NFC Update: Final Preseason Breakdown
by Christian S. Kohl
All the meaningless games have ended and all the dust has finally settled. The war begins this week at long last. Here’s a look at some of the last minute moves and action emerging from the NFC:
Detroit Lions: WR Patrick Edwards is looking to see significant targets opposite Calvin Johnson this year. Any WR is happy to be in that system, and any WR who can actually deliver to relieve some pressure from Johnson would be greatly appreciated in Detroit. Edwards will get his first chance this Sunday against Minnesota.
Chicago Bears: Earl Bennett resumed practicing this week, and Brandon Marshall reportedly looks even better this year than last. With Forte looking to take on a bigger role in the passing game, hopes are high this year in Chicago. They draw a difficult match against Cincinnati this weekend to open their season.
Green Bay Packers: M.D. Jennings reportedly has won the role of starting free safety, while fan-favorite John Kuhn has also evidently locked up third down duties. Seneca Wallace is now on board in an obvious backup role, while Mason Crosby restructured his deal. Lots of finishing touches this week for the Pack as they prepare to square off with San Francisco in what is sure to be a punishing opening contest.
Minnesota Vikings: Kevin Williams appears unlikely to start in the initial game for Minnesota after hyperextending his knee. The Vikings do not want to lose defenders against the fearsome Lions offensive attack. If Williams is unable to go, this will give Minnesota their first look at first-rounder Shariff Floyd in anger.
Carolina Panthers: Noted TD vulture Mike Tolbert resumed practicing this week, to the delight of Carolina fans everywhere and fantasy owners nowhere. The Panthers also waived once-hyped quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who will likely spend the season on IR. All hopes rest on the shoulders of the quarterback who succeeded him, Cam Newton. Newton opens his year against an unfriendly Seattle defense this Sunday.
New Orleans Saints: Eric Olsen was placed on IR this week, bringing his season to a close. Johnathan Vilma is also expected to miss multiple games while still recovering from knee surgery. Joe Morgan was also placed on IR this week, costing New Orleans some speed at WR. They open their year against Atlanta, in a game that will very likely result in a score reminiscent of pinball.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Darrelle Revis looks set to start week 1, fantastic news for all Bucs fans concerned about their team’s ability to score this year (also known as “Bucs fans.”) Doug Martin looks to work on third downs this year, good news for fantasy owners and people who don’t consider his long-term future. Ryan Lindell won the starting kicking job, and all involved in scoring will likely see action against the Jets in their opening contest this Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons let go of nine players this week, including the brother of Jacquizz Rodgers. Roddy White is expected to be fully healthy for Week 1, as is the ageless Tony Gonzalez. Both draw a favorable matchup against the vaunted 0-0 defense of the Saints.
Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III will start Week 1, in a story which drowns out all others in Washington in terms of significance. Barry Cofield also restructured his deal to allow the Skins more cap space. Washington will get their first glimpse of RGIII this Monday night against Philadelphia, in what they hope is their first of 16 regular season weeks spent holding their breath in hopes he remains healthy.
New York Giants: Victor Cruz returned to practice this week after injuring his heel. The timetable for Jason Pierre-Paul’s return remains unclear, and is still a question mark for the season opener this week. David Wilson will handle the goal line carries for the Giants while Andre Brown is out. New York draws Dallas on Sunday night to open their season.
Dallas Cowboys: Morris Claiborne is expected to be ready for action this Sunday, while Anthony Spencer is still unavailable. Lance Dunbar is no longer in his walking boot, but unlikely to play in Week 1 behind DeMarco Murray. Dallas gets the Giants at home in night game this Sunday.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have run more offensive plays this preseason on average than any other team, a trend which is likely to continue in the regular season under enigmatic new coach Chip Kelly. Brent Celek also figures to feature more prominently in this offense scheme than he did in previous iterations. Kelly certainly has everyone’s attention, and will debut his revamped Eagles on Monday night against RGIII and the Redskins.
St. Louis Rams: Jake Long reportedly feels completely healthy, a sensation with which he has been unfamiliar these past few years. Long at full strength is nothing shy of fearsome, and may provide the extra boost needed to elevate the game of RB Daryl Richardson. The Rams drew Arizona at home on Sunday afternoon to open their year.
Seattle Seahawks: Cliff Avril is unlikely to play in the initial week, while Chris Clemons has already been ruled out. When at full steam, the Seahawks feature an absolute ferocious defense, but still have some healing to go before they reach that 100% mark. Russell Wilson drew favorably as he begins his sophomore campaign, facing Carolina on Sunday afternoon in what is sure to be a fantastic quarterback duel.
Arizona Cardinals: Rashard Mendenhall will likely be available for Week 1. He remains the lead back of a committee no smaller than 5 deep. He or one of his 4 backups will have to emerge as a force to be reckoned with, despite the fairly significant hurdle of a poor offensive line. Arizona will open the year facing fellow divisional enigma St. Louis this Sunday.
San Francisco 49ers: Mario Manningham is expected to be available for week , but no sooner. The Niners are also reportedly using newly signed WR Chris Harper as a TE to fill Delanie Walker’s shoes. No word yet on how much LaMichael James will be featured this year when healthy, but reports emerging this week indicate it will be sparingly at best. The Niners will need their full compliment of weapons after drawing unfavorably to face Green Bay this Sunday in Week 1.
All the hype, hysteria and fear of preseason injuries has finally drawn to a close. The time to deliver on all the promises of improvement and domination has arrived. Keep it here through the entire season for all the latest on injuries and player news all around the league.