The NFL preseason has officially begun, and now we finally get to ask meaningful questions about things that are actually happening instead of predictive questions with answers based on hypotheses.
Of course, we still haven't seen every AFC East team compete yet, so there are still some predictions being tossed around. That will end soon enough.
But here are the best questions I received around the AFC East today.
Solder's strength is when he's able to use his length to force defenders all the way around the perimeter of the pocket. His biggest problems against the Saints came when defensive ends would force him to plant his outside foot and then make quick moves back inside. We saw that happen at least a couple of times, and it's something he's going to have to work on.
It wouldn't concern me terribly just yet; it will help when the Patriots get back Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, who will shore things up in the middle of the line. Those inside moves by defensive ends may not work as well with Mankins in the fold.
Still, last night was a quick reminder of what the Patriots had in left tackle Matt Light. It's up to Solder to play well enough that people forget about Light.
The rationale, which I explained a bit more in-depth here, was probably to figure out what the offense would look like in a no-huddle situation and how they would handle themselves with plays being called at the line of scrimmage. That will likely be a big element of the passing game in Buffalo this year, so it was important to get some meaningful reps in that situation.
Another reason may have been to test quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's ability to make reads at the line of scrimmage, find the weakness in the defense and exploit it. The Bills came out with multiple receivers, and the Redskins defense came out in a base 3-4. Fitzpatrick liked the matchup and therefore stayed in the same alignment, calling one pass after another.
For the most part, we know what to expect out of the running game. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are dynamic backs; we are still not sure what we're going to get out of the passing game, though, and the early game plan may have been to help the coaching staff get an idea for what to expect.
@erikfrenz What do you expect out of Ryan Tannehill tonight? Has a natural leg up on Garrard/Moore due to familiarity with Sherman's system.— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) August 10, 2012
Tannehill is listed as the No. 3 quarterback, which would make you assume that he will play with the third-string offensive unit. That may be the case, but he may get some reps in with the second-string unit as well, just to see where he's at and whether he can safely make that next step up the depth chart.
He's just a rookie, so let's not read too much into his first outing, but we should hope to at least see him perform well against the third-string defense. If he looks awful there, he might be relegated to more reps with the third-string offense in practice, which will only keep him buried on the depth chart.
The Dolphins will definitely give him some opportunities to improve his stock, if nothing else, but the best thing he can do for himself is to play mistake-free football.
Got room for one more.
@erikfrenz Not a fan, but will the Jets front 7 be stronger this year? Will they be able to get more consistent pressure on the QB?— Arjuna Ramgopal (@AvkarSiv) August 10, 2012
Thanks, Arjuna, and I had no idea you weren't a Jets fan.
Anyway, I would expect them to get a much better pass rush. Defensive lineman Quinton Coples has had an up-and-down camp but should help the defense get push up the middle, as should defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson.
The Jets definitely have options up front, but I would expect to see more 4-3 looks out of them this year with defensive line coach Karl Dunbar in the fold. They have the personnel to execute the 3-4 still, but they could be better suited to line up with a four-man line to allow Coples and Wilkerson to get push up the middle, to go along with pass-rushers Aaron Maybin and Calvin Pace coming off the edge.
This will be a versatile front, which explains the emphasis on interior pressure; no matter what the Jets are doing in the front seven, it's important to get a push up the middle to take away a quarterback's options in stepping into his throws and force him outside, where one of the pass-rushers could be waiting for him.
That's all I've got for you guys this week. Thanks for your questions, everyone, and further questions can be sent to me via Twitter and Facebook at the links below and even in the comments section.