Sunday night's preseason opener between the Bills and Giants was like Christmas for us football geeks. We didn't care that backups took the vast majority of the snaps; we were just excited to see players from different organizations strapping up the pads and hitting one another. And we're sure the players felt the same way after lining up across from only teammates the past five months. We also just so happened to learn some things to stash in our brains for upcoming fantasy drafts.
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Giants rookie running back Andre Williams was the star of the night. The Boston College product rushed seven times for 48 yards and one touchdown. He functioned as the goal-line back with the first-team offense and pounded it in from three yards out on his score. Although reports all summer have been that Williams was operating as the short-yardage back, it was important to see it in action. Williams may be the most talented runner on the team, but his limitations as a pass catcher -- he can't catch a cold -- put a bit of a cap on his role. Rashad Jennings is the between-the-20s runner and has a far superior set of mitts; Jennings totaled 43 yards on ten touches. He'll have some good value in PPR formats and should see 15-plus touches per week. But his touchdown potential is limited by Williams' presence. It looks like a formidable one-two punch for the G-Men.
Giants vs. Bills Observations
E.J. Manuel looks like a player to avoid in even 2-QB leagues for the moment. He struggled mightily, completing just 2-of-7 throws for 17 yards. The Giants' defense had it easy with Manuel. … Manuel's lackluster performance Sunday night is a reminder to keep a level head on Sammy Watkins and the Bills' entire passing offense. Watkins is only going to go as far as Manuel can take him. He was badly overthrown on his lone target. … Mike Williams ran ahead of Robert Woods with the starting offense. … The Giants weren't lying when they said they wanted to get the ball out of Eli Manning's hands quicker. He completed 6-of-7 tosses for 43 yards. … New York primarily used three-wide sets. Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, and Jerrel Jernigan were the top three. Odell Beckham sat out with his hamstring injury. … Larry Donnell started the game at tight end for the Giants. This is going to be a position to avoid fantasy-wise on their roster. … As was the case last season, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson were mixed and matched with the first-team offense, while Jackson handled goal-line work. Spiller is going to have to break big plays to score touchdowns. … The Giants have issues to settle on their offensive line. It was overmatched against Buffalo's strong front four.
News Nugget #1
The Saints continue to rave about first-round rookie Brandin Cooks. After Drew Brees called the speedster "rare" last month, Cooks' star continues to shine bright in training camp. According to observers, Cooks has been the "star" of the entire camp. He caught six passes and a touchdown in New Orleans' intrasquad scrimmage over the weekend. Cooks' upside is massive, especially in PPR leagues. He's going to work out of the backfield and in the slot for Sean Payton. Cooks should flirt with around 80 catches, while playing a Darren Sproles-ian role. He's a value grab at his eighth round ADP.
News Nugget #2
Suspended WR Josh Gordon's appeal hearing was held on Friday. It lasted almost ten hours and will resume Monday in New York. Gordon faces a 16-game (or year-long) ban, and is arguing that his positive drug test was the result of second-hand smoke. No player has ever won an appeal on the grounds he failed a test due to second-hand smoke. Being that Gordon's hearing lasted for so long on Friday gives us optimism that Gordon could win the case against the NFL. That's purely a guess, though. A decision isn't expected until Monday, at the earliest. We should know something this week.
News Nugget #3
Back to Saints camp. Beat writer Mike Triplett expects the New Orleans backfield to remain a three-headed monster of sorts. Mark Ingram will likely be the "starter" as the top early-down and short-yardage back. He'll be backed up by sophomore Khiry Robinson, and Pierre Thomas will handle passing-down work and pick up some of the slack left behind by Darren Sproles' departure. The situation will cause weekly headaches in the fantasy world. Thomas is the guy to own in PPR, while Ingram has a ton of value at his current 13th-14th round ADP, especially in touchdown-heavy leagues. Robinson has been talked up as a potential breakout candidate, but that may not happen until 2015. Ingram is in the final year of his contract.
Depth Chart Quick Slants
Jimmy Clausen has the early edge in the battle between he and Jordan Palmer for No. 2 quarterback duties in Chicago. Position to monitor with Jay Cutler's injury history and coach Marc Trestman's success with Josh McCown. … Marquess Wilson is Brandon Marshall's direct backup at X receiver. Wilson will be the next man up should either Marshall or Alshon Jeffery go down. He needs to be owned in most all formats. … C.J. Anderson is working as the second-string running back in Broncos camp. Ronnie Hillman is Montee Ball's change-of-pace, but Anderson would be Ball's top handcuff. … The Colts want to see more from Hakeem Nicks. He's working as the No. 3 behind T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne in an offense that figures to primarily feature one-back, two-wide, and two-tight end looks as its main set. … John Carlson sits atop the depth chart at tight end in Arizona. … Kelvin Benjamin has "obviously" been Cam Newton's top wide receiver target in camp. … Benny Cunningham has a firm grip on No. 2 running back duties with the Rams. He'd likely handle the bulk of the early-down work should Zac Stacy miss time.
Injury Quick Slants
Packers undrafted rookie TE Colt Lyerla suffered a leg injury in Saturday's practice. The team is still awaiting MRI results. He's been buried at the bottom of the depth chart all summer, despite superb athleticism. … Arian Foster remains sidelined at camp. The Texans are keeping it close to the vest, but it's believed Foster is battling a hamstring issue. Not good for a guy that tore a hammy in 2011 and had problems with his legs last season. … The Packers believe fifth-round WR Jared Abbrederis tore his ACL over the weekend. … Knowshon Moreno (knee) may miss the entire preseason. … Michael Crabtree is week-to-week with what is believed to be a hamstring injury. Brandon Lloyd is also sidelined at 49ers camp. … Andre Johnson is battling a hamstring issue of his own.