philadelphia 20
The Eagles got a good scare when quarterback Nick Foles was forced to leave the game with a strained shoulder. Foles is not expected to miss much time, but with Carson Wentz’ status for Week 1 still in doubt, the injury is a cause for concern in Philadelphia. Jay Ajayi had 23 yards on six carries and is still the favorite for carries, though it remains to be seen if he will be a workhorse or merely the leader of a dreaded running-back-by-committee.
Tom Brady carved up Philly in the first half, ending his night with 172 yards and two touchdown passes. James White finished with 92 total yards and a touchdown. White can be a nice PPR play especially considering the injuries to Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead, though both are expected to be ready in time for the regular season. Chris Hogan caught five passes including a short touchdown and should be the best wide receiver in New England while Julian Edelman serves his four-game suspension.
Green Bay 51, Pittsburgh 34
With Ben Roethlisberger sitting this one out after suffering a concussion in practice, Pittsburgh quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph combined for five touchdown passes. Unfortunately, two of them were scored by the Green Bay Packers. It wasn’t all bad for the black and yellow, however. James Conner and Jaylen Samuels combined for 95 rushing yards and two scores on 14 carries. Conner should benefit most if Le’Veon Bell becomes unavailable. Rookie wide receiver James Washington continued his impressive preseason on Thursday, finishing with 114 yards and two touchdown catches. Washington can be had very late in drafts but could carve out a role for himself in a prolific offense.
Aaron Rodgers hooked up with Jimmy Graham for a red-zone score, which I suspect will happen quite a bit in 2018. Rodgers’ backup, DeShone Kizer, was impressive as he had 149 yards and two touchdown throws. It’s easy to forget he is still just 22 years old. Running back Jamaal Williams left with an ankle injury, but it is not expected to cause him to miss the regular season opener. Green Bay will need Williams on the field while Aaron Jones serves his two-game suspension. Wide receiver Jake Kumerow had 114 receiving yards on Thursday, including an 82-yard catch and run in the third quarter. However, he sprained the SC joint in his shoulder and may miss some valuable reps as he fights for a roster spot this preseason.
Kansas City 28, Atlanta 14
Patrick Mahomes completed a 69-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill and officials immediately canceled the rest of the game. OK, that last part isn’t true. But the play highlighted both Mahomes’ arm strength and Hill’s speed and speaks to the potential these two have together. I still have them ranked just outside my QB1 and WR1 ranks, respectively, but they are going to have huge spike weeks this season.
Matt Ryan looked good in limited action, throwing for 90 yards and a touchdown. On the other end of that touchdown pass was Austin Hooper. Hooper is virtually going undrafted but is still just 23 years old and the starter in a good offense. For those who choose to stream tight ends, Hooper should be pretty useful this season. Calvin Ridley also caught a touchdown. The rookie looks to supplant veteran Mohamed Sanu as Atlanta’s second-best fantasy receiver behind Julio Jones. Ridley is currently going as a WR4 in the 10th round, which seems fair. He should be a solid if unspectacular fantasy performer.
New York Giants 30, Detroit Lions 17
Saquon Barkley sat this one out after tweaking his hamstring during practice on Monday. The injury should not affect Barkley’s status for the season opener. Wayne Gallman scored a pair of touchdowns in his absence but will have little value once Barkley returns.
The Lions could not get much going on the ground in this contest. The combination of LeGarrette Blount, Kerryon Johnson, and Ameer Abdullah totaled just 48 rushing yards on 17 carries. This still appears to be a committee, though Johnson is the early favorite among drafters with an early ninth-round ADP. Veteran quarterback Matt Cassel was actually benched in a preseason game after failing to generate any offense. You don’t see that very often.
Buffalo 19, Cleveland 17
Buffalo’s quarterback competition took a turn when A.J. McCarron suffered what is believed to be a broken collarbone, though McCarron is seeking a second opinion. Nathan Peterson and rookie Josh Allen were impressive, combining for 173 passing yards and two touchdowns. The two will likely continue to battle for the remainder of the preseason, though Allen may have the inside track on the starting gig, especially if McCarron misses significant time. As is the case in New York, none of Buffalo’s quarterbacks are currently going in the top-30 Fantasy quarterbacks.
After an excellent preaseason opener last week, Cleveland’s passing game was not clicking in this game. Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield combined for just 97 yards. The running game, however, flourished. Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb, and Duke Johnson averaged six yards per rush and scored two touchdowns as a unit. After the game, Josh Gordon announced his intentions to return to the team. His ADP has slipped a bit in recent weeks, but he has elite upside for those confident that he can stay on the field.
Carolina 27, Miami 20
Ryan Tannehill completed 14 of 17 passes in this one, though just for 100 yards. Frank Gore once again sat out as part of Miami’s preseason maintenance plan for the veteran. Kenyan Drake had 54 yards on eight carries and still figures to be the featured back. With Miami sticking to short, high-percentage passes, no receiver really stood out. But it should be noted that Albert Wilson had seven targets.
Christian McCaffrey’s 71-yard touchdown run was the signature play in this game for the Panthers. McCaffrey has been talked up by offensive coordinator Norv Turner as someone who could see 400 touches this season. That does not seem realistic, but he has been used as Carolina’s primary back ahead of C.J. Anderson this preseason. If he can approach 300 touches this season, McCaffrey can finish the year as a Fantasy RB1.
Arizona 20, New Orleans 15
Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen combined to complete 16 of 22 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown in this game. Rosen looked solid and showed poise as he tries to usurp the veteran for starting quarterback duties in the desert. David Johnson once again proved he is ready for the regular season, dragging several defenders into the end zone en route to a second-quarter touchdown. Rookie wideout Christian Kirk had 49 yards and a score and should see the majority of reps alongside Larry Fitzgerald.
Jonathan Williams once again made his case to be New Orleans’ backup running back while Mark Ingram serves his four-game suspension. Williams had 37 yards on eight rushes and has now amassed 63 yards on 12 preseason carries. Third-round pick Tre’Quan Smith hauled in three of four targets for 60 yards but is not likely to be Fantasy-relevant without an injury in the Saints’ receiving corps.
Jacksonville 14, Minnesota 10
Leonard Fournette saw 10 touches and finished with 29 total yards and a touchdown for Jacksonville. His primary backup, T.J. Yeldon had 112 total yards in 15 touches. Once again, none of Jacksonville’s wide receivers did much to separate themselves. Donte Moncrief led the group with 23 yards. This group will be difficult to forecast on a weekly basis.
Minnesota’s passing game failed to get much going against the vaunted Jacksonville defense. But the backup running backs put on another good showing. Mike Boone had 91 rushing yards and a touchdown, and Roc Thomas had 37 total yards. Neither figures to be much of a factor with Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray in front of them, but these are two players who could make a name for themselves in the right situation.
Los Angeles Rams 19, Oakland 15
The duo of E.J. Manuel and Connor Cook had little success against the Rams on Saturday. They combined for just 138 yards, most of which went to backs and tight ends. Chris Warren III was the only standout. The rookie running back out of Texas had 110 yards and a touchdown. Oakland has a loaded backfield, but Warren is making a case to find an NFL home in the near future depending on how things shake out around the legue as the preseason unfolds.
Despite the victory, there wasn’t much going on offensively for the Rams either. Running back John Kelly had 56 yards and a touchdown but didn’t do much with his opportunity. He likely still sits third on the depth chart. KhaDarel Hodge was targeted five times, reeling two in for 47 yards. However, he is a long shot to make the roster.
Cincinnati 21, Dallas 13
Running backs Tra Carson and Brian Hill were the standouts for the Bengals in this game. Carson had 24 rushing yards and a score, while Hill did most of his damage in the passing game, finishing with 47 receiving yards and a touchdown catch. Both will still have a difficult time making final cuts. John Ross caught only one of three targets but did reel in a two-point conversion as well. He hasn’t had the most efficient preseason but still figures to start for Cincinnati once the regular season begins.
Rod Smith and Darius Jackson each had over 60 yards from scrimmage in this one. Smith should remain Ezekiel Elliott’s primary backup while Jackson will have a tough time making the team. Guard Zack Martin hyperextended his knee, but the injury does not appear serious, which should be a sigh of relief for Elliott owners. Rico Gathers led the team with 32 receiving yards, including a nice 25-yard grab. It’s difficult to trust him or any Dallas tight end at this juncture. Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns each hauled in two short completions. Gallup seems to be earning more trust and both could be nice values later in drafts.
Tampa Bay 30, Tennessee 14
In this battle of the top two picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers emerged victoriously. Winston hit Mike Evans for a 38-yard completion on his first attempt and never looked back. Winston ended the night with 226 yards and two touchdowns, including six completions of at least 19 yards. Winston is a tough sell, as he faces a three-game suspension to start the year and Tampa has a Week 5 bye. But he can be a great value for those with the proper amount of roster flexibility and patience. Head coach Dirk Koetter announced Peyton Barber as the Bucs’ starting running back early in the week, and Saturday did little to change that. Rookie Ronald Jones had two rushing yards against Tennessee. Jones is still curiously going eight rounds ahead of Barber in drafts. If you draft in leagues where owners are too focused on ADP, you can take advantage of this situation.
Marcus Mariota had 80 passing yards and a touchdown pass before giving way to the reserves. Dion Lewis had a couple of nice plays out of the backfield, but the star of this game was Taywan Taylor. The second-year pro caught two touchdowns, flashing his speed on a screen pass that he took 47 yards to the house. Taylor is an intriguing sleeper who is currently going outside the top-100 wide receivers in drafts. As Rishard Matthews continues to miss time with a mysterious injury this preseason, only Taylor and fellow sophomore Corey Davis are guaranteed work in what should be an improved offense.
Houston 16, San Francisco 13
Two of the most popular preseason fantasy quarterbacks went head-to-head on Saturday in Houston. Jimmy Garoppolo looked impressive early on. He led an opening drive which included a 40-yard pass to Marquise Goodwin and a fourth-down conversion. The drive culminated with a touchdown pass to Trent Taylor. His second and final drive ended with an interception. Running back Joe Williams suffered a broken rib which will cloud his status in what has already been a backfield hampered by injuries.
Deshaun Watson only played one series but compiled 73 passing yards and a touchdown. Braxton Miller and Sammie Coates got extended run as they received a total of 15 targets. The duo continues their battle for scraps behind DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Vyncint Smith caught a game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass from Joe Webb in the final minute, which will likely go down as his greatest NFL highlight. The rookie out of Limestone College is a longshot to make the team.
Chicago 24, Denver 23
Mitchell Trubisky played about halfway into the second quarter on Saturday night, finishing with 90 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Tight end Trey Burton was targeted early and often and totaled 45 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. Burton is a fringe TE1 who was hand-picked by head coach Matt Nagy to play the Travis Kelce role in Chicago’s new offensive system. Wideout Anthony Miller caught three of four passes and makes for a nice late-round flier.
After being announced as the second-string quarterback by head coach Vance Joseph earlier in the week, Chad Kelly once again outplayed Paxton Lynch. Kelly had 90 yards and a touchdown and on just nine attempts. Lynch, meanwhile, had just 39 yards on 11 throws. Royce Freeman ran for 20 yards and a touchdown and displayed nice power on some of his runs. He is the favorite for early-down work, but I still think Devontae Booker will carve out a role. Emmanuel Sanders had seven targets and should have a nice bounce-back season with Case Keenum at the helm.
Los Angeles Chargers 24, Seattle 14
Russell Wilson played the first half and ended the night with 193 passing yards. Running back Chris Carson had a touchdown called back by penalty, and later fumbled away a goal-line carry. Still, the former seventh-round pick is expected to open as the starter. The situation mirrors the one in Tampa, where a rookie who is currently the backup is being taken much earlier than the actual starter. Based on ADP, Carson and Peyton Barber make great Zero RB candidates at this stage in the preseason. Jaron Brown and David Moore hauled in all four of their targets for 145 yards. Brown is not even being drafted in many leagues but could be a deep threat for Seattle in the wake of the loss of Paul Richardson to free agency.
Philip Rivers played just one series but finished with 62 yards. The drive was capped by a short touchdown run by Melvin Gordon. Detrez Newsome led the backfield with 100 total yards but is currently on the outside looking in for a roster spot. Second-year wide receiver Mike Williams caught a 25-yard touchdown pass on his lone target of the night. He and Tyrell Williams are going very late in drafts. In a passing game without a lot of options behind Keenan Allen, both could see significant action this season.
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