NFL Preseason Player Stock Watch Heading into Week 2

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IAugust 10, 2014

NFL Preseason Player Stock Watch Heading into Week 2

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    We are just 17 games into the 2014 NFL preseason. The New York Giants and Buffalo Bills have each played a pair of contests.

    So what have we learned so far? Common sense says not a lot.

    But one thing we can take a look at is a handful of players who have made a little noise to date, as well as a few who haven’t helped their cause or actually hurt their chances of being with their team this upcoming season.

    Hence, it's time for a little summertime stock up and stock down.

    Why these eight performers? Some are cracking the starting lineup for the first time. Others are replacing key free agents who have departed for other clubs. A few are rookies who have opened some eyes. And there are those veterans looking to make amends for a disappointing season or two.

    In any case, it is very early in the process when it comes to finalizing rosters. But here are some observations as all 32 teams prepare for Week 2 of the preseason.

Stock Up: RT Rick Wagner, Baltimore Ravens

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    This past season proved to be a very rough one for the Baltimore Ravens.

    One year after capturing Super Bowl XLVII, the team lost its final two games, fell to 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time under head coach John Harbaugh.

    Baltimore’s demise can be attributed to many things. One huge factor was the play of an offensive line that allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to be sacked a career-high 48 times. Add in the fact that Harbaugh’s team ranked 29th in the league in total offense while only two teams in the NFL gained fewer yards on the ground, and you get the picture.

    Now second-year pro Rick Wagner hopes to help the cause, and according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, it’s so far, so good for the fifth-round pick in 2013. The young blocker started two games as an extra tight end in 2013 and spelled right tackle Michael Oher when the starter was hurt.

    Oher is now a member of the Tennessee Titans. Wagner hopes to make the transition from rookie spot duty to full-time contributor seamlessly.

Stock Down: QB Ryan Mallett, New England Patriots

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    This offseason, there were your share of stories regarding the availability of New England Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett.

    Was the team’s third-round draft choice from 2011 on the trading block? What price was he available for? Could onetime Patriots assistant Bill O’Brien bring the former University of Arkansas product to the Houston Texans?

    On Friday night at FedExField, Mallett got the nod against the Washington Redskins. But the three-year pro never appeared to get started, as explained by Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Mallet hit on just five of his dozen throws for 55 yards and was sacked once.

    On the other hand, Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald tells us quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the team’s second-round pick back in May, made quite the impression in his pro debut.

    Despite the promising play of the rookie, this night was less about him and more about Mallett, who may be in a struggle for a roster spot in Foxborough this fall.

Stock Up: RB Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

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    In three seasons and 37 games with the New Orleans Saints, running back Mark Ingram has reached the 100-yard mark once.

    That came last season in the team’s 49-17 prime-time dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner totaled 145 yards in that contest.

    It should also be noted that Ingram ran for only 386 yards and one touchdown in 11 games in 2013. And his combined rushing totals as a pro added up to just 1,462 yards and 11 scores.

    Rightfully so, there has been plenty of Heisman Trophy-winner buzz when it comes to first-round wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the Crescent City. But Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune talks about the team’s ground game in Friday night’s win over the St. Louis Rams. Ingram carried eight times for 83 yards and a score in the victory.

    Keep in mind that despite last season’s 11-5 finish and an offense that finished fourth in the league in total yards, the Saints were a mere 25th in the NFL in rushing. Could Ingram, who ran for 97 yards and a score in last season’s playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles, finally be ready to live up to his first-round draft status of 2011?

    And can you imagine Sean Payton’s attack with a little more balance?

Stock Down: T Mike Adams, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    It wasn’t long ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers were feeling pretty good about the future of their much-maligned offensive line thanks to a pair of high draft choices in 2012.

    That April, general manager Kevin Colbert opted for Stanford University guard David DeCastro in the first round and Ohio State University tackle Mike Adams in the second round.

    After an injury-shortened rookie season, DeCastro has started to come into his own. But we are all still waiting on Adams, who has been a disappointment in two NFL seasons. Scott Brown of talked about the less-than-sensational performance of Adams in Saturday night’s preseason loss to the New York Giants.

    The second-team offensive line really struggled. Left tackle Mike Adams did not help himself, getting overwhelmed several times by speed pass-rushers, including two-time Pro Bowl selection Jason Pierre-Paul.

    The Steelers don’t often swing and miss when it comes to high draft choices, and Adams, now a member of the second team, hasn’t shown the promise many were expecting. Perhaps it’s one reason he slipped to the second round in 2012 to begin with.

    That slippage is apparently continuing.

Stock Up: SS Kurt Coleman, Minnesota Vikings

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    A second chance is sometimes all a player is looking for.

    With the many changes in the secondary of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, strong safety Kurt Coleman was left on the outside looking in in terms of a full-time job. After making a combined 27 starts in 2011 and 2012 and totaling six interceptions over that span, he played in 15 games this past season and was not in the starting lineup.

    Now the former seventh-round draft choice from Ohio State hopes to make an impact in the Twin Cities with a team that allowed the most points in the NFL in 2013. New head coach Mike Zimmer is looking to turn around the fortunes of the Minnesota Vikings, who along with giving up an NFL-high 480 points this past season also gave up the second-most total yards and passing yards in the league.

    On Friday night against the Oakland Raiders, the four-year pro got the nod at strong safety. He responded with three tackles, one pass defensed and an interception in the team’s 10-6 win.

    “I think I can add something to this team,” said Coleman to Mark Craig of the Star Tribune. “I have been able to be successful when I do play. So I think there is something to be said about what I am able to do on the field.”

    After the year the Vikings had in 2013, Zimmer and Company could use all the help they can get.

Stock Down: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals

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    The writing has seemingly been on the wall since early May, when the Cincinnati Bengals opted for a running back in the second round of the draft.

    And that’s something veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis hopes to avoid reading.

    The team’s leading rusher in 2013 with 756 yards, the former New England Patriots running back also led Cincinnati with 220 carries and seven touchdowns on the ground this past season. But he also averaged only 3.4 yards per carry and caught only four passes for 22 yards for Marvin Lewis’ AFC North champions.

    In Thursday night’s 41-39 preseason loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Green-Ellis totaled four carries for 19 yards. While he technically still appears second on the depth chart behind Giovani Bernard, the Bengals like what they have in rookie Jeremy Hill, the aforementioned second-round draft choice this spring.

    The six-year veteran posted career highs in attempts (278) and rushing yards (1,094) in his first year with Cincinnati in 2012. But the reality is that the “Law Firm” will likely be practicing elsewhere in 2014.

Stock Up: DE Michael Sam, St. Louis Rams

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    Forget the off-the-field story surrounding St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam.

    And we know that’s not an easy thing to do.

    The important question in regard to the seventh-round pick from the University of Missouri is whether he can play in this league. Nothing else really matters.

    On Friday night, in front of the home crowd in St. Louis, Sam was credited with one solo tackle and one quarterback hit in the team’s 26-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch talks about the rookie’s performance. He could indeed be a player who could add some depth to an already potent Rams pass rush that has amassed 105 sacks the last two seasons combined.

    Listed at 6’2” and 261 pounds, some felt that last season’s co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year was a better fit in a 3-4 outside linebacker role rather than at end in the 4-3.

    But so far so good for the 249th pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

    The Rams are looking for their first winning season since 2003 and first playoff appearance since 2004.

    Now that would be news.

Stock Down: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans

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    Houston Texans fans are painfully aware of the team’s quarterback issues this past season.

    The team’s three signal-callers, Matt Schaub, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates, combined for 19 touchdown passes and 25 turnovers and had five of their combined 22 interceptions returned for touchdowns.

    Schaub was dealt to the Oakland Raiders, and Yates was traded to the Atlanta Falcons. Enter well-traveled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who hoped to bring a little steadiness to the position, especially under the guidance of new head coach and quarterback specialist Bill O’Brien.

    Unfortunately, the journeyman signal-caller picked up where he also dropped off the ball last season. Last season as a fill-in with the Tennessee Titans, Fitzpatrick threw 14 touchdown passes and also committed just as many turnovers. On Saturday night in Houston’s 32-0 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, he completed just six of 14 throws for 55 yards and was picked off twice.

    Big things weren’t necessarily expected from Fitzpatrick as the Texans look to rebound from a 2-14 showing in 2013. But better things were probably expected from the veteran quarterback.