The NFL Pre Season began last week with the Baltimore Ravens playing the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame Game. Whilst both team rested many starters there were a couple of noteworthy performances in the Ravens 17-16 win.
• A Ravens’ backup quarterback surprised with his performance in this game. However, it was Washington Redskins former No. 2 overall pick, Robert Griffin III. Griffin looked impressive in his first Ravens outing, completing 7-of-11 for 58 yards, one touchdown. The statistics show that RGIII also had an interception but this was the result of a misc-cue by disappointing Raven receiver Breshad Perriman. Whilst I’m not nominating him for comeback player of the year just yet, he certainly looked like an effective backup
• The star of the game for me was Kamalei Correa. Fresh off a move from inside linebacker to outside linebacker (the position he played in college), the speedy Boise State alum shone during his time on field. Correa stood out with five total tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception.
With all 32 NFL teams playing a pre-season matchup there’ll be plenty to watch over the coming three days. I’ve picked some of matchups that I’ll be keeping an eye on. Whether you’re a die hard fan planning on watching your team live or new to the game and wanting some player to look out for this is for you! As always I’d love your feedback @Cumbleton on Twitter.
Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals
• During the Bears game against the Bengals the key performers to watch out for are both draft picks from last year. Controversial running back, Joe Mixon, failed to cement his place as the number one back last year, despite several flashes. He finished the season with a respectable 626 yards and 4 touchdowns rushing and added 287 yards receiving. At least Mixon was on the field. That’s more can be said for receiver John Ross. Ross has been turning heads in training camp and still has his impressive speed which will make him a great compliment to AJ Green.
• Andy Dalton saw his production drop yet again in 2017 but much of this was blamed on the questionable offensive line but with the additions of Cordy Glenn and draft pick Billy Price. The offense in general failed to meet expectations so its vital the line step up in order for the team to give the fans something to cheer about!
• The Bears have filled their offence with new weapons for budding star Mitchell Trubisky but rested many starters for the Hall of Fame Game. Their game against the Bengals will be our first chance to see how potent Matt Nagy’s offense can be. Taylor Gabriel is unlikely to play as he nurses an injury but Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and second round tight end Anthony Miller should all get a change to spark.
Cleveland Browns at New York Giants
• Baker Mayfield was the first overall pick in the 2018 despite many claiming he was ‘just another Johnny Manziel’ but he has doing everything expected of him so far. After praise from the coaches and some impressive throws in training camp I expect the Browns’ future franchise QB to open some eyes.
• On the Giants offence I’ll be watching a player who was also in contention for the first overall pick, Saquon Barkley. The former Penn State star is as effective catching the ball out of the backfield and I’m excited to him behind a reinforced line that features free agency addition Nate Solder and second round draft pick Will Hernandez.
• Watching the Browns against Barkley, Eli and Odel Beckham Junior will also be a good barometer for how the Browns defence can hold up. Just one win would be an improvement on last year. Myles Garrett, Jamie Collins and company will be looking for more from Jabrill Peppers, who’ll finally settle at safety after playing multiple positions last year. Can this revamped secondary, including fourth overall pick Denzel Ward, give the Browns playoff hopes?
Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens
• LaMar Jackson was supposed to look pro ready in his first NFL pre season game and really set his stall out as a legitimate starter instead of veteran Joe Flacco. He didn’t. At times he looked skittish in the pocket and relied on his impressive speed and athletic prowess rather than his arm. Can Jackson must go through his reads and take advantage of Baltimore’s renewed reviving corp in his second game as a pro?
• For the Rams, I’ll be watching to see how the Rams big name acquisitions blend as a team. On paper the Rams had an amazing off season as they added receiver Brandin Cooks, corners Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. With so many stars on the same team will egos be an issue? Will they miss linebackers Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin more than they expect? Or can they quickly gel to be a team everyone fears?
• Can Maxx Williams build on his Hall of Fame game touchdown? The former second round pick showed promise as a rookie but was bothered by a cartilage issue which limited him at the start of 2016 and eventually saw him placed on injured reserve following Week 4 of 2016. Last season saw him play in 11 games, contributing just 15 catches and a touchdown. The Ravens will be hoping that 2018 is the year that he reaches his potential.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles
• The Steelers first pre-season game is against last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. James Connor is a former Pitt. running back who reminds older fans of Steelers great and Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis aka ‘The Bus’. Connor is a bigger back with a bruising style that I associate with Steelers football. His numbers were poor in his rookie season as the Steelers rode the best back in football, Le’Veon Bell. Reports from camp suggest he’s in great shape and has improved his pass catching. Can he take advantage of Bell holding out for a new deal?
• On defence I’ll be watching the Steelers next defensive superstar and first round pick, Terrell Edmunds. While many expected Edmunds not to play a whole lot in hips first year an injury to starter Morgan Burnett has meant that he’s been working with the first team in camp. Edmunds may also see some time at inside linebacker. This would be huge for the Steelers as starters Tyler Matakevich and Jon Bostic aren’t players teams have to gameplan for.
• For the Eagles the players I’ve picked are backups fighting to make what is a very talented roster. Offensive lineman Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata. The two have had very different camps. Sixth round pick Pryor has been impressive throughout camp and can push to be a primary backup with good performances in pre season. Mailata was a seventh round pick and is more physically imposing but that’s where his dominance ends. Jordan is an Australian rugby league player drafted in seventh round. He’s been the whipping boy early in camp but has shown progress in his game. How will he fare in his first competitive football match?!