Winning the "Best Game" Espy is about as thrilling as Week 1 Preseason
The futility and prolonged dry-hump that is the NFL preseason has been discussed ad nauseum. Teams make roster cuts, avoid any major injuries, get fitted for new more unsightly jerseys. Some become fixated on overcoming a dominant trend. The following are a number of things that are worth thinking about while you watch the 3rd string play tomorrow night.
Roster Changes: For those of you that tuned in to the Hall of Fame Game the other night and heard Collinsworth’s overstatement of Nate Washington as a “big-time game breaker” and might be thinking about our drop off at the #3 receiver position as well as Sweed’s butter fingers from last season. The Titan's new primary receiver was servicable, but big time threat? Also, the loss of Larry Foote means the onus will be on Lawrence Timmons as the newest backer in the club’s storied line. For my money, he’s younger, faster and I’m looking forward to watching him pick pieces of Flacco’s scalp out of his facemask.
Draft success: The word out of camp is undrafted long-shot Isaac Redman is proving to be the most impressive running back, with Parker taking light loads. Although, with recently signed Mewelde Moore, 2nd year Mendenhall and draftee Frank Summers in the fold, it’d likely take Redman beating out Carey Davis to make the squad. 3rd round pick Mike Wallace might push Sweed a little bit this season, too, adding more intrigue to that third receiver position. Then again, we’re still in the Michael Vick sweepstakes according to some, and I’d take him in the slot, too. Say what you want about his off the field issues, but the Rooney's have a knack for rehabbing players' images and Tony Dungy's recent assertion that Vick needs to "find a football family" lends more creedance to the Vick to PIT talk. Lastly, I don’t see Evander Hood making the impact some figure him to this year, remember how Woodley and Timmons were brought along…gradually.
The O-line: A lot was made of this last year, but the rag-tag group obviously got the job done. Tomlin has already discussed the fact that a number of new pass-blocking options are being integrated, some involving double-backed sets and counter blocking. I’d love to see a pulling guard pancake a few in the backfield. Worth noting that Urbik and Shipley, drafted linemen have a chance to grab some scrap minutes, too.
Injuries: The greatest concern of any coach, fan and agent leading up to the the season. I was leaving St. Margret’s Hospital last week and literally bumped into Darnell Stapleton as he “crutched” his way from the professional building to the team van bound for Latrobe. He seemed very upbeat having heard team doctor Bradley predict only the first few games of the season would be missed, if at all. Aside from that you have the standard arm/shoulder concerns about #7, endurance issues with Parker and Casey Hampton’s knees (though his weight at camp is encouraging).
Personally, I'll be eager to see Sepulveda boom a few and watch Pittsburgh's own Steve Breaston zip around...