Preseason Week 1 Recap: Immediate fantasy football takeaways from Thursday's games

2RGN0F1 Houston Texans wide receiver Steven Sims runs with the ball during the first half of the team's NFL preseason football game against the New England Patriots, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • Tank Dell steals the show but don’t get too excited yet: Dell started the game and continued to play with the backups, but the Houston Texans gave veterans Robert Woods and Noah Brown the night off. Dell could still be a backup to start the season.
  • Jordan Addison made multiple highlight-worthy catches: The Minnesota Vikings rested their starters, but Addison was an impressive member of the Minnesota backups.
  • The New England Patriots still need a backup running back: New England rotated three players throughout the first half, and they combined for six rushing yards on seven carries.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

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Houston Texans @ New England Patriots

Buyer beware on Devin Singletary: He seemed destined for the third down and primary backup role to Dameon Pierce, but he might only be a handcuff.

  • Pierce was among the few veteran players who were given the night off.
  • Singletary was the starting running back in this game and played the majority of the snaps with the first team, but he was consistently leaving the field on third downs.
  • This was typically in favor of Dare Ogunbowale, but for one play it was Mike Boone.
  • If the third down role was Singletary’s, he would be the one playing the third down snaps.
  • This suggests Ogunbowale might still have the third down job instead of Singletary.
  • On the Texans' third drive, they took out some of the players who started the game but not Singletary. He played a few plays with Davis Mills before leaving the game for Boone.
  • When the backups played, Boone primarily played out of 21 personnel while Ogunbowale primarily played in 11, making it more clear Ogunbowale is currently the receiving back.
  • This game made it clear Singletary is Pierce's handcuff, but his playing time might be pretty limited as long as Pierce is healthy.

Robert Woods and Noah Brown get the night off: It was exciting to see rookie Tank Dell receive multiple targets, but veterans appear ahead of him on the depth chart.

  • Robert Woods was reported ahead of time to have the night off, but Noah Brown also didn’t play in the game.
  • Returning starter Nico Collins and third-round rookie Tank Dell started the game. 
  • Dell caught five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but all five receptions came with the backups while Davis Mills threw to him rather than C.J. Stroud.
  • John Metchie III played in 11 personnel with the starters, primarily playing in the slot. Even when the backups started to play, Metchie would only play in three-receiver sets, suggesting he will at best be a slot receiver this season.
  • Steven Sims replaced Collins on a few plays with the starters and fully replaced him once Collins left the game.
  • Sixth-round rookie Xavier Hutchinson saw his only snap with the starters in a short-yardage situation out of 22 personnel — the only snap Dell missed with the starters.
  • This suggests Brown could be ahead of Collins on the depth chart despite what their official depth chart suggests.
  • Brown could also simply not be playing with an undisclosed injury, but he wasn’t reported among either the injured players not playing or the veterans.
  • If Brown is ahead, there is certainly time for younger players like Collins or Dell to surpass him on the depth chart.

Monitor Dalton Schultz’s snaps: Schultz was the Texans' starter , but it was slightly surprising he played at all, and he took a few early snaps off.

  • The fact that he played while other projected starters didn’t suggest the Texans might think Schultz needs more snaps in the offense.
  • Houston was also down two tight ends, with backup Teagan Quitoriano remaining on the active PUP list with a quadriceps injury while Brevin Jordan missed the game due to a hamstring injury.
  • Regardless, it was also surprising to see Eric Tomlinson in for Schultz on three of the first seven plays, which were all in 21 personnel. Typically, a fantasy tight end missing snaps in 21 personnel isn’t a big deal, but we could see a lot of that personnel grouping for Houston this season. Schultz played one snap out of 21 personnel with the first team.
  • Schultz was consistently in 11 personnel and 12 personnel with the starters and left the game before the other starters did tonight.

Patriots backup running back situation is wide open: The Patriots rotated Pierre Strong Jr., Kevin Harris and J.J. Taylor with Rhamondre Stevenson taking the night off.

  • The Patriots rotated Strong and Harris by drive with Strong getting the first drive while Taylor mixed in for clear passing situations.
  • New England has looked at several veteran running backs, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the team bring someone in considering it doesn’t have a clear No. 2 at this point.

Tyquan Thornton is down the Patriots depth chart: New England rested several starters, with Thornton seeing significant playing time Thursday night.

  • The Patriots had JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne all take the night off.
  • Sixth-round rookies Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas started the game instead of Thornton.
  • Thornton played significantly with the Patriots “starters” Thursday night but only in 11 personnel.
  • Douglas only played in the first two snaps and his night was done. He’s received plenty of praise during training camp, so this suggests Douglas has a strong hold on the fourth receiving job.
  • He led the Patriots in receiving yards in the first half with 31 off two catches, but the problem was that he was playing at all while several other players, including some new to the team, got the night off.
  • He stopped playing in the middle of the second quarter, which was before any of the other skill players were done but after some offensive linemen took their last snaps.
  • There have been reports throughout training camp that Thornton’s had a poor camp, and this further confirms that.
  • Thornton probably shouldn’t be drafted at this point while he’s fourth at best on the depth chart.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Patriots wide receiver/running back Ty Montgomery has been missing practice with a leg injury and was out for this game.
  • Patriots tight end Mike Gesicki was among the veterans who had the night off for New England, which is a positive sign considering his training camp reports haven’t been the best.
  • The Texans showed off their new offensive philosophy early, with fullback Andrew Beck playing on each of the first four offensive plays of the game.
  • Undrafted Patriots rookie Malik Cunningham received significant time in the middle of the game as a wide receiver while ending the game as the team's quarterback.

Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks

Jordan Addison makes his debut with the Vikings: Addison started the game and played the vast majority of snaps with the “starters”.

  • Both Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn were among the veterans who had the night off while Jalen Nailor missed the game, as he’s been dealing with a leg injury. 
  • He’s among the top four on the depth chart, but this game gave no indication of where he is among those four.
  • He made a highlight-worthy catch on the sideline, but it was ruled incomplete and the play wasn’t reviewed. He made his first official catch to start the second quarter, which went for 22 yards.
  • His night was over after the Vikings’ first three drives, which was earlier than other players who started the game for Minnesota.
  • He consistently lined up as an outside receiver with Brandon Powell taking the snaps in the slot.
  • Addison is expected to essentially take Adam Thielen‘s role, and Thielen played 28.6% of his snaps in the slot.
  • The Vikings likely want Addison to focus on the outside for now, so he will likely eventually see some time in the slot, but for now, this could mean more slot snaps for Jefferson and Osborn.
  • Ultimately, the big catches were a good thing, but ideally, he gets some experience in the slot before the preseason is over.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba makes his debut with the Seahawks: Smith-Njigba started the game but was limited to snaps in 11 personnel.

  • Smith-Njigba was Dre Lock’s favorite target, catching three passes for 25 yards.
  • The Seahawks similarly rested most of their starters, including D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
  • Cody Thompson was in street clothes for the game, which was a surprise, and Dee Eskridge was injured on the opening kickoff.
  • Seattle came into the game planning to play Smith-Njigba in 11 personnel, as players like undrafted rookie Jake Bobo played in 12 personnel instead of Smith-Njigba.
  • The Seahawks ran three plays from 12 personnel on their second drive, and Smith-Njigba was off the field for all of them.
  • His night was done after the Seahawks' third drive.
  • This likely means Metcalf and Lockett’s playing time isn’t in danger, at least early in the season.
  • There is certainly a chance that Seattle expands Smith-Njigba’s role as the season progresses, but if the Seahawks wanted him to play in 12 personnel Week 1, this would have been a perfect time to get some practice.

Zach Charbonnet makes his debut for the Seahawks: The second-round rookie didn’t start the game but saw playing time early in the game.

  • Ken Walker III and Kenny McIntosh missed the game due to injuries.
  • DeeJay Dallas started the game. Charbonnet had missed some time during training camp due to injury, so we shouldn’t worry about Dallas starting above Charbonnet at this point.
  • Dallas took each of the first eight offensive snaps before his night was done.
  • Seattle had the same running back take several snaps in a row rather than rotating by situation. The Seahawks typically have a specific third-down back in the regular season, but this allowed their backs to get exposed to more situations.
  • Ideally, Charbonnet can get the start by the end of training camp assuming the other running backs remain injured. 

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Ty Chandler started the game at running back for the Vikings. Alexander Mattison was a veteran resting while Kene Nwangwu missed the game due to an injury. Nwangwu was listed ahead of Chandler on the “official” depth chart, but Chandler may have played well enough to earn the backup job.
  • Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson was another veteran resting. It was surprising to see Johnny Mundt play ahead of Josh Oliver in 21 personnel after Oliver gained a three-year, $21 million contract. Mundt has more experience in the offense, which may have contributed to their playing time.
  • Noah Fant and Will Dissly were the Seahawks tight ends who had the night off. It was slightly surprising Colby Parkinson didn’t also have the night off after playing 441 offensive snaps last season. This is a sign he is still clearly third on the depth chart.

Table Notes
  • Snaps include plays called back due to penalties, including offensive holding or defensive pass interference. The other three stats have these plays removed.
  • Targets may differ from official NFL sources. The most likely discrepancy would be from a clear thrown-away pass, where the NFL may give the target to the nearest receiver, while this data will not.
  • Carries are only on designed plays. Quarterback scrambles won’t count for the total number of carries in the game.
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