Raymond Summerlin – @RMSummerlin
In keeping with my promise to watch all the important preseason games – week four of the preseason is dreadful – I have already perused the first four games of preseason week two for the important fantasy football information.
The first nationally televised game of the week had some interesting and downright disappointing performances. Let’s start with the bad.
The narrative out of Chicago this offseason was a new coach, a new offensive line, and new offensive weapons were going to transform Jay Cutler into a viable fantasy quarterback. To be honest, I liked the sound of and may have had a hand in writing this narrative.
Cutler, however, was back to his old tricks against the Chargers. Cutler was sacked on his first two drop backs of the game and forced the ball to Brandon Marshall on every one of his throws. One of the forced passes was an interception thrown late into double coverage. Even on the touchdown Cutler held the ball too long staring down Marshall. These were the mistakes that Trestman and company were supposed to fix, and the fact that Cutler cannot seem to break his laser locked vision off Marshall is concerning.
Contrary to Cutler, we got some good news about Matt Forte. Forte, who had been removed in the past in favor of Michael Bush in red zone situations, received the entire first team goal to go work and converted on a three yard rush in the first quarter. It is a promising development for a running back probably going too late in drafts as it is.
For the Chargers, it is clear their offensive line woes have not been solved. Phillip Rivers was running for his life all night despite the absence of Julius Peppers on the other side of the ball. Mike McCoy wants to institute a quick hit offense to lessen the negative impact of San Diego’s offensive line, but it does not matter how quickly Rivers gets rid of the ball if the line plays as poorly as they did against the Bears.
Even though the Chargers’ offensive line was poor in pass protection, they were actually solid in the running game, and Ryan Mathews had his second straight quality performance. It is hard to draft Mathews because of his injury history, but it is becoming clear he will be effective while healthy. Mathews is a good pick in the fifth round as a flex play, but he is still too risky to trust as a number two back.
We have seen Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense twice this preseason. Both times they have been awful.
Newton especially has been bad. He threw a horrible pick in the first preseason game and was consistently missing high against the Eagles this week. High throws in the NFL equal interceptions, and Newton has to become more accurate for this offense to be successful.
The running game has not exactly been helping the cause either. DeAngelo Williams averaged 3.3 yards per carry against the same defensive line New England man handled for 8 yards per carry just one week ago. The Carolina offensive line is not expected to be at New England’s level, but it was a pitiful performance against what should be a below average defense.
In eight possessions this preseason the Panthers’ starting offense has only one touchdown, and that scoring drive was only 18 yards due to a Jay Cutler interception. The other seven drives have ended in punts four times, an interception once, and two field goals. It is time to be concerned about the Carolina offense.
We do not need to be concerned, however, with LeSean McCoy. Shady was spectacular against Carolina making several plays that I only thought were possible in Madden. Kelly has shown this preseason he will be running a zone read base regardless of the starting quarterback, and Shady should shine in the system. I am expecting good things from this offense.
As a deep dynasty note, Kenjon Barner, who I had taken a shine to last week, looked poor in his second preseason game. Barner muffed a punt and was stymied in the run game. A lot of the blame could be placed on Carolina’s offensive line, but Barner did not show much ability to make something out of nothing. Despite the poor performance, my man crush goes on.
Reggie Bush again proved why he should not be overlooked in PPR leagues by catching five balls for 44 yards in only one half of work. The Lions’ offensive line has not been producing anything in the way of running lanes through the first two games – the Lions have averaged 2.75 yards per carry as a team through two weeks – but Bush has seen 9 targets in roughly three quarters of work this preseason. He is a borderline number one back in PPR leagues for 2013.
The Browns’ passing game was also impressive in this game. I do not know what Norval Turner does – I am decreeing he shall henceforth be referred to only by the name Quarterback Whisperer – but he has once again worked his magic with Brandon Weeden. Weeden looks more calm and collected in the pocket and has made several quality throws through two preseason games.
Weeden also is blessed with great pass catching talent. We all know Josh Gordon is special when he wants to be, but Greg Little has shown progress and fantasy community darling Jordan Cameron has been a monster this preseason.
There are big things ahead for this passing offense, and Weeden has a real shot at a 4200 yard, 25 touchdown season. I like him a lot as a number two quarterback.
The big story for the Falcons coming out of the first preseason game was the apparent lack of burst from Steven Jackson. Jackson put those fears to rest a bit with 42 yards on only eight carries against the Ravens, but I still saw a back hesitant to the hole on several occasions. Jackson has to be an upgrade over Michael Turner and has value simply because of the offense, but people drafting him early in the second round may be disappointed. This is the not the Steven Jackson of old.
Joe Flacco continued his impressive Charlie Whitehurst impression by checking down to a tight end or running back on five on his nine attempts against the Falcons. Flacco now has 18 pass attempt this preseason. Only eight have targeted wide receivers, and only one has targeted a player more than 15 yards down the field.
This offense is devoid of playmaker besides Torrey Smith, and that fact has been blatantly obvious this preseason. Ozzie Newsom has to get some talent around Joe Flacco if he is going to be anything close to what we saw in the playoffs last year, and fantasy players need to pass up on the Super Bowl MVP for higher upside players like the afore mentioned Brandon Weeden, Sam Bradford, or Michael Vick.
Follow Raymond on Twitter @RMSummerlin for live game updates and fantasy advice.