If you’re a fan of the National Football League you’ve spent the better part of the last six weeks waiting for this very day – opening night in the NFL! Debate rages on about the need for preseason and whether or not we should cut back on the number of “practice” games inserted into a season ticket package, but the bottom line is that coaches would probably rather have the time to evaluate and develop the talent they’ve recently added through the NFL Draft and or free agency, and the talent already present on the club’s roster.
It’s like anyone that tinkers on their Harley or high performance car in their garage. They can’t wait to get it out on the road, but not until after tuning up the engine and detailing every degree. And so goes an NFL head coach, doing everything he can to keep up with his neighbor next door. Now it’s time to hit the road and we’ll see who’s put in the necessary tinkering to details work.
I’m a big fan of ProFootballFocus.com and have watched their work grow over the past couple seasons. The analytics are outstanding and the data is invaluable in looking under the hood of any NFL team. Numbers can tell a story and Steve Palazzolo does a nice job of looking at what we might have learned from the past six weeks out in the garage.
“Get your motor runnin’, Head out on the highway!”
The Football Educator
by Steve Palazzolo – ProFootballFocus.com
On the eve of the 2013 season opener, Steve Palazzolo returns to share a selection of the thoughts rattling around in his sizable head. Rhyme and reason be damned, here are some preseason storylines that caught the eye.
2012 First Rounders Bouncing Back
After missing most of last season due to either injury or ineffectiveness, we got our first extended look at a handful of 2012 first round picks.
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Limited to only 43 snaps last year due to injury, Kirkpatrick is unlikely to see a lot of time with three solid cornerbacks ahead of him in the depth chart, so this preseason may be the most extensive playing time he receives this season. He’s graded at -4.6 (-6.1 in coverage) on his 134 August snaps including a rough night in Week 3 against the Dallas Cowboys as he picked up two penalties in coverage and missed two tackles while surrendering 9-of-10 passes into his coverage including two touchdowns. Kirkpatrick heads into the season as the No. 4 or even No. 5 cornerback for the Bengals.
David DeCastro, G, Pittsburgh Steelers
DeCastro received a lot of Top-10 hype before the 2012 draft, eventually falling to the Steelers at No. 24 overall. A preseason injury kept him out until Week 15 and he finished the season with only 138 snaps. He showed well in his first start before receiving his “Welcome to the NFL” moment at the hands of DT Geno Atkins and the rest of the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense. He graded -5.2 on his way to surrendering five pressures, including two sacks. This preseason, DeCastro was the best of the Steelers’ starting offensive linemen grading at +2.1 and holding up well in pass protection surrendering only two pressures on 68 pass block attempts.
A.J. Jenkins, WR,
San Francisco 49ers Kansas City Chiefs
Thought to be a mid-round pick, at best, by many evaluators, Jenkins snuck into the first round when the 49ers took picked him at No. 30 overall. He’s been fighting “bust” status ever since, but perhaps the 49ers should take the blame for overrating his ability. Jenkins saw the field for only 37 snaps last season and he dropped the one ball thrown his way. The 49ers were quick to realize their mistake and flipped him to the Chiefs for WR Jonathan Baldwin, an underachieving wide receiver in his own right. We’ll see if the change of scenery works in Jenkins’ favor.