NFL Nation: 081112 preseason obs


Following up the Titans’ 27-17 loss in Seattle on Saturday night:

  • We’re never going to read a whole bunch into a preseason performance. But Chris Johnson did nothing against the Seahawks to make anyone think he’s turned the page from his down season in 2011. Three passes were thrown his way and they all hit the ground, two of them as drops. He turned five carries into 8 yards. The backs who followed him into the Titans huddle didn’t face the same quality of defenders by any means, but Javon Ringer and Darius Reynaud were more decisive and fared better. Eddie George and Keith Bulluck, doing commentary on the Nashville broadcast of the game, thought CJ failed to press the hole on one failed run when he could have more aggressively taken on a charging safety and chose instead to overdo it laterally.
  • Jake Locker was certainly a good notch better than Matt Hasselbeck, but don’t mark Hasselbeck down much for his two interceptions. The first was a fluke play where the ball stayed alive after bouncing up off Nate Washington on the first play from scrimmage and turned into a touchdown by Brandon Browner. The other was on a deep ball that Richard Sherman did better to go up and get than Damian Williams, and effectively amounted to a punt.
  • Tommie Campbell’s been the third cornerback for the Titans throughout camp, but he played into the second half and lost a jump ball to Braylon Edwards. Russell Wilson put it up and Edwards allowed Campbell to go by (perhaps offering some guidance with an arm), then went up and got it for a 39-yard TD. It’s likely the kind of play Campbell can learn a great deal from at this stage.
  • Showed me more than I anticipated: The defensive line overall, particularly active tackle Zach Clayton; safety Robert Johnson; rookie linebacker Zach Brown; Seattle’s backup rookie quarterback Wilson. (What a fantastic naked bootleg TD at the end.)
  • Overtime shouldn’t be possible in the preseason. Bravo to Mike Munchak and special teams coach Alan Lowry for reducing the possibility by having rookie Will Batson, rather than Rob Bironas, try a 36-yard fourth-quarter field goal that could have tied it at 20-20. He narrowly missed it right with 4:46 left in the game. Not that his coaches or teammates were wanting him to misfire.

SEATTLE -- Looking back on three things discussed here before the Seattle Seahawks' 27-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans in an exhibition opener at CenturyLink Field:

1. QB competition. Starter Matt Flynn was efficient early, but two sacks and an interception changed the complexion of his performance. At his best, Flynn rolled left and threw across his body for a 14-yard gain with a defender bearing down on him. The Seahawks did not ask much from Flynn overall. Most of his passes were safe ones, including when linebacker Colin McCarthy dropped into underneath coverage for an interception. I don't think Flynn hurt his cause, but neither was he the most exciting Seattle quarterback in this game. We need to see more.

Russell Wilson started the second half and moved outside the pocket on his first three dropbacks, including one negated by a Titans penalty. At this point, I was wondering how much we'd see Wilson throw within the context of a conventional offense. Wilson threw from the pocket on his next dropback, finding Braylon Edwards for a 39-yard touchdown on a deep pass up the left side. Wilson continued moving well. He threw effectively on the run, showing good accuracy and velocity. But he also threw into coverage for an interception in the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Wilson appeared to make a poor decision on this play, costing his team points. His 32-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes left a positive impression.

2. Three rookie draft choices. Defensive end Bruce Irvin, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and running back Robert Turbin were the ones I singled out.

Irvin played sparingly and did not get much pressure. Titans left tackle Michael Roos absorbed him. There were times Seattle left Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane on the field in its nickel package, with Irvin on the sideline. That will change when the games start counting. Regarding Irvin, Seattle looked like a team holding back in preseason. Coach Pete Carroll greeted Irvin excitedly on the sideline after Irvin and the second-team defense stopped the Titans on a fourth-down play. Quarterback Jake Locker rolled away from Irvin and threw incomplete.

Wagner stopped Javon Ringer following a 2-yard gain early when the Titans did not block him. He showed speed in running from between the hashes to the yard-line numbers to assist on a tackle following a quick pass to the perimeter. Titans guard Kyle DeVan got into Wagner pretty good on a third-quarter running play.

Turbin showed excellent hands as a receiver out of the backfield. A longtime scout watching from the press box marveled at the grab Turbin made over the middle on a hard, low pass that looked almost like it was thrown away. That would have been a difficult catch even for a wide receiver. Turbin appeared quick through the line on a 9-yard gain in the first half. His quickness was apparent again on a toss to the left. Turbin outran defensive end Keyunta Dawson on that one, gaining 10 yards. Turbin didn't have much room on other runs, including when linebacker Zach Brown chased him down for a 2-yard loss.

3. Receiver mix. Edwards, on alert since the Seahawks signed Terrell Owens, helped himself in this game. He made an aggressive play on the ball to haul in Wilson's 39-yard bomb up the left side. Seattle wants a receiver with size. Edwards put his size to use on that play. Edwards scuffled with a Titans defender early in the game. He drew a penalty for a block in the back after hustling to tag cornerback Tommie Campbell following a long run from Wilson. Once a top-10 overall draft choice, Edwards was out there battling when Charly Martin, Phil Bates and Kris Durham were the other wideouts.

Deon Butler was active early, drawing an interference penalty before making a 10-yard catch for a first down as Seattle moved to the Tennessee 30-yard line. Durham, a player the Seahawks hoped would develop into a faster version of Mike Williams, couldn't handle a pass Wilson zipped to him on the perimeter.
SEATTLE -- A few quarterback-related thoughts after watching Matt Flynn and the Seattle Seahawks take a 10-3 halftime lead against the Tennessee Titans in an exhibition opener at CenturyLink Field:
  • Flynn was very much the Pete Carroll game manager early. He completed his first eight passes, all shorter ones. His most impressive play came on a throw for a 14-yard gain on a rollout to his left with a defender bearing down. Flynn knew he was going to get hit. He threw accurately across his body. Flynn also took two sacks when he had time to get rid of the ball. That included one in the red zone. Flynn also failed to see middle linebacker Colin McCarthy drop into underneath coverage, leading to an interception. Flynn started better than he finished. He completed 11 of 13 passes for 71 yards.
  • The door is open for rookie Russell Wilson to make a stronger impression in the second half. The final two quarters of exhibitions can become free-for-alls. That could set up favorably for Wilson. It'll be interesting to see whether Wilson plays within the offense, or if the circumstances lead to more improvisation. He has a very good arm.

The second half is about to start. Back with "three things revisited" following the game.

Notes from Texans 26, Panthers 13

August, 11, 2012
8/11/12
10:52
PM ET

Some thoughts after taking in the Texans’ 26-13 preseason win at Carolina:
  • Veteran quarterback Matt Schaub looked comfortable in his first game work since his serious foot injury in November. The numbers were nothing special -- three-for-six for 52 yards and an interception. But the offense moved smoothly early before a night of red-zone stalling commenced. Houston got just one TD in five chances, settling for field goals five times.

  • Schaub got hit by blitzing defensive back Captain Munnerlyn on the interception, with defensive end Charles Johnson also closing. Munnerlyn wasn’t picked up blitzing from Schaub’s left while Johnson beat tackle Derek Newton. Schaub was throwing for Kevin Walter, but might have sensed pressure and thrown shorter in the same direction to an open Arian Foster.
  • The Texans could shuffle receivers through the preseason, but the early leader among the youngsters is Keshawn Martin, who looked comfortable working as a starter on a night when Andre Johnson did not play. DeVier Posey was targeted just once, and not early. Jeff Maehl got work ahead of Posey and Lestar Jean.
  • Outside linebacker Brooks Reed covered a lot of ground, with an early sack and an impressive pursuit of fullback Mike Tolbert, who dropped a sideline pass in part because he heard Reed approaching.
  • Carolina rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly looked quite good and forced a fumble by Foster, who didn’t get a great deal of work.
  • Returner Trindon Holliday took a kickoff 90-yards for an electrifying score. He picked up solid blocks from James Casey, Garrett Graham and Troy Nolan on the way. Panthers receive Kealoha Pilares looked like he had a chance to catch him, but his late dive for Holliday’s ankles came up short.
  • Veteran cornerback Alan Ball didn’t look like he had a good sense of where to be on this night. But he was called for a ridiculous pass interference penalty. He didn’t turn to spot the ball early enough to find it or the receiver, or to interfere with him. He was closer to interfering on the next play when there was no flag.
  • Nice pick/takeaway by safety Nolan on a loose ball that didn’t hit the ground.
  • Not great after-the-catch work by Justin Forsett on the second-quarter play where he ran backwards.
  • The offense had the ball for 37:41. There are likely players on defense the Texans would have liked to have gotten more film on than they were able in a game shaped like that.

Observation deck: Panthers-Texans

August, 11, 2012
8/11/12
10:25
PM ET

This should come as absolutely no surprise, because it’s what the Carolina Panthers envisioned on draft day and what they’ve seen so far in training camp. But the world got to see the impact of rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly in Saturday night’s preseason opener, a 26-13 loss to the Houston Texans.

It didn’t take long for Kuechly to do what he’s done in practice every day -- make a big play. On Houston’s second drive of the night, Kuechly put a big hit on running back Arian Foster and forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Sherrod Martin. That turnover helped set up a field goal for the Panthers.

Kuechly left the game after the first quarter, but finished with two solo tackles, two assists and the forced fumble. Spread that out over four quarters and over an entire season, and it sure looks like the Panthers have found a playmaker at linebacker.

Some other observations on the Panthers:
  • It was hard to really get a read on quarterback Cam Newton’s performance. Statistically, it wasn’t great. He completed two of six passes for 16 yards, and also ran twice for 16 yards. But Newton didn’t get blocking from his offensive line and also had at least one pass dropped. Newton led the Panthers to a field goal before leaving the game after three offensive series. It also was pretty obvious the Panthers weren’t showing anything close to their full playbook.
  • Speaking of running back depth, rookie Tauren Poole, who had a short touchdown run in the second quarter, has a decent chance to make this team. At worst, he’s probably a guy the Panthers would like to keep on the practice squad.
  • The Panthers held middle linebacker Jon Beason out as he recovers from a minor injury that’s not related to the torn Achilles tendon he suffered last season. Jason Phillips started in Beason’s place and came up with an interception late in the first quarter. If Phillips continues to progress and Thomas Davis can get healthy, the Panthers could have some very nice depth at linebacker.
  • Speaking of linebacker depth, the Panthers have plenty on the outside as well. Jordan Senn, who was a part-time starter last season, is going to be a backup this season. But Senn was very productive Saturday night, leading the Panthers with 13 tackles.
  • The Panthers went to great lengths to try to improve their special teams in the offseason. So far, that’s not paying off. Carolina allowed Trindon Holliday to return a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
  • I'm not sure rookie Joe Adams will have much of a role as a receiver, because there's so much depth at the position. But, after watching his spectacular third-quarter punt return, I'm thinking there's a good chance Adams has a big role in the return game.
  • I think Louis Murphy already was in the mix to be the No. 3 receiver. But he might have moved into the lead for that job Saturday night. Murphy had a nice leaping catch on the sideline in the second quarter, and also caught another pass where he put a nice move on the defensive back that resulted in some yards after the catch.
  • Forget any chance of Jeremy Shockey being re-signed by the Panthers. Gary Barnidge sure looks like he’s ready to be the No. 2 tight end.
  • Be sure to check out the Camp Confidential profile on the Panthers. It's scheduled to pop up on the blog early Sunday afternoon.

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