Yes, it’s only preseason, and the games don’t actually mean anything yet. But there is still a lot that can be taken from the leagues first weekend of games. Indeed, they are chalked full of interesting tid-bits such as: Rookie debuts, Free Agent and Coach debuts, and position battles. Combine with all that, the fact that I truly believe there are clues that can be ascertained from these glorified scrimmages, and there you have my takeaways, from each team, for week one of the preseason.
Let’s get started in the AFC:
Chiefs: Kansas City’s starters were impressive despite ultimately losing the game in the Second Half. Particularly impressive was QB Alex Smith’s first game with the Chiefs. Smith was 7 for 8 and led an impressive opening drive that was 14 plays long and resulted in a Touchdown. The Chiefs will need more than just improved QB play if they want to rebound from a franchise worst 2-14 season, but Smith can to a lot to stable the ship if he continues to play well.
Broncos: The Broncos are the undisputed class of this division, and even though they played a dreadfully boring 10-6 game versus San Francisco, there is no indication that anything has changed in the off-season. Peyton Manning only played one series, and had a few good completions. The running back battle in Denver has become a perennial thing, and this year it is perhaps even more interesting as they will have to replace Willis McGahee, who took the lions share a season ago. Ronnie Hillman, who many believe to be the front -runner, was the starter and did okay in his limited time ending up with nine yards on just three carries. Rookie Montee Ball did not do much of anything with his five carries only resulting in nine yards as well. Knowshawn Mareno then came in and looked livelier than the previous two runners taking his six carries for 23 yards. Perhaps most impressive was C.J. Anderson, an undrafted free agent out of Cal. Anderson looked like the downhill running back that the Broncos have been known for, and his 15 carries for 69 yards definitely stuck out against the other RB’s performances.
Chargers: San Diego is a team that is coming into this season with a lot of question marks. New Head Coach Mike McCoy will have to hope that QB Phil Rivers returns to his once all-pro form, after a very disappointing year last season. Just as confusing is talented running back Ryan Matthews, who also underperformed last year. Good news for San Diego fans is that both looked solid in their 2013 debut. The Chargers had a good first drive in which Matthews took the ball three times for 19 yards, including an impressive 3rd down conversion where he leaped over the line for the first down.
Rivers also looked sharp., completing five of six in the opening drive field goal. A glaring problem did show up a bit however, as the Chargers receiving corps looked abysmal. Aside from future hall of fame TE Antonio Gates, Rivers does not have many viable options to throw the ball to, and especially with the recent news about WR Robert Meachem, I can’t help but wonder how they ever let Vincent Jackson get away. The Chargers eventually lost the game 31-10.
Raiders: With the departure of Carson Palmer, Oakland finds itself in the all too familiar position of heading into the season with uncertainty at the quarterback position. Matt Flynn, the newcomer from Green Bay, started the game that saw the Raiders win 19-17. Flynn did fairly well completing four of five and looking sharp. The only snafu being a lost fumble when he dropped back and was annihilated by a blitzing line backer. Although you’d like to see him tuck the ball, the fault also falls on the offensive line in this case. Second year player Tyrell Pryor was up next, and had a very interesting performance. Pryor looked very comfortable running a read-option scheme, and even looked down right dangerous breaking a couple of long runs. He ended up with three carries for 31 yards and was six of ten passing, but threw one interception. It still looks like he could use some more work in the passing game, but I think Pryor could be a very exciting player for the Raiders sometime in the future.