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Young players shine under bright lights

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Adam Caplan

Adam Caplan is our newest NFL reporter/insider at FOXSports.com. He has spent the past 10 seasons covering the league, specializing in player personnel, injuries and contracts.

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They’re back!!

Well, not exactly the way every New England Patriots fan wanted it, but Tom Brady got to work with the Wes Welker clone, Julian Edelman.

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Edelman, the second-year pro and former college quarterback, has a little better size than Welker. He works so well in space that unless you look at the jersey number, it’s hard to tell him from the veteran, who didn’t play against the New Orleans Saints.

Welker probably could have played based on how well he’s recovered from major knee and shoulder surgeries earlier this year, but he probably doesn’t need to take any unnecessary pounding on his body.

Brady and Welker still need to get their in-game timing down, but they’ve worked so well together over the years, just getting Welker minimal playing time during the rest of the preseason probably will suffice.

It was also good to see Brady keep his rhythm together behind his banged up offensive line. He was given enough time to hit veteran WR Randy Moss on a nice 23-yard completion in the first quarter. Brady also found second-year WR Brandon Tate, who should see a lot of playing time opposite Moss this season, on a beautiful 20-yard sideline throw.

We mentioned in the Training Camp blog that the Saints needed to get a good look at UDFA RBs Chris Ivory and P.J. Hill before deciding if they will sign a veteran to replace injured RB Lynell Hamilton. Both backs had some nice runs against New England’s backup defenders.

New Orleans has been trying to develop a backup quarterback for the past few years, but Patrick Ramsey was very accurate in this game. He worked well with seldom used WR Adrian Arrington.

In other games….

Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens

At First Glance --

The Carolina Panthers couldn’t get much done on offense with their starters in the lineup on offense against the Baltimore Ravens. But what has to please the coaches was the play from rookie QB Jimmy Clausen.

While it won’t show under the statistics, Clausen showed very good poise early on and threw the ball fairly well.

The battle for the No. 3 running back job between Mike Goodson and Tyrell Sutton will take time to sort out, but Sutton had some impressive runs and catches, while Goodson sat out as one of Carolina’s inactives due to an ankle injury.

Defensively, Carolina got a little bit of pressure from veteran DE Tyler Brayton, but they couldn’t consistently get to Baltimore QB Joe Flacco, who had an outstanding first half. But sixth-round pick DE Greg Hardy really showed really good speed off the edge against Baltimore’s backups. If Hardy brings a consistent motor, Carolina could have a steal on their hands. Coming into his senior season at Mississippi, Hardy had as high as a second-round grade from some teams, sources said.

Flacco hit veteran WR Mark Clayton on a 30-yard TD strike in the right corner of the endzone.

DUNK OF THE YEAR?

This dunk was nasty, but Blake Griffin had an even sicker finish on Kendrick Perkins. See it at Yardbarker.

Interestingly, like we saw in the 2009 preseason from the Ravens, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is being aggressive from the start with more called passing plays than running plays. With all of the offensive talent the team added at receiver and tight end, look for Cameron to be very aggressive with Flacco this season.

How about second-round pick DT Terrence “Mount” Cody playing fullback in Baltimore’s “Jumbo” package. Other than his one false start, he did pretty well. And defensively, he was a force on a handful of plays.

FS Tom Zbikowski was all over the field for the Ravens in the first half. While he won’t make anyone forget about Ed Reed, he showed that he could be a capable replacement for the time being.

Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys

At First Glance --

Oakland’s offense wasn’t the least impressive in the first half, but the defense really flashed some spark.

What was very noticeable is the speed they have off the edge with their pass rush. DEs Matt Shaughnessy (two sacks) and Lamarr Houston (two sacks) led a relentless rush up field against Dallas QB Tony Romo for most of the first half. Houston, who played inside in college, showed surprisingly good speed against the Dallas offensive line.

And don’t forget about their pass coverage which gave up little to the Dallas passing game. Veteran CB Nnamdi Asomugha essentially acted like a “Snuggie” as he blanketed WR Roy Williams.

If Oakland’s pass rush can be fairly consistent this season, their defense could be a big surprise.

Not that it matters much, but Felix Jones got the start over veteran RB Marion Barber for Dallas.

Dallas has to be concerned with the performance of the offensive line after seeing how Oakland got off the ball way too well.

Tagged: Cowboys, Raiders, Patriots, Saints, Panthers, Ravens, Tom Brady, Ed Reed, Wes Welker, Joe Flacco, Greg Hardy

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