With the third week of preseason games in the books, we now have a much better idea of how NFL teams will look this year. While most preseason games are used primarily for player evaluation by the coaches, the third week is traditionally used to trot out the first-teamers and build some game time chemistry. Let’s take a look at who clicked and who clunked this week.
Julian Edelman-Tom Brady and the Patriots will be without their number one pass-catcher, as the NFL’s top slot receiver Julian Edelman will miss the entire season with an ACL tear. The non-contact injury leaves the Super Bowl champs without a versatile and dangerous route runner who is in virtual lockstep with Brady as plays develop at the line. The offseason acquisition of Brandin Cooks from the Saints and the late season emergence of Chris Hogan as a trusted target should help soften the blow, and a healthy Rob Gronkowski should lighten the load, but make no mistake, the Patriots will miss Edelman sorely when the pressure is at its highest.
Most of the Buffalo Bills’ Depth Chart at QB- Remember when we mentioned that QB Colin Kaepernick still didn’t have a job? Well the Bills haven’t called his number yet, but with their top two options at QB in the concussion protocol following this week’s preseason matchup against the Ravens, it might not be a bad idea to make a few phone calls. Though Buffalo coach Sean McDermott has yet to name a week one starter, he will be limiting their untested, fifth round selection, rookie Nathan Peterman in the fourth preseason matchup. It’s not too optimistic to hope that either Yates or Taylor could make it back to start the season, but that’s a pretty thin depth chart and Taylor does have a tendency to get dinged up.
Andrew Luck and Vontae Davis-The Colts are in rough shape as well, with the future of their franchise QB uncertain. Andrew Luck’s surgically repaired throwing shoulder is theoretically on the mend, but reportedly, Coach Chuck Pagano has yet to see him throw a football. You can take that with a grain of salt if you like, but the chances that he will be ready for week one are getting smaller and smaller by the minute. Hopes aren’t particularly high in Indy this year, and that’s probably for the best. Any impulse to rush Luck back could result in disaster. To make matters worse in Indy, their defense just took a knock that will likely take a few weeks to heal. Vontae Davis suffered a “significant” groin injury, leaving the Colts D without their top cover corner. Without Davis to cover their opponent’s best receiver, the Colts will likely get stretched by rival offenses.
Vontaze Burfict- Hard-hitting Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict will appeal a five-game suspension handed down by the league office for a bone-jangling hit on Anthony Sherman of the Chiefs a few weeks back. While the hit wasn’t penalized in real time by the refs, the review by league officials considered the hit to be dangerous. Burfict will appeal the suspension in hopes of having it reduced or overturned, but he is hardly a first time offender and his chances are slim at best. The NFL Rules Committee has tightened up rules regarding “defenseless” receivers this year, so expect to see this be a focus area for referees as the season gets rolling.
Who’s Getting Paid (or Played)
Matthew Stafford-The Lions can rest easy knowing they have their franchise quarterback locked down for the next five years, even if it cost them record money and the team’s immediate future to do so. Stafford and the Lions just inked a 5 year, $135-million-dollar extension. That’s a lot of cash for a guy who’s under .500 as a starter in his career. Stafford should thank his Calvin-Johnson-aided passing stats and an improbable playoff appearance last year for the payday. While some may defend his contract by saying that he’s never had a cast of characters around him, this contract probably ensures that he never will. The cap hit virtually guarantees that the Lions won’t be able to contend for free agent pieces to help them build a balanced offense, or bulk up on the other side of the ball. That’s where we’re at in today’s NFL though. A solid QB is worth a king’s ransom, because the alternative is prolonged mediocrity. Also, it should be mentioned that Stafford has 1) never won a playoff game despite three trips to the postseason and 2) has won less than ten percent of his games against winning teams. That last one is particularly damning, as it shows that when he faces competition that has earned this sort of payday, he folds like origami.
Who’s Getting One More Week in the Sun?
The preseason concludes on Thursday with a jam-packed slate of games that will be a little more crowded than previous years. New rules this year have eliminated the mandatory cut from 90-75 players prior to the final preseason game. This means a few notable things. Firstly, coaches will have one more week to see how guys on the bubble handle pressure. Second, teams without many bubble positions can rest starters and second-teamers to keep them fresh for when the games really matter. While the expanded roster for this game is probably a last chance for some guys and a luxury to some coaches, I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see too many eleventh-hour miracles. The coaches know pretty well at this point who’s in and who’s out.
Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.