I put all 16 NFL preseason games on my DVR each week and watch every first half to see how the guys who are likely to see the field in the regular season are playing.
With two weeks in, here’s my assessment of some noteworthy squads based on the “eye” test, not on meaningless August stats.
Lots of growing pains for this rebuilding squad. Miami has brand new zone blocking schemes for the offensive line. They’ve got a new up-tempo, no huddle offense, and a new West Coast philosophy. I’m not impressed with QB Matt Moore, a dink and dunker with some good intangibles.
With rookie Ryan Tannehill starting against Carolina, four of his six drives were three and outs. The one good drive was only because Tannehill completed on three different third and longs. Miami also has a brand new 4-3 defense. Their leading tackler for the last four years, safety Yermiah Bell is gone. In fact, Miami’s top three veteran leaders on defense are all gone. In two preseason games, poor tackling, guys out of position and poor technique in the secondary were all on full display.
WR’s Roddy White and Julio Jones look ready to explode this year; a true dynamic duo. New Falcons OC Dirk Koetter is going to take shots downfield, and Matt Ryan looked sharp in each of his first two August games, like a QB ready to take the next step to stardom.
Third and short was a nightmare for this team last year, and I’m not convinced this problem is solved after Atlanta failed three different times on third and 3 or shorter situations.
The coaching staff is intact. QB Matthew Stafford is really a gunslinger. This kid doesn’t fear pressure and he responds well after making a mistake, not a guy who hangs his head when he’s struggling.
Stafford is in a pretty exclusive club, with Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Dan Marino as the only QB’s in NFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season. Even playing behind a suspect offensive line, if Stafford stays healthy, he could do it again in 2012!
Detroit’s back seven on defense doesn’t have many impact players. The whole defense is predicated on the front four to control the line of scrimmage.
Suffered bad special teams performances in each of the first two preseason games. Look for kicker Justin Medlock from the CFL to win the job over veteran Olindo Mare.
With two new offensive line starters; we saw multiple breakdowns in their pass protection schemes. Carolina still lacks great receivers with several of QB Cam Newton’s best plays with his nimble feet.
The secondary got eaten up whenever they didn’t blitz, and when they did we saw their corners getting burned in man coverage! That being said, the best red zone defense in the NFL last year had a couple of stops in their opener.
On offense, Baltimore has been working hard on their no-huddle uptempo attack. QB Joe Flacco wasn’t shy about taking shots downfield to Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith too. But the pass protection and the run blocking are both real concerns.
Former LSU star Trindon Holliday is healthy again, returning punts and kicks for Houston. In two games, he’s had two big play return TD’s one on a punt, the other on a kickoff. Holliday’s return could help Houston in that all-important under-the-radar “starting field position” statistical category.
The Texans defense looked great as well, getting pressure with a four man front – no need to blitz when that happens. No Demeco Ryans, no Mario Williams, no problem! But QB Matt Schaub has looked very rusty in his first two games back in the lineup after last year’s season ending foot injury. Don’t be shocked if the Texans are an UNDER team.
Tennessee is trying anything and everything to get running back Chris Johnson the ball in space – he’s the key to their offense, especially with Jake Locker named the Week 1 starter over Matt Hasselbeck.
The new center is converted guard Fernando Velasco, with last year’s starter Eugene Amato out for the year after tearing a muscle. TE Jared Cook can be a downfield weapon.