By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)
The final play of the Super Bowl signals the beginning of a long and tedious period of no football to get excited about. The irony is we get to August and we complain that the football that we actually do get to watch is a “waste of time”. Many starters are left out of line ups to protect them from injuries and many players on the bottom end of the roster feast on snaps in an attempt to secure their spot on teams come final cut downs. From a fan’s perspective maybe the pre-season should be changed, but from a team and player perspective it’s a superb evaluation period and offers players the chance to shine, for everyone that shines though, someone will fade. Let’s take a look at some of the “winners and losers” from pre-season and training camps.
Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
Imagine realising your dream of being drafted to play in the NFL and then being almost booed out of town by the fans of the franchise that just selected you, that folks was Daniel Jones. Through 3 weeks of the preseason, Jones has been impressive in his limited action to date, 25/30 passes completed for 369 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has looked in control and has also shown the ability to strike downfield. It still looks as though the Giants will begin the season with Eli but the rookie has given the New York fans and media a glimpse of what might just be a bright future.
Preston Williams, WR, Miami Dolphins
An undrafted wide receiver out of Colorado State has made plenty of noise during the preseason and training camp period. Routinely winning jump balls with his imposing 6ft 5inch frame he has made several highlight reel plays at Dolphins camp. His pre-season started promising with 97 yards in week 1 but he has struggled in the past 2 weeks however he was running with the first team offence which is a sure fire sign he will make the roster next week. When you consider this was a kid who went undrafted and is being talked of as the potential number 1 WR in the offence that has to go down as a huge win for Williams.
Jimmy Moreland, DB, Washington Redskins
A seventh round selection by the Redskins back in the draft has been given the nickname “the people’s corner”. Now I love a bit of WWE and if this guy is even half as good in the NFL as The Rock was in the squared circle then the fans in the Nations Capital will be over the moon. Another unheralded rookie who has impressed with his knack for making plays has been all over the field during pre-season and injuries in the Redskins backfield potentially present an opportunity to crack the starting lineup.
Duke Johnson, RB, Houston Texans
Starting training camp buried 3rd on the Browns depth chart, Duke Johnson got the trade that he desired when the Texans sent a 4th (likely 3rd) round pick to acquire his services. For Johnson this was already an upgrade on his personal situation but considering since the trade, starting running back Lamar Miller has been lost for the year due to an ACL tear and the presumptive favourite for the divisional crown, the Colts have lost their franchise quarterback through retirement, Duke may just feel as though he has won the jackpot. SOmetimes being in the right place at the right time is just as important as talent. This will now be his opportunity to prove he has what it takes to be a consistent part of an offensive gameplan.
Jahlani Tavai, LB, Detroit Lions
Another draft selection that drew question marks from his own fanbase was Jahlani Tavai when the Lions selected him in the 2nd round. Throughout camp and preseason he has shown great versatility to play all 3 different linebacker spots which is one of the key factors Detroit liked about him in the first place. His college career has seen him play for multiple co-ordinators and operating in multiple different schemes, so that ability to adapt has always been on display. The Lions suffered an injury to Jarrad Davis in week 3 of the pre-season so look for Tavai to continue his excellent rise as first cab of the rank to start for the Lions in week 1.
Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders
A fresh start and a chance to ditch the “diva” tag. Well that didn’t last long did it! The Steelers must be laughing so hard at what is unfolding over in the Bay area as Antonio Brown has spent more time with bad feet or filing grievances against the league because he disagrees with them trying to protect him than he has playing football or integrating with his new team. His talent is unquestionable and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he still has a stellar season but certainly what has happened between his trade and now has been an absolute disaster.
Antonio Callaway , WR, Cleveland Browns
It must be a thing about wide receivers named Antonio! This time its the Browns 2nd year player who came out of college with red flags galore. Camp got off to a bad start when he showed up out of shape and was quickly dropped down to working with the 2nd and 3rd units. Then came the news that he will be suspended for the first 4 weeks of the season due to breaking the league’s substance abuse policy. Add in the fact that Rashard Higgins has been impressive in extended action due to OBJ and Jarvis Landry being wrapped in cotton wool through preseason and it’s been a pretty rough few weeks for Callaway.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
Unfortunately for all running backs Shady McCoy isn’t doing anything to dispel the myth that running back have a short shelf life. Once arguably the best dual threat out of the backfield who could juke defenders with ease he is just not the same guy anymore. Due $9million if he makes the week 1 roster its hard to see the Bills keeping him around when they have old reliable Frank Gore along with promising rookie Devin Singletary and another handful of running backs at their disposal. Apparently some English bloke who played rugby is also about to become the league’s greatest ever running back,only joking Christian Wade.
Nick Bosa, DE, 49ers
It only seems fair to include a rookie on this list. It’s often said that a players best ability is their availability and unfortunately for Nick Bosa he just doesn’t seem to be able to make himself available. He missed large portions of the OTA season of workouts and has not featured in preseason due to the dreaded “high ankle sprain”. Coach Kyle Shanahan is putting on the expected brave face but when you also add into the equation that he only played 3 games at Ohio State last season this has to be a huge concern for the 49ers moving forwards. His brother Joey has also missed time over in LA so maybe it’s just bad luck or a terrible family trait?
Chicago Bears Kickers
We all know how the Bears season ended last year with the now infamous “double doink”. Well the culprit of the day Cody PArkey is no more but unfortunately for Bears fans the answer may not yet have been found. Despite what at times has seemed like a reality TV competition format for finding a new kicker the last man standing, Eddy Pineiro, is by no means a lock to be kicking week 1 when the action starts. It is almost becoming an obsession for Matt Nagy and you do wonder what happens if whoever ends up with the job misses their first kick. Do not be surprised to see the Bears active in either the trade market or signing a kicker from other teams cuts in a week or so..