Well I suppose summer vacation is over. One intrepid tweeter told me the other day, “enough with the summer fluff pieces on Stephen Gostkowski and time to get into some really fantasy seriousness.” And he is right. I’m kind of ready to get to fantasy football too. My summer has been a haze of watching reruns of “How I Met Your Mother,” “Tangled” (which is the baby’s favorite), and the wheel of “Bachelor” shows.
That’s right. I take no great pride in watching “The Bachelorette” but I blame Petros Papadakis. (One half of the famed “Petros and Money” radio show out here in Southern California. And if you are unfamiliar, yes, that’s Money as in Matt “Money” Smith of “NFL Fantasy Live” fame. Though to people out here, PMS is like the biggest deal ever, and oh yeah, he does that fantasy show.)
So, one morning Aaron Rodgers highlights were on “Good Morning Football” and one of the trainers at my gym took notice.
1) 49ers quarterback: Blaine Gabbert vs. Colin Kaepernick
It was not a great sign for Gabbert that he hasn’t locked up the job despite Kaepernick missing all of OTAs and San Francisco’s first two preseason games. Gabbert’s preseason efforts could be described somewhere between nondescript and discouraging, depending on whether or not your glasses are tinted metallic gold. Still, Kaepernick had too much ground to make up before the third week of the preseason and his relatively brief appearance didn’t help.
2) Rams quarterback: Jared Goff vs. Case Keenum vs. Sean Mannion vs. Jared Goff
Goff was listed twice in this space back in July because he was battling expectations. He’s losing. While the No. 1 overall pick has shown flashes of talent, he hasn’t been proficient enough at the finer points of his position. He’s struggled with fumbles, play calls and lining his team up in time. He also had to leave two of his three outings early after taking big hits. Keenum, meanwhile, has exceeded expectations with a clean month. It would be a big surprise at this point if Keenum isn’t starting in Week 1.
3) 49ers No. 2 receiver: Lots of players you don’t know
Coach Chip Kelly is being asked to perform miracles with this offense, although slot receiver Bruce Ellington has plenty of potential. Quinton Patton has held off a rag-tag field to start on the outside, although Ellington could wind up earning more snaps if he recovers from a hamstring injury suffered in the third preseason game. Offseason fascination DeAndre Smelter could join CFL import Eric Rogers on injured reserve.
4) Panthers cornerbacks: Life after Josh Norman?
This was a potential battle in more innocent times. A groin injury kept Cruz off the field for the first two preseason games. After an uninspiring showing in practices before that, Cruz needed to show something down the stretch of the preseason just to make the team. He took a big step forward by playing in the third preseason game without incident, although he only had one catch for four yards. New York’s absolute lack of depth at the position should help his chances.
5) Seahawks running back: Thomas Rawls vs. the field
Christine Michael’s Awakening has been one of the stories of training camp. Michael’s emergence allows coach Pete Carroll to bring Rawls back into the lineup slowly. It looks like Rawls will not take any preseason snaps, but he will be ready for Week 1. That’s good because Seattle’s rookie trio (C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks) have mostly failed to make an impact in August for various reasons.
6) The entire Seahawks offensive line
The Seahawks re-shuffled their entire line before camp, then kept moving pieces around in August. Rookie first-rounder Germain Ifedi and left guard Mark Glowinski are starters, while Justin Britt looks good at center. An experiment to move Garry Gilliam to left tackle was short-lived, so he’s back on the right side with Bradley Sowell protecting Russell Wilson’s blind side. This group looks better than a year ago, but we’d still expect Wilson to be scrambling too much to escape pressure off the edge.
7) Cowboys defensive line: Who fills in for suspended players?
The Cowboys are no closer to knowing who will start in place of suspended defensive ends Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. Benson Mayowa, signed from Oakland, has a chance to start once he fully recovers from knee surgery. Shaneil Jenkins came out of nowhere to make noise in the preseason, but then he was also hurt. No one has particularly stepped up out of Ryan Russell, Jack Crawford and David Irving.
8-9) Cowboys backup quarterback and running back
Oh, late July. Back when we were dumb enough to criticize the Cowboys for not building up their quarterback depth. The only remaining question with rookie Dak Prescott is whether his NFL MVP award this season will be unanimous or not. Unfortunately, now the Cowboys need to find a backup for Prescott.