Snap Judgments: Running down preseason Week 2 winners, losers
Raiders defense has dominated so far in the preseason
Tony Romo and Matt Leinart haven't inspired much confidence
LaDainian Tomlinson and Wes Welker have performed well
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we run down the winners and losers in Week 2 of the NFL's preseason. The games don't count, but the perceptions sure do. ...
WINNER -- Brace yourselves, I'm about to jump on the Raiders' bandwagon even before it really gets rolling. The NFL preseason is all about trying to generate some momentum to carry into the regular season, and to this point, I see no team in the league that has more mojo building in August than the long-downtrodden Raiders. That's right, the Oakland Raiders, they of the seven-year streak of 11-plus-loss seasons.
Oakland is 2-0 so far, but that's not the most impressive part since we know preseason results easily can be skewed. The better news for the Raiders is how they've won their games, with both coming on the road, featuring dominating displays of defense, against teams that have 2010 playoff aspirations (Dallas and Chicago). Oakland's 17-9 win at Dallas in Week 1 gave the Raiders confidence, because they held the Cowboys' first team without a touchdown and limited Wade Phillips' powerful club to just three field goals on four trips deep into the red zone.
Then against the Bears on Saturday night, the Raiders flashed another facet of their emerging defensive improvement in a 32-17 win, sacking Chicago quarterbacks six times. Five came in the first half, when both teams were still playing their starters. Newly acquired Oakland outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley was the star of game for the Raiders, abusing Bears offensive tackle Chris Williams with an eye-opening four sacks of Jay Cutler. (Two quick thoughts on that: When's the last time you can remember anyone amassing four sacks in a preseason game, and how about the Raiders for a change picking another club's pocket in a trade, which it looks like they did with the ex-Brown Wimbley?)
Oakland's defense had some issues defending the run against the Bears (174 yards on 25 carries), and Chicago's starting offense did put up 14 points in the first half on a pair of big plays -- an 89-yard Matt Forte run and a 22-yard Cutler-to-Johnny Knox pass. But the Raiders clearly have something coming together on defense, and when you factor in their improvement at quarterback with Jason Campbell, and the strong work they did with their 2010 draft class, the buzz that's just starting to be heard in Oakland seems legit.
LOSER -- It has become obvious by now there are no winners in Washington's ever-burgeoning Albert Haynesworth saga, and the story continues to hold both sides hostage. All Haynesworth is doing is further damaging his reputation and making everyone who predicted that he would be impossible to motivate once he got a big payday look positively prescient.
As for Washington head coach Mike Shanahan, his high-profile makeover of the Redskins seems on hold as it continues to take a backseat to the stand off he's locked into with his overpaid and disgruntled defensive lineman. The focus in D.C. has been on nothing but the negative so far, and the longer that continues, Shanahan and his team lose, even if the head coach is in the right when it comes to laying down the law to Haynesworth.
After a decade of dramatic underachievement in the win-loss column and glaring failures in the personnel department, the Redskins were hoping for a fresh start with this new, proven regime. Instead, it seems like business as usual in Washington, with a team's dysfunction on display instead of its determination to change its losing ways.
WINNER -- As a former mid-round pick, Kyle Orton has really never been the chosen one throughout his solid NFL career. But he's the guy for the foreseeable future in Denver now that the Broncos have extended his contract through 2011. No, that's not a long-term investment, but it's a start, and Orton just might make Denver look very smart this year for having him locked up.
Orton has been on fire so far this preseason, completing 68.6 percent of his passes for 261 yards and four touchdowns, and running the Broncos offense with a sophistication and familiarity he clearly lacked at times last season. The Tim Tebow experiment in Denver notwithstanding, the Broncos are Orton's team until the former Purdue Boilermaker says otherwise.
LOSER -- Between the Vikings' whatever-it-takes approach to luring Brett Favre back to town -- sure, you can miss practice, guys -- to the Rex Ryan brainstorm of canceling his team's workout to invite everyone to take part in a Darrelle Revis negotiating session, the concept of no one player being bigger than his team has taken a beating this month. Both Vikings head coach Brad Childress and Ryan have been perfectly willing to send the message that a very, very different set of rules applies to their superstars, and everybody else should just get used to it.
It may sound hopelessly old-school of me, but I think it's the worst development of the year so far in the NFL.
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