Those of us whose baseball seasons ended a month ago (ahem...Mets fans...ahem!) can’t wait for the NFL preseason games to start. Hope springs eternal, right?
Then after two weeks of these exhibitions, year after year, I find myself saying, “Enough of these @*$&%# preseason games already! When is Sept. 10 getting here??”
This year I’ve decided to embrace the preseason. Rather than let its tedious nature grate on me for the month of August, I am choosing to look for some useful information. Of course, that is the biggest challenge...sifting through a sea of fourth-string punters to glean anything remotely constructive.
So here is a quick rundown of Thursday’s games and what I will be watching for in those contests. Once some of these games are played and I can get a better sample size of data, more questions (and hopefully answers) develop as we march toward September.
New England at Philadelphia
An obvious one: Is Tom Brady really going to play, and how is the knee responding?
Can OLB Shawn Crable translate his outstanding athletic ability into a legit NFL pass rusher?
(In my best Jerry Seinfeld voice) What’s the deal with the Patriots running game? Is Fred Taylor really their best guy, or will Laurence Maroney finally step up? Maybe someone else will emerge.
How many more injuries do the Eagles have to endure before even playing a down of an exhibition game? A few here and there are manageable, but it is the injury “clusters” that kill seasons.
There are a lot of interesting options for the Eagles in the return game: Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, and Quintin Demps to name a few. Field position is so important.
How quickly can the new additions of Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews mesh with their teammates in the trenches?
Washington at Baltimore
Can someone other than Clinton Portis do something on offense?
The Redskins have some guys past their prime on the offensive line, and I am curious to see if anyone can provide quality depth in case of injury.
Is Brian Orakpo the real deal as a pass rusher? Washington has averaged 27 sacks per year since 2005 and it is not good enough.
Does Baltimore have enough depth to chase Pittsburgh? The injury bug has bitten pretty hard here.
Has Willis McGahee declined so much that he could get cut by the Ravens?
My gut says rookies Michael Oher and Paul Kruger will make good pros, but I want my eyes to tell me that instead.
Arizona at Pittsburgh
I need to see if Matt Leinart is seriously competing with Brian St. Pierre for the backup job to Kurt Warner. If this is true, we can officially label Leinart a bust (if we haven’t already done so).
I have my reservations about Chris Wells (injury history and commitment), and I would like him to prove me wrong.
Even though sets tend to be vanilla in the preseason, I wonder what the Cardinals’ defensive identity is.
Was the Steeler offensive line really that bad, or was it a down year? Either way, it was good enough to win a title.
Lawrence Timmons is replacing a veteran leader, Larry Foote, at ILB. I expect this to be a rather seamless transition.
Is Limas Sweed going to fill the No. 3 receiver void left by Nate Washington’s defection to Tennessee? Rookie Mike Wallace should get a look there, too.
Dallas at Oakland
With all of the Terrell Owens/Jessica Simpson madness behind him, how will Tony Romo lead “his” team?
How has Felix Jones recovered from his hamstring injury, and is it possible the Cowboys go with a three-headed monster out of the backfield (Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice)?
How many constipated faces will Wade Phillips make on the sidelines (like the one in my intro)?
I want to see if Michael Bush can show everyone he is the first-round talent he was slated to be coming out of Louisville.
Will Jeff Garcia’s presence help or hinder JaMarcus Russell’s development?
I keep reading about how wonderful of a left tackle Mario Henderson is. If he is that good, he should dominate whoever lines up in front of him.
Remember, everyone is 0-0 on Sept. 10.