By Sid Saraf, FOXSports.com
Who says the preseason has to be boring? Well, at least the first quarters (sometimes) can lend something to write home about. Again, taking care not to overreact to anything, let’s break down the good and bad from Friday’s contests.
1. Mark Sanchez battles after embarrassing start
The Jets’ quarterback competition has been a storyline that has carried throughout the offseason. Will it be Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith under center on opening day? On Friday, we finally got a chance to see some game action and Sanchez — hoping to put his Buttfumble past behind him — got off to a rocky (understatement) start. On Gang Green’s first possession, the embattled signal-caller did this:
That’s right, a pick-six.
You’re probably wondering, “Why is this part of the highs?”
It’s because Sanchez refused to give up and that deserves praise. He stayed in the game and kept after it, eventually throwing a 26-yard TD strike to Jeff Cumberland in the first quarter. Final stat line: 10-13, 125 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. Not bad. But what’s more, his refusal to give up will work wonders for his confidence.
Will he win the starting job? I don’t know, but a gutty performance like this, along with Geno Smith leaving the game with an injury, definitely can’t hurt.
2. Michael Vick makes a bold statement
Philadelphia is another place with enduring quarterback questions. When you look at the team on paper, Michael Vick would be the obvious choice. However, new head coach Chip Kelly refused to just hand the job to anyone so the possibility of Nick Foles winning the starting job began to gain steam.
Then this happened on Friday:
Vick’s 48-yard strike to DeSean Jackson for a touchdown was the best way to show his doubters that he’s not one to be trifled with. This doesn’t mean he’s won anything, as Foles also led the Eagles on a scoring drive. But Foles also fumbled, which has to be a black mark. If there’s one thing coaches can’t stand, it’s fumbling. So as of right now, Vick has to be in the lead for the gig.
3. Patriots offense looks efficient
With all the personnel losses in New England, shouldn’t the team take a step back? One would think so … but judging from Friday, things seem just peachy.
New England’s running backs took center stage. First, it was Stevan Ridley ripping off a 62-yard run on the first play from scrimmage and then punching it in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. Then, Shane Vereen pulled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady later in the first:
Even backup RB LeGarrette Blount got into the act with this goofy-looking touchdown scamper:
That’s enough to make Tom Brady stand up and cheer:
4. Hey, it’s Alex Smith!
The last we saw of the former 49ers quarterback, he was benched in favor of now-uber stud Colin Kaepernick. Then, people snickered when the Chiefs decided to trade for Smith for a pair of draft picks. But, I’m thinking the joke will be on them.
Smith did a solid job with the Chiefs offense on Friday, marching them down the field on an opening drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles. Smith did what he does best: Not forcing anything and NOT MAKING MISTAKES. His final line was 7-of-8 for 68 yards. What’s even better is that he was getting love from the people:
No idea what that last tweet meant, but I like to think he’s saying something positive.
Again, this is the preseason, but with every day I’m liking this Chiefs team more and more. They have a lot of budding talent and could very well make some noise. Kudos to you, Alex.
5. Sean Payton is back where he belongs
The whole BountyGate issue has been hashed and rehashed so many times, it’s become boring. Who cares at this point? It’s just good to see one of the brightest minds in football roaming a sideline again.
6. Cowboys defense looks sharp again
Is new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin cooking up something good in Dallas? Maybe. After getting an interception returned for a touchdown in the Hall of Fame Game, Big D was at it again in Oakland on Friday:
After Jason Hatcher recovered a fumble that led to a Cowboys field goal, J.J. Wilcox came up with an interception, which eventually led to a touchdown. That’s two turnovers turning into points on the scoreboard. That’s how you get it done.
1. Geno Smith limps off the field
This was the rookie’s big chance. With Mark Sanchez throwing a bad interception early in the first quarter, Smith could have taken the lead for the starting job with a strong showing against the Lions.
While Smith went 6 of 7 for 47 yards and didn’t turn the ball over, it was an overall listless performance. He never came close to putting the Jets in scoring position. What’s worse, he wound up rolling his ankle and was forced out of the game early in the third quarter. I’m not saying he failed, but this could have gone much better. And his body language still leaves something to be desired.
2. Riley Cooper starts for the Eagles
I use the word “start” loosely. He was on the field for Philly’s first play from scrimmage. And he caught a pass from Michael Vick for 19 yards. Other than that, there isn’t much to say about a person who is still in most people’s doghouse (mine included).
3. New uniform, same old Tebow
Here’s what I had to say about Tebow getting into the game on Friday.
And this pretty much sums up his performance against the Eagles:
I heard a lot of stories about Tebow visiting various passing gurus during the offseason to get his throwing motion in order. Maybe it’s still a work in progress. Whatever you want to say, this isn’t going to get it done.
Agreed. But still, all eyes are somehow still on him:
4. Bears-Panthers game turns into an interception festival
People laugh when I say Cam Newton will hoist the Lombardi Trophy one day. Not this season, but some day. However, he can’t take one step forward and one back.
First, he threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell (step forward). Then he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown (step back). By the way, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler didn’t fare much better, throwing a pick of his own. The backups got into the act as Derek Anderson (Panthers) turned one over and Matt Blanchard (Bears) had a pick of his own.
Just ugly football down in Carolina on Friday.
5. The No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft leaves with an injury
Everything is OK, but people had to be concerned when Chiefs offensive lineman Eric Fisher headed to the locker room with a thumb injury. X-rays did come back negative and even if he had broken it, he would have probably been able to play with a cast. But still, with all the injuries flying around in 2013, nothing can be taken for granted.
One of the more fun parts of the preseason is seeing the first-year guys get their first taste of NFL game action. So, let’s see how some of the more notable names did on Friday.
1. QB Geno Smith (Jets): 6 of 7 for 47 yards.
2. WR DeAndre Hopkins (Texans): 4 catches for 52 yards and a 34-yard touchdown catch.
3. WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Vikings): 4 catches for 54 yards and a 50-yard kickoff return.
4. QB Matt Barkley (Eagles): 11 of 22 for 103 yards and a 12-yard touchdown pass
5. DE Ziggy Ansah (Lions): 2 tackles and an interception returned for a touchdown.
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