Too many games, too few waking hours! I’ve got 3 more game wrap ups for you today but that will leave 3 games uncovered: CHICAGO @ CINCINNATI & PATRIOTS @ CAROLINA, not to mention the RAMS/COLTS game that I never got a recording of. Sorry to fans of those 6 teams.
The JAGS subs managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory last week in their home game against the LIONS. But in the big scheme of things that pales in comparison to the first half of the game when BLAKE BORTLES?QB demonstrated that he has indeed made a quantum leap in his play over the course of the off-season. BORTLES led the JAGS to a healthy lead by passing for 245 yards and a TD, on 20/29 throwing. He also rushed for solid yardage when needed and threw 0 INT, again. His opening drive TD pass made ex-teammate RASHEAN MATHIS look every day of his 35-years old.
CHAD HENNE was his usual self for the JAGS in back-up duty. He looked good until the final 10-minutes of the game and then wilted under pass-rush pressure. As a blitzer approached he squeezed the ball right out of his own hand for a costly turnover. URFA NICK MARSHALL, the former Auburn QB, continued his battle to find an NFL roster spot. He had a nice 27-yard 3rd Quarter Punt Return. He also delivered a couple of punishing tackles as a CB. But of course he looked lost in coverage more than a few times out there as well. I’d keep him at the bottom of my 53-man roster if I were GUS BRADLEY. He can play Special Teams, work with DB coaches and even get time as your 3rd QB in certain offensive packages. It’s not like there is significantly better talent to keep around in Jacksonville for that final spot. MICHAEL BENNETT/DT may be he most productive Draft Pick for the JAGS right now. He’s all over the field from his DT spot, including providing pocket pressure. Sadly, with the season ending injury to DANTE FOWLER the Rookie class in JAX is not making huge contributions to this team. VFA/BRYAN WALTERS is looking good both at WR and as a RS/Special Teamer. In this game he caught 5 balls for 46 yards.
The LIONS have some holes, but still look like a serious Play-Off contender again this season. MATTHEW STAFFORD is married and more settled both on and off the field. He’s a whopping 27-years old can sling the ball around the field and lead his team with the best of them. He was 11/15 for 173 yards and 2 TD, with 0 INT. MEGATRON stayed on the bench waiting for the regular season, while GOLDEN TATE continued to impress with 3 catches for 91 yards, including a 52 yard TD.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of Training Camp for the LIONS is the great play of URFA RB/ZACH ZENNER. The small college star has been tearing it up. IN this contest he saw extended action and rushed 8 times for 85 yards and 1 TD. He has also shown good hands and is playing on all Special Teams units. If for some strange reason JIM CALDWELL doesn’t keep him, I’d want my favorite team to grab him on waivers.
Despite the loss of SUH & FAIRLEY the Detroit front 7 still looks stout, and that doesn’t include HALOTI NGATA, who hasn’t even played yet. A big reason for their effectiveness is the fine play within their LB unit. TULLOCH continues to be a tackling machine inside, and DEANDRE LEVY has emerged in the past couple of seasons as one of the best run/pass combo LB in the NFL. Nw TAHIR WHITEHEAD is emerging as the second coming of LEVY with his fine all-around play.
KYLE BRINDZA, PK, booted a 53-yard FG in the 4th quarter as the LIONS took the lead. As a reward he was traded to Tampa Bay to handle their PK job.
The SNOOPY BOWL was played at Met Life Stadium with the JETS spanking the GIANTS, as HC TOM COUGHLIN looked like a condemned man fighting for a stay of execution. But thanks to the generosity & loyalty (perhaps blind) of JOHN MARA, he’s working under a contract extension. ELI MANNING & ODELL BECKHAM finally looked a bit like their good selves. BECKHAM had 0 catches in the first 2 pre-season games, but came up with 5 catches for for 31 yards in this one. He and ELI could not quite connect however on several longer attempts. ELI had his best game to date going 12/16 for 91 yards, but left on a sour note as ANTONIO CROMARTIE jumped a route and took it to the house. The GIANTS OL is like a rubix-cube with no final solution right now. Players shuffled in and out, but ELI & NASSIB were under pressure and the running game could bot get untracked. The team may have some good news on O with the seeming emergence of 2nd year TE JEROME CUNINGHAM, who caught 2 balls for 30 yards and 1 TD. He also shows flashes of being a decent blocker who could get better at it.
Raise your hand if you think it may be an issue for the G-MEN that a 2nd year man named UANI’ UNGA, ex-BYU, led the Defense with 8 total tackles on the night? There is no star power for the GIANTS right now and their secondary is a veritable MASH unit.
The JETS had a bit more to be happy about besides the 28-18 Win itself. RYAN FITZPATRICK looked his steady workmanlike self in the starting QB role. FITZY went 9/14, 127 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT. A big key for the JETS was their ability to pound the rock behind their solid OL. STACY/IVORY/POWELL helped grind out 136 rushing yards at a 5.6 ypc clip. The JETS O pretty much showed HC TODD BOWLES what he wanted to see from his troops.
Overall, the JETS D looked good as well. The worst point of the evening was when 1st Round draftee LEONARD WILLIAMS went to the locker room with a knee injury. THat becomes a factor because despite off-season efforts to beef up the DL corps KEVIN VICKERSON is already on IR for the year and SHELDON RICHARDSON is facing a League imposed suspension for his off-field antics this past off-season. OLB TREVOR REILLY continues to show natural pass-rush explosion for the D. His health has always been the main issue, not his lack of talent. The rebuild JETS secondary not only looks good with REVIS/CROMARTIE/PRYOR/GILCHRIST starting, but back-ups BUSTER SKINE/MARCUS WILLIAMS/JAIQUAWN JARRETT also contributed well in this contest.
The highlight of this game for me, came just before the start of the second half as BOB PAPA brought out a birthday cake for sidekick CARL BANKS. In an attempt to angle the cake for the TV camera PAPA slid it right off the platter and onto the floor. The two traded jokes and wisecracks for the next 15 minutes about the “fumble” as BANKS referred to it. It was blooper TV, but also indicates how ho-hum most of the game was for me to watch.
The most amazing game watch to me was that of the BUFFALO BILLS just pounding the STEELERS 43-19. I realize that MIKE TOMLIN does not put great emphasis on winning in the Pre-Season but this has to be worrisome. REX RYAN’s 4 QBs combines to throw only 3 incompletions in 33 attempts, for a total of 386 yards and 3 TD. TOMLIN and new DC KEITH BUTLER have got to be concerned about that secondary going into the regular season in less than two weeks. A whole bunch of new faces just don’t seem to be blending together as a unit yet.
It is very hard to get any read on the STEELERS based on much of what they have not done this pre-season. Sure looks to me like the STEELERS are loaded in their LB corps and may have some angst cutting down to their final roster configuration. TERENCE GARVIN, has been s Special Teams ace for them the past couple seasons and is now showing even more from scrimmage. He flew all over the field and recorded 9 Ttl tackles.
As if only 3 incompletions was not amazing enough let me detail the BILLS skill position players who did not see the field in this game: RB/SHADY, RB/BOOBIE, RB/KARLOS WILLIAMS, WR/WATKINS, WR/WOODS & WR/HOGAN. THat’s a lot of missing quality folks. MARCUS EASLEY/WR, who has been a Special Teams ace for the BILLS the past 4 seasons stepped in at a WR slot and caught 6 balls for 42 yards. Ageless FRED JACKSON did get back on the field to rush for 48 yards and a TD on 5 carries. His reward from HC REX. He was one of the first roster cuts this week. VFA newcomer CHARLES CLAY/TE had the highlight of the night with a 67 yard TD catch/run.
The BILLS QB stat count was as follows: MANUEL 7/8, 170 yds; TAYLOR, 12/13, CASSEL 6/7, SIMMS 5/5.
The BILLS DL was healthy, except for a last minute scratch of DT/DAREUS, whose spot was taken by back-up CORBIN BRYANT, who went out and recorded 5 tackles, including a Sack. Rookie RONALD DARBY/CB was left out to sink or swim in man-cover and was burned on several occasions. But he shows potential and trial by fire may be the way to go with him here. Vet COREY GRAHAM has been asked, at age 30, to move to a starting S slot for the BILLS who are CB heavy. HC RYAN & DC DENNIS THURMAN have been very pleased with his work to date.
Expect REX, under pressure from his DC and STC/DANNY CROSSMAN to keep SFA JORDAN GAY/PK purely as a Kick-off specialist. He just keeps booming the ball thru the End Zone forcing opponents to start their possessions at the 20-yard line. That’s a great aid to force opposing Offenses to constantly march 80 yards for TDs.
There is also a reasonable chance that the STEELERS will keep their Rookie Punter JORDAN BERRY over BRAD WING. In this game BERRY averaged a net of 50 yards per Punt. He also filled in for an injured GARRETT HARTLEY booting one of the Leagues new long PAT attempts and kicking off. Youth and versatility can often win the battle in today’s NFL.
That’s a pre-season wrap folks. Now that college football is starting I won’t even bother to watch NFL pre-season Week 4 tonight. Look for some upcoming collegiate game previews and predictions from Pigskin Paul starting tomorrow.