NFL Nation: Wayne Hunter
I'll take that as a sign negotiations are heading toward a resolution.
The Rams have long sought resolution at left tackle. That remains the case even though Rodger Saffold has shown promise at the position when healthy.
Saffold, Alex Barron, Orlando Pace, Adam Goldberg, Wayne Hunter, Mark LeVoir and Joe Barksdale have started for the team at the position over the past five seasons. Pace was winding down when he gave the team 14 starts in 2008, his final year with the team. Saffold has been the best option since then, but injuries have limited him.
Long has been hurt, too, but with four Pro Bowls in five NFL seasons, he's got a left tackle pedigree unseen on the Rams since Pace locked down the position during the Greatest Show on Turf years.
Note: Thanks to Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information for digging up the numbers for the chart. The Rams occasionally opened games with tight ends at left tackle in unbalanced lines. In those cases, we credited the player manning the left tackle position for the rest of the game as the starter.
Cap Status: The Cardinals emerged from the weekend with moderate flexibility under the cap and a chance to gain additional room. Kevin Kolb's contract is counting $13.5 million against the cap, but Arizona could reduce that number significantly by releasing the quarterback or reworking his contract. Releasing Kolb would reduce his cap charge to $6 million. The team could lower the 2013 hit to $2 million after June 1 under NFL rules, but the remaining $4 million would hit the 2014 cap.
Strategy: Teams with first-year head coaches are sometimes more aggressive when taking over teams deficient in talent. That was the case for St. Louis in free agency last offseason. That was the case for Seattle in the trade market back in 2010, when new leadership took over the Seahawks. Arians and Keim seem to feel better about their talent than the leadership of those other teams felt about theirs initially. The Cardinals figure to make a few targeted strikes, but the list of available veterans isn't an impressive one. Keim and Arians have talked about relying more heavily on younger players, but Arizona needs upgrades, too.
Cap Status: The Rams have more than $15 million in salary-cap space after Steven Jackson, Wayne Hunter and Quintin Mikell left the roster. They also have a league-low 44 players, so there's work to be done. But if St. Louis needed additional room, the team has other options. For example, James Laurinaitis and Cortland Finnegan are scheduled to earn $16 million in roster bonuses this offseason. Converting those into signing bonuses pushes most of the cap charges into the future.
Strategy: The Rams added 11 unrestricted free agents from other teams last offseason, tied with New England for most in the NFL. They signed Finnegan and Scott Wells to lucrative contracts. I would expect a slightly less aggressive approach to the market this offseason in part because the Rams' roster is in better shape. However, the freshly created cap room sets up St. Louis to go after a front-line player. The team could use another weapon on offense, for sure. And Kevin Demoff, the Rams' chief operating officer, has suggested teams are more interested in using their free-agent budgets for a smaller number of high-impact players, leading to fewer players signed for what passes as middle-class contracts worth $3 million to $4 million per year.
Cap Status: The 49ers have been tight against the cap recently, but they'll gain breathing room when the Alex Smith trade becomes official. Smith had been scheduled to earn a $1 million bonus and $7.5 million in salary. The team has found creative ways to comply with the cap, including when it packed into its 2013 budget more than $17 million in charges for Patrick Willis, lessening the hits in other years. Willis' contract is scheduled to count only slightly more than that $17.7 million over the next three seasons combined. The 49ers took a similar tack in 2009, when contracts for Justin Smith and Joe Staley combined to use more than $30 million in cap space.
Strategy: The 49ers haven't been big spenders in free agency over the past several seasons. That trend should continue. San Francisco will have a league-high 12 draft choices once the Alex Smith trade is processed. The team's conservative approach to the market last offseason should net additional choices when the NFL hands out compensatory selections for teams suffering net losses in free agency a year ago. The 49ers have already identified and paid most of their core players. Now is the time for them to restock with cheaper labor through the draft, right?
Cap Status: It was fair to wonder whether the team would carry $20.7 million in combined cap charges for tight end Zach Miller ($11 million) and receiver Sidney Rice ($9.7 million). There are no indications Seattle plans to re-work those deals for cap purposes, however. The team had enough flexibility to acquire and pay Percy Harvin on a long-term contract. The number for Miller drops next season, putting the Seahawks in position to ride out the contract if he remains productive. The numbers aren't yet in on Harvin, but Seattle presumably still has cap flexibility this year.
Strategy: Matt Flynn, Jason Jones, Barrett Ruud and Deuce Lutui were the only unrestricted free agents Seattle signed last offseason. The team appears likely to add a veteran or two for a few million per season, perhaps on one-year deals similar to the one Jones signed a year ago. That seems to be the team's strategy in free agency recently. Young stars such as Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor continue to play under their rookie deals. Paying top dollar for a free agent from another team could throw off the natural order of things for Seattle on defense. The 49ers have gone through a similar phase, rewarding their own players and staying away from big-ticket free agents. However, the Harvin deal shows Seattle will make an aggressive move for a young, dynamic player.
The Cardinals appear set at wide receiver with Larry Fitzgerald, 2012 first-round pick Michael Floyd and 2010 third-rounder Andre Roberts.
Arizona is installing a vertical passing game resembling the one coach Bruce Arians ran with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. The Vikings have used Harvin as more of a horizontal threat, relying on him to gain yards after the catch.
Harvin caught the ball 4.1 yards past the line of scrimmage on average last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was the lowest figure in the NFL among 76 qualifying wide receivers and well below the 11.6-yard average for those players.
Harvin would help Arizona, of course, but the fit appears better elsewhere.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams have quickly gained significant cap room by subtracting from the books Steven Jackson, Wayne Hunter and Quintin Mikell. Those players were scheduled to earn $17 million in salary for the 2013 season alone. The Rams could lose receiver Danny Amendola in free agency. Another starting wideout, Brandon Gibson, is expected to sign elsewhere. Receiver looks like a position of need.
The Rams have a promising mix of young receivers featuring Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Austin Pettis. Harvin would not give the Rams a prototypical No. 1 receiver, but he would give them something they haven't had on offense recently: a player opponents had to develop their defensive plans around. The Rams' return game badly needs a boost as well.
St. Louis has two first-round picks, giving the team flexibility.
San Francisco 49ers
The fit from a scheme standpoint is captivating. Imagine the fun Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman could have in the ground game with Harvin available to them. The possibilities are nearly endless. The 49ers have plenty of draft capital, including an additional second-round choice among their league-high 12 selections.
San Francisco hasn't shown much interest in acquiring high-priced players from other teams, however. The 49ers have instead focused on paying their own players.
Paying big money to Harvin would complicate looming talks with Michael Crabtree, who already gives San Francisco one of the best yards-after-catch receivers. Seattle wouldn't have to worry about that dynamic as much because the team already paid Sidney Rice. Still, imagine defending a 49ers offense featuring Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis, Crabtree, Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Harvin and whatever players the 49ers add through the draft.
Seattle has salary-cap flexibility and ample trade ammunition via 10 draft choices, second-most in the NFL. In a perfect world, adding more of a downfield perimeter threat might make more sense than adding Harvin.
Still, the Seahawks have demonstrated a willingness to pay for young free agents on offense (Sidney Rice, Zach Miller). The team could use another weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Coach Pete Carroll frequently says he values players with unique skill sets. His defense is filled with players unusually proportioned or otherwise equipped for their positions. His quarterback is unconventional. Harvin is truly a unique player in the NFL. He has scored touchdowns rushing, receiving and in the return game. He can line up just about anywhere in the formation, from the slot to running back.
Seattle has a connection to Harvin. The team's offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, held the same job with Minnesota when the Vikings drafted Harvin in 2009. Imagine the options for an offense featuring Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Harvin, Rice, Golden Tate and Miller.
The Rams weren't going to pay that much for a backup tackle. They made it official Wednesday by releasing Hunter, according to Jim Thomas. The Rams and the New York Jets have now released the two offensive tackles they swapped last season. The Jets had sent Hunter to St. Louis for Jason Smith.
Hunter was one of 10 players scheduled to count at least $4 million against the Rams' salary cap in 2013. Another, running back Steven Jackson, will reportedly void his contract when free agency begins Monday. That will remove a $7 million charge from the books for 2013.
Of the other players listed, safety Quintin Mikell jumps out the most. His $9 million cap charge is more than double what it was in each of the previous two seasons. The team must account for $6 million in prorated bonus charges over the next two seasons whether or not Mikell is on the roster.
Teams must comply with the $123.9 million salary cap by March 12. Releasing Hunter and having Jackson hit the market will allow the Rams to comply with millions to spare.
Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week’s topic: Who will be each team’s biggest salary-cap casualty this offseason?
Arizona Cardinals: Quarterback Kevin Kolb is scheduled to earn $9 million in salary from the Cardinals in 2013. Barring a trade, which appears unlikely, Kolb will accept a reduction in salary or receive his release. The Cardinals might be best off keeping Kolb at a reduced rate. But the fact Kolb finished last season with an 8-3 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions doesn't mean he was playing at a high level for Arizona. Kolb has posted a Total QBR score of 30.6 or lower in nine of his 14 starts with the Cardinals (50 is considered average). Kolb was significantly above average in two of his 14 starts -- victories over Philadelphia and Carolina. Arizona has paid $20.5 million to Kolb over the past two years. The team isn't going to give him another $9 million in salary this year.
St. Louis Rams: Running back Steven Jackson is scheduled to earn $7 million in salary for the 2013 season. I would expect the Rams to release Jackson if Jackson declined to accept less money. It might not come to that, however. Jackson has the ability to void his contract, and that seems like the most plausible scenario. Jackson found out last season the Rams weren't interested in extending his contract. If and when he realizes the team isn't interested in paying $7 million to him for 2013, Jackson would have clear incentive to opt out. That would not make him a cap casualty in a direct sense, but the effect would be the same. Safety Quintin Mikell's $6 million salary and $9 million cap figure make him a candidate for renegotiation. Also, journeyman tackle Wayne Hunter is scheduled to earn nearly $4 million.
San Francisco 49ers: Kicker David Akers is scheduled to earn $3 million in salary for the 2013 season. It's hard to envision the 49ers paying that amount to Akers given the kicker's struggles last season. They would have to consider their options at the position even if Akers were earning less money. The relatively high salary for Akers makes this one easy to foresee. Quarterback Alex Smith also has a relatively high salary for a backup ($7.5 million), but the 49ers are looking to trade him. They do not want to release him. Jonathan Goodwin, Carlos Rogers and Parys Haralson also have high enough cap figures to invite questions of value.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have more cap room than any team in the NFC West. They have a dozen players with 2013 cap figures projected at $2.9 million or higher, but none of the 12 appears to be a candidate for release even though Zach Miller ($11 million cap figure) and Sidney Rice ($9.7 million) are eating up $20 million together. Looking further down the salary scale, it's safe to assume the team won't pay $2.3 million in salary to backup receiver Ben Obomanu.
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:
Teams facing the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers tend to focus on containing those teams' strong running games. This could be opening up first-down opportunities for quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Alex Smith. Seattle's Wilson is completing 69.9 percent of his passes on first down. Smith is completing a league-high 76.1 percent. Each quarterback has five first-down scoring passes. Only Peyton Manning (94.6) ranks higher than Wilson (84.92) and Smith (84.86) in Total QBR on first down this season. Wilson faces a Jets defense ranked 11th in first-down QBR allowed (56.2). Smith faces a Rams defense that ranks sixth in that category (50.5 allowed).
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonLeon Washington, with a career-high 29.1 yards per kickoff return, will face his former team for the first time.
This is a big week for St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long. He's coming off subpar games against Green Bay and New England. The Rams will need him at his best against emerging 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis. Two years ago, when Davis was a rookie, Long schooled him memorably. Davis is the one getting acclaim lately, showing up on various midseason all-star teams. Long had 13 sacks last season. He has four through eight games in 2012. The Rams are counting on him to show up Sunday. They gave him a contract extension worth more than $12 million per season because they thought he could win matchups like the one he faces against Davis.
The Rams could welcome back from injuries left tackle Rodger Saffold and receiver Danny Amendola. Both players could start, but will they finish? Two years ago, the Rams lost an overtime game at Candlestick Park when Saffold couldn't finish the game, leaving backup Renardo Foster to deal with all-world 49ers defensive end Justin Smith. Smith beat Foster for a key third-down sack in OT. Foster is long gone. A healthy Saffold still represents an upgrade from backups Wayne Hunter and Joe Barksdale. Amendola, meanwhile, must watch out for hard-hitting defenders such as Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. He's coming off a shoulder injury.
The Rams-49ers game is one of two this week featuring quarterbacks drafted first overall. Manning and Cam Newton square off in the other. Manning has a 27-9 starting record against teams featuring No. 1 overall picks in the lineup, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Only Terry Bradshaw has a better record in such matchups among No. 1 overall quarterbacks with at least five matchups. The 49ers' Smith is 5-3 in these games, fourth-best behind Bradshaw, Manning and John Elway among qualifying top picks. The Rams' Sam Bradford hasn't faced the 49ers since 2010, when he went 1-1 against them. Troy Smith, not Alex Smith, started those 2010 games for the 49ers.
The manner in which Amendola was injured -- laying out for a football -- was also telling.
And so when the Rams surprisingly gave Amendola a 50-50 chance of returning weeks ahead of schedule Sunday, I wondered whether that seemingly optimistic designation might have reflected, at least in part, Amendola's determination to come back.
They weren't really going to let him play, were they? No, they were not.
Amendola will not play against the New England Patriots in London on Sunday. The team has named him inactive. The team has a bye in Week 10 before visiting the San Francisco 49ers. We can expect Amendola to play in that game, based on his participation in practice over the past week and his questionable status on the injury report this week.
Also for the Rams, Joe Barksdale will remain the starting left tackle. Rodger Saffold and Wayne Hunter are inactive. Saffold will presumably be a candidate to return from his knee injury following the bye, although the team has not given a specific timetable.
Newly added offensive lineman Chris Williams is active Sunday. He and Tim Barnes are the backups.
Joe Barksdale makes his first NFL start. The Rams claimed him off waivers from Oakland on Sept. 27. Projected starter Rodger Saffold is expected back from a knee injury in the next couple weeks. Backup Wayne Hunter missed practice Friday with a back injury and was named inactive Sunday. The team used a 2009 first-round draft choice for Jason Smith with the expectation Smith would be the long-term starter at left tackle. Smith struggled in the role, moved to right tackle and was traded before this season. Barksdale will presumably have help matching up against the Packers' Clay Matthews, who has eight sacks.
Shelley Smith makes his first NFL start. The Rams claimed him off waivers from Houston on Sept. 2. Smith has shown the potential to become a powerful run-blocker. It's less clear whether he's ready for pass-blocking responsibilities. Jacob Bell was the starter last season. The Rams cut him. Bell then retired. Fifth-round pick Rokevious Watkins was a potential starter, but he's on injured reserve. Robert Turner could have started, but the Rams need him at center.
Turner makes his seventh consecutive start and the ninth of his career. The Rams made veteran Scott Wells one of their high-profile signings of the offseason. They expected him to man the position and help quarterback Sam Bradford with the line calls. Wells underwent knee surgery during the offseason. He later suffered a foot injury. Wells is on injured reserve with a designation for return. He could be back in Week 10. Jason Brown, the starter last season, was released. He's out of the league at present.
Harvey Dahl makes his seventh start of the season and 23rd consecutive start since the Rams signed him in free agency from Atlanta. This position has worked out as planned.
Barry Richardson makes his seventh start of the season. He started 16 games for Kansas City in each of the previous two seasons. Smith was the projected starter heading into the season. Coaches wanted him to become more patient in his pass blocking. They didn't wait long before turning to Richardson. Once they did, Smith became expendable. They traded him to the New York Jets for Hunter.
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7:
Wind up the pass-rushers: Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Clay Matthews and Jared Allen are pass-rushers to watch in games featuring NFC West teams Sunday. Long and Quinn have combined for 10 sacks for the St. Louis Rams. They'll be facing a Green Bay offense that has stabilized since allowing eight first-half sacks against Seattle. Matthews has eight sacks for the Packers and will match up against Rams left tackle Wayne Hunter, a backup who has missed recent practices with back trouble. Meanwhile, Minnesota has to like Allen's chances working against Arizona Cardinals left tackle D'Anthony Batiste. According to Stats LLC, Batiste ranks second only to Cardinals right tackle Bobby Massie in sacks allowed this season. The totals are nine for Massie and 7.5 for Batiste.
Tim Fuller/US PresswireSam Bradford and the Rams have struggled against the Packers in recent seasons.
Seeking faster start: The Cardinals have won 11 of their past 15 games overall, but not because of the way they've started on offense. Arizona's offense has only two first-quarter touchdowns since Week 6 last season, a span of 17 games. That is tied with Jacksonville and Indianapolis for the fewest over that stretch. The Jaguars and Colts have played one fewer game apiece during that span.
Outside looking in: Five of the six TD passes Rodgers threw last week were perimeter passes, defined as those caught outside the yard-line numbers. The Rams are allowing a league-low 4.9 yards per attempt on these throws, with two touchdowns and four interceptions. However, the Rams collected three of those perimeter picks way back in the season opener. They allowed one of those scoring passes to Miami's Ryan Tannehill last week. Tannehill completed six such passes while posting a 101.3 NFL passer rating on those throws.
Point taken: The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers combined to allow 19 points against each other Thursday night. The Rams have allowed 33 over their past three games. The Arizona Cardinals head to Minnesota as the only NFL team yet to allow more than 21 points in a 2012 game. The Vikings have scored 26 against Jacksonville, 24 against San Francisco and 30 against Tennessee in their three home games. They have allowed 20 total points in their past two at home. The Cardinals have scored 19 points over their past two games after scoring at least 20 in each of their first four.
Note: ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this entry.
Wayne Hunter has taken over at left tackle. The Rams already lost center Scott Wells to a foot injury.
Saffold's injury appeared to be a freak one. He was providing pass protection for Sam Bradford's go-ahead touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson with 9:45 remaining in the fourth quarter when his head struck the back of the Lions' Sammie Hill. Saffold fell to the ground and stayed there.
Rams players gathered in a circle, apparently in prayer, as medical personnel tended to Saffold and transported him off the field.
The Rams have had bad luck with injuries at offensive tackle. Former starting right tackle Jason Smith, subsequently traded for Hunter, suffered a concussion while attempting to make a tackle following an interception at Dallas last season. Saffold suffered a torn pectoral while lifting weights late last season.
Depth on the offensive line was already a potential concern for the Rams.
The Lions have subsequently scored the tying touchdown, pending an extra point.
Consider it Hunter's not-so-nice parting shot.
"They're like sharks," Hunter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "They let you know (how they feel) right off the bat. And even if you're doing good, they may just not like you for the heck of it. It's brutal over there. Those fans, they know what they want, and they pretty much demand it. So if you don't give it to them, they'll let you know."
Hunter was traded to the St. Louis Rams for former draft bust Jason Smith because both players were struggling and needed a change of scenery. Hunter’s play was awful last season, and it appeared to be getting worse during the preseason. He lost his starting job to Austin Howard.
Hunter was constantly ripped by Jets fans and the media for his play. His technique and footwork in pass protection was horrendous. The right tackle said the Jets treated him well, but not the media and fans in New York.
"There's no words to describe it,” Hunter explained. “If you can handle the 'Concrete Jungle,' you can handle anywhere. I've been through it all."
Hunter, in my experience, was a good person and a standup guy. Hunter always owned up to his mistakes, no matter how bad he played. The bottom line is Hunter simply wasn't very good, and certainly not starting material.
Maybe Hunter improves with a change of scenery. But if he performs in St. Louis like he did in New York, Rams fans eventually will treat Hunter the same way. It's a performance business.
Here are four questions for the third games in the AFC East:
No. 1: Can the New York Jets get in the end zone?
Thoughts: It’s a simple question. But the fact is New York remains the only NFL team yet to score a touchdown this preseason. The Jets are not showing everything, but leaks are springing up everywhere in their execution and fundamentals. Receivers are dropping passes, the pass protection has been horrendous and it's impacting quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. The potential return Sunday of No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes should provide a boost to the passing game. Benching right tackle Wayne Hunter is another move to get this offense going in the right direction.
No. 2: Is it rest or rust for the New England Patriots?
Thoughts: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made an interesting move on Monday when he sat out many of his big-name starters in the second preseason game. For Belichick, it was a chance to rest virtually all of his star players, but also get a good look at younger players like backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. The flip side is many of New England’s important players have just one quarter of work this entire preseason. Belichick plans to play his starters about three quarters to tonight against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Next week is a meaningless game. So tonight is New England’s last chance to shake of the rust before the regular season.
No. 3: Will the Buffalo Bills start fast?
Thoughts: Buffalo does not want to make a habit of starting games slowly. That's one of the quickest ways to fall out of playoff contention. But the Bills’ starters have been lethargic this preseason. Buffalo has been outscored 23-10 in the first half the past two weeks. The Bills need to get a fast start in this dress rehearsal game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It should be a good test of two teams expected to contend for a playoff spot in the AFC. If the Bills’ starters look lackadaisical for the third week in a row, you have to wonder if they are a little complacent and buying into their hype.
No. 4: Can the Miami Dolphins' defense step up?
Thoughts: Miami’s starting defense has allowed 24 first-quarter points the past two preseason games. Even with injuries, the fact that this group can’t get off the field should be a concern. Miami was without three key starters last week -- Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett and Cameron Wake -- so the defense gets a bit of a pass. But there will be no excuses in two weeks when the regular season begins. It's time for Miami's defense to build momentum. This is the strength of the team. If the defense doesn't play well, it's going to be a long season for the Dolphins.
New York's former starting right tackle has struggled mightily since last season. Yet, Hunter received a vote of confidence from the Jets this offseason, and the team did nothing to acquire another starting-caliber tackle via the draft or free agency. Hunter made his preseason debut against the New York Giants last week and gave up three sacks in the first half. At that point the Jets had seen enough.
The Jets did the right thing by benching Hunter. But here is the next question: Is Austin Howard any good?
The Jets announced Thursday that Howard is the new starting right tackle. The three-year veteran has one career start, in 2010.
Jets fans should take a glass-half full approach to this benching. Is Howard a great replacement? Probably not. But Howard can't play any worse than Hunter, right?
Other than that, things are going pretty well.
The Jets are putting on a "Bad News Bears" type of performance offensively this preseason. Granted, these games don't count in the standings. But we haven't seen anything from the Jets to inspire confidence that they will improve on last season's No. 25 ranking in total offense during the regular season.
A full slate of organized team activities, minicamp and training camp have produced only three field goals in eight quarters. The Jets currently hold the embarrassing distinction as the only NFL team yet to score a preseason touchdown.
The much-hyped and much-anticipated quarterback battle between Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow has fizzled. Sanchez is 13-of-17 for 80 yards, with one pick-six and five sacks. Tebow is 9-of-22 for 96 yards, one interception and four sacks. The Jets' offense this preseason is best measured in inches, not yards.
At some point, confidence might become an issue. This is a group that struggled all last season under former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. But with "Schotty" gone, there is no scapegoat left to point the finger at besides the players failing to execute.
"Obviously like anything else, you want touchdowns because you want to see kids smile," Jets first-year offensive coordinator Tony Sparano told reporters this week. "You want to see the smile on their face. You want to see some validation on what it is that we’ve been doing and how hard they’ve been working."
There weren't many smiles from the Jets' offense in last weekend's 26-3 loss to the New York Giants. The Jets looked very frustrated for only a second preseason game.
Jets starting tailback Shonn Greene voiced his frustration after a failed fourth-down conversion in the first half. Tebow also was vocal and upset with his teammates for missed assignments. Tebow was sacked four times by the Giants' backups.
There are so many issues with personnel and execution that you wonder if the Jets can fix their offense in time for their Week 1 showdown in the AFC East against the Buffalo Bills.
Starting with the offensive line, the Jets must figure out what to do with starting right tackle Wayne Hunter. In his first preseason game last weekend, Hunter allowed three sacks and had a fourth called back because of a Giants penalty. Hunter was a major problem last season and has shown no signs of improvement.
"That stuff happens to everybody," Sanchez said of Hunter's bad game. "I don't care who you are."
Sanchez also spoke of building up Hunter's confidence and continuing to have faith in the struggling right tackle. New York's coaches say Hunter's problems are correctable. But the truth is he's just not a good player. If the Jets had a viable replacement, they would have benched Hunter by now. The problem is New York's options are very thin.
The Jets might have to turn to third-year tackle Austin Howard. I don't know if he's any good, but he can't play much worse than Hunter did in the last preseason game. New York should start Howard on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. If Howard doesn't give up four sacks in the first half, consider it progress. Another option would be to move draft bust Vladimir Ducasse from guard back to right tackle.
Whether it's Hunter, Howard or Ducasse, it's clear the Jets must give their right tackle help this season by consistently leaving in an extra tight end or running back. That takes away options in the passing game, but it is better than having Sanchez or Tebow laying on his back.
It's also time for the Jets to use their Wildcat offense. New York has been holding this formation close to the vest, but this wrinkle might be the best thing the Jets' offense has going for it. Tebow has proven he can move the chains with his legs, both with the Denver Broncos and the Jets in the preseason. I understand the Jets not wanting to show too much before they play the Bills on Sept. 9. But they should at least do a few basic, Wildcat plays to jumpstart the offense, get some work in and build the group's confidence.
My final preseason suggestion is for New York to play rookie receiver Stephen Hill as much as possible with the starters. The second-round pick has four receptions in two games. He is a raw talent in need of playing time. Hill has the size and speed to be an asset for the Jets, and this is the perfect time to develop him.
If Hill is more seasoned by the regular season when No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes returns from his rib injury, the Jets' receivers will be in much better shape than they are now. Hill also is a solid run blocker who will contribute to New York's ground-and-pound offense.
The Jets have a lot of problems offensively. But benching Hunter, using the Wildcat and developing Hill as much as possible this preseason should patch a few holes.
With a strong defense, the Jets don't need their offense to be world-beaters to win games. New York just needs its leaky ship on offense to stay afloat and keep its head above water.
The good postgame news for the New York Giants following their 26-3 preseason victory over the Jets is that starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw's hand seems OK. The Giants took X-rays that came back negative, and Bradshaw told reporters after the game that he had a cyst on his hand that burst when he hit it on someone's helmet. I do not know why a cyst bursting would require an X-ray, but I am not a doctor. Upshot appears to be that Bradshaw will be fine, which is significant for a Giants team whose running game still needs work.
The Giants finished 32nd in the league in rush offense in the regular season last year, mainly because of a line that couldn't get any push forward in the run game. That was on display again Saturday night, as neither Bradshaw nor D.J. Ware nor Andre Brown nor David Wilson could find a hole all night. The Giants finished with 58 yards on 32 carries, which is dreadful. Now, rush defense appears to be one of the few things the Jets do well, so that might have had something to do with it. But the concern with the Giants when they struggle is that they get physically handled in the trenches. The offensive line struggled with that last year and has so far in this preseason.
Now, that intro breaks my general rule about trying to open with a positive in these preseason game reviews. But I thought Bradshaw was the biggest news of the night, and in fairness it is a positive that his hand is not broken. And there are a ton of Giants positives in the remainder of my review of what I saw Saturday night:
1. The defensive line looks as though it will be just fine. Even with Justin Tuck leaving early with a neck injury (he also said he was fine), the Giants' pass rush completely abused Wayne Hunter and an overmatched Jets offensive line. Jason Pierre-Paul and reserve defensive end Adewale Ojomo each had two sacks and the Giants had seven as a team to go with their nine quarterback hits and nine tackles for loss. But what I thought was most impressive while the first-team defense was in there was the performance of starting defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard, who forced the issue in the middle of the line and limited the Jets on the ground as well. The Giants are banged up at defensive tackle with Chris Canty and Marvin Austin on the shelf, but Bernard and Joseph played as though they didn't want anyone to worry.
2. Eli Manning likes throwing to Victor Cruz. Manning didn't do a lot to help the Giants find their No. 3 wide receiver. Five of his seven completions were caught by Cruz, and while that was fun for Giants fans to watch, everybody already knew that hookup worked. Ramses Barden did drop one Manning pass early on, which didn't help his case. Overall, Manning had a poor night, completing 7 of 14 for 62 yards and an ugly overthrow interception. But he's obviously the least of their worries.
3. As for those No. 3 receiver candidates ... Rookie Rueben Randle made the best catch of the night, a leaping 49-yarder from David Carr. But it was his only catch of the game. Jerrel Jernigan caught two passes for 26 yards, Domenik Hixon one for four yards and Barden was shut out. The buzz during the week was about a Manning quote that said they could rotate guys into that role and into situations that maximize their different strengths, and that's a reasonable way to handle the situation. But I still think Barden's going to have to grab that role if he wants to make the team. The other guys help on special teams.
4. Chase Blackburn's probably safe for a while. Blackburn and Kenny Phillips combined to fill a gap and make a nice stop on Shonn Greene on a second-down run. Later in the game, Mark Herzlich suffered a hip pointer. Blackburn's the starting middle linebacker for now, and Herzlich's going to have to come and take the job from him. Blackburn hasn't done anything to lose it, and now Herzlich's hurt. Keith Rivers, by the way, looked active on the outside, starting in place of an injured Michael Boley.
5. Got to like Jayron Hosley. The rookie cornerback was a star of the game on defense and on special teams, where he returned an interception 77 yards for a touchdown. Reports from the postgame locker room say Hosley had his foot in a walking boot, so it seems as though he got injured, too. Would be a shame if he had to miss time. It looks as though the Giants want to use him a lot, and other than last week's muffed punt, everything he's done on the field has made him look like a very useful guy.
6. Wilson does show something. The rookie running back out of Virginia Tech was a first-round pick for a reason. You can see, when he gets room to run, what he brings in terms of explosiveness. I believe he'll be a good player for the Giants. He even looked good in blitz pickup once he got into the game. But this national perception that he's the sure-thing backup or some sort of threat to take carries away from Bradshaw has gotten out of hand. He's clearly fourth on the running-back depth chart right now, and Ware has earned that No. 2 spot. Wilson will develop, maybe quickly, and likely be an asset for the Giants down the road. But he has developing to do, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's kind of how the Giants roll.
7. Will Hill. He's getting to be a fun story, playing well at safety and coming up with a sack of Tim Tebow. Could be a nice latent-talent find by the Giants' front office, a la Herzlich and of course Cruz.