Preseason is in full swing and it’s time for all the drama that surrounds it. You’ll hear about players who light up 3rd stringers and what it means for how great they’ll be during the regular season. There will be manufactured controversy. Don’t forget training camp fights and what they mean, other than 2 competitive guys are hitting each other a lot and sometimes it goes beyond the whistle.
The main thing you get from preseason is overreaction to play on the field. NFL schemes are highly complex and involve very meticulous details. In the preseason, teams go vanilla. They don’t show their whole playbook. You’ll see teams run very basic plays that are more meant to analyze individual performance than to produce the overall results. Do they want to do well? Of course. But it’s more valuable to find out if your new LB can diagnose coverage than to prevent a score. You want to see how players handle certain situations. Teams will also experiment with lineups and packages to gauge results. If a package fails, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s OK to screw up something in the preseason if you learn from it. That’s why it’s there. If a team like the Eagles learns that Jaiquawn Jarrett needs a lot of work, it’s better that you see that in a preseason game than Week 4. The preseason helps you separate the men from the boys. A guy could look good in practice because he’s seen the same plays all summer. If he suddenly struggles against another team because he can’t diagnose plays correctly, you’ve found a problem you didn’t see in practice. You’ll also find the opposite, guys who aren’t great in practice, but put them in a game and they thrive. Some guys are just gamers.
I want to go over a few things I saw during the first full batch of preseason games and tell you what I think it really means. Not a “Holy crap Andrew Luck threw a screen pass for a 60 yard touchdown he’s a God!!!” or “Aaron Rodgers is due for a huge let down after a rough preseason game.” A real, what do I see kind of analysis that isn’t emotional overreaction like Mike Florio lives on.
I’ll start with QB battles. We had 2 teams with an open QB competition play on Saturday when Tennessee and Seattle faced off. Seattle has allegedly had a 3 way QB competition but I don’t think anyone believes Tarvaris Jackson has a shot at the job. In Tennessee, it’s the classic veteran vs. hot shot youngin’ with Matt Hasselbeck vs. Jake Locker. Hasselbeck didn’t do himself any favors with 2 interceptions, one of which was his first throw and it was taken back for 6.
The good news for Hasselbeck is that Locker is still showing the accuracy questions that he came out of college with. No one can deny Locker’s athletic ability and arm strength. But until he improves his accuracy considerably, I think Hasselbeck has the edge as long as the Titans are in the playoff hunt and he cuts down on the mistakes. Locker would probably be the starter on a team without legitimate playoff aspirations so he can learn on Sundays instead of Mondays.
I will say that Locker had an impressive 2 minute drill in his first preseason matchup and some people are saying that Locker has taken the lead, mostly due to mistakes in practice by Hasselbeck, like his 2nd interception against the Seahawks. If Hasselbeck does have 2 or 3 more preseason games like he did on Saturday, Locker might just get the job. A veteran who makes mistakes is a veteran on the bench. This one could get fun.
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In Seattle, it’s a bit more interesting because both options are potential long term starters and no matter who wins this year, it could pour into 2013 and beyond. Seattle signed Matt Flynn in the offseason to “compete” with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job, but most assumed it was Flynn’s job to lose. Seattle then made a surprising draft selection when they took Russell Wilson in the 3rd round. Wilson is a talented QB who probably would have been a 1st rounder if he were 6’3” instead of his published 5’11”. All reports out of camp say that Wilson has looked great and his preseason debut was noteworthy as well. The ability to make plays with his feet separates Wilson from Flynn, as he demonstrated with a 32 yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter. Granted, it was against guys who probably won’t be around in a few weeks, but it was still an impressive play. He also added a 39 yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards that he didn’t drop. A QB who throws a ball Edwards doesn’t drop is an impressive accomplishment. Of course, I say that tongue in cheek, Edwards just doesn’t like catching the ball sometimes.
It’s still Flynn’s job to lose though, but don’t be surprised if Russell Wilson finds a way on to the field. Flynn has looked like the solid, accurate pocket passer he is. If Sidney Rice can get healthy and TO serves popcorn only on the field, Flynn will have some talented options to throw to. That doesn’t even include 2nd year slot guy Doug Baldwin and former Notre Dame star Golden Tate. Don’t rule out the occasional Russell Wilson sighting though. Pete Carroll always finds a way to put talented players on the field and Wilson gives them options Flynn can’t. Heck, if Flynn struggles, don’t be surprised if Wilson makes his way onto the field for an extended look.
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There is one team in which I think the preseason reactions are correct, as long as that reaction is panic. Arizona is in trouble at QB. I’ve been a Kevin Kolb fan ever since he got a chance to start a few games in Philly and I think it’s about time to give up on that. At a certain point, you have to stop saying “he just needs a little more time.” Sure, Kolb has to deal with an awful offensive line and an inconsistent running game. That still doesn’t explain how awful he has looked last season and during his 2 preseason games.
I think Kolb now suffers from David Carr Syndrome, aka the QB version of PTSD. The Syndrome is named after Carr due to a pathetic OL and slow decision making during his time in Houston, which led to NFL records for times sacked. Heck, Carr set the NFL record for fumble recoveries in a single season after he recovered 12 of his own fumbles. To simplify the condition, it means a QB has been beaten repeatedly, suffered injuries, been banged up, and consistently unable to throw in the pocket due to poor OL play or his own mistakes. This leads to happy feet in the pocket, jitters, and too many mistakes in the face of pressure. Just look at Kolb’s 2 preseason games so far and you see a player make awful decisions with pressure or he’ll make decisions too quickly, anticipating pressure that isn’t there.
The Cardinals better hope John Skelton is the answer or else you’ll see them drafting very high in 2013 and thinking about a QB. Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt is on the hot seat and if Skelton can’t get it done, he’ll be job hunting along with Kolb. I highly recommend St. Louis Rams fans study David Carr Syndrome, because it has ruined many talented QBs and Sam Bradford could be next.
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Speaking of ruined players, happy trails Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson. I understand that domestic violence is out of character for you and that off the field you’ve never had an issue. Still, you’re playing for a head coach who wants to run a tight ship and he can’t let something like this slide. All reports say you were on a one strike policy and you got arrested for head-butting your wife. That’s a strike.
I will say that anyone who criticizes the Dolphins for taking a risk on Chad doesn’t get it. The Dolphins paid Ochoheadbutt a $0 signing bonus. They are on the hook for $0 in 2012 salary. All they’ve paid him is the training camp stipend which everyone gets, including the backup punter who’s just there to share some reps and hopefully get noticed by someone else. This was a no-risk high-reward proposition. The absolute worst case scenario for the Dolphins was he did something stupid after Week 1 and they were on the hook for the minimal $925,000 salary (I wish my boss said they were giving me a minimal raise to $925k). The $925k is less than 1% of the salary cap. If Chad looks like the Chad of old, they got a bargain. If not, sure they’re in the news for a week or so and then it will all blow over. It’s good that it happened now because once the regular season starts, no one will care anymore.
-Ryan Matthews says he’ll be ready for the season opener. I hope so. He has had awful luck with his health and I really hope he can stay healthy for 16 games this season.
-Remember this name: Colin Kaepernick. No, I’m not saying this because of his big run on a read option. I’m saying this because more people are aware of who he is. Kaepernick played in a pistol offense in college (pistol is shortened version of the shotgun, with the RB behind the QB instead of next to him) and needed a year or two to get acclimated. If Alex Smith struggles, don’t be surprised to see Kapernick play a little bit. All of the talent is there. I’ve been a fan of his since I saw a few games during his senior year at Nevada and if he gets a chance, he might be a starter in 2013.
-If reports out of Cleveland are true, Josh Gordon is going to look like a steal for the 2013 2nd round pick they spent on him. I don’t really believe them, but like I’ve said, if Weeden is good enough, the Browns could be .500 this year. (Ed. Note – zero chance)
-I never thought I would miss the 2011 crop of NFL officials. Boy was I wrong. I’m not going to waste my time talking about how bad they were, but the NFL has a PR nightmare on their hands.
-Speaking of PR nightmares, no matter what happens with the Vilma lawsuit against the NFL, Roger Goodell has already lost. The judge overseeing the trial said if she has any way to overturn the suspension, she will. The question is whether or not she has the legal authority to do it. What it seems like to me is Goodell found good evidence that the bounty program existed and came down hard on the culprits. When the evidence wasn’t as solid as he thought, he dug in his heels and stood his ground quite stubbornly. This fiasco is going to end with the NFL losing credibility and Goodell any respect players may have had left for him. It’s a shame, because I like his overall vision for the NFL, but a mistake like this will cost him.
-Lee Evans, the last thing you did during an NFL game that counted was drop a game winning touchdown in the AFC Championship game. No matter what you did in your NFL career, that’s what everyone will remember you by. If you couldn’t cut it in Jacksonville, you’re done. Best of luck.
-The Olympics are over. I suffered from Olympic fatigue after about a week. I understand why there are so many events, but after a week I simply stopped caring about anything but the results.
-I’d like to congratulate the 2012 Dream Team for showing the world whether or not they were better than the 1992 Dream Team in the Gold Medal game. I’ll give you a hint, they weren’t.
-A huge amount of credit to @howardmuddfacts on twitter for his “feud” with Eagles OG Evan Mathis yesterday. That was some high quality entertainment that had numerous players on the Eagles cracking up. I highly recommend you follow