Jimbo Slice is back with his second installment of WEEK IN REVIEW... read to see what went down in the past week of NFL preseason.
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Week In Review: We're Off!
The football season has officially begun, albeit in ugly fashion. Last weekend's Hall of Fame game between the Saints and Cardinals was rife with mishap in injury but we all still loved it for what it was: football
We can now look forward to lazy Sundays spent wasting away before the TV, flicking popcorn out of our navels and drinking enough beer to put a horse to sleep. The joy of screaming at the TV and the blissful illusion that we know better than offensive coordinators have returned, as have the sexual urges for your ex-girlfriend once you see her in the jersey of your favorite team. Be strong, friend. Be strong.
Depending on how your fantasy league rolls, you may have yet to conduct this season's draft. Unfortunately, early preseason games seldom provide meaningful fantasy insight other than to solidify our idea of what depth charts are shaping up like. There were, however, a select few useful nuggets to be gleamed from this weekend's game, so let's take a look.
1) The NFL's replacement refs are not good enough to oversee professional football.
Due to a labor dispute between the NFL and its referees, replacement referees will be officiating preseason games for the foreseeable future. For a league with such deep pockets and considering the relatively modest demands of the referees, one would hope that this will be resolved soon. For now, we're left to put up with wash-ups that can only be described as second-rate. Even before the game started, these guys were screwing up. Sunday's crew misinterpreted the coin toss and had to be publicly corrected over the stadium's PA system. Shortly before halftime, an official announced that a play was under review before doubling back to announce that, in fact, it was not. Not a single holding call was made outside of special teams plays, which is an astounding feat considering that many players on the field were likely 3rd to 4th string players and practice squad candidates. Put simply, these officials were unprofessional and unaware. Should this labor situation drag on and the replacements continue to be inconsistent, the league will have to speed up negotiations and implement other safeguards to limit the damage that these clowns can inflict on the credibility of the league.
2) The Cardinals' quarterback situation is bad.
If this idea had somehow eluded you before, you have no excuse now. What was known to be a depressingly bad quarterback competition was shown to be just that on Sunday. 'Starter' Kevin Kolb was intercepted on his first throw of the game and was shortly thereafter punched out of the game following a hit by Sedrick Ellis that bruised a rib. John Skelton, Kolb's competition for the starting job, stepped in and performed acceptably for six throws. He was pulled after the first quarter to allow for Richard Bartell and Ryan Lindley to earn some game experience. Kolb's rib will hold him out for next weekend against Kansas City, but no longer than that. According to Kolb, he will be more than ready for the regular season and will be the starter for the immediate future. By no means does that cement his role as the starter for the length of the season, however, as he is highly prone to injury and isn't exactly a seasoned winner when healthy, holding only a 6-10 record as a starter. Skelton, by comparison, holds a 7-4 record.
3) Drew Brees' holdout hasn't affected him
The Cardinals were 23rd in yards allowed per offensive play last year with a 5.2 ypp mark, and are therefore a poor barometer for assessing a quarterback's effectiveness. That said, Brees looked very sharp and in sync with his receivers in light action on Sunday. The word on Brees throughout his holdout was that he as hard to prepare as he would be in camp and that was confirmed by his performance. Though he played for only one drive, Brees completed 4 of 5 passes while moving the offense efficiently down the field during a drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Mark Ingram.
4) The Saints and Cardinals' backfield questions are unsolved.
There's a lot of talk that the Saints will likely focus a bit more on the run this season, meaning that Mark Ingram could be in for a big year should his role expand. Darren Sproles was a deadly weapon for New Orleans last year as a pass catcher and occasional runner, but a transition to a more traditional running game would favor Ingram more than it would Sproles. Ingram ran four times for 18 yards and Sproles got a carry and a reception for 26 yards total, so very little got answered in that regard. Both will clearly play important roles in the offense, and will be late-round fantasy options as a result. Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells, both vying for the Cardinals' lead back role, both missed the game due to injury. Both players are recovering from knee injury and are expected to return to the field soon, so that competition will be decided as the preseason progresses.
There is a great deal to look forward to this week for football fans league-wide. There are five games slated for both Thursday and Friday night, two games on Saturday and one game each on Sunday and Monday night. For those itching for football's return, your wishes have come true. With big training camp battles highlighted in many of them, it should be a great week for football fans as the regular season picture slowly comes together.
Looking forward to the week ahead, here are a few top stories to keep an eye on:
1) Tom Brady to Brandon Lloyd
Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks the league has ever seen, yet he’s traditionally put up huge numbers without superstar receiving talent. Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski are notable exceptions, obviously, but this appears to be the most skilled receiving corps that Brady has ever thrown to. The combination of Gronk, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker is outstanding. With Deion Branch, Visanthe Schiancoe, and Jabar Gaffney, the unit has great depth as well. With such an array of talent, Brady could be the #2 or even #1 fantasy quarterback prospect of this draft, overtaking Brees and Rodgers. Thursday’s exhibition game against the Saints will be an excellent comparison point, as two of fantasy’s lead dogs duke it out in early preseason after a week of joint practices.
2) The Trent Richardson show has been postponed
Dealing with some knee soreness, Trent Richardson will likely miss Cleveland’s preseason opener against Detroit. The knee in question was the same knee that went under the knife this spring for what Richardson called a ‘minor surgery’, which may still be affecting him. Richardson is the model of fitness; one would imagine that his immense strength and weight room work ethic should help him to quickly overcome this. Interestingly, the journal Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy, Rehabilitation, Therapy and Technology recently published a study concluding that pre-season strength and flexibility was not proven to reduce risk of injury over the course of an athletic season. In short, racking it up in the weight room doesn’t make you bulletproof on the field. Despite his reputation as a gym rat, Richardson is as human as any of us and his knee will have to be treated with care as the season draws near. Keep an eye on Richardson over the next few weeks.
3) Hard Knocks is back
HBO’s Hard Knocks is a fantastic show that gives fans an inside look at NFL training camps. This year’s subject is the Miami Dolphins, who have had some extreme offseason turnover. Veteran David Garrard, 2011 starter Matt Moore, and rookie Ryan Tannehill will all be fighting for the starting quarterback spot. Former Packer offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has succeeded Tony Sparano as the Dolphins head coach. New receivers Legedu Nanee and Chad Johnson (no longer Ochocinco) will compete at wide receiver with Davone Bess. Philbin also appears to plan to utilize Reggie Bush even more as a receiver this year, opening up the possibility that Daniel Thomas will see decent production at running back. There are a lot of questions that have yet to be answered in Miami, so keep up with Hard Knocks for the latest preseason picture.
4) High-profile holdouts
There are several players still actively holding out that figured to be big fantasy contributors this year. Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe are all unhappy with their current levels of restitution and have yet to appear on the practice field.
Dwayne Bowe is up for a new contract at the end of the season, so his holdout is the most surprising. He stands to make huge money from a productive 2012, so holding out seems extremely counterintuitive for him. It’s expected that he’ll eventually sign his tender and join the team before the season begins, but in the meantime he is missing important preparation time for the season, especially considering that the Chiefs have both a new head coach in Romeo Crennel and a new offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll.
Maurice Jones-Drew’s situation is less rosy. MJD is being paid fairly well already from the five-year contract that he signed in 2009, and he still has some time before he would be eligible for a new one. While his play has exceeded his pay, it’s a signed contract from which the Jaguars have thus far refused to budge. Jones-Drew is the best player on the team and the Jags will sorely miss him should he start to miss games, so this situation is expected to be resolved by the start of the regular season.
Mike Wallace’s situation is the worst of all three. It’s very possible that Wallace won’t play at all this year. After Wallace began his holdout, the Steelers turned around and signed their other 1,000-yard receiver to a five-year, $42 million dollar deal. The money that Wallace imagined was due to him was redirected right before his eyes, and he’s not happy about it. Wallace and the Steelers are not currently in contact and the team’s management has outright refused to talk trades. The organization has made an ultimatum to the receiver: Pittsburgh or bust. With such a ravine between the two sides, this holdout may very well drag into the regular season. For now, the Steelers will move on without him and fantasy owners will have to seek alternatives for last year’s fantasy stud. The Steelers play the Eagles on Thursday night, so tune in to catch up on the Steelers’ receiver corps.
There are five days of football this week; it’s time to get excited. Pick up some six packs and popcorn, catch up on Hard Knocks, and buckle down for a long week of preseason. There are enough training camp stories league-wide to make second-string play interesting, so this week is definitely something for fans to get pumped for.
BY JIMBO SLICE