Welcome and thank you for stopping by TOSS’s first ever installment of the weekly What 2 Watch (w2w) article where we will try to provide insights and information on areas to watch that are not typically covered in your main news streams. Whether your a casual fan who wants to see what will be interesting to watch this season, a fantasy player, or a gambler looking for any and all insights into how to play some match ups, we hope to provide a quality stop for some under the radar story-lines to watch as we kickoff another NFL season. At the end of the preseason, I will answer the questions raised through preseason, and give my predictions based on the results. So follow our page and be on the lookout for the NFL predictions edition coming the 1st week of the NFL season. This will include real tape and references to help answer these questions. Without further ado….
Preseason so often is written off as a non-important tell to how a season unfolds. No sane person would argue we should use the preseason as the “know all be all” to how a season will unfold. However, in a league with so much parity, where 1 or 2 injuries and 1 or 2 losses is the difference between playing in January and starting the off-season early, there are some important insights to be learned from how well teams new players and coaches are gelling early, to how much depth the team really has going into the season. Here are the first 3 teams and What 2 Watch this preseason.
1. Seattle Seahawks:
Seahawks 4-3 Under alignment and gap assignments
- Postions : Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Cornerback, Safety
- w2w : Defensive changeover, specifically defensive backs and defensive line – DL : How will new starters Frank Clark and Jarran Reed fare on the defensive line? It’ll be interesting to see how long Pete Carroll lets these guys play in preseason action and could be a tell to how well their off-season has really gone. No more Bennett and Avril, these guys will be leaned on to live up to their draft expectations. Bennett is really key as his role plays a hybrid end/tackle and is asked to be responsible for both B and C gaps at times. DB : Obviously what happens with Earl Thomas is a big piece to this, but also who plays next to Shaquille Griffin? Byron Maxwell is the projected starter, but if your a fan you’re hoping to see a couple of the young guys: Tre Flowers, Jeremy Boykins, Mike Tyson, or Akeem King, come in and fully claim their spots as starters over Maxwell. Add on the retirement of Kam Chancellor, who stands out between Delano Hill and Maurice Alexander, there is a lot to watch when Seattle’s defense takes the field. Bonus Question : Brought up in conversation with a friend, how much of the famed Legion of Boom is owed to Dan Quinn not Pete Carroll? The best years of that defense were under Quinn. Between 2012-2014 the Seahawks were the best defense in the league and there was no debate. In 2015, first year after Quinn, they’re defense was still good but no longer impenetrable. Under Quinn the Seahawks allowed on averaged a ridiculous 179 passing yards, only 270 total yards all while only giving up an avg of 6 rushing TDs a season for a total of 15 points a game allowed. Since 2014, the Seahawks have given up 215 passing yds & 311 total, 19pts / game. Those are still good numbers, but no longer strike fear in opposing offenses.
- When 2 Watch : vs Colts Thur 8/9 10:00pm, @ Chargers Sat 8/18 10:00pm, @ Vikings Fri 8/24 8:00pm, vs Raiders Thur 8/30 10:00pm
2. Minnesota Vikings:
All the DL techniques offensive linemen can face
- Positions : Running Back, Center, O Tackle, Guard,
- w2w : Running back depth and offensive line play lead the way, + QB/OC changeover effects – RB : For the running back, the Vikings look set with Dalvin Cook healthy and Latavious Murray playing backup. However, there is a lot of risk there and who steps up behind Murray between Mack Brown and Roc Thomas with Mike Boone playing dark horse candidate, it is worth watching. It could become important later in the year. Murray will typically miss a couple games every year, and the Vikings can ill afford Cook getting hurt again behind this Offensive Line which brings me to the next point… OL : Pat Elfein starting out on the PUP list is not a good sign. He was arguably there best player, and he’s now dealing with a shoulder injury and coming off ankle surgery. Backups Edison and Quinn will be have a chance to show what they’re worth and if they can hold up in the NFL. Riley Reiff is entrenched at the left tackle position and Rashod Hill took over halfway through last season. Hill is slotted above 2nd rd pick Brian O’Neill right now, but this battle will be one to watch. Guard is the real wild card. Remmers is starting right guard, and Nick eason slotted left currently. If this doesn’t gel, don’t be surprised to see some shifting early and some effects on the RB’s and QB.speaking of QB/OC : This isn’t under the radar, but seeing if they have chemistry early in the preseason with the changes across the OL will be interesting to watch and a tell into how to bet them early as they will be heavy favorites 2 of their first 3 games, vs 49ers & vs Bills.
- When 2 Watch : @ Broncos Sat 8/11 9:00pm, vs Jags Sat 8/18 1:00pm, vs Seahawks Fri 8/24 8:00pm, @ Titans Thur 8/30 8:00pm
3. Denver Broncos
Common Broncos defensive alignment
- Positions : Guard, Tackle, Running Back, Safety
- w2w : Offensive line can they block, and can Booker carry the team – OL : At guard, neither starter, Leary or Mcgovern, give you fuzzy feelings. Mcgovern has some experience so want to see if he has taken a step or not. Leary is a walking injury and the depth isn’t anything spectacular either. Looking at the tackle and its a lot of the same questions. It’ll be interesting to see if they play well as a unit. Individual linemen don’t have to be great, but can be apart of great lines that are cohesive. RB : Freeman and Henderson will be interesting to watch this preseason. Booker is the starter, but he with the OL they will need fresh bodies as Booker will struggle to take too much pounding. If these two position groups can really lock down, this could be an even scarier scary team with their defense to look healthy and improved.
- When 2 Watch : vs Viking Sat 8/11 9:00pm, vs Bears Sat 8/19 9:05pm, @ Redskins Fri 8/24 7:30pm, @ Cardinals Thur 8/30 10:00pm
Tune in next week as I look at 3 more teams and positions to watch this season.