Connor Allen

Football Daily Dose

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Dose: Preseason Matters

Thursday, August 9, 2018


The Hall of Fame game is always a great wake-up call for me that football is officially back. With that a week in the past, today we have a full slate of games on our hands. Despite all the naysayers claiming “preseason football is worthless,” there are a lot of useful bits of information you can learn from watching these games.  The most important is which players are taking snaps with the first team, how frequently and where they are lining up. Apply this to the running back situation in Denver. The Broncos drafted RB Royce Freeman in the third round this year, but RB Devontae Booker was listed as the No. 1 back on their first depth chart. Monitoring who plays the most with the first team throughout the preseason will likely be a good indicator of who is more likely to be the starter. The same train of thought can be applied to receivers in where they line up on the field and with whom. If they are with the first team, are they in the slot or on the outside? A player like Oakland WR Jordy Nelson has a very wide range of outcomes based on where he most frequently lines up this season. If he is being used as a slot-flanker, he’s a good bet for plenty of short-intermediate catches and is likely to outperform his current fantasy ADP. If he’s left as an outside receiver on an island, he may struggle to gain much separation at 33 years old and be a boom-or-bust touchdown-reliant play each week. Utilizing information like this gives preseason-watchers an edge over those deeming it worthless.

 

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Training Camp Notes


After catching only 32 passes in 40 games at USC, Bucs second-round pick RB Ronald Jones is reportedly struggling in the passing game so far at training camp. The Tampa Bay Times not only reported that Jones had struggled in pass protection but also needed to improve his catching ability. Without either of those skills, he is essentially an early-down back that significantly hurts the team’s versatility. When he is on the field, opposing teams will know there is a much higher chance they are running the ball. The Bucs would probably let Jones’ completely fail in the passing game before becoming one-dimensional like I suggested, but this is definitely something to keep an eye on throughout the preseason. Faltering in that phase of the game would be detrimental to Jones’ fantasy value and would likely thrust RBs Peyton Barber and Charles Sims into a larger role.

 

After trading a third round pick for Bryant earlier this offseason, it became easy to daydream of the Raiders possessing a dangerous receiving corps of Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and Martavis Bryant. This may not come to fruition with Bryant reportedly struggling with coach Jon Gruden’s playbook. Gruden is known for his old-school approach, and that includes complicated verbiage on play-calls. If Bryant doesn’t get his act together, the Raiders could kick WR Ryan Switzer into the slot and bump Jordy Nelson to the outside (something I discussed in the intro that wouldn’t be good for his fantasy value). This likely won’t happen immediately as the Raider’s won’t want to admit defeat on their trade, but Gruden could bench Bryant sooner than we think. Beyond issues with learning the playbook, Bryant also reportedly has some sort of unknown issue with the league that has yet to be announced. There were rumors of his suspension a while back but nothing came to light. He’s nothing more than a late-round dart throw at this point in fantasy drafts.

 

Along with the entire team as a whole, Rams WR Cooper Kupp was a big surprise in 2017. Kupp finished as the WR25 while only playing in 15 games as a rookie, an easily repeatable finish in 2018. The rapport between QB Jared Goff and Kupp was undeniable and CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported they have shown “something special going on” during the Rams’ joint practice with the Ravens. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Kupp take a step forward in his second year after leading the team in targets and red-zone targets as a rookie. He’s a solid pick towards the end of the single-digit rounds in fantasy drafts.

 

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With the departure of former No. 1 WR Jordy Nelson to the Raiders, the Packers depth chart at wide receiver is in a flux. Davante Adams is expected to be their No. 1 with Randall Cobb as the No. 2, but Cobb’s foot continues to act up and his effectiveness is unknown. This leaves the pack with a myriad of unproven receivers including J'Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, and Jake Kumerow. Rodgers had a meltdown with his receivers at practice recently but picked out Kumerow as a player performing well. He displayed his confidence in him by explaining “When you're out there, I'm coming your way.” While it seems unlikely that the former UDFA Kumerow, who has never appeared in a regular season game, will beat out some of the talent on the Packers’ roster, Rodger’s comfort is vital to the success of their offense. He likely has a sizeable say in who plays and who doesn’t, making this an intriguing storyline to follow throughout the preseason.

 

Quick Hits

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports the Browns believe Antonio Callaway has "stayed clean" despite last week's off-field incident. It makes too much sense that the Browns are reportedly on board with this story as well after trading former first-round pick Corey Coleman for practically nothing. …Early in the day, news broke that the Raiders were looking for OT Donald Penn to take a pay cut.  Later on it was announced he may be traded or released if his contract doesn’t work out. He is currently on Oakland’s active/PUP list and hasn’t practiced due to offseason Lisfranc surgery. Even at age 35 he has some gas left in the tank and will play football somewhere this season, even if it isn’t in Oakland. … Panthers signed C Tyler Larson to a two-year $4.4 million extension. He is mostly a depth signing that will likely have to fill in for some of the Panthers’ injuries in the trenches. … The 49ers are reportedly open to trading DB Jimmie Ward. He isn’t expected to be a starter but carries an $8.5M salary. A good match would be a secondary-needy team with an excess of cap space. … Packers TE Jimmy Graham (Knee) isn’t expected to play in the Packers’ preseason opener. This is common for any player with a semi-serious ailment, and especially a player of Graham’s caliber. He will likely receive minimal work throughout preseason. … Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Kendall Wright could be a weekly inactive. Wright was expected to challenge for the No. 3 receiving role on this offense behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, but looks to have fallen behind. If he can’t make an impact on special teams he likely won’t be active barring an injury. … Cardinals WR Christian Kirk has reportedly turned an impressive training camp so far. He is likely to start as an outside receiver immediately with Larry Fitzgerald manning the slot. … Panthers RT Daryl Williams (knee) is expected to open the season on injured reserve. Williams adds another injury to the Panthers’ thinning offensive line. … Redskins RB Samaje Perine is considered the “odd man out” in the Redskins’ backfield. There is a legitimate chance he doesn’t make the team as he has to beat out Rob Kelly, Byron Marshall, and Kapri Bibbs for one of the remaining running back roster spots. … Rams DT Aaron Donald is getting closer to an extension with his team. They are apparently “in the same zip code” now, so that’s encouraging. It seems unlikely Donald misses any actual games for these negotiations. … ESPN's Mike Wells reports TE Erik Swoope is having a "strong" training camp. The former basketball player will have to put on a show to climb above starting tight ends Jack Doyle or Eric Ebron on the depth chart. His best chance of seeing the field would be through an injury occurring or being traded.



You can find Connor on Twitter @ConnorAllenNFL.
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