Getting football back in preseason shape feels like shopping online. You’re excited about your purchases based on the description and images, but you never really know what you’re going to get until those purchases arrive. Sometimes that shirt you ordered looks exactly like the online model, and sometimes it looks like you accidentally ordered a fine-patterned garbage bag. Likewise, we can start putting together some preseason football clips, but we refrain from committing ourselves fully to them until we get to the regular season.
In the first week of preseason, we didn’t see many starting quarterbacks, but we did see some highly anticipated player debuts making noise throughout training camp.
1. Jordan Davis looks like a problem – a big problem
There was some debate as to whether it was wise to draft a nose tackle in the top 15. The Eagles believed in Davis’ worth and drafted him 13th overall. His low sack total was a concern in college and his worth as a pass rusher must be determined, but he quickly made his presence known as a run stuffer against the Jets’ front line.
4:42 remaining in the first quarter, second and 3
Here Davis (90) was lined up over Connor McGovern’s center. The Jets were in a two tight end formation and had a split zone concept called the running back in which the running back runs back most of the time.
The timing of the cut is crucial. Ideally, the back should cut back into the line of scrimmage, but Davis pushed through and forced the ball carrier to cut back early.
The defensive end on the cut side crashed in, forcing the back to go wider. Davis had McGovern under control and was able to bend in the opposite direction to chase the rear.
Showing his elite movement skills for a player of his size, Davis made the backcut again to the center of defense where he was tackled for a short win.
Davis will be a handful at the center of the Eagles defense and allow them to play with light boxes due to his ability to disrupt the run. In this system, he doesn’t need to collect tackles to be effective. All he needs to do is make the running back dance in the backfield to gain time for second and third tier defenders to fit in the run.
2. Jordan Love might not be
Love is entering his third year in the league and third year in the same system. He hasn’t had much playing time behind Aaron Rodgers, but I’m sure the Packers wanted to see Love play with more control and mastery of the attack. He didn’t have to light the 49ers’ secondary in preseason to gain some confidence, but he made bad decisions and was inaccurate. On seven of Love’s 24 passing attempts, he either missed an open receiver directly or threw a pass so bad that it led to an incomplete or interception.
On Love’s second interception, he threw a catchable pass that rookie Romeo Doubs should have caught, but it was knocked down, forcing Doubs to return to the ball (Love also missed Doubs on two deep passes in which he was wide open according to NFL rules). standards). On Love’s final interception, he made a wrong decision to throw to a capped receiver and suffered a touch pass that made for an easy interception. Even on Love’s touchdown pass at the end of the half, he tossed the ball in instead of the target’s back shoulder. He was lucky that the defender couldn’t locate the ball. Love can certainly bounce back from this feat, but you want to see a much cleaner play from the quarterback who may hand you the keys later.
.@DDIII_7 diving for the TOUCHDOWN!
— Green Bay packers (@packers) August 13, 2022
3. Trey Lance’s shaky ball placement
Lance completed 4-of-5 attempts and threw for 92 yards and a touchdown in two drives. This is nitpicking with a small sample size, but two of his five throws had poor ball placement. The concern with Lance as a prospect was his accuracy. Based on practice reports, he’s had days where he struggled tremendously with accuracy during training camp, so my concern doesn’t just stem from this game. Some of his struggles have to do with playing against the elite 49ers defense with three new starters in practice on the inside of the attack line. Nevertheless, Lance’s ball placement was something I wanted to keep an eye on against the Packers.
The first was on a flat route to the tight end of Ross Dwelley. The pass was completed but was thrown high and Dwelley had to adapt. It’s not the worst in the world, but passes like these can hinder catching opportunities from meter after catch. His second miss was more expensive.
9:42 remaining in the first quarter, third and 9
On third and 9, receiver Danny Gray ran what appeared to be a “stack” route (walking vertically to six yards and rounding up to 10 yards). The cornerback on Gray was playing more than 10 yards from him, so Lance made the correct pre-snap read and went over to him.
JT O’Sullivan, who hosts the YouTube channel The QB School, pointed out that at the top of Lance’s drop he put his feet close together and as a result was not in the optimal position to throw. Lance should have dropped with a little more urgency and set up a wider base so he would be able to throw with more balance sooner.
Lance has a lot of arm strength and he ripped the throw to the sidelines, but it was a little late and high. The pass sent Gray out of bounds and he couldn’t tap his feet along the sideline.
Lance’s arm opens up the deep game for the 49ers, but it also allows them to take advantage of sideline throws they couldn’t attempt with Jimmy Garoppolo. If Lance gets more playing time next week, his ball placement will be something to watch, especially on breakout routes.
4. Kenny Pickett earns time on the second team
Pickett’s timing, decisiveness and ball placement were excellent against the Seahawks. He wasn’t forced to make many high difficulty throws, but his passes were thrown in prime locations that allowed his receivers to run after the catch.
0:18 remaining in the fourth quarter, second-and-2
Pickett threw his game-winning touchdown pass on a similar route to the one Lance missed – a 10-yard out route to the wide side of the field.
When Pickett reached the top of his drop, he was balanced and had space between his feet. Pickett was able to throw the ball flawlessly on time.
Pickett was even hit when he pitched, so he couldn’t afford to be a split second late on the pitch. The ball was thrown lightly underfoot, but this was more of an arm strength issue than an accuracy issue.
Pickett also played with his legs to relieve the pressure. Overall, it was a very clean game and should earn him playing time as second quarterback in the Steelers’ next game against veteran Mason Rudolph.
5. The Steelers have a scary group of skill players (excluding QB)
Recipient George Pickens had talent for the first round but dropped out to the second round due to injury issues. So far, it looks like the Steelers made their bet big. Pickens made spectacular play after spectacular play during training camp and it went on against the Seahawks in the preseason opener. Pickens had three catches for 43 yards and a touchdown.
George Pickens is him. @steelers
— NFL (@NFL) August 13, 2022
On third-and-13, Pickens beat cover on a fade route and was able to tap into the back of the end zone to finish for a touchdown. Pickens mostly ran vertical routes so I’m curious if he can open up and make some tough catches in the middle of the field.
The Steelers already have Diontae Johnson, who is a number 1 receiver, Chase Claypool, who is a good number 2 receiver, and if Pickens turns out to be a number 1, the opponents will have their hands full. Tight end Pat Freiermuth is a good player and running back Najee Harris looks like he could be an elite running back. Obviously quarterback is in high demand with Mitchell Trubisky being the starter for now, but whoever wins the job in the end will have a full deck of cards at their disposal.
6. Correct tackle for the Raiders
The Raiders have an elite group of pass catchers and a very good quarterback in Derek Carr, but the downfall of their attack could be their offensive line. The correct tackle is of particular importance. Brandon Parker is currently the starter, but he is out with an unknown injury and allowed eight layoffs last season. Alex Leatherwood competed with Parker in the camp and with Parker out, it looked like Leatherwood would start and get a lot of time against the Vikings, but he was benched ahead of rookie Thayer Munford Jr., who was drafted in the seventh round . Munford played a clean game but the Vikings didn’t play their starters so it’s hard to get a real rating from him based on this match.
In last week’s Hall of Fame game, head coach Josh McDaniels plotted a lot of help for Leatherwood by keeping a tight end on the chip. That theme continued this week with Munford in the lineup. You don’t normally see a preseason coach game plan to help that much, but maybe McDaniels is determined to get good reps for his quarterback. That should tell you how much confidence he has in whoever is lining up for the right tackle. The problem with using this strategy is that it gives an advantage to the secondary as it removes an immediate vertical threat.
9:15 remaining in the first quarter, third and 8
In third and 8th place, the Raiders were in a three-on-one formation with tight end Jesper Horsted staying in to chip the defensive end before letting go. The Vikings had a man blitz called.
Linebacker Troy Dye had Horsted in man cover, but as he didn’t release, Dye was able to fall back and help the final receiver. On the other hand, the safety had the running back in man cover, but since the back had to stay inside and pick up the blitz, the safety could help the outside receiver.
Dye was able to help the slot machine until Horsted was finally released. By then it was too late. The quarterback couldn’t find anyone open because of the extra help the defense could provide and he had to scramble and fell short of the first-down marker.
The hope is that the Raiders can trust the player who eventually wins the correct tackle spot so that they don’t have to use this strategy too often as it would narrow the field for Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller.
(Top photo by Jordan Davis: Bill Streicher / USA Today)