Stock Up, Stock Down for Every NFL Team so Far This Preseason

Alex DunlapContributor IAugust 15, 2012

Stock Up, Stock Down for Every NFL Team so Far This Preseason

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    All 32 NFL teams have had their initial public offering, and analysts, consumers and investors alike have reacted. 

    There is notable turbulence in the NFL marketplace, and as a fan, you are invested. 

    Here is the outlook regarding every team's stock going into Week 2 of the NFL preseason.  

STOCK UP: Atlanta Falcons

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    Outlook:

    —Julio Jones unleashed a monster against Baltimore, producing in one quarter what would have projected to be a 24-reception, 436-yard, four-touchdown explosion. 

    —QB Matt Ryan and the Falcons dominated on their opening drive. Ryan said (via CBS Sports), "I thought the first couple of drives, especially the first drive, we got out to a good rhythm. We were in the no-huddle in the first series, and it was good for us to work that package."

    —The 85-yard drive against the Ravens' first unit looked fast-paced and energized. Michael Turner is still a great NFL running back, and people who play fantasy football are criminally undervaluing him in drafts this season. It's great to see he has a chip on his shoulder this season regarding his perceived decrease in workload.

    —Statistically, Roddy White is the most reliable WR in the NFL for productivity.

    —New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan can dial up a defense. 

STOCK DOWN: Baltimore Ravens

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    Outlook:

    —Both Ravens' lines seemed to get pushed around by the Falcons more than I would have expected. 

    —The Falcons' cornerbacks played very well in run support and took a lot of lanes away from Ray Rice on stretch plays. When those things didn't pop, the Ravens' first group appeared stagnant.

    —You can't let Julio Jones do what he did; 109 yards in one quarter is a disaster. It was not just Cary Williams, either. Lardarius Webb got beat as well. It must be infuriating to cover Jones. He creates separation like nobody else in the league because he splits in a blink.

    —It should be noted that the second time the Falcons' (mostly) first group drove the ball down the throat of the Ravens, they were facing a defense that had pulled a few starters.

    —LB Jameel McClain needs to quit worrying about putting a hit on any random passer-by and focus on his assignments. The linebackers have slimmed down, but you can't utilize any gained speed in flying to the ball if you are constantly putting up obstacles for yourself. 

STOCK UP: New Orleans Saints

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    Outlook:

    —We've actually had two games out of these guys, so there is a little more to look at. 

    —The Curtis Lofton acquisition is looking amazing, and the Saints are already coming out in some looks that are confusing offensive lines. 

    —New Saints DC Steve Spagnuolo began installing the zone-dog under blitz package. I can't explain the exact scheme from memory, but it was a zone-dog with a variation that involved Jordan Cameron dropping into coverage. Center Brian De La Puente said it gave him some trouble with his calls at first. 

    —This is business as usual in the Big Easy, and Drew Brees has a huge chip on his shoulder. Anyone overlooking the Saints in the NFC is being foolish. 

STOCK DOWN: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Oulook:

    —LT Mike Adams had the worst performance I have seen out of an offensive lineman attempting to start in an NFL game in many years—absolutely awful. 

    —Rookie RB Chris Rainey is a jack of all trades whom I believe will be used quite a bit in the Steelers offense and special teams this season.

    After Day 1 of Senior Bowl practices, South Squad head coach Mike Shanahan brought Rainey as the team's representative to speak to the media at the official nightly press conference. In my experience, the player the head coach brings in on Day 1 is the player who made the most distinct initial impression on them. 

    —The Steelers defense had a few issues, but it looked as expected: a proven, attacking, veteran group with depth that does not represent much of a drop-off at many key positions.

    —The offense sputtered mainly due to the left of the offensive line, but also due to the fact that Isaac Redman simply does not look good.

    I think Jonathan Dwyer is the better back at this point. Baron Batch is going to be an excellent third-down back, and it was great to see him back on the field, as he was thought of prior to missing the 2011 season as being a key in pass-blocking schemes. 

STOCK DOWN: Philadelphia Eagles

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    Outlook:

    —Mike Vick showed what we all know in the Eagles' exhibition opener against cross-state rival Pittsburgh: He is an injury liability. He injured his thumb on the helmet of teammate Jason Kelce, and of course, he did not return to the game. 

    —Shady McCoy did not seem as effective as the guy we saw scoring 20 touchdowns in 2011, but that was to be expected. McCoy usually gets off to pedestrian starts in games and possesses an ability akin to Adrian Peterson: He improves as the game wears on and the defense wears down. 

    —The biggest story to come out of the Eagles' side of the matchup was backup QB Nick Foles being relatively impressive. That is never good. 

    —Phillip Hunt is making the most out of his reps at DE while Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin are injured. He absolutely brutalized Steelers rookie LT Mike Adams and didn't make any of the linemen who rotated in for the Steelers look very good either.

    Hunt is a little bit undersized, but he showed a lot of quickness, burst and lateral power. He forced a fumble, had two sacks and accumulated a ridiculous five QB hurries by my count. 

STOCK UP: Indianapolis Colts

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    Outlook:

    —In his first assignment as an NFL QB, Andrew Luck knew he was going to get clocked. 

    Luck did not get enough credit for his first NFL pass, which resulted in a 68-yard touchdown. He isn't even giving himself credit, as he told Michael Marot of Yahoo! Sports:

    It's probably the easiest touchdown pass I'll have in my life. I threw it 3 yards in the air and Donald (Brown) gets the ball and the blocks down field and we score. Hey, maybe we can do it in the regular season, too.

    —As you will see here, Luck was a sacrificial lamb. The left tackle blocked down on the guard, leaving a one-on-one matchup with Rams DE Robert Quinn and Donald Brown, who was the receiver on the scoring play. (Photo

    Quinn is Brown's responsibility, while the fullback released, drawing linebacker coverage into the flats. (Photo)

    The plan is not to block Quinn, though. The plan is to "act like" you're going to block him and hopefully serve as a small obstacle if you are Brown. Brown barely touched Quinn, and Luck stood in there, tough, and delivered a ball that takes a lot of discipline and NFL acumen to deliver. (Photo)

    Stock is going up in Indy.      

STOCK DOWN: St. Louis Rams

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    Outlook:

    —I've noted my love for rookie RB Isaiah Pead, but Steven Jackson is not giving up that job just yet. He looked great in the Rams' first series. 

    —Had Sam Bradford not barely floated the sideline post-fade to Steve Smith, who many are pegging for a return to form in 2012 as Bradford's No. 1 wideout, we would be talking about the Rams coming out an executing a near-perfect drive to start the preseason. The devil is in the details.

    —Janoris Jenkins flashed on some nice plays, and Jeff Fisher said the following of his rookie CB, according to The Associated Press:

    He physically can do everything that’s required of a corner, an elite corner for that matter, with the footwork and the change of direction, tackling and ball skills he has. He understands the defense. He’s going to be a very good corner in this league.

    —Fairly terrible exhibition of supposed football for the Rams otherwise. 
     

STOCK DOWN: Oakland Raiders

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    Outlook:

    —Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan came out in man coverage underneath with two deep up top in the Raiders' preseason opener versus the Cowboys. This was in a successful attempt to magically give Raiders wideout Jacoby Ford alligator arms.

    Of the footsteps Ford was hearing, Jon Gruden said on the Monday Night Football broadcast, "If you're running inside breaking routes with the big boys, you gotta go in there and snatch the football, protect the ball and yourself, not a good start."

    Darren McFadden is the best running back in the NFL when healthy, and I will stand by that until I see one thing that makes my eyes and brain believe otherwise.

    He had three touches for 38 yards before the Raiders, very wisely, got him out of harm's way and onto the sidelines, where I'm sure he was bored senseless watching the heap of steaming garbage that ensued on the football field. 

    —Lonyae Miller served as Darren McFadden's primary backup. Mike Goodson is out with a neck injury, and Taiwan Jones is nursing a hamstring. Miller took all first-team snaps after the team, understandably, took "Run DMC" out very, very early.

    Miller looks like a bigger back, but we all know that new head coach Dennis Allen wants an offense predicated on speed. This is Miller running on a treadmill at 21 MPH

    —In our first glimpse at cornerback Ron Bartell in a Raider uniform, he got beat by Dez Bryant. Bartell will be taking over the role of the very talented, very penalized Stanford Routt, who has moved on to Kansas City. 

    —The Raiders will miss OLB Kamerion Wimbley and need OLB Aaron Curry back healthy.

    The interior of the defensive line appears to be improved and notably disruptive. In the likely event that they lose offensive threats like McFadden or Denarius Moore (who also did not play in Monday's game), we'll get an offensive show like Monday night's—zero points and a bunch of whining about referees. 

STOCK DOWN: Dallas Cowboys

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    Outlook:

    —The health of the offensive line was a concern coming into preseason Week 1, and boy does it ever show. The Raiders looked dominant against the interior of the Cowboys' offensive line, most notably when Tommy Kelley wrecked Tony Romo from the nose-shade in the Cowboys' second possession.

    —I'm having a hard time coming up with much here. This was horrible football. I guess DeMarco Murray looked OK in pass protection. 

    —At least David Arkin will not be snapping the ball to Tony Romo when the season starts. 

    —Gerald Sensabaugh did some nice things and even intercepted a ball. This represents a stark contrast from last season, when he was the worst safety in the NFL. Sensabaugh was thrown at 27 times last season, with 23 of those attempts resulting in completions. If you threw at Sensabaugh in 2011, you had an 86 percent chance of making a completion. 

    —When is a win a loss?

    In this game. Dan Bailey's game-winning, skunk-saving field goal was just enough to make the Cowboys look a tiny bit less terrible than the Raiders. If I could give a grade of "toilet" for their stock after one preseason game, I would.

STOCK DOWN: Green Bay Packers

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    Outlook:

    —Packers head coach Mike McCarthy feels an awful lot like I do about the Packers' preseason-opening loss against the Chargers, according to Vic Ketchman of Packers.com:

    We have a lot of work to do. That’s evident. I feel like you normally do after your first preseason game. The way we handled the football to start the game, I’m not happy about that. We need to spend some time on handling the football.

    —Remember when the Packers had a top-five NFL defense? It was only two years ago, and they won a Super Bowl. If they want to win another, they need to get back to that.

    It was obvious all offseason that the M.O. of Packers GM Ted Thompson was rebuilding on the defensive side of the ball after a huge falloff in 2011. They will be depending on some new faces, though. 

    Last year's leading tackler, LB Desmond Bishop, was lost for at least the first half of the season. And with Charles Woodson moving to safety, the Pack will be leaning heavily on an inexperienced right side of the defensive backfield in an NFC North which boasts the best WR talent of any in the league coming into the season.

    They have still yet to find a suitable replacement for Cullen Jenkins, and rookie DE Nick Perry and DT Jerel Worthy are works in progress. Perry did have a nice sack of Philip Rivers on the second play of the game. 

    —James Starks came into the preseason opener as the worst starting RB in the NFL. He left the game injured and most certainly no longer holding onto a starting role. I wasn't sure if he was trying to run the football or show his teammates how good he is at slipping and hesitating. 

    Aaron Rodgers is probably the best QB in the National Football League, but he didn't play like it against the Chargers. According to The Associated Press (h/t NFL.com) last year's MVP said, "We didn't play as well as we want to, but it's preseason."

    Yep. It is only preseason.

    The Packers did not look like the Packers, either. Stock Down.

STOCK DOWN: San Diego Chargers

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    Outlook:

    —The obvious storyline here was the brutal loss of star RB Ryan Mathews to start things out against the Cowboys. This time, it is a broken clavicle.

    This leaves the Chargers starting the 2012 season with an RB committee comprised of Ronnie Brown, Jacob Hester, Le'Ron McClain and Curtis Brinkley. This motley crew of runners will be splitting their portion of the "300 touches" that are annually promised to Mathews in the preseason by Norv Turner before Mathews gets injured. 

    —I love Chargers rookie DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, and I certainly hope Chargers fans do as well. He is a total "locker-room guy" and a menace on the field. He played like a maniac in his first NFL action. By my eyes, he caused the Aaron Rodgers interception. (Photo No. 54) 

    —TE Antonio Gates says he feels the best he has in three years, and that is good news for the Chargers. Rivers obviously has him on his radar at all times. Rivers connected with Gates on the first play of the game, and Gates was his first read on the second play, in which he got sacked. This brings me to my final subject:

    —Chargers RT Jeromey Clary is a horrible liability and has shown no signs of the improvement that many were speculating "we would soon see" just a few years ago. His feet are awful, and he looks clumsy. He will (and should) lose his job if play from the position does not improve. 

STOCK UP: Washington Redskins

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    Outlook:

    —I don't know if it was the Buffalo defensive line or if the Redskins' running backs simply are who they are. Whatever it was I saw from Washington's running game, I didn't like it. Evan Royster, who has been taking first-team snaps, looks noticeably pedestrian. 

    —The obvious storyline was QB Robert Griffin III, who came into his first NFL game situation and commanded a very good scoring drive with the help of a costly offsides penalty by Buffalo.

    It appears that he already has a good chemistry with former Colts WR Pierre Garcon. I was not sold on Garcon as a true "No. 1" WR and still think Daniel Snyder is, well, Daniel Snyder, for paying Garcon what he did.

    I am in agreement with B/R's Tom Natali, however, who said in his game recap of Garcon's TD reception: "The bubble screen for a touchdown probably wouldn’t have happened last year with Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Donte' Stallworth or Anthony Armstrong."

    —The play would not have happened without an excellent effort from LT Trent Williams, either. Williams looked absolutely terrific in the game, but he really showed athleticism and drive on this play in particular. 

    Williams lined up in a passing formation at about the 21-yard line and took a free release inside the end to downfield block on the screen. (Photo-LT No. 71)

    He then positioned himself beautifully (for such a large man) against stud rookie CB Stephon Gilmore, who had outside positioning toward the sideline. (Photo)

    Williams then, as smoothly as possible, latched onto Gilmore, turned him inside and drove him back six yards, picking off free safety Jairus Byrd along the way and paving the easy path down the sideline for Garcon to score. (Photo)

    Just an amazing display of athleticism for a 320-pound man. 

STOCK DOWN: Buffalo Bills

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    Outlook:

    —The Bills offense came out looking a little rusty in their exhibition opener against the Redskins, letting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick get sacked in their first possession before stalling out.

    In their second possession, which started deep in Redskins territory, Fitzpatrick dribbled out a would-be interception that was dropped by the defender before having a nice TD catch by Stevie Johnson called back for on an illegal procedure penalty. They were only able to convert a field goal following the turnover. 

    —Fitzpatrick always seemed to have arms in his face coming up the middle of the line—so much so that it messed up the end of his delivery on a few throws. He wasn't getting the elevation on the ball we are used to, and the overall package just looked sloppy. 

    —The sloppiness didn't stop when Tyler Thigpen came in, as the offensive line picked up three penalties over the course of four plays. To save me the time, Tim Graham of BuffaloNews.com gives the horrible unit a well-deserved thrashing here

STOCK UP: Carolina Panthers

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    Outlook:

    —The NFL Network popped up these 2011 season stats during the Panthers' preseason opener against the Texans that show just how much the addition of "The Protoype," QB Cam Newton, meant to the organization last year. 

    Total Yards: 6,237, No. 1 in team history.

    Total First Downs: 345, No. 1 in team history.

    Passing Yards: 4,051, No. 2

    TDs: 48, No. 2

    Rushing Yards: 2,408, No. 3

    Points: 406, No. 3

    What Newton brings to that team is irreplaceable, but they looked a little bit sluggish against one of the NFL's best defenses in Houston. A very good drive that should have resulted in a TD to Seyi Ajirotutu slipped through Carolina's hands with a dropped pass. 

    Newton looked like Newton—calm, big, in control and completely unable to become frazzled. 

    —It was great to see former Raiders WR Louis Murphy on the field. He is a dynamic threat who should fit perfectly into this offense once they get all cylinders firing. The old Raiders staff loved Murphy and how frustrated they would get with the lingering injury issues that plagued him and Chaz Schilens.

    In watching him run routes, it's clear Murphy is back to form and poised for a breakout. I think he might be the guy to break out this year, which many were prognosticating to be Brandon LaFell. 

    Luke Kuechly. Wow. The guy just has a nose for the ball. He came right in as the starting LB to complement Jon Beason, and apparently he is bringing the dominant tackling force we saw at Boston College to the NFL.

    He was around every tackle. This was reminiscent of college, where he averaged nearly 16 a game; he always finds himself near where the ball ends up. That doesn't happen by accident. That is instinct, and Kuechly is special. 

STOCK UP: Houston Texans

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    Outlook:

    —This just in: Even if Arian Foster somehow goes down, the Texans will still be a terrific running team behind Ben Tate. 

    —According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Texans GM Rick Smith and HC Gary Kubiak believe that rookie DE Whitney Mercilus is even better than they thought.

    On the heels of his first preseason game which he entered in a reserve role, accumulating three tackles, 1.5 sacks, one QB pressure and two QB hits, McClain quoted Smith as saying: "He’s just so fast and so smart."

    While Kubiak added, "After watching the film, he was even better than I thought he was."

    Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle reports that Texans' special teams coach Joe Marciano is already putting new kick returner Trindon Holliday in some pretty elite company. He went on the record with Ganguli:

    If you got a special returner and you take them all out [of the end zone], they’re going to have to kick it out of the end zone. That’s what the Jets do with Cromartie, the Jets take them all out. When Devin Hester’s back there, he’s not back there to take a knee. The guys get juiced up to block for him...Yeah, he could be as good as those guys.

    Holliday represents a much more dangerous threat than Jacoby Jones, who the Texans shipped off to Baltimore, and he already looks better than he ever did in college at LSU in his return abilities.

    He will likely be expected to contribute on offense in some way, and I don't see any way he doesn't make the 53-man roster, so it will be interesting to see how they utilize Holliday in this regard moving forward. With Andre Johnson entirely undependable, and with no other legitimately proven receiving weapons behind him, Holliday could be an interesting addition. 

STOCK UP: Denver Broncos

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    Outlook:

    —In his highly anticipated return to football as a Denver Bronco, QB Peyton Manning did not disappoint.

    Well, kinda. His arm is clearly not what it used to be, and if the damaged nerves through his neck and the upper parts of his shoulders have not regenerated by now, it is unlikely we will ever see him at the level he was at before the injury again. 

    It doesn't matter, though. Manning's arm strength is merely icing on the cake. Manning came out on his first drive and sliced and diced a Brian Urlacher-less Chicago defense with the help of great pass-blocking from his offensive line, a solid performance on the ground from Willis McGahee and his signature ability to kill you when given time.

    WR Brandon Stokley screwed it all up at the end though, knocking an easy TD catch up into the air to be intercepted. That was the last we saw of Manning before Caleb Hanie made his glorious return to Soldier Field. 

    —Apparently, I was not alone in my praise of DT Derek Wolfe, who is climbing the depth chart faster than any other rookie, based upon analysis provided by Jeff Legwold of The Denver Post. Wolfe looked awesome in his first NFL game situation, recording two sacks and eating up space between the guard and tackle.  

STOCK DOWN: Chicago Bears

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    Outlook:

    —No Brian Urlacher, no Jay Cutler, no Matt Forte; the Chicago Bears showed us very little in preseason Week 1. 

    —What we did see is that LT J'Marcus Webb is still terrible, and to be honest, the whole offensive line looked more suspect in this exhibition versus Denver than they did all of last season.

    Part of that is cobwebs, part of that is also the fact that schemes are a little bit vanilla when Jason Campbell is under center (during preseason install). The defense obviously had a good idea as to what was coming.

    That should be what an offensive lineman loves, though. I have never heard of an offensive lineman who doesn't love to run the ball down the defense's throat. 

    O-linemen get very little glory and take pride in some less obvious measurables of achievement while on the football field. One is the act of beating your man whenever he knows exactly what is coming, going toe to toe and hopefully getting the pancake.

    The Chicago Bears offensive line would rather play patty-cake, apparently, and the whole unit is a liability. 

STOCK UP: Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Outlook:

    —Blaine Gabbert might have been the worst quarterback in the NFL last season, but he came right in and upstaged Eli Manning and the Giants in the Jags' exhibition opener by leading a 13-play, 89-yard touchdown drive.

    He dotted the "i" with a beautiful touch pass to Cecil Shorts in the left corner of the end zone, where only he could get it. The drive was not mistake-free, but Gabbert showed a confidence and follow-through that I have never witnessed on a beautiful 15-yard out to Mike Thomas, setting up the score. 

    —The offensive line is going to get Gabbert wrecked quite a bit this season, and he needs to learn that "gaining confidence" does not necessarily always mean "stay in the pocket as long as I can and hope no one nails me."

    He hesitated a few times, and it resulted in poor throws and once in a dirty strip sack that marked Gabbert's exit after his third drive. 

    Still, with no Maurice Jones-Drew, and given the terrible pass-blocking, I love the direction Gabbert is heading in. Jags stock has nowhere to go but up, anyway. 

STOCK UP: New York Giants

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    Outlook:

    —Not much to see here, so I'll give the defending champs the benefit of the doubt. Eli Manning looked like Eli.

    He looked elite except for one bad throw on a miscommunication with WR Jerrel Jernigan. Still, the offense eventually stalled and couldn't score more than a few field goals before they rolled in the second group.

    —The Giants were a terrible pass-blocking unit last year, but they did not look that part in their exhibition opener. Protection was good for Manning, and for the first time in my life after watching back-to-back Manning brothers cut-ups, Eli's arm appeared much stronger than Peyton's. 

    —I was impressed by the rookies, whom I tried to watch most.

    RB David Wilson is padding his preseason resume in an attempt to solidify a prominent spot in the running committee with Ahmad Bradshaw. Wilson tallied 43 yards on seven carries and caught two balls for 24 more.

    Rookie WR Rueben Randle, who rookie Rams CB Janoris Jenkins mentioned in the same category as A.J. Green and Julio Jones, caught a garbage time TD from QB Ryan Perilloux. Perilloux and Randle both went to LSU, but they never played together, as Perilloux got the boot before Randle set foot on campus. 

STOCK UP: Cleveland Browns

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    Outlook:

    —Here we are: Brandon Weeden era.

    We started off with a very, very sorry statistical performance. He didn't look as bad as his stat line, though, and the fumble was more of a batted pass where his hand was struck a little while moving forward.

    He hit Travis Benjamin on a wire for a beautiful, over-the-shoulder sideline deep ball—we saw the same throw to Justin Blackmon all the time in college. It was the sideline timing out that almost got pick-sixed on the next series by Bill Bentley. Bentley ended up picking Weeden off eventually, anyway. 

    —This is how a bad running back gets made to look good by a good offensive line.

    A play starts out looking like this (Photo) and ends up looking like this (Photo).

    This organization is under the belief that they are a good offensive line away from being competitive in the AFC North. Whether that is true or not, who knows, but I know they think it. 

    I also know that Trent Richardson is not a bad West Coast back like Montario Hardesty is, and if he gets run-blocking like this, look out. That is what 5.1 yards per carry looks like. The Browns have nowhere to go but up, and believe it or not, I was encouraged by the performance given my expectations. 

STOCK UP: Detroit Lions

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    Outlook:

    —Stefan Logan wants to be the "Darren Sproles of the Lions offense," but he is no Darren Sproles. I do love the new little wrinkle it brings to the offense.

    Let's face it: Jahvid Best is very concussed and likely very done as an NFL player. One more concussion and they will shut him down, and that's his best case. His history is long with this stuff. 

    If Kevin Smith were to stay healthy (for one season), he's actually still a really good back. Mikel Leshoure will be a good eventual addition. Despite the market volatility and question marks, I am bullish on the Lions' run game. 

    —Matt Stafford threw the worst ball I have ever seen out of him as he was getting hit up the middle of the line on the Pettigrew interception.

    Don't expect to see much more of that this season. Stafford knows what it is to play behind the Lions' Swiss cheese O-line, and he has finally proven he can make it through one season and be the QB he is capable of being.

STOCK UP: San Francisco 49ers

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    Outlook: 

    —Alex Smith and the 49ers offense came out and did what they do in their preseason opener against Minnesota. They brought their lunch pails and hard hats and marched down the field to score on a very blue-collar drive.

    They passed the ball everywhere, and it's time people stop treating Smith like a second-class citizen.

    He was a late bloomer, but he did not bloom into a "bus driver." He's a really good NFL quarterback who can make all the throws asked of him. If they get to the Super Bowl, he will not be playing the "Trent Dilfer" role. That is more than many teams can say about their QB situation. 

    —It seemed like every play featured a different running back, and I saw every player who carried the ball for San Francisco go off for at least one big run. 

    —Perrish Cox was a big addition for the 49ers defense, and I just can't say enough about Justin Smith, who did not play in the exhibition game. For all the accolades Aldon Smith received in 2012, I think Justin Smith deserved more.

    He told the announcers before the game that the defense had really gelled working with each other during non-team workouts and staying for extra time at OTAs.

    Buy, Buy, Buy. It's a gold rush.

STOCK UP: Minnesota Vikings

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    Outlook:

    —All is not lost for the Vikings. Christian Ponder is improving, and Percy Harvin is a dynamic offensive weapon.

    —Toby Gerhart is a better NFL running back than he is given credit for, and regardless of whether Adrian Peterson had gotten hurt, I was told at the Senior Bowl by a member of the Vikings organization that Gerhart would be more featured in 2012.

    If Peterson misses any time, Gerhart has shown he is more than capable of picking up a good portion of the load. He is a powerful back, but very versatile with great hands and very high football intellect. 

    —This is first-round, fourth overall pick, LT Matt Kalil getting welcomed to the NFL by Aldon Smith. 

STOCK DOWN: Tennessee Titans

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    Outlook:

    —What a messed up start to the preseason. 

    Matt Hasselbeck and his bald cranium went back to Seattle and started things off by throwing a pick-six. It rolled off on Nate Washington's pads in some sort of freak accident, and the bad season started. 

    Hasselbeck then started out a decent drive, which ended with a horrible deep ball to Damian Williams for interception No. 2.  

    That's when Jake Locker became the starter for the Titans, apparently. I don't necessarily agree with the decision and feel that for the very near future, Hasselbeck represents a better chance of winning. Locker does seem to have a better rapport with Kendall Wright, though, and to me, that could serve as an equalizer in that horse race.  

    —What has gotten into Chris Johnson? Does he even like to play the game of football anymore? My goodness, Javon Ringer looks like a better back than CJ2K—five rushes for seven yards. He was thrown at three times for zero catches, with zero effort to match.   

STOCK UP: Seattle Seahawks

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    Outlook:

    —As I sat down to watch my first tapes of rookie pass-rush specialist Bruce Irvin in the Seahawks' opener against Tennessee, it was actually a former Titan, Jason Jones, who caught my eye first.

    He's the kind of "pass-rush" guy I love—an inside disruptor and penetrator. He is not the type of player who will make the splash that Bruce Irvin does or put up anywhere near as gaudy the sack numbers, but he was a great acquisition to pair with Irvin. The two styles are very cohesive. 

    —I can't neglect to mention rookie QB Russell Wilson. He jumped up and made himself the big elephant in the room. At the Senior Bowl, I asked Wilson, who is 5'10", what he thought about so many people doubting his ability because of his height.

    He said it didn't matter. He said the people whose opinions matter are there at practice. (I'm assuming he was speaking of the coaches and scouts, not necessarily those asking these silly questions.)

    Wilson was clearly the second-best quarterback at the Senior Bowl behind Kirk Cousins. 

    Cousins will likely back up RG3 in Washington until he elects to go into politics like Heath Shuler. Wilson may be looking at a starting job much sooner. He came into his first game for the Seahawks at the beginning of the second half and proceeded to almost throw a terrible interception on his first play.

    He then went 12-of-16 for 124 yards along with two TDs—one rushing, one passing. Matt Flynn has already been named starter for preseason Game 2, but Russell Wilson is playing like he has something to prove

STOCK UP: Kansas City Chiefs

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    Outlook:

    —I love the pairing of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and Peyton Hillis in Kansas City.

    Daboll has coached up unbelievable RB production in the last two years, in 2011 with Reggie Bush in Miami and in 2010 in Cleveland with Hillis himself. If the Chiefs' preseason opener is any indication, I expect a huge resurgence out of Hillis in 2012 after a dismal 2011 campaign in Cleveland. 

    —I don't know if it was how bad the Cardinals QBs looked that elevated my thinking about Matt Cassel in this game, but it seems the Chiefs are glad to have him back under center. He kept a good pace to the game and went 5-of-6 with a TD on a 67-yard drive to open things up.

    The only incompletion came on a dropped screen pass by Jamaal Charles. Cassel told Bill Williamson of ESPN

    Sometimes, when you come back to camp after a preseason practice is sloppy ...But everyone worked at a high level and we got some things done. ...It’s early, but I really like the way things are going

STOCK DOWN: Arizona Cardinals

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    Outlook:

    —In a battle of two quarterbacks who many people feel were overpaid by their current employers after being only backups with their previous employers, Matt Cassel won the battle, not Kevin Kolb.

    Actually, there really were no winners on the Cardinals' side of the coin when they faced off against the Chiefs in their second game of the 2012 preseason.

    John Skelton started things out with a blistering 3-of-6 performance for 35 yards and an interception. Then Kolb came in, getting wrecked early on in the Hall of Fame Game against New Orleans.

    He didn't exactly bring the house down with a 1-of-5 performance for 24 yards.

    —The offensive line was abysmal as usual. The small gems that could be found on defense were largely negligible given these glaring deficiencies. 

    If you have any stock in the Cardinals, sell it. Things are going downhill—and quickly. 

STOCK DOWN: Miami Dolphins

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    Outlook:

    —Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill came in to spell Matt Moore in Miami's preseason opener against the Bucs and put up a much better effort statistically.

    Moore looked better than Tannehill, given the fact that Tannehill did not face the same level of competition, as Tampa Bay already had their backups in when he entered the game. All in all, though, it doesn't matter. Ryan Tannehill may have earned himself a job with David Garrard needing a surprise knee scope. 

    —RB Reggie Bush has recently said he plans to win the NFL rushing title in 2012. While we're talking long shots, I would like to proclaim that I will win the Pulitzer Prize.

    He is running between the tackles and did bump up to the second level on one nifty inside run, but I just can't see his body holding up all season being a bell-cow runner for two straight years. 

STOCK UP: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Outlook:

    —I wasn't the only one to notice that the Tampa Bay defensive line looks like a much better group in 2012 than they were in 2011 when facing the Dolphins in 2012's preseason opener. Rick Brown of the The Ledger apparently felt the same.

    Honestly, it couldn't have gotten worse. Combine the Bucs' 2011 line play with historically terrible tackling from the safety position, and you have a recipe for being exploited by opposing running backs—over and over. It appears some relief is in sight. 

    Byron Lambert of RosterWatch breaks it down best, but we now know that the perceived "Doug Martin Show" in Tampa will not be a one-man-play. LeGarrette Blount, with all his deficiencies, will still play an important role. 

STOCK DOWN: New England Patriots

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    Outlook:

    On the heels of a seemingly subpar offensive outing, I had to give Mike Loyko a call to see what was going on with the Patriots. Here were his thoughts:

    The Pats' first team played with a makeshift offensive line against the Saints: Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, Brian Waters, three Pro Bowl linemen—all out. Dan Koppen looked awful and probably won't make the team. Brady ended up getting sacked fumbled, Nate Solder allowed it, but it was definitely a coverage sack. 

    We all know the highlight of the Patriots' preseason opener:

    Chandler Jones had best game of anybody on the field. No matter who you root for, going up against a Pro Bowl left tackle, starting from the second play of the game he pushed Bushrod back and forced Brees into a bad throw. Absolutely dominant. He drew back-to-back holding penalties on Bushrod and did more than just pass rush. He set the edge and opened up defensive space for his teammates to make plays.  

STOCK DOWN: New York Jets

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    Outlook:

    —The Jets offense is based upon being a hard-nosed, run-first team. It seems odd that they would continue to elect to feature a soft-bodied, fall-first back in Shonn Greene.

    I don't get it. Cedric Benson would have been a great pickup for the Jets. As things stand, Greene laid out a very familiar, very forgettable four-carry, 11-yard stinker in the Jets' preseason opener versus the Bengals on Friday.

    I would like to quote Rex Ryan and tell Shonn Greene to "Play like an (expletive) Jet."

    Mark Sanchez regressed as a passer last season, but I respect the opinion of Chad Pennington, who recently told Lisa Zimmerman of CBS Sports that Sanchez has gotten better this offseason:

    Tony Sparano is the perfect hire for this team. He brings an edge to this offense. You can see him. He's extremely fiery. He's a grinder. He's a go-getter, and I think they're going to like what Tony brings to the table. Tony understands that the game is not played on the chalkboard. It's played out in between the white lines and it's a game that has a huge human element.

    Sanchez held onto the ball too long, took sacks and threw balls away. Business as usual for the Sanchize in the preseason opener. He was 4-of-6 for 21 yards. He doesn't seem overly concerned, though, according to Joe Kay and Yahoo! Sports:

    The big plays will come to us. The running game will get going and things will open up in the passing game. We're not game-planning for this, so a couple of things caught us off-guard. Rest easy, Jets Nation, the big plays are coming. I'm selling stock like crazy. 

    Rest easy, Jets Nation, the big plays are coming.

    I'm selling stock like crazy.

STOCK DOWN: Cincinnati Bengals

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    Outlook:

    —Bengals ILB Rey Maualuga said it best to Joe Reedy of Cincinnati.com: "It’s football. It’s a physical sport. No one knows what will happen. Unfortunately everything went down – boom, boom, boom."

    No matter the score, the Bengals lost their preseason opener versus the Jets. Preseason winners are the teams who come out healthy and wiser for the wear. The Bengals had four starters injured in DE Carlos Dunlap, OG Travelle Wharton and S Taylor Mays in addition to Maualuga right off the bat. Unreal. 

    —Congratulations to the Bengals for dumping WR Jerome Simpson. He's terrible, and the Vikings bought a lemon. The second part of the equation was letting a boatload of young, developing WR talent step up into key roles to complement the amazing A.J Green. Now, it looks like it's going to be Brandon Tate and Andrew Hawkins.

    —As of now, I'm not sure how much of an upgrade RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis is over new Packer Cedric Benson.