Bills 11 Browns 10
Tyrod Taylor seems to be gaining an edge over Matt Cassel in the race for the starting QB spot in Buffalo. He attacked outside corners effectively with confident throws and showcased his game changing speed by running when appropriate. He made good decisions with the football by not taking sacks and throwing the ball away when necessary. On Thursday night, his game more closely resembled Russell Wilson rather than his old Michael Vick impression that used to hold him back in years past.
The biggest improvement from Johnny Manziel so far this preseason seems to be in presnap, as he was seen utilizing the whole playbook and a plethora of audible reads prior to his snaps on Thursday night against the Bills. The Browns coaching staff still appeared hesitant to turn him loose, as he mostly dropped back to pass when attempting conservative completions, thus minimizing his mistakes. Hopefully next week we get to see more of the “Johnny Football” that the Browns took a chance on a couple of years ago and the one that flashed a little bit towards the end of the game on Thursday night, especially when considering the struggles that Josh McCown had against the Bills. If Manziel continues to improve, and McCown keeps trending downward, he might have a punchers chance at the starting gig somewhere down the line.
Redskins 21 Lions 17
The big story here is obviously RGIII and his untimely exit from Thursday night’s matchup against the Lions. Although he didn’t look particularly sharp, Griffin never really had a chance, as one Redskins fan begrudgingly noted that Griffin “… got hit more times than a blunt at Josh Gordon’s house”. For now, he is being treated for his concussion symptoms and there is still no clear word on his shoulder situation. The Redskins do however expect him to start in their next preseason game, so the injuries can’t be too serious.
The real question that now must be pondered in Washington is where do you go with the quarterback position? Your “starter” has looked like a wounded animal while under pressure and terrible when trying to make decisions in other situations, while your two backups have appeared like competent professionals while running the same offense. It’s like night and day when McCoy and Cousins are operating the offense as opposed to Griffin, so even when healthy, head coach Jay Gruden has a huge decision to make regarding RGIII and his starting quarterback position.
Jets 30 Falcons 22
After looking like yet another runaway when the Falcons scored an early 14 points in the first, the Jets dug in and scored an impressive 30 unanswered points and managed to come away with the victory. I know it’s just the preseason, but it was good to see rookie head coach Todd Bowles challenge his first teamers to go out and grab the lead before halftime.
As for the second teamers, Jets Rookie QB, Bryce Petty, looked much more polished on Friday night, going 12-for-19 for 168 yards and a touchdown. He was obviously at his best when the Jets were in the hurry up, but he most importantly seemed to be much calmer this time around, while having first game jitters in his previous game against the Lions.
The biggest takeaway here on Friday night had to be the presence of Jets Rookie Leonard Williams, who played just as billed coming out of USC this offseason. He was clearly the most dominant player on the gridiron against the Falcons, piling up the stats. Williams had five tackles (four solo), three tackles for loss, three QB hits, and 1.5 sacks. So far it appears that the five teams who passed on Williams might be kicking themselves for years to come, as he proved on Friday night why most pundits regarded him as the most talented player in the draft.
Chiefs 14 Seahawks 13
Russell Wilson experienced a brief glimpse of what life without “Beast Mode” might be like, as he and the Seahawks offense sputtered in their first two drives, going three-and-out each time without their All-Pro back. He eventually remembered that he had newly acquired walking mismatch, Jimmy Graham, in his possession and got the offense back on track, by targeting Graham three times for three catches and 39 yards.
In other news, the Chiefs threw a touchdown to a wide receiver for the second consecutive week, after going an entire season without doing so once. Lets hear it for Alex Smith and the boys for finally entering the 21st century of football.
Panthers 31 Dolphins 30
Cam Newton struggled in his first game since losing star wideout, Kelvin Benjamin, to an ACL injury earlier this week, as he only went 4-for-10 for 42 yards and an interception against the Dolphins on Saturday night. No Panthers wide receiver sought to grab the proverbial “brass ring” hanging in front of them, as several potential Benjamin replacements struggled to step up.
On the other side of the ball, Panthers rookie linebacker, Shaq Thompson, proved why Carolina spent a first round selection on him in this year’s NFL draft, as he displayed his game breaking athleticism by making a couple of impressive plays with the ball in the air, even saving a touchdown late in the first quarter.
For the Dolphins, it was business as usual, as Ryan Tannehill displayed his continued improvement, going 12-of-15 for 102 yards and a touchdown. He seems poised to build off his breakout 2014 season, especially when rookie first round wide receiver, DeVante Parker, returns from the PUP list, ready to play.
Eagles 40 Ravens 17
Philly put up another crooked number on a good team in the preseason, by trouncing the Ravens on Saturday night. Although preseason scores are literally meaningless, the big takeaway here is that their newly acquired, and lets be real here, injury prone stars, were solid in their preseason debuts. Demarco Murray showed no lingering effects from a tremendous workload in Dallas last season, as he ran the ball five times for 17 yards and a touchdown, while the most fragile of them all, quarterback Sam Bradford, was 3-for-5 for 35 yards, and most importantly, took a hard hit to the knees by Terrell Suggs and was able to walk away from it.
Nelson Agholor continued to pull away from the pack in terms of the team’s breakout rookie, as he caught four passes for 49 yards on five targets. He appears close to Jordan Matthews on the depth chart as the Eagles number one target, placing him in good favor as a fantasy wide receiver going into this season.
As a side note, Kenjon Barner might be emerging as one of the most feared return men in the league, as he brought his second punt in as many weeks to the house on Saturday night against the Ravens.
Patriots 26 Saints 24
Although in a losing effort, Drew Brees finished the day (one quarter) with a perfect quarterback rating (158.3), on 8-of-10 passing for 159 yards and two touchdowns. He and wide receiver, Brandin Cooks showed why they should be considered one of the most dangerous connections in the league this season, as they connected on a 45 yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter. Patriots coach, Bill Belichick was quoted after the game, regarding Brandin Cooks, saying, “I’m glad that we don’t have to play him twice a year and he’s not in our division”. Cooks finished the day with four catches for 117 yards and that one touchdown.
On the other sideline, Patriots backup quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, again saw a large majority of the snaps under center, as he finished the day 28-for-33, 269 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. With still no decision in the “Deflategate” trial/suspension, coach Belichick is doing all he can to make sure that Brady’s replacement is as game ready as possible.
Bears 23 Colts 11
The biggest news from this game was the loss of Colts rookie receiver, Phillip Dorsett, as he went down with what looked like a serious injury, clutching his right knee, while needing help off the field from the medical staff. The good news is that the Colts have deemed this injury a simple knee bruise, listing the talented rookie as day-to-day.
With most of their top pass catching weapons out, you would figure that the Bears would have struggled at the quarterback position on Saturday night, but that wasn’t the case, as both Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen stood out as top performers against the Colts.
In terms of the ground game for Chicago, the story usually begins and ends with star running back, Matt Forte, however on Saturday night, rookie Jeremy Langford was making a case for himself to be in the mix for some regular season carries. He broke a 46-yard run up the middle during the third quarter and finished the day with 80 yards on nine carries and a touchdown.
Giants 22 Jaguars 12
The story of the game has to be about the two quarterbacks, as one is trending upward and the other, not so much. Eli Manning and the Giants first-team offense struggled once again, as he not only went 4-of-14 for 46 yards, but he and overnight sensation Odell Beckham Jr. failed to connect on any of his five targets. Contrarily, Jaguars second year quarterback, Blake Bortles looked good for the second consecutive week, going 8-for-16 for 98 yards. He failed to lead his team to any touchdowns, but that can be attributed to faulty offensive line play and a drop in the red zone.
Vikings 20 Raiders 12
In the battle of the young quarterbacks, both came out winners, as Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr both made some nice throws on Saturday. Bridgewater connected with Charles Johnson on a 10-yard touchdown, while Carr found rookie wide receiver, Amari Cooper for a 40-yard bomb down the right sideline. Bridgewater has been particularly impressive this preseason, combining for a 78-percent completion percentage, 217 yards, one touchdown, and most importantly, no turnovers.
As former elite prospect, Trent Richardson, continues to struggle (five rushes for five yards on Saturday), former NCAA national championship hero, Michael Dyer, continues to gun for the Raiders number two running back job. Dyer rushed 12 times for 45 yards on Saturday night, and displayed traits that Richardson seemingly doesn’t possess. Dyer shows vision and decisiveness as a runner, something that Richardson has been heavily criticized for since entering the league in 2012, as he often looks lost when trying to find and then hit the designed hole. With Latavius Murray penciled in as the starter, the Raiders are looking for a number two guy who will pound the rock with conviction, so if Richardson can’t figure things out, the job might become Dyer’s to lose.
Broncos 14 Texans 10
With the Texans running back situation in disarray after the debilitating injury to starter, Arian Foster, this is most likely going to be their lead story after every preseason game. For now Alfred Blue is the starter by default, but he still hasn’t done enough to cement himself in the role just yet. Former Philadelphia Eagles running back, Chris Polk decided to throw his hat in the mix for regular season carries, as he impressed on Saturday by carrying the ball seven times for 36 yards, while catching five passes for 34 yards. It’s still Blue’s job to lose, but Polk has now given the Houston coaching staff something to think about.
Also, Texans head coach, Bill O’Brien, named his starting quarterback on Monday afternoon. He decided to go forward with the veteran in Brian Hoyer, who he sees as the QB that has shown the most consistency this entire offseason.
In other news, Peyton Manning looked Peyton-like in his preseason debut, one that many think might be his last. Expect him to take it easy throughout the entire preseason, as the Broncos want to both save his arm for the regular/postseason and to see what backup Brock Osweiler’s got.
Chargers 22 Cardinals 19
Two rookies shined for the Cardinals on Saturday night against the Chargers, as both David Johnson and J.J. Nelson displayed why Arizona took a chance on them in the draft this offseason. David Johnson was making a case for himself and not newly signed veteran, Chris Johnson, to be the number two back behind Andre Ellington, as he carried the ball with effectiveness 13 times for 66 yards. He also caught two passes for 13 yards, hopefully proving that he is a complete enough back to compete for relevant regular season carries. Nelson on the other hand displayed his game breaking 4.28 speed that makes him a playmaker from wherever he is on the field. He caught one pass for 57 yards, and returned one punt for 18 yards. Expect him on the receiving end of a ton of big plays this season.
Steelers 24 Packers 19
Terrible news for Packers fans and fantasy owners alike coming out of Sunday’s game, as star receiver, Jordy Nelson, suffered a torn ACL after coming down with a catch from Aaron Rodgers, early in the first quarter. It will be impossible to replace Nelson’s presence and production, but as they say, the show must go on. Randall Cobb will move up to the number one spot on the depth chart, while DeVante Adams and rookie Ty Montgomery will be expected to step up in a huge way for the rest of the season.
After starting slowly out of the gates, both in camp and in preseason games, rookie Bud Dupree looked much better on Sunday afternoon, displaying disruptive nature with two tackles and a sack. Most acknowledged during the draft process that Dupree is as raw as they come, but still the Steelers were worried when he started out so far behind during camp this preseason. He proved on Sunday why many touted him as one of the most talented pass rushers in the draft, but he still will be a work in progress going forward. For a guy with his physical skills, hard work and determination should payoff.
49ers 23 Cowboys 6
The Dallas first teamers once again barely played, while they were also missing their top two receiving options in Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams all together. Romo threw one pass all day, and nothing much was learned about this team. We did finally get to see both Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden in action for the first time all preseason, as they look to battle it out for the starting running back job. Randle played much better than McFadden, but it appears as though they will enter the season in a running back by committee.
On the other sideline, we have a team riddled with question marks in the 49ers, as this offseason, they saw a slew of star defenders either walk in free agency or outright retire. On Sunday night, they featured a man, who unlike some of their players from last season, actually saw that football could benefit his life. At 27-years-old, Jarryd Hayne, of Australia rugby fame, left the league after winning his second MVP award. He sees football as a new platform to showcase his skills, and he has so far proved that he’s not just some gimmick. Hayne, in two preseason games, has dominated on special teams, and against the Cowboys this past week, proved his skills as a pure running back, carrying the ball eight times for 54 yards. He is beginning to emerge as a legitimate handcuff option for Carlos Hyde, and will be a force as a return guy this upcoming season.
Titans 27 Rams 14
Titans rookie quarterback, Marcus Mariota, proved himself on Sunday against the Rams in his second career NFL game, as he finished the day 5-for-8 for 59 yards, all the while having no voice in his faulty headset. He was running the plays from the sideline to the huddle in what he called reverting back to “Pop Warner”. His ability to step up in that situation will go far with the coaching staff.
For the Rams, the opposite was true for their new signal caller, as Nick Foles struggled in three series with the starting unit. He finished the day going 3-for-7 for 18 yards. The Rams coaching staff is confident that all of their mistakes are correctable, so expect a different first team offense in their next preseason game.
Buccaneers 25 Bengals 11
Buccaneers rookie quarterback, Jameis Winston impressed on Monday night, going 8-of-13 for 90 yards passing against the Bengals. He looked wise beyond his years in the pocket, showing unexpected poise, confidence, and comfort for a quarterback of his age. Because of these on the field maturity traits, the Buccaneers felt confident enough to take Winston with the number one overall pick in the draft this spring. Expect him to only get better, as Winston not only has the mental makeup, but also, all the physical tools needed to be a successful NFL quarterback.
After looking like Kurt Warner in his first preseason game against the Giants, Andy Dalton struggled mightily on Monday night against the Buccaneers, having three of his five drives finish with a punt, while the other two ended with interceptions. This preseason so far can be examined as a microcosm of Dalton’s career, as he has been up and down in pretty much every season he’s been a pro. Expect solid fantasy production from him this season, but anything goes when the pressure is really on.