Brett Favre is back with the Vikings, there have been more sightings of Darrelle Revis then Elvis, and the rest of the league is filled with questions. I understand this is only the preseason, but the first two weeks have offered us some clues of some teams' future. With that in mind, I will try to answer some questions that have arisen.
How good are the Packers?
The Packers are explosive and fun to watch on offense. Coach Mike McCarthy is an outstanding play designer and caller, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is deadly accurate and the Packers have skilled players galore.
The Packers are suspect on defense, however, especially at corner. With an offense that can score in the 30s every week, though, it will be hard for most opponents to keep pace.
The Packers are much like the Saints last year, explosive on offense and will have to scheme their way out of trouble on defense. It can be done in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' system, and the best thing Capers has going for him is that the offense can compensate for any mistake he might make. This freedom afforded to an aggressive play-caller such as Capers can make a defense much better.
Is it smart to start Bradford?
What choice do they have? I mean, A.J. Feeley does not offer the St. Louis Rams any short- or long-term success. Nor does he allow them to run a complicated offense. The Rams are going to run a basic offense, with or without Sam Bradford as the starter. Therefore, they should start the learning curve as soon as possible.
Yes, Bradford has looked rusty this summer and needs to speed up his game, but the only way to play faster is to be on the field. The Rams are light years from being a competitive playoff team, so they need to develop Bradford and the only way to develop him is to allow him to play.
On Thursday night against the Patriots, Bradford claimed the starting job with an impressive showing in the first half. He looked smooth, accurate and in command. He will have his ups and downs, but it is time for the Bradford era to start in St Louis.
What concerns me more than playing Bradford too early is that the Rams' 2009 first-round draft pick, tackle Jason Smith, does not look like he is ready to be a player. The Rams' last three drafts -- each selected in the top two of the draft -- have produced Bradford, Smith and defensive end Chris Long. So far, neither Long nor Smith appears to have demonstrated Pro Bowl-caliber talent, thus extending the rebuilding process for the Rams. By the way, this is a seminar in bad drafting.
Turning the Rams around is going to take some time. I sincerely hope new owner Stan Kroenke realizes what it will take on and off the field to make the Rams a legitimate team again. Most of all, I hope he does not confuse hope for a plan. Things must change in St. Louis, quickly, and Kroenke can make that happen.
Who is the best rookie so far?
It's so early in the process, but all of the first-round running backs look good. The Buffalo Bills' C.J. Spiller, the San Diego Chargers' Ryan Mathews and the Detroit Lions' Jahvid Best have been very impressive. Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon looks good, as does the New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul, and the Philadelphia Eagles' Brandon Graham. But, without a doubt, Lions top pick Ndamukong Suh looks like a five-year pro already, and I expect him to have a great season.
Is New England stepping forward or backward?
One of the many things that I have been impressed with so far this preseason is the overall speed of the Patriots defense. On Thursday night against the Rams, they were not as impressive, allowing the Rams to move the ball and control the clock.
Overall, however, the Patriots have done a complete makeover to their defense, increasing the athleticism and closing speed, thus making every 4-yard gain by the opponent a challenge. Darius Butler, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, along with Brandon Meriweather, give the Pats a young and explosive group of cover men. The Patriots are now fast on every level of their defense and the addition of Brandon Spikes to go along with a healthy Jerod Mayo make the Patriots solid down the middle. The concern for a pass rush is real, but they have always been very good at scheming that pass rush, and if the offense can gain the lead, the Patriots will be able to frustrate opponents.
With this talent on defense, there will no longer be any 80-yard runs to open games -- this I can assure you.
Does Detroit really look that good?
Yes, the Lions are much better in both of the lines. In fact, Detroit's defensive line has been very impressive this summer, and Suh is the real deal. The days of the Lions blowing first-round picks seem to be over as Suh has been Warren Sapp-like in his movement and power. He will command double teams all year, and this will help the rest of the Lions' defensive line.
The Lions are going to be very effective on offense as well. Quarterback Matthew Stafford looks like a 10-year pro. His arm can stretch the field vertically or horizontally, and with Best in the backfield, this offense has unlimited potential. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is an outstanding play-caller, and with the skill players the Lions have assembled, their offense will be tough to deal with.
I really think Lions fans are going to like this year's team.
Is Hard Knocks good or bad for Jets?
My first thought is that any time a team allows an outside distraction to become a part of their culture, then it cannot be beneficial. But, the Jets seem made for television, especially coach Rex Ryan. The critical aspect of this show for those involved is to display for fans that the team is being run by qualified people, who know what they are doing.
Hard Knocks is a wonderful program that shows the fans a team functioning from the inside. But with that peek behind the closed door, the participants must look qualified, a step above everyone else, or risk hurting their reputations with the fans and, more importantly, within the league. Each cameo appearance must be done with an understanding that more than just the fans are watching.
For Ryan, the show is a winner.
Will Walker help the Vikings?
Of course not. Javon Walker had no explosion in his lower body before he signed the big contract with the Oakland Raiders, and that was three years ago.
Not much can be expected of him now. At this point of the season, what choices are available to the injury-riddle receiving group of the Vikings? Trading for Greg Camarillo will help when the Vikings play teams that feature more zone coverage than tight man-to-man, but the problems that will arise for the Vikings without Sidney Rice, or maybe even Percy Harvin, is when teams press the wideouts and force Brett Favre to hold onto the ball a little longer than he wants. The Vikings need both Rice and Harvin back and healthy to have the explosive offense of a year ago.
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