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Gridiron Preseason Preview: Cardinals at Packers

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 02:48 AM PDT

The Packers make their first appearance at Lambeau Field since capturing last season’s Super Bowl title when the reigning world champions host the new-look Cardinals in the second preseason game for both teams of the 2011 campaign.

The Packers actually haven’t been on the storied Lambeau turf since the final week of the 2010 regular-season, when the club earned a 10-3 victory over rival Chicago to seize the NFC’s sixth and final playoff seed. Green Bay then came through with three straight road wins to advance to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV, where the Pack took home the fourth Lombardi Trophy in franchise history with a 31-25 triumph over the Steelers.

Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers was sharp once again in Green Bay’s preseason opener, though the Packers still were dealt a 27-17 loss at Cleveland last Saturday. The standout quarterback completed 6-of-8 passes over two possessions of work against the Browns, and capped the second drive with a 21-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Greg Jennings.

Backup Matt Flynn went 11-of-18 for 126 yards and a score in relief of Rodgers, while rookie wideout Randall Cobb caught three passes for a team-best 60 yards in an impressive pro debut for the 2011 second-round draft choice.

The Packers did receive some potentially troubling news on Tuesday, as projected starting defensive end Mike Neal hurt his left knee in a non-contact practice drill. The second-year pro certainly won’t play against the Cardinals, while running back and 2010 postseason hero James Starks figures to be held out as well after spraining an ankle in the Cleveland game.

On a more positive note, tight end Jermichael Finley is expected to take the field for Green Bay for the first time since tearing his ACL during Week 5 of last year’s regular season.

The Cardinals had a successful start to the Kevin Kolb era last week, delivering a 24-18 win at Oakland in their 2011 lid-lifter.

Kolb, acquired in a big trade with Philadelphia this offseason to fill Arizona’s need for a starting quarterback, did not throw a touchdown pass in his first game with his new team, but backups John Skelton, Richard Bartel and Max Hall all had one as the Cards piled up 290 net passing yards on the Raiders.

The ex-Eagle did connect with star wideout Larry Fitzgerald for a 43-yard gain in the opening quarter, however, and finished the night 4-of-7 for 68 yards.

Kolb is one of several new additions to a revamped Arizona roster as the Cardinals seek to improve off a disappointing 5-11 season in 2010. Another of those newcomers is left guard Daryn Colledge, who started 76 regular-season games as well as last February’s Super Bowl during a five-year stint with the Packers.

Green Bay owns a 15-6 advantage in its all-time preseason series with the Cardinals and handed Arizona a 44-37 loss at University of Phoenix Stadium when the teams met in August of 2009. The Cardinals would top the Packers in a higher-stakes contest later that season, coming out on top of a memorable 51-45 thriller in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs.

Gridiron Preseason Preview: Panthers at Dolphins

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 12:19 AM PDT

Cam Newton takes his act to the road for the first time in his fledging professional career this week, though the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft will have to share the spotlight when the Dolphins unveil their new main attraction before an awaiting home crowd for Friday’s preseason tilt with the Panthers.

The game will mark the Dolphins debut of Reggie Bush, acquired by the team in a trade with the New Orleans Saints just prior to the start of training camp. The dynamic running back and return man had been held out of Miami’s 2011 opener as a precaution, but is slated to take the field for this contest.

Miami could use Bush’s skills, judging by the first-team offense’s output during the early stages of last week’s clash at Atlanta. The Dolphins mustered just five total yards and no first downs over their initial three possessions against the Falcons, which contributed to a 17-0 deficit after the first quarter.

The Dolphins were able to rally for a 28-23 victory, however, with backup quarterback and ex-Panther Matt Moore throwing a pair of touchdown passes and rookie Phillip Livas scoring on a 75-yard punt return in the fourth quarter.

Bush won’t be the only Miami player under the microscope on Friday. Starting quarterback Chad Henne struggled mightily at the outset of the Atlanta game, throwing interceptions on two of the first three drives that were turned into 10 Atlanta points.

Henne did rebound with a 44-yard touchdown strike to Brian Hartline in the second quarter and finished his stint 4-of-8 for 77 yards. Moore, who began last season as Carolina’s primary signal-caller, completed 11-of-18 throws and was picked off once.

Despite Henne’s shaky showing and Moore’s mostly solid performance, Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano reiterated this week that he has no plans to make a change at the position for the time being.

Newton is expected to make his first-ever NFL start on Friday after following second-year man Jimmy Clausen in the opener, as the two resume their competition to be the Panthers’ No. 1 quarterback. The 2010 Heisman Trophy recipient produced mixed results in his first NFL action, hitting on just 8- of-19 passes but also orchestrating a pair of scoring drives in Saturday’s 20-10 win over the New York Giants.

Newton connected with tight end Greg Olson for a 30-yard gain on his first possession, which led to an Olindo Mare field goal, then delivered a 36-yard pass to Armanti Edwards later on to set up another Mare kick.

Clausen started his night poorly, as his first pass of the night was intercepted by Giants linebacker Michael Boley for a 56-yard touchdown. The former Notre Dame standout did regroup on the ensuing series, however, and found Olsen for an 18-yard score to tie the game at 7-7.

Olsen, who came over in an offseason trade with Chicago, was the Panthers’ offensive star, with the fifth-year pro registering team highs of three catches and 58 receiving yards.

Both Carolina quarterbacks will have Steve Smith available to throw to for Friday’s matchup, as the veteran wide receiver returned to practice this week after sitting out the opener with an injured hand. Defensive end Charles Johnson (shoulder) and linebacker Thomas Davis (knee surgery), both of whom also missed the Giants game, are also slated to play against the Dolphins.

The Panthers will still be without middle linebacker and Miami native Jon Beason, who’s dealing with a sore Achilles tendon, while offensive tackle Jeff Otah is still recovering from a knee injury and also won’t suit up.

These teams have split two previous preseason meetings, with the Panthers posting a 19-10 home win in 2006 and the Dolphins recording a 27-17 triumph at Sun Life Stadium in 2009. Miami also bested Carolina by a 24-17 count in Charlotte during the 2009 regular season.

Gridiron Preseason Preview: Redskins at Colts

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 10:15 PM PDT

Rex Grossman made his case to be the Redskins starting quarterback in the team’s first outing of the 2011 preseason. Now John Beck gets his chance to stake his claim to the open job when the Burgundy and Gold visits Lucas Oil Stadium Friday to take on the Colts.

The two signal-callers have been engaged in a spirited camp competition to replace the departed Donovan McNabb as the Redskins’ main man under center. Though Beck entered the summer as the presumed favorite for the role, Grossman helped his own cause by putting together a solid performance in last week’s preseason opener against Pittsburgh.

The former Chicago Bear played the first half of last Friday’s contest and completed a sharp 19-of-26 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown to help the Redskins post a 16-7 win.

Beck, who’s started only four times over his four-year NFL career and none since his rookie campaign of 2007, sat out the Pittsburgh game with a groin injury but has since returned to a full practice. Head coach Mike Shanahan announced on Tuesday that the 29-year-old would get the starting nod against the Colts, and it’s believed he’ll lead the offense for most or all of the first half.

Another position battle may have already been decided in last week’s victory over the Steelers, with running back Tim Hightower rushing for 44 yards on 10 carries to distance himself from returning starter Ryan Torain, who sat out the game with a broken hand and isn’t likely to suit up for this one as well.

Tight end Chris Cooley (knee) also remains sidelined for Washington, while starting safeties LaRon Landry (Achilles) and Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring) are also expected to miss a second straight week.

The Colts are obviously set at the quarterback position with Peyton Manning on the roster, though the situation behind the four-time league MVP is less settled heading into this tilt.

With Manning still recovering from offseason neck surgery, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky received the majority of snaps in Indianapolis’ season-opening clash at St. Louis. Neither was able to effectively move the offense, however, as the defending AFC South champions were dealt a 33-10 defeat.

Painter directed the first two drives and was just 3-of-6 for 55 yards and an interception. Orlovsky threw for 111 yards and a touchdown in relief, but was picked off twice and hit on only 4-of-10 throws.

Manning still hasn’t been cleared to practice, meaning Painter will draw a second consecutive start on Friday.

These teams last squared off during Week 6 of the 2010 regular season, with the Colts earning a 27-24 win in Washington behind 307 passing yards from Manning and a 128-yard effort on the ground from running back Joseph Addai. The Redskins have bested Indianapolis four straight times in the preseason, however, including a 30-16 triumph in the 2008 Hall of Fame Game held in Canton, Ohio.

The Colts own a 14-11-1 advantage over Washington in the overall preseason series.

Vick Tells GQ Magazine That Eagles Were Third Choice Two Years Ago

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 11:13 AM PDT

Michael Vick tells GQ magazine that he didn’t want to come to Philadelphia to be a third-string quarterback after his release from federal prison two years ago.

Vick, who rejuvenated his career with the Eagles and started in the Pro Bowl last year, says in the September issue that commissioner Roger Goodell was among those who convinced him Philadelphia was the right destination.

“I think I can say this now, because it’s not going to hurt anybody’s feelings, and it’s the truth,” Vick says. “I didn’t want to come to Philadelphia. Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options.”

Vick says he’s happy he ended up in Philadelphia because it’s “the right situation.”

Vick played sparingly in 2009 behind Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb. McNabb was traded to Washington in April 2010, and Vick eventually replaced Kolb after he was injured in the season opener last year. Vick had the best all-around season of his career, led the Eagles to the NFC East title and was The Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year.

Supplemental Draft Rescheduled for Monday August 22…Pryor In

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 07:30 AM PDT

The Supplemental Draft, originally scheduled for August 17, has been rescheduled for Monday, August 22 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

The following six players have been declared eligible for selection in the Supplemental Draft:

Torez Jones DB Western Carolina, Caleb King RB Georgia, Keenan Mace DE Lindenwood, Mike McAdoo DE North Carolina, Terrelle Pryor QB Ohio State, Tracy Wilson DB Northern Illinois.

No other applications for the Supplemental Draft will be accepted.

In addition to being notified that Terrelle Pryor may be selected in the Supplemental Draft, NFL clubs were informed that Pryor made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL Draft. Those actions included failing to cooperate with the NCAA and hiring an agent in violation of NCAA rules. This resulted in Ohio State declaring him ineligible to continue playing college football. Pryor then applied to enter the NFL after the regular draft. Pryor had accepted at the end of the 2010 college football season a suspension for the first five games of the 2011 season for violating NCAA rules.

In his decision allowing Pryor to enter the Supplemental Draft, Commissioner Roger Goodell determined that Pryor will be ineligible to practice prior to or play in the first five games of the NFL regular season after he signs. Pryor may be selected in the Supplemental Draft, negotiate and sign a contract with an NFL club, and fully participate in the remainder of the preseason.

Compliments of the NFL

Gridiron Preseason Preview: Patriots at Buccaneers

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 07:07 AM PDT

Even with Tom Brady and most of his cohorts watching from the sidelines, the Patriots’ offense operated at near maximum efficiency in the team’s preseason opener. The star quarterback should now get his chance to take the controls when he makes an expected 2011 debut in Friday’s game against the Buccaneers from Raymond James Stadium.

Despite head coach Bill Belichick sitting out over 30 players — a list that included Brady, wide receivers Chad Ochocinco, Wes Welker and Deion Branch and the entire projected offensive line — the Patriots were still able to do plenty of damage in last week’s matchup with Jacksonville. New England’s cast of benchwarmers racked up 476 total yards and 335 through the air en route to a 47-12 rout of the Jaguars.

Backup quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett combined to complete 27-of-40 throws on the night, with the rookie Mallett hitting on 12-of-19 passes for 164 yards in an splendid intro to the pros.

Mallett was one of two third-round selections by the Patriots in this past April’s draft to shine against the Jags. Running back Stevan Ridley scored three touchdowns and amassed 111 yards from scrimmage (64 rushing, 47 receiving) along with a team-best seven receptions.

Brady, the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player, won’t likely get too many reps on Thursday before turning things over to Hoyer and Mallett, however. Ochocinco, meanwhile, is tentatively slated to see his first game action as a Patriot since the colorful wideout’s trade from Cincinnati in late July.

New England fans may have to wait a bit longer for their first glimpse at the team’s two other notable offseason additions, however. Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth has practiced sparingly in camp for undisclosed reasons, while veteran end and ex-New York Jets Shaun Ellis has yet to be activated from the physically unable to perform list.

The youthful Buccaneers were impressive in their own right last week, dominating a Kansas City team that was albeit using its preseason lid-lifter as an extended scrimmage by a 25-0 count last Friday at Arrowhead Stadium.

Tampa Bay limited the Chiefs to a mere 137 total yards and compiled six sacks on the night, while also forcing and recovering a pair of early fumbles that led to scoring drives.

On offense, quarterback Josh Freeman threw for 73 yards on 9-of-13 passing while running for a touchdown in a little over a quarter’s worth of action. He and the majority of Tampa Bay’s healthy starters figure to be on the field for most of the first half in this contest.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the No. 3 overall pick by the Bucs in the 2010 draft, is expected to play on Thursday for the first time since suffering a season-ending torn biceps last December. Two other second-year starters — wide receiver Arrelious Benn (torn ACL) and defensive tackle Brian Price (groin) — are likely to be held out for at least another week, however, as the pair continues rehabbing from their respective surgeries.

Tampa Bay has had the upper hand in its all-time preseason series with the Patriots, winning seven of the eight such meetings between the clubs. The most recent one took place at Raymond James Stadium in 2008, with the Bucs claiming a 27-10 decision.

New England prevailed in the last regular-season matchup, cruising to a 35-7 victory at London’s Wembley Stadium during the 2009 season.

Gridiron Preseason Preview: Eagles at Steelers

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 06:53 AM PDT

The names are impressive.

Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, QB Vince Young, DL Cullen Jenkins Jason Babin, RB Ronnie Brown. All big name players that have joined the “other” NFL team in Pennsylvania this offseason – the Eagles.

Tonight the Steelers host Philly in preseason game number two, a game that will feature the starters playing a half, and it will be the first time that the home crowd will get to see the Steelers since they shut the door on the Jets in the AFC Title game enroute to Super Bowl XLV.

Forget for a minute about the fact the Steelers are matching up with maybe the best team in the NFC, they themselves have to get back on track. The black and gold looked flat out lethargic in a 16-7 loss to Washington last Friday in the preseason opener.

The defense couldn't get off the field, as they allowed 452 yards of total offense. The offense wasn’t much better, converting just 2 of 11 third downs. "That was a wake-up call and it's time to start playing football," defensive tackle Chris Hoke said. "I don't think anybody was happy with the way they played on Friday night."

A couple of big names will return to the lineup tonight for the Steelers, as stars James Harrison and Troy Polamalu will both be back in the lineup for the first time in 2011. The duo sat out the preseason opener for precautionary reasons. They're fresh and ready to test themselves at full speed.

Polamalu and the rest of the starters will play between 20-25 snaps, which should give the Steelers plenty of face time with Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick.

"They've got great skill offensively," Tomlin said. "They're a great football team."

The Steelers will try to shut up the so-called “dream team” tonight, as they look to even their mark at 1-1 on the season. More importantly, they have to play better.

"Those guys can deal with the limelight and the pressure of calling themselves the 'Dream Team' and that's a lot of pressure, but when you have the guys that they have together, why not?" Ryan Clark said. "They probably have the most exciting quarterback in football, cornerbacks you can play all over the field man-to-man. Why not be excited about that? Why not accept that pressure? As for us, you can't pay attention to that. We're just going to keep going about our work."

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