We all know that NFL teams use week three of the preseason as the dress rehearsal for their starters. As such the week two games did not give us many more answers than what we already got from the first round of practice games. There were however, a few note worthy situations and players. This will be a Cliffs Notes version of the Eyes of the Guru column but I wanted to let everyone know what I saw.
It may be a little early to close the book on Jon Bostic's fantasy career. He saw little or no action with the starters in game one but showed up ahead of D.J. Williams in the nickel packages against Jacksonville. tune in week three. I am not sure if Danny McCray has earned the starting strong safety job or if he is working with the first team because someone is nicked up. What I am sure of is that he lined up regularly as an in the box strong safety and made a lot of plays. Ryan Mundy was at strong safety in game one but worked mostly at free safety in game two.
The Jaguars did us no favors in week two. Telvin Smith Sr looked sharp in a three down role in the opener and raised some eyebrows. The second time around he played only in the nickel while Geno Hayes and LaRoy Reynolds worked in the base. Andre Branch is not starting but is seeing plenty of playing time. They are moving him all over the place including snaps at outside linebacker in some 3-4 looks. If he can take advantage of the opportunity, Branch could surprise. He looks pretty good so far.
Nate Allen got the start at strong safety over Earl Wolff for the second straight game. It is not looking good for Wolff at this point. DeMeco Ryans was supposed to be seeing a reduction in snaps. The only time he is coming off the field when the team uses six defensive backs. That may cost him a handful of snaps a game on average, but he is still making a lot of tackles.
New England Patriots
A couple of weeks back it looked like Duron Harmon would be the starting strong safety. He saw little or no work with the starters in week one. In week two the Patriots started Kyle Arrington at strong safety. In nickel situations Arrington covered the slot receiver and Patrick Chung worked at strong safety. This role could make Arrington an excellent sleeper pick. This is the same way Antrel Rolle has been used in recent years. Like Rolle, Arrington has proven to be rather productive when he gets on the field full time.
Ramon Humber started at ILB ahead of David Hawthorne in the Saints second game. Like Hawthorne in week one, Humber was remaining on the field in most of the nickel packages. I am not sure if this is a competition or if the Saints were just giving Hawthorne some rest. The starter he is probable going to be worthy of a roster spot in most leagues.
Both Zach Brown and Wesley Woodyard worked as three down inside linebackers. Woodyard is locked in as one of the starters and Brown looked far better than any of his competitors in week one. It is a safe bet that this will be the starting duo come week one. I know a lot of my respected piers are high on Woodyard, but I believe Brown will be just as productive and a better value.
Wallace Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap were the starting defensive ends but Margus Hunt and Robert Geathers also saw time with the first unit. It looks as if the Bengals will use all four players in the rotation. That said, it looked like Dunlap was seeing more snaps than any of the other three while the first team was in the game.
New York Jets
The most interesting note to come from the Jets second preseason game is that they opened in a 4-3 for a few plays with Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples at end, Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson at tackle. David Harris was at middle linebacker with Calvin Pace at left outside linebacker and Demario Davis on the right. They did not seem to be keying on strong/weak with the outside backers and only used the four man front on a handful of snaps.
Terrence Brooks got the start at free safety ahead of Darian Stewart. Stewart is a decent veteran option but Brooks is the more talented and is seen as future of the position. It would be no surprise to see the rookie come out of the preseason as the starter. This position will have value only in deeply drafted leagues.
The Cowboys started Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey at defensive end. George Selvie has been banged up so this may just be a case of resting a starter to ensure he will be healthy for week one. Crawford did nothing to suggest he might be pushing for playing time. Despite all the chatter about his poor performance, Bruce Carter started on the weak side again and Justin Durant continued to play in the middle.
The Cardinals lost Darnell Dockett for the season this week. He will be replaced in the lineup by Frostee Rucker. There seems to be a growing possibility that Tyrann Mathieu could be active in week one. This is good news for fantasy owners but I would advise caution until we see what kind of role he might have and if he is anywhere hear the same player. The other interesting note out of Arizona this week was the signing of inside linebacker Desmond Bishop. If Bishop is the same player that could not win a roster spot with the linebacker needy Vikings, this signing will mean nothing. On the other hand, if he is finally healthy and playing as he did in Green Bay before the injury, he could be the Cardinals best inside linebacker. Let us hope he is in good shape and gets some "meaningful" snaps in the third practice game.
Sean Spence captured a lot of attention in the first warm-up game. Enough to have many asking if he might be an option to start at some point. After the game Ryan Shazier put on tape last weekend, everyone has forgotten about Spence. Shazier is going to be a beast both on the field and in the box scores. I wonder if Lawrence Timmons is starting to look over his shoulder?
The safety positions remain somewhat unsettled in Washington. I will not yet speculate on who will be in the lineup come week one, but I will mention that we should not completely write off Bacarri Rambo. He looks much improved after a rookie season that saw him struggle greatly. The team just recently got Ryan Clark and Phillip Thomas back from injury so this battle may heat up this weekend. The coaching staff is running out of time to make a decision.
Sio Moore replaced Miles Burris as the Raiders three down weak side linebacker against the Lions. Moore made a strong showing and is likely to have won that job. After sitting out of the sub packages in the first game, Kalil Mack was in those packages against Detroit. The Raiders nickel featured Mack and Woodley at end with Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith at tackle. Nick Roach joined Moore at linebacker. This is pretty much the lineup we expected to see from Oakland. Tuck looks healthy and explosive again.
That is all I have for this week. I am expecting a lot more answers to come out of the third round of games. Best of luck as draft season peaks this weekend.