NFC Update: NFL Preseason Is In Full Swing
By Christian S. Kohl
Teams squared off against one another for the first time this season, often at full speed, and occasionally featuring first team offensive sets. Here are some of the early notes and emerging stories from around the NFC:
Chicago Bears: Chicago lost a close battle this week in their preseason opener against Carolina. Marquess Wilson had a standout night with 82 yards receiving, virtually assuring him a spot on the roster. Devin Hester is taking reps only as a returner, and Kelvin Hayden was placed on IR after tearing his hamstring.
Detroit Lions: Detroit won a tight contest against the often inept Jets on Friday. Calvin Johnson looked ferocious as ever in early series, while hopes remain high in Detroit that Reggie Bush can bring them a long awaited 1,000 yard rushing season. Theo Riddick looks crisp as well, looking to challenge LeShoure for backup duties.
Green Bay Packers: The Packers were blanked in their initial contest against Arizona, losing by a final margin of 17-0. While it’s an uninspired start, the Packers are undeterred, sufficiently confident in a sidelined Eddie Lacy that Alex Green may well be shopped. Jermichael Finley is also impressing many with his conditioning and physique. He’ll need both as well as two working hands to make a big contribution this year, especially without Greg Jennings.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings took a loss in preseason week 1 against Houston, which is rendered all but moot without Minnesota using Peterson in full force. Until then, scores will be far less relevant than player health. To that end, Jacob Lacey is expected to miss as much as 4 weeks with his knee recently scoped, and Shariff Floyd now awaits the results of an MRI after leaving the game Friday with an injured knee.
Atlanta Falcons: Atlanta took a pounding against Cincinnati, losing by 24 in their initial contest. The birds were without Julio Jones, who is nursing an injured hamstring. Worse, the brutal Falcons blocking took a hit in their debut performance, as a broken fibula and dislocated ankle will conclude the season of T Mike Johnson before it even begins. The Falcons line is in trouble.
Carolina Panthers: The Carolina victory over Chicago featured an ambiguous performance from rookie RB Kenjon Barner. His 37 yards and a TD was mitigated by an early fumble, clarifying nothing in the depth chart battle against DeAngelo Williams and a banged up Daily Show. Williams still looks to be the favorite early on.
New Orleans Saints: New Orleans nosed out Kansas City in their initial game, behind a solid 66 yard effort from emerging WR Nick Toon. With a roster spot secure, Toon will look to move up the depth chart, with Morgan injured. Mark Ingram produced lukewarm results, rushing for 12 on 3 attempts, in search of a breakout season with Ivory gone and Thomas dinged yet again.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa Bay was flattened against Baltimore, scoring just 16 points to the 44 of the reigning Super Bowl champs. Hillis left the game with a hyperextended knee, with no timetable yet for his return. Ogletree was one of the few bright spots, registered 5 receptions for 65 yards. Revis still looks to be on track to play week 1.
Dallas Cowboys: Dallas lost their second contest after winning their initial bid, this time against Oakland to the tune of a 19-17 defeat on Friday. Dez Bryant looked very sharp, registering 55 yards on three receptions. Jerry Jones insists Jay Ratliff will be ready for week 1 as he nurses a hamstring, while Cole Beasley sprained his foot, and Terrance Williams was cleared to resume practicing after suffering a concussion.
New York Giants: The Giants nosed past the Steelers on Saturday, winning 18-13. Manning found Salsa for a deep strike touchdown, and saw respectable performances from its supporting cast of RB and secondary receivers. They used neither Nicks nor Pierre-Paul, whose injuries should reportedly clear by the beginning of the season.
Philadelphia Eagles: Philadelphia failed to defeat new England in its opener, registering 22 points but conceding 31. The defense let down the Eagles, getting utterly torched on the ground by Ridley and Blount. Vick, however, looked very sharp, hurling it for 94 yards and a deep TD to DeSean Jackson. He distinguished himself as the frontrunner, and it appears the starting job will be his to lose.
Washington Redskins: Fred Davis looked strong in the Washington opener, finding the end zone and collecting 14 yards along the way. The Skins snuck past Tennessee, but the scoreboard means little without RGIII. His health and recovery remains priority 1, and is reportedly on track to appear as the starter in Week 1.
Arizona Cardinals: Arizona registered an impressive 17-0 win over Green Bay on Friday. The encouraging factor for the Cards was a solid effort by Carson Palmer, who distributed the ball to several of his weapons to the tune of 77 yards and a TD. Their ground attack is wanting, so Palmer will need to remain consistent, aggressive and healthy for Arizona’s fate to trend upwards this season.
Seattle Seahawks: Seattle torched San Diego 31-10 on Friday, hoping to set a precedent which will run all the way to a title early next year. Christine Michael made an impressive debut in his bid to be the backup to Beast Mode. Seattle has spent a great deal of energy assembling the pieces on both sides of the ball for a title run. Their clashes with SF to battle for divisional supremacy should be ferocious and not to be missed.
St. Louis Rams: As the Rams use the preseason to sort out what’s what, they fell to Cleveland in their week 1 campaign by a score of 27-19. Daryl Richardson looked strong early, while Tavon Austin failed to impress in the opening game. Still a long way to go before any of this matters, but Bradford looked solid, going 5-8 for 108 and a score.
San Francisco 49ers: The Niners took a brief holiday from acquiring free agents this week and actually competed on the field, dropping their initial preseason game to Denver by a score of 10-6. On the upside, Kendall Hunter was activated from PUP, Collie’s reps will increase, and the stinger to Colt McCoy will not sideline him Friday in their second preseason bid against the Chiefs.
The preseason is now in full swing, and September is now within arm’s reach. Keep it here for all the updates, roster moves and injuries as we move that much closer to the greatest Sunday of them all, Kickoff Weekend.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.