I recently made the decision to go ahead and be a professional about my reporting, so I decided to drop $20 for the NFL preseason live season pass. Money well spent. All preseason games in HD streamed to your computer without commercials and halftime shows. The only problem is, you have to wait 24 hours after the game ends to watch it. Which means that in my attempt to cover all the preseason games I have successfully written about two. I have four more on the way. It is a start.
The first, and the funniest, was the Patriots vs. Jaguars game. It was a screamer. If you are a Patriots fan, you will undoubtedly get that warm tingly feeling you always do before you get smacked out of the playoffs. 2007 is a long time ago. Aaron Hernandez can, and probably will go to the Pro Bowl this year. He has the size and the good hands. He also has Tom Brady throwing him the ball, which is why Chad Johnson, that’s right, Chad Johnson, will go to the Pro Bowl too.
The backups for New England are like two mutant children of Tom Brady, with Brian Hoyer having the “don’t throw a pick” mentality and Bradyesque sense of timing in the pocket. Ryan Mallett however, has an arm that puts most Pro bowl quarterbacks to shame. If he can comprehend the Patriots system, he has the physical traits to even outsling Brady.
Steven Ridley. LSU. SEC running backs go through things every Saturday that would make grown men beg for mercy. If you can run in the SEC, you can run in the NFL. It helps that Ridley has good hands. The scary thing about adding a guy like Ridley is that the Patriots have finally acquired the power running game that teams like the Jets and the Steelers live on.
You begin to notice things about the Patriots when you watch their preseason game. You begin to notice how good the system is, how exact the routes are, how their quarterbacks rarely have pockets or plays that break down.
Turning to the Jaguars: if Gabbert is going to survive in the NFL, that offensive line is going to have to hold up. With a third round rookie from Lehigh (Editor Note, I graduated from Lehigh and don’t appreciate this comment) on the line, that may not be possible. There is not that much depth and Gabbert is going to have to live off checkdowns to Mercedes Lewis and Maurice Jones Drew breaking 10 yard runs.
Realistically the Jaguars can go 8-8. The Jaguars have two rookie DB’s, and a lack of superstar talent anywhere. This may be the year that Maurice Jones Drew doesn’t make the Pro Bowl. There seems also to be a lack of discipline and or superstar talent throughout the linebacking core, which is odd considering Jack Del Rio was a star linebacker at USC.
EAGLES vs. RAVENS.: YING YANG TWINS
The Eagles and Ravens are stacked. Each team has 10 Pro Bowlers spread out on both sides of the ball. The Eagles, however, are not quite as substantive as their on paper wealth. Watching these teams matchup is like watching two equally strong men arm wrestle for 60 minutes. The Eagles have the pass. The Ravens have the run. The Ravens have the blitz. The Eagles have the zone.
Philadelphia will run the ball this year. The Eagles will make absurdly long pass plays off the success of the run. The only thing that scares me about the Eagles is their strange move to put their offensive line coach in a new role as the defensive coordinator. Even the announcers were questioning the move. I understand he’s got passion, but it takes years to understand the intricacies of an NFL defense. It’s no surprise that Rex Ryan’s success with the Jets took 10 years of assistant coaching jobs to create a number one defense. Mixing zone corners and man corners, pass rushers and run blockers, is not something that can be done with great success in the first year.
Oh yeah, and Casey Matthews is going to run the defense on the field. That’s right, a rookie linebacker. I understand the Matthews family has some sort of strange Thorlike knowledge and success in football but rookies don’t have the experience to run an NFL defense. The Eagles have the best corner trio in the league, the best D line, but they also have 3 rookie linebackers.
The changing of the guard is finally occuring for the Ravens. The secondary has 1st and 5th round rookies working alongside Ed Reed, who is probably on his last year as a Pro Bowl safety. The linebackers are getting up there and the D line has to live off the big plays of Haloti Ngata. If all goes well, the Ravens will march into the playoffs at 11 and 5.
CARDINALS VS. RAIDERS: WITHOUT HOPE, THERE IS NOTHING
Watching this game was not easy. The Raiders are a shell of their former psychopathic selves, though they have a D line that is respectable (and aging) by Oakland standards. Luckily their linebackers are young enough to make up for the age of the big men up front. Jason Campbell has enough pieces around him to run a balanced attack between Darren McFadden, Darius Heyward Bey and two rookie tight ends.
Apparently Kevin Kolb went out and made a few Pro Bowls, because that’s how people like to treat him nowadays. Big Andy can’t be wrong. No way. That mustache is truth incarnate.
I have a feeling Andy Reid pulled a fast one on Arizona. Kolb will not make the Pro Bowl, and Larry Fitzgerald will be the most underutilized great receiver of the last 10 years. The Cardinals are going to attempt to run the ball but Beanie Wells is not a top 10 running back and he will be out catching passes in the flat more than he will be running off tackle.
If the Cardinals attempt to win the NFC West, they will need big plays from their defense. Sam Acho will have to step up in his rookie year and David Carter will have to give relief to Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams.
I am not a betting man, but if I was, I would say the Cardinals would be lucky if they stole a wildcard slot for the playoffs, because the NFC West has a few teams on the rise. I’m talking to you Sam Bradford. I will not yet speak of Tarvaris Jackson.
The game itself was somewhat balanced, though if they were to meet in the regular season, I would take the Raiders by 10. They are the cool new team to root for. Especially because I never had the opportunity to see Al Davis pre electroshock therapy. Raiders go 9 and 7 and the doldrums set in once again.
BRONCOS VS COWBOYS: REDNECKS, TYCOONS, SKIERS AND HIPPIES
I am an unabashed fan of the Ryan brothers. I will watch them coach peewee football. I will even watch them eat. So will the Ryan defense be successful in Dallas?
Rob Ryan, as could be expected with two weeks of practice, had very little to show in his first preseason game. A Ryan defense takes months to build, experiment with and run properly. It’s the football equivalent of SKUNKWORKS. Luckily, Jerry Jones did not get all hot and bothered by the highly ranked offensive weapons in this year’s draft and gave Ryan a 5th round DB and a 2nd round linebacker. The real trick to this Dallas defense will be the pressure created by Marcus Spears and Jay Ratliff. The Cowboys do not have the corner talent to leave Jenkins and Newman on an island at all times, so Ryan will occasionally have rush two, three or four to keep their corners out of trouble against big time receivers.
The Broncos have somehow become the soap opera of the NFL. People HATE Tim Tebow. Merril Hoge must have been snuffed by Tebow at some point because he is on a mission to destroy any Tebow momentum. Perhaps Orton sent him a check. I always say a quarterback needs two full years in the NFL to be judged, so let’s see where we stand at the end of the season. This was one of the few games that went down to the wire. It had the feel of a rivalry begun anew, but it probably wont be, as the Cowboys seem to have genuine rivalries with the Redskins, Eagles and Giants. There is only so much rivalry hand. The Broncos have no hand.