Even though it’s only the first week of preseason, most football fans couldn’t help but be glued to their television for the first action on the gridiron.
That excitement translated well through the betting windows in Las Vegas sports books with bettors getting the best of it out of the gate. Favorites went 11-4, including 5-0 in Saturday night’s games.
Information on who would play, and for how long, was critical in some of the favorites getting covers. Had you uncovered that Mike Shanahan would play Rex Grossman and most of the Redskins starters the entire first half of their Friday night game against the Steelers, Washington would have likely been bet much more heavily.
The majority of teams played their starters for one of two series, then took a closer look at the rest of their roster as the process to get down to 46 players has a much shorter window than usual because of the lockout.
Expect the starters to play a little more this week, but not enough to make a real educated opinion on a game until the coaches release their plan to the public. Week 3 of preseason is usually when we see teams’ starters do their regular season dress rehearsal playing into the third quarter.
In the short time we watched some of the starters play, there were a few that made quite an impression. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy stands out the most from his performance against the Packers (9-10-135-1TD).
Even with the Packers defensive starters in the game, McCoy showed the poise and presence on the field like he did at Texas and was a completely different looking player from last season. Yes, it’s only preseason, but it’s apparent that new coach Pat Shurmur has made a difference with the offensive scheme giving Cleveland fans something to be excited about after watching the Mangini-era’s offense.
The Patriots backups played with more intensity and fire than their starters led by backups QB’s Brian Hoyer and rookie Ryan Mallett. We also got a glimpse of a new piece of their running back committee with another LSU running-back to go along with Kevin Faulk in rookie Stevan Ridley who scored three touchdowns.
Cam Newton made his Panther debut last week against the Giants and showed signs of why the Panthers were so high on him. The first overall draft choice entered the game in the second quarter to a standing ovation from the home fans. The Heisman trophy winner didn’t disappoint, making a couple strong arm connections for over 30 yards.
It’s only a few series to go of off, but there were signs Newton could be a pretty good pocket passer in the NFL. The Auburn star looked to make a point by not taking off on the run during his series. If he blends the two together well, he will be a force in the league.
It was sort of puzzling seeing Newton wear the No. 1 jersey, but current Carolina starting QB Jimmy Clausen wears Newton’s famous No. 2. Clausen refused to give up the number, despite being No. 7 at Notre Dame.
Seems when Clausen came into the NFL, the Panthers punter had No. 7 and wouldn’t give it to him, so Clausen thought it was fair play to do the same to Newton.
Without Brett Favre around it seems like the entire media corps has been converging on Broncos back-up Tim Tebow as a means to stir debate and get people talking. Everyone has an opinion on Tebow with one side saying his poor throwing mechanics will never make him a quality NFL QB and the other side saying that he’s plain and simply just a hustling football player who does everything to get the job done.
This topic was almost as hot last year leading up to the NFL draft where no one expected Tebow to be drafted early, let alone for being drafted as a QB. After the Broncos took him in the first-round, the skeptics still insisted it was a bad draft pick and that he would never pan out.
After watching Tebow run goal line offenses with success, there were still doubts he could throw the ball. And then when he got his chance to start and put up good numbers, along with a classic video of him beating down Raiders chasing him into the end zone, the doubters still insisted he wouldn’t make it as if everything was a fluke.
Tebow’s throwing motion will never change and it will always be ugly. His accuracy in the 20 yard range is lacking. But the thing that separates Tebow from others with more talent that haven’t made it is that he’s got the rare combination of toughness, smarts, willingness to learn and winning attitude.
He’s a winner, even if it means backing up Kyle Orton this season. If JaMarcus Russell had half the internal drive Tebow had, the Raiders would be talked about as being Super Bowl champs this year.
Orton looked terrific in his one and only drive, as did the Broncos offensive line, but it was the same old Orton crashing and burning in the red zone as he couldn’t cash in a 1st-and-goal opportunity. Should Orton win the starting job, these are spots where Tebow could be his most affective as a regular contributor to the team.
Kevin Kolb wasn’t great in his game at Oakland, but he did heave up a 43-yard bomb that Larry Fitzgerald miraculously pulled down. The relationship between the two will be great this season, just because it has to. The Cardinals have to do all they can to keep Fitzgerald in Arizona and getting him the ball should do the trick.
Fans were also treated with opportunities for much longer rest-room breaks as it appears kickoffs will mean close to nothing this season.
Of the 127 kickoffs, 43 resulted in touchbacks (33.8%) under the NFL’s modified kickoff rules. Last season only 16.4% of kickoffs were touchbacks. So now we have the TV timeout after a score, the kickoff (touchback) and then another TV timeout following giving the fans about five to six minutes of free time where they know nothing is going to happen.