**Doug Free played very well. Collinsworth and Michaels pointed this out, but it’s worth noting he held Odom back on quite a few plays. Alex Barron, on the other hand, looked overmatched by pretty much everyone. There was a play where a defensive player blew right by him with no real pass rush move – just simply ran on past him like he was a statue. The numbers don’t lie. In 2009, though Barron saw 1,025 snaps to Free’s 611, Barron allowed 15 QB hits versus Free’s 3, 7 sacks versus Free’s 1, and 24 pressures versus Free’s 15. In fact, Barron had 3 times more penalties than Free as well. Doug Free actually graded pretty well last year in comparison to most other tackles, and I believe he may have top-15 tackle potential.
Fantasy impact: Free blocks well in both the run and the passing areas. If Free does go down, Romo’s ranking goes down slightly unless I see Barron improve. Same with the running game.
**Felix Jones and Marion Barber seemed interchangeable on all sorts of sets. Both saw time in the shotgun, both saw time in more standard formations, and both were in on goal line shotgun plays that ended up being passing plays. Jones also got a goal line carry, but was stripped around the 1 yard line.
Fantasy impact: People are touting Felix as a guy with potential elite fantasy numbers, while they’re downgrading Barber. When all is said and done, I won’t be surprised if both backs have similar end-season fantasy points (again, I’m basing this on PPR). I have a feeling that Jason Garrett is going to throw them into enough goal line situations and passing situations to warrant them both being low-end RB2s or solid flex players. I also won’t be surprised if it isn’t a series by series rotation, but a hot hand/carry by carry type deal. That said, I fully expect Felix to be the better back in 2011, so in a dynasty, adjust accordingly. Using PFF’s stats, in 2009, Jones had 18 missed tackles in only 146 rushing attempts while maintaining a respectable 3.2 yards after contact per attempt. Barber, on the other hand, had only 3 more missed tackles on about 80 more rushing attempts, and his YCo/att was a full 0.5 yards lower than Jones’. Tashard Choice won’t make much of an impact this year barring injury, but is a name to keep tabs on.
**Pacman Jones (I refuse to call him Adam Jones) actually looked decent on a couple plays. He made a decent play early in the game on coverage against Miles Austin, and played solidly against a run block by Sam Hurd. He would have given up a touchdown to Roy Williams on a goal line play, but pressure caused Romo to sail the throw. All in all, if he keeps developing, he may not be the worst CB3/rotational guy for the Bengals.
Fantasy impact: Not much unless you’re in an IDP league that rewards return yards as well. A situation to monitor in that event. If he looks good on kickoffs (and gets the job), it might be a slight upgrade to the Bengals D/ST as well.
**Name to monitor down the road: John Phillips. Before he tore his ACL, he seriously looked like a Jason Witten Lite. If Martellus Bennett underwhelms this year, keep tabs on Phillips in 2011. A shame about the ACL, because I was intrigued by him. Seems to be one of those gritty players who will do whatever’s asked of him. The Cowboys also have a rash of injuries at the TE position right now, so Scott Sicko may make the team, which is interesting since he almost skipped the NFL because he went undrafted this year. He won’t serve any fantasy purposes for now, but again, it never hurts to monitor players, because that position is in serious flux for the Boys right now behind Witten. For the record, the box score yesterday looked better than Sicko’s actual skills (meaning you can see why he wasn’t drafted.)
**In a previous column I wrote in mid-July for PFF, I noted I was down on Carson Palmer because of how he looked last season. Although he only threw about 5 passes yesterday, he still looked a bit timid and the ball didn’t have the zip he once had on it. I also thought his pocket presence was mediocre. The Cowboys D also got good pressure on him (I liked what I saw from Stephen Bowen, who I admittedly know nothing about), which is part the Cowboys D being good, part the Bengals o-line being subpar. For what it’s worth, he looked at T.O. on almost every pass play. Again, it’s Week 1 of the preseason, but I saw the same stuff from last year that turned me away from him. With all that said, if Palmer does go down, the Bengals are absolutely hosed with JT O’Sullivan and Jordan Palmer. Both looked extremely shaky.
**Some positives for the Bengals: Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson. I liked Atkins coming into the draft, and he could be a decent penetrator. He’s undersized, but fairly quick for a 4-3 DT. Michael Johnson’s moves didn’t impress me from a “wow” perspective, but he was constantly making plays yesterday. If he keeps it up, he’ll find his way in some sort of rotation at DE or OLB.
Fantasy impact: Likely not much this year, but if they keep progressing, both could help the Bengals D/ST in the longer term
**David Buehler, you have work to do. His offense has potential, but he barely made his 30 yarder (just scooted over the upright), and his 40+ yarder miss would have been a miss if the goalposts had been doubled in width. He has the leg and the high scoring offense, but he’s notorious for a lack of accuracy, and this until he improves that, he won’t be a reliable kicker, especially if you get negative points for field goals missed in your league.