Observations from a weekend of football

Plenty of games to watch the past few days, and here’s what caught my attention (going to omit a lot of quarterback-related ramblings from this post, because I’ve got an all-QB edition that I’ll post this afternoon after my chat.

  • Spoke to a long-time scout about what stood out most to him this weekend, and he pointed to the Packers’ D. They have been pretty much lights out thus far in the preseason, the philosophical changes in terms of more aggression under Dom Capers are taking hold and the players seem to be making good adjustments to the 3-4 scheme. That, coupled with the stellar play of Aaron Rodgers (more on him in the QB-only blog post), have some scouts bullish on the Pack. The NFC North is going to be wild.
  • Cleveland jack-of-all-trades Josh Cribbs had an exciting half of football, another performance that might entice the Browns to tweak his contract (at least he hopes so). Cribbs returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score, then had it nullified by a penalty. So a few minutes later he broke a return 84 yards for a score. He caught a pass for 20 yards, is a weapon in the Wildcat formation and has taken reps in practice at defensive back.
  • If I’m the Giants I’m starting to worry a little bit. I love the fact they added strength to strength this offseason, in beefing up an already powerful defensive line. But things have not gone their way. Tackle Jay Alford, who was having a superior camp and was creating a nice stir within the organization, looks like he could be out for awhile with a knee injury. Chris Canty has a hamstring tear and hasn’t done much of anything. Rocky Bernard, another offseason acquisition, has been out with a hamstring injury. Plus, Osi Umenyiora is coming off season-ending surgery. Have to think that unit won’t be as deep as expected and you have to wonder about how quickly they will gel given all of the preseason absences. A lot of talent remains in that front seven, but this might not shape up to be the unit some expected.
  • The Houston Texans may need to rethink a few things this week. They have a reputation as being a finesse offense, and the Saints were punching them in the mouth with little resistance this weekend. New Orleans was running very basic, vanilla defenses — not the elaborate blitz schemes coordinator Gregg Williams is known for — and still having their way at the point of attack. Can’t get enough of Saints feel-good story Anthony Hargrove as well. The defensive lineman chased down Chad Ochocinco in the preseason opener and continues to flash his eye-popping athleticism after his career seemed over a few years back from substance abuse and other problems.
  • The Washington Redskins offense better get something going, too. The starters have amassed all of three points this preseason and some of the players I spoke with after Saturday’s game figured the starting offense might get a full three quarters this week against New England, especially if they struggle in the first half again. If they get him around the football enough, though, I could see LB/DE Brian Orakpo having a rookie-of-the-year type season. Coaches say he needs to show full explosiveness on every play, but the more coordinator Greg Blache keeps moving him around (while keeping his assignments relatively simple) the better he seems to respond.
  • The San Francisco 49ers continue to be impressed by rookie Glen Coffee. The third-round pick was picking up yards in chunks again this weekend — with the caveat being this was against the barely-there Raiders rush defense — and can catch the ball out of the backfield as well. Given Frank Gore’s injury history, there could be a little more of a committee approach to this backfield. Mike Singletary wants to run the ball a ton — given the state of his quarterbacking he doesn’t have much choice — and they want to preserve Gore when possible. Coffee has earned the confidence of veteran teammates and looks poised to get touches.
  • The Cowboys are going to have to move that scoreboard (and how about Titans rookie punter A.J. Trapasso getting major network TV time again? Dude ran that fake punt 40 yards for a TD in the Hall of Fame game, then his assault on Jerry Jones’s massive TV screens becomes the story of the national FOX game Friday). You can’t have “do-overs” time and again (anyone else remember those from playing street football, when a car turned the corner and everything shut down, mid-play?). I can understand Jerry Jones being upset with having to move the thing after the NFL signed off on the specs, but something has to change there. Hoisting that bad boy up another 20 feet ought to do the trick.
  • Liked what I saw from the Dallas offense overall, especially in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half. As much heat as Tony Romo takes, Jason Garrett has to get his swag back as well. The two kids I continue to hear about there, above and beyond Roy Williams or anyone else, are Felix Jones and Martellus Bennett. I think we’re going to see a lot of two tight end sets with Jones in the backfield this season. And plenty of Jones and Marion Barber in the same backfield as well. T.O.is gone and the Cowboys lack a proven home-run hitter at receiver, but Jones could supply that aspect and stretch teams from the running back position.
  • You don’t seem to hear anything about the Seahawks, but a healthy Matt Hasselbeck could change that entire division. It’s up for grabs, nine wins might be enough again. Arizona hasn’t exactly shined in the preseason, and it’s hard to imagine them getting 16 games out of Kurt Warner). In a league where quarterbacks matter, I like Seattle to make a push at a playoff spot and win that division.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars wideout Troy Williamson is looking like a bounce-back guy thus far in the preseason. Everyone in the NFL knows he has tools — he wasn’t drafted that high for no reason. Maybe he is finally starting to put things together with his career in the balance.

I always want to know what you guys are interested in, so please swing by my chat on NFL.com at 11 a.m. ET, and you can always hit me up on email (lacanforanfl@yahoo.com) or Twitter (jasonlacanfora).

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