After another week of preseason football we can confidently say that being Andy Dalton is worst job in the NFL right now. However, being on the Dream Team this week wasn’t that much better.
It’s Week 2 of the preseason, a time to overreact a little bit, dissect a lot, look forward to meaningful football, and hope for better days ahead for struggling starting units finding their stride. Our observations from the preseason week that was start with the mess last Thursday in Pittsburgh.
The Eagles looked horrific. This is the part where you normally lunge at your keyboard to start pounding away, generically yelling about how this is just a preseason game, and the scrubs were playing. Only half of that is true, and not the half that matters.
The first team offenses and defenses stayed on the field for nearly the entire first half on Thursday during Pittsburgh’s drubbing of Philadelphia, and the Michael Vick we saw didn’t look like the Michael Vick who quickly emerged last season to become one of the most compelling stories in all of sports. He looked like the wayward and lost Vick circa 2005 with the Falcons, instinctively running at the first sign of trouble, and forcing throws into the hands of the opposition.
This will get better, but it may get worse first as the Eagles continue to gel and find their 2010 chemistry following the return of Jeremy Maclin.
John Beck now has an edge in the race to be Andrew Luck’s placeholder. We’re sure John Beck is a nice fellow, and he’s been throwing a pretty fine spiral throughout training camp. It looked especially good during Washington’s win over Indianapolis this week in which Beck played the first half, completing 14 of his 17 attempts for 140 yards. His only blemish came when he was sacked three times.
So the competition must be over then, and the Redskins don’t need to bother playing any more preseason games. Just send a bunch of die-hards out there with Redskins tattoos on their teeth and stay home. What? Shanny’s starter will be a Week 1 game-time decision? Finally there’s something that makes sense coming out of Washington, because Beck’s effort was merely is salvo back across Sexy Rexy’s bow following Grossman’s 207 yard performance in Week 1 of the preseason.
What’s the rush to name a starter? The choice is between a guy who hasn’t started a game since 2007, and another guy who’s spent just one full season over an eight-year career as the unquestioned starter.
Colt McCoy is picking up Pat Shurmur’s West Coast system quickly. Which shouldn’t be surprising since the scheme is well-suited for his average arm strength. McCoy hasn’t thrown an interception yet, and has four touchdowns over two games.
Cam Newton has been average, but that will probably be good enough. As long as Newton doesn’t miraculously turn into Jimmy Clausen while battling Jimmy Clausen, the starting quarterback job is his in Carolina. That much became clear when head coach Juan Rivera announced that he’ll start the Panthers’ next preseason game Thursday against Cincinnati, and play at least three quarters.
Naming Newton the starter is the right move for a franchise that’s still growing and developing, and at minimum a year or two away from competing for a playoff spot. His mechanics way be wonky at times, causing some wayward throws and frantic reads while scrambling out of the pocket (see: Newton’s 45.5 completion percentage through two games, including 7-for-14 in Friday’s loss to Miami).
But Clausen is merely a punching bag to take his temporary lumps until Newton is ready. If Rivera feels that mentally Newton is tough enough to handle the vast peaks and valleys of being a rookie starter, then his growth should continue in September.
Matt Flynn seems to know how to play quarterback. Flynn attempted only six passes during the Packers’ win over Arizona Friday night, but that’s all he needed to finish with 141 passing yards, giving the backup QB 267 yards during his limited action over two games.
Talk of a quarterback competition in the land of cheeseheads is absurd, but in a league where the backup quarterback is leaned on heavily, the Packers have one of the best.
Ben Tate is back, and he’s angry. We can’t verify that he’s actually brimming with rage, but he’s certainly running like it.
The Houston backfield was scary enough when Arian Foster averaged nearly five yards per carry and led the league with 1,616 rushing yards. Foster was able to emerge because of Tate’s season-ending ankle injury. With Tate back and running for 95 yards and a touchdown against the Saints, this rushing attack–and the Texans’ offense–will be lethal.
Same song, different interception for Alex Smith. What’s maddening about Smith is the way in which he demonstrates poise and control throughout a sustained drive, and then tries to cram a ball through double coverage at the goal-line. That’s what happened at the end of the second quarter against the Raiders when Smith failed to read a simple zone blitz, and fired a pass directly into the chest of Matt Shaughnessy, the defensive end peeling back into coverage.
Smith has developed some fundamentals with ease, while others are still severely lacking during his fifth season.
Andy Dalton looks lost. Forget his final numbers against the Jets, which were awful (eight completions on 19 attempts for 86 yards and two interceptions). What’s even more discouraging–if that’s possible–is how he arrived at those numbers, and the overall lack of cohesion in the Bengals offense.
Dalton played the entire first half, and didn’t complete a pass for positive yardage until Cincinnati’s fifth possession of the game. Before that miraculous play happened he had already thrown his two picks, and was one half of a botched handoff that led to a 13-yard loss. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wants Dalton to improve his accuracy (yes, shocking), but overall loves his “management of the game.”
The learning and growing will continue all season with Dalton likely pushed into the starting role. Often it won’t be pretty to watch, and it wasn’t this week.