NFL

QBs under the gun in preseason debuts

Sam Bradford looked uncomfortable in his preseason debut.
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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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Fourteen teams were in action Saturday evening, and several first-round picks got their first chances to show what they’ve got. But what this night wound up being about was quarterback performances — good and bad.

How did they do? Let’s take a look….

Bradford struggles in debut

St. Louis Rams first-round pick QB Sam Bradford struggled in his debut against the Minnesota Vikings. Save for a few plays, Bradford looked like a rookie. He had problems with blitz recognition and held onto the ball too long on several dropbacks. As expected, he seemed more comfortable in the shotgun, a formation he used most of the time at the University of Oklahoma.

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For the Vikings, things went splendidly for their passing game during the 27-7 victory, especially with veteran QB Sage Rosenfels. After taking over for starter Tarvaris Jackson early on in the first quarter, Rosenfels went 23 for 34 for 310 yards with three TD tosses. Rosenfels displayed excellent pocket awareness and poise. His offensive line gave him great protection.

TE Garrett Mills, the recipient of a few downfield throws by Rosenfels, finished with four receptions for 106 yards, which included a 65-yard TD catch and run. Talent has never been an issue for Mills; staying healthy has been the problem.

Quiet night for Marshall; RB impresses

Veteran WR Brandon Marshall made his debut in a Miami Dolphins uniform against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The big receiver didn’t record a catch during the rain-soaked first quarter.

But the Buccaneers have to continue to be pleased with rookie WR Mike Williams. He only caught one pass, but it was a big play for 30 yards. Williams has been the offensive star in training camp for this team, and he’s pretty much a lock to start.

Change-of-pace RB Kareem Huggins posted 55 yards on eight carries during the 10-7 loss, but he may wind up being more than just the team’s third back. Based on his training camp performance thus far, Huggins, who was signed as an undrafted free agent last year, could get into the rotation this season.

Roethlisberger sits; Stafford shines

Right up to game time, it seemed like a mystery whether Pittsburgh Steelers starting QB Ben Roethlisberger would play against the Detroit Lions. Roethlisberger wound up not playing during the 23-7 win over the Lions. Journeyman QB Byron Leftwhich started in his stead.

Leftwich struggled to find any discernable consistency during his playing time and was under a heavy pass rush.

Detroit’s starting QB Matthew Stafford looked like a completely different player from a year ago at this time. He played with poise and threw with excellent timing and anticipation, going 8 for 11 for 61 yards with a TD and one interception.

Rodgers sharp; McCoy struggles

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Aaron Rodgers began his third season as the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers at home against the Cleveland Browns and put together about as good of a performance as could be expected this early in the preseason. Rodgers went 12 for 13 for 159 yards with a 25-yard TD toss to WR Greg Jennings. The duo also hooked up on a 34-yard completion in the first half.

Jake Delhomme made his debut in a Cleveland uniform and looked comfortable behind center. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 67 yards. He did a nice job of getting the ball out of his hands quickly. But third-round pick Colt McCoy struggled, going just 5 for 10 for 25 yards with two interceptions. He seemed a little jittery in the pocket.

Second-year WR Brian Robiskie continued his solid play with a 13-yard TD catch from a scrambling Seneca Wallace. Robiskie seems to have locked up a starting job.

Schaub and Johnson continue their dominance

It’s not a secret the Houston Texans have perhaps one of the best passing games in the NFL. Against the Arizona Cardinals, the combo of QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson struck gold.

Schaub got great protection and hit a streaking Johnson down the left sideline for a 44-yard TD. Johnson beat journeyman CB Justin Miller easily.

As expected, RB Arian Foster started, and he had a nice 21-yard scamper during his four carries. Steve Slaton, who is also competing for the starting job, couldn’t get untracked during his 10 carries. He also fumbled and turned the ball over, an issue which hampered him badly last season.

Despite playing with a sore hip, Houston got an outstanding performance from veteran DE Mario Williams, who posted two sacks during his limited playing time.

Unfortunately, second-round pick RB Ben Tate might have suffered a serious lower leg or ankle injury during the 19-16 loss at Arizona. Tate left the game after just one carry.

No starting LT, no problem for Rivers

With San Diego starting OLT Marcus McNeill still dealing with a contractual issue, the team had to turn to backup OT Brandyn Dombrowski, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008. Starting QB Philip Rivers didn’t miss a beat during brief playing time during the 25-10 victory over the visiting Chicago Bears.

Rivers hit a wide open Legedu Naanee for an easy score on a 25-yard pass. Rivers had great protection, something that many speculated could be a problem going forward.

This game marked the debut of first-round pick RB Ryan Mathews, who had a nifty 18-yard run where he almost fell right after getting the ball, but he kept his balance and ran to daylight.
 

Tagged: Browns, Lions, Packers, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Sage Rosenfels, Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Mario Williams, Ben Tate, Sam Bradford, Mike Williams

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