The defense, which played its starters (the Saints used mostly starters on offense but quarterback Drew Brees did not play), gave up a long drive to the Saints, but let’s assume that side of the ball will be fine. The defense held New Orleans to a 45-yard field goal.
The Jaguars came so close to making the Super Bowl last season, and they come back this year with a strong roster. The offense is the question mark, but Fournette looked quick, Bortles made some plays and Westbrook is one of many intriguing receivers (he had three caches in the first quarter, as did free-agent addition Donte Moncrief). Maybe the offense won’t be such a question mark.
One concerning thing about both of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s first two games is that he has taken a lot of hits. Jackson has looked to run often, and he has been hit hard in the open field. Most college defenders couldn’t touch him, so that’s something he’ll need to get used to.
Jackson’s second game, a 33-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams, had some good moments. A running touchdown, in which he took a broken play, made some nice moves to get in the open field and another move to get in the end zone, was exactly what the Ravens were looking for when he was their second first-round pick. Passing-wise, Jackson missed his share of throws – a 36-yard pass to Chris Moore was underthrown but Moore made a great play to adjust to it and make a catch. Jackson got credit for a lot of yards on a screen pass near the end of the first half – but he also had a nice quick flip off a read-option play to Janarion Grant, which Grant turned into a 26-yard gain.
Jackson completed just seven of 18 passes but had 119 yards. He added 21 yards rushing. Jackson didn’t look comfortable as a passer in the Hall of Fame game last week and didn’t again on Thursday, but he has the rest of the preseason to work on it.
Cleveland Browns 20, New York Giants 10: Rookies Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley stole the show (Barkley had a great run to start his NFL career, and Mayfield was impressive) but second-year tight end David Njoku made a statement too. Njoku, a first-round pick last season, caught two touchdowns. That’s a great start for his sophomore season. Rookie Antonio Callaway, whose off-field issues have been well documented, impressed too with 87 yards and a long touchdown from Mayfield.
Cincinnati Bengals 30, Chicago Bears 27: The good for the Bengals receivers: A.J. Green looked like his usual self with a couple catches for 48 yards, and Tyler Boyd caught a 3-yard touchdown on a slant near the goal line. The bad? John Ross, who did nothing as a top-10 pick last year, fell down on a route and Andy Dalton’s pass to him was picked off by cornerback Kyle Fuller and returned for a touchdown.
Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Philadelphia Eagles 14: JuJu Smith-Schuster had a nice start to his second season. The 2017 rookie sensation ran deep, positioned himself well and high-pointed a catch over cornerback Rasul Douglas, then ran the rest of the way for a 71-yard touchdown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, Miami Dolphins 24: Bucs rookie running back Ronald Jones had an up-and-down night. The second-round pick, who played behind Peyton Barber, dropped a pass on his first play. His struggles in the passing game, particularly in protection, has been a story through Bucs camp.
But Jones showed off nice moves on a short touchdown, cutting upfield to get in the end zone. Barber had a 4-yard touchdown too and worked as the clear starter on Thursday night.
Jones has enticing talent. He had just 9 yards on eight carries, while Barber had 21 on four carries. It’s a battle to watch through the preseason.
New England Patriots 26, Washington Redskins 17: Redskins running back Derrius Guice showed off his immense talent and gave everyone a scare on the same play.
On a handoff to the right, Guice made a hard cutback and got into the open field. He spun off a defender, initiated contact with another and finished with a 34-yard run. It was a fine run that showed off his burst, vision and power. However, he grabbed at his knee after being brought down and had Redskins fans nervous for a few moments. It didn’t appear serious, and he told J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington everything was fine after the game.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden told the media Guice will have an MRI on Friday to make sure.
Green Bay Packers 31, Tennessee Titans 17: Davante Adams looked like he was in midseason form. Adams put a great move on new Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler and blew past him. Brett Hundley hit Adams for a 48-yard pass inside the 10-yard line. Then Jamaal Williams – who has a great chance to take control of the Packers’ starting running back job with Aaron Jones suspended two games to start the season – had a catch and made an inside move to get in the end zone for a touchdown.
Houston Texans 17, Kansas City Chiefs 10: Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was back. If you blinked, you missed it. On the Texans’ first drive, Watson threw a quick 4-yard out to Bruce Ellington. That play call ensured there was no way he’d be hit. The rest of the series was handoffs, then Watson was pulled for Brandon Weeden. It wasn’t much, but it was good to see Watson back on the field for the first time since he tore his ACL.
San Francisco 49ers 24, Dallas Cowboys 21: The biggest question with the Cowboys is their pass-catching options in a post-Dez Bryant and Jason Witten world. The first look was pretty good. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott delivered a beautiful 30-yard touchdown pass to third-round pick Michael Gallup on Prescott’s only drive. Gallup could end up being a big contributor right away because Prescott needs someone to throw to.
Indianapolis Colts 19, Seattle Seahawks 17: While all eyes were on Andrew Luck in his first game back after missing last season, Russell Wilson put on a show as usual. On his one possession, Wilson completed four of five passes for 43 yards. He threw a touchdown to Nick Vannett, who has a great opportunity to replace Jimmy Graham as Seattle’s pass-catching tight end.
• Bengals running back Joe Mixon, who looked sluggish as a rookie last year, dropped weight and looked great on a nice 24-yard touchdown. He made one Bears defender miss on a juke, had a great spin move to shake off another, kept his balance and got into the end zone for a 24-yard score. It was the kind of play that made him such an intriguing (yet controversial) prospect in last year’s draft.
• Buffalo Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin got his revenge, albeit in a preseason game. On the Bills’ first drive against the Panthers, the team that traded Benjamin last season, Benjamin had four catches and a touchdown. Before the game he had a confrontation with Cam Newton, who he ripped last week, and he seemed a little too excited to make plays during a preseason game. But he looked good, which is positive news for a Bills offense that needs playmakers.
• This wasn’t really the Patriots’ offense, not without Tom Brady (who sat because of a sore back according to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe) , Rob Gronkowski and some other stars. Still, it was odd to see New England struggling to move the ball. Behind Brian Hoyer, the Patriots had just 100 yards, four first downs and a late second-quarter field goal in the first half. Unlike the past couple years, when Jimmy Garoppolo would come in and dazzle during the preseason, we were reminded the Patriots don’t have an iron-clad insurance policy behind Brady anymore.
• Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be one of the most-watched players of this NFL preseason, and he made some nice throws. On his first pass, he stood in as the rush crashed down on him and delivered nice 14-yard strike to Travis Kelce. Mahomes didn’t air it out too often, but had some good short throws. He also showed some indecision on a sack and had an apparent miscommunication on a badly missed pass to Kelce. He finished 5-of-7 for 33 yards. There’s still plenty to work on before the regular season starts.
• The Tennessee Titans should look a lot different with new coach Mike Vrabel and new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. The first brief look at the Titans’ starters was pretty good, as Marcus Mariota went 2-of-3 for 42 yards and a touchdown on his only drive. Mariota also had a 7-yard run.
• The Philadelphia Eagles traded up to move one spot ahead of the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of this year’s draft to take tight end Dallas Goedert. Goedert looked very good on Thursday night. He caught four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. While Zach Ertz is still the starter, Goedert could have a nice rookie season in the second tight end role vacated by Trey Burton, who signed with the Bears in the offseason.
• Panthers first-round pick D.J. Moore, who has been getting a lot of positive buzz in camp, had a nice preseason debut. On one impressive play, he put a great move on a defender to get 16 yards and a first down. Moore had 75 yards on four catches and should be a nice target for Cam Newton for many years.
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