After breaking down the film and critiquing the teams heading into Week 1, Scouts Inc. tells you what to watch for this weekend.
Favre's still got it
QB Brett Favre still can make every throw, and his arm strength is as good as ever. When we broke down the preseason film, we noticed his amazing arm strength opens up the Jets' offense because now there is a vertical presence. That deep threat forces defenses to play back and not load the box to stop the run. During the preseason, Favre made several plays that really stood out.
On one comeback route, he was able to throw so high and tight to his receiver that the cornerback had no chance to plant and recover. On a crossing route, the future Hall of Famer showed outstanding patience and anticipation. He waited for his receiver to run through traffic and break away from three defenders. Once his receiver emerged, the ball was in the air and the receiver was able to turn up field for a big gain. On a post corner route, he displayed his veteran savvy and vision as he looked left, froze the defender and, at the last second, threw right, where his receiver had beaten single coverage.
On top of that, he still is extremely tough and his ball fakes are among the best in the league. Defensive coordinators in the league should be worried because the Jets have no limitations on offense.
Texas-sized terror on the end
DE Mario Williams settled down in 2007 and has become one of the superb pass-rushers in the NFL. Even though he is 6-foot-7, he plays with great leverage and knee bend. All of his success (14 sacks in '07) starts with his bull rush. The former No. 1 overall pick does a great job of getting under his opponents' pads and driving them back into the quarterback. His long arms allow him to get great separation and make it almost impossible to grab him. Williams' tremendous bull rush sets up his counter moves -- an inside club-and-rip move and an outside club-and-swim move. Because his opponents are so concerned about his bull rush, lots of times they over set and get back on their heels -- which makes it even tougher for them to recover.
This week, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger better be ready to avoid Williams at all costs. Roethlisberger was sacked 47 times in 2007, and it is unlikely that LT Marvel Smith will be able to protect him one on one. As a result, the Steelers will use a tight end or running back to chip on Williams. Roethlisberger also might move out of the pocket a little quicker than normal and throw on the run. Either way, Williams is set up for a big game, but he must be aware that he might have to chase Roethlisberger past the pocket in order to get to him.
Saturday will be missed
Without C Jeff Saturday (knee), the Colts are in uncharted waters. His absence is much more important than most people realize. He is one of the most cerebral linemen in the league. He and QB Peyton Manning have an uncanny knack for making pre-snap adjustments, and he always is aware of Manning's audibles. He also is a very good blocker, especially in the passing game. Saturday is at his best when he sits in pass protection and picks up the free rusher, but he is great at going to the second level and walling off a linebacker.
As much as Saturday will be missed -- especially this week versus Chicago -- offensive line coach Howard Mudd will figure out a way to get ready for the Bears. He is one of the best teachers in the business. However, backup C Steve Justice will have his hands full with the Bears' active front four and dynamic MLB Brian Urlacher.
Jones getting back on track
When you break down the preseason film on CB Adam Jones, you don't notice many game-changing plays. However, when you talk to coaches, all you hear about him are good things. He hasn't lost a step, despite his one-year suspension, and his cover skills still are top notch. He probably will start the season as a nickel cornerback, but he can play inside or outside over the slot receiver. Jones' ability to plant and drive on the ball is rare, and he still is a great matchup cornerback. With Jones in the lineup, the Cowboys have a legitimate chance of having the best nickel and dime coverage in the NFL. It will be very difficult to spread the field and exploit matchups against them.
Jones also is a dynamic returner and gives the Cowboys a lot of flexibility on special teams. He is surrounded by solid veterans who know how to win, which is a great environment for a player with a troubled past.
Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm, The War Room.