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Brian Thorne | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer


Training Camp Report - NFC
News, Notes & Post-Game Report for Preseason Week 3
8/26/13


Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four

NFC WEST: ARI | SF | STL | SEA
NFC SOUTH: ATL | CAR | NO | TB
NFC NORTH: CHI | DET | GB | MIN
NFC EAST: DAL | PHI | NYG | WAS

NFC WEST



Arizona Cardinals

Injury struck the Cardinals in a big way against the Chargers, as they lost left guard and first-round pick Jonathan Cooper with a broken leg. Early reports suggest he may miss the entire season, which would be a huge loss for the team; they need as much help as they can get on the offensive line. Also in the third preseason game, running back Rashard Mendenhall left with an unknown injury to his right kneeóthe same knee that held him out of training camp with tendonitis, and the same knee in which he tore his ACL at the end of the 2011 season. Prior to the injury he gained 47 yards on six carries, averaging nearly eight yards per rush. Quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 122 yards and a touchdown on only 12 of 23 passing. The defense forced a turnover after rookie cornerback Tyrann Mathieu hit the throwing arm of the quarterback and the ball found its way into the arms of a Cardinals defender. Perhaps most disappointing for Arizona was the play of their special teams, having a punt and a field goal blocked and not managing any big returns against San Diego.

St. Louis Rams

Despite facing 49 offensive snaps, the St. Louis Rams defense led the Broncos 20-10 at halftime. That's thanks in most part to rookie Alec Ogletree, who forced a strip-and-score on a running play and recorded an interception that would set up a late long-distance field goal from Greg Zuerlein. Ogletree also added two more defended passes and six tackles. Not bad for one half of work. The defense surrendered over 250 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but thanks to those two turnovers, Denver was unable to turn those yards into points. Rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin broke an 88-yard punt return, beginning to live up to his billing as a first-round draft pick. On offense quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked twice, but he was responsible for 110 yards passing on 9 of 16 attempts and threw a touchdown to tight end Jared Cook. The rushing attack was uninspiring, but on the whole the offense was reasonably effective and didnít commit any turnovers. The game against Denver displayed the Rams' best chance for success in 2013: big plays on defense, an electrifying return from special teams, and an offense that doesnít turn the ball over or make many mistakes.

San Francisco 49ers

A little bit of everything was on display from the 49ers against the Vikings in the third preseason game. QB Colin Kaepernick opened the game with 1-7 passing but then completed six in a row culminating in a touchdown. The defense made an interception and forced a fumble but also surrendered two passing touchdowns to the Minnesota starter and only recorded one sack in three quarters of play. San Francisco gained 125 yards rushing but gave up almost as many yards in 11 penalties against them. They broke a kickoff return for a 105-yard TD but also recorded more zero or negative yardage gains than would be expected from their power rushing game. Newly acquired WR Jonathan Baldwin contributed two receptions for 23 yards in his first game as a 49er. For the team it was a mixed bag of results numerically but on the field there was no doubt who the better squad was. For a preseason game there are a number of positives to take home and enough issues to work on to give Coach Jim Harbaugh areas to address throughout the next week as the fourth and final exhibition game approaches.

Seattle Seahawks

The third preseason game looked nothing like the dominating performances the Seattle Seahawks put together during the first two. Quarterback Russell Wilson led a successful opening drive, which eventually stalled following a stuffed red zone run and a sack that would force a field goal. The remaining 22 minutes in the first half were far less productive, with two interceptions, six penalties, and no scored points. The only silver lining came from the defense, which allowed only three points to the Green Bay offense. The Packers' starting quarterback played only one series, however, so defensive enthusiasm should be tempered appropriately. Both teams viewed this game mostly as a way to sort out the deeper parts of their depth charts and give their starters enough work to keep them fresh and focused. Thankfully for Seattle, the quality of their 2013 starters has not been questioned, so the preseason games have been showcases for unproven or up-and-coming talents to stake their claim at a roster spot and to earn more playing time. Running back Christine Michael and wide receiver Stephen Williams are the two most likely beneficiaries from the extra playing time afforded to non-starters.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

If the third preseason game is any indication of how the Atlanta Falcons will do in 2013, this could be a long and frustrating year. Against the Titans the first-team offense surrendered five sacks, allowed near-constant pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan, and failed to score a touchdown despite playing the entire first half plus one drive to open the third quarter. On two occasions they reached the Tennessee red zone but failed to convert the opportunities into touchdowns. And all of that was without four key Titans defensive starters playing in the game. Tight end Tony Gonzalez made his preseason debut, wide receiver Roddy White was rested with an ankle injury, and despite being healthy, the offensive line was wildly inconsistent. The starting defense was only slightly better, sacking the Tennessee starting quarterback three times, forcing a third-down fumble, and allowing 11 of 13 passing for 133 yards and a touchdown. After cornerback Asante Samuel left with a minor injury, the secondary was exploited for bigger gains through the air on deeper passes. Defensive depth may once again be an issue in 2013, especially if the D-line canít improve on last seasonís 29th-rated pass rush.

Carolina Panthers

When theyíre not injured, the Carolina Panthers are scary good defensively. With dynamic playmakers all over the field, the full-strength defense scored three touchdowns and also added a punt return touchdown from the special teams. In total they forced four turnovers (3 INTs, 1 fum), recorded three sacks, and gave up only 17 points in three quarters against the Baltimore starters. On offense the statistics were a bit more troubling. They gained only 67 yards on five possessions in the first half, and on their field goalĖscoring drive it took them nine plays to move 29 yards. The Panthers didnít commit any turnovers, but other than that there wasnít much positive to take away from their offensive performance against the Ravens. All preseason the talk has been about the Carolina running game, the dynamic playmaking ability of quarterback Cam Newton, and the reliability of tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Steve Smith, suggesting that the defense was the only uncertainty. The third preseason game was exactly the opposite. But if the offense can match the preseason defense, the Panthers may have the most complete team in the NFC South.

New Orleans Saints

Both offense and defense for the Saints showed brilliant flashes but also demonstrated areas that need improvement. The starting defense was beaten badly by the Texans starting WR who recorded 131 yards on seven receptions in only one half of play. The Saints also surrendered over 100 yards rushing on 16 Texans carries. The defense did record two sacks on overpowering plays and came up with several big stops, but despite being beat with some regularity they did look better than they did in 2012; they only gave up one touchdown to the Houston starters. As always the success of the Saints rests with their offense and QB Drew Brees. Despite attempting only six passes (four completions) he threw for 104 yards and one TD before leaving the game midway through the second quarter along with many other starters. G Jahri Evans and WR Marques Colston sat out of the game as they recover from injury. In typical Saints fashion the offense spread the ball around to whoever could contribute. Fourteen different players recorded at least one reception and no one had more than three, in total New Orleans made 22 catches on 32 targets.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Three games into the preseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers look like theyíre in desperate need of another three preseason games. Quarterback Josh Freeman was sacked five times and recorded only six completions while losing a fumble that appeared to simply slip out of his hands. Running back Doug Martin sat out with concussion-like symptoms stemming from the game last week, and guard Carl Nicks is still out as he recovers from a toe infection. The other guard, Davin Joseph, made his preseason debut, but unfortunately his presence did little to improve the running game without Martin carrying the ball. In 57 plays, the first-team offense recorded only 160 total yards and even the usually reliable Vincent Jackson dropped two passes. On defense cornerback Darrelle Revis sat out the game but did practice this weekóa good sign that he could be ready for Week 1. On the opening drive of the game, Miami held the ball for eight and a half minutes on a 17-play drive. The only bright spot from the Dolphins game came from special teams, where Adam Hayward recovered two fumbles that would set up the first two Buccaneers scoring drives.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

The passing offense for the Chicago Bears was finally on full display in a preseason game, albeit against the Raiders. Quarterback Jay Cutler lead his team on five first-half drives which resulted in 20 points, finishing with a touchdown and 142 yards passing while connecting on 12 of 21 (including several drops by his receivers) to five different players not named Brandon Marshall. The offensive line allowed no sacks, protecting well and opening running lanes. Running back Matt Forte gained 109 yards from scrimmage, including a 32-yard touchdown reception, and Michael Bush added a rushing touchdown in both the second and fourth quarters. The starting defense recorded one sack, two interceptions, and yielded only three points, which came on a 58-yard field goal at the very end of the half. The defense didnít have to do much against a weak Oakland attack, so the story of the night was most certainly the Bears offense. Even against a suspect defense, the Chicago starters moved the ball effectively. Had it not been for a few key drops, they would have been up more than 27-3 when the starters left.

Detroit Lions

First half defensive performances donít get much better than what the Detroit Lions did against the Patriots, recording two sacks, three fumbles, an interception, and one turnover on downs and forcing three punts (two three-and-outs) while ceding only one field goal. Safety Louis Delmas made his preseason debut and recorded the first fumble recovery of the game, and the defensive line harassed the quarterback and effectively shut down the running game. On offense the Lions starters had their most success of the preseason, adding three more field goals (though missing one) and scoring their first offensive touchdown on a Matthew Stafford pass to tight end Tony Scheffler. Of the 12 passes completed by Stafford, only three went to receivers, largely due to the absence of wide receiver Calvin Johnson along with big plays from running back Reggie Bush out of the backfield and in the running game. The position battle between receivers Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles seems to favor Burleson at the moment, and the backfield tandem of Bush and Joique Bell (not Mikel Leshoure) seems to be living up to its early billing. The Lions are moving in the right direction with one last preseason game to go.

Green Bay Packers

Evaluating the Green Bay Packers without quarterback Aaron Rodgers isnít particularly honest, but aside from one series, the third preseason game was entirely Rodgers-less. His one drive included 41 yards on 4 of 7 passing and resulted in a Mason Crosby field goal. Throughout the first half, the offensive line protected well but was fairly unsuccessful in moving the Seahawks defense in the running game. Running back DuJuan Harris made his season debut and saw little running success; he is the listed starter and ran behind the starting O-line, so early indications are that the Packers rushing attack isnít appreciably better than it was last season. On defense Green Bay looked pretty solid, particularly in the pass rush. Linebackers Nick Perry and Clay Matthews were responsible for a tipped pass (which resulted in an interception) and a red zone sack to go along with multiple quarterback pressures and disruptions of the Seattle run game. The team isnít stellar defensively, but they have dangerous pass rushers and a number of playmakers who typically embody the ďbend but donít breakĒ philosophy better than most. Success in 2013 will depend on the defense doing well enough and the passing attack continuing to be amazing.

Minnesota Vikings

If nothing else at least the Vikings are improving as the preseason goes on. RB Adrian Peterson played for the first time but didnít touch the ball. QB Christian Ponder threw two TD passes but one of them came against the San Francisco backups and he also recorded an interception. Ponder completed 17 of 23 passes but gained only 116 yards, an average of five yards per attempt. The offensive line managed to hold the 49ers to only one sack in three quarters of play but they also didnít open up big running lanes for their RBs at any point during the game. Defensively it is encouraging to see the 49ers starting QB limited to only 72 yards passing on 7-13 attempts with no rushing yards, but the Minnesota pass rushers did not record a sack against him nor did they force a turnover against the starters. By all accounts the game was so-so at best but compared to the previous two preseason games that sort of result is a gigantic step in the right direction. The Vikings seem to be banking on the return of RB Peterson being their saving grace.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

Touchdown! Thatís something the Dallas Cowboys first team wasnít able to celebrate until their third preseason game, but thanks to two touchdown passes from Tony Romo, the team is now moving in the right direction. In five series, Romo threw for 137 yards on 13-18 attempts, including a five-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant and a 12-yard score to Miles Austin. Starting running back DeMarco Murray contributed in the running and passing game, and after committing a fumble, he returned to make amends for his mistake. Defensively the starters didnít allow any points and created four total turnovers. They forced an interception from the Bengals' starting quarterback and also forced a fumble on the opening drive. But on an only-in-Dallas type of event (a punt hit the scoreboard), the special teams did allow a 75-yard punt return. Most importantly, however, the defense didnít allow any big plays to either the starters or any of the backups for the first time all preseason, and the Dallas offense didnít commit any turnovers, though kicker Dan Bailey did miss one of two field goal attempts.

Philadelphia Eagles

The new-look Philadelphia Eagles are just about ready to take flight. Aside from a poor decision (interception), Michael Vick was relatively effective, connecting on 15 of 23 attempts for 184 yards and a touchdown. He also added 53 yards on the ground, mostly following broken plays, and did a good job of protecting himself against unnecessary hits. Running back Bryce Brown got the majority of the carries, gaining 92 yards on 11 touches, while LeSean McCoy saw only five touches and then was rested. They had their self-inflicted mistakes, but Philadelphia didnít see much resistance from the Jaguars defense. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles gave up two passing touchdowns to Jacksonville's backup quarterback, forced one interception, and recorded four sacks. They were mostly effective against the run, with the exception of a 63-yard burst from the Jaguars' backup. The defensive star was linebacker Connor Barwin, who recorded the interception, one sack, and two solo tackles. Both teams played with an up-tempo pace designed to test opposing defenses. Considering the speed of play, the Eagles defense performed reasonably well, and the offense appeared to be ready for Week 1.

New York Giants

The two units of greatest concern for the New York Giants suffered injuries they could ill afford as they failed to claim bragging rights for MetLife Stadium from their crosstown rivals. Center David Baas sprained his MCL on Sunday (August 18th) and is questionable for the season opener, and guard David Diehl requires surgery to repair his thumb and will miss at least five games. Also, safety Stevie Brown tore his ACL and will miss the entire season. Third-string cornerback Jayron Hosley sprained his ankle but is not expected to miss any time. In positive injury news, defensive back Terrell Thomas returned to the field for the first time in two years (ACL injuries) and cornerback Antrel Rolle expects to practice this upcoming week and be ready for the opening game. This is the third game in a row the offense was inconsistent and ineffective; aside from an 84-yard rushing touchdown from David Wilson early in the game, the first-team managed just 97 yards on 31 plays. Eli Manning completed only eight passes on 20 attempts (83 yards), was sacked once, and was pressured six more times as the injury-depleted O-line failed to protect their quarterback.

Washington Redskins

Quarterback depth puts the Washington Redskins ahead of every other NFL team when it comes to injury contingency plans. Robert Griffin III was once again held out and backup Kirk Cousins was inactive due to his injury last week, meaning Rex Grossman (more starts and wins than every other Redskins quarterback combined) was the starter for the third preseason game. He threw for 171 yards and a touchdown while the offensive line gave up only one sack to the Bills' highly touted pass rushers. Grossman saw true starterís time, playing through only the first drive of the second quarter before yielding to his backup. Washington had several big plays in the passing game, including a 45-yard reception by wide receiver Santana Moss, a 31-yard reception by tight end Fred Davis, and a seven yard touchdown reception by Pierre Garcon from Grossman. On defense the Redskins surrendered only seven points, forced two fumbles, and recorded two sacks. The only true downside to the game was the loss of punt returner Richard Crawford (torn LCL) for the season. He was the Redskins' best option at that position despite returning only eight punts in all of his 2012 rookie season.