Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hunting with the Predator: The Waiting Game by Matt Wallace

Excuse me, bartender? What time do you have? 10:30? Yeah, that’s what I have, too. Thought my watch might be running a little slow. So it’s still preseason, huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
There is no more confusing, stressful time for fans than preseason. Winning is always priority one, but it’s tough remembering that the main purpose is to let the guys fighting for a spot showcase their talent. It’s a necessary evil that leaves fans in a tight spot.
From a competitive perspective, there was more on the line coming into Saturday’s contest. Last year the entire fan base of the current Super Bowl Champions literally took over FedEx field, snotty yellow towels in hand, and battled the Skins to a disappointing outcome. All the more reason to root for a win last Saturday after a scoreless opener in Baltimore. Home field pride was on the line.
But again, it’s preseason. The outcome is almost moot. While some waste their breath bragging on a win or defending a loss, the rest of us wait. Not just for September 13th at 4:15 in the afternoon, when each piece of the offensive and defensive puzzles will finally come together. But to hopefully see some of those puzzle pieces show up sporadically in preseason games.
To date, some of those pieces remain to be seen.
If Jason Campbell is anything, he’s one cool cat. He seems unshakable, even after his showing on Friday. The opinion camps on either side of Campbell have been growing considerably in recent days. At this point it’s hard to pick a side. Regardless, he’s the first stringer and fans need to have faith that he’ll show up in Week 1.
After a couple of missed passes and a brilliant fake punt to sustain the first drive, Campbell all but abandoned the air game. Preseason is about getting in reps and making the mistakes now. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the kinks worked out in preseason than still be figuring things out in the first three games. Arguably Campbell should have taken a few more throws to build the game confidence a bit, even though the running backs were on fire.
But so we wait, like dogs at the dinner table.
We know the franchise guys like Moss and Cooley and Portis can play; we’ve seen them before. And if there were real problems in camp, we’d probably see more of them in the preseason games. So really we should take solace in their absence. Right?
Fans were rewarded a bit for their patience in several guys: Davis, Mason, Dorsey, and Mitchell. Davis made up for his mistakes at Baltimore, including one TD. That’s one of the most important qualities in a player, shaking off a bad game and really showing up in the next. Mason looked extremely solid on the ground to bolster the run game, as did Dorsey, who is slowly converting his run measurements from meters to yards after two years in the CFL.
Marko Mitchell: the kid can play. He’s had a strong camp, and is proving his case for taking one of the wideout spots on the roster. If he can step up his presence on special teams, he should be a fixture come regular season. It’s guys like Mitchell, who’s strong play at the outset is becoming reminiscent of Horton’s debut last year, that should get fans excited.
The real test of patience for all P48 fans is waiting to see a full showing by the first team defense. There is no better entertainment anywhere. I’d take watching them over watching Jimi Hendrix perform a live concert during a Harlem Globetrotters game, in a spaceship orbiting the moon, while playing blackjack on the house.
Of course Horton and Co. played to expectations during their series. Orakpo continued to harass and looked sharp in his several series, although he will undoubtedly need to start working through double coverage as teams realize his threat.
Horton covered expertly and assisted on two tackles, which were his only opportunities of the night. I’m continually impressed by his ability to break through the line on running plays to get behind blockers. Seeing his dreads flying in from the backfield should strike fear in any offense. It almost makes me afraid for my unborn children.
My only complaint is that I didn’t see enough of them. I was almost yelling at Zorn through the TV to keep them in one more series.
I guess it’s better to wait. Save the legs, avoid the injuries. It’s just preseason. Patience is a virtue, after all.


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