Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pre-Season Prognosticating: NFL-Style

Sure, it’s just the pre-season. Even more than that fact alone standing as enough evidence to erase anything relevant from what I’m about to say, there’s still plenty you can learn from the pre-season.

Stick with me now, there really is.

True, you shouldn’t worry about Tom Brady and the Patriots going 0-2 on both of their offensive series. Then again, it’s not like it’s the worst news I heard last night. Nevermind the fact that guys like Maroney, Moss, and Stallworth wore track suits instead of uniforms last night, perhaps Tom Brady has officially lost it.
Okay, I won’t start that rumor.

I’ll instead relent and remind myself, and everyone else, that it was still the first game of the pre-season.

Yet, despite this unmistakable fact, I’ve decided to go a little deeper, within this post at least, and try and find something relevant from a selection of the NFL’s opening weekend set of pre-season games. In fact, I’m going to try and tackle a mini-issue from each game. For the sake of continuity, I’m going to target one guy on each roster. I’ll take a brief look at his performance, or lack thereof, and try and carve out some meaningful analysis.

[I’ll concede that this series of analysis of offensive-dominant. However, I’ll more than make it up for it in the next post, coming next weekend.]

Apparently this guy is more than ready for some football.
Enjoy the ride…
~~Hall of Fame Game~~
Pittsburgh 20
New Orleans 7

Steelers: Kevan Barlow [7 rushes, 13 yards]
-Is there really room on the Steeler roster for Barlow? While last season wasn’t a complete meltdown in New York for Barlow, he wasn’t welcomed back for a sophomore campaign. With a roster filled already with Pro Bowler Willie Parker and two talented backups (Verron Haynes & Najeh Davenport), could Barlow potentially supplant Davenport as a short yardage back? The answer is probably NO.

Saints: Antonio Pittman [7 rushes, 20 yards]
-The rookie out of the Ohio State University will have a tough enough time when he glances up at the depth chart and spots Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush ahead of him. Adding to that problem is a rather talented #3-system-back named Aaron Stecker. While Pittman has a sick speed burst and youth on his side, Stecker is a seasoned veteran who catches the ball extremely well and knows the Saint system even better. Pittman obviously has a roster spot guaranteed and if an injury befalls Deuce, Antonio could easily see quite a few carries most games (if he passes Stecker on the depth chart, that is).

Detroit 27
Cincinnati 26

Lions: Dan Orlovsky [15-23, 220 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT]
-Passing on Brady Quinn for Calvin Johnson, the Lions decided to wait until the second-round to tab their potential QB of the future. Unfortunately for them, Drew Stanton is on the IR for the season. While journeymen JT O’Sullivan is also on the roster, Orlovsky may merit a peak or two (especially if the Lions revert to their typical losing ways early on this season) before the season concludes.

Bengals: Chris Henry [6 receptions, 86 yards, 1 TD]
-Even surprising me a bit, Henry is apparently allowed to play in the pre-season. His suspension, eight games, may even be shortened to four with good behavior. While that remains to be seen (anyone else surprised Henry and Pacman are products of the loose-morals of WVU football?), Henry is as dynamic a number 3 wideout the NFL, and fantasy footballers, has seen in recent years. In fact, he may merit sitting on someone’s bench for a few weeks, as all Bengal QBs still seem more than willing to throw the ball his way still.

Indianapolis 10
Dallas 23

Colts: DeDe Dorsey [6 rushes, 15 yards]
-Raise your hand if you knew some guy named DeDe was the potential #2 back in the Colts depth chart this season. With Dominique Rhodes now lost in the plethora of the Raider running back depth chart, Joseph Addai is now number 1 (and not 1a or 1b) in the Colt rushing attack. Right behind him, at least for now, appears to be the second year product out of Lindenwood. Nope, that’s not a country club or a community you’re likely to see on an episode of the Hills. Instead, it’s found in St. Charles, Missouri. As for Dorsey, he’s a guy liked by Tony Dungy. Even more prominently, he’s a guy whom Peyton Manning, for better or worse, may soon have to rely a lot more on that he might’ve planned.

Cowboys: Matt Moore [7-9, 88 yards]
-When Brad Johnson is your backup plan, you can’t be too upset. Yet, you also have to remember that Brad Johnson is going to be 79 by the end of this season. While Tony Romo is young and talented, the #3 QB on a roster matters more in situations such as these than in years past. While there is a bit of a competition, according to Wade Phillips, for this spot, don’t think that Moore, a product of Oregon State, isn’t working his hardest to secure the #3 job before the conclusion of the pre-season.

Atlanta 16
New York Jets 31

Falcons: Dwayne Blakley [1 reception, 37 yards]
-The easy target for any talk about currently active Falcons is Joey Harrington. In fact, it’s almost too easy to target Joey Heisman. Almost as interesting might be the backup situation, with Vick assumingly gone for the year, between second-year Georgia product DJ Shockley and former Raven starter Chris Redman (okay, he started about a dozen years ago for them). However, I’m trying to dig a little deeper. While Joe Horn brings veteran leadership to the receiving corps, I’m looking at Blakley to become a second tight end target, alongside regular Pro Bowler Alge Crumpler, for Harrington to develop alongside in the Falcon system. Between their run happy offense, and Harrington’s less than stellar accuracy downfield, a second tight end, one with the talent to work the middle of the field, could be just what new incoming Head Coach Bobby Petrino needs.

Jets: Kellen Clemens [16-22, 174 yards, 3 TDs]
-Just a season ago, before Chad Pennington’s Comeback Player of the Year award-winning year, Clemens might’ve wondered if he’d be able to seriously compete for the starting gig this season. While that appears to be on hold for the near future, Clemens definitely did his best to stake claim to the backup job. Early reports from camp had Clemens lost and confused; however, his three TD strikes were more than enough toe excite Jet fans…for now.

New England 10
Tampa Bay 13

Patriots: Sammy Morris [9 rushes, 27 yards, 1 TD]
-With Corey Dillon riding the free agency wires, Laurence Maroney is officially the man in Foxboro. While I have more than a few questions regarding the second-year man’s durability, the Patriots have always been wise to keep Kevin Faulk around as a do-everything running back. However, they still need a more solidified number 2 back. Enter the former Dolphin sorta-starter, at least during injury-happy times, “Skit-Skat” Sammy Morris. (You can thank my friend Goings for that nickname). If Maroney goes down, don’t expect the Pats to scour the waiver wires or look to bring Dillon back; especially with Morris more than willing to carry the load and catch a few passes out of the backfield.

Buccaneers: Jeramy Stevens [2 receptions, 11 yards]
-Sometimes, you just can’t fit in on a team. Despite a talented pedigree and plenty of passes coming his way, Stevens clearly wore out his welcome in Seattle. So what is the best place for an underachieving tight end to go (and typically waste away a few seasons)? The answer is Tampa Bay. Names like Rickey Dudley and Anthony Becht ring gigantic bells to me instantly on that account. While Stevens is more talented than both of those former first-round selections, it remains to be seen if he can step up his attitude, his intensity, and lose his affinity for dropping key passes when it matters the most.

St. Louis 13
Minnesota 10

Rams: Brian Leonard [9 rushes, 36 yards, 5 receptions, 30 yards]
-While you might’ve been scratching your heads at his second-round selection, Ram fans shouldn’t have been. Despite Stephen “Action” Jackson being an all-world rushing and receiving threat, Leonard will really help in further opening up the Ram offense. He can line up at running back, full back, h-back, or just as a straight pass-catching back. He has solid speed, impressive strength, and the attitude coaches like Scott Linehan love. Watch out for this kid. He may win a game or two for the Rams this season.

Vikings: Bobby Wade [2 receptions, 42 yards]
-Enter another journeyman wideout to the Viking receiving corps. Since Troy Williamson has done nothing but fizzle in his short stint in Minnesota, the Vikings may just give Wade enough routes and enough looks to merit him worthy of a fantasy peak. As for the NFL side of things, Wade has shown enough flashes – not of brilliance, but of starting ability – to make you wonder if he can become Tavaris Jackson’s favorite new target. While the answer is completely unknown; stranger things have happened.

Buffalo 13
New Orleans 10

Bills: Trent Edwards [10-11, 49 yards]
-Some of us just hate JP Losman…and the Bills. Okay, I give in. I do. Both of them. So much. Yet, Edwards (who was regarded as being potentially worthy of going first in the 2nd round to Oakland during draft time) is one of those tremendous upside-QBs everyone seems to fall in love with this time of the year. While Losman seems to have the starting gig on lockdown, an injury or serious regression (such as a 2-4 start) may merit a serious look for Edwards to see some snaps. Gee, I wonder how many times I’ve said “merit” in this post? Either way, Edwards will be an interesting guy to watch this pre-season.

Saints: Robert Meacham [2 receptions, 20 yards, TD]
-Joe Horn missed the majority of the meaningful 2006/07 campaign and allowed guys like Colston/Henderson/Copper to fill-in more than admirably. Enter into the mix now a 1st-rounder out of Tennessee with a pedigree for tremendous size and skill. While he hasn’t had the crispest start in New Orleans (health issues abound early on), Meacham snagged a late TD from soon-to-be-#3 Tyler Palko in the late stretches of his opening game, allowing Saint fans at least a taste of his potential.

Fourteen guys and more than fourteen stories.

The real question is: which story this pre-season interests you the most?

Hopefully we’ll peg one or two of them before the season kicks off…

Until next time.


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