NFL Nation: 2013 preseason reaction Week 2

Highlights from the Washington Redskins' 24-13 preseason win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

1. It’s a good thing Barry Cofield's hand injury isn’t more serious and shouldn’t keep him out of any regular-season games. Cofield has looked exceptional in camp and was particularly good versus the Steelers. He twice beat Maurkice Pouncey with a swim move past his left shoulder and was disruptive in the backfield. What’s becoming clear is that Cofield and Stephen Bowen will receive fewer double teams with an improved rush from the linebackers, forcing extra attention. The more the Redskins can collapse the pocket, the better off they will be. On Cofield’s sack, one reason he was able to get there was because of an extra push by Bowen and end Kedric Golston (who is having an excellent camp). Cofield relied on athleticism to get him through his first season at nose tackle; now he’s using quickness and smarts. His ability to read plays has definitely improved. Combine that with his speed and he could be a major pest for offensive lines.

2. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan heard someone yelling to watch for the screen -- he thinks it was London Fletcher. But Kerrigan deserves credit for reading his clues as well, something he’s done an excellent job of since entering the league. It makes a difference. He noticed the tackle trying to lure him a little deeper and he saw the angle of the back coming out. So Kerrigan stopped, backed up a little and timed his jump. Just a smart play. Kerrigan’s growth in this defense is a big reason why the pass rush should be better. He lined up at right tackle, left tackle and left outside linebacker. The Redskins can pair him next to a speed linebacker (Brandon Jenkins) or a powerful one (Darryl Tapp). More importantly, they can throw a changeup to guards inside because of his speed. Kerrigan’s rush when aligned wide was also good. He did a better job getting into the tackle, closing any space between he and the tackle, and allowing him to use a quick rip move and then to strip the ball for a fumble. He took a more direct path to the quarterback -- too often when aligned over the tackle he goes too straight upfield; this time, he went more toward the quarterback.

3. The Redskins have committed 18 penalties in the first two preseason games, with three unnecessary roughness penalties in the first half (two by DeJon Gomes). Even Fletcher was called for one, on the second play from scrimmage. Fletcher pushed tight end David Paulson to the ground drawing the foul. As a captain, he must be more mindful of his actions. Nobody knows this more than Fletcher.

4. Thus far, the Redskins have shown an ability to rush the passer in various ways -- without needing to resort to extra rushers. Will that continue? We’ll find out. But they applied pressure Monday night with four-man rushes from their base linemen as well as from their nickel set, tapping into their versatility at linebacker. Oh, and they did it without Brian Orakpo as well. One reason Orakpo was not missed? Darryl Tapp. The veteran is one of the more surprising players this summer, mostly because he was a veteran changing positions and that’s not easy to do. But Tapp played with the strength that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett talked about the other day. He did a nice job setting the edge against the run and was able to move left tackle Mike Adams off line with a big left-handed slap. All power. Tapp also drew a hold on Adams with a spin move. He’s not the same threat as Orakpo, clearly, but Tapp has improved. There was one rush early that still illustrated Orakpo’s importance by his absence. Rookie Brandon Jenkins rushed too wide on the left side and Tapp was a bit upfield. Kerrigan got a decent push at left tackle, but Bowen was double teamed inside and generated no pressure. Thanks to good coverage, Ben Roethlisberger was limited to a two-yard scramble. With issues in the secondary, whether from injuries or youth, the pass rush needs to be a major factor, especially early in the season while those problems are being corrected.

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Observation deck: Steelers-Redskins

August, 19, 2013

The Pittsburgh Steelers broke training camp Sunday. If coach Mike Tomlin had his way, the team would probably return to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., instead of Pittsburgh for the rest of preseason practice.

The Steelers still have plenty of work ahead of them as their uneven, and at times ragged, play showed Monday night in a 24-13 loss at Washington.

Three turnovers, untimely penalties and an inability to control the line of scrimmage added up to the Steelers’ second loss in as many preseason games. The players return to work Wednesday, and the starters will see their final extended action of the preseason Saturday night when the Steelers host the Kansas City Chiefs. Here is a review of the Steelers’ loss to the Redskins:

The offensive line film room won’t be a lot of fun later this week when position coach Jack Bicknell Jr. breaks down tape of the game with his players. And no one was immune to the kind of mistakes that added up to a subpar showing at best for the offensive line.

The interior of the line couldn’t handle Barry Cofield, and the Redskins nose tackle beat Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey for an early sack of Ben Roethlisberger. Cofield also split the double-team of Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro to force the Roethlisberger interception that Ryan Kerrigan returned for a touchdown.

The Steelers’ first four penalties were committed by offensive linemen. Four penalties by offensive linemen wiped out pass completions that moved the chains. The good news? It’s still only August.

• Roethlisberger pulled on a baseball hat earlier than expected and gave way to backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski early in the second quarter. But that’s because Big Ben was nearly flawless after throwing an interception for a touchdown on the first series of the game.

The 10th-year veteran completed his next five pass attempts behind a leaky offensive line, and a 26-yard toss to tight end David Paulson was trademark Roethlisberger.

He escaped a collapsing pocket and bought enough time to find Paulson for a big gainer. Roethlisberger looked like he was in midseason form after the careless swing pass that Kerrigan intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He completed five of six passes for 66 yards.

• There can’t be any questions about Jonathan Dwyer making the team after the fourth-year running back rushed for a game-high 68 yards on 14 carries.

Dwyer relieved rookie Le'Veon Bell after Bell left the game early with a foot injury, and he showed good vision and elusiveness despite running behind lines that struggled. Dwyer did lose a careless fumble, but that was one of his few blemishes, and 57 of his rushing yards came in the first half against Washington’s first-team defense.

Bell’s early injury problems make hanging onto Dwyer a must, and that would make Baron Batch the odd man out if the Steelers keep only four running backs along with fullback Will Johnson on their 53-man roster.

• Rookie Jarvis Jones played the bulk of the time at right outside linebacker with the first-team defense, and the first-round pick forced a fumble that Ike Taylor recovered deep in Redskins territory.

Jones is physically ready for the NFL, and he appears to be making good progress in learning Dick LeBeau’s defense. Jason Worilds, whom Jones is battling for a starting job, played sparingly and lined up at both left and right outside linebacker. Whether or not he is losing ground to Jones remains to be seen. The coaches might have wanted to take a long look at Jones, who also played with the second-team defense.

• The defense did a good job early of getting off the field but also made third-string quarterback Rex Grossman look like a Pro Bowler. Grossman relieved injured Kirk Cousins in the first quarter and completed seven of nine passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

One plus for the defense is it forced four turnovers, including safety Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith's interception of Grossman in the third quarter.

Markus Wheaton did a pretty nice Mike Wallace impersonation in the third quarter when he blew past a Redskins cornerback and hauled in a 45-yard pass from third-string quarterback Landry Jones. The wide receivers were one of the few bright spots for the Steelers as Emmanuel Sanders made a couple of leaping grabs and Derek Moye, who is battling for a roster spot, scored the Steelers’ only touchdown on a 10-yard reception.

Jones still looked every part the rookie against the Redskins, but the former Oklahoma star showed improvement from his first preseason game. Jones led the Steelers’ only touchdown drive, one that he capped with the scoring pass to Moye on fourth-and-1. He also showed nice touch on the pass to Wheaton, though he almost put too much air under the ball. Jones completed nine of 22 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.

Observation deck: Colts-Giants

August, 19, 2013

The transition to being more of a run-oriented team is still a work in progress for the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s understandable when the quarterback is Andrew Luck, who set three rookie passing records last season.

Indianapolis gained 22 yards on eight rushes while Luck was in the game during their 20-12 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.

That stat is misleading. Luck gained 14 yards scrambling on one play. You don’t have to be a math major to realize that means the Colts gained a total of eight yards on their seven other rushes.


The Colts have attempted 19 passes and 11 runs in two preseason games with Luck on the field.

Establishing the run will make things easier for Luck. The Colts want to avoid having him throw the ball 50 times a game, and it’ll open things up for opportunities downfield, especially once Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) joins Vick Ballard in the backfield.

Luck played like he's ready for the regular season against the Giants. He also had some good fortune.

Luck was under pressure when he threw a pass that should have been intercepted by Giants cornerback Aaron Ross. Ross hit the ball up in the air and Reggie Wayne, for whom the pass was intended, also tapped the ball in the air before coming down with it in the end zone.

Luck finished 9-of-13, including completing nine of his last 10 attempts, for 107 yards, two touchdowns and no sacks. Luck’s second touchdown to T.Y. Hilton was perfectly thrown right out of the reach of the Giants defender. Hilton showed off his footwork by keeping both feet in bounds.

Luck completed passes to four different players, including his top three receivers Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Hilton (four catches, 42 yards).

The Colts finished the game with more rush attempts -- 33 for 88 yards -- than pass attempts -- 28.

Other observations:
  • Two of general manager Ryan Grigson’s free-agent signings had impressive performances. Linebacker Erik Walden (six tackles) easily beat Giants tackle David Diehl for a sack on Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the second quarter. The Colts are looking for another player besides Robert Mathis to put pressure on the quarterback. Cornerback Greg Toler came underneath and intercepted a Manning pass intended for Hakeem Nicks. Toler’s aggressiveness isn’t surprising. That’s how the Colts secondary has played throughout camp.
  • After spending the first quarter not getting any pressure on the quarterback, the Colts finally got it going after Walden’s sack. They finished with six sacks. Linebacker Caesar Rayford and defensive end Drake Nevis each had two sacks. Colts coach Chuck Pagano told reporters after the game that Rayford, a former Arena Football League player, will make things difficult once it’s time to trim the roster down.
  • Tight end Coby Fleener's preseason hasn’t gone well. He left the game with a sprained knee. The sprained knee added to another unimpressive performance. He dropped what should have been a long catch and run from Luck in the first quarter. Then, he wasn’t looking for the ball coming across the middle on a pass from backup Matt Hasselbeck in the second quarter. Sunday’s performance added to to his fumble, dropped touchdown and concussion during the Aug. 11 game against Buffalo. The Colts have high hopes for Fleener and fellow second-year tight end Dwayne Allen this season. Allen is out with a foot injury and Fleener can’t hold onto the ball to go with his now sprained knee. That’s not good.
  • Rookie linebacker Bjoern Werner had an impact in his preseason debut. He made a tackle for a 4-yard loss and barely missed out on a sack. Werner is making the transition from playing on the defensive line at Florida State to being a rushing linebacker.
  • Veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri used his 40-year-old leg to nail a 52-yard field goal on the final play of the first quarter. The 52-yarder was Vinatieri’s longest since he made a 53-yard kick against Tennessee last season.

Observation deck: Colts-Giants

August, 18, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For the benefit of those who are new around here, I'll restate this: I simply will not overreact to preseason NFL games. If you, as a fan, want to do that, that's fine with me. But don't come here expecting me to join in. So if you want me to tell you to be worried that the New York Giants had trouble scoring in the red zone in Sunday night's 20-12 "loss" to the Indianapolis Colts, or that they struggled to cover receivers, or that Eli Manning didn't look sharp, too bad. You're going to have to go get that somewhere else. History clearly shows us that preseason games offer no predictive value whatsoever. Teams aren't game-planning for each other this time of year, and the fact that one team's offense/defense was effective/ineffective against another's on Aug. 18 is simply immaterial. How bad the Giants looked Sunday night means no more than how bad the Cowboys looked Saturday or how good the Eagles looked Thursday. It's the wrong place to focus.

So what we do here when we break down preseason games is highlight some individual performances or personnel patterns that might turn out to be noteworthy or significant. And, of course, we discuss injuries, which is where we will start Sunday night.
  • Wide receiver Victor Cruz and center David Baas both left the game during the first offensive series for X-rays, which turned out to be negative. The Giants say Baas has a knee sprain and Cruz has a heel bruise. Both are likely to get more tests, Baas especially. And while the news on Cruz obviously could have been worse, it's worth watching to see whether this is something that limits him this week in practice.
  • "He runs to make his living, and, obviously, he's got an issue with his heel," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of Cruz. "Hopefully, it's not going to be a long thing. They're going to continue to do some tests on him."
  • Justin Tuck also left the game with a hamstring injury. Prior to that, I personally thought Tuck looked great. I'd singled him out prior to the game as someone I was going to watch, and in the first quarter he looked quick and energized as he hassled Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and batted down a pass. An energized Tuck would be a tremendous positive for the Giants this season, provided, of course, that energy comes with fully healthy hamstrings.
  • David Wilson is a lot of fun to watch run. He broke a 21-yarder and threw in a 16-yard reception on which he almost impossibly avoided falling to the ground along the sideline. But unless I missed one, there wasn't a single third down during his part of the game on which he wasn't replaced by Andre Brown. We know how important pass protection is going to be when evaluating these running backs and assigning them carries, and it seems clear that the Giants trust Brown more in pass protection right now than they trust Wilson. Brown looked good picking up blitzing safety Antoine Bethea on a third-down play in the second quarter that resulted in an 11-yard pass to Rueben Randle. Can that change before the season starts? Sure, and certainly before it ends. But a Wilson/Brown backfield committee looks like the plan right now. Brown had 36 yards on eight carries and caught one pass. Wilson had 34 yards on eight carries and caught two passes. Wilson did not return any kickoffs.
  • Michael Cox looks like a keeper, and not just because he looks like a non-Wilson option on kick returns. Cox had just two carries for four yards but also had two long receptions out of the backfield -- one for 20 yards and another for 28. "He's got a lot of fight," Coughlin said. "He breaks tackles, and he's very persistent in what he does. And he does the same thing on special teams, so he's making good progress." Cox is obviously ahead of Da'Rel Scott, who did not play in the game, in pursuit of a roster spot. And it's possible he could pass Ryan Torain on the depth chart as well, though Torain went into the game before he did and shows a lot as a blocker.
  • Right tackle David Diehl got beaten badly on a couple of plays, one of which resulted in an Erik Walden sack of Manning. But the Giants seem committed to playing him at right tackle over first-round rookie Justin Pugh, who's being brought along slowly. The offensive line is tough to judge because right guard Chris Snee barely played (he's still recovering from offseason hip surgery) and Baas went out early.
  • Lots of moving the linebackers in and out. Tough to pick out anything that either Mark Herzlich or Dan Connor did to separate himself in the middle linebacker competition. Jacquian Williams showed excellent speed and quickness in short-range coverage on a third-down pass attempt by Matt Hasselbeck to Robert Hughes in the third quarter. Williams is likely the Giants' best coverage linebacker and as such was used mainly on passing downs.
  • Justin Trattou had a sack on which he got help from Marvin Austin and Adewale Ojomo in collapsing the pocket. It was a decent night for the Giants' backup defensive ends in terms of creating pressure, even though they got only one sack. As for the defensive tackles, Austin looked fine on that one play but, in general, doesn't show much power at the point of attack. Second-round pick Johnathan Hankins looks like he could stand to get stronger as well.
  • Coughlin said last week that David Carr would play this game and Curtis Painter would play Saturday's game against the Jets. With fourth-rounder Ryan Nassib sure to make the team as the No. 3 quarterback, Carr and Painter are competing for the No. 2 job. Carr was just meh -- seven for 11, 57 yards -- and he got sacked three times. I guess if Painter looks great, he could win the job. But the Giants know and like Carr, so it's no sure thing.
  • And, finally, on the Reggie Wayne touchdown catch that first bounced off the hands of cornerback Aaron Ross: Ross said the lights blinded him and he lost the ball. He said he usually wears eye black or special contact lenses that help with that, but for some reason he wasn't wearing them Sunday. "Just one of those freak plays that thankfully doesn't count," Ross said. "I knew he was behind me, so as soon as I hit it, I looked back and … it was bad."

Preseason, though, Aaron. Just preseason. As Ross pointed out, it didn't count. None of it. And while Coughlin was annoyed about the performance, that's his job -- to keep giving these guys things to work on in the final three weeks before the start of the regular season.

In a matchup of projected playoff heavyweights, the Broncos took what amounted to a preseason standing eight count Saturday night in CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks played with a regular-season edge and a bit more of a regular-season game plan. The Seattle regulars were far more opportunistic and played with far fewer mistakes in opening up a 26-point halftime lead the Broncos reserves couldn’t close.

The rundown:
  • During a preseason in which they have had plenty of injury issues, the Broncos had what was the scariest thus far. Defensive tackle Derek Wolfe was taken by ambulance to a Seattle hospital, where he was examined for a cervical spine injury. On a second-and-5 play in the first quarter, Wolfe was struck on the crown of his helmet by Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson. Wolfe was trying to fend off a cut block when Robinson plowed into him in a helmet-to-helmet collision. Wolfe was examined on the field by the Broncos’ medical staff before being loaded into the ambulance. Broncos officials said X-rays showed no broken bones, that a CT scan was "positive," and that Wolfe also had an MRI. The Broncos were hopeful he could return to Denver with the team. (Update: Wolfe will be able to return to Denver with the team.)
  • Special teams play was decidedly un-special. Those units were consistently a strength for the Broncos last season with Trindon Holliday's playoff heroics -- a punt return and a kickoff return for touchdowns against the Ravens -- lost in the disappointment of the double overtime loss last January. But the preseason has been a choppy affair for the group. Holliday made two unwise decisions in the return game in the preseason opener, including being tackled inside the 5-yard line on a punt return, and Saturday night in Seattle was worse for the unit. The Broncos surrendered a 107-yard kickoff return for the touchdown by Jermaine Kearse with 1 minute, 52 seconds left in the first quarter and then had a missed-tackle extravaganza on a 33-yard punt return by Golden Tate in the second quarter. The night would have been a total washout had it not been for Holliday’s 73-yard punt return against plenty of Seahawks reserves in the fourth quarter.
  • The Broncos simply did not take care of the ball. They fumbled four times in the first half, losing three of them. Most troubling was how the Broncos turned momentum-changing plays into enormous errors with the miscues. Tight end Julius Thomas lost a fumble after a 20-yard reception on what was looking like a scoring drive in the first quarter. Running back Ronnie Hillman fumbled away what would have been a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Seattle cornerback (and former Bronco) Brandon Browner returned Hillman’s fumble 106 yards for a touchdown. Hillman fumbled twice in the game. The Broncos were among the league leaders in lost fumbles in 2012. The Broncos lost 14 fumbles overall last season; only six teams lost more. None of those six teams made the playoffs and three fired the head coach. The Broncos' backs lost seven of those fumbles, including one by Hillman. Add in Montee Ball’s missed block in the first quarter Saturday night that resulted in a crushing hit on quarterback Peyton Manning and it was not a good night for the team’s young running backs.
  • The Broncos would like to work out of a three-wide receiver set as their base formation, but that’s not going to work if they can’t hold off the rush when they are in it. The Seahawks were aggressive early against the three-wide look, often rushing six and seven defenders. And after Manning took a big shot following Ball’s bobble in pass protection, the Broncos worked out of a two-tight-end look for six snaps during their next possession. They also had one snap in a two-back formation. On that drive the Broncos had the ball for 14 plays and would have scored had Hillman not fumbled. The Broncos forced the Seahawks to back off the pass rush when they went bigger in the formation. It showed the Broncos have versatility in the offense, but pass protection out of the three-wide look is still a concern after two preseason games. Those troubles will embolden opposing pass-rushers all the more if the Broncos don’t tighten things up.
  • For the second time in two preseason games an opposing offense pounded its way through the Broncos’ first-team defense to score on a game-opening drive. The Seahawks took their opening possession 65 yards in 10 plays, with five of those plays coming on runs that accounted for 21 yards. And much like the damage the 49ers did in the run game in the preseason opener, the Seahawks pounded away against the Broncos’ base defense. The Broncos did tinker with the lineup as Mitch Unrein started at one of the defensive tackle spots in place of Kevin Vickerson.

Some odds and ends:
  • As expected linebacker Von Miller started and played for much of the first half for the Broncos. Miller spent Thursday in Washington, D.C., to meet with NFL Players Association officials about his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Miller returned to Denver on Thursday night and traveled with the team to Seattle on Friday.
  • In addition to Wolfe, the Broncos have some other injuries that will be evaluated more Sunday. Cornerback Champ Bailey suffered a foot injury in the first half and guard Louis Vasquez suffered a knee injury. Bailey limped to the locker room at halftime while Vasquez's injury wasn't considered all that serious.
  • On a night when the Broncos had difficulty at times maintaining their composure, they had some ill-timed flags. In the first half, Vickerson had an unnecessary roughness penalty and tackle Orlando Franklin had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. An offside penalty by Malik Jackson negated a Tony Carter interception. There were two illegal formation penalties on tackle Chris Clark on back-to-back plays. The Broncos also had two illegal-formation penalties in the second half -- both on rookie tackle Vinston Painter. The Broncos also took a delay of game penalty late in the first half when backup quarterback Brock Osweiler didn’t ask for the snap in time.
  • Rookie Kayvon Webster showed he has moved up the depth chart a bit, as he entered the game on defense before Omar Bolden, a 2012 draft pick. Webster has appeared more frequently in the specialty packages in practice and opened the second half on defense.
  • The Broncos had to take a timeout in the first half when they only had 10 players in the offensive huddle.
  • Andre Caldwell got several snaps with the offensive starters in the three-wide receiver set. Caldwell was in the formation in Wes Welker’s place at times in the first half. Caldwell and rookie Tavarres King are battling for the No. 4 wideout position, and the Broncos likely wanted to see how Caldwell performed with some premium snaps.
  • Manny Ramirez, after working with the first-team offense all week, started at center Saturday night. Ryan Lilja entered the game as the second-team center.

HOUSTON -- Last season it was against Miami that Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had his swat-ridden coming-out party.

Sure, Watt had already started to become a star as a rookie, when he returned that interception for a touchdown against the Bengals in the 2011 playoffs. But he tipped three of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill's passes in the 2012 season opener and completely changed the complexion of the game.

It seemed like a series of flukey plays. We all learned shortly thereafter that tipped passes by Watt were no fluke.

This time around, in their preseason meeting, the Texans opted to limit Watt, who departed the game much earlier than most of his defensive teammates. Watt said that was the Texans' plan heading into the game. He played two snaps.

"I like not showing everything I'll have during the season," Watt said.

He also said he felt like a caged animal.

"I missed the whole preseason last year," Watt said. "So I'm not worried about missing a couple snaps here and there."

Here are a few more observations from Saturday night's game, which the Texans won 24-17:
  • I've gone as long as I can without mentioning the backup-quarterback battle. Case Keenum played first after starter Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates played next. Keenum had a solid outing. Statistically, he threw 18 passes, completed 11 and threw a beautiful 38-yard touchdown pass to Lestar Jean midway through the second quarter. Deep balls have been one of Keenum's strengths this preseason. He finished with a respectable 150 yards and a 106.2 passer rating. Yates looked better when he came in next. The Texans ran the ball a little more with Yates in at quarterback. He threw half as many passes but completed 7 of his 9 attempts. He was smooth under pressure and played like a guy with more experience. Yates finished with 84 yards, a touchdown and a 142.6 passer rating.
  • DeAndre Hopkins caught two passes for 22 yards before leaving the game with a concussion. Texans coach Gary Kubiak doesn't seem overly concerned about Hopkins. "I don't know exactly what play it happened on, but I thought something was wrong," Kubiak said. "I told [receivers coach Larry Kirksey] to get him out of there and then we checked him out. He's fine now, he's doing fine. But we're obviously going to put him through the protocol."
  • An underrated matchup in this game from an entertainment standpoint was Miami offensive lineman Richie Incognito vs. Texans defensive end Antonio Smith. Last year when the two faced each other, Smith complained about Incognito's tactics; he said Incognito twisted his ankle. The film supported the fact that Incognito was doing something to Smith's ankle. The league responded by fining Smith, not Incognito, a hefty $21,000 for kicking Incognito. The fine was later reduced after Smith appealed, contending he had no choice in order to get Incognito off his leg. Tonight they met again and grappled a bit. Incognito grabbed Smith's facemask during one play and held on, then at one point appeared to swing his arm at Smith. Smith, clearly frustrated, ripped off Incognito's helmet and swung it at him. Asked about the meeting after the game, Smith said, "Next question. I kind of took a blow to the head. I can't remember."
  • The Texans have a strange attraction to tight ends from the University of Wisconsin. And it's working out pretty well for them. "It's great, it's great," said Owen Daniels, the elder statesman of the Wisconsin tight ends. "We've got three on the roster right now. Myself, G and Byrnie. It's great having those guys contribute." G, of course, is Garrett Graham. Byrnie (and I have no idea how that nickname is spelled) is Jake Byrne, a first-year tight end. Graham had a fantastic game and is going to be a really good player for the Texans this year. "Oh, he's picked up where he left off last year," Daniels said. "He helped us out a lot last year. This year he's going to get more opportunities to make plays without James [Casey] being here. He's grown a lot the last couple years. You see what he's doing out there, he's working really hard."
  • After a disappointing training camp, fourth-round draft pick Trevardo Williams seemed to release some frustration in the fourth quarter when he notched sacks on consecutive plays. Williams and fellow outside linebacker, third-round pick Sam Montgomery both fell behind during camp. Two undrafted rookies, Justin Tuggle and Willie Jefferson, jumped ahead of them on the depth chart. Tuggle started and played nearly the entire game. Kubiak talked after the game about Williams needing something to regain confidence. "Sometimes as a rookie you are just swimming in information. When you just throw them out there, sometimes their talents take over."
  • This quote from Kubiak stood out to me and is not good news for cornerback Brandon Harris, who was a second-round draft pick in 2011: "I would say Bouye, Roc and Brandon, that is a very competitive environment going on right there." Harris played a little bit of safety Saturday night after the Texans lost safeties Shiloh Keo and Eddie Pleasant. Now he's apparently competing with A.J. Bouye, a standout undrafted rookie, and Roc Carmichael, who was inactive for the first 10 games of last season.

Thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals’ 27-19 win over the Tennessee Titans Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium:
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Seattle Seahawks' second exhibition game of the 2013 preseason, a 40-10 victory at home against the Denver Broncos on Saturday night:

1. The starting QBs. Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson combined to complete 19 of 28 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and one sack. Manning took a hard hit from Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and was slow to rise following the play, but he finished that drive with a touchdown pass to Wes Welker and played extensively thereafter. Wilson's perfectly delivered 33-yard sideline strike to Golden Tate against Champ Bailey was a highlight for Seattle. Both quarterbacks impressed and both played extensively, one reason this game felt more intense than the typical preseason matchup.

2. No-huddle defense. The Seahawks forced a three-and-out on the Broncos' first possession, but Manning had little trouble directing Denver's offense from that point forward. Ronnie Hillman's fumble near the goal line killed one drive after 14 plays and 79 yards. The Broncos lost two fumbles on their first four possessions. Seattle's defense gets some credit for that, but not for handling the Broncos' fast-paced offense.

3. Winfield factor. The Seahawks sought to upgrade their nickel defense when they signed slot corner Antoine Winfield in free agency. Winfield was the nearest defender when Manning completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Welker, but it wasn't clear to me whether Winfield had the coverage exclusively or if he was passing off Welker to another defender. Either way, Welker scored from the slot on the play. While with New England last season, Welker caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown against Seattle.

Note: I filed this in the third quarter because there was nothing more to see in relation to these three areas of interest.

Observation deck: Packers 19, Rams 7

August, 18, 2013

ST. LOUIS -- For the second consecutive week, the Rams participated in a sloppy preseason game and walked out with a loss.

This time it was a 19-7 decision to Green Bay on Saturday night.

Some quick hits and reaction from Saturday night’s game:

Quarterback Sam Bradford was sharp again but missed chances in the red zone clouded that performance a bit. Bradford finished 8-of-12 for 155 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and a rating of 109.7. That effort included a picture-perfect strike to receiver Chris Givens for a gain of 57 yards. But that work was partially forgotten as the Rams failed to finish the drive with a touchdown after Bradford missed a wide-open Tavon Austin in the flat for a would-be score and fumbled the snap on fourth-and-goal at the 1.

Clearly, the Rams would like to put some points on the board, namely in the form of touchdowns. On the bright side, they did create some big plays with the completion to Givens and a 37-yard strike to tight end Jared Cook. Those big plays have Bradford excited about the offense’s potential.

Tackling was again an issue for the Rams. The hope is that the preseason provides enough opportunities for any tackling rust to get knocked off but there wasn’t much progress from Week 1 to 2 in that regard. On Green Bay’s first two offensive plays, the Rams had safety Darian Stewart and defensive tackle Michael Brockers miss tackles. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson later got in on the act with two whiffs of his own. The Rams took extra time in practice to work on tackling at “thud” tempo when they had the pads on last week and may have to do so again this week.

Running back Isaiah Pead got an extended look, starting the game but also playing into the third quarter. He had some good moments and ball security was not an issue on any of his 12 touches. Running room was hard to come by but Pead was strong in pass protection.

Speaking of the running game and a lack of room to run, the offensive line struggled to get much push at all. While that group did fine in pass protection, there was nowhere for Pead or any of the backs to run with the first group.

Rookie starting linebacker Alec Ogletree stayed in the game longer than the rest of the defensive starters and, at first glance, made some strides from last week. He was more reliable tackling and seemed to be better with communication and in his assignments. The Packers did gash the Rams with the tight end in the passing game, an area where Ogletree is supposed to be an asset.

Austin was far more involved this week as Bradford targeted him seven times. Austin came up with four catches for 28 yards and should have had a touchdown. Austin flashed some of the speed and agility that he’s shown regularly on the practice field but also spent a bit too long looking to make a move and not running. You don’t want him to change his game too much but it’s going to be harder for him at this level to take the circuitous routes he sometimes took to the end zone in college.

With Pead taking most of the snaps, presumptive leading running back Daryl Richardson didn’t get much work. When he came in, he did make a nice catch on a wheel route for a gain of 24 yards. It was a good sign for Richardson, who had a couple of drops last week in Cleveland.

The preseason is usually a time for abundant penalties and the Rams again proved that to be true. They were flagged nine times for 52 yards. That was an area coach Jeff Fisher wanted to see cleaned up after last week but he didn’t get his wish. Of particular concern should be the continued illegal formation flags the Rams have drawn. Although only one of those penalties was accepted, the Rams had three flags thrown for that violation.

Competition for the backup quarterback job appears to be gaining little to no clarity. Kellen Clemens got the first chance to work with the second team offense and struggled mightily. Austin Davis came on in the fourth quarter and was a bit better, getting the Rams on the board with a touchdown pass to Nick Johnson.

Looking for a name of a little known player or undrafted rookie who seemed to be pretty active and make a strong impression? Defensive end Gerald Rivers got a lot of playing time in the absence of backup Eugene Sims and generated fairly consistent pressure in his opportunities. Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong was also active.

Perhaps most important, the Rams made it out of the game without any serious injuries. The Rams removed Stewart from the lineup as a precaution for some hamstring tightness.

The Jacksonville Jaguars stuck with Blaine Gabbert as their starter at quarterback in preseason game No. 2.

Part of why, it now appears, is because they were ready to put him in a no-huddle offense, force the pace against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium and see if the offense couldn’t work more effectively with an appearance by running back Maurice Jones-Drew and a contribution from receiver Justin Blackmon.

Gabbert was excellent, with 13 completions in 16 attempts for 165 yards, a touchdown to tight end Allen Reisner and a 130.5 passer rating. He threw on the move, he threw in the face of pressure when he had to, he threw to people who made plays for him. He carried himself confidently, rarely huddling, and running plays that seemed to offer him quick and simple decisions.

Chad Henne took over with 5:34 on the clock in the second quarter. On his final play, Gabbert banged his thumb on defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson. He was shaking his hand as he headed for the sideline, and according to tweets from several who covered the game in person, coach Gus Bradley said X-rays of the quarterback’s right thumb were negative. It’s a sprain and he’ll be evaluated further on Sunday.

It was 10-10 when he left the game, and with him at quarterback the Jags converted five of seven third downs.

Against a better opponent who is not surprised by the hurry-up and who will have game-planned more for Gabbert, can he do similar things? We’ll have to wait for the answer to that. We don’t want to give too much weight to less than a half of a preseason game. But still, there is a lot more reason to think it could be a yes than there was before this game.

A few other thoughts on Jets 37, Jaguars 13:
  • The Jags failed to convert the final three third downs they faced in the first half, when Henne had replaced Gabbert. But the first two were runs, they went for it on the fourth down that followed and they converted both.
  • In 16 minutes of play, the Jaguars had eight penalties for 63 yards. While the hurry-up caught the Jets off guard, it may have also thrown the Jaguars off a bit in this department. The pace of the Jacksonville offense didn’t have a bearing on consecutive neutral-zone infractions against defensive linemen Jason Babin and Sen’Derrick Marks. The Jaguars finished with 12 penalties for 100 yards.
  • Blackmon was very good, with four catches on five targets for 46 yards. He ran well with the ball in his hands on a couple of quick receiver screens. They are going to miss him during his four-game suspension to start the season. But once he and Cecil Shorts (who didn’t play) are on the field together, they should be a formidable duo. Mix in rookie Ace Sanders who flashed some in this game and there is plenty of reason for encouragement. Sanders caught Gabbert’s first pass, a 35-yarder down the middle.
  • Timing wasn’t great for rookie safety John Cyprien, who just started practicing on Monday after an offseason hamstring injury. He fell down on the Jets first touchdown, a 23-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to tight end Jeff Cumberland. But even if Cyprien has stayed on his feet, he would have gotten beat on the play.
  • Jones-Drew got three carries for 9 yards and took a little pass 20 yards. The Jags got him out quickly after his first game action since Oct. 21, 2012. Jordan Todman had some quality carries as the next in line – at least one was undone by a penalty and rookie Denard Robinson showed off his speed before he was slowed in the second half. Neither had a good stat line in the end.
  • The Jets got effective work out of Bilal Powell when the running back fielded direct snaps. He took one 37 yards as offensive lineman Willie Colon swallowed up Marks to create a big hole. Powell finished with 68 yards on seven carries.
  • Sanchez and Matt Simms were each sacked once. Jeremy Mincey had the first, sticking with it on a deep drop for Sanchez and ultimately pushing back fullback Tommy Bohanon. Mincey has bulked up so he can play some tackle, and he should beat a fullback. Also of note on the D-line: Continued silence and invisibility from end Andre Branch. His stat line included just one tackle, on special teams.

Observation deck: Packers 19, Rams 7

August, 17, 2013

The Green Bay Packers evened their preseason record at 1-1 with a 19-7 victory at St. Louis on Saturday.

Here’s a rundown of the night:
  • Aaron Rodgers played three series and looked sharp despite failing to get into the end zone. He completed 10 of 12 passes for 134 yards and a rating of 113.2, but the starting offense struggled on third down. A holding penalty on tight end Jermichael Finley on third-and-1 from the Rams’ 13-yard line wiped out a 7-yard run by Eddie Lacy on the first series. On the second series, the Rams stopped Lacy for a 2-yard yard loss on third-and-1 at the 29. On the third series, Rodgers was sacked on third-and-5. All three possessions ended with field-goal attempts, and the offensive starters totaled six points.
  • Finley, who has drawn repeated praise from Rodgers during training camp, made two big plays. He had a 25-yard reception on the first series and a 33-yard catch-and-run on the third series. He had four catches for 78 yards.
  • In his preseason debut, Lacy rushed eight times for 40 yards and showed off his ability to break tackles. On his first carry, he made a defender miss in the backfield and picked up 7. On his second carry, he broke two tackles and gained 15. He also had one catch that went for 11 yards thanks to a spin move that juked a defender. Lacy played the first three series (although Johnathan Franklin actually started) after missing last week’s opener against Arizona because of a hamstring injury.
  • Rookie cornerback Micah Hyde bounced back after giving up a 57-yard completion to speedy Chris Givens in the first quarter. On the same series, Hyde had good coverage and tackled rookie receiver Tavon Austin for a 1-yard gain on second-and-goal from the 3. On the next play, Hyde stopped running back Isaiah Pead for a 1-yard gain. It’s possible Hyde was counting on help from safety Jerron McMillian on the deep pass to Givens, but he might be better suited to play inside, where speed isn’t as big of an issue. Hyde also had a sack in the third quarter.
  • Hyde also got a crack at a punt return, and brought it back 13 yards. He had not previously been used as a returner in practice this summer.
  • Franklin made a major mistake as a punt returner in the third quarter. He failed to run up and catch a punt that hit one of his blockers, Brandon Smith, and was recovered by the Rams at the Packers’ 10-yard line.
  • Don Barclay got the start at right tackle and alternated series with Marshall Newhouse. Barclay had a good block on Lacy’s 15-yard run on the first series and another on a 13-yard rush by Alex Green in the third quarter. Newhouse also played left tackle in the second half.
  • Rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari made his first major mistake in pass protection since taking over for the injured Bryan Bulaga. Rams defensive end Robert Quinn beat Bakhtiari inside and sacked Rodgers on third-and-5 on Rodgers’ final series.
  • Tight end D.J. Williams, who had a poor showing against the Cardinals, dropped one pass and missed a block on a field goal that was partially blocked. His inconsistent play may have opened the door for Brandon Bostick, who caught three passes for 29.
  • Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly may have taken a big step toward completing an improbable return. In just his second game since returning to the NFL after serving a three-year drug suspension, Jolly was part of two turnover plays in the third quarter. First, he pushed back guard Barrett Jones and tipped a Kellen Clemens pass that Jarrett Bush intercepted. Then, he dropped into coverage and intercepted a Clemens pass that was tipped. Earlier, he fought off a double team and tackled running back Benny Cunningham for a 2-yard loss in the second quarter.
  • One the most impressive players of last preseason, outside linebacker Dezman Moses hasn’t looked the same this summer. He made a couple of glaring errors – a missed tackle that led to a 10-yard catch-and-run by Pead and a blown coverage on a 37-yard completion from Sam Bradford to tight end Jared Cook.
  • Backup quarterback Graham Harrell played three series and completed 5 of 10 passes for 44 yards and accounted for three points. He had no turnovers after losing a fumble and throwing an interception against Arizona last week.
  • Vince Young followed Harrell and played three series in the third quarter. He completed 5 of 9 passes for 26 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He accounted for just three points, and it came on a short field after the Packers took possession at the Rams’ 29-yard line. On Young’s first series, he had receiver Myles White open down the seam but overthrew him on what could have been a 29-yard touchdown. Three plays later, Young was late on a fade to White, who ran out of room in the end zone.
  • B.J. Coleman followed Young and played the fourth quarter. He looked considerably better than he did in the Aug. 3 scrimmage and last week against the Cardinals. He led the only touchdown drive of the game, capping a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass on the run to tight end Jake Stoneburner.
  • Running back James Starks lost ground in the running-back competition when he fumbled in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Green.
  • Mason Crosby looked solid on field goals of 34 and 48 yards. He also made a 30-yarder that was partially blocked. Giorgio Tavecchio missed wide left from 49 yards and made a 38-yarder.
  • Tight end Matthew Mulligan and linebacker Nate Palmer left with injuries. Their status was not immediately known.
  • The following players were not in uniform: WR Kevin Dorsey (hamstring), WR Charles Johnson (knee), WR Randall Cobb (biceps), RB DuJuan Harris (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Tramon Williams (knee), OL JC Tretter (ankle), T Bryan Bulaga (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg), TE Andrew Quarless (quad), TE Ryan Taylor (knee), WR Jordy Nelson (knee), DE Datone Jones (ankle) and DE Jerel Worthy (knee).
ST. LOUIS -- Looking back on five things discussed here before the Rams’ second exhibition game of the 2013 preseason, a 19-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers at the Edward Jones Dome.

1.Right tackle redux. As expected Joe Barksdale got the start in place of the injured Rodger Saffold at right tackle. Barksdale really didn’t do anything notable but that’s a good thing given his position. He was solid in pass protection as quarterback Sam Bradford was not sacked or hit.

The Rams would probably like to get more out of Barksdale and the entire offensive line in the run game, though. When the starting line was on the field, the Rams generated 15 yards on 11 carries and running back Isaiah Pead gained 11 of those yards on his first attempt.

Behind Barksdale, the Rams went with Brandon Washington with the second unit. Washington had played guard almost exclusively in his time with the Rams before getting reps at right tackle this week in practice.

Chris Williams got some work at right tackle to open the third quarter and allowed a sack.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
AP Photo/Seth PerlmanTavon Austin saw more action in his second preseason game, catching four of seven targets.
2. Spread it around. Despite plenty of excitement about the debuts of pass-catching weapons Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, that duo barely got any opportunities in the opener last week against Cleveland. Bradford targeted Austin once against the Browns and Cook did not factor at all.

That changed a bit Saturday night, as the Rams looked in Austin’s direction a lot. He finished with four catches for 28 yards on seven targets. Cook got his first target in a game as a Ram and cashed it in for a 37-yard catch and run.

Austin, Cook and Chris Givens were the only receivers targeted by Bradford, who also threw to running backs Pead and Daryl Richardson.

3. Going deeper. Rams coach Jeff Fisher wanted to give some of his younger players down on the depth chart an opportunity to play with the first-team offense and followed through on that on both sides of the ball.

Pead was the primary example of that as he started in place of Richardson and got the bulk of the work with the starters. He carried nine times for 14 yards and added a catch for 10 yards in his time with the first group.

There wasn’t much room to run for Pead or any of the backs but he did solid work in pass protection.

Elsewhere, Shelley Smith started at left guard as he and Williams continue to rotate in competition for that job. Rodney McLeod got work with the first-team defense at safety and, with backup end Eugene Sims a pregame scratch, undrafted rookie Gerald Rivers got some chances as well.

4. Looking at linebackers. As expected, veteran Will Witherspoon got the start at outside linebacker instead of Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Although Dunbar is eligible to play and came in with the second unit, getting the first group in sync before the regular season takes priority.

Rookie starter Alec Ogletree fared better than he did in Week 1, posting four tackles in unofficial statistics. He played longer than the rest of the starters, playing the entire first half.

Undrafted rookie Ray-Ray Armstrong got to work with the second unit in the continued absence of Jabara Williams, who was a pregame scratch. Fellow rookie Jonathan Stewart came up with a live ball recovery after a punt return miscue.

5. Corner three. Although it may not be a full-blown competition for the nickel cornerback job between Trumaine Johnson and rookie Brandon McGee, Johnson didn’t distance himself from McGee with his performance Saturday night.

Johnson came in as the third corner, a position he’d held almost exclusively until recently in practice. McGee got some reps with the first-team defense as the third corner in a couple of practices this week and could get more after Johnson whiffed on a couple of tackles in the open field.

Johnson did finish with four tackles but it probably wasn’t the type of performance he hoped to have to ensure that he stays in his role.

McGee was relatively nondescript in his limited work with the second defense.

The Miami Dolphins completed their third preseason game of the season with a 24-17 loss to the Houston Texans. Miami fell to 1-2 on the preseason.

Here are several observations for Miami:
  • The Dolphins' passing game finally woke up in the preseason thanks to new No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace. He caught three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and all of it came on the third drive. Wallace showed the full range of playmaking by catching a 16-yard pass for a first down, a 33-yard catch over the top and a 9-yard touchdown reception by finding a hole in the zone. Dolphins fans were prematurely antsy about Tannehill not connecting with Wallace up to this point. The pair had a good week of practice, and it showed in the game.
  • Tannehill also had his best game of the preseason. Tannehill was 10-of-15 passing for 141 yards and the touchdown pass to Wallace. It’s also worth noting that two of Tannehill’s five incompletions were drops by running back Lamar Miller and Brian Hartline. Overall, Tannehill was poised and made a nice range of throws against a tough Houston defense. Perhaps this performance will provide some momentum for Tannehill in the rest of the preseason.
  • The worse news of the night for Miami was the potential knee injury to starting tight end Dustin Keller. He made a second-quarter reception and took a shot directly on his right knee as he was coming down. Keller's leg hyper-extended and he clutched his knee in pain. Keller was later carted off the field and couldn’t put weight on his right leg, which are not good signs. Keller's injury appears to be significant, and the Dolphins most likely will have to rely on young tight ends like Dion Sims and Michael Egnew for a while.
  • Miami’s offense played well overall, but it was a rough night for Dolphins right guard Josh Samuda. He had another opportunity to prove that he can play with the starters and struggled mightily against Houston’s talented defensive line. Samuda was beat easily by Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith twice on big plays. Smith registered a sack and a tackle for loss on Miller in the first half. Samuda also was abused by Texans star J.J. Watt on a third-down screen pass. Samuda did not step up to the high-level competition Saturday night, which is telling. Miami’s best option at guard would be a healthy John Jerry.
  • New Dolphins corner Brent Grimes made his presence felt. Grimes has been one of the most consistent players in Miami’s training camp, and he got his first interception with an athletic play to pick off Houston quarterback Matt Schaub. Grimes read the route by Texans rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins and broke on the ball as it was released. Grimes jumped in front of Hopkins to take the ball away, which is a play you didn’t see often from Miami’s defense last year.
  • Dolphins rookie corner Will Davis has made some headlines lately for his play. But Davis was beat for a touchdown on fourth down when Houston receiver Lestar Jean made a double move. Davis also was beat for a 16-yard reception in the first half in man-to-man coverage. It was a good learning experience for Davis.
  • Miami’s backup offensive line is not very good – and second-string quarterback Matt Moore found that out the hard way. Moore played the entire second half and was pressured throughout. He was sacked four times in two quarters of work and pressured several more times. The Dolphins are looking offensive linemen to provide depth. No one beyond the starters stood out Saturday.

Miami has two preseason games remaining. The Dolphins will be off Sunday and then prepare for their fourth preseason game at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 37, Jaguars 13

August, 17, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rookie QB Geno Smith didn't play because of a sprained ankle, leaving Saturday night to Mark Sanchez & Co. Much like he was in the preseason opener, Sanchez was sharp except for one horrendous interception. Despite a terrible night by the first-team defense, the New York Jets won 37-13 over the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: The burning question is, will Rex Ryan put an end to the quarterback competition? Sanchez could've made it an easy call by playing a clean game, but he was intercepted in the end zone on a third-and-goal from the 3. Ryan hates red zone interceptions. He might start Smith next week against the Giants, which would prolong the Jets' QB competition.

Oh, no, not again: For some reason, Sanchez can't avoid disaster. He came out on fire, hitting six of his first eight passes, including a 23-yard TD to Jeff Cumberland. He was actually cheered by the home crowd, but he reverted to 2012 Sanchez with the red zone pick. The crowd turned on him quickly. A week ago, he gave six points to the Lions with an interception for a touchdown. This time, he took away at least three points from the Jets. Actually, make that six. On the final play of the first half, Sanchez held the ball too long on a third-down incompletion, eliminating a field goal chance -- an inexcusable brain lock.

Surprisingly, Sanchez (13-for-23, 169 yards) played three quarters, the last of which behind the second-team line -- always a risky proposition. With Smith out and with Greg McElroy (ankle) limited to emergency duty, Ryan didn't want to use Matt Simms until the fourth quarter.

Dead zone: Sanchez's interception wasn't the only blunder in the red zone. The starting offense went 0-for-3 inside the 20. It ran five plays inside the 10 and came away with no points on those two drives.

"Brutal" defense: The first-team defense looked as bad as it ever has under Ryan, who probably would use the word "brutal" (or worse) to describe it. The Jets were ill-prepared and confused, diced up by Blaine Gabbert, who killed them with quick throws out of the hurry-up offense. The book is out on the Jets defense: pick up the tempo, get the ball to the receivers and backs and let them make plays. The Jaguars went 80 yards on seven plays for a touchdown on their first drive. On their second possession, it was 18 plays, 75 yards and a field goal.

LB David Harris, who dropped weight to improve his coverage ability, was exposed. So was rookie CB Dee Milliner, who allowed two completions and got an earful from Antonio Cromartie on the sideline. Cromartie wasn't great, either, missing an open-field tackle. Later, he made a nice tackle behind the line. Gabbert (13-for-16, 165 yards, one TD) left the game with a sprained right thumb; that saved the Jets defense more than any adjustments it made.

Coples hurt: OLB Quinton Coples suffered a right leg injury in the second quarter and limped to the locker room for a likely X-ray. He was hurt while batting down a pass in the face of QB Chad Henne. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Jets can't afford to lose Coples, whom the defensive coaches believe is the key to the defense. He was replaced by Antwan Barnes.

Here's Ivory: RB Chris Ivory, finally recovered from a hamstring injury, made his Jets debut. He didn't start, but he came in early and finished with 13 yards on six carries. No, it wasn't a great night, but he showed his potential on an 8-yard run by plowing through a couple of defenders. Ivory lacked burst on outside runs, probably because he's still working his way back into football shape. All told, the running game was much improved. The Jets rushed for 176 yards, including a 37-yard run by Bilal Powell. Backup Kahlil Bell provided a late spark, scoring two TDs.

Audition for Braylon: WR Braylon Edwards, hardly a lock to make the team, played only one snap in the first half. That usually doesn't bode well for a veteran. Edwards saw significant action in the second half and showed he's still capable of being a useful possession receiver, finishing with three catches for 49 yards.

What's ahead: The Jets play the Giants in their annual summer bash.

Quarterback Jake Locker played a confident and efficient first-half. The run game looked good again. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey turned a triple play with a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery all in one swoop.

Those were encouraging developments.

That was about it for the front-liners, and those positives were swallowed up by a pretty lengthy list of bad stuff for the Tennessee Titans in preseason game No. 2, a 27-19 loss at Cincinnati on Saturday night.

A look at much of what went wrong:

Third-and-long failures. Tennessee allowed Cincinnati to convert third-and-longs and string together three long drives before halftime as the Bengals built a 17-3 lead. The headliner in third-down defensive gaffes was strong safety Bernard Pollard. He and nickelback Coty Sensabaugh missed chances to tackle Mohamed Sanu on a 24-yard catch and run to the 1-yard line that set up Cincinnati’s first score. A bit later, Pollard couldn’t bring down a crossing Brandon Tate, who ran away from him for another third-and-long conversion.

Injuries. Both strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers (right ankle) and wide receiver Kendall Wright (knee) rode a cart to the locker room after suffering first-half injuries. Both rank high on the list of players the Titans can least afford to be without. The Titans don’t have a quality, big linebacker backup for Ayers and Wright is probably the most unique receiver on the team. Ayers was on the sideline in the second half, not in a walking boot per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean on Twitter.

Drops. Receiver Nate Washington could have made a tough catch at the goal line. He was well covered by Adam Jones for a while, but the ball looked like it went through his hands. Receiver Kenny Britt let a good throw from Locker bounce off his hands. Undrafted tight end Jack Doyle had a terrible drop on what should have been an easy catch for a good gain.

Run defense. Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard looked very good (seven carries for 37 yards). He took one carry 22 yards and went the same distance for his one catch. Bernard got a lot of his work on one drive and looked to tire out the Titans' defense. On a Cedric Peerman run, the Titans missed two chances at a tackle for a loss (linebacker Patrick Bailey and defensive end Ropati Pitoitua), allowing him to escape outside.

Missing kicks: After moving ahead 3-0, the Titans missed three field goals in a row, with two of the off-target kicks coming from Rob Bironas and another from Maikon Bonani. It’s bad enough that the Titans had to settle for field goals. Bironas hooked the first miss wide-left, and the second went wide-right. The usually reliable Bironas missed time recently with a back issue and this was his first preseason action. Hopefully for Tennessee, his problems were related to rustiness.

Solid fade: The Bengals got a very nice Andy Dalton throw and Sanu catch on a 2-yard fade in the back left of the end zone. Tommie Campbell wasn’t as bad as he was in the preseason opener, and he had a good play on him here. He did get his hands on Sanu early, but Sanu just made a good play. That said, he didn’t look to seize the job in this game. Alterraun Verner made two plays in the first five minutes of the second half. Forget the physical attributes. Verner is a just better football player who understands the game better and has superior instincts.

The second half: The second and third teams fared better and produced a couple of touchdowns. One gaffe of note early in the fourth quarter, however: Right end Scott Solomon crashed to the middle of the field rather than containing on his side. Young Bengals running back Dan Herron reversed course and ran to where Solomon should have been. The result was a 39-yard touchdown scamper that wound up providing the winning margin.



Thursday, 10/30
Sunday, 11/2
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