A Brief Look at Pre-Season Week 2

I did this last week and it was a lot of fun, so let’s look at pre-season week 2.

Time for the disclaimer again:

I AM WELL AWARE THIS IS PRESEASON. NOTHING SHOULD BE TAKEN TOO SERIOUSLY UNTIL WE SEE THE TEAMS SQUARE OFF IN MEANINGFUL ACTION.

That being said, the first topic is very serious.

 

Injuries: Some big losses this week that could alter the dynamic of a number of teams. Jordy Nelson will grab a few headlines, going down with a suspected torn ACL and will no doubt be a big loss for the Packers (more on that later). Kelvin Benjamin went out in practice also with a torn ACL. Benjamin leaves the Panthers with a pedestrian looking wide receiver group, led by a rookie who’s shown a lot of potential in Devin Funchess. In truth Greg Olsen will probably be Kam’s top weapon on a Benjamin-less team. On the Panthers defence they lost a potential replacement to Greg Hardy in Frank Alexander, who was sharing time with Kony Ealy at defensive end (but once again more on him later).

In the Packers vs. Steelers match up it wasn’t just Green Bay who suffered a massive offensive blow. Pittsburgh lost center Maurkice Pouncey to a fractured fibular, he’s expected to miss 2 months.

RG3 went down with a concussion and ‘stinger’, thanks to poor offensive line play on top of bad pocket presence. However it’s possible he won’t miss any time. Regardless it’s not a good sign for the future and it’s sad that it would be a surprise if he makes it through the whole season.

Chris Johnson missed yesterday’s game after signing on with the Arizona Cardinals. Whilst this isn’t amazingly surprising, the Cards could do with some good luck in regards to injuries.

 

Potential Concerns: I will get shot down for this, so let me make it clear. I’m just saying what I saw in this weekend’s games and I know this duo is set for a huge season. However, you’d have to think that there is a slight (and I mean incredibly slight) concern that over 5 passes to OBJ, Eli couldn’t connect with a single one. It means next to nothing but I had to mention it.

There are some definite depth issues in the league. The Falcons first stringers look fantastic. However as soon as you get them off the field the team looks incredibly weak. The same can be said for the Colts, particularly on defence. On the Seahawks it’s at just one position, which is the running backs. Michael and Turbin really struggle when Marshawn Lynch isn’t in the game. There is no denying that Wilson can paper over a few gaps, but between a poor o-line and a lack of depth at running back, could see the offence stutter if Lynch goes out. Speaking of running backs…

Darren McFadden. 3 for 4 yards… not good

Bryan Hoyer’s won the starting job for the Texans in a similar manner to the way he won the Browns QB job last year With a stutter.

Standouts: So let’s start with Jarryd Hayne who looked exceptional this week. I said last week I wanted to see more and this week I did. Hayne didn’t just have some unreal returns on special teams, but also looked really good running the ball. Hayne is still behind 3 players on the Niners depth chart, but will almost certainly make the roster as a special teamer/ gadget player. On the other side of the ball, Navarro Bowman does not look like he’s missed a year’s worth of play. Bowman was exceptional in this game. He only played 3 snaps, but in those 3 snaps he made 2 tackles for a loss. Bowman, as long as he can stay healthy will be crucial for the Niners if they’re to stand any chance of being remotely relevant in the NFC West.

The Frank Alexander loss was big for the Panthers, but luckily Kony Ealy looks like he might be ready to take his place on the starting line-up. Ealy finished the 2nd pre-season game with a sack and a forced fumble, against a decent looking Dolphins team. Speaking of which…

The more I watch the teams in the AFC East, the more I feel I can get a read on where they belong in a power ranking. Generally I’ve been underwhelmed by the Jets in pre-season and the Bills lack of a solid QB takes them out of contention in my opinion. The Patriots are high on any list simply by name alone. So that leaves Miami, who I believe have looked like the most impressive team in that division on both sides of the ball. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t put them above the Patriots just yet, I mean, it is still pre-season, but in the 2 games we’ve had so far I do think they’ve looked like one of the most complete teams in the league. I’m not ready to crown them just yet. The loss of Louis Delmas is huge and I still don’t have a great deal of faith in their head coach (what’s his name?). But I am quietly confident that there is now a gap between the number 2 and 3 teams in that division.

The Titans looked good…

A sentence I never thought I’d say. In all seriousness though, they did. Mariota continues to impress. He’s handled more than his fair share of offensive issues over the last couple games really rather well. In this game his comms in his helmet went down and he was still able to effectively move the offense, which is huge, especially when you look at some of the big concerns people had about him coming out of college was his ability to call plays. The offensive line like a completely different unit to last week, they looked solid and created some decent holes for Bishop Sankey, who also looked decent. The defence looked good too. A year into the 3-4 scheme put in place by Ray Horton, they look for the first time like a cohesive unit. When I wrote about the Titans I said that at their best they were the 2nd best team in the AFC South. Right now that’s exactly what they look like. One final note on the Titans. Back up QB Mettenberger looked decent and in my opinion has the ability to walk into a number of teams that need QBs… I’m looking at you Cleveland, Buffalo, Houston.

Teddy Bridgewater has been someone who seems to get better with every game. Bridgewater in this one was inch perfect on a couple of passes and looks set to be the best QB this team has had in a long time, a perfect complement for Adrian Peterson.

Anyone watching Hard Knocks will be very aware of Charles James’ fight to stay on the Texans roster and this week’s performance won’t have hurt. James looked great at corner, but will almost certainly live and die by his play on special teams, which was where he stood out this week. Hopefully we’ll see Charles James (and his socks) on the Texans side-line when the season starts.

I mentioned how surprised I was by the Saints offence and how good they looked. This week was no different. Robinson continues to look dangerous, Cooks is a genuine burner and Mark Ingram looks more versatile than ever. Oh and their QB looks as good as ever too. This could be a team that takes advantage of a weaker NFC South, however…

The Bucs followed a questionable performance in week 1, with a pretty decent showing in week 2. The obvious place to start is with Winston, who is still making mistakes, but seemed to have more control of the offence than last week. Despite there still being some line issues, Doug Martin looked like the player we’d been promised in week 1. Every time it looked like the Bengals had him, he managed to pop out and gain some more yards. Martin looked impossible to get a grip on.

 

Terrell Suggs: I have some thoughts on this so I figured I’d go slightly more in depth about it. To have an understanding of what happened you have to look at the whole drive up until that point. The Eagles confidence in getting the ball out quickly meant they were always leaving a man open to attack the QB. Twice this was Suggs. The first time Suggs got close. The second time he connected and connected low. This wasn’t a one off though. If you look at the play before the ‘hit’, you’ll see Suggs breeze past his blocker and narrowly miss taking Bradford down…low. In my mind there was no doubt that Suggs was aiming for his knees.

There’s a couple of arguments however to back up Suggs. For starters maybe the Eagles shouldn’t have put their fragile QB in that situation. The way the Eagles line up is somewhat confusing and relies on misdirection, so this was an effective way of stopping the Eagles running the zone read and it worked. Also maybe they should have been blocking Suggs if they’re that concerned about the health of their newly recovered QB.

For me it’s simple. I believe that it was a perfectly legal hit, but at the same time was kind of a dick move.

Don’t Believe the Hype: First up, the belief that the Packers are out of contention without Jordy Nelson. There is no denying that the loss of Nelson is a crushing blow. the rapport he has with Rodgers is virtually unmatched and looked set for another exceptional season. But the loss of Nelson is not the be all and end all of a unit that has a QB that is currently the best in the league. The Packers last super bowl in 2010 was won on the back of a laundry list of injuries. But the play of Rodgers was at a level that meant everyone around him got better. Add to this. A decent o-line, an exceptional run game and a group of receivers that are more than capable of moving the ball and you have a team that I would still rank number 1 in the league. The Packers will be fine with Cobb, Adams, Montgomery and Janis.

Johnny Manziel… Okay so he played well, something it is impossible to deny, but it’s important to remember who he was up against. The Bills defence is one of the best in the league, something that Josh McCown found out. Manziel was up against the 2nd/ 3rd stringers. Let’s not get carried away about his performance. It was good, but what the kid really needs is a season learning the position behind Josh McCown, no matter how bad he plays.

and that’s week 2. See you all in week 3!