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Recapping Preseason Action

   by Bryan Leonard - 08/06/2008

One of the important things about analyzing preseason football is the amount of changes that crop up from year to year. This is essential for bettors as many teams have made changes and won’t look the same. We saw this a year ago when Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio totally revamped his offensive philosophy by bringing in pass-happy offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The Jags were a better team to look at over the total all season, and that included exhibition games.

Sunday’s Hall of Fame game provided a stark contrast in changes. First off, the Colts didn’t change much at all. Tony Dungy is a player’s coach and has a reputation for taking it easy on his veteran players during preseason. He isn’t interested in winning and losing, but keeping starters healthy and getting a good long look at young athletes to develop depth.

The Colts are 2-11 SU/ATS their last 13 preseason games after the Redskins ran away with a late win. The Colts run defense was bludgeoned as they went with the kids, worked on schemes, giving up 156 rushing yards. Indy got long looks at QBs Quinn Gray and Jared Lorenzen, who only recently joined the team, plus rookie running back Mike Hart picking up 53 yards on just four carries.

Mistakes proved costly. Rookie backup center Jamie Richard whistled a shotgun snap over the head of Gray and out of the end zone for a safety, and Kelvin Hayden's holding penalty nullified T.J. Rushing's 67-yard punt return for a touchdown. In the closing minutes, Matterral Richardson intercepted a Lorenzen pass and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. 'The team that doesn't beat themselves has the best chance to win,' Dungy said. It was the fourth consecutive preseason-opening loss for the Colts, and their 13th in their past 15 preseason games overall.

Secondly, the Redskins looked very different from a year ago. Washington hasn’t been known as an explosive offense the last two seasons under Joe Gibbs, ranking 20th and 15th in total offense. However, they have a new coach this season in Jim Zorn – and a different offensive philosophy. Washington was wide-open offensively, throwing off play-action, running during passing situations and looking deep downfield often. Quarterbacks Jason Campbell, Todd Collins and Colt Brennan completed 19-of-22 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns.

The team appeared to have more interest in the game, as if they wanted to win one for the new coach. The main point, though, was that the offense took a more aggressive, attacking approach. That’s something to look for the rest of the preseason. Their approach also was the main reason the game sailed way over the total.

Zorn has maintained a demeanor of cool confidence, despite a lack of head coaching experience, while replacing a legend, Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs. Zorn is Daniel Snyder's sixth coach since 2000, so there is something to prove, even in August. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Redskins continue to try and put up points in preseason. Whether this translates into September success is unknown. After all, another Redskin coach, Steve Spurrier, dazzled on offense in preseason, as if to make a point, then his offense went bust when the games were for real.

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