We are almost there! All the hype, the study, the hours (for most of us at least) of research is about to be put to the test. After waiting months for real football, we are all going to be anxious to say the least. The one important bit of advice heading into this weekend; do not overreact to anything that does or does not happen. We all think we have the answers. We have convinced ourselves our sleepers can't miss and everyone we drafted in the first ten rounds are studs. Hopefully all of your guys will hit. That rarely happens for me though. There are always some players who fail to meet expectations. There are also, always players who simply fail to have a big game in the opener but are going to be fine for the rest of the season. I and the rest of the IDP crew will do our best to digest what we see and get the info out to you soon as possible. Meanwhile; trust your own eyes. If a player fails to produce, figure out why before dumping him for what could turn out to be a one week wonder. There are always a number of those as well. Walk lightly through the mine field that is September in fantasy football and remember if a proven player flops this week and you can find no good reason for it, chances are it was a fluke. As we like to say among the Footballguys IDP team; one week is a fluke, two is a trend. Then there is that other line that goes; there is a thin line between patience and stupidity (when it comes to holding onto high upside players).
The fourth preseason games were anti-climactic as expected, so there have not been many earth shattering revelations since my preseason week three notes were posted. These are the things that caught my eye.
Sean Weatherspoon was back on the field for the final preseason tilt. He played into the second half, making three tackles and looking pretty good in general. Weatherspoon and Kevin Minter are both listed as starters on the team's depth chart with Deone Bucannon listed as the backup to Tony Jefferson at strong safety. Bucannon never came off the field when the starters were in during the preseason but this could be reason for concern for those of us who are counting on him as a starter. The good news here is Arizona plays the Saints, so the Cardinals will be in nickel and dime packages often. That should ensure plenty of opportunity for Bucannon this week while giving us an opportunity to see if he will remain an every down player. Tony Jefferson is starting to look like the best option of the group in terms of tackle production.
William Moore was back in action for final preseason game, sending Kemal Ishmael back to the bench. With Moore's recent injury struggles, it might be a good idea to keep Ishmael on your roster is you still have him. Otherwise he should be on our short list for possible waiver adds.
Brooks Reed is expected to miss several weeks after undergoing groin surgery. Kroy Biermann will move back to linebacker and start until Reed returns. This is a huge step down for the Falcons and is not a good sign for Vic Beasley who needs someone on the other side to keep blocking schemes honest.
Adrian Clayborn looked good this preseason and is among my sleepers at defensive end. I believe he has the skill set to be a three down starter for the Falcons but he is listed as the backup to Tyson Jackson on the team's week one depth chart. For now Jackson may see the early down action with Clayborn joining the mix in sub packages. This is not a good role for Clayborn who is a better run defended than pass rusher, but he is a better pass rusher than Jackson.
With Leodis McKelvin still gimpy, rookie Ronald Darby will get the start at corner against the Colts. He could be wearing a bull’s eye in the eyes of Andrew Luck. It could be a busy day for the young man.
The other thing to watch in this game is how the Bills use Nigel Bradham. Throughout much of the preseason he was working as a three down strong side backer with Many Lawson lining up on the week side in most base packages. It would be nice to see Bradham stay on the week side or at the least, for the Bills to use him and Lawson as right and left rather than strong and weak.
In 2014 the Jaguars were a horrible matchup for most defenders. They drafted a running back high but we have not yet seem much of him, and their top three receiving threats have either been injured or highly inconsistent throughout the preseason. Unless you are rolling the dice with one of the pass rushers, I would avoid every IDP in a Panthers uniform this week that is not names Kuechly.
There were whispers out of Chicago last week suggesting Mason Foster may have played his way back into a starting job. The Bears quenched that fire quickly by releasing the veteran with their final cuts. Jon Bostic has done nothing to impress, so it seems a safe bet the coaching staff will stick with Shea McClellin and Christian Jones, at least for the time being. Foster made a strong showing this preseason so I expect he will catch on somewhere quickly.
Anyone who has been following us this summer was not surprised to see Vontaze Burfict land on the PUP. Paul Dawson began to make a little noise late in the preseason but at this point it looks as if Vincent Rey is going to be the Bengals only three down linebacker for at least the first six games. He has been productive for us in the past when given an opportunity to play full time.
The good news is Anthony Hitchens should be available to face the Giants this week. The bad news; we are still not sure exactly what his role will be. I expect he will be a three down middle backer this week but would not be comfortable enough to start him until I see it happen for sure. It would be nice to see him excel at the position and make the coaching staff leave him there when Rolando McClain returns in week five.
The big IDP question in Denver has been the health and play of inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall. So far everything is looking good for both players. They were able to get on the field for some preseason action and came through fine physically. While they were not particularly impressive those games, both players seemed to be moving well and playing fast. That said it might be a good idea to sit them this week if you have other quality options. I for one will feel much better about them after seeing a full game's action.
The Texans depth chart currently lists Andre Hal as the starting strong safety with Lonnie Ballentine at free. Eddie Pleasant started the third preseason contest at strong safety ahead of Hal but is listed third at free safety. Both Pleasant and Hal spent significant time with the starters during camp and preseason, so this is not really a shock. The bottom line here is, stay away from this mess until someone gives us a reason not to.
The Colts landed Sio Moore for a song after the talented but injury prone young linebacker fell out of favor in Oakland. There is some question as to what his role will be in Indianapolis. Moore has the skill set to play either inside or outside in a 3-4 and is best suited on the weak side in a 4-3. This versatility makes him a great fit in the Colts multi-front scheme. The problem is they are already pretty well set at those positions. Unless there is an injury to Jerrell Freeman or D'Qwell Jackson, Moore could have a tough time getting on the field in a significant role this season. Jackson is 31 years old but signed a four year deal in March of 2014. Freeman however, is in the final year of his contract. Moore is currently listed as the fifth inside linebacker on the depth chart. I expect he will be third before long but we should not expect much from him until 2016 when he could be a serious fantasy factor. If you have room for a dynasty stash, he is a great buy low target.
Reshad Jones is clearly the Miami safety to have but we may want to keep an eye on Walt Aikens. The Dolphins are excellent up front but linebacker is not a team strength. Both Louis Delmas and Jimmy Wilson have been productive at the position over the past two seasons. Wilson is now in San Diego and Delmas is on IR, so Aikens is going to have plenty of opportunity.
Unless you have Anthony Barr, avoid starting any Vikings linebacker this week. The team played musical chairs all preseason with Chad Greenway, Gerald Hodges and Eric Kendricks. When the music stops in week one, we may not see any of them in a three down role.
New England Patriots
Jerod Mayo is a player I will be watching closely this week. He has been practicing throughout most of camp and the preseason but his live action has been limited to 15 total snaps during the third warm-up game. When healthy it is anticipated Mayo and Jamie Collins will both be three down linebackers. Mayo has been a forgotten man for the most part, going undrafted in some of my leagues. He could be a strong waiver candidate if healthy.
New Orleans Saints
For all those owners who added defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha to your MyFantasyLeague team. You can now cut linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha. It is unusual for MFL or any other league hosting site to change a player's positional designation four days before the opening kickoff, but it is hard to argue since he really is playing linebacker.
New York Giants
As I write this week’s column, there are smoldering rumors the Giants are trying to pull off a trade for Kam Chancellor. This would make sense for New York who cut Jeremy Miles after he worked with the starters for most of the summer. They also parted ways with Stevie Brown shortly after he was picked up off waivers. The Giants will have Landon Collins at free safety and third year pro Cooper Taylor at strong safety. The Giants strong safety generally spends a lot of time in a run support alignment and has been a box score gold mine in recent years. If Taylor has a big game it will probably be the start of a trend rather than a fluke. We should not wait another week for confirmation.
The release of Jameel McClain was a surprise. Either he was not all the way healthy or the team has a lot of confidence in Jon Beason's health. Beason is expected to go in the openers though he may not be 100% yet. We are still unsure who will get the nickel snaps and the situation with Beason does nothing to help clear the fog.
The trade of Sio Moore sends a clear message about what the Raiders think Malcolm Smith. He has been a standout for the team all summer. If Curtis Lofton continues to hit the sideline on passing downs as he did at the end of the preseason, Smith will be the favorite to lead the team in tackles this year.
Kiko Alonso was able to get a good half game of action in the final preseason tilt. He came through in good shape physically but I am not convinced the team is ready to give him a three down role just yet. Look for him to share time with DeMeco Ryans early in the season and possibly longer than fantasy owners would like. Let us see him in a full time role before making the commitment.
Lawrence Timmons missed most of the preseason with a toe injury. Had the games been real he probably would have been playing the last two weeks. Timmons says he is healthy and ready for the opener on Thursday.
San Diego Chargers
Donald Butler played some inspired football this summer. If he can carry that into the regular season he could be in for a big year. I want to see which Butler shows up week one. If it is the one I think we will get, Butler will be a hot pickup in many leagues next week.
It is painfully obvious Kam Chancellor is not going to join the Seahawks anytime soon. The team has denied all rumors suggesting a trade is in the works and appear to have dug in for the long haul. Dion Bailey appears to have beaten out Deshawn Shead for the opportunity to start while Chancellor sits. I though Shead looked excellent with the starters early on. Both Bailey and Shead were starters in the last preseason contest. Bailey started at strong safety and Shead at free replacing Earl Thomas who was rested.
San Francisco 49ers
It was not a surprise to see Michael Wilhoite return to the starting job once he was healthy. It was a bit surprising however, to see the team cut Nick Moody who played fairly well during the preseason. Wilhoite is not a playmaker but made a lot of tackles when he got back on the field a couple of weeks back.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We know what the Buccaneers have in Lavonte David but there could be several other Tampa Bay defenders in our starting lineups this year. Kwon Alexander is a must add if he has not been picked up already. Safeties D.J. Swearinger and Bradley McDougald along with end George Johnson are all players on the radar entering week one.
Duke Ihenacho won the strong safety job in Washington. He banged up a shoulder in the third preseason game and looked to be in some pain, but apparently the injury was not serious. If he can stay healthy, Ihenacho is going to have a lot of opportunity in a secondary considered shaky by most.
That does it for the week one offering. My schedule for this season will be watching and digesting games on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday I will put together the projections for the week. On Wednesday I will be writing the EOTG column and recording the IDP podcast with Sigmund Bloom and Dr. Jene Bramel. I know many of you would like to see the column posted earlier in the week. I wish that could happen but there simply is not enough time in the week. Eyes of the Guru should be posted early on Thursday every week. Hopefully that will give most of you an opportunity to read up before waivers process. Best of luck to everyone in week one and enjoy some real football.