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Brian Thorne | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Training Camp Report - NFC
News, Notes & Post-Game Report for Preseason Week 4

Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four



Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have lost offensive guard Jonathan Cooper for the year following the broken leg he suffered in their third preseason game. The first-round pick figured to immediately improve a suspect O-line that plagued the team for most of the 2012 season. Arizona was hoping the rookie would solidify the offensive line on Carson Palmer’s blind side and open up running lanes between the tackles for Rashard Mendenhall. But even without Cooper, the line is in better shape than last year thanks to the offseason addition of Eric Winston at right tackle. Tight end Jeff King (knee) will require surgery and may also be placed on IR. Frequently injured running back Ryan Williams will be among the five backs on the roster, but it's unlikely that the Cardinals will carry all five into the season, so he is expected to be traded.

St. Louis Rams

No one from the Rams suffered an injury in the final preseason game, and beyond depth chart evaluations, there were few other goals for the contest. Most starters didn’t see the field, and only a handful of second-string players saw any significant time. One statistic, committing 17 penalties, was particularly troubling for St. Louis, but hopefully that lack of execution will be cut with many of the roster moves made Saturday. Starting wide receiver Tavon Austin and backup running back Isaiah Pead each lost a fumble against the Ravens, and other that and the penalties, there weren’t many impactful negative moments against the reigning Super Bowl champions. With no additional injuries nor suspensions, and with currently injured players progressing as expected, there is little significant news to add. The Rams open the season against NFC West opponent Arizona and will get a chance to display their brand new offensive weapons against a Cardinals secondary full of defensive playmakers.

San Francisco 49ers

Through a series of roster moves, the 49ers have answered their biggest offseason question of who will be their primary receivers for 2013. Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham were both placed on the PUP list, suggesting that the team expects them to be available toward the middle of the season. Receiver Austin Collie, who was brought in to training camp as a free agent, has been released, leaving Anquan Boldin and Quinton Patton as the starters and Kyle Williams, Jonathan Baldwin, and Marlon Moore as the only other receivers on the roster. Third-string running back and starting return man LaMichael James sprained his MCL against the Chargers and is expected to miss three weeks; receivers Williams or Patton are predicted to fill in for his return duties. In one series of play against San Diego, quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed three of four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, earning a nearly perfect quarterback rating for his final performance in preparation for the start of the season.

Seattle Seahawks

Injuries may knock the Seahawks' defense down from daunting to merely good, at least for a week or two. Defensive ends Cliff Avril (hamstring) and Michael Bennett (toe) are both uncertain for Week 1. Defensive tackles Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane are both recovering from groin strains, but coach Pete Carroll is hopeful they’ll be available. Another defensive tackle, rookie Jordan Hill (biceps), is listed as week- to-week, while fellow draftee and defensive tackle Jesse Williams was placed on IR and will miss the season. Additionally defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin will miss the first four games of the year due to suspension, and Chris Clemons (ACL) has recently been activated from the PUP list. To bolster the defensive line, a trade was made to acquire defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith from the Jaguars in the closing moments before the final roster cut down. On Saturday, cornerback Antoine Winfield was informed that he was not going to make the 53-man roster and he opted to retire. At the start of the preseason the Seahawks had an embarrassment of riches on defense, but the recent rash of injuries will test their depth for the first game or two of the 2013 season.


Atlanta Falcons

For the Falcons, Week 4 of the preseason was fairly uneventful. Coach Mike Smith made a few positive remarks about injury recoveries, stating that wide receiver Roddy White (ankle), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), linebacker Stephen Nicholas, and kicker Matt Bryant (back) are "on schedule" to be ready for Week 1. Rookie cornerbacks Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant, the replacements for Samuel, each recorded interceptions against Jacksonville. The biggest concern remaining for the Falcons is still the O-line, and with roster cuts made across the league this weekend, they’ll be watching the waiver wire closely for someone who can contribute. Brian Banks, a preseason addition at linebacker, made national news when he was released from jail this summer. It was determined that he was improperly imprisoned for five years for a crime he didn’t commit. Banks was cut Friday, but his final remarks to the team were about seizing every opportunity and making the most of the moments they get to do what they love. Although he won’t be with the Falcons this year, his impact will certainly carry on throughout the season.

Carolina Panthers

Significant injuries finally reached the Panthers, though the news isn’t exactly a surprising development. Running back Jonathan Stewart hasn’t participated in any physical preseason activities and has been placed on the PUP list. He’ll be eligible to return in six weeks (five games, one bye), though there is speculation that even that much time will not be enough for him to fully recover from surgery on his left ankle. DeAngelo Williams will likely be the primary running back in Carolina, with Mike Tolbert as the principle change-of-pace back. As cuts were made the biggest surprise came with the release of cornerback Drayton Florence. The 11-year veteran provided experience and leadership in the young Panthers secondary, despite being at best a dime or nickel defensive back. And in the event of injuries, his skill set had been counted on by teammates and coaches alike. One significant takeaway from the fourth preseason game was the play of Ted Ginn Jr., as he recorded five receptions (on six targets) for 149 yards and two touchdowns. The presence of a legitimate third wide receiver would give Carolina nearly unlimited offensive potential.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints began the fourth preseason game with a neutral zone infraction, and most of what followed was downhill from there. Most starters dressed but didn’t play, and those who remained accounted for 11 penalties and four turnovers. On a positive note, they scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery, forced one more turnover, recorded four sacks, and wide receiver Marques Colston recorded a catch in his first appearance of 2013. While little can be gleaned from a game filled with backups, one thing that can’t be ignored is how porous the Saints defense appears to be. Losing linebacker Will Smith (knee) for the season certainly won’t help that, as his leadership and experience will be missed on a defensive that will have to come up with enough stops to let the New Orleans offense win games this season. Under coach Sean Peyton, and led by quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints will always be a scoring threat, so if their defense can contribute at all, the team will always have a chance to win. Barring any pleasant surprises though, expect all Saints games to be high scoring extravaganzas.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers have officially stated that cornerback Darrelle Revis is ready to play in Week 1, giving his team one of the preseason’s most anticipated secondary units in the league. Leonard Johnson and rookie Jonathan Banks are the two next cornerbacks behind Revis, and Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron will man the safety positions. After the deficiencies in that area last season, Tampa Bay appears to have drastically improved their pass defense heading into 2013. Behind the return of Revis, the biggest development for the Buccaneers was the discovery of MRSA in their facility, which infected two starters (guard Carl Nicks and kicker Lawrence Tynes). Nicks has not been cleared nor ruled out for Week 1 and Tynes was put on Non-Football Related Injured Reserve for the season. Rian Lindell, formerly of the Bills, beat out rookie Derek Dimke for the starting kicker role, but because of his distance limitations it is expected that Dimke or punter Michael Koenen will be responsible for the long attempts. Running back Doug Martin (head) will be available for Week 1 after suffering a mild concussion earlier in the preseason.


Chicago Bears

Like many other teams, the Bears didn’t play many of their starters during the fourth preseason game, but one of them wasn’t even on the sidelines. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall had a prescheduled follow-up to evaluate his hip during an approved four-day absence from team activities. Despite “not feeling 100 percent” he will be ready for Week 1. Uncertainty along the offensive line is all but gone following the release of left tackle J’Marcus Webb, which cements Jermon Bushrod at that position. Rookies right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills have earned starting roles, as confirmed by their not playing in the final preseason game. With minimal injury concerns and most preseason question marks answered, the Bears appear to be one of the most complete teams heading into 2013 under new Coach Marc Trestman.

Detroit Lions

It’s possible the biggest news from the Lions this week is that they cut a rookie kicker. Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland is a Norwegian YouTube sensation who came to Detroit to challenge David Akers for the starting role; his release confirms that Akers is the Lions' starting kicker for 2013. Their final preseason game featured a slew of backups trying to make the team and a few spotty performances from wide receivers trying to earn more playing time. With Calvin Johnson and Ryan Broyles (the Lions' No. 1 and No. 3 receivers, respectively) each sitting out, Nate Burleson was given an opportunity to shine. He was largely inconsistent against the Bills, only making one reception (12 yards) with one drop on three targets. Joique Bell appears to have won the backup running back role, as he earned the start and only saw limited carries (including a 23-yard TD run) before being rested. Beyond those minor developments and unsurprising conclusions, the final week of the preseason was pleasantly uneventful.

Green Bay Packers

Of all the roster moves made this week, those of the Packers are among the most surprising. Starting running back DuJuan Harris (knee) was placed on IR for an injury that previously had him listed as questionable. 2012 leading rusher Alex Green was cut. And embattled starter Mason Crosby remained as the only kicker on the roster by the time Saturday was finished. Additionally, quarterbacks Vince Young (who was brought into camp to compete for a backup role) and Graham Harrell were released, leaving B.J. Coleman and newly acquired Seneca Wallace as the other quarterbacks on the roster behind Aaron Rodgers. Other than those few surprises, not much news came out of Green Bay this week, as the Packers were able to avoid injury in the final preseason game.

Minnesota Vikings

Few starters saw playing time for the Vikings in the final exhibition game against the Titans, but one player on the roster bubble did play his way onto the final team. Cornerback Marcus Sherels made an interception and also returned a kickoff for a 109-yard touchdown to survive roster-cut Saturday. Reluctance to play the starters was reinforced when defensive tackle Kevin Williams was hurt in the preseason game last week. He was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee and a significant bone bruise but is expected to fully recover without surgery, though the timetable for his return has not been released. The biggest Vikings news came in the form of a three-game suspension for fullback Jerome Felton in response to an alcohol-related arrest over 16 months ago; charges have since been dropped. Felton is still recovering from the emergency appendectomy he had this preseason, so if you look for silver linings, the suspension assures that he will be fully recovered from surgery when he is eligible to return to the field.


Dallas Cowboys

In the battle for the Governor’s Cup, the Cowboys provided little resistance to their in-state rivals (Houston) during the fourth preseason game. Unfortunately, losing that game is among the least of their worries, with a number of potential injury concerns and players who have already been ruled out for some or all of the season. From the offensive line, guard Ronald Leary (knee) is listed as questionable for Week 1, and guard Nate Livings (knee) is described as “week to week.” The defensive line isn’t in much better shape, with defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) questionable for Week 1, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (hamstring) on the PUP list, and defensive end Tyrone Crawford (Achilles) out for the year. On roster cut-down Saturday, the Cowboys traded to acquire defensive end Edgar Jones from the Chiefs in an effort to shore up the injury-depleted D-line. The backup running back position seems to still be in flux, with Lance Dunbar (foot, questionable for Week 1) missing time late in the preseason and thus giving Joseph Randle most of the significant touches. If line concerns and injuries aren’t quickly resolved on both sides of the ball, the Cowboys will experience a shaky start to the season.

Philadelphia Eagles

No news is good news for the Eagles following the final preseason game. Most starters did not play, but coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense was on display yet again. Much like their previous games, it was ultimately the defense that determined the outcome of the game, so after surrendering 285 yards to the Jets' fourth-string quarterback, it isn’t surprising that the high-powered Eagles fell just short of a victory. Most significantly, Philadelphia was able to avoid injuries to players that would ultimately make their final roster, so from a coaching standpoint the game was a success. A small piece of news came out of Philadelphia this week when Coach Kelly announced that starting receiver DeSean Jackson will return punts this season. While most teams prefer not to risk their starters on special teams, Jackson’s abilities are too great for his team not to try to utilize him in as many ways as possible, which fits right in with Kelly’s coaching philosophy.

New York Giants

Starters for the Giants played three series against the Patriots—easily two more series than most other teams did during the fourth preseason game. From one perspective, both sides of the ball needed the work, as no Giants unit has been particularly inspiring during any of their exhibition contests. Quarterback Eli Manning finished 6-9 for 74 yards and a touchdown—only their third touchdown of the preseason. The defense played well against the Patriots backups and finally looked respectable against the run. From another perspective, coach Tom Coughlin caught heat from the press after the game when it was revealed that running back Andre Brown broke his fibula and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks, even though he will not require surgery. Brown and starting running back David Wilson were slated to share carries to some extent, but for the time being it appears that Wilson is likely to serve as the primary back in New York.

Washington Redskins

Operation Patience has finally reached its successful conclusion for quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Redskins. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year tweeted that he was finally at “100 percent” and has officially received medical clearance from his doctor; he is scheduled to start Week 1. Returning from ACL surgery, safety Brandon Meriweather saw his first playing time since November, and he too should be ready for the first game. Despite that good news, the Redskins will have a few bumps to overcome at the beginning of the season. Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson will each serve four-game suspensions to start the year. Also, Adam Carriker was placed on the PUP list and will miss at least six weeks, and defensive tackle Barry Cofield is likely out for a week or two after suffering a broken hand against the Buccaneers. The suspensions and injuries aren’t ideal of course, but with the offense led by RG3, the defense will be good enough early and should only get better as the year progresses.