With no preseason games to scout and teams getting ready for the season behind drawn curtains without press coverage, week one is going to be an adventure. It would be great if we could give you the kind of insight everyone is used to leading up to week one, but the truth is, we are largely in the dark with everyone else. Heck, many teams had not even updated the depth charts on their websites as of Tuesday morning September eighth.
Week two is going to be hectic, with a ton of surprise players staring at us from the waiver wire and a lot of disappointment from guys we had high expectations for. Right now, however, all we can do in most instances is to identify the important situations to key on in round one of the 2020 season.
The main question with Arizona is Isaiah Simmons and how they will use him. Most of us anticipate he will play every down but where he lines up not only remains a mystery but could change on a play to play basis. That leads us to question number two, how does DeVondre Campbell fit and will he have a full-time role?
Less important things we will be watching when the Cardinals take the field: can Jordan Phillips be an IDP factor as a 3-4 defensive end after his big season as a 4-3 tackle in 2019 and who will start at safety next to Budda Baker.
There are a few interesting storylines in Atlanta to keep an eye on. Will Deion Jones rebound? Can Keanu Neal make it through an NFL game without a major injury? Will rookie tackle Marlon Davidson make an immediate impact? All those situations have significant fantasy importance but the player I will be looking for here is rookie linebacker, Mychal Walker.
De’Vondre Campbell led the team in tackles, takeaways, and IDP value in 2019 but he is gone. The three options Atlanta had entering training camp were Walker, free-agent addition Deone Bucannon, or an expanded role of Foye Oluokon. Oluokon was the starting strong-side linebacker last season and is expected to retain the same role at the least. He is not known for great coverage ability but Oluokon and Jones are the starting linebackers on the team’s initial depth chart.
Bucannon has not held a starting job in the league since 2017 and has not made an IDP impact since 2015, but does have significant starting experience. He is currently third on the depth chart behind Oluokon and Walker.
The little bit of news trickling out of Falcons camp suggests Walker has been impressive. He would seem to have the right skill set to pick up right where Campbell left off if he can get on the field.
Keep an eye on Damontae Kazee in week one as well. He has been rather productive in the past, mostly as a replacement for Keanu Neal, but The Falcons are showing him as one of three starting safeties on their initial depth chart.
Last year the Ravens gave us no full-time inside linebackers. This year they potentially have two. We all assume Patrick Queen will be one, but even that is not written in stone. Malik Harrison is also a candidate. Both were three-down guys for their respective college teams but the last time Baltimore had two inside backers that stayed on the field in sub-packages was 2016 when C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr roamed the middle. Interestingly, the Ravens show Queen and L.J. Fort as their starting inside backers with Harrison third behind both Fort and Chris Board. While that should change quickly, unless you are in a situation that requires starting Queen, it might be a good idea to keep all these players on the bench in week one.
There is also some interest in what the Ravens will do at safety after showing Earl Thomas the door. It is a safe bet that Chuck Clark will start at strong safety with DeShon Elliot or Anthony Levine Sr at free. Regardless of who takes the field, there has not been a fantasy-friendly safety in Baltimore in a long time, and that is unlikely to change.
A new coaching staff, a different defensive scheme, and a big infusion of rookie talent mean we can throw out everything the Panthers did last season and start over. We have heard enough from the team to know that Tahir Whitehead will play in the middle and Shaq Thompson on the outside. We can also feel confident that Jeremy Chinn will start somewhere, but the Panthers' initial depth chart is interesting in that aspect. They will line up with right and left outside linebackers as opposed to strong and weak like most teams. Thompson is listed as the left OLB with Chinn and Jermaine Carter showing as co-starters at the right OLB (weak side most of the time). The depth chart shows Justin Burris and Tre Boston as the starting safeties. This could be a very interesting development and is certainly something we will be looking at on Sunday.
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