NFCN Games – After Three Preseason Games

NFCN Games – After Three Preseason Games

After each week’s NFCN games are accounted for some of our Barroom staff shares thoughts on what impressed them and didn’t. It’s an excellent way to get a snapshot of how your rival teams are doing. Make sure you let us know how we’re doing. Drop a comment below or tweet us at @NFCNBarroom or on our Facebook page. 

NFCN Games

NFCN GAMES – GREEN BAY AT SAN FRANCISCO – ADAM JOHNSON

What impressed me the most about the Packers performance

I was most impressed by the Green Bay Packers’ pass defense. Keep in mind that the Packers’ secondary played with just one cornerback who has more than a season in the NFL. Giving up just 61 passing yards to one of the fastest up tempo offenses in the league is very impressive. After giving up some big plays in recent weeks to Terrelle Pryor and the Cleveland Browns and Seth Roberts and the Oakland Raiders, the secondary was defect-free. The longest pass play of the night was a 14-yarder to Blake Bell.

The entire secondary looks in excellent shape to start the season. It’s an even deeper unit than we thought with un-drafted free agents Kentrell Brice and Josh Hawkins fighting for roster spots. Then there’s Marwin Evans. Where did he come from? Over the past two games his play is catching league-wide attention. See his interception here.

What disappointed me the most about the Packers performance

With just a week to go until rosters are cut to 53, the Packers still don`t have a clear indication as to who their punter will be Week 1 at Jacksonville. Both punters had long punts of 49 yards with Peter Mortell finishing the night with a 40.0 yard average off 4 punts and Tim Masthay a 43.0 yard average off 3 punts. We know Mortell and Masthay can boom it down the field, but both are extremely inconsistent and consistency is ultimately what will decide who will wins the job. It seems Coach Mike McCarthy is giving Mortell every opportunity to win the job. He’s been the first person holding on field goal attempts and that’s an important role for the punter. Ultimately, it comes down to choosing between the veteran Masthay who knows how to punt on the frozen tundra and the rookie who grew up in and around Lambeau Field (Mortell’s father and grandfather have operated the game clock for decades).

Players who stood out to me the most

On offense, Eddie Lacy, Jared Cook and Joe Callahan. Lacy had 45 yards off 7 carries and, so far in preseason, is looking like the running back he was in 2014. He still looks slightly out of breath at times and I wonder if he’s really lost as many pounds as Coach McCarthy wants. But, he is clearly in a lot better shape than last season. This run shows how he can motor around the edge.

Cook had 4 receptions for 54 yards and showed why Ted Thompson went out and got him in free agency.  He displayed some beautiful route running and capable hands. In my opinion, he’s this team’s starting tight end. While his blocking is not stellar and he’s still learning his assignments, what he does for the offense is something Green Bay has missed since they lost Jermichael Finley.

Callahan went 16-24 for 167 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He got off to a very shaky start after being sacked and fumbling early but recovered and went on to have an excellent game. He showed good awareness in the pocket and wasn`t afraid to take shots deep.

Callahan also led a brilliant drive downfield ending in an 18 yard touchdown pass to Jared Abbrederis.

Before I touch on the defense, I should note that Aaron Rodgers played his first, and only,  game of the 2016 preseason. And, he’s ready to go. The once and future MVP threw a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb.

As for the defense, I’ve already singled out members of the team’s secondary. The run defense still looks vulnerable as they allowed 134 yards. They were missing the team’s top two nose tackles veteran Letroy Guion and rookie Kenny Clark. Both are expected to be ready to play in week one of the regular season. The Packers should feel confident heading into their regular season opener after allowing 12 points or less in all three of their preseason games so far.

Adam Johnson

 

Ravens beat lions preseason

NFCN GAMES – DETROIT AT BALTIMORE – ALDO GANDIA

Who impressed me the most

The Detroit Lions averaged over 5 yards a carry against the Baltimore Ravens for a total of 101 yards. But running Theo Roddick accounted for 30% of those yards on one carry. Nonetheless the run is important because it shows Riddick’s excellent second effort. This is a team that, at times, looks disinterested and watching a tough-nosed run like Riddick’s should only inspire teammates,

We know that Riddick can catch the football – 80 receptions on 99 targets last season. But, he’s never averaged more than 3.1 yards per carry in his three NFL seasons. He’s not all to blame for that puny average as the team’s offensive line was incapable of carving running room for any of the team’s running backs. If the Lions offensive line begins to show anticipated improvements and Riddick can show more of this running moxie, maybe he will overtake Ameer Abdullah as the team’s No. 1 back and give the Lions a dual threat back.

By the end of the season when we’re tallying up votes for who was the best offseason free agent acquisition of all four NFCN teams, I expect Marvin Jones, Jr. to be a prime contender. The former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver is quickly showing that he’s not only a reliable pass target, but maybe, even capable of being a full-fledged No. 1 NFL receiver.

Jones has excellent hands, runs crisp routes, has breakaway speed and, as you can see, knows how to toe the sidelines. When he was acquired, there was talk that he wasn’t a true No. 1 receiver. At best, he’d be a 1a along with Golden Tate. But, Jones has all of the tools to be the guy. His former teammates at Cincy all speak highly of his work ethic. I expect this offense to have hiccups in the 2016 season, but Lions fans can breathe safely. Jones is the real deal.

After the first two preseason games I was beginning to wonder whether the team’s top draft pick, Taylor Decker, was ready to play left tackle in the NFL. After seeing him play the Ravens, I’m no longer wondering. Taylor Decker is going to be fine. We tend to over judge young players and I was guilty of that after two games of seeing Decker making multiple mistakes.

His work against the Ravens was solid and confirmed byProFootballFocus.com. I went to their site to see what kind of grade they gave Decker and his marks were the best of any lineman in the game with the exception of the Ravens center, Ryan Jensen. The guys at PFF wrote, “In 31 pass-blocking snaps, he allowed one lone pressure, and in 11 run-blocking snaps Decker took only one downgrade.” Decker is on his way to becoming a steady left tackle. He might even be an All-Pro caliber left tackle some day.

What disappointed me the most about the Lions performance

There was a lot to piss off Lions fans and the media during the game Thursday. As I watched the game and peeked at twitter I was surprised to read the sarcastic tweets by beat reporters.

It’s a whole new world of sports journalism from the time I carried a reporter’s note pad. I am digressing here, but I was taught to not become a fan of a team I was covering. Those tweets sound like those of broken-hearted, long-suffering fans.

Of course when I was taught journalism there were no computers, smart-phones or websites. (Seriously, I’m that old.)

Anyway, if you want a true accounting of what was disappointing from a fan’s perspective, I’ll refer you to Lions Barroom writer Kevin Remenap’s dissection of the Lions play – CLICK HERE.

I will share this: Head Coach Jim Caldwell has to do a better job of getting his team to play defect-free football. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has his worst outing of the preseason, the wide receivers dropped four of 17 catchable targets (per PFF’s stats) and the team committed dumb penalty after dumb penalty. That’s unacceptable.

The starters on offense failed to score a single touchdown during the entire preseason. That’s alarming. My expectations for this offense are high, despite the loss of Calvin Johnson. Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter had the entire offseason to fine tune an offense that, was among the best in the NFL after he took over in the middle of last season. Over a seven game stretch Stafford had a quarterback rating of 108.7. Statistically, Stafford was among the best quarterbacks from week ten to the end of the season.

Lions fans expect that momentum to carry into this season. That it’s no where to be seen in the preseason is disappointing.

Aldo Gandia

 

Chiefs beat Bears

NFCN GAMES – KANSAS CITY AT CHICAGO – ALDO GANDIA

Who impressed me the most

Back when we were collecting names of potential free-agent targets for the Bears earlier in the year, I listed Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan as two of the top three inside linebackers. I never dreamed the Bears would land both of these players. Trevathan’s play was limited Saturday as he was coming back from nursing a hamstring injury he had for the past couple of weeks. But, Freeman saw lots of playing time and displayed all of the qualities that made him a top free agent grab. He plays the run really well, is better than average at pass coverage and is a steady leader on the field.

Say, “Congratulations,” to Harold Jones-Quartay, because he has clearly won one of the starting safety jobs for the Bears. All camp long, HJQ has played exceptionally well. In fact, I would not be surprise if HJQ played at a consistent Pro Bowl level. All he needs to do is get his hands on some footballs for interceptions to reach that Pro Bowl tier.

The safety has been told by Bears coaches that they want him to create more turnovers. He played some wide receiver in college, so he has the hands to pick off passes. But, HJQ loves to hit ball carriers (he led the team in tackles Saturday with six) and that might sometimes cost him an opportunity for an interception. Defensive back coach Ed Donatell loves HJQ’s study habits so it’s only a matter of time that he passes the turnover test.

The Bears wide receivers did not play well Saturday, except for two guys: Daniel Braverman and Cameron Meredith. Both were in the game against 2nd and 3rd stringers but it’s clear both of these young athletes could become key contributors.

Meredith in particular flashed with four catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. Make sure you watch Phil Ottochian’s Doctor’s Office feature (to be released later today) where he breaks down tape of the game. He talks about Meredith’s athleticism and Braverman’s ability to get open.

What did not impress me

The trio of Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White had a disappointing afternoon at Soldier Field. Cutler was far from awful despite what you will read in some media reports. Even PFF unfairly evaluated his play. They wrote: “Jay Cutler looked poor, completing just six of his 13 pass attempts from 19 dropbacks. He threw for just 45 total yards in an entire half of football, and was booed at the half by the home fans. Cutler didn’t complete a single pass that went more than 9 yards from the line of scrimmage.” If Cutler was booed (I think the boos were directed at the entire offense) it’s probably because the media continues to dump shit on Cutler when he doesn’t fully deserve all of the stench.

What the PFF writer failed to note was that a streaking Alshon Jeffery dropped a pass in the middle of the field that could have gone for an 80 yard touchdown. The writer also failed to detect that Cutler missed White with a 15 yard pass only because the No. 1 draft pick of 2015 ran the wrong pass route.

Now, Cutler should not go blameless. His accuracy has to improve. The two pass drops by Jeffery might not have happened if the throws by Cutler were a little more on target. But, the adage is, if the ball hits your hands you should catch it. And both of Jeffery’s drops should have been caught.

When you watch Draft Dr. Phil’s tape review, I actually disagree on one of his analyses. Phil correctly points out that rookie center Cornelius Edison failed to pick up a blitzing linebacker who curled around the defensive tackles to reach Cutler. But, in my mind, Cutler should have read the blitz as soon as the ball was snapped. After not spotting a receiver he could hit in rhythm it was incumbent on Cutler to get rid of the ball or tuck it and run. Instead the veteran QB looked for a secondary receiver and was sacked. Inexcusable. Lots of people to blame there. Including the quarterback.

Cutler, Jeffery and White must get on the same page quickly. I say quickly, because I’m confident that they will. But, the practice reps are drying up and the season starts soon. I wonder if this trio is ready to jell by week one.

There’s one other disconcerting thing… In his last ten games coaching at Soldier Field John Fox is now 1-9. What’s up with that?

The Bears were 1-7 during the regular season – winning only on October 4th against the Oakland Raiders – and now finish the 2016 preseason with an 0-2 home record. That’s a disturbing trend the Bears won’t have a chance to correct until September 19th against the Philadelphia Eagles on a Monday night. Fox has worked on getting this team to play with a nasty edge when visiting opposing stadiums. It worked brilliantly for him last season when the Bears beat the Packers at Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving. But, Fox needs to do a better job of preaching that winning starts at home.

Aldo Gandia

 

Vikes chargers preseason

NFCN GAMES – SAN DIEGO AT MINNESOTA – JORDAN REID

What impressed me most

U.S. Bank Stadium

The opening of U.S. Bank Stadium was memorable. After the roof debacle of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Vikings were forced to play two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium. After all of the turmoil and anticipation, the debut of the franchise’s new stadium came to fruition and by all accounts everything was a success. The franchise now has a new attendance figure of 66,143. It’s a record that shouldn’t take long to break.

Teddy Bridgewater

The hottest debated topic amongst Vikings media throughout the week was the right shoulder of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The third-year signal caller was surprisingly sidelined against the Seahawks for what was called “shoulder soreness”.

With all eyes on his return, the Pro Bowl QB answered with a solid performance, ending the afternoon 12-for-16, for 161 yards and one touchdown. With three consecutive impressive throws on the teams two-minute drive, Bridgewater successfully quieted the questions surrounding his shoulder. He also displayed the ability to break ankles.


Jerick McKinnon

Labeled as the prime 2016 Vikings breakout candidate, Jerick McKinnon proved why fans are so excited about the future. The electric runner opened up the game with a 35-yard scamper. The former Georgia Southern product did not just display his versatility in the running game, but he was also solid in pass protection, keeping Bridgewater upright from blitzing linebackers on numerous occasions.

Trae Waynes

The improvement of the Vikings 2015 first-round selection continued. With Xavier Rhodes sidelined with a hamstring injury, Waynes stepped up and filled the void admirably.

The biggest knock on the no. 11 overall pick was his hip stiffness and inability to guard routes in the short-to-intermediate areas. In the first quarter, with Waynes hip-to-hip on a short route by Keenan Allen, he stopped on a dime to deflect a Philip Rivers pass that led to a Harrison Smith interception.

What I found most disappointing

Poor Redzone Offense

After two successful drives to begin the game, the Vikings offense failed to finish them with touchdowns. Instead, the drives ended in consecutive Blair Walsh field goals, giving them a 6-0 lead. Inefficiency in the redzone was one of the teams biggest weaknesses in last season, as they finished 27th in redzone offense.

T.J. Clemmings

With the absence of left tackle Matt Kalil, Clemmings was forced to step into the starting role. The team labeled Clemmings as a “swing tackle”, meaning he would play both left and right tackle spots.

After starting 17 games last season as a rookie, the second-year lineman still showed some of the bad tendencies he displayed a year ago. Clemmings still has a lot of flaws in his technique and lacks strength.

Safety Spot Opposite of Harrison Smith

The safety spot opposite of Harrison Smith is among one of the franchises biggest questions marks. Michael Griffin only played nine plays, taking a bad angle, and surrendering a 39-yard touchdown run to Melvin Gordon, Antone Exum was injured on a special teams play, Anthony Harris has still yet to play in a pre-season game due to injury, and Jayron Kearse is a developmental project. That leaves 2015 starter Andrew Sendejo as the lone option.

Outside of Kearse, none of the candidates for the spot have flashed. This is concerning. It seems as if Sendejo will win the starting job by default because Mike Zimmer isn’t going to start a seventh-round developmental project in Week 1.

Some other thoughts

– Second-round selection CB Mackensie Alexander flashed in a big way, as he collected his second interception of the pre-season. After a poor outing last week in Seattle, the talented cornerback bounced back in a big way, receiving Pro Football Focus’ top overall grade (88.7) of any player on either side of the ball.

– Laquon Treadwell got his first taste of the NFL endzone as he high pointed a Shaun Hill fade ball on a two-point conversion. The 2016 first-round selections traits were on full display as he used his large frame to win the contested matchup against Chargers rookie Trevor Williams

– In his first action of the pre-season, right guard Brandon Fusco was solid. A lot of eyes were on the sixth-year veteran after a poor 2015 season. Fusco cleared running lanes for McKinnon and didn’t give up any quarterback pressures.

– After John Sullivan was sidelined with what was called a “rest day”, Joe Berger continued to look solid in his absence. Berger seemed to have a firm grasp on the starting center spot as he has clearly outperformed Sullivan this pre-season.

– Defensive end Justin Trattou continued his impressive pre-season, creating constant pressure with two sacks and a forced fumble.

If you’re on twitter make sure you follow Jordan Reid @JReidDraftScout, Adam Johnson @PackersFans_and Aldo Gandia @AldoBarkeeper

 

 

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