QB Battle Continues in New England

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We are inching our way closer to the regular season with the Patriots visiting the Eagles on Thursday night to kick off Preseason Week 2. The overall score was a blowout in favor of New England 35-0, but this is preseason and the final score has no bearing on the regular season. Instead, these few weeks are an excellent way for teams to experiment, work out kinks, and decide which select few are going to make the squad to start the season.

For fantasy purposes, preseason games should be a way for us to have a touch more clarity when it comes to our draft and player selections. After missing out on all of that last season, it’s refreshing, in an odd way, to get back to some semblance of being “normal”, at least when it comes to football.

There are a lot of questions surrounding these two teams for the 2021 season. For the Patriots, it’s the pervasive argument of who will be the quarterback for this season between Cam Newton and rookie Mac Jones. For the Eagles, well, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed like an improved offensive line, wide receiving corps, and their starting quarterback (wink, wink) between Joe Flacco and Jalen Hurts.

So, did the start of Preseason Week 2 help us answer any of those questions?

Mac Jones Sees the Time and Shines

Newton started the game for the first quarter plus some spare change in the second. He had some great passes, thanks in part to a ton of time because of his offensive line. He completed eight of his nine attempts for over 100 yards and a touchdown and looked like the veteran QB we have come to expect.

Jones took over with 11 minutes left in the second quarter and hit the ground running. He completed 13 of 19 attempts for 146 yards. Stats aside, Jones looked poised and collected in the pocket while delivering accurate passes under pressure. He stayed in the game to continue to showcase what he can do through the third quarter.

Of course, this is not an indictment against Newton, and nor does this mean that Jones is going to run away with the starting job. What it may indicate is that the question surrounding the start at quarterback for New England remains nebulous. With only one more week left of the preseason, it will be interesting to see what the Patriots decide to do.

I also want to mention that we have to take this game against the Eagles and the performances of both QBs with a grain of salt. While the Patriots rolled out their starters, the Eagles did not. How much this says about New England’s offensive line and their ability to create time for their QBs, the pressure against the said offensive line, or the secondary for the Eagles is still just as muddy.

Hurts Sidelined Due to Illness

Hurts' absence was labeled as an "illness", which we later learned was due to abdominal pain. According to head coach Nick Sirianni, Hurts wanted to play, but the coaching staff disagreed. Because Hurts was being evaluated and out of the game entirely, Sirianni felt it best to rest the first-string.

The fact he was not on the field helped absolutely no one. Hurts has a lot of fantasy hype surrounding him and his draft capital and we have zero information on how to treat him moving forward with only one week left. In terms of clarity, as mentioned previously, it didn’t help for the Eagles on Thursday night. Hurts has such a small sample size in the regular season that fantasy managers have been itching to see him in some kind of “live” action.

Instead, this game looked more like a showcase for the young Eagles’ coaching staff as well as which quarterback will be the second-stringer between Joe Flacco and Nick Mullens. The overall play for Philadelphia (with mostly backup players) was sloppy and looked like a dance crew who just met and are learning how to do the two-step.

When we needed clarity from both the Patriots and the Eagles, we got very little.

I will throw a caveat in this piece by saying that rookie WR DeVonta Smith did play and exhibited why he was the Heisman Trophy winner last year. He did an excellent job creating separation on his routes and even hauled in some underthrown passes for a spark of life in the offense. However, we can only take that so far when it was Flacco under center and not Hurts.

As for other position groups, well, that still remains to be seen.

Either way, Thursday night’s game is not the only one (thank goodness) we have to look forward to this week. Keep your eyes on players that you have ear-marked for your fantasy team for the remainder of Week 2. There is little guarantee that the actual starters will be on the field for the final preseason game so this weekend may be your last chance to see what these players can do before the regular season.

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Injury Updates/Quick Hits

Panthers WR D.J. Moore was sidelined from Thursday’s practice with a stiff back. WR Robby Anderson is dealing with a hamstring injury. QB Sam Darnold is expected to play, but only a few series per HC Matt Rhule. … Ravens TE Mark Andrews suffered dehydration that looked severe but was treated on-site with an IV. … Titans WR A.J. Brown did not practice with an “Undisclosed” designation. … Packers QB Jordan Love will be out this weekend due to a shoulder injury. … Buffalo RB Zach Moss is expected to play on Saturday. … Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky gets the nod for the Bills against his former team in the Bears. … Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown was kicked out of joint practice after an altercation with Titans DB Chris Jackson.