Chicago Bears 2nd-round pick Alshon Jeffery made his case for a starting job on Saturday with three catches for 62 yards in the Bears second preseason game.
Jeffery should be one of Cutler's favorite targets
Jeffery caught a 16-yard pass from Jay Cutler in the 1st quarter. He then caught passes from Jason Campbell on consecutive plays – a 12-yard reception (despite defensive pass interference) followed up by a 42-yard play.
I was skeptical of Jeffery during the draft process primarily because of his poor conditioning and occasional lack of effort, but he’s made a strong impression so far with the Bears. He will definitely crack the 53-man roster, but the only question remaining is how much action he will see. Physically, he’s similar to Brandon Marshall, which could limit his role in the Bears offense.
In an effort to upgrade their weak receiving corps, the San Francisco 49ers spent a 1st-round pick on A.J. Jenkins – a pick many (myself included) believed to be a reach.
Now, at least according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, Jenkins may be in jeopardy of starting the season on the inactive list. Maiocco believes it is “highly unlikely” that Jenkins will make the cut, with the five receiver spots going to Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Ted Ginn Jr., Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams.
Jenkins will likely see significant playing time in the 49ers second preseason game on Saturday night, and his performance could be critical to his standing on the season-opening depth chart.
The Detroit Lions already have a backup quarterback (Shaun Hill) so the interest in Kellen Moore is purely based on his impressive college career. But, nonetheless, people are interested, so here’s the update.
After a dismal showing against the Cleveland Browns, Moore completed 10 of 15 passes against the Ravens on Friday night. At first glance the stats seem to be encouraging, but Moore ran a very conservative version of the Lions offense, rarely throwing the ball more than few yards downfield. He netted just 96 yards through the air, good for a 6.4 yards per attempt rate.
Through his two preseason games, Moore is averaging just 4.69 yards per attempt, a rate which would have ranked dead last in the NFL in 2011 (even Blaine Gabbert averaged 5.36).
When the Baltimore Ravens selected Bernard Pierce in the 3rd round many assumed he would enter the season as Ray Rice’s backup. But after missing the Ravens first preseason game and a sub-par showing in his debut on Friday, suddenly the job is up for grabs.
Pierce carried the ball four times for just one yard, however he did a lot more running than his stats indicate. Piece initially ripped of runs of six and seven yards, but later managed to lose 14 yards when he tried to turn the corner and ended up deep in the backfield in an effort to escape the collapsing defense.
Fellow rookie Bobby Rainey and second-year back Anthony Allen are Pierce’s closest competition. John Harbaugh acknowledged that he has yet to decide on a backup for Rice.
Undrafted free agent Case Keenum is making a strong impression in Houston Texans camp.
The undersized quarterback may be a long shot to make the roster but, according to the Houston Chronicle, head coach Gary Kubiak has been impressed with his performance thus far. Kubiak told reporters, “Guys kind of gravitate to him. We’ve got guys from all over this country trying to make this team, and he can take his group and get them going in the right direction.”
T.J. Yates already has the backup job locked up in Houston, but there is a chance the team decides to carry three quarterbacks, especially considering Matt Schaub’s recent injury history. And even if Houston elects to stick with just two signal callers, it sounds as though they would be happy to stash Keenum on the practice squad.
The Minnesota Vikings aren’t wasting any time making 1st-round pick Harrison Smith a focal point of their defensive strategy. Said Leslie Frazier: “We’re counting on him to be the starter. That’s why we drafted him where we did.” Smith started at free safety on Friday and was impressive in his 28 snaps, recording two tackles and knocking down a pass.
It sounds as though the Vikings are relying on Smith more for his coverage skills than his ability to get into the backfield. According to Smith, ”The coaches have kind of been saying, ‘If we call your number on a blitz and you don’t make a play, we’re probably not going to send you again.’”
That may be an oversimplification by Smith, but it makes sense. The Vikings secondary has struggled immensly in recent years, and in the NFC North they can use all the help they can get. While it’d be nice to get some pressure on Rodgers, Stafford and Cutler, Smith is probably most valuable dropping back in coverage in an effort to aid the Vikings somewhat suspect cornerbacks.
Ryan Tannehill completed less than 50 percent of his throws in his first career start for the Miami Dolphins, a disappointing stat line for a guy that local columnists are already comparing to Dan Marino.
On a positive note, however, Tannehill appears to still have a strong connection with his college teammate Jeff Fuller. Arguably Tannehill’s best throw of the night came on a 20-yard completion to Fuller which helped set up a Dolphins touchdown.
Ultimately Tannehill didn’t do enough to win the starting job tonight, but he probably didn’t do anything to lose it. This competition probably drags on for another week.
The Cleveland Browns have already settled on Brandon Weeden as their starter, but his preseason debut was less than impressive. Fortunately Game 2 went a little more smoothly. After the game Weededn stated ”It was definitely an upgrade for me over last week. I just wanted to go out and get better, and I think I did that.”
While Weeden did improve, he still struggled under pressure. One play nearly lead to disaster for Weeden when the collapsing pocket forced him to fire a pass across the middle right into the arms of A.J. Hawk, who failed to corral the errant throw.
Overall, this was definitely a step in the right direction for Weeden, but by no means should Browns fans expect a Cam Newton or Andy Dalton like rookie season from their signal caller.
Dallas Cowboys 1st-round pick Morris Claiborne is finally healthy and ready to make his preseason debut on Saturday against the Chargers. Claiborne stated that he would be willing to play the entire game if coaches let him, but it’s likely the Cowboys will ease him into action.
Claiborne has battled injuries throughout the offseason (wrist and knee) and is just now completing his first full week of practice.
It’s never ideal to rely on a rookie, but the Cowboys need Claiborne to play a significant role in their secondary. As a result, his return to the field may be the best news the Cowboys have received in training camp thus far, giving him three full games to get up to speed.
Minnesota Vikings 4th-round pick Jarius Wright has impressed coaches with his football knowledge, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Receivers coach George Stewart stated that Wright’s route-running is still a work in progress, but he caught the attention of coaches with his ability to absorb the playbook and understand their various formations.
This is an encouraging sign for Wright, who many believed was a one-dimensional receiver and could do little except stretch the field. Wright’s speed will certainly be an asset, but it sounds as though he is putting in the time and effort to develop into a more well-rounded receiver.