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First Overall Pick Cam Newton Flops as Panthers Fall to Dolphins 20-10

Posted: 20 Aug 2011 01:55 AM PDT

First overall pick in the 2011 draft Cam Newton got his first starting shot on Friday night for the Panthers, and showed that the rookie has a long way to go. Newton had some good moments, but more bad in going 7-of-14 for 66 yards in the first half for the Panthers as they fell to the Dolphins 20-10 in Florida.

Chad Henne threw for 194 yards and Dan Carpenter connected on a pair of field goals for the home team in the 10-point win. Henne, who has been booed by his own fans in Miami, played the majority of the contest and was 15-of-24, while Matt Moore ended 6-of-10 for 73 yards for the Dolphins, who topped Atlanta last week.

Daniel Thomas and Lex Hilliard posted rushing scores for Miami.

Jimmy Clausen was the 2nd QB for the Panthers, and went 9-for-15 passes for 69 yards, while Tyrell Sutton recorded a fourth-quarter TD run. The Dolphins were in control from the start, as Hilliard’s one-yard plunge was the lone score of the opening period. Carpenter hit from 39 yards out and Thomas added a four-yard touchdown scamper for a 17-0 bulge at the break.

Carpenter connected from 44 yards out in the third quarter, before Carolina finally tallied in the fourth thanks to Adi Kunalic’s 38-yard make and Sutton’s four-yard TD run.

Newton threw a Hail Mary pass that fell incomplete on the final play of the first half Friday night, and that's the closest he came to reaching the end zone. The rookie played the entire first half, when the Panthers managed only three first downs, had the ball for less than eight minutes and fell behind by 17.

Carolina crossed midfield for the first time when Newton ran for 7 yards on the next-to-last play of the half. The Panthers did sit out six starters, including four on offense. But a sputtering offense was nothing new for the Panthers, who ranked last in the NFL in points and yards in 2010.

Bill Belichick Says Patriots Still Have Plenty of Room to Improve

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 10:52 PM PDT

Don’t expect Bill Belichick to be content just because his team outscored its first two preseason opponents 78-26. He’s not raving about a defense that allowed just one touchdown in those two games or an offense that scored 10 touchdowns.

Not the demanding coach of the Patriots, not even after Thursday night’s 31-14 domination of the Buccaneers.

“I think the score is a little bit deceiving,” Belichick said Friday. “In the first half, there are a lot of things we need to do better and (in) the second half, I think there are a lot of good things out there. But a lot of those were negated by a few bad things.”

Even those bad things can help.

Rookie Ryan Mallett bounced back from a third-quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown and made some plays.

“Of course you don’t want to see negative plays happen, but eventually they’re going to happen in this league,” Belichick said. “Seeing how people respond (is significant). Do they go in the tank? Does one bad play become two? Does one missed block become three? Or do they bounce back and right the ship and then settle down and do a better job?”

Tom Brady did his usual outstanding job.

In his first exhibition action, he threw touchdown passes on his first two series and led drives that ended in scoring runs by BenJarvus Green-Ellis on two of the next three. Brady played only the first half, completing 11 of 19 passes for 118 yards.

“There was some good,” Brady said. “There was plenty of bad.”

The story was the same a week earlier when the Patriots, using backups for most of the game, scored on eight consecutive possessions and routed the Jacksonville Jaguars 47-12.

But Belichick knows there are plenty of problems to correct. And he has seven more days to address them before the next exhibition game at Detroit on Aug. 27, three days before the first cutdown date when the maximum roster size drops from 90 to 75.

One of the most competitive areas is the defensive line. Defensive end Andre Carter had a strong performance in his first game action since being signed after the Washington Redskins let him go. The Patriots are loaded on the line with veteran and young talent – and Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis haven’t even played yet.

Haynesworth, obtained in a trade with the Redskins on July 29, has rarely practiced, raising speculation that he is hurt or out of shape. Belichick, as usual when discussing the status of players who don’t practice, shed no light.

“He’s day to day,” the coach said.

Is he working out at Gillette Stadium?

“Is he working out at Gillette?” he said. “All the players are here.”

Gridiron Preseason Preview: Raiders at 49ers

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 10:05 PM PDT

A couple of rookie head coaches will get their first taste of the local rivalry between the Raiders and 49ers when the two Bay Area inhabitants square off in a preseason clash Saturday at Candlestick Park.

Both teams underwent changes in leadership this offseason in an attempt to end lengthy playoff droughts, with the 49ers reeling in former Stanford head man and NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh and the ever-changing Raiders replacing Tom Cable with esteemed play-caller Hue Jackson, who had joined the organization last year as the team’s offensive coordinator.

Neither coach’s first game in charge at the pro level produced a desired result, with Jackson’s Raiders dropping a 24-18 decision at home to Arizona last week and Harbaugh’s 49ers suffering a 24-3 defeat at New Orleans in their 2011 preseason opener.

Oakland received a solid performance from starting quarterback Jason Campbell in Jackson’s head coaching debut, but a defense that lost All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to Philadelphia in free agency was lit up for 297 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air by the Cardinals.

Campbell directed the Raiders’ first two offensive series in the game and completed 6-of-9 passes for 66 yards, including a 23-yard strike to new tight end Kevin Boss that set up one of four field goals by kicker Sebastian Janikowski on the night.

Jackson’s offense, which finished second in the NFL in rushing yards and sixth in points last season, will be without a few key cogs for this contest. Standout running back Darren McFadden remains sidelined due to a fractured orbital bone suffered in practice, while wide receivers Jacoby Ford (broken hand), Louis Murphy (hamstring) and Chaz Schilens (knee sprain) all aren’t expected to play.

The injuries at wide receiver should provide more of an opportunity for rookie Denarius Moore, who’s put together an outstanding camp and led the Raiders with three catches for 37 yards against the Cardinals.

Harbaugh enters Saturday’s tilt with some work to do following San Francisco’s uninspiring overall performance versus New Orleans. The offense was particularly shaky, managing a total of just 234 total yards and surrendering six sacks to an aggressive Saints pass rush.

Veteran quarterback Alex Smith hit on only 2-of-7 passes for 10 yards and was sacked twice in four first-quarter drives that all ended in three-and-outs. Rookie backup Colin Kaepernick also struggled in his first pro action, with the athletic second-round pick completing 9-of-19 throws for 117 yards and two interceptions while also fumbling twice in relief of Smith.

One bright spot for San Francisco was the play of rookie outside linebacker Aldon Smith, the seventh overall choice in this past April’s draft who amassed five tackles, a sack and forced a fumble while operating with the second-team defense.

On the injury front for the Niners, wide receiver Michael Crabtree has yet to be activated from the physically unable to perform list due to a lingering foot problem that may keep him out for the entire preseason.

These teams last met during Week 6 of the 2010 regular season, with San Francisco coming away with a 17-9 win at Candlestick Park behind a 149-yard effort from running back Frank Gore. The 49ers also prevailed in last year’s preseason clash with Oakland, producing a 28-24 victory at the Coliseum to even the all-time exhibition series between the clubs at 19-19.

Todd Haley Berates John Harbaugh

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 08:49 PM PDT

After John Harbaugh called a timeout with 5 seconds left,the Ravens scored another touchdown to beat the Chiefs 34-13.

Walking off the field, Haley angrily scolded Harbaugh for his perceived bush league move. Harbaugh said to him “those guys are trying to make my team and the game is 60 minutes long.” Harbs then waved his hand at him like “whatever” (WNST).

Though Harbaugh began his press conference by apologizing to Haley and the Chiefs, it really wasn’t necessary. I had heard from the Fox announcers that the Chiefs were treating last week’s game against the Bucs like a practice. Here’s hoping the last drive helped give these Ravens jobs on the practice squad or somewhere else when the eventual cuts arrive.

Haley famously pointed his finger at Josh McDaniels last season, upset that McDaniels kept scoring while ahead. Haley, to his credit, had his young team playing hard last year and will earn major equity if the offense survives the turmoil of the Baldwin injury and loss of Charlie Weis.

Pittsburgh Makes the NFC’s “Dream Team” from Philadelphia Look Awful in 24-14 Trouncing

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 08:21 PM PDT

Thursday night in front of 55,189, the Steelers played like a team ticked off after their rather ugly outing a week ago against the Washington Redskins. They were hitting on all cylinders all night, as the self-proclaimed “dream team” of the Philadelphia Eagles were no match for the defending AFC Champs as the Steelers won with ease 24-14 to even their preseason mark at 1-1.

There was so much good about the game it was almost hard to count, but here’s most of the important stuff in a tidy little nutshell:

* The offense was on fire, going for 181 yards on 28 plays in their first two possessions with the starters in going up 14-0 with 11:06 to play in the first half.

* Ben Roethlisberger looked to be in mid-season form, going 8-for-12 for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

* The defense made Mike Vick and the Eagles look like a high school team, as they picked off Vick three times, forcing him to go 5 of 12 passes for 47 yards.

* The picks were good to see, as was the play of last seasons Defensive MPV Troy Polamalu, who was all over the place and had a 36-yard return of a pick late in the half that set up another touchdown.

* The three Steelers QB’s were 20-for-30 (Antonio Brown threw a long incomplete on a trick play) for 282 yards with three scores and no turnovers.

* The four Philly possessions in the first half – punt, interception, interception, interception, end of half. Wow.

Bottom line, this was the type of outing the Steelers needed to put last week behind them, and Mike Tomlin knew it. "That's the desired response we were looking for," Tomlin said in the postgame.

There wasn’t much bad to talk about, and while you’d like everyone to keep it in perspective as it is just the preseason, here’s hoping that the team will look as good Thursday on September 11th in Baltimore. If they do, the Ravens don’t stand a chance.

Beck Answers the Bell as Redskins Dominate Colts 16-3 in Preseason

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 07:35 PM PDT

John Beck answered Rex Grossman’s challenge.

One week after Grossman’s impressive preseason performance, Beck counterpunched by leading the Redskins to four straight scores in the first half in Washington’s 16-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Friday night.

Beck and Grossman are fighting to become Washington’s starting quarterback, and after two weeks, the race appears even. Grossman was 19 of 26 for 207 yards in a 16-7 win over defending AFC champion Pittsburgh last week.

Beck’s answer: 14 of 17 for 140 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions against the defending AFC South champs. With Beck in the game, the Redskins dominated. They outgained the Colts 277-41 in the first half, ran more than twice as many plays (41-14) and had two 50-plus yard runs.

Grossman was 7 of 13 for 88 yards with one interception, all in the second half.

Indianapolis looked lethargic and inept in losing its eighth straight preseason game. The Colts are 4-24 since 2005 in games played in August and early September.

Curtis Painter started for the second straight week in place of Peyton Manning, who is recovering from offseason neck surgery, and struggled again. Despite playing the entire first half, he was just 5 of 10 for 40 yards and led the Colts to only one first down. Behind Painter, Indy didn’t get past its 29-yard line.

One reason: the Colts weren’t at full strength.

The offense was missing Manning, receivers Austin Collie (knee), Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring) and Reggie Wayne (personal matter), and the defense played without tackle Tommie Harris (hamstring) and linebacker Ernie Sims (appendix). The Colts also lost Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea on the game’s second play, and rookie cornerback Chris Rucker, a second-round pick, later in the first quarter. Both went out with hamstring injuries.

The Redskins were missing only one key player, safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring).

And the difference was clear.

Tim Hightower exposed a gaping hole on the second play of the game, running 58 yards. Four plays later, Hightower plunged in from the 1 for a 7-0 lead.

Beck didn’t stop there. He set up Graham Gano for three short field goals – from 28, 27 and 26 yards – to give the Redskins a 16-0 lead with 1:48 left in the first half.

Indy’s lone score came on a 55-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri midway through the third quarter. The Colts’ only other scoring chance was thwarted when Washington coach Mike Shanahan successfully challenged a 40-yard completion from Dan Orlovsky to Taj Smith that would have put Indianapolis inside the Washington 15.

Gridiron Preseason Preview: Titans at Rams

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:00 PM PDT

With their best player still absent from training camp, the Titans make a trip to the Edward Jones Dome on Saturday to take on the Rams in the second preseason game of the 2011 campaign for both teams.

The Titans entered new head coach Mike Munchak’s first season saddled with an ongoing controversy, as star running back Chris Johnson has yet to report to the team’s practice facility due to discontent over his current contract. The three-time Pro Bowl honoree’s holdout doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon either, as he and the front office reportedly remain far apart in discussions about a new deal.

Johnson’s absence still didn’t prevent a successful debut for both Munchak and rookie quarterback Jake Locker, however, as Tennessee kicked off its preseason with a 14-3 victory over Minnesota last Saturday in Nashville.

Locker, the eighth overall pick in this past April’s draft, threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Yamon Figurs in the second quarter and completed 7-of-10 throws for 89 yards overall after replacing veteran starter Matt Hasselbeck following the Titans’ first offensive series.

Hasselbeck also fared well in his first appearance in a Tennessee uniform, with the offseason free-agent pickup making good on 5-of-6 pass attempts for 55 yards before giving way to his young understudy.

Javon Ringer started in Johnson’s place and rushed for 17 yards on three carries, while rookie Jamie Harper added 27 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts for the Titans.

Tennessee could be without another of its playmakers when it pays a visit to the Gateway City. Though wide receiver Kenny Britt has resumed practicing after missing the opener with a hamstring injury, Munchak hinted he may play it safe with the former first-round choice and hold him out another week.

The improving Rams also began their preseason in fine fashion, handing the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts a 33-10 defeat at the Edward Jones Dome this past weekend.

St. Louis took full advantage of Manning’s absence while the legendary quarterback recovers from offseason neck surgery, intercepting backups Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky three times and converting those miscues into 13 points.

On the offensive side, 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Sam Bradford went 7-for-12 for 45 yards in his first test running new coordinator Josh McDaniels’ system, while finding impressive rookie tight end Lance Kendricks for a six- yard touchdown on the Rams’ initial drive.

Kendricks backed up his outstanding training camp with a strong first game, as the second-round draft choice set team highs with five catches and 47 receiving yards.

Head coach Steve Spagnuolo sat several key players who were dealing with minor injuries against the Colts, most notably running back Steven Jackson, linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Ron Bartell. All are expected to return to the field for Saturday’s tilt.

Wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker is doubtful to suit up for St. Louis this week, however, after straining his groin in the Indianapolis game. Fellow wideout Donnie Avery, who’s making his way back from an ACL tear that cost him the entire 2010 season, also figures to miss a second straight outing.

Tennessee has prevailed in seven of the 10 all-time preseason meetings between these teams and delivered a 34-13 home win in the most recent matchup, which took place in 2008. The Titans also routed the Rams by a 47-7 count in Nashville during the 2009 regular season.

Gridiron Preseason Preview: Chiefs at Ravens

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 11:27 AM PDT

Neither the Ravens nor the Chiefs generated much offense in their first games of the preseason. The two 2010 postseason participants will both be striving for improvement when they get together at M&T Bank Stadium Friday in a rematch of last January’s AFC Wild Card Playoff.

Both teams were losers in their first go-around of 2011, with the Ravens dropping a 13-6 decision at Philadelphia on Aug. 11 and the Chiefs dealt a 25-0 road loss by Tampa Bay last Friday.

Kansas City mustered a mere 137 total yards and six first downs against the Buccaneers, and committed two costly fumbles in the opening quarter that were turned into 10 Tampa Bay points.

The Chiefs did hold out a number of key regulars for the game, including new wide receiver Steve Breaston, tight end Tony Moeaki and defensive starters Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Glenn Dorsey and Brandon Flowers. Quarterback Matt Cassel, meanwhile, only played three series and did not attempt a pass.

Kansas City head coach Todd Haley will take this game a bit more seriously, with the starters expected to be on the field for all or most of the first half. He’ll also be hoping for a better showing from an offense that was also stymied by the Ravens when the clubs faced off in the playoffs some seven months ago.

Baltimore’s veteran defense limited the Chiefs to just 161 total yards, only 25 of which came in the first half, and picked off Cassel three times en route to a 30-7 rout at Arrowhead Stadium in that game. Cassel finished the day with just 70 passing yards while completing 9-of-18 throws.

These teams have never previously met in preseason play.

The Ravens are also coming off a sloppy showing in their opener, with the offensive line yielding six sacks to the Eagles and rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor throwing a pair of interceptions in his first NFL action.

Taylor, a sixth-round pick in last April’s draft, did hit on 19-of-28 attempts for 179 yards and rushed for a team-best 59 yards on six scrambles in relief of starter Joe Flacco, who directed the first two Baltimore possessions and went 3-of-6 for 60 yards.

Flacco will get a chance to work with a new receiver in this week’s tilt, with the Ravens acquiring seven-year pro Lee Evans from Buffalo last Friday in exchange for a fourth-round draft choice in 2012. The speedy wideout has been immediately installed as a starter opposite three-time Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin and is slated to see some playing time against the Chiefs.

The game should also mark the Baltimore debut of Ricky Williams, signed by the team on Aug. 8 to serve as a backup to standout running back Ray Rice. The 34- year-old did not suit up for last week’s test.

The Ravens may be a bit thin on the front line, however. Center Matt Birk will sit out a second straight week while recovering from knee surgery, while guard Marshal Yanda is considered questionable with a back injury.

Friday’s matchup will also serve as a homecoming for three Kansas City newcomers who were all a member of the Ravens last season — fullback LeRon McClain, offensive tackle Jared Gaither and nose tackle Kelly Gregg. Gaither, who missed all of last season with back problems, may not play, however, as he’s still working to get back into shape following the lengthy layoff.

Gregg had spent the last 10 seasons with the Ravens before being released just prior to training camp and started 124 games during his tenure in Baltimore.

Source: Giants DE Umenyiora Out 3-4 Weeks

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 08:43 AM PDT

10 Forced Fumbles In ’10

Good thing the Giants drafted Jason Pierre-Paul last year.

Giants sack artist Osi Umenyiora underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee this morning according to Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger.

The pass-rushing menace is likely to be sidelined 3-4 weeks.  Coach Tom Coughlin said,  ”Hopefully it’ll take less time than the other range, the other extent.”

It’s not too big of a deal for a team like the Giants, who have quality players (Pierre-Paul, Kiwanuka, Tuck) to fill Osi’s shoes during his absence.

Update: A person close to Osi says “it could be 4-6 weeks or longer.”

Gridiron Preseason Preview: Falcons at Jaguars

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 08:31 AM PDT

The Jaguars expect to have a much improved defense in 2011, though the early returns haven’t been good. The revamped unit hopes to make substantial progress in the team’s second preseason game, which will take place Friday at Everbank Field against the defending NFC South champion Falcons.

After finishing near the bottom of nearly every major category on the defensive side last season, the Jaguars spent big this summer in an effort to shore up that area. Four new starters were brought in via free agency, with Jacksonville signing linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session to long-term deals while adding free safety Dawan Landry and end Matt Roth as well.

Unfortunately, the defense resembled more like last year’s model in last week’s matchup at New England, with the Patriots rolling up 476 total yards while playing primarily backups en route to a 47-12 rout.

New England had its way despite reigning league MVP Tom Brady watching on the sidelines, with second-stringer Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett torching the Jags for a combined 335 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

To be fair, most of the Patriots’ damage took place against Jacksonville’s reserves over the game’s final three quarters. The first-team defense, which featured Posluszny, Session and Landry, was on the field for only one of New England’s six touchdowns.

Roth wasn’t signed until the day of the opener and did not play, but the former Cleveland Brown is slated to see some time in Friday’s tilt. Session, however, won’t suit up for this one after sustaining a concussion against the Pats.

The Jaguars also won’t have Maurice Jones-Drew available for their 2011 home debut, as the prolific running back is being brought along slowly from offseason knee surgery, but will get starting quarterback David Garrard back after the veteran sat out last week with a sore back.

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville’s first-round pick in last April’s draft, drew the start in place of Garrard against the Patriots and left a so-so first impression, with the rookie completing 9-of-16 passes for 85 yards while working the entire first half.

Atlanta, meanwhile, hopes to have its marquee offseason free-agent addition in the lineup for Friday’s matchup. Defensive end Ray Edwards, signed to a five- year, $30 million contract by the Falcons just prior to camp, resumed practicing this week after sitting out last Friday’s 28-23 loss to Miami while recovering from a knee procedure, though it’s uncertain whether the ex-Viking will play.

Cornerback Dunta Robinson (hamstring), defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee sprain), tight end Justin Peelle (knee) and No. 3 quarterback John Parker Wilson (concussion) are all definitely out for Atlanta, with the team bringing in veteran Reggie Kelly on Wednesday to fill Peelle’s position.

The Falcons’ healthy regulars figure to play the first half of this game after dominating the Dolphins in their short period of time last week. Atlanta roared out to a 17-0 lead on Miami after one quarter, with quarterback Matt Ryan throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass to wideout Harry Douglas and the defense coming up with two interceptions of Dolphins’ signal-caller Chad Henne.

Ryan amassed 90 yards on 6-of-10 passing before giving way to Wilson after one quarter, while rookie sensation Julio Jones had two catches totaling 43 yards and added a 12-yard run in his first outing as a Falcon.

Jacksonville recorded a 13-9 victory over the Falcons at EverBank Field in the 2010 preseason finale, giving the Jaguars a 4-3 lead in the overall exhibition series between the teams. The clubs are also set to meet in Atlanta during Week 15 of the upcoming regular season.

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