We finally have real football. No more guessing or wondering what players will look like. We have tape, competition, and I have opinions on what I saw.
1. Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston Looked Pretty Good (Once They Settled Down)
I hope everyone refrains from writing the rookie quarterbacks off after their first career starts in the NFL.
I wasn’t looking for Mariota or Winston to come out looking like surefire Hall of Fame quarterbacks out of the gate. While that would have been nice for the Titans and Buccaneers, the reality is an error free showing probably wasn’t going to happen.
I was looking for two things from both players last week: did the game slow down for them? Did they handle mistakes like professionals.
In both cases they passed.
Mariota and Winston showed they brought their college deficiencies with them to the pros in week 1; Winston’s a knack for staring receivers down and throwing bad interceptions and Mariota’s an issue with ball security and pocket awareness. What they showed me as they game progressed, however, was impressive.
Take this drive by Mariota to end the first quarter and begin the second:
Mariota became more comfortable in the pocket and showed that when things begin to slow down he knows where to put the football for his receivers to have the best chance.
The same is true for Winston, yes he had a terrible interception on this play and needed to throw it away on this one, he also proved capable of making good things happen when the atmosphere slowed down around him.
With one week behind them, if both can improve on their opening performance and learn the requisite poise needed to play the position on Sunday’s, I see no reason why both can’t have solid rookie campaigns.
2. Fantasy Take: Keep An Eye On Running Backs In D.C.
While attention will undoubtedly be on Robert Griffin, III as he tries to re-establish himself as the starting Quarterback, my eye was drawn to the potential two-headed monster that is Alfred Morris and Matt Jones in their backfield.
Morris has strung together three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, he’s seen his per/carry average dip each season. On Thursday Morris looked as fresh as he did when he broke into the league in 2012, rushing for 42 yards on eight carries (5.3 YPC). Jones looked even better; the 3rd round pick out of Florida ran five times for 38 yards (7.6 YPC) and looks three-down ready now. I would keep him on your radar if you’re looking for a handcuff/player to make a FLEX impact Jones might be an intriguing option.
This actual teams success on offense will completely hinge on which quarterback provides the most value to this run game. If RGIII is right, things could go very well for Jay Gruden in ’15 (on offense at least).
3. Where ‘Bout Them Cowboys Running Backs?
It has to be concerning that game one of the post-Demarco Murray era in Dallas didn’t see any of the men aiming to replace him run the ball. Whether that be by choice or not, Dallas is going to need someone in that backfield if their true aim is the Super Bowl this year.
Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and Joseph Randle might sound like good ideas behind the NFL’s best offensive line, but until we see at least one of them perform that’s all it can be considered: a thought.
4. Fantasy Take: Martavis Bryant Continues His Rise
I’ve tried to pump the brakes on the Martavis Bryant hype train but he continues to give me reasons not to. In the Steelers second preseason game he continued doing what he did in 2014: maximizing minimal opportunities.
He caught three passes for 55 yards and a touchdown; he also looked downright unstoppable doing so. I’m not recommending you draft Bryant before Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, or Calvin Johnson in your fantasy leagues, but it would be difficult to see him taken after Keenan Allen, Steve Smith, or John Brown.
5. Fantasy Take: “Fly, Eagles Fly”
For all the drama surrounding the Eagles this offseason they sure looked good in their preseason opener against the Colts.
The scariest part is Sam Bradford and Demarco Murray didn’t take a snap.
Nelson Agholor looked like a first-round pick and, like Bryant, might give reason to consider him higher than initially planned.