With the Hall of Fame game in the books here are things that jumped out at me over the first week of preseason.
Would the Browns like a mulligan?
With the Deshawn Watson case still far from settled, I could not help but ask, if given some truth serum would the Cleveland Brown decision makers like a do over in what has been, from day 1, a total circus and black cloud of media and fan attention, over their franchise, since his acquisition?
Did the Browns misjudge the level of reaction and the intensity/vitriol it has created? The reaction outside Cleveland has been consistently negative. Sure, some Browns fans still clamor for a Watson autograph but elsewhere actual football analysis is hard to find and even process. It’s just really hard for anyone to talk about football with this cloud of uncertainty and the negativity it creates hanging over the franchise. It has to be draining or all involved.
Having sat in that “team building” chair, and I said it at the time, I would not have wanted this kind of distraction or burden (for teammates, coaches and other staff in the building) of association, as we continued to attempt to change the culture for a team that has been run poorly for years. The options one has to build a playoff roster come with decisions that are not easy. I get it, you have to take calculated risks at times to get ahead, but….Do you think the team’s who were rumored to be involved in the Watson acquisition, at the time it happened, are filled with regret that they didn’t get him?
Like I have often said over the last 20 years, “sometimes the best deals our team made, were the ones that didn’t actually happen”.
On another Browns note. RB Kareem Hunt staged a “hold in” of his own this weekend when he requested a trade and decided to sit out team activities. He was back practicing and the team denied the request on Sunday. I’m not a fan of the “hold ins” and was very glad to see the Browns communicate clearly about how they felt regarding Hunt's quest for a new contract. Score one for the front office to avoid another distraction.
Will the Raiders trade a RB?
After one preseason game it is clear, even to the untrained eye, that the Las Vegas Raiders have depth at a position where several teams are searching.
The presumed starter Josh Jacobs, whose 5th year option was declined by the club, looked sharp. He showed natural running vision and made decisive decisions and cuts that made his talent clear, even if that breakaway speed was not evident. Rookie Zamir White, their 4th round pick out of Georgia, flashed the skill set that led me to believe he may have been the best back in the draft. Now healthy (and that has not been the consistent case in the past) Ameer Abdullah showed he is going to be a 3rd down matchup nightmare for defenses to cover in the passing game and speed to turn the corner on the edge of a formation. Austin Walter, the 4th RB in the game showed why others have had him in the stable as an option on the practice squad in years past.
That leaves Patriots transplant, 32-year-old Brandon Bolden, a Josh McDaniel favorite and handsomely paid, Kenyan Drake and his $3.850M base salary, both on the outside looking in at jobs in Vegas for the 2022 regular season. Salary cap hits will make it tough for another team to step up to acquire either. In fact, my fear as a Vegas decision maker, would be that either would get hurt, therefore I probably couldn’t play either in preseason and use them as inactive injury insurance for now.
Managing risk and injury is a major task for GM’s around the league during training camp and preseason. These kinds of decisions get discussed at nausea by club personnel, and it happens at every position. This room, in particular, will be interesting to follow.
With all that being said, I wouldn't trade anyone, it's a long season.
Jags first pick showed why he made sense for them-
It took all of one quarter to recognize why the first pick in the draft, DE/SLB Travon Walker may bring the most and best value for a rebuilding Jacksonville defense.
When I saw on TV that the Jags had Walker positioned in a 2-point stance (most of the time) and being used as an edge rusher I scratched my head. But, after I had a chance to actually watch the coaching tape I remembered the main reason I had advocated for Walker at the top of the draft last spring. His skill set is not scheme or position oriented. “He can play anywhere”. He may not have elite speed or bend on the corner as an outside rusher but his heavy hands, his power and body control AND his relentless motor make him a good fit on the opposite side of budding star DE/WLB Josh Allen.
The same traits that were evident at University of Georgia were on display in the Hall of Fame game for Walker. He can get off blocks, he has a nose for the ball and brings unmatched versatility for coaches to play him, wherever they want! Make him special beyond the numbers or stats he will generate. He won’t be the dynamic rusher that Allen is, but he will hold the point of attack and be more physical vs an opponent’s run game than 90% of the players that play his position in the entire league- yes, all this after one quarter.