NFL Preseason Games 2012: Studs and Duds from Saturday's Action
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are going to be stars in the NFL, and both of them played like studs on Saturday night.
Week 3 of the NFL preseason is the time when teams usually leave their starters in the game until sometime in the third quarter. It's usually the last time the starters will have a chance get many snaps against another team until Week 1, when the games matter.
Some teams had players who put together impressive outings, like the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins did with Luck and RG3, while other teams will be scrambling to make sense out of what their players did.
This brings me to the topic at hand: investigating which players were studs and which ones were duds on Saturday.
Stud: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
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Antonio Brown has become more dangerous both years he's been in the league, and he's just getting warmed up.
Ben Roethlisberger targeted his favorite wideout nine times in the game, and Brown came up with seven of those attempts for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
If Mike Wallace can get on the same page, and if Roethlisberger gets enough protection this season, this offense is going to be potent.
Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh Steelers, rookie offensive guard David DeCastro went down with a nasty knee injury that could cause him to miss a considerable amount of time.
Duds: Ryan Fitzpatrick/Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills
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Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills didn't see eye to eye on Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fitzpatrick targeted his No. 1 receiver nine times, but the two of them only completed three passes for 36 yards. The Bills need these two to get on the same page, and soon, or this offense will struggle early on in 2012.
Obviously, Johnson's groin injury played a part in the lack of chemistry the duo displayed, but time is of the essence for them to get it right.
Stud: Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
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Alfred Morris likely made the Washington Redskins' roster with his monster performance against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.
For the game, Morris carried the ball 14 times for 107 yards and one touchdown. He displayed many positive traits throughout the game, showing speed, excellent lateral movement and power.
Combined with a healthy Tim Hightower and Roy Helu, the Redskins have a nice stable of running backs with which to keep defenses off balance for Robert Griffin III and the passing attack.
Dud: Offensive Line of the Indianapolis Colts
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If you think Andrew Luck is impressive now, just wait until he has some pass protection in a couple of years.
The offensive line of the Colts is downright offensive.
They were as effective at stopping the Washington Redskins from getting to Luck on Saturday night as a thimble full of vinegar is at quenching your thirst on a hot day.
The stat sheet only shows four sacks for the Redskins, but Luck was pressured on just about every single passing play. It's going to be a long season of "almost" and "if only" for the Colts and their fans.
Stud: Terrelle Pryor/Juron Criner, Oakland Raiders
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Yes, you read that right.
In a game when Matthew Stafford went down with another injury (apparently a minor one, according to ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert) and Carson Palmer stunk up the joint (more on that later), Pryor gave the fans in the Black Hole something to cheer about.
He only threw the ball five times, completing three of them, for a whopping 137 yards. Out of those three completions, two of them went for touchdowns. One was 39 yards and the other a 76-yard bomb—both of which were caught by Juron Criner in the fourth quarter.
Criner only caught those two passes, but his work was more than enough to be worthy of a spot on tonight's "studs" list.
Dud: Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders
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How much longer will the Oakland Raiders let Carson Palmer continue to struggle before the team realizes it's never going to work?
Palmer's downward spiral from last year hasn't been dealt with, and his terrible decision-making was on full display once again in the team's preseason game against the Detroit Lions. He threw two interceptions, one of which was an ill-advised attempt at a screen pass that was picked off by defensive lineman Willie Young.
I'd love to know what's going on inside Palmer's mind when he makes decisions like this.
There's no reason he should have let that ball leave his hand. Every high school quarterback knows that what he did was highly irresponsible, yet Palmer's been doing stuff like that since he was picked up by the Raiders last year.
I'm betting the Raiders will have Palmer on a short leash once the regular season begins.
Studs: Tony Romo/Dwayne Harris, Dallas Cowboys
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Tony Romo needed a receiver to step up on Saturday night, and Dwayne Harris answered the call.
With his top targets all nursing injuries, Romo did what he does best and made lemonade out of lemons. Like Laurent Robinson before him, Harris benefited from Romo and caught three passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
For the night, Romo went 9-of-13 for 198 yards and two touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 151.4—awfully close to the perfect rating of 158.3.
Both of these men stepped up in a big way, albeit against the struggling St. Louis Rams.
Dud: Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
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I worry about Sam Bradford becoming the next David Carr of the NFL.
Hopefully, Jeff Fisher can whip this team into shape before that ever becomes a real possibility, but for now, Bradford doesn't have much to work with.
It really showed in the team's third preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Bradford's night started out well enough, and he was looking sharp for most of the first quarter. Then, the wheels fell off and he lost control of what he was doing completely.
Bradford's numbers aren't pretty. He completed 6-of-17 passes for a scant 64 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was out of synch with his receivers, often getting rid of the ball half-a-second too late.
Stud: Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
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If Matt Schaub can avoid the injury bug in 2012, the Houston Texans have as good a shot as any team in the AFC to go to the Super Bowl.
Schaub has performed at an incredibly high level the past two preseason games, and his decision-making is becoming on par with what I've seen from Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. He just can't seem to stay on the field.
Schaub went 15-of-18 on the night for 194 yards and one touchdown against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, despite seeing heavy pressure at times.
He is in full command of the offense at this time, and it's clear that the Texans are going to be one of the top teams in the NFL in 2012.
Dud: Keshawn Martin, Houston Texans
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Keshawn Martin caught Matt Schaub's lone touchdown pass, but he hurt himself more than he helped himself on Saturday night against the New Orleans Saints.
Martin coughed up two fumbles, both of which were recovered by the Saints.
This is surely frustrating for both Martin and the Houston Texans, who drafted him in the fourth round out of Michigan State earlier this spring. Especially considering that he has been emerging as one of the team's best options to be the slot receiver in three-wide sets.
According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:
Keshawn Martin has come on so strong he's separating from the pack of other WRs and is taking hold of 3rd spot behind Johnson and Walter.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) August 8, 2012
Ball security is of the utmost importance in the NFL. If you can't hang on to the ball, you don't make it in the league.
Martin needs to get this figured out sooner rather than later.
Stud: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
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Drew Brees is still as good as ever.
I don't expect the New Orleans Saints to be as explosive on offense as they were in 2011 due to Sean Payton's absence, but Brees is still going to lead quite a potent attack.
The Houston Texans have a phenomenal defense, but Brees had his way with them, for the most part, on Saturday night. He completed 17-of-25 passes for 179 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. As usual, he made sure to spread the ball around to as many receivers as possible.
Brees is still Brees, and unless he gets injured, the Saints have a chance to hang in there in 2012 without Payton and possibly contend for a playoff spot.
Studs: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III
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Both of these young men put on a display of brilliance on Saturday night when the Indianapolis Colts took on the Washington Redskins—certainly a preview of big things to come.
It's obvious that their seasons are going to be different.
Robert Griffin III is leading a team loaded with weapons on both sides of the ball, and he's going to light things up deep in 2012. The offensive attack the Washington Redskins will run is going to be one of the most exciting to watch out of all the teams in the NFL.
Big plays are the order of the day, and it'll be like watching an NBA team that lives and dies by the three.
For the game, Griffin III completed 11-of-17 passes for 77 yards and one touchdown.
Andrew Luck, on the other hand, will be running a more conservative offense for the Colts with far less talent around him than what RG3 has in Washington.
If you watched the game on Saturday, then you know the poor guy hardly has time to scan the field sometimes before he's being swarmed by defensive linemen. Still, Luck has managed to thrive within the constructs of the hand he's been dealt, and the future is bright for him and the Colts.
Luck completed 14-of-23 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown.
Both young men impressed the hell out of me in their own way on Saturday, and I can't wait to watch what they'll do in their rookie seasons in the NFL.
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