Well, it is finally here.....the first real football since the Super Bowl. I know, I know, this football doesn't really count for anything and the starters will only play for the first quarter. But come on, you have to be getting excited and pumped up. The Hall of Fame Game kicks off the 6 months of the year when Sundays mean sitting on your couch for 12 hours watching games and highlights. When Mondays are looked forward to because after work you can watch MNF at your local wing joint or pub. Even Thursdays become magical and special, no longer the day before the weekend starts. It may not be the best football in the HoF game but you get to welcome back an old friend that's been away for half a year. You get to see your former favorites interviewed about their finest accomplishment. And you might see some players making a name for themselves, possibly for the one night. Let's look at three things that we can watch for in the Hall of Fame Game:
1. Has Terrell Owens still got something left in the gas tank?
We definitely did not see the TO we are used to seeing last year. Buffalo thought that their offense was going to be more dynamic and creative with Owens across from Lee Evans. It wasn't and not even close to their expectations. Was it a result of Owens losing a step or was it completely because of the screwed up quarterback situation in Buffalo? We should at least be able to start to answer our question by observing what happens on Sunday night. He will be playing across from his buddy Ochocinco, which hopefully will further spark his competitive spirit.
2. Will the Cowboys still be able to field a Top Five offense with the change at Tackle?
The Cowboys released mainstay Tackle Flozell Adams during the off-season. He had become a liability, by taking too many penalties and not justifying his price tag. The Cowboys got a hint of the future as they watched Doug Free fill in for Marc Colombo over seven starts. He was adequate but over a full season will adequate really do. Colombo is not an All Pro either, especially if you watched the NFC playoff loss to Minnesota. DE Ray Edwards dominated him. The Cowboys traded for Alex Barron but if the Rams didn't want him, what does that say. The Bengals do not strike fear into their opponents with their defense but they are solid. They should be a nice test for Free, Colombo and Barron. If the Bengals give them trouble, you might start to wonder what the Giants, Eagles and Redskins might do to them.
3. Can Jordan Shipley be a future starter for the Bengals?
After the starters have left, this will be something to watch for. Ochocinco, TO and Antonio Bryant are not the youngest trio of wide receivers in the league, so the Bengals need to start planning for the future. Yes, they have Andre Caldwell but what did he accomplish last year. Cincinnati drafted Jordan Shipley in the third round and he could be part of the answer. From his career at Texas, we've been able to see that he can change directions quickly and find the crease. He lacks the top-level playing speed to separate down field and has been prone to injury. Despite his weaknesses, Shipley was a very good receiver and displayed an ability to make big plays. Keep note of how he performs against a higher quality of competition in the pros.
Perhaps you may take note of a player that will receive a bigger role at some point this season or next year. Maybe you notice a lack of depth at a certain position or a weakness in the defense. Even though this is just another pre-season game, enjoy it. This will prepare you for the real thing on Sept. 9.