The biggest story from the second round of preseason games is the number of teams playing starters into the second quarter. As is usually the case there were some lineup changes and even a scheme change or two. We have to keep in mind some teams will experiment with a lot of things during the preseason. Not only do they get to explore options, they put a lot of different looks on tape to confuse future opponents. All that considered these are the things that caught my eye.
I did not see Kamalei Correa any sub packages in the opening preseason game, but he got some looks there in week two. Anthony Levine came in on the first few nickel snaps with Correa getting more looks late. Correa did nothing spectacular in the game but held his own against both run and pass. It will be interesting to see if he his role continues to increase this week.
Mike Hull made the start in week two but the team signed Rey Maualuga before the weekend was over. Maualuga should step right in as a two down middle backer. He should be a good add for the Dolphins but the move likely has little effect in IDP terms.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I like what the Buccaneers were doing up front. On early downs Gerald McCoy is joined by a rotation of Chris Baker and Clinton McDonald; William Gholston is at one end and Robert Ayers at the other. On passing downs, Ayers moved inside with McCoy with Ryan Russell and Noah Spence coming on at end. The important observation here being Spence has yet to play a base package snap with the first team while Ayers and McCoy are playing all three downs much of the time.
Does anyone remember when I said we should hang onto Paul Posluszny for a while? The Jaguars did not look good against the run in game one. Myles Jack seemed slow to react and/or uncomfortable. Leading up to game two the coaching staff made the decision to move Jack back to outside linebacker on early down and put Posluszny back in the middle where he belongs. Jack will still pair with Telvin Smith in sub packages. The team looked better but I was still not overly impressed with Jack. He simply gets blocked too easily. Between lack luster play and Posluszny soaking up tackles, Jack's stock has taken a big hit.
On the other side of this news, Posluszny may well be the best two down linebacker in the fantasy game. I can see him being a solid LB3 on most weeks.
Barry Church was all over the place. I think he is going to have a big year.
Charles Johnson returned to the starting lineup in week two. He was joined by Mario Addison who has started both games. This looks good on paper but Julius Peppers has not been playing. My feeling is Addison continues to start with Peppers playing limited snaps.
The Colts inside linebacker competition has been a focal point for IDP owners since early in the summer. Unfortunately, we know nothing more now than we did in June. In the first game, Indianapolis started Edwin Jackson and rookie Anthony Walker on the inside. Jackson made some excellent plays and Walker held his own. In game two the Colts started Jon Bostic and Antonio Morrison. Morrison looked decent considering the defensive line was getting killed, while Bostic was pushed around like a blocking sled. I will be shocked if Jackson is not one of the starters come week one. Based on what we have seen so far I think Morrison is the other starter right now.
Keep an eye on Mathias Farley at strong safety. With Malik Hooker banged up, Farley is working with the first team and doing a good job.
Jaylon Smith made his first start with the Cowboys last week. He was on the field for a dozen consecutive defensive snaps, including sub packages. Smith looked pretty good in his short body of work. He showed good quickness and anticipation and was not shying away from contact in the least. If he came through well physically, we might see Dallas with Smith in the middle, Sean Lee on the weak side and either Anthony Hitchens or Damien Wilson on the strong side.
New York Jets
I have been pretty hard on the Jets linebackers this year but I will give credit where it's due. Darron Lee and Demario Davis looked like a different player in the second game. Instead of making hits five yards deep, they were regularly making contact at or near the line. I saw nothing that looked like a scheme adjustment but there sure seemed to be a lot more energy.
Fellow rookie Marcus Maye has outplayed Jamal Adams through two games. Maye has been Johnny on the spot in run support and has done a good job cleaning up messes. Meanwhile, Adams has been an ankle biter and has missed a few tackles. Adams is still seeing more time in the box so it's not panic time if you drafted him.
Green Bay Packers
There may be some hope for the Packers inside linebackers after all. In the first game, neither Jake Ryan nor Blake Martinez saw any sub package snaps. In round two I believe they played in all the nickel situations until the starters were pulled. The Packers left both players on the field, pulling the nose tackle to make room for the extra defensive back. Who knows if the coaching staff liked what they saw or if they will continue to line up like this, but I thought they both played well. It certainly made the team more physical on third downs.
Morgan Burnett was the lone linebacker in dime packages.
Shawn Williams suffered a nasty dislocated elbow in the game and will miss a few weeks. The official word is four to six weeks but the Bengals have a bye in week six. We probably won't see Williams until week seven. Clayton Fejedelem took over at strong safety.
Nick Vigil is looking good in his three down strong side role. He is around the ball a lot and is showing some big play potential. Vigil is going to be a good one on the field and it looks like it will translate to the box scores fairly well.
The Lions have been starting Anthony Zettel and Cornelius Washington at defensive end. With Kerry Hyder in IR one of them should start opposite Ezekiel Ansah, providing he is a go by week one. That is in question at this point with Ansah saying he hopes to be ready. Both Zettel and Washington have played rather well and regardless who gets the title of starter, both are going to play a lot. There could be an early season add lurking here.
The organization has told us little about the status of Tavon Wilson. Whoever starts at strong safety here is going to have some value. Miles Killebrew has been playing well at the position but the Lions still list Wilson as the starter on their depth chart.
Washington started Mason Foster and Zach Brown at inside backer against the Packers and this week there was no rotation. Brown missed a couple tackles near the line and didn't look as good as last week, but he was still getting to the ball well. Forster was his usual steady hard hitting self. Will Compton and Martrell Spaight came on with the second team. Week three should give us some confirmation but it sure looks like Brown and Foster are going to be three down linebackers.
New England Patriots
Even the Patriots sprinkled in a few starters for the second warm-up game; of course the linebackers we wanted to see were not among them. New England list Dont'a Hightower as the starting middle backer with Shea McClellin on the strong side and David Harris weak. Only McClellan played so we still have no idea what to expect from Harris.
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco depth chart shows Jaquiski Tartt starting at strong safety and Eric Reid at free. In last week's game, however, Reid was at strong safety with Lorenzo Jerome at free. Tartt came on at strong safety with the second team and had a big game at 6-1-1. Whoever starts here is going to have a huge year. Right now Reid seems to be the guy.
The Cardinals gave us some things to think about in their game. Karlos Dansby had the night off and Deone Bucannon is not back yet, so they started Scooby Wright and Hasaan Reddick at inside backer. Reddick looked better than the previous week does not yet look comfortable at his new position. Wright on the other hand, looked pretty darn good. He was quick to react, hard to keep blocked and made some nice plays. We should keep an eye on this situation if Dansby struggles at all. He will be 35 in early November so the team will be on the lookout for a long term option.
When I saw Tyvon Branch at strong safety with the starters I initially assumed Antoine Bethea had the night off. As I was watching Branch fly around and make plays I caught a glimpse of #41 (Bethea) coming on the field in a heavy nickel set. I will be watching this one closely when Arizona goes to Atlanta this week. I am wondering if this was a pitch count thing for Bethea to get him on the field for a few plays, or if Branch is the true starter. All I can say for sure is he played well enough to be the starter.
As in game one, Corey James and Marquel Lee were the Raiders starters at weak and middle linebacker. Unlike the first outing however, Lee was replaced by Nicholas Morrow in most nickel sub packages. James appears to be settling in as a productive three down WLB. He was not as impressive in the most recent game but made no obvious mistakes.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints took a long look at rookie Alex Anzalone as their starting middle linebacker. A.J. Klein was on the strong side with Stephone Anthony starting at weak. Anzalone held his own, making a couple nice plays while missing an opportunity or two as well. My guess is the coaching staff wants to explore all their options. It's hard to say how well Anzalone was graded out by the coaching staff but I thought he looked as good as anyone they have tried there. Let's see who gets the call in the next one.
Tank Carder was playing much better than I had expected before being lost to a knee injury. No one wants to see a player hurt but the injury opens the door for Joe Schobert, who went 5-1-1 against the Giants after Carder was lost. Keeping in mind the Browns have not been playing Jamie Collins on every down, I am interested to see if Schobert gets any sub package snaps this week. He's a player I have been watching since he was drafted last year and one I expected to eventually be a starter.
That does it for round two. Best of luck in all your upcoming drafts.