Published: August 31st, 2009 | Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Albert Haynesworth, Baltimore, Ben Roethlisberger, Brady Quinn, Byron Leftwich, Cam Cameron, Chase Daniel, Chicago, Cleveland, Colt Brennan, Daunte Culpepper, Derek Anderson, Detroit, Green Bay, Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Luke McCown, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford, New England, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Tom Brady, Washington
Well, with one exception, the all-important third preseason games are over (actually, with three exceptions – Minnesota and Houston play tonight, and Buffalo and Tennessee were on their fourth game, due to their participation in the Hall of Fame game, but you get the picture).
Had a chance to see a fair bit of the football out there, and here are a few things that caught my attention:
» Tampa had no choice but to name Byron Leftwich the starter. He wasn’t stellar, but Luke McCown just hasn’t shown anything. He flashed in the second game, but opening with five straight incomplete passes against Miami wasn’t the best approach to winning the job.
» Tom Brady got lucky. Yeah, I’m sure he’s hurting right now, but with Albert Haynesworth coming down on top of your shoulder, you’ve got to expect the worst. Haynesworth spoke repeatedly after the game about how much he liked the Patriots and Brady. Good thing for them, otherwise this could have been ugly. Had Albert given him the full pile-driver, I’m not sure the shoulder would have held up.
» Regular readers know I’ve been all over the Packers for a while now, and their starters were outstanding again. One scout who watches the NFC North extensively told me they look like the class of the division. On NFL Total Access a few months back, we were asked who we would take if we had one player we could pick to start a team with. I chose Aaron Rodgers, and I’ve seen no reason to change that. Great, poised young QB, who fought through a very difficult situation there, proved his worth and is signed to a contract that I believe he will greatly out-perform in short order. Very cap friendly. I’ll start with him.
» I thought the Lions showed good fight against the Colts. Detroit has to buck a trend of mailing it in, and this was a nice step. I’m getting a sense that despite Matthew Stafford‘s strong performance veteran Daunte Culpepper could get the starting gig to open the season. He’s looked good, they badly need a win and you don’t want to throw too much at the kid too soon. This isn’t like the situation with the Jets, where rookie Mark Sanchez is surrounded with better talent and there isn’t anything close to someone on the roster there to push him. Two different scenarios at play.
» As for Sanchez, he bounced back well from a rough outing at the Ravens and moved the ball in an impressive fashion against the Giants. The G-men, with all of their injuries, won’t have the luxury of seeing most of their parts on defense together at all in the preseason, and I can’t help but think that will lead to some issues early in the season.
» No one needed a big game more than Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, and he delivered against a tough opponent. Watching him after the game, you could see his confidence soaring after what has been a long and tumultuous offseason. He made some big throws. True, they didn’t complete a pass in the end zone — something that offense hasn’t done with any regularity in a long time; and the timing on the deep ball remains off — but that was a strong outing in the face of adversity. Meantime, Colt Brennan continues to force things and improvise, to his own detriment. If Chase Daniel plays well this week, he’s gonna be the No. 3 QB there.
» The Raiders “effort” — and I use that term ever so liberally — against the Saints Saturday, was pathetic. They, like the Lions, need to make a cultural change in that locker room and on the sidelines, but the Raiders actually found a way to take a step back. They weren’t even playing. Spoke to some people who were on the sidelines who said the Raiders players were complaining about how hot it was (mid-80s and no humidity? Come on, guys), and there was no lack of whiny attitudes on display before the opening kickoff. Their lack of defensive intensity was staggering.
» Baltimore continues to go with “Air Flacco,” with Cam Cameron alertly using the preseason to improve the over-the-middle passing game and the overall air attack, amping things up for second-year passer Joe Flacco. They already know they have a three-headed monster at running back, but improving the air game will allow that offense to take a leap forward.
» Watching that game, I can see why the Carolina Panthers are on the prowl for defensive line help.
» In the statement game category, no worries about Ben Roethlisberger being healthy after that perfect outing over the weekend. And Jay Cutler may not face a more hostile environment than what he experienced Sunday night in Denver for a long, long time. He met the challenge, and that four-minute drill at the end of the first half was about as good as it gets.
» If it’s my call in Cleveland — and obviously it’s not — I’m letting Brady Quinn take my team into the season. See what the kid can do with a good sample size of games, given how little he has played, and at least be able to self-scout and know exactly what you have before you make more moves at the QB spot. It’s not like the Browns are going to contend with either guy behind center. We’ve already seen the best and worst from Derek Anderson; I’d want to be able to determine the same from Quinn when the games really count.
» As far as teams with riches at certain positions, I would not be surprised if the Eagles (wide receiver/quarterback), Packers (defensive lineman), Steelers (cornerback), Ravens (quarterback/linebacker), Bucs (quarterback) to be among those looking to deal depth players before having to make final cuts.