Aaron Rodgers, AJ Green, Andrew Brown, Antonio Brown, Buffalo Bills, Christian Wade, Cincinnati Bengals, Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys, Derek Carr, Ezekiel Elliott, Green Bay Packers, Hard Knocks, Houston Texans, Jeff Driskel, Joe Webb, Jon Gruden, Kansas City Chiefs, LA Rams, Matt LaFleur, Mecole Hardman, Mike Glennon, Nathan Peterman, New Orleans Saints, NFL, Oakland Raiders, Pre-Season, Ryan Finley, Sean McVay, Stanely Morgan Jr, Taysom Hill, Tommy Buhanon, Tyreek Hill
Somehow it has been a week already and despite having watched all that I intended to in time, I had one of those days at work yesterday that meant there was no chance of getting a blog out on schedule, but there’s just time to read up ahead of the start of the pre-season week two games.
What I Saw
The first game I watched last week was the Houston Texans visiting the Green Bay Packers. In a move that is becoming increasingly common neither team actually played their starting quarterback but while the Texans gave Joe Web the entire game the Packers played three different quarterbacks as the Packers held off a late surge by the Texans to win 28-26. We all know that pre-season results don’t really matter, what is important is staying healthy and putting players in the positions the coaches want so they can evaluate them. However, there is an increasing narrative that coaches actually get more out of the combined practices that are becoming increasingly common across the league, although don’t tell Aaron Rodgers that. Rodgers made news by offering up some criticism of a kicking drill, but I’m not sure how much to make of this given that player safety is a genuine concern and everything Rodgers says seems to be dissected to death by the media these days. I’m not sure anyone outside of the team has enough information on how the relationship between Roders and his new head coach Matt LaFleur is, in fact I shall be following the Packers news more closely over the next few weeks as with so many starters resting it was hard for me to identify names and performances that jumped out of this game so let’s quietly move on to the next thing I watched.
Hard Knocks is a staple of the NFL pre-season and a lot of it hit familiar beats, although I don’t think we’ve seen the undrafted player grinding to make the team get cut in the first episode before. We didn’t get much detail of Antonio Brown’s foot injuries, and we seem to be predating his concerns over his helmet but we met plenty of characters and as ever a huge part of the flavour of the show is set by the head coach. I wasn’t that fussed by Gruden’s whole ‘eveyone has dreams but I want to give people nightmares’ speech, but that’s just me. I did warm to him across the episode then and I am interested to see Derek Carr get some playing time and how the series develops. This week we’ll get to see their join practices with the LA Rams and their game that the Raiders won 14-3.
The Raiders defence did a really good job of containing the Rams offense without any spectacular plays but looked really solid and is something to watch going forward to see how much it holds up. There is competition between Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman for who will backup Derrek Carr and it was one of those tough ones where Glennon often looked good but threw two interceptions where as Peterman got a touchdown pass and a fifty-six yard run whilst throwing no interceptions but his average pass yard was 5.5 and this is a player who has looked good in pre-season before and thrown five interceptions when he has started. An area that looked obviously strong was the Raiders receivers, who even without Antonio Brown had three receivers with plays longer that fifteen yards and Carr will be hoping that he has even better chemistry when he gets to play. It’s hard to say too much about the Rams given they were resting starters all over the team as Sean McVay really doesn’t put much stock in pre-season and they went pretty well last year. Still, I’m sure fans of the Rams would like to see a little more production on offence this season.
So finally we have the Cincinnati Bengals traveling to the Kansas City Chiefs and getting beaten badly. Both teams actually played their starting quarterbacks in the first quarter and they moved the ball effectively. However, the Chiefs offence continued to roll, helped no doubt by two botched special teams returns that set them up with great field position. Special teams is one of those areas of football that often gets overlooked and yet is particularly relevant at this time of year as any player fighting for a spot on the roster is going to get a boost if they can contribute on special teams. Because I have been following the offseason reporting I was able to spot rookie free agent Stanley Morgan Jr catch several balls in the last quarter and I wonder if he’ll get a chance earlier in the game this week. In fact whilst there were one or two concerning drops, there were a number of sold receivers looking to take advantage of the playing time currently vacated by AJ Green. It also has to be said that Morgan Jr might have benefited from playing with rookie quarterback Ryan Finley who looked to outplay incumbent backup Jeff Driskel who has been running some routes as a receiver and been in special teams meetings having approached the staff about adding extra value. I don’t know if the Bengals are eyeing up a similar role to the Saint’s Taysom Hill but Driskel is an impressive athlete. For the most part the Bengals offensive lines held up well despite mixing and matching lineups and a couple of holding penalties. The worrying part is the defence, and we know that the Chiefs are a stern test but they missed some tackles and apart from second year defensive end Andrew Brown no one particularly caught my eye other than the Chiefs’ rookie receiver Mecole Hardman who looked really dangerous and the pairing of him and Tyreek Hill are going to cause serious problems this season if Hardman can contribute to the level he looked capable of this week.
As an additional Brit-centric plug, if you have somehow missed Christian Wade’s touchdown run for the Buffalo Bills then take a look at this play as it’s impressive. He still has a lot of work ahead of him to impress a team enough to give him a roster spot but that’s a memory he will always have.
What I Heard
We still have the ongoing training camp chatter of players on the bubble, stock rising and falling as if this isn’t also people chasing difficult dreams that a good third will fail to achieve or maintain.
The discussion of Ezekiel Elliott’s contract has given way to speculation that the Cowboy’s quarterback Dak Prescott has turned down a $30 million a year contract as he seeks a $40 million year one. There are many ways to create a roster and it is interesting to look into this but it always seems a bit odd to speculate so heavily over contract numbers.
What is interesting is things like the Packers having to find a third fullback in a hurry due to both players they currently have carrying injuries and there are not that many fullbacks ready to just step up to the roster so it will be interesting to see how Tommy Bohanon plays having been signed on Monday and went straight into take reps with the first team offence.
What I Think
I understand why there are questions about the pre-season and there are times where there is objectively bad play. I find it interesting that coaches feel they getting better work in the controlled environment of joint practices, but I do like following the pre-season and going blogging about it for the sixth year in a row I do wonder what form it will take in the coming years.
What I Know
Given how busy the next couple of months look this will not the last time I have to modify my blog schedule but I will do my best to stay on top of it and the picks will still go up ahead of the games as I really would like to get the blog back in Bengals colours, and I know Dan thinks the Dolphins’ version of the logos look particularly fine, but then he might be biased.
What I Hope
That the Bengals defence looks better this week and that I start to get a better feel for the Packers roster as they look to implement the new names and system.
Now I’m off to try to catch up with all the things I’m behind on!