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Thursday night preseason primer

Robert Griffin III AP

The 2012 NFL preseason officially kicked off last Sunday when the Cardinals faced the Saints in the Hall of Fame Game. One team scored more points than the other, but none of that matters. Preseason won-loss records are thoroughly worthless, Beyond, perhaps, the third exhibition week, as Dennis Green may opine.

So instead of trying to forecast the final scores for tonight’s games, we’ve pinpointed five situations to bear in mind for a better read on what’s happening around the league.

1. Robert Griffin III makes his professional debut.

The Redskins only plan to give Griffin 12-20 snaps on Thursday night, but it will be interesting to see whether he shows signs of pro readiness. The camp buzz in D.C. suggests Griffin has a ways to go, even if he’s picked up his practice play a bit lately. His accuracy has reportedly been erratic, and he’s holding onto the ball too long. Tonight’s Redskins-Bills game kicks off at 7 p.m. eastern. Buffalo made major improvements to its pass rush during the offseason, so RG3 is going to have to get the football out quick if he wants to avoid big hits from Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus.

2. Will Peyton Manning throw deep?

Albert Breer of NFL Network has reported that Manning will play just one or two possessions in Thursday’s 8:30 p.m. preseason opener at Soldier Field. So if you turn on or show up to the game a few minutes late, you might miss him. Reports out of Denver claim Manning has shown precise accuracy on short to intermediate throws, but he hasn’t tested the defense long much in Broncos practice. Can Manning still air it out vertically after four neck surgeries at age 36?

3. The Todd Haley offense — whatever that is — shows up in Pittsburgh.

Some folks in Pittsburgh believe the Steelers are installing a run-first, smash-mouth offense, like the system Haley ran in Kansas City. Others think Haley’s offense may be more like his in Arizona, where Kurt Warner was constantly in the shotgun and the Cardinals ranked among the league leaders in pass attempts. The Steelers will be without holdout receiver Mike Wallace tonight, but they’re also not quite flush with elite tailbacks. The first-team offense probably won’t play much, but we’ll still be looking for hints at Haley’s plan of attack. The Steelers face the Eagles at 7:30 p.m.

4. The Bears’ offensive line might be an insurmountable obstacle.

Again, starters figure to see minimal action in the preseason opener. But it’s believed annual pass-protection goat J’Marcus Webb has already won Chicago’s starting left tackle job, and the Bears are essentially bringing back all five starters from a group that allowed 49 sacks last season. Perhaps Jay Cutler, Webb, and the rest of the first grouping will only play a series or two, but they’ll still face a significant test. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are in town for an 8:30 p.m. game.

5. Camp battles will begin to take shape.

The Redskins’ tailback job looks wide open, with Evan Royster attemping to hold off Roy Helu. Patriots back Stevan Ridley appears to have pulled ahead of Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen with a big camp, but will it translate to games? Emmanuel Sanders will line up in holdout Mike Wallace’s usual “X” receiver position when Pittsburgh faces Philly. Packers slot receiver Randall Cobb has made some training camp noise and may push for Donald Driver’s spot on the depth chart. Saints undrafted rookie Travaris Cadet will look to build on his big Hall of Fame Game.

Not much of anything will be settled tonight. But, as we witnessed in the preseason opener, camp battles can begin to take form. John Skelton grabbed the early lead in his quarterback competition with Kevin Kolb, while Cadet began to state a strong case for a roster spot in a crowded New Orleans backfield. There are six games tonight. They’re all meaningless in the end, and the starters barely play. But football is back.

And we think that’s pretty awesome.

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15 Responses to “Thursday night preseason primer”
  1. hokiegajanisgod says: Aug 9, 2012 1:01 PM

    Danny Woodhead is not competing against Stevan Ridley for the lead back slot; Woodhead was/is only considered a 3rd down back. Vereen and Brandon Bolden yes, Woodhead definitely not.

  2. panamon says: Aug 9, 2012 1:05 PM

    And there’s a national game or something, but that’s not on an NBC network so it gets 0 mentions instead of 3-5 articles.

  3. anthonybjones says: Aug 9, 2012 1:07 PM

    Football? I thought this was a police blotter and rumor mill.

  4. vcupats says: Aug 9, 2012 1:09 PM

    panamon says:
    Aug 9, 2012 1:05 PM
    And there’s a national game or something, but that’s not on an NBC network so it gets 0 mentions instead of 3-5 articles.

    ——————————————

    And you would watch. Because it’s football. Televised football. On NBC.

  5. metalhead65 says: Aug 9, 2012 1:12 PM

    why do you refuse to look at the bears performance the last 2 years when martz was forced to run a balanced attack the second half of both seasons? in both years the sacks went down and they ran the football instead of throwing every down. both years they had multi game win streaks after the switch. now this year with no 19 step drops and a commintment to the run game from the begining you will see a better performance from the line.

  6. hooahitsnotatomthing says: Aug 9, 2012 1:17 PM

    Bears Oline isn’t great by any stretch, but it will help with being able to audible and shorter passes.

  7. realitypolice says: Aug 9, 2012 1:24 PM

    Why on earth would ESPN not be showing the Denver game instead of San Diego/Green Bay? Isn’t seeing Manning play in a different uniform the most compelling story line tonight?

  8. skinsfan91 says: Aug 9, 2012 1:25 PM

    It’s not like you’re going to get a feel for anybody’s offense in pre-season.

  9. steelfan1 says: Aug 9, 2012 1:26 PM

    As a steeler’s fan, i am not worried about Todd Haley’s offense. We might not go through head coaches, but we do go through offensive coordinators. I believe Haley is the fourth in the past 10 years. I am more worried about the offensive line with the 2 rookies and seeing how they pick things up. Everything else will fall into place on offense if the line play can improve.

  10. raiderluv says: Aug 9, 2012 1:30 PM

    In regard to #2…..for those of you going to the game: if you want to see Peyton play, do not go to the mens room any less than 45 minutes prior to the start, or you will miss both series that he plays in.

  11. geniusfan says: Aug 9, 2012 1:30 PM

    Ah the preseason where meaningful conclusions are drawn by fans and media alike even though the games mean absolutely nothing to anybody but the backups and fringe roster hopefuls.

    Case in point last year Cam Newton was terrible in the preseason and people were already gearing up to call him a bust but when the actual games started well you know the rest.

  12. dannymac17 says: Aug 9, 2012 2:23 PM

    You have been strong armed by NBC not to mention the Packers and Chargers.

    How do those strings feel?

    All Pinochio wanted was to be a real boy.

  13. tecmobowl34 says: Aug 9, 2012 2:44 PM

    The Bears’ O-Line is such a tired storyline, often made by writers just looking to poke holes in the Chicago offense and have nothing else to say.

  14. atwatercrushesokoye says: Aug 9, 2012 3:51 PM

    Why do you keep saying that Manning hasn’t thrown it deep in practice? I know Peter King said that but in following along with the Broncos practices daily it’s pretty clear that he’s thrown deep in every 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 drill. In fact on the first play of 11 on 11 in the practice at Mile High he overthrew Thomas on a pass play 50 yards downfield.

    Sure he’s not throwing it deep every play in practice (only Al Davis would have his QB do that) but he’s been throwing every pass that a QB needs to throw, every practice, and unlike the “ultimate gamer” Tebow he’s completing the majority of those throws.

  15. okieviacal says: Aug 9, 2012 4:54 PM

    Backus with Martz = terrible. Backus without Martz = serviceable to above average. Webb with Martz = terrible. Webb without Martz = ???

    As a Lions fan, I hope Webb continues his poor performance from last season, but the proof is there: Mike Martz’s scheme puts immense pressure on tackles. They have to play perfectly for the scheme to work otherwise their quarterbacks get killed.

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