(Philadelphia, Pa) — Week 2 of the NFL Pre-season was billed as “Reunion Week” with several veterans and coaches returning to play their old teams and some territorial rivalry games on the schedule. The week will culminate with a Super Bowl reunion of the Colts and Bears on Monday Night football. One key element that I noticed this week and throughout the preseason is the NFL is “survival of the fittest”, where you can never have too much quality depth in a league where players are dropping like flies. Denver RB Travis Henry (knee sprain), Washington QB Jason Campbell (knee sprain), NY Giants S Will Demps (dislocated elbow) and many others were injured in games that make coaches and owners scream “Please Lets Make it to the Start of the Season”. I have to agree with them, because too often important pieces of a team’s puzzle are lost for considerable amounts of time including for the entire season in meaningless games. We all know that exhibition games as I like to call them are only on the schedule for the purpose of generating extra revenue (two extra “home” games at full price) and are very unnecessary. With today’s athletes already engaged in year round NFL activities, long arduous training camps and four pre-season games are not as needed as in the past. Today’s player’s bodies are already pushed to the max in daily weight room sessions and when you add the strain of training camp two a days in the hot, injuries are waiting to happen in preseason games. I know coaches try to limit exposure to key veterans by getting them out of these games early, but the risk is always there. I believe NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will need to investigate in limiting the pre-season further and I have heard whispers that the NFL is planning to shorten the pre-season schedule to three weeks with the possibility of a 17th week added to the regular season.
There were some bright spot performances noted below that did show some veterans and rookies are close to being ready for prime time in September. Overall though I say bring on the “real” games, because the pre-season is just too long of a process and watching games of depth chart 3’s versus 4’s is unbearable.
Game BallsEagles QB Donovan McNabb – No player in the NFL had more eyes on him entering week two of the pre-season than “Big 5”. Making his start appearance since his November knee injury, McNabb was impressive in the Eagles 27-10 win over the Panthers. Since I got to spend time with Donovan at his camp earlier in the summer and at Eagles training camp, I had no doubts he would be ready. He exceeded every Eagles fans expectations and mine by putting on a clinic on Friday night. Playing only in the first quarter, the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback, wearing his knee brace, put on an aerial display reminiscent of his 2004 season when he led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. McNabb finished with passing numbers of 6-for-9 for 138 yards, including the play of the game a 58-yard strike to tight end Matt Schobel. Schobel was tackled at the Panthers 3, and Tony Hunt ran it in on the next play to give the Eagles a 10-0 lead and ending McNabb’s night after four possessions. After the game McNabb was confident with his effort saying “It wasn’t a test for me at all,” and “I knew I can play this game at a high level.” He added “I have a long way to go, but the exciting part is just what we can do,” and “I tried to get us back to the point where we were when I left. Hopefully we can get back to that, but it’s going to take some time.”
Cleveland Browns QB Brady Quinn – Having ended his contract holdout over a week ago and being able to concentrate on a full game plan was evident. Quinn looked better than any of the Browns quarterbacks in a 23-20 loss to Detroit on Saturday night. With the flashbulbs popping, he had command of the huddle and threw for 155 yards and 2 TDs in his debut for the Browns. The Cleveland rookie quarterback tossed both his touchdowns in the fourth-quarter. The Browns quarterback situation just got more interesting and more confusing to embattled head coach Romeo Crennel, who still has not named a starter for the Sept 9th opener against the Steelers. Other Cleveland quarterbacks Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson both struggled with turnovers and were loudly booed by Browns fans.
Oakland Raiders QB Daunte Culpepper – In the annual “The Battle of the Bay”, the recently signed (July 31st) Culpepper showed why he is a great plan B candidate for the Raiders. With JaMarcus Russell still on the sidelines due to his contract holdout, Culpepper was sharp and looked like he could be returning to his 2004 form. Culpepper went 6-of-8 passing for 75 yards and two touchdown passes (John Madsen and Zack Crockett). He didn’t appear hesitant as he did a year ago in Miami and he didn’t throw an interception plus he show his mobility by scrambling 13 yards for a first down. Culpepper seem unimpressed saying “I still have to get caught up,” and “I’m months behind everybody with the terminology. I just have to continue to work at it. It just takes repetitions. The more reps I get, the more comfortable I’ll be.”
Scoreboard and Game Notes
Sunday, August 19th
Giants (1-1-0) 13
Ravens (1-1-0) 12
Played at M&T Stadium this was an injury and penalty filled game shown on NBC Sunday Night football, the Giants survived against the Ravens. Both sides experienced injuries with the Giants possibly losing two members of their starting defense: Safety Will Demps (dislocated elbow) and cornerback Sam Madison (pulled a hamstring). The Giants also lost wide receivers Michael Jennings (Achilles tendon) and Steve Smith (concussion). For the Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle and receiver Mark Clayton sprained ankles their ankles.
Saturday, August 18thBuccaneers (1-1-0) 19
Jaguars (1-1-0) 31
The battle for the Citrus state was played out Jacksonville, FL as the Jaguars rebounded from a poor first week to spank the Buccaneers. Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich took advantage that that most of Tampa Bay’s defensive starters were out of the game early, scoring on all four drives against Tampa Bay’s backups in the first half. The second unit’s effort cause John Gruden to say ”Our second-team defense hasn’t shown up”. Leftwich found his rhythm against the second teamers finishing the game with passing numbers of 6-12 for 81 yards. His biggest play came courtesy of a short pass to Maurice Jones-Drew, who bounced off Adam Hayward’s tackle and raced 38 yards to the 2.
Saints (1-2-0) 27
Bengals (0-2-0) 19
Saints quarterback Drew Brees came out smoking in Cincinnati completing all six passes that he threw. Brees led New Orleans to a touchdown in his only series and should have caused the Bengals to look further into their secondary problems. A unhappy Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis said after the game ”Obviously, I’m not happy with how we performed, how we played tonight”. The Saints scored on their first three drives against Cincinnati’s starting unit and the first drive of the game culminated by Deuce McAllister’s 8-yard touchdown run led to a long night of boos from Bengals fans
Texans (1-1-0) 33
Cardinals (0-2-0) 20
In Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt’s home debut, Texans QB Matt Schaub looked good in his second start and Cardinals QB Matt Leinart responded to criticism by his coach to pick it up. There was not much defense on either sided as Schaub was 9-of-12 for 108 yards and ran 5 yards for a score and Leinart was a sizzling 7-for-7 for 70 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass to Edgerrin James. Texans rookie WR Jacoby Jones was also impressive gaining 24 yards on a pair of reverses, catching two passes for 32 yards and returning a punt 80 yards for a third-quarter touchdown.
Chargers (1-1-0) 30
Rams (1-1-0) 13
Played at the Edward James Dome, this game featured limited amount of time played by star running backs Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Didn’t Play) and Rams RB Steven Jackson (One Play). With both teams playing it close to the vest, it was the Chargers led by QB Philip Rivers (9-13, 82) and backup RB Michael Turner (9-48), who dominated. The Chargers even scored on an electric 81-yard punt return by KR Darren Sproles One bright spot for the Rams was the play of converted college quarterback and wide receiver Marques Hagans, who was subbing for Tory Holt and caught 5 passes for 71 yards.
Broncos (1-1-0) 20
Cowboys (2-0-0) 31
Playing in Dallas, the Cowboys played the role of unwelcoming host as they completely harassed and outclassed the Broncos, who had been their week long practice partners. The attacking style defense that new Dallas coach Wade Phillips has instituted has taken flight with the 2-0 Cowboys. They thoroughly confused the Broncos including quarterback Jay Cutler for the two quarters when both starting units were on the field. Cutler went 7-of-13 passing for only 58 yards and he failed to convert all five third-down chances when he was in the game including two drive that ended in short field goals after starting in Cowboys’ territory following turnovers. Conversely, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had another strong game guiding the Cowboys offense to a 24-6 lead at halftime before calling it a night. Running backs Marion Barber III (two touchdowns), Tyson Thompson (75 yards rushing), and Julius Jones (one touchdown) paced the Cowboys ground attack.
Steelers (2-1-0) 12
Redskins (1-1-0) 10
The Redskins survived a very sloppy game at FedEx field, but they now will need to check their injury reports. The biggest injury scare came for the Redskins when 3rd year quarterback Jason Campbell had grabbed his knee and limped off the field in the first quarter with an injury that appeared season threatening. Campbell was hit directly on the knee by Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel, who was assessed with a personal foul for a low hit on a quarterback in the pocket. X-rays luckily for the Redskins revealed only a bruise and no serious ligament damage that could ruin his season. The game overall was a snoozer and featured five field goals, one touchdown, and some bad injuries. Redskins LB Marcus Washington also will be an injury concern after he hurt his elbow when it popped out when it got caught between two helmets during a tackle.
After the game, Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs spent as much time on a review of how his team played as he did on the injury report.
Seahawks (1-1-0) 13
Packers (2-0-0) 48
After an extremely sloppy and bad loss in week one of the pre-season to the Steelers, quarterback Brett Favre and the Packers returned to Lambeau field and returned to form. Favre directed the Packers to 17 points in their first four drives. The Seahawks didn’t seem to interested in fighting it out as Head Coach Mike Holmgren sat quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, starting left tackle Walter Jones, and running back Shaun Alexander barely played (3 carries for 3 yards).
Raiders (1-1-0) 21
49ers (1-1-0) 26
Playing in San Francisco, Raiders quarterback Daunte Culpepper (See Gameballs) looked great in his first game in “The Battle of the Bay” series. The game is part of a friendly rivalry going back years and it had drama from back and forth action. Niners quarterback Alex Smith looked good as well (8-12, 106 yards) in his limited action in the first half, but it was the Raiders that seemed more hungry fighting to the end and almost winning when wide receiver Alvis Whitted dropped a potential go-ahead pass with 5 seconds left. The games was not as good for Raiders QB Josh McCown, who playing with third-stringers finished 8-of-17 for 97 yards.
Lions (2-0-0) 23
Browns (1-1-0) 20
It was “showtime” in Cleveland as Brady Quinn stole the show (See Gameballs). Quinn couldn’t save the Browns from a loss, but fans went home giddy over the play of their Quarterback of the future.
Friday, August 17thFalcons (1-1-0) 13
Bills (1-1-0) 10
In a game played Orchard Park, New York the Falcons and Bills engaged in an extremely sloppy game where both starting quarterbacks Joey Harrington and JP Losman struggled. Harrington day was all downhill as he threw an interception on the Falcons opening drive. Losman didn’t fair any better and didn’t put an points on the board for the Bills. The teams both squandered numerous scoring opportunities when their first-string units were on the field and settled for field goals. The Falcons quarterback situation also got more murky when 2nd string quarterback DJ Shockley apparently tore his ACL in the game. The Falcons whose whole season will be overshadowed by the Michael Vick saga, will now be looking for a veteran backup (Maybe Eagles 4th stringer Kelly Holcomb). As for Vick, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Friday at the game “It seems to be a pretty clear indication there will be some sort of plea entered”.
Panthers (1-1-0) 10
Eagles (1-1-0) 27
Played in Philadelphia, this game featured the return of Donovan McNabb, the Eagles rebounded strongly from a bad opening game loss to the Ravens. McNabb was tremendous (see Gameballs), while Jake Delhomme continued his tenuous hold on the starting quarterback job over David Carr. Delhomme was 9-for-18 for 78 yards, got sacked three times and threw one interception that was returned 40 yards for a touchdown by Lito Sheppard.
Titans (1-1-0) 27
Patriots (0-2-0) 24
Trying to protect their home turf in Foxboro, the Patriots hit Vince Young early and often in his pre-season debut after being suspended for the Titans first preseason game. Young was sacked four times and harassed last year’s Rookie of the Year into throwing for five of 17 passes for 102 yards. Young was also contained running for only 9 yards only four carries. Tom Brady also hung in there, but veteran Titans backup Kerry Collins led Tennessee back from a 17-7 halftime deficit.
Vikings (1-1-0) 37
Jets (1-1-0) 20
Played at Giants Stadium, the Jets cam out and did not inspire. Jets quarterback Chad Pennington looked terrible in his first real action of the season and Vikings capitalized on his mistakes. Pennington had two ill-advised throws returned for touchdowns including S Darren Sharper’s 40-yard return and LB Chad Greenway’s 16 yard return. Rookie running back Adrian Peterson also had a big game for Minnesota, gaining 70 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Thursday, August 16th
Dolphins (2-0-0) 11
Chiefs (0-2-0) 10
Though billed as the return of Trent Green after he was traded to the Dolphins after 6 years, the Chiefs probably wished workhorse RB Larry Johnson was returning. Chiefs fans came out to boo Green, but their home team didn’t give them much to cheer about. In a very sloppy game, the Chiefs looked lifeless for the second straight week while trying to find a new quarterback and limp along without holdout running back Larry Johnson. The Dolphins wanted to win more, finally scoring in the final minutes when Patrick Cobbs scored a touchdown and John Beck slipped into the end zone for the 2-point conversion. The 11-10 victory made the ‘Phins 2-0 in the preseason for the first time since 1982, but remember these games are meaningless.
Old Couch Goes to Wholesale Factory: Jacksonville releases former overall No. 1 pick Tim Couch — The NFL career of former 1999 1st player selected Tim Couch appears to be over. Couch’s return to the NFL lasted nearly three weeks, which was a couple of weeks longer than the 2006 Jeff George comeback with Raiders. The Jags released Couch, a former Kentucky quarterback who hadn’t played in the NFL since the 2004 preseason and wanted a chance to revive his career following two shoulder operations. The Jags signed him to a two-year deal on July 29, but Couch failed to make an impression in training camp. He was 2-of-4 passing for 11 yards last week at Miami and was sacked twice. The overall No. 1 pick by Cleveland in 1999 also missed practice this week with a sore back.