Pre-Season Week 2 cont…

August 27, 2015

If you were a fan wanting to see your COWBOYS faves in action against the 49’ers you likely wasted your time if you watched this game. TONY RORMO played a series, but DEZ, McFADDEN, SMITH, LEE, HARDY, WITTEN, and others never took the field. The only real value in this one was if you were watching to see who are in the running for the final 5-6 roster spots on each team. Hey wait… that pretty much sums up almost all the games so far.
BRANDON WEEDEN & DUSTIN VAUGHAN couldn’t muster much juice in this one and the COWBOYS fell 23-6. Once again the Kickers were the scoring leaders. Rookie RANDY GREGORY/DE recorded his second sack in 2 pre-season games. THat’s what he does folks. A most pleasant surprise in the 4th Quarter for the COWBOYS was the productive receiving work of Rookie TE/GEOFF SWAIM. SWAIM ran some solid pass patterns and flashed good hands on 4 catches for 47 yards. His forte in college was blocking so this receiving show probably got some serious positive attention from the COWBOYS coaching staff.
A brief highlight of this game had to be the starting COWBOYS possession, on which NAVORRO BOWMAN made a guest appearance for the 49’ers. He was in on three plays and was part of the tackle on each one. His return to health and solid play is a must given he LB corp ravages of the past 6 months. A lot of folks have been wondering why the Niners traded their excellent Punter ANDY LEE early in Training Camp to make room for Rookie BRADLEY PINION. If you paid close attention you saw PINION punt quite effectively, hold for K PHIL DAWSON and send kick-offs booming to and thru the End Zone. He’s doing it all and costing the team much less than a seasoned Pro-Bowl caliber vet like LEE. NFL economics 101 in action.
One of the most interesting NFL stories of this summer might be a 27-year old Rookie on the Niners roster named JARRYD HAYNE. He’s a graduate of the rugby wars in Australia, and his play is legit. He’s a very effective Punt Returner (3-38 yards) and running from scrimmage in this game he gained 54 yards on 8 carries. If he can show enough on Special Teams in the next 2 weeks he just might sneak on the final roster.
Don’t be too quick to blow off HC JIM TOMSULA as an inexpensive band-aid to replace JIM HARBAUGH. TOMSULA may not be smooth and erudite at the podium during a Press Conference, but he has paid his pro football dues and has the respect of most of his roster. I first met him at the Senior Bowl in 2006 as a first year DL under than Niners HC MIKE NOLAN. He had extensive experience coaching in NFL Europe. He was frank, funny and personable in a TONY SPARANO-way. We sat at the same dinning room table one night for dinner with the players and he easily carried the conversation at our table. He knows his football folks! A current TOMSULA fave had a major highlight in this game. DT/MIKE PURCELL, a 2013 URFA, is battling for a spot on this year’s roster and shows flashes of power and surprising athleticism. He picked off a VAUGHAN throw and rumbled 37-yards for a TD at 6’3/303lbs. The Niners have lots of older vet guys in their DL corps but might like to goose things up with a bit of relative youthful enthusiasm. PURCELL would fit that bill at 24-years old.

The PATRIOTS inflated their footballs and headed south to take on the SAINTS. DREW BREES saw his first game action and looked fit and ready going 8/10 for 159 yards and 2 TD. He shredded the PATS rebuilt secondary and the running game helped balance out the attack. BRANDIN COOKS/WR was his favorite target hauling in 4 balls for 117 yard which included a big 45-yard TD catch. BEN WATSON again looked like a solid option at the TE slot in his efforts to replace JIMMY GRAHAM. And WATSON blocks for the running game as well. The SAINTS defensive personnel are about a ton lighter than they were in 2014, looking to use pursuit speed and quickness in the pass rush to put heat on opponents. DC ROB RYAN didn’t join them in their weight loss from what I saw on the sidelines, but as a group they did look faster out on the field. Lots of SAINTS Rookies dotted the field, but one who flashed early was 2nd ROUNDER HAU’OLI KIKAHA/ER who has a knack for finding and getting to the ball. Once RYAN helps him figure out where he should be more of the time he could become quite an edge-rush threat.
MARCUS MURPHY/RB/WR/RS the teams 7th Round pick is mighty-mite in the DARREN SPROLES mold at 5’9″, 195 lbs. He has good hands and great quickness. Watch for him to evolve to fill many of SPROLES former duties. Second year S/PIERRE WARREN, who was an URFA last season continues to impress me whenever I watch a SAINTS game. He has good speed and quickness overall. He also is a big hitter when he gets to the ball. He clearly has a knack for getting to the ball in the air. He created the only real blemish on JIMMY GARAPPOLO’s report card with a nice 4th Quarter INT.

Speaking of JIMY G. it was another night of solid work, which indicates the PATS may not flounder for however many games MR. BRADY eventually sits out. GARAPPOLO played most of the contest and went 28/33, 269 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. And somehow, he brought the team from well behind to a 26-24 victory. It also looks very clearly like the PATS have mined some URFA gold in the form of CHRIS HARPER/WR/RS from CAL. At 5’11, 180 lbs., he fits the WELKER/EDELMAN/AMENDOLA mold that BRADY seems to like. He gets open with quickness and has shown very reliable hands so far. For his night’s work down in the bayou HARPER caught 5 balls for 69 yards and a TD. He returned 2 kicks for a 27-yard average and 3 punts for 10-yards per return. His emergence may have come none to soon, because VFA/BRANDON GIBSON who caught 8 balls for 68 yards was placed on IR for the season this week… OUCH! Welcome REGGIE WAYNE, PATS faithful!
One last note here for the PATS; if JAMES WHITE/RB stays healthy in this his second season he would seem very capable of replacing SHANE VEREEN as the change of pace RB. In this game he ran 9 times for 23-yards and 1 TD. He also caught a pass for 20 yards.
Looking for a surprise contributor to the BELICHICK/PATRICIA Defense? Then zero in on 2nd year ILB/JAMES MORRIS, another URFA, from IOWA. He reminds more than a few folks of a PATRIOT find from yesteryear named STEVE NELSON. It’s said the coaches are in luv with his hustle and his FBI. He was in on 5 tackles and was credited with a forced fumble.

The City of Brotherly Love had a bit to celebrate after a dominating 40-17 win over the bad boys from down the Interstate in BALTIMORE. The EAGLES dominated in every facet of play; Offense, Defense and Special teams. SAM BRADFORD got some game action and survived a knee level hit from TERRELL SUGGS. WElcome back to the NFL SAM.
It was another stellar game for RB/RB/KENJON BARNER who returned a Punt 68 yards for a TD. THat’s his second Punt Return TD in two games. Two Rookie receivers led the team in catches with 4 apiece. First Rounder NELSON AGHOLOR, to no one’s surprise, had 4 catches for 49 yards, but RASHEED BAILEY/WR an URFA also caught 4 balls for 37 yards. BAILEY, out of little Delaware Valley State, is a nice sized receiver 6’2/205 who has displayed excellent hands and the ability to use his size to shield DB from balls thrown his way. He seems to be showing enough to earn a roster spot at the bottom of the WR pecking order. If he can flash a few times on Special Teams he could displace several vet back-ups.
On the down side for the EAGLES it clearly looks as thought the team has not adequately replaced EVAN MATHIS at RG at this stage of things. ANDREW GARDNER looks overmatched at times and JOHN MOFFITT looks very rusty from almost two full years off. My guess is that if one of these guys doesn’t step it up in Week 3 of the Pre-Season CHIP KELLY may be on the prowl for a vet pick-up.

There really wasn’t much positive to talk about for the RAVENS. HC JOHN HARBAUGH and his staff must kicking some serous ass this week after this lethargic effort in Phily. The best news may be that ELVIS DUMERVIL has lost none of his edge-rush skill set at age 31. He was in on three tackles, including a sack, in limited action. URFA TERRENCE MAGEE/RB looked good in 2nd half action. He ran the ball 11 times for 44 yards and also caught a pass. He’s quick and shifty with good hands. Both he and 4th Rounder BUCK ALLLEN are making pushes to achieve spots in the team’s RB corps.
The game served as a flag fest from officials who seemed intent in proving they know all the penalties in the rule book and see them all. There were 24 accepted penalties in this contest. The EAGLES incurred 7 penalties of 65 yards, but the sloppy RAVENS were flagged 17 times for 139 yards. HARBAUGH and his staff could not be happy with such sloppy play. It’s a modest, but solid foundation that R/MAXX WILLIAMS/TE is setting. With the TE group in total flux this summer the 2nd Rounder is being counted on to emerge, and he did produce 3 catches for 25 yards in this contest.