You know the start of the preseason is around the corner when you start seeing depth charts released. That's why seeing how the Buffalo Bills roster shakes out comes with a combination of anticipation and curiosity.
The biggest takeaway is that it gives us an early answer to the question of who will be Buffalo's starting running back. And the winner is ... C.J. Spiller. Not that it comes as a major shock to anyone. Spiller was expected to handle the bulk of the workload for the Bills last season. It was only through a combination of injury and ineffectiveness that Fred Jackson earned so many touches. What is a mild surprise is that Bryce Brown starts the preseason listed behind Anthony Dixon. So any thought that Brown could come in and possibly push the aging Jackson out of the No. 2 slot should be tabled for now.
The other notable fantasy impression is at the No. 2 receiver spot. That Sammy Watkins is at the top of the pecking order is no surprise, especially if you've seen this video. But it was a mild upset to see Robert Woods get the nod over veteran Mike Williams. What will be interesting to watch is how many times the Bills use three receivers at the same time. The team currently lists a fullback -- last year's That Helps No One winner Frank Summers -- among its starters. Having a battering ram leading the way is good news for Spiller, Jackson and company ... not so much for any wideouts outside of the top two.
Manning aiming high
Last season was arguably the low point of Eli Manning's career. On top of setting a career high with 27 interceptions, the Giants quarterback threw just 18 touchdown passes -- his lowest total since becoming a full-time starter in 2005. He also completed just 57.5 percent of his passes, which was the third-lowest number in the same time frame. Then again, it wasn't too far off from Manning's career 58.5 completion percentage.
Quarterbacks coach Danny Langsford has issued a challenge to Manning: Complete 70 percent of your passes in 2014. To show just how difficult that bar is to reach, it's only been accomplished six times for a full season in NFL history -- once during an eight-game season and another during the strike-shortened 1982 season.
But as Around the League's Dan Hanzus points out, this suggests Big Blue is going to employ a lot of shorter, high-percentage throws. If so, that puts the onus on Victor Cruz and his fellow receivers to break tackles and pick up quality yards after the catch if Manning is to prosper for fantasy owners this season.
» The Giants will have to wait at least another week to see what they have with rookie Odell Beckham. The wideout missed all of OTAs and has yet to participate in training camp as he deals with an enduring hamstring injury. Missing time as a rookie is never a good thing and Beckham is starting to fall behind in learning Ben McAdoo's offense. It's likely to move Jerrel Jernigan up the depth chart, at least temporarily.
» Last week, there was cautious optimism about David Wilson's prospects to contribute in 2014. Today, there is just caution. The Giants running back left practice after suffering a neck burner. It's another indication that New York would be wise to take things slowly with a player who suffered a major injury last season. It's also an indication that Rashad Jennings should be prepared to carry a heavy workload this year.
» Much of the news from Jets camp has surrounded the impressive showing Chris Johnson has made so far. But there are still other players expected to carry the rock this season, namely Chris Ivory, who is expected to be the team's goal line back in 2014. It's not a surprise -- Ivory was always thought to be the heavy in the team's thunder and lightning combination. This news just knocked Chris Johnson down a peg or two on many fantasy draft boards.
» Last season, Lamar Miller was a fantasy disappointment. This season, he's returned with eight added pounds of muscle and has earned the blessing of head coach Joe Philbin, who says the running back "looks stronger than he's ever been." For the time being, Miller is ahead of Knowshon Moreno, who is rehabbing after arthroscopic knee surgery. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Dolphins had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last season. Unless that's been fixed, Miller's new bulk won't pay many dividends.