What Every Team Should Be Working on After Their 1st Preseason Game
Football season is finally back!
There was a lot of good to talk about in the first week of the preseason. The 2012 NFL draft's top two quarterbacks, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, showed promise while draft picks in other rounds did as well, such as St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
However, there was as much bad as there was good in the first preseason games. A big and obvious reason for teams being a little rusty is because it was the first action in months. It's also why we can't read too much into the first preseason game (or the preseason, in general), but it's still important to point out where each team struggled and should look to improve on as the weeks pass by.
The Arizona Cardinals have a Hall of Fame offensive line coach in Russ Grimm, but their offensive line continues to struggle on Sundays.
Why, you ask?
It's simple: they lack talent. It's the biggest reason why they have had struggles. Regardless of who they have at quarterback, they need to protect better, or the quarterback will get hurt as Kevin Kolb was in the first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints.
The Falcons' starting offense had an impressive debut against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, most notably, second-year receiver Julio Jones, but there are still questions about the Atlanta franchise.
One big question is, where is their depth?
Once the starters left the game, the offense struggled significantly in their attempts to generate successful drives. The majority of their drives resulted in punts, which is disappointing. General manager Thomas Dimitroff will likely look to the waiver wire throughout training camp.
18. 19. 45.
Those are the yards of three separate special teams returns that the Atlanta Falcons had against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens special teams struggled with taking proper angles and getting off blocks, especially on the 45-yard return by Falcons defensive back Dominique Franks.
Ryan Fitzpatrick took 14 snaps versus the Washington Redskins and threw 14 passes. The problem is they weren't all that good.
Fitzpatrick still had issues with his footwork, sometimes led to poor ball placement. He fails to consistently rotate his hips as he throws the ball, subsequently generating all the velocity from his arm and throwing inaccurate passes.
Despite working with quarterback guru David Lee this offseason to improve, he had struggles in Week 1.
The Carolina Panthers brought a lot of excitement to stadiums last season with their offense, but the same can't be said about their defense. They were one of the worst in pass and run defense. It appears that little has changed, thus far, especially the latter.
They gave up an 11-yard gain on Houston Texans' running back Arian Foster's first and only carry and then continued to give up another five yards per carry to back up runner Ben Tate.
The team lacks talent on defense, especially in the interior of the defensive line. They will have to figure out how to stop the bleeding, otherwise, they'll be in for another long year defensively.
Breaking news: The Chicago Bears' offensive line is still struggling.
It was a rough first preseason game for the Bears, in general, but specifically, the offensive line struggled. Starting quarterback Jay Cutler didn't play, fortunately, but Josh McCown did and took a beating. The team gave up six sacks and several pressures to the Denver Broncos.
If this continues, they will struggle offensively despite the plethora of weapons they have.
The Bengals splashed the cash this offseason on former New England Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to improve the running game, but they got little out of him in the first preseason game.
This wasn't entirely his fault, however. The offensive line had their own struggles in failing to create running lanes after getting constantly pushed at the point of attack.
In their defense, they were without starters, but they were still lacking in quality.
Cleveland's starting unit didn't have a great amount of success in the first preseason game.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden threw the ball well at times, while other times appearing out of sync with his pass-catchers. This led to turnovers, and the poor play of the offensive line only exacerbated the situation.
The team will have to improve its line play, especially the right side where rookie offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz had struggles with technique.
Weeden's pass-catchers weren't much better, namely second-round supplemental draft pick Josh Gordon, who was slow getting out of his breaks.
Fifteen penalties, 20 percent third-down efficiency and 2.7 yards per carry were some of the very poor statistics the Dallas Cowboys put up in their 3-0 win against the Oakland Raiders in Week 1 of the preseason.
The team struggled running the ball regardless of who was getting carries, whether it was Felix Jones, DeMarco Murray or Javarris Williams.
The struggles on third down was a combination of issues that need to be ironed out as the team plays out the rest of the preseason.
Manning, at times, looked like his old self by throwing passes with great velocity and looking off safeties. However, his backup quarterbacks are the ones who are the focus in this post.
The question for them is which quarterback will be the backup this season?
By virtue of investment, rookie Brock Osweiler will make the team and serve as either a No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback depending on the play of his competition. He had a paltry 5.4 yard per attempt average, but Caleb Hanie wasn't much better when he logged 5.6. The best was Adam Weber at 8.4. Weber is a long shot to make the roster.
The Broncos must make a smart decision after thorough analysis. If Manning gets injured, it's down to the backup to win games.
Who is the Detroit Lions' No. 2 cornerback?
Judging after the first preseason game, it's likely to be rookie cornerback Bill Bentley, who had an impressive showing that included an interception in his debut. Bentley is only a rookie, however, and he has competition from veterans Alphonso Smith and Jacob Lacey for the job.
The Lions have to figure out in the coming weeks if Bentley is ready for a starting role, so I expect them to give him every opportunity to win the job with the first team.
Green Bay Packers
The first week of preseason was not kind to the Green Bay Packers running game.
A combination of Marc Tyler, James Starks and Alex Green had an average of 2.4 yards per carry, which is simply unacceptable and must be corrected. One way to correct it may be to bring in former Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson, who they reportedly signed, according Yahoo! Sports.
Benson is a grinder at the position and can find the running lanes because of his solid vision.
The Houston Texans once again struggled in the red zone—a theme dating back to last season.
Regardless of who is at quarterback, they struggle to find open targets and punch it in the end zone for six points, time and time again. They had to settle for field goals against the Panthers in the first week of preseason, much to the chagrin of head coach Gary Kubiak, according to Chris Duncan and the The Statesman.
The field gets smaller down there, you've got to make the little plays. It's something we've been working really hard on in practice. The key to us in the red zone is running the ball well. Overall, if we play better in the red zone, there are a lot more points.
There were many positives to take away from the Indianapolis Colts' first preseason game, most notably the play of first overall pick Andrew Luck. However, the team also had some issues on offense.
In the second quarter, Luck delivered strong passes with quality ball placement, but they were dropped—not once, not twice, but three times in a row. Albeit a young group, with the exception of Reggie Wayne, the team needs to come up big for Andrew Luck if they are going to have a chance to win games this year.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert showed marked improvement in his first preseason game.
A big reason why is because the game plan was tailored to his strengths, which didn't always seem the case last season. The Jaguars should look to continue to work on expanding the game plan and building Gabbert's confidence as the weeks go by in order to get the best performance possible from him in the regular season.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs still have questions at quarterback, but this time, at backup.
Starter Matt Cassel played well in the first preseason game, going 5-of-6 and throwing a touchdown, but Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi were still question marks. Quinn made some quality short throws, however, he ran into inaccuracy issues deep. Meanwhile, Stanzi struggled in going 2-of-7.
The Chiefs have to figure out their backup quarterback situation to avoid a disastrous season if Cassel potentially gets injured again.
The story of the Miami Dolphins' first preseason game was rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He showed great poise and ability to throw the ball outside the numbers. However, on the other side of the ball, the defense struggled in multiple areas, most notably tackling.
Cornerback Sean Smith was one of many who struggled in making tackles and taking proper angles in pursuit. The Dolphins will have to clean it up in the following weeks by practicing fundamentals.
The Vikings are a rebuilding team, and at times, it showed in the first preseason game.
They were without starters Kevin Williams and Jared Allen, but the defensive line struggled playing the run.
They allowed 260 yards rushing on 42 carries, averaging six yards per carry. It was highlighted by a 78-yard zone-read run by San Francisco 49ers' backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots only allowed one sack, but they allowed a significant amount of pressures.
The franchise quarterback was constantly under duress against the New Orleans Saints' front seven, largely due to the struggles of the offensive tackles, particularly left tackle Nate Solder.
Solder struggled with his kick slide, often sliding too far out and leaving an inside path open.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans' running game was somewhat poor in the first game as the offensive line struggled to open up running lanes for its tailbacks.
In the first game, the Saints' runners averaged a total of 2.6 yards per carry as the ball-carriers struggled to find running lanes to run through. In the second game against the Patriots, it wasn't much better at 3.2 yards per carry.
New York Giants
Their first game since the Super Bowl was not a kind one to the New York Giants.
Not only did they lose in a high scoring game, but they were hit with 11 costly penalties in the process. The Giants are going to need to clean their penalties up, or they'll be their own worst enemies come regular season.
New York Jets
Each had a paltry yards per attempt average, as Sanchez finished with 3.5 and Tebow at 3.4. The two will be battling for the starting quarterback job sooner rather than later if Sanchez continues to put up poor numbers.
Regardless, new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano will have to work on finding success in the passing game.
Oakland's preseason debut was a rough four quarters for the offense.
They put up exactly zero points and a combined 164 yards passing. The team had five punts, two intercepted passes and another two missed field goals on Monday and left a lot to talk about in today's film session.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has his work cut out for him.
The team went 1-of-11 on third down, which is one less first down than they had on fourth down. Philadelphia needs to see improvement on third down moving forward to have confidence going into the regular season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers invested into the offensive line during the 2012 NFL draft, but it didn't look so good in Week 1.
The blockers gave up seven sacks to the Philadelphia Eagles in their first preseason game, including two on franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger recently admitted to having a slightly torn rotator cuff, in an interview with Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
They have to find ways to keep him upright to avoid further injury.
St. Louis Rams
No matter who was at quarterback or on the offensive line for the St. Louis Rams against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, they were dealing with pressure.
The Rams' offensive line only gave up two sacks, but the numbers are misleading. They gave up several pressures, especially whenever quarterback Sam Bradford took a five-step drop. Bradford was often hurried when delivering the ball, sometimes leading to poor ball placement.
After last season's debacle, the Rams can't afford Bradford to take any more hits, or he'll become even more happy-footed in the pocket.
San Diego Chargers
The right side of the San Diego Chargers offensive line has long been a question mark—or at least since Jeromey Clary has been starting at right tackle.
Clary once again struggled in pass protection, much like he did last year, and gave up some pressures. Besides the issue to running back Ryan Mathews, the Chargers need to find a solution to Clary's woes, or he'll hurt them this season.
San Francisco 49ers
Who is the San Francisco 49ers' backup quarterback?
Last year's second-round pick Colin Kaepernick remains unimpressive despite a 78-yard scamper on a designed run play.
Scott Tolzien may be working his way up the depth chart after a 10-of-13 day, and although Josh Johnson only got two drives, he has the most familiarity with head coach Jim Harbaugh.
The 49ers have to work on figuring out who is their backup quarterback because at the moment, it's very unclear.
The play-calling was interesting in Seattle in Week 1 of the preseason.
Going up against the Tennessee Titans, the Seahawks came out with a very conservative game plan with first-string quarterback Matt Flynn.
Flynn threw multiple short passes and never really tested the Titans vertically. Conversely, second-string quarterback Russell Wilson threw deep passes, and the offense was much more open when he was in the game.
The Seahawks need to work on expanding the game plan for Flynn in Week 1, so we can really find out what they have in the former Green Bay Packers quarterback.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano's first game ended with the result he wanted: a win.
But, there was a lot to improve on after the first game. The Buccaneers had five early penalties and didn't get a single sack against the Miami Dolphins offense.
They will need to improve in this area after struggling last season.
After a mixed performance from last year's starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and a strong one from second-year signal-caller Jake Locker, the Titans need to work on figuring out who their starting quarterback is.
Hasselbeck was good last season, especially in the red zone, but struggled to find a rhythm and threw two interceptions in the first week of preseason. Meanwhile, Locker was impressive in running an up-tempo, no-huddle offense.
On Inside Training Camp Live (h/t Rotoworld), Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, seconded Mike Lombardi's report that the Titans are hoping Locker "emerges."
Mike Shanahan's Washington Redskins struggled on third down and with penalties in the first preseason game.
The downside of the opener was overshadowed by the hype surrounding an impressive debut by quarterback Robert Griffin III, but the team issues stood out. They were 6-of-18 on third down and racked up nine penalties in the process for 56 costly yards.
They also struggled running the ball, but it's likely that they will improve in this area once the offensive line gets all its pieces back.
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