The first week of preseason is in the book. So let’s take a look at every teams first drive and highlight an area of strength (if we can find one) and weakness (if we can find one). This is early, and it will be interesting to follow the further developments through the preseason;
Saints @ Jags
Jags : Offense – If you’re a Jags fan, the first drive looked promising for the season. Area of strength was OL and the holes they create. They did a good job of mixing everything in the drive. Power runs to get 3rd & inches, passes at all levels, moving the ball inside and outside the numbers to keep defense off balance, and some goal line play topped off with a TD. Area of weakness they got away from their run game a little too early & often. They were fortunate not to stall out after missing deep on a 2nd and 10 after an incompletion on 1st down. Good play design on the 3rd & 10, but very fortunate the drive didn’t stall. Defense – Overall, not terrible. A good kick return allowed a FG, but they held NO on 3rd down. You’ll take that against Drew Brees and Sean Peyton. You can only expect they will resend some, but locker room will be worth keeping an eye on with the Fowler and Ramsey suspensions.
Saints : Defense – Saints came out really flat on defense. The area of weakness was pass defense. The Jags easily kept them off balance throwing inside and outside the number, and the run game was able to get 4 yards when called upon. The area of strength Was the pass rush. The Saints had them in a 3rd & 10 but Hendrickson got beat. Will Smith came around the edge and got a good shot on Bortles, but the back end couldn’t hold. Offense – Typical Drew Brees offense. Moving the ball around and moving chains and thats their area of strength. Weakness was the run game without Ingram. It’ll be interesting if they just go to a lean on Drew Brees approach in short situations as oppose to run.
Bears @ Bengals
Bears : Offense – Bears offense stuttered, but had some positives. The area of strength is Trubisky’s confidence and comfort level in the pocket. The first play his line gave him a lot of time and he took a shot he had deep. However, that OL is the area of weakness. Trubisky’s level of poise was obvious because his line didn’t keep guys out of the pocket. That will frustrate Bears fans all year with undersized RB’s Defense – Area of strength would be the DL. They formed a solid wall and kept running lanes plugged. The backend is an area of weakness. AJ Green with no one within 4 yards on a catch and run is a problem. Mixon breaking 2 open field tackles off balance was just insult to injury.
Bengals : Defense – Bengals defense strength was attacking. They were flying all over the field and looked quick albeit against the Bears. If there was a weakness, it’ll be outside against speedier bigger receivers in man coverage. Kevin White had a step on Jackson early after giving him a free release off the line (on bottom, pictured below). If that continues it’s gonna be a long season for him. Offense – Overall effective. Good balance running vs passing. Area of stremgth is adding Mixon to Green and Dalton. This offense should have playmakers to move the ball. However the weakness is run blocking. They didn’t open any holes in the run game and the only good run was one Mixon cut back away from the play.
Browns @ Giants
Giants : Offense – Area of strength look to be the skill positions. Eli is servicable, OBJ is one of the best in the NFL, and Barkley looks to be as advertised with elite athleticism and vision. The area of weakness is the OL. Could be chemistry, but its going to take a lot to make this line play above its talent. Defense – AoS is the defensive line (pictured below). The line came in and owned the line of scrimmage off the bat. The AoW was the backend of this defense. Can they hold up in man coverage to let the front 7 handle the options offense are throwing at them now?
Browns : Defense – Browns defense looked strong overall. Plugged lanes on defense outside one run by Barkley and the DB’s were finding themselves in good spots. The area of weakness is control right now. The unsportsmanlike on a 3rd down stop was a killer. Fortunately the team stepped up and held the Giants to 3, but that has to be cleaned up going to the opener. Offense – AoS for the Browns is a competent QB. Taylor may not be the highest rated, but he is cool in the pocket and makes sound judgement with the football. He also shows more touch on his balls than I believe most people realize. The Aow will be the run blocking on this OL. It has gone through a lot of turnover and creating running lanes for Hyde may be a struggle this year in The Land (pictured below, no push on a second straight run play to start the game)
Panthers @ Bills
Panthers : Offense – AoS was really hard to find as they ran a total of 5 plays. McCaffery looking more comfortable and showing the elusiveness on the 2nd down screen looked good, but followed it up by two no gain runs (albeit behind poor blocking) which brings me to AoW and it feels like a broken records, but that OL is a piece of work to be nice. Cam is still inaccurate any any ball closer than 15-20yds. Defense – AoS is still the front 7. Kuechley was flying around and that DL is still wreaking havoc in backfields. AoW is the back end. To start the drive, the Bills ran 3 straight comeback routes for Benjamin for 3 straight completions. On the Benjamin TD, Peterman had two 1st dwon options as you can see in the photo below. With a younger defensive front, they will need to play better to keep Car competitive in the NFC South.
Bills : Defense – Same as above for Car offense, hard to find, but seeing Shaq Lawson active in the backfield is promising after losing him a year ago. No AoW here really except some tackling drills for DB’s. Some poor tackling technique on McCaffery’s screen pass. Offense – The offense looked good. Peterman and Benjamin look to be building
timing and chemistry. AoS was adding a talent like Benjamin. On the TD pass Benjamin won through strength. He beat him through contact allowing him to get a step after 5yds. This dynamic is worth keeping an eye on if you are a fantasy player.
Steelers @ Eagles
Steelers : Offense – This was a quick drive for the Steelers. AoS Running Back. All the focus is on LeVeon Bell, but James Connor is no joke. Watching him through Pitt and now the Steelers I love the way he runs and can catch in traffic. AoW I didn’t really see one through 3 plays, but the OL play could be better as they had no answer for Cox (Pictured Below). In their defense, neither does anyone else. Defense – AoS It looks better than last year on the front 7, but still suspect. The defense was able to manage a pick, but more on a bad decision. AoW would be experience. They’re still young and should continue to improve as the year progresses
Eagles : Defense – AoS is Fletcher Cox. He’s a one man wrecking crew. He’s as close to Aaron Donald as they come in the league. He’s everywhere. One play he is getting a sack, the next he’s reading and tackling a delayed screen from behind (Pictured above). AoW I didn’t see one in the short drive. Will be interested in following how the backend holds up especially in week 3 preseason. Offense – AoS on the OL. They are buying time and creating running lanes. This drive ended in a pick, but it wasn’t due to pressure. AoW is hard to spot, but I’ll be interested in how these outside runs in the RPO work long term. This dynamic and how defenses will play it will be fun to watch.
Bucs @ Dolphins
Dolphins : Offense – The offense looked better with Tannehill. AoS would be their OL. It is an underrated line in the league, but when healthy can be efficient in both run and pass protection. AoW is still QB. Tannehill looked better, but the drive really fizzled due to some errant passes. He showed some good things, but if you’re a Miami fan, you know the offense goes as he does. Plus can’t be worse than Cutler, right? Defense – AoS will be the edges of this line. With Quinn and Wake they have a formidable set of book ends. AoW will be the Linebackers. Kiko was a top player, but hasn’t been the same since his injury in Buffalo. They’re ability to cover in the pass game will make and break this defense throughout the season.
Bucs : Defense – AoS for the Bucs will be Gerald McCoy. With guys like Alexander, David, and Pierre Paul, we’d expect the front 7 to be a strength, but its yet to be determined if they are stout at the line. Mike Smith has a reputation of having soft defenses. Do the Bucs play soft this year? (For the record, I believe it is more Smith’s scheme of react instead of action makes guys play slower and “softer”) Offense – The Bucs offense came out firing under Fitzpatrick and an AoS was their receiving core. They have a good mix of skill sets to challenge defenses back ends. AoW would be starting QB. If you’re Winston, you better get on your game, because the Bucs look to have a serviceable backup in Fitzpatrick and his rcord of 18-27 will look much worse they drop the first few games under him this season