The Preseason in the NFL is a source of much controversy. Interestingly, from a UK fan perspective, it is perceived so differently to the preseason of ‘our’ sports such as football (association), cricket, etc. etc. The games themselves are built in to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the league and the players and so to change them would require contractual negotiations and agreement. They are seen by players as a hindrance and risk for injury. They take place in a sense of mostly faux-competition where everyone understands the cost of a serious injury in a game that ‘doesn’t mean anything’.
The main exception is the third preseason game where nearly all teams give the starters (or ‘ones’ in the lingo of the NFL and romantic comedies / ground-breaking dystopian film which becomes unfathomable rubbish in their second and third instalments) a full half of football.
So what do we look for in the early preseason games? We look at how true the first depth chart is. Do the starters look at least fit? Any major plays to crow about. Rookies to see in their new NFL uniform for the first time. And then are major storylines from the back-ups who are fighting for a spot.
With that in mind, let’s wrap up any items of note from the AFC South’s first football of the season.
Jags @ Jets – Hot Takes
The Jaguars looked sharp with the starters on the field. Their best player on offence, Allen Robinson, gave a sneak peak that he might be even better than last year with two highlight-reel catches. Blake Bortles looked confident and composed in brief work and the running back tandem looked like the ‘thunder and lightning’ combo they team needs them to be – TJ Yeldon flashed pace, elusiveness and vision, Chris Ivory some burst, raw power and the ability to push his legs through the pads of defenders. Marquis Lee showed some nice moves and made some good catches as he seeks to solidify his place as the third wide receiver.
On defence it was an OK day at the office. Two highlights were a first sack for third-round rookie Yannick Ngakoue who flashed some nice moves and then – REDEMPTION KLAXON – Colts cast-off and draft bust Bjoern Werner got after it with the second string (the ‘twos’, and no sci-fi movie made about the ‘two’, to my knowledge). Werner recorded a sack and showed some endurance chasing a play down. If the Jags can get some rotational support from Werner then that would be an unexpected boon and only help this promising D.
Myles Jack looked fast with a high motor as he covered the field sideline-to-sideline without making any splashy plays. Encouraging though
Not much really. A solid outing on both sides of the ball. Errors occurred but that is to be expected. The absence of 5th overall pick Jalen Ramsey was not a huge surprise given his rehab from injury and we will likely see him a little later in the offseason.
Chargers @ Titans – Hot Takes
Fire up the hype machine! The Titans had some bright spots in their opener in tricky conditions – heavy rain – at home. Marcus Mariota made some nice passes in a brief cameo, including one throw that had a lovely bit of flight and touch. But we were kind of expecting Mariota to be OK. Where the hype really starts rolling is with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. DMM looked much more decisive hitting the hole than at any point during his time with the Eagles and peeled off a very impressive 71 yard TD run. Henry was just fun to watch. He barrelled through tackles and generally looked like the step to the NFL isn’t going to faze him. Tajae Sharpe showed real promise too. If he can add a dynamic threat to that WR group, Mariota and all Titans fans will be delighted.
On D, not much in this section but Jurrell Casey flashed on one play early in the game, getting in to the backfield and making a tackle low through traffic. The play was blown dead but nonetheless, bright spots where we can find them, eh?
The D, overall, looked a bit rusty. They allowed themselves to be beaten in 50-50 situations and the Chargers moved on them, especially early (when, let’s be honest, it matters). On Melvin Gordon’s TD catch-and-run, he rolled two Titans defenders inside the five-yard line FAR too easily. That seemed to be a theme in this game.
Silly penalties also weren’t a great sign. After Henry bulldozed them to the one yard line, back-to-back 10 yard penalties took them back outside the RedZone. That sort of thing can be devastating to a team during the season and the coaching staff will have to make sure this is an aberration. Discipline is key and the talk of ‘smashmouth’ etc. doesn’t become a byword for lax play.
Colts @ Bills – Hot Takes
Where to start? I ask this because I genuinely don’t know what to take away from this game for the Colts. Andrew Luck and Frank Gore were held out. According to tweets from owner Jim Irsay, this was in part due to the fact that Bills head coach Rex Ryan has an ‘over enthusiastic’ approach to the pre-season, shall we say.
Back-up RB Jordan Todman reeled in a dump-off and wheeled in for a 42 yard TD but, watching it, he had open field and didn’t have to do much to get through the Bills back-ups.
In keeping with the offseason in Indy, without Luck in the frame it was all pretty dull and meandering. Some concern should probably be flagged on Luck’s back-up, Scott Tolzien. He didn’t have the greatest of outings with the first-string.
Really, we learned less from the Colts outing that we have from the other AFC South teams, and though it is all to be taken with a pinch of salt, it’s fair to assume Colts fans are keen for some indication of progress.
Texans @ 49ers – Hot Takes
Bits and bobs from the Texans. In the first quarter, the defence had some nice plays. John Simon made some waves with a nice tackle stuffing a run play at the line of scrimmage and then was the beneficiary of Christian Covington popping the ball out, scooping up the fumble and running it in for a TD. The secondary seemed to be on their game with a couple of tipped passes.
When the back-ups came in for the second quarter they had a couple of highlights including a turnover near their own goalline.
On offence Lamar Miller looked good in spots, showing some light feet behind the line and then bursting through. The WRs didn’t get much joy from Brock Osweiler but Jalaen Strong and Braxton Miller saw action with Tom Savage under centre. Miller particularly made one catch that showed the sort of smarts that means he is acclimatising to the position from his former QB role at Ohio State.
The D didn’t have it all their own way and Vance McDonald walked in a TD, though McKinney lost his footing, there was a lot of space for the 9ers TE to play with.
Osweiler took a big sack where he held the ball for far too long despite Miller being out in the flat for him.
Later in the game, first-round pick Will Fuller was, for some unknown reason (to me), was on punt return duty. He got inevitably lit-up as he fielded the ball. That is one of those inexplicable calls that coaches make that baffle me.
It’s week one of the preseason so every highlight and lowlight here is presented for entertainment value only. Don’t start adjusting your predictions, dogging the Colts or having the Titans roll to the Super Bowl.
Of the four teams in the AFC South, the Jaguars and Titans probably had the best week but we’d expect that given they have the most improving to do. The most important thing is getting through these games without major injury.
The four AFC South teams all come home for the second games of the preseason. The Colts host the Ravens, the Jags welcome their Floridian rivals Tampa Bay, the Saints make the short hop to Houston and the Titans face the Panthers in music city. There will be a review of those games and any major storylines next week.
Gareth Duxbury enjoys football both American and Association. Follows Washington in the former, Sheffield Wednesday in the latter. His love of QB play only topped by his fandom of Inside Linebackers. He tweets from