Which NFL Starters Need to Pick Up the Pace This Preseason?

Nick KostoraContributor IIIAugust 15, 2012

Which NFL Starters Need to Pick Up the Pace This Preseason?

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    Some starters have gotten out of the NFL's preseason gates slower than a three-legged turtle.

    For these players and units, the pace clearly needs to be picked up as the preseason continues onward.

    Whether it be entire squads, a specific position group or individual players themselves, things need to change (and quickly) for various starters.

    Let's look at who needs to accelerate their pace most drastically heading into Week 2 of the preseason.

    Starting with a couple of units in the AFC East...

12. Shawne Merriman, Mario Williams and the Buffalo Bills Front Seven

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    The Buffalo Bills did not record a sack in Week 1 of the preseason.

    This stat does not apply only to the starting unit, but to the entire defense as a whole.

    Surely this was a misnomer, right?

    The Bills defense is supposed to be "lights out!" Just ask Shawne Merriman. 

    Unfortunately, Merriman and his wealthy defensive companion Mario Williams were at the forefront of a tepid showing from Buffalo against the Washington Redskins.

    This may prove to be much ado about nothing, but the pace definitely needs to be picked up.

    Circle the wagons and get to the quarterback Buffalo!

11. The New England Patriots Offensive Line

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    Tom Brady was absolutely obliterated by New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Will Smith in Week 1 of the preseason.

    Instead of ending Brady's night after that series, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick chose to bring his star QB back onto the field to risk another big hit.

    Maybe he was sending a message to the offensive lineman to get their collective "you-know-whats" together.

    Nate Solder was manhandled by the Saints pass-rushers the whole time he was in the game and no one stood out as particularly impressive.

    With the Patriots looking to develop a new running game this year it would be beneficial to have a consistent and reliable offensive line.

    So far, this has not been the case in New England.

10. Matthew Stafford

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    It's hard to read too much into Matthew Stafford's lackluster showing in the Detroit Lions first preseason outing.

    He could easily flip the switch in Week 2 or Week 3, and everyone would forget his interception and inability to lead the Lions into the endzone against the Browns.

    Still, it has to be noted that Detroit's passing game was particularly pedestrian (enjoy that tongue twister for a minute or two) in Week 1.

    With the Lions running game acting as a permanently revolving door, it is imperative that Stafford and the aerial attack maintain it's "elite" status from last year.

    As it stands, Stafford looked nothing like his 5,000-yard self from a season ago.

9. Brandon Weeden

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    Brandon Weeden did not play quite as bad as his stat line from Week 1 of the preseason may indicate.

    However, going 3-for-9 passing with 62 yards with a passer rating of 19.0 and one interception is not good by any stretch of the imagination—nor is the fumble he had.

    Weeden must develop quickly this preseason to verify the Cleveland Browns organization's somewhat rash decision to end the Colt McCoy era before it was ever really given a chance to take off in the first place.

    With the great performances turned in by Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson, the new Browns signal-caller was kind of left in the dust.

    Weeden was neither terrible or amazing; he was average and forgettable.

    Those are two words that should never describe a starting quarterback.

8. Jacoby Ford

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    Something was wrong with Jacoby Ford in the Oakland Raiders preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

    Ford dropped multiple passes, made little effort on a Carson Palmer interception and then did a terrible job on special teams, just to add fuel to the fire.

    Oakland needs someone to emerge from their receiving corps this year and become a No. 1 option for Palmer to throw too.

    After this outing, Ford has a long way to go if he wants to assume that mantle.

    He can have a slight pass on the poor punt returning because he has little history with it, but dropping easy passes is unacceptable.

7. Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line

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    I considered including the entire Dallas Cowboys offense here, but the running backs are mainly victims of circumstance after Week 1 of the preseason.

    After all, how are the backs supposed to gain any yards if there are no holes to run through?

    The offensive line created no lanes. Subsequently, everyone behind them got their clocks cleaned.

    Tony Romo was sacked once for 12 yards and completed three of his six pass attempts.

    He had little time to throw, and looked uncomfortable in his limited action.

    Romo is going to be fine, but it is going to be tough for him to overcome his stigma of being inconsistent if the offensive line doesn't give him decent pass protection.

    It's an easy formula really: Better protection for Romo = smarter decisions and fewer mistakes.

6. Mike Adams

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    I'm going to throw a quick quiz into the mix here when trying to understand the preseason debut of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie offensive tackle, Mike Adams. 

    Was his Week 1 preseason performance:

    A. Lazy

    B. Pathetic

    C. Pylon-esque

    D. All of the above.

    If you answered A, B, C or D, you were correct!

    Hopefully, you now feel as good as every child in America that is handed a participation trophy after losing by 40 points in a Pee Wee game.

    Now back to Adams. Before leaving the game with a knee injury, he gave up 2.5 sacks on just nine plays.

    Pittsburgh's offensive line has not been great in recent years, but Adams looked far from an upgrade in his debut.

    If the Steelers second round pick wants to start this year, his pace is one that needs to go from a crawl to a sprint rather quickly.

5. The Miami Dolphins Defense

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    If the Miami Dolphins are going to have any hope of competing in the AFC East a few things are going to need to happen:

    1. Tom Brady abruptly retires from football to model abroad with Gisele.

    2. The defense needs to be flat-out awesome.

    As No. 1 appears to be a pipe dream, the Dolphins defense really needs to kick things into gear following a bad performance in the team's first preseason appearance.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks had all day to throw against Miami's under-performing pass rush and first downs were surrendered at an alarming rate.

    Miami has plenty of talent on defense, but the top guys need to start showing up and pick up the pace for the rest of the preseason.

4. James Starks

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    Someone is going to take hand-offs from Aaron Rodgers this season for the Green Bay Packers.

    After Week 1 of the preseason, it is hard to believe that person is going to be James Starks.

    Starks performance was particularly "meh" after he rushed for a whopping 16 yards on six carries.

    He did little to grab hold of Green Bay's backfield or assure anyone of his ability to shoulder any type of offensive workload.

    Starks then topped off this plethora of awfulness by leaving the game with a turf toe injury.

    Green Bay could always just let Aaron Rodgers throw the ball 50 times a game.

    After the team's first preseason outing that seems like an all too realistic possibility.

3. The St. Louis Rams Secondary

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    Science has taught us that for every positive outcome there must be an opposing negative outcome.

    As Andrew Luck reaffirmed the notion that he is in fact the next Joe Montana, most people overlooked the other side of the coin.

    That side was the uninspired play of the St. Louis Rams secondary.

    Sure, Janoris Jenkins had some nice moments, but as a whole, the Rams secondary was torched by a rookie QB seeing a real NFL defense in game action for the first time.

    I simply do not care if this is the preseason, there is cause for concern with the Rams pass defense.

    For a team that faces the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady and Tim Tebow this season, it is crucial that St. Louis sorts things out when defending passes.

    Oh and calm down, I only included Tebow in that list to raise your blood pressure. For most of you, I'm sure it was successful.

    Now on to Arizona...

2. Kevin Kolb and John Skelton

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    At some point, either Kevin Kolb or John Skelton is going to grab hold of the Arizona Cardinals starting QB job.

    Or maybe they will just hang out and wait for the other guy to give up like Jeneba Tarmoh in a 100-meter runoff.

    Was that too obscure of a reference? If so, you really need to get caught up on the fascinating world of Women's Track & Field.

    Riveting stuff, I promise.

    Anywho... Kolb looked downright horrendous in the Hall of Fame Game, and he even got injured.

    Drama and battle over right?

    Nope.

    While Skelton looked good in the Hall of Fame Game, he was then just as unstable as Kolb was when the Cardinals played the Kansas City Chiefs.

    The pace of these two needs to be picked up considerably.

1. Chris Johnson

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    To me, Chris Johnson is kind of like a big bag of Jolly Ranchers candy.

    Most of the time the flavor you get is outstanding, but once in awhile, you pull a grape flavored piece out of the bag and it's just terrible.

    Week 1 of the preseason was Johnson at his most "grapey".

    The man formerly known as "CJ2K" ran for only eight yards on five carries. He was targeted on three passes and managed to catch zero of them.

    Maybe the Titans offensive line did not help him out all that much, but Johnson is the rare back that can create his own holes when he wants to.

    Apparently he didn't want to against the Seattle Seahawks.

    And now I have a bad grape taste in my mouth.