The dreaded preseason comes to an end on Thursday and after watching my share of games it sure looks like the Saints are ready to defend and that the biggest talkers this summer, Rex & the Jets, may have to worry about Mark Sanchez producing big numbers despite a solid offensive cast.
Two supposedly improved offenses, the Cowboys and the Bears, have been sputtering while in Carolina, John Fox has his defense on high alert but the offense has a big fat zero touchdowns in 42 possessions. Wow! Baltimore looks like an NFC North favorite while the Packers and Chargers appear to be as good as advertised.
Still, there needs to be some fixing to make this season better than 2009. Here are my best suggestions:
1. Get over yourself, Angelo
We know Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo doesn’t like to trade from weakness, but right now he needs a quality offensive lineman immediately. Jay Cutler has been under siege all summer (10 sacks in five quarters) and even the Detroit Lions finally look like they may be able to actually hurt him in the season opener.
New England has been sitting on Pro Bowl holdout Logan Mankins and the Bears may have to trade away their future in order for Angelo and Lovie Smith to have a future in Chicago.
2. Admit your mistake, NFL
This umpire in the backfield format simply isn’t working. Peyton Manning hates it and who knows how many defensive holding penalties are being missed, too. Either put the umpire back with the defenders where he belongs and give him a rugby-like helmet, or allow hurry-up teams to snap the ball as soon as he’s past the offensive back in the backfield. Right now, watching these guys race to 17 yards from the line of scrimmage between plays will definitely slow the game down. Heck, the umpire and referee sometimes seem too far away from the action in order to really see anything.
3. Give up on Matt Leinart
The Cardinals wouldn’t listen when I suggested current Ravens quarterback Marc Bulger would be a good fit for their offense and now it seems they don’t love either Matt Leinart or Derek Anderson, who could earn $6 million if he’s the starter in Arizona. The Cards should make a deal for a proven backup and cut Leinart because the coaches see so much upside in rookies John Skelton and Max Hall. Now we know why Arizona was hot for San Diego’s Charlie Whitehurst, who landed in Seattle this offseason. There seems to be no confidence in Leinart.
4. QB by committee in Carolina
Does anyone remember that back in the 1960s Cowboys coach Tom Landry used to rotate his quarterbacks? Well, the Panthers ought to consider this option with Matt Moore and rookie Jimmy Clausen. The competition has been brutal in Carolina this summer and if Clausen had done anything spectacular, he would be deserving of being the starter. Until one takes command, a rotation makes sense. Besides, the Panthers know Clausen will only improve with playing time.
5. Memo to Mike Brown: Fire yourself
Bengals owner Mike Brown should fire himself from all personnel decisions. The Bucs knew that receiver Antonio Bryant had a serious knee problem, but Brown, who detests having lots of scouts and personnel men, gave Bryant a huge free-agent contract worth $7 million in bonus money already paid and the kid still wants his $1.95 million salary even though he hasn’t practiced all summer. The best thing about having scouts is maybe one or two of them could have found out how much of a risk Bryant was. Those weren’t fantasy dollars that Brown tossed away. They are like some teams that fill needs with poor risks – they pass guys that others wanto to flunk and see what they want to see.
6. Be aggressive, Rams — make a deal Chargers can’t refuse
Based on his preseason performance in New England, the Rams know they made the right call in drafting Sam Bradford. And with hard-luck WR Donnie Avery on the shelf again, poor (well, rich) Bradford doesn’t have a deep threat to keep defenses honest. Granted, San Diego holdout Vincent Jackson is facing a three-game suspension to start the season, but a lot of good receivers are knuckleheads. Jackson is not worth $8 or $9 million, but he might be worth $5 million to the Rams if the Chargers are willing to trade him. Otherwise, the Rams will be scanning the waiver wire for any receiver who can breathe.
7. Don’t hold back, Jerry
There is something wrong in Dallas this summer. Maybe it’s been all the early traveling from San Antonio to Canton and then finally onto Oxnard way out in California. The Cowboys are a Super Bowl-or-bust team this season, but the first-team offense has generated only one TD in three preseason games. Everything is supposedly in place, but they are counting too much on right tackle Marc Columbo making it through one final season. To give Tony Romo peace of mind, Jerry Jones ought to deal for the Chargers’ other unsigned talent, tackle Marcus McNeill. Might as well load up with as much talent as you can.
8. Get Dennis Dixon a tutor
The Steelers apparently have no choice but to start Byron Leftwich when the season opens because Dennis Dixon doesn’t appear ready despite all his talents. Coach Mike Tomlin might have to put the passing game in mothballs if he wants to leave September with a 2-2 split before Ben Roethlisberger returns from suspension in October. The Steelers made a mistake not getting Dixon ready to start because at least he can run from poor pass protection.
9. Pay up, Jets
The Jets open the season against Baltimore, host the Patriots at the "new" Meadowlands before hitting the road in Miami. The Jets need to settle with their best player, cornerback Darrelle Revis, before it gets ugly in New York. Right now there are no guarantees that QB Mark Sanchez will light up the scoreboard against the Ravens and Pats. If the Jets open 0-2, Revis holds all the cards because owner Woody Johnson doesn’t simply wants to write off the season after all the “Hard Knocks” attention. Based on their other signings, the Jets have the money and tend to overpay their players, so what’s the problem?
10. Strap it up, QBs
Finally, one bit of safety advice for all quarterbacks: Find a helmet that fits, get a double-chin strap and make sure it’s on tight before taking a snap. Quarterbacks tend to be cavalier about their helmets, some even unbuttoning the strap after every play. Eli Manning didn’t have his helmet on tight or he wouldn’t have suffered a gash on his head against the Jets. I’ve seen too many QBs get head-slapped this summer and watch the helmet go sideways. In this age of concussion caution, they should buckle up for safety like defensive players do on every play.