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Seven Things Learned From NFL Preseason Week 2
by Hollywood Sports - 08/27/2009
The second week of the NFL preseason saw three developments (Jets, Vikings and Broncos) that continued to fuel some of our week one sentiments while one item (Eagles) worked against one of our assessments. And with little surprise, the Raiders refused to remain static. Lets get to it with seven things we (may have) learned last week in the NFL.
1. Mark Sanchez looked awful on the road against Baltimore. We were not sold on his week one performance and it showed in his first professional road game. Watching the game, he looked scared on the sidelines waiting for the game to start. He appeared stoic but in a “deer in the headlights” manner rather then a “poised and ready” pose. This perception was confirmed with Sanchez’s first pass that was intercepted and returned for a TD. Later, Sanchez brushed this off by proclaiming that the D-Lineman, Haloti Ngata, just made a good play. Said Sanchez: “I was checking it down to the flat, perfect. Haloti just jumped right in front of the ball and made a really athletic play.” Yes, Ngata holding on to the ball that was practically handed off to him was one heckuva play! And, yes, Mark, you checked that play off so well that you "no-looked" passed the ball into Ngata’s gut. Sanchez missed his first four passing attempts before finishing 3-8 for 43 yards. He threw another ball into Ray Lewis' hands that should have also been picked off. He produced two delay of game penalties. He had "happy feet" when dropping back to pass. He did not look confident or commanding in the pocket. In his last drive, the Jets were bailed out twice by 3rd-and-long run plays by Leon Washington. Then, Washington got open on a slant route where Sanchez was then able to manage to connect with him for a touchdown. Sanchez's footwork was still awkward for that pass yet this play was heralded as an incredible effort given his ability to throw a completed forward pass to an open receiver for 18 yards. Cue ESPN to bow at the feet of Sanchez. The ESPN announcers all gushed. This one positive play wiped away one and a half quarters of terrible, unprofessional quarterbacking. And what worries us the most is that Sanchez is competing with his ESPN cheerleaders in being his own biggest fan. Here is how Sanchez graded himself: "If I would've tanked after the pick, that would've been a real missed opportunity ... That would've been making a mistake a tragedy ... So I don't think it was a lost opportunity. It was a good way to see how I'm going to react to a little adversity." Wow. How soon before Sanchez quotes T.O. and starts proclaiming how much he "loves me some me?" Sanchez's reluctance to accept some responsibility for playing bad does not bode well for his long-term leadership skills. We fear that he may be faking it out there completely which would not be out of the range of possibilities given that he only played one year as a starter at USC. Obviously, we are not sold. However, how was this shaky performance rewarded? Coach Rex Ryan named him the starter two days later. And ESPN smiled and lauded the decision. We love it too ... but for much different reasons. Fading Sanchez and the Jets may offer some very nice opportunities this year. New York Jets stock: DOWN.
2. Speaking of overrated quarterbacks, Brett Favre was thoroughly unimpressive in his debut for the Vikings. Favre was 1-4 for four yards. OK, sure, Favre was thrown into duty after just two days of practice. But what compounds the problem is that Tavaris Jackson had an outstanding game. He was 12-15 for 202 yards, two TD passes and a perfect QB rating of 158.3. This is on the heels of Sage Rosenfels strong game last week.Maybe Favre would have played better if he had attended a day of training camp? Maybe the 39-year old with a bum shoulder will be able to get it all together in two weeks? Now there are reports coming out of Minnesota that Favre does not have much support in the Vikings locker room. The only thing surprising about this is that it only took a week for these rumblings to begin. The Vikings team cohesion is in serious trouble. If Favre is not dominant, there will be whispers that he is not the right man for the job. Minnesota Vikings stock: DOWN.
3. There are two rookie coaches in the NFL 33 years old or younger. One is Josh McDaniels in Denver. Do you know who the other one is? Its Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay. If you did not know that, it may be because Morris has overseen a professional transition into his tenure. McDaniels is conducting a circus. The Jay Cutler situation has been discussed by many. However, McDaniels is handling Brandon Marshall in a similar way. Granted, Marshall wants to be traded. But part of this discontent has arisen because of McDaniels. When Marshall finally reported to camp to avoid fines for not reporting, it was suggested that he had a hamstring injury to rationalize why he was not practicing. But McDaniels' policy for not discussing injuries raised some red flags about the veracity of this alleged injury. Then on August 19th, Marshall returned to practice but only on the practice squad. The practice squad? Since then, Marshall is practicing with the real team. McDaniels says Marshall will not be a distraction ... but Marshall remains a distraction as he is yet another disgruntled star Bronco. McDaniels continues to exhibit little to suggest he can handle the CEO aspects of coaching in the NFL. And, the Broncos lost to the Seahawks last week by a 27-13 score making them 0-2 in the preseason. Denver Broncos stock: DOWN.
4. Last week, we lauded the Raiders' offensive rushing attack. However, can the Raiders defense do anything to stop the run? Oakland has had the worst rushing defense in the NFL over the last six seasons. Then, against the 49ers last week, they allowed 275 rushing yards on 47 carries which translates into a 5.9 yards per attempt average. Sure, San Fran has a great back in Frank Gore. But Gore only had 7 yards on two attempts. Ouch. Oakland Raiders stock: DOWN.
5. The Eagles must come to grips with the fact that they have offensive line problems. In the offseason, they did not resign neither of their veteran tackles, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. Their new projected starting offensive line have not practiced even a down together due to a rash of injuries. Philly acquired All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters from Buffalo but he is out with a quad injury. Left guard Todd Herraman has a stress reaction in his foot and may be able to play by the first regular season game. Newly acquired Stacy Andrews has an ACL problem and has yet to play. His brother, Shane, injured his back early in training camp and has not practiced since. In all, the Eagles will have new faces at both tackle positions. This group needs time to work together. It looks like this will only happen in the regular season. And, of course, this also assumes that they all can overcome their injuries. This is not a good sign for the Eagles that the O-Line is in such disarray. Philadelphia Eagles stock: DOWN.
6. Jacksonville has serious problems at wide receiver. The top wideout appears to be Torry Holt who was acquired from the Rams. But Holt really seemed to have lost a step (or two) last season in St. Louis as evidenced by his dramatic drop off in statistics (64 receptions, 796 yards, 3 TDs). Holt is a few years removed from being a #1 WR. The other starting WR appears to be the lone veteran Jaguars wideout on the club in Mike Walker. Walker had 16 receptions for 217 yards and no TDs. Walker is a former 3rd round draft pick out of Central Florida. It is true that receivers ending their third season usually are experience their biggest rise in their level of play. However, Walker still has a lot to prove -- especially if standing across an aging Holt. Right now, Walker is injured. Anticipating these problems, the Jaguars drafted three rookie wideouts in Mike Thomas (4th round pick out of Arizona), Jarett Dillard (5th round pick out of Rice) and Tiquan Underwood (7th round pick out of Rutgers). Rookie wide receivers struggle to be very effective in their first year. The Jags do also have former first-round draft choice Troy Williamson who fizzled for the Vikings. Williamson has great speed but struggled in the other aspects of the position in Minnesota. QB David Garrard has completed two long passes to Williamson for 135 yards so far in the preseason. However, Garrard has only 103 more passing yards to the remaining WR corps. This is not an encouraging group of receivers. Jacksonville Jaguars stock: DOWN.
7. Tennessee already has a great running game with the "Smash and Dash" combo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White. They may have a third back that will require touches in the regular season with their 5th round draft pick in Javon Ringer out of Michigan State. The Titans are seeing fantastic production from Ringer so far this preseason with his 16 carries for 98 yards. His productivity should not be a surprise as he led the Big Ten in rushing last season. Many were surprised that he fell into the 5th round. At 5-9, Ringer is a smaller back who becomes a slipper runner between the gaps. This offers Tennessee yet another different styled rusher than Johnson or White. It could become very interesting for the Titans' offense. Tennessee Titans stock: UP.
The third week in the NFL typically sees the starting units on both sides of the ball get the most reps out of all the preseason games. There should be some interesting discoveries this weekend as we get our best look at how these NFL teams are shaping up for the regular season. Until next week ... best of luck for us -- Frank.