Preseason Week 1 Highlights
The first full week of the NFL preseason will be the first opportunity for Alabama fans to see numerous former Crimson Tide players in their new uniforms, although some of the more established veterans may see little or no playing time.
The rookies, though, know if they’re able to go, they’ll play. It’s their first opportunity to show what they’ve learned, and for the coaches to take note of where they’re at in terms of development.
This includes the first Crimson Tide player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, Evan Neal, the seventh-overall pick by the New York Giants.
All indications are that he’s off to a good start with the G-men, and already showing the kind of patience and maturity that’s usually more typical of a veteran.
“I feel like from the mental side of the game for sure and my technique,” Neal said when asked where he’s seen the most improvement in his game since the spring. “I’m still working to improve it every day, but the techniques that the coaches are trying to coach me, I’m definitely receiving them well and developing those and getting better.”
Neal is still 21, and is playing a different position after 15 games at left tackle last season with the Crimson Tide. But he also starting 13 games at left guard in 2019, and 12 games at right tackle in 2020, so lining up at right tackle this season wasn’t much of a transition.
He’ll even be wearing his familiar No. 73 when the Giants visit the New England Patriots on Thursday night. The number wasn’t available until this week, when Matt Gono was waived.
“I think a lot of kids, especially tackles, set a particular way, and we set differently just based philosophically on how we want to protect the quarterback,” offensive line coach Bobby Johnson said per Giants Country. “He’s making like tremendous strides every day. So I think he’s very conscientious and works very hard. He’s a guy that pushes himself for me.”
Neal simply looks the part, and his teammates are also taking notice.
“I’ve been around some good tackles in my career, and I’ve never seen a rookie in Evan be a vet so early on,” center Jon Feliciano said. “That dude is, after every meeting, at night we walk by the weight room, and he’s foam rolling or doing something. He’s well beyond his years in that regard of taking care of his body.”
In addition to Neal, the game will be the debut of the Giants’ more modern offense under new head coach Brian Daboll, who of course was the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator in 2017.
Jumping the Gun A Little?
One of the biggest questions Raiders reporters had after last week’s Hall of Fame Game wasn’t about how well former Alabama running back Josh Jacobs looked ready to go this season, it was whether Las Vegas was showcasing him for a potential trade.
The Raiders quickly shot down the speculation.
Jacobs, a 2019 first-round pick who’s entering the final year of his rookie deal with Las Vegas, started and played 11 snaps. He took five carries for 30 yards and added two catches for 14 yards in the Raiders 27–11 victory over the Jaguars.
That’s an unusually large number of snaps for established veteran during Las Vegas’s preseason opener.
“We have a lot of confidence in J.J.,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said in a press conference Monday. “And, you know, he did well with his opportunities, which we hoped he would and he did.
“But no, we have no desire to [trade him] at all.”
Jacobs wasn’t the only offensive starter to see significant playing time as four of the five offensive linemen played, as did all of the returning running backs. The Raiders played it off as it was mostly just the new coaching staff evaluating the players.
“As I said after the game, I really do believe that the backs don’t really get to simulate what’s going to happen during the course of the regular season,” McDaniels said Monday. “And so, giving them an opportunity to actually get tackled, take care of the football and get acclimated to a new system, quite honestly, I think is the goal. Each man’s different.”
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NFL Preseason Week 1 Schedule
New York Giants at New England, 6 p.m. CT, NFL Network
Tennessee at Baltimore, 6:30 p.m.
Atlanta at Detroit, 5 p.m., NFL Network
Cleveland at Jacksonville, 6 p.m.
Arizona at Cincinnati, 6:30 p.m.
New York Jets at Philadelphia, 6:30 p.m.
Green Bay at San Francisco, 7:30 p.m., NFL Network
Carolina at Washington, noon
Kansas City at Chicago, noon, NFL Network
Indianapolis at Buffalo, 3 p.m., NFL Network
Seattle at Pittsburgh, 6 p.m., NFL Network
Miami at Tampa Bay, 6:30 p.m.
New Orleans at Houston, 7 p.m.
Dallas at Denver, 8 p.m., NFL Network
Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Chargers, 9 p.m.
Minnesota at Las Vegas, 3:25 p.m., NFL Network
• Neal is also the only one of Alabama’s top three draft selections playing right now as Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams is coming off a knee injury and Texans wide receiver John Metchie III will likely miss the season after being diagnosed with a form of leukemia.
• The Baltimore Ravens sent a message to the players when the initial preseason depth chart had every rookie listed last unless it was someone who will obviously start, namely Tyler Linderbaum at center (the first-round selection who will miss a couple of weeks after suffering a Lisfranc injury), and punter Jordan Stout. Keep an eye out for Slade Bolden against the Titans, both as a receiver and punt returner, as this is the kind of game he could get a lot of opportunities.
• Another player to watch this week is Josh Jobe. The Eagles have a lot of depth in the secondary, and like to use three corners in nickel package. Kary Vincent and Josiah Scott are listed ahead of him, and both are versatile enough to play safety.
• The Dolphins at Buccaneers could see Julio Jones catch his first passes from Tom Brady, although the wide receiver is still getting used to his new team. Tampa Bay’s initial depth chart had Russell Gage as the third starting receiver, not Jones. “He looks good,” head coach Todd Bowles said. “Obviously not being with the team in the offseason he needs to get in a little better shape. But we like what we see in him. He’s explosive, very smart.”
• There’s been a lot of talk in New England that the Patriots’ offense hasn’t clicked in the new scheme following the departure of longtime coordinator McDaniels to the Raiders. Matt Patricia, who was formerly a defensive coach, is reportedly calling the plays in camp.
Did You Notice?
• Yep, Trevon Diggs‘ son is now doing press conferences …
• Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who is suspended for the season, tweeted that he’s going to visit his family in Guyana soon and that he was “doing great.”
• Eddie Jackson Feeling Like a Rookie Again
• Running back Mark Ingram II was mic’d up during the New Orleans Saints practice on Tuesday.
• Just because (even though it’s not Crimson Tide specific) …
Bama in the NFL
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