Friday, August 19, 2011

2011 Pre-season; week 2 (Thursday)

So, two games from pre-season week 2 in the books. Let's have a look.

It started with the Patriots at the Buccaneers and boy did the Buccaneers get a wake up call. Their firsts versus the Patriots firsts resulted in a game that wasn't even close as the Pats put up 28 unanswered points as their offense cut through the Buc's D, while their defense poured all over the Buc's O-line. It was the footballing equivalent of a massacre.

Tom Brady finished 11/19 for 118 yards and 2 TD's, having a few miscues, but nothing serious. Chad Ochocinco got his first action in a Patriot's jersey, scoring a TD and taking a major hit along the way. Rookie QB Ryan Mallet was 9/14 for 71 yards and 1 interception. Naturally people were crying about the fact that he threw a pick, but shit, seriously? One pick and other than that he's looked very solid, certainly the best among this years crop of quarterbacks.

The Patriots running game got motoring again, largely due to the fact that the Buccaneers D-line was getting handled just as roughly as its offensive line. On defense, Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo had two sacks and looked every bit the lynch pin of that defense.

As for the Buccaneers, I think it's a case of try again next week? Josh Freeman went just 5/10 for 33 yards. Josh Johnson did slightly better, 6/17 for 105 yards and a pick. C'mon Johnson, you're better than this. Third year backup Rudy Carpenter was 6/10 for 68 yards.

But the Buc's have little to be pleased about. The simple fact is that they were man handled at every turn throughout the game by a clearly superior side. They may be "Youngry", but the young aspect definitely stands out more than the hungry part. Lots of coaching work to do in the coming season.

Next the Philadelphia "Dream Team" Eagles visited Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers and were in for something of a shock. Recently the Eagles players have been trying to play down the "Dream Team" moniker and Thursday night we perhaps found out why.

Mike Vick; 5/12 for 47 yards and 3 INT's. Wow. That was pretty bad. Part of the issue was - as you might expect - the Steelers pass rush. But a big chunk of it was just Vick making bad decisions (no jokes please). One of the interceptions was just ridiculous, as Vick tried to thread the needle between about five defenders. And that seemed to be the major problem. Instead of just occasionally eating a sack or throwing the ball away, Vick was determined to make plays happen that just weren't there.

Still, he got a sweet hit in after a pass was tipped and then picked off by Troy Polamalu. Not sure if Andy Reid will be quite as impressed.

His replacement was Vince Young, who went on to finish 5/8 for 34 yards and an interception. Finally the situation was partially rescued (albeit against the third string) by Mike Kafka, who threw 14/19 for 160 yards and 2 TD's. Running back Ronnie Brown got in on the action late and had some effect, as did rookie Dion Lewis (ahhh!) with 2 carries for 19 yards and 2 receptions for another 48.

On defense some new arrivals made their impact, with Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Anthony Hargrove all recording sacks, but outside of that the Eagles D didn't look all that impressive, being victimised by a succession of Steelers quarterbacks.

It started with Ben Roethlisberger, who went 8/12 for 125 yards and 2 TD's, while looking every bit like a hall of fame quarterback. Yeah. He just seems to have such a command of that offense, while bringing great strength and calm under pressure to the table as well. Next up was Byron Leftwich; 4/7 for 67 yards and a TD. Then Dennis Dixon; 8/11 for 90 yards.

Of note outside of the quarterback position for the Steelers was new receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who ended with 2 catches for 49 yards and a TD. On defense the Steelers actually produced just one sack, but the elusiveness of Michael Vick had much to do with that. The pressure was there and it forced mistakes, notable not least because of the defense's four interceptions total. Will Allen also produced a forced fumble.

Dream Team? More like "Dream On" at the minute, but its early days yet. I am wondering though, after my post the other day about the pressure that comes with the hype, will the Philadelphia media start to go rabid already? We'll see.

Right then, we'll round off this post by having a look ahead at the Friday night action.

Which begins with the Redskins at the Colts. The Curtis Painter saga continues! More of interest though will be the defense, which got over run by St. Louis of all people last week. If Manning doesn't come back 100% this year then the Colts will need a very strong showing from their defense just to make the playoffs. For the Redskins this is another chance to see where they stand with Rex Grossman and perhaps give that rushing attack a kick up the backside.

The Chiefs get a repeat of their playoff match up from last year, but this time they'll be on the road against the Ravens. I'm actually quite intrigued by this. I want to know whether Head Coach Todd Haley trusts his running game this time or whether he's going to stick with testing out his back up quarterback situation. The Ravens need to find their groove offensively and really give Joe Flacco a decent spell.

Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns next, and two teams that had pretty good starts to the pre-season, offensively at least. Looking forward to seeing more Colt McCoy in action and also finding out whether Matthew Staffords resurgence in week 1 was just a fluke or if he's finally starting to build a sense of rhythm with his receivers.

The Cam Netwon show rolls into Miami as the Panthers face the Dolphins. This one is all about the quarterbacks, as Newton and Clausen battle for the starting role in Carolina, and Chad Henne tries to convince the Miami coaches he's the right man for the job this season.

The Cardinals get a trip to a slightly cooler Green Bay for their week 2 game. For Green Bay its about building on a pretty good showing by the first stringers last week while a lot of attention will be on Arizona in this one. More specifically, the mess that is otherwise known as their quarterback situation. It'll also provide a nice test for what is a defense in some disarray, having still not stopped the rot at the linebacker position from last season.

Finally, the Falcons nip across to Florida to take on Jacksonville. I'm interested to know just how tough that Falcons defense will be this year. Specifically I'm looking for sacks from the Falcons D-line. For the Jaguars all eyes will doubtless be on Blaine Gabbert, but a more important question in my book is how their revamped linebacking corps gets on.

See you tomorrow.

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