The first week of preseason open up the Pandora’s box of NFL news waves. Here are some takeaways from the latest action.
Browns must remember Gordon won’t be around to save Johnny Manziel
The race for the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback job grows tighter and tighter everyday. After flashing his playmaking potential in the opener against Detroit, Johnny Manziel looks like he’s poised to overtake Brian Hoyer. If the Browns coaches are indeed seeing it the same way, it’s very important they consider one crucial fact. When Manziel steps on that field September 7th against Pittsburgh, it will be without star wide receiver Josh Gordon. For all the talk about new arrivals like Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin, Cleveland is not nearly the same without Gordon. Do they really want to throw their 1st round pick and future out there with no reliable targets to bail him out of trouble?
Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams will revive Giants ground game
Eli Manning was a sitting duck in 2013. Not only did he have to stand behind an injury-riddled offensive line, he also had zero help from the running game. Based on two preseason outings, at least one of those problems may be solved. Thanks to some aggressive free agent maneuvering and heady drafting, New York seems to have added not one but two capable running backs in veteran Rashad Jennings and rookie Andre Williams. Jennings was a capable starter in Oakland last season after Darren McFadden went down. Williams led the nation with over 2,000 rushing yards for Boston College. Together they have amassed over 190 rushing yards and scored twice so far this NFL preseason.
Kirk Cousins is positioned perfectly for a starting job
Ryan Mallett was quickly anointed the preseason darling among backup quarterbacks who could push for a starting job in 2015. That made it easy to forget Kirk Cousins of the Redskins, who is not only younger than Mallett but has more game experience. On top of that, his performance in training camp has been so impressive that there are whispers he may even have an outside shot at unseating Robert Griffin III in Washington. While that is less likely given the investment the team has in RGIII, Cousins is in perfect position for teams to come courting either via the trade market sooner or later.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to be really bad
Handing out NFC championship tickets in August is a fun way to get fans jacked for the season. Losing a preseason opener 27-7 to San Diego can just as quickly squelch them. There is no question the Dallas Cowboys have problems. Their starting quarterback is 34-years old and returning from back surgery. Their most reliable backup quarterback is gone, leaving the erratic Brandon Weeden in his place. Worse still, the defense is already getting hurt and doesn’t look any better than it did at the end of last season. Newsflash: they were worst in the league at that point. In fact, they were so ineffective that the Chargers only threw two incompletions in 16 passing attempts. That is in a preseason game. They also had six players rush for 10 yards or more. Yes, the games aren’t serious yet, but it’s time to start casting doubt on “America’s Team” for 2014.