I understand how important this last preseason game was for roughly 20-30 players per team. I do. For some it was the difference between making the 53-man roster or getting cut. For others who were relatively certain of their impending unemployment, it was a chance to get on tape for potential future employers. For coaches, it was one last look at a few players they may try to retain on the practice squad. But for just about everybody else (in the world) these games were simply painful to watch.
As a Redskins' fan, I of course watched the game against the Jaguars intently and hung on most every play. But as I watched the games around the league, I found myself losing interest quickly as penalty flags rained down on my living room as if Pacman Jones himself were throwing them.
To write a recap of each game would be worse than having to read Peter King rate every latte he has ever drank. So instead, this week I thought I would put my preseason watch-a-ton to the test. Every team has made their final cuts. I will attempt to build a 53-man roster from all the players released by the Saturday deadline. This may include some players who ended up on the practice squad, but you'll have to excuse that. After all, even though I did watch pretty much every preseason game played in the last month, my knowledge of certain teams' backups probably doesn't go much further than guys who should rightfully land on the practice squad. This already feels like a poor man's version of Madden fantasy draft. I get to decide who I am going to keep and at what position they will play. My ultimate goal: a 53-man roster capable of beating the Oakland Raiders final 53-man roster. Our team name: Sugartime Ballers. At the end, you'll get to vote on whether you think the Ballers can take down the Raiders. The first picks after the jump...
This team is going to have a questionable offensive line, so I am going to need a veteran quarterback capable of escaping pressure and getting rid of the ball. I watched as much of the Raiders' preseason as I could stomach and to me it seemed like Jeff Garcia was the quarterback that gave them the best chance to win now. My guess is that they sensed that too and decided that going with a guy staring down 40 years old would be the nail in the coffin for the JaMarcus Russell era, at least from a confidence perspective. Joey Harrington (cut by the Saints) is experienced in the art of art of hand signaling, which is what I want in my backup QB. Plus he is a great pianist so he can play getaway music on the piano as Jeff Garcia is running fro his life behind whatever offensive line I can put together. Chase Daniel gave it a good run in D.C., but failed to be named as the 3rd quarterback when the team decided to go with nobody instead (ouch).
It struck me as a little odd when the Bills jettisoned Rhodes. With Lynch out for the beginning frames of the season and Fred Jackson a little dinged this preseason, I figured a veteran like Rhodes would have value for that team. Alridge just barely missed being the last running back kept by the Redskins and adds speed out of my backfield. Ian Johnson is a young buck that got bounced by the Vikings. I have a soft spot in my heart for this guy after watching him have such a great career at Boise State, not to mention the now famous Statue of Liberty play against Oklahoma a couple seasons ago. Vakapuna is a guy I picked because I need a blocking fullback and I have been watching HBO's Hard Knocks this season featuring the Bengals. He is a big, athletic dude, and we are going to need a Samoan presence in the backfield on this team. Redman had a great preseason in Pittsburgh but the numbers game beat him. We are lucky to have him and Vakapuna muscling up in our backfield.
The Cards cut Pope and the Pats cut Smith. Both are capable receivers that understand the position well. Bear Pascoe was on the 49ers squad and I remember hearing his name for the first time late in the game against the Raiders I think. He was described by his college coach at Fresno State as the "most devastating blocker" they had ever seen. He started out there as a quarterback. He blocked 6 kicks on special teams, and keeps his edge by participating in rodeos. He's an old-school kind of player and on my team he will play an old-school role: Iron Man. At 6'5", 250+ lbs, he will never leave the field. Our wildcat offense will be called the "Wild Bear" formation and we will direct snap it to him. He will rush the passer on defense and he will line up all over the field on offense. His importance on this roster almost necessitated adding a 4th tight end to help carry the load at the position, and Mills, fresh off the Vikings roster, will fit in nicely. The Raiders will not have a chance.
McIntosh (Chiefs), Pashos (Jaguars), Crummey (Bengals), Forney (Chargers), and Bridges (Redskins) are my starting five. Burley (Redskins), Geisinger (Panthers), and Butterworth (Falcons) are my backups. Burely went to University of Maryland and has been hanging around the league the last two years. Geisinger is a journeyman lineman who spent a season with the Redskins but has also been a member of the Bills and Titans. The Raiders gave Mark Wilson his walking papers, but he has had steady employment as a backup since 2004. Mike Butterworth made this team because I simply ran out of guys that I really knew much about...and I love maple syrup on pancakes.
All of my starters would likely be welcome on most squads in the league after a few weeks when teams are all of a sudden hit by injuries and become starved for guys who have played before. Forney was a huge shock getting cut by San Diego. He might be one of the two or three best players on the Ballers.
Ferguson (Falcons), Colbert (Lions), and Patten (Browns) have all been unfortunate members of previous unfortunate fantasy teams of mine. So they owe me. Hard to argue against Tyree (Giants). He can start on special teams and catch balls with his helmet. With Bear Pascoe behind center, he might have to catch a few wild pitches. Shelton (Redskins) should make their practice squad and Steve Sanders (Cardinals) was great on Beverly Hills, 90210.
The Patriots drafted Richard last April, and that is pretty much good enough for me. I recall Tommie Hill made a huge play late in the first Monday Night game against the Panthers, scoring a touchdown with no time left on the clock. Not being good enough for the Giants defensive line does not necessarily make you bad. Rob Jackson and Alex Buzbee both got cut from the Redskins so I have seen plenty of them and are comfortable with them as backups. Boschetti got dumped by the Raiders--can't remember anyone listing their personnel decisions as better than...well, anyone's. Shaun Smith was a shock to get sent home by the Lions. He is definitely good enough to anchor the Ballers' defensive line. And Terrance Taylor was a 4th round pick for the Colts. I am little surprised to see him gone from there, but we will not ask too many questions and scoop him up.
Crowder should have cracked the Broncos' Final 53. Our squad will benefit from the veteran presence of Zach Thomas, who might not really have ever been realistically in the Chiefs' plans. Rocky Boiman has been around, most recently ending his second stint with the Titans. He has a ring from the Colts' Super Bowl victory and his experience will be put to good use for the Ballers. Khary Campbell is a special teams standout that did not make the last cuts in Houston. Bruce Davis was a huge underachiever for the Steelers. Here's hoping he can turn it around for the Ballers. Leman (Panthers) was a guy who I thought played well enough in the preseason to stick. I guess that is why my phone isn't ringing off the hook to become anybody's GM. Thomas and Glenn were both waived by the Skins. Thomas has plenty of experience in the league and Glenn (while still an odd draft choice by Vinny Cerrato--read: "wasted draft choice") is a raw player from the Nebraska Cornhuskers' program.
O'Neal (Texans), Williams (Jaguars), Russell (Seahawks), and Pollard (Chiefs) are my starting defensive backs (first two are CB's, second two will man the safety positions. Smith (Cowgirls), Lynch (Bengals), Ivy (Browns), and Holmes (Redskins) round out our scrappy secondary.
P: A.J. Trapasso - Any guy who takes aim for a $40 million video board in a preseason game, ESPECIALLY one bought by Jerry Jones, gets a spot on my team.
K: Brandon Coutu (Seahawks) - The 'Hawks kept this guy on their roster all season last year behind Olindo Mare in the hopes they could trade him. He has a hell of a leg and will get a shot from another team very soon.
Give Me the Numbers, Stat!
27-17, Ballers over the Raiders. Bear Pascoe has 78 yards rushing, 2 rushing touchdowns, 1 blocked field goal and 3 sacks. Jeff Garcia runs in for the other TD and throws the ball straight into the owner's box where Al Davis is sitting. Davis sues the NFL.
Next week at this time, we will be through the first weekend of meaningful football. Imagine...four quarters without any fourth-stringers (God willing). The season of excessive penalty-calling is over. Let the games begin. We'll see you back here on Tuesday--with nary a mention of any battles for the backup long snapper position.