Preseason Takeaways: NFC North Week 2
By Alex Williams
Not real Football continued this week in the NFL. Matt Patricia continued to hold back starters as the Lions improved on their week one loss. Elsewhere in the NFC North roster bubble guys made highlight plays as cut days approach.
1. Bears backup defense makes big plays
Not a single defensive starter featured in the Bears 32-13 loss against the Giants Friday night. This gave opportunity to those players currently on the cusp of the 53-man roster.
Two of those such players were cornerback Clifton Duck, the undrafted rookie out of Appalachian State, and former CFL linebacker, James Vaughters. Midway through the second quarter, Vaughters made an excellent strip sack on quarterback Daniel Jones. After bursting through a chip block, Vaughters bee-lined for the QB, swatting the ball out the rookie’s hand. More importantly, he finished the play – scooping the ball for a fumble recovery.
In the second half, it was Clifton Duck with the highlight play, picking off Alex Tanney with an athletic diving catch after reading the route and undercutting it perfectly. He would’ve taken it to the house, had it not been for some great hustle from the Giants receiver Russell.
Both players are long shots to make the final Bears cut, but highlight plays are a sure fire way to get people talking your name.
2. Shepard makes case for Packers roster
The Packers wide receiver group is seemingly set with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison. Outside of that trio, the roster spots really are up for grabs. Jake Kumerow has been putting together a great case for one, but it was Darius Shepard who staked his claim in preseason week two. But not while playing on offense.
Shepard made some impressive plays on kick returns vs the Ravens. If there’s one sure fire way of securing a roster spot, it’s making plays on special teams. Having only returned one punt in week one, Shepard returned two kickoffs for an average 25.5, including an explosive return of 36 yards in the first half.
Shepard is making it extremely difficult for the Packers to cut him. Two more preseason games remain for Shepard to confirm his spot on the roster, with play, via receiving or kick returning.
3. Lions back up run stuffers shine
Down the stretch in 2018, the Lions set their stall out on stopping the run. That trend is set to continue in the 2019 preseason. This is all without any of their starting defensive line. It’s obvious that Matt Patricia is instilling a Detroit Pride in snuffing the run.
Against the Texans, in the first half, the Lions allowed just 39 yards from 15 carries. Jaylen Reeves-Maybin impressed from his linebacking spot, diagnosing and stuffing runs in 5 tackle effort for the game.
Consequently, the Lions pass rush suffered. A meagre sack was recorded, coming from Romeo Okwara. Furthermore, Deshaun Watson had far too much time in the pocket, passing for 60 yards on 5 completions and a score.
4. Boone has big day in push for roster spot
The Vikings backfield is set with Dalvin Cook and rookie 3rd rounder, Alexander Mattison. However, the third spot still lies vacant. With Ameer Abdullah not playing, it was Mike Boone who impressed in a big effort to be that third running back.
Having only rushed the ball 11 times in his rookie year, there’s still many question marks on whether Boone is good enough to make the 53 man roster. Those questions were somewhat answered against the Seahawks has Boone carried the ball 21 times for 66 yards and a brilliant 45 yard reception. The latter should linger in the minds of the front office when it comes down to cut day. A nice catch, Boone showed great strength to slither out a tackle, then the ability to turn the jets on. Turning a short catch into a big play.
5. 7th Rounder making impact for Bears
As with preseason week one, it’s time to look at any performances from the 7th round draft selections.
Kerrith White Jr was the Bears first selection in the final round. Against the Giants he showed off his potential to be a backup running back, but more importantly, a force in the return game. A second half kickoff return (which was wiped off due to a flag) showed flashes of Whyte’s explosive speed. Whyte hit a hole and blazed 80 yards untouched to the end zone.
It didn’t just stop there. 2 returns for an average of 30.5 yards, with a 41 yard run to boot. On the flip side, Whyte had a quiet day rushing the ball. Just 6 carries for 10 yards and a touchdown. Although way down on the depth chart for the Bears, Whyte is showing he can make a serious impact returning the ball. Something which may earn him a place of on the roster.