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Takeaways from the Second Week of Preseason




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One week ago, Malcolm Brown out-snapped Myles Gaskin 16-7 in the Dolphins' first preseason game.

On Saturday, Gaskin played on 10 of Miami's first 11 snaps. It ended up being a three-way committee again, but the point remains that things can change at the drop of a hat when we're dealing with small sample sizes in preseason matches.

You don't want to overreact to preseason. With that being said, there's a big difference between not overreacting and not reacting at all. We can still glean valuable information from these games; we just don't want to treat them as gospel.

With that in mind, let's dig into the most notable takeaways from the second week of exhibition football.

Cool Your Jets

Zach Wilson played 19 snaps against the Packers on Saturday. Tevin Coleman was in for 10 of them. Ty Johnson got the other nine. They swapped rotationally rather than in certain situations.

Michael Carter got zero snaps with the starters. The fourth-round rookie played deep into the second half. He was effective - racking up 52 yards on 10 carries - but that usage implies the Jets don't view him as one of their primary backs. This runs contrary to the buzz we've heard out of training camp, which has said Carter and Coleman are splitting first-team reps fairly evenly at practice with Johnson a distant third. Maybe the Jets are just deferring to veterans right now, but they are strangely doing one thing in training camp and something else entirely in live action.

It's also worth noting that Carter's role could increase throughout the season since rookie running backs tend to get better as the year progresses and Coleman and Johnson don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents.

Rookie RB performance throughout season
Rookie RB performance throughout season  

That's to say it's not time to panic, but it's indisputably discouraging how New York has used him over the past two games.

J.K. vs. the Gus Bus

Gus Edwards missed the Ravens' first preseason game due to COVID-19 protocols, but he played against the Panthers this weekend and out-snapped J.K. Dobbins 10-8 with the first team. Dobbins got the start, but Edwards played more and handled 3-of-4 third-down snaps (Edwards got both third-and-short situations, while both backs got one third-and-long).

Dobbins should be the primary back, but it was always going to be a split. Last year, Mark Ingram was inactive for the first time in Week 8. In Weeks 8-17, Dobbins and Lamar Jackson each averaged 12.1 carries per game, while Edwards was at 9.6. It's a true three-way split. Dobbins is slightly more palatable in standard or half-PPR formats, but it's difficult to justify spending a Round 3 pick on him in leagues that offer a full point per reception. On the other hand, Edwards should have a Week 1 role and possesses massive upside if something were to happen to Dobbins. That's exactly the profile we want in a Zero RB candidate. Really, the gap between the two Ravens backs is just too wide. Dobbins is slightly overvalued and Edwards slightly undervalued.

Gaskin Lives

Malcolm Brown incited a full-on panic from the fantasy community last week, but normalcy was slightly restored in the Dolphins' second preseason game when Gaskin got the start. The third-year runner played on 10 of the Dolphins' first 11 snaps, but Salvon Ahmed and Brown got more involved after that. In the end, Gaskin got 19-of-37 first-team reps. He's intriguing in the sense that he's a pass-catching RB in an ambiguous backfield, so I'm all the way in if his ADP drops enough. I can't pull the trigger if he rises back into the Round 6 range, as he was prior to the first preseason game. Still, Gaskin impressed in 2020 when given the opportunity, so he could take on a larger role as his superior talent (relative to the Dolphins' other options) becomes apparent. In Week 1, it's going to be a multi-way split. My Gaskin take is highly price-sensitive because he fits the Zero RB target mold so well, but his price for most of the offseason has implied he has a stranglehold on the RB1 job in Miami, which is simply not the case currently.

Rookie QB Watch

  • For the second straight week, Zach Wilson was the most impressive rookie quarterback. The #2 overall pick completed 9-of-11 passes for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He made some high-level throws too - none more impressive than a deep dart to Corey Davis (shown below). Davis has been a revelation in his own right, earning a target on 10 of his 13 routes run this preseason. Elijah Moore's return from a quad injury could change things, but the veteran wideout looks like a value based on his volume over the past two games.

  • Justin Fields' numbers (9-of-19 for 80 yards and four carries for 46 yards) don't jump off the page, but he was under pressure all day long and got no help from his receiving corps. That's not to say he had an amazing performance, but he played fine and demonstrated mouth-watering dual-threat ability, navigating out of the pocket numerous times and making something out of nothing. Andy Dalton went 11-of-17 for 146 yards, one score, and one pick, but half of his yards came on a 73-yard touchdown to Rodney Adams, who made a fantastic play on the ball to swipe it off the defender's helmet. Bears coach Matt Nagy said after the game that Dalton will start Week 1. Chicago's coaching staff has maintained that stance all offseason, so it seems pretty likely at this point that the vet is under center in the opener. Still, it'll be hard to keep the Ohio State product on the bench if Dalton doesn't produce.

  • Mac Jones played well, connecting on 13-of-19 attempts for 146 yards. The problem for Jones believers is Cam Newton had one incompletion on nine attempts and led a scoring drive before making way for the rookie.

  • Trey Lance had another inconsistent performance, completing 8-of-14 throws for 102 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick. Jimmy Garoppolo threw an interception on his only drive of the night, although the blame doesn't fall solely on him for that play (it was a high throw that bounced off the hands of Brandon Aiyuk). For Lance, it was a similar performance to his first preseason outing, in which he made several turnover-worthy throws but flashed the sky-high upside that has made fantasy drafters drool all summer long. It's a good sign that Kyle Shanahan is giving the rookie first-team reps as opposed to what the Bears are doing with Fields. Garoppolo is the betting favorite to start Week 1, but Lance has an outside shot to get the nod.

  • Trevor Lawrence plays in primetime on Monday night. Jaguars coach Urban Meyer relayed that the team has yet to make a decision on who will start Week 1, but it's the worst-kept secret in football that Lawrence is their guy.

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Quick Hitters

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire left the Chiefs' preseason game with an injury to the inside of his ankle. It's unclear whether it'll impact his Week 1 availability. Dr. David J. Chao (also known as ProFootballDoc) said he has no concern about the second-year back's health, but we have yet to receive anything definitive from the team. If he misses any time, Darrel Williams has been operating as the backup. Williams played every snap after Edwards-Helaire went down before he went into concussion protocol. He also ran ahead of Jerick McKinnon in the first preseason game. Chao's comments indicate CEH should be okay, but Chiefs backups are intriguing regardless.

  • Ja'Marr Chase dropped all three of his targets. He opted out of the 2020 college football season, so it's no surprise that he's still shaking off some rust. Drops have minimal predictive ability (especially on a sample size of three targets), so I'm not overreacting to his performance too much.

  • Devin Singletary started and played all 10 snaps on the Bills' first drive. He was in on 18 of Buffalo's first 20 snaps. After that, Zack Moss entered the game and dominated snaps until the starters came out (Singletary ended with 21 first-team snaps; Moss had 12). Buffalo may have limited Moss in his return from injury, so I'm not reading too much into Singletary starting. If anything, the takeaway is that the Bills will continue the same rotation they employed last year. This is one of the best offenses in football and both backs are cheap, so I don't mind either of them at ADP, but it's going to be a committee.

  • Chase Edmonds played on 7-of-9 Kyler Murray snaps. James Conner played four snaps with the starters. Edmonds was in for all three third-down situations. As expected, this is a split with Edmonds as the primary back. Edmonds has a solid pedigree as a pass-catcher but only one career rushing attempt inside the five-yard line. He should handle the majority of snaps and most of the pass-catching work, but Conner could be the designated short-yardage back.

  • J.D. McKissic has played on seven of Ryan Fitzpatrick's nine third-down snaps so far this preseason. Antonio Gibson has seen four targets on 21 Fitzpatrick snaps, but he's still not getting an every-down workload. He's not a zero in the passing game - he posted 3.1 targets per game in 2020 - but his upside is capped as long as McKissic retains his role. Gibson was one of the most efficient wide receivers in college football two years ago, so it's not a question of whether he has the skill set to produce as a pass-catcher. It's just unknown whether the Washington coaching staff will let him play ahead of McKissic in obvious passing situations.

  • Logan Thomas has played on every single one of Fitzpatrick's snaps this preseason. He's run a route on every pass attempt. Thomas was horribly inefficient in 2020 and now has significantly more target competition, but his deployment over the past two weeks is encouraging.

  • Quez Watkins ran ahead of Jalen Reagor in 2-WR sets. In fact, Reagor didn't even play on the Eagles' first two drives. Watkins dazzled with a 79-yard catch-and-run score in the first week of preseason. He didn't light up the box score against New England, but his usage indicated he's here to stay. What's not clear is whether Watkins is legitimately ahead of Reagor, but it's certainly in the range of outcomes. A situation worth monitoring.

  • Giovani Bernard's role is as obvious as it gets. He has yet to record a first-team snap on first or second down this August. He has yet to miss a first-team snap on third down. In Tampa Bay's second preseason game, Ke'Shawn Vaughn out-snapped Bernard 8-4, but the latter handled every snap on third or fourth down. He's the passing-down back. In full-PPR, that's an intriguing role.

  • Jake Funk started over Xavier Jones and got 18-of-37 first-team snaps. Jones is going well ahead of Funk in ADP right now. The Rams could still add someone, and this would probably be a committee if Darrell Henderson goes down. I know he's going late, but you can do better than Jones in the final rounds.

  • For the second straight week, David Johnson only played on third downs (three snaps). Phillip Lindsay started, but Mark Ingram actually out-snapped him 6-4 with the first team. This looks like a messy committee on what is the worst offense in the league on paper if Deshaun Watson doesn't play.

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