Snap Judgments (cont.)
I'd say new Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison might just be up to the task of replacing the departed Rex Ryan. A shutout in his first game as an NFL coordinator is setting the bar pretty high, but I have a feeling it won't be Baltimore's last defensive highlight of the season. The Ravens look loaded.
You don't want to assign too much meaning to Oakland's 31-10 thrashing of the visiting Cowboys, but it held more significance for the downtrodden Raiders than it did Dallas. Oakland got a brief but solid performance out of starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell, and he remains the key to the Raiders reaching respectability this season. Russell, playing two series, looked smooth in completing six of nine passes for 50 yards, with an 18-yard scramble added in. He didn't face the Cowboys' top cornerbacks, but any kind of success is valuable for Russell's confidence level at this point.
Another highlight for Oakland was the 45-yard run ripped off by second-year running back Darren McFadden in the first quarter. The Raiders first-round pick in 2008 looked completely over his rookie season health issues, and gained 63 yards on four carries, with a nine-yard reception as well.
Watching the Patriots-Eagles highlights roll in last night, I couldn't quite place where I had heard about New England rookie Julian Edelman, who returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown and led the Pats with five catches for 37 yards. Then it hit me. The former Kent State quarterback turned NFL receiver/return man was one of the sleepers I profiled in a pre-draft feature that I called my "Wes Welker Watch List,'' in honor of the undrafted Patriots receiving star.
As it turns out, Edelman didn't go undrafted. The Patriots themselves picked him in the seventh round, and now he's playing alongside Welker. And from the looks of it against the Eagles, the rookie's even doing a pretty fair imitation of his more accomplished teammate. He has Welker-like 4.46 speed, and that same great short-burst quickness.
Between Tyler Palko throwing for Arizona's only touchdown in a 20-10 Cardinals loss at Pittsburgh, and Baltimore's Joe Flacco helping the Ravens dismantle the Redskins defense, all in all it was a pretty good night for onetime University of Pittsburgh quarterbacks in the NFL.
If you've forgotten, Palko, who is now Arizona's fourth-string quarterback, is the guy who beat out Flacco for the starting job at Pitt, prompting Flacco to transfer to Delaware.
Though it was big news earlier in the day, by the time Thursday night was done, I kept thinking that Donte' Stallworth picked the right day to get suspended for the year by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. After the Vick signing and Tom Brady's return, the Stallworth headline was a mere blip on the radar screen.
The day before I visited Titans camp this week, Tennessee had quarterback Vince Young run eight plays from the option in practice. Titans head coach Jeff Fisher told me that wasn't the first time they've tried that with Young, and that it's a legitimate part of Young's game.
"We've done it before with him, and it's part of our package,'' Fisher. "He's good at it. He's got a good feel for it, a good sense for it. Especially when he's riding LenDale (White), with C.J. (Chris Johnson) out wide.''
Is Young in the option this year's version of the Wildcat formation novelty offense? Wouldn't that be fun?
Speaking of White, who looks so much better now that he has shed 30 pounds in Tennessee and is capable of making a corner again, somebody made an excellent point to me this week: What if White winds up having the better NFL career than his ex-USC backfield mate, Reggie Bush? Can anyone say definitively at this point that we're not headed there?
For what it's worth, of the training camps I visited that have ongoing quarterback competitions, here are my early reads on who will open the season at starter: Minnesota, Sage Rosenfels; Detroit, Daunte Culpepper; and Cleveland, Brady Quinn. Of those, going with Quinn over Derek Anderson strike me as the closest call, and perhaps not the right call.
How bad were the Redskins Thursday night? They couldn't even get the name of one of their own players right. If you saw the highlights, you know what I mean. Ladell Betts, who has been in Washington since 2002, played in a jersey with "Bettis'' stitched across his name plate. At least, Betts and the NFL's most well-known Bettis, Jerome, aka "The Bus,'' both played running back.
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