By now there’s a good feel for the type of product each NFL team is going to put on the field to open the year. This set of quick notes from around the league highlights some important points we’ve observed from the most recent moments of prep time.
Old standards still impressing, disappointments turning it around, newcomers making something of their first shot; something for everyone as we have a peek at all 32.
Buffalo Bills: Kyle Williams is showing some of the form that made him our top-ranked defensive tackle in 2010. He was at his relentless best against the Steelers. Getting him back from injury could be the biggest positive for this team.
Miami Dolphins: The hardest thing for Ryan Tannehill to overcome may be dropped passes from his receivers. Ignore his completion percentage; he’s been a lot better than that so far. It’s just a shame his receivers haven’t been.
New England Patriots: Like ships passing in the night, the preseason has been where the previously impressive Patriots offensive line has stunk, and the formerly disappointing defensive front seven has excited. In their base formation, the Patriots now look like they have a trio of linebackers who can make plays.
New York Jets: The defense gets stronger as the offense gets weaker. Rookie defensive end Quinton Coples has got pressure while fellow draftee, Stephen Hill has had some very embarrassing drops. They have stemmed the flow of pressure from the right tackle position (temporarily, at least) where Austin Howard had a good game on Sunday.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens continue to play Michael Oher on the left and right side of the line, but after a season of struggles things are looking up. He gave up very little to the Jaguars’ underrated DE, Jeremy Mincey, and resembled the talented rookie who has been missing in action the past two years.
Cincinnati Bengals: It’s a shame that after a stellar 2009 season Leon Hall has had to battle injuries and a loss of form. That shows no signs of changing as he struggled to get to grips with Greg Jennings. Not even a year removed from a serious injury, it could take a while before Hall gets back to his best.
Cleveland Browns: He doesn’t get many interceptions (even if he had one this week), but if you watch how Joe Haden plays you’ll come away thinking he’s what a Pro Bowl cornerback should look like.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Nobody has been harsher on Ziggy Hood than Pro Football Focus, but he looks to have a little more about him–actually making the type of plays you’d expect from a former first round pick. Can he take it over to the regular season?
Houston Texans: Looking for a player to take a big leap forward this year? How about Glover Quin who is coming off a decent first season after switching to safety. He was around the ball and making plays all night against the Saints.
Indianapolis Colts: It’s like watching a different player with Dwight Freeney. He’s gone from a guy who played exclusively with his hand on the ground at the defensive right end spot to playing with his hand off the ground, attacking from the left, and dropping back on occasion. In one game we saw more of him in coverage than in his entire 2011 season.
Jacksonville Jaguars: So, Blaine Gabbert isn’t the second coming of Dan Marino, but even so, the improvement he’s made is extremely encouraging. It’s true he’s throwing some pretty conservative stuff, but the biggest knock on him was his poise in the pocket and that’s looked so much better. He was abysmal last year, but then how did Eli Manning perform as a rookie?
Tennessee Titans: You can see Jake Locker making some plays, but his lack of consistency to put a balls in favorable spots for his receivers is going to stifle this offense almost as much as his tendency to overthrow them. Growing pains ahoy.
Denver Broncos: He doesn’t have the same zip on his balls, but as Peyton Manning went to work on the 49ers, you couldn’t help but wonder just how good this Denver offense will be.
Kansas City Chiefs: If Brandon Flowers isn’t 100% at the start of the season, Chief fans should worry about whether Jalil Brown is ready to deputize for him. The way Russell Wilson threw for first down after first down against him is a big concern.
Oakland Raiders: When you spend what little free agency money you do have on a guard, that guard better be good. Unfortunately, Mike Brisiel looked over-matched against a powerful Lions line and spent most of the game being driven backwards. A worrying sign of things to come?
San Diego Chargers: There’s a lot of talent in the Chargers ’ outside linebacker group, but you wonder if the rotation they look like employing is a little overkill. No other team looks like they’ll be rotating their OLBs quite as frequently, with the A Team (Sean Phillips and Jarret Johnson) making way for the B team (Melvin Ingram and Larry English) while the Wild Card (Antwan Barnes) wreaks havoc on third down.
Dallas Cowboys: He was good last year, but Sean Lee could be about to take his game to another level as the Dallas defense asks more of him. His all-around play was on full display against the Rams.
New York Giants: It may have been a meaningless preseason game, but Eli Manning doesn’t look too far removed from his playoff form.
Philadelphia Eagles: He continues to fly under the radar but Derek Landri is a handful and then some. We question his ability under an increased workload, but there are few defensive tackles who demonstrate his ability to get off blocks and penetrate.
Washington Redskins: We didn’t say many nice things about Adam Carriker when the Redskins re-signed him. Watching him dominate Winston Justice last week could see us reassessing our view of him.
Chicago Bears: The Bears plan to fix their offensive line by returning nearly the same unit as last year looks a doomed one. With unreliable entities like Chris Williams and Chilo Rachal as the depth, Jay Cutler and Matt Forte are going to need to be at their best to make this offense work.
Detroit Lions: He may be a coaching staff favorite, but Kyle Vanden Bosch should expect a reduction in snaps. Willie Young demonstrated how good he can be by giving Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer plenty of problems.
Green Bay Packers: It’s never good losing a player like Desmond Bishop, and while we like D.J. Smith there’s going to be a drop off with him in the lineup (as opposed to the improvement if he had replaced A.J. Hawk). He took some bad angles and struggled with his open field tackling to show he’s not the finished product yet.
Minnesota Vikings: Will Matt Kalil get the red carpet rolled out for his induction into the elite left tackles in the league? At this time he looks a little short of earning that, giving up more pressure than your average Joe (Thomas) and struggling to make much happen in the run game.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have moved on from Curtis Lofton, and the signs aren’t encouraging for his replacement. Akeem Dent hasn’t shown the ability to shed blocks and make plays in traffic that was the trademark of Lofton’s game.
Carolina Panthers: How good was it to see outside linebacker Thomas Davis back on the field Sunday? Rotating snaps in nickel with Luke Kuechly, he made a number of excellent plays and showed it’s possible to come back from three consecutive ACL tears.
New Orleans Saints: He didn’t make much of a splash in his rookie year and isn’t the flashiest of defensive ends, but Cameron Jordan continues to show signs of developing into a premier run defender in the NFL.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: We keep singing his praises and won’t stop if Michael Bennett keeps showing up like he did against the Patriots. He isn’t the most explosive pass rusher but he keeps finding a way of beating linemen from the DLE spot or as a tackle in nickel. A contract year is always a good time to perform and it appears he knows this.
Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb or John Skelton? It honestly won’t matter if they can’t get better play from their tackles. D.J. Young took a lot of criticism but D’Anthony Batiste was just as bad when Kamerion Wimbley went up against him.
St. Louis Rams: This is a big year coming for Sam Bradford. In the NFL you need to be able to operate under pressure and can’t have your shortcomings excused by poor line play. Bradford continues to fail to deliver when the heat is turned up.
San Francisco 49ers: After watching Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss take the majority of snaps with the first team offense (with Mario Manningham out injured), we wouldn’t expect much (barring injury) out of either rookie A.J. Jenkins or Kyle Williams in 2012.
Seattle Seahawks: What is the NFL coming to when a seventh-round defensive linemen can make a summer switch to guard and look better in pass protection than a lot of starting veterans? That’s the case with J.R. Sweezy who is definitely one to watch.