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Preseason Week 3 Notes

By Jared Smola 2:08pm EDT 8/30/21


Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions

The Colts rested all their key skill guys.

Colts QB Jacob Eason got the start and was underwhelming, completing 10 of 14 passes for just 74 yards on 3 possessions. QB Sam Ehlinger sprained his ACL later in the game, though, so Eason will be Indianapolis’ starter if QB Carson Wentz isn’t ready for the start of the season.

The Lions rested most of their notables, including QB Jared Goff, RBs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, WR Tyrell Williams and TE T.J. Hockenson.

Lions WR Breshad Perriman played 26 snaps in this one -- and then got cut on Monday.

Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown continued to see the field only in 3-WR sets, playing 7 of 26 snaps (27%) with the starters.


Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers

The Steelers sat many of their key players, including QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Najee Harris and WRs Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Steelers WR Chase Claypool played 18 snaps, catching 1 of 2 targets for 18 yards and carrying once for 11 yards. The big takeaway is that Claypool played -- a little over a week after injuring his ankle in practice. That's obviously not an issue going forward.

Steelers TE Eric Ebron out-snapped TE Pat Freiermuth 8 to 5 -- but both guys ran 4 pass routes. They might be splitting pass-catching duties right out of the gate.

RB Christian McCaffrey got the night off, but the rest of Carolina’s starters played the entire 1st half.

Panthers QB Sam Darnold was efficient if unexciting, completing 19 of 25 passes (76%) for 162 yards (6.5 YPA) and TDs to WR Terrace Marshall and WR Robby Anderson.

Darnold’s target distribution:

D.J. Moore - 6

Robby Anderson - 5

Terrace Marshall - 4

Chuba Hubbard - 4

Dan Arnold - 3

Ian Thomas - 1

Giovanni Ricci - 1

Panthers WRs D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson both played 38 of QB Sam Darnold’s 41 snaps (93%). WR Terrace Marshall played just 23 (56%). But the rookie ran a route on 67% of Darnold’s drop backs -- a rate that would give him a chance to be a fantasy factor. Moore and Anderson ran routes on 96% of Darnold’s drop backs.

Route rates for Panthers TEs with Darnold:

Dan Arnold - 78%

Ian Thomas - 33%

Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard played 35 of 41 snaps with QB Sam Darnold. The rookie carried 10 times for 35 yards and caught 3 of 4 targets for 15 yards. He seems locked in as the #2 RB and could see big volume if RB Christian McCaffrey misses time.


Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts was held out of this one. He ends up playing just 10 snaps this preseason. RB Miles Sanders, WR DeVonta Smith and TEs Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz didn’t play, either.

Eagles RB Boston Scott still seems to be ahead of RB Kenneth Gainwell. Scott got the start and took a short pass to the house for a 49-yard TD on the 1st possession. Gainwell played the rest of the 1st half, finishing with a 5-32-1 rushing line and 4-27 receiving line. Insider Rueben Frank expects Gainwell to play "a lot" this year, but he won’t be a guy we can trust in Week 1 fantasy lineups.

QB Zach Wilson, RB Tevin Coleman and WRs Corey Davis, Elijah Moore and Jamison Crowder did not play for the Jets.

The fact that RB Tevin Coleman got the night off suggests he’ll open the season as the #1 RB.

Jets RB Ty Johnson got the start and out-carried RB Michael Carter 5 to 1 on the first drive. The work evened out between them by halftime: 8 carries, 1 target for Johnson; 7 carries, 1 target for Carter. The rookie then sat out the 2nd half, while Johnson remained heavily involved. It’s unclear exactly how these guys stand heading into Week 1.


Kansas City Chiefs at Minnesota Vikings

In case you needed confirmation, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is still good. He played 2 series in this one and capped both off with TDs. Mahomes went 8 of 9 for 117 yards.

And Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill is still fast.

Chiefs WR routes on 9 Mahomes drop backs:

Tyreek Hill - 8

Demarcus Robinson - 7

Mecole Hardman - 4

Chiefs RBs Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) and Darrel Williams (concussion) didn’t play.

The Vikings sat RBs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison and WRs Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins played 3 series, leading a FG drive on the 1st but going 3-and-out on the next 2. He finished 5 of 7 for 57 yards.


Green Bay Packers at Buffalo Bills

QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Aaron Jones, WRs Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb and TE Robert Tonyan didn’t play for the Packers.

Packers RB Kylin Hill played behind RB A.J. Dillon but had another nice outing. Hill carried 7 times for 37 yards and caught his lone target for 7 yards. The rookie appears to have locked up the #3 RB job in Green Bay.

All the Bills’ starters played besides WR Stefon Diggs, who just returned to practice last week after missing a week and a half with a knee injury.

Buffalo called pass on 28 of QB Josh Allen’s 33 snaps -- an 85% pass rate. If you needed confirmation that the Bills will again be 1 of the pass-heaviest offenses in the league, there you go.

Bills QB Josh Allen made it look easy against Green Bay’s 2nd-string defense, completing 20 of 26 passes for 194 yards and 2 scores on 3 possessions.

Allen’s target distribution:

Emmanuel Sanders - 8

Cole Beasley - 5

Gabriel Davis - 5

Devin Singletary - 2

Matt Breida - 2

Zack Moss - 1

Dawson Knox - 1

Nate Becker - 1

Bills RB Devin Singletary got the start and played all 12 snaps on the 1st possession. RB Zack Moss ended up leading the backfield with 16 snaps with QB Josh Allen, though. Singletary played 15 and RB Matt Breida 7. Breida, interestingly, played 6 of those 7 snaps in the slot or split out wide. This is looking like at least a 2-man, and potentially a 3-man committee heading into Week 1.

Bills TE Dawson Knox played 29 of 33 snaps (88%) with QB Josh Allen and ran a route on 25 of 28 pass plays (89%). He’ll have at least a shot at spot-start fantasy value if that type of usage continues into the regular season.


Baltimore Ravens at Washington Football Team

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson played 10 snaps but was without WRs Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins and Miles Boykin. Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace and James Proche operated as the top 3 WRs with Jackson.

The big story from this game, of course, was RB J.K. Dobbinsseason-ending torn left ACL. That leaves Gus Edwards as Baltimore’s clear lead back -- and Ty’Son Williams and Justice Hill as the #2 and #3 backs, barring an addition. Williams has had a strong preseason, including a 4-carry, 42-yard effort in this one. He’s worth considering as a late-round flier.

Washington sat all its notables, including QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RBs Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic, WRs Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries and Dyami Brown and TE Logan Thomas.


Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans

Bears Week 1 starting QB Andy Dalton did not play. QB Justin Fields got the start and impressed again, completing 7 of 10 passes for 54 yards and this improvisational TD. Fields added 13 yards on 2 carries.

The Bears rested RB David Montgomery, WRs Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney and TE Cole Kmet.

The Titans rested the majority of their key guys, including QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Derrick Henry and WRs A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.

Titans TE Anthony Firkser played, though. And, as Pro Football Focus’ Nathan Jahnke points out, Firkser has primarily been on the field only when Tennessee goes to a 3-TE set. They did that just 9% of the time last year. Firkser will be almost impossible to trust in fantasy lineups if that usage continues.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Houston Texans

Bucs QB Tom Brady played 18 snaps across 3 possessions and was awesome, completing 11 of 14 passes for 154 yards and a score to WR Chris Godwin.

Brady’s target distribution:

Antonio Brown - 5

Mike Evans - 3

Chris Godwin - 3

Gio Bernard - 1

Leonard Fournette - 1

O.J. Howard - 1

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski out-snapped TE O.J. Howard 15 to 7 with Brady. Gronk ran a route on 11 of Brady’s 14 drop backs; Howard 7.

Bucs RB snaps with Brady:

Ronald Jones - 9

Leonard Fournette - 7

Gio Bernard - 2

Jones and Fournette continued to rotate on early downs, with Bernard playing both 3rd downs. Expect that usage in Week 1.

Texans QB Tyrod Taylor and the starters played 27 snaps. Taylor mustered just 31 yards on 6-of-9 passing.

Texans RB snaps with Taylor:

Mark Ingram - 10

David Johnson - 9

Phillip Lindsay - 5

Rex Burkhead - 3

This is an ugly committee on a bad offense. Avoid.

Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins operated as Houston’s top 2 WRs, playing 24 and 20 of Tyrod Taylor’s 27 snaps. Cooks remains a volume-based WR3, while Collins is on the late-round flier radar.


Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos

Like they did in the first 2 preseason games, the Rams did not play QB Matt Stafford, RB Darrell Henderson, WRs Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson and Van Jefferson and TE Tyler Higbee. Recently acquired RB Sony Michel didn’t play, either.

Broncos WR Courtland Sutton got on the field for his 1st action since tearing his ACL last September. He caught 2 of 3 targets for 27 yards and a score on 18 snaps. ESPN medical expert Stephania Bell noted that Sutton cut well off his surgically repaired knee.

Broncos RB Melvin Gordon made his preseason debut, but RB Javonte Williams didn’t play. So it remains unclear how work will divvied between those 2 in Week 1 and beyond.


Los Angeles Chargers at Seattle Seahawks

The Chargers rested QB Justin Herbert, RB Austin Ekeler, WRs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and TE Jared Cook. RB Justin Jackson presumably sat with his groin injury. Jalen Guyton didn’t play, either, which might mean he’s set to open the season as the #3 WR.

The Seahawks held out QB Russell Wilson, RB Chris Carson and WRs D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

Seahawks RBs Rashaad Penny and Alex Collins split time with the 1st-team offense and both played into the 2nd half. Those 2 are reportedly battling for the #2 job.


Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys

Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence played 17 snaps across 3 series and had easily his best showing of the preseason. The rookie completed 11 of 12 passes for 139 yards and TDs to WRs Pharoh Cooper and Laviska Shenault. Lawrence earned the top Pro Football Focus passing grade for the week among 54 qualifiers.

Jaguars WRs D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones didn’t play. That left Collin Johnson (15 snaps), Laviska Shenault (13) and Pharoh Cooper (12) as Jacksonville’s top 3 WRs with the starters. Johnson appears to have won the #4 WR job.

Jaguars RB James Robinson out-snapped RB Carlos Hyde just 10 to 7 with Lawrence. Pass routes were 6 to 4 in favor of Robinson. You’re hoping for Robinson to capture a larger share of the work if you’re drafting him in Round 4 or 5.

The Cowboys sat all notables.


Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals

The Dolphins sat QB Tua Tagovailoa, RBs Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed and Malcolm Brown, WRs Will Fuller, Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker and TE Mike Gesicki.

Dolphins WR Preston Williams made his preseason debut -- his 1st game action since last November’s season-ending foot injury. Williams played 14 snaps, going catch-less on 2 targets from QB Reid Sinnett.

Bengals QB Joe Burrow hit the field … for 3 snaps and an incomplete pass to WR Ja’Marr Chase. He’ll be out there for Week 1, but rust remains a potential problem.

The rest of Cincinnati’s notables also played just those 3 snaps with Burrow, so no other takeaways from this one.


Las Vegas Raiders at San Francisco 49ers

Just as they did in the first 2 preseason games, the Raiders sat QB Derek Carr, RBs Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake, WRs Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow and TE Darren Waller.

Raiders WR John Brown played 25 snaps -- further confirmation that he’s Vegas’ #4 WR, at best.

The 49ers unveiled their QB-by-committee in this game. QB Jimmy Garoppolo got the start but rotated with QB Trey Lance for the first 2 series. Garoppolo played 14 snaps over that time; Lance 10. Neither guy will be a fantasy option if that usage continues into the regular season. We still expect Lance to take over as the full-time starter at some point this year.

49ers RB Raheem Mostert got the start and played all 10 snaps on the 1st possession. Then RB Trey Sermon played all 14 snaps on the 2nd possession. Those 2 will open the season sharing backfield work. The exact split between them remains uncertain.

49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk missed this game with his “slight” hamstring injury. WR Trent Sherfield took his place in the starting lineup, playing 21 of 24 snaps with the starters.


New England Patriots at New York Giants

Patriots QB Cam Newton drew the start but wasn’t good, completing just 2 of 5 passes for 10 yards and an INT on 2 series. QB Mac Jones then went 10 of 14 for 156 yards and 1 TD over the next 5 possessions. Jones finishes the preseason with a 92.2 Pro Football Focus passing grade -- 2nd highest among 101 QBs that threw a pass. Newton finished 13th with a 78.0 grade. HC Bill Belichick declined to name a starter after the game.

Patriots RB Damien Harris played 7 of 9 snaps with Newton and handled all 4 RB carries, ripping off 29 yards. RB James White played both 3rd downs with the 1st-team offense.

Patriots RBs Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor both saw action with Mac Jones and the 2nd team. Stevenson carried 4 times for 18 yards and a score, and caught 2 targets for 17 yards, with Jones. Taylor carried 5 times for 50 yards and caught his lone target for 8 yards.

Patriots WRs Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor both played all 9 snaps with Newton and ran a route on all 5 of his drop backs. Meyers saw 3 of Newton’s 5 targets; Agholor got the other 2.

Patriots TE Jonnu Smith returned for this one after missing the 2nd preseason game. He played 8 of 9 snaps with Cam Newton and ran a route on 4 of his 5 drop backs. Across both of his appearances, he played 95% of Newton’s snaps and ran a route on 92% of Newton’s drop backs. It’s a small sample and came without TE Hunter Henry. But encouraging nonetheless.

Giants QB Daniel Jones got his 1st work of the preseason, playing 39 snaps across 5 series. He completed 17 of 22 passes (77%) and tossed a 23-yard TD to TE Kaden Smith. But Jones also averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt, was intercepted once and took 2 sacks. It’s worth noting that Jones played without WR Kenny Golladay and lost TE Evan Engram and WR Darius Slayton to mid-game injuries.


Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons

Browns QB Baker Mayfield played 16 snaps across 2 possessions, going 6 of 10 for 113 yards and a score. He played without WRs Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. RB Nick Chubb also sat this one out.

Browns TE Austin Hooper played all 10 snaps on the 1st drive before sitting out the rest of the night. He ran a route on 5 of 7 pass plays (71%).

The Falcons again held out QB Matt Ryan and WR Calvin Ridley. RB Mike Davis (1 snap), WR Russell Gage (1 snap) and TE Hayden Hurst (4 snaps) made brief cameos.

Falcons TE Kyle Pitts made his preseason debut in this one. He played just 2 snaps but had this impressive catch-and-run for 27 yards.

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