There’s plenty of time to correct mistakes, and a quarter-plus of preseason football doesn’t matter that much in the big picture.
But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ starting offense looked bad. Really bad.
It’s hard to blame quarterback Josh McCown too much, because the offensive line never showed up in a 16-10 Jaguars win. They didn’t block for the run and they never protected McCown. McCown took two sacks and he threw the ball away a couple other times or the sack total would have been higher. He spent his entire time in the game with a defensive lineman in his lap. Give credit to the Jaguars’ defensive line, which played well in causing all that pressure, but the Buccaneers’ offensive line looked like a sieve.
McCown deserves some blame too. He badly overthrew rookie Mike Evans on a pass that was picked off by Jacksonville’s Winston Guy and returned 68 yards for a touchdown. McCown, of course, was under heavy pressure on the play. He completed 2-of-4 passes for 20 yards, and one completion was an 18-yarder to Vincent Jackson in which he just threw it up for grabs because he was under – get ready for it – extreme pressure.
On McCown’s last play, a third down, he held the ball a little too long while Jacksonville end Tyson Alualu beat left tackle Anthony Collins. Alualu strip-sacked McCown and Jacksonville recovered the fumble. It was the second sack allowed by Collins, who was signed from the Bengals to be an upgrade at left tackle. The Buccaneers better hope he just had an off night. Tampa Bay had 48 yards, two turnovers, allowed two sacks and scored zero points in the quarter-plus the starters played.
The Buccaneers defense had a nice night against the Jaguars’ offense, and from the looks of it Friday night, that unit might have to carry the load for a while while the offense figures things out.
These Miami Dolphins are just about unrecognizable. In a good way.
In the preseason opener against the Falcons, there were a lot of shotgun looks. A lot of spread formations. A ton of zone-read option.
Bill Lazor is the Dolphins’ new offensive coordinator, coming over after a season as Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach. And make no mistake, the Eagles’ offense has basically been brought to Miami.
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It was creative and interesting and the Falcons clearly had no answer for it. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was 6-for-6 for 62 yards and a touchdown on his only drive. It was clearly a much different offense, shown by a play in which the Dolphins faked a read option, then Tannehill rolled out right where the receivers were running a bubble screen. He had the option to run or throw, and he threw to Brandon Gibson. It wasn’t very well executed, timing wise, but it was very Chip Kelly-esque and it gained 8 yards.
On the touchdown, Miami faked the handoff to Miller left. Gibson, who was in motion from right to left, ran back across the formation from left to right on the snap. The entire play moved left except Gibson, who came out of the back side and he was wide open for the touchdown.
If the preseason opener (which Atlanta won, 16-10) was any indication of what the Dolphins are planning to do this season, it’s going to be pretty fun to watch their offense in 2014. Eagles fans will recognize their attack.
The first-team defense, which gave up a nine-plus minute drive to the Falcons (and will be without safety Reshad Jones and defensive end Dion Jordan once the season starts, due to suspension) wasn’t quite as impressive, but the Dolphins could use some good news, and the offense’s impressive debut provided that.
Maybe there's hope that Mark Ingram puts it all together this season.
It hasn't really happened for the former Heisman Trophy-winning running back in three seasons, though his 4.9-yard average for the Saints last year was interesting. Interesting enough that the Saints opened the preseason with him as their starting tailback, ahead of Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson. And on Friday night in the Saints' 26-24 win over the Rams, it looked like a good decision.
Ingram rushed for 83 yards on eight carries and had a 22-yard touchdown. He broke plenty of tackles. This is the Ingram the Saints have been waiting on since they took him in the first round.
Robinson looked good too, with five carries for 23 yards and a touchdown, and Sean Payton likes mixing and matching his running backs. So it's no guarantee that Ingram will put up huge numbers this season. But he way he ran against the Rams was a great sign.
Buffalo 20, Carolina 18: Bills running back C.J. Spiller’s first carry showed the burst he’s known for, as he broke free for 14 yards. An ankle injury early last season limited what he did, but if healthy he could have a fantastic season.
Chicago 34, Philadelphia 28: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler looked really good in his 2014 preseason debut. He completed 9-of-13 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Bears tight end Martellus Bennett didn't play because he's suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, but in his place former Jaguars tight end Zach Miller had six catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns.
Minnesota 10, Oakland 6: The fourth quarterback taken in the draft, Derek Carr, doesn't get the attention of the three first-round picks, but he had a solid debut for the Raiders. He completed 10-of-16 yards for 74 yards. He also made one big mistake on a bootleg, throwing high to his fullback, who had the pass go off his hands and it was intercepted. But overall it was a positive debut for Carr, Oakland's second-round pick.
• Atlanta rookie right tackle Jake Matthews had a forgettable debut. He had an illegal use of the hands penalty in the first quarter, and in the second quarter he had a holding penalty that wiped out a 76-yard touchdown run. He was overpowered a bit by Dolphins end Terrence Fede and allowed some pressure on a third-down pass that came up short of the first down. There shouldn't be any worry, however. He has plenty of time to adjust.
• Fellow rookie Jordan Matthews (no relation) also had a tough night. The Eagles' receiver had seven targets, and had either two or three drops. One would have been a tough catch, but the other two were definitely drops. He had three catches for 14 yards, and he too has plenty of time to adjust to the NFL.
• Well, Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins might not be a bust after all. He caught three passes for 21 yards (after getting shut out in last week's Hall of Fame Game), the first of many catches to come in his NFL career.
• Eagles rookie receiver Josh Huff had a 102-yard kickoff return against the Bears. His college teammate, De'Anthony Thomas, had an 80-yard punt return touchdown on Thursday night. The Oregon speed isn't a myth, folks ...
• Falcons rookie running back Devonta Freeman had 107 total yards, including 57 on a reception. If Steven Jackson falters or if the Falcons simply want to keep Jackson fresh this season, Freeman made a case to get some consideration for significant playing time from Week 1 on.
• Veteran backup quarterback Shaun Hill played well for the Rams, completing 5-of-7 passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns, including a pretty scoring throw to Stedman Bailey. Hill started because the team is easing Sam Bradford back from a torn ACL, and the Rams should feel like they have upgraded at the backup quarterback spot in the offseason.
• Jaguars running back Denard Robinson, coming off a quiet rookie season, had a nice 26-yard touchdown run around left end. The Jaguars need offensive playmakers, and if Robinson can continue to impress this preseason he can carve out a nice role.
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