Cautionary note: Don’t read too much into preseason games. A) It’s a very small sample size. B) Coaches use preseason games as an opportunity to experiment, so they may force-feed certain guys the ball and try whacky play-calls. C) It’s so early, we don’t know whether a poor fantasy performance from an RB or QB is the result of poor talent, or a great defense. Still, there is a lot to learn from these games, and it’s really all we got. We know you’re probably not watching all 60-something games, but we are. You can glance at the statlines when all is said and done, but there’s a lot that you don’t learn unless you watch the game. So here are some observations that the stats don’t tell you.
On Thursday, Fred Taylor looked great. He took 11 carries for 54 yards and a score against Atlanta’s first team defense. Taylor would have had an additional impressive 15 yard run that was called back by penalty. Then Sammy Morris racked up 52 yards on 6 carries against the backups. Maroney should have his chance to run with the big dogs next weekend, but it’s clear that if old man Taylor stays healthy, this backfield will completely cannibalize itself.
Wes Welker also made an impressively quick return from his ACL injury. He had 2 catches for 20 yards. And on the one additional target that he did not catch, he got pummeled on a screen and couldn’t hold on. 1) It’s noteworthy that Welker aka The Slot Machine had a screen because the Patriots may lead the league again in screen passes which is a great way for Welker to continue racking up receptions and yards. 2) After the collision, Welker popped right back up like nothing had happened – a good sign for his health.
In the same game, Matt Ryan finished 8 for 13 with 76 yards, but I thought he looked better than that. He looked poised in the pocket and would have had another significant completion and continued the drive if backup RB Smith had turned around on a blitz. Instead, Smith got hit in the back of the head with the football – pretty funny.
Cedric Benson got only 30 yards on 10 carries against Cincinnati, but also got five catches for 29 yards. There’s been a lot of talk of Carson Palmer’s declining arm strength, which could translate to good news for Benson racking up short catches. I thought Benson looked beastly despite his 3.0 ypc. When he ran for 11 yards (his long), not only did he avoid going down on an attempted tackle, it looked like Benson tackled the defender – a rare sight. That being said, Benson’s backup and potential competition, Bernard Scott, looked great and very physical on his 2 carries for 13 yards and a TD.
Kevin Kolb looked pretty good. He looked inaccurate on long throws, but I was very impressed by his ability to throw on the run. He had a TD pass called back by penalty. Kolb is probably the only QB in the league who has to worry about splitting time with a complimentary QB in Michael Vick. Vick looked explosive on his runs, but had 2 passing completions… to the other team, and finished 1 for 5 with 6 yards. The Eagles cannot really rely on Vick as more than an occasional gimmick.
I’m a little worried about DeSean Jackson because he relies on long TDs so much and I’m not sure about Kolb’s ability to throw those. If he repeats his reception total (63), but his average yards per catch regresses closer to the league average, then Jackson becomes pretty mediocre. Jackson looked very good tonight hauling in 4 passes for 74 yards, but there were 3 others incompletions his way where Kolb and Jackson couldn’t quite connect.
Terrell Owens and Carson Palmer showed nice chemistry as Owens caught 3 of 4 targets for 67 yards. Owens is being drafted 40 spots behind Chad Ochocinco on average, but the dynamic duo has anointed Owens as “Batman” and Ocho is relegated to “Robin.” And through 3 games, Owens has 9 catches for 108 yards, while Ochocinco only has 3 catches for 34 yards. It is possible they’re force-feeding TO the ball to play with their new toy. And remember that TO is 4 years older than Ochocinco. However, it might be time to bring Owens and Ochocinco a lot closer on draft boards.