So welcome to the very first in a long and unending series of columns filled with my takes on the preceding weekend's games and news. Not so much a recap column, but my feelings and impressions overall, highlighting games and moments which struck me—for good or ill.
I'm planning on this being a Monday Night/Tuesday morning column, so stop by each week.
It's JUST the preseason, but man was it good to have football back, am I right?
Of course, preseason is a trap. Sometimes an awful team isn't awful and sometimes a great player isn't great.
For case in point, may I point to Ryan Mallett.
Now before anything else; I like Mallett. I think he has tremendous ability and his off-the-field stuff was way overblown. Does that mean he doesn't have issues? No, just maybe not as many issues as your local newsstand.
Mallett entered Thursday night's matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the start of the third quarter and put a beat down on the already beaten down Jaguars. He looked very sharp, carving up the 45th string defense for 165 yards and a touchdown.
Now, for perspective, let's also point out that Brian Hoyer—a third year backup from Michigan State—dropped 171 yards and a touchdown on the Jags. So, really, how impressive was it?
I liked what I saw of Mallett, but I'm not buying yet. Though you have to admit that it looks like the Patriots might have snuck one buy the rest of the league yet again.
On the other side of the field, Blaine Gabbert showed some good and some bad. He's a project, just like we thought he'd be though to be honest, I don't think this is a good enough team to really warrant not throwing him in there and benching a consistently unimpressive David Garrard.
Sidenote: If you haven't paid for the NFL.com Preseason package and you don't have NFLN or Direct TV, go spend the $20 bucks. Some of the games are blacked out for various reasons but you can watch the archive later. Plus, you can play up to four games at once. At one point Thursday I had Mallett on one window and a struggling Tebow on another.
Back to the subject at hand:
There are no absolutes based on one game.
Maybe that I still think Andy Dalton is going to have a hard time in Cincy.
Listen, he can't drive the ball. He has the arm strength to throw long. He just has no zip on so many of his passes. His interception by Chris Houston is a good example.
Now, it's not just an arm strength thing, though it's a weak ball. It's not only off target, it's short. It can be argued AJ Green should/could have come back to the ball but he's sprinting down the sideline. That's hard to reverse direction quickly enough to prevent that INT. Maybe more cushion on the line would have helped, as it was pointed out to me on Twitter.
Even so, Dalton doesn't step properly into his throw, rushes it and throws into pretty good coverage.
What happens when the wind kicks in come October, November.
I think it gets ugly.
San Francisco is also in trouble.
Remember back on episode 4 of The Hard Count when Nagler and I discussed how important it was for the 49rs to secure the offensive line, especially the center position? Well they didn't. David Baas signed with the Giants, while Eric Heitmann was put on injured reserve.
So the result? Six sacks in a half. I'm not even going to try and count the pressures, hurrieds and other things that rushed Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick. I'm not excusing either player their play because both quarterbacks were ugly.
Offensive line depth. Take it lightly at your own peril.
As I watch tonight's Monday night football game, it strikes me that it's a huge concern for the Jets as well. Pro Bowl Center Nick Mangold was out, as was recently off the PUP Brandon Moore. Rob Turner went out as well and Vlad Ducasse was steamrolled several times filling in for Moore.
If the Jets are going to make a run for a Super Bowl, they cannot roll with thin offensive line depth.
If they want to know why, they can just look over the tape from San Francisco's beating at the hand of the Saints.
Final thought: I think Jon Gruden should try to go easier on players. His harsh criticism may cause some of them to cry and nobody wants that.
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