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Old 08-03-2008, 09:03 AM   #1
JGalligan
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Post NFL Preview: Pre-Season Edition Part 1

Instead of continuing with the division previews, Iíve scrapped the entire idea and will instead write one massive NFL preview right before the season starts. Itís the only way to do it.
Since weíre on the precipice of the pre-season kickoff Hall of Fame game, I decided to do an article of sorts related to the pre-season. I donít know why I always write introductions like this in my articles, especially since everyone could probably piece things together and get where I was going -- but whatever. Stop your biatching, Iím almost done.

Most people are usually excited for the first three downs of the first pre-season game and then find their interests wean off completely until the actual season starts. However, if youíre aware of some key position battles and storylines than you may remain interested up through Week 2.

Anyway, without further ado, hereís some key things to keep your eye on and hold your interest until the actual season starts. ItĎs broken down by team and is in alphabetical order since you can never go wrong ranking things with the help of our friend the alphabet. Bon appetit!


Arizona Cardinals

Position battle(s): Matt Leinart vs. Kurt Warner (QB)
Keep an eye on: Anquan Boldinís hamstring and contract negotiations

The Cardinals have made it clear that they want Matt Leinart to be the starter this year., but thatís a no-brainer. Kurt Warner has shown heís capable of giving them a shot to win games, but not enough games to keep them in playoff contention. Plus heís 37. However, if Leinart plays like he did last year -- the Cardinals will be forced to put Warner back in.

If the Anquan Boldin situation doesnít play out well, it wonít matter whoís at QB. The only thing that has kept the offense respectable these past few years is the Larry Fitzgerald/Anquan Boldin combo. Having them both on the field takes the offense to an entirely different level and while they could both still succeed by themselves the offense would definitely lose a step if without Boldin on the field due to injury. Or even if heís out there but upset with the organizationís handling of his financial situation. An unhappy wide receiver is never an effective one.


Atlanta Falcons


Position battle(s): Joey Harrington vs. Chris Redman vs. Matt Ryan (QB), Laurent Robinson vs. Michael Jenkins (WR2)

Keep an eye on: Jerious Norwoodís efforts to show he deserves more carries

In an ideal world for the Falcons organization, Matt Ryan would blow everyone away with his raw skills and leadership ability and stake his claim as the starting QB before the start of the season. Unfortunately for the Falcons organization, we live in something called the real world. I guess theyíll have to wait and see whether or not the small fortune they spent on a rookie QB will prove to be smart or not. While Ryan learns the intricacies of an NFL offense, it will likely be either Harrington or Redman under center for Week 1.

Following Warrick Dunnís departure, Jerious Norwood was the apparent heir to the throne. That is, until the Falcons signed perennial sloppy second backup-RB extraordinaire Michael Turner. Although Turner is certain to get most of the carries, a couple typical J-Wood performances in the pre-season and the touches scale could be altered a bit.


Baltimore Ravens

Position battle(s): Troy Smith vs. Joey Flacco vs. Kyle Boller (QB),

Keep an eye on: Ray Rice winning over the entire Ravens organization

While Kyle Boller has proven by now heís not starting QB material, the Ravens may have to go with him as the temporary starter until either Troy Smith or Joey Flacco prove that theyíre ready.

Reports out of Ravens camp are suggesting that the powers that be on offense have taken quite a liking to rookie RB Ray Rice. Rice was underrated in college due to playing at Rutgers and was underrated coming out of the draft for generally the same reason. Itís just another reason for us to take all of the NFL Draft coverage with a grain of salt. Or several shakers.


Buffalo Bills

Position battle(s): Trent Edwards vs. J.P. Losman (QB), Josh Reed vs. Roscoe Parrish vs. James Hardy(WR2), Fred Jackson vs. Dwayne Wright (RB2)

Keep an eye on: Trent Edwards reaction to being the clear-cut starter

Although Trent Edwards proved last year that he has what it takes to be the Bills starting QB, the mere presence of J.P. Losman promises some type of battle. While Edwards will likely dwarf Losman in regards to talent, he is still young and learning the ropes. Unless the Bills have a ton of patience, thereís going to be talk of giving Losman another shot.

From what was seen of Edwards last season, he should have no problem taking over the reigns permanently. But one of the most important traits of a good QB is his ability to bounce back after heís made mistakes and never leave doubt over the fact that heĎs the starter. We should learn a lot more about Edwards in the wee moments of his second season. Have I sold you on the pre-season yet?


Carolina Panthers

Position battle(s): Jake Delhomme vs. Matt Moore (QB), DeAngelo Williams vs. Jonathan Stewart (RB1), Muhsin Muhammad vs. D.J. Hackett (WR2)

Keep an eye on: Jake Delhommeís elbow

While everyone and their motherís plumber have agreed that rookie Jonathan Stewart will be the Panthers starting RB, I say letís wait a few more weeks. Iíve never understood the logic of claiming a rookie, who has never played an NFL down, will surpass a mediocre veteran who has played many NFL downs. Itís all based off of that rookieís performance in college and I donít think I need to elaborate on the college and pro games being dramatically different. Letís just wait and see.

Opinions have been split on Jake Delhomme. Some are concerned about his age and his recent Tommy John surgery. Elbows are important to QBís, after all. The other half are optimistic and reference the Panthers poor offensive play without him. The key to the whole situation is how well Delhomme responds to the surgery and how much the offensive line can protect him. If not, then Matt Moore will need to step in and learn how to utilize the weapons he has on offense -- which is something he failed to do last year. But letís give him a break, the kids going into his second year. So critical we can be sometimes..


Chicago Bears

Position battle(s): Rex Grossman vs. Kyle Orton (QB), Desmond Clark vs. Greg Olsen (TE), Earl Bennett vs. Mark Bradley vs. Devin Hester (WR2)

Keep an eye on:The sorry excuse for a QB battle Chicago is engaged in

Out of all of the position battles across the NFL, the Bears QB battle is the most blatant and wide open. It can literally go either way and the Bears have expressed approval that they will be okay with whoever wins.

Although many (me included) have joked that the situation shouldnít be called a battle, since each is so mediocre, the identity of the offense will be directly hinged to whoever ends up winning the job. They will either be explosive yet mistake-prone with Grossman or conservative yet lacking oomph with Orton. Neither sounds great, but itís worth keeping an eye on to get a feel for what direction the Bears offense will go this year.


Cincinnati Bengals

Position battle(s): Rudi Johnson vs. Kenny Watson (RB1), Andre Caldwell vs. Jerome Simpson (WR3)

Keep an eye on: The chemistry that will develop between Carson Palmer and Ben Utecht

Whether or not 2007 was just an off year for Rudi Johnson, Kenny Watson proved he had what it takes to carry the load in the backfield. Chris Perry has also been impressive when given the chance but will likely battle for the RB2 spot in 2008.

Carson Palmer, who is arguably one of the most talented QBís in the NFL, has never had a capable pass-catching TE during his career. While Utecht isnít one of the top tier TEís in the game, he and Palmer both should benefit from one anothers presence.


Cleveland Browns

Position battle(s): Derek Anderson vs. Brady Quinn (QB), Joshua Cribbs vs. Joe Jurevicius (WR3)

Keep an eye on: Which Derek Anderson will show up for 2008: The beginning of the 2007 season stud or end of the year choking dud

Even though Derek Anderson is 110% likely to be the starter come Week 1, I canít help but think that there will be trouble brewing for the Browns at some point this season. Although Anderson had a great breakout year last year and got himself a nice little contract renewal, the bad thing about it is he will need to keep performing at that level. He showed everyone last year that he has talent, but how many times have we seen players drop off -- unable to perform at a level they exhibited in the past.

It will all be well and great as long as the Browns keep winning and Anderson remains impressive. But whatís going to happen when the Browns are losing and Anderson is partially to blame? Itís a shame that Anderson has to deal with such a situation after finally breaking out last year -- but we will have to wait and see how he responds to the whole thing. Still, many teams would kill to be in the situation the Browns are in, so itís no use being pessimistic. Time holds all answers. I actually just made that phrase up but itís actually sounds quite wise and knowledgeable. I tend to spout such things out sometimes.


Dallas Cowboys

Position battle(s): Sam Hurd vs. Isaiah Stanback vs. Whichever veteran WR the Cowboys pick up before the season starts (WR3)

Keep an eye on: What percentage of Marion Barbers carries the Cowboys will decide to give to Felix Jones

Rumor has it that the Cowboys are interested in Joe Horn after releasing Terry Glenn. Rumor also has it that theyíre interested in some other veteran wide receivers. No matter, they will be competing for the third receiver spot and any team with Terrell Owens and Jason Witten doesnít need to worry too much about such trivial things.

Itís common knowledge that Jerry Jones is very high on Felix Jones. Itís also common knowledge that Jones does well in a supplementary role as evidenced by his performance as the RB 1 Ĺ behind Darren McFadden in Arkansas. The question is, how many carries will Jones take away from The Barbarian and how similar will it be to when Julius Jones was in town?


Denver Broncos

Position battle(s): Selvin Young vs. Ryan Torain vs. Any breathing player who is physically able to run forward (RB1), Darrell Jackson vs. Keary Colbert vs. Brandon Stokley (WR2)

Keep an eye on: Anyone who lines up in the Broncos backfield

Although Selvin Young showed flashes of greatness last year, everyone knows Mike Shanahan likes to utilize every piece that he has, no matter how inferior some of the pieces are to the best piece. Some think Shanahan likes to mess with fantasy football players because he doesnít like the game. I for one just think that Mike just doesnít like things go to waste. Heís the type of guy who doesnít like to throw anything away just in case he needs to utilize it for whatever reason. Too much of a good thing? What are you crazy?

I like to compare Shanahanís usage of his running backs to the mixtures of cereal. Say you have some Cocoa Puffs, Frosted Flakes and Kix. Sure, there each delicious in their own individual way -- but why commit yourself to just ONE each morning? Why not mix them all together to make one delicious smorgasbord of fantastic cereals. Sure, not one stands out but all of them together equal an acceptable and tasty whole. Yes, I realize Iím not normal.


Detroit Lions

Position battle(s): Jon Kitna vs. Drew Stanton (QB), Kevin Smith vs. Tatum Bell vs. Brian Calhoun (RB1)

Keep an eye on: The Lions offensive stats as they plummet with Mike Martzís departure

If you take a look at Jon Kitnaís stats, heís only had three really good seasons. Two of those came the past two years under the offensive genius that is Mike Martz. The third came in 2003 which is almost six years ago and sure enough is making me feel awfully old beyond my mere twenty-one years. Through common sense, without Mike Martz and with it being the year 2008, Jon Kitna will probably not have a good year this year. Itís also worth mentioning that heís 35 years old. Iím just saying..

I still havenít heard a logical reason why the Lions would let go of Mike Martz. He was the best thing to happen to that team in a very, very long time. Itís comforting to just assure ourselves that some people just donít have any common sense.


Green Bay Packers


Position battle(s): James Jones vs. Ruvell Martin vs. Jordy Nelson (WR3), Ryan Grant vs. Brandon Jackson (RB1)

Keep an eye on: The length of Ryan Grantís holdout

Ryan Grant was perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire 2007 season, second only to the realization that Odell Thurman really does like trees more than money. With Grantís head becoming a tad too large due to his 2007 success, he is currently holding out for a contract renewal. While all of this drama has unfolded, Brandon Jackson has been quietly and impressively showing what he offers to the Packers offense. And he offers a lot.

The longer Grant holds out, the longer Jackson has to win over the coaches and prove to them that he has what it takes to be the Packers RB. Keep an eye on this one.


Houston Texans

Position battle(s): Ahman Green vs. Darius Walker vs. Steve Slaton vs. Chris Brown (RB1), Jacoby Jones vs. Andre Davis (WR3)

Keep an eye on: The trio of RBís behind Ahman Green

Ahman Green has progressively declined the past couple years and barring a miraculous turnaround, he will likely have to turn over the Texans starting RB spot and do it soon. Walker, Slaton and Brown are all young, talented RBís.

Should one pull away from the rest and prove that they are the best of the bunch, we very well could be seeing the blossoming of the running back who will be the Texans starter for many years to come.


Indianapolis Colts

Position battle(s): Dominic Rhodes vs. Mike Hart vs. Kenton Keith (RB2)

Keep an eye on: How Peyton Manning bounces back after knee surgery

Even though the Colts have one of the best RBís in the game in Joseph Addai, they also have capable substitutes who could fill in for both short and long term situations. It will mainly be between Keith and Rhodes for the RB2 but if weíve learned anything about Mike Hart while he was in college, itís that he has heart. Yes, Mike Hart has heart. I actually said it.

Itís probably nothing, but I still canít get over the fact that the invincible, unflappable, aspiring actor trapped in a Hall of Fame QBís body may be affected by his recent surgery a little more than people may think. It was knee surgery. Something had to have been wrong and the older Peyton gets, the more susceptible heíll be to these types of injuries. Am I overreacting? Probably. Will I shout it to the world if I end up being right and Peyton has an off-year in 2008? ABSOLUTELY!


Jacksonville Jaguars


Position battle(s): Troy Williamson vs. Dennis Northcutt vs. Reggie Williams (WR2), Fred Taylor vs. Maurice Jones-Drew (RB1)

Keep an eye on: David Garrard getting acquainted with his new receivers

Fred Taylor is an absolute machine. I will never deny that. But itís becoming more and more likely that heíll begin to decline with each passing year. Luckily for the Jaguars, Maurice Jones-Drew is ready to take his spot. MJD had impressed many despite somewhat limited touches in his first two years in the league. With his quick, talented game breaking ability and powerful when need-be running style, Jones-Drew could very well put himself in the conversation of top RB in the game should he get more touches. It very well could be his breakout year this year. Write that down.

Garrard proved last year that he could not only be a starting QB, but also effectively manage a game and make plays when he needed to in order to win. Although he had one of the best running games in the league -- the same couldnít be said for his receiving corps. Through some off-season signings, Garrard now has even more weapons to utilize in 2008. Pay attention to how the bonding is going.


Kansas City Chiefs

Position battle(s): Brodie Croyle vs. Damon Huard (QB), Kolby Smith vs. Jamaal Charles (RB2),

Keep an eye on: How Brodie Croyle bounces back after an incredibly disappointing 2007

Had the Chiefs second option been anyone but Damon Huard, it would be unlikely Brodie Croyle would be getting such a second chance after such a poor 2007 season. Thankfully for Croyle, heís the best bet the Chiefs currently have -- but heíll be on a short leash and is on his last legs in proving his worth as a starting QB.

Croyle has the talent, he just needs to translate it into the pro game -- which is something not all players can do. The most important trait he needs to have is being able to wipe the 2007 season completely from his mind and come through when his team needs him. As with every team in this feature, weíll be learning a lot more through some pre-season play.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Hopefully Iíve educated you enough for you to want to watch a game or two this pre-season. If you really think about it, the pre-season is a prologue to the actual season. Sure, the records donít matter, but you can get a feel for all of the players and make some educated guesses as to how the season might go. Stay tuned for Part 2!

And of course, a congratulations to the 2008 NFL Hall of Fame inductees: Fred Dean, Darrell Green, Art Monk, Emmitt Thomas, Andre Tippett and Gary Zimmerman.
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Old 08-04-2008, 05:33 PM   #2
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Great post! My Packers have a lot of issues, from the obvious QB drama to RB, the other key position. I worry all these distractions could sabotage the season for the team. They need to pay Grant his money, they have it and he deserves it.
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Old 08-04-2008, 07:32 PM   #3
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PART 2

Miami Dolphins

Position battle(s): Josh McCown vs. John Beck vs. Chad Henne (QB), Ronnie Brown vs. Ricky Williams (RB1), Derek Hagan vs. Ted Ginn Jr. vs. Ernest Wilford (WR1)

Keep an eye on: Ronnie Browns recovery from his ACL tear

No matter who wins the QB battle, itís not going to matter. John Beck has so far been a bust, Josh McCown is a career fill-in and Chad Henne wasnít even that great in college. Itís an obvious rebuilding year but itís surprising they didnít try and go after Favre. It would have been logical for both parties.

The key to the offense being productive at all will be how well Ronnie Brown can bounce back after his ACL injury last year. Luckily for him (and hopefully my fantasy team), it happened relatively early in the year last year and heís had a substantial amount of time to recover. Ricky Williams isnít a threat to start unless Brown isnít 100% and will likely fill a 3rd down back role to take some of the load off of Brown.

Minnesota Vikings

Position battle(s): Sidney Rice vs. Robert Ferguson vs. Bobby Wade (WR2)

Keep an eye on: Tarvaris Jacksonís progression

Although the Vikings have arguably the best one-two punch in the league in the backfield, their receiving corps (save for Berrian) is relatively unproven or mediocre. The good thing is that Jackson and the aforementioned receivers can all develop at the same time which is always good for building rapport.

Jackson has shown steady (if a bit slow) progression since he first began to start in 2006. It helps a lot that he has Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor behind him at any given time so heíll be able to focus more on his reads and check downs and less on whether or not the defense is focusing on him. Heading into his second full season as a starter and possessing a strong work ethic, donít be surprised if Jackson comes out in the pre-season with a little extra zing on his throws and a spring in his step.



New England Patriots

Position battle(s): Jabar Gaffney vs. Chad Jackson (WR3), Kevin Faulk vs. Sammy Morris vs. Lamont Jordan (RB2), Marcus Pollard vs. David Thomas (TE2)

Keep an eye on: The sideline camera guys -- just kidding, just kidding..

The Jabar Gaffney/Chad Jackson battle might not mean much in the grand scheme of things since the Patriots will likely be using a lot of 4-WR sets. As for the backup RB, Kevin Faulk is getting up there in age and it seemed like Sammy Morris was poised to take over the duties. That is, until Lamont Jordan showed up in town. If you didnít know: Jordan > Morris. It really wonít matter though, since Bill Belichick has apparently decided to take the RB by committee to another level. Forget two backs, letís use all four of them! It makes sense though, since theyíve proved themselves to be one of the most dangerous passing attacks ever assembled.

Being a Patriots fan, Iím naturally aware that the Spy Gate jokes have been beaten to death -- but I had to do it. Sometimes witty jokes pop into my head and sound really funny while in there but end up not really translating very well into the real world.



New Orleans Saints

Position battle(s): Devery Henderson vs. David Patten vs. Lance Moore (WR2), Terrance Copper vs. Robert Meachem (WR4)

Keep an eye on: Deuce McAllisterís health and Reggie Bushís progression

The Saints receiving corps, believed to be so strong after an incredible 2006, largely disappointed last year. With the addition of Jeremy Shockey and everyone relatively healthy, the Saints passing game could very well return to 2006 form. Most of the battling in New Orleans will be among the receivers -- of whom there are a ****-load.

Reggie Bush has either hit his ceiling or will continue to get better. Unfortunately for him, no Deuce McAllister meant he had to take the entire running game burden upon himself. A healthy McAllister will do wonders for Reggieís play and more importantly, his growth. But if Deuce ends up getting injured again, they at least have the talented Pierre Thomas waiting in the wings.


New York Giants

Position battle(s): Derrick Ward vs. Ahmad Bradshaw (RB2), Mario Manningham vs. Sinorice Moss (WR4)

Keep an eye on: Eli Manning to see if winning a Super Bowl helped him in some way or if heíll remain the same aw-shucks, middle of the road QB

Some are saying that Ward and Bradshaw could compete with Jacobs for the starting spot, but I doubt that. Why tinker with something that works? Youíll probably break it. Why would you even want to tinker with something thatís working in the first place? The two young wide receivers that the Giants spent high draft picks on recently will be battling it out for the WR4 spot. Theyíre both very talented and possess some game-breaking ability. They might not play a huge role this season, but they should be prominently involved in the offense over the next couple of years. Something like that is always worth keeping an eye on.

Iím still not sold on Eli Manning. I donít mean to take away from the Super Bowl victory at all -- they deserved to win and the Giants as a team were fantastic. But if you ask me, the weakest link on that whole team during the Super Bowl run was Eli. Either heíll gain confidence due to the Super Bowl ring on his dresser or heíll be the same old Eli -- EG: Just as many interceptions as touchdowns, questionable leadership skills, the aw-shucks attitude no matter what the score. I guess weíll have to wait and see.



New York Jets

Position battle(s): Chad Pennington vs. Kellen Clemens (QB), Bubba Franks vs. Dustin Keller (TE2)

Keep an eye on: How Thomas Jones runs behind his newly improved offensive line

With a Favre to New York deal looking less and less likely by the day, the Jets will have to settle for the same situation they were faced with last year at this time. On one hand, they have Chad Pennington. He manages the game, he makes big plays from time to time and he gives them a chance to win. But his skills have been steadily declining with each passing year. On the other hand, they have Kellen Clemens. Heís a promising prospect who brings a lot of things to the table, most importantly being his big play ability. However, he is still young and inexperienced. If they decide to go with Clemens then they would likely be forgoing any chance at a post-season bid. We know who the Jets fans want, though, learning as such when they cheered after Pennington went down with an injury last year.

Thomas Jones was a huge disappointment in 2007, scoring a total of one -- count it -- one total TD. His season was blamed in large part to the incredibly poor play of the offensive line and so the Jets organization went out and remedied the situation during the off-season. Thomas Jones, meet Alan Faneca and Damien Woody. They actually know how to block! Crazy! This is officially the year that Jones can finally silence his critics who claim heĎs not starter material. If you canít run well behind Alan Faneca, you canít run well behind anyone. Thatís a fact.



Oakland Raiders

Position battle(s): Justin Fargas vs. Darren McFadden (RB1)

Keep an eye on: JaMarcus Russell who is still essentially a rookie experience-wise

Even though Darren McFadden has been projected to be a cross between every Hall of Fame running back combined, the Raiders still insisted upon re-signing Justin Fargas to a three year contract. Call me crazy, but I think thatís a pretty clear indication that they plan on giving him some playing time this season. With JaMarcus Russell at QB, who is essentially still a rookie experience-wise, the Raiders will have to rely heavily on their running game. All in all, what everything means is that no matter who wins the starting job -- thereís likely going to be something like a sixty/forty split in regards to playing time.

Although JaMarcus Russell may have gotten the money he wanted, his holdout may come back to bite him in the ass this year. Under normal circumstances, he would be entering his second season as a starter and would have likely worked out a lot of the kinks that come with being a rookie QB. Instead, heís in the same boat as he would have been last year, not to mention playing a large part in setting the Raiders offense back a year. But hey, I would probably do the exact same thing if given the opportunity. So thereís that.





Philadelphia Eagles

Position battle(s): Correll Buckhalter vs. Lorenzo Booker (RB2), Hank Baskett vs. DeSean Jackson (WR4)

Keep an eye on: How fresh Donovan McNabb looks

No matter how good a player is, they need a breather from time to time. Case in point: Brian Westbrook. Correll Buckhalter and Lorenzo Booker will be battling it out for the opportunity to be subbed in whenever Westbrook gets gassed. Buckhalter is a better runner where as Booker is a better receiver out of the backfield. I wouldnít be surprised if they shared the backup role with Booker seeing the passing situations and Buckhalter seeing the running ones. You know, since that would make sense.

The key to the entire Eagles season this year will be whether or not Donovan McNabb can stay healthy. When heís on the field and healthy, heís one of the best QBís in the game. No matter how good you are though, itís impossible to utilize your skills when your in a t-shirt and shorts on the sideline.



Pittsburgh Steelers

Position battle(s): Limas Sweed vs. Nate Washington (WR3)

Keep an eye on: How rookies Limas Sweed and Rashard Mendenhall adjust to the NFL

Ben Roethlisberger finally got his wish for a big possession receiver in Limas Sweed. Although itís especially tough for a rookie receiver, itís a lot less so when they wind up on a team with as many weapons as the Steelers offense has. Although Washington will probably edge out Sweed in camp, the Steelers will likely utilize Sweed in many red zone situations while slowly acclimating him to both their offensive system and to life in the NFL.

The other high-profile Steelers rookie, Rashard Mendenhall, has been generating a ton of buzz since the day he was drafted. Some have even gone so far as to write off Willie Parker and suggest that Mendenhall will eventually be the starter sooner rather than later. I like Mendenhall, I do and I think heís going to be a very good RB. However, Willie Parker has rushed for more than 1200 yards in each of his last three seasons. Yes, he only got into the end zone twice last year. And yes, he broke his leg in Week 16 of last year -- which isnít even that far away. But to write him off completely due to those reasons -- especially when he has been and still is one of the top backs in the NFL is just wrong. I donít like this trend of over hyping rookies and predicting theyíll win a starting job when they havenít even played an NFL down yet. Letís just relax and wait until we have some tape of them in actual NFL games, shall we? Thanks.




San Diego Chargers

Position battle(s): Eric Parker vs. Craig Davis (WR3), Darren Sproles vs. Jacob Hester (RB2)

Keep an eye on: How healthy Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers look

Historically, LaDainian Tomlinsonís backups have found themselves in some very favorable situations. For one, whenever they come in the opposing defense is so relieved that LT is out for the time being that they donít really pay too much attention to the replacement thatís spelling him. And two, the backups tend to get more carries as the game goes on which means the defense would be tired even if they werenít trying to chase after LT all game as well. So it doesnít really matter who wins the battle, as long as theyíre halfway decent at running forwards.

Itís never a good thing when your starting QB partially tears his ACL late in the previous season and your top TE is coming off foot surgery going into the season. Even if Philip Rivers bounces back and is okay, Gates may miss some time in order to fully recover. Obviously, having Gates miss some games wouldnít benefit the team -- but itís even worse when you take into account that Antonio Gates has accounted for 29% of Philip Rivers total career passing yardage. Suffice to say, the organization is hoping they both make speedy recoveries. And yes, I calculated all of that all by myself. I try, I really do.



San Francisco 49ers

Position battle(s): DeShaun Foster vs. Michael Robinson (RB2), Ashley Lelie vs. Arnaz Battle (WR3)

Keep an eye on: The new look Mike Martz offense and if it can save Alex Smithís career

Reports out of 49ers camp is that Martz has taken a liking to Alex Smith and that he is showing vast improvement and seems capable of running the offense. So barring a massive collapse by Smith, he appears to have the starting QB job on lockdown. Whoever wins the Foster/Robinson RB2 battle will see a bit more touches than your average backup due to Martzís utilization of his entire depth chart.

Although Mike Martzís track record of improving offenses and QBís is impressive, San Francisco will be his toughest challenge yet. Good thing heís considered an offensive genius because the 49ers offense last year was run by what is considered the exact opposite.



Seattle Seahawks

Position battle(s): Courtney Taylor vs. Logan Payne vs. Ben Obomanu (WR3), Julius Jones vs. Maurice Morris (RB1), Will Heller vs. John Carlson (TE1)

Keep an eye on: The entire RB situation, in particular whether or not Julius Jones can prove he deserves the majority of the carries

It appears that T.J. Duckett will be the short-yardage goal-line back and Julius Jones and Maurice Morris will battle it out for the starting job. Although, Holmgren has said that he is remaining open to the idea of using a RB by committee. And head coaches just donít say that stuff off-hand, especially a Mike Holmgren type.

All three contenders for the WR3 spot are young and inexperienced but with the sky as their limit. Thereís a lot of buzz surrounding both Payne and Obomanu although Taylor will be right in the mix once he gets back from a hamstring injury. With Deion Branchís ACL tear keeping him out until late in the season at the earliest, the opportunity to move up the depth chart and become a mainstay Seahawks WR is ripe for the taking.





St. Louis Rams

Position battle(s): Dante Hall vs. Donnie Avery vs. Dane Looker (WR3), Travis Minor vs. Antonio Pittman (RB2)

Keep an eye on: Whether or not the offensive line can improve itís pass protection over last year

The void left by the departure of Isaac Bruce was filled by Drew Bennett, who was the next in line on the WR depth chart. With Bennett moving up, the WR3 spot opened to all applicants and those applicants have turned out to be Dante Hall, Donnie Avery and Dane Looker. Along with being a rookie, Donnie Avery also cracked his hip bone and will miss up to two weeks of practice. Although that should give him time to study his playbook and learn the mental side of his position, so it may not be all bad. After an impressive 2003 season, Dane Looker has progressively declined in the four years since. This is mainly due to his limited playing time and if given the opportunity, he has the talent to succeed. Lastly, there is Dante Hall who is known primarily for his kick and punt returning prowess and not his receiving skills. Regardless, Hall apparently recognizes an opportunity when he sees one and has reportedly came to camp in excellent shape and is staking his claim for the WR3 spot.

The biggest question for the Rams going into 2008 is how the offensive line will hold up. After an astoundingly unusual amount of injuries last year to the O-line, Matt Bulger found himself basically being protected by practice dummies. He was consistently sacked, never had any time to throw and ended up with a serious concussion and some broken ribs. I think itís safe to say that Bulger is quite excited about getting his offensive line back and healthy.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Position battle(s): Jeff Garcia vs. Luke McCown (QB), Warrick Dunn vs. Michael Bennett (RB2), Michael Clayton vs. Ike Hilliard vs. Antonio Bryant (WR2)

Keep an eye on: Jeff Garciaís health and overall performance

Although Jeff Garcia has defied the odds and put together a string of pretty impressive seasons these past few years, heís not getting any younger and is likely feeling it more with each passing year. At the moment, Garcia is out of action with a calf injury that will likely keep him out of Tampaís pre-season opener. In the other corner we have Luke McCown who fortunately appears to possess some talent unlike his brother, Dolphins QB and perennial mediocre QB Josh McCown. Luke looked impressive in his five games last year and despite some inexperience, is 11 years younger than Garcia. Always a good thing.

It would be unfair to say that Garcia had a poor 2007 season because he didnít. With 2,440 yards, 13 TDís and 4 INTís it was actually quite respectable. The cause for concern with Garcia is injuries. While not a concern for his entire career, he has since been known to get banged up from time to time. At age 40, that risk will only get larger. He has also gotten a lot more conservative in his play, something the old Jeff Garcia was not known for. But heís defied the odds before and he can surely do it again. Keep an eye on his health because as long as he can steer clear of the injury bug, the man can still play some quality football.



Tennessee Titans

Position battle(s): Chris Henry vs. Chris Johnson (RB2), Justin Gage vs. Roydell Williams (WR1), Justin McCareins vs. Brandon Jones (WR3), Alge Crumpler vs. Bo Scaife (TE1)

Keep an eye on: The progression and cohesion of the Titans young receiving corps

With the starting RB job all but wrapped up by LenDale White, Chris Henry and rookie Chris Johnson are left to battle it out for the backup role. The team went with a variety of backs last year, so whoever wins the job will probably be used to not just spell, but supplement White. Although many (including myself) have ripped the Titans organization for failing to get Vince Young a competent WR, I have to say that the more I take a look at the group of receivers they have, the more I think I understand what theyíre trying to do. Even though Justin Gage and Roydell Williams will do battle for the top WR spot, whoever loses will fill in the WR2 spot. Both Gage and Williams had breakout 2007ís and with prominent roles in the offense can only get better especially as they get more and more acquainted with Vince Young. Alge Crumpler and Bo Scaife, while not upper-echelon TEís, should compliment each other well and give the Titans the opportunity to run double TE sets in a variety of situations.

Looking further down the depth chart at the wide receivers, youíll stumble upon Brandon Jones, another promising young receiver. Heís seen limited action so far in his career but has produced when given the chance and showed a nose for the end zone as well. Justin McCareins looks to challenge Jones for the WR3 spot but has progressively declined since his best year in 2005.



Washington Redskins

Position battle(s): Devin Thomas vs. Malcolm Kelly vs. James Thrash (WR3), Todd Collins vs. Colt Brennan (QB2)

Keep an eye on: Jason Campbellís progression in the West Coast offense

The Redskins surprised many people when they drafted two WRís and a TE -- all in the second round of the recent 2008 Draft. While many are saying Thomas is the better of the two receivers, weíll all be able to make our own decisions on that soon enough. Rookie TE Fred Davis wonít be the featured TE anytime soon with Chris Cooley ahead of him, but he should have a prominent role in Zornís West Coast Offense if he proves heís capable.

Should some of the second round selections pan out then Jason Campbell will have himself some nice weapons to acquaint himself with for the foreseeable future. Yes, that would mean Campbell would have to pan out as well, but as long as he picks up on the West Coast Offense system, heíll be fine. The Bengals refusal to trade Chad Johnson for many of the Redskins draft picks might just turn out to be the best thing that happened to the Redskins all year.

Enjoy the pre-season boys and girls.
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Old 08-04-2008, 07:35 PM   #4
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Looks like you got your wish.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3516660

But I think the damage was done. Brandon Jackson has impressed the coaches enough to where even though Grant's still the starter -- it could easily become a committee if Jackson keeps it up and has a good pre-season.
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Old 08-08-2008, 07:04 AM   #5
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Awesome read - and I'm encountering some trouble in putting together my annual season preview, which has been a regular feature here for many a year.

What's the problem? I can't get all of the teams' won-loss records to add up to 256-256 (as they must), mainly because I think that everybody is so bad!

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Old 08-08-2008, 10:57 PM   #6
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Anthony, I'm patiently awaiting your pre-season preview. I'm curious to see where you put the Patriots. I know you are die-hard about the "Superbowl Runner up jinx" so I'm wondering how you have them finishing.
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Old 08-10-2008, 04:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
Awesome read - and I'm encountering some trouble in putting together my annual season preview, which has been a regular feature here for many a year.

What's the problem? I can't get all of the teams' won-loss records to add up to 256-256 (as they must), mainly because I think that everybody is so bad!
Haha! I tend to be more optimistic about everyones chances to the point I need to re-pick the games because I have 65% of the teams going 10-6.
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Old 08-18-2008, 01:56 AM   #8
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I'm happy to report that not only have I managed to get everybody's wins and losses in balance, but over the last two nights I have written up my entire preview. Now all that's left is to see that there are no catastrophic injuries in Week 3 of preseason (nobody plays their starters in Week 4), and it should be up in eight or nine days.
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Old 08-18-2008, 02:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
I'm happy to report that not only have I managed to get everybody's wins and losses in balance, but over the last two nights I have written up my entire preview. Now all that's left is to see that there are no catastrophic injuries in Week 3 of preseason (nobody plays their starters in Week 4), and it should be up in eight or nine days.
Looking forward to it!
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Old 08-21-2008, 09:20 AM   #10
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Add Shawne Merriman to the list of guys to keep an eye on health-wise for the Chargers. Appears as though he has been having some knee issues in camp which could spill over into the season.
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Old 08-21-2008, 03:51 PM   #11
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Add Shawne Merriman to the list of guys to keep an eye on health-wise for the Chargers. Appears as though he has been having some knee issues in camp which could spill over into the season.
With L.T. no longer a spring chicken, either, the window could be closing on the Chargers' chances as a contender...
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Old 08-21-2008, 04:04 PM   #12
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Yeah, it could be a tough road to hoe for the Chargers this year with Rivers coming off the knee and Gates just now getting to where he can practice on his gimpy toe and now Merriman's knee not co-operating. Luckily for them the rest of their division is godawful to mediocre at best that a healthy LT should ensure them at least winning the division.
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Old 08-23-2008, 11:40 AM   #13
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They were saying last night on NFL Live how everyone in Eagles' camp is raving about how good of a camp McNabb is having. Some were even saying this is the best camp he has ever had with the team. Could be interesting if he can stay healthy this year.

It is also nice to see Jerome McDougle actually contributing in some preseason games. Once rumored to be on the chopping block when cuts are made he very well may have secured a spot in the DE rotation by picking up sacks in each of the last two games for Philly and now Darren Howard is rumored to be on the way out.
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Old 08-23-2008, 08:21 PM   #14
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Sitting here watching the Panthers/Skins game and it looks like it might be a long season in D. C. this year. The Panthers are just pummeling Jason Campbell who is getting no protection whatsoever.
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Old 08-24-2008, 04:54 PM   #15
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A sign of things to come for the Bengals this season...

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