NFL Training Camp and Preseason Notes: McCaffrey Makes His Mark

Ten teams took the field Friday night for their second preseason games, leading to an interesting mix of standout performances, the advancing of position battles, and one key injury. There were also some health updates on notable skill players from a few training camp sites, making it quite the news day and night. With a lot to sift through, let’s jump right into the latest as the regular season draws ever closer!

Around the AFC

Bills: Buffalo’s heated quarterback competition may have lost one of its participants for an extended period in Friday night’s preseason battle against the Browns, as A.J. McCarron suffered a hairline fracture of his collarbone in the first quarter. The four-year veteran had started the game and completed three of six passes for 12 yards while also gaining six yards on one scramble. Nathan Peterman (8-for-10, 163 yards, one TD) and Josh Allen (9-for-13, 60 yards, one TD) will battle it out for the top spot over the remaining two preseason games if McCarron is indeed sidelined for multiple weeks as expected…LeSean McCoy got some work in (four carries, 11 yards), but the real story of the Bills backfield was Marcus Murphy, whose impressive push for a roster spot continued in fine fashion. Murphy turned four carries into 39 yards, and he’s now compiled 74 yards on the ground over the first two preseason contests… Zay Jones and Corey Coleman, both pushing for the No. 2 receiver job behind Kelvin Benjamin, secured a target each for single-digit yardage. Their battle may come down to the final preseason game…The receiving star of the night was actually a player whose roster spot had been rumored to be in jeopardy, tight end Nick O’ Leary. The fourth-year pro paced all pass catchers with four receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown as he looks to secure the No. 2 role behind starter Charles Clay.

Browns: On the opposite sideline, the intriguing battle between veteran Tyrod Taylor and first-round pick Baker Mayfield continued, with each posting serviceable numbers. Taylor started and led a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive on his first possession, a series that Carlos Hyde capped off with a four-yard touchdown. Taylor was only able to muster 22 yards through the air before exiting after three series. Mayfield then saw extended time and completed seven of 13 passes for 75 yards while adding nine more on the ground. Head coach Hue Jackson continues to maintain Taylor will start in Week 1, but it’s worth noting Mayfield hasn’t looked out of place over the first pair of exhibitions… The running backs grabbed their fair share of headlines as well, as both Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb gave an excellent accounting of themselves. Hyde parlayed nine carries into 64 yards and the aforementioned touchdown, ripping off a game-long 26-yard run along the way. Meanwhile, Chubb atoned for a miserable 15-carry, 11-yard night against the Giants in the preseason opener by gaining 53 yards and scoring once on 11 carries. A big chunk of his production came on two runs, however, as Chubb totaled 31 yards on a pair of his totes… Jarvis Landry has been getting plenty of Hard Knocks air time and standing out in training camp practices, but he couldn’t follow that up with any meaningful production Friday — he and Taylor failed to connect on their one attempt,

Chiefs: All eyes in Kansas City are rightfully on second-year gunslinger Patrick Mahomes, who’ll lead what should be a powerful Kansas City offense this season. Head coach Andy Reid had announced that he’d get his young quarterback plenty of work Friday, as he planned to play him the entire half. It’s a good thing that was the plan, as Mahomes and the Chiefs offense looked mostly sluggish during the majority of the first two quarters. Their entire outlook changed on one play shortly before halftime, however, as Mahomes hit Tyreek Hill for a 69-yard touchdown with 17 seconds remaining in the second period… Part of Kansas City’s struggles involved the running game, as Kareem Hunt was stymied by the Falcons’ front to the tune of just 15 yards on seven carries, although he did secure both of his targets for 24 yards… Hill’s 4-87-1 line made him the leader of the receiving corps, although Travis Kelce was solid as well with two receptions for 27 yards. One player whose night went nowhere near as well was Sammy Watkins, who couldn’t come up with any of his three targets and saw one of them get intercepted. The rapport — or lack thereof — between Mahomes and Watkins will be one to continue monitoring heading into next week’s “dress rehearsal” game against the Bears.

Colts: With Marlon Mack sidelined multiple weeks with a hamstring injury that could extend past the season opener, the Colts are faced with the task of accelerating the learning curve of two rookie running backs in Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines. To that end, Wilkins took first-team reps in Friday’s practice, although Hines and veteran Christine Michael also had their turns with the starters. That rotational process is likely to continue, with Michael likely hanging on to a roster spot until the exact return timeline for Mack can be established. All three backs should see their fair share of work in Monday night’s home matchup against the Ravens.

Dolphins: Despite a 27-20 loss, head coach Adam Gase had to be pleased with much of what he saw Friday from his short-handed first-team offense. Ryan Tannehill kept it conservative, but the fact he completed 14 of 17 passes was encouraging, especially considering he played without DeVante Parker (hand) and Kenny Stills (ankle, calf). Tannehill averaged only 5.9 yards per attempt on his way to 114 yards for the night, but he showed solid rapport with Albert Wilson (five receptions on seven targets for 39 yards) and the emerging Jakeem Grant (four receptions on five targets for 45 yards)…  Meanwhile, Kenyan Drake saw a robust workload and performed well with it, rushing eight times for 54 yards (6.8 yards per carry). Despite the presence of the ageless Frank Gore on the roster, Drake is still expected to log greater than 50 percent of the carries this season, and he appears to be gearing up nicely for lead-back duties… One area of at least mild concern is tight end, where second-round rookie Mike Gesicki wasn’t targeted despite drawing the start. Despite some solid practice performances, the Penn State product is still without a catch through two preseason games.

Around the NFC

Cardinals: After two preseason games, it’s likely safe to say David Johnson is back and as impressive as ever. The fourth-year back is playing with the fresh legs that a year off due to a wrist injury afforded him, as he carried multiple players into the end zone with him on his nine-yard touchdown. Johnson has gained 50 yards on eight preseason totes thus far, and he’ll reportedly see even more than the three series he logged Friday in next week’s dress rehearsal game… Johnson wasn’t the only member of the Cardinals’ first-team offense to stand out Friday, however, as Sam Bradford was razor-sharp while completing all six of his attempts for 69 yards. With Mike Glennon battling a forearm injury, rookie Josh Rosen took advantage and completed 10 of 16 passes for 107 yards and a 13-yard scoring connection with fellow first-year hopeful Christian Kirk… Speaking of Kirk, the second-round pick is expected to play a sizable role in the Cardinals offense this season, so his 4-49-1 line on the night that paced Arizona pass catchers was certainly something for the coaching staff to smile about.

Eagles: The reigning champs’ quarterback situation is far from unsettled in a long-term sense, but it was looking increasingly shaky Thursday night after valued backup Nick Foles suffered a shoulder injury against the Patriots. However, further testing performed on Friday revealed what was termed a “minor” injury that reportedly shouldn’t require extensive recovery time. While third quarterback Nate Sudfeld turned in another impressive preseason outing versus New England (22-for-39, 312 yards, three TD, one INT), the Eagles undoubtedly would feel exponentially better if it was evident that Foles was ready to roll well before the season opener on Sept. 6 against the Falcons, considering Carson Wentz (knee) is still less than certain for that contest.

RotoWire has the best fantasy football tools on the web.
Get Our 2018 NFL Draft Kit Now

Falcons: A forgettable exhibition opener gave way to a much more encouraging performance for the Falcons offense Friday. After getting shut out 17-0 by the Jets, Matt Ryan was able to lead a scoring drive against the Chiefs and completed five of seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown overall. The fact he was still playing without Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman made it all the more impressive, and his chemistry with third-year tight end Austin Hooper (two receptions, 33 yards, one touchdown) and first-round pick Calvin Ridley (three catches, 50 yards, one touchdown, including a 36-yard reception from a Ryan target) was particularly encouraging… Tevin Coleman once again had first-team work to himself with Freeman sitting, and he looked sharp while turning five carries into 35 yards.

Giants: The Giants played it safe with many of their front-line players again Friday, rolling out a first-team offense that was missing multiple big names. Sterling Shepard (one reception, 27 yards) and Evan Engram (two receptions, 12 yards) were two regulars present and accounted for, but Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. both sat for precautionary reasons. Prized first-round pick Saquon Barkley was in street clothes as well, although his absence was officially due to a hamstring injury that head coach Pat Shurmur does not want to take any chances with. Barkley may not make another preseason appearance, although that remains far from certain… In Barkley’s absence, worth noting that it was second-year back Wayne Gallman and not veteran offseason acquisition Jonathan Stewart who stood out the most. Gallman scored through both the ground and air while compiling 35 total yards on seven touches.

Lions: Head coach Matt Patricia didn’t play any games where Matthew Stafford was concerned this time around, following an exhibition opener where the latter suited up but never saw the field. The 30-year-old worked three series, completing two of five passes for 51 yards and taking a pair of sacks while also fumbling once, but seeing it recovered… A bulk of Stafford’s passing yardage — 42, to be exact — came on a nifty catch-and-run by Theo Riddick, who was making his preseason debut after sitting out the opener. Riddick totaled 50 yards overall on three receptions, and even though he has some competition this season in the form of impressive rookie Kerryon Johnson (four carries for nine yards and one catch for 10 yards), he outperformed the latter Friday due to his pass-catching acumen. Ultimately, Johnson will likely threaten LeGarrette Blount’s touches more so than those of Riddick, who’s slated to primarily serve in his usual pass-receiving capacity… As far as notable Lions pass catchers, both Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay, who’s expected to play a bigger role his season, each logged a pair of receptions. Golden Tate played but failed to come up with his sole target.

Panthers: Christian McCaffrey was the subject of criticism after a rookie campaign that many found underwhelming on the rushing front, but he provided a tangible reminder of what he’s capable of doing with a little running room Friday. The second-year pro ripped off a 71-yard touchdown off right guard on his way to a 92-yard night on the ground, a total he supplemented with 28 receiving yards..It was a banner night overall for the Carolina rushing attack against a Miami defense that seemed incapable of slowing them down regardless of which unit they had on the field. Former Eagle Kenjon Barner garnered 72 yards on five rushes, while offseason veteran acquisition C.J. Anderson gained a solid 39 yards on eight rushes… Cam Newton was sharp in his own right, connecting on nine of 12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Curtis Samuel (two receptions, 65 yards), Devin Funchess (one reception, 13 yards), Greg Olsen (one catch, five yards) and Torrey Smith (one reception, 12 yards) were members of the Panthers’ pass-catching corps that showed up on the stat sheet… Promising rookie D.J. Moore failed to come up with either of his two targets.

Saints: Drew Brees unsurprisingly remained a non-participant for the Saints in Friday night’s proceedings, leaving backups Taysom Hill, Tom Savage and J.T. Barrett IV to handle quarterbacking duties. Hill threw two interceptions but put his considerable rushing skills on display by gaining 43 yards on three rushes. Savage was steadier on the passing front (6-for-7, 53 yards) but he couldn’t get the offense in the end zone… The running game enjoyed a successful night, even without the resting Alvin Kamara. Mark Ingram, who’ll serve a four-game suspension to open the regular season, gained 36 yards on seven carries, while Jonathan Williams was able to add 37 yards on eight carries. Williams appears to be well on his way to securing a roster spot to at least open the season while Ingram serves his four-game ban… Don’t look now, but third-round pick Tre’Quan Smith continues to make a strong case for himself. Smith led all pass catchers with 60 yards on the night, which he garnered on the strength of three receptions. That follows a four-catch, 48-yard tally in the exhibition opener, as well as some impressive training camp practices. Smith has benefited to an extent from the cautious route the Saints have taken with Cameron Meredith, who suffered multiple ligament tears in his knee last preseason with the Bears. Notably, Meredith did get on the field Friday but couldn’t bring in his only target.

Seahawks: Encouraging running back news has been somewhat of a rarity in the Pacific Northwest for a couple of seasons now, but the Seahawks received some Friday, even if it was a bit on the modest side. Rookie Rashaad Penny, nursing a finger injury that’s expected to keep him out for the next 3-4 weeks, participated in a walkthrough for Saturday’s preseason contest against the Chargers. It’ll be a close call for Penny to be ready for the regular-season opener, but he’s naturally expected to play a significant role in this year’s offense alongside presumed starter (for the time being at least) Chris Carson… Meanwhile, head coach Pete Carroll provided an update on another key injured offensive asset in Doug Baldwin, stating that he’s still expecting the sidelined receiver to be ready to take the field Week 1. An issue nebulously described as “knee soreness” has sidelined Baldwin for the almost the entirety of camp, but he was seen running sprints on the side Thursday, certainly an indication of progress.