I will, once again, preface this by saying I do not believe much of anything that happens in the pre-season. The pre-season exists in the National Football League for coaches to evaluate players. Period. There is nothing more to it.
However, after the first two weeks one thing is certain: The evaluations are well along and we are starting to see the rudimentary outline of each team’s starting 22.
With that in mind, let’s look at what we’ve learned after the first two weeks of a long, four-week pre-season schedule. Here are 10 Trends from Pre-Season Week 2:
(1) I love Russell Wilson. The Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback will probably be the backup to Matt Flynn when the season starts but he could very well be the starter considering what we’ve seen so far. He has great feet, excellent presence in the pocket and a good eye for his second and third reads. He went 10-for-17 for 155 yards and two touchdowns in Seattle’s 30-10 win over Denver and while Flynn appears to be No. 1, there are still two weeks left.
(2) The Seahawks have ramped up efforts to trade last year’s No. 1 quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who will not play at all in Seattle this season. However, the guy who is No. 1, Matt Flynn, might have second thoughts about ever throwing to Terrell Owens again. Flynn threw five passes at the veteran receiver on Saturday night. Owens caught none of them, ran some horrendous patterns and dropped a potential 48-yard TD pass. If Seattle likes T.O., they’d love Chad Johnson.
(3) Peyton Manning’s numbers on Saturday weren’t great: 16-for-23, 177 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. However, he had three passes dropped by receivers who should be better and his two INTs came on deep passes that missed their targets completely. Not that any of that matters. Manning isn’t fighting for a job.
(4) If I were a betting man, I’d bet John Skelton wins the starting QBs job in Arizona. First of all, ESPN reported this week that Cardinals management wants Skelton to win the job. Then came Friday night’s pre-season game: Kevin Kolb, the incumbent starter went three-for-six for 22 yards while Skelton went three-for-three for 23 yards and a touchdown. Yeah, yeah, I know, the pre-season doesn’t mean anything, but if indeed, management wants Skelton, then he took a big step toward winning the blessing of the coaches.
(5) It looks pretty certain that rookie Ryan Tannehill will be the No. 1 quarterback in Miami. Tannehill wasn’t great in a 23-17 loss to Carolina, but he wasn’t bad. He went 11-for-23 for 100 yards, but didn’t throw an interception. The pre- pre-season No. 1, Matt Moore, was awful: five-for-15 for 57 yards. After two pretty good games, it appears that the job is now Tannehill’s to lose. There is nothing the Dolphins would like more than to have this first round draft pick make good and be the team’s QB for a long, long time.
(6) In that same game, Carolina QB Cam Newton went eight-for-11 for 119 yards and a touchdown and ran the ball only once. He did everything the coaching asked and looked regular-season sharp. Newton appears to be on his way to taking the Panthers well into the playoffs this season.
(7) All of those gamers and fantasy players who constantly worry about the Madden Curse got through this week of pre-season action. Calvin (Megatron) Johnson, the cover boy on Madden 2012, was tremendous catching five passes from Lions QB Matthew Stafford for 111 yards. He made a gamer-worthy catch on an 18-yard TD pass and a fantasy-worthy grab on a 57-yard gain as Detroit beat Baltimore 27-12. Everyone in Baltimore could have gone home at half-time. Matthew and Megatron played the first half and were clearly the stars of this one.
(8) I have not been a Blaine Gabbert fan, but on Friday night, he was pretty darn good. Gabbert went 13-for-16 for 112 yards and two touchdowns as Jacksonville beat New Orleans 27-24. The outcome is meaningless, but Gabbert’s performance gives Jags fans hope that their team might have a future. By the way, Jags all-pro RB Maurice Jones-Drew is a pre-season holdout and the Jags have been concerned, but on Friday night, Rashad Jennings rushed for 62 yards on 11 carries and proved once again that good tailbacks can indeed be found under rocks.
(9) The Minnesota Vikings blasted the Buffalo Bills 36-14. Remember, it’s only pre-season. However, Vikes QB Christian Ponder looked like a big time veteran. Head coach Leslie Frazier said all week he wanted to, “see Ponder progress through the pre-season games,” and he certainly progressed this week. Ponder went 10-for-13 for 136 yards and a touchdown. Nice work, even in pre-season. Young Vikings linebacker Audie Cole had two interceptions and he’s an interesting specimen.
(10) Nobody’s perfect, especially in pre-season. Robert Griffin III took a step back in his second start as an NFL quarterback, rushing three times for 17 yards (good) losing a fumble (not good), going three-for-five for 49 yards (not bad) but putting up only three points in six drives (not what was expected). The Washington Redskins lost 33-31 to the Chicago Bears as Griffin’s 24-year-old backup, Kirk Cousins went 18-for-23 for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Wow!
Again, it’s only pre-season, but we do see trends, and in Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Seattle and Carolina there is some trending upward.