We’ve been on the road for the past week or so, seeing four teams and five practices. And yes, we’ve only begun to gain an understanding of the landscape of the NFL. Today, we rest (kinda). We’re home in Dallas, getting ready to board a flight to Nashville to see the Titans on Friday.
While we have some time… let’s spin through one random thought on each team (in alphabetical order) that sums up what’s been going on in camp so far. Why? Well, why not?
— Randy Moss has taken over the headlines, as he tends to do. But the only real question for the 49ers is whether Alex Smith can be an accurate enough passer to take his team where it needs to go.
— The knee injury that slowed LB Brian Urlacher last year may be gone, but it doesn’t make me feel confident that he’s already missed a practice because of that same knee. He’s not a bruiser, he needs to be able to run.
— For the first time in a while, the Bengals are doing all the right things, and extending coach Marvin Lewis to avoid a lame duck situation was the most recent example. Their future is stunningly bright.
— There is some serious optimism for the return of Shawne Merriman, specifically coming from himself. The Bills pass-rusher is feeling healthy and jacked… and I’m sorry, I won’t believe it until he gets through a few games without injuring himself. He hasn’t played a real season since 2007.
— I love hearing about Peyton Manning as much as the next guy, but I wonder how the Broncos defense has enjoyed its time in the shadows. At some point, we’ll all realize that unit got game, too.
— It’s hard for me not to feel bad for Colt McCoy in Cleveland. Poor guy hasn’t even really been given the chance to compete for a job that used to be his. Hard to believe Ryan Tannehill is going to fight tooth and nail for playing time in Miami, but Brandon Weeden is being handed with the Browns.
— Good for coach Greg Schiano to try his best to clean up that mess of a Bucs locker room before the season starts. I bet trading DT Brian Price for a few Pez dispensers wasn’t the last thing. You need a foundation to build on.
— What an under-the-radar team the Cardinals are. We all focus so much on the QBs (rightfully so), but they ended last year on a high note, regardless. Getting a healthy RB Ryan Williams back is like a bonus.
— An explanation for why Chargers LB Takeo Spikes is still in the league after all these years? At 35, he still does drills after practice to work on things like catching the ball (pictured). A bunch of the young’ns had gone in, but not Spikes. Awesome.
— Not a fantastic sign for Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe that Jon Baldwin is showing up at camp and looking great. A dude holding out doesn’t want his position group to go along as is. Still, a team can’t have just one receiver, and everyone knows that. Figure Bowe will just suck it up and show up before the season begins, regardless of how Baldwin is doing.
— The Colts have so many problems as a team, but Andrew Luck isn’t one of them. The reports of his accuracy early on are quite promising and not surprising, even against his own shaky defense.
— Just listening to coach Jason Garrett talk, I expect the Cowboys to be much more of a smash-mouth team this year, going in a direction they started in last year. Pounding the rock with DeMarco Murray will ease the pressure off Tony Romo. But that line needs to stay healthy to do it.
— Ah, Chad Johnson. Still a fun interview, still selling the line about how stifled your personality was in New England. It’s cool that he has fun talking to us. Who cares? We don’t know if he can still do it physically for the Dolphins, but we will soon.
— He’s not really doing his publicity tour anymore, but I thoroughly enjoyed Eagles QB Mike Vick’s series of interviews to sell his book. It’s so refreshing when a person simply speaks his mind, then doesn’t mind the backlash of those who wished he didn’t enter the fray on hot button issues.
— Matt Ryan is going into his fifth year, and we still don’t quite know how good he is. In my mind, he’s always been on the cusp of being in the Top 5. A bigger, stronger, sturdier Ryan may be primed for that this year. But he has to go do it.
— What the heck gives with the Giants and their players who tear ACLs in back-to-back years. “I would like to know what the medical answer is,” coach Tom Coughlin told reporters. CB Terrell Thomas may be the latest, but it has to be just bad luck, right? Has to be.
— This standoff with Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars got a little awkward when coach Mike Mularkey admitted he’d never met MJD. That directive to not reach out had to come from ownership, right? Because it’s business? I can’t imagine a first-year coach being so cavalier about his star player (holdout or not) otherwise.
— Really Jets RB Joe McKnight? You got sick after going to Applebee’s? Sorry dude. No one to blame but yourself on that one. Use Google, find a real restaurant. You’re better than that (I hope).
— The Cowboys still aren’t (ahem) trading CB Mike Jenkins, but once he proves he’s healthy, shouldn’t the Lions be the likely spot? They just dismissed Aaron Berry, and they liked Jenkins coming out. Plus, I’ll speculate, the Lions can send ’em a receiver. Megatron, Lance Long, Titus Young, and Ryan Broyles gives them so much depth there.
–– I guess Donald Driver just don’t get old, eh? I mean, how can the Packers even move on from him when he keeps impressing? They gotta keep him on the field, I’d think.
— Holy cow that situation around OT Jeff Otah is awkward. It’s all business, but that walk back into the Panthers office after they traded him must’ve been gut-wrenching. Would be mildly comical if he ended up being healthy enough to be the player he used to be. I’m kinda rooting for him.
— Fights in training camp are pretty stupid, mostly because swinging at guys in helmets is a good way to break a hand. But the Patriots had to be a little pumped that nice guy Nate Solder triggered a rumble by cheap-shotting Brandon Spikes last night. Good to see some fire in their new starting left tackle.
— The Raiders seem like they are heading in the right direction, finally. I loved this tidbit from the Chronicle that the players need to check in for meals, whether they eat or not. That’s attention to detail. And, I mean, with a healthy Darren McFadden, they’ll be talented enough anyway. They could be really annoying to play.
— It’s so simple, but I really like how the Rams are re-tooling. A ton of turnover in the offseason to get rid of the bad players on the roster. A million draft picks (with some risks) to put more talent on the field and increase competition. Locking up their key veterans, beginning with DE Chris Long. That’s the formula. With a really good QB in Sam Bradford, maybe they sped up their timetable.
— It’s kind of amazing, but perhaps Sergio Kindle is getting ready to contribute for the Ravens. A strange set of circumstances ruined his last two years, but he’s on the field and looking good enough so far. If he can help the pass-rush with T-Sizzle being out, that’s like acquiring a key free agent.
— I was intrigued watching NFL Network yesterday and hearing Daniel Jeremiah say how he saw some plays from Baylor on the field for the Redskins with Robert Griffin III under center. RGIII had told me it’s Kyle Shanahan’s offense (instead of his dad’s) and this, to me, kinda points to that. This shows some needed flexibility and is a really positive sign that the ‘Skins’ top pick’ll hit the ground running.
— The Saints didn’t have many draft picks this year, but it sounds like they still may have gotten an impact guy. There are already raves about WR Nick Toon, who is flashing some skills. Good, because QB Drew Brees doesn’t have enough weapons…
— No one wanted WR Braylon Edwards, right up until the Seahawks grabbed him. Weird career for him. First he was over-rated, then badly under-rated. My gut is that he makes that team, based on the sole fact that he’s really not that terrible. Plus, he’s probably frustrated at all the people saying he’s done.
— No big deal, only QB Ben Roethlisberger having a “little” torn rotator cuff. Amazing. If this happened in New England with Tom Brady, it would be pandemonium. With the Steelers, everyone has shrugged. To me, we all just acknowledge Big Ben is going to be banged up for the rest of his career. It’s, can he go out and play? And he can.
— I wonder if Texans DC Wade Phillips regrets saying DE J.J. Watt will earn “a bust in the Hall of Fame.” There’s no need to break out the hyperbole, and no need to put that kind of pressure on a player. And so much can happen in a career. But it’s clear Houston thinks they have a once-in-a-generation star.
— The quarterback competition in Nashville is heating up… kinda. Our own Michael Lombardi is saying it’s Jake Locker’s job to lose, and it really has to be that way, right? I mean, who in that Titans organization wouldn’t want their first-rounder under center in his second year? That’s best case for the organization, even if Matt Hasselbeck is a fantastic security blanket.
— Vikings owner Zygi Wilf expects a NFC North championship, despite the rough year last year. That’s slightly insane. Would be shocked if that happened. But I bet veterans like DE Jared Allen love to hear the owner insist they are not rebuilding, but trying to win now. Probably helped morale and keeps people on board.