With Sunday just around the corner, we're more than ready to ship a month's worth of preseason footage into deep hyperspace.
So much about August football is misleading, but we do believe in what the preseason can show us about young players ready to make the leap, stars coming off injuries and free-agent additions fitting in well with their new teams.
We zeroed in on Jabaal Sheard as a "Making the Leap" candidate in Mike Pettine's Browns defense, but the preseason saw a bigger impact from fellow pass rusher Barkevious Mingo. The second-year outside linebacker popped off the screen in August, showing better decision-making and increased speed. While Pettine talked about Sheard as Cleveland's version of Mario Williams, it's Mingo who looked more like the team's "bitch-kitty" this summer, running stunts and barreling into the pocket:
San Diego's up-tempo passing game remains a mystery heading into Week 1. Second-year wideout Keenan Allen appears faster to the naked eye, while the Bolts are thrilled with veteran Malcom Floyd's strong camp. Despite just 55 preseason snaps, Floyd was voted by scribes as San Diego's runaway MVP this offseason while serving as Philip Rivers' "most-targeted" pass-catcher. Coming off last year's neck injury, Floyd gives the team a field-stretcher to open up the field for Allen and tight ends Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green.
Resident Lions follower Kevin Patra has spent an eon watching Calvin Johnson get double and triple teamed by squads unafraid of Detroit's second wideout. Golden Tate's early work, though, has Patra calling the former Seahawk the "sidekick Megatron has always dreamed of." Tate's preseason showed off his strong hands and play-making prowess, as displayed on this touchdown grab below. He's a solid bet to smash his career-high 64 grabs from last season.
We asked in August if Patriots running back James Whiteloomed as a secret weapon in New England. We shouldn't have. While The Boston Globe touted the rookie's "exceptional skills and moves" in practice, game tape revealed something closer to a plodder. After averaging 6.2 yards per carry at Wisconsin, White looked slow to the line with a Trent Richardson-like 2.8 yards per pop on 29 attempts. Based on a small sample size, his speed isn't there. Until further notice, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will carry this backfield.
Russell and the 'Hawks
After what we saw against the Packers, it's hard not to appreciate how Pete Carroll and the Seahawks attacked August's games with the zeal of a conference title tilt. Russell Wilson's preseason snaps were second to only EJ Manuel among starting quarterbacks. Instead of keeping their star passer in bubble wrap, the Seahawks used games to expand the offense. Wilson has hinted all summer at a major leap under center. Down to the smallest details, he's a little slice of heaven: