Week 3 of the Preseason is usually around the time when teams start to put in their starters for longer amounts of time. Of course, there is always risk involved with playing your starters in the preseason, as the Bengals and Ravens found out the hard way this week when the former lost 3 players to injury (although AJ Green is fine and Adam Jones actually was hurt during warmups) and the Ravens lost new signing and starting tight end Benjamin Watson for the season. I’m not here to talk about injuries and the depressing news, so let’s get right into the players of the week.
Quarterback: Jameis Winston – Buccaneers – (16/25 259 yards 2 TD’s)
This could definitely be attributed greatly to his offensive line, who kept Jameis upright all game long, but Winston performed very well against the Browns. Aside the whopping stats, as 259 yards is pretty good for a preseason game, Winston dealt with pressure very well. If you watch his throws back, he was able to fire balls accurately and scramble out when the pocket was collapsing, that is the sign of a maturing quarterback.
Running Back 1: Ezekiel Elliott – Cowboys – (7 rushes for 48 yards)
I know, I know. “But Kip, Ezekiel Elliott is so overrated”. Sure, Elliott might be a little overrated, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t be a very special player for years to come. He showed that against the Seahawks defense, and I don’t mean their second team. If you watched his runs, you would see that he went at Kam Chancellor, probably the league’s hardest hitting safety, multiple times, and even Kam seemed to have met a viable competitor. Anyone who can hang with Chancellor automatically gets the nod for my team of the week.
Running Back 2: George Atkinson III – Raiders – (7 rushes 35 yards and 3 rec 40 yards)
Atkinson made my team in Week 1, and he’s back for more now. Atkinson showed the versatility needed to be a running back in today’s NFL by racking up 40 yards through the air. I was also considering another Raiders running back here, DeAndre Washington, but I thought that Atkinson was more versatile against the Titans. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either one of those backs to breakout this season.
Wide Receiver 1: Mike Evans – Buccaneers – (5 rec 115 yards 1 TD)
Compared to my article on the All-Week 1 Preseason team, Week 3 features a lot more star players, like Mike Evans. Evans used all 6’5” of him as he high-pointed the ball over Jamar Taylor. He showed off his speed when he burned Justin Gilbert on a fly route. With all of the great receivers in today’s game, Evans was frequently forgotten, as he had a great year, but not a Top-10 quality year. He sure looks poised to bring himself into that conversation though.
Wide Receiver 2: Antonio Brown – Steelers – (4 rec 87 yards 1 TD)
When talking about the best receiver in the NFL, one name comes – “Antonio Brown” – up before you can even finish your sentence. See what I did there! Brown did his thing against the Saints, highlighting his day with a 57-yard touchdown. This man is not human, and if you didn’t realize that already, then I’m sure the 2016 season will change your mind.
Tight End: Kyle Rudolph – Vikings – (3 rec 56 yards 1 TD)
Tight Ends often don’t put up huge number in the preseason, but Kyle Rudolph managed to surpass the 50 yard mark. Rudolph has been the definition of mediocre throughout his entire career, and that doesn’t look to change this season. Even though he coughed up the ball once, his overall game was still good enough cement him as the top tight end in Week 3.
Defensive Lineman 1: Jacquies Smith – Buccaneers – (4 tackles, 2 sacks)
When looking at the stats sheet from last year, you would think that Jacquies Smith had a solid season. Seven sacks is a little above average for his position, but when you realize that he only got 15 tackles and four of his sacks came in the first two games, then the picture starts to become more clear. Smith is prone to a breakout game every once in a while, as he racked up three sacks New Orleans in Week 2 of last season, and against the Browns, he racked up two.
Defensive Lineman 2: Damon Harrison – Giants – (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Damon Harrison is still in the Big Apple, he just switched locker rooms. Playing for a Giants team that spent huge on defense in Free Agency, Harrison is expected to collapse the pocket on a regular basis, but he is used to playing in a 3-4 scheme, and switching to the Giants 4-3 defense was a problem that I thought that he couldn’t overcome. Playing NT in a 3-4 grants you no glamorous stats, while a DT in a 4-3 scheme can become a superstar. Harrison racked up some pretty glamorous stats in Week 3, and it didn’t go unnoticed.
Defensive Lineman 3: Justin Trattou – Vikings – (5 tackles 2 sacks 1 FF)
Trattou is looking to earn a spot on one of the best defensive lines in the league, and by posting the kind of numbers that he did against the Chargers, I wouldn’t be surprised if he produces decent backup numbers for the Vikings this year. Trattou has played five years in the league and has never recorded a sack in the regular season. Maybe this year is his time.
Linebacker 1: Dekoda Watson – Broncos – (4 tackles 2.5 sacks 2 TFL)
The Broncos can find good pass-rushers anywhere, and their latest could be 7th year journeyman Dekoda Watson. Watson will have a hard time finding any playing time with this front-seven, but if there’s any way to make a push at it, I’d start with racking up 2.5 sacks.
Linebacker 2: Brennan Scarlett – Texans – (6 tackles 2 sacks 1 FF)
The rookie out of Stanford showed off his pass-rushing ability by posting 2 sacks against the Arizona Cardinals offensive line. Most have probably never even heard of Scarlett, but after a good Week 3, that could change. I’m not saying he is going for double-digit sacks, or even see playing time for the Texans, but if he has a good Week 4 next week, then I’d start to consider him as a viable backup.
Linebacker 3: Vince Williams – Steelers – (8 tackles 1 FF)
It’s been a while since a big-name player has appeared on this list, but that’s preseason folks! Players that you’ve never heard of trying to earn roster spots. Now, Williams isn’t on the bubble with the Steelers, after posting over 40 tackles in his only three seasons in the NFL, but just like any other player, he is pushing for some more playing time, and he was a tackle magnet against the Saints.
Cornerback 1: Anthony Brown – Dallas – (8 tackles 1 PD)
Picked in the sixth round by Dallas, Anthony Brown was nothing more than a backup who may not even make the final roster. To this day, he still is. Brown is still on the cusp, but showing his prowess against the run with 8 tackles certainly doesn’t hurt his case.
Cornerback 2: Kendall Fuller – Redskins – (3 tackles 1 INT 2 PDs)
Kendall Fuller would have been a huge name in the NFL Draft last year, and he likely would’ve gone within the top 15 picks, but he played through knee issues a solid chunk of the season, and his play dropped off as a result. After sitting out for the rest of the season, Fuller’s name started to be forgotten. With 3 PD’s in Week 2 and 2 PD’s and an INT against the Bills, Fuller is putting his name back on the map as one of the best corners in the 2016 Draft Class.
Safety 1: Shamiel Gary – Dolphins – (7 tackles 1 FF)
Shamiel Gary is playing in his second season out of Oklahoma State, and while he may not be vying for a starting position, he showed his run-defense prowess against the Falcons.
Safety 2: Dexter McCoil – Chargers – (11 tackles 1 FF)
At 6’4” and 220 lbs, McCoil is the definition of a tweener. You could put him at linebacker, but he’d be too small. At safety, he would be too big. McCoil didn‘t seem to care where he was put, as he racked up the most tackles of anyone in the Preseason thus far.