Sunday, 9 September 2012

5 Things I think about Sunday's Early Games

1. How does it happen that, every year, fans and analysts get worked up on the preseason, make predictions based on the preseason, and preseason performance is mentioned ad nauseam in pre-game punditry for week one, only for everyone to immediately realise and agree that the preseason doesn't matter about 10 minutes into the games. And people will keep saying things like, "and here's more proof that the preseason is irrelevant". We know. We went through this rollercoaster of emotion last year. At some point we have to agree that the way coaches play preseason games is all about assessing elements of their team that don't really interest the media, and that we only talk about it like it's relevant to the important stuff because we have nothing else to do.

2. It sucks watching the Browns continue to make awful decisions year in year out, especially when Dick Jauron has quietly fashioned that defense into a more than serviceable unit. It is an ugly reality of the game today that, especially in tumultuous and unstable franchises, under pressure head coaches will continue to lose focus on the task at hand. Pat Shurmur and Mike Holmgren seem to have lost their focus on winning games. The decision to gamble Brandon Weeden's development and Trent Richardson's health  by rushing them into action Week One was not a responsible football judgement. It was a desperate ploy by two guys with a new owner to impress, who are prioritising the significance of vindicating their own bold draft decisions as soon as possible. Patience is a difficult thing to stomach for a coach on the hotseat, or an owner keen to ring the changes, but it's arguably the most important difference between the NFL's best and worst teams. Eli took years to become Eli. Peyton took a decade to win a playoff game. Don Shula went 3-10 in his first season as the coach of the Miami Dolphins. Rodgers and Brady both warmed benches for the first years of their NFL careers. The Browns impatience is bringing them no closer to where they want to be.

3. Congratulations Jacksonville, it looks like Gabbert's critics came too soon. It's one game, and Gabbert needs to build on a strong performance to truly overturn the negative perception of him, but hopefully he'll continue to develop and impress. Mojo's return, and increasing acclimatisation of his receivers in the system, should help Gabbert in this enterprise. A ton of credit will also be owed to Mike Mularkey, much maligned in Atlanta for his play-off malaise, but a smart choice to develop a young, raw quarterback.

4. Adrian Peterson is unreal. Those knee injuries do not go down easy, but Peterson played with awesome toughness and violence against the Jaguars. I fear they gambled by bringing him back so early, especially when his backup showed so much promise last season, but that doesn't mean I'm not a little awed by what he did when it was asked of him.

5. The tail end of last season was all about pass rush. Pierre-Paul was dominating the headlines, Aldon Smith and Von Miller were vying for the DROY crown, and Terell Suggs fought off Revis island to be named as the deensive player of the year. But in week one so far, pass rush has not been the order of the day. The vaunted Giants front struggled to trouble an ascendant Romo, and the 100 million dollar man Mario Williams was anonymous against the Jets. Even the extraordinarily talented Eagles front registered a pathetice two sacks of rookie Brandon Weeden. Mathias Kiwanuka was not the first to blame holding for this drought, blaming the replacement refs by implication, and he won't be the last.

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