NFC West: 2012 NFL preseason Week 3

Three things revisited: 49ers-Broncos

August, 26, 2012
8/26/12
7:51
PM ET
Looking back on three things discussed here before the San Francisco 49ers' 29-24 preseason victory Sunday at Denver:

1. Starting QBs. Peyton Manning played his best game of the preseason, completing 10 of 12 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers, playing without top pass-rusher Aldon Smith, did not pressure Manning much. When they did, Manning showed he could deliver the ball downfield before withstanding a big hit that snapped his head back, putting to the test his surgically repaired neck.

Alex Smith's day for the 49ers wasn't quite as good. A short snap from center Jonathan Goodwin wound up on the ground, where the Broncos recovered it. Smith took a huge hit while delivering a short third-down pass for a conversion. Smith hung in, eventually finding Vernon Davis for a 44-yard touchdown. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 69 yards and did not throw an interception. Smith was pretty good. Manning was ... Manning.

2. Two-way threat. I'm guessing Demarcus Dobbs will emerge as the third tight end and part of the rotation on the defensive line, saving a roster spot for the 49ers. Konrad Reuland, also competing as the third tight end, did get into the game with the first-team offense, ahead of Dobbs. That doesn't necessarily tell us anything. Reuland had a 16-yard reception. But with the 49ers using defensive linemen as extra blockers, they appear in position to keep Dobbs as the third and final tight end on the 53-man roster.

3. Perrish's push. The 49ers' secondary struggled against Manning, but when backup Caleb Hanie came into the game, 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox stood out right away. Cox picked off a pass, his second interception of the preseason. Cox wasn't perfect as a tackler, but he appears to have created a role for himself within the 49ers' sub packages.

Three things revisited: Rams-Cowboys

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
11:16
PM ET
Looking back on three things discussed here before the St. Louis Rams’ preseason game Saturday night, a 20-19 defeat at Dallas:

1. Center of attention. Veteran Scott Wells, sidelined by knee surgery for much of the offseason, made his preseason debut after signing with the Rams in free agency. He called out line adjustments, pointing about the field as centers typically do.

Wells played Jay Ratliff to a stalemate on an early third-and-7 (left guard Quinn Ojinnaka gave up a sack on the play). The Cowboys’ Kenyon Coleman got past Wells with a quick first step, but Wells held on. Coleman did not disrupt the play.

Wells played a couple series and seemed to do fine. There were no botched center exchanges when he was in the game.

2. Offensive draft choices. Rookie running backs Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson got into the game early. Pead had a 47-yard kickoff return. He didn’t find much room to run while working with the first-team offense. Richardson fared better. The blocking for Richardson might have been better, but he also impressed with powerful strides. Richardson ran with determination through the play. He carried 10 times for 51 yards.

Pead bobbled a pass and couldn’t get away from defenders in the open field. But he did run hard in the red zone during a fourth-quarter drive ending with a touchdown pass from Kellen Clemens to Austin Pettis. Pead finished with nine carries for 22 yards.

The Rams did not get their young receivers involved early. Rookie second-round choice Brian Quick left the game in the second half after taking a crushing hit to the midsection, but he returned and contributed with a 39-yard reception. Fourth-round choice Chris Givens did not catch a pass.

3. Roster battles. Undrafted rookie safety Rodney McLeod seemed to improve his case for a roster spot, although evaluating secondary play can be tricky. McLeod made a positive first impression with an early tackle on special teams. He made a diving pass breakup on a risky third-down pass thrown over the middle in the fourth quarter.

At tight end, Mike Hoomanawanui made two receptions for 23 yards. One of his potential competitors for a roster spot, rookie Mike McNeill, threw the key downfield block on one of those receptions.

Clemens, the No. 2 quarterback, played deep into the fourth quarter. He completed 6 of 9 passes for 68 yards and the one score. Austin Davis finished up and led a quick touchdown drive, completing 4 of 5 passes for 53 yards. Davis showed pocket awareness. The offense perked up when he entered the game.
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Seattle Seahawks' preseason game Friday night at Kansas City (they led 44-7 in the fourth quarter when I filed this):

1. Russell Wilson's efficiency. The rookie quarterback led Seattle to three field goals and three touchdowns on his first six possessions. Wilson played another series with the backups. That one included a 40-yard strike to Terrell Owens before the drive ended with a missed 51-yard field goal. Wilson completed 13 of 19 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He ran twice for 58 yards, including once for a 31-yard gain on third-and-7.

This had to be enough for Wilson to emerge as the favorite to start on a night when Matt Flynn sat out to rest a sore throwing elbow. If not, what more did Wilson need to do? Update: After the game, coach Pete Carroll indicated he would not name a starting quarterback at this time.

Wilson got receiver Sidney Rice involved early. He ran the two-minute offense effectively before halftime. Wilson connected on downfield throws with Owens, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, Anthony McCoy and Golden Tate. Winslow and Charly Martin caught scoring passes. Wilson completed passes covering 40, 32, 25 and 21 yards.

Wilson did miss McCoy over the middle on a second-and-15 play, but otherwise, he was mostly on the mark. Seattle had to like what it saw from Wilson and two other rookies, right guard J.R. Sweezy and running back Robert Turbin. Sweezy's aggressive run blocking stood out. Turbin ran with power and also showed surprising speed in pulling away from Kansas City linebackers to break a 25-yard scoring run. Turbin carried 14 times for 93 yards.

With Flynn out, Tarvaris Jackson made his 2012 exhibition debut, taking over late in the third quarter.

2. WRs revisited. Edwards looked good again. Owens struggled until making an improbable overhead catch while putting on the brakes along the sideline. Owens resembled a man slipping on a banana peel. The play required skill and concentration. Teammates cheered loudly along the sideline after the catch.

Earlier, Owens could not make a catch when defended well along the right sideline. He missed another chance on a third-down pass thrown slightly behind him, but a penalty for roughing the passer kept the drive going for Seattle.

Golden Tate held onto a contested ball for a 14-yard gain, and his 92-yard punt return for a touchdown was most impressive.

3. Pass-rushers. Rookie Greg Scruggs collected a sack early. Seattle held Matt Cassel to 4.9 yards per pass attempt, pressuring him occasionally without collecting sacks.

The Chiefs converted five times on third down during a 17-play, 80-yard touchdown drive against Seattle's starting defense. Mike Morgan and Cordarro Law did collect sacks for Seattle later in the game.
video Looking back on three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' preseason game Thursday night at the Tennessee Titans:

1. Skelton's rhythm. Horrible pass protection from the starting offensive line, notably left tackle D.J. Young, made it tough for John Skelton to find a rhythm early. Skelton did show an ability to throw on rhythm when given time, including when he found tight end Jeff King over the middle. But he also overthrew his target for an interception on the Cardinals' second play. Skelton faced too many third-and-long situations thanks to sacks, a poor running game and a holding penalty. Rookie receiver Michael Floyd dropped a slightly off-target pass on third-and-3 to kill another drive. Skelton completed 4 of 10 passes for 41 yards and the one pick. He did not make a strong case for the starting job.

Kevin Kolb took over and had no chance on his first possession. The pass protection was that bad. Arizona changed out its tackles from that point forward. Kolb responded by showing immediate improvement. He did a good job staying in the pocket initially. That had been a problem for him. Bad habits die hard, however, and Kolb hurt his cause by rolling right and throwing back toward the middle of the field, resulting in an interception.

Kolb didn't let the mistake rattle him, however -- he played freely after the pick. Going to a two-minute offense probably helped. Kolb went out and played without thinking so much, it appeared. Kolb bailed from the pocket a couple times, but he made it work -- especially when finding Larry Fitzgerald with an across-the-body deep ball while rolling left. That play gained 53 yards. Kolb capped the drive with a touchdown pass to Andre Roberts. He completed 9 of 12 passes for 95 yards in the first half.

Was that drive to end the half enough to boost Kolb into the lead in his race against Skelton? It had to help, but ...

Kolb opened the second half with the starters and promptly threw a pick for a Tennessee touchdown. Arizona gave Kolb another chance, continuing with the no-huddle attack. The approach seemed to keep the Titans' pass rush in check, but this was also a case of Arizona starters working against Tennessee backups. Kolb's pass to Todd Heap converted a fourth-and-1, but the drive ended after officials incorrectly administered offsetting penalties instead of penalizing only Tennessee for having 12 defenders on the field.

2. Beanie Wells' debut. Wells found little running room for the most part. He did accelerate well around the right side, launching himself for extra yardage. Getting through the game healthy had to be the top priority. Wells seemed to come out OK. Gaining 12 yards on six carries won't jump off the stat sheet, but there wasn't much running room for the Cardinals' backs in the first half.

3. The offensive tackles. The Cardinals found out Young isn't the short-term answer on the left side. Young struggled badly against multiple defenders, including Kamerion Wimbley. The Cardinals did not help him. D'Anthony Batiste came into the game at left tackle ahead of schedule. The pass protection improved. Rookie Bobby Massie took over on the right side. The Batiste-Massie combination appeared far preferable. That could be the combination Arizona considers going with heading into the season, unless coaches decide veteran Jeremy Bridges provides a better option.

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