On the eve of our second glorious NFL Sunday, let's give a quick look at three players who have a chance to mark their territory and carve out a permanent role for the rest of 2008:
Brian Griese, QB, Tampa Bay: Jon Gruden is a noted quarterback collector, and when you constantly have a roster full of options, it's very tempting to go to the bullpen at the first sign of distress. That appears to be what Gruden is doing now, as the Bucs quickly named Griese the starter over Jeff Garcia (ankle) for Week 2. The immediacy of the decision is a little curious - generally teams will use an entire week to get their No. 1 QB ready to go if an injury doesn't seem too daunting. And then there's this cryptic Gruden sound byte from the St. Petersburg Times:
"I just want (Garcia) to get healthy physically and emotionally."
Ah, back to the couch for quarterback analysis. What could be bothering Garcia emotionally? His contract, which didn't get redone after last year's Pro Bowl season? The Brett Favre overtures the Bucs made? The blame from the Week 1 loss at New Orleans? Gruden's wandering eye? Rumors are flying from Cigar City that coach and quarterback aren't getting along, and a trade or a cut is possible before the month gets out. Stay tuned.
Griese doesn't have a good rep in the fantasy community, but I'm not dismissing him out of hand. He's five years younger than Garcia and can attack more of the field with his arm, and he had one magical run with Gruden back in 2004 (20 TDs, 97.5 rating over 11 games). Griese also has a nice rapport with Joey Galloway - five of the seven scoring tosses he threw in the abbreviated 2005 season went to No. 84 - and he looked pretty good in the preseason. If Griese can get the job done at home against Chicago, don't be surprised if this turns into a temp-to-perm position.
Steve Slaton, RB, Houston: His debut at Pittsburgh was pedestrian to say the least (16 touches, 49 yards, no double-digit gains), but he'll get another shot to carry the load this week; Ahman Green's ankle is in a walking boot and if he's got a high-ankle sprain he'll be out for multiple weeks. Is this the next rookie-makes-good story at running back?
Slaton doesn't get a break with the schedule (Baltimore, Tennessee and Jacksonville lie in waiting before a break hits), but at least he'll be working at home this week. I expect Slaton to touch the ball 20 times or more and be over 100 total yards Sunday, though Chris Taylor will also see work and could steal the goal-line carries. If someone in your league bailed on Slaton prematurely, get him stashed on your roster immediately.
Matt Cassel, QB, Patriots: The big unknown of Week 2, and basically the season. If Cassel can keep a steady hand against the Jets, it might solidify his hold on the job for the season. If he wets the bed, look for a parade of quarterback auditions to follow shortly. The star receivers in New England made Cassel a must-add this week on spec alone, but that doesn't mean you have to start him out of the box. He'll stay in my "prove it" file for another week.
Who's queued up on your scouting clipboard this week? Let's discuss.
Programming Note: Technical difficulties are detaining Andy Behrens today; he will return to the Arcade with a pocketful of quarters Friday.