Preseason Preview: Week Two

As the second week of full preseason schedules get underway, things get a bit more intense out there. First cuts are less than two weeks away, and some players who are on the bubble will have this week's games to prove their worth. Our Seahawks take on the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night in front of a national TV audience.

COACHES VALUE PRESEASON

“Preseason games are vital to our young players,” says the New York Jets’ HERMAN EDWARDS, who is 14-4 (.778) in preseason as the team’s head coach. “Young players are put into pressure situations in the third and fourth quarters of games whether they are trying to hold a lead or mount a comeback. Our goal is to win preseason games. It’s important. We take it seriously.”

MID-POINT OF PRESEASON FEATURES FIVE NATIONAL TV GAMES

Things are getting serious out there.

Last week, in the first full week of preseason, a slimmed-downed BRETT FAVRE completed nine of 10 passes for 91 yards and a TD…new Cardinals quarterback KURT WARNER notched 14 completions in 19 attempts for 151 yards and a TD…and the New England Patriots may have done it again – found an outstanding quarterback in a late round.

”We don’t want to get too excited,” said Favre after Green Bay’s 10-7 victory over San Diego. “We still have a lot of work to do.” As do all NFL clubs as Week 3 of the preseason approaches. The mid-point of the summer schedule includes five national TV games and nine “look-in” games on NFL Network Saturday night that allow fans to see developing action around the league.

The nine “look-in” games this week on NFL Network:

Saturday, August 20 at 8:00 PM ET – Nine games. Time on air, 4 hours:

Green Bay @ Buffalo
Jacksonville @ Tampa Bay
Miami @ Pittsburgh
Carolina @ NY Giants
Chicago @ Indianapolis
Oakland @ Houston
Philadelphia @ Baltimore
Arizona @ Kansas City
San Francisco @ Denver

The national TV games this week:

• NEW ORLEANS at NEW ENGLAND (Thursday, FOX, 8:00 PM ET): Leave it to the Patriots to find a possible quarterback gem in the late rounds. And Thursday, NFL fans can see him on national TV. Not TOM BRADY, a sixth-round draft choice with three Super Bowl titles in the past four years on his resume who did not play in New England’s preseason opener last Friday night. We’re talking about rookie MATT CASSEL – one of the Pats’ seventh-round selections – who did play last week and did he light it up!

CARSON PALMER’s backup and roommate at USC, Cassel went against Palmer and the Bengals and led four scoring drives in New England’s 23-13 win. He completed 13 of 20 attempts for 135 yards. “It was hard that he was doing it for the other team, but it was good to see him get the chance to show that he can play,” said Palmer.

Cassel and Brady will face a Saints defense that finished third in the NFC in takeaways last year (33). New Orleans lost its preseason opener to Seattle (34-15) and gets a chance to test once again its new run-oriented offense led by DEUCE MCALLISTER.

• MINNESOTA at NEW YORK JETS (Friday, CBS, 8:00 PM ET): Culpepper’s hot, and Pennington’s back. Those will be two of the main stories Friday night as two revamped offenses square off. The Vikings and quarterback DAUNTE CULPEPPER, without their go-to receiver RANDY MOSS for the first time in eight years, did not miss a beat last Friday night against Kansas City.

Culpepper completed his first five attempts to five different receivers, and connected for a TD with his new No. 1 receiver, NATE BURLESON. Distributing the ball “makes everybody more effective,” said Culpepper. “It makes defenses cover everybody.”

For the Jets, it will be the preseason debut of No. 1 quarterback CHAD PENNINGTON, recovering from rotator cuff surgery. He will get a chance to operate for the first time the new attacking system of new offensive coordinator MIKE HEIMERDINGER. Part of the Jets’ new offense includes the shotgun. It was used last week in the team’s 10-3 win over Detroit.

• CLEVELAND at DETROIT (Saturday, NFL Network, 1:00 PM ET): More tests for new coaches. The Browns’ ROMEO CRENNEL, after 24 years as an NFL assistant, won his first game as a head coach last week (17-14 over the New York Giants). “A win is a win is a win,” said Crennel. “But there’s a lot of work to do.”

A lot of work this week should involve new Browns quarterback TRENT DILFER polishing things with the team’s No. 1 draft choice, wide receiver BRAYLON EDWARDS, who is scheduled to see his first NFL action in his hometown. Cleveland’s three-way battle for the starting tailback position will continue between WILLIAM GREEN, LEE SUGGS and newcomer REUBEN DROUGHNS.

For the Lions, new offensive coordinator TED TOLLNER will fine-tune his new downfield attack even more. Last Friday in the Lions’ loss to the Jets, quarterback JOEY HARRINGTON operated the offense expertly, going 9-for-9 for 100 yards in two series. “I don’t think there was a throw I really disliked,” said Harrington.

• ST. LOUIS at SAN DIEGO (Sunday, NFL Network, 4:00 PM ET): Two of the NFL’s finest young quarterbacks will see action, but there will be other interesting angles for this game. San Diego’s DREW BREES (No. 3) and St. Louis’ MARC BULGER (No. 8) finished in the top 10 in passer rating in 2004 and took their teams to the playoffs. They will see increased playing time on Sunday.

So will other notable players, such as Chargers quarterback PHILIP RIVERS. The team’s No. 1 draft choice in 2004 delivered an impressive night last Friday. He completed 12 of 19 attempts for 97 yards and no interceptions against Green Bay.

For the Rams, the man who will replace MARSHALL FAULK as the No. 1 back will look to build upon his performance of last week. STEVEN JACKSON, St. Louis’ No. 1 selection last year, plowed for 47 yards on seven carries in the first quarter last week against Chicago behind an offensive line made up of only one
projected starter.

• DALLAS at SEATTLE (Monday, ABC, 8:00 PM ET): It’s Seneca at home, Drew back home. Either way, Seattle fans will be watching closely. The quarterback tabbed as the new backup to Seahawks starter MATT HASSELBECK will try to keep the momentum going after his impressive start last Friday in New Orleans. SENECA WALLACE, a fourth-round selection out of Iowa State in 2003, definitely strengthened his grip on the No. 2 job. He completed 12 of 20 attempts for 137 yards and a TD, and also ran for a score on a 24-yard scramble.

“He’s a really fine passer,” says Seattle head coach MIKE HOLMGREN. “That gets overlooked because he is quick and he can run.”

Getting ready for the regular season on the other side will be a Washington-born/Washington State-bred QB – DREW BLEDSOE of the Cowboys. After a highly productive 12-year career in New England and Buffalo, Bledsoe has come to Dallas to play under the leadership of Cowboys head coach BILL PARCELLS, who drafted him No. 1 overall for the Patriots in 1993.

The Cowboys will continue to work on the development of their 3-4 defense, one of nine clubs expected to feature the formation as their base alignment this season.

# # #

LAST WEEK’S NFL RESULTS
(Home team in CAPS)

Thursday, August 11
GREEN BAY 10, San Diego 7

Friday, August 12
N.Y. JETS 10, Detroit 3
New England 23, CINCINNATI 13
ST. LOUIS 17, Chicago 13
MINNESOTA 27, Kansas City 16
Seattle 34, NEW ORLEANS 15
Tampa Bay 20, TENNESSEE 17

Saturday, August 13
ATLANTA 16, Baltimore 3
JACKSONVILLE 27, Miami 17
Buffalo 17, INDIANAPOLIS 10
Denver 20, HOUSTON 14
CLEVELAND 17, N.Y. Giants 14
CAROLINA 28, Washington 10
ARIZONA 13, Dallas 11
SAN FRANCISCO 21, Oakland 13

Monday, August 15
PITTSBURGH 38, Philadelphia 31


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