You can find more from Michael Salfino at Comcast SportsNet New York
My Scouting Notebook is always chock-full the first Sunday night of the NFL season. So let's get right into it, starting with Thursday night, which now seems like a couple of weeks ago.
The Steelers did straighten out their pass protection in the second half. But if Ben Roethlisberger(notes) keeps getting hit on about eight percent of drop backs like last year, he's going to be dumped 45-to-50 times. That weak Pittsburgh running game will force lots of passing.
Don't be afraid of the Steelers pass defense as long as Troy Polamalu(notes) (knee) is out. Polamalu has such tremendous range and is such a unique, irreplaceable player that this unit gets a downgrade from great to merely good – and good pass defenses often get torn apart by hot QBs.
Chris Johnson getting stuffed or tackled for losses so often hurts the Titans. Those kill drives when your passing game is ordinary. But let me stress again that wide receiver Justin Gage(notes) (seven catches, three drops and a TD) is the No. 1 guy on this team. Get him if you can.
Carnell Williams(notes) looked very good, continuing his great summer. Derrick Ward(notes) is the third-down back and got a lot of carries when the Bucs were badly behind late. Expect a normal starters workload – about two-thirds of carries – for Williams as long as he can stay off of the mechanic's lift.
Forget the rather ordinary QB rating for Mark Sanchez(notes). The feet, accuracy on the run, overall mobility and ability to throw from odd angles are all NFL-plus right now, say Phil Simms and I. The Franchez is off to a better start than Matt Ryan(notes), who the Falcons tried to play around in their 2008 opener at home against the dreadful Lions. Upgrade all Jets.
And start with Leon Washington(notes), whose top billing among the running backs is masked by a lot of "beat the clock" yards late by Thomas Jones(notes). Washington will meet our target of 15-to-20 touches per game. And he's also the QB in the Jets "Seminole" (Washington attended Florida State).
Those investing in Texans are mortified. But Matt Schaub(notes) did not play poorly. The Jets are just very tough. Rex Ryan is the master at rushing four or five and making it seem like seven or eight. He does this by just sending two or even three at one blocker. Which one, who knows? So there are always plenty of cover guys for the check downs. As a result, there was no place for Schaub to go.
Sanchez reminds me most of Tony Romo(notes) – same great feet and playmaking ability. Romo looked liberated by not having to count targets to a No. 1 receiver. But temper yourself in realizing that this is not the brand-name Tampa Bay defense, as the Cover 2 is gone and with it, seemingly, the Bucs' ability to prevent big passing plays.
The Saints passing game is too diversified to invest in heavily at wide receiver. If you can, skim it with guys like Robert Meachem(notes) and Devery Henderson(notes). Putative No. 1 receiver Marques Colston(notes) gets one TD and 30 yards receiving in a six-TD, 358-yard Drew Brees(notes) explosion? No. 2 Lance Moore(notes), who I loved as a later pick, was even more disappointing.
Pierre Thomas(notes) picked a rotten game to miss with an injury aggravated by a rescue of his pet dog. You can go for 80 yards and a TD against the Lions on crutches. Get Mike Bell(notes) if you can, but it's going to be hard now.
DeAngelo Williams(notes) looks closer to being Barry Sanders than I thought would ever be possible for anyone. But he loses most goal-line action and Jake Delhomme(notes) has put the offense in full crisis mode by turning the ball over 11 times in the last two Panthers games, including the home playoff loss to the Cardinals. John Fox says he's sticking with him. But stay tuned.
Tony Gonzales is still a freak. Let's tip the cap to 11,000 receiving yards as a tight end (21st all time for all receivers). He's going to remain a monster because defenses can't afford to double him.
I was very down on the Seahawks passing game, and regret that advice after watching Matt Hasselbeck(notes) on Sunday. At least I was bullish on Julius Jones(notes) (136 total yards including a 62-yard TD scamper). Still, this was only the Rams, who may just be dreadful again.
The Cardinals running game continues to look unprofessional. And the line also allowed Warner to be hit or hurried on 31 of 45 drop backs. Arizona generally did not seem ready for the intensity from opponents that's a given when you're a conference champion.
Aaron Rodgers(notes) and Jay Cutler(notes) both looked terrible in the first half on Sunday Night. Don't panic with either of them. The Packers defense under Dom Capers is much improved and their transition to the 3-4 had been remarkably smooth according to all accounts.
Michael Salfino’s work has appeared in USA Today’s Sports Weekly, RotoWire, dozens of newspapers nationwide and most recently throughout Comcast SportsNet and NESN. Michael also covers the Jets and Giants each week for SNY.tv.
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