Pre-Season football isn’t something that should be taken all that seriously.
First team guys are trying to get comfortable and not get injuried. Coaches aren’t calling games that hopefully result in a win. And most plays are designed to test players, not to put them in the best position to win.
Still, though, we get a sneak preview based on pre-season games and more importantly training camps to see what we really can gather from the NFL’s tease-time. Here are a few headliners that have gotten press and are the real features of the pre-season.
Kyle Orton, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
Maybe hasn’t had as many headlines as the other Broncos quarterback, Tim Tebow, but he’s maybe gotten as good of press as any of the Broncos.
When Brady Quinn was brought in, there was thought to be a competition of sorts at quarterback to be the feature player in the renown Josh McDaniels passing attack. But while Quinn was struggling and Tebow was hogging the attention, Orton was impressing the staff and the players.
He may not ever be a Pro Bowl quarterback, but he can consistent enough to be a playoff quarterback for this team this year.
Terrell Owens, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati
It’d be foolish to not include Mr. Headline himself, Terrell Owens, on this list. He’s been a Pro Bowl receiver and a headache at the same time most places he’s been.
Coming to Cincinnati, he’ll be paired up with fellow diva Chad Ochocinco. Oh, the team could be destined for a great reality show, but a debacle in the locker room.
But not so fast. Owens has fit in well in the locker room according to sources, and he and Ochocinco are fast becoming friends with great respect for each other. Owens still has talent, and with a solid offensive line, a 1,000 yard back, and a former Pro Bowl quarterback, Owens may actual be the difference in getting this team to the playoffs again, and beyond.
Brett Favre, Quarterback, Minnesota
I won’t say he’s back, because if you knew anything about Brett Favre, you knew he wasn’t going to leave this season. Still, Ed Werner was posted outside his front yard, Rachel Nichols camped out at Vikings camp, and ESPN documented every true and false rumor out there.
But, he’s in camp now, but maybe a little different than years past. He isn’t 100 percent, and while he’s come back from injuries, he’s never been still rehabbing when he returned. He’s back with the same team, something he hasn’t done in three years. And he’s without his two top receivers, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. It won’t be an easy road to start the season.
Jason Campbell, Quarterback, Oakland
One of the steals of the off-season, the Oakland Raiders adding Jason Campbell and a host of other solid players this and in recent off-seasons may actually give this team some credence to their playoff hopes.
I’m not going to crown Campbell as the savior of the franchise or even a Top 20 starter. But he’s got a great arm, has been solid when given the chance to be comfortable in an offense, and he’s got next to no pressure on him this year. If the Chargers struggle as expected, the Raiders could seize the opportunity.
Brandon Graham, Defensive End, Philadelphia
Coming out of college, myself and many scouts I spoke with loved what Graham could offer a team early on. Such a technician in college at Michigan, he had great explosiveness, power, and hands.
Now with the Eagles, he’s already their best defensive lineman and maybe their best player. He’ll be their feature pass rusher this year, and maybe my favorite to win defensive rookie of the year. He hasn’t taken too many headlines, but he’ll sure take away a lot of quarterback’s confidence this season.
Matt Moore, Quarterback, Carolina
Now first off, I’ll say that I still really like Jimmy Clausen as a future NFL starter, and is a great fit for Carolina. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like Matt Moore.
Moore was an undrafted free agent out of college, and sat behind Jake Delhomme for two years before finally getting his shot. He took advantage, the team played well, and he was given the keys to the team to start this season.
So far, he’s looked impressive in camp and in pre-season, and he’s the starter no question in Carolina. Jimmy Clausen could be the next Phillip Rivers, but that doesn’t mean Moore can’t be a Drew Brees.
Doug Free, Offensive Tackle, Dallas Cowboys
Not a guy who many have heard much about, but he’s one of the most crucial players in the NFC this year. The Cowboys offense has one of the most talented units in the NFL. They have a Pro Bowler receiver in Miles Austin, a former Pro Bowler in Roy Williams, and a 1st round pick in Dez Bryant.
They have Jason Witten and Martelleus Bennett at tight end. They have Marion Barber and Felix Jones and Tashard Choice in the backfield. They even have a Pro Bowl quarterback in Tony Romo. The only thing missing? A playoff ready offensive line.
Doug Free, former right tackle in college and in the pros, is now slated as the team’s left tackle, and he’s in for a rough year. Every team will be going hard after the Cowboys, and if he can’t play well against the likes of Brian Orakpo, Brandon Graham, and the host of Giants defensive ends, the Cowboys could once again fall short on expectations.
John Connor, Fullback, New York Jets
If you’ve gotten a chance to watch “Hard Knocks” on HBO about the Jets, you’ve deffinetly heard of John Connor. He gets more press on that show than Revis or Sanchez.
Connor, nicknamed the Terminator (even though he’s the future savior of the human race), has been plowing defenders over in camp and in pre-season, and the 5th round pick could beat out the eventual Hall of Famer Tony Richardson.
Victor Cruz, Wide Receiver, New York Giants
For reasons such as Victor Cruz, I don’t put too much respect into pre-season play translating to regular season success. However, I don’t mean that at all in a negative way towards Victor Cruz.
Cruz wasn’t hotly recruited by NFL scouts out of UMass. He wasn’t even hotly recruited by agents. But he got a chance with the Giants in training camp, and in his first pre-season game, against the Jets, he scored three touchdowns and impressed the country that watched.
While he won’t be battling for the number one receiver spot, he could slide in as this team’s 4th or 5th receiver, maybe pushing former high draft pick Sinorice Moss off the team.
Joe Webb, Quarterback, Minnesota
While he’s not the most notable Vikings quarterback, he’s maybe the most intriguing. And yes, he is a quarterback. Brad Childress has already gone out and said that they will keep four quarterbacks this year as of now, and Webb will be one of them.
An electrifying player at UAB, he was rarely given a chance in post-season workouts to showcase his arm. But the Vikings saw something in his arm, and gave him a chance. He’s currently the only quarterback under contract for next season, and he may very well be the quarterback of the future of the Vikings once Favre finally decides to call it quits.