Three Cups Deep: Preseason Week 1

>> 8.16.2010

Last year at this time, I started a regular Monday post I called “Three Cups Deep,” and the rationale went a little something like this:

On Mondays, it takes little bit more of the good stuff to get me going. The first desperately-needed cup is often not until nine o'clock or so, often because I’m such a complete zombie that I forget to go get coffee. I’m lucky to make it back to my desk with that first cup before I’m trekking back to the office Bunn—desperately hoping I won’t be the sucker who kills the joe, and therefore beholden to make some mo’.

The second cup I down steadily, solidly, workmanlike. By the end of that second helping, I’m starting to get the tingle; my eyes aren’t drooping quite so much. I realize I’m slouching so badly in my chair that the backrest is supporting my head instead, and move to an upright position. But the third cup . . . ahh, the third cup. The initial sip of the third cup is like Zeus’s lighting; a bolt from the heavens igniting my nervous system! I lean forward in my chair, attacking the problems of the day with emphatic keyboard strikes, pummeling my dreary to-do list into submission. It is now, at the beginning of that third cup, that I write this.

For the first time this season, there was Lions football over the weekend—so Three Cups Deep makes its triumphant return.  I spoke at length about my impressions on last night’s Fireside Chat podcast, but a good night’s sleep—or in my case, a bad night’s sleep and three cups of coffee—always provides valuable perspective.

In my guest Gameday post over at The Steelers N'At, the first sentence I wrote was, “On offense, I want to see a lot of completed passes.”  I got what I wanted on an impressive scale: Lions quarterbacks combined to complete 23 of 32 passes.  Stafford was 8-of-11; two of those were attempted TD strikes to Calvin, and one was the ill-fated swing pass to Jahvid Best.  Other than that, Stafford was nearly perfect.  The Lions spread it around a lot, too: those 23 passes went to 15 different Lions, with no receiver catching more than two balls each.

It was bizarre to watch the offense simply work.  Dropback, pass, complete.  Dropback, pass, complete.  Handoff, run forward, gain yards.  Dropback, pass, complete.  It was practically boring.  I thought to myself, “This is . . . easy.  Just, you know, complete the passes.  Why didn’t they just do this before?”  After all the wailing and lamentations, after decades of quarterback purgatory, duh, just throw and catch!  It didn’t hurt that this was the preseason, where the reaction from the Steelers crowd was a combination of silent puzzlement and total indifference.  The whole thing felt surreal.

What was even more surreal was every single end-zone replay showing a perfect pocket for Stafford to throw from.  I don’t know if the Steelers were just laying off, or what—but there was no heat on Stafford whatsoever, and he was getting rid of it quickly anyway.  Kudos to the line for keeping him clean, regardless of the pressure.

Save for the unfortunate swing pass (assigning blame is irrelevant), Jahvid Best was very impressive, and absolutely looked like an NFL every-down back.  Speed, moves, vision, yes—but strong between the tackles, and fast to the hole.  I’ve said for quite some time that the questions about his size and toughness were unfounded, but anyone who watched Best run this weekend came away knowing he’ll be just fine.

Defensively, Cliff Avril made his presence known immediately, and the starting defensive line looked every bit as impressive as advertised.  The linebackers weren’t quite as impressive; Zack Follett looked like he was a step slow to react on a lot of things, but at least looked credible out there.  Of course, the loss of Jordon Dizon is unfortunate—but at this point in his career, I can’t tell you how much better he is than Vinny Ciurciu, which says a lot about both him and Ciurciu.

In the secondary, I was impressed by the ball skills of Chris Houston and Eric King, and undrafted free agent safety Randy Phillips.  We’ll see how long that lasts once things get a little more “for real”, but the starting secondary held their own out there, which is a fantastic first sign.  I still anticipate some real struggles in the back seven over the course of the season, but I’ll take any reason for optimism I can get.

And now, for the fourth cup . . .

Technorati Tags: nfl,detroit lions,pittsburgh steelers,preseason,matthew stafford,jahvid best,cliff avril


Kris,  August 16, 2010 at 5:20 PM  

I was most impressed at how quickly and consistently the defensive line was able to get to Leftwich. I fully expect the secondary to be bad but with that kind of pressure, the Lions will be a able to hide a lot of those weaknesses.

Best looked good, Stafford looked solid. Feeling a lot better about this team than the past couple years but still don't want to get too optimistic.

Anonymous,  August 17, 2010 at 10:04 AM  

Even Stanton looked good. His feet showed a calm demeanor and easy rhythm.

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