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Insights, Takeaways and Observations From Thursday’s NFL Preseason Week 1 Games

The first batch of the NFL’s exhibition games gave us first glimpses at highly touted rookies, old faces in new places and re-tooled teams. A few thoughts on Thursday night’s 11 preseason games.

The first full week of the NFL preseason kicked off with 11 games on Thursday night. Sure, these games don’t mean anything in the long run (unless you’re Bill Belichick, who’s known to watch the full slate of exhibition games), but here are a few initial takeaways from each team’s first 60 minutes of football.

Giants 31, Jets 22

It was a good night for young quarterbacks. Sam Darnold, last year’s third overall draft pick, recovered after his first pass was deflected and nearly intercepted to lead a seven-play touchdown drive, looking comfortable in the designer route combinations that define Adam Gase’s shrewd system.

After three plays and zero first downs from Eli Manning, Daniel Jones, this year’s sixth overall draft pick, came in and orchestrated an eight-play touchdown drive, capped by a 12-yard score from wideout Benny Fowler. And so here comes a week of Giants fans saying, “I know it was just the preseason, but...” and then riffing prematurely about how Jones should replace Manning, even though as recently as 24 hours ago, many of those same fans would have told you the Giants screwed the pooch by drafting the Duke passer too high. — Andy Benoit

Browns 30, Redskins 10

Sort of a terrifying start for those who feel this Browns team was merely an overhyped production of free agency. Baker Mayfield’s only series began with an incomplete pass before plays of 11 yards, 14 yards, 12 yards, 14 yards, 14 yards and a well-placed 24-yard touchdown. This was as good an offense as we saw on Thursday night, and while Cleveland was working against a vanilla Washington defense, they were flexing some of their deeper options beyond their star wide receivers. — Conor Orr

Patriots 31, Lions 3

N’Keal Harry was the best contested-ball catcher coming out of college this past spring, and he’s continuing that early in the preseason. He showed off his catch radius on his first reception and his 50/50 skills on the second, and the Arizona State product finished the night with 36 yards on those two catches. You hate seeing Jermaine Kearse go down with a broken leg that very well could end his season just five plays into the preseason. Kearse was looking to get back to his 2017 ways before getting rolled up on while blocking. And finally, seeing Matt Patricia do his best to get a bird’s-eye view atop pads behind a Gatorade cooler was interesting to see. The second-year head coach is still recovering from Achilles’ tendon surgery but wanted to be on the field. It’s doubtful he’ll keep the perch once healthy, but it’s fair to wonder if he begins to favor the unique vantage point. — Jonathan Jones

Panthers 23, Bears 13

Ron Rivera iced the Bears kicker in a meaningless preseason game. It was déjà vu in Chicago, as the kicker in question, Elliott Fry, was attempting a 43-yard field goal into the north end zone. The only difference between this attempt and Parkey’s infamous double-doink was the hash, Fry lined up on the left hash, and Parkey had been on the right. Rivera smiled on his sideline as he called a timeout, likely knowing he was doing his part in the Bears in their exhaustive evaluation of the two kickers left on the roster. Fry made his 43-yard field goal, while the other kicker Eddy Pineiro, missed on a 48-yard attempt.

Chicago’s rookie running back David Montgomery scored his first NFL touchdown and set up the touchdown play with a 23-yard catch and run where he spun past a couple Panthers defenders. Montgomery’s elusivity and ability to rack up yards after contact was on full display.

For Carolina, rookie pass rusher Brian Burns started the game and made an immediate impact, sacking Bears QB Chase Daniel twice early in the game. QB Kyle Allen started the game and rookie QB Will Grier got his first NFL action in the second quarter and played through most of the third quarter for the Panthers. Allen went 7-11 for 76 yards in his effort to claim Carolina’s backup job. Grier threw one touchdown pass to rookie running back Evander Holyfield and also threw a pick to Bears safety Deon Bush. — Kalyn Kahler

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Bills 24, Colts 16

Thursday night wasn’t perfect for Buffalo QB Josh Allen, but you could 100% see the vision that GM Brandon Beane, coach Sean McDermott and OC Brian Daboll had for the offense around him this offseason. Allen worked the ball to John Brown, Cole Beasley, Zay Jones and Frank Gore in the passing game, took the easy completions in front of him, with shots downfield sprinkled in during the two series he played. He misfired on a couple (he overthrew one deep to Jones, missed another on a deep comeback to Brown), but looked under control for the most part in working every part of the field. And rookie back Devin Singletary’s worth keeping an eye on. The Bills defense looked solid too, but that’s with the caveat that it was hard to get sort of read on an Indianapolis team that sat a boatload of starters on both sides of the ball. — Albert Breer


Dolphins 34, Falcons 27

I won’t sit here and condemn the Dolphins offensive line after one week of the preseason, but last night wasn’t encouraging. Despite shaky protection in front of him, Josh Rosen had confidence in the pocket, completing 13 of 20 for 191 yards and an interception, and his grasp of the offense feels on-par with what we've always heard about his football IQ. I’d be surprised if he didn't win this job over Ryan Fitzpatrick by Week 1. On the Falcons’ sideline, I enjoyed Dirk Koetter’s debut as offensive coordinator—looks like he and Matt Ryan are going to make beautiful music. — Robert Klemko

Titans 27, Eagles 10

With three catches for 50 yards in the first half, Philadelphia TE Dallas Goedert looks ready to make a leap in Year 2. He’s good enough to be a team’s No. 1 tight end so the Eagles are blessed to have him paired with Zach Ertz. The Titans have had a different leading receiver each of the past three seasons and 2019 may make four if Marcus Mariota continues to target new Titans WR Adam Humphries the way he did Thursday. (Yes, Corey Davis will have something to say about that.) And yikes, Adoree Jackson, who got burnt by final-roster longshot Marken Michel for a 75-yard touchdown. — J.J.

Ravens 29, Jaguars 0

There weren’t very many revelations to be seen from the Ravens’ revolutionary offense on Thursday night, which is probably what we should’ve expected (no need for Baltimore to spill any beans in games that don’t count). We did see a heavy dose of the shotgun and pistol-option looks in the running game, which Lamar Jackson ran last year, and what looked like a real effort to get the ball out quick, via play-action, in the passing game. Jackson’s accuracy was a little up-and-down through the three series he played—his first throw of the night was a 30-yard beauty to Chris Moore, but he was scattershot from there. And as you’d guess, we didn’t see much of Jackson as a runner in this one. And the Jaguars? Their DNP list had a lot of projected Week 1 starters on it. So hard to take much from their night here. — Breer

Packers 28, Texans 26

Rashan Gary didn’t light up the stat sheet on Thursday, but I think his debut was promising. Once his rolodex of pass rush moves increases, this should be a difficult, 3-4 defensive end to slow down. The Texans ran boot action right at him on the first play and a stretch run on the second (Gary made a second-chance play there). I could argue that on both of his first two plays he drew what some referees might consider holding penalties. DeShone Kizer also had a nice showing aided by a gutsy catch from 5' 10" first-year rookie Darrius Shepherd. — C.O.

Cardinals 17, Chargers 13

Kyler Murray made his NFL game debut, leading one offensive drive that started at his team’s own two-yard-line. The Cardinals didn’t score on the drive, but the No. 1 overall pick looked like he belonged leading the offense. He completed six of his seven passes for 55 yards and demonstrated the abilities that made him a Heisman Trophy winner: Accuracy and zip on his passes, including when throwing on the run, and the escapability that helped him avoid contact at Oklahoma. Kliff Kingsbury kept the offensive vanilla, as is standard for the preseason, but he mixed in a run-pass option that resulted in a one-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald. — Jenny Vrentas

Seahawks 22, Broncos 14

Drew Lock improved from his shaky performance in the Hall of Fame game, taking the bulk of the reps for the Broncos and completing 17 of 28 passes for 180 yards with one TD and one INT. Lock made some standout throws, including a perfectly placed toss to TE Troy Fumagelli on a third-and-long. But the star of the night was Seahawks QB, and former Broncos first-round pick, Paxton Lynch. He was impressive both throwing (11-of-15 for 109 yards and one TD) and running (38 rushing yards and one TD) in a performance that gave his former team something to think about. — J.V.

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