Mostly agree with your rankings; with the optimism bias from being a cardinals fan personally, I'd argue you could make a 1 star increase at each position, but their current rankings are also fair. I very much disagree with the 1 star ranking at special teams however, as we have a pro bowl gunner in Justin Bethel being joined by some high upside athletes in the kick coverage team and kick return game. Probably the best coverage unit in the game, which coupled with a punter who is below average (don't think he's as bad as stats show- his hangtime is rediculous, and it seems the staff went with him for this reason. I'd choose a distance leg with our coverage team, butI digress). In short, I'd say 3 stars is fair. A perfectly average special teams unit, whose only limitation really seems to be Drew Butler's distance and the uncertainty of a new long snapper (but both seem pretty reliable this far)
2008 NFL Preseason Recap and Fantasy Football Notes
2008 NFL Preseason: Week 4
Because the starters saw very limited or no action this week, I'm not going into full detail in each contest. I'll only list a few points. If you want more preseason analysis, keep scrolling down and read my Week 1-3 writeups.
Seahawks 23, Raiders 16
Darren McFadden touched the ball five times versus the Seahawks. One was a catch for no yards. The other four were carries for 50 yards, including a 24-yard gain.
T.J. Duckett may have saved his job with a 71-yard, two-touchdown performance. I still don't like Duckett as a short-yardage back - he's soft - and I believe Leonard Weaver is a better fit in that role.
Ben Obomanu caught two passes for 49 yards. Unfortunately, he broke his clavicle and could be out for the year. Congratulations, Courtney Taylor, you win the No. 2 job by default.
Broncos 28, Cardinals 14
Check out this stat line: Chris Kuper: 1-of-1, -27 yards passing... How do you complete a minus-27-yard pass? Is Chris Kuper that much of a girly-man that, not only couldn't he throw the ball downfield; he couldn't even toss it forward without it going 27 yards backward. Kuper's YPA is -27. That means if Kuper throws the ball 20 times starting from his own 20-yard line, the opposing team will be up 40-0 on 20 safeties.
More bad quarterbacking: Anthony Morelli had a golden opportunity to pass Brian St. Pierre, who was an awful 1-of-7 for 13 yards. Instead, Morelli, quite possibly confused and disoriented by the home crowd noise, lobbed two picks to Denver.
Matt Leinart actually put up solid numbers, going 10-of-14 for 177 yards and a score. Good to know Leinart can still excel versus backup talent (i.e. Pac 10 starters). Kurt Warner was 4-of-4 for 48 yards in the first quarter.
Wesley Woodyard was a beast for the Broncos, notching six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. I liked Woodyard coming out of Kentucky and thought he should have been drafted higher, so it's nice to see him doing well.
Buccaneers 16, Texans 6
If the Buccaneers were showing Chris Simms off as trade bait, they didn't do a good job. Simms went 9-of-15 for 71 yards (YPA less than five) and an interception.
Dexter Jackson scored a touchdown on a punt return. Though I'm sure there wasn't much gameplanning on either side for this Week 4 preseason contest, Jackson's play-making ability has to be exciting for Tampa Bay fans and Buccaneer defense owners.
Dolphins 14, Saints 10
Brittle Running Back No. 1: Ricky Williams had just two carries because Tony Sparano wanted to see how Ronnie Brown would hold up. Brown managed 47 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. That may make Brown owners feel a bit better about themselves for now. Check back in a few weeks when Brown, coming off an ACL, suffers a few more injuries and has to sit out. Ricky Williams is still the way to go.
Brittle Running Back No. 2: Deuce McAllister compiled 30 yards on 11 rushes. I didn't get to see McAllister against the Dolphins, but the McAllister I saw with my own eyes last week looked scared to hit the hole. Coming off two knee surgeries, I don't blame him. In all honesty, if I were McAllister, I would sit out this year entirely and come back 100 percent for 2009.
Chad Henne saw most of the work versus New Orleans' backup defense. Henne finished 16-of-20 for 137 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Bears 16, Browns 10
If it wasn't for New England's pathetic defense, I'd say Chicago's stop unit has been the most disappointing this preseason. The Bears have now let Brodie Croyle, Charlie Frye, J.T. O'Sullivan and Brady Quinn have their way with them. Quinn was 7-of-9 for 65 yards against Chicago's starting crew. That said, the Bears are definitely still draftable because of Devin Hester.
Travis Wilson caught six balls for 57 yards. With Joe Jurevicius out for a while, Wilson should have the No. 3 spot locked up. He'll be starting once Donte' Stallworth suffers his annual injuries. Wilson's worth a look late in deep leagues.
Kyle Orton went 4-of-7 for 51 yards and a pick. It's never good news when Orton throws an interception early because he's supposed to be the "safe" quarterback. Rex Grossman played well against Cleveland's backup defense, but who wouldn't?
Giants 19, Patriots 14
New England's defense - and I'm going to hit my CAPS lock key for this - REALLY SUCKS! The starting unit couldn't prevent David Carr from easily moving down the field on them. Carr, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and Kyle Boller all abused the Patriots' first-string stop unit this preseason. Can you say 2002 St. Louis Rams?
Mario Manningham stopped slacking off long enough to catch five passes for 41 yards. Sinorice Moss grabbed two balls for 19 yards and a score. Steve Smith accumulated three receptions for 16 yards. I still like Smith the most out of that trio, but he's not worth drafting unless you're in a deep league that starts three wideouts.
Chiefs 21, Rams 17
Brodie Croye didn't throw an interception or fumble the ball. High five! Unfortunately, Croyle, who was a misleading 3-of-4 for 42 yards, went against St. Louis' backups. The Rams' starters can't even stop anyone, so you can only imagine how poor their reserves are.
Steelers 19, Panthers 16
Rashard Mendenhall managed 79 yards on 21 carries. Good news for Mendenhall owners, right? Well, after fumbling twice last week, he fumbled once versus Carolina. It's obvious to say that if Mendenhall keeps fumbling he'll see less carries because Mike Tomlin won't be able to trust him. I still think he's fine in touchdown leagues regardless.
Titans 23, Packers 21
Vince Young played the entire first half for the Titans despite facing Green Bay's second- and third-stringers. The result? A woeful 13-of-27 for 134 yards. No one in Tennessee's receiving corps is draftable, save for Justin Gage really late.
LenDale White led the Titans in rushing with 55 yards on 16 carries. Chris Johnson chipped in with eight attempts for 24 yards and a touchdown. Additionally, Johnson caught four balls for 46 yards. Both running backs are about equal in traditional leagues. Johnson gets the edge in PPR, while LenDale is a better option in touchdown leagues.
Aaron Rodgers threw one pass - it was a dart that he threaded between a few Titans receivers. Greg Jennings caught it and ran 68 yards for a touchdown.
Falcons 10, Ravens 9
Not a good showing for Matt Ryan. Playing against a Ravens defense missing most of its stars, Ryan went just 2-of-7 for 17 yards. That can't be good news heading into Week 1.
Meanwhile, the other rookie quarterback in this game, Joe Flacco, finished 8-of-13 for 72 yards. Half of this production came against Atlanta's starters. I don't think Flacco is ready to start in the NFL just yet, but he has shown tons of promise this preseason.
Michael Turner saw some work, running for 18 yards on four carries.
Ray Rice notched 37 yards on seven carries, including a 23-yard gain. The way things are looking, Rice could be Baltimore's starter in 2009.
Bengals 27, Colts 7
No one seems to want to win the Colts' No. 3 quarterbacking gig. Quinn Gray refrained from throwing an interception this time (he had four last week), but was just 3-of-12 for 37 yards. Jared Lorenzen went 9-of-16 for 91 yards and a pick. Maybe Indianapolis should cut its losses, release both and sign Vinny Testaverde.
Rudi Johnson didn't play in this game, possibly to prevent him from getting hurt for a potential trade. The Bengals are crazy if they think they're going to get more than a 12th-round pick and a Herman Edwards motivational DVD set for him. Expect Johnson to be released.
Chris Perry ran for 20 yards on nine carries. He also scored a touchdown. There just wasn't much room to navigate with Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh out of the lineup.
Chris Henry made an appearance for the Bengals. He caught three balls for 20. No word yet if he bought alcohol for 10-year-olds at halftime.
Jaguars 24, Redskins 3
David Garrard still hasn't impressed me this preseason. Garrard went 5-of-8 for 58 yards and a touchdown, but also threw an ugly interception against Redskin backups. While many people, including Matthew Berry, are high on Garrard this year, I question the fact that he has yet to assemble a decent preseason outing.
Matt Jones has rededicated himself; not only has he promised to stop snorting coke; he has also vowed to learn the playbook! David Garrard told John Madden that Jones didn't know the plays last year, but now is on the right track. Go Matt!
Jason Campbell has gotten worse each week this preseason. He was 1-of-4 for three yards and a pick versus the Jaguars' starting defensive unit.
Jets 27, Eagles 20
Brett Ratliff and Kellen Clemens rotated the first four series for the Jets. While Ratliff performed well (3-of-4 for 48 yards and a touchdown), Clemens struggled, going 3-of-8 for 18 yards, giving him a whopping YPA of 2.3. Erik Ainge saw mop-up duty. He went 10-of-16 for 131 yards and a score, but I have to say that Ainge could be the slowest quarterback since Drew Bledsoe.
Kevin Kolb looked solid for the Eagles, albeit he was facing Jets second- and third-stringers. Kolb was 13-of-21 for 138 yards.
Eagles third-round rookie Bryan Smith had 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Smith could garner a couple of sacks this season as a situational pass-rusher.
Chargers 20, 49ers 17
Bryant Johnson has apparently risen from the dead. Appearing in his first preseason action, Johnson caught three passes for 41 yards. The 49ers have just $2 million invested in him, and their coaching staff loves Josh Morgan, so I can't see Johnson passing the rookie as the starting split end.
Alex Smith also saw a ton of action but tossed two interceptions on consecutive drives versus Chargers backups.
No LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, so Jacob Hester saw all the carries on the first few drives. He totaled 44 yards on 10 carries.
Lions 14, Bills 6
Sure, James Hardy was catching passes from Gibran Hamdan, but he managed just two receptions for 30 yards against Detroit's reserves in the first half. Fellow rookie Steve Johnson saw more work, snagging in eight balls for 74 yards. Neither is worth drafting, but both are definitely worth a look in keeper leagues.
Cowboys 16, Vikings 10
Not much to say about this game except another Cowboys receiver suffered an injury; this time, Sam Hurd. Dallas' top three wideouts include Terrell Owens, Jason Witten and Patrick Crayton in this receiver. (Yes, Witten is a wideout; he often played as one last year and will see a lot more of that role in 2008.)
2008 NFL Preseason: Week 3
More game analysis will be added as the tape delays are aired on the NFL Network.
Dolphins 24, Chiefs 0
It's amazing how much better Miami's offense looks with Chad Pennington under center. The Dolphins scored a field goal on their opening 15-play, 10-minute drive. Ricky Williams totaled a lot of the yardage, but Chad Pennington was able to connect on a third-and-seven and pick up a 13-yard gain with his feet. He was an economical 11-of-15 for 94 yards and a touchdown. Pennington isn't worth drafting in 12-man fantasy leagues, but he opens up some opportunities elsewhere on Miami's offense.
Ted Ginn is an intriguing receiver in PPR leagues. Chad Pennington loves to throw short stuff, so like Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, Ginn figures to garner a bunch of receptions this season. He's still not much of a factor in touchdown leagues though. Ginn had three receptions for 29 yards against the Chiefs.
Ricky Williams continues to impress. Williams compiled 47 yards on 12 carries; his YPC average could have been much higher if he didn't have so many short-yardage opportunities. Williams also caught two balls for eight yards. He's not the old dominant Ricky, but he's pretty close. With Ronnie Brown coming off a torn ACL and nursing dozens of other injuries, Williams could total 1,000 yards this year, making him a great RB3 option around Rounds 5 or 6.
Ted Ginn returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. At first, it appeared Ginn would suffer a huge loss because he moved backward, but Ginn outran and everyone to the left sideline and went upfield unscathed.
Jake Long seemed shaky in pass protection against Tamba Hali. He didn't allow any sacks, but Hali out-maneuvered him on a few occasions. Long is a really good run-blocker, however, which is why Williams is solid fantasy option.
Jalen Parmele broke an 80-yard run in the fourth quarter and scored a tough short-yardage touchdown. He's worth a look in keeper leagues, as neither Ricky Williams nor Ronnie Brown will be around much longer.
Brodie Croyle went 12-of-21 for 110 yards and a pick, which doesn't seem that bad. However, he had three glaring errors that helped prevent the Chiefs from scoring any points on the Dolphins. The first was the interception. Croyle stared down his receiver for a good five seconds before firing the ball right into Renaldo Hill's hands. The second mistake was a fumble that occurred because Croyle held on to the ball way too long in the pocket, allowing Channing Crowder to strip it out. The third error was Croyle missing a completely wide-open Dwayne Bowe in the end zone at the beginning of the third quarter.
Larry Johnson looked pretty solid despite his lacking production. Johnson managed 36 yards on 13 carries. He had a nice 13-yard run left tackle, so if you eliminate that, he had 23 yards on 12 rushes. Kansas City's offensive line just couldn't open up any holes for him. That is a trend that will continue all season.
Dwayne Bowe caught two balls for 20 yards. Unfortunately, Brodie Croyle completely missed a wide-open Bowe in the end zone early in the third quarter. Bowe remains a solid WR3 option.
Saints 13, Bengals 0
Drew Brees is in Pro Bowl form. He went 14-of-22 for 199 yards and a touchdown. He made a number of great throws, including a 35-yard sideline fade to Lance Moore. Brees just dropped the ball into Moore's lap and there was nothing Bengals corner Jonathan Joseph could do about it.
Two weeks ago, Robert Meachem impressed a national audience by catching a deep pass and avoiding a number of tackles on another reception. Against the Bengals, Drew Brees found Meachem downfield on a 59-yard play, eventually setting up a touchdown. Meachem finished with four catches for 71 yards.
Devery Henderson caught one ball for 11 yards. More importantly, he dropped a touchdown catch in the second quarter.
Marques Colston snagged in two balls for 25 yards in the first quarter before leaving the game with bruised ribs. He'll be fine.
It was Aaron Stecker, Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush in the first quarter for the Saints. No one really was that great. Bush had six yards on two rushes, as he left early with a minor thigh bruise. McAllister, meanwhile, looked like he was running scared, appearing hesitant to hit the hole. He had nine yards on six carries.
Pierre Thomas was the best running back on the field for New Orleans. He had five rushes for 46 yards, and four catches for 35 yards. All of this was done in the second half, but all of Thomas' carries were against Cincinnati's first-stringers. I don't expect McAllister to last long, and it's fairly obvious that Thomas is superior to Aaron Stecker. I still think Thomas is worth a shot late in deep, non-touchdown leagues.
Taylor Mehlhaff should have secured the kicking job with a 45-yard field goal against the Bengals. I know Martin Gramatica hasn't missed this preseason, but Mehlhaff's youth and ability to hit touchbacks on kickoffs gives him the edge.
The Bengals managed just one first down to New Orleans' eight in the first quarter. They also had only 22 yards to the Saints' 152. Guess we'll know what happens if both T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson get hurt during the regular season. Neither played in this contest. Carson Palmer still managed to go 11-of-16 for 105 yards, though he was sacked thrice.
With Rudi Johnson still slacking off and missing time, Chris Perry looked very solid, gaining 36 rushing yards on 12 carries and 22 receiving yards on four catches. I believe Perry will get the most touches of any Cincinnati running back this season, barring injury.
Ben Utecht took advantage of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh's absences, and led the Bengals with four catches and 49 yards. Utecht makes for a decent TE2 if you're into drafting backup tight ends (though I don't see the point in doing so). Utecht's production will decrease once Chris Henry returns from his 8,000th suspension.
Training camp? We're talkin' about training camp man! We're talkin' about training camp! Keith Rivers, who was one of the final rookies to sign, looked great against the Saints. He had eight tackles and a sack.
Jaguars 23, Buccaneers 17
Jeff Garcia threw one of the worst passes I've ever seen in my life in the first quarter. Garcia ran a bootleg to the right, threw a pseudo-jump pass, which floated right into the hands of Reggie Nelson. Later, Garcia lofted a soft pass, which was picked off by an unseen Nelson in the red zone. He finished 11-of-18 for 79 yards, one touchdown and two picks. That's an abysmal 4.4 YPA for Garcia. I would avoid all Tampa Bay wide receivers until late in the draft, as the former CFL quarterback's career looks like it's quickly coming to an end.
Brian Griese's numbers looked better (7-of-11 for 71 yards), but I wouldn't advise the Buccaneers to start him. Griese predictably made some dumb decisions and lucked out, as the Jaguars dropped two potential interceptions.
Warrick Dunn - not Earnest Graham - received the first carry for the Buccaneers. Graham had the second rush - a 1-yard gain resulting in a lost fumble. Each back had five attempts. Dunn gained 12 yards. Graham had a whopping seven.
Dexter Jackson had three return opportunities. One was a touchback. On the other two, he didn't get past the 15-yard line.
Matt Bryant missed a 23-yard field goal at the end of the first half. Bryant later hit a 27-yarder. I guess 23 yards out was just too close.
David Garrard finished 10-of-16 for 118 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but he was just 7-of-11 for 65 yards, one score and a pick versus Tampa Bay's starting defense. Nothing terrible, but through three preseason games, I still haven't seen the guy who led the Jaguars to a near upset of the New England Patriots in the second round of the playoffs. With Garrard's struggles, I'm far from confident in my prediction that Jacksonville will win the AFC.
Despite the fact that his 33rd birthday is on the horizon, Fred Taylor ran like a spry rookie versus Tampa Bay. On his second carry, Taylor broke four tackles for an impressive 9-yard gain. He finished with 26 yards on seven tries. Maurice Jones-Drew carried the ball once before leaving the game with a minor injury.
Troy Williamson: No catches. One drop. Shocking.
Matt Jones actually looked pretty decent for the Jaguars. He had three receptions for 45 yards, and made a nice catch that moved the chains for the Jaguars on third down. It's good Jones has rededicated himself and decided against snorting coke; we all saw what happened to Colin in Season 6 of 90210. Weed and/or steroids should be Jones' drugs of choice.
Cardinals 24, Raiders 0
Matt Leinart was intercepted on his first pass. I wouldn't necessarily call it a poor throw; it was a shot downfield to Larry Fitzgerald, which I liked because Leinart has thrown a billion checkdowns this preseason. However, things quickly got worse for the former USC superstar. Leinart's second interception was pretty bad. Not only did he cross the line of scrimmage when he was scrambling around; he also underthrew his target and tossed the ball right to Stanford Routt. Leinart's final pick was an ugly duck he heaved downfield into double coverage.
Let's talk about what the 4-of-12 for 25 yards and three interceptions doesn't tell you. Even before his final two picks, Leinart really looked confused in the offense. An offensive delay of game here, an intentional grounding there... The offense just didn't work well with a discombobulated Leinart at the helm. Even the Raiders announcers commented on how disoriented he looked. Oh, and by the way, Leinart nearly tossed a fourth pick on an overthrow to Leonard Pope.
I know Ken Whisenhunt has denied ESPN's report that Kurt Warner will be the starting quarterback, but if Whisenhunt starts Leinart for one game over Warner, he's a fool. If Whisenhunt wants to go with a clueless guy who throws nothing but incompletions, interceptions and checkdowns, he can go with Leinart. If he wants to go 5-11 and draft in the top 10 next year, he can start Mr. Beer Bong.
While Edgerrin James had 26 yards on six carries, Tim Hightower, who saw action with the first string, managed 52 yards and a score on 10 rushes. The only negative thing Hightower did was fumble the ball; he looked really great otherwise. James will get the majority of the carries this year, but Hightower will eat a lot of his touches, especially near the goal line.
With Kurt Warner throwing the ball just four times, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald were limited with Matt Leinart at the helm. Boldin finished with three receptions for 54 yards (two from Warner), while Fitzgerald had one catch for one yard.
Looking at the box score, I was surprised to see that JaMarcus Russell was sacked just four times. Arizona's front seven seemed like it was in Oakland's backfield the entire evening. It was so bad for the Raiders' starting offensive line that they gave up two sacks to the Cardinals' second-string defenders.
JaMarcus Russell came out flawless, completing his first four passes against the Cardinals. Nothing deep, as Russell went to Zach Miller twice over the middle and Javon Walker on his third attempt. Unfortunately, Russell's first toss downfield was an underthrow to Ronald Curry, which was picked off by Karlos Dansby. However, despite finishing 14-of-28 for 140 yards and a pick, Russell did some nice things. He did a great job eluding a sack and scrambling for a first down in the second quarter. The play was nullified by an illegal shift, but it was impressive, nonetheless.
Four of JaMarcus Russell's completions went to Javon Walker. Yeah, the guy who couldn't get open against rookie corners and had to be talked out of retirement. Walker looked semi-rejuivinated, totaling 60 yards. I still wouldn't draft him in any fantasy league that has less than 16 teams.
Ronald Curry had just one catch for 16 yards, but he made it count. Curry made a great, diving reception to secure a first down for the Raiders.
The first time Darren McFadden touched the ball, he fumbled it, allowing the Cardinals to pick it up and return it for a touchdown. However, the play was overturned, transforming McFadden's fumble into a drop. McFadden tallied 40 yards on 12 carries, while Justin Fargas touched the ball just once.
Zach Miller made two grabs for 16 yards. He also caught an impressive touchdown, but it was unjustly overturned by crooked officials who faded my Raiders -3 pick.
Steelers 12, Vikings 10
Ben Roethlisberger was 10-of-17 for just 65 yards. He had to take some short stuff because Minnesota's defensive line made things really difficult for him. However, Roethlisberger threw behind a few of his receivers, particularly in the red zone.
Heath Miller was the only target of Ben Roethlisberger's to actually produce against Minnesota. Miller caught three balls for 30 yards. Santonio Holmes didn't catch a pass, though Roethlisberger threw behind him inside the red zone. Hines Ward had one reception for eight yards. The Vikings' defensive front didn't give Roethlisberger lots of time to find his receivers downfield.
Rashard Mendenhall didn't appear until Pittsburgh's fourth drive. His second carry looked like it was going to be a good gain, but Mendenhall fumbled and turned it over. Mendenhall was benched until the second half. He looked really impressive - Mendenhall tallied 79 rushing yards on 15 carries and 15 receiving yards on two catches - but he fumbled it again late in the fourth quarter. I'm not sure if Mike Tomlin completely trusts Mendenhall yet.
On two occasions, Willie Parker was in the shotgun and Ben Roethlisberger was split out wide. Parker ran the ball twice for minimal gains. Are the Steelers setting something up for the regular season? I'm not sure, but Parker managed just 18 yards on 10 carries against the NFL's top run defense in 2007.
I'm going out on a limb and saying the Vikings' offense wasn't really mentally focused in the wake of Tarvaris Jackson's absence. Minnesota had three false starts by three different players on the opening drive.
With Gus Frerotte replacing Tarvaris Jackson, the Steelers could really afford to stack the line of scrimmage against the run. Memories of Adrian Peterson's 14-carry, 3-yard effort against the 49ers last year (which knocked me out of two of my fantasy leagues) came to mind when Peterson managed 21 yards and a short touchdown on 12 carries. Peterson chipped in with three receptions for 11 yards. Chester Taylor, meanwhile, had five yards on four carries.
It was tough to judge Minnesota's receiving corps with Gus Frerotte at the helm. Bernard Berrian didn't catch any passes, while No. 5 receiver Aundrae Allson led the squad with five receptions for 56 yards.
Jets 10, Giants 7
Brett Favre once again looked great for the Jets. He went 9-of-12 for 96 yards. Two incompletions were shots downfield, while the third was a drop by Chris Baker. A beautiful 29-yard pass from a pressured Favre to Brad Smith was negated by an illegal shift penalty called by crooked official Jerome Boger. Boger also nullified an incredible 49-yard Favre-to-Jerricho Cotchery fade touchdown, thanks to another illegal shift by Bubba Franks.
Jerricho Cotchery had just one catch for 30 yards in the first half, but a 49-yard touchdown of his was nullified by a Bubba Franks illegal shift. Laveranues Coles was too busy spending time with his Chad Pennington blowup doll to play.
Thomas Jones had a miserable evening, gaining just 11 yards on six carries. The Giants' defense did that a lot to opposing runners last year, so don't panic if you have Jones on your roster.
After being upstaged by Brett Ratliff twice, Kellen Clemens finally outperformed the Utah product, going 9-of-12 for 83 yards. Clemens threw a perfect 34-yard seam pass to Dustin Keller in the third quarter. That said, two of Clemens' errant passes were wildly inaccurate inside the red zone. Ratliff tossed a pick under pressure right into the hands of Renaldo Wynn. However, Ratliff rebounded nicely off the interception and led the Jets to a quick touchdown on two deep passes.
Calvin Pace, starting ahead of Vernon Gholston, had two sacks on Eli Manning in the first half. David Diehl allowed the first sack, but Manning held on to the ball way too long in the pocket. Gholston didn't do anything of note.
Brandon Jacobs once again started and received all the work early on. All six of his carries came in the first quarter. He totaled 26 yards. Jacobs also caught a 5-yard pass. However, Jacobs missed an assignment on a David Harris blitz, leading to Eli Manning's second sack of the game. Derrick Ward had all the rushes in the second quarter. He gained 36 yards on four attempts. Ahmad Bradshaw saw seven carries in the second half. He collected 28 yards and a score, but fumbled in the fourth quarter.
Domenik Hixon, the star of the Monday night game last week, caught a 22-yard pass along the sideline on the first drive of the game. Hixon led the squad with 51 receiving yards on three catches.
Steve Smith had four receptions for 37 yards, but dropped a pass inside the two-minute mark at the end of the first half. Sinorice Moss had one catch for 11 yards, but also had a drop near the end zone.
I know no one cares about punters, but Jeff "Philadelphia" Feagles had a preseason game for the ages. Nearly all of his kicks were aimed perfectly toward the dreaded coffin corner, repeatedly placing the Jets' first-string offense in poor field position.
If you've been living under a rock recently, Osi Umenyiora tore his knee on what looked like an ordinary pass rush attempt in the second quarter and will miss the entire season. Michael Strahan will return at the right price (more than $8 million). Sounds fair, considering Jason Taylor is making $7.5 million this year.
Shocking news: David Carr was sacked twice on his first drive and four times overall. Said Ian Eagle of Carr, "David Carr is just having problems functioning."
Awkward Exchange of the Game: Ian Eagle: "According to Leon Washington's profile, he likes to watch the planet Earth to relax. That's deep." Greg Buttle: "Well, that's because he's looking at it from the moon." Eagle: "...What???"
Chargers 18, Seahawks 17
It went from bad to worse for San Diego's defense. Missing Shawne Merriman, the Chargers surrendered a 68-yard bomb from Charlie Frye to Nate Burleson on the opening drive. San Diego had problems stopping the run, while wrapping up Frye was an even bigger issue. Jyles Tucker, replacing Merriman, whiffed on a tackle of Frye and later suffered what is being reported as a high ankle sprain - this just hours after he signed a 5-year extension.
The positive Charger fans can take out of this game is that Philip Rivers looked solid despite coming off ACL surgery. I actually said out loud, "So much for that torn ACL" when Rivers completed a 59-yard bomb to Vincent Jackson. After that, however, Rivers nearly threw a pick-six and later hesitated to run on a play in which he could have gained significant yardage on the ground. Rivers was also sometimes favoring one leg. Matt McGuire observed that Rivers looked awkward at times and didn't seem comfortable dropping back and moving in the pocket. That said, Rivers exceeded expectations, going 11-of-21 for 143 yards.
In addition to Vincent Jackson's 59-yard reception, Jackson had two more catches for a grand total of 84 yards in two-and-a-half quarters of action. I think he's a solid, underrated WR3 and a great WR4. Chris Chambers had one reception for 15 yards. He dropped another pass thrown to him.
It's the preseason, so no LaDainian Tomlinson of course. Darren Sproles showed the ability to replace Michael Turner. To open the game, Sproles had three exciting, electrifying runs of 24, 20 and nine. Sproles even scored on a goal-line carry. He finished with 102 yards on 13 carries. Sproles is only 5-6, 181 pounds, but he's an amazing weapon to have out of the backfield, given his blinding speed.
Jacob Hester, meanwhile, was a bit of a disappointment. He picked up an early third-and-one but failed on three consecutive goal-line attempts. He finally scored on his fourth try. Hester finished with 21 yards on nine rushes.
Nick Hardwick won't play until October at the very earliest, so Jeremy Newberry started in his place at center. Newberry botched a snap to Philip Rivers inside the red zone, causing a turnover.
As mentioned, Charlie Frye tossed a 68-yard bomb to Nate Burleson. However, that was Burleson's only reception. Without Matt Hasselbeck, it's to tell how the Seahawks wideouts are going to look. Jordan Kent led the squad with four receptions, but Courtney Taylor, who caught three balls for 24 yards, started across from Burleson. I would just avoid them all together.
What we could tell is how Mike Holmgren is going to use his running backs, and it looks like an RBBC all the way. Maurice Morris started. He rushed for 31 yards on five carries, including an 11-gain in which he broke a number of tackles. Morris also had an 8-yard reception. Julius Jones tallied 30 yards on eight rushes and didn't catch any balls. Morris looked like the superior runner. It appears as though Mike Holmgren is going to mirror what John Fox is doing in Carolina.
T.J. Duckett's days looked like they were going to be numbered when Leonard Weaver picked up a couple of first downs on third-and-short. However, Duckett may have redeemed himself with a 6-carry, 46-yard performance. He inexplicably looked like a spry rookie again.
The Chargers weren't the only ones who suffered some bad news during the game. Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu left the game with a knee injury. He was on cruches in the locker room. He'll have an MRI on Tuesday. This would be a huge blow for Seattle's defense and would drop them from their No. 1 fantasy ranking.
Panthers 47, Redskins 3
For the first time this preseason, Jake Delhomme has proven that he has solid arm strength despite his recent Tommy John surgery. Delhomme started poorly, tossing a pick to rookie safety Kareem Moore on an overthrow to Steve Smith, who was blanketed by double coverage. However, Delhomme finished 11-of-19 for 159 yards, two touchdowns and that interception. I first noticed the arm strength when Delhomme was scrambling out of the pocket and fired the ball to Steve Smith along the sideline. I'm no longer concerned about Delhomme's elbow, so go ahead and make him your QB2.
DeAngelo Williams had 101 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Jonathan Stewart compiled 100 yards and a score on 10 carries. Fantasy owners, of course, are wondering about how both were used. John Fox tipped his hand against the Redskins. Carolina's starting offense had nine offensive drives. Williams was in on every play of the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth possessions, while Stewart received all of the work on the second, fourth, sixth and eighth sequences. So, it looks like Williams and Stewart will rotate possessions this year, which is disappointing from a fantasy perspective. They both really looked great though, as both of their touchdowns featured how talented they are. Williams could have scored twice, but he fumbled the ball 10 yards away from the end zone. Steve Smith scooped it up and ran it in from eight yards out.
Steve Smith caught four passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. His 33-yard score was a short completion, a side step that fooled a Washington corner and an easy gallop toward the end zone.
Muhsin Muhammad has already passed D.J. Hackett, and it looks like Dwayne Jarrett is close to doing so as well. Jarrett looked impressive, catching four balls for 40 yards, which doesn't include a 9-yard reception that was called back because of a penalty. Hackett's injuries have prevented him from seeing action this preseason.
Carolina's pass rush was very pedestrian last season, so it has to be a relief for Panther fans that their defensive line completely abused Washington's front. Early in the game, second-year left end Charles Johnson overpowered Jon Jansen for a sack on Jason Campbell. Later, Julius Peppers plowed Chris Samuels four yards into Campbell. Campbell was sacked four times in the first half.
If you look at the numbers, you'll see that Jason Campbell was just 6-of-10 for 39 yards. Though Campbell had Clinton Portis' services for the first time this preseason, Carolina's defensive front was in Washington's backfield all evening. On most occasions, Campbell had no time to throw and had to take the short stuff. Contrary to his brutal 3.9 YPA, Campbell took some shots downfield, but was errant on all of them. That said, Campbell's not completely blameless; Panthers corner Ken Lucas dropped what should have been a Campbell interception on Washington's first drive.
There's no reason you should be concerned about drafting Clinton Portis at the bottom of your first round. Seeing his first preseason action, Portis rushed for 32 yards on eight carries, and caught a 4-yard reception. Portis wasn't hurt; he was simply copying LaDainian Tomlinson's policy of not playing in the exhibition.
Santana Moss had just one catch for five yards, as Jason Campbell missed him downfield twice. Antwaan Randle El had two receptions for nine yards, but dropped a pass.
Andre Carter and Jason Taylor split the first sack of the game for the Redskins. Unfortunately, Taylor suffered a knee sprain against the Panthers and will miss two weeks.
Redskins corner Carlos Rogers, coming off ACL and MCL surgeries, started for the Redskins and made a nice play on a Jake Delhomme throw to Dwayne Jartett. This is great news, as it was believed a few months ago that Rogers wouldn't be ready for the season opener.
While Todd Collins (9-of-15 for 79 yards) looked lost in the West Coast offense, Colt Brennan (6-of-12 for 53 yards) was even worse. Brennan missed two wide-open receivers on his first four attempts. He threw behind his fifth target and consequently laid him out. He later tossed a dropped interception to Ricardo Colclough. All of Brennan's completions were short junk, which would explain his awful 4.4 YPA.
Rams 24, Ravens 10
Marc Bulger looked like a different man in his third preseason game. Bulger compiled a quarterback rating of 14 in his two preseason contests, but was 18-of-25 for 182 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens. Even the incompletions weren't bad; two were deep shots and another was a dropped pass by Donnie Avery. So, what was the difference? Torry Holt. Enjoying the presence of Holt for the first time this exhibition campaign, Bulger was really sharp all evening. Holt had four catches for 38 yards. To be fair, a number of Baltimore's defensive starters were missing, including Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg.
Donnie Avery dropped the first pass thrown to him, which would have been good for a 20-yard gain. He also dropped a touchdown late in the first half. That said, Avery looked great on many other instances, registering five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown, including a diving catch along the sideline. Fellow rookie Keenan Burton had three receptions, 63 yards and an amazing one-handed grab thrown behind him. He also had a sliding touchdown, which was the first for St. Louis' offense this preseason. It's only a matter of time before either Avery or Burton replaces the ineffective Drew Bennett (no catches) in the starting lineup, though I wouldn't draft either this year.
No Orlando Pace again. The Rams' offensive line didn't allow a sack to a Baltimore skeleton crew defense, but Alex Barron was booed when he was whistled for a false start. In total, three Rams starting offensive linemen were whistled for false starts.
Brock Berlin once again played well in relief of Marc Bulger. Berlin went 8-of-11 for 99 yards, including a sweet 40-yard fade to Keenan Burton.
Troy Smith had a viral infection, so Joe Flacco played the entire contest. Flacco finished 18-of-37 for 152 yards and a touchdown, but he really struggled early, going 4-of-13 for 32 yards in the first half. One incompletion was a Hail Mary, but the others were a barrage of overthrows and underthrows. Fortunately for the Ravens, Flacco came out firing in the second half. His initial drive coming out of the locker room saw him go 4-of-4 for 61 yards. Flacco launched a great deep pass to Derrick Mason for 30 yards. Two plays later, Flacco once again connected with Mason from 15 yards out for the first preseason touchdown of his NFL career. In case you're wondering, Flacco did this against St. Louis' starting defensive unit.
Ray Rice gained 20 rushing yards on five carries. His longest gain (10) came on a draw very late in the first half when the Rams were happy to let the Ravens run the ball. I'm disappointed Rice couldn't produce more against a mediocre defensive front.
Derrick Mason led the Ravens with six receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. Most of Mason's production came on the first drive in the second half. This is good news for Mason owners, as D'Marco Farr's superstar wideout (more on this later) was able to put up respectable numbers with a rookie quarterback at the helm. I still don't trust Troy Smith to get it to Mason consistently, however.
Tom Zbikowski made an impact against the Rams. He blocked a punt in the first half and picked off Bruce Gradkowski in the fourth quarter.
No surprise that Yamon Figurs returned the first kickoff of the game for 37 yards, close to midfield. Figurs is one of the top return specialists in the NFL, making Baltimore's defense more intriguing in fantasy football.
Quote of the Game: "Derrick Mason is probably the third-best receiver over the last five years: Chad Johnson, Torry Holt and Derrick Mason." - D'Marco Farr on Derrick Mason. Derrick Mason? No Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne or Terrell Owens? I knew quarterbacks suffered a lot of concussions, but defensive linemen?
Bills 20, Colts 7
In what may have been the most excruciating game of the preseason, neither quarterback played in this contest. Trent Edwards had a bruised quad. Of course, Peyton Manning was out, but Jim Sorgi also sat out because he was limping getting off the bus. Jared Lorenzen started but played poorly, going 7-of-11 for 52 yards (giving him a miserable YPA of 4.7). Lorenzen threw all short stuff and was wildly inaccurate on some of his incompletions. Lorenzen's weight proved to be an issue when he was sacked on Indianapolis' first play of the game, failed to scramble for a first down on the second drive and couldn't even come close to running down Terrence McGee on a fumble returned for a touchdown.
Sticking with the ineptness of the Colts, Dallas Clark had two drops in the first half and Joseph Addai fumbled the ball, which was returned by Terrence McGee for a touchdown. Addai, who didn't fumble once last season, gained 23 yards on five carries. Clark had two catches for 22 yards. Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison caught one pass each.
If the Colts didn't have enough problems with Peyton Manning's knee injury, Jeff Saturday limped off the field in the middle of the third quarter. No word on Saturday's status yet, but I have to wonder why Saturday was on the field in the middle of the third quarter in the first place.
At one point in the second quarter, the Bills had 36 offensive plays to Indianapolis' seven. Buffalo simply wouldn't relinquish the football, as J.P. Losman orchestrated an 18-play, 93-yard drive that lasted 10 minutes. Losman's numbers were very Chad Pennington-like (13-of-19, 108 yards, 5.7 YPA) but he did a great job managing the offense and moving the chains.
You'll see that Marshawn Lynch gained two yards on four carries, but he had a 14-yard run that was called back on a holding penalty.
Lee Evans registered five receptions for 44 yards. Josh Reed started across from Evans and managed three catches for 34 yards.
Looks like Jason Peters' holdout could end soon. The Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle hasn't shown up to training camp because he's severely underpaid. The Bills, meanwhile, haven't entered into negotiations with him because of Langston Walker's excellent play in Peters' spot. However, Walker left the game with a forearm injury which was deemed pretty serious. Congrats, Jason, your plan worked.
All Quinn Gray had to do was take care of the football to move himself ahead of Jared Lorenzen. Gray had a 94-yard touchdown to Devin Aromashodu, beating Leodis McKelvin, but tossed four picks, including one in the end zone and another in the red zone.
Lions 26, Browns 6
I don't know why Jon Kitna and the starting offense saw such limited action, but Kitna went 9-of-11 for 98 yards in two drives. Kitna is now 12-of-14 for 174 yards and a touchdown this preseason. Everyone is down on him because of Mike Martz's departure, but a more-balanced offense will give Kitna better protection, and consequently more opportunities to score touchdowns.
Save for one 10-yard burst going off left tackle, Kevin Smith looked like he was running in mud his first four drives. Smith had 10 yards on his first nine carries, so to save you the effort, that's eight additional runs for no gain. Smith simply had nowhere to go with Shaun Rogers clogging the line of scrimmage. Smith was stuffed on his 10th rush, but was able to bounce out to his left, make a few cuts, break some tackles and scamper 35 yards into the end zone. Smith finished with 45 yards on 10 attempts. As I've said before, I wouldn't draft Smith early because of the 460 carries he had at Central Florida last year.
Roy Williams made an amazing one-handed catch that was thrown behind him along the sideline on Detroit's first drive. Jon Kitna threw the ball while under pressure. Calvin Johnson caught two balls in two drives for 16 yards. Johnson's second reception was a quick out. He was able to break out of a tackle and stretch the ball close to the first-down marker, despite getting hit about five yards away from it.
Brady Quinn began the game 2-of-5 for eight yards. I was ready to defend him; one of his incompletions was a Donte' Stallworth drop on third-and-three, another was thrown away because of pressure. However, Quinn self-destructed in the second quarter. He nearly tossed a very poor interception to Leigh Bodden in the red zone. On the next drive, he threw another near-pick to Lions safety Gerald Alexander, who had an incredible third preseason game. Quinn finished 14-of-24 for 106 yards, but was just 10-of-18 for 77 yards against Detroit's starting defense. That's a 4.3 YPA, so even his completions weren't that impressive. Quinn botched a great opportunity to stir up a quarterback controversy in Cleveland, though Derek Anderson has looked brutal the past two weeks.
Jamal Lewis and Braylon Edwards didn't play. Donte' Stallworth had four catches for 34 yards, but dropped a reception that would have moved the chains on third down. Kellen Winslow also caught four balls for 26 yards.
I found it a bit odd that the Lions broadcasters (Gus Johnson and Desmond Howard) opened up their coverage talking about Drew Henson, who didn't even play. Two minutes later, the two sideline reporters were discussing the difference between the 4-3 and the 3-4. The keys to the game were "find a groove" and "solve the 3-4." Way to dumb things down for your audience, guys.
Quote of the Game: "Why is Carl Winslow coaching the Cleveland Browns?" - My friend Ces, who walked into the room while I was watching the Browns-Lions tape delay. Winslow is amazing. In addition to fending off an annoying nerd for a neighbor for more than a decade and helping Bruce Willis defeat terrorists twice, he's a fine police officer, a model father and an NFL coach who nearly made the Doggone Playoff in 2007.
Falcons 17, Titans 3
Major concern for Titans fans. Vince Young continued to struggle, going 9-of-18 for 102 yards and a pick. Those numbers, including Young's 5.7 YPA don't look terrible, but the majority of his yardage came after the catch. Young began the game throwing short stuff to Chris Johnson, Bo Scaife and the like, who did a good job gaining yardage after the pass. However, Young became wildy inaccurate in the second quarter, launching a number of passes behind his receivers. Young could have easily tossed three picks, though Roydell Williams was nearly responsible for one (more on this later). I'd suggest that the Titans should start Kerry Collins, but he was 1-of-8 for 20 yards and nearly threw three interceptions himself.
Young finally made a nice, deep throw late in the second quarter, lofting a ball 25 yards downfield to Justin Gage. Unfortunately, Gage dropped the easy reception. On the aforementioned Roydell Williams play, Williams was extremely slow coming off the break, allowing Falcon corner Chris Houston to come within inches of making a play on the ball. Gage finished with two receptions for 32 yards, while Williams failed to haul in a catch. In total, the Titans' receivers shamefully dropped eight balls in the first three quarters. Still think they shouldn't have gone wideout early?
As previously mentioned, Chris Johnson had a few nice gains after the catch. Johnson had 23 yards on two receptions. However, he struggled to gain yardage on the ground, mustering just 35 yards on 11 carries. Johnson's longest running play was nine yards. Predictably, LenDale White sat out with an injury.
Matt Ryan looked like the veteran quarterback in this matchup. Ryan went 15-of-21 for 102 yards and a touchdown. As you can tell by his pedestrian 4.9 YPA, Ryan stuck to the short game. He seldom threw downfield, and when he did, the pass was incomplete. Ryan missed two touchdown passes in the second quarter, including a wide-open Roddy White in the end zone. That said, Ryan did a nice job being safe and maneuvering in the pocket to avoid the rush. Ryan finally led Atlanta to a touchdown, though that happened in the third quarter against Tennessee's backups. The Falcons didn't draft Ryan No. 3 overall to be a game manager, but he's just a rookie, so a Chad Pennington-like performance is OK for now.
As mentioned, Roddy White was wide open in the end zone, but Matt Ryan couldn't get it to him. Earlier, a White reception was nullified by offensive pass interference. White finished with one catch for one yard, but as you can tell, that's a bit misleading.
Speaking of Falcons receivers, Michael Jenkins really surprised me. Renowned for his dropped passes, Jenkins reeled in all five balls thrown to him, notching a team second-best 44 yards. Jenkins has secured a starting job for now, though he still remains undraftable.
The most surprising thing about this game is the great pass protection the Falcons gave Matt Ryan. Rookie left tackle Sam Baker passed his first test as a pro, shutting down devastating right end Kyle Vanden Bosch. Ryan was sacked once, but that was on a botched play. That said, Atlanta's offensive front was whistled for FIVE personal fouls, putting the team out of scoring position on multiple occasions.
Michael Turner gained 16 yards on only five carries. A 3.2 YPC isn't great, but Turner was going against one of the elite run defenses in the NFL.
Jason Elam missed a field goal from 33 yards out at the end of the first half. I'd be concerned if he didn't hit a 49-yarder earlier.
The main story on defense was how great both Atlanta corners looked. Of course, it's easy to shut down Tennessee wideouts, but Chris Houston and Brent Grimes have played extremely well this preseason, especially the latter.
Packers 27, Broncos 24
Remember a week ago when the Packers couldn't move the chains on offense, and everyone criticized them for not bring back Brett Favre? Yeah, so much for that. Green Bay went eight plays, 80 yards and registered a touchdown in 3:37 on its first drive. Aaron Rodgers, who was under pressure only once, went 4-of-5 for 71 yards and a score to Donald Driver from 10 yards out.
Speaking of Aaron Rodgers, the heir to Brett Favre put on a Pro Bowl-type performance in Denver. Rodgers went 18-of-22 for 193 yards and a touchdown in two-and-a-half quarters, leading the Packers on four scoring drives. By the way, none of Rodgers' four incompletions were legitimate. Rodgers threw his first away when he was under pressure. The second incompletion was a drop by James Jones. The third was a shot to the end zone at the end of the first half. The last was a nice, deep pass to Jones, who couldn't get both of his feet inbounds (though Packer fans could argue there was pass interference). Anyone watching the game didn't hear the Denver crowd chant "In-Com-Plete" too often before Brian Brohm took the field. Rodgers is a decent QB1 in a 12-man league that you can pick up in the middle rounds of your draft.
Green Bay's offensive line also improved. After surrendering four sacks last week, the starting unit limited the Broncos to just one. On that play, Elvis Dumervil zoomed past Mark Tauscher. To be fair, Denver's pass rush pales in comparison to Dallas'.
The Broncos had a spectacular touchdown drive of their own, as Jay Cutler guided them 99 yards on 16 plays in 8:29. On the possession, Cutler was 4-of-6 for 44 yards and a score to Nate Jackson. The Broncos managed the majority of their yardage on the ground, as Andre Hall and Selvin Young combined for 53 yards on nine carries.
Jay Cutler actually started 1-of-7 for 22 yards. Some of the incompletions were his fault, including two overthrows to Brandon Stokley; some of them weren't (a shot downfield and a tipped pass). However, Cutler was able to rebound off a poor first quarter, going 5-of-6 for 93 yards and two touchdowns in the next 15 minutes, including a sharp 49-yard bomb to Brandon Marshall on a fade pattern.
Selvin Young blew by Packers defenders on his first carry, a 20-yard gain. Young finished with 42 yards on six rushes. However, Andre Hall replaced Young on a fourth-and-one on the first drive, which he converted. Hall carried the ball nine times for 46 yards and looked just as good as Young. It's apparent that Young and Hall are going to split attempts this year - possibly right down the middle. Hall should get all the short-yardage work.
Brandon Marshall caught two passes for 71 yards and a 49-yard touchdown. Marshall snagged in the pass on a fade pattern, bobbled the ball twice while running, finally held on to it and ran into the end zone. Marshall would be an early third-round fantasy prospect if he weren't facing a two-game suspension.
Rookie receiver Eddie Royal started, but didn't catch any balls. He nearly hauled in one catch on a play where the Packers should have been whistled for pass interference.
What's the worst thing a quarterback can do? Throw late over the middle? Fling a weak pass toward the sideline? How about throwing an interception in enemy territory late in the fourth quarter with the lead? That's what Ramsey did, as he held on to the ball way too long and consequently was hit by a defender. The ball popped up into the hands of a Green Bay Packer. That wasn't Ramsey's sole error; he failed to recognize the blitz on multiple occasions and almost threw a pick-six that sailed through the hands of Packer corner Patrick Lee.
Brian Brohm went 0-for-4 in relief of Aaron Rodgers. One of Brohm's passes should have been picked off by Domonique Foxworth. He was benched after that throw.
Eagles 27, Patriots 17
The Patriots couldn't contain the Ravens' starting offense two weeks ago. So, it was the first game. Big deal. The Patriots were trampled by Tampa Bay's rushing attack and watched Brian Griese complete almost every pass he threw. Another fluke? Well, the Patriots were also helpless against the Eagles, as their starting defense surrendered five scores on six drives if you include the Hank Baskett fumble in the end zone which resulted in a touchback. Donovan McNabb was 13-of-17 for 180 yards and a touchdown, and was seldom pressured. Brian Westbrook averaged 4.3 yards per carry (nine rushes, 39 yards). DeSean Jackson made New England's defense look old (more on this later).
Even Kevin Kolb was able to led Philadelphia into the red zone by going 4-of-6 for 78 yards on a drive that culminated in a field goal. The big play on that possession was a 42-yard Kolb-to-Michael Gasperson connection, as Gasperson, a camp body, beat second-round rookie Terrence Wheatley, who was playing with the first-stringers, including Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel.
DeSean Jackson really adds a different element to Philadelphia's offense. Jackson caught a short pass, but evaded multiple defenders with a devastating cut and ran past everyone else for an additional gain, totaling a net of 23 yards. Jackson led all Eagles receivers with four receptions and 67 yards.
There aren't many positive things to say about New England's defense, but in the first quarter, Mike Vrabel blew by Jon Runyan, which caused the only sack of Donovan McNabb. I've never seen Runyan look so slow. Then again, I've never seen Runyan play as a soon-to-be 35-year-old.
Other than that sack, the Eagles' front played well. Shawn Andrews is back on the offensive line, so it's no coincidence that Donovan McNabb was sacked only once. In fact, there were times when McNabb had about 10 seconds to locate his receivers, including the play in which McNabb found Jason Avant in the end zone.
Philadelphia had the worst return game in the NFL last year. It was so bad that the home crowd gave a standing ovation when Reno Mahe didn't muff a punt. One of the reasons the Eagles drafted DeSean Jackson was to improve this element, and Jackson looks like he's going to pay off dividends. Although it was wiped out by a penalty on Quintin Demps, Jackson had a 44-yard punt return in the first quarter. Demps made amends for the error later, taking a kickoff return back 101 yards. Demps broke a tackle and outran a sluggish-looking John Lynch for the score. Jackson one-upped Demps a few minutes later, taking the next punt return back 76 yards for a touchdown. Like its defense, New England's special teams is a complete mess.
And then we have the offense... Not much without Tom Brady. Matt Cassel went 8-of-14 for 60 yards. As you can tell by his abysmal YPA of 4.3, almost all of Cassel's completions were short checkdowns. His incompletions were near-interceptions and throws into double coverage. Cassel also made a habit of laying out his receivers. Randy Moss consequently had just one reception. Wes Welker didn't catch a pass and had to leave the game with a rib injury. Matt Guiterrez's 14-of-20 for 217 yards and two touchdowns all but ensures that Cassel will be cut.
With a non-existent passing attack, the Patriots couldn't run the ball. Laurence Maroney gained just 18 yards on five carries.
Former sleeper Chad Jackson caught two passes for 17 yards, including a nice end-zone grab over Eagles safety Quintin Demps.
More problems for the Patriots: Starting right tackle Nick Kaczur easily surrendered a sack to third-string defensive end Jerome McDougle in the third quarter.
One player who really stood out to me on Philadelphia's defense was backup middle linebacker Joe Mays. Mays, a rookie, recorded eight tackles and seemed to be everywhere on the field.
Quote of the Game No. 1: "Randy Moss should have laid out a caught that ball. In preseason you don't do that, in the regular season you do that." - Charley Casserly on a Matt Cassel incompletion to Moss. Way to contradict yourself, Casserly. Did you go through that thought process when you took Dave Ragone in the third round just one year after choosing David Carr No. 1 overall?
Quote of the Game No. 2: "It was a beautiful punt return." - DeSean Jackson talking about his own punt return for a touchdown. Shameless self-promotion, much?
Cowboys 23, Texans 22
I picked the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl, so I can't say I was surprised to see Tony Romo start 15-of-19 for 166 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the first half. One of Romo's incompletions was a long bomb to Terrell Owens, as Romo missed T.O. by a few feet. Romo's pick was a terrible decision on his part, but they play these preseason games for a reason.
While Dallas' offense was thriving, Houston's offense had major problems moving the chains in the first quarter. In fact, Matt Schaub, one of my 2008 Fantasy Football Mid-Round Sleepers, began the game 2-of-9 for just seven yards, as all of his throws were off the mark and two balls nearly sailed into the hands of Cowboy defensive backs. After that poor start, however, Schaub completed the first half 10-of-14 for 100 yards and a score. I'm not sure what happened to Schaub in the first quarter, and I'm sure Texans fans were really concerned, but let's give him a mulligan. Schaub must have been confused by a tough defense after facing Jason David last week. His ability to bounce back from a poor start showed me more than a sequence of nine terrible plays.
Marion Barber looked like a first-round fantasy back, running hard for 75 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries, and nine receiving yards from two catches. Barber is a top-eight pick in touchdown leagues.
Steve Slaton and Chris Taylor shared carries in the first half and combined for 87 yards on 20 carries. Slaton (10 rushes, 44 yards) looked like the superior runner; on one play, he broke out of tackles and gave a powerful stiff arm to Roy Williams, whom Slaton easily shoved away. At less than 200 pounds, Slaton will never be able to handle the workload on his own. He'll get a decent amount of touches, however, making him an intriguing late-round sleeper.
Andre Johnson saw his first preseason action but failed to register a reception. Kevin Walter, meanwhile, caught six balls for 61 yards and a score.
In my season previews, I had the Texans going 9-7. After watching them against the Broncos and Saints, I got a bit more optimistic, as Matt Schaub had the offense clicking on all cylinders. Now, I remember why I had Houston missing the postseason once again. Their defense stinks. Their defense really really really really really really really really really really stinks.
On their first drive, the Cowboys managed consecutive gains of 10, 11, 4, 6 and 11 to get into the red zone. The next possession, Dallas produced plays of 11, 13 and 12, but had to settle for a field goal because Tony Romo missed Terrell Owens deep by half a yard. The third drive wasn't any better for Houston's defense; the Cowboys had consecutive gains of 6, 13, 14, 3 and 17 before Romo tossed a terrible interception. Drive No. 4 concluded with a touchdown, thanks to plays of 13 and 22. In case you haven't been counting, the Texans surrendered 11 double-digit-yard gains on just four drives.
So, what's wrong? Well, they can't stop the run, the defensive line can't get to the quarterback and the secondary, especially Jacques Reeves (or if you're Phil Simms, Jak-qez Reeves), can't cover anyone. Other than that, they're great.
The Cowboys had problems covering kickoffs and punts the first two games of the preseason. I guess Wade Phillips was too busy picking out sweater vests to work on that aspect of the game because Andre' Davis opened the game up with a 68-yard return. In the second half, Jacoby Jones took a kickoff back 52 yards.
Quote of the Game: "To put them over the top, it's like the new thing in the NFL. You need running backs." - Phil Simms. Really? You need running backs? And here I thought running the ball was a completely useless thing coaches did just to run time off the clock. I never realized that you NEED running backs.
49ers 37, Bears 30
For a game that wouldn't have shocked anyone if it ended 4-4, the Bears-49ers tilt on FOX was pretty exciting. Both quarterbacks performed surprisingly well, namely J.T. O'Sullivan, who nailed down the starting gig in San Francisco. O'Sullivan was 7-of-8 for 126 yards and a touchdown, giving him a sick YPA of 15.8. The former Saint and Lion led the 49ers to a field goal on a methodical first drive, but exploded on his third possession, throwing deep darts to Vernon Davis (40 yards) and Jason Hill (37 yards). I wouldn't go nuts and draft O'Sullivan as a starting fantasy quarterback, but he could make for a solid backup and a spot-starter versus porous defenses like the Rams, Lions and Saints.
Kyle Orton also performed admirably, but he remains undraftable in a league that has 16 teams or less. Orton was 10-of-17 for 147 yards and two scores. Though the Bears fell behind early, Orton did a good job of not forcing anything and exposing his weak arm. Then again, it was just the preseason...
The backup signal callers didn't fare as well as the starters. Rex Grossman was predictably booed by the Soldier Field crowd, as he made numerous mistakes and errant passes. He was 1-of-4 for just six yards. Alex Smith, meanwhile, played with the first-string offense and had a number of throws that were behind his intended receiver. On one play, he laid out Josh Morgan and could have possibly ended the upstart rookie's season. Apparently, Smith (6-of-17 for 83 yards and a touchdown) was jealous that a young 49er was having early success - something Smith briefly possessed in his second season, which must seem like forever ago for him. If Smith weren't chosen No. 1 overall, he probably would have been cut by now.
Frank Gore looked great. Gore rushed for 51 yards on just eight carries, and caught two balls for 19 receiving yards. He's going to be a huge part of San Francisco's offense, so don't be afraid to use a top-five selection on him. He could run for 1,000 yards and catch 70 passes.
Matt Forte compiled 44 yards on 11 carries in the first half. Not bad. It's not out of the question that Forte could eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier as a rookie, but it'll be tough because his offensive line stinks. The front was solid against the 49ers, but they weren't exactly facing one of the better defenses in the league. Troy Aikman exclaimed that they looked a lot better this week than they did last week; that's because Seattle's defensive line dominated the Bears blockers.
Kevin Jones ran the ball three times for 30 yards. He looked great on his first carry, as he broke away from tacklers and ran past defenders for a 34-yard gain. His subsequent two rushes totaled a loss of four yards, as he was stuffed twice behind the line of scrimmage.
Josh Morgan was held without a catch, though he was targeted four times by Alex Smith (J.T. O'Sullivan played only the first quarter). Smith threw behind Morgan thrice and laid him out the fourth time.
Sleeper alert: Who is this Rashied Davis guy? Of course I've heard of him, but how did he suddenly become Chicago's No. 1 receiver and Kyle Orton's go-to guy? Davis had four receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns in just one half of work.
While the effectiveness of both offenses surprised everyone, the most shocking thing to me was how horrendous Chicago's defense looked. On the first drive of the game, the Bears surrendered runs of 11, 28, 4 and 16 (the final one to Zak Keasey). Frank Gore and Keasey combined for 73 yards on just 12 carries. And this isn't a fluke; the Bears had problems containing Larry Johnson two weeks ago and allowed a significant amount of yardage to Julius Jones in a short span last Saturday. Furthermore, how do you allow J.T. O'Sullivan to go 7-of-8 for 126 yards and a touchdown? Where was Mike Brown on the Jason Hill touchdown? A frustrated Brian Urlacher vented about his defense's terrible performance just one week after he predicted that his stop unit would match the 2006 version.
No surprise that Devin Hester dropped the ball on Chicago's first drive. I said it once, and I'll say it again. If utilizing Hester on offense even takes away 10 percent of Hester's potency on special teams, Lovie Smith is making a huge mistake. Hester is arguably the best return specialist of all time, and he's such a sub-par wideout; it just doesn't make any sense.
2008 NFL Preseason: Week 2
More game analysis will be added as the tape delays are aired on the NFL Network.
Broncos 23, Cowboys 13
Denver's offense operated like an unstoppable machine with Jay Cutler at the helm. Cutler, who was 16-of-20 for 178 yards and a touchdown, did a great job of finding his targets downfield, looking off safeties and maneuvering in the pocket. It's safe to dub Cutler the No. 7 quarterback in fantasy football behind Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger.
The Cowboys' scoring unit didn't look as good as Denver's, but they were able to move the chains. Tony Romo was 6-of-9 for 33 yards, as he overthrew Sam Hurd by just a bit on a fade pattern. Dallas' first string didn't put up any points; penalties destroyed the first of their two drives. The incompletion to Hurd concluded the second possession.
If you drafted Selvin Young in any of your leagues, prepare to send your hate mail to renowned fantasy football hater Mike Shanahan. Young, who gained 36 yards on nine carries, will still be the featured back in Denver's offense, but he won't receive many goal-line carries. Whenever the Broncos moved into the red zone, Shanahan put Andre Hall in the backfield. Hall was effective, so consider him in touchdown leagues. Drop Young a bit in your rankings.
There aren't many casual football fans who know who Eddie Royal is, but they will soon enough. Denver's rookie receiver is starting across from Brandon Marshall. Royal snagged in two balls for 67 yards, including a 32-yard reception where the 5-10 Royal leaped over Anthony Henry to secure the football. Royal won't put up amazing numbers, but he's definitely draftable as a late-round sleeper.
Miles Austin was looking like a nice sleeper in the wake of catching two passes for 42 yards. Unfortunately, he sprained his MCL and he'll miss four to six weeks.
Tony Scheffler caught just one pass for eight yards. He was removed from the lineup by an angry Mike Shanahan for committing two consecutive false starts. The Broncos don't really have anyone who can supplant Scheffler, so don't read too much into this.
Pacman Jones struggled against second- and third-stringers versus San Diego, so I bet Cowboys fans were relieved to see him play much better against the Broncos. Pacman nearly picked off Ramsey twice. He also had a 24-yard punt return - and then was whistled for a 5-yard penalty for spiking the ball after he was tackled. No one was surprised.
Patrick Ramsey is easily one of the worst backup quarterbacks in the NFL. His 8-of-13 for 67 yards doesn't do his ineptness justice. Pacman Jones was inches away from intercepting him twice. Ramsey actually threw a pick, but a bogus illegal contact penalty nullified the interception.
49ers 34, Packers 6
I've been a doubter of J.T. O'Sullivan, so I'll admit that he did some nice things against the Packers. He converted a third-and-long on his first drive, scrambled away from pressure for a gain of eight yards, found Jason Hill 27 yards downfield amid heavy pressure, and best of all, launched a 59-yard bomb to Josh Morgan for a touchdown late in the first half. However, O'Sullivan made a number of mistakes. For example, O'Sullivan missed Morgan just five yards over the middle. On his next attempt, he threw way behind Isaac Bruce. On the second drive of the game, O'Sullivan nearly tossed a pick to Charles Woodson. A possession later, O'Sullivan heaved what would have been a pick-six into double coverage if Woodson didn't fumble the ball on his way into the end zone. On his final drive, he completely laid out DeShaun Foster, who was pummeled by rookie corner Patrick Lee.
The good news for O'Sullivan is that Alex Smith looked much, much worse. Smith underthrew Josh Morgan on a fade route, ruining a potential touchdown. Morgan had to slow down, allowing a Packers cornerback to break up the pass. Two plays later, Smith threw way behind his target. On the next drive, which began in the red zone after the Packers botched a snap, Smith missed a wide-open receiver in the end zone. Smith finished 5-of-12 for 62 yards.
All the talk has been about how much Aaron Rodgers struggled against the 49ers. Detractors point to his 9-of-16 for 58 yards. Well, stats can be deceiving, and this is one instance where that is true. Rodgers made just two poor throws Saturday night. One was a low pass to Donald Driver. The second should have been a pick if 49ers rookie safety Dashon Goldson didn't let the ball hit the ground. So, what happened to Rodgers? How about two key drops - one in the end zone by a wide-open Donald Lee and another that probably would have been a 70-yard touchdown by Donald Driver. Three more of Rodgers' passes were thrown away to avoid pressure.
Green Bay's starting offensive line surrendered four sacks. What exactly happened? Glad you asked. One sack was the result of a high snap. Another was a poor blitz pickup by Brandon Jackson. The other two sacks were surrendered by guard Jason Spitz, though on one occasion Rodgers was guilty of holding on to the ball too long.
Frank Gore rushed for 29 yards on six carries, including a 14-yard burst. Gore didn't catch a pass, but I expect him to notch about 60 or 70 receptions in Mike Martz's offense this year.
Josh Morgan is a stud. He caught five balls for 114 yards and a touchdown - numbers that were indicative of how he dominated Green Bay's secondary. J.T. O'Sullivan also missed Morgan on what could have been a sixth reception. With Morgan thriving and Bryant Johnson spending too much time nursing his injuries, the seventh-round rookie wideout will be given the opportunity to become the next Marques Colston. Take either Morgan or Eddie Royal in the final round of your fantasy draft.
Brian Brohm threw an interception - and then it was dropped by 49ers corner Donald Strickland, which is why it doesn't appear in the box score. Brohm finished 4-of-9 for 33 yards. Matt Flynn wasn't much better. He was 5-of-6 for 33 yards, but fumbled twice.
Jordy Nelson once again did a great job on kick returns. He didn't take one back for six, but he broke out of three tackles and advanced the ball to San Francisco's 33 on his first try, then followed that up by bringing the ball back to the 49ers' 38.
Giants 37, Browns 34
To say that Derek Anderson had an abysmal performance against the Giants is an understatement. Perhaps something to the tone of "Anderson appeared as though he acquired the worst traits of Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton and John Beck this offseason" would be more sufficient. Sure, Anderson was victimized by a drop or two, but he was wildly inaccurate. There was the low throw to Kellen Winslow for what could have been a first down on Cleveland's third drive. There was a pass that was behind Travis Wilson. And another that wasn't close to Steve Heiden. Anderson finished 4-of-10 for 20 yards and a nauseating YPA of 2.0. To make matters worse for the 2007 upstart, Anderson suffered a concussion early in the second quarter. If Brady Quinn looks brilliant next week, Romeo Crennel may say that he's "easing Anderson back off a concussion" and "doesn't want Anderson to re-injure himself."
Speaking of Brady Quinn, the second-year signal caller looked very solid in relief of Anderson, albeit about half of his production came when Cleveland's first string was manhandling New York's reserves. Quinn was 8-of-13 for 131 yards and two touchdowns (if you count the so-called Syndric Steptoe "running play.") Quinn showcased his underrated mobility in the pocket and fired a number of accurate throws downfield. He'll have a chance to thrive against the Lions next week.
So much for running back by committee. Brandon Jacobs received all of the touches with the first team. Jacobs was solid, running for 24 yards on seven carries. His only mistake was a fumble on his fourth rush. It's safe to draft Jacobs again, although I wouldn't go nuts because he has durability issues.
Donte' Stallworth hauled in one catch for minus-1 yards. He also dropped a reception that would have moved the chains. Stallworth is always banged up, so I wouldn't recommend drafting him.
Can we put Domenik Hixon in the Hall of Fame already? Seriously. Hixon did a great job hauling in two touchdown receptions and getting his feet down, especially on his second catch when he tapped both of his toes down in the end zone. Hixon also returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown. And to top it off, all of this occurred in the first quarter!
Browns corner Eric Wright, who had a solid rookie campaign, was beaten twice on New York's initial touchdown drive. Once by Sinorice Moss 53 yards downfield. A second time by Domenik Hixon on an 11-yard touchdown. Cleveland's secondary was already considered pretty thin; they don't need their alleged top corner struggling.
The Browns just looked disorganized and unprepared as a whole. In case you missed this game, the final score says 37-34, but the Giants were up 30-3, as they dominated both sides of the ball. And in the first quarter alone, they had six penalties for 98 yards.
On the bright side, Phil Dawson nailed a 56-yard field goal in the first quarter - not an easy feat in the Meadowlands.
Dolphins 19, Jaguars 14
Chad Pennington was his economical self in the first quarter, going 5-of-6 for 55 yards. Pennington also scrambled twice for 18 yards. It was clearly evident that Pennington is light years better than John Beck and Josh McCown. I wouldn't draft Pennington in any sort of fantasy league, but he makes Ted Ginn a viable option.
Chad Pennington looked good, but the big story for the Dolphins was Ricky Williams. At age 31, he's obviously not the old Ricky Williams, but he's definitely close. Williams compiled 43 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. Ronnie Brown, meanwhile, managed just two yards on two rushes. It's no coincidence then that the Dolphins announced that Williams is the No. 1 running back. This is great news for Miami fans because the oft-injured Brown was extremely unreliable coming off a torn ACL.
While Miami's offense thrived with Chad Pennington and Ricky Williams, the Jaguars couldn't get anything going. David Garrard started 3-of-7 for 23 yards, and unlike last week, his stats indicated how poorly he performed. On his first throw, Garrard stared down his receiver and was consequently nearly picked off by Akin Ayodele. He later missed Maurice Jones-Drew and overthrew a wide-open Mike Walker downfield on a crucial fourth-and-two. Garrard finished 7-of-14 for 63 yards. The magic that Garrard and the Jaguars had in 2007 looks like it has vanished.
Chad Henne's third pass was a long, 40-yard bomb to Ted Ginn. Ginn caught the pass along the sideline and placed both feet inbounds. Unfortunately, it was ruled incomplete because the officials determined that Ginn bobbled the ball. It's a shame the play didn't count. Still, it was a great throw by Henne. On another play, Henne scrambled right to avoid pressure, fired a laser toward the sideline and connected with Derek Hagan. In the final three quarters of the game, Henne was a respectable 17-of-26 for 133 yards.
Ted Ginn made a really nice catch over the middle on Miami's third drive for a 17-yard gain. Ginn collected four receptions for 58 yards in one half of action. With Pennington under center, Ginn has become somewhat of an intriguing late-round sleeper.
Kicker Dan Carpenter continues to impress. He was 4-of-4 with a long of 46 yards against the Jaguars. If he were playing in a better offense, he would be a top fantasy option.
Texans 31, Saints 27
I know the Texans were going against New Orleans' anemic secondary, but their offense was amazing. They converted seven of their first eight third downs and didn't even punt until six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Matt Schaub was nearly flawless. He went 14-of-16 for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. The kicker is that he didn't even have the services of Andre Johnson. Schaub is a nice mid-round sleeper in fantasy. If Johnson stays healthy, there's a chance Schaub could come close to 3,800 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Matt Schaub often went to Kevin Walter, who caught six passes for 100 yards and a score. With Andre Johnson commanding double teams, Walter and Owen Daniels (three receptions, 61 yards) could be primed for solid campaigns.
New Orleans' offense was also unstoppable, but that was expected. Drew Brees went 12-of-17 for 147 yards and two touchdowns, good for 20 points in the first half.
With Ahman Green out of commission, Chris Taylor started for Houston. He ran for 34 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Chris Brown managed just 19 yards on eight attempts. Steve Slaton was better in the stat column, as he compiled 57 yards and a score on 13 rushes, though that was mostly done in the fourth quarter.
Reggie Bush had a decent 7-yard run off-tackle and a great 12-yard touchdown reception where he high-hurdled Jacques Reeves (total of 24 rushing yards on seven carries), but there were too many instances where tried to reverse the field. That may have worked in the Pac 10, but not in the NFL.
Good signs from Deuce McAllister: He rushed for 16 yards on four carries and caught two receptions for 10 receiving yards, including one rush where he stopped and cut. That said, I still wouldn't recommend taking McAllister early as a top backup, as he's coming off two knee surgeries, including one for a torn ACL. However, he's going pretty late in some drafts. He could be worth a gamble somewhere around Round 13 or 14.
Marques Colston caught four passes for 22 yards and a touchdown where he grabbed the ball out of the air with one hand and somehow tapped both of his feet inbounds. Colston could be poised for his best season as a pro.
Jason David was thrown at three times on Houston's opening drive. All three passes were completed for 57 yards and a touchdown. David was beaten once more later on.
Speaking of terrible cornerbacks, the vastly overrated Jacques Reeves was beaten on a 39-yard David Patten reception on New Orleans' third drive. He was also whistled for pass interference in the second quarter.
Colts 16, Falcons 9
The Good Matt Ryan: Ryan did some nice things against the Colts. On one play, he dropped back in the pocket, felt the pressure, maneuvered left and found Roddy White about 20 yards downfield. Ryan also threw a solid 12-yard pass toward the sideline, which was dropped by Brian Finneran.
The Bad Matt Ryan: Unfortunately, Ryan made a few mistakes. The most glaring error occurred when the Falcons were driving down the field with about a minute remaining in the first half. Ryan stared down Finneran and lofted a soft, Chad Pennington-like ball toward the sideline. Colts corner Kelvin Hayden read it all the way, picked it off and took it back for six. Ryan also had some overthrows. He finished 8-of-16 for 62 yards and that interception. His completion percentage (50.0) and YPA (3.88) leaves much to be desired. I'm not saying Ryan won't succeed in this league, but he's definitely not ready to thrive as a starting quarterback just yet, especially behind a questionable offensive line.
Joey Harrington was a very mediocre 2-of-3 for 17 yards. His incompletion was a poor throw into triple coverage that Harrington made after staring down his receiver. Harrington will need much more than his new facial hair to move past Chris Redman and Matt Ryan on the depth chart.
Michael Turner posted 113 rushing yards on four carries, as he broke gains of 52 and 63 yards. Turner has skill, but this was more of a poor defense's inability to stop the run. The Colts were missing Bob Sanders, and made DeAngelo Williams look like an All-Pro last week as well.
Marvin Harrison caught the first pass of the game for the Colts, a short 5-yard reception from Jim Sorgi. He finished with two catches and 11 yards, as his production was limited without Peyton Manning under center.
Sam Baker looked solid on Atlanta's first two drives, but he surrendered a sack to Marcus Howard in the second quarter. It'll be interesting to see how he does against Kyle Vanden Bosch next week.
The Falcons needed someone to step up in their thin secondary, and it looks like that man is Brent Grimes. An undrafted third-year corner, Grimes did surprisingly well against Indianapolis' starting receivers, and jumped what looked like 44 inches in the air to nearly intercept a Quinn Gray pass on a key fourth-and-one in the second quarter.
Mike Hart once again looked solid in the stat column (5 carries, 19 yards) but was whistled for a holding penalty in the second quarter, negating a long Quinn Gray run.
Another Colts rookie, Jacob Tamme, caught three passes for 57 yards, including a 47-yard reception where he blew by Thomas DeCoud. According to Matt McGuire, Tamme had the best hands in the 2008 NFL Draft. It sure looks that way early on.
Quote of the Game: "This is a good test for this Falcons team tonight in exhibition game No. 2. I don't even call it preseason, this is an exhibition here." - Brian Baldinger. Well, excuuussee me. It would suck to hang out with Baldinger. He probably calls the Internet the "World Wide Web community," and sodas "carbonated soft beverages of varying flavors."
Cardinals 27, Chiefs 17
Matt Leinart definitely SHOULD NOT be starting for the Cardinals. You may ask, "Hey, Leinart finished 7-of-11 for 62 yards and a touchdown. What gives?" Well, I'm glad you asked. First of all, all but two of Leinart's completions came in the second half when the Chiefs were playing their backups despite the fact that Arizona still had its first-string offensive line on the field. Leinart dropped back to throw six times against Kansas City's starters in the first half. Let's take a look at each of those instances:
Leinart's first pass was thrown into triple coverage. He stared down his receiver. He was nearly intercepted by Chiefs middle linebacker Pat Thomas.
Throw No. 2 was a short pass to Larry Fitzgerald.
Leinart overthrew his target and was almost picked off again.
Jamaica Rector dropped a 6-yard reception.
Pass No. 5 was a 4-yard checkdown to Tim Hightower.
Leinart was sacked and fumbled the ball.
Leinart commanded his scoring unit to a touchdown in the second half against Kansas City's reserves. Leinart threw all short junk, and just one of his throws was in the air longer than eight yards, which happened to be his only solid pass of the evening - a 14-yard dart to Steve Breaston. I just don't understand how the Cardinals can keep such a superior quarterback on the bench. With Leinart under center, Arizona's passing attack will mirror the Jets' with Chad Pennington. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin will struggle to put up the stats their fantasy owners will be expecting of them.
Kurt Warner played just two drives. The first possession failed, thanks to an incorrect route and a great play by Chiefs rookie corner Brandon Flowers (more on this later). Warner commanded the Cardinals to a touchdown on the next drive. He finished 6-of-9 for 54 yards.
Brodie Croyle... I'm trying to be nice here. Umm... he completed more than 50 percent of his passes? OK, never mind. Croyle stinks. He was 7-of-13 for 38 yards, giving him an abysmal YPA of 2.9. None of his completions were greater than eight yards. One of Croyle's long passes sailed in and out of the hands of Cardinals cornerback Eric Green. On another long attempt, Croyle missed a wide-open Devard Darling, who could have scored a touchdown if the ball was anywhere in his vicinity. In short, Croyle looks something in between a poor man's Chad Pennington and a rich man's John Beck.
I know I've been down on him, but Larry Johnson looked great against the Cardinals. Johnson burst for numerous double-digit gains, as he finished with 61 yards on 14 carries. On one play, Brodie Croyle split out wide and Johnson was in the shotgun. Johnson took the snap and converted a third-and-one. What makes Johnson's performance remarkable is that he was running behind an offensive line that was missing first-round rookie Branden Albert. I'm still not convinced that Johnson can last the entire year as a result of his 416 carries in 2006, but I would definitely consider selecting him now at a reasonable spot in a fantasy draft.
Will Franklin caught just one pass for six yards, but the reception was made on a third down that advanced the chains.
Kurt Warner went after rookie corner Brandon Flowers deep to Anquan Boldin on Arizona's first offensive play of the game, but Flowers did a good job running stride for stride with Boldin and knocking the ball away.
As for Kansas City's "other" rookie, Glenn Dorsey's snaps were limited, but when he was in the game, he commanded double teams from the Cardinals, opening up blitzing lanes for some of the other defenders.
I'm not sure how much to read into this, but Neil Rackers missed an extra point. It's not like it was blocked or anything; he just botched the chip shot. Rackers didn't attempt a field goal.
Lions 27, Bengals 10
Chad Johnson had his fantasy owners panicking when he left the game with a shoulder injury. However, all reports thus far indicate that it's just a sprain. Mr. Ocho Cinco should be OK for Week 1.
The "other" Johnson in this game, Calvin, is unstoppable. We could be talking Terrell Owens-Randy Moss territory. On the first play of the game, Johnson leaped way over poor Leon Hall for a 40-yard reception. On the next drive, Johnson bulldozed Cincinnati's other starting corner, Jonathan Joseph, and caught a 27-yard touchdown. Johnson finished with 76 yards on three receptions. All this took place in the first two drives of the game. Johnson played on one more possession, but that was a three-and-out with Dan Orlovsky under center. Don't be afraid to draft Johnson in the fourth round of your 12-man league.
Carson Palmer was 6-of-13 for 50 yards and an interception. That's not bad considering he was pressured on almost every single play, and he didn't have the services of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chad Johnson (injured on the first drive) and Rudi Johnson. Palmer was throwing to guys like Marcus Maxwell, Antonio Chatman, Glenn Holt and Daniel Coats. Who? Exactly.
Kevin Smith's numbers will tell you that he gained 19 yards on four carries. Not bad, right? Well, Smith had a 16-yard run, which means his other three touches were for just three yards - including a failed conversion on a third-and-one at midfield on the opening drive against Cincinnati's porous defense. Smith also didn't register a reception. With durability issues, I recommend that you stay away from Smith.
I also recommend that you avoid Tatum Bell. In his second opportunity to supplant Kevin Smith, Bell collected just nine yards on five carries.
I liked what I saw out of Chris Perry, who started for a dinged-up Rudi Johnson. Perry managed 23 yards on seven carries, which doesn't sound all that great. However, he ran hard and converted all of his short-yardage situations. Meanwhile, Kenny Watson also looked good, gaining 31 yards on five carries. It's very likely that the Bengals will utilize a three-way RBBC this season.
Bengals wideout Jerome Simpson made a great catch, as he stretched out for a ball near the sideline. He then stayed in bounds and ran down the field for 15 more yards. The ultra-athletic Simpson, chosen in the second round of April's draft, finished with 114 receiving yards on five catches. Watch his progress and keep him in the back of your mind when the draft for your 2009 fantasy league rolls around.
Ben Utecht caught two balls for 25 yards but dropped a ball that was fired directly into his chest 15 yards downfield.
Keith Rivers didn't start, but he entered the lineup pretty quickly and instantly made an impact with a great tackle on Kevin Smith on a third-and-one at midfield.
Bengals backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looks pretty good. He was 11-of-14 for 111 yards and a touchdown despite the fact that Ben Utecht dropped a 15-yard reception thrown on the money. Fitzpatrick also scrambled thrice for 31 yards. His best pass was a 12-yard laser fired at Glenn Holt for a score. That throw proved Fitzpatrick has the arm to warrant starting consideration somewhere in this league.
Buccaneers 27, Patriots 10
New England failed to cover all but one game after Halloween last year because its defense couldn't get off the field. I felt like the Patriots needed to get younger and quicker on defense. Instead, they went out and signed Tank Williams, John Lynch, Fernando Bryant, Lewis Sanders, Jason Webster, etc., and failed to acquire replacements for their old veterans. The Buccaneers shredded New England's defense. Michael Bennett, Earnest Graham, Kenneth Darby and Warrick Dunn combined for 97 rushing yards on just 17 carries in the first half alone. Luke McCown and Brian Griese went a combined 15-of-17 for 120 yards and a touchdown in the first 30 minutes. The Patriots, who look extremely archaic and slow, whiffed on tackle after tackle. It was pretty embarrassing.
Brian Griese inched closer to becoming the No. 2 quarterback in Tampa Bay. Griese started the game 8-of-8 and finished 9-of-10 for 44 yards against New England's starting defense that was missing just one player (Rodney Harrison). Griese's longest completion was just eight yards, which would explain his brutal 4.4 YPA. However, Griese moved the chains on a 17-play, 9:38 drive. His only incompletion was batted down.
Luke McCown picked up where Brian Griese left off. He was 7-of-10 for 79 yards and a touchdown, though some of that production was against New England's backups. McCown also seldom threw long passes; his YPA was 7.9 because Antonio Bryant took a short reception for 33 yards.
I bet the Patriots wish they had either guy. The competition for the job behind Tom Brady was a stalemate. Matt Cassel went 6-of-10 for 57 yards, but he threw a pass that should have been picked off by Barrett Ruud. Cassel tossed the ball right into Ruud's chest. Kevin O'Connell looked very uncomfortable and his stats (6-of-15 for 61 yards and a pick) showed it. I didn't understand the O'Connell selection when it was made, and I'm still at a loss.
Laurence Maroney struggled to get anything going (7 carries, 15 yards, dropped pass), but that's to be expected without Tom Brady under center. What concerns me is that the Patriots felt like they needed to bring in LaMont Jordan. I'm not a big fan of Maroney as a fantasy running back.
Cross Chad Jackson off your fantasy board. He didn't do anything in the first half and managed just two receptions in the second half. Jackson has really let me down. He has talent, he's entering his third season and he plays in an offense where any starter can produce. But Jackson just can't put it together. It's really frustrating.
Antonio Bryant caught two passes for 37 yards and ran an end-around for 16 yards. Jon Gruden was raving about Bryant prior to the contest. It looks like he'll be starting across from Joey Galloway. Keep that in mind on Draft Day.
Who is this Fran Charles guy, and why is he announcing games for the NFL Network? He seriously sounded like he was a drunken bum sobbing about how much his life sucks. I'd seriously rather have Bryant "I Sound Like Kermit the Frog" Gumbel.
Quote of the Game: "Does Mark Clayton and Maurice Stovall prove they can be in the rotation?" - Marshall Faulk. A Marshall Faulk Anthology? Faulk has the potential to be the next Emmitt Smith. Again. And by the way, it's Michael Clayton; not Mark Clayton.
Quote of the Game No. 2: "They got their quarrrdurrrback." - Sterling Sharpe. Sterling Sharpe strikes back with a vocal gaff of his own.
Quote of the Game No. 3: "They're in unchar waters." - Marshall Faulk. Faulk one-ups Sterling with another Emmitt-ism.
Quote of the Game No. 4: "Wes Welker... very good return guy. Going to be a very good receiver." - Sterling Sharpe. I guess in Sterling's world, 112 receptions is mediocre. Wes Welker needs approximately 280 receptions in a season to be good and 525 receptions a year to be very good in Sterling's mind.
Quote of the Game No. 5: "Chris Simms is a great player as well." - Brian Griese. Wow, the standards for great have really fallen, haven't they?
Seahawks 29, Bears 26
The result of Chicago's first six drives: three-and-out, punt, three-and-out, interception, punt, punt. The mastermind behind this offense was Rex Grossman, who was 9-of-15 for 74 yards and an interception. As those numbers indicate, Grossman didn't play well, but he didn't exactly get any help either. Earl Bennett dropped a pass, while the offensive line couldn't keep the Seahawks out of the backfield. In a quarter-and-a-half, Grossman was under pressure four times and sacked thrice.
Kyle Orton was a bit better, going 5-of-9 for 43 yards, leading the Bears to their first offensive points right before halftime. Caleb Hanie was the worst of the three signal-callers. He was 5-of-9 for 46 yards, one touchdown and one pick. His second pass was also nearly intercepted.
As for Seattle's quarterback situation, both Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace were out, so Charlie Frye was able to play the entire game. Frye was pretty brutal until Chicago's third-stringers took the field. He threw three picks, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Matt Forte gained 17 yards on seven carries, as Chicago's offensive line couldn't open up any running lanes for him. Forte managed a 16-yard burst early in the first quarter, but that was negated by a Desmond Clark hold. Unfortunately, Forte struggled with picking up blitzes and was responsible for two of Grossman's sacks.
While Maurice Morris started last week for Seattle, Julius Jones got the nod on Saturday night. Jones gained 32 yards on seven carries and helped out with a 9-yard reception. However, Jones fumbled and was also whistled for holding. Maurice Morris compiled just seven yards on four carries, but caught two passes for 15 receiving yards. It appears as though Jones and Morris will split carries this season, so I wouldn't advise taking either guy until the middle of the draft at the very earliest. Morris offers more value because he's going undrafted in most leagues.
With all the talk of Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu fighting to take over for Bobby Engram, another guy has stepped up. Jordan Kent, a second-year wideout, caught four balls for 50 yards and had a fifth reception wiped out by a holding penalty. Kent has great size (6-4, 219) and solid speed, and apparently improved his route running. He's worth taking as a sleeper late in your draft. Meanwhile, Taylor started but couldn't haul in a 40-yard bomb from Charlie Frye. Obomanu wasn't targeted.
Devin Hester caught two passes for 22 yards, but was shaken up on his second reception. I have no idea why the Bears are fooling around with him on offense. It's not like he's a great receiver or anything. If utilizing him on offense takes away from his return abilities or gets him hurt in any way, Chicago will be doing a huge disservice to itself and its fans. I'm fine with him running an end-around once in a while, but the Bears are fools if they make him an important part of their offense.
It looks like Brandon Coutu will be Seattle's starting kicker. The seventh-round rookie was 5-of-5, hitting from 48, 26, 46, 21 and 36 (game-winner). Olindo Mare is 2-of-2 this preseason and he booted two kickoffs through the end zone, but Coutu is younger and has much more upside.
Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill had a monstrous game for the Seahawks, collecting four tackles, one sack and an interception in the first half alone. Seattle's starting defense, arguably fantasy football's second-best stop unit, ate Chicago's offense alive.
Justin Forsett did a good job in the return game, taking two kicks back for 40 and 37 yards. He also rushed for an amazing 136 yards on 15 carries. Forsett very well could be Seattle's most talented running back.
Rams 7, Chargers 6
There's not much to say about San Diego's starting unit, other than "Philip Rivers laughed on the sideline" or "Jamal Williams ate five hot dogs in the first quarter." That's because no one really played for the Chargers. Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Williams, Shawne Merriman, Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie were some of the Chargers who didn't take the field.
St. Louis' offensive players were in the lineup, but they were pretty terrible. Marc Bulger was 7-of-14 for 56 yards and two horrible interceptions. On the second pick that he threw, Bulger stared down his wideout and lofted the ball late toward the sideline, allowing Cletis Gordon to make a routine interception. Note that Torry Holt and Steven Jackson weren't in the lineup.
Drew Bennett didn't really help the Rams' anemic offense. He caught two passes for 12 yards, but dropped a ball and ran the wrong route on another play.
St. Louis' first string was able to move the chains on the ground. Brian Leonard and Antonio Pittman combined for 105 yards on 17 carries. That said, the Rams' starting offensive line was able to blow open so many running lanes because they were blocking San Diego's backups. Don't get too excited if you're thinking about drafting Leonard or Pittman in your fantasy league.
Chris Long once again went sack-less, this time against a backup left tackle, but he made a nice play in the first quarter when he chased down a San Diego running back from behind.
Vikings 23, Ravens 15
What was Tarvaris Jackson thinking? After a solid start (more on this later), Jackson scrambled out of the pocket late in the first quarter and tried to run over Antwan Barnes. The result: Jackson collapsed a few plays later, limped toward the sideline after being helped up and missed the rest of the game. Forget the fact that Barnes is bigger than Jackson; it's the preseason and Jackson has his job secured. There was no reason for him to take that risk. Jackson's injury is a sprained MCL, which could hinder his scrambling abilities early this season.
As noted above, Tarvaris Jackson played really well. He finished 7-of-11 for 82 yards and a 23-yard touchdown pass to Martin Nance, though I'm still not convinced Nance was inbounds when he caught the ball. Other than Jackson's attempted heroics (mentioned in the previous paragraph), his only mistake was missing a wide-open receiver on one play. It should be noted, however, that Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs were absent from Baltimore's defense.
Troy Smith attempted just five passes despite playing the entire first half. He was 3-of-5 for 25 yards, which doesn't sound too bad. Unfortunately, one of his incompletions was an interception that he threw behind his intended receiver. On a positive note, Smith moved around the pocket well and had a few nice scrambles, gaining 35 yards on three rushes.
While Troy Smith was mediocre at best, Kyle Boller was downright brutal. He was 8-of-12 for just 40 yards, one interception and one fumble. None of his completions spent longer than eight yards through the air, which would explain his awful 3.3 YPA. I don't understand how the Ravens can possibly go back to Boller as their starting quarterback. He was part of the old regime. Smith needs to be under center until Joe Flacco is ready.
Speaking of Joe Flacco, the Delware rookie was sacked twice on his first drive, as he was guilty of holding on to the ball too long - one of the major negative attributes Flacco had entering the draft. Flacco also threw a terrible interception that was wiped out by a face mask.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 30 yards on eight carries against a tough Baltimore front seven. What confused me was why Peterson played well into the second quarter. I guess it's conceivable that Brad Childress wasn't able to draft Peterson in his fantasy league.
Ray Rice looks like the real deal. He blew right by Minnesota's top-ranked run defense for a 42-yard gain on the first drive. A few plays later, he made a nice cut and scored a 6-yard touchdown. The Ravens don't have great depth everywhere, but they'll be fine if Willis McGahee gets hurt. Rice has been likened to a Maurice Jones-Drew-type change-of-pace back for the Ravens, and thus far those comparisons are right on the money. Rice didn't even have Jared Gaither and Adam Terry blocking for him at tackle.
Poor Chad Slaughter. Baltimore's backup offensive tackle was abused by Jared Allen, who collected two sacks and nearly managed a third against an elusive Troy Smith.
John David Booty was 1-of-3 for nine yards and a pick-six. On the interception, Booty threw a weak ball late toward the sideline. Corner Derrick Martin, who had a spectacular game, had the easiest pick of his football career. I never liked Booty because I projected him to be a fumbling machine in the NFL, but with throws like that, he may not even have the chance to continuously cough up the ball.
Redskins 13, Jets 10
In case you crawled into a hole in an effort to avoid all of the Brett Favre hype, and you want a brief analysis, you've come to the right place. The crowd at Giants Stadium applauded everything Favre did, though he didn't really make any mistakes, save for one errant throw. Favre's initial pass was an 11-yard dart to Jerricho Cotchery on a slant. He led the Jets to a touchdown on his second and final drive, finishing 5-of-6 for 48 yards. Dustin Keller caught the score. Favre autographed the ball and gave it to Keller after the game.
That said, I don't understand why Eric Mangini didn't play Brett Favre for a few more possessions. He's only been with the team for 10 days and needs all the work he can get.
Jerricho Cotchery managed a pair of receptions for 30 yards during Favre's two drives. With Laveranues Coles spending a lot of time in his hotel room with his beloved Chad Pennington blowup doll, you can tell that Favre already trusts Cotchery as his No. 1 option. Cotchery could be primed for a huge, Donald Driver-like campaign.
Another positive the Jets can take from their offense's performance was that Thomas Jones was able to convert a fourth-and-one at midfield. Doesn't sound like a huge deal, but Jones had 1,119 rushing yards but only one touchdown last year. He'll have more short-yardage success in 2008 with all of the extra help the Jets brought in this offseason.
Breaking news: Bubba Franks dropped a pass on third down that would have moved the markers. Franks botching an easy reception? Unbelievable!!!
If you look at Kellen Clemens' stats, you'll see that he went 5-of-12 for 63 yards, but it must be noted that four of his passes were dropped. So, his "should have been" 9-of-12 performance was pretty good, right? Well, Clemens also had two passes batted down, and on two occasions he tripped over his own feet when he was dropping back in the pocket.
Brett Ratliff once again out-performed Kellen Clemens. Ratliff finished 13-of-19 for 148 yards. He looked really sharp and confident in the pocket, and almost all of his throws were right on the money. Ratliff led the Jets to what should have been a game-winning drive.
Speaking of that drive, I'd like to believe bad karma made Mike Nugent miss his second field goal of the game. You don't go for a field goal to tie the game in the preseason. I have no idea what Eric Mangini was thinking. Still, the fact that Nugent botched a 23-yard chip shot has to be a huge concern for Jet fans.
Oh, another team did play tonight. Jason Campbell looked a bit shaky for the first time this preseason, as he went 4-of-10 for 29 yards in two drives. Like Brett Favre, Campbell needed more work in a brand new offense. The Redskins managed to run the ball really well, as Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright combined for 124 rushing yards on 12 carries. Betts left the game with an injured knee, but it was just a bruise.
Devin Thomas actually played. He returned two punts, one for 32 yards, but failed to register a reception. Even worse, he dropped a pair of passes. Malcolm Kelly is still in the witness protection program.
Quote of the Game: "Brett Favre has a stronger arm than Chad Pennington, in my opinion." - Jamie Dukes. Thank you, Captain Obvious! Next week, Dukes will discuss, in his opinion, that it takes 10 yards to gain a first down.
Titans 17, Raiders 16
I'm a fan of defense and everything, but the beginning of this game was pretty boring, as there were four consecutive three-and-outs right after kickoff. Both teams have solid stop units, but inept offenses were at fault here, as the four drives were comprised of poor throws, dropped balls and penalties.
Speaking of penalties, the Raiders had seven of them for 50 yards on their first four drives. Good to see Al Davis' squad is more disciplined this season.
The Raiders were able to break out of their offensive malaise first, as JaMarcus Russell put together an awesome touchdown drive, going 5-of-6 for 61 yards and a score to Zach Miller. Though he was the starting quarterback with less experience, Russell looked like the seasoned pro, as he showed off his superior arm strength and pocket awareness. Russell needed to do that because he maintained a horrendous 1.28 yards-per-attempt (YPA) average after the first two drives (no thanks to Javon Walker's dropped first down).
Vince Young, meanwhile, could never get going. He finished 4-of-13 for 37 yards, which gave him a YPA less than three, or John Beck territory. Sure, some drops didn't help Young, but he also had a barrage of poor throws. He seriously didn't look any better than rookies like Brian Brohm.
That brings up the question, how long until Kerry Collins starts for the Titans? Collins will sit as long as the Titans are winning, but I don't see them doing that with 4-of-13 performances from Young. Collins is the better passer, but offers no mobility. Plus, it doesn't really matter who the quarterback is as long as Tennessee's front office refuses to bring in talent at the receiver position. I'm not really sure what point I'm trying to make here; it just seems like the Titans screwed themselves with poor offseason management.
One move made by Tennessee's front office that looks like it's going to pan out is the draft pick it spent on Chris Johnson. There's no way this guy is going to be an every-down back, but my heart seriously skipped a beat on a few of his carries. He's really exciting to watch, and with his 4.2 speed, he's a threat to go the distance on any given play. Johnson finished with 46 yards on eight carries, while his morbidly obese running mate LenDale White chipped in with 39 yards on the same amount of rushes.
Could Lavelle Hawkins be Tennessee's top receiver by the end of the year? With garbage like Justin Gage, Justin McCareins, Brandon Jones and Roydell Williams, anything's possible. Hawkins had a great 51-yard catch and an even better run after the reception to score Tennessee's only offensive touchdown of the game.
Darren McFadden looked very solid after Justin Fargas' unspectacular three yards on three carries. McFadden rushed for 44 yards on six attempts, including 26- and 11-yard gains. Fargas got the start, but I would be shocked if he receives more carries than McFadden this season.
It's safe to say I wasn't surprised when Javon Walker dropped a very easy catch that would have been a first down on Oakland's initial possession. Despite signing a massive contract a few months ago, Walker has looked terrible in training camp and even pondered retirement. The Raiders would cut him if doing so didn't trigger an enormous cap penalty.
Zach Miller had his best performance of his rookie year in the only game JaMarcus Russell started, catching eight balls for 84 yards. Miller picked up where he left off, registering four receptions for 48 yards and a score. He's the top TE2 in my 2008 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends and proved he deserves to be there.
I'm just glad this game is over. I don't think I could handle any more of Chris Myers' commentary about the green dots on the back of players' helmets. I feel like if I hear another 10-minute segment on this, I'm going to slip into a coma. And can someone tell me why Adam Sandler was announcing the game with Moose Johnston? I'm just very confused and disoriented right now after Myers' endless investigative sideline reporting.
Bills 24, Steelers 21
After last week's abysmal performance, Trent Edwards looked extremely sharp against a very solid Steelers defense. Almost all of Edwards' throws were on the money, as the second-year signal-caller went 9-of-11 for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Edwards, who showed great presence in the pocket, also scrambled for a 22-yard gain on third-and-13 deep inside his own territory. Edwards converted the first down and later led Buffalo to its second score.
Marshawn Lynch also performed well; he gained 25 yards on five carries. It should be noted that Troy Polamalu didn't play.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, was very flat. The first-string offense committed three penalties on third downs. One was a 10-yard penalty on third-and-one. The Steelers were consequently placed into a third-and-11, which was the play that Ben Roethlisberger threw his only interception of the evening. The Steelers' only offensive highlight in the first half was Roethlisberger's 40-yard touchdown bomb to Santonio Holmes.
Buffalo did an outstanding job stopping the run, limiting Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall to 44 yards on 16 carries. On the positive side for Pittsburgh, Mendenhall converted third-and-short and later scored a 6-yard touchdown on a third-quarter drive. It looks like Mendenhall is a lock to get the end-zone carries this season.
The Bills better think about paying Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle Jason Peters the money he deserves. Replacement Langston Walker was beaten badly for a sack deep in Buffalo territory.
Struggling rookie receivers: Limas Sweed ran the wrong route on a third down, dropped a pass and managed just nine receiving yards. James Hardy didn't register a single reception.
Bills rookie corner Leodis McKelvin scored a touchdown on a kick return and was solid in coverage, but missed a routine tackle on a Gary Russell run in the third quarter.
Can someone explain to me what the Steelers are doing with Byron Leftwich? I know having a solid, veteran backup quarterback is important, but Leftwich is far from solid. In fact, he's terrible. He's slow, immobile, overweight, inaccurate and turnover-prone. He couldn't even beat out Joey Harrington last year. If Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt and Leftwich has to start, the Steelers aren't going to come away with a victory. I know the Steelers needed a capable veteran in the wake of Charlie Batch's injury, but there weren't any quarterbacks out there who fit that description. I'd rather see the Steelers give more playing time to Dennis Dixon so they can develop him and perhaps eventually trade him for draft picks.
I wrote this in the forum. Think about the situation in this manner: There are two chicks at the bar. One is Sally Struthers (Byron Leftwich). Another is Rosie O'Donnell (Daunte Culpepper). Now, you can game one of them (i.e. sign a crappy QB), or you can choose not game either and go home alone, which is a better option, especially if you have porn on your computer. That's not a bad alternative if you're guaranteed to lose with one of those two festively plump women.
Again, I'm not saying that having a solid backup isn't important; I just think that you might as well go with your draft pick if there aren't any capable veteran signal callers available.
Eagles 24, Panthers 13
I can't imagine how frustrated Eagles fans are right now. Philadelphia's first-string offense looked really sluggish against the Panthers. Though there was a heavy downpour, Donovan McNabb was wildly inaccurate, as he overthrew Kevin Curtis on a key third-down play and DeSean Jackson on a potential touchdown reception. McNabb was also guilty of throwing off his back foot and tossing the ball into quadruple coverage.
Donovan McNabb wasn't the only one at fault; in the first half, his receivers dropped six passes. Six in one half! How does that happen?
DeSean Jackson had multiple drops, but he finished with seven receptions and 71 yards, and definitely looks like the most talented wideout on the team.
Carolina's starting offense wasn't much better. Jake Delhomme was an economical 9-of-14, but threw for just 54 yards. We've yet to see any proof that Delhomme is fine coming off Tommy John surgery. By my count, only one of his throws was in the air longer than six yards, which was a nice 12-yard strike to Muhsin Muhammad. Most of his passes were dumpoffs and checkdowns. I'm aware that the weather was poor, but the fact remains that Delhomme's yards per attempt is hovering around three this preseason, which is downright brutal.
One player who shined for the Panthers was DeAngelo Williams, who followed up last week's solid performance with 32 rushing yards on eight carries and 13 receiving yards on two caches. Jonathan Stewart managed just three yards on four carries, but he had absolutely no blocking. We'll have to wait until next week to determine Carolina's running back situation. Still, the fact remains that unlike last year, Williams is actually running hard. It's sad that it took Carolina using a No. 1 pick on a running back to give him an incentive to work hard.
All around, it was a sloppy game for both sides. There were 13 penalties in the first half alone. Max Jean-Gilles and Jordan Gross were each whistled for a pair.
Ricardo Colclough dropped a pick-six for Carolina, but was solid in coverage for the second straight week. This is surprising, as Colclough really struggled with the Steelers.
Tony Hunt actually played well for once, as he gained 79 yards on five carries, including a 51-yard touchdown. Hunt's problem has been picking up blitzes, so that will still determine whether he makes the team or not.
I have a question, and I'm hoping someone can help me out. What's the deal with the green sticker on the back of the quarterback's helmet? What does it mean? Is it there by accident? Can we please get Chris Myers, Troy Aikman and Joe Buck in here to help us understand what the green sticker is all about? This is driving me nuts! Hopefully we can get those guys to do a 15-minute review on these stickers. I won't be able to sleep until I find out what their purpose is.
2008 NFL Preseason: Week 1
Panthers 23, Colts 20
Tony Ugoh couldn't contain Julius Peppers. Now playing the right end in Carolina, Peppers blew by Ugoh on the third play of the game, sacked Jim Sorgi and forced a fumble that set up a touchdown. Peppers, who continuously abused Ugoh, is a darkhorse candidate to lead the league in sacks this season.
I noticed DeAngelo Williams' numbers (9 carries, 55 yards, 2 TDs) right after the game was over, but I wanted to see how he looked for myself. Williams' stats, though spectacular, didn't do him justice. Williams was amazing against the Colts. He ran out of tackles, broke the ankles of defenders with his cuts and blew by the opposition. Where was this last year when I made Williams a sleeper?
He's baaack! Marvin Harrison looked solid, catching three balls for 22 yards from Jim Sorgi.
Dwayne Jarrett made a great 19-yard reception over the middle of the field early in the second quarter, which drew wide smiles from John Fox and Jake Delhomme. Jarrett later snagged a similar 22-yard catch. He finished with three receptions and 43 yards.
Matt Moore made an incredible play in the first quarter. He was under pressure, so he scrambled right. As he was getting tackled and falling to the turf, Moore fired a 12-yard pass toward the sideline, right into Brad Hoover's lap. Moore finished 7-of-14 for 107 yards. He played somewhat well, but was guilty of staring down his receiver on a few occasions.
Mike Hart continued to look great in relief, as he gained 20 rushing yards on two carries and 21 receiving yards on two catches.
Bengals 20, Packers 17
Some of the guys on NFL Live gave Aaron Rodgers a B+ for his performance against the Bengals. I think it's insane to give him anything lower than an A+. Not that all of his throws were perfect; I just find it amazing that he was able to perform so well with all of the pressure stemming from the national media and the Brett Favre situation. He showed great composure when he had a ready-made excuse if he had a bad game. Rodgers proved that he could make all the throws, connecting on multiple downfield strikes, and often looking off the safeties like a seasoned veteran. I'll be shocked if Rodgers has anything short of a very good 2008 campaign. For the record, Rodgers finished 9-of-15 for 117 yards, one touchdown and one pick, although those numbers could have been better if his receivers didn't drop three catchable balls.
While Rodgers and Green Bay's starting unit shined, Cincinnati's first string was predictably lethargic. Cincinnati fans should be used to missed tackles, dropped balls and muffed returns. The Bengals either show up and play hard, or they don't put forth any effort at all. There's no middle ground with this team.
That said, one positive I got out of the Bengals' starting unit was its ability to run the ball. Rudi Johnson was absent, but the offensive line cleared wide-open running lanes for Chris Perry (11 carries, 42 yards, 1 TD) and Kenny Watson (6 carries, 29 yards). Perry ran with anger and really impressed everyone. Now, if he could only stay healthy...
Brian Brohm had a poor debut, going 8-of-17 for 70 yards and a pick. He threw that interception on his first play, as he stared down his receiver for what seemed like six hours.
Jordy Nelson caught two passes for 35 yards, but he shined in the return game, taking one punt back 16 yards.
Quote of the Game: "[Aaron Rodgers] has a nice set of legs on him." - Tom Jackson. Very nice, sexy time.
Buccaneers 17, Dolphins 6
I can't tell you about Tampa Bay's starting offense because no one played. No Jeff Garcia, Earnest Graham or Joey Galloway. Instead of Garcia and Galloway, we got to see Luke McCown and Michael Clayton. They were far from impressive. McCown nearly threw an interception on his first drive, missed a wide-open Clayton in the end zone, tossed about a million dumpoff passes and barely released anything that lasted longer than five yards through the air. Clayton, meanwhile, was his usual self, as he dropped what could have been an 80-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
John Beck wasn't terrible; he was just very mediocre. Hey, that's a huge upgrade for him. That said, the former BYU signal caller had a very rocky start. His first throw was very low. His second was a short checkdown. The third was overthrown into double coverage. After two more short completions, Beck finally found Ted Ginn along the sideline for a 10-yard gain, which happened to be his longest successful throw.
But who cares about John Beck? Dolphins fans were wondering how Chad Henne would perform. Well, he was a million times better than Beck. In fact, I would say Henne is much more ready to start than Miami's incumbent quarterback. Henne was just 5-of-10 for 67 yards, but he tossed a few impressive strikes downfield, looked off his receivers and actually threw the ball longer than five yards. Henne's first pass, a 14-yard connection to David Kircus, was longer than any of Beck's. Henne's third ball was a 20-yard dart (no YAC) to Kircus on a 3rd-and-11. Most of Henne's incompletions were drops or balls that were thrown away.
Forget Jalen Parmele as a fantasy sleeper. Not that Parmele played poorly; he actually had a few tough runs in the second half. But the original infatuation with Parmele was based on Ronnie Brown's recent injury history and Ricky Williams' unreliable nature. I'm still not convinced that Brown can last the whole year - he gained four yards on three carries coming off a torn ACL - but Williams looked awesome. There were reports that Williams was in shape, and it definitely showed. He broke tackles and pushed piles, finishing with 31 yards on five carries. It should be noted that Williams missed a block on Ronde Barber, who sacked John Beck.
All I heard out of Dolphins camp was how Derek Hagan was outshining the newly signed Ernest Wilford at receiver. On the first drive of the game, Hagan dropped a first down, albeit it was a low throw.
Hagan was later whistled for holding. And this guy's better than Wilford? Oh man...
Aside from a false start in the second quarter, Jake Long impressed, shutting down Gaines Adams and blocking well on running plays.
Jay Feely's job as Miami's kicker could be in jeopardy. Undrafted rookie Dan Carpenter hit a 41-yard field goal off the dirt and a 49-yarder that went right down the middle. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's Matt Bryant struggled, missing two of three attempts, including a whiff from 36.
Aqib Talib looked solid in coverage and made a great, touchdown-saving tackle on Ricky Williams. Save for his off-the-field concerns, Talib looks like a winner.
Texans 19, Broncos 16
Matt Schaub put together a nice opening drive against the Broncos, leading his team to a field goal. Schaub was 4-of-5 for 29 yards, but his one incompletion was on a third-and-goal when he threw into triple coverage.
Jay Cutler also looked solid; he was 8-of-10 for 59 yards and scored a touchdown on a 15-yard run. The running game appeared not to work because it took Selvin Young four tries to get into positive yardage, but I thought he looked pretty good. Young caught two passes out of the backfield for 20 yards.
Surprise! Ahman Green suffered an injury on his first touch, a 5-yard reception. He strained his groin and will miss next week's game. Don't draft this guy; he could double as Mr. Glass in the next Unbreakable movie.
Eddie Royal finished with two catches for 13 yards. He beat Fred Bennett downfield on another occasion, but ran the wrong route.
Both rookie left tackles - Houston's Duane Brown and Denver's Ryan Clady - performed very admirably in their first preseason game. Neither guy allowed a sack or was whistled for a penalty. Both Brown and Clady looked like they were seasoned veterans.
As for the Broncos' right tackle? Not so much. In one half, Ryan Harris was whistled for two obvious holding penalties, one false start and an illegal formation. That's 30 yards in penalties in 30 minutes of action.
Kris Brown nailed a 52-yard field goal in the second quarter. With Houston's improved offense aiding him, Brown's a solid option at kicker in fantasy.
Matt Prater, Denver's replacement for Jason Elam, hit 3-of-4 field goal attempts, all of which were within 40 yards. Prater's miss was from 30, as it was wide right by about a mile. Prater could cost the Broncos at least two victories this season, assuming he even makes the team.
Undrafted rookie Wesley Woodyard is going to make the Broncos' roster. It seemed like he was everywhere in the second half, and he made a number of solid plays, including one hit that knocked off Kasey Studdard's helmet.
If Jay Cutler suffers a season-ending injury and Patrick Ramsey has to start all 16 games, the Broncos could go 0-16. That's how bad he is. Ramsey threw one of the worst passes I've ever seen from an NFL quarterback. Ramsey passed into double coverage and overshot his target by 15 yards. The ball fell into the lap of Texans safety Nick Ferguson. All of Ramsey's completions were short checkdowns and screens, which would explain why he had just 32 yards on six connected passes. In fact, the Texans commentators joked that Mike Shanahan was forced into calling a draw play on a third-and-nine, given Ramsey's inability to convert such a situation.
Titans 34, Rams 13
Not a good start for Marc Bulger. He threw into double coverage on his first throw. His second pass was batted down. His third attempt was tipped and intercepted by Keith Bulluck. He later fumbled and tossed a few more errant passes, as he was under pressure the entire evening.
Even Orlando Pace wasn't free of blame for St. Louis' offensive ineptness. The future Hall of Fame left tackle was badly beaten by Kyle Vanden Bosch on one play.
Chris Johnson had a few exciting runs against the Rams, including an electrifying 68-yard burst where he just zoomed by everyone. Johnson won't carry the load or anything, but he'll be used often in Tennessee's offense. He's worth a mid-round pick in a PPR league and a later selection in a non-touchdown league.
That said, it seemed like every running back on the Titans was able to gain massive yardage on the ground versus one of the league's most pathetic stop units. Chris Johnson totaled 77 yards on six carries; Lendale White notched 33 yards on six rushes; Quinton Ganther managed 115 yards on eight attempts; and Chris Henry tallied 38 yards on nine tries. Even Vince Young had a 35-yard gain. The Titans completely dominated the Rams in the trenches.
Chris Long couldn't do anything in his first game as an NFL defensive end. Granted, Long was going against one of the league's best in Michael Roos, but he also failed to generate a pass rush against Tennessee's second string.
While no one on the Rams' defensive line was able to do anything of note, Titans rookie Jason Jones was a disruptive force against the Rams' starting offensive front. Jones was penciled into the lineup instead of an absent Tony Brown, who needs to start playing again unless he wants Jones to pass him on the depth chart.
Brock Berlin. Remember him? Well, he happened to out-perform both Marc Bulger (3-of-9, 29 yards, 1 INT) and Trent Green (1-of-3, 16 yards). Berlin was 11-of-14 for 139 yards, including a number of deep throws, namely an amazing 47-yard strike to Dane Looker. I'd like to see Berlin play once Bulger misses time with injuries this season.
Quote of the Game: "Kerry Collins can start anywhere in the NFL in this point and time." -- Tennessee Titans' color commentator. Taking homer-ism to another level, much? Sure, Collins can start in New England and Indianapolis apparently. Tom who? Peyton what? Kerry is the man!
Jaguars 20, Falcons 17
Stats can be deceiving. For instance, you'll see that David Garrard started 2-of-8 for 13 yards. Don't criticize him though; of the six incompletions, three were easy drops by his targets (Marcedes Lewis, Mike Walker and a backup tight end). Another was a high throw, which was the result of heavy pressure from an effective Atlanta blitz. One other ball was thrown away. Garrard had one poor throw to Matt Jones, who was also at fault because he ran a really poor route.
More proof that stats can be deceiving. Chris Redman was 3-of-6 for 13 yards and an interception, but two of his incompletions (including the pick) were 40-yard bombs downfield. The interception was the result of a tipped ball, though Redman probably shouldn't have thrown into double coverage. He managed just 13 yards because Jacksonville blitzed often, forcing him to throw all short stuff.
Matt Ryan put up great numbers (9-of-15, 113 yards, 1 TD) but most of that production came against Jacksonville's second string. Unfortunately, Ryan struggled versus the opposing starters. His first two incompletions were really poor throws. His third attempt was a completed dumpoff pass. His fourth pass was also poorly thrown, but Roddy White bailed him out by making a tough catch. On his next play, Ryan fumbled the snap. He performed well after that, but you can thank White again for making a tough touchdown catch (more on this later) and Jacksonville's backups for not being that good.
Roddy White is a beast. He caught two poorly thrown balls from Matt Ryan, including one pass that was way behind him. He twisted his entire body around, did a 360 in the air, extended his arms and brought in a 25-yard touchdown. White finished with five receptions, 47 yards and that score.
No surprise that Michael Jenkins dropped the first ball thrown to him. It's a shame because it ruined a beautiful 13-yard Matt Ryan pass along the sideline.
Typical Jaguars: Receiver Mike Walker dropped an easy reception early in the game and followed up with an even simpler muffed touchdown in the second quarter. Walker made two nice catches and a solid block downfield on a David Garrard run, but the Jaguars can't count on his inconsistency.
Jacksonville's Greg Smith gained 39 yards on five carries.
Falcons rookie left tackle Sam Baker was really solid. His only mistake was a false start in the second quarter. He ran and pass blocked really well.
Jason Elam's missed 48-yard field goal wasn't even close. It wouldn't have even connected from 18. He kicked it the wrong way. If I didn't know better, I'd say Elam showed up drunk and high, but it's clear that he was poisoned by Joey Harrington's caviar lunch. Poor Elam is new to the team and hasn't learned to avoid Harrington and all of his odd tendencies.
Raiders 18, 49ers 6
Can someone explain to me why J.T. O'Sullivan started for the 49ers? I know he was a sleeper in ESPN's 2008 Fantasy Football magazine, but Sullivan lacks the talent to be a No. 1 quarterback in this league. Apparently he lacks the intelligence as well. On one play, Sullivan panicked to avoid Oakland's pass rush and decided to throw the ball five yards backward. Luckily, the ball was caught; otherwise it would have been a fumble. On another play, O'Sullivan was pressured and heaved an interception into triple coverage. He later lost a fumble. O'Sullivan had three nice downfield throws to Josh Morgan, but it wasn't enough to offset his mistakes.
Then again, looking at the competition, maybe Mike Nolan doesn't have a choice. Alex Smith went 5-of-9 for 51 yards, but nearly threw an interception into triple coverage. Shaun Hill was equally inept.
JaMarcus Russell was just 2-of-5 for 13 yards, but two of his incompletions were long bombs that were almost caught. The Raiders were able to move the chains though with Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas on the ground, as their rushing attack proved to be way too powerful for the 49ers to handle. McFadden totaled 48 yards on 12 carries, while Fargas managed 25 yards on just five rushes. McFadden ran with power and electrifying speed, and he was extremely exciting to watch.
Even Michael Bush looked great. Bush, whose power and speed made him look like a human bowling ball, rushed for 27 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts. He also had a 23-yard reception out of the backfield.
I can't say the 49ers ground attack was as potent as Oakland's. Frank Gore carried the ball twice for six yards. And take away a 9-yard run by DeShaun Foster, and the former Panther tallied four yards on five rushes.
The most impressive receiver in this game was San Francisco rookie Josh Morgan. Morgan, whose draft stock slipped because of off-the-field issues, caught four passes for 68 yards with the first-string offense, taking advantage of Isaac Bruce, Bryant Johnson and Ashley Lelie. He made some nice grabs and was commended for his great route running. Morgan has nice size at 6-0, 219.
Javon Walker didn't register a single reception, as he couldn't get open against San Francisco's $100 million secondary, save for one occasion (against the backups).
Johnnie Lee Higgins had a 39-yard punt return that was brought back by a penalty. No problem. Higgins (or is it Lee Higgins?) later took back another punt for 53 yards for a touchdown. Higgins/Lee Higgins topped it off with a cartwheel and a back flip in the end zone.
Exchange of the Game: A blond sideline reporter was interviewing Patrick Willis. When the interview came to an end, she joked, "I'm going to crawl underneath your jacket, it's so cold out here." Willis smirked and replied, "You're more than welcome."
Chargers 31, Cowboys 17
I'd love to write about Tony Romo's scoring drive at the beginning of the game. I'd love to describe why the Chargers struggled on their opening possession. But I can't, thanks to the NFL Network. Instead of switching to the Cowboys-Chargers battle, the NFL Network decided to stick with the boring finale of the Redskins-Bills contest. Yeah, I'd rather see third-stringers who won't even be in the league instead of Romo, Marion Barber, Philip Rivers and Chris Chambers. Great business decision. Oh, and I almost forgot about the NFL Network's awesome rotation of eight commercials. Seriously, if I have to hear some dumb kid say, "Jason Witten came to town and I took him down," I'm going to saw off my ears.
I can speculate how Philip Rivers looked on his first two drives. Rivers, coming off a torn ACL, connected on his first three passes, but they were gains of -1, eight and five. He was sacked once and tossed an incompletion to Chris Chambers after his three hookups. Rivers finished with better numbers (5-of-6 for 54 yards), but I'll get to what happened in the next paragraph...
Can someone send Norv Turner a telegram and tell him that the Cowboys game was the first week of the preseason; not the third? Why did Philip Rivers play into the second quarter? Good job scoring against Dallas' second string. And why was Shaun Phillips giving Brad Johnson a heart attack in the middle of the second quarter? So you can stop a 60-year-old quarterback and his receivers... Norv should be given a gold star. Seriously though, what if one of the starters suffered an injury? Norv would look like a complete moron.
I can also speculate how Tony Romo did, and I'm willing to bet it was better than Philip Rivers' performance. Romo went 3-of-3 for 33 yards, commanding the Cowboys to an opening touchdown despite the fact that Jessica Simpson was in the stands (presumably).
Now for what I did see... Felix Jones seems like he's going to be a great weapon for Tony Romo this year. Jones, who looks like he bulked up a bit, made a nice cutback and gained 19 yards on a run in the first quarter. He later eluded several Chargers defenders on a 28-yard reception that was all YAC. Romo looked giddy on the sidelines. Safe to say he wouldn't be as happy if Julius Jones were still in a Dallas uniform, as the former Cowboy can't even get past Maurice Morris on the depth chart in Seattle. Felix Jones finished with six carries, 32 rushing yards, two catches and 29 receiving yards.
Felix Jones wasn't the only rookie runner who lit it up. Jacob Hester gained 49 yards on 13 carries. He ran over a Cowboys defender and scored a tough touchdown on San Diego's third drive.
Mike Jenkins was great in coverage against Chris Chambers. In fact, he nearly came up with an interception in the first quarter. I'd like to tell you if Jenkins started or not, but NFL Network felt like showing another Jurassic Fight Club commercial.
Pacman Jones, meanwhile, struggled mightily. He was out of position on a third-down Jacob Hester run, and was later whistled for a pass interference inside the 5-yard line.
The Cowboys can't cover a punt return. Every single time they kicked to the Chargers, San Diego was able to move the ball back 20 yards or more, no wonder who the returner was.
"I played..." "I played..." "I played..." By the way, why does youth football have a governing body?
Quote of the Game: "As they say, opportunity come knockin for us all, and you gotta open the door." - LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson said this famous quote while being interviewed by San Diego's commentators. And people say Tomlinson's not the next Emmitt Smith.
Redskins 17, Bills 14
Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly sat out again. I'm seriously convinced neither guy will ever play a down in the NFL.
Jason Campbell continued to look really sharp in his second preseason game in Jim Zorn's West Coast offense. Campbell led the Redskins to a touchdown on the second drive of Saturday night's contest, finishing 7-of-10 for 71 yards. And it's not like Campbell was merely checking down; he threw multiple double-digit-yard strikes to his receivers, particularly Antwaan Randle El, who had three catches for 30 yards.
Trent Edwards threw a beautiful third-down conversion to Roscoe Parrish on his first attempt, and it looked like he would lead the Bills to a touchdown right off a Redskins fumble. Unfortunately, Edwards threw late over the middle into the end zone on his next pass, which should have been intercepted by Shawn Springs. Edwards finished 1-of-5 for 18 yards.
Despite Edwards' poor showing, I don't get why he didn't play more. If he's going to be Buffalo's starting quarterback, he needs all the in-game experience he can get. That said, maybe he won't be the guy. J.P. Losman led the Bills to a touchdown off a Redskins interception, throwing a nice fade to James Hardy. Losman was 7-of-9 for 73 yards and that score.
James Hardy needed that touchdown because prior to that, he ran the wrong route on a play, dropped a pass and false started.
So I guess Colt Brennan isn't a shoe-in for the NFL Hall of Fame just yet. Brennan looked pretty ordinary against the Bills after last week's sharp performance. He went 4-of-8 for 37 yards.
Quote of the Game: I don't have the exact quote, but the Bills announcers defended Colt Brennan's side-armed release by going, "I don't care how he throws the ball. He was productive in Division-I." Yeah... because all quarterbacks who were productive in a BCS or mid-major school have thrived in the NFL. Oh wait, I forgot about Jason White, Eric Crouch, Ken Dorsey, Chris Leak, etc. etc. etc.
Ravens 16, Patriots 15
Kyle Boller threw really well on his first drive. He went 5-of-6 for 56 yards and led the Ravens to a field goal. He connected on his first three throws, all of which were deep strikes. Unfortunately, the Boller we know and love showed up later; he lost a fumble and tossed an interception into triple coverage.
Ray Rice didn't do anything significant on the ground, albeit he was going against New England's superior rush defense. His longest run was for five yards, and he rushed the ball six times for 12 yards. However, he was a factor in the passing game, catching four balls out of the backfield for 17 yards.
Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker didn't play.
The third-round pick the Patriots spent on Kevin O'Connell is starting to make a bit more sense. Not that O'Connell was great (6-of-13, 57 yards and an interception that wasn't his fault) but Matt Cassel was awful against the Ravens. Most of his throws were targeted into double coverage and he tripped over his own two feet on a third-down play. Cassel went 1-of-4 for 11 yards and a pick, though the interception wasn't his fault; it looked like Chad Jackson ran the wrong route. Cassel was booed off the field. Matt Gutierrez was better by default. He finished 10-of-16 for 76 yards, but tossed a weak-armed interception inside the red zone and lost a fumble at the beginning of the third quarter.
Baltimore's backup quarterbacks weren't much better. Troy Smith threw a few nice passes downfield, but more than half of his throws were errant and he tossed two of his passes into the arms of Patriot linebackers (which were dropped); he finished 5-of-12 for 74 yards.
Meanwhile, Joe Flacco's first pass was nearly picked off. The second time he dropped back in the pocket, he fumbled the ball away. His third throw was behind his target. He was sacked on the next play. His fourth and final toss was batted down. Flacco's performance was abysmal, but don't deem him a bust just yet. Carson Palmer threw two pick-sixes in his first preseason contest.
Chad Jackson is listed on my 2008 Fantasy Football Sleepers page, but he caught one pass for no positive yardage against the Ravens. Jackson ran the wrong route on an interception, but he wasn't at fault for his lack of production otherwise; Matt Cassel and Matt Guiterrez overthrew him, underthrew him and laid him out a ton. I really want to see what a now-healthy Jackson can do with Tom Brady under center.
Jerod Mayo started and played pretty well for the Patriots. In fact, Mayo knocked Ray Rice's helmet off on one play late in the first quarter.
If I didn't know any better, I'd say the Ravens paid C.J. Jones to single-handedly ruin New England's season. Too bad he's not going to last until the end of the week. Jones completely ruined any chance the Patriots had of winning this game. From dropped passes to foolish decisions on punt returns to fumbles to tipped balls that landed in the arms of Ravens defensive backs, Jones' horrendous performance was one for the ages. It was so bad that his great grandchildren will have to live their lives in shame.
No funny quotes or anything, but the most amusing part of the game came right after Fabian Washington picked off Matt Gutierrez. Corey Ivy sweeped Washington off his feet and carried him to the sideline. It was like those Viagra commercials without the guy telling you you're going to die if you have a 4-hour erection.
Jets 24, Browns 20
Cleveland scored a touchdown on its opening drive, going 62 yards in nearly five minutes. The possession was capped off by an incredible one-handed catch by Braylon Edwards. Derek Anderson went 4-of-5 for 20 yards. He was unspectacular, but didn't make any mistakes. It should be noted that the Jets' defense was missing Shaun Ellis and David Harris.
Brett Favre obviously didn't play, though he stood on the sideline with the rest of the Jets. Kellen Clemens went 4-of-6 for 31 yards and couldn't lead the starting offense to a score. In fact, Clemens commanded his unit to just two first downs.
Forget Kellen Clemens. Forget Erik Ainge. Forget Brett Favre? OK, maybe not him, but Brett Ratliff stole the show for the Jets in their first preseason game. Ratliff's first pass of the game was a perfectly thrown 71-yard bomb to rookie receiver David Clowney. Though Clowney beat two reserve defensive backs and was primarily working against backups, he looked impressive, finishing with four catches for 163 yards and two scores. But more on Ratliff - the undrafted second-year player went 14-of-20 for 252 yards and two touchdowns, the second being a 70-yard connection to Clowney. Ratliff wasn't perfect, as he nearly threw an interception on his second pass because he stared down his receiver. In fact, there were three occasions when Ratliff glared too long at his intended target, but he also did a good job looking off different wideouts on other instances.
Brady Quinn didn't play as long as Brett Ratliff, but still manage to go 13-of-17 for 133 yards and an interception. The pick wasn't Quinn's fault, as his pass bounced out of Syndric Steptoe's hands. Quinn's best play was when he spun away from a Jets defender and ran for a first down. He also had three great throws to Travis Wilson, who totaled 58 yards on the night. Wilson is coming off a great training camp, so his performance shouldn't be a surprise.
Dustin Keller managed just one catch for five yards. Meanwhile, slot receiver Chansi Stuckey caught three balls for 44 yards, including one impressive catch he managed to haul in the pass despite it being way over his head.
While Dustin Keller didn't do much, the other rookie tight end, Martin Rucker, had an eventful night. He caught five passes for 70 yards, but dropped a few easy balls. Fellow rookie Paul Hubbard made an awesome 44-yard sideline catch in the fourth quarter.
Browns corner Brandon McDonald had an incredible tackle on Leon Washington on third-and-short near the sideline, preventing the Jets from achieving a first down on their opening drive. It set up a fourth-and-one, which New York also failed to convert.
Jets rookie corner Dwight Lowery picked off Ken Dorsey and scored the decisive touchdown on a punt return.
Apparently, not everyone was in favor of the Brett Favre trade. Laveranues Coles, who didn't play against the Browns, apparently left the hotel in anger upon hearing about the trade. I guess Coles is content with mediocrity and doesn't really care about winning.
Quote of the Game: "I want to kiss you... hic." - Joe Namath to the Jets broadcasting team. Just kidding. Actually, Namath told Ian Eagle and Greg Buttle that he had some concern about Favre learning the "newness" on a different team. Namath then forced Eagle and Buttle to take a few shots of SoCo and Lime with him.
Seahawks 34, Vikings 17
The Seahawks' starting offense marched down the field with relative ease on the opening drive. Matt Hasselbeck finished 7-of-8 for 70 yards and a touchdown, connecting twice with Bobby Engram. Maurice Morris - not Julius Jones - helped out with a 21-yard gain and finished with 62 yards on six carries. The Vikings' defense didn't look any better against the pass than in 2007, though Pat Williams and Madieu Williams were out of the lineup. Jared Allen, meanwhile, beat Walter Jones on a speed rush.
Julius Jones gained 12 yards on a second-quarter carry, but managed just three yards on three rushes on his other attempts, and was stuffed on third-and-short. Jones ran with the second-string, which has to be concerning for anyone who has drafted him already. Maurice Morris received all the rush opportunities with the first team.
T.J. Duckett saw some action, running for nine yards on seven carries. He fumbled twice (one was nullified by a penalty; another overturned by the officials). Don't expect him to be on the roster much longer. The good news for Duckett is that he can spend the rest of this year at home eating pancakes without the distraction of football.
So much for the battle for the No. 3 receiving job. Neither Ben Obomanu nor Courtney Taylor caught a pass against the Vikings, though the former had a nice punt return.
Tarvaris Jackson led the Vikings to 10 points on three drives. He made a number of nice throws and sold play-action really well, but he also missed two wide-open receivers and was guilty of the poor mechanics he's often criticized of. All in all, very solid showing by Jackson, who finished 8-of-11 for 118 yards and a touchdown.
The Vikings' first running play in this game took place 30 seconds into the second quarter. I guess they were trying to give Tarvaris Jackson some work, huh?
Visanthe Shiancoe lost a fumble for the Vikings on the opening drive. Shiancoe has been a huge disappointment, and I'm shocked the Vikings didn't find an upgrade for him this offseason.
Backup left tackle Drew Radovich played well before he was carted off the field with what looked like a shoulder injury. Not sure why he needed a cart for a shoulder, but Radovich looks like he'll be a solid reserve behind Bryant McKinnie.
Second-string middle linebacker David Hawthorne is going to make the team. He's a fierce hitter and consequently forced two fumbles against the Vikings. He's an undrafted rookie.
Was Jared Allen chewing tobacco on the sidelines? If any other player did this it would be a big deal. But Jared Allen rules. He can probably get drunk, steal one of those injury carts and drive it around the field during official timeouts and get away with it.
Steelers 16, Eagles 10
Both first-string offenses moved the chains with relative ease. Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to an opening touchdown, while the Eagles piled up 10 points in their first two possessions.
That said, I had a huge problem with Andy Reid's gameplan. First of all, he kept Donovan McNabb in well into the second quarter. I understand McNabb wanted to play, but Reid would have looked like a giant fool if McNabb suffered an injury. Meanwhile, the defensive starters played even longer than McNabb was under center. I get why Reid and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson wanted to look at the players, but what exactly were they trying to prove against the Steelers' second string? So the Eagles' starters stopped Charlie Batch and Limas Sweed. Whoop dee doo. Definitely not worth the risk of suffering an injury.
When McNabb was actually going against Pittsburgh's starters, he actually looked the old McNabb (pre-2005). He moved around well in the pocket and all of his throws were right on the money. McNabb finished 10-of-13 for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Though his largest gain came against the rare moments when the Eagles' backups were in, Rashard Mendenhall looked pretty solid, gaining 34 yards on seven carries.
DeSean Jackson gives the Eagles a dimension they've lacked since Donte' Stallworth was on the team. Jackson is ridiculously small, but he's really quick and elusive. He had four catches for 45 yards in the first half. However, it should be noted that Jackson dropped two balls right before halftime. He also made a poor decision on a punt return, losing eight yards on the attempt.
Shawn Andrews might be busy home crying about how much his life sucks, but it doesn't look like the Eagles' running game is going to miss a beat with Max Jean-Gilles at right guard. The 360-pound Gilles was a dominant force versus Pittsburgh's first-string defensive line.
Santonio Holmes completely torched Brian Dawkins on Pittsburgh's opening touchdown. Dawkins turns 35 in October, so his skills will continue to quickly erode.
Dennis Dixon does not look like an NFL quarterback. He had a receiver wide open down the field in the third quarter, but completely underthrew him. We're talking about a Chad Pennington throw at quarter-strength. If he were playing against first-stringers, the pass would have been picked off.
Quotes of the Game: "Correll Buffalo." "Donovan McMabb." "Jason Addvent." "Kevin Kolbert." "Deshea Foster." All of these gaffs were made by the Eagles and Steelers' broadcasting team. Hey, at least they didn't call Greg Jones "Greg Smith."
Lions 13, Giants 10
The Lions were definitely more balanced on offense - but only in terms of play-calling. The Lions ran four times and passed four times on their opening drive. They scored, but they weren't able to move the chains on the ground. There weren't many running lanes, and when there were, Tatum Bell couldn't find them. Keep in mind though that the Giants had the top rush defense in the league in 2007; defensive tackle Barry Cofield made a number of key stops on Thursday.
Jon Kitna went 6-of-7 for 106 yards and a touchdown. He had a really great roll-out throw to Calvin Johnson (38 yards) where he was able to break a tackle and find Johnson down the sideline. Johnson finished with four catches and 78 yards. As I wrote in my 2008 Fantasy Rankings: Wide Receivers, I can't blame you if you draft Johnson before Roy Williams.
Eli Manning went 2-of-6 for 19 yards and nearly threw an interception, but it should be noted that Derrick Ward dropped an easy catch in the first quarter.
Brandon Jacobs had a really nice run in the first quarter, as he somehow squeezed through a thin running lane and scampered for 27 yards. His other carry went for no gain. Derrick Ward had 12 yards on four carries, and dropped an easy catch. Ahmad Bradshaw had three rushes for four yards, as he couldn't find any lanes to go through. Bradshaw also dropped a pass inside the red zone.
Kevin Smith ran hard and looked better than Tatum Bell, but he managed just 22 yards on eight carries. I wouldn't draft Smith this year; he had 450 carries at Central Florida in 2007. If you took Larry Johnson in one of your leagues last year, you know how much of a big deal that is. If not, get prepared to be disappointed.
Lions first-round rookie Gosder Cherilus was whistled for two false starts and one holding penalty. Not a good showing. Looks like Cherilus is well on his way to become Matt Millen's next draft gem.
Excluding Brandon Jacbos' initial 27-yard run (which was more Jacobs than poor tackling) Detroit did a great job stopping the run, thanks to key tackles by linebackers Alex Lewis and Paris "Walt makes bad jokes about me" Lenon.
Breaking News: David Carr was sacked on his fourth pass attempt. Carr was also sacked on his final drive. Actually, Carr looked a million times better than he played in Carolina, albeit he was going against second- and third-stringers.
Giants rookie safety Kenny Phillips looked very solid and made a key tackle on an end-around. He wore Tiki Barber's old No. 21.
Quote of the Game: "The Lions are ready to run the ball!" - Gus Johnson. Yeah, they were as ready as the Lions are at doing anything. Tatum Bell and Kevin Smith combined to run for two yards per carry. But at least they were ready to run the ball!!!!
Chiefs 24, Bears 20
Shocking news: Rex Grossman was booed off the field twice. The first time was the result of a horribly thrown dump-off pass that Grossman completely missed despite the fact that his target was two yards in front of him. The second occurance happened because Grossman tripped over his own two feet while dropping back in the pocket. Grossman finished 4-of-8 for 44 yards and a touchdown.
It also shouldn't be surprising that Chicago fans cheered Caleb Hanie the most. Hanie missed two routine throws, including one that was very similar to Grossman's botched dump-off pass (seriously, Caleb, put down the Grossman game film), but he settled in after that. Hanie finished 9-of-16 for 101 yards and an impressive touchdown to Brandon Rideau. Hanie also scrambled for 18 yards and gained a key first down in the fourth quarter. He may have led the Bears to a game-winning touchdown if rookie wideout Marcus Monk didn't drop a 25-yard pass that hit him right in the numbers.
I'd like to say Brodie Croyle threw his first pass away because he was under pressure, but I'm just not sure. Croyle looked like he was throwing at a target, but fired the ball right toward the sideline. Croyle's third pass was nearly picked off by Charles Tillman, as Croyle underthrew Dwayne Bowe. To Bowe's credit, he nearly came up with the grab. Croyle stared down his receiver on his fourth attempt. With that in mind, Croyle looked poised from then on, finishing 6-of-10 for 82 yards, as he led his squad to a touchdown on the opening drive.
Speaking of the first drive, Chicago's first-string defense allowed Croyle to convert five third downs on the possession. Kansas City's drive went 16 plays, 81 yards and lasted 8:45. It's not like key guys were missing. Brian Urlacher played. Lance Briggs played. Tommie Harris played. Charles "Peanut" Tillman, Mike Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Alex Brown... everyone was in the game. If I'm Lovie Smith, I have to be a bit worried. The Chiefs aren't exactly the 2007 Patriots; Croyle is unproven and the offensive line is in shambles. The most glaring conversion Chicago surrendered occurred because Briggs missed a manageable tackle on Jamaal Charles.
Despite the initial score, Kansas City's offensive front had problems keeping Bears defenders out of the backfield. Left tackle Herb Taylor (playing for Branden Albert) and right guard Adrian Jones especially struggled, as both were beaten on multiple occasions. Taylor was whistled for holding in the red zone.
It should be noted that Kansas City's second offensive sequence spontaneously combusted, as their offensive line was guilty of two holding and one illegal formation penalties.
The Bears haven't had much success drafting running backs in the past two decades, but that streak may end with Matt Forte. Forte ran seven times for 25 yards and caught three passes, looking extremely impressive. I know he wasn't going against the Steel Curtain or anything, but Forte seems like he's going to be a million times better than Cedric Benson. Of course a million times zero is still zero, so maybe I should rephrase that.
William Franklin snagged in a 22-yard reception on Kansas City's opening drive. It's important that the Chiefs see more of this, as Devard Darling shouldn't, under any circumstances, start in this league.
I liked what I saw out of Chiefs rookie right tackle Barry Richardson. Though he was going against second- and third-stringers in the second half, Richardson didn't allow a sack and run blocked pretty well. I'd like to see him get a crack at the starting lineup.
I can't say Tyler Thigpen was too impressive. Thigpen, Kansas City's other young quarterback, was often guilty of staring down his receivers and telegraphed an ugly duck to Bears linebacker Rod Wilson in the third quarter.
Celebration of the Night: I've never seen someone celebrate so much after a sack. Anthony Adams pinned Damon Huard to the ground, got up, and started jumping and waving his arms around for about five minutes. Seriously, Michael Strahan was more calm on his record-breaking sack on Brett Favre a few years ago.
Quote of the Game: "Brodie Croyle struggled a little bit last year." - former Bears quarterback and current Bears color commentator Erik Kramer. Just a bit, Erik? If going 0-6 is struggling a little bit, what's struggling a lot? I could see Erik saying, "Player X struggled more than a bit last year but not too much. He had the ebola virus."
Saints 24, Cardinals 10
Drew Brees threw one touchdown and nine interceptions during New Orleans' 0-4 start last year. Based on his performance on Thursday, it doesn't look like that's going to happen again. Brees looked really sharp in his only drive, going 6-of-7 for 40 yards and a touchdown - and without Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey.
Matt Leinart, meanwhile, put up similar stats. He went 7-of-8 for 91 yards. While Ron Jaworski and Tony Kornheiser were singing his praises, I wasn't as impressed. Leinart had a great 23-yard completion to Jamaica Rector, but most of his other throws for simple checkdowns. I'm not saying Leinart was bad or anything; he was simply just efficient, very much like Chad Pennington. In fact, Brian St. Pierre stepped in after Leinart's appearance and looked pretty similar. I still believe Kurt Warner should start for the Cardinals because he gives them the best chance to win and make the playoffs. In fact, because Leinart could play a lot, I would have reservations about drafting Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin; neither put up monstrous numbers with Leinart under center in 2007.
Reggie Bush had a pair of great runs against the Cardinals. Bush spun away from a defender and scrambled for 12 yards, a play that was nullified by a penalty. Another 18-yard scamper was also wiped out by holding.
Pierre Thomas had two catches for 20 receiving yards, but managed just nine rushing yards on nine carries. Some of those rushes were short-yardage opportunities inside the red zone and the second-string offensive line couldn't open up anything for him. Still, Thomas' performance was not encouraging.
Edgerrin James saw limited action. Rookie running back Tim Hightower garnered a lot of snaps and looked really good; he had five carries for 23 yards and a touchdown, and two catches for 11 receiving yards. If you're thinking about drafting James, keep in mind that Arizona is going to give Hightower plenty of touches, including a good amount near the goal line.
Robert Meachem has arrived. Meachem beat Cardinals second-string safety Aaron Francisco on a 49-yard pass from Mark Brunell. Meachem dived for the ball and was able to prevent it from hitting the ground, landing on Arizona's 3-yard line. Meachem also took a fourth-quarter catch to the house for 60 yards, as he broke four tackles after the reception. Granted, he was running away from third-stringers, but it looks like Meachem has a chance to put up some very solid numbers this year.
Saints rookie Adrian Arrington also looked solid, snaring in a 33-yard grab by boxing out a defensive back with his 6-3, 192-pound frame. I can't see Arrington doing much this season with Marques Colston, David Patten and Robert Meachem ahead of him on the depth chart, but Arrington looks like he was definitely a nice find in the seventh round.
The Cardinals were penalized three times on their opening drive. For the record, they were the most penalized team in the NFL last year. Doing too many beer bongs will cause stuff like that to happen.
Arizona rookie corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a huge hit on tight end Mark Campbell that left the veteran tight end shaken up for about a minute. Rodgers-Cromartie has looked impressive in camp, keeping with the momentum he generated with a great Senior Bowl and combine.
Quote of the Game: "Jeremy Shockey can do for the Saints what Randy Moss did for the Patriots last year" - Ron Jaworski. So the Saints are going 18-1, setting offensive records and getting into trouble for stealing signals? Not bad. Maybe we should consider Shockey in the first round of our fantasy leagues.
2008 NFL Preseason: Hall of Fame Game
Redskins 30, Colts 16
Colt Brennan was the most impressive quarterback in this game, as the sixth-round rookie went 9-of-10 for 123 yards and two touchdowns. OK, so maybe he's not the worst pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't get too excited if I were a Redskin fan. Brennan didn't answer any of my concerns, and he was playing against a very vanilla, no-blitz defense featuring perhaps one or two players who will actually be in the league this year. Granted, Brennan was also accompanied by many no-talents on offense, which is why it's difficult to gauge his performance.
That said, Brennan looked a lot better than Todd Collins. Collins went 5-of-6 for 32 yards, but lost a fumble and threw a really ugly incompletion to a wide-open receiver. Collins has struggled to pick up the West Coast offense this preseason, so there's a good chance Brennan will be the No. 2 quarterback this season.
Jason Campbell looked very comfortable in the new offense, as he went 5-of-5 for 61 yards and a quick score to open the game. Again, Dungy wasn't really showing his hand, as he seldom prepares for preseason games - he's now 9-17 with the Colts in exhibition contests - but I would still be encouraged by Campbell's progression.
Quinn Gray may have cemented the No. 3 quarterbacking role in just one preseason game. While Gray went 10-of-19 for 160 yards and an impressive score, Lorenzen was just 12-of-21 for 93 yards and a pick-six. Gray's mobility in the pocket gives him another edge over Lorenzen, though the Hefty Lefty somehow managed to scramble for a first down. I was shocked he didn't have to go to the sideline for an oxygen tank after that run.
Joseph Addai left the game with a head injury, but it wasn't serious. Frankly, I'm shocked Dungy even played him in the contest. There was no need to do that. Meanwhile, Clinton Portis sat out and Mike Hart really impressed (four carries, 53 yards).
Colts backup receivers: Pierre Garcon looks like an NFL player. He was drafted in the sixth round out of Mount Union, and already looks like another Bill Polian gem. The Frenchman had four catches for 49 yards. Then there's Courtney Roby... Roby, a Titans reject (so you know he's bad) dropped a wide-open touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He won't be in the league much longer.
Redskin rookies Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly didn't play.
Washington backup offensive tackles Stephon Heyer and Todd Wade left the game with injuries. Their situation is still TBA. Heyer played well in relief of Jon Jansen last season, but he gave up a sack to Marcus Howard on Sunday night. Howard finished with a sack and a half.
Redskins rookie special-teamer/safety Chris Horton made a number of solid plays, including two sacks and a recovered onsides kick. Fellow rookie Justin Tryon (fourth round), however, was penalized for an obvious pass interference, which set up a chip-shot field goal for Adam Vinatieri with seconds remaining in the first half.