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Tom Jones' Two Cents: What we learned in the NFL preseason

Jacob Cutrera does little to slow Redskins back Roy Helu as he heads for a score.
Jacob Cutrera does little to slow Redskins back Roy Helu as he heads for a score.
Published Sep. 1, 2012

The Jets don't have an offense

You can change that header to read the Jets don't have a quarterback. And hold the jeers, please. I've always been a fan of both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. But both look utterly lost this preseason. Through the first three games, neither produced an offensive touchdown. It seems strange that the Jets would bring in Tebow and not run the wildcat offense at all during the exhibition games. True, teams don't want give away too much information to opponents, but it seems as if it would be a good idea to run a few plays in game situations. Think about it: After you run it a couple of times in your first game, everyone is going to start dissecting it anyway. Getting it down is more important than giving away any secrets.

The Cardinals are in trouble

My, how the Cardinals have fallen. Just three seasons ago, the Cardinals came within a play or two of winning the Super Bowl, and they seemed poised for a good run. Since then, they have gone 23-25, including 13-19 the past two seasons. Quarterback Kurt Warner retired and heir apparent Matt Leinart turned out to be, well, not the heir apparent. They signed free agent quarterback Kevin Kolb, above, to a big contract, and he hasn't exactly panned out either.

The NFL needs the real officials

This preseason has shown us just how inept replacement officials can be. It's not their fault. They're overmatched and overwhelmed. They're not even good college officials. They're simply not qualified. Forget about them blowing a call that affects the outcome of a game. That would be bad, but what's worse is their lack of control could lead to a serious injury. The NFL is a multibillion-dollar industry, and the well-being of its athletes, as well as the integrity of the sport, is way too important to hand over to a bunch of officials who are barely a step above high school officials. This preseason showed just how much we all need the real officials, who are currently locked out as negotiations founder, back on the field.

The preseason is too long

Four preseason games are too many. The starters play a series or two in the first game. They then barely play, if at all, in the final preseason game. They play maybe a quarter in the second game and, if you're lucky, a full half in the third game. Add it all up, and the starters might play the equivalent of one full game. Yet the money-grubbing NFL still charges regular-season prices for this junk. Four games is too many. Two is probably too few. Three sounds about right. But there's no way the NFL is going to give up a gate. Right now, between the regular season and the preseason, each team plays 20 games. If the league eliminates a couple of preseason games, they'll simply add those games to the regular season, and does anyone want 18 regular-season games? Teams have trouble staying healthy enough to play 16 games. Sadly, it appears we're stuck with four preseason games.

Matt Flynn isn't as good as we thought he was

Flynn, left, was Aaron Rodgers' backup last season in Green Bay. Thanks to one humongous game in 2011 (31-for-44 for 480 yards and six touchdown passes in a wild 45-41 victory against the Lions), Flynn hit the open market and became a nice consolation prize to whichever team needed a QB and didn't get Peyton Manning. Flynn ended up signing a whopping three-year, $26 million deal ($10 million guaranteed) with the Seahawks. But the Seahawks just didn't hand the job to Flynn. Coach Pete Carroll opened up the spot to anyone good enough to take it. While Flynn battled a sore arm, he lost the job to Russell Wilson, a rookie out of Wisconsin who was a third-round (75th overall) pick in the April draft.

tom jones' two cents

The NFL exhibition season is over, and the regular season kicks off Wednesday. What did we learn over the past few weeks of training camp and the preseason? Here's a look:

Peyton Manning is back

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The Broncos quarterback, who hasn't played a meaningful game since Jan. 8, 2011, still looks a little rusty. His passes aren't quite as crisp and don't have as much zip as the good old days, but he does appear to be getting healthier every day. Put it this way: Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who is pretty plugged in, believes Manning is far enough along that he's picking the Broncos to go to the Super Bowl.

The Bucs have problems with depth

We're not supposed to read a whole lot into the results of preseason games, especially the last one, when starters don't play at all. Still, don't you need to be a little concerned when your backups get beat 30-3 by another team's backups? Sure, a lot of guys who played in the Bucs' preseason finale against the Redskins will be stocking shelves or tending bar this week, but many will see time in the NFL this season, too. The Bucs could have troubles if too many of those guys see too much time.

It's a Hard Knocks life

Teams kept turning down HBO for its training camp show, Hard Knocks, so the cable network had to settle for the Dolphins. That's right, settle. This is a so-so team with almost no personality. Coach Joe Philbin seems like a nice enough guy, but he is about as exciting as burnt toast. But Hard Knocks fell into one of the best stories in the NFL when Chad Johnson or Ochocinco, or whatever he's called these days, was arrested for putting his hands on his reality-show wife. Johnson was released in one of the best scenes in the history of the show, and it doesn't seem likely he will be picked up by anyone else. Think about it: The Dolphins are in desperate need of a receiver, and even they didn't want to put up with Johnson's circus.

The kids are all right

Four first-round rookie quarterbacks earned starting jobs. Let's start (from left) in Indianapolis, where first overall pick Andrew Luck has silenced doubters with his outstanding preseason performance. In Washington, it feels like No. 2 pick Robert Griffin III has made more commercials than completed passes, but he has shown flashes of being really good. Less certain is Miami's Ryan Tannehill (drafted No. 8) and Cleveland's Brandon Weeden (No. 22). Both won jobs simply because they're on mediocre, or worse, teams that have no one else to turn to and nothing to really lose.


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