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.
This time let’s take a look at the AFC West’s Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers:
- The Marshall Plan There’s a gaping hole in the receiving corps the Broncos hope rookie Demaryius Thomas can fill. We’ll get a snapshot this preseason of how long it will take Thomas to adjust from two years of running elementary routes of the triple-option offense. Eric Decker, a more polished rookie, just may play himself into regular season reps. The bigger spotlight will shine on Eddie Royal, who may get more time in the slot, and Jabar Gaffney, who has the most familiarity with Josh McDaniels’ system.
- Mile high search Signs point toward Knowshon Moreno to be the go-to guy in the red zone, even though he could have done more last year to prove he’s worthy. With Brandon Marshall gone, somebody has to score. So the search begins this preseason. With such a clean canvas, the red zone leader could come from any offensive position, even a mobile quarterback.
- Pastor Tim One thing is for certain, Tim Tebow will make headlines but more importantly it will be what he does between the sidelines. We should definitely see enough of Tebow this preseason to get a good idea of whether or not he has any relevance this season. He has a lot of work to do, particularly learning to read defenses from under center. If Tebow shows signs of life and doesn’t look lost, then there’s reason believe Denver will find a role for him as early as the opening week.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Weis a roni We’ll get our first look at how KC’s offense will line up with Charlie Weis at the helm. Weis may not have won enough games at Notre Dame, but it wasn’t the fault of his offenses. That side of the ball was competitive against the toughest defenses, including those staunch USC squads. How his Chiefs offense shapes up will certainly impact the values of Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe this season.
- Charles in charge? We may not get a reliable read on Charles but these coming weeks could at least tell us how he may be used, especially with Thomas Jones now joining him in the backfield. If Charles appears to get lost in the shuffle, then the draft preview magazines may be the last we see of him.
- A wide angle lens When Weis was most successful with the Patriots, the receiving corps was a balanced threat to the defense. Chiefs don’t have the talent to replicate those Pats’ corps a decade ago, but Weis needs to start weeding out the dandelions so his prize lawn can grow. All eyes will be on Bowe, whose motivation waivers from one play to the next. It wouldn’t hurt to cast a little attention to who moves into the No. 2 position.
- Let’s get hog wild Darren McFadden is entering the preseason with 856 yards, 5 TDs under his belt. It wouldn’t be too shabby if this was McFadden’s second year not his third. Good news is McFadden should be fully healthy this preseason and void of his playing time roadblock, Justin Fargas. A solid preseason, showcasing explosiveness and ability to avoid nagging injuries, could be the precursor to a very rewarding season for him and his fantasy owners.
- Bye Bye Bey The Raiders already gave up on one first round pick this off-season and may be in position to do the same this preseason. Few outside the Al Davis household felt Darrius Heyward-Bey was a smart pick at No. 7 overall. Louis Murphy, selected 117 picks later, ended up with three-times as many receptions, yards and touchdowns. Chaz Shilens and Johnnie Lee Higgins will also be battling for that No. 1 slot. Oakland’s preseason competition may be more interesting than its regular season product.
- Campbell, hmm hmm good? Jason Campbell has been down this road before. I believe at last count, this will be Campbell’s ninth offensive coordinator in the last 10 years dating back to his freshman year at Auburn. However, this could end up being his best fit. It will be imperative to keep an eye on Campbell’s influence this preseason to see if there will be more confidence or confusion with this offense?
San Diego Chargers
- The Replacements With so much talent, there doesn’t seem to be too many questions surrounding the Chargers this preseason except for two glaring dilemmas: who fills the void of Vincent Jackson (suspension/hold out) and LaDainian Tomlinson (now with the Jets)? The more important answer for us fantasy folks will be on the edge, especially for this high-powered passing game. A new No. 1 receiver emerges this preseason it could mean fantasy gold this season.
- Straight out of Crompton There’s no doubt who the starting QB is, but there will be battle for No. 2, which of course means being one hit away from leading this high-voltage offense (sorry for the cheesy Chargers pun, couldn’t resist). On paper, there is no reason why rookie Jonathan Crompton can’t beat out Billy Volek. Crompton, possessing the physical attributes (6-3, 222 with a strong arm), has had trouble staying healthy at Tennessee to fulfill his first round talent. Now a fifth-rounder needing to prove himself, Crompton could turn a solid preseason into a regular season filled with promise. Meanwhile, Volek has done something right to have lasted 11 years in the league.
- As the Sproles turns Now with top pick Ryan Mathews bringing fresh legs to the backfield, Darren Sproles should return to his more effective role as full-time third-down back and return specialist. His role in the offense could also grow as the Chargers ease Mathews into the offense. Much of this won’t fully play out until the regular season, but the early signs will take shape this preseason allowing us to jump on Sproles before those magazines say he is supposed to be drafted.
Jay-Mo’s other preseason previews: