In another month most of my attention will be applied to NFL Prospects as they wind up their final collegiate season. But while we wait for the season to start, I thought I’d drop some observations based on Rookies in NFL pre-season games.
JAMES BRADBERRY/CB/PANTHERS #24 6’1/211 This is the young man that the Panthers are counting on to replace JOSH NORMAN. Sounds like a pretty big challenge, and it is. But based on his play as their starting right CB there is reason to believe that he has what it takes to step up and make the grade despite being from a small school program. He was thrown at a lot in the first quarter and even though he allowed some completions he more than held his own IMO. He was not lost in space and showed good open field tackling skills as well. He also showed some ability to react t the ball in the air and close ground on his man to contest the completion. If he can progress the remainder of the pre-season he may indeed hold down a starting job.
KENNY DIXON/RB/RAVENS #30 5’10/215 Lots of roster spots are available for the retooling RAVENS. One of the most crowded may be their RB slots if everyone returns from injury by early September. They have JUSTIN FORSETT, BUCK ALLEN, MIKE TALIAFERRO, & TERRANCE WEST all set to tote the rock. But none them better look in the rear view mirror, or they will see DIXON bearing down on them. DIXON showed his toughness and versatility while FORSETT & TALIAFERRO sat out rehabbing injuries. He displayed good balance, quick-cut ability and good burst to open spaces. He carried the rock 9 times for 44 yards, mostly between the tackles. He also found himself returning kicks (1/26 yds). He also has a reputation as a good receiver and a blocker. Watch him as the season progresses and injuries mount around the League.
ALEX ERICKSON/WR/PR/BENGALS #12 6’0/195 The URFA from Wisconsin took advantage of the limited opportunities he had to touch the football. Not too bad scoring 2 TD in his first game. He made a solid move and catch for a TD, and then brought the stadium to it’s feet with an impressive 80 yard punt return for the second TD. The punt return is the biggest key in his effort to earn a roster slot, since Special Teams will be the first place they will look to him for help. But he also will get a look as a slot receiver as the team rebuilds its receiving group around TJ GREEN.
B.J. GOODSON/ILB/GIANTS #93 6’1/240 IMO the LB group has been a area of average at best play for the G-Men over the past decade. GOODSON, who emerged as a senior at Clemson, leading he team in tackles, as at it again in the pre-season opener. He played most of the second half and was credited with 6 solo tackles and 1 assist on the night. He as very active and seemed to have no problem locating the ball. His hustling, hard hitting style should make him a cornerstone on Special Teams units, but he’ll be waiting for his chance from scrimmage.
JAKEEM GRANT/WR/RS/DOLPHINS #19 5’6/161 I delighted in watching GRANT on several occasions last fall as he ran all over the field for TEXAS TECH. But despite his world class quickness, I more or less blew him off based on his diminutive size. Seems DOLPHINS Owner Stephen Ross caught his act on TV last Fall as well and was impressed enough to mention GRANT to his scouts and coaches. So far so good with some explosive play-making in game 1. GRANT ouched the ball a lot for pre-season and did not let his owner down. He averaged 15 yards per on Punt Returns. He also brought back 2 Kick-offs for 52 yards. And most surprisingly to me, he got open to catch 4 balls for 68 yards. He brings a dimension to the team that was missing on their roster. Nw if they don’t over work him they may have a pleasant gem on their hands.
DEIONDRE HALL/CB/BEARS #32 6’2/199 I was convinced that HALL would make a mark with the rebuilding BEARS, but felt he would have to move to S to do so. He just doesn’t run fast enough to start in the NFL on the Corner. At least based on his play, as a starter at CB, I may have misjudged him. He was lost a bit in man-coverage, but between his long legs and long arms he made up ground and was able to break up several throws by the time they reached opposing receivers. He showed solid tacking ability and seemed very comfortable out on the grass. He did not look out of place at all in his starting assignment n Week 1.
DERRICK HENRY/RB/TITANS #2 6’3/247 Notice to all of last year’s RB still on the TITANS roster, ‘Don’t unpack all your bags in Nashville quite yet’. MURRAY & HENRY looked for all the world like dominant runners in the pre-season opener. After MURRAY did his thing n the 1st Quarter HENRY dominated the 2nd & 3rd. His stats of 74 yards on 10 carries and 1 TD don’t even tell the tale of how dominant he was finding holes, twisting and turning away from tackles and then dragging defenders with him for extra yards at the end of plays. He looked to me like a more violent & powerful EDDIE GEORGE rampaging around for the TITANS. But to put it bluntly, it was some pretty impressive work that he did against the CHARGERS.
JONES was the most popular name on my watch list last weekend. So here are 3 guys named JONES who caught my eye.
CARDALE JONES/QB/BILLS #7 6’5/250 It would seem likely that CARDALE is a 3-4 year project and his first effort should have given the BILLS Personnel people and coaches cause for optimism. He showed the arm we all knew he had and led the BILLS to a late TD, followed by a failed 2-point attempt to win the game with seconds left on the scoreboard. He finished his 2nd half stint going 11/21 – 162 yards – 1 TD. He also scrambled for 34 yards on 4 running attempts. Being objective I would also claim that several balls of his were flat-out dropped by his receivers. I was particularly impressed with his pocket presence in a hurry-up final drive. If OC GREG ROMAN is still around in a few years CARDALE might be a natural fit for hi run first, throw deep kind of offensive game plans.
CHRIS JONES/DL/CHIEFS #95 6’6/308 The CHIEFS look to have found a wonderfully athletic and bright player to their defensive front in JONES. He surely looks the part with his height and muscled looking physique. And he really moved around to cover a lot of the field in his first pro action. He certainly didn’t dominate, with 2 tackles, but his recognition of where plays were going and reaction to pursue should have been very encouraging to the CHIEFS’ coaches.Other than directly on the Nose he looked as though he could easily move around in their various fronts.
DEION JONES/LB/FALCONS #45 6’0/222 JONES looked exactly like he did in college, running from sideline to sideline in ball pursuit. He was credited with 5 tackles for the game and looked very comfortable in coverage drops as well. I would be shocked if he is not a starter by October at the latest. And it might also be said that fellow Rookie DeVONDRE CAMPBELL might have shown enough instinct and athleticism to be partnering with him out on the grass this year.
DAK PRESCOTT/QB/COWBOYS #4 6’2/226 The COWBOYS lost a game as well as their projected back-up in QB/KELLEN MOORE, to injury, but the good news is that PRESCOTT may be a lot closer to being NFL ready than many thought. PRESCOTT looked totally comfortable running the offense and was only 2 drops from back-up TE/SWAIM, away from never having one of his passes hit the ground. He finished his work for the night going 1/12 for 139 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT. He showed the athleticism and footwork as expected, but it was his calm demeanor under Center that really stood out. The search for an immediate vet back-up for ROMO just got put on the back burner for at least another week.
MAX TUERK/OC/CHARGERS #58 6’5/298 While 1st Rounder JOEY BOSA continues to hold out over contract language, the team got great news in the person of TUERK. MAX suffered a serious knee injury last October and was unable to participate in off season events like the Senior Bowl and Combine. But he played the entire first half of this game and I did not see anyone penetrating right up the middle and collapsing the pocket while he was in there. The CHARGERS OL is in dire need of a major rebuild and an immediate starting job for TUERK would be a big boost in the situation. He will be a guy to watch as the pre-season progresses.
More next week.