The NFL preseason usually doesn’t tell us much about first-teamers, but it can definitely clue us in about how depth charts are shaping up. If certain teams or players are overachieving before the season starts, it’s a good bet to think they’ll carry that momentum into the season. During the preseason’s Week 3 action, we saw injuries, big plays and impressive performances.
The biggest question to ask ourselves is: What can we take away from all of this?
The Sam Bradford era is over in St. Louis
On Saturday night, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford reportedly tore his ACL. He’ll miss the entirety of the 2014 season and St. Louis will have to rely on another player under center in a crucial season for the team. This injury is the last straw for the former Oklahoma standout in St. Louis. The Rams need a signal caller who is as reliable as he is consistently healthy, which Bradford isn’t.
Bradford’s inability to lead the Rams deep into the playoffs, coupled with his lengthy injury history, makes it tough to see the quarterback playing for the Rams in 2015. St. Louis fans probably wish their team spent one of its two first round draft choices on a quarterback, a la Johnny Manziel, but now they’re left to wonder what could have been in a season that would have featured a stacked defense and a developing stable of dangerous offensive weapons. As it stands, veteran Shaun Hill will take over the quarterbacking duties for a bit. Fans may remember his solid work in spot starts with the Lions a few years back.
Shaun Hill hasn’t started a regular season game since 2010, though.
The Patriots passing game is clicking and is still a force to be reckoned with
Tom Brady came out on fire in Saturday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers. He completed 17 of 21 passes on the evening for 204 yards (2 TDs).
Julian Edelman may not be the tall, physical, prototypical “No. 1” receiver that we’ve become used to seeing nowadays, but he certainly gets the job done and catches everything in his vicinity. Hauling in eight balls for 99 yards in the preseason is certainly more than sufficient.
The Patriots have a great positional battle going on at WR between newcomer Brandon LaFell and Kenbrell Thompkins (who Brady seems to really mesh with). Thompkins (three catches, 35 yards) is winning the battle thus far.
Jimmy Garoppolo had another strong showing as well, completing nine of 12 passes for 105 yards (1 TD).
Lovie Smith’s schemes are already working in Tampa Bay
After Smith took a year off from coaching, he decided to take on the project of rebuilding the Buccaneers. Early returns are looking good. While free agent acquisition Josh McCown is throwing the ball well under center, it’s been Smith’s defense that has made the most progress. The Buccaneers took a 24-0 lead into halftime and showcased an impressive tenacity on the defensive side of the ball.
Mike Evans continued to prove his worth, hauling in a 24-yard touchdown pass in the first half. Smith has been able to change the culture in Tampa Bay to a winning one and his steady hand has helped Tampa Bay become a relevant destination for football once again. Look for the Buccaneers to be competitive in a tough NFC South as soon as 2014, especially if the Falcons and Panthers falter. Smith has affected real change in the X’s and O’s that the Buccaneers employ and the results are starting to show.
Nevermind the ‘Super Bowl slump’—the Seahawks are going to be just fine
For all intents and purposes, the Bears are a very good football team. That said, the Seahawks dominated Marc Trestman’s squad in all facets of the game on Friday night. Russell Wilson was extremely efficient, completing 15 of his 20 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a score. Along with Wilson, the Seahawks defense had a fantastic outing. Chicago only converted three of its 11 third down plays and wasn’t able to put together a touchdown drive.
While the Bears shouldn’t be panicking (any team featuring Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett on the offensive side shouldn’t ever panic), the Seahawks can take solace in the fact that they’re not experiencing any sort of Super Bowl hangover. Pete Carroll’s team ran the ball efficiently, put together impressive drives on a regular basis and shut down their opposition on defense. Seattle is certainly a force to be reckoned with as they look to defend their title.
The heat is on Robert Griffin III in Washington—while Kirk Cousins continues to play well
Another game, another horrid outing by Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin III only managed to throw for 20 yards on 5-of-8 passing with an interception. Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, showed impressive command of the offense and remarkable poise. He put two touchdowns on the board and completed 70-percent of his passes.
Cousins’ consistent performances have put him on head coach Jay Gruden’s radar and it seems as though the Redskins offense responds better to the former Michigan State signal caller. Of course, the Redskins are heavily invested in Griffin III and the signal caller has an impressive set of skills, so there’s a legitimate battle going on for the starting job in Washington.
Griffin III will make a strong case to be the Week 1 starter based on his ability alone, but don’t be shocked if Cousins ends up getting the nod. The NFC East is wide open, with each team in the division having major holes, so if the Redskins can find a quarterback capable of leading the team and throwing the ball well, it would be in the team’s best interests to ride said field general into the postseason.
Will the Rams come calling for Cousins’ services?