The whole Fox crew was in rare form during last night's Rams/Colts game. I love preseason football because no one doing the game really cares.
Troy Aikman was complaining about the length and lack of excitement of the game before the first quarter was even done. You'd think a guy who's got 10 concussions to his name would be stimulated easily, like a little kid with a shiny object placed in front of them. Even Joe Buck knows so much, he basically called Aikman stupid at one point while discussing the intelligence of Rams' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. It seemed playful, but I imagine the relationship in the booth being tense -- you can never tell what's really going on with those on-air voices.
My favorite running storylines each NFL preseason are the complaints from players that there are too many preseason games (there are), and the poor stories of camp bodies, practice squad players, and on-the-bubble third-stringers who are auditioning for other teams. Aikman made sure to bring awareness to both issues again early last night. It has to suck for a player to know he's not going to make the team he's currently on, like the last day of summer camp. You know you'll never hang out with those kids again, even though you exchange information and promise to "keep in touch, maybe get together and hang out in front of a movie theater all night." If you thought you'd have any chance to see them again, you wouldn't have made up that story about your fake girlfriend from "out of town."
We were also treated to entirely-too-long closeups of Terry Bradshaw checking his notes on the way to the halftime set and then Jimmy Johnson and Howie Long checking their...uh...collars? What are those things called? Oh, cuffs. Nice "A"-game, Buck. Some other thoughts:
If Peyton Manning goes down, the Colts are in serious trouble. I know, understatement of the century. But the Colts wouldn't have a competent quarterback with Jim Sorgi and Shaun King combined. Manning's usually better protected than the Pope, so injuries have never been a concern, but the Colts gave up five sacks against a speedy, aggressive Rams defense. In fact, after Manning exited the Colts almost went exclusively in the shotgun to give their quarterbacks more time. Of course, Manning wasn't dropped last night, and most of the sacks came against the Colts second- and third-string offenses. Still, Jim Sorgi is just awful. On his first pass attempt, he was sacked in the end zone on a corner blitz from Fahkir Brown and immediately coughed the ball up. He wound up getting sacked once more, and looked generally awkward all over -- most of his passes were behind, too far in front of, above, or at the feet of his receivers. He wound up going 7/17 for 64 yards.
The Rams, on the other hand, have to be feeling pretty good about their depth at quarterback. Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte both looked competent enough in their limited time, but this was The Ryan Fitzpatrick Show. Twice the Harvard grad made me audibly gasp with his playmaking ability. The first was on a 9-yard scramble in which Fitzpatrick froze a Colts linebacker with a fake step before cutting it to the right and having the smarts to get out of bounds. Fitzy followed that up later in the game with a Madden-esque juke that snapped the ankles of a would-be tackler before taking it to the Colts' 2-yard line, lowering his head and lumbering towards the goal-line for extra yards. Quite impressive. The play was called back on a holding call, and once the drive further proceeded to fail Remy Hamilton did his best Jay Feely impression by missing a 37-yard field goal, clanking the ball against the left upright. He was 1/3 on the game. Jeff Wilkins isn't sweating it. One more note about the St. Louis offense: Stephen Jackson is going to run wild this year. You could tell he was unhappy with Martz's blatant disregard for the run game. With a scheme that emphasizes power running, Jackson is going to have that breakout year. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes for 1,600 with maybe another 300-500 in the air. If he stays healthy, he's going to be that good. And no, I'm not just saying that because he's one of my fantasy keepers.
I got to continue my streak, following last week's Eagles/Raiders Hall of Fame Game, of keeping tabs on former Saints in their new endeavors. While I have to admit, the Rams defense looked pretty good last night -- at least, way better than they've been in the past -- I got a strangely warm and familiar feeling last night after the Colts' first touchdown, a short pass from Manning to tight end Ben Utecht. After the Rams got fooled on an onsides kick to open the game (only the Colts are egotistical enough to try an onsides kick on the opening kickoff of the first preseason game), it took the Colts only 7 plays to move 59 yards. On the final play, Utecht was left completely alone at the goal-line. Haslett looked like he'd just seen a ghost, rubbed his hands over his face and then through his Just For Men-enhanced mane, and continued to stare in awe. Good times.