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NFL Preseason: Changes That Carry Over Into September

   by Al McMordie - 09/28/2011

Week 4 of the preseason is on deck and that’s the time many coaches sit their starters the most, not caring about the game, trying to stay healthy. The preseason has given us insight into many changes that have taken place, as well as key injuries that will have an impact in September.

Speaking of injuries, what a tough preseason for the NY Giants. The secondary is ailing with CB Terrell Thomas (knee) done for the year, which puts a dagger through the heart of the Giants defense. It was a crushing blow as Thomas, 26, seemed primed for a huge year, coming off a breakthrough 2010 season in which he had five interceptions and 101 tackles. First-round pick CB Prince Amukamara broke a bone in his right foot in his second practice of training camp and will be out at least another month. Bruce Johnson, a valuable reserve, ruptured his Achilles tendon in camp, ending his season. After Thomas went down, another cornerback with a shot to make the team, Brian Witherspoon, was forced out with what he said is damage to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

So now the Giants only employ five healthy cornerbacks, looking for pick-ups this week. Pass rusher Osi Umenyiora’s right knee is undergoing an arthroscopic surgery procedure and his expected recovery time is approximately 3-4 weeks. On the field, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said he can compensate for Thomas’ absence until Amukamara comes back in October with the three-safety alignment the Giants used successfully as an occasional change-up last season.

The Bills have struggled in preseason and have all kinds of changes taking place. At least they found some offense in Week 3, putting up over 400 yards on the Jaguars. However, the offense still has a lot of problems. The inconsistent offensive has been in flux all preseason. Guard Levitre, who has started in all 32 consecutive games of his Bills career, was demoted to second team as Rinehart is playing left guard. It’s another signal that coach Chan Gailey is not pleased with the play on the offensive line.

And they don’t have any wide receivers! That is, they traded Lee Evans last week to the Ravens and injuries have decimated the depth this August. The Bills lost starting receiver Donald Jones to a head injury after he took a wicked hit and will miss some time. WR Naaman Roosevelt hurt his ankle and is out, while veterans Craig Davis (leg) and Roscoe Parrish (hamstring) are not 100%. Even the defense has been without first-round draft choice DT Marcell Dareus and three of the Bills projected starting linebackers — Shawne Merriman (leg soreness), Chris Kelsay (eye surgery) and Reggie Torbor have been hurting. By the way, Chan Gailey is just 4-12 ATS in preseason.

The Miami Dolphins have been a run-oriented team since Tony Sparano took over, but the offensive line is a work in progress and the backfield is all new after letting go of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. The Dolphins just added RB Larry Johnson, and worked out Clinton Portis and Tiki Barber. All of which means they are obviously not comfortable with their current RB situation, which has rookie Daniel Thomas behind Reggie Bush.

A couple of weeks ago, coach Sparano admitted he was "nervous" about the running back situation. Miami's running back corps delivered an unspectacular performance around the goal line on four first-and-goal runs against the Panthers, probably pushed the team over the edge. Even in a win at Atlanta, 28-23, the offense had just 263 total yards and averaged 2.3 yards per rush.

A young team to watch closely in September is Tampa Bay, particularly their defense. In the win over KC, the Buccaneers unleashed a relentless pass rush, sacking Kansas City QBs 6 times as rookie defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers made their pro debuts. Tampa Bay posted only 26 sacks last season, prompting the Bucs to choose Clayborn and Bowers with their first two draft picks. On the down side, Corey Wootton recently had arthroscopic surgery to repair some cartilage damage in his right knee and won’t be back until mid-September, Vernon Gholston, Mario Addison and Nick Reed have all gotten turns but none has been impressive.

And when is Kansas City going to win a preseason game? The rebuilding Chiefs are 1-10 SU, 0-11 ATS in preseason while averaging 14 ppg (9-2 under the total). They were uncompetitive in Friday’s 14-10 loss to St. Louis at Arrowhead Stadium. Remember: You can win just as well going AGAINST certain teams/coaches as you can looking for spots to wager ON a particular team, even in August. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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