Looking back at preseason, we had a rocky beginning against Minnesota and a pretty sloppy game against Cleveland. However, looking back at those performances it is simple to explain the poor performance!
Minnesota: When the Rams Played the Vikings, for some strange reason, we decided to go with a bogus and unfamiliar formation to our OLine: Saffold (First start at the time), Brown (at LG), Fraley (at C), Trautwein (at RG), and Smith (Coming back from a toe injury. First of all, this arrangement SUCKS!!!. Brown is a superstar center and should be used in no other context. Fraley is old and a depth player at best. Trautwein can mature into a solid depth player, but right now is too inexperienced to hold our line stable. Furthermore, asking these players to step up to the plate against, what is in my opinion, the best defensive line in all of football (Williams Wall + Jared Allen) is pretty absurd and destined for failure.
Cleveland: This was arguably the sloppiest game of football I have ever seen. Although most of the starters played in this game, it was just a pitiful game for everyone involved (with the exception of SJax who can do no wrong). Although certain mistakes were made, it showed the promise of our two young OT's with much improved play from Minnesota. I believe VT did a breakdown of Saffold during a SJax run featured from this game. It showed a great deal of potential and promise in our young LT.
It is very easy for broadcasters to tear apart our OLine on paper, especially after their performance last season. But lets look at the facts. It is a night and day situation:
Offensive Tackle: The big switch here from last year to this year was Barron to Saffold. Although many will agree that Barron had much more experience, he would cost us at least 15 yards a game between false starts and holding calls. I personally prefer Saffold at this position for two reasons: Greater Intelligence and The simple fact that he plays with heart! I look for him to cut down our penalties and make big effort plays this season which Barron never made. Once Barron got his big paycheck he stopped caring.
Injuries: This may be the first time I can remember that we have had our entire Offensive Line healthy (Knock on wood, cross your fingers, Pray to god, whatever it takes!). Bell has recovered from a severe hamstring injury and Smith seems to have defeated his concussion woes. We will open this season with a promising starting line-up of: Saffold, Bell, Brown, Goldberg, and Smith.
I really feel good about this unit. I just wish that the ESPN commentators did their homework before they count them out!!!