Snap Judgments (cont.)
WINNER -- LaDainian Tomlinson has been telling anyone who will listen this summer that he's healthy again and supremely motivated to prove all his doubters wrong in his first season with the Jets. I've been among the group believing Tomlinson looked to be an old 31, but I have to admit I saw something akin to the old L.T. burst in New York's 9-3 win over Carolina on Saturday night.
Tomlinson ripped off a 20-yard run up the gut against the Panthers, turning a third-and-13 situation at the New York 5 into a first down at the 25. It was the kind of run he never seemed to have in him last season, when he rushed for career lows in yards (730) and average gain (3.3), with just 20 receptions for 154 yards. Tomlinson finished with 26 yards on three carries against Carolina, adding a pair of catches for two yards.
For a guy who rarely played in the preseason while he was a Charger for nine seasons, it still seems odd to watch L.T. in action in August. But the Tomlinson we saw the other night in Charlotte was familiar all the same.
LOSER -- It's not particularly fair, but the leash on Matt Leinart is going to be short enough this year in Arizona that he'll have to endure the criticism and questions that come with even one so-so preseason performance. Like the one he turned in Monday night in a 24-3 loss at Tennessee.
Leinart was 4 of 6 for 28 yards against the Titans, but the Arizona offense looked sloppy with him in the game and failed to generate even one first down on his three series of work. Predictably, Leinart's lack of success, his body language, and his leadership skills were picked apart the rest of the evening on the ESPN telecast.
Leinart repeatedly told a sideline reporter in the second half that he was "fine,'' but the reality is no one will let him be fine this season after a showing like that one. He just doesn't have enough credit in the bank yet, and that means he can't afford mediocrity. This year is going to double as a week-to-week referendum on his future in Arizona, and Leinart has very little margin for error.
WINNER -- He played only six snaps Thursday night at Atlanta, but that was all we needed to see to realize that Wes Welker is back, and because he is, the Patriots offense might be, too. More than anyone this side of Tom Brady, Welker is the guy who makes things go in New England and his full-speed return from last season's Week 17 ACL injury was a big part of the Patriots' plan for success in 2010.
Forget all the medical marvel stuff. These days, Welker's return from an ACL injury is impressive, but not the stuff of miracles. The significance is that he was healthy enough to catch two passes for 20 yards in the Patriots' second preseason game, and that means there will be no need to ease him into the regular season whatsoever. New England can relax and know that Welker, who led the NFL with 346 catches over the past three seasons, will be ready to handle anything they throw at him from Week 1 on. In the three-team AFC East race that we all expect to unfold, that's a huge comfort for the Patriots.
LOSER -- In the what-a-difference-a-year-makes department, the Browns look like a competitive team this summer. But even in the rain that soaked Cleveland in Saturday night's 19-17 loss to the visiting Rams, five turnovers is entirely too many. The Browns lost three fumbles and threw two interceptions, paving the way for St. Louis to win despite gaining just 178 yards of offense.
I suppose the best news out of all those mistakes was that Cleveland starting quarterback Jake Delhomme only added one to the turnover total. As you might recall, giving the ball away was kind of his downfall last year in Carolina. Delhomme fumbled twice, but recovered one of those bobbles. He and four other Browns all had one turnover apiece against the punchless Rams.
WINNER -- The Saints offense must have sent shivers through the rest of the NFL with its showing Saturday night at home against Houston. The defending Super Bowl champs scored touchdowns on four of their six first-half possessions en route to a 38-20 dismantling of the Texans.
The Saints were the picture of balance in rolling up 409 yards of offense. They threw for 211 and ran for 198, with 15 first downs on the ground compared to 12 through the air. On third downs, New Orleans was a sharp 8 of 16, and even converted all three of its fourth-down tries.
For now, the dreaded Super Bowl hangover effect appears to be a preseason storyline in search of some evidence in New Orleans.
LOSER -- It's only the preseason, but we still have yet to see even a glimpse of the Tony Romo who threw for 26 touchdowns and nearly 4,500 yards for Dallas last season, with just nine interceptions and a career-high 97.6 passer rating. In the Cowboys' first three preseason games, Romo has completed five, four and four passes, with a 13 of 28 showing overall for 141 yards.
Romo was just 4 of 11 in the 16-14 Dallas win at San Diego this weekend, for 30 yards with both a touchdown and an interception. He threw off his back foot on several occasions, as the Chargers hurried or hit him, and never once looked comfortably in the flow of the game. With everyone considering Dallas to be one of the NFC's strongest Super Bowl contenders, Romo only has a couple more weeks to find his game. At the moment, he looks like he's feeling the pressure, both literally and figuratively.