NFL Nation: 2012 NFL preseason Week 1

Observation deck: Cowboys-Raiders

August, 14, 2012

Of all the football games I've ever watched, the Dallas Cowboys' 3-0 preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night was definitely ... well, it was one of them. It was a sluggish, poorly played game by two teams that obviously weren't at full strength or interested in showing a national TV audience very much of their playbooks. At the time that it ended, nine Major League Baseball teams had outscored the two NFL teams' combined total.

But it was a game a defensive coordinator could love, and surely Dallas' Rob Ryan will use it as a rallying point for his defense in the days and weeks to come. As we say all the time here, there is little or no predictive value in any of these games. Some teams game-plan for them, many don't, and there's no way to really know what you're watching in terms of who's trying and who's not. But if you're a defensive coordinator, you'd better believe you can hold up a 3-0 victory and shout at your guys about what they're capable of if they play hard. Can't hurt, could help, you know.

The Cowboys' offense ... won't have as much fun watching film of this one. Let's get to what we saw from the Cowboys in Oakland on Monday night.

1. The interior of the offensive line is not good right now, and it affects everything the offense tries to do. Tony Romo had no time to throw, DeMarco Murray had no room to run, and the No. 3 wide receiver candidates who were running with the first team had no opportunity to show what they could do. David Arkin started at center in place of the injured Phil Costa, and in the first half he got abused by Tommy Kelly for one sack and was also called for holding. The good news for Arkin is that he didn't botch any snaps, and he did look better as he continued to play into the third quarter (and the Raiders kept taking out first-team and second-team defensive players). Mackenzy Bernadeau, who started at right guard, is likely to get snaps at center in upcoming preseason games, but since he's coming off an injury the Cowboys are trying to work him in at guard to get him acclimated. Derrick Dockery started at left guard, and Ronald Leary struggled with the second and third teams. Now, the key things to remember are (a) this isn't news and (b) preseason games are about figuring out what you need to improve. There's no reason to think the Cowboys' offensive line will look worse at any point this year than it does right now, and they've known for a while that they have issues there. If they can get Costa and Nate Livings and Bernadeau healthy, they'll at least have the crew with which they planned to go into the season. I'm just not sure that's good enough -- or that they have anything behind the starters that can help in case of injury. And it's worth mentioning that right tackle Doug Free didn't look good either.

2. Andre Holmes had a good night. Of those No. 3 wide receiver candidates, Holmes stood out the most, with 40 yards on three catches. Holmes' asset is his size, and he looks like he's doing a good job of using his big body to shield the ball from defenders and make catches in traffic. Long way to go and a lot to see, but Holmes helped his case. Kevin Ogletree likely remains the favorite and got the first crack at it, starting in place of the injured Miles Austin. Ogletree caught the only ball thrown his way, for 12 yards, and had a goofy moment when he fell on his face trying to make a block and slipping on the infield dirt at the Oakland Coliseum. Expect to see more from Dwayne Harris, Tim Benford, Cole Beasley and Danny Coale in upcoming games. Beasley was the slot receiver with the first-team offense but didn't see any action. Interesting that Dez Bryant did start in spite of his hamstring injury and made one excellent 24-yard catch before taking a seat.

3. The defense did look fired-up and kind of deep in spots. Defensive end Marcus Spears played like a man who knows he needs to win a roster spot. Safety Gerald Sensabaugh came up with an early interception on a play on which cornerback Orlando Scandrick had his man well covered. Kyle Wilber showed some ability to generate pressure on Matt Leinart on a third-down play, though he did leave the game with a broken thumb. Tyrone Crawford pushed the pocket a little bit during his time in there. And I think that inside linebacker spot is going to be a real strength, as Sean Lee and Bruce Carter both looked good. Yes, the Raiders ran the ball effectively against the first-team defense, but that first-team defense was without starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff as well as defensive end Jason Hatcher and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. So I imagine they'll be better once those guys are on the field.

4. Not-so-special teams. The Cowboys were called for penalties on two punts and one field-goal attempt, each time allowing the Raiders to keep the ball. That needs to be tightened up, clearly, and it's the kind of thing that just infuriates coaches in these preseason games.

5. Miscellany: Adrian Hamilton, the undrafted linebacker who had 20.5 sacks at Prairie View last year, looked active and quick. Remains to be seen whether he has the size and speed to play against NFL offenses... Rookie tight end James Hanna showed good hands as a receiver and looked good on kick coverage... Dwayne Harris was called for holding, and yeah, that can work against a guy who's trying to get a job as a No. 3 wide receiver... Yes, you like what you see from Victor Butler, as you always do in August. Still need to see whether and how the coaches find more ways to get him on the field once the real games begin... Seemed like punter Chris Jones was fine.

Observation deck: Raiders-Cowboys

August, 13, 2012
A look at the Oakland Raiders’ 3-0 home loss against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night:

It was uglier than Russell Brand’s performance at the Olympic closing ceremonies.

Both the Raiders' and Cowboys’ first-team offenses were awful. Dallas' was probably more awful, but the Raiders’ first-team offense (sans running back Darren McFadden, who was his explosive self in a cameo appearance) shouldn’t take solace in not being as sloppy.

Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer was on the field for 10 plays. He threw an ill-advised interception and the Raiders struggled to move the ball. I wouldn’t worry too much about Palmer based on this performance, but interceptions were a problem for him last season and remain something he needs to address.

Oakland receiver Jacoby Ford had a terrible night, for what it’s worth. He dropped two passes from Palmer, ran out of bounds on a punt return and looked pretty disinterested during his outing. I’m a big Ford fan, but he has to shake off this performance. With rookie Rod Streater the flavor of the month in Oakland’s receiver’s room, Ford could be pressed for playing time.

There are no doubt the Raiders wanted to showcase Streater. Backup quarterback Matt Leinart, who looked good at times, often went to him. The undrafted free agent from Temple had six catches in the first half. At this point, I’d think Streater is a lock to make the 53-man roster. Fifth-round pick Juron Criner, also a camp star, had a bad drop and did not shine like Streater did. Still, Criner will have a place on this team.

In his first NFL preseason action, Oakland third-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor brought some late-game excitement with several exciting runs. That is Pryor’s game. But the truth is, Oakland wants to see him develop as a pocket quarterback. Perhaps the team will draw up some packages for Pryor, but he is still a work in progress. Running for his life won’t always work against first-team NFL defenses.

ESPN's Herm Edwards just said on "SportsCenter" that he'd move Pryor to tight end. It could be tempting because of his size and speed -- and because of Oakland's need there -- but I'd think Pyror will still get more time at quarterback. Plus, I think he would be reluctant to make that switch at this point.

Oakland had just three penalties in the first half, which is a good sign for a team that set NFL records for penalties and penalty yardage last season.

Backup safety Mike Mitchell made a nice interception for Oakland near the end of the first half. Mitchell is not a star, but he makes enough plays to keep him in business.

Is Oakland’s sloppy game a worry, particularly because Denver, Kansas City and San Diego were all impressive in their preseason debuts? No. I wouldn’t worry about that. But it is clear first-year coach Dennis Allen still has to get this team in shape as the season opener against San Diego looms in four weeks.

Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, who looked good in training camp, struggled some Monday night. The second-year player will get a shot at playing extensively.

One of the most impressive Raiders on Monday was a player who will not be on the 53-man roster -- punter Marquette King. The rookie, who is playing for injured star Shane Lechler, has a huge leg. But he isn't beating out Lechler. Perhaps Oakland will try to stash King of the practice squad as insurance for Lechler, who is entering the final season of his contract. But with the film King is putting out there, there is a chance a team in this punter-hungry league could snap him up.

Rookie linebacker Chad Kilgore was very active and physical. He could be practice squad bound.

Great scene to see former Oakland coach Jon Gruden, now an analyst on ESPN's "Monday Night Football," hug fans prior to the game. They still live and breathe Gruden in the Black Hole.

Three things: Raiders vs. Cowboys

August, 13, 2012
Here are three things to watch in Oakland’s preseason opener against visiting Dallas on Monday night. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on ESPN:

1. The quarterbacks: This is a big season for Carson Palmer in Oakland. He must shine in his first full season with the Raiders. He won’t play much, but he needs to be sharp. Backup Matt Leinart has looked good this camp. Let’s see whether he can keep that up. This likely will be Terrelle Pryor’s first extensive preseason action as an NFL player. He is far behind Leinart, but the Raiders would like to see Pryor produce.

2. Discipline: The Raiders have to cut down on penalties, and it must start now. They set NFL records for penalties and penalty yardage last season. New coach Dennis Allen has been preaching discipline. The improvement has to begin against Dallas.

3. Receivers: The Raiders have a promising group of receivers, but it skews young. Oakland wants to see production from all layers at this position. Expect rookies Juron Criner and Rod Streater -- offseason and early-camp stars -- to produce in a game setting.

At each stage of the process, Andrew Luck seems to provide some magic.

That was certainly the case Sunday as he played in his first NFL preseason game. The Colts rookie quarterback’s first preseason throw, a little dump-off over the middle to running back Donald Brown, turned into a 63-yard touchdown pass as Brown turned and ran, finding the seas parting.

An arm up, pumping in celebration, Luck chased the play excitedly, a big smile showing off a blue mouthpiece. He looked to the bench on one side, he looked toward one of the blockers who sprung the play on the other.

“Historic beginning!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted. “The legend has begun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The Colts' 38-3 thrashing of the Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium was the lone NFL preseason game of the day, and Luck fittingly offered a singular performance.

Peyton Manning’s first preseason toss with the Colts was a short pass to Marvin Harrison that went for a long touchdown, too.

Luck looked beyond comfortable and in command.

He knew where to go and delivered the ball in good spots. The protection was not always great, but he moved away from pressure and kept his eyes downfield, giving up on a handful of plays when he knew they weren’t going to turn into anything. He threw from the pocket and on the move.

An intermediate pass up the left side to rookie receiver T.Y. Hilton was just beyond the reach of Rams rookie corner Janoris Jenkins, and Hilton showed good footwork. Just in case it wasn’t good enough, Luck and the Colts offense hustled to get the next snap off to avoid a challenge.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Michael ConroyAndrew Luck was all smiles after his first preseason pass with the Colts went for a touchdown.
Luck kept a safety honest before hitting Austin Collie with a 23-yard TD strike.

He engineered a third scoring drive -- running back Delone Carter went airborne to get the ball over the goal line -- before yielding to Drew Stanton.

Irsay gave the run down in a tweet: “n less than a half,#12 was 10/16..188 yards,2 TDS...142.7 QB rating..WOW..yes it's only the beginning in pre-season,but OH,WHAT a BEGINNING!”

Stanton and rookie Chandler Harnish were also on target against a wildly ineffective Rams defense.

It’s just a preseason performance, but it’s all Luck and the Colts have to offer right now.

I’d expect a decent day at the box office tomorrow, and I suspect in Indiana, a few more Manning jerseys will get pushed closer to the back of closets, replaced by new No. 12s.

The defense also had a great showing, with eye-catching work from players like outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, inside linebacker Kavell Conner and defensive lineman Drake Nevis.

Chuck Pagano’s team has worked hard to do what the new coach and his staff have asked. There is a ton of work still ahead, but the first checkpoint of the preseason couldn’t have been better and the Colts now get a day to catch their breath.

They are scheduled to return to practice Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. and again at 1:50 p.m. They break camp Friday at Anderson University in Anderson, Ind., ending their dorm lives and heading home. The Colts' second test, coming next Sunday, will be a tougher one: a trip to Pittsburgh.

Luck’s done nothing so far to reduce expectations for that, and well beyond.

Three things: Titans-Seahawks

August, 11, 2012
Three things to watch for Saturday in the Seattle Seahawks' preseason opener at home against the Tennessee Titans at 10 p.m. ET:

1. QB competition. Matt Flynn has benefited from the Seahawks' decision to give him additional reps as the starter for at least this week. He's gotten sharper in practice and has an opportunity to improve his chances at becoming the starter for the regular season. It's a bonus if Flynn gets to work in two-minute situations. That was one area where Seattle struggled with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback in 2011. Jackson had no touchdowns, six interceptions and nine sacks in the final two minutes of halves. Will the offense look better with Flynn in those situations? Rookie Russell Wilson is scheduled to play the second half. That means he'll also have an extended opportunity to prove himself as a potential starter.

2. Three rookie draft choices. Defensive end Bruce Irvin (first round), middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and running back Robert Turbin (fourth round) are the ones I'm most interested in watching. Irvin has been too fast for the offensive linemen trying to block him in practice. He has also shown better strength than might have been anticipated. It's an upset if he doesn't get pressure, based on what he's shown in camp. Wagner is the favorite to start at middle linebacker. Speed and strong hands made him appealing to Seattle in the draft. Fullback Michael Robinson compared Wagner's speed to what he saw from Patrick Willis, his former teammate in San Francisco. On offense, Turbin figures to get chances with the first-team offense while Seattle rests starter Marshawn Lynch. Turbin has made a positive impression in camp. We should watch to see if he runs with power. The Seahawks wanted a backup runner with qualities somewhat similar to those Lynch possesses. They figured that would allow them to run their preferred offense even if Lynch were unavailable.

3. Receiver mix. Terrell Owens, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin and Ricardo Lockette are not expected to play in this game. That opens the door for Golden Tate, Braylon Edwards, Ben Obomanu and Kris Durham in particular to show the Seahawks can count on them. Durham has struggled to this point in camp. He likely needs to fare better during the exhibition games to secure a roster spot. Tate had drawn high praise from coach Pete Carroll. Will it carry over? Edwards came on strong once Owens' arrival ramped up competition for what figures to be one roster spot between the two of them. Other receivers: Deon Butler, Phil Bates, Lavasier Tuinei, Charly Martin and Jermaine Kearse. Bates has impressed as an undrafted rookie. He is 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds.

Three things: Titans at Seahawks

August, 11, 2012
Three things to pay special attention to in Titans at Seahawks tonight:

The quarterbacks, of course: In my thinking, Matt Hasselbeck won’t alter his standing much unless he’s bad in his starting stint against his former team. It’s Jake Locker who has more to gain in this circumstance -- he needs to show huddle command, accuracy and move the team well if he finds the offense in the red zone or a two-minute drill situation. Watch if he’s able to deliver short stuff to maximize the chances of the pass-catcher to turn and go, and if he throws as well to the left as to the right.

Tommie Campbell: He’s kind of in place and unquestioned as the third cornerback so far, and it’s good that the team feels confident in him. But we need to see the Titans in nickel, with Alterraun Verner shifted inside and Campbell taking his place playing with confidence, making good decisions and sticking with receivers or following his zone rules. Tied to that, do we see any of the guys behind him -- Terrence Wheatley, Coty Sensabaugh, Chris Hawkins, Ryan Mouton -- play well enough to be considered to be putting pressure on him.

Who rushes well? Coaches have downplayed the meaning of Pannel Egboh working ahead of Derrick Morgan with the starters. Morgan needs to play well in preseason chances and show he should be an unquestioned starter. Egboh’s in good shape, but translating practice success into games is a significant jump. Dave Ball won’t play, so rookie Scott Solomon and veterans Leger Douzable and Keyunta Dawson have chances to separate themselves for the fourth spot at defensive end.
NFL teams have long sought hard-hitting safeties to deter receivers from making catches over the middle of the field.

Adrian Wilson of the Arizona Cardinals has been one such safety for more than a decade.

The rules have changed, however, and players such as Wilson walk a finer line when determining how to serve as a deterrent without inviting penalties and fines.

The hit Wilson delivered Friday night against Kansas City Chiefs receiver Terrance Copper provides another test case. At first glance, Wilson did what every team has wanted its safeties to do for decades. He held the opposing team accountable for lofting a high pass over the middle. Copper leaped for the ball, his body suspended in a jumping-jack position as gravity pulled him back toward the ground, where Wilson was waiting.

Copper never had a chance to defend himself from contact. In a split second, the ball sailed past him by about five yards and Wilson lowered his 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame into a crouching position. As Copper landed, Wilson's left shoulder and upper arm struck him in the torso area near the elbow. The impact catapulted Copper into the air and onto his back.

Replacement officials working the game did not penalize Wilson. Copper knelt for a few seconds after the play before going down onto his hands and knees, where he remained for another 70 seconds or so. Three members of the Chiefs' training/medical staff tended to him during that time. Copper eventually walked off the field.

Will the NFL fine Wilson? A few things to consider:
  • Copper was a defenseless player;
  • Rules allow defenders to hit defenseless players as long as the defenders do not initiate contact with their helmets, and as long as defenders do not strike the defenseless players in the head or neck area;
  • Wilson did not use his helmet to deliver the blow;
  • Wilson did not strike Copper in the head or neck area.

By these measures, the hit on Copper was a legal one. The only uncertainty, in my view, involves the timing. The pass from Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn was high and slightly behind Copper. The ball had gone past Copper when Wilson delivered the hit.

As the rulebook states, "It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture."
Starting left guard Travelle Wharton suffered a season-ending knee injury during Friday night's preseason-opening 17-6 victory against the Jets, a source told ESPN's John Clayton. Wharton, 31, who signed a three-year, $10 million contract in March, is done after playing three snaps.

The loss of Wharton hurts the Bengals' plans of getting their running game on track. Last season, the Bengals averaged 3.9 yards per carry, which ranked 27th in the NFL. Cincinnati replaced Cedric Benson with BenJarvus Green-Ellis at running back, but the addition of Wharton was almost as important in recharging the running game.

Cincinnati's biggest weakness was running the ball up the middle, where the 320-pound Wharton was going to make a real push. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bengals averaged 3.3 yards in between the tackles (30th in the NFL) and scored three touchdowns up the middle (tied for 21st).

The Bengals made Wharton their first free-agent signing this year because his strength was run blocking. And Green-Ellis, who excels at running inside, would've been following Wharton more often than cutting to the outside.

Cincinnati will also miss Wharton's experience. He has started 99 games over the past eight seasons. Now, the Bengals are expected to turn to Clint Boling, a 2011 fourth-round pick who has three career starts.
Newsy little Saturday up there at Lehigh with the Philadelphia Eagles. Quarterback Michael Vick is planning to practice in spite of the thumb injury he suffered in Thursday night's preseason opener. But backup quarterback Mike Kafka is not, because he broke his left (non-throwing) hand in that game when a Steelers player stepped on it. Rookie Nick Foles, who threw two touchdowns in the game, is taking second-team reps as Vick's backup. And left tackle Demetress Bell has been dropped to the second team after a poor Thursday performance, and King Dunlap is working as the first-team left tackle.

Got all that? Let's take the last part first.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Eric Hartline/US PresswirePhiladelphia rookie QB Nick Foles was sharp in his preseason debut on Thursday night.
Bell is the tackle the Eagles signed to replace star left tackle Jason Peters after Peters tore his Achilles tendon (twice) this offseason. His demotion is obviously not a good sign for the Eagles' ability to replace Peters, but it's also not necessarily permanent. Recall last year, when first-round pick Danny Watkins wasn't ready to start the opener at right guard but was able to ascend to a starter's role during the season. Offensive line coach Howard Mudd's schemes can be difficult to pick up, and it's possible that Bell needs more time. There are 29 days until the Eagles' regular-season opener in Cleveland, so he has that time if he needs it. And if he needs more, the Eagles (as they showed with Watkins) will give it to him. Dunlap has worked for a year in Mudd's system as a backup and spot starter, and I'm sure the Eagles feel they can get by with him there for a couple of weeks if need be. If Bell never gets any better, and Dunlap has to be their 16-game starter at left tackle, the Eagles could have a big problem. But today's news isn't "Bell out for season," it's "Bell needs more work."

The Kafka news is interesting because news about the backup plan for Vick is always interesting. There's a feeling of inevitability about Vick getting injured and missing time at some point during the season, so Eagles fans want to know who's next in line. The plan was for Kafka to be that guy in this, his third season on the roster and in the offense. But now they're estimating he's out three weeks with the broken hand. And given the way Thursday night went, that doesn't help him.

Interesting that Foles, and not veteran Trent Edwards, is getting the second-team snaps. Foles looked very good Thursday, completing 6-of-10 passes for 144 yards and those two touchdowns. The Eagles' third-round pick this year out of Arizona, Foles has great arm strength and great size. Should Vick get hurt and Foles be the replacement, the results would likely be spectacular in two different directions -- some eye-opening throws and plays mixed with (likely too many) damaging rookie errors. He still needs time in the offense and working on mechanics and footwork before he's a viable replacement. Even if he does throw the ball better down the field right now than Kafka does, that doesn't mean he's going through his progressions the way the Eagles need him to. Giving him the second-team reps is a good way to speed along his education. Edwards has experience, and the Eagles think he fits their offense well, so they could put him in there in a pinch in a real game. But in preseason, the Kafka injury is a chance to educate and evaluate Foles against a little bit better competition than he otherwise might have seen.

The question is how quickly Kafka gets back, and whether this injury hurts his spot on the depth chart or even the team. At this point, I'd have to think not. But his absence will give the other Vick backups a chance to make their cases.

Three things: Texans at Panthers

August, 11, 2012
Three things to consider as the Texans play in Carolina tonight:

Matt Schaub: These are his first snaps in a game situation since Nov. 13, 2011. Camp has not given us any indications that his surgically repaired foot presents any sort of lingering issue. So it would be good to see him looking comfortable and showing some sort of chemistry with at least one of the receivers they are looking to emerge -- Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey or Lestar Jean. They should get some snaps once T.J. Yates takes over the huddle as well.

Outside linebacker depth: Expectations are high for Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed after breakout seasons in 2011 when they were huge parts of a consistently swarming front. But after Mario Williams was lost early on, the Texans asked too much of Barwin and Reed in terms of snaps and were fortunate to get away with that. First-round pick Whitney Mercilus gives the team a legitimate third player at OLB. I want to see how comfortable and effective he looks at this point in Wade Phillips’ scheme.

Field goals: The Texans spent a fifth-round draft pick on kicker Randy Bullock of Texas A&M, but he’s hardly outdone veteran Shayne Graham, who’s got less than a stellar history. Odds are they alternate kicks, but it’s hard to compare guys if one gets a 19-yarder and the other gets a 51-yarder. However it begins to play out here, the Texans need their draft pick to prove worthy and make a strong showing.
There are no blockers or play-action fakes to deal with when prospective NFL athletes compete at the scouting combine each February.

That helps explain why Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook could not catch San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during a 78-yard touchdown run Friday night.

Officials clocked Cook at 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash during the 2010 combine. Kaepernick ran the 40 in 4.53 seconds the following year, an outstanding time for a quarterback.

Kaepernick was already approaching full stride when Cook disengaged from the man blocking him (Brett Swain) to give chase after the 49ers' backup quarterback fooled the Vikings' defense with a designed run off play-action. That put Cook at a clear disadvantage even though he had perhaps a one-yard head start.

Still, with 70 yards remaining til the end zone, most cornerbacks would like their chances against most quarterbacks in that situation.

Kaepernick is not most quarterbacks, of course. He rushed for more than 4,000 yards at Nevada. He was one of four quarterbacks at the 2011 combine to break 4.6 seconds in the 40. Tyrod Taylor (4.51), Jake Locker (4.59) and Cam Newton (4.59) were the others.

Cook was close to catching Kaepernick near the goal line, but Kaepernick held him off with his arm and made one last cut to ensure safe travel to the end zone.

That is one fast quarterback.

Dolphins QBs inconsistent early

August, 10, 2012
MIAMI -- When news of David Garrard's knee surgery surfaced Friday evening, it was an opportunity for Dolphins quarterbacks Matt Moore or Ryan Tannehill to move one step closer to the starting job.

But neither quarterback has kicked down the door in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Moore completed 7 of 12 passes for 79 yards and an interception. It wasn't an awful performance. But it certainly wasn't a strong statement. Moore had three drives that led to zero points. He even had the benefit of a 46-yard kickoff return, but threw an interception on a deflected pass to kill the drive.

Miami rookie Ryan Tannehill replaced Moore near the end of the first half. Tannehill went 3-of-7 with 45 yards. As expected for a rookie, Tannehill made some good throws and bad. He missed a fourth-down attempt from close to the goal line.

Tannehill, the No. 8 overall pick, will continue to get much-needed reps in the second half.

Rocky preseason debut for Weeden

August, 10, 2012
Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden took some lumps in his preseason debut Friday night at Detroit.

In one quarter of work, Weeden fumbled, threw an interception and should have been picked off another time. He left after three uneven series, completing 3 of 9 passes for 62 yards.

His first series was impressive at the start. He strong-armed a 12-yard completion to Mohamed Massaquoi before hitting Travis Benjamin down the left sideline for a 34-yard gain. But, on third-and-15, rookie Mitchell Schwartz let a Lions defender get past him and strip the ball away from Weeden from behind.

Weeden should've had another turnover on his second possession. He was trying to hit Josh Gordon on a comeback, but rookie Dwight Bentley jumped the route. Luckily for Weeden, Bentley dropped the throw with no one between him and the end zone.

Weeden wasn't as fortunate on his last series of the night. Staring down Greg Little, Weeden was picked off by Bentley, who held onto the ball this time.

His effort wasn't all bad. On his long pass to Benjamin, Weeden stood in the pocket to make the throw despite pressure in his face. He also got rid of the ball twice instead of trying to force it into coverage.

His overall performance was underwhelming but hardly a surprise. Rookie quarterbacks often struggle in their first appearances in the preseason. It'll take a few more appearances before anyone can make a fair assessment of his play.
The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals have already watched a combined four starters go down with injuries in the first quarter of their preseason openers.

The Bengals will be without three starters for the rest of the game against the Jets. Left guard Travelle Wharton, a free-agent pickup from Carolina, was carted off the field and has been replaced by Otis Hudson. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga both have right knee injuries and are doubtful to return.

The Browns watched wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi leave the game after his first catch, which came on the first play at Detroit. Massaquoi, who thought he had moved past his concussion issues, has another head injury.
The Super Bowl champion New York Giants open their preseason schedule tonight at 7:30 pm ET in Jacksonville. I'll be watching, and tweeting, of course, and I will offer my observations after it's over. But to get you ready for the singular experience of watching the game along with me on Twitter, here are three of the things I'll be watching closely in the game:

1. The wide receivers: With Hakeem Nicks still out with a foot injury, veteran Domenik Hixon will start opposite Victor Cruz. Hixon is competing, along with Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Ramses Barden, for the No. 3 wide receiver spot, and Nicks' injury is opening an opportunity for all of them to get quality preseason reps. My hunch has been that Hixon, if he can keep his knees healthy, is the leading candidate because he's been around the longest and the Giants have been trying to give him a shot each of the past two years. But we'll see how he performs on the outside, especially compared to the rookie Randle. When the Giants go to three wide receivers, I think they still plan to use Cruz in the slot, so the No. 3 will have to be an outside guy like Mario Manningham was.

2. The running backs: Starter Ahmad Bradshaw says his feet feel better than they have in years, but I still expect the Giants to limit his preseason reps as a health precaution, and to get a look at the backs behind him. While they drafted David Wilson in the first round, I don't think that automatically makes him the favorite to be the No. 2 back behind Bradshaw. He'll have to show NFL-caliber ability as a runner and, maybe more importantly, in pass protection. The fact that Danny Ware has been in the system a few years works against Wilson, but the fact that Ware hasn't shown consistent production during that time opens the door for Wilson.

3. Prince Amukamara: With Terrell Thomas injured, the Giants' 2011 first-round pick looks as though he'll get the start at cornerback opposite Corey Webster. The Giants would like to see Amukamara take a big step forward this preseason, in case Thomas' health is going to be an issue all year and they have to use Amukamara as a starter. I'm also interested to see how they use their cornerback depth behind Amukamara. Will safety Antrel Rolle have to play the nickel corner spot again with Thomas out, or do they have another solution at that spot? And if not, who fills in at safety for Rolle when he moves to corner? A lot of those problems will look a lot smaller if Amukamara looks like he can handle the starter's job.




Sunday, 2/2