Another week of NFL preseason action has flown by, meaning we now have three in the bag and it’s nearly time for some ‘real’ football! Let’s have a look at how our 2017 NFL London teams got on this week.

Baltimore Ravens

What more needs to be said other than, that defense looks legit! I’ve been expecting the Ravens to decline as the vets continue to age and retire but that just doesn’t seem to be the case right now. They keep adding quality to the defensive unit year after year and did so again this with two quality LB’s in Tyus Bowser in the 2nd round and Tim Williams in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL draft. I do like how they’ve put together an experienced secondary that has lots of talent and has the potential to dominate games. Because of this secondary of Weddle, Jefferson, Carr and Smith, I can see the Jaguars QB (whoever it may be) at Wembley struggling to find an open receiver often and therefore be having a long day at the office. In this weeks preseason game, they stopped pretty much everything and knocked a couple of Bills starters out of the game with concussions just for good measure. I fear the worst for the Jaguars offense at Wembley if their offensive line doesn’t start playing better.

From what I’ve seen so far, the biggest issue the Ravens have is the running game. I’d assumed Terrence West would be the starting RB with Danny Woodhead coming in on 3rd downs and long yardage plays but from what I’ve seen this offseason I’m now not sure which way they’ll go. It’s not because they’ve got too many good RB’s but more that they’ve just got average ones. I’m sure we’ll get to see more of Javorius Allen and Taquan Mizzell in game four of the preseason but I’d wager they stick with West and Woodhead this season as much as they can.

QB Ryan Mallett looked better this week and has had a steady preseason in the absence of Joe Flacco. I imagine Ravens fans are praying for Flacco’s return as he’ll make a big difference to the team’s fortunes once he’s back and playing.

Minnesota Vikings

Well, this game certainly looks a lot better on the box scores for the Vikings that it actually was. Their 1’s, basically, weren’t that good and got held to a scoreless first half as they went in 14-0 down. That Kyle Shanahan/Brian Hoyer led 49ers offense looked on fire when the 1’s were in. I thought the Vikings were supposed to have one of the best defenses in the league, but it looked like it was the 49ers who were the team with the best units on both sides of the ball.

Rookie 49ers LB, Reuben Foster absolutely nailed Vikings rookie RB Dalvin Cook on the first play, which kinda set the tone for the starters. The very next play was a botched handoff from QB Bradford to RB Cook, and things weren’t looking good as they had to punt. Another thing I noted was the play of the Vikings offensive line when it came to the passing game. I personally don’t think they looked that good but perhaps that’s me hoping they aren’t going to be as I’m licking my chops at seeing the new aggressive Browns defense getting at them at Twickenham this year. It obviously didn’t go unnoticed that they surrendered sacks on two consecutive plays that killed another drive.

As far as the WR’s go, Stephon Diggs dropped a couple of passes he should really have caught and ended the day with just 2 receptions for 6-yards, one of which went for 8-yards so, yeah, not great. A plus point for the Vikings passing game came in the form of 2017 7th round draft pick, Stacey Coley who looked good again on his way to 4 receptions for 76-yards. Probable starter, Adam Thielen also had another good day with his 5 catches for 50-yards, I feel he’s probably their best receiver these days in a unit that does have talent and potential.

It was good to see RB Latavius Murray out on the field and he ran twice for a total of 6-yards and caught 2 passes for 10-yards total. This could be a good starting job battle to watch but I think it’s one that rookie Dalvin Cook will win as he’s looked as good as his scouting reports have been saying he is.

On defense, it was safety Harrison Smith who stood out for the 1’s. He had his usual good game of solid hits in both pass coverage and the 49ers backfield. The defense, in general, did seem to start slowly as Hoyer picked them apart, but they seemed to settle eventually and start to play. For me, it’s not the first time this preseason they’ve started like that, and they’ll need to start quicker in the regular season.

Another play of note was the impressive 58-yard field goal by Vikings kicker Marshall Koehn. I can’t see him replacing starting kicker Kai Forbarth, but this won’t have harmed his chances at getting a job somewhere.

New Orleans Saints

The first thing I noticed in this game was the fact that WR Ted Ginn Jr can still play! He looked good for his 3 receptions for 26-yards and 1 run for 24-yards. He’s also still instrumental in the kick return game as he returned 2 punts for a total of 16-yards. The Saints could have improved their kick return and passing game with the addition of Ginn.

Ted Ginn Jr. New Orleans Saints

The running backs unit of the Saints is definitely one to watch this season now that it consists of Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara. This week we got to see Mark Ingram start and split playing time with NFL legend, Adrian Peterson. Neither player really shone as they looked to struggle against the Texans defense. Peterson ended the game with a 2.5 ypc average and Ingram 2.3 ypc – neither looks good for such talented runners. I know it’s only preseason and the depth chart won’t change, but I’d have to say that rookie Alvin Kamara has looked the better of the three so far.

Chase Daniels has always been a QB that I’ve liked and I still think he’s one of the most solid backups in the league. I so want to see Brees playing at Wembley this year as it’s most probably the only time I’ll get to see him play, but if he were to not be available at any stage throughout the season, I believe the team has a good backup in Daniels.

What can be said about that defense? Wow, yet again they performed very well indeed to continue their great run during the preseason. Yes, it’s only preseason, but to shutout the Texans is no easy feat, and the Saints looked massively improved yet again. Worst to first in one off-season? Hey, calm down, it’s only preseason.

Arizona Cardinals

I think it’s pretty safe to say that RB Chris Johnson’s career should now be over. He’s looked bad all preseason and has struggled to gain yards on most of his carries. This week he fumbled the ball twice and failed to catch what should have been an easy pass. One of his fumbles came on the Falcons 5-yard line, after a good Cardinals drive, that resulted in a turnover and the missed chance of what looked like a sure TD.

QB Carson Palmer is still looking great and I can’t help but think he’s going to have a great season in 2017. He lobbed a pinpoint pass to the side of the endzone for the first Cardinals TD.

I was starting to think that the Cardinals defense looked good against the pass but not good against the run but as it turns out, they put it all together and had a good game in both. They held the Falcons to just 3 points in the entire first half, which is impressive considering who this offense is.

The Cardinals were clearly the better team in this one and only gave up a TD late in the game. I liked how the defense stepped up when it looked like the Falcons were going in for the score with about 7:30 left in the 3rd. They stuffed the run on an important play then got the sack on the following one to halt the drive in its tracks and Atlanta had to settle for a FG.

This wasn’t the result the Falcons will have wanted for the opening game of their stunning new stadium but I’m sure it’ll be a different story come the regular season and it’s packed full of excited Falcons fans.

Atlanta Falcons stadium

Miami Dolphins

I think I’m sold on the Miami Dolphins and the decision they made to entice QB Jay Cutler out of retirement to lead them on their quest for a return to the NFL playoffs. To me, he’s looked good all preseason and had a good game this week with his 5 completions off 8 passes for 105-yards and a TD. He looked good and came away from the game with a 145.8 passer rating.

The talk is that WR Jarvis Landry is the subject of some trade talk but, if like HC Adam Gase has said, they keep him, they could have a very dangerous offense with Cutler, Landry, Stills, Parker and Ajayi at the skill positions. As it so often does, I feel their success and failure chances hinge on the play of their offensive line again and it’s ability to remain fit and healthy.

RB Jay Ajayi looked good again as he ran through or bounced off tackles on his way to 2 TD’s before being replaced by backup, Damien Williams again. Before leaving the game, Ajayi had run up 53-yards for a 5.9-yard average to go with those 2 TD’s…I think he might be ready for the season!

LA Rams

Last week former first overall pick, QB Jared Goff looked good for the Rams, but this week he was back to his usual ways. He wasn’t looking too bad until he had the ball stripped whilst in the pocket which led to an LA Chargers’ TD. He then went on to throw an interception on the following drive.

I thought running back Malcolm Brown had a very good game and did well battling for yards after contact. He ended up with 9 attempts for 44-yards plus 1 reception for 22-yards.

I think it’s time to get a deal done with holdout Aaron Donald as the defense struggled to get any pressure put on the LA Chargers pocket or run game. If they don’t get Donald back asap, it’s going to be a long season for their fans.

A bright spot for the Rams was rookie WR Josh Reynolds who helped himself to 3 receptions for 71-yards and a TD. He looks like yet another good WR in what’s becoming a crowded Rams receivers unit. He even managed to grab a pass and hold on to it after taking a vicious hit to the head/neck area. The play was called for a penalty.

It would seem that a lot of the Rams starters were rested for this game but I still maintain that their number one priority before the regular season kicks off is to get Aaron Donald back and playing.

Jacksonville Jaguars

There was me, before the season, thinking that this talented Jaguars defense with its mix of experience and good young talent was going to be one of the better units this season. Well, what can I say apart from, I was wrong. So far they haven’t looked anything like the unit I thought they would as they appear to have struggled to stop both the run and the pass.

QB Cam Newton started the game for the Carolina Panthers and they ran the ball with rookie Christian McCaffery and Jonathan Stewart a lot as they didn’t want to stress Cam’s shoulder after his injury. Between them, they picked the Jaguars defense apart at will. The opening drive was finished off with a pass from Cam Newton to Kelvin Benjamin all too easily.

I think the coaching staff has come to the conclusion that the defensive starters need as much playing time as possible and kept them in as far as the 3rd quarter in this game. As the game went on they did seem to get to grips with rookie sensation RB McCaffery and start to get him contained somewhat.

As for the offense, whoever the starting QB is they are going to struggle as that offensive line doesn’t look good again. I don’t know what it is about Jacksonville but they just don’t seem to be able to sort out a good OL. As for the QB battle, Bortles has been named the starter in week one of the regular season and I personally think that is the right choice. I appreciate that he wasn’t playing against the 1’s much this week but he did look better than Chad Henne and has looked better in his games against the 1’s than Henne did this week.

Neither Bortles nor Henne is the answer at QB for the Jaguars but I still think Bortles gives them the better chance of some wins this season. A decision the coaching staff need to make (but would never admit to) is whether they play out the season with an eye on the QB talent that is coming out of college next year. I feel that they are a talented QB and some OL inspiration away from a playoff run.

Bortles had a solid game with 12 completions off 6 attempts for 125-yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. The interception wasn’t wholly his fault as it looked like WR Allen Hurns let the defense take the ball from him on a pass that was well thrown and should have been secured. Henne went 8 of 14 for 73-yards with no TD’s or INT’s.

 

That’s what I noticed this week during the NFL London-bound teams’ preseason week 3 games. Next weeks games wont see many starters playing as most coaches will have seen what they wanted from them. We might see the odd one in the game as coaches try to assess an issue or two they might be having with a player or position but it’s mainly going to be about the guys fighting for a roster spot. Not long now until the regular season kicks off and I can’t wait!!!