Engel: Week 1 Preseason Wrap-up
Here's a fantasy-style review of the first week of preseason games.
Denver 17, San Francisco 13: Travis Henry carried only five times for 27 yards and a touchdown but looked so comfortable in the Denver offense that he solidified his claim to a spot in the first round of fantasy drafts. I'd take him as early as No. 7 overall. Meanwhile, in the battle for the backup job, both Mike Bell and Cecil Sapp looked solid. Bell rushed for 50 yards on 10 carries while Sapp had 50 yards on 11 rushing attempts. Alex Smith looked very sharp for the 49ers, completing four of five attempts for 58 yards, and another good performance or two will really boost his draft value. With Frank Gore sitting out the game, Maurice Hicks got the start and rushed for 30 yards on just three carries. Former Penn State quarterback Michel Robinson had a solid 25 yards on six carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run. Ashley Lelie ran with the Niners' third-team offense; don't waste a draft choice on Lelie, a proven bust.
Baltimore 29, Philadelphia 3: Willis McGahee ripped off an early 16-yard run. He's not in Buffalo anymore, folks. McGahee will have a fine season in his new surroundings in Baltimore. He's playing with something to prove. Derrick Mason, who caught a 21-yard pass, looks determined to show he isn't quite finished. He's a good value selection in the final rounds. With L.J. Smith (groin) out for the Eagles, rookie Brent Celek was impressive, catching four passes for 59 yards, including a 30-yarder. There is no timetable for Smith's return yet, so Celek should be monitored closely during the preseason.
Seattle 24, San Diego 16: Matt Hasselbeck was crisp and efficient, completing four of five attempts for 65 yards and a touchdown. While the performance was certainly encouraging, it remains to be seen how his pass protection holds up in the weeks ahead. I'm not quite sold on a rebound year. Shaun Alexander rushed for four yards on two carries against a strong defensive line. While he played only briefly, Alexander will have some frustrating outings against strong defensive fronts this year. Malcom Floyd caught five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Floyd could push for a starting job opposite Vincent Jackson, as Eric Parker is expected to miss at least the first several games of the season following toe surgery. Floyd's most serious competition is rookie Craig Davis, who caught one pass for 11 yards.
Oakland 27, Arizona 23: Adimchinobe Echemandu led Oakland with 75 rushing yards. He's having a great camp and is a major sleeper given the medical histories of LaMont Jordan, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush and the suspension of Dominic Rhodes. Daunte Culpepper looked quite rusty, and it's too early to tell if he can really contend for the starting job. Second-round draft pick Zach Miller got the start at tight end and caught one pass for 14 yards. For the Cardinals, Kurt Warner threw a 58-yard touchdown pass, and it's clear he can still play respectably if pressed into service.
Washington 14, Tennessee 6: LenDale White and Chris Brown did nothing to establish themselves in the early race for playing time at running back. White rushed for 12 yards on six carries and Brown had 19 yards on nine attempts. Rookie Chris Henry was the clear winner for the day on the stats sheet, as he tallied 42 yards on 12 carries. However, coach Jeff Fisher told the Nashville Tennessean that he was taking into account the fact that Henry faced fewer eight-man fronts late in the game than the first-team offense did at the onset. Let's wait and see how the three backs look when Vince Young returns to action. Brandon Jones caught three passes for 34 yards, an encouraging performance for those drafting him late. Santana Moss caught a 39-yard pass, and he will be a good No. 2 fantasy receiver. Moss should certainly improve on last year's disappointing performance.
Chicago 20, Houston 19: Houston rookie Jacoby Jones caught four passes for 47 yards. Considering Kevin Walter and Keenan McCardell are the top options to complement Andre Johnson right now, I'm watching Jones closely as a possible sleeper. Ahman Green totaled only seven rushing yards on four carries. That's nothing to get excited about, and it won't get much better during the regular season. Rex Grossman completed eight of 10 attempts, but hey, these are still the Texans. Cedric Benson caught three passes, and it will be interesting to see if he gets more receiving chances in the next few games.
Carolina 24, N.Y. Giants 21: DeShaun Foster looked determined to keep his starting job, rushing for 62 yards on five carries. Foster doesn't look as fluid as he did before the injuries of the last few years, but he still has good vision and can make tacklers miss. Nick Goings rushed for 50 yards, reminding us he remains a good desperation option for the Panthers. DeAngelo Williams sat out with an ankle injury. Reuben Droughns totaled 49 yards from scrimmage, including a 32-yard reception, but gained only 17 yards on five carries. Still, Brandon Jacobs, who rushed for 15 yards on four carries, shouldn't feel secure. Droughns ran with intensity and determination.
Green Bay 13, Pittsburgh 9: Rookie Brandon Jackson led all rushers with 57 yards but averaged under 3.6 yards per carry. Noah Herron had a 14-yard run, and he will figure into the running back mix if Jackson and Vernand Morency ultimately can't cut it. Another Packers rookie, James Jones, caught six passes for 68 yards. He's had a good training camp so far, and the team likes his potential. Santonio Holmes caught a 49-yard pass, and his appeal is quickly rising. Kevan Barlow rushed for 25 yards on six carries, but he is fighting simply to make the team. Najeh Davenport solidified his hold on the backup running back job by rushing for 34 yards on seven carries.
Cleveland 16, Kansas City 12: None of the Kansas City quarterbacks played well, but Brodie Croyle threw a befuddling interception directly to Cleveland cornerback Leigh Bodden. Damon Huard must pick up his play or the Kansas City offense will be in big trouble at the beginning of the season, whether Larry Johnson signs soon or not. Chiefs rookie Kolby Smith totaled minus-3 rushing yards, while Michael Bennett had 28 yards on three carries. Jamal Lewis had 20 yards on four carries, and he will be useful when the matchup is right. Charlie Frye completed 12 of 15 passes for 122 yards to seemingly get a leg up on Derek Anderson in the battle to keep the quarterback job warm for Brady Quinn, although Frye did lose a fumble.
Miami 18, Jacksonville 17: Byron Leftwich looked good, completing seven of 10 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown under regular defensive pressure. Leftwich has one last chance to prove himself in Jacksonville and can boost his fantasy value with more good preseason performances. Matt Jones caught a 24-yard pass, but he also dropped two passes, and he's still a shaky fantasy pick. Trent Green looked awful for Miami, completing only six of 15 attempts for 60 yards and an interception, but he can still turn things around. Green can stabilize the Miami offense and make it run more efficiently than it has in past years. Jesse Chatman rushed for 88 yards on six carries, including a 74-yard touchdown. Chatman is currently ahead of rookie Lorenzo Booker on the depth chart, behind starter Ronnie Brown.
St. Louis 13, Minnesota 10: Rams rookie Brian Leonard totaled 66 yards from scrimmage and scored on a 10-yard run. He could steal a few goal-line carries from Steven Jackson this year and will help keep Jackson fresh after he was worked so heavily last season. Troy Williamson caught three passes for 32 yards, but it's going to take much more than one promising outing to regain the faith of fantasy players. Rookie Adrian Peterson debuted by rushing for only 33 yards on 11 carries. He saw most of his action with the first-team offense, although Chester Taylor got the start.
Buffalo 13, New Orleans 10: Devery Henderson caught three passes for 52 yards but suffered a hamstring injury and could be sidelined for a couple of weeks. With Drew Brees spreading the ball around so much, consistency will continue to be an issue for Henderson, even if he makes a complete recovery. Roscoe Parrish caught three passes for 43 yards for the Bills. This is a make-or-break year for Parrish. Rookie tailback Marshawn Lynch rushed for only three yards on two carries and came off the bench while Anthony Thomas started. Don't judge Lynch based on his preseason debut; he still makes a good fourth-round pick.
Tampa Bay 13, New England 10: Sammy Morris scored on a 2-yard run for the Pats. He will be an adequate replacement should Laurence Maroney get injured this year, and he can be a short-yardage presence if Maroney can't be a consistent goal-line threat. Jerramy Stevens caught two passes for 11 yards for the Buccaneers, but he's still behind Alex Smith on the depth chart.
N.Y. Jets 31, Atlanta 16: Atlanta rookie Laurent Robinson caught five passes for 49 yards. He's been creating a buzz in training camp, and he's worth a late-round flier. Jerious Norwood rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, while rookie Jason Snelling impressed with 48 yards on 10 attempts. Jets rookie Danny Ware could complement Leon Washington if Thomas Jones misses any significant time with his calf injury. Ware rushed for 48 yards on 12 carries. Second-year pro Kellen Clemens completed 16 of 22 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns. Chad Pennington is locked in as the starting quarterback right now, but if the Jets get off to a slow start this season there could be a lot of pressure on head coach Eric Mangini to make a change.
Dallas 23, Indianapolis 10: Rookie DeDe Dorsey rushed for 15 yards on six carries. The Colts truly need a better backup for Joseph Addai. Tony Romo completed 10 of 11 attempts for 93 yards. With the benefit of an offseason of preparation as the starter, Romo will be a more dependable fantasy option in 2007. Julius Jones got the start over Marion Barber but had only 22 yards on six carries. Barber rushed for 48 yards on 12 carries.
Detroit 27, Cincinnati 26: The loss of Kenny Irons for the season once again strips the Bengals of a quality complementary runner for Rudi Johnson, who should carry a heavy load again. Chris Henry caught six passes for 86 yards and a score. Henry's suspension makes the Bengals' third receiver spot worthy of attention, but whoever replaces him to start the year won't have nearly the same impact that Henry did last season. Rookie Calvin Johnson caught only two passes, but did nothing to make me doubt I can start him in fantasy leagues right away. Tatum Bell started at tailback but rushed for only 19 yards on six carries.
Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.