Football is back! NFL pre-season got under way last weekend as each of the 32 teams comes ever closer to finding out its final 53 man roster for the coming year. While the results aren’t very important in the grand scheme of things, week 1 of pre-season certainly threw up some surprises, particularly in Baltimore, Washington DC and Tennessee. But what did each team take from their opening encounter of the 2014 season?
Arizona Cardinals: Rookie receiver John Brown posted some excellent numbers, 5 receptions for 87 yards. He has had an excellent camp so far and some on the Cardinals defence have described him as ‘the future of the franchise.’
Atlanta Falcons: Coming off from a woeful 2013, the Falcons first string offensive line turned up on saturday night as they managed to get their running game going as well protecting Matt Ryan’s pocket.
Baltimore Ravens: Since the retirement of Ray Lewis, the Ravens have had a huge void at linebacker. Can 1st round draft pick CJ Mosley fill that gap? Maybe so, and 5 tackles and a sack will do his cause the world of good.
Buffalo Bills: Playing against 2013’s second best offense, the Bills managed to post better numbers than they did in the Hall of Fame game the week before. Sammy Watkins made his first 3 NFL grabs and they managed to establish a run game against a fearsome Carolina defensive line.
Carolina Panthers: They are a self labelled running team, yet their patchwork offensive line and the lack of either of their first choice backs, led to only 69 rushing yards all night. Lots of work for Ron Rivera’s team to do up front.
Chicago Bears: Their receiving corps looks to be in fine fettle after week 1. Over 400 receiving yards and 5 grabs for Jay Cutler’s safety net Brandon Marshall. The Bears’ offence continues to impress as it is touted as one of the league’s dark horses.
Cincinnati Bengals: Another impressive showing from a 1st round pick. Described by Coach Marvin Lewis as ‘one of the best rookie corners I’ve seen’, Darqueze Dennard picked up 3 tackles and a sack. He may be a potential candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Cleveland Browns: The quarterback battle in Cleveland just became red hot. Johnny Manziel made his eagerly anticipated NFL debut. He made plays using both his arm and his legs, one of the features of his college game. Despite Coach Mike Pettine saying that Manziel had made ‘lots of improvements’ we will only see his true form when put against a first string NFL defence.
Dallas Cowboys: 2014 may well be a season of woe for the Cowboys. A heavy 27-7 defeat was mainly down to a lack of hustle on the defence. They failed to land a single sack and could do nothing to stifle a fluid Chargers offence.
Denver Broncos: In a rematch of last February’s Super Bowl, Denver managed to get the better of the Seahawks. A major plus for them was the performance of veteran DeMarcus Ware. He turned 32 last month, but still managed to force Russell Wilson into an incompletion as well as getting himself a sack. John Elway will see this as money well spent.
Detroit Lions: The Lions have only made the playoffs once since 1999 and this trend may be set to continue if their red zone efficiency doesn’t improve. Zero scores from three visits to the red zone against the Browns doesn’t make good reading for new coach Jim Caldwell.
Green Bay Packers: Without starting QB Aaron Rodgers on the field, it is difficult to gauge where the Packers’ offense is at right now. However, Coach Mike McCarthy won’t be happy with five fumbles in their opener against Tennessee. If they are to reach another Super Bowl, they must keep turnovers to a minimum.
Houston Texans: A 32-0 defeat to Arizona may be a sign of another poor year for the Texans. They lack a quality signal caller to match up with their other offensive weapons. However, Texans fans will be excited by the pairing of JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, the latter showing in glimpses why he was the first overall pick of the 2014 draft.
Indianapolis Colts: An already weak offensive line is becoming weaker by the day. They’ve lost three linemen in the space of week and really struggled to protect the QB and establish the run. Andrew Luck may have his work cut out this year, despite owning one of the best receiving corps in the league.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Since picking Blake Bortles as the third overall pick of the draft, coach Gus Bradley has insisted that Chad Henne is still his first choice QB. This could be about to change after Bortles had a comfortable first outing. He threw for 117 yards off of seven completions and looked secure under pressure. Coach Bradley now has a selection headache.
Kansas City Chiefs: 2013 3rd round pick Travis Kelce proved himself to be one of the fastest tight ends in the league. He outpaced the entire Bengals secondary to score a 69 yard touchdown which prompted coach Andy Reid to call him a ‘standout’ player. Kelce is one of the new breed of tight ends and may well end up as number 1 on the depth chart in three weeks time.
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill looked as comfortable as I’ve ever seen him at the weekend. He managed to get this new look Dolphins offense going as he completed 100% of his throws and got a touchdown. Comparisons to Chip Kelly’s offence in Philadelphia may be premature, but that’s the direction this offence is headed.
Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater proved that he isn’t yet ready to make the leap to professional football. He only completed 6 out of 13 throws. Matt Cassel showed himself to be the Vikings starter in Week 1, completing five out of six attempts.
New England Patriots: Have we seen Tom Brady’s successor at New England? Jimmy Garoppolo impressed against Washington, throwing for 157 yards and a touchdown. And when Brady, a future Hall of Famer, is your mentor, you are destined to go far.
New Orleans Saints: Anyone who has been at Saints camp has been talking about one man; Brandin Cooks. And without star QB Drew Brees, 1st round pick Cooks still managed to haul in five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. He is going to be an electrifying addition to this offence.
New York Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul is looking good again this year. Last year, JPP was plagued by injuries but appears to have returned to fitness. He’s looking much sharper in camp and he recorded four tackles against Pittsburgh. If he keeps this up, he may well return to double digit sacks in 2014.
New York Jets: Cornerback was a positional problem for the Jets last year and this year looks to be going the same way. 2 players who played cornerback against the Colts have since been injured, including 1st round pick Dee Milliner.
Oakland Raiders: Matt Schaub had a nightmare year with the Texans last year and may want to deflect some of the pressure of him at Oakland by handing the ball off to his backs. However, the Oakland backs aren’t massively productive. Darren McFadden has been battling injuries and Maurice Jones-Drew is advancing in terms of age.
Philadelphia Eagles: Will this year be the year of Nick Foles’ sophomore slump? In 2013 we threw two interceptions all year. He managed to match that in a quarter of football against Chicago. Having lost one of his main weapons in the form of DeSean Jackson, it’ll be interesting to see if Foles can maintain the 2013 form.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 3rd Round pick Dri Archer is going to be one of the stars of this Steelers offense. The running back has impressed all training camp and took a screen pass 46 yards to the end zone. He’s been described as one of the most explosive players in the league and could really shine in this offence coordinated by Todd Haley.
San Diego Chargers: 2 Rookies shined for the Chargers against the Cowboys. Brandon Oliver ran for 64 yards off just 7 attempts and got into the endzone whilst receiver Dontrelle Inman caught three passes for 107 yards. Both scored a touchdown. This depth they have at both position will please Chargers fans greatly.
San Francisco 49ers: Another rookie impressed as the 49ers went down to the Ravens, 2nd round pick Carlos Hyde. With three San Francisco running backs injured, Hyde had the opportunity to show Jim Harbaugh what he could do. And he excelled. He carried the ball for 39 yards from five carries and his explosive pace beat defenders on the edge. Hyde proved himself as one to watch.
Seattle Seahawks: Seattle are one of the few teams that doesn’t seem to have any positional battles in the first string teams. The most noteworthy battle is deciding who will back up Russell Wilson at QB. Terrelle Pryor seems to have got the edge over Tavaris Jackson, getting more first team reps and throwing for 137 yards. While reps may be more split this week, Pryor certainly seems favourite to make the roster.
St Louis Rams: As well as boasting one of the best offensive lines in the division, the Rams also have impressive depth at Running Back. Zac Stacy, Chase Reynolds and 3rs round draft pick Tre Mason all impressed on the ground. Establishing a solid run game will help to give returning QB Sam Bradford plenty of time to find his new targets downfield.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: One thing that was apparent from their opening game was that 35 year old Josh McCown should not be starting QB. He threw 2 out of passes and was intercepted. His rival for the position, 24 year old Mike Glennon should start. At the weekend, Glennon threw 11 out of 19 passes, including a touchdown. Glennon is the future of the franchise and his 2013 form should be rewarded with the starting berth.
Tennessee Titans: Not many issues arose from Tennessee’s opening victory over the Packers, but people will continue to question Jake Locker’s role as a franchise QB. He struggled to stay healthy last year, but the 8th overall pick of the 2010 draft is young enough to change people’s opinions of him.
Washington Redskins: Morgan Moses was drafted in the 3rd round as an answer to the problems that Washington were having in their offensive line. However, life in the NFL hasn’t been an easy one thus far for the big lineman. He’s been acting as a backup in a line that struggled to protect Robert Griffin III in 2013. Coach Jay Gruden remains confident that Moses can make waves in the NFL, but it seems unlikely he’ll start in Week 1.