We’re just a few hours away from the kickoff for the final game in the first week of fake football, with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones quite anxious to begin a season that brings his franchise back to the days of glory holes. Oakland sure seems like a fine place to start that journey.
So as you mentally prepare for your first Jon Gruden exposure of the 2012 season by wedging Double-A batteries deep into your ear drums, let’s take a look back at the most prominent developments and observations that inspire rants from the weekend of preseason play. When we left off on our meandering through meaningless but important football on Thursday, we were reminded that Julio Jones is pretty good, and Bob Griffin was also alright. As is often the case during preseason games, much of the focus is on the quarterbacks, and the young arms who are either playing their first game, or are continuing to develop after an inconsistent Year 1.
Andrew Luck is one of those arms, and it seems he may have a future. Maybe.
Luck looked great. Really great. But please stop feeding the narrative creators by saying that his first pass was a touchdown. Yes, I know that there’s technically nothing wrong with that statement after Luck’s first forward pass did indeed result in a 63-yard TD with Donald Brown on the receiving end during the Colts’ easy win over St. Louis. By the rules of football, the pass was completed and it resulted in a score, and Luck is credited with having thrown a touchdown pass on his first professional attempt. But realistically, he threw a two-yard pass, and Brown ran 61 yards.
Enough cynicism, dammit. He really was great. Really great. Yes, only a truly creative jerk would fine a way to crap on Indy’s first shining feel-good moment in over a year. But before you Colts fans gather those fish sticks up and prepare for the ceremonial blogger pelting, I’ll attempt to save myself by repeating that Luck really did look pretty awesome. You expect poise and a sense of calm from a first overall pick, but it’s still surprising when he shows that pocket presence and isn’t overwhelmed. Beyond the 188 passing yards and two touchdowns, the play that stood out for me was a nine-yard scramble on third and 15 with Indy backed up on its own 12. Luck could have taken a sack and lost valuable field position deep in his own territory, or he could have forced a dangerous throw. Instead he found a running lane that he used to gain positive yardage, and positive field position.
Meanwhile, Brandon Weeden played like, well, a rookie quarterback. The good? A beauty 34-yard strike to fellow rookie wideout Travis Benjamin, and another 12-yard bullet to Mohamed Massaquoi. The bad? A fumble after crumbling in the face of Detroit’s pass rush, and then an interception, but it’s difficult to be overly critical of the latter mistake because Weeden’s overthrow on a pass intended for Greg Little was a slight one. We’ll repeat this as often as necessary throughout the preseason and early in the season when games matter: this kind of inconsistency is normal for rookie quarterbacks, even at the beginning of a passing era. What Cam Newton did last year still isn’t normal, at least not yet.
And since this is quickly turning into a breakdown of either rookie QBs or QBs who might suck… Blaine Gabbert took some small baby steps around a wide corner. Early returns indicate that he’s not nearly as petrified of the pocket as he was for much of last season, and Exhibit A of that positive development was his perfectly-thrown ball to Cecil Shorts in the corner of the end zone.
I know we’re not supposed to read too deeply into preseason numbers. And that especially applies to the first week, when starters play a series or two. But man, did Chris Johnson ever suck with his eight yards on five carries against the Seahawks. After a season in which he had five games with less than 30 rushing yards and he averaged only 65.4 yards per game, fans in fantasy and reality need a reason to justify their hope for a turnaround in 2012 from CJ2K, a moniker that he no longer deserves. That hope especially applies to fantasy players, who are quickly dealing with increasing uncertainty at the position between Ryan Mathews’ preseason injury, and Trent Richardson’s knee surgery.
In other Titans numbers that are something less than pleasing…Matt Hasselbeck needed only nine pass attempts to throw two interceptions. Meanwhile, Jake Locker was efficient yet still inaccurate (7 for 13), which means he’s giving us exactly what we expected and should continue to expect from a quarterback who essentially remains a rookie this year since he’s still waiting for his first regular-season start. He’s closing the gap on Hasselbeck in the eyes of the guy who matters most: Mike Munchak.
Is the real Peyton Hillis standing up? The formerly very disgruntled Brown is looking like he has far more joy in his life in Kansas City after 52 yards on five touches against Arizona. Fantasy players need to be aware of this dangerous vulture hovering as he snaps up Jamaal Charles’ goal-line touches.
Tebow was surprisingly accurate. By Tebow standards, of course. The 4/8 for 27 yards is a little deceiving, as there were several key drops during Tebow’s brief time under center against the Bengals, including one on a third-down throw that hit Stephen Hill between the numbers. Even the throws that are on target still wobble and flutter in the breeze sometimes, but at least they’re reaching the desired destination a little more often now.