• Preseason Thoughts on 08/15/2021 Sunday’s Game

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    The first full week of preseason football has ended. Here are my thoughts on the Sunday game.

    The first full week of the 2021 preseason is in the books and it was fun to see all of the different storylines. As expected, rookies dominated the headlines.

    In this article, I'm going to give my thoughts on players you should watch, based on their performance in Sunday's preseason game between the Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts. I will be breaking it down by position battle for each team, so let's dive into it!

    Carolina Panthers

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    Battle For QB2

    We all know Sam Darnold is the QB1, replacing Teddy Bridgewater. The question is who will be Darnold's backup. From an overall skill set, you'd think it would be P.J. Walker. In order to win the backup job, he'll need to beat out Will Grier. In 2019 Grier, who played in all four preseason games, had 34 completions on 61 attempts for 385 yards while adding 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He will need to have a stronger preseason if he wants to challenge Walker.

    P.J. Walker clearly had the better game between the two. Unless Walker implodes over the next two preseason games, the backup job is his. If he continues that strong play he could put some pressure on starting quarterback Sam Darnold or shorten his leash, at the very least. If P.J. Walker is available make sure you add him in all formats, excluding redraft.

    Battle For RB2

    The Panthers are hoping they get Christian McCaffrey for all 17 games, in 2021. However, with the addition of an extra regular-season game and CMC coming off of an injury-plagued 2020 season, the RB2 will have a role. How much of a role, well that will be up to the Panthers and CMC.

    While rookie running back Chuba Hubbard seems to hold the early advantage over Reggie Bonnafon going into the preseason, let's see if that holds true throughout the three games. Bonnafon didn't play in this one and Hubbard was the most productive of the running backs that did play. Much like their QB situation, if Hubbard doesn't implode over the next two games he should secure the RB2 job. If you own CMC or are shallow at RB depth, go trade for Hubbard ASAP. His current rookie ADP is RB7.

    Battle For WR3

    This is the most intriguing battle to watch in Carolina as they don't have proven depth behind starters D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. Newly signed David Moore and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr., are the two who will be battling for the WR3 job. Marshall Jr., seems to have the early advantage, but will that hold true during the preseason?

    After game one, the answer is yes. Marshall was more productive and flashed more in this one. He could see his rookie ADP (WR5) rise if his strong play continues.

    Battle For TE1

    This could be the least exciting group in the NFL. Nonetheless, someone will win the TE1 job. Dan Arnold, Ian Thomas, and rookie Tommy Tremble will all be battling for it. Here's what is being said from training camp, "Ultra athletic for a tight end at 6'6/220 lbs, Arnold is former wide receiver and is getting plenty of reps with the Panthers' first-team offense. The Athletic's Joe Person notes Arnold has "caught a lot of passes" over the past week" (NBC Sports Edge).

    Neither Dan Arnold nor Ian Thomas played in this one. Tommy Tremble did play and was tied for the second-most targets with four. This is a position battle that should take the entire preseason to work out.

    Indianapolis Colts

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    Battle For QB2

    Starting quarterback Carson Wentz is dealing with a foot injury and could be available for the season opener. This season, the Colts don't have a proven backup signal-caller. Jacob Eason and rookie Sam Ehlinger will be battling for the QB2 job and the possibility of starting week 1.

    With so much on the line in this position battle, each player will need to capitalize on their opportunities in the three preseason games. They both put together a very strong game. I would give the slight edge to Eason due to him being more productive as a passer. However, Ehlinger was more productive with his legs and also engineered a game-winning drive. This could be a battle that takes all of the preseason to determine.

    Battle For RB2

    Who will be backing up starting running back Jonathan Taylor? It looks like three players will be battling for the opportunity, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins. Mack seems to have the early lead in camp, but he's coming off an Achilles injury in 2020.

    Hines didn't play in this one, but Mack and Wilkins did. Wilkins ended up having more carries and yards, but Mack had a better rushing average. I do expect Hines to play this preseason, so this battle is far from decided. Whoever wins this job will be in a great position to have some fantasy value.

    Battle For WR3

    Much like the Panthers, the Colts don't have proven depth behind starters T.Y. Hilton and Michael Pittman Jr. It looks like it will be between two players, Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell.  Pascal didn't play and Campbell played early and made good on his one reception of 37 yards. Given the run-first offense, there may not be much fantasy value to whoever wins the job.

    Another player who may not be battling for a starting job, but could be battling for a backup job is second-year wide receiver, Dezmon Patmon. He saw work with the first unit and then later came back into the game in the fourth quarter. He capitalized on his playing time, seeing the most targets (6) and had the most catches (5). He's someone to keep an eye on for dynasty owners that are in need of wide receiver depth.

    Battle For TE2

    Jack Doyle looks to be the TE1, but given his age, and injury history whoever wins the TE2 job could have TE1 value. Mo Alie-Cox and rookie Kylen Granson look to be the two players battling for that honor. Granson has had a solid camp, let's see if he's able to translate that success to the preseason games.

    Much like the Panthers' top two tight ends, Doyle and Alie-Cox for the Colts didn't play in this game. Granson was tied for the second-most targets (5). This is another position battle that may take the entire preseason to work out.

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