This is for those who like reading in-depth commentaries. For those who don't and find them "long-winded", that's fine, I understand that. Simply browse for other blogs that better suit your liking. Thanks.
QB: There is no QB controversy. Derek Anderson is the #1, Max Hall is the #2 and John Skelton is the #3. Anderson brings more energy and bounce to the position and he's starting to develop chemistry and cohesiveness with the first team, which takes more than a little time. Those are the intangibles that Whiz referred to in the post-game presser.
The tangible that really is the simple difference maker is the ability to throw the 20 yard post pass and other deeper passes. In this game this ability was manifested beautifully by both Anderson and Hall, and to a degree by Skelton. Cases in point: on the first play following Greg Toler's interception, Anderson threw a perfect 20 yard post pass to the left side to Stephen Williams. It is a pass that has to be delivered just as Williams makes his break and it needs to be thrown with zip...and it covers 27 yards in total...in essence it is a 27 yard rope. On Max Hall's first play he threw the exact same pass to Max Komar and it was a thing of beauty. With John Skelton, he displayed his uncanny arm strength when he threw an 18 yard out pass to Komar on the left sideline from the far right hash mark and he threw it on a rope. That is an NFL caliber throw and ones that scouts immediately check to see if QB prospects can make. The combination of timing and arm strength is what makes those passes click.
The reason why Matt Leinart is no longer in favor with the coaching staff is that he lacks both the timing and the arm strength to hit the 18-20 yard post or far side out pass on a dime. If you recall the Titans game, Whiz kept mentioning the left side post pass that Leinart missed to Williams where Leinart bounced the ball five yards short after throwing it too late...and Whiz also was concerned about Leinart missing a wide open Williams on the 3rd and 1 go pass...a pass that Anderson would soon after complete on 3rd and 3 (to the other side) in his first drive.
RB: We saw first hand---once again---why Tim Hightower remains the starter over Beanie Wells. Hightower is the tougher player---he finishes off runs with a bang. In addition, we saw some incredibly nifty moves from Hightower in this game, like the time a Bear tackler was sitting in the hole and THT deked him with a stutter-step and left him grabbing grass. Plus, Hightower is the better blocker, blitz picker-upper and receiver.
As for Wells, he showed good flashes at times...and didn't have much to work with on several plays. But, his fumble---whether you want to argue to call or not---was a reminder of how he loses focus at times in tight situations. The fact is, he allowed himself to get stripped by a defensive back. His receiving was inconsistent. He took one swing pass and ran like a dart for 8 yards...and then he dropped a wide open pass in the middle on a third and long. Again this is a matter of focus. Once he learns how to keep his focus, then he will be in a position to challenge THT for the starting job...and to fulfill his persopna goal of trying to double his production from last year.
As for LSH...Whiz has big plans for him and doesn't want to give them away. We saw how quick and versatile LSH looked versus the Titans.
Jason Wright made quite a strong statement on his 9 yard drag the pile run. Wright also made a good ST tackle. He is on the bubble and he's showing the coaches he deserves to stick and making a very strong case.
Alfonso Smith showed that he can get the tough yards when he needs to when he helped Max Hall and the third team offense run out the clock. It would seem that with his speed and toughness, he would be a lock for the PS.
FB: Tough injury for Nehemiah Broughton who was playing well and was being hidden by Whiz as a receiving gem out of the backfield. Reagan Mauia filled in decently. He misses as much as he hits on his blocks, which is a concern and on one play he did what FBs cannot ever do, he stopped in the hole. Mauia does not quite look NFL ready...PS ready, yes. Whiz has been tinkering with Spach and Dray as H-backs...I think he likely does more of this as he tries to find an NFL ready FB.
WR: Stephen Williams is now pushing for a starting job and making as strong a case for it as a WR can make. His quick adjustment to the skinny post pass thrown behind him was possibly the most impressive play of the night. You have to love how tough this kid is. He will look the ball in, secure it cleanly and then instead of flinching like most WRs do, he goes into the perfect crouch position to protect his middle and the ball. The hits don't bother him because after one big hit he took on another skinny post, he came right back the next play and looked like he was shot out of a cannon on his 27 yard TD.
What has to make you drool is the prospect of Williams lined up wide to the left and Fitzgerald lined up wide to the right with Breaston and Doucet (or Komar) in the slots. Wow.
Williams is the downfield deep threat this team has needed. He will take the pressure and the safety away from Fitzgerald, which means Fitz could have an off-the-charts kind of year.
Max Komar HAS to make this team, no ifs and or buts. He's done it, as they say, "the old-fashined way...he's EARNED it!" Whiz loved what he saw in Lance Long the last two camps...but with Komar he gets the speediness and shiftiness of Lance Long with Anquan Boldin type toughness and Steve Breaston type hands. Not only should he make the team he should be a contributor from day one.
The coaches are not going to give up on Andre Roberts...look at it this way...he and John Skelton are not as NFL ready as Max Komar and Max Hall...but Roberts and Skelton have the potential to be excellent and need time and grooming.
Early Doucet played a little and was open twice (overthrown once). Hopefully he will get more action this week.
As for Onrea Jones...he made a fine chain moving, game clinching catch up the right sideline that was thrown perfectly by Max Hall in a fashion that was very reminiscent of Kurt Warner, because Warner was adept at threading the sideline pass between the zones. The thing about Jones is...he's an NFL caliber WR, but he doesn't separate as quickly or as often as Williams or Komar and thus doesn't command the ball they way they do....which is why he's the type of WR you love to play versus zones, because he can find the seems and show his strength catching and advancing the ball.
Stevie Breaston made one of the all-time great plays, pre-season or not, when he took that short pass from Leinart and ran like a madman to the two yard line and then catapaulted himself into the end zone. Breaston looks inspired...and he has many reasons to...one of which is the pot of gold waiting for him at the end of this rainbow.
But I think it all goes back to Stephen Williams...he has inspired the whole WR group...including Larry Fitgerald who is chomping at the bit to return to action.
TE: Stephen Spach caught the first pass of the night, a nice chain-moving 12 yarder...and he played well save his false start) something he was prone to do last year on occasion). Jim Dray followed with a nifty seem pass of his own from John Skelton who spiraled the pass over the LBers on the money.
And then there was the chance to get a good look at Anthony Becht for the frist time in a while. Yesterday before I reviewed the tape I thought Becht might be on the bubble. I was mistaken. Take a look at the down block seal he made to propel THT on his long scamper up the right side in the second half. Becht remains the best blocker, He's a pro's pro at the position.
The #3 TE will come down between Spach and Dray...and it's unlikely Dray would be claimed off waivers so he can be groomed on the PS until the team needs a call-up. OR--Whiz may decide to keep Dray as an H-back with Spach and forego the traditional FB position.
OL: We saw Levi Brown get abused for an easy sack by Julius Peppers, and we saw Alan Faneca get abused for a sack by Tommy Harris who outquicked Faneca through the B gap and turned Faneca on a swivel. Faneca could have worked his way back to Harris as he was circling in for the sack...which is the worst of Faneca's effort on the play. Faneca will be the first one to tell the coaches he blew it.
But here's the trap...those were the two lowlights versus two All-Pro defenders...on a night on the road where the offense gained over 350 yards. It's tempting to come to the conclusion that Brown and Faneca played poorly or that there's great cause for concern. If you watch them play, play after play, they held up very well in this game. As did Lyle Sendlein, Reggie Wells, Brandon Keith and Deuce Lutui. Were they in total sync and clicking on all cylinders? No. But are they making discernable progress? Yes. Very much so. This was a big step forward for them.
The play of the second line with Jeremy Bridges, Rex Hadnot, Ben Claxton, Deuce Lutui and Herman Johnson was solid as well. The depth on this line is quite intriguing. In addition, on the last series where Max Hall and the unit ran out the clock, Bridges was playing RT and Tom Pestock was playing and playing very well at LT. Having noticed that Pestock is being used on STs on the first kickoff team, etc....I was wondering how high the coaches are on him...and having watched him play a good, solid LT late in the game, he looks like a keeper...perhaps not for the 53 man roster just yet, but at least for the practice squad. But because he is playing well on STs...maybe he earns a roster spot? Coaches are always looking for big men who can play and play well on STs.
K: Jay Feely was very good in this game...good, long kickoffs and booming right-down-the-middle PATs.
Credit Ken Whisenhunt for this effort. As it turned out, practicing with the Titans on Wednesday was very productive and an organizational and ego builder. Whiz was adamant about wanting to move the chains and score points this week and he got results and a much more spirited effort.