There are too many preseason games for any sane man to cover, so I cut my losses with week one and moved on. Week 2 was a beauty, with the first game of the week putting cutting power through the gaudy neon green DREAM TEAM sign in Philadelphia. Michael Vick threw 3 interceptions and was demoralized by the Steelers defense, who quickly made work of Vince Young as well. That is not good for Vick, considering Big Andy might have the wild idea to give Vince Young a shot at the starting job if all is not well in the regular season.
I will again reiterate my lack of faith in the new Eagles defensive scheme, which seems to have no real leader (Casey Matthews is a rookie) and will be beat by any quarterback with a few years under his belt. . Asante Samuel looked uncomfortable, Rodgers-Cromartie is now a cheap imitation of Charles Woodson. Nnamdi Asomugha made a mistake looking for a team that had no plan defensively. He will come to rue the day he didn’t go to either Houston (Wade Phillips), Dallas (Rob Ryan) or New York (Rex Ryan).
The Steelers are the team everyone in the NFC will be tested against this year. They are the most substantive and best coached run defense in the NFL. The Jets are a close second. Though the Steelers line and linebacking core seems to be on it’s last legs with guys like Harrison, Farrier and Smith all getting into the upper 30’s, there are a few bright spots like Ziggy Hood, Lawrence Timmons and Lamarr Woodley showing that the yellow and black will live on in good hands.
Rashard Mendenhall, at 24, has become one of the best running backs in the AFC. He has balance and agility that makes Chris Johnson look one dimensional. He has spun out of hundreds of tackles with the grace of a ballet dancer. As usual, the Steelers offense will be a strange mix of power running, go routes, and improvisational scrambles that usually results in touchdowns.
Game 2 (Week 1 Overrun) – Bengals Vs. Lions
Andy Dalton has a tough road ahead. He is in a division that is going to bruise him like Brett Favre at an early age. There will be no mercy for the Mike Brown Bengals. They are going right for the throat. Clint Boling and Andre Smith better play like Pro Bowlers, because Andy Dalton is going to need someone to stop the onslaught of defensive lineman coming to break him in half on 3rd down.
The frustrating thing for a guy like AJ Green is that he will be left standing halfway down the field for most of the game wondering where the ball went. Things are going to get especially frustrating if the Bengals lose Dalton to injury. Luckily there is a guy that is already in Green’s position, and that is Jermaine Gresham, who some team will pick up down the road and turn into a 3 time Pro Bowler.
Matthew Stafford has the set of weapons around him to win the division. Jahvid Best has some much needed experience, Calvin Johnson is a physical specimen with great hands, and Brandon Pettigrew can bail Stafford out of most double-teams to Johnson. If Stafford doesn’t lose his arm completely, he will be able to finally grab this team a wild card spot in the playoffs, which will be like a Super Bowl to Detroit fans.
Silver Crush. That’s the fun of being a Lions fan. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh making 30 year old offensive lineman look slow and fat. Sadly, we have yet to see the Silver Crush at full force, which consists of Fairley, Jackson, Suh and Vanden Bosch as the front four. The Lions have little to no help between linebacker and secondary, so that front four will have to be the best in the league to keep opposing teams out of the end zone. Will it be a thug defense? Maybe, but most street fights put the WWE to shame.
Game 3 – Patriots vs. Buccaneers
Bill Belichick does not mean to embarrass. He has created a system by which to expose every weak facet of an opposing defense, and for the Buccaneers that is their youth. Trying to lineup and call the right plays against a team like the Patriots requires weeks of preparation and practice. (Gerald McCoy actually requested a gentleman’s timeout during the game). The Buccaneers did not have that sort of time. They had a week, and even then they were still trying to actually implement the defense while simultaneously getting ready for the league’s most productive offense.
The Buccaneers secondary is going to have to tighten up if they want to hang in the NFC South. Ronde Barber will have to coach up his two rookies in Ahmad Black and Anthony Gaitor if this team is going to successfully utilize that highly touted front three (Bowers, Clayborn, McCoy).
The Patriots are starting to look closer and closer to the thing most Jet fans fear. Stevan Ridley is a legitimate running back, Aaron Hernandez becomes larger and faster everyday, and Wes Welker will again find the holes you thought your defense didn’t have. The other terrifying about the Patriots? Give defensive lineman who are 1st round picks, with 7 Pro Bowls between three of them.
Oh yes, I completely forgot about the Jets week one game. There was a Jets game last week and it was eerily reminiscent to the Ravens game last year. What looked different? Jeremy Kerley, who makes DeSean Jackson look big. If Kerley is going to be a receiver in the NFL, he needs to fill out that frame, because 6’2 corners are going to do work on him. Kenrick Ellis looked good, and Vlad Ducasse looks like the Jets version of Joba Chamberlain. He has the physical traits, I just have my doubts about this experiment to switch him through all line positions without a second year of OTA’s under his belt.
Greg McElroy showed what he needed to for a 7th round rookie quarterback. He is physically disadvantaged, but with good receivers, a good running game, and one of the best offensive lines in the league, he can rest easy knowing all he has to do in the event of a Sanchez injury is make the right reads, let the run game go, and not turn the ball over.
To his credit, McElroy showed how incredibly smart he is , after being given some time to think about the opposing defense and huddle with Mark Sanchez, he was able to engineer a game winning drive that was halted only by a dropped ball in the endzone. For a quarterback who was only supposed to play a quarter or two, McElroy played three and looked good for two of them.