Friday NFL PreSeason News and Notes
Friday NFL PreSeason News and Notes
NFL Preseason Preview - Atlanta (0-0) At N.Y. Jets (0-0)
The Atlanta Falcons will begin their preseason schedule minus the services of quarterback Michael Vick on Friday night, when Bobby Petrino's club travels to meet the New York Jets in the preseason opener for both squads.
Vick has been barred from training camp while the NFL investigates his recent federal indictment stemming from charges of participating in dogfighting- related activities. The quarterback is scheduled for trial on Nov. 26th, and his return to the field remains in question.
With the team's highest-profile player on indefinite hiatus, new Atlanta head coach Bobby Petrino will try to get his offense untracked with Joey Harrington at the controls. Harrington, who has started 66 games in a five-year NFL career spent with the Lions and Dolphins, is expected to appear only briefly on Friday before yielding to backups Chris Redman, D.J. Shockley, and perhaps Lang Campbell.
In addition to Vick, the Falcons will be without starting running back Warrick Dunn on Friday night.
Vick is expected to miss most of the preseason due to a back injury, and will be replaced in the starting lineup by second-year man Jerious Norwood.
The homestanding Jets, meanwhile, will take to the field for the first time since a loss to the New England Patriots in an AFC Wild Card game this past January. Eric Mangini's young squad shocked the NFL world by reaching the postseason in the first place, going 10-6 and earning Mangini scores of accolades during his initial year on the job.
Jets starters should not see a wealth of time on Friday, in keeping with early preseason tradition, which means just a few snaps for quarterback Chad Pennington before backups Kellen Clemens and Marques Tuiasosopo take over.
The team's most significant offseason addition, former Bears running back Thomas Jones, should appear only briefly as well.
New York is not expected to have the services of rookie cornerback Darrelle Revis at all on Friday. Revis, the No. 14 overall pick out of Pittsburgh, is embroiled in a contract holdout which is unlikely to be resolved in time for the player to be on the field.
Revis was one of two remaining rookie holdouts as the first full week of preseason approached, with the other being top pick JaMarcus Russell of the Raiders.
The Falcons and Jets have split eight preseason meetings all-time, with Atlanta evening the series by virtue of a 20-10 victory at Giants Stadium prior to 2001.
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NFL Preseason Preview - Buffalo (0-0) At New Orleans (0-1)
The New Orleans Saints will try to recover from a shaky preseason opener on Friday night, when Sean Payton's club faces the Buffalo Bills in the Saints' preseason home opener.
New Orleans was less than spectacular in a 20-7 loss to the Steelers in Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game, with players such as quarterback Drew Brees (1-of-6 passing, 6 yards) and running back Reggie Bush (2 carries, 8 yards) not doing anything of great note in their first tune-up of the season.
The Saints are again expected to feature their starters sparingly, with banged up players such as tackle Jammal Brown (knee) not slated to suit up at all.
However, veteran running back Deuce McAllister, who was held out for precautionary reasons against Pittsburgh, could make his first game appearance of the summer.
In addition to McAllister, Saints fans should get a look at wide receiver Robert Meachem, who caught one pass in the Pittsburgh loss. Meachem, the team's first-round draft choice out of Tennessee, is expected to help fill the void created when New Orleans released veteran Joe Horn in the offseason.
The top storyline for the visiting Bills will be the expected debut of first- round draft choice and running back Marshawn Lynch,
Lynch, who was selected No. 12 overall out of Cal in the April draft, is being tabbed to take over for former starter Willis McGahee. McGahee was traded to Baltimore in the offseason after a disappointing 2006 season that included some controversial off-the-field comments about a potential move for the franchise.
Other notables in action for the first time on Friday will be Buffalo middle linebacker Paul Posluzsny (Penn State), who is being slated to take over for the departed London Fletcher-Baker, as well as right tackle Langston Walker (ex-Raiders) and left guard Derrick Dockery (ex-Redskins), who are being counted on to stabilize a line that was one of the league's weakest last year.
At quarterback for the Bills, starter J.P. Losman should appear briefly before yielding to backups Craig Nall and Trent Edwards. Edwards, a third-round draft pick out of Stanford, will be seeing his first game action as a pro.
The all-time preseason series between the Bills and Saints is knotted, 3-3, including a 28-23 home victory for New Orleans in the last such meeting, prior to the 1990 campaign.
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NFL Preseason Preview - New England (0-0) At Tampa Bay (0-0)
The formative stage of what many are expecting to be a Super Bowl campaign for the New England Patriots will take place at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night, as Bill Belichick's club meets the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the preseason opener for both teams.
After coming up just short of their fourth Super Bowl appearance of the decade last season, the Patriots added reinforcements such as former Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker Adalius Thomas and three wideouts - Randy Moss (ex-Raiders), Donte' Stallworth (ex-Eagles), and Wes Welker (ex-Dolphins) - that have made them a popular pick to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this season.
The above players are expected to see only limited time on Friday, in keeping with early preseason tradition, and the same goes for high-profile Patriots such as quarterback Tom Brady and running back Laurence Maroney.
Backup QB Matt Cassel should be taking a wealth of New England's offensive snaps.
Friday should be notable, however, for the first game appearance of safety Brandon Meriweather. Meriweather, the Miami-Florida product whom New England used its first-round draft choice on in April, is expected to battle for a starting job this season.
As for Tampa Bay, the first work as a Buccaneer for quarterback Jeff Garcia will grab most of the headlines. Garcia, who took over for an injured Donovan McNabb and led the Eagles to an unlikely division title and playoff berth in 2006, came to the Bucs via free agency in the offseason.
The 37-year-old veteran, who should receive only limited reps on Friday, is expected to win starting duties over former starter Chris Simms.
Simms, who missed the final 13 games of 2006 with a ruptured spleen, should return to the field on Friday for the first time since sustaining that injury, taking backup reps along with Bruce Gradkowski and perhaps Luke McCown.
From a defensive standpoint, Tampa Bay's preseason opener will be notable for the appearance of end Gaines Adams and linebacker Cato June, both of whom will wear Tampa Bay uniforms for the first time. Adams, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2006 Draft out of Clemson, is expected to fill the pass-rushing gap created when the team released Simeon Rice during the first week of training camp. June, who comes to Florida from the 2006 Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts, is expected to start at outside linebacker for the Bucs.
The Buccaneers have a 5-1 lead in the all-time preseason series with the Patriots, including a 31-23 road victory in the last such meeting, prior to the 2000 campaign.
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NFL Preseason Preview - St. Louis (0-0) At Minnesota (0-0)
The quarterback battle between Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger will take center stage in Minnesota on Friday night, when the Minnesota Vikings play host to the St. Louis Rams in the preseason opener for both teams.
The second-year-pro Jackson is listed atop the depth chart as the preseason begins, but his limited experience has led some to question his ability to win the full-time job. Jackson, who was selected in the second round out of Alabama State in the 2006 Draft, played in four games and completed 47-of-81 passes for 475 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions in his rookie year.
Jackson is expected to play only a series or two before yielding to Bollinger, who was a part-time starter for the 2005 New York Jets before spending the 2006 season backing up Jackson and first-stringer Brad Johnson. Johnson, who was released following the Vikings' 6-10 campaign of 2006, is now with the Dallas Cowboys.
Whoever takes the snaps for Minnesota on Friday night is unlikely to be handing off much to 2007 first-round draft choice Adrian Peterson, if at all. Peterson, the No. 7 overall pick out of the University of Oklahoma, has been bothered by a hip pointer during the early stages of camp and could be held out.
In keeping with opening preseason game tradition, St. Louis is not expected to play its starters for any substantial amount of time Friday night either, meaning only a brief glimpse of players like quarterback Marc Bulger, running back Steven Jackson, and wideout Torry Holt.
Though the play of those figures is unlikely to be notable, the first appearance of tight end Randy McMichael in a Rams uniform will be among the top storylines for Scott Linehan's club. McMichael came to St. Louis in the offseason following five productive seasons in Miami.
On defense, Linehan and coordinator Jim Haslett will be eager to assess the work of new faces such as defensive end James Hall (ex-Lions), tackle Adam Carriker (first-round pick out of Nebraska), and linebacker Chris Draft (ex- Panthers), all of whom are expected to see their first game action as Rams.
The Vikings hold a 5-4 edge in their all-time preseason series with the Rams, breaking a deadlock in the series with a 26-6 home victory in the last such matchup, prior to the 1997 campaign.
The teams also met in Week 17 of the 2006 regular season, with the Rams traveling to Minnesota and earning a 41-21 triumph.
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2007 NFL Football Preseason - Get Ready to Rumble
By Geoffrey Vogel
For many teams their first preseason game will be everyone's first look at a new rookie, a new head coach or a new free-agent addition. Here's a quick rundown of the all Week 1 preseason games and who you should be keeping your eye on ...
New England at Tampa Bay - The first look at the Patriots' new additions (Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Adalius Thomas) will likely be a short one since all three are veterans and should adapt to the system rather quickly. The Buccaneers have to figure out their QB situation, making the preseason very important to Chris Simms and Jeff Garcia.
Atlanta at NY Jets - The Falcons will need to use the preseason to get backup QB Joey Harrington up to speed on the offense, since it looks like Michael Vick's days in Atlanta could be numbered. This will also be Bobby Petrino's first game as Falcons coach.
Buffalo at New Orleans - Rookie running back Marshawn Lynch makes his first play for the starting job in Buffalo, while WR Robert Meachem will get another crack at showing why he should be starting in New Orleans.
St. Louis at Minnesota - Adrian Peterson's road to the Vikings' starting running back job begins here. He could get a real boost up the depth chart if he performs well in this game and if Chester Taylor's arm injury is worse than suspected.
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Preseason Outlook, Week 2
August 8, 2007
Atlanta (+3.5) at New York Jets
Friday – 7:00 pm EST
Mike Vick’s off-the-field troubles have led to an inauspicious start to the Bobby Petrino era. A win in the preseason opener could change the season’s outlook for the Falcons, though. Petrino said the offense would be a vanilla version of what will be seen during the regular season. Joey Harrington has been seen in camp working on his short, quick routes while backup quarterback D.J. Shockley has intrigued the coaching staff. Chris Redman, a five-year veteran out of Louisville, has been getting a majority of the second-string snaps but the coaching staff feels Shockley will shine in game situations.
2006 second-round draft pick Kellen Clemens is coming on strong at Jets camp and could provide New York with a solid backup plan should the brittle Chad Pennington go down. Former Missouri standout Brad Smith, who has developed into a do-everything threat for the Jet offense, should also see some snaps at quarterback. His scrambling ability and improving passing technique could lead to some second-half excitement. New York went just 1-3 ATS in Eric Mangini’s first preseason at the helm but it is 8-1 SU and 6-3 ATS as a preseason home favorite since 2002.
New England (+2) at Tampa Bay
Friday – 7:30 pm EST
The always secretive Bill Belichick is again keeping quite on his rotation plans for New England’s preseason opener, despite it being just a preseason contest. If history is any indication, though, the first-teamers won’t see much action. Tom Brady attempted just four passes in the preseason opener last year with backup Matt Cassel taking every snap afterwards. August has historically been a good month for the Patriots as they are 12-6 SU and 11-4 ATS during the month since 2002. Additionally, they are 5-1 SU and 5-0 ATS since 2002 when playing Friday nights.
Last year’s 1-3 preseason record is a poor indication but Jon Gruden has been one of the most successful preseason coaches in recent memory. Gruden is 24-14 SU in his career during the preseason, second among active coaches with at least one full season under. And no coach has more quarterback depth than Gruden. Tampa Bay boasts three quarterbacks – Jeff Garcia, Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski – with extensive starting experience. That depth gives the Bucs an advantage that few teams can match.
Buffalo (+5.5) at New Orleans
Friday – 8:00 pm EST
J.P. Losman, who has been praised nonstop throughout training camp, will get between 10 and 15 plays in the preseason opener. Head coach Dick Jauron says that most of the starters will equal Losman’s playing time with the backups going the rest of the way. Backup QB Craig Nall will step in for a short time after Losman with 2007 third-round draft pick Trent Edwards going the rest of the way. Jauron went just 1-3 SU in his first preseason at the helm in Buffalo, which fit the profile of his previous records. He is just 8-16 SU as a head coach in the preseason for his career.
The Saints have an advantage over the Bills in this contest because they have already played a preseason game. They have seen where they need to improve and will make the necessary adjustments. The starters will see extended playing time with each unit playing a full quarter after playing just one or two series in the Hall of Fame Game. Also, starting running back Deuce McAllister is expected to return after missing the opener. Head coach Sean Payton worked the players harder earlier in the week following what he thought was a poor effort in the opener. Expect the Saints to be prepared in this one.
St. Louis (+2.5) at Minnesota
Friday – 8:00 pm EST
The St. Louis first-teamers won’t see much action in its preseason opener but the reserves, specifically the quarterbacks, should put forth solid production off the bench. Neither Gus Frerotte nor Ryan Fitzpatrick saw much action last year but both have been productive as starters in their respective careers. Frerotte has thrown for over 18,000 yards and nearly 100 touchdowns in his career and Fitzpatrick put up solid numbers in four starts as a rookie in 2005.
While the Rams have solid depth at the quarterback position, the Vikings aren’t so fortunate. Their four quarterbacks combine for just 10 career touchdowns and it’s debatable whether or not either of those four are worthy of being a starting quarterback. Minnesota head coach Brad Childress enjoyed a solid preseason in his debut season last year, going 2-1-1 SU and 3-1 ATS. The Vikings have also played well against the NFC West in the preseason, going 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS versus the division since 2004, including a 29-9 win over these same Rams.
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NFL cheat sheet: The news from each team playing Friday
By ASHTON GREWAL
It’s been a long time since the confetti rained down on the Indianapolis Colts and that pesky monkey finally got off Peyton Manning’s back, but the NFL is back. Three preseason games behind us, and four more today, it’s safe to say it's football season - almost.
With that in mind, there’s been an abundance of news coming from each team's camps that may not have made it to your ears. We’ve highlighted all the juicy tidbits regarding the eight teams in action tonight in hopes of making your wager as educated as possible.
Backed into a corner
It’s only fitting the New England Patriots would be short bodies in the secondary. New England won a Super Bowl with a wide receiver as its nickel back – thank you very much Troy Brown.
Dante Wesley was acquired through a trade with the Chicago Bears to shore up depth at cornerback. Pro Bowl defensive back Asante Samuel hasn’t reported to camp because of a contract dispute and backup Chad Scott’s season ended with a serious knee injury, meaning Wesley could see significant time this year.
He is a six-year veteran who has played in 71 games (two starts) with the Bears and Carolina Panthers. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound DB is also an experienced special teams contributor, something head coach Bill Belichick always appreciates.
Ellis Hobbs and Randall Gay have been tentatively penciled in as the starting corners but Wesley could supplant Gay with a strong preseason.
Oddsmakers list the Pats as 3-point dogs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the total set at 33.
More than a feeling?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden has a long history of reviving the careers of players other teams thought were dead. He gave Rich Gannon – a career backup – a chance to lead the Raiders and Gannon went on to have his best years in the league.
From the sounds of things, Gruden is rescuing the athletic life of another player. David Boston entered the league as a first-round pick (ninth overall) by the Arizona Cardinals in 1999. He lived up to the high expectations with three productive seasons leading to a Pro Bowl appearance in 2001.
Things started going sour for Boston after two major knee injuries and a positive steroids test. He hasn’t caught a ball in a regular season game since 2005 but Gruden nearly put him on the Bucs’ active roster after a good tryout last year.
Now he’s ripping though training camp and playing as if this is his last chance to get back in the league.
“David Boston is certainly in the mix, not only to make the team, but to start,” Gruden told the Orlando Sentinel. “He’s 234 pounds, he’s running all the routes at different positions and he’s hasn’t backed down to anything.”
Handle me with care
There’s no question Steven Jackson is one of the best running backs in the league and extremely important to the St. Louis Rams' chances this season. Maybe the Rams defensive personnel didn’t get that memo.
Jackson was upset after safeties Corey Chavous and Oshiomogho Atogwe (good luck pronouncing that name Al Michaels) each leveled the tailback during Saturday scrimmage.
“I think you should take care of your feature back – no matter what level you’re on,” Jackson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The running back takes a lot of hits throughout the season. He takes just as many hits as the offensive linemen. And in this league, it’s a long season. You don’t want to go out and prove anything in practice; you want to do it on Sunday.”
As long as one of his teammates doesn’t take his head off in practice, St. Louis backers shouldn’t have to worry about Jackson getting injured before the season opener. The 2004 first-round pick has gotten fewer and fewer carries each year in the preseason.
He accounted for more than half of the Rams' preseason rushing attempts as a rookie in 2004, then had only 32 carries in 2005. Last year, the total dropped to 19.
The books have the Rams as listed as 1 ½-point dogs against the Minnesota Vikings with the total set at 34 ½.
The New York Jets remain unable to come to terms with top pick Darrelle Revis with the regular season only a month away. Revis and JaMarcus Russell are the only two first-round selections still holding out.
The Oakland Raiders signed quarterback Daunte Culpepper because of Russell’s ongoing dispute but the Jets have not gotten the same kind of insurance. Revis was picked in the hopes of helping a mediocre pass defense but the cornerback has missed two weeks of practice, ruling out almost any hope of winning a starting job in September.
Head coach Eric Mangini hasn’t been helped by injuries to cornerback Justin Miller (hamstring) and safety Eric Smith. The secondary is so scattered right now that Mangini suggested fullback Stacy Tutt could play some safety if needed.
The Jets are 3 ½-point home favorites against the Atlanta Falcons with the total set at 32 ½.
Slip, Sliding away
The New Orleans Saints took a nice break from the rigors of practice in the Louisiana heat. Head coach Sean Payton took his team to a water amusement park after practice Tuesday. Payton said he wanted to reward his team for good behavior.
“We had a good practice, so that’s the reason we set it up this morning,” the second-year coach said, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. “I wanted to go hard yesterday, and it was after the second practice. It worked out fine. It was a good break for the team.”
This coming from the same man who said he his team had to get better “in all three phases of the game” after Sunday’s 20-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game. Even worse, two players – starting linebacker Scott Fujita and reserve tight end Billy Miller hurt themselves as they were goofing around on the field trip.
Neither injury is considered to be serious but both weren’t able to practice on Wednesday.
The Saints are 6 ½-point favorites against the Buffalo Bills with the total set at 36.
Re: Friday NFL PreSeason News and Notes
2007 NFL Preseason Notes
FRIDAY'S GAMES 8/10/07
Buffalo Bills - QB Rotation: J.P. Losman (12-15 plays), Craig Nall, rookie Trent Edwards, Kevin Eakin (see below).
HC Dick Jauron said J.P. Losman will start at quarterback and play "a little." He'll be followed by Craig Nall and Trent Edwards who is expected to get the bulk of the work Friday. NFL Europe QB Kevin Eakin may get a chance for a few reps at the end of the game.
The starters for the Bills however, won't be seeing much action Friday as is usually the case under head coach Dick Jauron.
"Our first group, both sides of the ball will probably play somewhere between 12 and 15 plays," Jauron said. "It just depends on how it goes. If it goes real well that may just be one drive and you'd love it to be that way. If it goes real poorly it may be three drives. You just don't know. Then we'll get everybody in that we'll can. I would say that most of the guys will play."
"We just want to go out there and be crisp," said Losman. "We know it's our first game, but we want to try to avoid any kind of complications. The plays he'll be giving us I'm sure will be pretty vanilla so we just want to be sharp on those and keep the chains moving and have a good drive of 12 or 15 plays and then they said we'll be out of there."
At running back Anthony Thomas is expected to get the start followed by Marshawn Lynch and the other candidates in the offensive backfield.
It's anticipated that Duke Preston will start at right guard with Jason Whittle rotating in quickly. Throughout training camp Preston has been the first one rotating in at right guard during that competition.
After two weeks of training camp the Bills are ready to get some live hitting in with another NFL team. "There's been some pushing and shoving, guys are frustrated and they want to let loose," said QB J.P. Losman. "These guys are pretty much animals when they step on this field and that's what this game is about. They'll be able to get their chance on Friday."
The offensive line is starting to get hit with some injuries. Second-year man Brad Butler, who was involved in the competition at right guard, has been out almost a week with a hamstring injury, and as he continues to limp, he doesn't look close to returning to practice. Now second-year man Aaron Merz is sitting out with a shoulder injury.
Starting safety Donte Whitner continues to be shelved by a stomach ailment, and there's a chance that he might not be able to play in Friday.
Cornerback depth a concern: They dealt Nate Clements in the offseason, and 8-year veteran CB Jason Webster has missed two practices with a leg injury. Other CB options are Kiwaukee Thomas, Ashton Youboty and Jabari Greer. "Webster is ahead of those guys, but we need depth at that position," Bills defensive backs coach George Catavolos said.
Rookie Paul Posluszny has been taking most of the reps with the first team at middle linebacker.
"I do believe we're a fast defense," Jauron said.
New Orleans Saints - QB Rotation: Drew Brees (1st Q), Jamie Martin (2nd Q), Jason Fife, rookie Tyler Palko.
HC Sean Payton expects his starters to play about a quarter in Friday. He'll use the same plan he did in the first preseason game last year at Tennessee even though the Saints already have one game under their belts.
"Depending on the number of snaps, it might be a quarter or a little into the second quarter on one side of the ball or the other," Payton said.
RB Deuce McAllister will likely start after sitting out the exhibition opener Sunday. Strong safety Roman Harper, who was also held out last week, could also see his first action of the preseason.
Second game for the Saints, after opening in the Hall of Fame Game (8/5).
Offensive line woes: Saints starting left tackle Jammal Brown (knee) has a knee bruise and will be out a week.
Saints Coach Sean Payton said of the loss to the Steelers: "I thought we were sloppy, sluggish. I thought they were more physical than us." When asked what disappointed him most, Payton said, "All three phases of it."
The defense was stymied by the same problem that plagued it last season -- giving up too many big plays. In the first half, the Saints allowed eight plays of more than 10 yards. The Saints need to upgrade cornerback more than any other position on the roster.
Coach Sean Payton pushed his team a little harder Tuesday. Instead of following the schedule, which called for a morning walk-through, the Saints were in full pads for a full-length practice. "I just think we all felt as a whole that we needed a good week of practice this week," said Payton.
Lots of competition at wideout: There are 10 candidates for the receiver spots behind Marcus Colston. Running with the first unit has been Colston, Devery Henderson, Terrance Copper, David Patten and rookie Robert Meachem. WR Lance Moore is secure because he's the likely No. 1 kick returner.
Atlanta Falcons - QB Rotation: Joey Harrington (10-12 plays), Chris Redman, D.J. Shockley, Lang Campbell.
Joey Harrington will start Friday. Then Petrino will likely hand the job to Chris Redman and D.J. Shockley, who are competing for the backup quarterback position. Redman has been working the No. 2 unit in practice. Lang Campbell may see late mop up duty.
Redman hasn't played since 2003, and Shockley hasn't played a down in a regular-season game.
TE Alge Crumpler, defensive tackle Rod Coleman and RB Warrick Dunn were declared "out" for the Jets game by Petrino.
Michael Koenen, who entered last season handling all three kicking duties, is punting. Billy Cundiff and Aaron Elling are competing for the kickoff and placekicking job.
Bobby Petrino is the new head coach, coming over from Louisville.
A Petrino camp is a more business-like place, almost corporate. "He's all about football," owner Arthur Blank said of Petrino.
Petrino has not been hesitant to put his stamp on this team, either by promoting or demoting players, opening competition, moving players or by kicking them to the curb. The release of WR Fred Gibson three days into training camp sent a warning that there is no tolerance for not doing things the right way.
NY Jets - QB Rotation: Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, Marques Tuiasosopo.
Coach Eric Mangini refused to say how long the veterans would play against the Falcons, claiming it depends on the flow of the game.
The offense is in the second year of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's high-tech scheme that features an array of shifts and motions.
Secondary thin: CB Justin Miller (hamstring) sat out both practices and might not playy. CB Andre Dyson, the Jets' top cornerback, has been slowed by an undisclosed right leg injury for much of training camp. He was limping visibly during the morning workout. The Jets haven't moved in negotiations with rookie CB Darrelle Revis. S Eric Smith hurt his hamstring Wednesday and was carted off the field.
Offensive line concerns: Guard Pete Kendall is still holding out and has ripped the organization almost daily since the start of training camp. Starting right guard Brandon Moore sat out Tuesday's workout protesting his contract.
New England Patriots - QB Rotation: Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Vinnie Testaverde, rookie Matt Gutierrez.
Secondary thin. CB Chad Scott is out for the season (knee) and CB Asante Samuel is holding out.
The right tackle spot is one of the most competitive in training camp, with third-year player Nick Kaczur (20 starts) and second-year man Ryan O'Callaghan (6 starts) and 6-8 Wesley Britt.
Tampa Bay Bucs - QB Rotation: Jeff Garcia (1st Q), Luke McCown (2nd-3rd Qs), Bruce Gradkowski (mop up), Chris Simms (see below).
Garcia will start, Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski will follow. McCown will see significant action Friday against New England. QB Chris Simms (elbow) won't play.
Despite RB Cadillac Williams' request for more snaps, Gruden will stick to same plan as the past two preseasons. "He's going to get a couple of carries and he's going to be an observer for a lot of the time," Gruden said.
Jeff Garcia's presence has prompted Coach Jon Gruden to consider the shotgun as a legitimate option for his version of the West Coast attack. Gruden is eager to expand his playbook in terms of rollouts and bootlegs to capitalize on Garcia's mobility.
Offensive line thin. Gruden all but ruled out the possibility of projected starting LT Luke Petitgout playing a role.
LB Ryan Nece looks like he will get the start at middle linebacker against New England. While MLB Barrett Ruud continues to nurse a left knee bruise, Nece, the former starting strongside linebacker, has been working out in the middle.
Defensively, the Bucs are considering new packages in an effort to disrupt timing and generate more heat on opposing quarterbacks. Last season, QBs feasted against Tampa Bay's defense, posting a cumulative 91.0 rating.
Gruden has been preaching for an aggressive team. "We've got to be a more physical football team," Gruden said. "That was an area that got away from us a bit last year. This year, I want to see us hit in most every practice. And I want us to hit hard."
St. Louis Rams - QB Rotation: Marc Bulger, Gus Frerotte, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brock Berlin.
The Rams plan to use more two-tight end sets this season.
WR/returner Dante Hall is nursing a sore hamstring. Linehan said Hall's availability for the preseason opener in Minnesota would be a "game-time decision." Meaning second-year man Marques Hagans and seventh-round draft pick Derek Stanley should get the bulk of the work on kickoff and punt returns.
They have a revamped defensive front with Leonard Little at left end; former Detroit Lion James Hall at right end; La'Roi Glover and rookie Adam Carriker at tackle.
Minnesota Vikings - QB Rotation: Tarvaris Jackson (8-15 plays), Brooks Bollinger (2nd Q+), Tyrus Thigpen, Drew Henson (mop up).
HC Brad Childress said he is not inclined to play QB Tarvaris Jackson longer than the typical eight to 15 plays Friday against the Rams. "You don't want any bad habits from him playing behind the third offensive line and getting happy feet," Childress said. "I would rather see him establish a rhythm with the guys that he is going to play with on the football field."
Tarvaris Jackson has worked almost exclusively with the first-team offense, while Brooks Bollinger has been getting snaps with the second unit.
QB Tavaris Jackson's downfield accuracy has been lacking as he learns the offense, and most of his best throws have been dropped.
Running backs thin: Rookie Adrian Peterson suffered a hip pointer last week, RB Chester Taylor (minor bruise) had his right arm wrapped and RB Wendell Mathis (muscle strain) has missed practice this week.
The Vikings have a new defensive coordinator in Leslie Frazier.
Re: Friday NFL PreSeason News and Notes
Patriots To Try Out New Weapons In Tampa Bay
By Darren Kelly
It's been 200 days since the Patriots were one play away from the Super Bowl. It would have been their fourth trip in six years, and would have been as unlikely a feat as their first trip to the big game against St. Louis.
In the intervening months, the New England Patriots have improved their team exponentially. After making news the previous offseason for not re-signing wide receiver Deion Branch (and little else), the Patriots spent the last 200 days rebuilding their receiving corps, signing the most high-profile defensive free agent, and gearing up for another Super Bowl run.
Just two weeks after opening training camp, the Patriots hit the field for their first game action. It may be summer, but barbecues and pool parties are the furthest things from Belichick and company's minds.
Every player on this team knows what's at stake, and what the potential payoff is after these weeks of practicing in the Foxborough heat and humidity. The players that were here last season do not want to watch Peyton Manning or anyone else hoist the Lombardi trophy. And the new imports have watched New England win three of the last six Super Bowls. They're joining a proven winner at possibly the best time.
That's why Linebacker Adalius Thomas is here. That's why Donte' Stallworth joined the team. It's the reason Troy Brown, Chad Brown, Junior Seau, and even Vinny Testaverde are suiting up for one more season. And Randy Moss knows his best chance for a ring is this year, with this team.
It all kicks off tomorrow night in the Patriots' preseason match-up with the Buccaneers. Here are 5 things to watch for in the Patriots' first preseason game:
Is Tampa better than China?
Originally, the Patriots were supposed to be in China yesterday, playing the Seattle Seahawks in the "China Bowl." But in a rare public misjudgment by the NFL, the game was postponed until 2009. In place of the China trip the Dolphins and Giants head to London to play a regular season game in October.
So instead of traveling to China and playing an extra preseason game, the Patriots head to Tampa, stay in the same time zone, and let a division rival and a 2007 opponent receive frequent flier miles. And jetlag. As a matter of fact, the Patriots won't leave the Eastern timezone until Week 6 when they travel to Dallas.
This is the first time the Patriots have been to Tampa since the 2001 preseason -- their first Super Bowl season. Take a good look at Raymond James Stadium. The Patriots won't be back until the 2009-10 season. Unless they make it to the Super Bowl at the end of next season. (This year's Super Bowl will be at the Arizona Cardinals' new stadium.)
Who will be the #2 running back?
Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney combined for 1,557 yards rushing last season. With Dillon out of the equation this year, who's going to be the running back that provides relief for Maroney? And can anyone carry half the rushing load the way Dillon and Maroney did last year?
Tomorrow night's game might help shed some light on this question. Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans are back to try and fill the need, but neither rushed for more than 123 yards last year. One of the Patriots' offseason moves was signing running back Sammy Morris. Morris had 92 carries for 400 yards last year for the Dolphins, the second best season of his career.
Whoever gets the bulk of the carries -- and yards -- tomorrow night could have the edge in the running back race. After all, when Maroney went up the middle for 27 yards on his second carry of last year's first preseason game (during the opening drive), it immediately became clear that he would be an integral part of the team's offense. The same could happen for whoever shines tomorrow night.
How long will the starters play?
If last year's first game is any indication, not long. Tom Brady played just one series in last year's opener, and the rest of the starters played minimally, if at all. Richard Seymour and Randy Moss might not take the field. And Adalius Thomas, Laurence Maroney, and most of the other starters will probably see limited playing time.
Which players are on the field for the rest of the game -- and how they play -- will be the intriguing sidelight to the game. Right tackle Nick Kaczur, who is coming off of a shoulder injury, is in a tight battle for the starting spot on the offensive line with second-year tackle Ryan O'Callaghan. The Patriots traded for cornerback Dante Wesley this week, and he joins Randall Gay and Ellis Hobbs in the battle to replace Asante Samuel, if Samuel continues with his holdout.
How much will Matt Cassel play?
The strangest part of last season's first game was watching Matt Cassel play all but the first series. Cassel was 13-of-26 for 229 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, and was elevated to the #2 quarterback by the season opener.
Rookie Matt Gutierrez from Idaho State and 20-year veteran Vinny Testaverde are the only other quarterbacks on the roster behind Brady and Cassel. It will be interesting to see if Belichick wants to have a look at his rookie quarterback in Game 1, as well as how much Testaverde will see the field throughout the preseason.
How many receivers are enough?
Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth will be on the team when the season starts. But neither will see the field for many plays against Tampa Bay. That means that Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell will have an opportunity to prove that they belong in what is now an elite receiving corps. There's also Wes Welker, Troy Brown, Bam Childress, Chad Jackson, Kelley Washington, and a few others looking to be in the mix. Not to mention tight ends Ben Watson, Kyle Brady, and Garrett Mills.
It's trendy to say that with all of the receiving talent, the Patriots will employ the five-receiver set on every play. And with Brady's unique knack for spreading the ball around, the number of receivers catching passes each week will be high. But New England won't be passing on every down, and there are more players than spots at this point.
The receivers' practice sessions with Brady will tell the coaching staff more in regard to how well these second-level receivers will mesh in the starting offense. But nothing beats live game action, so whether it's Casel, Gutierrez, or Testaverde tossing passes tomorrow night, the wide receivers and tight ends that need to make an impact will be in the spotlight.
Re: Friday NFL PreSeason News and Notes
Friday’s NFL starter report
By ALAN MCNAMARA
The NFL preseason picks up more steam tonight with four games kicking off a busy weekend of exhibition play.
Here's a close look at the teams involved in Friday’s action. Find out who’s out injured, which stars are starting – and how long you can expect to see them for.
New York Jets
Jets coach Eric Mangini says he'll start Chad Pennington at quarterback against Atlanta today. Other than that he was tight-lipped, simply adding that "those other guys will all work in."
He also declined to say how long his starters will play, telling NorthJersey.com that it all depends on how the game pans out.
"It really depends how the game goes early on," Mangini said. "Sometimes you think that you want to get them X number of plays, and then your offense goes on a long drive, and it could be heavy running plays or a lot of completions inbounds, and then the defense really isn't at the number you wanted because the quarter has been shortened."
Falcons coach Bobby Petrino expects to use his starters in 10 to 12 plays. QB Joey Harrington is likely to play, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but then Petrino will probably hand things over to backups Chris Redman and D.J. Shockley.
"The only thing we know is that Joey is not going to play too many snaps," Redman told the Journal-Constitution. "So we know that we all are going to get a lot of work. We'll just be prepared for anything."
Redman has spent the preseason so far working as the No. 2 quarterback. His career so far has been hampered by recurring shoulder injuries and he hasn’t played a regular season game since 2003.
New England Patriots
A series of preseason injuries means that a lot of the Pats big names will not take the field for tonight’s game against the Bucs. Randy Moss, Kyle Brady, David Thomas, Ben Watson are struggling, while cornerback Chad Scott is already done for the year.
Coach Bill Belichick has brought over 80 players to Florida for the game and seems intent on playing most of them.
"I’d like to see everybody get some action this week," Belichick told the Nashua Telegraph this week. "We’re just trying to get it all organized and hopefully everyone who can play will get an opportunity to play."
Tom Brady will start tonight’s game, but he is unlikely to feature for more than 10 plays. Backup quarterbacks Matt Cassel and rookie Matt Gutierrez will get more time as Belichick looks to figure things out for the new season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s not just the Pats that have injury problems ahead of tonight’s game. Tampa Bay coach John Gruden has already ruled out Luke Petitgout and Barret Ruud, and quarterback Chris Simms is questionable.
Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski will follow starter Jeff Garcia in the quarterback rotation, according to the Tampa Bay Tribune.
"It appears that will be the case," Gruden told the paper when asked about McCown's game status. "He missed the whole year last year, so we're going to try to get an extensive look at him."
Bills coach Dick Jauron says he expects starting quarterback J.P. Losman to play the first series against the Saints on Friday. According to Buffalobills.com, Craig Nall will finish the first half and be replaced by rookie Trent Edwards.
"I'm inclined to think that Craig will go second and play a little, and then Trent will get most of the rest," Jauron told the team’s website. "It's not etched in stone, we'll just have to see how we feel, but that's probably how it will go."
Jauron also stated that Anthony Thomas will start at running back, but safety Donte Whitner is doubtful despite returning to practice this week. Bills starters are expected to feature in 10 to 15 plays tonight.
New Orleans Saints
Saints running back Deuce McAllister will see his first preseason action of the year tonight after sitting out Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game against the Steelers. Safety Roman Harper is also in line for a start, but will likely only play in the first quarter.
"Depending on the number of snaps, it might be a quarter or a little into the second quarter on one side of the ball or the other," coach Sean Payton said when asked how long his starters would play.
But he did not give anything away about his quarterback rotation. Drew Brees is likely to start, but it is not yet known when Jamie Martin and Jason Fife will enter the game.
St. Louis Rams
First-round draft pick Adam Carriker will make his first appearance for the St. Louis Rams tonight when they take on the Vikings. The 6-foot-6 defensive lineman played at Nebraska and is charged with shoring up a defense that yielded the second most rushing yards in the league last season.
He's ready," coach Scott Linehan told reporters on Thursday. "He's worked with the first team from the get-go and never looked out of place. It'll be fun to watch him play."
The Rams only have two injuries coming out of preseason so far. Linebacker Raonall Smith (shoulder) and tackle Ken Shackleford (knee) are both out of today’s game.
Linehan did not disclose how long he plans to keep his starters in the game, but Marc Bulger is expected to start as quarterback with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Gus Frerotte set to come in after around 10 plays.
Running back Adrian Peterson, the seventh overall draft pick this year, has confirmed he will play his first game for the Vikings tonight despite missing a large part of the preseason because of contract negotiations.
"I’m looking forward to getting out there against another team, playing in the stadium, and hearing the screams. I’m looking forward to my first NFL experience," he told reporters on Thursday. "Coming into my rookie year and my first rookie game, I can’t explain it. It’s a dream come true."
Meanwhile, coach Brad Childress has confirmed that Tarvaris Jackson will start at QB with Brooks Bollinger to follow in the second quarter. He also added that starters will play two or three series, but not beyond the first quarter.
Re: Friday NFL PreSeason News and Notes
NFL PRESEASON ROUNDUP
QB fares well, but Falcons fall to Jets
Thrust into the starting quarterback job while Michael Vick is facing federal dogfighting charges, Joey Harrington led one Atlanta Falcons' scoring drive in his three series Friday night in a 31-16 loss to the New York Jets in the preseason opener for both teams. The former Lion and Dolphin QB was 6-of-9 for 88 yards, including a 37-yarder to Dwayne Blakley on a play that was kept alive when Harrington scrambled to avoid the rush.
Bills 13, Saints 10
Drew Brees completed 12 passes to seven receivers for 118 yards on only two offensive series, but both New Orleans drives stalled inside the Bills' 30, and Buffalo's reserves took advantage. New Saints kicker Olindo Mare made one field goal; the other was blocked. With the starters playing throughout the first quarter, the Saints were the big winners in yardage and time of possession.
Rams 13, Vikings 10
Tarvaris Jackson completed 8 of 11 passes for 83 yards and had 25 yards rushing on two scrambles, but Minnesota's offense failed to score a touchdown. The Vikings were unable to move the chains on 5 of 7 third-down plays in the first half. A Rams defense that gave up the second-most yards on the ground in the league last season was tough to run on, with first-round draft pick Adam Carriker seeing plenty of time at nose tackle. Ryan Longwell's 30-yard field goal was all Minnesota's starting offense mustered while playing most of two quarters.
Bucs 13, Patriots 10
Luke McCown, who didn't play in 2006 after undergoing knee surgery and spending the first seven weeks of the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list, played in a game for the first time since the 2005 preseason and completed all seven of his passes for 68 yards and one touchdown for Tampa Bay. Jeff Garcia worked two three-and-out series in his debut at quarterback for Tampa Bay, which won on Matt Bryant's 32-yard field goal as time expired. New England QB Tom Brady was in for 13 plays, while wide receiver Randy Moss sat out as expected with a sore hamstring.
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