1. How can you not be impressed with John Beck after the game on Friday night? In my mind, there were two very possible outcomes:
- Outcome #1: John Beck muffs the first center/quarterback exchange, and then in the ensuing pile to recover the fumble, he tears multiple knee ligaments and breaks bones in his throwing hand.
- Outcome #2: John Beck looks poised, makes good decisions, and shows athletic ability outside of the pocket.
Sure enough, John Beck looked great. He moved around well and looked extremely accurate. He looked off defenders multiple times and he used his athleticism to create positive plays. I thought I would be more conflicted about his success, but I am not: I am legitimately giddy that Shanahan's faith in Beck was seemingly justified on Friday night.
2. My previous thoughts regarding this quarterback competition being fixed for Rex Grossman still remain, since Shanahan has not named a starter yet. But one part of my mindset has changed: both Rex and Beck seem capable of running this offense well enough to put our team in position to win. If this competition is truly raging, I do have to say one thing in favor of Rex Grossman. The Pittsburgh starting defense is exponentially tougher than the Indianapolis defense. Beck did look good against Indy, but Rex looked good against Pittsburgh. If you are scoring this at home, that is a point for Rexy. Beck is not being shut out though, as he won major points on Friday for going 5-for-5 on third downs as well as his ability to operate successfully outside the pocket.
3. I don't want to take the fast train to Negativetown, but our scoring seems to continue to be a problem area. If we are relying on Graham Gano to carry us all season, we could find ourselves at the top of the draft next year. Granted, our starters conceivably would have scored in the 2nd half to get us over the 20-point barrier. But when I look at the final scores for two games played so far and the number "16" next to our name--even in wins--I get the shakes. We have been living in the 16-17 point neighborhood for so long now I am starting to think that we are completely stuck. You will tell me it is the preseason and that I should not read too much into that, but the fact of the matter is we continue to settle for field goals in the red zone. That has to change if we are going to take the next step in this league. This has become as much psychological as anything else...maybe the team needs hypnosis or something. I mean, we can go back a long way and see our offense averaging less than 20 points per game. We simply have to get more touchdowns. Period.
4. The running game is starting to take shape, isn't it? As Ryan Torain has worked his way back onto the field, Tim Hightower has made a major claim to be the starter. Roy Helu has also looked like a classic Mike Shanahan draft steal. The way he walked the tightrope in Indy on Friday down the sideline was amazing. The one thing about both of the long runs made by Hightower and Helu is that neither went for a touchdown. I will never turn down those kinds of big gains, but I am dying to see one of these guys put the defenders in their rearview mirror and take it to the house. Both Helu and Hightower have the speed to do it, so for right now I will suggest that it is simply a matter of when and not if they hit that home run.
5. The development of Leonard Hankerson has moved a bit slower than we were hoping, but the good news is that we don't appear to need him to start right away. Let's hope that he takes another positive step forward on Thursday night. If he gets tough over the middle, this offense could really take off.
6. One play that stands out to me still is Ryan Kerrigan's sack of Curtis Painter. It put Kerrigan's never-say-die attitude on display, as he fought down the line and got to the quarterback. Brian Orakpo put early pressure on Painter, with Jarvis Jenkins and Stephen Bowen both getting good penetration. Indy's last chance to save the sack came down to Joseph Addai blocking Kerrigan and the rookie bounced right off of the running back and put the quarterback on the ground. It was so satisfying to see exactly what everyone has been attributing to Kerrigan since draft day on display.
***Today's issue is simple. If you had to name a starter today, who would it be?