To get back in the habit of chronicling an NFL regular season that launches in just 30 days, here are some revelations from Saints vs. Cardinals on Sunday night, otherwise known as the Hall of Fame Game:
1. The Saints' opening touchdown drive was a thing of beauty...even if it was deflating to watch
In that first possession, running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles accounted for 33 and 19 total yards, respectively; and yet, they were nowhere to be found when Mark Ingram hit paydirt with a one-yard touchdown (his second try from short range).
That, in a nutshell, explains why it's OK to fully respect—and loathe—this trio of backs at the same time.
Yes, Sproles tallied 1,300-plus yards last year, but I don't like his chances for replicating the 600 rushing yards with a healthy Thomas and Ingram playing 16 games. I won't be holding my breath for a repeat of nine touchdowns, either.
Ingram is a burgeoning short-yardage talent and annual threat for double-digit touchdowns when healthy. But what's the seasonal over/under for first-down touches between the 20s? Something like 32 or 33?
With Sproles and/or Thomas in the mix, this could hinder Ingram's weekly fantasy prospects.
And Thomas, bless his heart, is one of the NFL's premier No. 3 tailbacks; but he'll need a little, ahem, "luck" from the injury bug to siphon steady touches from Ingram and Sproles. In other words, for all of his many talents, Thomas is staring at a handful of Sundays that entail 40 yards or less.
Put it all together, and very few fantasy owners will have adequate space to house the trio of Saints rushers, no matter how good they may look in a glorified scrimmage against a sturdy defense.
2. Please don't make definitive fantasy judgments about Drew Brees in August
Last time I checked, Brees was the only quarterback in NFL history with two separate campaigns of 5,000 yards passing. He's also on the very-short list of NFL legends to register 33 or more passing touchdowns in four consecutive seasons.
And while it's true his greatest success occurred with Sean Payton calling plays in New Orleans, the foundation of a dynamic offensive attack remains in the Crescent City with Brees, Sproles, Ingram, Thomas, Marques Colston, tight end Jimmy Graham and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.
So please, over the next four weeks, don't deviate from ranking Brees as the No. 2 or 3 fantasy quarterback (depending on your love of Tom Brady)...and please don't try to find some hidden meaning from NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock's seemingly innocuous comment during Sunday's broadcast: Something to the effect of, Brees may be a better quarterback this year, even if the stats don't reflect that.
A "bad" season for Brees still calls for 4,600 yards passing and 37 touchdowns.
3. Kevin Kolb mercifully gets an 'incomplete' grade for his injury-shortened cameo
Don't mistake the above line as a free pass for Kolb and his indefensibly bad interception (to Saints defender Malcolm Jenkins) on his first throw of the night. If I hadn't seen the replay a dozen times, I would've sworn that Kolb was wearing a blindfold on the play.
That aside, his other three passes (and general command of the Arizona defense) were exactly what you'd expect from a guy with just a few training-camp practices under his belt. A little slow and sloppy...but passable in the end. In fact, Kolb's lone completion of the night (when he suffered the rib injury) was actually a keen, off-balance strike to fullback Anthony Sherman.
It's worth noting: None of Arizona's Big Four playmakers (Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams) logged one carry, touch or target while Kolb was in the game. Beanie and Williams were decked out in street clothes, but Fitzgerald and Floyd never got a look from the Cardinals' starting quarterback.
As a result, there's simply not enough evidence to endorse or condemn Kolb in the fantasy realm at this time.
4. I'll leave the needless over-hyping of Michael Floyd to others this month
The following stanza has little to do with Floyd's one-catch, 15-yard performance on Sunday night and everything to do with recent history and the bonus babies who came before him.
Of the top 13 receivers taken in Round 1 of the NFL draft over the last five years (we'll conveniently ignore the near-invisible contributions of Jon Baldwin, Robert Meachem, Anthony Gonzalez and Craig Davis), the wideouts collectively averaged 46 catches, 681 receiving yards and 4.23 touchdowns in their inaugural NFL campaigns. And those numbers were enhanced by the stellar work of A.J. Green (1,057 yards, seven TDs) and Julio Jones (989 yards, eight TDs) last season.
So, instead of reaching for Floyd sometime in Round 12 because he played on national TV every week in college, why not spend a late-round pick on potential veteran gems like Donald Jones (Bills), Vincent Brown (Chargers), Danario Alexander (Rams), Damian Williams (Titans) or maybe even Floyd's former Irish teammate Golden Tate (Seahawks)?
5. Add Travaris Cadet to the 'watch list' of super-sleepers for 16-team drafts
Cadet was certainly impressive in his NFL debut, catching eight balls (nine targets) for 80 yards and one touchdown. But now comes the tricky part—succeeding in a game where the opposing defense actually knows your name and jersey number.
Was Cadet the prime beneficiary of an offense that flourished against a bend-but-don't-break defense? Does he have any rushing/receiving/blocking skills that are superior to Ingram, Sproles, Pierre Thomas or Chris Ivory? And if so, could he ever blossom into the next undrafted free agent superstar, in the mold of Arian Foster?
OK, I'm obviously getting ahead of myself here. But then again, I did wonder the same thing after no-name rookie Victor Cruz torched the Jets for three seemingly harmless touchdowns in Week 1 of the 2010 preseason.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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