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The starters began to emerge last week as they played more than a handful of snaps in the second pre-season games and we saw this covered in the third Hard Knocks episode.

For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the stars of Hard Knocks stayed the same, and I continued to be impressed by them. However, we did get another lesson in the harsh realities of the NFL. The undrafted rookie Maruice Fleming was shown arriving early and running extra drills, telling us that he had asked Jameis Winston what time he got up and deciding to do the same. It had not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff either, but sadly he hurt his knee and whilst he gutted out the game, which was a hard thing to watch, he was too injured to carry on and was cut. Fleming will have impressed with his toughness, but he’s now done for training camp and let’s hope the injury is not too bad so he can have another chance.

The other thing that grabbed my attention in episode three is the theme of Winston’s development. In earlier episodes we had seen Jameis talking to his head coach about risk versus reward, and having played well with his offence looking good, he then heaved the ball up in the air as he was sacked and it was picked off in the end zone. You can understand Dirk Koetter’s frustration and the resulting dressing down he gave his quarterback, but Winston already knew his mistake and the important thing for Winston going forward will be if he can temper his risk taking without losing what makes him special.

Still in their second pre-season game the Buccaneers’ defence smothered the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars offence in the first half and then held out for a narrow win. They would want the offence to be running more smoothly, and having had one field goal blocked and another miss, they will be hoping that things settle down for Nick Folk.

Moving away from the Buccaneers, the Cincinnati Bengals hosted the Kansas City Chiefs and I would definitely say I am nervous given that the Bengals lost heavily. It is not time to panic yet, but the offensive failed to score any touchdowns despite moving the ball, and only time will tell if game planning will help with efficiency as Andy Dalton suggested it might. There were also signs that left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi could still struggle, although there were only snaps he had problems rather than constant issues.

The good news on defence is that the pass rush continues to look good, but there were times where the middle of the defence looked soft against both run and pass. There is a lot of youth in the front seven of the defence at the moment, and losing safety Shawn Williams to a dislocated elbow will not help this area either. Still given the problems covering tight ends last season, the Bengals will be hoping things come together soon.

Across the country in LA, fans of the Rams got their first hint of what a difference it will make to have an offensive minded head coach in charge. It is way too early to pronounce on Jared Goff, but the offence definitely looked like it could do something this year. The Rams managed to move the ball as they eked out a win, and although Todd Gurley did not look great, Goff looked to be developing some chemistry with Cooper Kupp and completed passes as players were schemed open.

The defence continues to look solid, and the hope is that the Rams can show development and find out what they have in their young quarterback. This might not sound like amazing progress, but it is the start of building a team to do more than hover round eight wins. I am curious to see how things unfold for Sean McVay over the coming season and how the Rams develop in the coming years.

I had better get on with watching the week three games as we are rapidly approaching the start of a new season.

Football is coming.

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