After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?
16 Aug 2006
by Michael David Smith, with notes from the rest of the FO staff
When the regular season starts we'll return to our regular practice of focusing on one particular player or unit for Every Play Counts. But before the season starts, we'll spend a few weeks looking at the preseason, including plenty of players who won't even be on NFL rosters in a few weeks. We love football so much around here that we want to watch every play, even the ones that don't count.
If you are still looking for the open discussion thread from preseason Week 1, it is here. From now on, each week the open preseason discussion threads will be on the open discussion page, just like the regular-season game discussion threads.
Kyle Boller sacked himself again against the Giants, tripping over his own feet. No quarterback has as much trouble backpedaling as Boller.
Does J.P. Losman have any chance of taking the starting quarterback job? He had decent numbers in the preseason opener: 15-of-24, 144 yards, no interceptions. But you just get the feeling watching him that the sooner the Bills admit that the previous regime made a mistake in drafting him, the better off the franchise will be.
For those seeking evidence that preseason stats don't mean anything, here's Exhibit A: Doug Johnson currently leads all quarterbacks in preseason passer rating after his 11-for-14, 128-yard performance.
Charlie Frye made good reads on three-step drop routes and was able to complete some passes in the flat. On longer drops, he left the pocket and made some bad decisions while throwing on the run. His thumb didn't seem to be bothering him. The Browns appear to have a lot of designed rollouts for him.
Kellen Winslow caught a few short passes in the flats but didn't do anything special. Steve Heiden, the second tight end, caught a pass on a screen and one on a delay-release play.
Jay Cutler looked very, very good, like he could step in and start immediately. Then again, he was playing against a bunch of guys who aren't good enough to make the Detroit Lions' roster.
Houston's offense showed lots of good zone blocking and bootlegs. Where did we see that before? Oh, yeah, Denver.
In Pro Football Prospectus 2006, Ned Macey's article on Heartbreak Seasons asks if the Colts will be like the 1998 Vikings or the 1979 Chargers. Each of those teams was an offensive juggernaut for multiple years. In those years, the Vikings and Chargers each had one strong defensive year but couldn't get it all together to make it to the Super Bowl, and each saw the defense collapse the next year while the offense was still good. It's just a couple drives, but based on what we saw from the first team defense last weekend, this is exactly what's going to happen to the Colts.
Rookie running back Maurice Jones-Drew had an outstanding 55-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. He's buried on the Jags' stacked depth chart, but they have to find a way to get him the ball. He could be something special.
Trent Green turned 36 last month, and he still looks coolly efficient. Did sitting on the bench for most of his 20s keep him so fresh that he can play into his 40s?
Joey Harrington threw a beautiful strike into the end zone for a touchdown on his first drive, then spent the rest of the game reminding everyone why the Lions sent him packing. Cleo Lemon was efficient late in the game. Will Harrington be a third-stringer in Miami?
Laurence Maroney looks great. He squares his shoulders when he hits the hole, has good burst, and gets yards after contact.
Chad Pennington played most of the first half. He was not impressive, but not terrible. Lots of short passes. The dinks and dunks didn't seem to go away under the new coaching regime. Rookie Kellen Clemens showed some potential and smarts if not incredible play.
Robert Gallery has moved to left tackle, and that's a bad move. He gets out of his stance too slowly to take on speed rushers. Art Shell is the last person who should need to be told what to do with his offensive line, but Aaron Brooks is skittish enough in the pocket already. The last thing Brooks needs is a guy like Gallery protecting him.
Duce Staley looked out of shape as he plodded his way to 14 yards on seven carries. Does Staley think that just because Jerome Bettis was beloved as he got old and fat, he will be, too?
Philip Rivers has been paying close attention while spending the last two years on the bench. He looked like he completely understood the Chargers' offense and knew how to lead a team. He still has to do more than throw 15 completions in an exhibition game, of course, but Chargers fans must have been breathing a sigh of relief.
Vince Young threw an absolutely beautiful 50-yard pass against the Saints. (Roydell Williams dropped it, but the pass was spectacular.) Even on those long passes his throwing motion looks strange, like he's just cocking his elbow and flicking his wrist, but there's really no reason for the Titans' coaching staff to change the motion if he can throw that accurately.
John Navarre was playing an extremely cautious game and still managed to throw two interceptions. Matt Leinart needs to get up to speed in a hurry because the Cardinals can't afford to go into the regular season with Navarre behind the injury-prone Kurt Warner on the depth chart.
The Falcons are going to give up more yardage on draw plays this year than any team in the league. Every play is pass rush, pass rush, pass rush, and there's nobody in the middle. It's easy to run up the middle on them, but even easier if you pretend you are passing first.
Rookie running back DeAngelo Williams is known as a boom-or-bust kind of guy, but this is ridiculous. His eight carries went like this: 3, 2, -7, -2, 2, 3, 2, 0, and 20 yards. Good thing the coaches left him in the game for that last one.
The Bears made upgrading their secondary depth the No. 1 off-season priority, and it doesn't look like it did a bit of good. Alex Smith -- Alex Smith! -- found open receivers all night.
Linebacker Junior Glymph is one of those players you watch in the preseason and think, "This guy's for real." He had two sacks and looks like your prototypical 6-foot-6, 275-pound pass rusher. Then you realize that he's been cut by a few teams already in his career and played only six games in two seasons. There's probably a reason for that. He's got a cool name, though.
Charles Rogers' false start was a truly bizarre penalty; he looked like he tripped over his own feet while standing still. Some people try to excuse what a bust he's become by mentioning his broken collarbones, but he never looks like he's paying attention out there. If the Lions cut him, why would any team want him taking up a roster spot, even if he agrees to play for the veteran minimum?
Brett Favre walked off the field thinking, "I didn't come back to get sacked twice in a preseason game." The Packers' offense looks like it had all the same problems on the line that it had last year. And Favre is a year older.
At some point doesn't Mike McMahon have to show some comprehension of how to play quarterback? He's a good athlete, and all of his coaches seem to like him, but why haven't they moved him to receiver by now? He's 27, so maybe there's still time.
Well, we all saw the Reggie Bush highlight. He's fast, and he can improvise. His pass blocking could use a wee bit of work; on two plays, he stood there, waited for the linebacker to make a move, watched the linebacker make a move, then grabbed jersey. He wasn't called for holding, because the jersey grab really didn't stop the linebacker or anything. Bush may be in the slot on third downs.
When running inside, Bush really counts on his foot quickness, stopping and starting in the hole to change direction. Teammate Deuce McAllister does the same thing, and you can't get away with that unless you are a super athlete like them. As McAllister's stat profile suggests, that start 'n' stop can produce big runs but some stuffs too.
Matthias Kiwanuka looks like he's going to be an outstanding situational player against the pass. In the third quarter he had a three-play stretch that included a half-sack on first-and-10, a tackle on the running back after a four-yard screen on second-and-19, and a sack on third-and-15.
William "Tra" Thomas appears to have lost some lateral quickness. He doesn't seem to be able to turn quickly and adjust in pass protection, which is trouble. Winston Justice looks like a rookie left tackle, good on straight ahead plays, not so good in space. When Justice was in the game, the Eagles had a lot of running backs chipping outside defenders.
Hank Baskett started for the second straight week and played well, with an over-the-shoulder catch near the end zone and another catch on a short hitch (he did fumble on the hitch). Big kid, good athleticism. Can play a role, but there's no way he will have this offense down pat by September.
The Eagles' defensive line is very good and very deep. They should trade some of these guys for backup running backs or receivers. LaJuan Ramsey, a sixth-round defensive tackle, is very athletic and fast, trails plays well, and has a quick release. Jerome McDougle finally had some positive plays when he beat some backup Browns tackle for a sack and a few stops. McDougle has trouble disengaging from blocks, but he gets upfield quickly and can flush the QB when he gets inside. Broderick Bunkley looked pretty good in limited action.
The Rams' offensive line destroyed the Colts' defensive line on runs. The Colts' defensive line destroyed the Rams' offensive line on passes. What else is new?
What kind of day job does backup kicker Remy Hamilton have that he can take a month off every year to go to some NFL camp? He's been out of college for at least 10 years.
The 49ers look like they're going to give converted Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson every chance to make the team as a running back, but he didn't do much in his first opportunity. Eleven carries for 31 yards won't get the job done.
Yes, Seneca Wallace looked fine at quarterback, but what's he doing under center? He's never going to beat out Matt Hasselbeck for a starting job, but he's a great athlete who could contribute at wide receiver. Mike Holmgren ought to make the switch.
The Bucs' offense just ran over the Jets' defense -- starters and backups. Right now, two of the top three rushers in the NFL this preseason are Buccaneers, and neither one of them is Cadillac Williams or Michael Pittman.
Chris Cooley is going to look great in the Al Saunders offense. He's sort of a half-Tony Richardson, half-Tony Gonzalez.
Why did it take so long to call grounding on Todd Collins in the end zone? He practically spiked it. And why is a guy who spikes the ball when he feels pressure ahead of last year's first-round pick on the depth chart?
69 comments, Last at 18 Aug 2006, 3:56pm by Andrew