[ad_1]

After teasing us with the Hall of Fame game, the first full week of preseason football officially kicks off on Thursday with a total of 24 teams in action. 

For Week 1 of the preseason, the NFL‘s spotlight is going to be on the quarterback position, and that’s because nearly a dozen teams will be going into their first preseason game with some major intrigue at the position.  

Not only will we see multiple rookies making their debut this week, including Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, but we’re also going to find out if there’s any rust on Andrew Luck or Ryan Tannehill. It’s been more than 500 days since either quarterback has played in a game, and both are in action on Thursday. 

Keep reading for all the scores, highlights and takeaways from the first week of the preseason (If you click on the GameTracker links below, you can see all the stats from each game). 

Scores and schedule

Thursday
Panthers 28, Bills 23 (box score)
Bengals 30, Bears 27 (box score)
Buccaneers 26, Dolphins 24 (box score)
Browns 20, Giants 10 (box score)
Steelers 31, Eagles 14 (box score)
Saints 24, Jaguars 20 (box score)
Patriots 26, Redskins 17 (box score)
Ravens 33, Rams 7 (box score)
Titans at Packers (GameTracker)
Texans at Chiefs (GameTracker)
Cowboys at 49ers (GameTracker)
Colts at Seahawks (GameTracker)

Friday
Falcons at Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network (GameTracker)
Lions at Raiders, 10:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network (GameTracker)

Saturday
Vikings at Broncos, 9:05 p.m. ET, NFL Network (GameTracker)
Chargers at Cardinals, 10 p.m. ET (GameTracker)

Tyrod Taylor show us why he’s the Browns’ starter

Most viewers probably tuned in to watch No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield make his preseason debut with the Browns, but before Mayfield could take the field near the end of the first quarter, Tyrod Taylor provided a brief but loud reminder that the Browns’ starting quarterback job belongs to him.

Taylor, acquired via trade this offseason, was brought to Cleveland to be the team’s bridge starter until Mayfield is ready to take over. By the look of it, Taylor isn’t going to relinquish his grip on the starting job before the start of the regular season. Against an awful-looking Giants defense, Taylor helmed two series, the first of which ended in a punt, the second of which ended in the end zone. 

In all, Taylor went a perfect 5 of 5 for 99 yards. His night ended with a 36-yard touchdown to tight end David Njoku.

It was a beauty. As you can see below, Taylor recognized that a linebacker in the middle of the field was assigned to cover Njoku in the slot. Due to the positioning of the slower linebacker, Taylor knew Njoku had the advantage as he sprinted up the seam. The linebacker tried to cover the distance between them, but with Njoku running vertical, he couldn’t stop the downfield route. That’s an easy read, one you’d expect a veteran like Taylor to make. And the throw was perfect.

Earlier in the game, on the Browns’ first series, Taylor connected with Jarvis Landry deep down the sideline for a 32-yard strike. 

It’s only the preseason, but that might be the best quarterback play Cleveland has seen in, well, forever. And that’s why the Browns are happy to start Taylor before giving the job to Mayfield.

Mayfield impressive in debut, throws two touchdowns

After Taylor demonstrated why he’s going to be the Browns’ opening day starter, Mayfield reminded everyone why he went first overall in this year’s draft. Mayfield might not be the Browns’ starter yet, but he definitely doesn’t look like he needs to spend a significant portion of his rookie season on the bench.

In his preseason debut on Thursday, Mayfield took over for Taylor on the Browns’ third series of the game. He stayed in until midway through the fourth quarter. His final numbers were impressive: 11 of 20 for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and a 125.4 passer rating. He added 13 yards on the ground.

His first touchdown, which came in the second quarter, was impressive because you could see Mayfield work his way through his reads — from right to left and back to the right again — until he settled on Njoku in the back of the end zone. 

His second touchdown was a dart on a slant that rookie Antonio Callaway turned into a 54-yard touchdown.

Mayfield wasn’t perfect, but he looked composed throughout the night, flashing the traits that made him the first pick. Here he is stepping up in the pocket in the face of pressure, maneuvering within the pocket, and eventually escaping to pick up a third-down conversion.

Here he is going back shoulder for a 26-yard completion.

And here is making something out of nothing.

To put it simply, Mayfield looks NFL ready. That doesn’t mean he won’t experience growing pains when he does see the field during a meaningful football game. That doesn’t mean we should make too big of a deal out of a Week 1 preseason game against the Giants. It just means that Mayfield looks like he belongs in the NFL. And that alone should be encouraging for Cleveland considering its history with quarterbacks.

Not every rookie can step in and immediately look like an NFL-caliber player. Mayfield did.

And now, it’s worth wondering: After spending eternity without one, do the Browns suddenly have two good quarterbacks?

Saquon Barkley gets off to big start against Browns

The game between the Giants and Browns marked the first time in NFL history that the top two picks from a draft made their preseason debuts against each other, and fittingly, the two rookies met up on the field before the game. 

Of course, the biggest cheer of the night in New York went to Barkley, who started off the game and his NFL career with an impressive 39-yard run. On the Giants’ first play from scrimmage, Barkley showed why the team made him the second overall pick in the NFL Draft

Unfortunately, when you get off to a start like that, things usually only get worse, and that’s what happened with Barkley. The running back only totaled four more yards on his next four carries before exiting the game after two offensive possessions. Barkley ended his night with five carries for 43 yards. 

One player who didn’t help himself on Thursday was Giants backup quarterback Davis Webb. In the first half against Cleveland, Webb finished 8 of 20 for 70 yards as the Giants went three-and-out on three of his first four possessions. Webb took over for Eli Manning, who finished the game 4 of 7 for 26 yards. 

Watson’s return short and sweet; Mahomes gets rolling

The one thing we learned from Deshaun Watson’s return to the field on Thursday is that his surgically-repaired knee definitely looks healthy. However, that’s about all we learned, as Watson was only on the field for one offensive possession against the Chiefs. On that one series, Watson handed the ball of to Lamar Miller four times and completed one pass for four yards on a drive that ended with a Shane Lechler punt. Watson will likely see a lot more playing time when the Texans host the 49ers next week. 

As for Thursday’s game, Brandon Weeden did his best to try and start a quarterback controversy after Watson went out. Of course, Weeden’s never going to start over Watson, but he did look impressive against Kansas City. During his time on the field, Weeden went 9 of 11 for 97 yards and two touchdowns, a total that includes a six-yard TD pass to Jordan Akins that you can see below. 

The Texans-Chiefs game also featured Patrick Mahomes‘ first action since Andy Reid gave him the keys to the starting offense by trading Alex Smith. Although Mahomes put up decent numbers (5 of 7, 33 yards), he wasn’t able to move the Chiefs offense. During the two possessions that Mahomes was on the field, the Chiefs only tallied two first downs and they were forced to punt on both drives. 

Lamar Jackson makes his own highlight reel

After watching Lamar Jackson play against the Rams, Joe Flacco probably won’t be too worried about losing his starting job this year, but it’s easy to see why the Ravens want to get their rookie quarterback on the field this season. Although Jackson was somewhat erratic during his three quarters of action against Los Angeles, the rookie also showed off some of the flash that helped make him a first-round pick. Our NFL insider Jason La Canfora has a full report from Baltimore, but here are a few highlights from Jackson’s debut:

Jackson entered the game on the Ravens’ second offensive possession and then immediately hit Christopher Moore for a 36-yard gain on his first throw of the night. 

Three plays later, Jackson capped the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run where he managed to make half the Rams defense look absolutely silly. 

Jackson was good, but he wasn’t better than Flacco, who started the game for Baltimore and finished 5 of 7 for 71 yards and a touchdown. Flacco played the Ravens’ opening series and led his team on a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. 

Flacco sounded happy with the way the first-team offense played. 

“Listen, our guys are really showing up. We’ve had a great camp, and it was good to come out here and see it carry over into a game,” Flacco said. 

Although John Harbaugh said that Flacco is going to start this year, he’s also said that he’s going to do his best to make sure Jackson gets on the field

Kelvin Benjamin gets the last laugh on Cam Newton

The pregame situation in Buffalo got a little awkward on Thursday when Cam Newton decided to confront Kelvin Benjamin over some comments that the wide receiver made over the weekend. Basically, Benjamin said that he wished the Panthers hadn’t drafted him in 2014 and that he would have been successful over the past few years if he had been playing with any other quarterback. 

Those comments led to this pregame meeting between Benjamin and Newton. 

As it turns out though, Benjamin might have actually had a point, because he lit up his former team during a brief appearance on the field for the Bills.  

On Buffalo’s first possession of the game, Benjamin spearheaded an 85-yard touchdown drive by catching four passes for 59 yards. Benjamin’s biggest catch of the drive came on a third-and-4 play when he caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Peterman

He then celebrated the touchdown by doing a Lambeau-like leap at New Era Stadium.

Benjamin wasn’t the only Bills player who impressed on Thursday. In one quarter of action, Peterman went 9 of 10 for 119 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback’s only mistake in the game came near the end of the first quarter when he was picked off by Carolina’s Shaq Thompson. 

Josh Allen shows off big arm in up-and-down debut

The Bills traded up to draft Josh Allen, but they didn’t play him on Thursday night until after both Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron had their chances to submit their bids for the starting job. When Allen did enter the game, he didn’t waste any time advertising the one trait that made him a top-10 pick.

That trait is, of course, his cannon for an arm. On his first snap, he launched a ball 60 yards downfield, but the ball took the receiver out of bounds. It ended up being a common theme throughout Allen’s night. The crowd in Buffalo would go nuts whenever he uncorked his deep ball and showed off his inhuman arm strength, but the passes were always just a little bit off.

In the end, Allen didn’t provide much of a surprise in his debut. We knew he had an absolute laser, and he showed us that. We knew his timing and accuracy would be an issue, and they were. It’s not that Allen was horrible. It was an uneven debut that included some good and some bad, and plenty of entertainment.

He finished 9 of 19 for 116 yards and a touchdown. 

Ahead of Allen, Peterman actually enjoyed a successful outing, completing 9 of 10 passes for 119 yards, a touchdown, and a pick while McCarron went 7 of 10 for 116 yards. One of those two guys figures to win the starting job after the preseason while Allen continues his development process over the course of the season.

Andrew Luck is back

After missing all of the 2017 season with a shoulder injury, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck returned to the field against the Seahawks. In doing so, Luck provided proof that he’s actually healthy enough to take a snap, drop back to pass behind an offensive line blocking real life pass rushers, and throw an actual football. 

In his two series of action, Luck led the Colts to two field goals by completing 6 of 9 passes for 64 yards and a 87.3 passer rating. He took a sack, which usually isn’t a good thing, but it might be a good thing for Luck considering he hasn’t taken a real football hit since the 2016 season. 

On Thursday night, Luck briefly played football, and he survived. That might not seem like much, but for Luck and the Colts, it was the most important thing to happen against the Seahawks.

[ad_2]
Source link