RGIII impresses in preseason debut.
What teams essentially look for out of a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut (preseason or otherwise), isn’t that he completes most of his passes or leads his team on a touchdown-scoring drive. Those things are nice, of course, but what is most important is that the young signal caller has command of the huddle, displays composure, and is calm throughout. Robert Griffin did all three of those things as well as completing 4-of-6 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut on Thursday night. He also showed rapport with Pierre Garcon and took what the defense gave him when dropping back to pass. Granted, the Skins relied on a run-based offense and kept Griffin’s passes in the short-to-intermediate range. But it nevertheless was a promising debut performance by a player that has high expectations to succeed right away.
Ryan looks like a different quarterback.
It’s expected that Matt Ryan look comfortable in preseason. He’s entering his fifth season in the pros so if he looked uncomfortable running a vanilla offense against a Baltimore defense that didn’t have Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in uniform, then there’s a problem. That said, he had to learn a new offense for the first time since his rookie season and he’s working with a new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter. And if Thursday night was any indication of how Ryan will perform during the regular season, then the Falcons have to be ecstatic. “Matty Ice” has never lacked confidence in his abilities but on Thursday night in the Georgia Dome he looked like a quarterback that knew he was going to score on every drive. He didn’t hesitate when finding open receivers, even when two defenders were draped over Julio Jones (who, by the way, is in store for a monster season himself). Granted, Ryan did make a rookie mistake when he locked onto Roddy White in the red zone and was picked off by a linebacker dropping into coverage, but that was the only error he made on the night. If the Falcons are to finally win a playoff game under coach Mike Smith, Ryan has to be more gunslinger and less game manager. He’s off to a great start.
Steelers still have O-line issues.
On paper the Steelers have one of the more talented offensive lines in the NFL. David DeCastro was touted as a pro-ready prospect and while Mike Adams slipped into the second round, that had more to do with his off-field history at Ohio State than his talent. That said, Ben Roethlisberger was constantly under duress during Pittsburgh’s preseason debut on Thursday and it was a reminder that talent doesn’t always equate to performance. Adams also suffered a knee injury during the game and hasn’t practice since, leaving Marcus Gilbert and Trai Essex as the team’s next-best options at left tackle. It’s early, but the days of Big Ben scrambling for his life don’t appear to be behind the Steelers.
The Eagles will have to hold their breath all season.
The swelling on Michael Vick’s injured throwing thumb has gone down and he’ll be fine after leaving the Eagles’ preseason opener on Thursday. But it was yet another painful reminder that Vick is highly injury prone and questions remain about whether or not he can stay healthy for an entire season. Even if he plays 15 or 16 games, will he be healthy enough to lead the Eagles deep into the playoffs? Andy Reid has a Super Bowl-caliber roster on his hands but regardless of whether they win double-digit games and streak into the postseason, Vick will always be one play away from suffering an injury and derailing Philly’s title hopes.
Packers’ defense suffers huge blow.
There’s little chance that Dom Capers’ defense will rank 32nd again in the NFL but he and the Packers were dealt a huge blow on Thursday night when linebacker Desmond Bishop suffered a hamstring injury. Bishop is scheduled to undergo surgery and will likely miss the entire season, which thrusts D.J. Smith into a starting role. The addition of Nick Perry will greatly help Clay Matthews and the Green Bay pass rush but Bishop was a physical defender that consistently made big plays. He will be missed.
All things considered, Manning looked good for Denver.
Considering he didn’t take a snap last season, is coming off several surgeries and was playing for a completely different team in a completely different offense, Peyton Manning was solid in Denver’s preseason opener. Many of his throws wobbled in the Chicago air and he did throw the one interception in the red zone, but that was hardly his fault as the pass skipped off his receiver’s hands. The key was that he moved around well inside the pocket, he surveyed the field in typical Peyton Manning fashion and he seemingly has great rapport with Eric Decker. The question of whether or not he can absorb a hit and get right back up remains but all-in-all, it was a positive first-showing for Manning the Bronco.
Shocker: Tim Tebow has a very Tim Tebow-like performance.
ESPN should be embarrassed with the non-stop reports from Jets camp the past two weeks. It’s covering everything and anything just hoping to justify being stationed outside of Jets camp when there isn’t a storyline to be followed. This much was confirmed when Tim Tebow turned in a very Tim Tebow-like performance against the Bengals on Friday. He dazzled people with his runs and threw at least one pass where he resembled a NFL quarterback, but he also locked onto a receiver and was intercepted by a dropping linebacker. Hey, what else is new? Nothing has changed, even if ESPN wants you to believe otherwise.
Weeden off to an inconsistent start.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter that Colt McCoy was 6-of-8 for 88 yards and Brandon Weeden was 3-0f-9 for 62 yards with a pick in the Browns’ preseason opener on Friday. Weeden is going to be the Week 1 starter if he completes all of his passes from here on out or throws eight interceptions and insults Pat Shurmur’s wife. That said, the Browns couldn’t have been thrilled with Weeden’s uneven performance against the Lions. The night started off well, as Weeden connected on his first two passes but everything unraveled from there. Lions’ rookie Bill Bentley disrupted several of Weeden’s throws and wrestled the ball out of Greg Little’s hands for an interception. Weeden’s performance under pressure was also inconsistent, but it’s important to note that this was his just first game. Plus, while McCoy has fewer tools he’s been in the league for a couple of years so he should look more comfortable than Weeden. Still, Browns fans will hope to see some progression from their rookie QB over these next few weeks.
Kolb may force the Cardinals to start Skelton.
Without saying the words “the job is yours” the Cardinals have handed Kevin Kolb the starting job. They’ve practically begged him to take it, in fact. But thus far Kolb has been brutal in preseason and he’s created zero separation between himself and John Skelton, who has played somewhat well. Even though Kolb has the big contract, Ken Whisenhunt may not have a choice but to start Skelton Week 1. If Kolb isn’t going to put a stranglehold on a job that was placed in his lap, then he doesn’t deserve to start.
Don’t assume Locker has lead in Tennessee.
If you just looked at the numbers from the Titans’ preseason opener on Saturday, who would surmise that Jake Locker is now the favorite to start at quarterback in Tennessee. He completed 7-of-13 passes for 80 yards while Matt Hasselbeck was 5-of-9 for 45 yards and two interceptions. But one of Hasselbeck’s picks came on a fluke bounce and the other was on a deep pass when he was just trying to make something happen down field. Locker was more mobile, more athletic and made more things happen, which is something he already had over Hasselbeck coming into the contest. Locker also played against Seattle’s twos and threes, where Hasselbeck started. The point is, Locker will likely have an opportunity to start next week and then we’ll see if he can create some separation. The key will be who starts at that third game, which is essentially a dress rehearsal for Week 1. As of right now, it would appear Locker has a slight lead but this is going to be one of the better camp battles for the next two weeks.
Tim Tebow is a pretty mediocre quarterback, but he’s a hell of a football player. I thought Denver was nuts to draft him in the first round, as he wasn’t a good investment as a traditional drop back passer.
Even so, his competitiveness and athletic ability helped him lead the Broncos to some incredible victories.
That said, few teams wanted him after the Broncos jumped on the opportunity to get Peyton Manning. The Jets, however, decided to bring him on board and use him as a Wildcat quarterback, and this week they started installing these packages during training camp.
ESPN has naturally been taking some flack for their obsessive Tebow/Jets coverage, but it’s still a compelling story. Rex Ryan brought on Tony Sparano, and they’re going against conventional wisdom as they draw up plays for Tebow to run the offense near the goal line and in short yardage situations.
I love it, as Tebow has the skills to be an incredible Wildcat quarterback. He’ll give the Jets tremendous flexibility in these situations and opposing defenses will have much more to plan for each week.
Everyone seems concerned about Mark Sanchez’s psyche, but I think he’ll be able to handle this. Tebow is very difficult to stop in short yardage situations, and that will give the Jets a serious advantage.
I know I’m in the minority here. Even President Obama proclaimed this quarterback “controversy” to be a bad idea. But I think the Jets are planning on using Tebow exactly how he should be used.
Every Sunday morning our NFL columnist Anthony Stalter will provide his “quick-hits” from around the league. You can follow him on Twitter @AnthonyStalter.
+ Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff had it right in 2008 when they built the Falcons’ offense around Michael Turner. The “Ground and Pound” approach took pressure off rookie Matt Ryan and the Falcons surprised by winning 11 games and making the postseason. Four years later they were still leaning on the same approach and the result was an 0-3 record in the playoffs and plenty of question surrounding Ryan’s ability to be more than just a game manager. But finally it appears that Smith and the Falcons are ready to embrace a new offense. “When we first came in, coach (Mike) Smith said we were going to run the ball,” offensive assistant Andrew Weidinger told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Now, we are going to throw it, too. We’ve got all sorts of weapons. We’ve got running backs. We’ve got tight ends. We’ve got receivers. We are going to be able to do a little bit of everything out there.” Until Smith allows his offensive coordinator (now Dirk Koetter, who replaces Mike Mularkey) to build the offense around Ryan then the Falcons will continue to underachieve. The Falcons are long overdue to attack opponents, run more of the no-huddle (an offense that Ryan thrives in), and puts less emphasis on Turner and the ground game. They’re long overdue to take the chains of Ryan, who was clearly at his ceiling in Mularkey’s system.
+ “As a Buffalo Bills fan, I hope there’s so much turmoil during training camp. I hope (Tim) Tebow plays great, he pushes (Mark) Sanchez, and all of a sudden the locker room is coming apart,” former Bills great Jim Kelly told Andrew Siciliano on NFL Network’s Total Access on Friday. I’m with Kelly, although for different reasons. I hope Tebow plays great and pushes Sanchez because Sanchez hasn’t had to worry about losing his job since he got into the league. Yes, at one point last season Rex Ryan gave Mark Brunell first-team snaps in practice. But Brunell has never been a legitimate threat to Sanchez, who has yet to be pushed since arriving to New York in 2009 and conversely, is seemingly behind in his development. Tebow is a brutal passer but he’s a competitor and he won’t be content with his role as a backup. Jet fans should want Tebow to play well in preseason because he’ll either force Sanchez to elevate his game or he’ll get him out of the starting lineup. Either way it’s a positive for the Jets.
+ There was nothing premature about the Lions signing head coach Jim Schwartz to a multi-year contract extension on Friday. Along with GM Martin Mayhew, Schwartz has overseen one of the more impressive makeovers in NFL history. It wasn’t that long ago that Detroit posted a 0-16 season and was regarded as one of the worst franchises of the last decade. Since the Wayne Fontes era ended in 1996, the Lions have had seven different head coaches, none of which lasted more than three seasons. And while Schwartz’s win-loss record currently sits at 18-30, he clearly has this Detroit team on the rise. Now, if he can only tone down the sideline and post-game antics and get his players to stop making weekly trips to the clink, then the Lions would really be on to something.
+ ESPN’s Ron Jaworski believes that Michael Vick is capable of turning in “the best year of” his ten-year career in 2012. “This offseason is the most important of his career,” Jaws said. “It’s the first time since 2006 with the Falcons that he will go through the OTAs and training camp as the starting quarterback.” That’s all well and good but Vick doesn’t prove his worth in June or even September for that matter. It’s December and January when we find out how much Vick can carry a team. There have been too many times throughout his career where he’s looked like an unstoppable force only to sputter out down the stretch because he’s too banged up and/or gets careless in pivotal games. Go back to 2004 when he posted a 46.5 quarterback rating against the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. Or the 2010 postseason when he posted a 79.9 QB rating and forced a pass to the end zone that was picked off by Tramon Williams to seal the loss for Philadelphia versus Green Bay. I have no doubts that Vick will play like a Pro Bowler during the regular season. It’s the postseason where he has everything to prove.
+ The Boston Globe had an interesting report on outgoing Eagles president Joe Banner “having a good laugh” about DeSean Jackson’s five-year, $47 million contract. Per Globe reporter Greg Bedard, Banner “never would have done that deal.” But regardless of Banner’s opinion about Jackson’s contract, look for the receiver to have a major bounce back season. Jackson was so consumed by his future and contract situation last season that he completely took himself out of games. And for that, he deserved the criticism he received for not handling the situation more like a professional. It’s human nature to be concerned about your financial future but it’s never okay to stop doing your job, especially when you’re currently under contract. That said, with his contract situation behind him look for Jackson to keep his focus on football and become the weapon he was before the 2011 season.
+ If you enjoy mediocre quarterback competition, then keep tabs on the situation in Miami. ESPN’s Adam Schefter stated on Friday’s SportsCenter that David Garrard looked like the leader in the Dolphins’ quarterback competition during spring practices. “The more you hear, the more it sounds like David Garrard has really taken this opportunity to emerge as the favorite to be the starting quarterback down in Miami. Very impressive, adept, good footwork. Matt Moore’s been good, Ryan Tannehill’s been good, but David Garrard has looked the most comfortable of any of the quarterbacks.” Dolphin fans may disagree but they should want Garrard to start this season. Blaine Gabbert would have benefited from watching Garrard last year in Jacksonville. Instead, the Jags displayed impatience by cutting Garrard and thrusting Gabbert into the starting lineup when he wasn’t ready. You may believe that Tannehill is a better prospect than Gabbert but there’s little doubt the former Texas A&M QB would benefit from holding a clipboard. The Dolphins are without weapons at the wideout position and their pass blocking wasn’t very good last season either (outside of Jake Long). Thus, while Miami fans may groan about having to watch Garrard for a season, at least it would save Tannehill from possibly having a Gabbert-type rookie year (and the sea of doubt that followed it).
+ It’ll be interesting to see how Demaryius Thomas performs this season now that Tim Tebow is out and Peyton Manning is in at quarterback for Denver. The biggest difference between the two quarterbacks is now Thomas actually has to run routes. “You’re gonna have to run the whole route tree now,” said Thomas on Thursday. “The comebacks, the slants, the posts, the ins. And I didn’t have to do that much in my first couple of years in the league.” I’m not sure why Thomas didn’t have to run a full route tree under Josh McDaniels but last year he played backyard football because of Tebow, so we’ll see whether or not his development speeds up or slows down now that Manning is his quarterback.
+ Cedric Benson averaged just 3.67 yards per carry last season with the Bengals and 3.76 YPC during his four seasons with Cincinnati. So it’s not surprising that multiple teams didn’t bust down his door when free agency began back in March. That said, he’s 29 and is coming off a 1,000-yard season. One would think that somebody would sign him as a backup, especially when you consider how many teams implement a two-back system. According to Adam Schefter, Benson remains on the Raiders’ radar but they don’t seem to be in a hurry to sign him despite losing Michael Bush (Bears) in free agency and employing an injury-plagued Darren McFadden as a feature back.
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow reaches for an outstretched hand entering the field to play the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2012 in Denver. UPI/Gary C. Caskey
Tim Tebow might not be able to hit the ocean if he threw a rock while standing on shore. But he certainly serves a purpose for the New York Jets.
Some have criticized the Jets for parting with 2012 fourth and sixth round picks to acquire a quarterback in Tebow, who isn’t really a quarterback at all. From a passing efficiency standpoint, Tebow ranked among the league’s worst passers in 2011 at ProFootballFocus.com. But the Jets don’t need him to be Peyton Manning to benefit from the trade. In fact, they’re already benefiting from the deal.
The Jets made a mistake by signing Mark Sanchez to a three-year, $40.5 million contract extension last week. The guy hasn’t earned an extension and given his current skill set, he’s not likely to live up to the contract. But at least the Jets didn’t compound the mistake by not finding a backup that wants to compete for the starting job.
Tebow wants to start and if this New York Daily News report is accurate, he believes he can unseat Sanchez as the starter. He’ll push Sanchez from the start, which is something Sanchez has yet to experience since he was drafted in 2009. Even someone lacking in as much self confidence as Sanchez knew that Mark Brunell wasn’t a serious threat to take his job. But Tebow, who despite his lack of passing skills, proved that he can win last year. And the moment he arrives in the Big Apple he’ll put his hand on Sanchez’s shoulder and say, “I’m going to be right here, kind sir.”
No, Tebow isn’t a good passer and he may never become one. But his arrival to New York means that Sanchez will be pushed like he’s never been pushed before. Competition in general is a good thing in sports, and Sanchez is about to receive his stiffest challenge since entering the league. Take Tebow’s lack of quarterback skills out the picture and the Jets did well here.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning leaves the field after defeating the Washington Redskins in their NFL football game in Landover, Maryland, October 17, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Are the Broncos an instant Super Bowl contender?
Everything hinders on whether or not Peyton Manning really is healthy and if the Denver defense can play as well next year as it did last season. If Manning only lasts six games or the defense falls apart, then the underachieving Chargers could easily take the AFC West next season. That said, the Broncos’ defense shouldn’t have to hold teams to under 10 points with Manning under center and Peyton could make stars out of receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, assuming the two can stay healthy. And let’s put it this way, the Broncos’ Super Bowl odds went from 25/1 to 7/1 following the signing of Manning. There’s no doubt that this addition has put the Broncos over the top.
Is Peyton healthy?
Manning told reporters at his press conference on Tuesday that if the Broncos had a game on Sunday, he would be able to play. He said he might not play at the level he expects of himself, but he would be on the field. He also said that he hopes to be on the field for OTAs in April and that he insists he’s been open with teams about his medical history. At this point, Manning deserves to be taken at his word. If he’s still hurt, I highly doubt he would have convinced John Elway to give him $96 million over the next five years. Peyton has too much respect for Elway and the game of football then to deceive anyone. That said, I have no doubt that he’s healthy now but what happens after he takes that first hit? I’m less concerned about his current health and more concerned about whether or not he can hold up over the entire course of the season. After all, he had major nerve damage in his neck.
Are the Broncos making the right decision to move on from Tebow?
The Broncos are taking three separate risks with this signing. The first risk is assuming Manning will be the same player he was before he underwent multiple injuries. The second rest is giving him a $96 million contract and the third risk is that they’re reportedly willing to put Tim Tebow on the trade market. I view the first two risks as major, while the third is more of a small gamble that Tebow wasn’t going to get them much further than he did last season. After all, he may have beaten a banged up Pittsburgh team in the Wild Card round but he was completely exposed by the Patriots the following week. That said, he did win plenty of games last year for the Broncos and whether it was luck or the hand of God, Tebow was a big part of the team’s success in 2012. If Manning only plays two games next year before getting hurt again, some in Denver will wonder why the team was so quickly to part with Tebow just months after he led them to a playoff victory.
What will happen to Tebow?
As of Tuesday night the Jaguars, Jets, and Packers reportedly have interest in Tebow. According to NFL Network’s Mike Lombardi, the Jaguars have “serious interest” in trading for Tebow while the New York Daily News says that the Jets have “legitimate interest” in the former Gator. In rather surprising news, former Rams’ VP of Player Personnel Tony Softli told ESPN 101 in St. Louis that the Packers have at least some interest in Tebow as well. While he may not be viewed as a future starter, the Broncos should have plenty of trade suitors for Tebow if/when they want to put him on the market. The Jaguars make the most sense to land Tebow but there always seems to be a surprise team to come out of the woodwork.
What team got hurt the most in Manning’s decision?
The Miami Dolphins took one off the chin this week. After failing to lure Manning to Miami, the Dolphins reportedly low-balled Matt Flynn (who decided to sign with Seattle), and couldn’t convince an angry Alex Smith to leave San Francisco. (Smith re-signed with the 49ers on Tuesday.) So now the Dolphins are left with Plan D, which is former Jaguar David Garrard, whom they signed on Monday. As of right now Garrard will compete with Matt Moore for the starting job in 2008, which is about as exciting as a box full of yarn. Granted, the Dolphins do own the No. 8 overall pick but if the Browns take Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannenhill at No. 4, Miami probably won’t have an opportunity to draft their future signal caller in April. No wonder fans were reportedly ready to protest the firing of GM Jeff Ireland – the Dolphins are a mess.