With four teams playing games and the remainder of the NFL in practice, this Saturday brought no shortage of news to round out preseason Week 1. We’ll cover the important takeaways from the games here, including Kirk Cousin’s first snaps as a Viking and the return of David Johnson, but first let’s go over some quick-hitting developments from around the league.
Steelers: Antonio Brown returned to practice after sitting out the team’s preseason opener on Thursday with a quadriceps injury. Even if the team decides to exercise caution and limit Brown in future preseason games, it doesn’t seem that the 30-year-old’s regular season status is in doubt. Even were Brown not to play a snap in the preseason, he would remain the top receiving option in fantasy. Vance McDonald, seemingly the team’s No. 1 tight end, did not practice Saturday due to an unspecified foot injury.
Rams: The team placed cornerback Kevin Peterson, who tore his ACL in Thurday’s preseason game against the Ravens, on Injured Reserve. Peterson had preformed admirably in limited snaps last season, with six appearances and one start, but unfortunately the second-year undrafted free agent’s 2018 season ends here.
Cowboys: Marcus Martin, a reserve at both the guard and center positions, will require surgery to address a ligament tear in his toe. The Dallas O-line remains one of the top groups in the league, and the news of Martin’s injury shouldn’t have any large impact on the group’s ranking, but losing depth is never a good thing. Cole Beasley, who sat out Thursday’s preseason opener, remained sidelined today with a groin injury. Dallas’ WR group is one of the thinnest in the league, so it’s likely that the team is simply taking a cautionary approach to handling the veteran WR’s recuperation.
Jaguars: Dante Fowler, the third overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, was activated from the active/PUP list and participated in Saturday’s practice. Fowler will still sit out the Jaguar’s Week 1 game against the Giants due to a suspension received for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Still, it’s encouraging that the 24-year-old is already ready to practice after an undisclosed upper-body injury sidelined him in June. Second-year wideout Keelan Cole also returned to practice, having apparently overcome the foot issue that kept him out of Thursday’s preseason opener. Cole logged the third most receiving yards of any rookie WR in 2017, and seems on track to earn a full time starting job this season.
Redskins: Rookie defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne, who had missed the last two weeks due to an ankle injury, returned to practice Saturday. Washington expects the first-rounder to contribute heavily as a rookie, and the 21-year-old’s return to the field is a good sign. Unfortunately, 2017 sixth-rounder Robert Davis suffered a torn LCL and broken leg at Saturday’s practice. The second-year wideout will spend the 2018 season on IR, and could reasonably face difficulty in returning from the injury.
Titans: The fifth overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, Corey Davis returned to practice Saturday. The second-year breakout candidate had sat out Thursday’s preseason contest against the Packers due to an undisclosed injury, but Davis seems on track to make his preseason debut next Saturday against the Buccaneers. Considering the fact that fellow wide receiver Rishard Matthews remains on the PUP list, the Titans could simply have been handling Davis’ situation with caution.
And without further ado, let’s break down today’s preseason games.
Cardinals: The team’s first offensive drive of the season ended in a touchdown against the Chargers, but more importantly: David Johnson looked good. Having ended the 2017 season in Week 1 due to a wrist injury, Johnson returned to the field with two carries for 28 yards. Despite being a small sample size, this was exactly the first step that Johnson needed to take in proving his return to full health. Sam Bradford threw only one pass, a six yard dump off to TE Ricky Seals-Jones. Seals-Jones has been talked up as a red zone threat all offseason, and today’s usage may give some credence to those claims. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen looked up-and-down, going 6-of-13 for 41 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions. Rosen’s snaps all came behind a second-team O-line, however, which was a notable downgrade from the group protecting Sam Bradford.
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Chargers: The Chargers team fielded this Saturday had little similarity to their expected Week 1 lineup, lacking nearly all the team’s stars including Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen and Joey Bosa. Backup quarterback Geno Smith impressed against second and third-string defenses, completing 14-of-23 passes for 218 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Cardale Jones was outplayed by Geno, but the backup quarterback battle poses to continue deep into the preseason. Austin Ekeler shone in today’s opportunity, logging five carries for 22 yards and two receptions for 42 yards. Ekeler seems locked in to begin the season as the No. 2 running back behind workhorse Melvin Gordon.
Vikings: Kirk Cousins debut as a Viking showcased exactly why the team considered him worth an $84 million dollar contract. Cousins completed all four of his passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, including a jaw-dropping 28-yard dime to Stefon Diggs in a narrow window for completion. Diggs logged three receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown, and showed obvious chemistry with Cousins. Running back Dalvin Cook, who tore his left ACL ten months ago, did not dress for the game. In Cook’s place, veteran RB Latavius Murray rushed for 48 yards on four carries. Murray does not seem to have lost the running ability he showcased last season, and seems primed for a role in the offense even if Cook is able to make a full return.
Broncos: Rookie running back Royce Freeman was the bright spot in an otherwise unimpressive Broncos offense, rushing for 38 yards and a touchdown on four carries. Considering Freeman’s third round draft capital and strong debut, the 22-year-old seems likely to push for the Week 1 starting job. On the other hand, the team’s quarterback group struggled mightily. Case Keenum completed only one pass on two drives, a five yard short toss to Demaryius Thomas. Paxton Lynch looked similarly poor, completing 6-of-11 passes for 24 yards and an interception. Only Chad Kelly put up admirable numbers, with 177 yards and two touchdowns, against a third-team Vikings defense. With three preseason games to play, of course, there remains plenty of time for the team to correct their play and turn things around.