The New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills 17 to 13 on Sunday during the Hall of Fame Game. Preseason games mean very little from a football fan’s perspective, as the outcomes rarely gauge a team’s regular season success accurately. In fact, the 2008 Detroit Lions swept the preseason only to become the first team in NFL history to lose all 16 games.
However, the preseason can give some indications to fantasy football owners as to which players may break out and which players may bust. After re-watching the game tape, here are three big reactions I had that might impact fantasy player values for your draft.
Giants’ Offensive Line Woes Will Impact Victor Cruz
Let’s talk about the Giants first. The Giants made a number of offseason moves to improve the offensive line, including signing a top left guard in Geoff Schwartz. However, the first-team offensive line looked awful against the first-team Bills defense, even allowing DT Kyle Williams to strip Eli Manning in the first quarter.
If the Giants’ offensive line can’t get it together, it’s doubtful that Manning can connect with WR Victor Cruz on those deep routes. Cruz is not a lock to be a top-20 WR as so many others think. He finished as the No. 28 WR in 2013, and a bounce back will be dependent upon how well the Giants’ line pass protects for Manning.
The good news is that this was the offensive line’s first outing, so there’s still time for them to become a more cohesive unit. Also, the Bills’ defensive line was one of the best in the league last season, making this a tough first test for the Giants. Keep tabs on the line as the preseason progresses.
Rashad Jennings & Andre Williams Watch Continues
Let’s move on to the Giants’ running game. RB Rashad Jennings looked pretty good, and the Giants looked better at run blocking than they did at pass protecting. Jennings gained 23 yards on seven carries, but more importantly, he hauled in three catches for 20 yards.
The Giants offense under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo wants to be more up-tempo and did a good job of getting the ball to Jennings in space. McAdoo utilized screens to the RB while with the Green Bay Packers, and I think that Jennings is going to be a solid RB2, particularly in PPR formats, if he stays involved in the passing game.
The only caveat is rookie RB Andre Williams. Williams looked great, granted he was playing against the second-team Bills defense. It remains to be seen whether Williams will be utilized in goal-line situations, but Manning ran some no-huddle, so I’m not too worried about Jennings just yet. The RB situation in New York is another thing to watch as we near the start of the 2014 season.
Sammy Watkins & Robert Woods’ Value Limited By E.J. Manuel
Finally, both Bills WRs, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, looked pretty good on Sunday. Watkins burned CB Prince Amukamara on a deep route early in the first quarter, and Woods hauled in four receptions for 49 yards and a TD. The only problem was that Woods’ catches came from Jeff Tuel, and starting QB E.J. Manuel looked terrible.
Manuel completed only two of seven pass attempts for 19 yards, but 11 of those yards came from a screen pass to WR Mike Williams. Two of his passes were batted down at the line, and he narrowly avoided an interception on a third poorly thrown pass attempt. He stared down receivers, and Manuel was horribly inaccurate on his longer throws.
I don’t care how talented Watkins may be, or how good Woods looked in the game, I’m very hesitant to draft any Bills WR right now because of the poor QB play. The Bills have already preached reliance on the run, and I don’t see why they would deviate from that plan with such a talented backfield to complement their mediocre QB.
Yes, this was one preseason game, so let’s not freak out yet. But the Giants clearly have work to do on the offensive line, and I’m taking a wait-and-see approach on Cruz for the time being. I’m also pretty high on Jennings and not impressed at all with the Bills WRs until Manuel gives me something more. The preseason is worthless, but not to fantasy owners. Keep watching.