The “Turk’ is coming (first NFL cuts are August 28th – 75 players), meaning that several potential NFL wannabes will have one week of practice and one game to show that they belong in the NFL. The third week of the pre-season schedule is usually the game week where coaches put the finishing touches on their regular season game one game plan, so you will be seeing veterans past halftime for a change. Chicago Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith recently said about young players learning “With rookies and young guys in general, you can’t give up on them too soon”. He added “If a guy shows you he is successful right away, good. If he doesn’t, you have to give him a little time before you make an evaluation that he can’t play. You can make a quicker evaluation that a guy can play, but don’t make a quick evaluation that a player can’t play.”
After this week’s games, difficult evaluations and cuts that Coach Smith spoke of will need to be made and then don’t expect to see any veterans or players of interest on the field for the usually meaningless fourth week of the NFL pre-season schedule.
This week’s schedule features four games on national television and three territorial “Bragging Rights Bowls“ Philadelphia-Pittsburgh, Baltimore at Washington, Dallas at Houston, and the New York Jets at the New York Giants.
• This week’s action begins with the Jacksonville Jaguars visiting the Green Bay Packers at historic Lambeau field on Thursday on FOX, 8:00 PM ET . The QBs in this game have looked great the past couple of weeks. Off last week’s performances, starting quarterbacks Byron Leftwich of the Jaguars and Brett Favre of the Packers look like they’re ready for the season. Learning his third new offense (under new coordinator Dirk Koetter) in the past five years, Leftwich led three first-half scoring drives last Saturday against Tampa Bay . “We started off slow, but we finished the first quarter and the beginning of the second strong,” he said. Favre, who can become the NFL’s all-time TD pass leader this year, definitely looked ready for the bell in a 48-13 win over Seattle on Saturday. He drove the Pack to 17 points in its first four drives. For the Packers also keep an eye on rookie running back Brandon Jackson (second round, Nebraska) and wideout James Jones (third round, San Jose State), who is vying for the No. 3 receiving spot.
• New England at Carolina (Friday, CBS, 8:00 PM ET ): A rematch of Super Bowl XXXVIII and quarterbacks Tom Brady (new papa congrats) and Jake Delhomme. Make sure that you watch the defense, as both seem primed for the season. The Pats showed they are ready last week against Vince Young and the Titans, even without starting ends Richard Seymour and Ty Warren, they limited Tennessee to 99 yards in the first half (sacked Young four times). Carolina, which finished seventh overall on defense last year has been getting solid performances from its “D” this summer as well, particularly from second-year defensive end Stanley McClover, who In Week 1 of the preseason, starting for Mike Rucker, he had three tackles, including a sack and a quarterback hurry against the Giants. Last Friday night at Philadelphia , subbing for Juluis Peppers, he added three more tackles, a half-sack and another hurry.
• Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, NBC, 8:00 PM ET): Looks like Donovan is back (Game ball last week). The Eagles quarterback sporting an “all-bald” look, certainly looks like he has recovered from his knee injury of last year. Against Carolina last week, the five-time Pro Bowl QB led Philly to 10 points on four possessions, lighting things up in the first quarter by finishing six-for-nine for 138 yards, including a 58-yard hookup to tight end Matt Schoebel.
The Steelers will use the next two weeks to decide who the starters will be on their offensive line. “We’re getting extremely close, but we’re going to continue to watch these guys,” says first-year head coach Mike Tomlin. “We feel like we’ve got eight guys who are capable starters. We’re going to leave no stone unturned in allowing those guys the opportunity to compete.”
• Cincinnati at Atlanta (Monday, ESPN, 8:00 PM ET): Fine tuning their offenses, will be on the agendas for both teams. The Bengals think they have found their third receiver after Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh in three-year man Tab Perry. They went to Perry a lot last Saturday against New Orleans and Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer will be expected to do the same this week. “T.J., Chad and Carson really have good timing and they’re all on the same page,” says Perry. “I’m trying to get there. I’ve got to hurry up and pick things up quick.” The Falcons, who led the NFL in rushing the past three years, will try an institute a pass-oriented offense this season under quarterback Joey Harrington and new head coach Bobby Petrino.
Harrington has had difficulty trying to replace embattled quarterback Michael Vick (leave of absence) and will spend the next two weeks of the pre-season trying to perfect his relationship with wide receivers Roddy White, Joe Horn, and third-round draft choice Laurent Robinson, who leads the Falcons in preseason with nine catches for 103 yards.
• I will also be looking for the quarterback situations in Cleveland and Kansas City to be cleared up this week. In Cleveland expect rookie quarterback Brady Quinn to continue to put pressure on under achievers Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson. In Kansas City expect 2nd year quarterback Brodie Croyle start and to claim the job due to his strong play last week and veteran signal caller Damon Huard battling injuries.
NFL Pre-Season Week 3 (August 23-27)
(All times local)
Thursday, August 23
Jacksonville at Green Bay , 7:00 (FOX)
New Orleans at Kansas City , 7:30
Friday, August 24
New England at Carolina , 8:00 (CBS)
Tennessee at Buffalo , 7:00
St. Louis at Oakland , 7:00
Saturday, August 25
Minnesota at Seattle , 6:00
Detroit at Indianapolis , 7:00
Dallas at Houston , 7:00
San Diego at Arizona , 7:00
San Francisco at Chicago , 7:00
Cleveland at Denver , 7:00
Tampa Bay at Miami , 7:30
Baltimore at Washington , 8:00
N.Y. Jets at N.Y. Giants, 8:00
Sunday, August 26
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh , 8:00 (NBC)
Monday, August 27
Cincinnati at Atlanta , 8:00 (ESPN)