THE NFL'S DRESS REHEARSAL WEEKEND
Many of this week's games featured starters and key contributors for at least a half of football. Generally, teams don't work from an expanded playbook because they don't want to tip their hands to in-season opponents scouting ahead. This is another compelling reason why we don't see opponents catch onto a player, a scheme, or a team until at least 4-6 weeks into the season.
One thing the preseason dress rehearsal weekend reveals is the personnel that teams value. If a reserve earned playing time with starters this weekend, it's a good indication that, regardless of listing on the depth chart, the team values the skills that they've seen from the player thus far—even if injuries are the reason the player is earning time with the first or second unit. Seattle running back Chris Carson is a good example (more on him later).
Sometimes, a team will play a reserve sparingly because they have already seen enough from the player to know that they will be using him during the season and there's no need to evaluate his play. Bears rookie running back Tarik Cohen, who only played a portion of an offensive series this weekend, could be that player in Chicago.
And in other instances, a veteran finally sees the field to shake the rust off. Cardinals running back Chris Johnson saw his first extended time of the summer after getting signed in August. Like Johnson, I'm getting some preseason reps with Footballguys' Top 10, which will be available every Monday evening and filled with fantasy insights from my weekly notebook based on film study.
1. The Patriots Without The Field General's Scout, Julian Edelman
Throw out all the names you like and have a fun conversation about it with your buds but if New England acquires a starting receiver in a trade to replace the injured Julian Edelman, he'll have to be an option with a lot of experience in New England's system. Brandin Cooks and Tom Brady have spent the entire summer working on rapport and even they have told Pats reporter Mike Reiss that it will be a year-long journey for them.
One of the reasons a trade for an instant impact player is unlikely is the personnel packages that New England uses. The Patriots often use the exact same personnel in extremely different alignments and when they can catch an opponent with personnel that lacks the flexibility to defend a certain look, New England will heighten the tempo and run plays from alignments that exploit mismatches.