August 26, 2010
Week Three of the preseason is the big time -- it's the one game before the regular season in which you will see every team's lead dogs more than before. Here are 10 players who had best bring their A-games if they intend to start the season as impact players.
Chicago Bears LT Chris Williams: One undersold aspect of Williams' horrible day against Oakland Raiders endbacker Kamerion Wimbley(notes) last week is that offensive coordinator Mike Martz and offensive line coach Mike Tice refused to give Williams advanced protection help because (wait for it) ... they don't want to give away their blocking schemes. Williams, who is a serviceable tackle at best, was beaten by Wimbley for four sacks, and part of the problem was that left guard Roberto Garza(notes) was getting beaten inside, which forced Williams' eye off his own man. Chicago's coaching staff had better implement a few bunch sets or tight-end stacks unless the idea is to get Jay Cutler(notes) killed.
Seattle Seahawks LT Mansfield Wrotto(notes): Now that first-round pick Russell Okung(notes) is out with a high ankle sprain, it's up to Wrotto -- a former defensive tackle and offensive guard -- to guard Matt Hasselbeck's(notes) blind side. The Seahawks had surprisingly good pass protection against the Packers last week with Wrotto on the left side, but Wrotto wasn't facing everyone's favorite Rhinestone Cowboy, Jared Allen(notes). It's indicative of the level of play right tackle Sean Locklear(notes) is bringing to the table that he hasn't been moved to the left side -- Seattle's previous front office gave Locklear a rich contract with incentives for his percentage of play on the left side. Now, he's much less of a factor.
Arizona Cardinals QB Derek Anderson(notes): Cards head coach Ken Whisenhunt has said that he's benching Matt Leinart(notes) after Leinart's sub-par Monday Night Football performance. While this has started a string of talk about the former first-round pick reuniting with ex-USC and current Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll in a trade, Whisenhunt's current concern is how to get a serviceable passing game together. Derek Anderson, the quarterback starting against the Chicago Bears on Saturday, didn't exactly light up the sky against Tennessee, either. If Anderson wants to establish himself as the long-term starter, he'll have to take care of the little things -- like not air-mailing short slants in the red zone.
Minnesota Vikings S Tyrell Johnson(notes): Johnson, a third-year safety, has been a pointman in Minnesota's disappointing pass defense. But Jamarca Sanford(notes) started at strong safety against the 49ers last week, and Johnson needs to fire back with his next chance. Most eyes will be on Brett Favre(notes) when the Vikings take on the Seahawks, but if the Vikings want to get to the Super Bowl with their precious quarterback, they need to solve a few issues in the secondary.
Washington Redskins DT Albert Haynesworth(notes): Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan has said that Haynesworth will play end and nose tackle against the Jets' dominant offensive line. However, he will not start with the first team, as Shanahan is still trying to make sure that Haynesworth is in game shape by the time the season starts. It would behoove Mr. Haynesworth to look good against the first-teamers as often as he is able, and to blow up the second team later in the game. Anything less will add yet more drama to a situation that everybody's already tired of following.
Oakland Raiders WR Louis Murphy(notes): New Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell(notes) has established tight end Zach Miller as his favorite target, which is no surprise -- Campbell loved throwing to tight ends in Washington as well. But Chaz Schilens(notes) is out with a knee injury, and Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes) is ... well he's still Darrius Heyward-Bey. Last year's first-round pick actually missed a stretch of training camp this year with what the team called "fatigue." The guy Campbell might want to look to when Oakland takes on the 49ers in a Bay Area Battle this Saturday is Louis Murphy, who had some great games down the stretch in his 2009 rookie season.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Dennis Dixon(notes): Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has said that Dixon will get a good look against the ones when Pittsburgh takes on the Broncos on Sunday night. What Dixon brings from his days at Oregon is a unique mobility, especially in the red zone. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians wants to see more of Dixon the quarterback before he makes any decisions about who's replacing Ben Roethlisberger(notes) for at least the first four games of the regular season. "It's fine to run when there's nobody open but when there are open receivers, get them the ball," Arians told the media last week. But Roethlisberger said, "I always tell him to run. 'Pull it down; if your guy's not there, pull it down and take off.' He's got something the rest of the quarterbacks in the room don't have." Ah, Big Ben. Always the helpful gentleman.
Green Bay Packers LG Daryn Colledge(notes): Colledge, who was a part of the 2009 Green Bay offensive line that contributed to Aaron Rodgers'(notes) season under siege from opposing pass rushers, is in an intense competition with rookie Bryan Bulaga(notes) for his starting spot. Colledge will start Thursday's game against the Colts, but don't be surprised if Bulaga sees serious time later in the game. The Packers are trying to find out where Bulaga best fits on that line.
Miami Dolphins C Jake Grove(notes): Just one season ago, the Dolphins signed Grove to a five-year, $29.5 million contract. But any team run by Bill Parcells will never let expense trump production. Grove has disappointed, and the latest news has Joe Berger(notes) beating Grove out for the starting spot. The Dolphins were actually more productive last year when Grove was in the game, but he's been injury-prone, and this could be a way of sending a message. In any case, he needs to play hard against the Falcons on Friday.
Jacksonville Jaguars QB David Garrard(notes): It's been yet another eventful preseason for David Garrard. Once again, the former lead-pipe-lock franchise quarterback found competition from Luke McCown(notes), and criticism from the media. This time, it was Pete Prisco of CBS Sports who has had target practice at Garrard's expense, and Garrard confronted him in a recent radio interview. "I know it can't be a personal thing because I don't think that I have done anything to you to make it personal," Garrard told Prisco on Jacksonville station WFXJ. "It's about you running your show. You have your opinion. That's why you're a radio voice. I respect your opinion. Even though I hear a lot of times that it's not in favor of me, that's all right. I will continue to live and I will continue to play ball as long as I am given a chance." Actually, it's more about Garrard getting on the field and impressing against Tampa Bay on Saturday.
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