Finally, after six long months we were able to watch some real football last Sunday. Although, it seemed that the Dallas Cowboys brought its starters to watch the game rather than play. Lamar Miller made it interesting by fumbling his first touch of the ball.
I don't put a ton of weight in the statistics that are put up but I do feel the preseason games are not just mind numbing contests that don't mean a lot. If you watch the games or even just catch the highlights, you might see a future starter for your fantasy team. All it takes is an injury here or an opportunity there and a player that has flown under the radar is now breaking out. Here are a few fantasy position battles to keep an eye on.
1. Houston Texans third running back
Deji Karim vs. Dennis Johnson - Houston is obviously set at running back with Arian Foster and Ben Tate. However, Foster and Tate have been slowed during training camp with injuries, which has opened the door for Karim and Johnson. Karim is a veteran, having played for the Jaguars and Colts over the last three seasons. Jacksonville used him sparingly and last season with the Colts, he played mostly on special teams. He's small but is quick, can block and is a decent receiver. Dennis Johnson is an undrafted rookie free agent out of the University of Arkansas. Johnson has been working with the first string while Foster and Tate remain sidelined. He should get quite a few carries in Houston's first preseason game on Friday. Johnson is also small but fast, and fits well with the Texans one cut system. The Texans third string back holds legitimate value if Foster or Tate miss any time during the season. Tate missed five games last season alone. Houston travels to face Minnesota on Friday night.
2. Miami Dolphins red zone/big play tight end
Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman (left) talks with fullback Charles Clay (right) during practice at the training camp at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Charles Clay vs. Dion Sims - The Dolphins have Dustin Keller as a safety blanket for Ryan Tannehill. They are now looking for a tight end that can go deep and find space in the red zone. Clay has put up some decent numbers in his first two years with the team, putting up 445 yards and five touchdowns. He also possesses the flexibility to be used as a fullback, H-back and tight end. Dion Sims is a fourth round rookie from Michigan State. Sims is a big, physical receiver and a decent blocker. He has the speed to attack the seam. The Dolphins want to use more two tight end sets and that could create a sleeper tight end situation. Miami plays at Jacksonville on Friday night.
3. New Orleans Saints third wide receiver
New Orleans Saints rookie wide receiver Nick Toon (88) makes a catch over cornerback Elbert Mack (44) during a training camp practice at the team's practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Toon vs. Kenny Stills - Everyone knows that the Saints passing offense is super charged and creates value further down the depth chart. Toon is entering his second year and was a fourth round pick in 2012. He missed all of last season with a foot injury but has been impressive so far in camp. He may not beat his man with speed but has proven to be a physical receiver. Toon also has great hands and runs crisp routes. Stills was selected by the Saints in the fifth round this year out of the University of Oklahoma. Unlike Toon, Stills is a smaller, speedier receiver that can create separation. I believe Toon will carve out a role for himself and should make his presence felt around the red zone. New Orleans takes on Kansas City at home on Friday.
4. New York Jets starting quarterback
Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith - This battle is nowhere near settled as we go into the first preseason game for the Jets. Despite fighting for his job, the Sanchize has fizzled so far. His 2012 season will be remembered for butt fumble and not much else. He still has his confidence and perhaps a tiny edge at the moment at being named the Jets starter. Geno Smith will probably start at some point this season, even if he's not named the starter for the team's first game. He has looked better than Sanchez during training camp but that won't guarantee him anything right now. The Jets travel to face Detroit on Friday night.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers starting running back
Le'Veon Bell vs. Isaac Redman vs. Jonathan Dwyer - The Steelers want to have a balanced attack, and that means finding a running back to bring their run game up to their usual standard. Bell was chosen with their second round pick and looks to be the favorite to win the job. He is a big, powerful back with good vision and decent speed. Basically, the prototypical Pittsburgh back. Redman was given the chance to be the starter at the beginning of the 2012 season but he flamed out quickly. He's a pretty good receiver which will help him hold some value. Dwyer was Pittsburgh's leading rusher in 2012 but his stats really tailed off to end the season. His receiving skills are pretty much non-existent. I'm really excited to see how Bell does during the preseason. Pittsburgh will face the Giants on Saturday night.