1. I think to cover as many little things as we can, here are a few thoughts about the preseason weekend:
a. Colts are 4-24 in their last 28 preseason games. They've lost eight straight.
b. Tennessee shouldn't get a false sense of security minus Chris Johnson, but the Titans have rushed for 6.4 yards a carry with Matt Hasselbeck and the first-unit offense on the field: 19 carries, 121 yards, one touchdown.
c. We're all talking about Julio Jones' impact on the Falcons' offense, and I write about it in the upcoming SI NFL Preview. But on Friday night, slot man Harry Douglas said, basically, "Don't forget about me." His 76-yard catch-and-run at Jacksonville showed his speed and also Jones' downfield blocking ability.
d. While everyone's focusing on Cam Newton in Carolina, it might be smart to put the spotlight on the defense. In the first half at Miami, the Dolphins rolled up 301 yards of offense. That's Miami's offense.
e. Third-down conversions by Cam Newton in two games (via Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer): zero.
f. Preseason fever. Catch it. There were 26 penalties in the Detroit-Cleveland game.
g. Colt McCoy's a 68 percent passer with four touchdowns and no picks in two games.
h. The flip side of McCoy strafing the Lions is that Detroit's secondary got burned consistently. That's the Achilles heel of the Lions, and it could derail any legitimate playoff chances they have.
i. So much for the quarterback competition in Washington. That's what a 14-of-17 start did for John Beck and the Shanahans. It's not over, because if Beck bombs this week (doubt he will) and Rex Grossman is great, it could give the coaching staff pause. But I sincerely doubt anyone but Beck starts against the Giants in three weeks.
j. All along we've thought Ryan Torain might be the biggest threat to Tim Hightower for carries in Washington. Turns out it might be rookie Roy Helu, who has been a perfect fit in the Redskins' one-cut-and-get-upfield running style.
k. I had never heard of Chastin West before seeing him on the highlights the other night for Green Bay, catching five balls for 134 yards. But the spare Packer wideout has the kind of hands and decent speed that have to be making Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy wonder if he can wedge his way on the roster as a sixth receiver and special-teamer.
l. When I visited Vikings camp, I thought what a natural fit it would be for Donovan McNabb to form a bond with his tight ends. The line would be a work in progress, with only wideout Percy Harvin there to scare defenses, and rookie Kyle Rudolph was the most impressive young receiver in camp. So that's what the Vikings did Saturday night in Seattle: target the tight ends and running backs. Smart.
When you're counting on Charlie Johnson to be your left tackle, it has to occur to you that the pass protection is going to be dodgy, and Raheem Brock did beat Johnson for a sack of McNabb Saturday.
m. Should be interesting to hear New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' quiet little fireside chat with his players today, when camp reconvenes in Oxnard, Calif., for a few days of cooler practices, away from the New Orleans humidity. The Saints allowed 323 yards to Houston in the first half Saturday night.
n. The Eagles were awful Thursday night. And in Week 6 of the regular season, you'll laugh about it.
o. Charlie Whitehurst completed 10 of his first 11 throws against the Vikings, and Tarvaris Jackson struggled again. For better or worse, the Seattle quarterback position is going to be a competition, and soon.
p. Great note by Vito Stellino in the Florida Times Union. He wrote the Jags, under character-conscious Gene Smith, didn't have a single player on the 90-man roster from scandal-plagued USC, Miami (Fla.) or Ohio State. But they did have two apiece from Mount Union (Ohio) and Norfolk State, where, presumably, $50,000 checks are not being written to star players.
q. I mistakenly had Bears tackle J'Marcus Webb with 15 penalties in 2010 in something I wrote last week. He actually was guilty of either 10, if you believe the NFL's numbers, or 11, if you believe those kept by ProFootballFocus.com, which also charts individual players' penalties. Either way, extremely sorry for the error.
r. Quiz answers: 1 e, 2 i, 3 f, 4 b, 5 j, 6 h, 7 d, 8 a, 9 g, 10 c. Bonus: Mike Tomlin.
s. That's right: Brian Ferentz, the Iowa center just a few years ago, is coaching Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Brian is 27. He turned down a scouting job in Baltimore . And Dave Ragone, who Tennessee offensive coordinator Chris Palmer thinks is a rising star in the coaching business, is trying to get Kenny Britt on the straight and narrow in Tennessee.
2. I think I'm not sure if the Raiders and 49ers should play in the preseason anymore if it's going to result in one man being beaten to the point of having life-threatening injuries, another man shot in the face after the game, and another man shot between two and four times in the stomach after the game. By the way, anyone still wondering why the Niners want to move to Santa Clara?
3. I think, on the Eli Manning "elite quarterback'' subject, I'd say this: There are about 25 quarterbacks, and their coaches, who'd say they're in the top five of NFL passers. Seriously. I mean, who wouldn't, other than unproven guys like Colt McCoy and John Beck. But if you ask Rex Ryan if Mark Sanchez is a top-five quarterback, he'd say yes; Lovie Smith would say it about Jay Cutler, Leslie Frazier about Donovan McNabb, etc. There's just too much time, and too much media, in the NFL now. We blow up silly stories like that all the time.
4. I think the quickest way to NOT get re-signed by a team as a 37-year-old safety, as Lawyer Milloy is, would be to tweet the following after a shaky performance by Tarvaris Jackson in the Seattle-Minnesota game Saturday night: "Charlie Whitehurst should be our starting QB opening day. #ImJustSaying. What u think #12s #12thman #Seahawks #seattle'' Milloy is very good at the use of hashtags. He is not so good at lobbying for a roster spot.
5. I think the Ryan Williams injury -- he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee Friday night against Green Bay -- is obviously a blow to the rookie from Virginia Tech because he was going to be at least the co-running back with Beanie Wells for the Cards. What a great opportunity for Williams, particularly after Arizona traded Tim Hightower to show how much faith the coaches had in the Hokies rookie.
It's as big a blow to the team. A month ago, the Cards had a stable of three runners plus a change-of-pace back in LaRod Stephens-Howling. Now Alfonso Smith, a 2010 free agent from Kentucky, is the nominal backup to Wells. This is a perfect spot for a look at Tiki Barber. Not necessarily a signing of Barber; a look. But GM Rod Graves told Barber's agent, Mark Lepselter, Saturday the Cards were looking in a different direction.
I just don't get why a team desperate for an experienced back wouldn't look at him. It can't do any harm to work him out. I realize there are some teams who need spare running backs to also play special teams. But teams like Arizona, Detroit and Tampa Bay have enough youth all over their roster to take on a veteran back and make him a runner only.
6. I think if you look at Cleveland's schedule -- the Browns play the NFC West this year -- you can see them winning eight games. At least I can. I mean, you look at the schedule in the first 11 games and you think: Somebody at 280 Park Avenue is very fond of Randy Lerner.
The slate includes one team, Indy, with a winning record in 2010: 1. Cincinnati, 2. at Indianapolis, 3. Miami, 4. Tennessee, 5. at Oakland, 6. Seattle, 7. at San Francisco, 8. at Houston, 9. St. Louis, 10. Jacksonville, 11. at Cincinnati.
Not saying they'll go 10-1, and you gotta think the other teams are looking at Cleveland on the schedule and thinking it's an eminently winnable game. But the point is, no other team in the league has the kind of chance to start strong and stay strong as Cleveland has. The problem with the first 11 weeks for the Browns is the season isn't 11 games. It's 16. And the last five games include two with Baltimore and two with Pittsburgh. But when you face one strong returning playoff team in the first 11 games (Seattle, at 7-9, will forever be asterisked, even with the decisive win over New Orleans), you think it might just be your year.
7. I think I forgot this pro-Randy Moss story from my note about Moss and Patriots owner Robert Kraft a couple of weeks ago. Moss has been a consistent supporter of former Patriot teammate Heath Evans' charity work, and he was at a golf tournament in Florida for the charity when he came upon a pregnant woman working a beverage cart on the course.
According to Evans, Moss said to the woman she looked too far along to be working a golf tournament; the woman said she was on the verge of giving birth, but she needed the money, so she had to work. Moss reached into his pocket, according to Evans, pulled out a wad of cash, handed her the entire amount and told her, "Go home. Please.'' And she did.
I tell the story not to say Moss is Mr. Wonderful; Lord knows he's had enough problems with the press and public in his career. It's just that those who know him are convinced there are enough stories about the good side of Moss that have never been told.
8. I think Plaxico Burress' first trip to the end zone since Nov. 9, 2008 -- against Cincinnati Sunday night in New Jersey -- was like so many of his previous TDs. He beat the corner, stretched out for the ball and made the catch as his body flopped to the ground. You had to expect Rex Ryan would try to make that happen, to get Burress a touchdown in his first game back. That's what Ryan does. It's smart.
9. The play of rookie running back Kendall Hunter (he had a 53-yard touchdown run against Oakland Saturday night) is the biggest reason -- unless someone in the organization flat-out promised Frank Gore a new deal -- it would be silly to risk what are becoming precious cap dollars on a back like Gore, who has been hurt so much. Hunter's only 5-7, but he can block and run well enough for the Niners to think he's Gore's heir.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Hilarious line on razzball.com, the fantasy baseball site. Called Kevin Youkilis "the Greek God of Back Pain.'' You may have to be a Moneyball person to get that one.
b. Heck of a job, Charles Robinson. Be proud of your work on the Miami Hurricanes story.
c. I would love to comment on something in the real world, like TV shows or movies or something other than football, Rolo McFlurries and the road. But this week I'm a little short on that. I read the New York Times once and USA Today two or three times (good work on the Matt Cassel feature, Jim Corbett), so I don't know much about anything right now.
I did read that incredible story about the three supposed killers released in West Memphis Friday after being imprisoned for 18 years for killing three young boys. Seemed like an incredibly complicated case and a story with raw nerves everywhere. Amazing part of the story is how one of the relatives of the murdered boys supported the release of the men.
d. Beernerdness: Thanks to Indianapolis buddy Will Carroll and Scotty, of Scotty's Brewhouse, for the good time at the Indianapolis Indians game the other night. Finally was able to try Bell's Oberon Ale, a pale wheat ale from Michigan that I'd heard a lot about. I'm sold. Terrific, light citrusy and bold flavor with a thick head. I'll be looking forward to my next trip to cover the Lions.
e. Coffeenerdness I: Terrific latte, right down to the foam artwork on the top of the drink, at Kaldi's Coffee Roasting Company in St. Louis. Espresso with no trace of bitterness is not common in many places, even Starbucks. But Kaldi's gave me a smooth but sufficiently strong drink.
f. Coffeenerdness II: In the Tennessee Titans press room Thursday, I mentioned I'd be stopping for a coffee on the way out of there, and one by one the writers said they didn't touch the stuff. Only John Glennon of the Tennessean said he had the occasionally coffee or latte, but it was no big thing for him. "What kind of press room is this?'' I asked. "No coffee drinkers! It's an outrage!''
g. Don't let me down, Ryan Lavarnway. I picked you up to keep my ninth-place standing in my fantasy baseball league.