Preseason all downhill from here

Preseason all downhill from here
August 10, 2012, 1:59 pm
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Preseason football gets a bad rap around here, and that reputation is entirely deserved. But even in the midst of all the apathy, the first preseason game is always special.

Its just nice to see everyone back on the field. The sight of Brady under center gives you that safe, familiar feeling. Its your first real introduction to the rookies, the new additions and the new collective face of this years team.

Its football! Its back!

The nostalgia wears off after about a quarter (or earlier if the starters get a quick hook), but those first few minutes feel right. Its the closest well get to regular season excitement until the real thing.

Looking back at the opener Thursday night, the story has to be Chandler Jones. As a friend of mine posted on his Facebook wall: I have been waiting 20 years for you Chandler Jones.

Right now, thats what it feels like.

Im so excited about Jones that Im already worried something bad is going to happen. He seems too good to be true. I dont care if its only the first game of the preseason, he did things last night that I havent seen from a Patriots DE since . . . I dont know. Im going to stop now on the off chance that Jones is a bust and this paragraph haunts me for the rest of my Internet life. But one last time, two feet on the ground: CHANDLER JONES.

Ridley brought it, too. Love that wobbly running style; he looks like younger, stronger and more athletic Kevin Faulk. And he didn't fumble! Brandon Lloyd showed that he WILL get open; he looked like what we all imagined Ocho would be. On the defensive side, other than Jones, Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory had a great first date, and can hopefully build on their relationship moving forward. It looks like Kyle Love is still on the rise as well. Love Love.

Obviously, there's of room for improvement. I know that everyones already gone mad over the offensive line. But come on, that wasnt the offensive line. Those were imposters. The Pats didnt have Mankins, Waters or Vollmer. Would you judge the receiving corps if Welker, Hernandez and Gronk were out? Of course not.

I'm not saying that the O-line is issue-free; just that it's too early chalk this as a major area of concern. It's too early for everything! It's one preseason game. Nothing qualifies as that big of a deal.

Well, except for Dane Fletcher.

That just sucks. It's a reminder of the biggest reason the preseason has this bad rap to begin with. You see a guy like Fletcher, who works so hard every year but can never catch a break, go down with an ACL and you wonder: "What's the point?" The worst part is that the play was called back on an offsides penalty. So in reality, Dane Fletcher's season is over because of a punt return that didn't count in a game that didn't count. How depressing is that? Just doesn't seem fair. But it's the grim reality of preseason. You never know when or where a player will go down, and just like that, disappear.

Sometimes I wish that's what the preseason would do. Just go up in smoke, and cease to exist. But in reality, I guess I'll settle on having one fake game in the books, and less than a month before the real thing gets underway.

If you need me in the meantime, I'll be at the pro shop, trying on Chandler Jones jerseys.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine