NFL Week 2: Pre-Game Notes

Get a quick heads-up on strategies going into Sunday's games: Can Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb hold up with his chest injury once he takes his first shot from the 49ers? How does Denver plan on stopping Antonio Gates? What's holding back the Lions receivers? That and lots more on teams around the league...


The Falcons have a big problem on their hands due to the loss of veteran CB Kevin Mathis who serves as their nickel back. The Seahawks are deep at receiver and will try to get No.3 WR Joe Jurevicius matched up on whoever replaces Mathis.

While most point to CB DeAngelo Hall's excellent job in coverage on WR Terrell Owens last Monday night, it should be noted that Hall got a lot of help. Atlanta used a safety over the top and also used a linebacker as a second cover player on Owens. They rarely let him run free.


Rookie WR Mark Clayton is closing in on the No.2 job. Current No.2 WR Clarence Moore isn't as a polished route runner as Clayton nor does he have as good hands. The Ravens should be able to move the ball better in the air as the Titans don't have a solid cover cornerback on their roster.


Look for rookie RB Cedric Benson to see more playing time in back of Thomas Jones on Sunday. The team's first-round pick is a pretty good fit for offensive coordinator Ron Turner power-rushing attack.

Their second-round pick, WR Mark Bradley, is closing in on the No.2 job over Justin Gage. Bradley is essentially spitting time with Gage.

The move of Mike Green to free safety never worked for one big reason. Green is what scouts call as a box player. That means he plays well in close quarters like strong safeties do rather than a larger area where the free safety plays.


Look for rookie WR Chris Henry to see his first time in a regular season game on Sunday. Henry practiced all week and should see time in multiple receiver sets.


The team was very happy with the performance of RB Reuben Droughns. They'll try not to get in a passing mode against the Packers so look for the veteran back to handle at least 20 carries on Sunday as long as the game is close.


Although the team signed WR Peerless Price with the thought that he would be able to help their passing game right away, he could very well be inactive for the second straight week. Price doesn't play on special teams so for him to play, the team would have to sit a player from that area of the team.


According to an NFL source that has studied their game tapes, the Lions' receivers, despite their large size, continue to have problems with press coverage and are having difficulty getting off the line quickly. That issue cropped up during the pre-season and still hasn't been improved.


While the team has given fifth-year WR Robert Ferguson a chance to start, keep an eye on fellow Texas A&M Aggie WR Terrence Murphy who appears to have recovered from a sprained knee suffered early in the pre-season. The team really likes his size and ability to make plays. If the oft-injured Ferguson struggles, Murphy could cut in to his playing time.


While he's not a starter, the team will continue to find ways for rookie WR Matt   Jones to get on the field because of his size and athletic ability. You'll see him lining up in the slot and out wide depending on the matchup of the week. The coaching staff believes he's just tipping the iceberg of his ability and will become a bigger factor as the season progresses.


The loss of DT Ryan Sims to a sprained foot will keep veteran DT/DE John Browning playing more inside. Also look for third-year DE Jimmy Wilkerson to see time inside.


Look for the Saints to continue the run-first philosophy adopted by offensive coordinator Mike Sheppard. The team may only dress three receivers against the Giants on Monday night and as they showed last week, they're not concerned about a paltry run per carry average. By making a major commitment to the run, it helps keep their shaky run defense off the field so teams can't control the ball against them.

Look for veteran CB Mike McKenzie to cover WR Plaxico Burress. McKenzie is the type of physical defensive back that will not let Burress get down field without a jam at the line.


QB Donovan McNabb surprised practice observers with his ability to practice this week after suffering a bruised sternum against Atlanta. The key point that those who follow the team closely say is that he didn't have trouble breathing, which is often associated with these types of injuries. Of course, there is no telling how he will hold up once he gets hit for the first time in Sunday's game against the 49ers.


According to a league source, Denver is likely to use a safety over the top as their double coverage against TE Antonio Gates. They did the same thing to him last year and it proved to be quite successful. Gates averaged 3.5 catches and 35 yards in two games against them last season. The area where he needs to show improvement in is with double teams.


Look for the team to trade demoted QB Patrick Ramsey by the league-trading deadline of October 18. His agent Jimmy Sexton asked for Ramsey to be traded last year when the team acquired veteran QB Mark Brunell and now Ramsey has let the team know that he would like to be moved to a team that would give him a legitimate chance to start.

Niners Digest Top Stories