Players get all the press but none of them would have the notoriety they do unless an NFL general manager takes the leap to give them that shot. While the preseason is way too early to offer true judgments of an off-season, there are bad signs for some around the league. Which ones have cause to worry and which others can feel confident?
Trent Baalke – Bad – A.J. Jenkins not living up to his billing
How could anyone speak ill of the architect of the San Francisco 49ers juggernaut that reached the Super Bowl last season? Simple. Even good GMs can make critical mistakes, whether it is from overconfidence or a blatant misdiagnosis of a player. Trent Baalke may have suffered a little of both when he selected A.J. Jenkins in the first round last season. The Illinois receiver saw almost zero action then and has done nothing to endear himself to the coaches so far in 2013. Jim Harbaugh even said the young man could’ve been better in the first preseason game. It merely reflects the fact that Baalke must be careful not to over think his picks or he risks letting what he’s built crumble.
Steve Keim – Good – Tyrann Mathieu wastes little time in debut
Meanwhile, the division rival Arizona Cardinals seem to have caught a similar keen mind in their net. Steve Keim didn’t waste time showing everybody he wasn’t afraid to take risks when he took former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu in the third round of the draft. Mathieu was kicked off the team because of constant drug issues. It was a huge gamble, but early signs hint that Keim may have hit a home run. Mathieu spent his first preseason game making active contributions, producing a sack during a blitz and then returning a punt 24 yards. There is still plenty of time for him to screw it up, but if he stays straight and true the talent speaks for itself and Keim will reap the benefits.
Bill Belichick – Bad – Tim Tebow brings small comfort at backup spot
One might call the string of questionable free agency moves over the past few seasons as a direct result of the Randy Moss syndrome. Ever since he turned the disgruntled and lost Raiders castoff back into his superstar form, Bill Belichick has felt he could do the same for anybody whether it be Albert Haynesworth or Chad Johnson. His latest venture is Tim Tebow. The polarizing quarterback is fresh off a terrible experience with the New York Jets and had hoped to rescue his fledgling career with the New England Patriots. Early returns are not encouraging. Tebow completed just four of twelve passes for 55 yards against third and fourth string players. The move is made all the worse when current backup Ryan Mallett went down with a head injury, leaving the Patriots with Tebow as the only cushion if Tom Brady goes down. True believers aside, that is not a good thing.
Phil Emery – Good – Jon Bostic challenges the Brian Urlacher shadow
The Chicago Bears GM caught a lot of flak for his somewhat underwhelming 2012 draft class, a group that was riddled by injuries last season. It seems he may have learned from his mistakes, and no player exemplified that better than Jon Bostic. The second round pick from Florida had the tall task of becoming the first highly drafted middle linebacker since Brian Urlacher. Instead of shrinking from it though, he seems to have embraced the challenge. That became clear when he took over the starting job from the injured D.J. Williams in training camp and stake his claim to keep it by picking off Cam Newton in the first preseason game and returning it for a touchdown. He wasn’t the only rookie who made plays either, and that is a great sign for Emery in his second year.
David Caldwell – Bad – Blaine Gabbert flop not a good sign
The biggest misgiving a lot of experts had about the Jacksonville Jaguars off-season was why GM David Caldwell refused to address the quarterback position that was rife with injuries and inconsistency. The argument was if the roster could be improved enough those other problems would dissipate. Clearly that isn’t the case so far. Blaine Gabbert looked as bad as ever, completing five passes for 19 yards and an interception. His backup Chad Henne was at least more steady but failed to notch any touchdowns. Caldwell wanted to improve the roster before worrying about its most important position. So far his reasoning looks faulty.
Such is the fine line general managers walk in the NFL.