NFL Nation: Adam Jennings
As we review preseason action this summer, I won't pretend to bring you brilliant insight from games I don't cover live. We'll save that kind of thorough analysis for the games that I actually see and conduct interviews at afterwards. (Yes, there was some sarcasm there. Lighten up. It's Sunday morning!)
With that said, it's important to get a feel for every NFC North preseason game in a timely fashion. So while I covered Friday night's Minnesota-Kansas City game, below are some thoughts on the three games that took place Saturday night. I've also included links to the local coverage of reporters who were in attendance as well as some NFL.com video so you can see for yourself.
Chicago 17, New York Giants 3
- Everyone can agree that quarterback Jay Cutler was sharp (8-of-13) and productive (17 points in his first three drives) during his second start of the preseason. He threw well on the run, scrambled once on his own for 12 yards and threw a beautiful touch pass to receiver Devin Aromashodu for 38 yards. Working at times from the no-huddle, the Bears gave their future opponents plenty to think about with their passing performance. Cutler and backup Caleb Hanie combined to complete 18 of 31 passes for 241 yards.
- If you were worried about tailback Matt Forte's hamstring, it didn't look bad Saturday night on a 32-yard touchdown dash up the middle. Overall, Forte finished with 58 yards on nine carries. On the downside, backups Kevin Jones and Garrett Wolfe each lost a fumble.
- Defensive tackle Tommie Harris started but didn't show up in the box score. Fellow defensive linemen Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Dusty Dvoracek and Marcus Harrison all finished the game with a sack.
Cleveland 27, Detroit 10
- Incredibly, the Lions fought among themselves before the game. Defensive end Dewayne White and tight end Carson Butler were the culprits, fighting long enough that they both ended up on the ground. It's always good to be in a "fighting mood" during pregame warm-ups. But actually fighting? Unheard of. I'm guessing Butler, at least, will have his ticket punched out of Detroit soon.
- Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a tough night. Getting a start as he competes with Daunte Culpepper, Stafford threw an interception on his first pass and later overthrew two wide-open receivers (John Standeford and Adam Jennings) on passes downfield. Overall, Stafford completed 5 of 13 passes. Neither he nor Culpepper led the Lions to a score. We go to Week 3 of the preseason with no better idea of who will win the starting job.
- Let's just say it: Saturday night was terrible all around for the Lions. The special teams gave up two touchdown returns to Cleveland's Josh Cribbs, although one was called back by penalty. And Browns quarterback Derek Anderson picked apart the Lions' defense for 130 passing yards.
Green Bay 31, Buffalo 21
- The Packers' top defense held Buffalo scoreless in the first half and continued to swarm the ball. Safety Nick Collins forced an early interception, and Green Bay got some good pass rush out of its 4-3 nickel alignment. Defensive lineman Johnny Jolly finished with two sacks. The Packers led 21-0 when starters left the game. The only downside: Collins left with a rib injury.
- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was locked in, completing 8 of 9 passes for 98 yards and two scores. His 5-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver was an athletic play, and fantasy players everywhere are going to like that he connected multiple times with second-year tight end Jermichael Finley.
- Backup quarterback Brian Brohm got extended playing time because of a shoulder injury to Matt Flynn that isn't deemed serious. But Brohm didn't give anyone reason to believe he can overtake Flynn on the depth chart if everyone is healthy.
As some of you know, I was standing on the sideline at Detroit's practice when news broke of Brett Favre's contract agreement with Minnesota. I managed to jot down a page of practice notes and spend some time with Lions coach Jim Schwartz before I left, and I want to bring you some thoughts before they fade or become irrelevant.
|Matthew Emmons/US Presswire|
|Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford has looked impressive in the first few weeks of camp.|
(Keep in mind that a full Lions Camp Confidential will appear on a day to be determined in this space.)
As I matched up numbers on the field to names on the roster, it was jarring to realize how many prominent players were sitting out because of injuries.
First-round draft pick Brandon Pettigrew (thigh) was moving around with a notable limp. The Lions' best player last season, placekicker Jason Hanson, was sidelined after having a minor procedure on his knee. Defensive lineman Grady Jackson, receiver Calvin Johnson and receiver Dennis Northcutt were limited. Schwartz, however, said the Lions' long injury list is a function of a caution-first approach as much as anything.
"Our philosophy is to err on the side of caution in [organized team activities] and training camp," he said. "If this were a regular-season game, there would be a lot of urgency to get a guy back. But one thing we don't want to do is turn a minor injury into a major one, or turn an injury with a fairly set timetable into a nagging season-long thing because we're worried about getting him back for one more practice in training camp. There's an urgency to get back on the field, but we don't want to cross the line in setting guys back and making the situation worse than it is."
With that said, it's not a great sign that Pettigrew has only practiced sporadically this summer and has now stepped into more of a long-term recovery process from a quadriceps injury. Schwartz said the injury wasn't responding as hoped, and now the goal is to try to get him healthy in time to have a productive regular season.
I caught a glimpse of one-on-one pass drills and was particularly interested to watch the matchup of right tackle Gosder Cherilus and defensive end Cliff Avril. Cherilus, of course, was the Lions' top draft pick last season and had a pretty up-and-down rookie year. He's penciled in as the starter this season and appears to be holding off veteran Jon Jansen for the job.
Avril, meanwhile, offers the Lions perhaps their best chance for an outside pass rush after notching five sacks in limited playing time as a rookie.
For the rep I watched, at least, there was no contest. Cherilus rode Avril wide around the pocket. And when Avril tried a spin move to get inside, Cherilus capitalized on the momentary lack of balance and shoved Avril to the ground. That's how you keep a pass-rusher away from the quarterback.
This will be the last time we mention Helmetgate. Really. We promise.
Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson addressed the issue Wednesday during a conference call with Tampa Bay-area reporters, saying he was caught up in the emotion of Sunday's 28-27 victory over Green Bay when he removed his helmet on the field. NFL vice president Mike Pereira has said that Peterson should have been penalized for the act.
It's only fair to give Peterson an opportunity to explain himself. Here's how he put it:
"I was just really caught up in the moment. Especially after having the fumble and then coming back out with the mentality I had on the last drive. For me, it was more emotional because I had just fumbled to put us in a bad situation that could've cost us the game, and then in the last drive when we needed it, turned it around and got into the end zone. I was sitting on the sidelines and just really having faith, telling myself and telling the guys, 'Hey, we're going to win, we're going to pull it out.' Needing a career drive, having the faith it was really going to happen. I was just caught up in the moment. I wasn't trying to celebrate."
Again, Peterson's intent shouldn't have anything to do with whether officials flag him. By rule, he should have been penalized.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press profiles cornerback Benny Sapp, who figures to take over the nickel position following the season-ending ankle injury to Charles Gordon. Sapp is known for his aggressive attempts to make big plays.
- Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk on sliding to the "Mike" position to replace the injured Nick Barnett: "When it comes down to it, it's all just still football." Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel breaks down the transition.
- Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on all the practice time he's missed this season: "If you're not working on the fundamentals every day, there's potential for those to drop off a little bit. I'm going to continue to work hard and as I get to do more in practice, I don't expect that to be an issue at all." Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette addresses the issue.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune can't decide what will play a more significant role Sunday: The tension in the Bears' locker room or some chippy attitudes displayed by the Packers during Wednesday conference calls.
- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times takes a look at the quiet season of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who has had five tackles or fewer in four of the past five games.
- Detroit waived quarterback Drew Henson on Wednesday to make room for receiver Adam Jennings, whom they claimed on waivers, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News. For now, that means quarterback Dan Orlovsky will remain on the active roster despite a significant hand injury.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
One play doesn't make a season. But one play sure cost the Falcons dearly.
It was a controversial call late in the game on a punt return by Adam Jennings. Jennings has been under fire from fans all year and you can make a case that the Falcons should have made a switch in their return game during their bye week. But that's another conversation.
What happened here was the officiating crew ruled Jennings muffed a punt return with a little over two minutes left. Replays sure made it look like Jennings never touched the ball.
But replays didn't matter in this case because the play wasn't reviewed.
Here's what coach Mike Smith had to say to the media after the game.
"(An official) said that since we do not have a timeout that we could not challenge it,'' Smith said. "It would be a 15-yard penalty if we threw the flag. His explanation was of what he thought he saw. He thought he saw the ball touch the return man's hands. That's the call that was made.''
And that's how it stayed. But this play might end up getting reviewed again and again (by the Falcons and their fans) as the season goes on.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
- The Bucs will leave it up to kicker Matt Bryant to decide whether he'll play in Sunday's game against the Packers. Bryant's infant son died Wednesday. Safety Sabby Piscitelli is the team's emergency kicker, but it's unlikely he would be the choice if Bryant doesn't play. Shane Andrus is an option if the Bucs bring in a fill-in kicker.
- Receiver Joey Galloway could miss his second straight game due to injury. Galloway again missed practice, increasing the chances he'll sit out Sunday's game against Green Bay.
- Rookie left tackle Sam Baker missed practice and has had an assortment of tests for what was believed to have been a concussion. His status for Sunday's game with the Panthers is uncertain. Todd Weiner, get ready to meet Julius Peppers.
- Receiver Laurent Robinson said he'll miss Sunday's game at Carolina because of a sprained knee. That means Harry Douglas, Brian Finneran and Adam Jennings could get more playing time.
- Add starting center Jonathan Goodwin to New Orleans' massive injury list. Goodwin didn't practice because of a hamstring injury. Cornerback Aaron Glenn already has been ruled out for Sunday.
- Carolina is healthier than it's been all season. Return man Ryne Robinson declared himself ready to go and left guard Travelle Wharton, who sat out the last two games with an injury, practiced again.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The veteran receiver was released Tuesday in a move that surprises no one and probably should have come before training camp. The Falcons held onto Horn this long because they were worried about the possibility of having injuries to their other receivers and there was also some hope another team might approach them about a trade for Horn.
Neither scenario played out and the performance of the other receivers in camp only made Horn more expendable. The Falcons are set with Roddy White, Laurent Robinson and Michael Jenkins as their top three receivers. Third-round pick Harry Douglas is going to stick. There's probably only one other roster spot available and that will come down to veteran Brian Finneran and Adam Jennings, who is a return man.
Horn still can contribute and will end up somewhere in the league. Gee, a 36-year-old player with a big name ... think Tampa Bay might be interested?
But Horn didn't fit in Atlanta's rebuilding process. He knew it and he previously asked to be set free. The Falcons agreed and, now, they've got to hope there are a bunch of team's interested in Horn. The Falcons owe Horn $2.5 million in guaranteed money, but, if he signs elsewhere, they would be off the hook for whatever salary he earns.