We are twelve days away from the start of the 2016 season, and the preseason week three games where the starters will see the most game time have already started. I will take you through the remaining week two games I have watched, as well as the visit of the Atlanta Falcons to Dan’s Miami Dolphins taking in my quarterback curse and general thoughts.
There is always a ton of news at this time of year, each team still has ninety players on its roster until the Tuesday deadline for cuts down to seventy-five. There are injuries, worries about the team, and a lot of fan angst as the positivity of the offseason hits the stark reality of playing games in the NFL. Already the Buffalo Bills are struggling with injury to numerous players as Rex Ryan’s team seem to beset by difficulty as they approach the season.
Meanwhile, Tony Romo has a fractured vertebrae in his back, meaning that Cowboys fans will be getting an extend look at whether Dak Prescott can be a starter in the NFL as Romo is not expected back until mid-season. Prescott’s play so far would give some confidence, but it is always best to treat play in the preseason with a healthy amount of scepticism. You will hear people talk about vanilla plans in preseason, but that’s overstating things somewhat. However, coaches have teams work on what they want to work on, so blitz heavy teams will blitz as they will be getting ready for the season. What is not happening, is the detailed team specific game planning that goes into every regular season game, and so whilst flashing in preseason is definitely an encouraging sign, the test, and particularly for quarterbacks, is whether you can adjust and counter what your opposition put in place to specifically stop you. Any player that demonstrates a weakness in their game can expect to see a heavy dose of whatever counters or exposes it until said player can show that they have cleared it up.
So on to the games as I get myself into season shape with game watching, and hopefully step up the number of articles next week.
The LA Rams managed to get a second win hosting the Kansas City Chiefs despite going in down at half time again. In fact, things got off to a bad start for them as they gave up a touchdown on the opening drive of the game for a second game in a row. For those watching Hard Knocks, you will have seen Alec Ogletree’s frustration as well as him fighting to get the first team defence lined up correctly. That said, the Rams had a good response with Case Keenum leading the Rams’ offence straight back up the field to score a touchdown, although the plaudits ought to go to Todd Gurley who ran the ball effectively and scored the equalising touchdown. The coaches had seen enough and pulled Gurley from the game before he could get hurt.
The Rams defence then stiffened to get the ball immediately on a three and out, giving the offence the ball. The Rams moved the ball well again, with Case Keenum passing to Pharoh Cooper for a go ahead touchdown and so Keenum was finished for the game.
The big question for Rams quarterback Jared Goff is when will he be ready, but whilst the coaching staff are seeing progress, they also are stating that you can see rookie mistakes, and given that on his first two plays Goff threw an incomplete pass, then was sacked and fumbled the ball, you can see what they mean. That said, he did finish the game completing eight of his twelve attempts for eighty-two yards and threw his first touchdown as a professional to running back Malcolm Brown.
We will have to see how this team fare on the road, and how much momentum the Rams can carry into the regular season, but if nothing else, their attendance has been huge so far and they will want to make the most of the interest by winning games if they are to make the transition to LA successful.
Following a week one win, the Broncos lost their second game of preseason as they welcomed the San Francisco 49ers to Denver.
It feels like there is only one question hanging over the Broncos this offseason, despite the loss of some players on defence, and all the usual roster skirmishes, the big question for this team is who is going to start at quarterback.
For the second week in a row, I sat watching a Broncos starting quarterback thinking that this might work out and they threw an interception. This week it was Trevor Siemian that I managed to retroactively curse, but it is a big step that he got the start and looks to be making a strong case to be the opening night starter. Certainly Mark Sanchez didn’t help his cause by losing two fumbles. In fact, it may even be possible that he is being pressurised by rookie project Paxton Lynch who threw two touchdowns and an interception, although he does still look like a rookie and held onto the ball a bit too long for my liking at times. There was even some talk on commentary about giving Lynch the start next week to see if has the goods, but I would suggest it is a little early for such a move, yet I do feel that Trevor Siemian could well be the starter come week one.
The Broncos starting defence looks good, and even if the team did lose this game, I do think the Broncos are going to have another strong based on another good year on defence, and a run game that looks better than last year with CJ Anderson looking in good shape already and strong players behind him that could make for a good rotation to support an inexperienced quarterback.
The Broncos played the Rams last night, and I look forward to seeing how they went over the next couple of days. As a result of this fixture I had an extra game that I could watch, and Dan asked me to take a look at the Dolphins, who conveniently hosted the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.
I still have questions about the way the Miami Dolphins have approached their offseason, and in particular how they are building their offensive line given that of the three interior linemen that started the game, all of them are inexperienced and/or changing permission. However, new Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is a quality offensive coordinator who got the Dolphins job off the back of good work with Jay Cutler and Peyton Manning.
The Dolphins started the game playing no huddle offense, and did look to be making good use of Ryan Tannehill skills, moving him with roll outs, running the ball, and passing. However, he again fell to the, I think this going to be good Gee curse, and as soon as I thought how good he looked, Tannehill immediately threw an interception.
However, the Dolphins ran out pretty convincing winners in this game, thanks to an ability to move the ball and a defence that restricted the Falcons all game and didn’t allow a touchdown.
There are questions at running back with Jay Ajayi battling health problems, Arian Foster looking good but at age thirty and a recent history of injuries you probably can’t rely on him all season. I do however like Damien Williams who has caught my eye before, but who has never broken out, yet in this game he had a couple of nice runs and scored a touchdown.
My worry for the Dolphins is the depth, and whilst I like what I saw, the defence still seems to be thin past the starters, and I’m not sure about the secondary barring Reshad Jones who is a really good safety.
I did like the look of second year defensive end Julius Warmsley who got a sack and showed good penetration on a couple of other plays, but whether this will be enough to get him off the practice squad and onto the roster only time will tell. Fellow second year end Cleyon Leign also got a quarterback hit from a lovely spin move playing inside at tackle in the fourth quarter. However, even if the line play is better this season for the defence, the back seven is where the questions are and without access coaching tape in preseason, it is hard to know for sure how they will fare given how much you can see them play. Certainly, whilst unable to score touchdowns, Falcons backup Matt Schaub looked pretty good completing ten of eleven passes against the backup secondary.
Overall, I expect the Dolphins to be better than last season as they will have a more coherent plan on offence, after the muddle that was last year’s experience with two head coaches, but I think they will continue to be hampered by how the roster is constructed. I do wish them well if only to cheer Dan up next season, I still remember how much it hurts for your team to miss the playoffs for a number of year even if the Bengals have had a better run of it recently.
Time is running out for players to make the roster, and with the regular season just around the corner, it’s nearly time for the games that count, although you try telling a player who is fighting to get on a roster that the remaining preseason games are meaningless.
The season is nearly here, and football already is.