25 Things We've Learned so Far from NFL Preseason Week 2
By the end of this weekend, we will be halfway through the preseason. Even though the first two games have allowed head coaches an opportunity to have some live game tape for evaluation purposes, there are still many questions that remain unanswered.
One of the interesting themes to come out of the second week of the preseason schedule was the number of key players that needed to undergo a minor operation, which might prevent them from being ready for the start of the regular season.
Since this article is due to be published Saturday morning, we only have the benefit of the games from Thursday and Friday night to include in this presentation, along with the earlier events of the week from training camps around the league.
In today's presentation, we will look at the events that unfolded in Week 2 of the 2012 preseason, and identify the top 25 things that we learned around the league.
25. Preseason Injuries from Week 2 Games
Some injuries in football are quite obvious as soon as you see the player struggling to get up from a hit. Other times they trickle in after the game or the following day.
So far, this is the extent of injuries we have heard from the games of Thursday and Friday night this week:
RB LaGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay, groin injury
RB Jonathan Stewart, Carolina, limped off the field, but no further word prior to publishing this.
T Levi Brown, Arizona, triceps injury
RB Stefan Logan, Detroit, right ankle injury
TE Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati, hyper-extended right knee
WR Jacoby Ford, Oakland, foot injury.
Expect more players to be added to this list as the news filters back in from training rooms around the league.
24. Defensive MVP so Far for Week 2
With only eight games played so far in Week 2, we can tell you that the early defensive MVP of the week should go to Audie Cole, the rookie linebacker from North Carolina State.
Cole plays for the Minnesota Vikings and he wound up with two interceptions in the second half, both of which he returned for touchdowns to put the game away.
Coming into the fourth quarter, the Vikings were winning 19-14, when Cole decided to put the game away. He picked off a pass from Tyler Thigpen and ran it back for a touchdown and then did the same thing to Brad Smith.
Congratulations to Audie Cole for an outstanding game.
23. Terrell Owens Makes Anticipated Debut Saturday Night
Owens was at home during the entire 2011 season, so there no doubt will be some rust attached to him. How quickly he gets into the flow and how quickly he is able to get the fans behind him, will probably be a result of what he does in the game.
Given the crash-and-burn of Chad Johnson in Miami this past week, any outcome is possible for Owens.
Between Owens and veteran Braylon Edwards both fighting to nail down a roster spot, it should make for some rather entertaining competition in Seattle.
22. Opening Drives of Starting QB's in Week 2
For those football fans that like to keep tabs on these things, here are the results of the opening two drives for the starting quarterbacks in the games played Thursday and Friday night, where they were going up against first-string defenses:
Carson Palmer (OAK): There-and-out, punt, and then 11 plays for 82 yards, field goal.
Kevin Kolb (ARIZ): Seven plays, 39 yards, TD. Three-and-out, with a safety scored for Oakland
Josh Freeman (TB): Six plays for 21 yards and a punt. Three-and-out. Pass intercepted.
Jake Locker (TENN): Three-and-out, punt. Three-and-out, pass intercepted.
Christian Ponder (MINN): Eight plays, 59 yards, TD. 13 plays, 49 yards, field goal.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (BUFF): Five plays and punt. Three-and-out, punt
Blaine Gabbert (JAX): Nine plays, 80 yards, TD. Three-and-out, punt.
Drew Brees (N.ORL.) Nine plays, 62 yards, field goal. Three-and-out, punt.
Cam Newton (CAR): Eight plays, 34 yards, field goal. Seven plays, 62 yards, TD.
Ryan Tannehill (MIA): Three-and-out, punt. Three-and-out, punt.
Joe Flacco (BALT): Six plays, 26 yards, punt. 11 plays, 35 yards, field goal.
Matthew Stafford (DET): Six plays, 20 yards, punt. Five plays, 24 yards, punt.
Matt Ryan (ATL): Six plays, 33 yards, punt. Three-and-out, punt.
Andy Dalton (CIN): Four plays, 22 yards, fumble. 12 plays, 51 yards, field goal.
Brandon Weeden (CLE): One play, fumble. 10 plays, 41 yards, field goal.
Aaron Rodgers (G.B.): Three plays, TD. Six plays, 76 yards, fumble.
The only quarterbacks that led their team to points for both of the first two drives were Christian Ponder and Cam Newton.
21. Chris Johnson Is Back in 2012
Chris Johnson, the star running back for the Tennessee Titans, looked like he was back in CJ2K-form on Friday night, as he rushed for two touchdowns, each one from 14 yards out.
Johnson showed a quick burst, decisive cuts, and then his breakaway speed to score easily. He came in to camp this year in shape and said that he was rededicated to football.
On Friday night it showed. If Johnson can maintain that type of running style all year, the Titans will be a threat for the AFC South division.
20. NFL Experiments with Synthetic Laces in Week 2 Games
The NFL is experimenting with a different kind of football in every Week 2 preseason game.
Why synthetic? Gannon had no explanation as to why the NFL was doing this.
Gannon said that he spoke to a number of quarterbacks around the NFL, and to a man, every single quarterback he spoke to hated the synthetic laces. Gannon felt the idea would go nowhere based on the bad reaction from the players.
As great as he played, I wonder if anybody asked Blaine Gabbert if he liked these footballs better?
19. Blaine Gabbert Took a Step Up on Friday Night
I have to admit it, but I have been as critical as anybody on how poorly Blaine Gabbert has been playing. However, he took a major step forward Friday night, as he completed 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
The strange thing was that he was playing against the New Orleans Saints' first-string defense, but Gabbert stood there in the pocket, and carried out his assignments and looked very composed.
I never saw him take off his helmet to make sure that it was really Gabbert that was wearing jersey No. 11, but I am pretty sure that was him. If he continues to play like this, I will have to eat some of my earlier words.
Job well done by Gabbert and the Jaguars. Mike Malarkey must be doing wonders for his confidence.
18. But Ryan Tannehill Didn't Lock Up Starting Job
While Blaine Gabbert really stepped up Friday night, the same can't be said for Miami Dolphins' rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill completed only 11 of 23 passes for 100 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He averaged only 4.3 yards per pass and was sacked three times for a loss of 16 yards.
The knee injury to David Garrard opened up a window of opportunity for Tannehill to seize the starting quarterback job, but tonight really didn't do that much for his chances.
Luckily for him, his competitor, Matt Moore, was even worse. Moore completed just one-third of his passes (5 for 15) for 57 yards and an average of 3.8 yards per pass.
The job is still wide open, but sooner or later somebody has to step up and claim it.
17. Patriots Sign Olympic Sprinter Demps
We have missed seeing Jeff Demps run with a football in some time, because the speedster was busy preparing for, and ultimately competed in, the 2012 Olympic Games. He was a member of the USA 100-meter four-man relay team that won a silver medal in London.
Demps decided to return to football now that the Olympics are over, and he surprised everyone by signing with the New England Patriots, who already have two young running backs on the roster in Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
With his blazing speed, Demps can be a weapon if you can get him the ball in the open field. At Florida, he rushed for 2,470 yards and scored 23 touchdowns.
His kick return ability might force teams like Buffalo to keep a second kicker on the roster.
Buffalo's John Potter specializes in kicking the ball out of the end zone, and the Bills drafted him for that very reason. Now with Demps in the AFC East, the Patriots might have made that roster decision easier.
16. Steve Smith Is Still as Fiesty as Ever
At 33 years old, you might wonder how much Carolina Panthers' wide receiver Steve Smith has left in the tank. Well, if you happened to catch the Panthers' game against the Miami Dolphins, you realize that Smith is still as feisty as ever.
He was getting into extra-curricular activities with members of the Dolphins secondary during the first half.
At one point, he locked on to one of the Dolphins, and both players wrestled each other to the ground. I was thinking that he might get ejected, but when I realized that these were replacement referees, I knew nothing was going to happen. Smith probably realized the same thing.
It is good to see that Smith still has his spirit and competitive drive. The Panthers will need that veteran presence this year.
15. Jake Locker Might Have Hurt His Chances to Start
Even though the Tennessee Titans won the game Friday night, Jake Locker might have hurt his chances to become the starting quarterback.
During one series, Locker was looking over the field when he threw up a wounded duck kind of pass along the right sideline. The receiver continued to run a long pattern, while the Tampa Bay corner simply stood right where he was, gathered in the easy interception and starting taking the ball up the sideline.
For the evening, Locker was only able to complete four of 11 passes for 21 yards, no touchdowns and the one interception. He averaged 1.9 yards per pass.
Matt Hasselbeck, on the other hand, completed four of five passes for 29 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per pass.
While Chris Johnson is running the ball so well, the Titans may not need a quarterback to throw the ball much every week, but based on what we saw from Locker tonight, teams should try to force Locker to throw the ball as much as possible.
14. Is Arizona QB Battle Now Decided?
The battle between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton continues to rage on for the Arizona Cardinals, and with every passing week it looks more and more like Skelton is emerging as the better quarterback.
This weekend was no different as Skelton hit on all three of his passes against the Oakland Raiders and threw the only touchdown pass of the night for Arizona.
Kolb, on the other hand, completed only half of his passes, and continues to be outperformed by Skelton.
We still are waiting for word from Ken Wisenhunt on when the team will make an official announcement, but right now it sure looks like the Cardinals will go with Skelton.
Maybe they will ask Kolb to pay some of his bonus to the starting quarterback.
13. Justin Blackmon's Struggles Continue
Justin Blackmon needed a good game to turn around his rookie season.
He might have taken a step towards redemption on Friday evening. The Jaguars rookie wide receiver had four passes thrown to him in the game, and he caught all four for 48 yards, which included a 16-yard touchdown catch.
Coming into the game, Jaguars offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski wasn't convinced that Blackmon was in shape to play a game, according to this article from the Florida Times Union:
"He’s got the tired legs," said Bratkowski of Blackmon. "He’s way behind mentally because of all the meetings he’s missed. It’s a struggle for him at this point, physically and mentally, but he has to fight through it."
Between holding out from camp and a DUI, Blackmon hasn't enjoyed the smoothest of rookie camps. But with his showing Friday night, maybe now he can continue to right the ship.
12. Are the Pittsburgh Steelers Getting Desperate at Running Back?
How much trouble is the Pittsburgh Steelers' running game in?
Pittsburgh made a surprise move when they took Rashard Mendenhall off of the PUP list. With Isaac Redman dealing with a host of injuries (hip and groin) it seemed that the Steelers would want to play it safe with Mendenhall, until he was all the way back from rehabbing his torn ACL.
So, what does this mean going forward?
The Steelers must be convinced that Mendenhall is ready for some action or they have been assured he can't hurt it any worse. They still have other running backs on the roster in Baron Batch and Chris Rainey, so I'm not sure why they felt compelled to make the move with Mendenhall now.
Hopefully, this will not come back to bite them later on.
11. Cleveland Browns Aren't Paying Phil Dawson Enough
Phil Dawson showed off his big leg on Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers.
He connected in the first half on field goals from 47, 52 and 53 yards away, but missed one from 56 yards out. Each kick had plenty to spare and easily cleared the goal posts.
As many rookies as the Browns' offense has this year, it would not be a major surprise at all to see Dawson wind up becoming a huge part of it in 2012.
Dawson signed a one-year tender offer deal for $3.81 million for the 2012 season, but with the leg he displayed this week, the Browns simply aren't paying him enough.
10. Issues with Instant Replays and Replacement Referees
I want to discuss a specific play I witnessed Thursday night when Green Bay played the Cleveland Browns in a Week 2 preseason game.
The Packers had just completed a pass, when a defender for Cleveland came up and successfully stripped the ball from Randall Cobb, forcing the ball to pop up in the air, where another Browns defender, Emmanuel Stephens, plucked it and started running it back.
During the return by Stephens, he happened to step out of bounds, but the replacement referee missed it. (Surprised?). Since this was a turnover, the play was automatically going to go up for review to confirm that it actually was a turnover.
We don't know if the replay booth would have automatically been looking to see if Stephens stepped out of bounds and would then change where Cleveland was starting their drive.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy decided to challenge the play to make sure they saw that Stephens stepped out of bounds, which they ultimately did. But, since he threw a challenge flag right after a turnover, (there is a rule against coaches doing that very thing), there was a major 15-yard penalty assessed against McCarthy.
The broadcast team that was announcing the game never went into detail about when would have been the appropriate time for McCarthy to have challenged the spot of the ball, (without getting a penalty), but all I can think of is that he had to wait until the replay officials were done with their official ruling on the play and then he needed to throw the challenge flag to call their attention to Stephens stepping out of bounds.
If he would get hit with a penalty flag for doing it then, that would suggest that the current rules are even more messed up than they already appear to be. The NFL keeps making things more complicated, and it eliminates the ability for common sense to enter into the picture.
9. Baltimore Ravens Going with More No-Huddle Offensive Look
The offense scheme allowed the Ravens to dictate which personnel Detroit kept out on the field, because they were getting to the line of scrimmage so fast that they never gave the Lions any time to send their tired linemen off the field.
This kind of tempo will wear the offense down as well, but as long as they are aware that it is coming, they can train for that in advance. With the weapons that the Ravens have on board now, if the defense can continue to stay strong (not automatically a given with the absence of Terrell Suggs), the offense looks like it could be an interesting unit on their own.
8. Jason Witten Needs to Rest for 7-10 Days
Jason Witten is suffering from a lacerated spleen. The injury was severe enough that he will have to lay still for the next week-to-10 days to rest up and try to let it heal. If it was much worse, they would have needed to perform surgery on it, but as it is, this is still a fairly serious deal.
Witten is a key component of the Dallas Cowboys offense, so anytime without him will force Tony Romo to rely on the running game and the wide receivers. The Cowboys receivers have gone through their own injuries during training camp, so it will be curious to see how healthy the Cowboys are shaping up as we inch our way closer to the start of the 2012 season.
7. Mike Wallace and Maurice Jones-Drew Are Still No Shows
With only two preseason games left on the schedule, Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Wallace are still no shows, and there's no telling when both will be coming in to report.
At least for the Jacksonville Jaguars, they have to feel like they proved to Jones-Drew that they can move the ball without him, as they gained 357 yards of total offense against the New Orleans Saints defense.
Now, please note that I am not suggesting the Jaguars don't need Jones-Drew, because they do. He is their best weapon on offense.
But with training camps winding down sooner than later, it is critical that both players get in to camp to try to pick up as much of the 2012 offense as possible, since both teams (Jacksonville and Pittsburgh) made changes to either their coaching staff or to the coordinator role.
The clock continues to tick.
6. If I Were Green Bay's GM, I Would Give Up a Draft Pick for Colt McCoy
I know that the NFL preaches players to forget about the previous play and get ready for the next one. You need to have a short memory to survive in the NFL.
But general managers should be able to recall recent history to not get caught in the same dilemma as their peers. In the 2011 season, we saw the colossal flops when an unproven backup quarterback tried to step in for the injured starter: Caleb Hanie in Chicago for Jay Cutler, Curtis Painter in Indianapolis for Peyton Manning and Tyler Palko in Kansas City for Matt Cassel.
Colt McCoy looked very good as the backup QB in Cleveland, as he drove down the field against the Packers defense for a touchdown. Meanwhile, his counterpart for Green Bay, Graham Harrell, looked as shaky as you could look.
Well, if anything happens to Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson would have nobody to blame but himself for ignoring recent history.
The Cleveland Browns have made McCoy available for trade, and the asking price isn't very high. ESPN's Adam Schefter suggests that a fifth-round draft pick should be enough to land McCoy. So, take the plunge and don't let yourself get caught in the proverbial, could have, would have, should have.
Next thing you know Thompson will be sitting next to Bill Pollian at ESPN doing analysis for episodes of NFL Live.
5. Green Bay Signs Cedric Benson to Free Agency Deal
Even though there were multiple teams that finally started expressing interest in free agent running back Cedric Benson, it was the Green Bay Packers that ultimately won the competition and convinced Benson to sign with them.
While teams like Oakland and Detroit were talking about wanting to go to the playoffs, the Packers were talking about going to the Super Bowl. That was all the convincing that Benson needed.
With as much trouble as the Packers have been experiencing keeping their running backs healthy, signing Benson takes some pressure off of the team. He has produced for years, so the team can start breaking him into the offense, and still play their kids until Benson is ready to go.
This was a very smart move by the Packers' front office, especially since I just criticized them on the previous slide.
4. Dwayne Bowe Ends Holdout and Finally Signs His Contract
While we await for the return of Mike Wallace and Maurice Jones-Drew, one offensive star holdout has finally agreed to come to terms with his team. The Kansas City Chiefs announced that wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has signed his contract for $9.515 million.
Bowe signed his one-year tender offer as a franchise player, so he will not be able to negotiate a long-term deal until after the season is over.
He now has roughly two weeks to get the Chiefs offense down and get back into football shape with the rest of his teammates.
The Chiefs believe that they have a legitimate chance to win the AFC West, and having Bowe there from Week 1 will be a key step in fielding as strong a team as they can.
3. Key Stars Getting Minor Surgery Done in Week 2
Week 2 of the preseason saw stars such as Brian Urlacher, James Harrison and Trent Richardson leave their teams at training camp to have some minor surgery done.
Okay, when is any surgery minor? Good point. But the fact that the players that play a major role on their respective teams are going away for surgery so close to the start of the regular season can't be a good thing.
For Urlacher, Harrison and Richardson, there is now some degree of uncertainty if each of them will be able to suit up in Week 1. If they do dress for the game, how much of an impact will they make, especially if they are still not back to 100 percent health?
All three players have a key role this year, so you can be sure that they will be monitored closely over the next two weeks, as teams try to figure out exactly how to play out each situation.
2. Green Bay Is in Real Trouble If Aaron Rodgers Gets Hurt
Did anybody happen to catch the Green Bay Packers' game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2? If so, you saw the train wreck that is also known as Graham Harrell, Green Bay Packers' backup quarterback to Aaron Rodgers.
I don't know about you, but I was watching that game thinking, if Aaron Rodgers has a season-ending injury, the Packers aren't much different than the 2011 Indianapolis Colts.The Packers would go right into oblivion, just like the Colts did.
The Packers defense was a liability in 2011 and based on what they demonstrated in Week 2 against the lowly Browns, this version isn't much different.
Yes, I understand it's preseason, and that both teams were playing reserves, but I guarantee you that head coach Mike McCarthy was not very pleased with his teams' effort or performance.
1. Chad Johnson: Arrested, Divorced and Released in One Week
Chad Johnson had a really rough week, one for the books actually. Let's see if we got all this down in the correct order.
He got into an huge fight with his wife, Evelyn Lozada, that resulted in him giving her a headbutt that required stitches at the hospital.
Then Johnson was arrested and locked up until bail was posted.
Lozada then notified Johnson three days later that she was filing for divorce.
Finally, the Miami Dolphins called him in for a meeting and head coach Joe Philbin informed him in front of a national audience on HBO's Hard Knocks that he was being released, since he no longer fit with the direction in which the team was headed. Nothing like getting fired with the whole world watching.
If that wasn't bad enough, Zico Coconut Water then fired Johnson as a sponsor for the company.
If you isolated any of these situations, they would be high up on the stress chart. Put all of these events together in one week and you have somebody that is due to have an epic meltdown any day now.
So how was your week?
Thanks for checking out the presentation.