NFL roster cuts: AFC | NFC

NFL Nation: 2011 NFL preseason Week 3

Rapid Reaction: Jets 17, Giants 3

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
10:37
PM ET
WHAT IT MEANS: So the New York Jets captured the Snoopy trophy as the winner of the first annual MetLife Bowl against the New York Giants. Yawn. Based on the way his team played, Rex Ryan should punt the trophy. Forget about the final score, 17-3; the Jets’ starters were badly outplayed in the first half, out gained 209 to 61. The offense was a disaster and the Jets made dumb penalties. Basically, they played like they didn’t give a hoot about the preseason.

WOE IS O: Mark Sanchez & Co. was brutal. Can you say “regression”? In seven possessions, the Jets’ starting offense punted five times, lost a fumble (Sanchez) and, somehow, saved face with a touchdown -- a 17-yard pass to Santonio Holmes. They probably wouldn’t have scored the touchdown if it weren’t for Antonio Cromartie, who set up the offense at the Giants’ 35 with a 70-yard kickoff return.

Sanchez (8-for-16, 64 yards) was off his game from the outset, appearing indecisive as he made his reads. But this mess wasn’t all his fault. The pass protection was shoddy and his receivers, namely Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason, couldn’t gain separation against the Giants’ cornerbacks. That could be something to watch, as Burress and Mason -- 34 and 37, respectively -- aren’t the fastest guys around.

The starters won’t play in Thursday night’s finale against the Eagles, which means the No. 1 offense scored only three touchdowns in 5 1/2 quarters for the preseason. Blech!

DUMB & DUMBER: The Jets were undisciplined, committing five major penalties. The biggest blunder came from rookie defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who was ejected in the third quarter after taking a swing at running back Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs swung back, so he, too, was tossed. Wilkerson, whom the Jets are counting on to be a starter, deserves an earful from Ryan. That is unacceptable behavior.

But Wilkerson wasn’t the only guilty Jet. Right taclke Wayne Hunter (unsportsmanlike conduct), safety Brodney Pool (chop block on a punt), safety Emanuel Cook (facemask) and cornerback Donald Strickland (unnecessary roughness) all committed 15-yard penalties. Shame on them.

All told, the Jets had seven penalties for 79 yards, including a holding call on wide receiver Courtney Smith that nullified a touchdown run by backup quarterback Greg McElroy.

THE PLAX EFFECT: Burress doesn’t need to touch the ball to have an impact on the game. You saw that on Holmes’ touchdown reception. Burress lined up in the right slot, with Holmes on the outside, against the Giants’ three-by-two coverage. Safety Kenny Phillips rolled toward Burress, leaving Holmes in man-to-man against cornerback Corey Webster. Phillips tried to get back, but it was too late. Holmes ran a post route and got open in the back of the end zone.

Aside from that contribution, Burress’ anticipated matchup against his old team turned out to be a big zero -- as in zero catches. Burress, coming off his sensational debut against the Bengals, was targeted four times. In fact, Sanchez completed only four passes to his wideouts.

OPPORTUNISTIC D: For a team with a very good defense, the Jets made an alarmingly low number of interceptions last season (12). So far, they seem to be reversing the trend. Safety Jim Leonhard and linebacker David Harris intercepted two of Manning's passes, giving the Jets six picks in three games (two by Leonhard). Leonhard’s interception was set up by Harris, who came on an inside blitz and slammed Manning.

BEND BUT DON’T BREAK: Aside from the interceptions, the Jets’ No. 1 defense did some nice things in one half of play, holding the Giants to 2-for-8 on third down and 0-for-1 in the red zone. But -- and this is a big "but" -- they were pushed around between the 20s. The Jets allowed 209 total yards in the first half, uncharacteristic for a Rex Ryan-coached defense. Their conventional pass rush was nowhere to be found and there were a couple of missed tackles in the open field, including a big one by linebacker Bart Scott.

THE NEW BRAD: The Jets finally unveiled their 2011 version of the Wildcat, with rookie wide receiver Jeremy Kerley -- no surprise -- taking the direct snap and playing the role of Brad Smith. The Jets ran it four times, resulting in 39 yards. Kerley ran twice for 13 yards, handed off to Joe McKnight for eight and threw a pass -- yes, a pass! -- to Matt Mulligan for 18. That will give the Cowboys a little extra to think about as they prepare for the season opener.

Saints ready for regular season

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
10:30
PM ET

The New Orleans Saints are already in midseason form. They put up 512 yards of total offense in a 40-20 preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders.

After up-and-down performances in their first two preseason games, the Saints played a complete game against the Raiders.

“I was pleased with the effort and I was pleased with our energy,’’ New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. “That is something that was a goal of ours in this game; just playing hard and spending more time about each play then the final score or the score at any point.’’

Quarterback Drew Brees completed 15 of 23 passes for 189 yards and left the game early with New Orleans looking sharp on offense.

“He had enough snaps,’’ Payton said. “It was kind of similar, if you remember two years ago, to I think it was the third preseason game that you want to have an idea of how many snaps you want guys to play and you have to use some game-day awareness in regards to where guys are at. We substituted [Jon] Vilma, and a few others and then gradually got into our second phase, probably early part of that third quarter.’’

After a week in Oxnard, Calif., the Saints got an extra week of training camp and appear ready for the regular season.
OAKLAND -- A look at the Oakland Raiders' 40-20 defeat to visiting the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night:

What it means: The Raiders bounced back well offensively after a flat performance at San Francisco last week, but their defense continued to be leaky in the third (and most important) preseason game.

Tomorrow’s talker: The Raiders’ first-team offense was solid. Quarterback Jason Campbell looked good. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 150 yards. He looks like he is improved from last year and he seems to be responding well to his coaching. If Campbell can continue to make strides, this offense has a chance to be strong. There is young, good talent here (I love rookies Denarius Moore and Taiwan Jones). The Raiders have potential to light up scoreboards.

Trending: The Oakland secondary is a concern in its post-Nnamdi Asomugha world. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw at will. He had 189 yards passing before leaving late in the second quarter. New Orleans converted six of eight third-down plays when Brees was on the field. Pass defense has been a problem for Oakland all summer and it continued Sunday night. I don’t know if newly signed Lito Sheppard is the answer, but he may get the chance to show he can still play. Rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke is not ready for the regular-season lights.

What’s next: The Raiders complete their preseason Friday night at Seattle. The game will have interest because rookie quarterback Terrelle Pryor is expected to play. Oakland drafted the former Ohio State quarterback in the supplemental draft on Monday.

Halftime notes from Oakland

August, 28, 2011
8/28/11
9:45
PM ET
OAKLAND -- Notes from halftime as the New Orleans Saints lead the Oakland Raiders, 17-10 in a preseason game:
  • New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, a long-time Raider killer, ripped the Raiders apart again. He threw for 189 yards before being taken out late in the half. The Saints were 6-for-8 on third-down conversions with Brees in the game. New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham had five catches for 73 yards in the first half.
  • The Raiders’ offense looked great on their first series. Everyone looked sharp as they cruised down the field 91 yards for a touchdown. Running back Michael Bush was tremendous as he had 32 yards on five carries in the first half. He looks to be in midseason form.
  • Rookie Taiwan Jones had 10 yards on four carries and he had a nifty run on a short pass called back by penalty. Yes, he is as advertised -- the fourth-round pick can fly. Expect Oakland to feature him on third-down screen plays during the season.
  • Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski showed off his monster leg with a 57-yard field goal. I’m not one to make outrageous predictions, but mark me down for this one: Janikowski breaks the NFL record for the longest field goal this season. He has the leg and Oakland coach Hue Jackson trusts him. The record is 63 yards.
  • Brees picked on rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke at will. Van Dyke is getting great experience, but if he doesn’t make fast strides, teams will challenge him early and often when he is on the field.
  • Veteran receiver Derek Hagan scored on a 35-yard pass from Jason Campbell on the team's first possession. The journeyman receiver is having a strong summer and he could be in Oakland’s receiving rotation.
  • Campbell was sharp. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 150 yards. He looked good in the two-minute drill on the final drive of the half before he was picked off on a deflected pass. Campbell did well in the two-minute drill late last season.
  • Oakland’s offensive line looked solid. It’s a work in progress, but it is making strides. I like rookie Stefen Wisniewski at left guard and veteran Samson Satele at center. Wisniewski is very athletic and seems to play with a nasty streak. He excelled in the first half in run blocking.
  • Defensive lineman Richard Seymour is being held out with a hamstring injury.
  • Running back Darren McFadden and receiver Jacoby Ford also are among those not playing. They returned to practice this week, but they are being held out as a precaution. Expect to see them when the regular season begins in Denver.
  • Pass-rusher Trevor Scott played for the first time since suffering a knee injury in November.
  • Oakland second-year middle linebacker Rolando McClain looks very active. He is always near the ball.
  • Nick Miler muffed the opening kickoff. Not a great move for a guy on the bubble.
  • NBC reported during its telecast that quarterback Terelle Pryor will not play Sunday night, but he will play Friday in the preseason finale at Seattle. Oakland took the former Ohio State quarterback in the supplemental draft Monday.
  • Jeff Miller, the head of NFL security, is at the game as part of the league’s investigation into the fan violence following the Raiders’ game at San Francisco last week. He said the league hasn’t made a final decision on whether or not the annual preseason series between the two Bay Area teams will be postponed next year. That recommendation has been made.
Random thoughts on San Diego’s 34-31 win at Arizona on Saturday night:

For the first time in the preseason, the Chargers’ starters struggled. The first two preseason games were a lark. Saturday night, the Chargers were punched in the face a few times.

The San Diego defense, which played without Antonio Garay, Shaun Phillips and Larry English, was hit hard at times. It gave up an 80-yard pass play for a touchdown. Arizona starting quarterback Kevin Kolb threw for 205 yards and Arizona starting running back Beanie Wells had 63 yards rushing.

The Cardinals took a 17-3 lead with starters from both teams in the game. The Cardinals led 24-17 at the half.

San Diego’s offense struggled early. Quarterback Philip Rivers, who was nearly flawless in the first two games, threw an interception that was returned 34 yards for a score by rookie Patrick Peterson. The San Diego first-team offense did improve as the game went on. Rivers ended up throwing for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-28 passing. Starting receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd both came up with some big plays.

Rivers said after the game that it was good for San Diego to experience some difficulty in the preseason after the easy start. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t put much stock in the preseason. It’s all about getting situational experience. This game will benefit the Chargers.

Rookie Ryan Mathews showed his explosiveness with a 48-yard run. He finished with 69 yards on 10 carries.

Young inside linebacker Donald Butler continued his strong summer with five tackles.

Defensive lineman Vaughn Martin had a sack. He had two sacks last week.

Backup quarterback Billy Volek showed his worth by taking his team on the game-winning 90-yard drive. While the Chargers don’t want to think about playing without Rivers, they know they have one of the NFL’s best backups in Volek.

Random thoughts from Denver’s 23-20 win against Seattle on Saturday night:

I know some folks are going to be excited that Tim Tebow led the Broncos to the game-winning field goal. But the real story in Denver was the pass rush.

If the Denver Broncos are going to be legitimately improved in 2011 it’s not going to be because Tebow can lead the backups. It will be because the defense -- ranked No. 32 in the NFL last season -- is improved. It looked improved all camp, and Saturday night it looked like it has a special ability -- it can get to the quarterback.

Denver had five sacks. Rookie linebacker Von Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, is showing immense potential. He had two sacks. He has three sacks in the past two games. Miller hit the quarterback four times against Seattle. Elvis Dumervil added 1.5 sacks. Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks in 2009 before missing all of last season. Dumervil has excelled this camp at defensive end.

Miller and Dumervil took over this game. If that continues during the season, Denver could have something nice on its hands defensively.

The rest of the defense played well. Denver’s starters outscored Seattle 17-3 until they left in the third quarter.

Denver did lose defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (knee) and linebacker D.J. Williams (elbow). The Denver Post is reporting Williams will be out 3-4 weeks. Denver opens the season against Oakland in 15 days. So, the Broncos will likely be without their leading tackler last season for the opener. That, of course, will, put more pressure on Miller and Dumervil to make plays.

The Broncos hope neither injury is serious. Denver is thin at defensive tackle. It’s no surprise that Denver put in a claim on defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer before he was awarded to Carolina. That is Denver’s biggest need area. Expect it to scour the waiver wire at the spot in the next week.

Tebow was Tebow-ish. He completed 6 of 11 passes for 93 yards. He fumbled two balls. As Denver coach John Fox said after the game, it wasn't always pretty, but Tebow did find a way to move the ball.

Brady Quinn didn’t play Saturday. This was by design to get Tebow more repetitions. Last week, Quinn spelled starter Kyle Orton and he threw 16 passes compared to Tebow’s two passes. It will be interesting to see if Tebow gains on Quinn this week in their battle to be Orton’s backup. Orton continued to look solid Saturday night. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 236 yards.

Rookie tight end Julius Thomas continued to look like a weapon. He had 70 yards on four catches. Expect to see a lot of him early in the regular season. Receivers Eddie Royal and Eric Decker both contributed four catches as well.

Denver’s running game was solid but not spectacular. Knowshon Moreno had 47 yards on 10 carries. Denver would be happy with a 4.7 average from him. Willis McGahee had just 25 yards on 10 carries. Denver’s run game will be counted on, and it still needs to prove it can handle the responsibility.

Denver needs to work on special teams this week after it allowed a 105-yard kickoff return for a score Saturday night.

Steelers Week 3 preseason recap

August, 28, 2011
8/28/11
10:44
AM ET
The Pittsburgh Steelers were the last AFC North team to complete Week 3 of the preseason on Saturday night.

Here are some observations:

Steelers 34, Falcons 16

The Good
  • Receiver Antonio Brown continues to be Pittsburgh's star of the preseason. The second-year standout lit up Atlanta with four catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Brown's two scores were for 77 and 44 yards. Brown had a huge reception in last season's playoffs to help Pittsburgh beat the Baltimore Ravens. He is carrying that momentum and confidence into this season. After Saturday's stellar performance, Brown likely has the edge over veteran Jerricho Cotchery to become Pittsburgh's No. 3 receiver.
  • Pittsburgh backup cornerback Crezdon Butler showed playmaking ability against Atlanta. Butler returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter. Butler was also active. He led the Steelers with nine tackles and made a big impression. He could be one of Pittsburgh's top reserves in the secondary.
The Bad
  • Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich broke his arm Saturday and reportedly could miss the entire season. Leftwich had a good chance to be Pittsburgh's No. 2 quarterback. Now, that job goes to Dennis Dixon and reduces his chance for a trade. The biggest goal of the preseason is to prevent injuries. Leftwich and top cornerback Ike Taylor (broken thumb) suffered big injuries in two of Pittsburgh's three preseason games.
  • Pittsburgh’s first-team defense gave up chunks of yards to Falcons No. 1 receiver Roddy White. He recorded eight receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers didn't make any significant upgrades to the secondary in the offseason and teams will continue to attack Pittsburgh through the air this season.
Reviewing Saturday's action at LP Field

Tennessee Titans 14, Chicago Bears 13

Preseason record: 1-2

Of interest: First, the good: I thought tailback Matt Forte continued his strong summer performance in carrying 17 times for 74 yards and a rare goal-to-goal touchdown. Quarterback Jay Cutler connected six times with receiver Earl Bennett, who if it were up to Cutler would be the Bears' No. 1 receiver. Cutler also broke the ice with receiver Roy Williams, hitting a 17-yard pass on the offense's first play. Finally, the Bears' run defense looked pretty strong against a Titans team that was admittedly without tailback Chris Johnson. ... Now, the other side: Cutler's second pass, also intended for Williams, was intercepted. My first-blush reaction was that Williams shouldn't be blamed, but he did say afterwards that he should have caught it. Regardless, the play won't do much for the duo's chemistry. The Bears defense had no interceptions and managed only one sack, by reserve defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. ... Tailback Chester Taylor didn't play after Forte departed and Marion Barber strained a calf. Are the Bears trying to keep him healthy for a potential trade? Or do they plan to release him and don't want an injury to force them into an injury settlement?

Local coverage: Williams on the interception, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com: "The second one, that's my fault, I still have to catch that one. I felt like it should have been a flag somewhere in there, but it's the NFL. I got past that one, and go to the next play." ... In that same post, Cutler called Bennett "just a football player" and added: "We need a couple more of those in the locker room." Hmmmm. ... The Bears offense had 239 yards and had converted five of seven third downs by halftime, notes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. ... Coach Lovie Smith on why Taylor didn't play, via Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com: "We wanted to take a look at someone else tonight, in particular, Kahlil Bell. Kahlil hadn't gotten an opportunity to play much. We wanted to take a good look at him, [and] we were able to. I think he did a good job of taking advantage of the carries he got." ... The offensive line continues to improve, notes Dickerson. ... The Bears have only one fully dependable receiver at this point in Bennett, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. ... Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com isn't sweating the small stuff of the Bears' preseason.

Up next: Thursday against Cleveland Browns

Reviewing Saturday's action at the Metrodome:

Dallas Cowboys 23, Minnesota Vikings 17

Preseason record: 1-2

Of interest: The Vikings first-team offense converted a touchdown for the first time this preseason when Donovan McNabb found receiver Bernard Berrian behind the defense for a 49-yard touchdown pass on their first possession. Berrian later caught a 15-yard pass in showing his first signs of life in more than a year. ... Most important for the offense: It controlled the line of scrimmage for a good portion of its stint against the Cowboys' first-team defense. Tailback Adrian Peterson rushed for 81 yards on 14 carries, possibly coinciding with the return of right guard Anthony Herrera. ... McNabb also connected on another nice downfield pass to receiver Michael Jenkins (26 yards). ... Defensively, the Vikings looked pretty vulnerable against Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who completed 15 of his 20 passes. Cornerback Antoine Winfield's right shoulder stinger was a scary, but apparently not long-term, sight. At this point, depth is a big concern. ... Place-kicker Ryan Longwell hit a 44-yard field goal, but was short from 52 and had a 47-yard attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown. ... No. 2 quarterback Joe Webb had a 36-yard scramble and also a 10-yard touchdown run, showing again why the Vikings should make room for him somewhere in their offense. But the flip side was that rookie Christian Ponder didn't get much work. Perhaps he will start the preseason finale Thursday.

Local coverage: Winfield and cornerback Chris Cook (hamstring) will be "fine," coach Leslie Frazier told reporters, according to Mark Craig of the Star Tribune. ... Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "The Vikings may have to put a 'help wanted' sign out on I-494 in front of Winter Park. 'Defensive Backs Inquire Within.'" ... Frazier on the Vikings' secondary, via Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com: "What I was encouraged by was when Chris was out there, when Cedric [Griffin] was out there, when 'Toine was out there, we held our own. That is really encouraging for our defense and for our team, because we're going to need those three guys to really play at a high level in order for our defense to play well. When they were there, I thought we held them in check." ... McNabb on the pass to Berrian, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "I know everyone kind of thought we were going to kind of stay intermediate and kind of play it safe. But we've been trying to open up the offense. It really depends on what the defense is dictating for us." ... The Vikings worked hard to develop a rapport between McNabb and Berrian in practice last week, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave told Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune.

Up next: Thursday against Houston Texans

Reviewing Saturday's action at Ford Field:

Detroit Lions 34, New England Patriots 10

Preseason record: 3-0

Of interest: I would suggest jumping on the Matthew Stafford bandwagon now -- if there is still room. Stafford was again accurate, composed and productive in what might have been the most impressive performance (preseason or otherwise) in his career. He completed 12 of 14 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, and one of his "misses" was an end zone pass to receiver Nate Burleson that could have been caught. He now has a 154.0 passer rating this preseason, having completed 24 of 31 passes for 356 yards and five touchdowns. And this bonus: He absorbed his first hits of the preseason Saturday night and emerged no worse for the wear. Look out. ... Stafford benefited from two really nice plays, a 52-yard catch-and-run on a screen by running back Jerome Harrison, and a great adjustment on an underthrown ball by receiver Calvin Johnson for a 30-yard gain. ... Did you see Burleson's downfield block on Harrison's screen? ... Tailback Aaron Brown started and rushed for 30 yards on nine carries, but it's clear that depth at the position remains in flux. ... The Lions defense swarmed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, sacking him twice, forcing a fumble and unofficially hitting him five times as he managed to complete only 12 of his 22 passes. ... Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was lucky not to be penalized for a retaliation hit on Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins. ... The Lions led 17-3 when they began inserting second-team defensive players.

Local coverage: Stafford on his preseason, via Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com: "It's been positive. I felt comfortable for the most part tonight. Whoever's out there, we've done a great job and that's a testament to our coaches. They do a great job of preparing us.'' ... Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "I've seen enough. Stafford will be the Lions' first Pro Bowl quarterback in four decades -- if not this year, then soon. He is legit. I'm sold." ... Coach Jim Schwartz, via Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com: "It's preseason, you have to be careful about how you look it. I think that other than the final score we have to look at individual matchups. There were a couple of plays where we could've put more points on the board. But, again, you say a lot of times in preseason you want see players win you don't want to see schemes win. We saw a lot of good matchups today and not just our first group against their first group.'' ... John Niyo of the Detroit News: "You've got to be careful not to completely dismiss what you see on the field in August."

Up next: Thursday at Buffalo Bills


Quick thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 35-32 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium …
  • On a night when he could have done much to ease concerns heading into the season, David Garrard managed a 66.8 passer rating. He did his best work of the night against the Bills second teamers and on a nice 4-yard touchdown run. But 11-for-21 with a sack seemed shaky. Blaine Gabbert wasn’t better, with a touchdown and a pick in relief.
  • Meanwhile, while Ryan Fitzpatrick is better than a lot of people think, should he be completing 11 of 12 passes for 165 yards, two touchdowns and a 158.3 passer rating against your first-team defense even if you’re missing a couple key pieces? Aaron Kampman didn’t play again and Jeremy Mincey and Tyson Alualu were also out, but the Jaguars went without a sack again and game statisticians credited the Jags with just three quarterback hits.
  • I expected the team would look to sort through three rookie receivers, Jamar Newsome, Armon Binns, and Dontrelle Inman. The three were targeted four times and had one catch between them -- a 22-yarder by Inman. Not too much to help sort through them there.
  • Backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen gave Jacob Cutrera a gift with a pick-6. He threw it straight to the linebacker who had an easy 13-yard return.
  • I am completely anti-preseason overtime. If the league refuses to insert a rule allowing for ties, then a coach has to do what he can with 2-point conversions during the game to ensure no overtime scenarios can arise. Chan Gailey didn’t do so early, so he has to take the grief that comes with kicking a late extra point to lose rather than going for 2 to force extra time.
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' 34-31 preseason defeat against the San Diego Chargers on Saturday night:

1. Beanie Wells' health: The Cardinals' third-year running back provided healthy production while avoiding an injury Arizona could not afford at the position. Wells, who suffered a knee injury during an Aug. 28 preseason game at Chicago last season, played with obvious passion while carrying 10 times for 63 yards. He had one reception for five yards. Wells flipped the ball to receiver Andre Roberts on a reverse that produced a 34-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. At that point, it was clear the Cardinals were playing to win. Wells embraced the approach. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, courtesy of the Cardinals: "We didn’t get as many opportunities to run it as we would like, but I thought he ran physical. He did a good job in protection."

2. O'Brien Schofield's encore: The second-year pass-rusher showed up on special teams early in the game. Whatever else he accomplished on this night -- that was Schofield skidding past Billy Volek in the fourth quarter, forcing the Chargers' veteran backup to step forward in the pocket -- became a largely forgotten footnote. First-round draft choice Patrick Peterson was the young defender commanding the most attention for Arizona. His 34-yard interception return for a touchdown off Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers gave Arizona a 17-3 lead. Peterson gave Arizona all the evidence it needed to move him into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. Fellow corner Greg Toler left with a leg injury. A.J. Jefferson made a strong breakup on a third-down pass. Whisenhunt on Peterson: "They attacked him a little bit toward the end of the first half. He’s a young guy, still trying to understand the scheme of our defense. There’s no question, he saw the ball coming and made a good play, and then he showed that explosive speed."

3. Kevin Kolb's home debut: The Cardinals played like a team eager to give fans something to get excited about, particularly at quarterback. Kolb's deep pass to Larry Fitzgerald for an 80-yard touchdown gave Arizona's first-team offense a touchdown for the first time during the 2011 preseason. Kolb impressed while moving and throwing to beat pressure early in the game, including once when he found tight end Todd Heap. But he also took a few hits as the Cardinals' protection faltered in the second half. Kolb completed 11 of 20 passes for 205 yards, one touchdown and a 107.3 passer rating. For those wondering, we have not been computing QBR for preseason games. The new stat takes into account game situations, which do not matter so much in these games.
A couple quick thoughts on the Houston Texans 30-7 win against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park Saturday night ...
  • The big issue is Arian Foster's left hamstring. He left the game in the first quarter after re-injuring it. The team feels good about its depth with Derrick Ward and Ben Tate, but make no mistake -- a major countdown of Foster’s readiness for the Sept. 11 opener against the Colts is now underway. Ward ran for a score and Tate had a 4.7-yard average including a very nice two-cut run on a draw that showed patience and vision. Jeffrey Martin described the Foster scene here.
  • Jacoby Jones had a Matt Schaub pass in the end zone go through his hands early on. Yes, it was on him quickly, had a lot of zip and required him to reach for it. But it’s the sort of catchable pass he misses that drives his critics crazy. It killed a drive that turned into the first of Neil Rackers' three field goals.
  • Troy Nolan took an interception off Colin Kaepernick 73 yards for a touchdown after picking Alex Smith, too. Good news for a backup safety at a position where depth is a question. Kaepernick's was a horrible, telegraphed throw. Houston's defense was good against bad signal-callers, who managed to combine for a 7.6 passer rating. [I initially wrote that Dominique Barber had the pick of Smith. I did not see that play for myself, and the official NFL game book credits Barber. Apologies.]
  • While Houston played starters into the third quarter, the 49ers went to backups far earlier. That’s nice that the Texans can push them around and build confidence and continuity. I understand Jim Harbaugh is sticking to his plans and not allowing an opponent to dictate what he does. But how does such a scenario benefit the home team?
  • Twenty-eight guys earned a mention on the defensive stat sheet. Mario Williams was not one of them.
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Seattle Seahawks' 23-20 preseason loss to the Denver Broncos on Saturday night:

1. First-team offense touchdown: The Seahawks left most of their starting offense in the game until quarterback Tarvaris Jackson connected with backup tight end Dominique Byrd for the No. 1 unit's first touchdown of the preseason. There was 14:16 left in the fourth quarter at that point, later in the game than a starting offense would generally play even in a third preseason game. Jackson frequently faced pressure, a common theme for him to this point. He was effective on a couple bootleg throws, but he took five sacks and averaged only 4.2 yards per attempt. Offensive rhythm remained elusive. The Seahawks emptied their backfield on a couple third-down plays. They could not beat the pressure with quick completions in those situations. The team will need better pass protection to develop timing. Backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst got no first-team reps. He had to wait longer than expected to enter the game after undrafted rookie receiver Doug Baldwin broke a 105-yard kickoff return. The Seahawks kicked the tying field goal with 1:16 left as if to buy extra reps for Whitehurst, but the Broncos drove down for the winning kick as the fourth quarter expired.

2. Backup running backs. Leon Washington and Justin Forsett generally looked good despite average stats. Washington had a 21-yard run. Though the offense lacked rhythm overall, the screen again showed promise. Washington, healthier in his second season back from a career-threatening leg injury, was a threat as a receiver. His shiftiness and exuberance can be an asset on offense if the Seahawks are serious about working him into their rotation. Starter Marshawn Lynch did not play. Denver defenders tossed Washington and Forsett around a couple times, a reminder that Lynch adds a welcome physical presence.

3. Draft choice on bubble: Fifth-round pick Mark Legree was the player I wanted to watch. He caught my attention with an open-field tackle and a hard hit on the receiver following a Tim Tebow completion. He was also hustling to block for Baldwin during the kickoff return for a touchdown. Cornerback Byron Maxwell, a sixth-round pick from Clemson, seemed to stand out more. He was active on special teams and pressured Tebow.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans got good news about Kenny Britt: he’s not suspended.

They got mixed news on Nate Washington: he settled in and made a couple catches. He and Matt Hasselbeck fixed one early mistake and made it into a play that worked.

They got bad news on Damian Williams: he had two drops and no catches until the Titans targeted him a sixth time.


Receivers are always an issue for Tennessee, and they still have a lot to sort out. They were flat in a 14-13 preseason win over the Chicago Bears at LP Field Saturday night, winning on the strength of a 90-yard interception return by rookie corner Tommie Campbell off a gift-wrapped throw from Caleb Hanie.

Britt found out early in the evening he won’t be suspended for his chain of issues with police during the lockout. He said after the game he was pleased. When camp started, he’d said he needed to get out of New Jersey where most of his problems have occurred. His wife and daughter are now with him in Nashville, he said, and he intends to be a Tennessean going forward.

He said he hoped never to hear from Roger Goodell again unless it was to convey a message of "good job on the field."

Britt has dealt with a hamstring issue since the start of camp, has been limited in practices and has yet to play in a game.

“One of my hopes is that he can get out there and start taking reps with the offense instead of taking reps with the scout team,” Hasselbeck said. “We didn’t have an offseason, we didn’t have OTAs and now we really didn’t have training camp together. So it would be great to get on the same page. You saw tonight, there was a lot of sloppy play in the passing game. Mixed reads and mixed signals and just some missed opportunities. We need to get that cleaned up.

Among the missed opportunities: Two throws intended for Washington on the Titans' first possession. Washington didn’t seem to me to go hard enough after the first pass up the right side. The second pass up the left side was overthrown.

“We missed a seam route on the second play of the game,” Hasselbeck said. “I thought he was going to do this and he did that. We talked about it on the sideline, [offensive coordinator Chris Palmer] came over, we talked about it and said, ‘Next time we’re going to do this.’

“And later in the game we had a similar thing going the other direction. It was tighter coverage, it was a tougher throw, it was a tougher catch and he did it great, I think that was the [21]-yard catch that he had.”

Williams, meanwhile, is a guy I’ve been pushing. I’ve bemoaned why the team won’t give him every opportunity to work ahead of Justin Gage.

He had his chances against the Bears, and didn’t do a lot with them. Hasselbeck said the team started working Williams at Britt's split end spot five or six days ago looking to expand things for him, and praised the second-year man's solid camp. But he dropped two passes and was a non-factor in five targets before a 13-yard reception.

“I think it was just a bad game,” Williams said. “Fortunately they haven’t seen any of those from me other than today. We’ll go back and watch the film and we’ll correct it.”

Britt’s presence eases the pressure on the rest of the crew provided his hamstring is sound.

Newly added Kevin Curtis didn’t play. A guy the Titans courted in 2007, when he was a coveted free agent who chose Philadelphia, has since beaten testicular cancer and dealt with knee problems.

“It’s kind of on me,” he said of his chance. “We’ve got one game left, the window is kind of small. I’ve got one game to show them that I can help them out.”

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