Fantasy 5: Wentz, Cutler up, Jacksonville QBs way down
(The Fantasy 5 is a quick-hit wrap-up of some of the biggest news topics of the day for fantasy football players, giving you advice you need to improve your team.)
This week’s Fantasy 5 begins with some news and notes around the league pertaining to Week 3 of the preseason. This has historically been deemed the “dress rehearsal” week for coaches to see their first team units, but we’ve already seen that can vary greatly depending on the coaching staff. Let’s dive into what we learned from Thursday night’s games.
1. Eagles offense takes flight
The Philadelphia Eagles’ first-team offense was firing on all cylinders in last night’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. QB Carson Wentz completed 6 of 10 passes for 129 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
Carson Wentz was ???? tonight
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 25, 2017
Torrey Smith scored on a 50-yard touchdown strike. Alshon Jeffery followed that up with a 15-yard score. It was reassuring to see Wentz target his new receivers and develop a rapport with them. The first-team offense departed earlier than expected with Wentz and the first-teamers seeing action on the team’s first four drives before HC Doug Pederson pulled them. Despite the rather brief dress rehearsal, it looks like this Philadelphia passing attack has a chance to improve in 2017 after the additions of Jeffery and Smith.
2. Jay Cutler’s arrival opens Dolphins offense vertically
One of our biggest surprises last week was seeing firsthand how much Cutler was looking DeVante Parker’s way in Cutler’s preseason debut. Following Thursday’s game, one could argue the biggest surprise is just how much Cutler’s presence in this offense opens things up vertically.
In the first quarter against Philadelphia, Cutler connected on a massive 72-yard completion to Parker. Cutler was also able to draw a pass interference call when targeting Kenny Stills deep on a 65-yard attempt in the end zone.
This is a major change from Ryan Tannehill’s conservative nature. It also may indicate an end to Jarvis Landry being the primary focal point of a dink-and-dunk passing offense with Cutler under center. Landry caught two passes last night, but both came with Matt Moore under center. Landry’s possibility of turning in another fantasy WR2 campaign appears to be getting slimmer with each passing week.
3. Jacksonville QB battle heats up
In last Friday’s Fantasy 5, we saw a non-committal Doug Marrone on who we’d see as his starting quarterback come Week 1. Chad Henne got the nod as the starter in this week’s preseason game, but was held to just 8-of-14 for 73 yards and three sacks. He struggled against Carolina’s pass rush, and was deemed under pressure on half of his dropbacks. His passer rating under such plays was just 39.6, but perhaps even more troubling was the fact that Henne didn’t target Allen Robinson until late in the second quarter. Henne also saw what could’ve been a touchdown by Keelan Cole dropped.
Blake Bortles didn’t look much better orchestrating the offense in the second half. He was unable to get much going on his first three drives beginning with a three-and-out, followed by a run-heavy string of plays before another punt, followed by an interception. He was able to engineer two touchdown drives, including a four-yard touchdown pass to Shane Wynn. However, Bortles threw a pick on an important two-point conversion attempt.
Perhaps using the phrase “QB battle heats up” was a bit misleading.
4. Jaelen Strong suspended Week 1
News came yesterday from NFL that Houston WR Strong will be suspended for the first game of the regular season. Strong lost his appeal stemming from a marijuana possession arrest in February of 2016. It comes of note because DeAndre Hopkins (hand), Will Fuller (collarbone), and Braxton Miller (ankle) are all unlikely to play in this weekend’s preseason game. While the quarterback competition in Houston continues, it may be difficult for either quarterback to shine particularly well playing with third-string wideouts.
5. Injury Roundup
- Packers’ offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga left Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury. He has already been ruled out for Saturday’s game against Denver, but is still awaiting results from an MRI for any sound diagnosis. X-rays were negative for a broken ankle. Bulaga was our fourth-ranked tackle in pass blocking last season. Any amount of missed time would be a major blow to the Packers offense.
- On a lighter note, TE Jordan Reed returned to practice for the Redskins. Reed has been held out of both training camp and the preseason games with a toe injury. His injury caused quite a slide in his ADP in fantasy drafts; we will see how effective his new custom orthotics and cleats respond in possible action for Reed in the team’s third preseason game.
- Baltimore RB Danny Woodhead will likely miss the remainder of preseason with a hamstring injury. The 32-year-old running back spent most of this week sidelined and it now puts his status for Week 1 in doubt.
- Speaking of questionable for Week 1, Donte Moncrief’s sprained AC joint in his shoulder continues to bother him. He has yet to see any action in preseason games and has been playing through practices wearing a non-contact jersey. It’s the same shoulder that caused him trouble last year and forced him to miss times. The Colts have technically called it day-to-day, but that status hasn’t changed since Aug. 4. If drafting your fantasy squads this weekend, it may be smart to move Moncrief down the rankings given the uncertainty of both his status and Andrew Luck’s at this time.