At the midway point of preseason football, here are a few offensive performers who have stood out from their contemporaries at their respective positions.
Jeff Tuel, Buffalo Bills — Tuel has taken more snaps than any other QB this preseason and has made the most of every one. He’s 21 out of 26 (two WR drops) with an 80.8 completion percentage. He didn’t play much against the Minnesota Vikings in week two, but was very effective during Buffalo’s opening game Indianapolis throwing for 212 yards and a pair of TD’s. Tuel, a rookie out of Washington State, has an above average arm and can move well out of the pocket. He will likely be the Bills’ third string QB as Kevin Kolb and fellow rookie EJ Manuel will be battling for the starting job in 2013.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns — 30 year old Weeden is being relied upon as the starting QB judging by the Browns passing over Manuel and Geno Smith in the 2013 draft. Veteran Jason Campbell is capable but isn’t the QB he used to be, so its Weeden’s job to lose. He’s done well through the first two weeks, going 18 for 25 with three TD passes. Weeden has a big arm but will need a group of average wideouts to get open regularly because I’m not sure about his ability to read NFL defenses. Regardless, Weeden is off to a good start so far.
Khiry Robinson, New Orleans Saints — Robinson has been in on 45 snaps this preseason for New Orleans, carrying the ball 22 times for 102 yards (4.6 avg) with 40 of those yards coming after contact. Undrafted out of West Texas A&M, Robinson is fighting for a roster spot in a backfield likely anchored by Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas. Robinson has shown some elusiveness producing 7 missed tackles, and could be more of a short yardage specialist thanks to his size (6 ft, 220 lbs) and ability to catch passes out the backfield.
LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots — Though he’s played just 22 snaps for the Pats, Blount has been the most effective back this preseason. In just 14 carries, he’s racked up 111 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll be battling Shane Vereen and Steven Ridley for playing time. Blount is second to Chicago Bears’ Matt Forte for the longest rush from scrimmage with a 51 yard carry.
David Gettis, Carolina Panthers — Gettis has dealt with injuries in his first four NFL seasons and now he’s dealing with a crowed receiver corp. Carolina is giving Gettis a good look (62 snaps) and he’s giving the coaching staff a lot to think about. Gettis has been targeted 12 times and has eight catches for 138 yards. He’s a big target (6-2, 220 lbs) but doesn’t have the greatest hands. His route running has improved and as long as he can stay healthy, Gettis might sneak onto the opening day roster.
Marcus Easley, Buffalo Bills — Easley is a big, fast wideout for the Bills entering his fifth year of professional football. He’s still incredibly raw and should have become more polished by now, which means he might never be. That said, Easley is the hottest receiver in the league this preseason. He’s been targeted ten times and caught every pass thrown to him. Easley has 140 receiving yards with 45 coming after the catch. This might be Easley’s last shot to stick with an NFL team and the pace he’s on now is going to have to keep up.
Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers — With Antonio Gates cemented as the starting TE and John Phillips getting reps as an extra blocker, Green is the odd-man out but is showing signs of improving after two seasons in San Diego. Slightly underweight for his height, he’ll have to rely on his pass catching ability as opposed to his almost non-existent blocking ability. His hands have been tremendous assets as he leads all tight ends with 104 receiving yards and two touchdowns. His inability to consistently block will prevent him from getting additional playing time, no matter how efficient a receiver he becomes.
Zach Sudfeld, New England Patriots – Sudfeld, an undrafted rookie out of Nevada, was signed by the Patriots due to the injury of Rob Gronkowski and the departure of Aaron Hernandez. Sudfeld will be working for a job to back up Jake Ballard, but like Green, has blocking issues. That might not be much of a worry for in New England’s pass-happy offense because he’s got good hands and is agile enough to make defenders miss. So far, he’s got three catches for 54 yards and one touchdown.
Kelce excels in pass blocking while Kalil is a dominant run blocker
Guards: Kyle Long, Chicago Bears — No guard has even come close to displaying Long’s ability to open holes in the running game.
Tackles: Bryce Harris, New Orleans Saints and Alvin Bailey, Seattle Seahawks
Both Harris and Bailey have kept defenders far away from their quarterbacks while being decent run blockers.
BY MICHAEL AUGUSTINE ON AUGUST 18, 2013
Follow @AugieM78 on Twitter.