It’s hard to make life in the NFL look easy, but Aaron Rodgers manages to do it all the time.
The Packers’ quarterback made his 2014 preseason debut after sitting out last week, and he’s in regular-season form. Rodgers has often talked about how he doesn’t feel the need for preseason, and it showed.
He was very sharp against the Rams, moving the Packers down the field with little problem. He was decisive on most passes, and when he didn’t have anything he dumped it off to Eddie Lacy a couple times for positive gains. He moved around great in the pocket, once taking off for a 14-yard gain after tucking and running on a pass play. He finished his first drive by rolling out, pumping a couple times and firing a dart in the back of the end zone to Randall Cobb for a 3-yard score. The Packers won 21-7 at St. Louis, and they have to feel pretty good about how they looked.
It’s probably a good bet that Rodgers will get a little more tune-up action in next week’s third preseason game. It’s very clear after Saturday that he doesn’t need it.
The Rams lost to the Packers, and as noted, the defense allowed Green Bay’s starting offense to slice through them with ease. But that’s all fairly unimportant. What the Rams needed to see was quarterback Sam Bradford play, and preferably play well. They went 2-for-2 on those counts.
Bradford, in his first game since tearing his ACL against Carolina last season, completed 9-of-12 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. The Rams have a very good roster, with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. The one thing missing from the Rams’ building project is knowing they have the right quarterback, but Bradford will be given every chance to prove he is that guy. Saturday was a good step toward having a breakthrough season.
Bradford threw the ball well, particularly on a 41-yard pass to Brian Quick and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks. On both throws, Bradford set up in the pocket and threw the ball with tremendous velocity, so there should be no doubts that he’s feeling healthy.
The Rams didn’t get a ton of answers elsewhere on offense. Nobody caught more than two passes, as they look for a reliable outside threat. Neither rookie Tre Mason or Zac Stacy was very effective in the running game. The defense wasn’t great against Green Bay’s starters (although that might say more about Rodgers’ brilliance than the Rams). But the Rams got some important answers on Bradford’s health on Saturday, and that was the result that mattered most.
Tony Romo’s first test coming back from back surgery went as well as could be expected.
Romo, who didn’t play in Dallas’ preseason opener, was sharp in his preseason debut. Having Dez Bryant helps with that.
Romo hit Bryant for a pretty 31-yard touchdown in Dallas' 37-30 loss to Baltimore, and he was done for the night. Romo finished 4-of-5 for 80 yards and that touchdown before he gave way to Brandon Weeden. His night wasn’t perfect — a fumble on a botched handoff exchange was returned by the Ravens for a touchdown — but Cowboys fans should feel pretty good about Romo’s comeback after seeing him play well.
Romo moved around well during practices against the Raiders earlier this week, which was a good sign he was ready for preseason action. Bryant also dominated those practices against Oakland, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise he got on the board Saturday. He made a great adjustment on a ball that was slightly underthrown, making a move back to the ball to leave his cornerback in coverage flailing behind as he caught the pass and stepped in for the score.
The Romo-Bryant duo should be about unstoppable this season. Saturday was just the first step.
Jets 25, Bengals 17: The Jets’ offense was better than in the opener. Geno Smith completed 10-of-13 passes for 98 yards, although he had an interception. Michael Vick was 5-of-9 for 70 yards and a toucdhown. Chris Johnson added 63 yards on 10 carries. The Jets have to be pleased with the improvement from the offense.
Giants 27, Colts 26: Eli Manning, coming off a poor season, wasn’t very sharp. He completed just 1-of-7 passes for 6 yards. Not exactly what the Giants wanted to see in the second preseason game, especially with a new offense. Then again, Manning had no touchdowns and two interceptions in a bad 2011 preseason, and the Giants won the Super Bowl that year.
Steelers 19, Bills 16: Steelers rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier, a first-round pick, didn’t play last week because of a bruised knee. The wait was worth it. Shazier had nine tackles and an interception, showing off the incredible speed and athleticism that should make him a star in Pittsburgh.
Dolphins 20, Buccaneers 14: The Buccaneers’ offense still isn’t impressing anyone. In the first half, Tampa Bay had eight first downs and managed just one touchdown. Josh McCown accounted for that touchdown at least, on a 7-yard score to Vincent Jackson. There were more signs of life than in the preseason opener (such as Mike Evans’ 41-yard catch) but Tampa Bay still has a ways to go on offense before the regular season.
Texans 32, Falcons 7: Houston probably won’t feel great about going into the season with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as its starter, but at least he moved the offense. Fitzpatrick was 9-of-12 for 97 yards and a touchdown, which was a big difference from last week, when Arizona shut out the Texans.
Vikings 30, Cardinals 28: Has Matt Cassel wrapped up the starting quarterback job for the Vikings? He certainly hasn’t hurt his case with two good preseason performances. Against Arizona’s tough defense, Cassel completed 12-of-16 passes for 153 yards and a 51-yard touchdown to tight end Kyle Rudolph. But rookie first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater gave the coaches something to think about. He played the entire second half and played well, going 16-of-20 for 177 yards and two touchdowns and leading the game-winning drive. His game-winning touchdown pass came with 22 seconds left.
• The Dolphins’ offense is doing pretty well this preseason, although they’d probably like to see a little more from the running game. Lamar Miller had just three carries, but didn’t do much with them, gaining just three yards. The team his hoping for a lot from Miller, but he hasn’t shown much yet in a small sample size.
• The Tampa Bay offense might be slow out of the gates this preseason, but defensive tackle Gerald McCoy isn’t. He had three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble on Saturday. He might make a run at defensive player of the year in Lovie Smith’s defense.
• Andy Dalton seems pretty comfortable after signing his big extension. Against the Jets he was 8-of-8 for 144 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown to Mohamed Sanu.
• Buffalo got a scare when receiver Sammy Watkins went out of the game with a rib injury. But NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said that Watkins’ injury wasn’t serious and he’s fine.
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