The top 2 Picks in the 2015 NFL Draft were on stage as both started for their teams in Week 1. Both JAMEIS WINSTON and MARCUS MARIOTA have already been proclaimed as starting QB for the regular season by their Head Coaches. Welcome to the NFL boys!
The BUCS traveled to Minnesota to face a resurgent VIKINGS squad. The VIKES have already announced that ADRIAN PETERSON/RB will not carry the ball in pre-season. WINSTON struggled early against the VIKES first team D. But with each possession he got more comfortable and by the end of he half he led a nice 2-minute Offense drive and scored a rushing TD. The most positive aspect of WINTON’s performance was his improvement as the game progressed.
Probably the most disappointing aspect of play for the BUCS was their inability to run the ball with any consistency. This is a team that wants and needs to be able to run the ball so the Offense does not land almost exclusively on WINSTON’s shoulder. The team did not start DONOVAN SMITH/LT or ALI MARPET/OG, the two Rookies taken in Round 2 of the last Draft. But they played the majority of the snaps by game’s end. Trial under fire should be the plan of attack with these two, who must emerge as Rookie starters.
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER/QB looked just as cool and comfortable as he did at the end of the 2014 season for the VIKES. Right now he looks like a sooner rather than later prime time player. By the way, VFA signee SHAUN HILL was excellent in relief of TEDDY. Clearly, these two will be a big plus for an Offense with more speed weapons than it may know what to do with once PETERSON hits the turf running.
The Rookie standout for the VIKINGS in this game was LB/ERIC KENDRICKS. Just like in college KENDRICKS was all over the field, mostly in the right spots, and making tackles on both sides of the line-of-scrimmage. KENDRICKS was credited with 4 tackles including a Sack during extended playing time. The VIKES 2015 starting LB group is likely to include KENDRICKS, ANTHONY BARR & CHAD GREENWAY.
It looks as though there is going to be heavy competition this pre-season surrounding jobs in the VIKES secondary. AFter getting burned on several occasions in the HOF Game TRAE WAYNES had to wait a while to see the field against the BUCS. The learning curve will continue for WAYNES.
The second pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, MARCUS MARIOTA, also started for his team, the TITANS, and was greeted rudely by the FALCONS revamped Defense. Back to a 4-3 scheme under new DC RICHARD SMITH the FALCONS featured their top Draft Pick VIC BEASLEY, playing with his hand on the ground and serving primarily as an edge rusher. Before MARIOTA knew what hit him he had been intercepted on a screen pass and fumbled the ball away on a strip-sack in his first two possessions at the helm. He found himself 0/1 and down two scores in what must have seemed like a heart beat. But he kept his cool and followed up with a 7/7 performance for 94 yards before heading for the bench. Just like WINSTON a rude greeting failed to defeat him overall.
The TITANS cut SHONN GREENE their vet power RB within a week of the Draft, after grabbing DAVID COBB in Round 5. In what may end up feeling like a draft steal COBB rushed for a solid 53 yards on 11 carries. He should make a very nice compliment to BISHOP SANKEY, himself only a 2nd year man.
A big hit from the TITANS camp this summer showed up big in this one. JEMEA THOMAS/DB was a PATRIOTS pick last year who got pushed off the roster in New England by guys like REVIS, BROWNER & BUCKLEY last season. Despite less than ideal size (5’10/195) or speed the quick little THOMAS has been all over the field for the TITANS and lead the team with 7 tackles in the opener.
The offensive stars of the FALCONS, RYAN/JULIO/RODDY, looked good in the early going and got the FALCONS off to a flying start offensively. In the later going street Free Agent RB/MICHAEL FORD, who was playing in the CFL a month ago, emerged as a steady running threat in the 2nd half, while FREEMAN and Rookie TEVIN COLEMAN sat out the game with minor injuries.
The leading tackler for the FALCONS was URFA/LB/DEREK AKUNNE from North Texas. He was credited with 6 tackles and has a chance to crack the roster if he keeps it up. Another pleasant surprise was VFA ALLEN BRADFORD, the former Southern Cal RB. The 4-year vet shines on Special Teams and has caught the coaches’ eye at ILB, where proven depth is lacking. Watch him as a late bloomer surprise FALCONS faithful.
The COWBOYS grabbed a train to travel from Oxnard down the California coast to San Diego. Just days before signing a new contract to stay with the Chargers PHILLIP RIVERS made a brief 1st Quarter appearance. That’s more than can be said for the COWBOYS who did not play ROMO/DEZ/WITTEN/RANDLE among others. So it should not come as any surprise that the final score of 17-7 reflected the overall lack of offensive output from either team’s offense.
The COWBOYS top performer on Offense may have been 3rd string QB DUSTIN VAUGHAN, who was an URFA last year. The 6’5/235 lb. QB has a strong arm and good mobility. In this game he went 12/18 for 106 yards, playing with more than few guys who are rather unlikely to make the COWBOYS regular season roster. Coming in a close second as a standout was another 2nd year man, WR/DEVIN STREET, who had 3 catches for 45 yards. He got good separation on his routes and was effective after the catch.
As usual DC ROD MARINELLI played his defensive troops in waves to keep them fresh and the tempo frenetic. One of the more impressive Rookies was DEMIEN WILSON/LB. I thought he was drafted a bit high, in Round 4, but I luved his all-over-the-field effort at Minnesota, and he showed more of the same in this game. He’s also a thumper when he gets to the ball. RABDY GREGORY/R flashed a bit and did record a sack in the second half.
A big goal for the Chargers this season is to run the ball more effectively than in 2014. To that end, they traded up to snag MELVIN GORDON/WR/UW in Round 1. GORDON started the game, but couldn’t find the holes or burst through the line and finished with 11 yards in 6 carries. But not to fear, the rest of the RB group performed quite well. DANNY WOODHEAD, returning from 2014 injuries, did his usual thing and caught a TD pass coming out of the backfield. BRANDEN OLIVER (2nd yr) and JAHWAN EDWARDS (URFA) each rushed for 53 yards.
With JOHNNIE TROUTMAN/OG injuring an arm, to go along with a balky leg, the CHARGERS OL looks solid but very thin. If the team is serious about gaining a Play-Off spot this season, I would expect to see a couple of new OL show up on the roster for a look-see before the pre-season is over.
The CHARGERS got some very nice defensive contributions from some of their Rookies on the evening. 2ND Rounder DENZEL PERRYMAN was a presence and his targeting penalty seemed like an official’s miscall on the TV replay. CRAIG MAGER/CB their 3rd Rounder from little Texas State was quite effective in man-cover situations. And 5th Rounder KYLE EMANUEL/ER/OLB continued to flash pass-rush skills that his coaches have noticed since OTAs.
The BILLS looked like most of REX RYAN’s teams with the JETS as they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory late in the game, losing to the PANTHERS 25-24. Just like with the boys in NYC a big challenge for the BILLS will clearly be at the QB slot. I thought MATT CASSEL looked solid on limited early play, but REX and his staff clearly fell in luv with the mobile QB play of VFA/TYRON TAYLOR. TAYLOR probably reminds REX a lot of MICHAEL VICK, and has named him the starter for game 2. I think TYROD could be a great change-of-pace option for the team coming off the bench, but I don’t see the starter aspect of his play.
As if the BILLS didn’t already have enough RB to pound the ball with McCOY/JACKSON/BROWN they got a fine first game performance from Rookie KARLOS WILLIAMS who only played the position a couple of full seasons for the Seminole. WILLIAMS showed a nice combo of power and elusiveness, as well as good hands as a receiver. He rushed 14 times for 40 yards and a TD, as well as catching two balls for another 23 yards. If he keeps that kind of productivity up perhaps the team can shop BRYCE BROWN around for a future Draft Pick this month.
The team has also inserted Rookie OG/JOHN MILLER (Round 3) into the starting lineup and he certainly looked like he belonged there with a strong performance blocking PANTHERS all day. When everyone is healthy it is not inconceivable that the team could have 6 new starters on Offense in September.
The PANTHERS looked much like the team we have seen under HC RON RIVERA the past two seasons. They hang around and somehow manage to pull games out in the 4th Quarter. This time around it was a gutsy 4th Quarter performance by JOE WEBB at QB. WEBB brings great value to this team as a change of pace emergency QB as well as a solid 5th WR option.
The OL had some shaky series protecting NEWTON & ANDERSON, and certainly could still be called a work in progress, but the addition of MICHAEL OHER at LT solidifies a unit that has lots of strength in the Interior with TRAE TURNER-RYAN KALIL-ANDREW NORWELL holding down the fort.
JORDAN TODMAN looks like a nice addition to the RB group, as well as offering another Return Game potion. ROOKIE CAMERON ARTIS-PAYNE owned the 4th quarter carries and had some solid runs as well.
The biggest surprise to me in this game was seeing VFA CB/PEANUT TILLMAN in a starters role at age 34. Another VFA to start in the secondary was S/KURT COLEMAN.
In a game of teams I expect to battle all season to gain the .500 mark the REDSKINS beat the BROWNS 20-17. Though not a huge success it could easily be said that JONNY MANZIEL looked dramatically improved over his disastrous Rookie year in 2014. MANZIEL kept the game action in front of him and hung in the pocket as long as possible. He played most of the first half and went 7/11 for 42 yards. He also rushed twice for 14 yards, including a TD. 1st Rounder CAM ERVING started at OT in this one. He’d make a great No. 6 OL option with the ability to play all 5 spots, but he may be too good not to start somewhere by September.
The REDSKINS got their best QB play out of KIRK COUSINS, who also seemed to have some real camaraderie going with HC JAY GRUDEN on the sidelines. Out on the grass COUSINS looked cool and in control throwing 12/14 for 154 yards. His passes looked t have extra zip on them and he was able to squeeze some of his throws into some pretty tight spaces.
On the defensive side of the ball one of the ‘SKINS best players was Rookie PRESTON SMITH who had 5 solo tackles, including a Sack. SMITH will play a hybrid position this season with Edge-Rusher as his chief title.
The “SKINS are already facing a rash of injuries in their receiving corps. IF this would continue I sure hope GRUDEN has SANTANA MOSS’ cell phone number handy. TE/NILES PAUL was lost for the season with foot/ankle broken bone breaks.
DANNY SHELTON made a major Rookie debut for the BROWNS playing on the Nose and showing a rare combination of size and mobility. The REDSKINS running attack had very little success between the tackles when he was in the game. XAVIER COOPER/DE/R got plenty of playing time at DE and looked very strong and mobile, now tipping the scales as a bit over 300 lbs.
Special Teams ace JOHN BADEMOSI/SS saw plenty of playing time with the Defense and of course led the team in tackles. I would expect him to see more playing time in sub-packages this season than in the past.