NFL Preseason action kicked off last evening as 8 teams were in action. While the marquee names and starters were limited to little, if any action, the return of football was met with excitement by all fans following the lockout. Here is a game-by-game review, as well as some story lines to keep an eye on moving forward.
New England Patriots 47 Jacksonville Jaguars 12
While Patriots’ starting quarterback Tom Brady watched the entire game from the sidelines, it gave rookie 3rd round draft pick Ryan Mallett, out of Arkansas, the opportunity for extended playing time. While Brian Hoyer started at QB for the Pats, when Mallett was called on all he did was lead the Patriots to 4 second half touchdown drives. One of the underlying themes of this game was the rivalry between Mallett and the Jaguars’ draft pick, rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. Both were very highly rated coming out of college and while Mallett had the prototypical pocket passer size at 6’7” 240 lbs., there were also character concerns. He was visibly disappointed on draft day when he was passed over by the Miami Dolphins in the first round and he ended up sliding all the way to the Patriots in the 3rd round, while Gabbert was selected at #10 overall by the Jaguars. All things considered, the move may have turned out for the best, as Mallett will have time to develop behind one of the best quarterbacks of all-time in Tom Brady, while Gabbert will be thrown into the fire almost immediately. While the 47-12 score was more indicative of the teams focusing on getting all their players on the field to evaluate who may make the final roster, Mallett showed glimpses of why teams may regret not selecting him earlier in the draft. Overall, Gabbert was quite inconsistent in his professional debut.
Player of the Game: New England Patriots’ RB Steven Ridley: 64 yards rushing and 2 TDs, 7 receptions 47 yards 1 TD
Philadelphia Eagles 13 Baltimore Ravens 6
This was perhaps the most anticipated preseason game on opening weekend due to the complete overhaul the Eagles made to their roster. In an effort to avoid reiterating that most teams don’t play their starters at all in most circumstances, fans were still excited to see the new look Eagles. In Michael Vick’s brief cameo, he picked up exactly where he left off last season by throwing for 74 yards and a touchdown in his only series, before taking a seat on the bench for the remainder of the game. Fans were excited to get to see Nnamdi Asomugha and Vince Young in Eagles uniforms, albeit it, for a very short period of time. Also to keep an eye on was how Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco would pick up after last season and whether Ricky Williams would see action just days after signing to be Ray Rice’s understudy. While Flacco would lead the Ravens 60 yards on the opening drive to a field goal, Ricky Williams remained inactive. Both teams were not at full strength as the Eagles started Jason Avant and Riley Cooper at WR, as DeSean Jackson is just returning from a 12-day hold out and Jeremy Maclin is sidelined with an undisclosed injury. On the opening drive Vick would connect with Avant on a 20-yard pass followed by a 42-yard pass to Riley Cooper over Ed Reed, which would lead to a touchdown pass from Vick to Brent Celek. One of the big issues for the Eagles would be how they would manage to get Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asante Samuel on the field at the same time. While Asomugha only played two series, the 3 were on the field together with Samuel lining up at a safety spot.
Player of the Game: Baltimore Ravens QB Tyrod Taylor: 19/28 179 yards passing, 59 yards rushing
Seattle Seahawks 24 San Diego Chargers 17
The main focus heading into this game was whether Pete Caroll made the right move by trading for Tavaris Jackson to be his starting quarterback. While his only other option, Charlie Whitehurst, is far from a Pro-Bowler, questions still remained whether this was the best possible decision. If Jackson can somehow replicate Rivers’ performance, then the Seahawks will be in very good shape. In his only series, Rivers completed 5 of 6 passes while leading an 89-yard scoring drive. Jackson passed for only 13 yards in two mediocre (and I use that word lightly) series. Jackson was bailed out by running back Thomas Clayton who broke out for a 25-yard touchdown run to break the tie. The final score couldn’t be less indicative of how this game went as Rivers was nearly flawless tossing a 48-yard pass to Vincent Jackson and an 8 yard touchdown pass to Mike Tolbert. Even special teams got into the action as Cornell graduate Bryan Walters returned a kickoff 103 yards for a TD. While Seahawks running back Leon Washington did manage to run for a 1-yard touchdown rush, the team is optimistic that the offense will have a new dynamic when Sidney Rice and Mike Williams return, giving Tavaris Jackson two top-flight pass catchers.
Players of the Game:
- San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers 5/6 87 yards 1 TD on 1 drive
- Seattle Seahawks RB Thomas Clayton 16 rushing attempts for 62 yards and 1 TD
Dallas Cowboys 24 Denver Broncos 23
There were several headlines heading into this game that fans were focused on. First and foremost was how much, if at all, would Tim Tebow play and does he have a legitimate chance to be the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Broncos fans were also concerned about whether Knoshown Moreno would finally live up to the hype that made him a high first round draft pick. Lastly, since trading Brandon Marshall to the Dolphins, the Broncos have not had a bonafide #1 receiver – Who is going to catch the ball? Finally, the staff wanted to see what kind of impact Texas A&M LB and #3 overall pick Von Miller could make, as he was widely considered the best pass rusher in the entire draft. The Cowboys had questions of their own like how would Tony Romo’s shoulder hold up, will the backfield be as effective without Marion Barber, and can our secondary rebound from a horrid performance last season. Last evening’s game appears as though it went a long way in determining roster decisions for this upcoming season. First and foremost, 3rd year QB out of Texas A&M Stephen McGee, Tony Romo’s understudy the past two years, broke out in a big way finishing 14-24 for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns, as well as 4 rushes for 25 yards. It appears as though he is ready to unseat Jon Kitna for the backup role to Romo. For the Broncos, it seems clear that Orton is the starting quarterback and that Tebow will be in a battle with Brady Quinn for the backup job. The game actually ended on an exciting note as rookie Dwayne Harris caught a 13-yard pass from Stephen McGee with just over 5 minutes left. The Cowboys had mishandled the previous extra point, so this touchdown brought the score to 23-22. Rather than kick the extra point to tie up the game, the Cowboys went for a fake field goal and Stephen McGee hit backup TE Martin Rucker for a 2 point conversion to give the Cowboys a 24-23 victory
Players of the Game:
Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee: 14/24 208 and 3 TDs, 4 rushes for 25 yards
Dallas Cowboys WR Dwayne Harris: 5 receptions 127 yards 2 TDs, with a long reception of 76 yards, 1 KR for 31 yards
Arizona Cardinals 24 Oakland Raiders 18
Kevin Kolb connected twice with the player likely to be his favorite target this year, Larry Fitzgerald, but he was unable to lead the Cards into the endzone On the bright side, the Cardinals did get a chance to take a look at several of their young players, including a handful of quarterbacks such as Fordham product John Skelton, Max Hall, and Richard Bartel. Skelton had the best numbers going 6/10 for 94 yards and 1 TD, but Bartel also threw a TD, as did Max hall who was 4-4 for 64 yards and 1 TD. The Cardinals wide receiver position looks deep with Larry Fitgerald, 3rd year WR Isaiah Williams, who hauled in 3 passes for 50 yards and 1 TD, and new addition, former Pro-Bowl TE Todd Heap. The Raiders look to have a quarterback controversy brewing as Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller, and Trent Edwards all had their moments. With Beanie Wells and most of Arizona’s other starters choosing not to play, there isn’t much to be encouraged by other than that all 3 of the team’s quarterbacks threw TD passes, including a 28-yarder from Max Hall to Isaiah Williams for the game winner.
Player of the Game:
Arizona Cardinals WR Isaiah Williams: 3 receptions 50 yards, 1 TD (game winner)
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