By Andrew Perloff
Ignore preseason at your own risk. Although the overall quality of play isn’t great and teams aren’t showing off their playbook, you can gain some knowledge. Here are five Against the Grain observations that jumped out from Week 2 …
1. Don't get too excited about Rams rookie Tavon Austin as a wide receiver. His shortcomings were pretty obvious against the Packers on Saturday. He's short. He couldn't pull down a touchdown on a short pass that was over his head (you can find it at the 2:02 mark of this highlight). Austin is a small target and he's going to have trouble separating from defensive backs if they get their hands on him. The Rams are going to force the ball to him because he was the No. 8 overall pick, but even if he gets 100 catches, he's not going to be the consistent game-changer at receiver they expect with that high a selection. That being said, Austin could be a game-changer as a returner.
2. Marvin Harrison set the single-season record for receptions in 2002 with 143. Sounds untouchable, but so did most of the passing records that have fallen lately. Look for three guys to possibly challenge that this year:
– The Patriots' Danny Amendola is a younger version of Wes Welker, who caught 123 passes in this system last season. Amendola had six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown in limited action for New England against Tampa Bay.
– Chicago's Brandon Marshall had 118 catches in 2012 and that could increase. All four of Jay Cutler's completions were to Marshall against the Chargers on Thursday.
– Detroit's Calvin Johnson had 122 catches last year. Reggie Bush may help diversify the offense a little, but he's still the one target.
3. Anyone who has anyone but Packers running back Eddie Lacy penciled in on their NFC Rookie of the Year ballot didn't see him against the Rams. He had 40 yards on eight carries, but it wasn't about the numbers. He ran with so much energy and broke tackles. How hard is it to run when Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback and defenses geared up against the pass?
My early second-place pick is Cincinnati's Giovanni Bernard, who had seven carries for 37 yards and a TD and had a 22-yard catch. As for darkhorses, watch New Orleans receiver Kenny Stills - four catches for 64 yards and a TD against the Raiders. The former Oklahoma receiver fell to the fifth round, but you have to wonder if part of that was his strange haircut and personality. The way Drew Brees is throwing in the preseason, everyone on the Saints will get big numbers.
4. Why did three left tackles go in the first four picks? The Chiefs couldn't protect Alex Smith at all against the Niners on Friday night - not No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher's start, but what do they really think he's going to do? Even when highly drafted left tackles can play, their offenses don't necessarily go anywhere - look at Cleveland's Joe Thomas and Jake Long when he was with Miami.
5. Yes, Tim Tebow's line wasn't great - 1-for-7 for -1 yards. But he did a great job pulling in an errant snap …. before he threw that terrible interception. Great athlete. Not so much a quarterback.