Through two weeks of NFL preseason games, there have been some good—and some not so good—performances around the NFC West. These four players to watch are not on any roster bubbles, but they warrant your attention because of how they have performed to date.
There are big names-a-plenty here, and each one has been significant thus far.
Significant can mean different things, and that’s something you will soon find out.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR
Arizona Cardinals All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald has only two catches this preseason, and both balls were thrown by John Skelton.
Watch for Fitz to be more involved as the preseason winds down.
Coming into the 2012 preseason, Fitzgerald averaged only 5.83 catches per exhibition season, so the low total is not surprising.
However, this season he seems to be especially out of touch with the offense. It hasn’t meant anything in the past, but this is a big year for him and his team.
With Skelton starting Thursday and the likelihood that he’s named the Week 1 starter shortly thereafter (if they’re smart), Fitzgerald should be targeted more to get him ready to go for regular-season games.
He’s the hardest worker on the team, but the dividends never show during the preseason.
Aldon Smith, OLB
Last season’s NFC West sack leader, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith has yet to see much game action during the 2012 preseason.
He’s been on the shelf since the first quarter of the 49ers opener with a bruised hip and has only just now returned to practice.
Smith needs as much playing time as possible right now, because as a first-time full-time starter for San Francisco, he is expected to be one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.
His 14 sacks as a rookie came while not starting a single game. He will be on the field much more than his 335 pass-rush snaps of a year ago, so getting the most out of the preseason is imperative for Smith.
If he plays Sunday, watch his performance against Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady. This is also a big year for Clady, having to protect Peyton Manning and his neck, so both men should be motivated to perform as though this were a midseason game.
Russell Wilson, QB
All signs currently point to Matt Flynn being named the Seattle Seahawks starter.
But watch Russell Wilson to see if he can maintain his high level of preseason play.
He is 22-of-33 for 279 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for a 110.5 QB rating through two games. Though it hasn’t been against the opposition’s No. 1 defense, the little guy has outperformed many other rookies to this point.
The Broncos got to him five times last week, but he still tossed two touchdowns and finished with a rating of 128.3.
Another pristine preseason performance from Wilson and Coach Double Rainbow (Pete Carroll) may have to think deeper about his competition for once.
Brian Quick, WR
His numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he has shown flashes of why the Rams drafted him so high after a good career at FCS powerhouse Appalachian State.
Quick is just as big as Cardinals rookie Michael Floyd, at 6’3” and 220 pounds, and he could develop into the No. 1 receiver St. Louis is in desperate need of sooner rather than later.
Gibson hasn’t played much so far and hasn’t recorded a catch, so with Quick turning heads his time as the starter—and on the Rams roster—may soon be up. A hamstring injury kept him out of last week’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
For Quick, he needs a breakthrough performance to give his coaches confidence going forward that he can be what they need, and that is a big, physical playmaking receiver.
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