Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pre-season week 1 and a look at Thursdays pre-season week 2

Right, I made it back eventually. The real world of work and all that. So, time to recap briefly the action from Saturday and Monday, then look ahead to some of this weeks games. Starting with....

Green Bay visiting the Cleveland Browns. Aaron Rodgers looked comfortable and just getting back into the swing, as did Colt McCoy of the Browns (9/10, 135 yards, 1 TD). Packers back up Matt Flynn looked ok, 11/18 for 126 yards and a TD, but I was a little disappointed in youngster Graham Harrell, 11/22 for 100 yards. I thought he'd be a little more accurate than that.

Packers rookie receiver Randall Cobb (who I'm quite high on) did well, three catches for 60 yards. On the opposite side experienced tight end Ben Watson lead the Browns receivers with 2 catches for 56 yards. Packers rookie DB Josh Gordy impressed with a sack and an interception. Meanwhile the Browns D was looking good despite the loss of coordinator Rob Ryan, turning in 5 sacks between them.

Onto the Bills and Bears, and some good, some bad for both teams. For the Bills, Ryan Fitzpatrick looked ok if not stunning, but in general the Bills depth at quarterback looks a little suspect right now. Tyler Thigpen in particular didn't quite have the impact many in Buffalo were perhaps hoping for. For the Bears, the offensive line continues to worry, though rookie QB Nathan Enderle was a bright spot. I'm a big fan of Enderle and he had a reasonably good evening finishing 7/10 for 110 yards. His interception hit the receiver in the hands but was tipped and picked off, so that's not a huge issue.

On defence is where things really got lit up. Nine sacks for the Bills defense. Nine. I don't think they've ever produced that many sacks in their history. Of course the Bears pass protection had a lot to do with that. It appears that maybe the issue that Chicago thought it had solved last season has once again come back to bite them.

Next, Indianapolis travelled to St. Louis and boy did they miss Peyton Manning. If there was any issue with the Colts it is that they're very much a one man team; they live and die by the arm of Manning. Neither Curtis Painter nor Nate Davis (who was eventually released) did much, and even Dan Orlovsky, formerly of the Texans, looked rough.

The Rams on the other hand were quite impressive. Sam Bradford had an adequate start, and back up A.J. Feely threw 10/14 for 100 yards. The running backs for the Rams looked solid and a strong running game could really help Bradford in the year ahead. Rookie Tight End Lance Kendricks lived up to me hyping him before the draft with 5 catches for 47 yards and a TD. Receiver Danario Alexander (Undrafted last year, but on my watch list) had 3 catches for 43 yards.

On to... uhm, Minnesota at Tennessee. All eyes were really on the veteran and rookie quarterbacks, with the Vikings sporting Donovan McNabb and Christian Ponder to the Titans Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker. We'll start with McNabb and Ponder, who both looked ok without really amazing. Ponder was fairly efficient while McNabb stuck to the short and intermediate passes to get by. Hasselbeck on the other hand was near perfect in the few throws he made, while Jake Locker actually looked really impressive. 7/10 for 89 yards and a touchdown, he looked calm under pressure and his anticipation on his throws was pretty good.

Off to Carolina now, as the Panthers hosted the Giants and we finally got to see Cam Newton on the field. And here is what I love about the mainstream football covering media. People have been cooking up a storm in their pants about how good Newton looked, while simultaneously bashing the crap out of Tim Tebow.

Now excuse me, but I think you'll find Newton went 8/19 for 134 yards, which while not bad at all, was still much less efficient than Tebow's performance the other day. In fairness to Cam, he looked better throwing here than he did with Auburn and you can see he has raw potential as a passer and competitor. It's just a question of whether the Panthers can focus that potential and develop it in the coming years.

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was the other big winner in this game putting another two sacks in the books (sort of) and once again laughing in the face of people like me who said he wouldn't amount to much. Well done sir, you're converting me. Cunt.

Lastly then we have the Jets travelling to the Texans and to be honest, Matt Schaub looked a little rough. His timing was off with some of the receivers and he only completed 2/5 for 20 yards. Rookie T.J. Yates did a bit better, but the story of the evening was really Matt Leinart, who went 8/14 for 78 yards, a TD and an INT. Also in the spotlight was 2nd year Texans running back Chris Ogbonnaya who had 17 carries for just 37 yards and a TD, but also caught 6 passes for 67 yards and another TD. I was also pleased to see rookie Lester Jean have two catches for 53 yards. Keep an eye on Jean.

For the Jets, rookie QB Greg McElroy was given a hell of an outing, finishing the game 23/39 for 208 yards and a TD (he also fumbled the ball 3 times). But the biggest story on the Jets side was their offensive line. Vladimir Ducasse had to slot in at right tackle and man did he not look at home. New Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips brought the heat and the Texans finished with 7 sacks as the Jets struggled to keep their QB upright.

So that's all of the week one games covered. One thing I do want to bring up briefly and this stretched across all the games, was how much time teams spent in 3 and 4 wide receiver sets. This is something that has been popular in college football for a long time now and it seems that the "Spread Bug" is really beginning to kick in here in the NFL too. It'll be interesting to see if this lasts into the regular season as well.

Looking ahead, just two games for Thursday night.

It starts with the Patriots heading to Tampa, which is quite an interesting clash given their good starts to the season. In particular I'm looking forward to seeing more of Ryan Mallett and hopefully some more game time for Buc's corner Anthony Gaitor.

The second game sees the Eagles "Dream Team" visit the Steelers. This should be a good test for Philadelphia as we get to see how their offense stands up against one of the more fearsome pass rushes in the league, and how their newly kitted out defense copes with quite a versatile offense. Good stuff.

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