Like a weekly lunch buffet special, the NFL preseason will give you plenty to chew on. To whet our appetites, here is a brief outline of what to watch for in the coming weeks. Reason, well there’s value in paying attention to the preseason and training camp battles. If not, you may become last year’s fantasy owner who drafted Donald Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey and overlooked Ray Rice and Miles Austin.
Today let’s take a look at the AFC East’s Bills, Dolphins, Jets and Patriots:
- To QB or not to QB? It may be more effective for the Bills to run a triple-option attack with C.J. Spiller or Marshawn Lynch running the show. However, that’s not going to happen and Buffalo has to have a QB. Odds are Trent Edwards comes out the No. 1 guy, but we’ll get a chance to see plenty of snaps from Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick, even rookie Levi Brown. You never know when you may be faced with a waiver wire pick up involving these guys, better to know at least a little background, eh?
- Spilling over with talent Buffalo has to score somehow, so it figures to come from this position as it’s the deepest on the team with Fred Jackson, Lynch and Spiller. I believe you’d be hard-pressed to find a team position battle anywhere in the NFL this preseason with more fantasy value outside the Bills backfield. Who impresses the most will get the carries and check down receptions many NFL RBs won’t get. Only drawback; the Bills won’t have many scoring opportunities.
- Witness protection program Can anyone honestly name a Bills TE? Well, I’m guessing we can learn at least if we pay attention this preseason. There’s going to be a new offense, so maybe the TE will play bigger part? Wouldn’t it be great if we had a head start on who may be Buffalo’s No. 2 or No. 3 go-to guy in the red zone? If he impresses enough, the TE may turn into the No. 1 target.
- Marshall Law It’s no secret Brandon Marshall will have a major impact on the Fins’ offense and Chad Henne’s development. But more importantly is who will be Marshall’s right-hand man? Davone Bess has seemed to be the logical choice, but Brian Hartline, who has more speed, has continued to impress and may move up the depth chart. This preseason will be the proving ground for that coveted spot opposite the double-coverage magnet.
- Age or Injury? For the past, well since Dan Marino has retired, the Fins have made their living on the ground. In recent years, they have been one of the best at it thanks to Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. However, time is running out. Brown can’t seem to stay healthy (and is in the final year of his contract), and Williams will be a young 33 this season. I’m sure neither will get much work in the preseason, as Miami takes a closer look at the other candidates for the backfield, who may be needed sooner than later so pay attention.
- Taming the Wildcat Despite its overall ineffectiveness, the Wildcat made famous two years ago has been Miami’s legacy and a stupid fad in the NFL. What was born out of necessity due to lack of offense and weak QB play, Miami pretty much avoided it late last season as Henne progressed. Ironically, Miami lost just about all of those games but not for lack of offense. As Henne continues to improve and the Fins offense develops more traditional home run hitters (insert Marshall), the Wildcat will be left to NFL films. However, it should be noted to watch how the Fins use the formation this preseason. Of all the teams that run it, Miami does it the best, so anything new unveiled in preseason may be seen in a NFL city near you.
New York Jets
- Playing for pay Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes are heading into the final years of their respective deals, so expect both to be focused to perform at their highest levels. While Edwards gets a four-game advantage this season, Holmes still has the preseason to show his stuff. This will give us clue whether Holmes will be ready when he returns from suspension or continue to be lost in a new system and rotation.
- A little Greene in the legs There is little doubt Shonn Greene will be the lead horse and in position to get tons of carries, but I’m guessing the Jets will miss Thomas Jones a lot more than they realize. These next several weeks will set the stage for us to see how LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight will be used.
- Pressurized Camp Despite the fact preseason games don’t count it will be key to see how these paper champions handle the pressure now thrust on them. If the Jets look sluggish and rattled, it’s safe to say they won’t fair well against Baltimore, New England, Miami and Minnesota in the first five weeks of the season.
New England Patriots
- A raw battle The Pats will be looking for another third down/red zone target with Wes Welker’s health a concern and Randy Moss’s commitment/energy just as unpredictable for this season. TE will be one area, as evidence by the team investing two draft picks on the position. The battle, waged this preseason, features one rookie who didn’t play at all last year and another who was a product of the dreaded spread offense. Let’s see who makes the most of their time on the field this preseason, Rob Gronkowki (back injury) or Aaron Hernandez (Tim Tebow’s main squeeze).
- Growing Moss? Doesn’t 2007 seem like a decade ago? Moss, 33, still put up great numbers the past two years but has seemed less dominating with each passing game. Doubt we’ll see much of Moss in the preseason, but we will get plenty of looks at Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and Sam Aiken, even raw rookie Taylor Price. As noted above, Tom Brady will be searching for a new security blanket, and it could very well come from this group.
- Running is overrated New England has really bucked sacred NFL theology and put together a dynasty run without a dominating, even consistent, running game. How many times do we need to draft Laurence Maroney before we realize he nor any Pats running back is a reliable fantasy option. Well, somebody has to line up at running back and get some carries and the occasional check down pass. Lets hope this preseason sheds some light on who Bill Belichick may hang his hoody on.
Jay-Mo’s other preseason previews: