Wow. I thought he was having a good preseason before this past weekend. But Aaron Rodgers put on a clinic against the Arizona Cardinals in their most recent preseason meeting. Both him and Drew Brees made sweet, sweet love to their respective opponents. Drew Brees violated the Raiders so bad that I think they were considering pressing charges.
This was the week where most of the starting quarterbacks in the league--if not all of them--got their healthiest chunk of game action. I will focus on them as we whip around the league for this week's recap. But before we get there, a quarterback in the nation's capital took advantage of his time to quiet his critics around town.
Friday Night Lights
There are two lasting images of Jason Campbell in my mind from Friday night. One is of him overthrowing a wide open Santana Moss on a play that had touchdown written all over it and the other is JC pump-faking to the end zone and sprinting to the front pylon for the second touchdown of the evening. When I watched the ball sail past the diving, outstretched Moss, I was immediately set back in time two years. Do you all remember the Monday Night game in Philadelphia the year before last? We won the game, but it was closer than it should have been. Maybe this will jog your memory: Santana Moss, 10 yards behind the closest defender running free for the end zone and Jason Campbell overthrows him. The score would have put the game away. Instead, we played it way too close and had to hold on for the win. I remember Santana Moss beside himself in anger. I remember thinking that it was just the play of a young, inexperienced gunslinger.
Fast-forward to Friday night. We know JC can get the ball deep, and we even saw him and Moss hook up for huge plays last season. Let's hope he just had to get that one out of his system, because if he continues to miss that pass, we are in for a long season.
The touchdown run was as uplifting as the overthrown bomb was deflating. This is the kind of play I have been waiting for since he took over as our starter. This is the kind of play that has been there all along. In fact, it is there for every quarterback. But not every quarterback has the chops or smarts to pull it off. At the end of last season, JC started using his legs a little better to make plays. You could argue that this was a necessity as our offensive line broke down. But I would argue that necessity or not, this is a facet of Campbell's game that we need to have to get to the playoffs. He has to use his legs in the red zone. I would even push for bootlegs and QB draws in the red zone.
I am giving our defense a pass this week. The TEAM was in this game. Tom Brady and Randy Moss are ready to rock. That Patriots offense is a nightmare and I am confident that Blache would have eventually given DeAngelo Hall some help on Moss. I am also hopeful that once the regular season hits, Hall will refrain from drive-sustaining penalties like the facemask call he drew.
Finally, the Patriots cut Kevin O'Connell in a bit of a surprise move. My boldly stupid call of the week: the Patriots should trade for Daunte Culpepper. He is only keeping the seat warm in Detroit and once Stafford comes in, Culpepper is finished. In New England, he could caddy for Tom Brady and when Brady goes down again, he will have Randy Moss all to himself again. The Patriots stockpile picks and I am sure it would not cost too much for the services of a player that does not factor into the Lions' future.
The league coverage begins after the jump...
Green Bay Packers 44, Arizona Cardinals 37 - This game was a 38-10 Packers romp at halftime. Aaron Rodgers blew up with 258 yards and 3 touchdowns. I have been singing the praises of Jermichael Finley and the Packers' defense. Neither are a big secret any longer. Hopefully the concussion Greg Jennings suffered early in this game will not keep him from being 100% ready for the season opener. I said it last week and I'll say it again--Kurt Warner just doesn't look like he is playing his best football right now. It doesn't seem like the Cards are considering Matt Leinart for anything other than the backup job, but in the process of bringing the team all way back into this game, Leinart threw for 360 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Detroit Lions 18, Indianapolis Colts 17 - I remember not too long ago heading into a fantasy draft, and all I could think of was what it would take to get Daunte Culpepper. Despite the fact that he can obviously still play, if I was the front office of the Lions, I would turn the keys over to Matthew Stafford right now. Watching Peyton Manning execute his offense from any spot on the field, I wondered if it ever just gets boring for him. Maybe that's like wondering if Leonardo DiCaprio ever gets tired of taking supermodels home with him. Either way, has anyone been watching the Colts this preseason? Is it just me or does Peyton Manning look unhappy? To me, his body language suggests at best impatience--at worst annoyance. He was rolling his eyes, and motioning towards the sidelines repeatedly while listening to his headset between plays.
Pittsburgh Steelers 17, Buffalo Bills 0 - Buffalo is in trouble. Trent Edwards has been somewhat schizophrenic this preseason. Just when I was ready to call him my breakout player of the year, he throws for 31 yards and a 21 passer rating. For all of you Redskins fans that have been harboring some worry, consider this: the Bills starters have about 300 yards of total offense so far this preseason--and they have had an extra game this preseason since they played in the Hall of Fame game. Big Ben was efficient for his part though he threw for no touchdowns...pretty standard really as he is the greatest quarterback ever to suck out loud for fantasy owners.
New Orleans Saints 45, Oakland Raiders 7 - Drew Brees did his best Uncle Rico impression en route to absolutely obliterating the Raiders' defense. The Raiders are really preparing themselves, their fans, and the league for their last place finish this season. Is it too early to put a team on the clock for the 2010 NFL draft?
New York Jets 27, New York Giants 25 - Eli Manning might just be in for a roller coaster of a season. He knows where to go with the ball, but he is surrounded by receivers with no experience and questionable hands. Mark Sanchez, on the other hand, is the inexperienced one who is trying to get the ball in the right place at the right time for his teammates who were one game away from the playoffs last year. How miserable is New York going to be if both of these teams disappoint this season?
Miami Dolphins 10, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 - Chad Pennington and the Dolphins continue to exhibit a nose for wins. Between the Bucs, the Dolphins, and the Jags, there is a collective yawn coming from the state of Florida. Byron Leftwich was just named the starter down in Tampa Bay based on...well, I guess based on the fact they have nobody better than Byron Leftwich to play quarterback.
Chicago Bears , Denver Broncos - They really seem to hate Jay Cutler in Denver...I love it. No team has been in more disarray this offseason than the Broncos, and having Jay Cutler visit there this preseason puts a fine point on the turmoil. Brandon Marshall is suspended, the defense is shaky (though maybe not as bad as I let on last week) and Kyle Orton looks as good as he ever did...in Chicago...where he didn't look that great...but people just blamed it on the Bears' system. Cutler looks good by the way. We'll see if a quarterback can put up the kind of numbers he is capable of in Chicago. It has been a while. Greg Olsen is looking like the early favorite to benefit the most from Cutler's arrival.
San Francisco 49ers 20, Dallas Cowgirls 13 - I continue to love what Mike Singletary is doing out by the bay. That defense is coming together. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Nate Davis was once again the best quarterback for them, and he is not ready to be "the guy". Jon Kitna had a good showing for ladies, and there were no punts that hit the video board. For what it's worth, the "do-over" rule is asinine. Somebody could get hurt on a meaningless play. From the sounds of it, they are going to make Jerry Jones change it, just not right now.
Baltimore Ravens 17, Carolina Panthers 13 - I hate to say it, but Joe Flacco is not looking like a candidate to suffer the sophomore slump. And that defense is probably good for another season too. It pains me to say both of those things. The good news for Panther fans is that Jake Delhomme actually looked decent in this game. I have been bashing him for the last 3 weeks--and deservedly so--but he came out and looked sharp, going 11-16 for 180 yards and a 106 passer rating. By the way, I hate the passer rating stat. It is so ethereal and mystical. But there it is on the stat sheet every game...so I use it when it helps make my argument.
Atlanta Falcons 27, San Diego Chargers 24 - Philip Rivers looked GREAT. I have a buddy from N.C. State who I am sure was watching this game with his pants around his ankles. The starters played each other somewhat tightly, making it fun to watch. Matt Ryan and Michael Turner looked ready for the season and for the Chargers, Gartrell Johnson continues to impress me. I wanted the Redskins to get this guy so bad but we only had our customary 2 picks in the first 4 rounds.
Seattle Seahawks 14, Kansas City Chiefs 10 - This game was less exciting than the score lets on. I continue to like Matt Hasselbeck as comeback player candidate. And their rookie on defense, Aaron Curry, is most assuredly ready for the big leagues. There is just something about them--maybe the division they play in, or the fact that Seattle is a bazillion miles from everywhere--but I can't get at all excited about this team. Looks like Kansas City will be without Matt Cassel for a couple weeks (at least) with a strained MCL. The play it happened on did not look like the kind of play that causes a serious knee injury. I feel like that generally means the worst. Sorry K.C. Look on the bright side, at least you didn't hire Josh McDaniels as your head coach. The firing of Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator should be a surprise to nobody. You hired Todd Haley to be your offensive coordinator.
Cleveland Browns 23, Tennessee Titans 17 - Last week Derek Anderson looked to me be the better QB wearing a Browns' jersey. This week it was Quinn who looked better to me. Quinn's touchdown pass--the only touchdown pass thrown by either Quinn or Anderson so far this preseason (I am pretty sure that is right)--should be enough to make him the starter. I am relatively certain Mangini was only looking for the slightest possible excuse to give the youngster out of Notre Dame the nod anyway. Quinn's performance against the Titans should give him that excuse. If you were watching this game, you would have also seen Anderson make a bonehead play without even being on the field. He was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for being outside the restricted bench area, netting the Titans' offense 15 yards on a play that would have otherwise been nothing more than an incomplete pass. Vince Young got some work in and managed to throw a pick-6 before calling it a night (he actually posted decent stats but Kerry Collins owns the starting job like Britney Spears owns crazy.)
Philadelphia Eagles 33, Jacksonville Jaguars 32 - Most everyone watched this game, right? Michael Vick clearly still has it. He can clearly still play quarterback in this league, and Donovan McNabb can CLEARLY see that. I say Vick can still play quarterback in this league and there will be some of you who ask me, "Based on what?" To which I will respond, "Have you been watching EVERY preseason game so far this August? Because I have, and there is an absolute vacuum at the quarterback position in this league. How about the Broncos? You think Vick could beat out Kyle Orton? I do. How about San Francisco? You think Vick could beat out Shaun Hill? I do. How about Oakland? You think Vick could beat out JaMarcus Russell? I do. (How about Kansas City if Cassel is out for the year?)" We could go on through more teams. I think this is going to end badly. Donovan McNabb has already made one wrong comment with regard to him saying Vick's involvement got in the way of their offense. On the flip side, if they can trade him, then I think it was a genius move. Why would they go through all of this to trade him? Hear me out. Philly decides that Vick can still play. So they sign him for next to nothing (for a player that can make plays.) They wrap the local animal rights folks around their finger and get Vick back in the league with almost a hero's welcome. Another franchise might feel like the water is warm enough now to make a move for him as a starter and give Philly some valuable draft picks in return. Stranger things have happened.
St. Louis Rams 24, Cincinnati Bengals 21 - Ugh...Once again Kyle Boller leads the passing game for St. Louis. He looked okay, but I have yet to see a quarterback for St. Louis (including Marc Bulger) that is the answer there. Is anyone starting to wonder if Carson Palmer is going to be able to make it through the season? The Bengals will be finished before they even get out of the gate if he can't go.
Minnesota Vikings 17, Houston Texans 10 - Brett Favre looked good enough to be the best quarterback on the Vikings roster. That should be good enough for the "schism" to find its way to the back pages. His presence is going to benefit the run game so much, as evidenced by the 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game. As for Matt Schaub, I drafted him in an online draft during the 1st quarter. Then he hurt his ankle, and so I hurriedly drafted a backup for him among the slim pickings left (Matthew Stafford was all I could get). Then he came back on the field! This is going to be a long season for my team. How about that block Favre threw on Eugene Wilson? Mike Tirico was screaming, "That's not cool!" I wonder how many uncool hits Favre has absorbed in his career?
Give Me the Numbers, STAT!
15 penalties. I know, I know...it is preseason. Penalties are part of the charm of preseason. But 15 penalties in the game where you keep your starting lineup in the longest is something that stands out to me as VERY troubling. The good news is that penalties are a correctable area. A good coaching staff can get that under control. We have seen coaching staffs come through here that essentially preached a lack of discipline--of course I am referring to the no-account, mind-numbingly asinine Ol' Ball Coach himself, Steve Spurrier. I think Zorn and Blache take discipline a lot more seriously than he did, but that leaves a LOT of room. We simply can not win games with double-digit penalty tallies.
On the good news side, we won the turnover battle 3-1 on Friday night, and held a 100 yard advantage in total offense. We had more first downs, and we led in time of possession. All of these are areas that point to winning games. In the regular season, we will be following these numbers closely and tracking just how we are doing. If we are winning, we would expect to see an advantage in these areas. If we are losing, we will look to find what areas we are failing in and compare that to the rest of the league.
Next week the preseason games will be even more meaningless than they already are. Wish me luck as I try to convince my wife that watching these games is more important than doing housework.