Week 2 of the preseason is done and I was reminded once again how not having OTAs and a shortened training camp really has made the play sloppy. I try to watch as many games as possible but I also read the AP recaps and the word I read time and time again was sloppy. Sloppy play, sloppy penalties, sloppy secon...hold on, that's something else. Anyways, here are just a few observations from week 2 of the preseason, as if you didn't know that already since that's the title of the story.
Should Manning have courted Burress?
Eli Manning has already lost two big targets this offseason when Kevin Boss and Steve Smith left in free agency, but if Plaxico "who put a gun in my pants" Burress continues to play like he did against the Bengals, than Manning might have second thoughts about making zero effort to reach out to him. At the very least he could have asked to be a friend on his Facebook page. Burress had 3 catches for 66 yards, including a highlight reel over the shoulder touchdown, while Manning was a very pedestrian 8 of 16 for 78 yards. On their first two drives they couldn't even manage a first down, and their first touchdown came on an 18 yard touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs that came after a Devin Thomas 73 yard kickoff return. True, the Giants crushed the Bears in a 41-13 victory, but that was thanks to their bruising run game that pounded out 218 yards on 27 carries, a smothering defense that didn't allow a touchdown until the very end of the game, and great special teams play. Actually, now that I think about it, that doesn't sound that bad.
They're beatable after all
No team has gotten more hype this season than the Philadelphia Eagles and for good reason. They've been bringing in so many high profile free agents people are already comparing them to the Miami Heat. All that's missing is for Michael Vick, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Jason Babin to go out on a rock concert stage acting like the rest of the team is unimportant while an announcer is wailing over the speakers like it's the WWE.
But just like the Heat had their struggles early on, the Eagles looked downright horrible in their 24-14 loss to the Steelers. And it wasn't even that close. Vick completed only 5 of 12 passes for 47 yards and 3 interceptions, while Vince Young followed that up completing only 5 of his 8 passes for 34 yards and an interception of his own. In fact, the only Eagles quarterback that did look good was Mike "why am I being arrested" Kafka who completed 14 of 19 passes for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns. Undoubtedly it's all part of some master plan to pump up Kafka's value so they can trade him later to a quarterback starved team for a second round draft pick.
Yet the Eagles weren't the only team to do a complete 180 from last week. After playing almost perfectly in a 25-0 thrashing of the Chiefs, the Buccaneers suddenly looked like the Bengals in a 31-14 drubbing at the hands of the Patriots. Josh Freeman, who was supposed to take the next step into quarterback superstardom this season, managed only 33 yards passing while leading the offense to only 73 total yards and four first downs in the first half of a game that saw the Patriots jump out to a commanding 28-0 lead.
Luckily the owners still collected full ticket price from every Bucs fan that was unfortunate enough to watch this train wreck in person. But after the game the players weren't down on themselves. Afterwards, defensive lineman Gerald McCoy said, "We needed a game like this." Really? You needed to get smacked around like you were a kid having your lunch money stolen by a bully. How does that help exactly? Oh well, I guess we all lie to ourselves sometimes to make ourselves feel better.
Running back wanted
Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt has a clear idea of what he'd like from his team. He wants a strong defense, a power running game, and a quarterback that will manage the game and not make stupid decisions much like what he had when he was an assistant coach with the Steelers. And when I say "stupid decisions" I mean on the football field not off the field during some frat party road trip named Ben-a-palooza. Is Kevin-a-palooza coming to a bar near you? So it's not surprising they chose running back Beanie "baby" Wells in the first round a few years back, and when he wasn't living up to his potential, they chose running back Ryan Williams in the second round this year. Throw in Tim Hightower who was also in the fold and that gave them three solid options. But as the old adage says, "Two's company but three's one more than two which usually leaves someone feeling awkward." As a result, Hightower was traded to the Redskins for defensive end Vonnie Holliday and one of those cool fans that also mist water in your face.
Since there's only one ball that makes a certain amount of sense unless one of them were to get injured which is exactly what happened in their game against the Packers. Williams tore his Patellar Tendon and is now done for the year. That leaves Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling who has 128 yards rushing in his two year career and is more of a special teams player, and Alfonso Smith who spent all of last season on the practice squad. Plus there's the fact Wells came out of college with a history of injury problems and continued that trend last year by missing the first two games of the season and most of two games later in the year when he was banged up again. Maybe Wells will prove he can handle the load at running back this season. Then again, maybe the Middle East will suddenly become a land of peace and brotherly love where people love democracy and strip malls.
Who's the starter in Carolina?
In a 20-10 loss to the Dolphins, first overall pick Cam Newton looked very mediocre as he completed only 7 of his 14 passes for 66 yards and looked every bit the rookie he is. Meanwhile, Jimmy Clausen looked equally mediocre, completing 9 of 15 throws for 69 yards looking like...well, Jimmy Clausen. The only good play from the quarterback position in the game came from the Dolphins Chad Henne who, thanks to the Panthers defense, looked like Peyton Manning. I guess their defense has that effect on quarterbacks.
Head coach Ron Rivera wants to name the starter before their next game so they can go into it acting like it's a real game. Considering neither Newton nor Clausen has done anything to distinguish themselves I'm guessing he'll go with Newton since he seems to have more upside. He just better hope one of his quarterbacks begins to play better than they did against the Dolphins where he had this to say of their play, "They were efficient at best," which is a little bit like asking if the girl you're about to go on a blind date with is attractive and being told she has a nice personality.
Newton isn't the only rookie QB struggling
Here are the stat lines for the six quarterbacks chosen in the first two rounds of the draft:
Completions/attempts, yards, TD, interceptions
Cam Newton 7/14, 66, 0, 0
Jake Locker 8/18, 82, 0, 1
Christian Ponder 6/12, 63, 0, 0
Blain Gabbert 11/23, 96, 0, 0
Andy Dalton 8/19, 86, 0, 2
Colin Kaepernick 6/8, 52, 0, 0
Between the six they managed 0 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, with no one passing for over 100 yards and only Kaepernick completing more than half his passes. Obviously it's way too early to really tell if any of them will turn into stars or even solid starters, and no doubt having an abbreviated training camp hurt with their ability to catch up with the faster speed of the game at the NFL level and to learn and feel comfortable with their reads and timing. Still, it surprises me that none of them have been able to put a solid game together. Of course I'm surprised MLS is still around, so maybe I shouldn't be.
Maybe Shanahan was right
Remember during the draft when the Redskins passed on all the top quarterbacks and everyone wondered why? Then remember when Mike Shanahan told reporters he thought John Beck could be the starter? Then remember when you laughed so hard when you read that in the morning, milk actually came out your nose? Well it turns out he might have been right afterall. Beck didn't do anything that would show up in Sports Centers top 10, but he was a very efficient 14 of 17 for 140 yards in the Redskins 16-7 victory over the Colts. And really, that's all Shanahan wants out of a quarterback. He wants to pound the ball with his running backs and have the quarterback manage the game and not make any mistakes, and at least for one game, Beck proved he can do that. He came into the preseason with a slight edge over Rex Grossman for the starting job and it seems that margin has only grown after this game. Besides, the Redskins already know what they have in Grossman (for more on Grossman see McWagner's comment down below). Why not find out what Beck can do? After all, Shanahan already saw success with one Mormon quarterback in Steve Young, why not try again? Plus, with Mitt Romney running for president and the Book of Mormon play so popular on Broadway, going Mormon seems to be in vogue.