Some of these pre-season presentations are simply unwatchable when couched in terms of top level professional football. The JAGUARS visit to New York to play the GIANTS ended up being one such effort. That is unless you are a dedicated soccer fan and the idea of 9 combined Field Goals is your idea of offensive excitement. ELI MANNING, who reportedly wants to be the highest paid QB in the NFL (or is that dad Archie talking) looked more like Bad Comedian Eli on this night. MANNING went 4/14 for 46 yards before being yanked early in the 2nd Quarter. The sum and substance of the offensive game plan seemed to be something like, “Odell go long and Eli will heave it up there’. But it didn’t work well and BECKHAM went without a reception. Maybe too many commercials and endorsements for these two guys to concentrate fully on football. The GIANTS secondary looked like a Wednesday Broadway Show when the under-studies take to the stage. I was astounded when the starting secondary was announced as TREVIN WADE/CB, RODGERS-CROMARTIE/CB, JEROMY MILES/SS & BENNETT JACKSON/FS. The group actually looked decent at times, in particular WADE who led the team with 6 tackles.
A few new players did shine at times for the G-Men. RB/ORLEANS DARKWA looks to me like the best all around RB on the present roster. He carried 6 times for 25 yards and also caught a pass for 9 more. Rookie WR/GEREMY DAVIS had a solid second half with 4 catches for 43 yards. BECKHAM was held catchless on 6 targets, but FVA/JAMES JONES led the team with 5 grabs for 83 yards. In the absence of JASON PIERRE-PAUL, DE/DAMONTRE MOORE was the pass-rush threat for the GIANTS registering 2 sacks. The OL is a bit banged up and the entire game was spent shuffling players in and out and from position to position. Rookie ERECK FLOWERS did a more than adequate job at OT for the night. He and RICHBURG at OC look like the only sure things along the front right now.
Looking at the overall GIANTS roster this team should be in rebuild mold, but TOM COUGHLIN will never take that approach. Of the 86 names (not 90) on the recent roster there were only 13 Rookies. There were 13 players 30 or older. This is a team/organization in a world of hurt right now, but it appears that leaders like COUGHLIN and JOHN MARA are in denial.
The JAGUARS are in year two of the BLAKE BORTLES era and the young QB does look better in year two than he did as a Rookie. But clearly the talent around him needs additional upgrading. The JAGS leadership is clearly aware of that as the 90-man roster currently includes 22 Rookies and 63 players 25 or younger.
For his part BORTLES looks to be gaining ground on NFL defenses. He led 3 drives, and even thought all 3 scores were FG some of that was due to a dropped ball in close as well as a holding penalty that pushed them out of the Red Zone another time. BORTLES was 8/16 (2 receiver drops) for 98 yards and most importantly 0 INT.
Rookie WR/RASHAD GREENE had a couple of nice catches on the night and VFA WR/BRYAN WALTERS (from Seattle) contributed to the cause with 3 grabs. Two other JAGS Rookies looked solid with their defensive play. DL/MICHAEL BENNETT, a 6th Round steal, showed some quickness and penetration skill working on the inside. THURSTON ARMBRISTER/URFA/LB showed well from scrimmage and also looks like a main component for Special Teams coverage units.
Oh yes, all is not lost. The GIANTS won this affair 22-12!
The STEELERS defeated the PACKERS 24-19 in a game that gained more notoriety for its injury report than actual play out on the grass. The PACK lost JORDY NELSON for the season with a non-contact knee injury. The STEELERS lost MAURKICE POUNCEY/OC for at least half of the season with an ankle injury that required surgery. THen back-up QB/BRUCE GRADKOWSKI dislocated a finger in a pile-up scramble and also required surgery. This injury prompted the STEELERS to sign VFA QB/MICHAEL VICK on TUesday.
BIG BEN and AARON RODGERS made brief appearances and let the back-ups decide the contest. SCOTT TOLZIEN/QB looked solid for the PACKERS going 11/19, for 102 yards, 1 TD pass and most importantly 0 INT. 1st Round Pick DAMARIOUS RANDALL made his game debut at CB and looked good. He was credited with 3 tackles in run support and got himself an INT. AARON RIPKOWSKI/FB/R saw most of his time on Special Teams and looked exactly like a back-up FB should with 2 tackles and solid work overall. He also saw the field from scrimmage a bit and through some nasty blocks. One of the stars of the 2014 PACKERS Training Camp was URFA JAYRON ELLIOTT/LD/ER. ELLIOTT flew all over he field in this contest showing his strong, quick pass rush ability and also dropping into pass coverage effectively. On the negative side URFA RB/ALONZI HARRIS, who has done some nice running in Camp dropped two catchable passes as the safety valve receiver in this game. That does not bode well for him in the PACKERS style of Offense. CARL BRADFORD, who was a Camp bust at OLB last year has been moved inside and was very active in this game, being credited with 5 tackles. Given that the team purged it’s veteran ILB group this off-season (HAWK-JONES-LATTIMORE) BRADFORD’s development inside would be a great boost to a defense which relies on its LB corps for major production in it’s defensive scheme.
The STEELERS are looking at quite a potential dilemma within its WR ranks in the next couple of weeks. Rookie SAMMIE COATES/WR has been inconsistent with some untimely pass drops to go with some impressive catches. Being a 3rd Round Pick would make it most unlikely he would be cut, not to mention his overall potential. BUt a wild card in the WR group has arisen and he showed very well in this game. TYLER MURPHY/R, who played QB at BC and FLORIDA is making the switch to WR and looks like a natural so far in 3 pre-season games. He caught 4 passes for 61 yards and 1 TD in this contest. At 6’1/213 he looks like a natural athlete, who might also save a roster spot as an emergency QB at some point in time for his team. He’s a transition player to watch closely and may have already done too much for the team to hide somewhere outside their roster come September. 37-year old JAMES HARRISON showed why he’s still on this roster in Pittsburgh. He recorded a safety on AARON RODGERS in the 1st Quarter. He can still rush the passer. A favorite of mine from Shrine Game action caught me eye again later in this contest. LETERRIUS WALTON/DE looked solid and aware of the game around him. He’s an athletic big man who seems well suited for a 3-4 scheme like the STEELERS. It’s a ridiculous conversation to be talking about replacing TROY POLAMALU but SHAMARKO THOMAS/s was all over the field in that S role against the PACK. He recorded 5 sacks which included 1 Sack. He’s improving in coverage and if he can stay healthy might be able to at least replace the battered TROY of his last few NFL seasons.
Out in the desert Southwest the CHARGERS came to town and upset the CARDINALS. I say upset primarily because hey won 22-19 without PHILLIP RIVERS ever taking a snap. The best news of the evening was the play of Rookie RB/DAVID JOHNSON, who missed the opener to minor injury. JOHNSON, is a full sized RB at 6’1/224. he’s not a pounder, but packs a wallop once he gets up to speed. He is also excellent at catching the ball. He carried 13 times for 66 yards and also caught 2 balls for 15 yards. When newly signed VFA CHRIS JOHNSON hits the field BRUCE ARIANS will have a deep and versatile RB corps.
LOGAN THOMAS/QB looks vastly improved in his 2nd season with the CARDS. He’s not ready to push either PALMER or STANTON for playing time, but if the team can get 2 more years out of the 35-year old PALMER, he might have an eventual shot to start. THOMAS has all the tools and perhaps ARIANS is the man to mentor and develop him.
The CARDS look to be incredibly thin at the CB slots, but JUSTIN BETHEL has gotten lots of time already this summer and is making some plays. A long shot, who is doing some good things in game action, is URFA CARIEL BROOKS/CB who gets the most out of his 5’9/192 frame. He made a splash at the Medal of Honor game in Charleston last January.
The CHARGERS made the most of their pressure defense to propel them to victory in this contest. MELVIN INGRAM/LB/ER has been on the verge of fulfilling his 1st Round Draft status from 2012, but injuries have always derailed him to date. INGRAM flew around the field in this one registering 6 tackles, which included 2 Sacks. As a team the CHARGERS had 6 first half sacks against a beaten up CARDINALS OL.
One of the Chargers starting ILB may be the story of their Camp so far this summer. NICK DZUBNAR, no relation to Valdar Conehead, was signed as an URFA out of Cal Poly and was originally listed as a WR. The 6’2/240 Rookie has become the pet project for LB Coach MIKE NOLAN. DZUBNAR made the most of his opportunity finishing a night of heavy action with 5 tackles and one of those aforementioned sacks. NOLAN has a host of young ER LBs to mentor this summer and now DZUBNAR joins DENZEL PERRYMAN on the Inside. I would look for the CHARGERS to be in the mood to trade a couple of higher priced vet LB if everyone stays healthy and other teams come calling just before final roster cut downs.