NFL Handicapping: Biggest Preseason Surprises
by Trevor Whenham - 8/27/2009
The NFL preseason seems to go on forever. A lot of what happens is either expected or not at all shocking. Every so often, though, I see something that seems honestly and truly surprising. Here's a look at nine such things so far this year:
Glen Coffee - We knew that the former Alabama running back had talent, but I doubt even his own mother thought that the rookie was going to get off to the kind of start that he has enjoyed to his NFL career. He has led the Niners in both yards and carries in each of the first two preseason games, including 129 yards in 16 carries this week against Oakland. Four of those runs were for at least 10 yards, including one 35 yard scamper that was truly impressive. He's shown some blocking chops as well, and he can pick up the blitz better than most rookies at his stage can. It always seem that every year a late-rounder or two breaks out at running back. This year it could definitely be this third rounder.
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The struggles of Washington - You can argue whether the Redskins have spent their money well, but the fact is that they have spent enough money and done enough things to be less incompetent than they have looked so far this year. They seem to be poorly coached - almost uncoached at times. Guys who should be good aren't. Jason Campbell has been given all kinds of rope, and he seems determined to hang himself with it. This team is out of excuses, but if their early play is any indication then this could be another long season for the faithful.
The expectations of the two big rookie QBs - I'm not at all surprised that the play of Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford has been a bit rocky. What shocks me, though, is what people seem to expect from them. They are both underclassmen, and quarterbacks have not generally done well when leaving school early - especially early on. They keep getting compared to Ryan and Flacco from last year. That's silly for a couple of reasons - Ryan was a senior and Flacco spent five years at two schools, so both were more experienced than these two, and both of those players came onto teams that were more established and talented than the two this year. That's not to say that I think Sanchez and Stafford are doomed. I just think it's ridiculous to expect good things from them right away, or even this year.
QB contracts - I'm a little surprised by contracts given to Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. Nothing you could ever say could convince me that Manning should be the highest-paid player in the league. He's good, but nowhere close to that good. I'd struggle to consistently put him in the Top 10 quarterbacks. I like Rivers, even a little more than Manning most days, but he hasn't won anything, and he is notoriously lousy out of the gate. If this is what these guys got then imagine what Eli's brother and Tom Brady will get later this year when they get new deals.
How Brady looks just like Brady - Speaking of everyone's favorite Michigan star, it's amazing to me that he has looked as good as he has since he has returned. He hasn't looked hesitant or any more rusty than you should be in training camp, and he doesn't seem to be favoring his knee at all. If you didn't know better then you would never guess from watching him that he is coming back off a lost year.
That Michael Crabtree is this stupid - Few guys have ever got advice as bad as Crabtree. The Niners are willing to pay him a little above his draft slot, but not as far above as he seems to think he deserves. He's taking a hard line, and all that's doing is costing him practice time, dropping him down the depth chart, and alienating him with his future teammates and coaches. It's really stupid, especially given the chance he would have had to shine on this team.
That no one seems to be stepping up in Cleveland at QB - Brady Quinn has the opportunity to finally become the starter and the star that he was supposed to be by now. Derek Anderson is probably fighting for his life with the team. Given those stakes, you'd expect both players to be at their best. Instead, both have struggled and looked flat throughout camp. I wouldn't be happy about playing for a moron like Eric Mangini, either, but I still expected more from these guys.
Lions actually fight in pregame - You want a team to have a fighting spirit, especially one coming off an 0-16 season, but you don't expect them to actually fight. That's what happened, though - defensive end Dewayne White and tight end Carson Butler wrestled before this week's game in Cleveland, and actually took each other to the ground. Butler is young and a real longshot to make the team, so I guess he thought he had nothing to lose. White is a seven-year veteran, though, so his actions were mystifying.
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That Marvin Harrison hasn't landed anywhere yet - His best days are far behind him, and legal issues seem as if they could be just over the horizon, but I am shocked that no one has picked up Harrison yet. He isn't likely a No. 1 guy anymore, but half of Harrison is still more than most guys can offer. You'd think that a team with a young quarterback would bring him in as a reliable target.