Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pre-Season week 1

Ok so I said I would be back yesterday and I wasn't. Tough.

Anyway, we now have two days worth of white knuckle pre-season action (stop laughing) so let's have a quick look through the games so far.

It started with the Patriots hosting the Jaguars and man did Bill Belichick get a result. I'm not even talking about the 47-12 score. I'm talking about Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett both putting in good shifts at quarterback. My suspicion is that it's all part of Bills master plan to own every pick in the 2020 draft, by showing these two off now and seeing if anyone bites. The defense also threw up four sacks, which shows an early sign of improvement for the Pats up front.

For the Jags, it was nice to see Rashad Jennings pick up 28 yards on 6 carries but other than that, there really wasn't a lot happening on their side of the ball. Quarterback Todd Bouman made the case for his own retirement with 2/10 and an interception. We saw Blaine Gabbert for the first time on an NFL field, going 9/16 for 85 yards.

But the undoubted winners of the night where both in Patriot blue, and that was receiver Taylor Price and running back Stevan Ridley. Price caught 5 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, while Ridley caught 7 for 47 yards and a TD, plus 16 carries on the ground for 64 yards and a further 2 touchdowns.

Next up we have the Ravens and the Eagles in Philadelphia, which resulted in a mixed night for some. Ravens rookie QB Tyrod Taylor threw 19/28 for 179 yards but also 2 interceptions, one to rookie safety Jaiquawn "Triple Word Score" Jarrett who I overlooked in the preview the other day. Also a stand out for me was the Eagles defense putting up 6 sacks, including two for defensive end Darryl Tapp.

Game 3 and Seattle came down to visit San Diego, walking away with the win but also a lot of questions. QB Tavaris Jackson didn't exactly look sharp, though Charlie Whitehurst did better. For the Chargers, Philip Rivers didn't see a huge amount of time but did look tight, throwing 5/6 for 87 yards and a TD, including a deep strike to Vincent Jackson. That partnership being ready on day one of the season will be a huge asset to the Chargers in 2011.

Then it was down to Dallas as the Cowboys welcomed the Broncos. Oh boy did it get fun for coach John Fox! Kyle Orton went 2/6 for 37 yards while back up Tim Tebow produced 6/7 for 91 yards. What made me laugh afterwards though were all the people clutching for reasons to bash Tebow. So he fumbled one snap. Yeah that's not good but it's a minor thing that will come in time. What I was more impressed with was his more compact throwing motion (in terms of time which is all that matters) and his demonstration of deep pass accuracy, something which supposedly he can't do. All in all, Tebow was reasonably impressive, for what it was at least.

Of course there were others involved in the game. Quarterback Brady Quinn completed 8/14 in his spell for 120 yards and a TD which is not bad against the third string. Also, corner Perrish Cox from last years watch list had an interception.

For the Cowboys, back up quarterback Stephen McGee went 14/24 for 208 yards, 3 TD's and 1 INT. Running back Felix Jones looked in good form with some nice running at times. Rookie receiver Dwayne Harris impressed the most, romping home with 5 catches for 127 yards and 2 TD's, including taking a dump off pass from the slot 74 yards up the field for a TD. I did say he'd make a good slot receiver with yards after the catch ability.

On to the next game and Oakland greeted Arizona. Not a huge amount to report really. 2nd year Cardinals QB Max Hall went 4/4 for 66 yards and a TD. John Skelton went 6/10 for 94 yards and a TD. On the Raiders side, both Jason Campbell and Kyle Boller did ok, but Trent Edwards got the most throws, turning in 10/19 for 140 yards and a TD. Rookie receiver Denarius Moore had three catches and finished with 37 yards, but the whole game was a little flat.

Moving to the later games we start with Atlanta hosting Miami. Frankly I'm a little stunned that Miami managed to win this given how bad they started. One thing I will do though is throw QB Chad Henne something of a bone. Already people are crying over the fact that he got picked twice, throwing an eventual 4/8 for 77 yards and a touchdown.

The first pick was largely an accident. The throw hit the target - literally - and bounced out of the receivers grasp and into the hands of defensive end John Abraham as he dropped into coverage during an unusual blitz. It was basically a stroke of bad luck. The second was just a lack of concentration. His receiver had corner Brent Grimes soundly beaten, but Henne tried to drop the ball into his receivers lap instead of making him go high for it. The result was a pass that was just about within Grimes's reach. That's an easy problem to solve (Maybe one day I'll write a post on quarterbacks and ball placement, which I consider to be one of their most important measurable traits).

New Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore faired a little better, ending the game 11/18 for 123 yards, 2 TD's and 1 INT. On the other side, Matt Ryan was looking slick, going 6/10 for 90 yards and a TD. The key though was just how smooth he looked with all his motions and how confident he was throwing the ball. Really very impressive.

On defense, Dolphins rookie defensive back Jimmy Wilson did well, tallying 5 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Second year linebacker A.J. Edds also did well, with 6 tackles and a sack. For the Falcons, rookie defensive end Cliff Matthews had 3 tackles and a sack while another rookie DE, Emmanuel Stephens, also had 3 tackles and a sack.

Next on the schedule was Cincinnati travelling to Detroit in a game which might bring equal amounts of hope and despair to Lions fans. Yes, they pounded a frankly terrible Bengals team into the floor. But the last time they looked this good in pre-season, the regular season ended very badly....

Fans might not be so worried this year though. Matthew Stafford looked like a seasoned veteran, making back shoulder fade throws all over the place and ended the game 6/7 for 71 yards and 2 TD's. All the Lions quarterbacks were pretty efficient, with Drew Stanton getting the most throwing practice going 7/15 for 110 yards.

The Bengals didn't fair quite as well. Rookie Andy Dalton threw a pick right out of the gate, then went 11/15 but for only 69 yards as he quickly reverted to a preference for short passing. The best performer on the ground for either team was Bengals running back Cedric Benson who turned 6 carries into 37 yards and possibly shining a light on the path that the Bengals might follow this year.

Just quickly I also want to pick up on the controversy surrounding Ndamukong Suh who is described in almost all media outlets as having "slammed" Andy Dalton to the ground with a "vicious" throw. Frankly I think people are taking the piss if that is what constitutes unneccesary roughness.

He didn't exactly hold Daltons hand and take him for a nice stroll in the countryside, but nor did it appear to be particularly malicious in any way and I'm a little annoyed that so much has been made about it. When I saw it, I didn't even blink. Certainly I didn't expect to see the morass of media out cry that there has been. Suh is building a reputation for being dirty, but I would suggest that much of that reputation is grossly over stated and manufactured by the press for the sole purpose of driving internet traffic.

In other words Florio, shut the fuck up and stop being a whiny little bitch.

Onto the next game and the Redskins hosted the Steelers for something of a forgettable night. Redskins QB Rex Grossman was probably the big winner, taking advantage of an injury to John Beck to impose himself as the Redskins most likely starting quarterback,  posting 19/26 for 207 yards and a TD. The biggest loser was probably Steelers QB Dennis Dixon, who finished 1/10 for 29 yards.

Meanwhile the Buccaneers went north and west to visit the Chiefs, coming away with quite a handy win. Josh Freeman went 9/13 for 73 yards, but also ran in a touchdown himself. My little favourite Josh Johnson continued to impress. He finished 7/12 for 108 yards and a TD, but also lead the team on the ground with 5 rushes for 57 yards. A piece of me is kinda hoping that the 49ers get a trade done, but we'll talk about that more later.

It was also a good day for rookie tight end Daniel Hardy who I have high hopes for, after he caught 2 passes for 37 yards. Then there was rookie corner Anthony Gaitor who I absolutely love, who got himself a sack, and then second year linebacker Dekoda Watson (who was on last years rookie watch list) got himself 1.5 sacks.

The Chiefs struggled mightily. Both Tyler Palko and Ricky Stanzi (who I had high hopes for) performed badly. Running back Thomas Jones demonstrated why he's still one of the best backs in football with a long scamper, but like the playoff game against the Ravens from last season, the Chiefs showed that they don't care a great deal for their running game.

And finally that brings us to the 49ers heading East to visit the Saints. *sigh*

God where do I start? Well it was set to be a tought night for the 49ers as Saints defensive co-ordinator Greg Williams brought the heat, with blitz after blitz. Now a lot of people have been complaining but taking a step back I have to say that I can understand Williams doing what he did. This is what his defense will most likely be doing all season long so it only makes sense for him and his players to practice now. He was just doing what any coach really should be doing.

The result was sacks a plenty. Six of them. Plus two interceptions. Alex Smith ended 2/7 for 10 yards, while rookie Colin Kaepernick, who I really am not confident about (trade for Josh Johnson time?), went 9/19 for 117 yards and 2 INT's. He did manage to run 6 times for a total of 47 yards, but he also fumbled the ball twice. At least the 49ers had a small bright spot on defense, holding Drew Brees of the Saints to 1/4 for 6 yards. First round rookie Aldon Smith also got himself a sack.

For the Saints offense, rookie running back Mark Ingram got himself a TD while back up QB Chase Daniel put up 13/21 for 129 yards in the air. Undrafted rookie Joseph Morgan also got on the scoreboard with an impressive 78 yard punt return for a TD.

And that my friends, is all for now. I'm already missing some of the rest of the action which I will recap possibly on Monday Night/Tuesday Morning, or possibly the day after. Till then, have a great weekend.

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