Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh would always say that September was the month to play rookies to essentially define their roles and find out if they can eventually help the team win games in December. For Walsh, September was the time to learn -- about his team, about his chief opponents around the league -- and then make the right adjustments when it comes to players, coaches and schemes.
Likewise, we can learn something about all 32 teams now that September has come and gone. We learn which teams can make the adjustments, which ones can't, and which ones don't even know they need to. Three games into the season, there has actually been a great deal to learn about each team. Here's a breakdown of what we've learned:
That the Cards must cut down on their mental mistakes on defense. Most importantly, they must find the right system for quarterback Kevin Kolb to get rid of the ball in rhythm and feel confident in the pocket.
That they must improve their pass protection -- in part by getting better at right guard -- and get back to playing with the lead. Are they good enough on defense? I don't think so.
That the Brownies still lack playmakers on offense. They can't work the ball down the field (29th in the NFL in big plays) with their short passing game, and they will struggle on offense.
That the Texans are improved on defense and if they can solve their red-zone issues on offense and fourth-quarter collapses, then they can compete at the highest level. Can they make those adjustments? This is something we have not learned yet.
That the Jags just cannot throw the football. Only 40 completions this year, lowest in the NFL. The Jags are good enough on defense and can run the ball, but that formula worked in the '60s ... not now. The NFL is a throwing league and the Jags can't throw.
That the Vikings are a team with little skill on the outside on offense and the inability to make plays in the passing game -- in either half. They are not a playoff team and are in transition on both sides of the ball.
New York Giants
That their secondary is a mess, in part due to all the injuries they have suffered. The G-Men are one of those teams that could challenge late in the year when they get healthy. Their defensive front is for real and so is Jason Pierre-Paul.
New York Jets
That the Raiders can run and pass this year on offense and will be in the race to win the AFC West all season. Their back seven on defense has to be a concern and if they can improve their play against the pass, they will create problems for every opponent.
That their defensive front seven is really strong and powerful. They are extremely tough against the run and play physical. But their offense is not effective throwing the ball and their offensive line struggles to consistently pass block.
That the Bucs have improved their defensive front rushing the passer, but they must find a way to improve their passing game. Right now, their ability to run the ball is not the same as a year ago -- which makes their ability to make big plays in the passing game more difficult.
That their defense is for real -- especially up front with their ability to rush the passer -- and they play the game with a physical style. Quarterback Rex Grossman can function well in this offense with their ability to run the ball.
Today my youngest son, Matthew, turns 21, and tomorrow my oldest son, Mick, turns 23. Happy birthday to you both -- I am really a proud papa.