So, let’s be real here for a moment. We’re talking about the preseason. I know that we’re all excited to see NFL Football, but let’s not crown a new Super Bowl Champion just yet. The best teams are showing very little of their real potential this early, using the games as extra practices, while the worst teams are getting as many reps as possible for their top talent. You want to know who went undefeated in the preseason last year? Yup, the Browns. It’s a weird time of year. That doesn’t mean we can’t watch the tape and learn some things around the league.
1. The Pack is Back
I’m not sure what, during the preseason, can be considered a thorough ass-whipping, but I think Green Bay’s 51-34 dismantling of the Steelers might have been it. Led by third stringer DeShone Kizer, the Packers used four quarterbacks to score four TDs, hitting an astounding twelve receivers in the process. Rookie Jake Kumerow turned a fifteen-yard sideline route from Kizer into a massive 82-yard gallop, and Aaron Rodgers showed some chemistry with new tight end Jimmy Graham on an eight-yard score. The defense looked poised and opportunistic as well, bringing back two interceptions for touchdowns. I’m not totally sold on the Pack yet, especially on defense, but it would be nice to see them put some pressure on the Vikings.
2. The Helmet Rule is not going anywhere
Sorry old-schoolers and fans of excessive violence. The league has issued a clarification and confirmation of the rule, but nothing else. No additional replays will be authorized for this type of penalty. Furthermore, the competition committee confirmed that accidental, or incidental contact with the helmet and facemask are not a penalty. Listen. I don’t want to be too flip here, but it’s actually really simple. Don’t get a running start at a guy, then use the metal dome on top of your head to ram him in the stomach or face. That’s it. Keep your head up and eyes on your target and you can still maul the guy. I know that it’s going to take three to four years for coaches and players to figure this out, but it’s a good safety rule. Just because a hit was legal when Lawrence Taylor was trying to kill quarterbacks in a coked-up frenzy doesn’t mean that it can’t be a penalty this year.
3. The Vikings are on a mission.
I’m not sure that the Vikings needed to do a ton to defend their divisional title and make a Super Bowl run, but here we are. They’re one and one this preseason after losing a defensively minded scrimmage with the Jaguars, and what do they do? They pick up free agent safety George Iloka from the Bengals. Minnesota’s defense was already stacked, and the addition of Iloka could mean that thirty-year- old strong safety Andrew Sendejo could be the odd man out. Iloka is a few years younger and a little quicker these days, but the real reason for the move might be generational. Sendejo has been seen at camp rocking a “Make Football Violent Again” hat, as some sort of quiet protest against the league’s efforts to clean up the game. It’s not much of a stretch to see a competitive Vikings team not wanting to see a win or two slip away over a silly penalty. Plenty of teams are worried about the implementation of the new rule, but Minnesota might have been the first to make a personnel decision based on it.
4. Mike Williams might be the next big thing in LA.
Sure, the Rams have the whole killer-G thing going on (What? Still not a thing? I’ll keep trying…), but the most exciting playmaker in La-La Land might be in the Chargers powder blue. The second-year wide receiver out of Clemson was dinged up last year with a herniated disc in his back and played sparingly. But it’s a new year, and Williams is showing the top end potential that made him the seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft. He’s 6’3” and 205lbs, but he’s fast and has serious ups. He’s been high-pointing passes all preseason long, even hauling in a Geno Smith pass for a TD against the Seahawks this week. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a tremendous asset to Philip Rivers in the Chargers passing game, which ranked third in the league last year.
5. It was a nice run, Buffalo
The NFL season is a war of attrition, but sometimes the preseason can take victims of its own. The Bills, who made the postseason for the first time this millennium last year, immediately traded away the quarterback who got them there, and they now have, without a doubt, the worst QB room in the entire NFL. With Tyrod Taylor presumably winning the QB1 job over Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, the Bills have to be kicking themselves despite their win over Cleveland this week. Bills presumed starter A.J. McCarron is out with collarbone soreness and Josh Allen, who has looked anything but NFL-ready thus far will lead the first team until McCarron is back in the lineup. The Bills only other option? Nathan Peterman, who looked just fine against the Browns. He was 8-10 with a TD, but we all know how that story ends (five interceptions in a half, in case you missed that particularly nauseating highlight). To make matters worse, All-everything running back LeSean McCoy is limited in practice this week with a groin injury, so he’s likely to sit back and rest before the games really matter. It won’t matter who’s under center for the Bills if McCoy isn’t at 100 percent.
Image Source: AP