Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles
Cedric Tillman was the only receiver vying for a starting gig on offense that didn’t get the veteran rest treatment. He’s likely the odd man out to start the year. Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, and Donovan Peoples-Jones will take the field in three-receiver sets.
John Kelly started over Demetric Felton but looked sluggish once again and fumbled at the goal line. Kelly has 24 carries for 68 yards this preseason. Felton has looked better as a runner and offers more as a pass-catcher. If the Browns don’t add anyone, I could see Felton taking on part of the Kareem Hunt role until Jerome Ford returns. Not signing a free agent would also be a good sign that Ford isn’t expected to miss much or any time.
I said last week that we didn’t want to jump to any conclusions about the Eagles resting Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell. That proved to be true as the duo played this time around while D’Andre Swift got rested. This was the plan all along, though Rashaad Penny did get a handful of snaps in Philly’s second game after playing extensively in the first. Still, we stick to our priors and assume Swift and Penny are splitting the bulk of the carries while Swift and Gainwell will both see work on passing downs.
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants
The Panthers’ starters played much more in this game than in their debut and the results—from a playing time perspective—were largely the same. Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, and Hayden Hurst ran a route on every Bryce Young dropback. That was similar or identical to the first week of the preseason. D.J. Chark, who mixed in as the third receiver last week, also logged a 100 percent route share. The Panthers appear to have a very clean three-receiver set without much deviation.
Darius Slayton rested last week before leading the starting receivers in snaps and routes this week. He seems locked into the WR1 role.
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) August 18, 2023
Giants WR snap count after 2 drives
Darius Slayton 11
Parris Campbell 10
Isaiah Hodgins 8
Jalin Hyatt 3
Out of 13 plays
Isaiah Hodgins isn’t far behind as he is set to hold the other starting outside role. Parris Campbell rested last week and started in the slot versus Carolina, though he came off the field for 12-personnel looks and ceded a few snaps to Jalin Hyatt.
Hyatt played a mix of outside and slot receiver during the preseason, though the bulk of his work has come as a boundary receiver so far. Having only played slot in college, the newfound versatility is a strong sign of his potential later in the year.
Matt Breida took every snap with the starters for a second week in a row. He is the backup to roster in New York right now.
Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons
Chris Evans got the start and out-snapped Chase Brown 8-3 with the first-team offense, though that unit was comprised mostly of backups. He also served as the team’s top option on passing downs. Evans has the edge over Brown but the eventual return of Trayveon Williams will muddy the waters.
The Falcons had a messy rotation outside of Mack Hollins and Drake London taking the field for the majority of the snaps. Hollins may be worth a flyer in deep leagues but London is the only receiver most fantasy drafters should care about.
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) August 19, 2023
Falcons TE snap count after 1 drive
Kyle Pitts 9
MyCole Pruitt 9
Jonnu Smith 7
Out of 17 plays
The Kyle Pitts usage…was less than ideal. He ran a route on just half of Desmond Ridder’s dropbacks and played roughly half of the snaps. If this carries into the regular season, he will go down as a horrific bust for fantasy purposes. However, I remain skeptical of this usage based on data from his previous seasons. Pitts’ route rate has hovered around 80 percent in both seasons as a pro and the Falcons have had capable backups to platoon him with (Hayden Hurst and blocking expert Parker Hesse). This is a concern but I’m not panicking yet.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions
Doug Pederson rested his starters meaning Tank Bigbsy got the nod in this one. He tallied 13 carries with the first unit (all backups) and ran for 70 yards. Bigbsy also ran more routes than third-stringer JaMychal Hasty. If Travis Etienne misses time, Bigsby could be a one-for-one replacement.
I’m convinced the next time Nathan Rourke is taken down behind the line of scrimmage will be the first.
Detroit’s starters got the night off again, and this time even the notable rookies, Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta, were rested.
Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans
Devon Achane played behind Salvon Ahmed once again. He looks buried on the depth chart at the moment and left this game with a shoulder injury. Don’t expect to put him in your fantasy lineups early in the season.
Braxton Berrios and Chosen Anderson took the field for three-receiver sets with Jaylen Waddle on the pines for the day. Last year, Trent Sherfield dominated the WR3 snaps for Miami partially because of his ability to play out wide and in the slot. Anderson is more versatile than Berrios, though the Dolphins could ultimately split their WR3 reps more evenly this year. The Dolphins also used 11 personnel at the fourth-lowest rate last season, so the winner of the WR3 battle may not matter much.
Noah Brown got the start alongside Robert Woods and Nico Collins. He was rested last week and appears firmly ahead of John Metchie on the depth chart. Tank Dell didn’t play in this game but he is likely behind Brown for Week 1 as well.
Dameon Pierce played every snap with the starters and ran a route on two-thirds of C.J. Stroud’s dropbacks. The Texans are going to give him every chance to finish the year top-five in touches.
Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers
Josh Allen was on the field for 16 snaps and James Cook was on the field for 14 of them. He was used as the team’s top back on passing downs as well. Like Pierce, the preseason signs on James Cook remain strong.
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 21, 2023
3. #Bills Josh Allen played 16 snaps. RBs:
James Cook 15
Latavius Murray 2
Damien Harris (knee) DNP
Routes on 12 Allen dropbacks:
Stef Diggs 10
Gabe Davis 10
Dalton Kincaid 9 (led team in slot snaps)
Deonte Harty 6
Trent Sherfield 3
Khalil Shakir 2
Dawson Knox (finger) DNP
Buffalo remained committed to using two tight ends even with Dawson Knox out for this game. They ran third-string tight end Quentin Morris out for a handful of snaps alongside Dalton Kincaid, who both started and played after the first-team offense left the field.
Deonte Harty led the non-Diggs and Davis receivers in routes, though four different players (Harty, Justin Shorter, Trent Sherfield, and Khalil Shakir) got multiple snaps at receiver beyond the two locked-in starters. Harty looks like the best bet to hold down the WR3 role for now.
Jaylen Warren continued looking like the best running back on the Steelers this weekend.
The Steelers didn’t give us any surprises this time around with Allen Robinson clearly suiting up as the WR3 and the backup tight ends taking far fewer snaps with the starters than they did in the first week of preseason action.
Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts
The Bears rested their starters again this week. D’Onta Foreman was the only back to take the field with the first unit. He should spell Khalil Herbert to open the year. Rookie Roschon Johnson doesn’t appear to be in the team’s plans for Week 1.
The started were rested on this side of the ball as well. Third-round rookie Josh Downs notably played over Isaiah McKenzie. Downs ran with the first team while McKenzie didn’t see the field until the backups (third-string players during the regular season) took the field. Downs got the rookie treatment last week and played behind McKenzie but may have flipped the veteran on the depth chart since then.
The Colts deployed three backs with their starters. Evan Hull led the trio in carries and snaps, but he was on the field for less than half of the plays run by the starting offense. Should Jonathan Taylor’s holdout last into the regular season or be traded by Week 1, Hull would be in a messy committee with Deon Jackson and Kenyan Drake.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets
Kyle Trask got the start, played the entire first half, and was called back into action after third-string quarterback John Wolford suffered an injury. Trask put up a strong performance that featured a 71 percent completion rate, 7.9 yards per attempt, and a touchdown strike to Trey Palmer. Despite the showing, Baker Mayfield was eventually announced as the team’s Week 1 starter.
Speaking of Palmer, the rookie now has two scores in as many preseason appearances. Both of his touchdowns have come from the starting quarterback of the game. Palmer is one of many receivers vying to fill the void left by Russell Gage’s season-ending injury.
Tyler Conklin has held only a slight edge over C.J. Uzomah in terms of snaps and routes run in both of the Jets’ preseason games. There are plenty of late-round tight ends who should take the field for nearly every one of their team’s snaps. Conklin does not appear to be one of them.
New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers
As expected, DeVante Parker and JuJu Smith-Schuster played every snap with the starters. Kendrick Bourne operated as the third receiver, though he came off the field for 12-personnel looks. Tyquan Thornton was nowhere to be found when the starters were on the field.
Just like they did last week, the Packers gave Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and rookie tight end Luke Musgrave every snap with the ones. Jayden Reed was once again the only receiver who joined them for three-receiver sets. Musgrave has quickly become one of the best late-round tight ends on the board.
For what it’s worth, Jordan Love has also played quite well so far.
He is averaging 7.2 yards per attempt with a 67 completion percentage. He has two scores, no interceptions, and no sacks.
Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings
Both teams played primarily backups in this game, so there aren’t many takeaways. For Tennessee, Chig Okonwko played 11-of-16 possible snaps with the starters. Mike Vrabel has publicly mentioned blocking as an area he needs to improve in. I think his usage could be frustrating at times, but he should still command a solid snap share with above-average efficiency.
Tyjae Spears got the bulk of the reps with the starters. He appears to have cemented himself as the backup to Derrick Henry and an option for the team on passing downs.
Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals
This is illegal in 28 states. The Chiefs used six receivers and three tight ends with their starting offense over the weekend.
Marques Valdez-Scantling led the group in snaps and routes followed by Skyy Moore. MVS is locked in as the field-stretcher and should provide a few, unpredictable spike weeks throughout the year. Moore has split his reps almost evenly between the slot and out wide during the preseason. He may run fewer routes than MVS, but his versatility will keep it a close battle. That’s before factoring in MVS’s low productivity on a per-route basis.
The third spot should eventually be taken over by Kadarius Toney, who is questionable for Week 1 right now. If he can’t suit up, Rashee Rice and Justin Watson will seemingly share that role with neither earning enough snaps to be a reliable fantasy option.
With all of the notable receivers on the roster healthy and active, Arizona established a clear trio of Michael Wilson and Marquise Brown on the outside with Rondale Moore in the slot. Moore will come off the field for 12-personnel looks. With both Zach Ertz and Trey McBride options at tight end, the Cardinals could opt for multiple tight ends more often than the average team, putting Moore’s usage in a bind.
Keontay Ingram remained at the top of the RB2 race in Arizona by getting some reps with the starts after James Conner. However, even he seemingly acknowledged that it’s not a done deal.
— Paul Calvisi (@PaulCalvisi) August 21, 2023
#AZCardinals RB Keontay Ingram asked how he feels in the race for RB2 spot: "Uncomfortable...You gotta earn it."
During his rookie year, Ingram says he learned that "details" separate the NFL from college football.
"It might look the same but it's not the same." pic.twitter.com/Y4TxyX2IoY
Should anything happen to Conner, I would expect the team to add a veteran to the mix while giving Ingram the first crack at the job.
Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers
Marvin Mims sat out of the Broncos’ first preseason game but was available this week. He was the only wide receiver to take the field with Russell Wilson outside of Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton. Mims was a hyper-efficient deep threat at Oklahoma and could provide the long-ball juice Russell Wilson needs to rebound under Sean Payton.
Greg Dulcich, on the other hand, played behind Adam Trautman again. It’s time to stop drafting him. There’s even an argument to be made for drafting Trautman in deep leagues.
Javonte Williams got the start and his usage was absurd. He saw a target or carry on each of Denver’s first four plays. Williams earned a total of 8 opportunities, five of which came through the air. He still split snaps with Samaje Perine, but Williams’ usage suggests the team has no concerns about his recovery from the catastrophic knee injury he suffered last season.
Tyrion Davis-Price played over Jordan Mason this week. Last week, those roles were reversed. Elijah Mitchell should remain the team’s RB2 for Week 1, but it’s unclear who his backup currently is.
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams
Rookie tight end Michael Mayer saw his first preseason action this week but it came while splitting reps with Austin Hooper. The rookie was also used primarily as a blocker. He ran seven routes on 21 snaps. There’s still a chance Mayer’s role grows during the season, but don’t plan on putting him in your lineup for Week 1.
Per usual, all of the notable Rams got the night off. Sixth-round rookie Zach Evans didn’t start alongside the rest of the backups and had to wait until the third-stringers took the field to see his first rep. Kyren Williams, on the other hand, was treated like a veteran and didn’t play a snap. He has the RB2 gig locked down and could even work his way onto the field for passing downs. Williams is a strong bet to make in the final rounds of best ball drafts.
Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
Pete Carroll gave his Week 1 starters a pair of drives in this game. There weren’t any surprises, but it was good to see Zach Charbonnet get the start with Kenneth Walker still sidelined. The Seahawks also rotated their tight ends, with Will Dissly seeing the only target among the starters. Noah Fant is a player I am no longer throwing darts at, even in deep leagues.
Rico Dowdle got the start for Dallas and played more snaps than fellow backup Malik Davis. It’s unclear which back will ultimately win the RB2 gig for the Cowboys, but one of the two will result in a dead roster spot for fantasy teams by Week 1.
New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers
Kender Miller tweaked his knee in the Saints’ first preseason game and the issue initially looked somewhat serious. He brushed off the injury and played in New Orleans’ second preseason game against the Rams. This could simply be an effort to get the rookie more reps, but Jamaal Williams has put a gap between himself and Miller heading into Week 1.
Josh Kelley again the nod over Isaiah Spiller. He also left the game before Spiller, though both backs did get reps with the starters. As was the case last year, Kelley seems to be the backup to chase in LA.
Baltimore Ravens at Washington Commanders
Zay Flowers was the only Baltimore starter to appear in this game. He showed well with the starters and didn’t play for long.
Flowers will likely open the year only playing in three-receiver sets, but he should have some FLEX value in Week 1 and is a great bet for late-season production.
The Commanders gave their starters extensive run in this game and it didn’t reveal much new. The three-receiver set remained unchanged while Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson shared Washington’s backfield.
Cole Turner continued to serve as the starting tight end with Logan Thomas sidelined. He could be a streaming option for tight-end-needy teams if Thomas isn’t available at any point this year.