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NFL Preseason Notes

   by Larry Ness - 08/08/2007

Preseason football is about coaches evaluating players and backup players fighting for jobs. The starters generally know who they are and that they’re guaranteed a roster spot. It’s the depth that has to be decided and many backups are fighting for a roster spot or the unemployment line – that’s some motivation!



A few teams don’t even know who their No. 1 quarterback is going to be, which is another factor to focus on in August. The Raiders have a hodgepodge behind center, with Andrew Walter, newcomer Daunte Culpepper and No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell, who is still contract squabbling. The Browns, too, have Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson, neither of whom has practiced well.



And into this mix next week will step rookie Brady Quinn, who held out for a bigger contract because HE thought he should have been drafted in the Top 10 instead of No. 22. Message to Brady: Wake up. You’re the only one who thought you should have been drafted in the Top 10. Get on the field and earn it, much like another QB named Brady. Pats QB Tom Brady was drafted 199, in the fifth round!



Here’s a look at some quarterbacks who have quietly impressed in preseason camp. One is Detroit Lions backup J.T. O'Sullivan, a 6-year veteran who has a lot of preseason time on his resume. In fact, he took the majority of the snaps in practice this week and split time with the No. 1 offense. This doesn’t mean O’Sullivan is going to make a charge at Jon Kitna as the No. 1 QB, although that’s possible, but it is important for bettors to look at. Starters aren’t going to play much in the first two weeks of preseason, but guys like O’Sullivan will be.



It’s essential to keep tabs on backups who are having great camps. Kansas City coach Herm Edwards said Brodie Croyle is playing well. "Brodie's going to get more snaps in the preseason," Edwards said this week. "Because he's a young quarterback and Damon Huard’s a veteran. He doesn't need as many snaps."



Also note that Edwards said this weekend's preseason game at Cleveland isn't affecting how he and his coaches run practice. "We're preparing for the opener against Houston," he said. "The first preseason game is generally vanilla. The young guys will play a lot. We might game plan a little toward the end of the preseason."



Bills starter J.P. Losman has been very impressive in camp, along with Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub, the former backup who is now No. 1. It’s important to get good reviews on players in practice, especially QBs, to see how they are meshing with their teammates. Contrast that with the Browns and Vikings, who have gotten poor QB play in preseason practice.



New coaches, too, can change how a team prepares and plays. Bobby Petrino is the new head coach in Atlanta, coming over from Louisville. Reports are that the attitude in camp is series, like a business. Petrino released WR Fred Gibson three days into training camp sent a warning that there is no tolerance for not doing things the right way. That got players attention!



In New Orleans, the Saints are treating Friday's second preseason game as a traditional preseason opener, playing their starters for about one quarter. They played poorly in losing the Hall of Fame Game to Pittsburgh and the coaching staff wasn’t happy. Saints Coach Sean Payton said, "I thought we were sloppy, sluggish. I thought they were more physical than us."



Payton then pushed his team harder in practice this week. Instead of following the schedule, which called for a morning walk-through, the Saints were in full pads for a full-length practice. "I just think we all felt as a whole that we needed a good week of practice this week," said Payton. That’s a sign that he’s treating the upcoming game with greater importance than coaches normally do in preseason, one of the many signs handicappers are on the lookout for.



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