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The first ATL Awards: Preseason Week 1 edition

The meaninglessness of the NFL preseason has been drilled into our heads from early on.

Only a fool falls for this mistress of August. Only a simpleton is swayed into believing his team is either a disaster (when it's not) or untouchable (when it's definitely not).

We get it, but we just can't help ourselves. Once again, we have real players, real coaches and (almost/sort of) real refs.

We'll take it. And with a round of games in the books -- and completely ignoring everything we've been told about the preseason -- Around the League is ready to hand out our awards for the highlights and lowlights of Week 1.

So, let's get to it:

Quarterback debut of the week

Andrew Luck: Somewhere along the way, Robert Griffin III became everyone's flavor of the week, with Luck portrayed as the safe, vanilla option for the Indianapolis Colts. Then came Luck's Sunday debut against the St. Louis Rams. We saw him calmly run the first-team offense. We saw him look off a safety for a scoring strike. We saw him casually rack up 188 yards -- second among all QBs this weekend -- in less than a half. There's not much to pick apart here.

While we're at it, here's how we rank this weekend's rookie quarterback debuts: (1) Luck (2) RG3 (by an inch) (3) Ryan Tannehill (4) Russell Wilson (5) Nick Foles.

Coaching debut of the week

Chuck Pagano: The Colts, from top to bottom, have bought into the franchise rebuild. Pagano faces a mighty task, but we like his chances. We spent last season searching for a pulse on the body of Jim Caldwell. That won't be an issue with Pagano.

Let's try that again, shall we?

Jeff Fisher's been around the block, but that wasn't apparent in his return to the sideline with the St. Louis Rams, who came out flatlining against Indy. Honorable mention: Rex Ryan, whose Jets -- after an offseason of hype -- looked hyper-pedestrian.

They are who we thought they were...

Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers picked up where they left off. Harbaugh's legion of running backs slammed the ball at the Minnesota Vikings all night long. It's easy to forget what a disaster the Niners were just two seasons ago. Harbaugh has the chance to be a special coach in the NFL.

Sidenote: Colin Kaepernick's 78-yard scamper is an easy pick for Run of the Week. Keep in mind he's a quarterback. Also keep in mind it would have taken Matt Hasselbeck 42 minutes to do this.

On our radar, Offense

Russell Wilson: Those who watched Wilson in college swear by him. Seattle's rookie quarterback moved the ball and brought energy to the Seahawks. Pete Carroll loves him. He does everything Tarvaris Jackson does, which isn't great news for Tarvaris Jackson.

On our radar, Defense

Luke Kuechly, Janoris Jenkins(tie): We didn't love the Rams out of the gate, but Jenkins, the rookie cornerback, looks like a potential draft-day coup d'etat for Fisher. As for Kuechly, Carolina Panthers fans can bask in the glow of two straight first-round jackpots under Ron Rivera.

Steamroller award

With Drew Brees in the house, too many ignore the running game in New Orleans. Big mistake. Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles all look like 1,000-yard rushers. The behemoth blasting holes for this trio is guard Jahri Evans. Massive, agile and faster than you'd expect, Evans is among the best interior linemen in the NFC.

Defense of the week

Almost meaningless with teams showing nothing on offense, but how about the Denver Broncos giving up only 132 yards to the Chicago Bears? Jay Cutler didn't play, but Denver allowed just 2.7 yards per play and just 36 yards on the ground. This effort was lost in Peyton Manning's moderately hyped-up return to the field.

Brooks: A plan for Terrell Owens

The Seahawks' addition of Terrell Owens was no mere publicity stunt. Bucky Brooks reports from training camp that the veteran can be a key contributor this season. **More ...**

Honorable mention goes to the Houston Texans (maybe the AFC's best?) and the Dallas Cowboys (not even close in the NFC).

Defense of the weak

The Minnesota Vikings allowed the 49ers to walk right through them all day long. I don't care what month it is, 260 yards on the ground is 260 yards on the ground. Super ugly. Dishonorable mention goes to anybody on the Baltimore Ravensresponsible for covering **Julio Jones**.

Reclamation project of the week:

Two men, same backfield:Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles could be a handful for defenses. Charles runs around you, while Hillis (infamous sore throat in the rear-view mirror) runs through you. Hillis regained his nose for the end zone against the Cardinals this weekend and he's in a better spot this season as a change-of-pace, red-zone bruiser.

Joan of Arc award

If the Colts embark on another 15 years of outrageous quarterback play behind Andrew Luck, remember to thank Curtis Painter. Filling in for Manning last season, it was Painter who lost every game he played, selflessly positioning the Colts for the top pick in the draft. He's tucked away in Baltimore now (where he tossed three touchdowns in his debut). This forgotten man deserves a statue in downtown Indy.

Call Me Maybe?

Not if you're Chad Johnson, who might wait a long time for that phone to ring. A month ago, the aging wideouts club -- in terms of relevance -- looked like this: (1) Johnson (2) Plaxico Burress (3) Braylon Edwards (4) Terrell Owens. The order has flipped entirely. Nothing makes sense.

**More things change, the more they stay the same ...


We've penned roughly 590 posts about the new-look Jets. A gentlemen's agreement kept the Wildcat at bay against the Bengals, but that doesn't explain New York's anemic offense. Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are two sides of the same coin. This attack lacks weapons, and that's the real story out of Cortland.

What did we miss? Tell us below.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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