What We Saw: Preseason Week 1 (Saturday Night Edition)
Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire
The NFL preseason has officially kicked off, and the entire QB List staff watched all the games so you don’t have to. Here, we’ve got the thoughts of some of our QB List writers on the fantasy-relevant things they saw in Week 1’s Saturday night preseason games.
Chargers vs. Cardinals
Cardinals fans have a lot to be happy about following the first preseason game. The first-team offense played only one series together, but they produced well. David Johnson’s first (and only) two carries went for 14-yards a piece, both an arm tackle away from a long touchdown. Sam Bradford made only one throw connecting for six yards. The biggest takeaway was how the offense looks different from last season. Plays were structured for quick releases, and the run game was heavily focused between the tackles. One piece to watch for tight end play will be run blocking as Ricky Seals-Jones was often motioned from an initial 12-set into a fullback position.
Arizona’s defense showed up well in their first two drives, but Philip Rivers was without pads Saturday. The front seven set the edge against the run and regularly forced Jones to move up or out of the pocket. Robert Nkemdiche and Chandler Jones stood out as the first two names to be in the backfield, but Nkemdiche’s current backup, Olson Pierre, tallied both a sack and a fumble recovery. Further, It would not be surprising to see all of Buddha Baker, Tre Boston, and Antoine Bethea find regular playing time. Boston made a play on the ball to force a fourth down, Bethea nearly recorded a sack, and Pro Bowl special teamer Baker will be used in a variety of ways.
- Josh Rosen was wildly inconsistent (as expected). Made some strong throws, including one with Melvin Ingram in his facemask, but missed others. Offered little help from the offensive line’s second unit.
- Christian Kirk recorded a 38-yard punt return on his first touch, only being taken down by the grass. He finished the night with two receptions on three targets.
- Chase Edmonds ran with the first-team after Johnson’s night came to an end. He showed flashes and ended with 11 yards on five carries.
There was only so much to be taken away from the Los Angeles offensive performance as so many starters were not in uniform. Melvin Gordon showed flashes in space, though a productive screen pass was called back and the run game was inconsistent. Austin Ekeler made a strong play in the second quarter, missing two tacklers for a 39-yard completion. Beyond those two, there was little of note from expected contributors.
Los Angeles’ defense was gashed by David Johnson after being forced to defend a short field. The promising side of their effort was that the team did manage to keep Arizona out of the end zone (despite what the call on the field was) as they tackled Chase Edmonds multiple times on the play. Melvin Ingram and Corey Liuget both found themselves in the backfield with Liuget recording a sack. A consistent route surrendered by the linebacking core was short looks between 5-7 yards, something that will likely continue if they run defense holds up with their actual starting seven.
- Mike Williams totaled 18 yards on two receptions (five targets).
- Rookie safety Derwin James tallied a pair of tackles (one tackle-for-loss).
- The kicking battle remains unclear with Caleb Sturgis converting on one of two kicks. Roberto Aguayo made both of his extra point attempts.
Geremy Davis finished with four catches, 88 yards, and one touchdown.
– Michael Collins
Vikings vs. Broncos
Kirk Cousins only played in one drive, but that drive might give us a lot of information into the way the Vikings are playing offense this season. Cousins was on target with all of his passes, only targeting Stefon Diggs and players out of the backfield. It’s a super-small sample size, but if Diggs has chemistry with Cousins like this the whole season, it could be a special year for the talented receiver. Diggs ran crisp routes like always and looked particularly sharp on a 28 yard reception down the sidelines that set up his eventual touchdown.
The Vikings’ offensive line looked impressive against Denver’s defense despite missing some projected starters. RB Latavius Murray was given some giants holes to run through, which he took advantage of for a total of 43 yards. This bodes well for Dalvin Cook, who did not play, and Murray going forward. One surprise in the backfield for Minnesota was rookie RB Roc Thomas. Thomas took advantage of the good line play to scamper for 29 yards on 8 carries, but it was his work in the receiving game that was most impressive. Targeted 3 times, Thomas took two catches to the end zone. One reception was a beautiful screen pass that he took for 78 yards and a score. It’ll be some time before we see Thomas get significant snaps in the regular season, but he is making a case for himself to be noticed this pre season.
Overall, the Vikings looked very efficient on offense. Even the backup quarterbacks looked good in their offensive scheme. It’ll be important to study Cousins and his connection with Diggs going forward. Currently, Diggs and Adam Thielen are being drafted very close to each other. If Diggs is standing out as the top target, you should favor him in your drafts going forward.
The Broncos did not look good at all from a fantasy perspective. QB Case Keenum failed to move the chains in his two drives, which didn’t allow for the receivers to illustrate their chemistry with the new QB.
Devontae Booker got the start for Denver at running back and did not impress. Although Royce Freeman dropped a meaningless dump pass from Keenum, Freeman looked to be the superior back by a large margin. He picked up blitzes as a blocker and showed some vision during his 23-yard touchdown run. It’s no secret that the Broncos drafted Freeman to be their starting running back and if he keeps performing like this, he could easily be the top dog on the depth chart on opening day.
Other than Freeman, no one in Denver stood out from a fantasy perspective. Potentially draftable wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Courtland Sutton did not get properly showcased. The offensive line looked poor. Paxton Lynch should probably be updating his resume as QB Chad “Swag” Kelly outperformed him in garbage time. Going forward, we’ll need to see if it was the Vikings’ stout defense that caused these problems, or if there is a much bigger problem for the Broncos under the control of Case Keenum and company.
– Nick Light