We caught a glimpse of each franchise during their preseason debuts last week, and with that, we received a few takeaways as well. Heading into the second week of preseason action, many were speculating on who was emerging as a star, and who appeared to be a one-week wonder. Here are the takeaways from each preseason match-up over the past weekend:
Baltimore Ravens def. Miami Dolphins 31-7
Ravens Takeaways: One aspect I touched on last week was Baltimore’s ability to hold their own on defense. After only allowing a mere three points to the Washington Redskins in a blowout victory, the Ravens defense has continued to impress through this week as well.
Holding Miami to 2.4 rushing yards per carry, as well as 6.4 yards per reception, this Ravens defense deserves some respect. Squaring off against the Buffalo Bills next, it will be interesting to see whether this defensive front can remain consistent.
Dolphins Takeaways: Perhaps the largest headline this week happened to be the return of quarterback Jay Cutler. While he did show sparks of capability, Miami fans remain skeptical of the veteran.
Finishing 3-6 for 24 yards, Cutler even took a hard hit that resulted in him landing on his surgically-repaired hip. Considering he got right back up and walked it off, at least Cutler is appearing less fragile then he may be.
Philadelphia Eagles def. Buffalo Bills 20-16
Eagles Takeaways: The Eagles backfield has continued to prove to be unreliable, but the one piece in the Eagles offense that’s impressing the most is quarterback Carson Wentz. Having completed 6-9 passes for 56 yards, Wentz finished with a posted QBR of 83.6.
Between the first two weeks, that makes the Eagles sophomore 10-13 for 112 yards and one touchdown. If the Eagles happen to find themselves within shootouts through the upcoming campaign, I’m sure the franchise feels confident in their first-round pick.
Bills Takeaways: The Bills may have been polar opposites from the Eagles on Thursday night. While their backfield managed to average 5.2 yards per carry, quarterback Tyrod Taylor looked horrendous on most plays.
Completing 8-18 of his passes for 53 yards and two interceptions, Buffalo fans might has well have been in a nightmare. After recently trading away wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the Bills have likely declared for a rebuild era to take place in 2017. While I’m not a fan of franchises tanking on any occasion, the light seems to be dim in upstate New York.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers def. Jacksonville Jaguars 12-8
Buccaneers Takeaways: One aspect I was a fan of was the Bucs staff allowing quarterback Jameis Winston to receive extended playing time. Throwing 21-29 for 196 yards, Winston continued to show favoritism towards wide receiver Mike Evans.
This duo, while healthy, could be one of the most underrated combos in the NFL. Evans has now reeled in 115 yards on 9 receptions through the first few games, as he could prove to be on track for a monster 2017 season.
Jaguars Takeaways: While Bortles may have gone 8-13 for 65 yards, he struggled to say the least. Often under/overthrowing receivers while open, the Jaguars have found themselves in a flurry of quarterback questions.
Being limited within the first few preseason games, the sample size may be too small for some to doubt Bortles this early in the year. In my eyes, the Jaguars need to pray that Leonard Fournette’s foot injury remains minor.
Seattle Seahawks def. Minnesota Vikings 20-13
Seahawks Takeaways: Although the Seahawks went on to win the game, their victory became overshadowed by the injury to left tackle George Fant. The second-year player suffered a season-ending ACL tear, which could put the Seahawks offensive efficiency rate in danger.
Quarterback Russell Wilson has been known to make plays out of the pocket for years now, but this is a huge loss for the Seattle roster. Fant started at left tackle all sixteen games last season, and it will be interesting to see how they solve their gap on the offensive front.
Vikings Takeaways: I was a bit disappointed by rookie running back Dalvin Cook last week in the Vikings win against the Buffalo Bills. This week, Cook was able to bounce-back and rush for 40 yards on 7 carries. On top of that, Cook was able to reel in an additional 10-yard reception, as he continues to be viewed as versatile out of the backfield.
Just one week after signing with the franchise, running back Latavius Murray opted to receive ankle surgery. With that, he has been held out of preseason action. While it’s unclear to whether we will see Murray before week one of the regular season, Dalvin Cook is doing enough to prove to be the starting running back in Minnesota.
Dallas Cowboys def. Indianapolis Colts 24-19
Cowboys Takeaways: The Cowboys thrived off of their backfield play from Ezekiel Elliot last season, but with an appeal for his suspension to be heard on August 29th, the franchise has been forced to prepare for the worst case scenario. With that, veteran Darren McFadden has not disappointed in his first-team reps.
With 9 carries for 59 yards, McFadden has continued to be viewed as the lead back (in case Elliot is suspended for the first handful of games). Another piece the Cowboys contain is Alfred Morris, who also averaged 5.4 yards per carry on Saturday night.
Colts Takeaways: With no current signs to when Andrew Luck may return to the field, the Colts have handed first-team reps to backup Scott Tolzien. If you watch his film, or even glare at his preseason numbers to start, I don’t think you’ll be too impressed.
Through his first two preseason games, Tolzien has completed 12-19 of his passes for 94 yards and no touchdowns. While his time has been limited, Tolzien has provided little to no evidence that he can qualify as a worthwhile backup in the NFL.
Detroit Lions def. New York Jets 16-6
Lions Takeaways: To start the preseason, Matt Stafford and the rest of the starters have looked somewhat elite. Stafford, who completed 8-10 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown on Saturday, could become poised for a successful 2017 campaign.
The franchise may not have a reliable three-down back in their offense, but Stafford is known for making the Lions successful, even with minimal weapons around him.
Jets: This Jets roster may be worse than the 0-16 Lions from just a few years ago. With no reliable offensive weapons, this is a franchise that can only view their defensive line as their bright spot.
Christian Hackenburg has shown no development, and Bryce Petty cannot be viewed as anything more than a standard backup in today’s game. The franchise will tank and attempt to draft USC quarterback Sam Darnold, but if he elects to go back to college for another year, Jets fans may become weary.
Tennessee Titans def. Carolina Panthers 34-27
Titans Takeaways: The headline surrounding last week’s preseason takeaways involved Marcus Mariota for the Titans, and this week is no different. Completing 6-8 passes for 61 yards and a touchdown, the young sensation has looked almost flawless throughout the preseason so far.
Could he become eligible for Comeback Player of the Year? While the race may become close, Mariota is a name that all opposing defenses should be looking out for this season.
Panthers Takeaways: We know how great Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen are, but could this be the year that Carolina finally relies on their run game? On Saturday night, the Panthers were able to secure 167 yards on the ground for an average of 7.6 yards per carry.
Led by rookie Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers could finally balance themselves out as an offensive unit. Newton is not used to sharing the spotlight, but considering his struggles in 2016, it may be best to feed the hot hands in the backfield this year.
Kansas City Chiefs def. Cincinnati Bengals 30-12
Chiefs Takeaways: While rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes II looked sharp, veteran Alex Smith held his own and more this past weekend. Completing 8-9 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, Smith has essentially disproved any looming rumors that Mahomes may take over at some point in the upcoming season.
Mahomes has been putting up great numbers in the preseason, but I would fully expect for the Chiefs to let Smith play out the 2017 season before any drastic decisions are made. Smith becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season, so it will be an interesting headline to see whether Mahomes will be held out until then.
Bengals Headlines: I noted last week that the Bengals will remain as a committee, and this week only further proved my theory. Rookie Joe Mixon has been viewed as the man to take over the Bengals backfield, yet only managed 2.7 yards per carry on Saturday. On the other hand, Jeremy Hill was able to secure 4.7 yards per carry, catching up to Mixon in terms of the race to become the lead back.
As I keep saying, this situation in Cincinnati is much like the situation out in Tennessee. With two solid running backs to choose from, the franchise may be forced to split carries throughout the season (pending injuries or sudden declines of play).
Green Bay Packers def. Washington Redskins 21-17
Packers Takeaways: Per usual, Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Green Bay offense looked as if they were in mid-season form. Completing 6-8 passes for 37 yards and a touchdown, Rodgers was also able to secure an additional 15 yards on the ground.
The Packers seem to always be an NFC favorite, but their defense wasn’t up to par. With no interceptions, and only two sacks in the entirety of the game, head coach Mike McCarthy will likely emphasize on this in weeks to come.
Redskins Takeaways: While the Redskins backfield continues to look bleak, one standout player was rookie running back Samaje Perine. With 8 carries for 45 yards, Perine may have dropped some jaws on the Redskins sideline.
Could Perine become an eventual starter? Although it’s unlikely, I wouldn’t put it past the Redskins, who ranked 21st in the NFL in rushing yards per game last season.
Houston Texans def. New England Patriots 27-23
Texans Takeaways: Rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson may have shined last week, but Sunday night was a completely different tale. With only 3-10 completed passes, Watson posted a QBR of 69.6 against a tough New England defense.
Sure it’s just preseason, but Watson (as well as other rookies) should be treating reps like every drive matters. While Tom Savage held his own, Watson may be riding the bench to start the 2017 season.
Patriots Takeaways: In Tom Brady’s preseason debut, the 40-year old veteran quarterback seemed impressive. Securing 6-9 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown, Patriots fans are likely enthusiastic about their chances to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Pending injuries, the Patriots have enough balance on both sides of the ball to become contenders in a currently weak AFC conference. Sure, they’ve lost two preseason games, but since when has that been an affect on a teams chances in the regular season?
Chicago Bears def. Arizona Cardinals 24-23
Bears Takeaways: Last week, we saw rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky shine, while Mike Glennon struggled. This past weekend, there was no change in the scenery. Trubisky completed 6-8 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown, while Glennon completed 13-18 passes for 89 yards, with both one touchdown and interception.
In my eyes, Glennon seems to be a source of dead money for the Bears. Trubisky has done enough within training camp and the preseason to become the week one starter, but Glennon is making too much money to be considered a backup. While the Bears have no solution on how to fix their quarterback situation, time is not on their side.
Cardinals Takeaways: One area the Cardinals have thrived in the last few years has been their rushing attack. Typically led by David Johnson, the Cardinals were stuffed on all fronts this past weekend.
With an average of 2.1 yards per carry in their loss to the Bears, the leading rusher for Arizona happened to be Andre Ellington, who was only able to receive 2 carries for 11 yards on the day. This is of no concern to the Cardinals headquarters, as the offense will rely heavily on the run game this season.
Denver Broncos def. San Francisco 49ers 33-14
Broncos Takeaways: It seems as though Trevor Siemian locked up the starting quarterback position this past weekend, as he completed 8-11 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. The alternative happened to be Paxton Lynch, who was 9-13 for 30 yards.
I can’t picture either of these quarterbacks leading the Broncos to postseason success, but Siemian is the clear-cut answer in my books. Lynch just hasn’t shown enough development since being drafted by Denver, as the Broncos will hope that the Wild Card race in the AFC is in their favor.
49ers Takeaways: I touched base on C.J. Beathard last week, as he was quite impressive for a third-string quarterback. This past weekend, Beathard was once again the most efficient quarterback in San Francisco.
Completing 7-12 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, I’d love to see Beathard receive some first-team reps. The 49ers won’t be within contention of the playoffs anytime soon, so why not experiment with Beathard down the road?
Los Angeles Rams def. Oakland Raiders 24-21
Rams Takeaways: I was impressed by Jared Goff last week, and he even went on to elevate his play this past weekend. Completing 16-20 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown, this seems to be the Jared Goff that the Rams originally intended on drafting.
His playing time was extended on Saturday, and it was well worth the call. With new wide receiver Sammy Watkins lined up now as well, many could underestimate this duo.
Raiders Takeaways: Derek Carr made his preseason debut this past weekend, and he was sharp throughout his short period of time on the field. Completing 7-9 passes for 100 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception, Carr looked poised within the pocket.
Many are concerned of Carr being injured once again, but I’m not all too concerned. With Marshawn Lynch in the backfield as well, Carr shouldn’t be in too much trouble as the regular season progresses.
Pittsburgh Steelers def. Atlanta Falcons 17-13
Steelers Takeaways: We don’t typically see a running back carry the ball 20+ times in the preseason, but this happened to be the case with backup James Connor. Totaling 98 yards on 20 carries, the Steelers may be prepping him in case an injury occurs.
The rookie is extremely undervalued, but Le’Veon Bell has been known to miss a few games in the past. I would keep an eye on Connor, especially since Bell has yet to sign an extension with the Steelers.
Falcons Takeaways: The Falcons went out and played four quarterbacks on Sunday night, including starter Matt Ryan. While Ryan was just fine, the other three were horrendous on all aspects.
In today’s game, a reliable backup quarterback is essential to almost every franchise. In the case of the Falcons, they don’t seem too worried about an injury occurring to Ryan, and rightfully so. In his nine seasons with the Falcons, Ryan has yet to miss a single game.
New Orleans Saints def. Los Angeles Chargers 13-7
Saints Takeaways: The Saints offense got the day off, but their defense was able to exceed expectations on Sunday in their win against the Chargers. With two forced turnovers, as well as 8 total sacks, the Saints showed glimpses of hope during the low-scoring efforts.
The Saints defense has been the demise of their success, as they ranked 31st in points allowed per game in 2016. While no game-changing made were made on the defensive side of the ball, the Saints will have plenty of room to improve for the upcoming season.
Chargers Takeaways: There was no sign of Philip Rivers last weekend, but the real headline surrounded the struggles of the run game. With lead back Melvin Gordon averaging 1.6 yards per carry, Chargers fans should be praying that this game was a fluke event.
Gordon was able to dash for an 11-yard carry, but his other four carries amount in -3 total yards. For such a stud last season, Gordon will need to bounce-back for his own sake next week.
Cleveland Browns def. New York Giants 10-6
Browns Takeaways: Ever since the Browns decided to take in Brock Osweiler, I’ve been arguing that Cleveland is better off starting Cody Kessler at the quarterback position. On Monday night, others started to realize why that is.
Tossing 7-7 for 50 yards, Kessler played it a lot more conservative than Osweiler did, and he just looked a lot more like a starting quarterback than the ex-Texans product. Osweiler is much like Mike Glennon, as he will likely become dead money and a waste of a roster spot for the Browns.
Giants Takeaways: The biggest scare of the weekend happened to be the low hit that Odell Beckham Jr. took. After his third reception of the night, Beckham has been diagnosed with an ankle sprain by the Giants organization.
Rightfully so, Beckham Jr. will be held out of the remainder of the preseason most likely, as the Giants will hope for a quick recovery. While the team has a lot of depth at the wide receiver position, Beckham Jr. has a presence that many others cannot maintain.