That headline really isn’t even remotely accurate, but we’re going with it. You see, as painful and depressing as the lockout was we only lost one game of football, if the Hall of Fame Game even counts as actual football (sorry, Canton).
But it felt like football was gone, and that made us sad. I lost sleep, and spent hours pacing around my old high school football field. My mental disorientation even led me to build my own football stadium in a corn field, complete with exact NFL measurements. It wasn’t my corn field though, because I don’t have a corn field. I only grow tomatoes and asparagus, and now that farmer is pissed.
Everything is OK now because football returned this week, albeit in a far less meaningful form where the league’s stars often played only a single series, and sometimes not at all. We don’t care about the final score of preseason games, we care only about the plays and performances that led to that final score. We care about possible trends and developing offensive or defensive schemes, and we care intensely about position battles and the progress of young players.
When that microscope hovered over Week 1 of the preseason, we actually saw quite a bit during these supposedly meaningless games.
Gagnon was so giddy that he already made some observations after the first night of preseason play. So join me now as we look back on the games between Friday and Monday.
There’s very little separation between Miami’s quarterbacks. This is not a surprising fact, but when the two quarterbacks in question are Chad Henne and Matt Moore, it’s also a mildly terrifying fact. Barring a meltdown, Henne will be the Week 1 starter, and Moore will assume his perhaps temporary sideline seat.
We may have started to see the initial stages of that Henne nose dive when the former Michigan Wolverine needed only eight pass attempts to throw two interceptions against the Falcons, one of which was to defensive end John Abraham.
Cam Newton and Jake Locker seem to know how to play football. Locker’s debut in Tennessee included a 45-yard touchdown pass on a beautifully thrown ball, a play in which he also fumbled the snap and showed enough poise to recover from his mistake and make the play.
Newton scrambled and found open space and open receivers, throwing his 134 passing yards primarily against the Giants’ second-team defense. Now a little more accuracy (Newton completed eight of his 19 attempts) would be encouraging before Ron Rivera names his starter next week.
We’re still taking the Lions as the breakout team, but only if…Matthew Stafford stays healthy, which has been the Detroit qualifier for the past two seasons. Stafford’s durability may be the primary health concern offensively, but he isn’t the only one. Calvin Johnson left Friday’s game against Cincinnati with a bruised left shoulder, and rookie running back Mikel LeShoure is already gone for the year.
A healthy Lions offense is still a very scary Lions offense, with Stafford missing on only one of his seven pass attempts during limited action, and throwing two touchdown passes.
Tim Hightower will lead the Redskins’ backfield, but…the position could still be a mess, because we wouldn’t expect anything less from Mike Shanahan. Hightower took advantage of Ryan Torain’s absence due to his broken hand, rushing for 44 yards on 10 carries against Pittsburgh. Torain should be healthy soon, but there’s some lingering questions about exactly how soon, putting his status for this Friday’s game against Indianapolis in doubt.
If Torain misses another game, then Hightower’s status as the starter will be further solidified, but Roy Helu is also lurking to poach 10-15 carries.
Alex Smith is still a disappointment. There’s bad, and there’s Daunte Culpepper bad. When a quarterback’s performance prompts a team to consider signing a player who hasn’t started an NFL game in two years, that’s classic Culpepper bad.
Alex Smith went 2-for-7 and was sacked twice in his limited time against New Orleans Friday night, leading to Culpepper’s workout in San Francisco Monday morning for a team that doesn’t want to push rookie Colin Kaepernick and risk shattering his confidence. Jim Harbaugh knows a young fellow at Stanford who can play the quarterback position rather well…
The Browns could be starting to learn how to pressure the quarterback. Yes, it was against a very average Green Bay offensive line, and much of the pressure was generated by players who will be either unemployed or keeping benches toasty this year. But after the Browns struggled to create a pass rush in 2010 and had only 29 sacks, it’s encouraging to see five sacks and two forced fumbles during Dick Jauron’s first game as the new defensive coordinator in Cleveland.
And the Steve Smith slot-receiver role in New York will go to…Domenik Hixon? Hixon was targeted often and had 49 yards on four receptions in the Giants’ 20-10 loss to Carolina. Mario Manningham will slide into Smith’s vacated No. 2 hole, but his deep-threat style isn’t suited for the role of a possession receiver for Eli Manning.
Jay Cutler is still going to spend a lot of time staring into the sky. He’ll have a unique vantage point too, as he’ll be lying down and looking straight upwards, just like he did 52 times last year.
Cutler was in the game for just five offensive plays against Buffalo, which didn’t include a passing play for positive yardage. Cutler’s only pass was to Matt Forte for no gain, and the only first down during his time on the field came when he was forced to run for 10 yards.
Bears QBs were sacked nine times by a Bills defence that ranked 27th in sacks last year, showing that an embarrassing offensive line in Chicago will still be both comical and maddening, depending on your team affiliation. The saddest part of all this? Cutler can’t even go home and have Kristin Cavallari nurse his wounds anymore. Oh well, I hope he’s enjoying the set of knives I sent for his canceled wedding.