Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Aug 2008

Every Play Doesn't Count: Week 2

by Doug Farrar, with commentary from the FO staff

AFC

Baltimore Ravens

After a rough start against the Patriots, Ravens rookie running back Ray Rice sorted things out against the Vikings, gaining 77 yards on eight carries and displaying solid inside power and an excellent outside burst on Baltimore's first touchdown drive.

Buffalo Bills

Bobby April's special teams just received another bolt of lightning. Roscoe Parrish set team punt return records in 2007, and now the addition of cornerback Leodis McKelvin promises to set up a return unit that opponents will have trouble solving. McKelvin, Buffalo's first-round pick, scored on a 95-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.

Cincinnati Bengals

It's got to be worrisome for the Bengals that Chad Johnson's shoulder injury puts him on the shelf along with T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Rudi Johnson, both of whom have missed the preseason with hamstring injuries. It doesn't help that Carson Palmer was getting hit like crazy by Detroit's aggressive defense.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos were happy to see Jay Cutler complete his first 12 passes against the Cowboys, but they were just as happy to see rookie Eddie Royal catch two passes for 67 yards. He looked especially good on a jump ball, beating Anthony Henry for the catch. Denver will need Royal to step up early in the season as Brandon Marshall serves a three-game suspension.

Houston Texans

Matt Schaub's 14-of-16 performance said a little something about him, and just as much about the Alleged New Orleans Pass Defense. On the first Houston scoring drive, receiver Kevin Walter beat Jason David twice, including the touchdown. Hole-in-Zone was unavailable for comment.

Indianapolis Colts

19-of-37 for 207 net yards, two sacks, no touchdowns and one interception. That was the box score for Indy's three-headed backup (Quinn Gray, Jim Sorgi, and J-Load) against Atlanta's vanilla preseason defensive sets. The Colts scored on three field goals and Kelvin Hayden's interception return for a touchdown.

All together now, Indianapolis: "How's the knee, Peyton?!?!?!?"

Jacksonville Jaguars

If the Jaguars are going to live up to everyone's positive preseason expectations, they'd better get first halves like the one against the Dolphins out of their system. Between the Maurice Jones-Drew fumble at the Miami 1-yard line that went out of the end zone for a touchback, and several overthrows by David Garrard, it's safe to say that Jack Del Rio won't be short on "teaching points" this week.

Kansas City Chiefs
Score another one for Kansas City's 2008 draft. Second-round cornerback Brandon Flowers showed great speed and timing on the breakup of a long pass to Anquan Boldin of the Cardinals halfway through the first quarter. Flowers will take his lumps if he's asked to start right away as is projected (especially against receivers this good), but you can see the potential on certain plays.

Miami Dolphins

Chad Pennington and Ricky Williams were the lead stories for the Dolphins in their win over the Jaguars, but rookie Chad Henne is making his mark, as well. Henne went 17-of-26 for 133 yards in this game –- not flashy, but the former Michigan quarterback, whose pro scouting reports were all over the place, needs to prove that he can fire the ball with consistency.

New England Patriots

Russell Levine notes that Tom Brady didn't make the trip, and it's just the second preseason game, but New England looked positively awful. They looked very much like a team with a bad case of Super Bowl loser's hangover. The NFL Network crew spent much of the evening harping on Matt Cassel, and I think they were correct. It appeared the play calls were tailored to try and get him some confidence, but it didn't work. I would not be surprised if he is cut before the season.

On defense, the Pats looked old and slow. The line got pushed around and couldn't get off blocks, the linebackers and secondary missed lots of tackles. Tampa Bay backs were consistently able to get positive yardage after contact. One bright spot was Jerod Mayo, who looks like a player. He a did a great job attacking the fullback in the hole, shedding him, and getting to the ball carrier, while also showing the ability to drop back in coverage.

New York Jets

Sean McCormick observed that while Brett Favre looked excellent in limited action, Kellen Clemens had a tough night. He got tripped up by an offensive lineman while dropping back two separate times, he had a ball batted down at the line of scrimmage and he threw three bullet passes on third down that traveled 10-plus yards and hit the receivers in the hands, only to be dropped. Oh, he also ran for a first down and had it called back due to a holding penalty. His stats were incredibly awful, but he really had some bad luck. The Jets offensive line played reasonably well when the starters were out, but as soon as the backups came in, they stopped being able to get so much as a yard on the ground.

The Jets defensive line continued to have problems stopping the run along the edges. Washington broke two big runs by taking advantage of Vernon Gholston -- each time the runner took the run straight at Gholston and then cut it upfield right in front of him for big yardage (we're talking around 70 yards worth of big). On the pass rush, Adrian Murrell's younger brother has gotten significantly more pressure than Gholston.

Cornerback Dwight Lowery, a fourth-round draft pick from San Jose State, has been a star of training camp. He built on that with a nice play on a ball thrown to Redskins receiver Devin Thomas, and he could get a lot of time in nickel sets.

Oakland Raiders

It's been a rough time for receiver Javon Walker. Is he suffering long-term effects from the June robbery in Las Vegas that left him unconscious? It's a serious question that needs answering. Whatever the problem, Walker's walking in a netherworld right now. There have been retirement rumors, and Walker was horrible against the Titans. He dropped a little slant on third-and-2 and clearly jumped late for another throw. Raiders coach Lane Kiffin has been criticizing Walker ever since the former Broncos receiver signed a six-year, $55 million contract with $16 million guaranteed in March.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Do the Steelers have another Slash? Dennis Dixon, the former Oregon quarterback whose 2007 ACL injury affected the national championship chase, took a fourth-quarter bootleg 47 yards for a touchdown. The journey to the NFL for any spread offense quarterback is basically a trip to the moon, but Dixon has the speed to make other things happen. Also seen under center for Pittsburgh: Byron Leftwich, who completed five of 11 passes with his Eephus delivery intact.

San Diego Chargers

With LT2 out of the preseason picture as usual, and Darren Sproles leaving the field with a knee injury, it was rookie Jacob Hester's chance to shine –- and the LSU alum did so for the second straight week. Hester currently ranks seventh in the NFL in preseason rushing with 108 yards, and it's easy to see why the Chargers were so high on him in this year's draft.

Tennessee Titans

VY? Oh, my. Vince Young displayed serious regression against the Raiders. The hitches in his delivery alter the timing of patterns and leave the offense lagging. In the broadcast booth, Moose Johnston was talking about how Young progressed in his first two seasons, which would have been nice had Young progressed at all in his second year. Chris Johnson has been a real find at running back, but this team won't go too far in the brutal AFC South with a quarterback who looks like this.

NFC

Arizona Cardinals

If Matt Leinart loses the quarterback battle to Kurt Warner, he can't say he didn't get a fair chance. After watching Leinart throw two near-interceptions in the first half, coach Ken Whisenhunt sent Leinart back onto the field with another shot to prove himself at the start of the second half -- with the entire starting offensive line. Leinart led the Cards downfield on an 11-play drive in which he went five-for-five. Impressive, but Mr. Quarterback should think about a nice dinner on him for that front five in the near future.

Atlanta Falcons

It was nice to see rookie back Thomas Brown get some reps against the Colts. Brown was a talented waterbug for the Georgia Bulldogs, though he couldn't stay away from the trainers; there were college injuries to his left shoulder, right knee, and collarbone. Brown also flashed ability as a return man, which is where he could find a spot behind Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers were without three-fourths of last year's starting secondary due to injury (Ken Lucas, Chris Gamble, Chris Harris), but cornerback Richard Marshall made what might go down as the play of Carolina's preseason when he intercepted a shovel pass on a fake field goal attempt by the Eagles and returned the ball 87 yards for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter.

Chicago Bears

Their receiving corps have been dicey for a long time, but the Bears may have a sleeper in third-round rookie Earl Bennett. Against the Seahawks, Bennett took a punt 75 yards for a touchdown and had cornerback Josh Wilson beat for what would have been a touchdown had Wilson not recovered to bat the ball away at the last second. Bennett caught the most passes in SEC history despite leaving for the NFL after his junior year, and he surprised those who had his pegged as a possession receiver with his straight-line speed at the Combine.

Matt Forte rushed only seven times for 17 yards, but Vince Verhei liked what he saw. "He got little help from his blockers (the Bears O-line was just manhandled by the Hawks' front seven), but the time or two his teammates held up their end of the bargain, I thought he showed nice vision and running instincts. And his tackle on Leroy Hill's interception may have been the best defensive play of the game. Hill looked like he had an easy touchdown, but Forte came swooping in out of nowhere and dragged him down. Not that it matters much who Chicago's running back is; with those quarterbacks, those receivers and that line, it's going to be an ugly year in Soldier Field, even by Bears standards."

Dallas Cowboys

Receiver Miles Austin looked really good on the Cowboys' second-quarter scoring drive. He grabbed a Brad Johnson deep ball away from Domonique Foxworth, and then out-jumped Foxworth on a fade in the end zone.

Detroit Lions

Calvin Johnson looked great against the Bengals, His ability to adjust to balls thrown to him and time his jumps confounded Cincinnati cornerbacks. Can the Lions extend the productivity of the Mike Martz offense without Martz? Jon Kitna thinks so (well, of course he does). Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Martz may be concluding that it's got to be about the players to a point.

Green Bay Packers

If Aaron Rodgers doesn't let go of the need to make things happen under siege, he won't last half the season. In his sole performance of note last year against the Cowboys, Rodgers had good instincts about pressure around him, and he knew when to get rid of the ball. But his four-sack day against the 49ers, exacerbated as it was by the efforts of guard Jason Spitz, has to have the Packers worried. This is not a great pass-blocking line, and Rodgers will have to learn to adjust sooner than later.

Philadelphia Eagles

Who's the NFL leader in receptions after two preseason weeks? DeSean Jackson (12), the rookie who's proven to be a nice escape hatch for Donovan McNabb.

Minnesota Vikings

Tarvaris Jackson has not learned to avoid contact with defenders. When scrambling, he reacts to the opposition as a running back would. This has been a longstanding problem -– I remember at least one discussion about it in Audibles at the Line last season -– and it's put him on the sidelines with a sprained MCL. Not good for a player who needs a breakout season against all odds, nor for a team that requires at least a league-average signal caller to get to the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints

Marques Colston's one-handed touchdown grab in the end zone against the Texans was a great play, but it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone who watches the Saints on a regular basis. Under Drew Brees, New Orleans has created a cottage industry out of Alley-Oop fades to either end zone sideline. Colston is the best at it because he has great jumping ability and wonderful hands.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have been looking all over for an answer at receiver, and Josh Morgan may be it. Morgan has deep speed and the ability to break free from press coverage. The knock on Morgan at Virginia Tech was that his inconsistency (dropped passes) would frustrate more than his potential would excite, but only David Clowney of the Jets has more receiving yards than Morgan's 182 this preseason. San Francisco may have a sixth-round steal.

Seattle Seahawks

The star of the game in Vince Verhei's mind was Justin Forsett, he of the 15 carries for 136 yards and a touchdown. He electrified the crowd with several long runs in the second half. Some of his big plays came on sweeps to the sideline, aided by great blocking by wide receivers and pulling blocks by the playside guards. Seattle hasn't run many plays like that in recent years, largely because Shaun Alexander was simply too slow to get to the edge. (Even at his peak, blazing speed was never Alexander's strength.) Forsett also added a 37-yard kick return and a 40-yard punt return, and had a third long return called back on a penalty. He currently leads the NFL in total yards. I know it was only one game, and only one preseason game at that, but I'm having a hard time not getting excited about this kid.

If nothing else, it looks like he'll be Seattle's official THIRST back (TM Mike Tanier). And his contributions on special teams could also free up Nate Burleson to focus on being a wide receiver, which is where the Seahawks need the most help right now.

Charlie Frye had a remarkable game -- when was the last time one quarterback took all his team's snaps in a preseason game? He was more athletic than I realized, scrambling for a few first downs, but he threw three absolutely unforgivable interceptions. The worst came when Frye, scrambling in his own end zone trying to avoid a safety, lobbed the ball right into the hands of Corey Graham, who waltzed into the end zone. Remember when Frye started for Cleveland in Week 1 last year? That was funny.

St. Louis Rams

It was hard to find bright spots in a 7-6 Rams win over the Chargers. Marc Bulger threw interceptions on the team's first two offensive possessions, offensive linemen Mark Setterstrom and Brandon Gorin were placed in IR after this game (continuing a truly mind-boggling trend of line injuries for this franchise), and the Rams' starting offense still hasn't scored a preseason touchdown in the Scott Linehan era. On the plus side, the defense did register four sacks ... against a San Diego team that decided against playing many of its offensive starters.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Russell Levine wrote about his favorite team: "This is the second straight week that Tampa Bay has played it's 'Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts' offense to supreme effectiveness. There was a 17-play, 9:38 touchdown drive to open the game. Brian Griese was 8-for-8 ... for 39 yards. Last week, Tampa Bay had two 17-plus-play drives, all at 4 yards a clip, it seems. They haven't turned the ball over in two weeks and have had very few penalties. The offense doesn't have any stars, but it has a lot of depth. Earnest Graham will start at running back, but I expect Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett are also going to get touches. Cadillac looks to be headed to the PUP list, but it sounds like they do expect him back at some point this season. At wide receiver, Antonio Bryant made a statement in this game that he could earn some playing time behind Galloway and Mr. 9 YPC, Ike Hilliard. Michael Clayton again looks to be fighting for his job."

"The Bucs offense is the only one that really looks like a West Coast Offense to me anymore," says Mike Tanier. "Well, them and the Seahawks. They are the one team that I see throwing a slant almost every drive, a hitch or smash almost every drive, where the back leaks out into a route and he actually looks like one of the early options in the progression. It's modernized, with a lot of new formations, including a little Full House. But I watch it and find it intricate, fussy, and a little dull. But effective on Sunday, when you realized that most of the time the best receiver on the field was Ike friggin' Hilliard."

"A 'little' dull?" asked Russell, "You're being charitable. It's exceedingly dull. It defines dull. It makes a Tori Spelling movie-thon on Lifetime look thrilling by comparison. It's an offense only a fan of the team could love. The personnel doesn't seem to matter. If the Bucs are on the schedule, the score is going to be 20-13.

"One of the most fun things in the preseason is that the cameramen are still getting into shape too," Aaron Schatz said. "Tampa Bay ran an end around early on where Brian Griese's play-fake to Earnest Graham going up the middle completely faked both the Patriots and the cameraman ... the picture was focused entirely on the pile in the middle before the cameraman noticed that Antonio Bryant seemed to be running around the left side.

Washington Redskins

Washington was sluggish in the passing game until Todd Collins directed a nice two-minute drive. It's clear that Jason Campbell is finding the new offense to be an adjustment from a speed standpoint. The hope is that Jim Zorn will be around long enough to give Campbell some stability. Receiver Billy McMullen might be auditioning for another team after the Redskins went top-heavy at the position in this year's draft, but he's pulled in 10 passes for 142 yards in Washington's three preseason games. Signed by Washington in January of 2008 as a free agent after last playing with the Vikings in 2006, McMullen should be able to parlay this preseason into a bit of playing time somewhere.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 18 Aug 2008

32 comments, Last at 22 Aug 2008, 2:46pm by Rich Conley

Comments

1
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 4:16pm

Regarding Rogers I think there is evidence he is simply not good at avoiding the sack. I decided to look up his sack rate for all his stats both pre and reg season.

Here are his total NFL stats through August 17, 2008:

132/224, 1381yds, 36 sacks, -224 yds

His sack rate is 13.8% overall. His sack rate in pre and regular games are about the same (14% vs 13% roughly).

I suspect this represents a real issue for Rogers.

2
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 4:21pm

I think the comment about Jackson reacting like a running back is an apt description. He is an excellent runner but his style of running is far to risky for a starting QB.

What I've seen in the first two Viking games is extremely good pass blocking from the first unit.

3
by pawnking (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 4:35pm

All you could find for the Eagles was the DeSean Jackson comment? Was Tanier getting ready for his back to school night or something? I was hoping for at least some kind of "YPA" comment about the DBs...

4
by BOOM!ImChrishHanshen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 4:38pm

Along with my contention that Favre made the Packer receivers look better than they are/were, so is it my belief that he made the O-line appear to be more talented than it actually is.

Oh, and the running backs too. And the tight ends. And heck--maybe the punter, kicker, and defense, too.

Pre-season, blah, blah, blah.

5
by MilkmanDanimal (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 4:39pm

As a Bucs fan, I can tell you this offense is wonderful to watch? Why? Because it's not 2006, and I don't have to watch Bruce "Two Yard Checkdown on Third and Nine" Gradkowski "run" things.

I have hopes (admittedly naive hopes) that Antonio Bryant has cleaned up his act and will let his talent run loose on the field, but he's always been like Terrell Owens, except with less talent and more issues. I'd like to believe Dexter Jackson (the Appalachian State WR 2nd round pick who SHOULD HAVE BEEN BRIAN BROHM) will be able to do Welker-esque things in the slot. Ben Troupe will become the dynamic pass catching threat he was supposed to be out of college, Graham will move the chains, the young offensive line will continue to gel and play well, Garcia wil stay healthy . . .

While I'm at it I should probably ask for monkeys riding flying ponies to fly out of my butt, because the odds of that happening are probably as good as everything else. Still, considering how much offensive ineptitude I've sat through in years (and without question, the Bruce Gradkowski era was the worst of it . . . except maybe for Rob Johnson), I'll take "slow and plodding" over "my wife keeps yelling at me to stop swearing like a drunken sailor in front of the kids after watching another interception". It's not like the team's ever been flashy; at least last night looked like competent not-flashy for a change.

6
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 4:39pm

With regards to the Patriots, it's worth mentioning that the Patriots are not normally a team that shrugs off preseason (unlike, for instance, the Colts - in the preseason research I did the Colts were suspiciously frequently worse in the preseason than they were against the same opponent in the regular season. It wasn't really statistically significant, but it did look suspicious). In 2006, for instance, they pretty much crushed their competition (in 2007 they basically kept pace).

For reference, the Patriots haven't been outscored by 14 points in the first half in preseason since preseason Week 2 of the 2004 season. Granted, it's not like it caused them problems that year - but that was against the Bengals, and during the regular season the Bengals were very competitive with the Patriots.

Of course, a ton of that is because Brady's not playing. But that's worth noting as well, because it's not like Brady has frequently (ever? not sure) missed non-week 4 preseason games in his career (And, it should be noted that Tampa Bay's presumed starter wasn't playing, either).

7
by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 4:41pm

I agree the Pats defense looked horrible but I do disagree with NFLN's and CHFC's assertion that they were "old". This Patriots defense in fact looked young and inexperienced: Merriweather, Mayo, Spann, and Woods are all relatively early in their careers. Just because the Pats are old come season start, doesn't excuse lazy reporting.

8
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 4:53pm

Oh, the other thing that's worth mentioning about that 2004 loss was that 2004 was Palmer's debut year, so a good part of that demolition in preseason was probably "little to no film on Carson Palmer + vanilla defense." Palmer also got injured during the regular season game.

I guess the point that I'm trying to say is that the demolition in 2004 showed that Carson Palmer and the Bengals can move the ball against the Patriots first string defense - that proved true in the regular season, as well.

So it really makes you wonder what this game showed.

9
by BOOM!ImChrishHanshen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 4:58pm

@5: After the first few preseason games, I feel confident that Vroom may be available either next year or the year after, for much less than a 2nd round pick (if anything at all).

I know--preseason, blah, blah, blah.

9
by are-tee (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 4:58pm

SeanMac,

Considering the level of competition for the Jets' CB slot opposite Revis, Lowery may get to play in a lot more than just nickel packages.

11
by Led (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 5:39pm

I would add to Sean's comments that Gholston's failure to drop properly into coverage was responsible for several successful slants by the Browns. But if you put aside run defense, pass coverage and pass rush, he looks pretty good.

12
by witless chum (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 5:44pm

"“One of the most fun things in the preseason is that the cameramen are still getting into shape too. Tampa Bay ran an end around early on where Brian Griese’s play-fake to Earnest Graham going up the middle completely faked both the Patriots and the cameraman … the picture was focused entirely on the pile in the middle before the cameraman noticed that Antonio Bryant seemed to be running around the left side."

This happened in the Lions/Bengals game, too. The home audience got to see a football-less Artose Pinner get chased to the left sideline, while we saw on replay that Drew Stanton kept the ball and waltzed into the endzone. Maybe that was the third string camerman, too.

The Lions ones have looked good twice. It's hard not to get overexcited.

13
by Led (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 5:50pm

Also David Clowney of the Jets, who was having a very promising preseason, injured his shoulder and/or collar bone against the Redskins. He looks to be out for an extended period. Tough luck for the kid and also for the team. Clowney appeared to be developing into a pretty dangerous downfield threat.

14
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 5:50pm

I have only watched one week 2 game thus far ( Dallas v Denver) but I watched most of week 1 ( link to my name with similar style write ups). The Dallas game didn't have a lot stick out other than Zack Thomas is NOT finished, and Cutler had his rocket arm on display ( it didn't fall off from the weight loss/diabetes).

Some of the Week 1 best performances were Titans rookie RB Chris Johnson, Giants rookie S Kenny Phillis, Hawks backup MLB David Hawthorne and the Panthers kicker.

Also keep an eye on Indy and Pitt where either Batch/Dixon will be cut and Sorgi, Lorenzen or Quinn Gray will be cut.

Batch suffered a helmet to helmet hit on a busted run play by Sean Con and could be fined?

15
by PaulH (not verified) :: Mon, 08/18/2008 - 10:48pm

Coming into the draft, the general consensus on Gholston was that he was an unreal physical specimen, but a very raw football player. From what I've seen of him, that very much looks to be an accurate scouting report.

He may very well turn into a fine football player, but I think he's going to have to develop a while before he really produces like most hope he will.

16
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 10:26am

Tavaris Jackson's decision-making while running the ball, especialy in a preseason game (!) causes me to have more doubts of his ever being a decent qb than anything else I've seen. At this stage in his career, his behavior on Saturday was simply inexcusable.

17
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 10:54am

15. I believe there were also concerns about his "motor". And I took that draft jargon to mean that scouts were concerned that he takes too many plays off during the course of a game. Basic motivational concerns, I suppose.

18
by Jero D (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 11:19am

Re: BOOM. I've shared your sentiments per the GB o-line, pass blocking does not seem to be their forte. It's like a funnel, solid bookends so just funnel right through the guards down to the center if needed.

As an observation, with the way Ryan has been punting during this camp I would concur, Favre probably did make the punting look good, since Craig Hentrich.

So far this preseason: Good Rodgers, Bad Rodgers. Oh to witness the difference between those who can feel the pocket pressure and those still learning. And backs who might need to pick up pass rushers.

But, preseason, blah, blah.... sob.

19
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 11:59am

Will, did you watch the Vikings 1st preseason game? I really like that Mike Mayock did the game but he was too positive on Jackson minus that one bad throw where he threw inside when the defender was shading inside and probably should have picked the ball off.

The Vikings didn't run the ball in the 1st Quarter of that game, and Jackson had the advantage early on of using play action. He completed some short stuff, had that real bad mistake, and had problems with accurate throws ( even on some of the completions that were behind guys etc.)

Trying to pick up 5-6 rushing yards when he got creamed by Ray Lewis and another Ravens defender was a terrible play.

One thing you have to give credit to Childress for, is moving Jackson around a little bit with Roll outs, Waggles, Bootlegs, Play action and moving the pocket around the edges which should give him a little extra time on his reads and throws. If Jackson has a bum knee and limited mobility ( standing in the traditional pocket), then watch out for some ugly football.

20
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 12:18pm

It cannot be overstated how BAD Jason Spitz was on Saturday. Three separate times Rodgers had less than 2 seconds on what were straight dropbacks. That's ridiculous.

Favre certainly had pocket presence but last year Daryn Colledge did his best to get Favre killed both against the Chiefs and the Cowboys.

That a fourth round rookie may end up starting at a guard position is a pretty d*mning indictment of the current talent level at the position.

21
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 12:25pm

I'm not jumping off the cliff yet regarding the Patriots, but that was certainly a wakeup call to Pats fans that have gotten too comfortable watching their team dominate, and also a warning of what might unfold should Brady get injured... Pat's points are sobering.

Still, I'm holding out hope that (1) the Bucs are much better than everyone thinks, and (2) a lot of the struggles were due to Brady (and several other key veterans) missing the game and the Pats playing vanilla. It is worth noting another missing part of the Pats game. We've seen in the past that the safeties are pretty much the lynchpin (no pun relating to the newest free agent addition intended) of the defense they play. (Recall the Panthers SB or the Eagles SB, when safeties went down and then opposing offense suddenly woke up). In Sunday's game, both Rondey Harrison and James Sanders did not suit up, Tank Williams, who had been getting a lot of the first team safety snaps in camp, was recently placed on IR, and Merriweather was hurt early in the Bucs first drive and left the game. That means BOTH starting safeties, and their two primary backups, were out. John Lynch was added to replace Tank and played (a little), but he has had a grand total of one practice with the Pats and can't be expected to be that effective yet. That doesn't excuse bad tackling, but a defense playing with its top four safeties all not in the game is going to look a little shaky, especially when playing a relatively soft in a preseason game.

If Merriweather isn't too badly hurt, and Sanders and Harrison and Lynch are healthy come regular season, the Pats safety position should be OK barring bad injuries to more than one of those three.

And another bright spot--in the bit of the game I saw, Shawn Crable looked really good as well as Mayo, skinny legs and all.

22
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 12:50pm

MJK:

Here's hoping the Pats can get him to play hard every down. Unless Michigan let him free lance or had him blitzing Crable would get himself in bad position and get rolled at the point of attack.

He would make a big play then disappear for 5-10 minutes.

Had to be frustrating as a Wolverine fan. As a Wisky guy, I just appreciated one less guy trying to tackle....

23
by Quentin (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 1:58pm

Tampa Bay backs were consistently able to get positive yardage after contact.

The crazy part is that we're not talking about Earnest Graham here. Both Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett, two guys who aren't exactly known for running people over, pretty consistently stayed on their feet and kept going for another 3 yards after getting hit. I don't think you can judge their pass defense based on preseason because they're a blitzing team, but I think there are legitimate question concerning their play against the run.

24
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 3:56pm

BadgerT,

Thanks for the insight. From what I've heard, Belichick has alluded to turning him into a dedicated pass rusher, and from what I've seen he has struggled a bit against the run (a lot of folks attribute his lack of lower body strength).

25
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 5:06pm

#21: Shouldn't be a problem, then. The Patriots are well known for the health of their secondary. :)

26
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 5:07pm

Really Will - Jackson run in pre season caused you more doubts than anything else you've seen. More than the jump passes in the pocket? More than the passes into traffic?

Lets get some perspective. He didn't take a linebacker head on, he tried to juke him. Stupid yes, because it's pre-season, but not exactly the dumbest thing I've seen from Jackson.

Which brings me to my next point - I think people have a tendency of reading way to much into a play and or game. The bigger sample is what matters. Jackson is questionable - anywhere from awful to decent based on similarity comparisons to other QB's at the same stage.

27
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 7:23pm

21: Just wait, Crable will make a spectacularly stupid play at the worst possible time. More than anything, that is his area of expertise.

"Hey, it's 4th down, we really need the ball back so we can have a chance at taking the lead and going to the title game, and Troy Smith has already thrown the ball, so how about I hit him in the head?"

"You know, I COULD try to avoid hitting the Wisconsin QB really late, but why bother, we didn't really need that INT anyways"

"What, do you really expect me to block that guy on a field goal attempt? He's from Appalachian State, there's no way he'll be fast enough to block this kick."

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by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 8:03pm

Ouch... a lot of Crable hate out here! Dashing my hopes of seeing a Crable and Vrabel pass rush on a consistent basis...

I also realized I forgot to say something else. I wanted to agree with Steve in 7. The Pats defense may have looked "old", but that's surprising, given that they're not "old". They have only four significant players who one could define as "old" in football terms--Bruschi, Harrison (who didn't play), Vrabel, and Lynch (who played like two snaps). The myth that the Pats defense is old just won't die! Granted, I saw only a bit of the game, but their defense did not look old. Playing vanilla against the pass, and unable to tackle or get any push against the run, yes, but not old. Just undisciplined...

29
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 1:50pm

Jimm, a guy making a bad pass doesn't demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of what his purpose on the team is. A starting qb tryng to juke a linebacker in a preseason game is demonstrating that he really doesn't get it at all.

30
by Miguel (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 9:44pm

Regarding the Washington analysis of WR Billy McMullen, I like McMullen, and expect him to be on a roster this year.
Jerheme Urban is another potentially productive receiver that I like for Arizona.

As far as the rants about the Bucs, especially regarding Bruce Gradkowski. What did you expect? Mind you, he played well as a rookie in my opinion. However, the West Coast isn't an easy offense by any means. Bruce has certainly ensured himself of at least a backup job for the next couple of years. Cheer for the Bucs O-Line if they play anything like this during the regular season, they'll boast a top 10 offensive attack for sure.

31
by morganja (not verified) :: Thu, 08/21/2008 - 12:20am

Re:
“What, do you really expect me to block that guy on a field goal attempt? He’s from Appalachian State, there’s no way he’ll be fast enough to block this kick.”

In his defense the App State safety, Cory Lynch, proceeded to get run down from behind by a kicker.

32
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 08/22/2008 - 2:46pm

Agree on the pats defence: Sloppy, not old.

"The NFL Network crew spent much of the evening harping on Matt Cassel, and I think they were correct"

Cassel sucks. Gutierrez looked better than him last year, and still does. Cassel just does not react fast enough, hes like watching Bledsoe again. He's getting cut.