So, here we are entering the second week of the pre-season. Last weekend, Brandon Marshall did not even catch a pass in his game against Tampa Bay. Although he did drop two passes thrown his way. Jermaine Gresham did catch three passes against Denver but the verdict is still out on how productive he will be. The Seahawks won but the first team offense only put up three points. We should see things clearer this weekend. Going into the second pre-season game, most teams will have their starters in for most of the first half. Let's take a look at six things to look for.
1. Will Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez rejuvenate the TE position in New England?
Tonight (Thursday) on Fox, the New England Patriots visit the Atlanta Falcons. Hernandez had three catches for the Pats in their pre-season opener against the Saints and Gronkowski had three key blocks on New England touchdown runs. It seems as though these two are ready to play a key part in the offense for the Patriots. If you think back to the days of Ben Coates, New England has had productive tight ends. In recent years they have spread the ball around to multiple tight ends and thus no one player has established himself as the go-to guy. Benjamin Watson did score five touchdowns for them last year, so watch if they go for a committee or one player emerges as the full time starter.
2. Is Kevin Kolb ready for the prime time spotlight?
Friday night on Fox, the Philadelphia Eagles visit the Cincinnati Bengals. Kolb did not play much in the first pre-season game but the time he was on the field was productive. He completed some nice long passes, showed some scrambling ability and led the offense down the field. Having so much youth on offense is probably helping the transition move along smoothly. He showed enough last season to merit a change and it seemed as if the Eagles wanted a fresh start with a younger quarterback. Kolb will play longer in this game and it should be interesting to see how he does against the Bengal defense which is a class above the Jaguar defense he faced last week.
3. Can Mike Wallace adequately fill the shoes of Santonio Holmes?
Saturday night on The NFL Network, the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the New York Giants. It will be interesting to watch Ben Roethlisberger play in this game (if he does). He will no doubt be the same Ben we've always seen. Mike Wallace though is replacing a receiver that was developing nicely in Santonio Holmes and had won the Super Bowl MVP the season before. Wallace showed some nice skills last year. His speed was phenomenal and as a result he scored 4 touchdowns of longer than 40 yards. He even scored more touchdowns than Holmes, 6-5. If Wallace continues his growth and behaves better than Holmes, he could be the heir apparent to Hines Ward.
4. Who will win the kicking job in Houston, Neil Rackers or Kris Brown?
Also, Saturday night on CBS, the Houston Texans visit the New Orleans Saints. I know, I know, a kicking competition is not that exciting. But the Houston offense is a dynamite one and can put up a lot of points on the scoreboard. Kris Brown has been their kicker for what seems to be forever but Rackers is a veteran that has been the most accurate kicker over the last two years. In their first pre-season game, they were perfect on all their kicks. This competition might go down to the final pre-season game or whomever sucks up to Gary Kubiak the most. Keep an eye on this "kick off" competition.
5. Can first round pick Bryan Bulaga improve the Packers offensive line?
The night cap, Saturday on The NFL Network, is the Green Bay Packers at the Seattle Seahawks. Last week, we were watching the Seahawks line and this week we'll spotlight the Packers line. There were multiple times last season where the Packers could not keep the opposition out of their backfield, especially the two games against Minnesota and the final play of their playoff game against Arizona. They were smart to go Tackle with their first round choice in the draft. They were decent in their first pre-season game, preventing Aaron Rodgers from being sacked and only giving up one sack total in the game. Watch Bryan Bulaga to see the future protector of Rodgers' blind side.
6. Was Toby Gerhart a steal for the Minnesota Vikings?
In the Sunday Night Football match up, the Minnesota Vikings visit the San Francisco 49ers. This week the focus was all on Favre-ageddon and his return for a second season with the Vikings. We probably won't see much of Favre in this game, as Minnesota will most likely be saving him as much as possible for the regular season. Along with Favre, Adrian Peterson will watch for the most part from the sidelines. That will give us a great look at Gerhart who looks to be an important handcuff for those owners who draft AP. What we need to look for, is if he can receive out of the backfield and if he can more importantly, block in the passing game. His rushing is not much of a worry especially if you were able to watch him play in college. If he's not developing those skills, his time on the field may be limited this season.