The Most Impressive Preseason Performances So Far
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA
With the exception of the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts, every team in the NFL has at least one preseason game under its respective belt in 2013.
So what can you possibly learn about a club after one contest, or in the case of the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, two?
Final score and wins and losses don’t mean much in the long run when it comes to the preseason, but there are a few things here and there you can pick up on. Here are eight performances that caught our eye.
In some instances, it may be a rookie or newcomer to a team. It may also be an established performer or even an entire unit. While some of these performers saw limited action in their games, they still piqued our interest.
Being on the list does not guarantee you a Pro Bowl invitation or your team a winning season and/or playoff berth. However, it does give us something to talk about for the next week...and hopefully for those involved, a lot longer.
We will eventually find out if these players are future stars or one-hit wonders.
DE George Selvie, Dallas Cowboys
After four previous stops in the NFL, including a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, could the fifth team be the charm for defensive end George Selvie?
If timing is everything, the former seventh-round pick of the St. Louis Rams may have seized the opportunity.
The Dallas Cowboys have switched to a 4-3 under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, but defensive end Anthony Spencer is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and hopes to be back for Week 1 of the regular season.
In the Hall of Fame Game against the Miami Dolphins, Selvie totaled four tackles, including a pair of sacks. That performance earned him a start against the Oakland Raiders.
Even after Spencer returns, the Cowboys are looking for depth on their front four, especially after losing defensive end Tyrone Crawford for the season earlier this summer.
And by George, they may have found it.
WR Stephen Williams, Seattle Seahawks
Harry How/Getty Images
It was only two catches, but the performance was hard to ignore.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Stephen Williams is hoping a different team in the NFC West can get his NFL career back on track.
Originally an undrafted rookie free-agent signing by the Arizona Cardinals in 2010, the former University of Toledo standout caught nine passes in 13 games in two seasons with the club, but he totaled zero receptions in 2011 and was out of the NFL in 2012.
The Seahawks inked him in January, and versus the San Diego Chargers on Thursday, he easily ran past the San Diego secondary for a 41-yard reception. Soon afterward, he grabbed a 42-yard touchdown pass from Tarvaris Jackson.
With wideout Percy Harvin on the mend, Williams could seize a very big opportunity here.
While rookie running back Christine Michael did run for 89 yards on 16 carries for Pete Carroll’s club, it was the brief glimpse of Williams that may be worth a second look.
WR LaQuan Williams, Baltimore Ravens
J. Meric/Getty Images
Thursday night was a good evening to be wide receiver LaQuan Williams.
The former undrafted free agent from the University of Maryland was originally signed by the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. Williams has played in 23 games with the team since, catching four passes for 46 yards that first season with the club.
But against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was a busy Raven for a few moments. Just before halftime, he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown. Less than four minutes into the third quarter, he caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyrod Taylor in what would be a 44-16 win by the defending Super Bowl champions.
Does Williams warrant a closer look this season? It’s hard to tell, but it’s also hard to ignore those two quick touchdowns.
Running Game, New England Patriots
I am quite sure that the New England Patriots are tired of hearing that it is going to be a long year in Foxborough.
Then again, long years have become the norm for this franchise. Including playoffs, this team has played 19 games in a season six times since 2001, five of those years resulting in Super Bowl appearances and three in championships.
When the Patriots were winning those Super Bowls, it was a solid running game, effective passing and hard-hitting and exceptional defenses that paved the way for three copies of the Lombardi Trophy.
On Friday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, New England running backs Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount helped pave the way for 248 yards rushing in a 31-22 win. That total included 62- and 51-yard runs by Ridley and Blount, respectively. And it may be the way that Bill Belichick’s team opts to play in 2013.
If the Patriots defense finally rediscovers itself, it may wind up being a very long season for the Pats...again.
DE Terrell McClain, Houston Texans
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
The obvious answer here may be first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins, who has been the subject of a lot of positive talk in training camp. The wide receiver caught four passes for 52 yards, including a 34-yard score, in a win over the Minnesota Vikings.
But the Houston Texans defense is looking to rebound from a disappointing second-half performance in 2012. Including playoffs, Gary Kubiak’s team allowed nearly 100 more points in its last nine outings last season (242) than it did in its first nine games (143) in 2012.
Last season, the team added defensive lineman Terrell McClain, originally a third-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2011. He lasted just one season there before being released. After enjoying a cup of clam chowder with the New England Patriots last season, he latched on with the Texans.
On Friday night versus the Vikings, McClain totaled five tackles, including 2.5 sacks, and even drew a roughing the passer penalty.
A few more performances like that and many people will be asking about the man playing with J.J. Watt.
LB Sio Moore, Oakland Raiders
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
It looks like some youth will be served in Oakland this season after all.
Dennis Allen’s Oakland Raiders will have nine new starters on the defensive side of the football.
Oakland acquired eight of those newcomers through free agency, like defensive tackle Pat Sims and linebackers Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett. The secondary now includes veteran cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter and returning son and safety Charles Woodson.
Then there is rookie outside linebacker Sio Moore.
The third-round draft choice from the University of Connecticut started on Friday night vs. the Dallas Cowboys, and his two tackles included a resounding sack of quarterback Tony Romo.
The Raiders are looking for their first winning season since 2002. A solid showing by Moore and a surprising performance by the Oakland defense would be a step in the right direction.
Offensive Line, Arizona Cardinals
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Arians got his NFL head-coaching career off to a good start this weekend as the Arizona Cardinals blanked the Green Bay Packers, 17-0.
While that goose egg certainly bears mentioning (or not), there were other numbers that proved to be eye-opening as well.
Arizona ran for 92 yards on 35 carries. In 21 games in 2012, including five preseason contests, the team did not reach that total of rushing plays. The Cards also allowed only one sack in 28 total passing plays against the Pack.
A year ago, this club ran for the fewest yards in the league while allowing an NFL-high 58 sacks. Over the course of the last three seasons, Arizona has surrendered a whopping 162 sacks.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but eventually that empire did get its act together. Perhaps the Cardinals' offensive front is on its way.
DE Damontre Moore, New York Giants
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
After a disappointing 2012 season, the New York Giants are looking for more from their once-potent defensive line this season.
And they may have found it...almost literally.
Defensive end Damontre Moore was a third-round pick by the Giants in April. The Texas A&M product totaled four tackles and blocked a punt in the team’s 18-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night.
A year ago, Tom Coughlin’s team finished 31st in the league in total defense and a disappointing 25th against the run. The Giants totaled only 33 sacks in 2012, down significantly from the previous season (48).
With defensive end Osi Umenyiora now a member of the Atlanta Falcons and two-time Pro Bowler Jason Pierre-Paul still recovering from offseason back surgery, the team is looking for help up front. The addition of free agent Cullen Jenkins is certainly a plus.
And the emergence of Moore is perhaps more...uh, you know the rest.