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It should not be a surprise to me that none of my NFL blogs have lined up on time over the course of the pre-season. I have been exceptionally busy and unlike those paid by the NFL, a team, or a media company to cover the NFL, I must fit this blog round everything else, but enough whinging – football is coming.

What I Saw

I started off the week two pre-seasons games watching the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Washington in a game that seemed to have all the penalties. Certainly, the second look at Andy Dalton didn’t do much to build up hope for the season as he struggled with third and longs caused by repeated offensive line penalties. Things did settle down as the game went on but it was the defence and special teams that got the Bengals a 23-13 win that was helped by Alex Erickson taking a punt return back for a touchdown. The protection from the offensive line still looked good when they weren’t committing holds and the number of holding penalties are apparently up across the league but that won’t matter if it the refs are calling the game like that at the start of the season. This was something that Zac Taylor mentioned in his weekly press conference so hopefully it is tidied up a bit against the Giants this week. The good news is that there seems to be a real competition at receiver behind the injured AJ Green and John Ross but we really won’t know anything until the teams are putting in full game plans. There are already whispers amongst some fans that rookie quarterback Ryan Finley is looking good enough to start, but don’t expect Dalton to be going anywhere unless the season nose dives completely.

Whilst we’re talking Bengals we had the horrible news this week that former running back Cedric Beson died in a motorcycle accident. There’s a nice piece by Geoff Hobson on the Bengal site and it is that reminder that life is short so grab what you can when you can.

Moving back to football, I next watched Hard Knocks and the next Raiders game against the Arizona Cardinals. It is slightly awkward seeing Hard Knocks three days later as whilst watching their coverage of the game against the Rams I’m seeing some of what I though in the previous week’s game confirmed, other things come up and now I’m writing up their game against Cardinals.

I did get an interesting message from Dan this week:

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Dan went on to comment that it was something about his leadership style that was rubbing him the wrong way and that if he had tried it on Dan that it would have the opposite effect on him. It amused me as I was having similar thoughts. There are many ways to lead any group effort, and I think one of the most important facets is to stay true to yourself. Nothing will hold up buy in more for a group than for you trying to lead in a manner that is not natural to you. The thing that I wondered was all Gruden was doing was encouraging the backup quarterbacks to be more like him. I can see that the players need to take control of the huddle, but they must do it in their own authentic way. Neither Derek Carr, Mike Glennon or Nathan Peterman can be Jon Gruden in the huddle, but if they are properly prepared then they should be able to lead that offence as long as they are in command of what is going on. To me it is about setting a standard and holding everyone accountable with real consequences. We all handle stress differently and I wonder how coaching and management might change as the nature of the players continue to change. The days of screaming disciplinarians may not be over, but I think we’re heading that way. I’m reminded of a conversation I had on Twitter the other day when discussing leadership in space missions (pretty on brand for me I know):

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Back to the team and the headlines have all been about Antonio Brown, and it has become abundantly clear why the Steelers have traded away a player who when playing was arguably the best receiver in football. The Raiders’ GM Mike Mayock issued a statement that whilst they appreciate the issues, they are at the stage of the season where they need him to be all in. The latest is that Brown has filed a second grievance about notice regarding an old helmet but he has practised in a certified helmet. More on Hard Knocks tomorrow and in the coming week I am sure.

The final game I watched was the Green Bay Packers take on the Ravens in Baltimore and perhaps unsurprisingly lose given that the Ravens coach John Harbaugh is one of the coaches that focuses on winning in the pre-season whilst the Packers did not play Aaron Rodgers due to him having a bad back. I’m still getting used to watching the Packers, and I will confess to being a little frustrated at not seeing Rodgers so here’s hoping he gets a good run out in game three against the Raiders in.

What I did find interesting was that for all the talk of the fullback I swear I didn’t see one used until the second half. Now I’m not grinding coaching tape at this point so I will confess I’m watching rather than recording every single play so I could have missed it, but it is so hard to know how this team is going to do in the regular season. Particularly as Rodgers has been strongly stated that the best work he’s been getting is in practice, including going against another team’s defence. I think the thing to take away when people complain about pre-season is that it really matters to the people fighting for a roster spot, but perhaps these games really are for your football obsessed fan.

What I Heard

I wanted to highlight something I heard on Ross Tucker’s podcast with Greg Cosell last week that I thought was particularly interesting. He was talking about preparing quarterbacks in the pre-season and was saying that he’d been told you shouldn’t worry about turnovers in the pre-season as now is the time to work out if you can make a throw or not. Much better to try and make the play now and find out it won’t work than fail in the regular season. Cosell also suggested that for mobile quarterbacks the pre-season was the perfect time for them to work on their pocket presence and mechanics as the scrambling improvisational plays will come anyway during the season.

What I Think

I understand why many people might think it would be a bad idea as you wouldn’t want him near your brand, but I still can’t help but think the Antonio Brown situation is an opportunity for someone in the helmet business to get him fitted with one of theirs. After all, if Brown complains about it, given all that’s gone on this season do we really think you as the helmet maker would get blamed and maybe you could be someone to engage with him in a way where he could hear a positive no i.e. polite and firm so as not to pander, but a healthy this is the situation and here’s how we can deal with it type of interaction that he possibly hasn’t had for a while.

What I Know

I need to figure out why Dan and his dad have signed up for the picks competition but I can’t see them in the group, but it will be happening and so keep an eye out as we would be more than happy to have you in the competition this year. If you join before the start of the season then perhaps you can come out top and the blog will be in your NFL team’s colours next season.

What I Hope

I am going on holiday next week, and I am hoping to watch and post relatively normally, whilst having a relaxed fabulous time. Once back I’ll be preparing for the new season, which really feels quite surreal to think about even though I’ve been in preseason mode for weeks.

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