The NFL Preseason is underway, and names across each franchise have made an early impact. Whether it’s a rookie or veteran, here is one standout player through the first week of preseason football:
Arizona Cardinals: Josh Rosen, QB
Rosen, who made his debut with the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night, was an interesting spectacle to say the least. While there were plenty of flaws within his first few drives, Rosen showed NFL attributes both in and out of the pocket, and showed glimpses of what he can accomplish at an NFL level. Completing 6-13 passes for 41 yards, Rosen will be the obvious name to keep an eye on for weeks to come.
Atlanta Falcons: Damontae Kazee, S
The sophomore safety received a fair amount of playing time in the first week of preseason action, and made the most of every play. With 11 tackles against the New York Jets, Kazee had 8 more than any other defensive member of the Atlanta Falcons. Playing behind Ricardo Allen currently, Kazee will likely be a rotational player to enter 2018. Still, the Falcons should be encouraged about their depth in the secondary.
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson, QB
In Lamar Lackson’s second preseason game, he really began to seem more comfortable in the Ravens’ offensive scheme. Jackson led the Ravens’ offense to scores in half of his possessions with the squad, and everything is looking positive for him to supplant Robert Griffin III as Joe Flacco’s assumed backup.
Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB
Josh Allen had more embarrassing moments than great flashes of brilliance, including a SportsCenter Not-Top-10 moment where he backpedaled 10 yards in the wrong direction to nearly throw a pick against the Carolina Panthers. Expect Allen to “ride the pine” when the season gets under way, as the other two quarterbacks on the roster look more ready than him at this point in the young preseason.
Carolina Panthers: DJ Moore, WR
After being selected 24th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, DJ Moore was one of multiple rookies to stand out in week one of preseason football. Reeling in 4 receptions for 75 yards, Moore only missed out on two of his targets against the Buffalo Bills. Currently listed behind Torrey Smith and Devin Funchess on the Carolina depth chart, I expect for Moore to continue to show off his upside throughout the season.
Chicago Bears: John Timu, LB
After missing 19 games through his first 3 seasons, linebacker John Timu was the leading tackler for the Chicago Bears through the first week of preseason action. Granted, it’s early in preseason, but this is a positive sign for Timu. He is listed behind Danny Trevathan in the depth chart, who has his own history of the injury bug as well.
Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Malone, WR
The Bengals offense in 2017 was offensive, to put it bluntly. A lot of that has changed though with the addition of new and youthful wide receivers such as second-year man Tyler Boyd, who caught 6 receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. Andy Dalton will rely on Malone to continue to grow if they want to have any chance of competing in the AFC North.
Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB
How can you not be impressed by the rookie debut of quarterback Baker Mayfield? Mayfield looked calm under consistent pressure from the New York Giants defensive unit, and made several key throws and decisions with his feet to keep the chains moving. It’s early, but the Cleveland-faithful has some reasons to be optimistic.
Dallas Cowboys: Michael Gallup, WR
Playing alongside Dak Presoctt with a majority of the first-team offense, rookie Michael Gallup showed promise in his 30-yard TD reception. To some, Gallup shows comparisons to former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant. While Bryant’s shoes are awfully big to fill, Gallup will be a name to look out for throughout preseason.
Denver Broncos: Chad Kelly, QB
Chad Kelly certainly had his work cut out for him as not only being a rookie in the NFL, but from also being subbed in after the Vikings first squad put up 14 quick points on the board. However, Kelly held his own and showcased his arm strength and accuracy, throwing for 177 yards (on 14/21 passing) and 2 touchdowns. Case Keenum should still be the assumed-starter for the Broncos, but it’s nice having the future looking bright for Denver at quarterback.
Detroit Lions: Kerryon Johnson, RB
The second round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft shined for the Detroit Tigers, as he totaled 34 yards on 7 attempts. In addition, Johnson reeled in 4 receptions for 33 yards. Had it not been for a holding penalty, the rookie running back would have been one of the most talked about players heading into next week’s preseason setting. Johnson is regarded as one of the most talented rookies in the 2018 draft class, so beware.
Green Bay Packers: Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling showed promise throughout his time on the field. With 5 receptions for 101 yards, one of Scantling’s receptions broke out for 51 yards as well. Realistically, Scantling was fighting for a roster slot, let alone a position as the most outstanding player on the Packers in a preseason game. With capabilities on special teams as well, it will be curious to see whether week one was a fluke or not.
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB
Having Deshaun Watson back and healthy is a gift for all Texans fans. The fact that he started and exited the game injury free is the real story here. The highlight reel plays will come, but its great to see him back on the field.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB
Another AFC South QB who also made a return from a significant injury is Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts. He seemed to have a smile painted on his face from ear-to-ear as he was more than eager to get back out there and compete. He also passed several milestones in his recovery, including taking a hard hit from a Seahawks defender and being thrilled to be okay afterwards.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Cody Kessler, QB
Cody Kessler proved to be a capable backup to Blake Bortles by being incredibly precise, throwing 14-17 on the night. His decision-making appears to be much improved from his previous starting stints, and I like the way he was able to extend the “broken” plays.
Kansas City Chiefs: Demarcus Robinson, WR
Robinson looked great in his first preseason game this year, catching 3 receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown. Once the new starting QB, Patrick Mahomes, builds a solid rapport with Robinson, be on the lookout.
Los Angeles Rams: JoJo Natson, WR
After going undrafted in 2017, WR JoJo Natson spent some time playing a minor role with the New York Jets. Now part of the Los Angeles Rams roster, Natson made the most of his opportunity. Reeling in his only 2 targets for 14 yards, Natson also totaled 218 yards on kick/punt returns against the Baltimore Ravens. Although Natson is an under-the-radar player, he shows flashes of ability when given the platform to do so.
Los Angeles Chargers: Geremy Davis, WR
Geremy Davis, the fourth-year wide receiver out of UConn, certainly is showing a ton of improvement from last season. Davis caught 4 passes for 88 yards, including a highlight reel TD pass of 47 yards. Philip Rivers must be licking his chops thinking about the redemption season ahead of him and Los Angeles this year.
Miami Dolphins: Francis Owusu, WR
Catching 4 receptions for 82 yards on the evening, Francis Owusu will surely be targeted by Ryan Tannehill early and often once the regular season starts. At the least, Owusu should hope Tannehill is fully ready, considering Brock Osweiler threw 21 passes, while only 10 hit their intended targets.
Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins, QB
In his debut with the Minnesota Vikings, Kirk Cousins gave fans a reason to be hopeful fo the upcoming season. Cousins completed 4-4 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, and even posted a QBR of 150.0 in the early minutes he was part of. He should be viewed as one of the more exciting quarterbacks in the league, as Minnesota continues to play as a contender in the NFC.
New England Patriots: Jeremy Hill, RB
The newest asset for Bill Belichick certainly made a strong case to be in the consideration of the best option at the backup RB position, carrying the rock 11 times for 57 yards (4.6 yards per carry). Whether or not Hill continues to be up to the task remains to be seen, but the Patriots have to love what they are seeing from the veteran in their push to become Super Bowl champions.
New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram II, RB
Suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season, the New Orleans Saints had no problem involving Mark Ingram early on. Ingram carried the ball 7 times for 23 yards, which included a 2-yard touchdown run. While New Orleans will likely make Alvin Kamara the lead back later on in the year, Ingram is still regarded as a key to this Saints offense.
New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB
In his first NFL carry, rookie RB Saquon Barkley pumped out a 39-yard rush that left Giants fans desiring more. As his next (and only) three attempts totaled 4 yards, it makes for a great story heading into week two of preseason action. Is Barkley the franchise running back the Giants need? That answer will come within time, but that first attempt shows there is flash in Barkley’s game.
New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB
Is Darnold the answer for the New York Jets? It’s certainly looking that way, with certain headlines labeling him as the Jets’ “football savior.” While Darnold was impressive in his first outing, there is still plenty of tests on the table.
If the Jets are going to do this right for the long term, Sam Darnold should be the starting QB from Week 1. This is now his team.
— Mike Francesa (@MikeFrancesa) August 7, 2018
Oakland Raiders: Marshawn Lynch, RB
On Lynch’s first play from scrimmage, he showed his uncanny burst of speed that left defenders wondering what hit them. However, this highlight reel touchdown was ultimately called back due to a holding penalty. Head Coach Jon Gruden must be thrilled to see Lynch motivated this early in a new NFL season.
This run was called back…
— NFL (@NFL) August 11, 2018
Philadelphia Eagles: Dallas Goedert, TE
Drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Dallas Goedert is showing early promise on why he deserves reps through the regular season. Managing 4 receptions (on 5 targets) for 66 yards, the play of Goedert included a 15-yard TD reception from third-string QB Nate Sudfeld. Playing behind Zach Ertz, the important note is that Ertz has suffered from concussion-based injuries early on in his career, which may leave an opening for Goedert in select weeks.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ju Ju Smith-Schuster, WR
Smith-Schuster may have had the play of the entire preseason when he showcased shades of Randy Moss by leaping over the Eagles defender for a 71-yard touchdown. Smith-Schuster, who is entering his second NFL season, will be called upon often if defenses try to double-team Antonio Brown.
Need Everything!!!! 💫💫💫💫 pic.twitter.com/V464jb9WVb
— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) August 10, 2018
San Francisco 49ers: Jerick McKinnon, RB
Coming into San Francisco as the projected lead running back, Jerick McKinnon is leaving 49ers fans a bit worried through the first week of the preseason. Although he managed to bring in a 7-yard reception, McKinnon totaled -4 yards on 3 attempts, which his longest rushing being a mere 2 yards. While one preseason game doesn’t define a player, it leaves openings for players such as Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert to climb up the depth chart.
Seattle Seahawks: Shaquem Griffin, LB
In his debut game with the Seattle Seahawks, LB Shaquem Griffin was outstanding. His 9 tackles led the Seahawks through week one of the preseason, and 1 of his tackles was for a loss as well. While inspiring those with physical handicaps, Griffin is viewed as one of the most admired players in the NFL.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Griffin, QB
As Jameis Winston is suspended the first three games of the 2018 season, Ryan Griffin made a compelling case as to why he should fill in as the temporary quarterback. Completing the game 20-26 with 179 yards and 1 TD, Griffin looked poised for the most part. On the other hand, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the game 6-8 with 55 yards. Both quarterbacks were impressive, so this could turn into a quarterback battle through the next three weeks.
Tennessee Titans: Jayon Brown, LB
Jayon Brown is slowly starting to make himself into a marquee name at the linebacker position with heads-up plays like the one below. Brown, in this game, also collected three tackles. This Titans defense will require more of this type of play from Brown and others if they want to make a repeat appearance in the playoffs.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) August 10, 2018
Washington Redskins: Semaje Perine, RB
With Derrius Guice sidelined with a torn ACL, Samaje Perine now becomes the projected week one starter. Finishing week one of preseason with 7 carries for 31 yards, Perine will likely be limited on snaps through the next three weeks. While Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson (who the Redskins are being cautious with considering last season’s ACL injury) will both see reps as well. Perine is the most valuable asset in the backfield at the moment, and whether or not the Redskins kick the tires on a veteran RB remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see how the Redskins coordinate their running back committee, especially on such short notice.
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