- Live football is back! How does your team look after the first batch of NFL Week 1 preseason games?
The first week of the 2018 NFL preseason kicked off with 12 games on Thursday night, which meant we got a first look at the likes of star rookies Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley, saw players like Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill return from injury layoffs and watched as Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin met face-to-face on the field before the start of the Bills-Panthers game (more on that in this morning’s Morning Huddle newsletter).
The MMQB staff watched every game, gleaming a few pieces of insight. How does your team look after four quarters of preseason football?
Browns 20, Giants 10
The No. 1 and No. 2 draft picks lived up to their billing. Giants RB Saquon Barkley ripped off a 39-yard run on his first touch in an NFL game, showing excellent patience as he waited for a seam and then stutter-stepped into it. During the entire 2017 season, the Giants had exactly two runs longer than Barkley’s first carry. The Browns don’t want to rush Baker Mayfield, but he looks like a QB who can play sooner than later. His 10-yard TD to TE David Njoku showed his patience in the pocket, and he placed the ball perfectly in stride to WR Antonio Callaway on a slant route that went for a 54-yard score. Combined with the way Mayfield deftly sidestepped contact on his runs to the sideline, the rookie showed awareness that looked beyond his years. — Jenny Vrentas
Panthers 28, Bills 23
Josh Allen came into the game in the second half, behind Nathan Peterman and A.J. McCarron. On his very first snap, the rookie QB showed off that arm that awed evaluators around the NFL, uncorking a pass that traveled some 60 yards in the air. Unfortunately, the ball drifted out of bounds before the receiver could get to it. Later, WR Robert Foster just missed catching another Allen bomb that could have been a 62-yard score. Allen’s worst play was that disastrous fourth-and-two that went viral, when he was chased back 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage by an unblocked defender, and awkwardly threw the ball away. He was lucky it wasn’t picked off. The debut of the No. 7 overall pick confirmed what we thought about Allen: Exceptional arm talent, but he’s got some learning to do. — JV
Bengals 30, Bears 27
While it’s difficult to praise any preseason offense—and Andy Dalton did throw a pick-six against the Bears on Thursday night—the Bengals did trot out all of their offensive stars and put two touchdowns on the board. Most encouraging? Despite the fall down on Kyle Fuller’s pick-six, 2017 first-round pick John Ross battled back for a nice 20-yard grab on a comeback route. While many are seeing him as more of a boom-or-bust deep threat, his presence in the middle of the field can certainly cause some uncomfortable matchups for slower defensive backs and safeties. If the Bengals could ever find a breakout receiver alongside A.J. Green (as they did with Tyler Eifert in 2015, the year they went 12-4) this offense automatically becomes one of the most formidable in the division. — Conor Orr
Steelers 31, Eagles 14
How much fun is Dallas Goedert going to be in this offense? The rookie caught four balls for 66 yards and a touchdown in the preseason opener. Doug Pederson talked about the pressure to replace someone as versatile as Trey Burton when in reality, you don’t. Goedert changes the parameters of Philadelphia’s offense, especially when he gets into the open field against linebackers in coverage. Watch his 26-yard catch against the Steelers and see the subtle way he influences two separate zone defenders to think he’s going in opposite directions. If he’s already there, what else can Pederson do with him? — CO
Saints 24, Jaguars 20
Blake Bortles and the Jaguars first-team offense only saw action in the first series of the game, but put together an impressive drive to start the matchup between two 2017 playoff teams. Bortles moved the offense efficiently, converting three third-down passes to three different receivers, and he ended the seven-minute drive with a two-yard roll-out into the right corner of the endzone. A slimmed-down Leonard Fournette had 24 yards on the drive, even without two starting offensive linemen—left guard Andrew Norwell and right tackle Jermey Parnell.
Drew Brees did not take the field, so the Saints got a good look at Tom Savage and Taysom Hill, who are competing for the backup spot. — Kalyn Kahler
Buccaneers 26, Dolphins 24
Ryan Tannehill took his first snaps during a live football game in 19 months, and everyone in Miami collectively exhaled (for now). He moved outside the pocket and accurately hit Kenny Stills and Kenyan Drake, totaling four completions for 32 yards in his single series. For all of the upgrades that the Bucs did on the defensive line this offseason—bringing in Jason Pierre-Paul, Beau Allen and Vinny Curry to play alongside Gerald McCoy—Miami’s first-team offense moved up the field pretty quickly, much of it on the back of Drake, in the first quarter.
With Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games of the season, all eyes were on backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s tasked with starting against the Saints, Eagles and Steelers in the regular season—and the Buccaneers must be feeling optimistic after what they saw last night. Fitzpatrick ran a quicker-than-normal offense for Tampa Bay, moving the ball around to both DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans in the 57-yard first drive, which ended in a four-yard touchdown run by Peyton Barber, the starter with Doug Martin now in Oakland.
A notable stat from longtime Bucs reporter Greg Auman: the Bucs’ 23 (a late field goal bumped it to 26) points is significant because the team didn’t score more than 12 in any of last year’s preseason game. Though this is preseason football, that’s something to keep in mind. — Bette Marston
Patriots 26, Redskins 17
Neither Alex Smith nor Tom Brady played in last night’s preseason opener at Gillette Stadium, but it felt like we learned a little something about the Patriots defense—or maybe just had certain things confirmed. Faced with a Redskins offense playing just one prospective starter (running back Rob Kelley), New England yielded 259 yards, 13 first downs and 17 points in the first half, and that’s even though a holding call negated a 34-yard burst from Washington rookie Derrius Guice. Veteran corner Stephon Gilmore struggled early, getting roasted by Robert Davis (fighting for a roster spot in Washington) on a crosser for 20 yards. And if you judge by his actions, Bill Belichick felt like his front seven was even worse—holding many of the starters in the game right up to halftime. The Patriots have time to work out the kinks, and new de facto coordinator Brian Flores is just getting starter, but the first two quarters of this one, for that defense, looked like the fifth and sixth quarters of Super Bowl LII. — Albert Breer
Ravens 33, Rams 7
Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson improved off an up-and-down showing in last week’s Hall of Fame game, showing off that exciting playmaking ability that characterized his style at Louisville with his first-ever touchdown, a rushing score out of the shotgun formation in the Ravens second series. Jackson also showed skill in the passing game, throwing an impressive back shoulder pass to receiver Chris Moore for 36 yards in that same drive. Baltimore is still Joe Flacco’s team, but it was promising to see growth from the rookie in his second preseason game. The Ravens gave Jackson a significant amount of playing time and kept him in the game until eight minutes left in the third quarter.
Baltimore gave rookie wide receivers Jordan Lasley and undrafted Janarion Grant reps in the first half before putting in former first round pick Breshad Perriman in the second half. Perriman has been an injury-prone bust in his first three seasons, and he’s on his last chance to show he has a future in Baltimore. It’s telling that the team decided to take a look at rookies before Perriman. Perriman had a nice catch-and-run for 19 yards from RGIII for a first down, something he’ll need to show more of to salvage his career. — KK
Packers 31, Titans 17
As mentioned in our training camp report from Nashville, it was important not to sink the offense too much for their struggles against the Titans defense for reasons that included not being able to establish a ground game. Tennessee did just that in its only series with the first-team offense. There was a healthy dose of Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis and a Marcus Mariota scramble that helped open up the passing game in the nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive. (Bonus note: The Titans are going to have some decisions to make at receiver during roster cutdowns, but fourth-year player Nick Williams impressed me. Not only did he haul in the 38-yard third-down pass from Mariota, but he was key in the four-yard touchdown pass as the pick player where he wisely did not touch the defender.) — Jonathan Jones
Texans 17, Chiefs 10
The Chiefs essentially exchanged Marcus Peters for Kendall Fuller, and Kansas City is lucky to have at least one cornerback position figured out because the other one is still up for grabs. Steven Nelson, the favorite to win CB2, slipped on a Sammie Coates route on third-and-five where Coates got six yards. He gave up another third-down conversion to Troymaine Pope, who was waiting on the Brandon Weeden pass just past the sticks. David Amerson, the best challenge to Nelson, was called for a weak holding penalty on third down and defensive pass interference two plays later. All four of these plays came on the 11-play touchdown drive engineered by Weeden that got tight end Jordan Akins his second touchdown of the night. — JJ
Colts 19, Seahawks 17
Andrew Luck appeared in live action for the first time in nearly 600 days Thursday, and yes, he get hit. During the opening drive, the Colts quarterback scrambled towards the first-down marker, only to get taken down by Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. “That was probably the most excited I’ve ever been to get hit,” Luck said afterwards. “It was pretty cool... take the hit, realize I’m OK, then just get up and go.” Next up on fans’ wish list: a deep ball. The biggest story for Seattle was rookie Shaquem Griffin, who made his NFL debut covering the opening kickoff and was involved in every tackle over his first four snaps on defense. — Jacob Feldman
49ers 24, Cowboys 21
Could Michael Gallup be the man to replace Dez Bryant? Far too soon to say, but the third-round pick has been garnering headlines during Cowboys training camp, and that won’t change after he snagged a 30-yard touchdown reception from Dak Prescott on the QB’s only drive Thursday. Meanwhile, the talk in San Francisco today centers around the number of injuries sustained by 49ers. Tight end George Kittle and running back Matt Breida are expected to miss time with shoulder injuries, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas left the game with a concussion and linebacker Malcolm Smith was forced to sit due to a hamstring injury. — JF