Miami Dolphins: Mike Wallace or Brian Hartline?
Lost in all this talk about Mike Wallace assuming the DeSean Jackson role in the new offense, is the fact the his chemistry with Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been there. This isn’t the rival New England Patriots, in the sense that you would expect them to turn things around when the regular season starts. The strategy is to play more uptempo, perhaps to help a mediocre-at-best, offensive line. With that said, as usual, Brian Hartline flies under-the-radar, coming off a 1,000-yard season. Hartline caught three more passes, 86 more yards, and one less touchdown than Wallace in 2013. The upside is appealing if Tannehill and Wallace can strike the connection downfield.Something to consider here, is that Wallace was reportedly dangled on the trading block last season and early in the offseason. Hartline is in line to get the Riley Cooper role and targets, whom started in the absence of Jeremy Maclin and played well enough for a long-term extension. So far the quarterback looks comfortable in the offense aside from the deep attempts to Wallace, and it helps that the ground game got on track in the third preseason game with the debut of Knowshon Moreno.
Miami Dolphins: Lamar Miller or Knowshon Moreno?
On that note, here is another cloudy picture with fantasy football impact. All summer has belonged to Lamar Miller, he’s been productive enough but more importantly, the healthier running back between the two. Don’t be so quick to forget about Knowshon Moreno’s career year, granted it was in a Peyton Manning offense that posted nearly 40 points per game.
Moreno in 2013: 242 carries, 1,039 yards, 4.3 average, 60 receptions, 548 yards, 9.1 average, and 13 total touchdowns.
Those numbers rank 12th in rushing yards, tied Adrian Peterson for 4th with 10 rushing touchdowns, and 5th in receiving yards of all backs. Those are many reasons why it doesn’t necessarily matter where you start, but where you finish. Moreno banged up his knee to end his tenure with the Denver Broncos, so it’s natural for a guy to come into camp overweight and sluggish, as he did. Moreno played at “The U” (Miami), so this is a homecoming for a player coming off his best season. His role in week one, he is expected to play on third downs and passing downs, as he is an excellent pass blocker. Miller on the other hand, he has been the starter but hasn’t sealed the deal, much like last year when he battled Daniel Thomas for the gig. In the third preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, Miller rushed seven times for 34 yards, and Moreno rushed 10 times for 64 yards.
New York Jets: Chris Johnson or Chris Ivory
Chris Johnson won’t be running for 2K again, as most guys don’t, but that doesn’t mean the back is close to hanging up the pads and cleats. He is everything Coach Rex Ryan wants in a player. The offense may be limited by young quarterback, Geno Smith, as he only has one target worthy to mention and that’s Eric Decker. Even then, most aren’t sold on Decker as a player. I’m not one of them, but the point is that the Jets are going to pound the rock and defenses know it. That is why Coach Ryan continues to say that both Chris’ will get playing time. Chris Ivory finally got an opportunity to start in his first season with the Jets.
Chris Ivory 2013: 182 carries, 833 yards, 4.6 average, and 3 touchdowns.
Chris Ivory Preseason: 13 carries, 67 yards, 5.1 average, without a touchdown.
Chris Johnson 2013: 270 carries, 1,077 yards, 3.9 average, 42 receptions, 345 yards, 8.2 average, and 10 total touchdowns.
Chris Johnson Preseason: 23 carries, 107 yards, 4.7 average, 6 receptions, 52 yards, 8.7 average, and 1 touchdown.
As you can see, Ivory is strictly a running back, he’s not a threat in the passing game whatsoever. He is expected to get short-yardage carries, even goal-line carries, and to spell Johnson. Johnson has been a workhorse for years and he’s about to turn 29 years of age. The Jets might not make the playoffs but they do have a favorable schedule, so I wouldn’t write off C.J. just yet. If one of these backs were to get banged up, I would definitely assume the load would belong to the other, with Bilal Powell sparingly playing on passing downs.
St. Louis Rams: Zac Stacy or Benny Cunningham?
Coach Jeff Fisher tried to hush beat reporters from overreacting to Benny Cunningham starting the team’s third preseason game, which is the dress rehearsal for week one. Both Cunningham and Zac Stacy played well as rookies last season, and both are expected to handle the load in another Sam Bradford-less season in the brutal NFC West. Stacy became the feature back after beginning the year behind Darryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead. In 14 games Stacy ran for 973 hard-earned yards, considering the Rams 2013 offense. They lost Bradford, the O-line got banged up, and they really didn’t have any playmakers to catch the ball either. Cunningham spelled him, and unlike Stacy’s 3.9 yards per carry, he brought excitement to a predictable offense for 5.6 yards per carry. Benny did start the dress rehearsal against the Cleveland Browns, as did veteran second-string OG Davin Joseph, rushing five times for 32 yards and catching a 6-yard pass. Compare that to Stacy’s five carries for 11 yards. Here are their preseason numbers:
Stacy: 15 carries, 39 yards, 2.6 average
Cunningham: 15 carries, 80 yards, 5.3 average
With Coach Fisher, he has never been shy to rotate backs if they weren’t getting the job done. Looking at history with the Tennessee Titans, their running back tandem featured the quicker Reggie Bush while grinding out short-yardage situations with LenDale White. After those days it was Chris Johnson, the man that eclipsed 2K yards on 358 carries in 2009. He also caught 50 passes for 503 yards, racking up 16 total touchdowns in that historic season. Back to the STL, Stacy has been regarded as an average talent. Cunningham is making waves among the beat reports that attended Rams practices, and they’re saying if he hasn’t officially surpassed Stacy on the depth chart, at the very least he’s earned a timeshare. Tre Mason was just drafted in the third round too, so Stacy’s leash should be short.