Reading Too Much Into The NFL Preseason Match-ups So Far
With the NFL regular season still a few weeks away, there is nothing quite like the speculation and awe of the NFL preseason to keep die hard fans preoccupied. For last season’s kings of the league, it is a chance to blow out opponents in a friendly exhibition match, and for fans of less successful teams, it provides a glimmer of hope in an otherwise lopsided league matchup while the starters are riding the pine.
That isn’t to say we can’t learn a little about teams from their preseason match-ups; but buyer beware, things always change once the regular season’s officially here. Here’s a look at the action in the league so far.
In the preseason opener, the Cowboys narrowly escaped a Dolphin comeback, allowing 17 points in the fourth quarter. New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin proved that, at least for now, the 4-3 defense will provide Dallas with more turnovers this season. While things aren’t looking especially hopeful for the Dolphins this season, rookie Chad Bumphis’ 85 yards on five receptions is a strong performance from the un-drafted rookie. With starting quarterback Tony Romo still sidelined recovering from his back surgery, its to early to tell how efficient this Dallas offense will be, but the hope remains for the Tampa 2 defensive strategy Kiffin is implementing.
In Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers struggled against a revamped Baltimore Ravens, losing 44-16. Joe Flacco proved he’s back to play this season, completing 7 of 9 for 57 yards in his limited playing time. Despite their major defensive losses during the post-season, the Ravens’ additions of Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Michael Huff, and Daryl Smith proved that they are here to play, leading the defense to force four turnovers. Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis was sidelined during the game, as he is still recovering from knee surgery; the bucs defense will get a much needed jolt of action once he returns to the lineup.
The Bengals showed some serious contention in Atlanta, and the latest talk now is that they could be the team to beat in the AFC north. After disappointing first round playoff exists the last two seasons, southern Ohio residents once more have something to cheer for. For now–after all, this is only the preseason. With three catches for 16 yards, 10 rushes for 28 yards, and a TD, Giovani Bernard showed he’s capable of splitting time with Benjarvus Green-Ellis. And the race for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s backup is on between Josh Johnson and John Skelton, who both performed well at Atlanta. On the other side of the ball, its the offensive line that is keeping Falcons fans nervous this year; Atlanta rushed for just 92 yards on 24 attempts.
Perhaps this preseason’s biggest surprise is Brandon Weeden’s opener for the Browns against the Rams. Weeden went 10 for 13 and 112 yards. Up 17-0, St. Louis’ concerns remain inconsistency and mistakes. While not as hopeful as Bengals fans down south in the state, Ohio fans up north have a little bit more to cheer for. Unfortunately, there’s no telling where the rams will fall.
Hope still reigns supreme in Washington, with Kirk Cousins ensuring Redskin fans he can step in whenever Robert Griffin III can’t. In their 22-21 victory over Tennessee, both teams looked strong and there were even flashes of greatness from former East Carolina running back Chris Johnson, who has been quieter than normal the past two seasons. San Fransisco and Denver’s preseason game saw little action for their starters–just one series–but proved that both will have a strong defensive foundation this year. And things got worse in San Diego, as the Seahawks dismantled the Chargers 31-10. The charger’s new head coach Mike McCoy told the associated press that they have “a long way to go.” And keep that in mind until the start of the regular season.