Monday, August 12, 2013
Lookback: Preseason Week 1
By Kevin Seifert
Three takeaways from Week 1 of the preseason:
Offensive lines are in major flux:
Chicago Bears right tackle J'Marcus Webb played so poorly Friday night at the Carolina Panthers that he was working with the second team when practice resumed Sunday. For the moment, the Bears have rookies at both right-side positions: Kyle Long (right guard) and Jordan Mills (right tackle). Each played 84 percent of the Bears' snaps Friday night.
Coach Marc Trestman told reporters he had always planned to give Webb work as a backup left tackle, necessitating Mills' ascension. But I think we all know that if Webb had performed better Friday night and throughout camp, there would be no reason to remove him from two days of first-team work in practice. With three weeks remaining until the start of the season, we can only assume Mills has a chance to win the job.
Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers actually appear in better shape at left tackle -- where rookie David Bakhtiari has replaced injured starter Bryan Bulaga -- than at right tackle. Marshall Newhouse received the first chance at winning that position, but as colleague Rob Demovsky wrote, Don Barclay outperformed him Friday night against the Arizona Cardinals and might be the front-runner for the job.
Finally, the Detroit Lions are continuing their wide-open competition at right guard and right tackle. Rookie Larry Warford did not start but got a team-high 53 snaps at right guard Friday night against the New York Jets, part of a process to get him up to speed as quickly as possible. At right tackle, Corey Hilliard started and got 26 snaps while Jason Fox got the second turn and played 25 snaps.
The Minnesota Vikings are the only NFC North team to return its line intact. As a result, their starters played only two snaps Friday night against the Houston Texans. The clock is ticking for the other three teams.
Some interesting new playmakers emerged
Sure, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez should have grounded a screen pass that he ultimately threw into the hands of Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who intercepted it and dashed 14 yards for a touchdown. But let's not minimize the athleticism Ansah displayed, nor the early indication that he will be in the right place at the right time. That's half the battle of being a playmaker.
Bears rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic made an athletic interception, stepping in front of a ball intended for a receiver he wasn't covering, before reversing field and dashing 51 yards for a score. I know we're used to seeing speedy middle linebacker play from the Bears, but hopefully it still stood out to you. It's also worth noting that the Bears thought enough of receiver Marquess Wilson's debut -- four catches for 82 yards, including a 58-yard play -- to elevate him to second-team work in practice Monday.
And let's not overlook Packers receiver Tyrone Walker, whose five-catch performance Friday night suggests he has a genuine chance to make the roster. As Demovsky noted, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has mentioned Walker often in camp interviews.
"Kickalicious" is a national story
Just when his viral video story was nearing the saturation point, Lions place-kicker Havard Rugland advanced his cause with a genuinely impressive football debut. Converting 49-and 50-yard field goals in a preseason game would have drawn attention for any kicker, let alone someone with Rugland's story.
Peter King led his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column with some thoughts on Rugland, and there is a undeniable positive for this development. The Lions, and the rest of the NFL, will get a chance to see how he reacts to increased scrutiny, higher expectations and perhaps even pressure -- as all NFL kickers deal with.