The first multi-game night of preseason unfolded Thursday, providing plenty of news around the league. Notable rookies such as No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray and Ohio State alum Dwayne Haskins took the first official game snaps of their pro careers, while a number of other players made their initial cases for jobs or moves up the depth chart. With plenty to discuss, let’s dive right in!
Around the AFC
QB Joe Flacco finally saw his first taste of game action in a uniform other than that of the Ravens, as he played the first series of the Broncos’ 22-14 loss to the Seahawks on Thursday. Flacco completed three of four attempts for 19 yards, with his only misfire coming on his final attempt, which was in the direction of Courtland Sutton…RB Royce Freeman outshined Phillip Lindsay (four carries, 10 yards) in this one, ripping off a game-long 50-yard run. There may be more of a timeshare between the two backs this coming season after Lindsay surprisingly took the reins of the starting job in 2018… Rookie quarterback Drew Lock saw extensive action again, completing 17 of 28 passes for 180 yards with a touchdown and interception while adding three carries for 11 yards.
WRs Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry didn’t log any snaps, but there were plenty of other prominent offensive players in uniform for the Browns during their 30-10 rout of the Redskins on Thursday. That included QB Baker Mayfield, who completed five of six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in an opening drive that ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass to WR Rashard Higgins…That was far from Higgins’ only highlight of the night, as the fourth-year pro led all pass catchers with 98 receiving yards…RB Nick Chubb also saw game action and had 26 yards on two total touches, while WR Antonio Callaway finished with a 3-42 line.
RB Austin Ekeler short-circuited the Chargers’ first drive with a fumble on the Cardinals’ two-yard line, but he otherwise was very effective while spelling the absent Melvin Gordon (holdout). Ekeler finished with 40 yards on five rushes and added three catches for 29 yards. It was a performance befitting the efficiency Ekeler has typically shown over his first two seasons in the league… Fellow back Justin Jackson, who had 341 total yards from scrimmage in his rookie 2018 campaign, finished with 22 yards on five rushes…TE Hunter Henry recorded two receptions, his first stats in a game of any kind since December 2017 after missing all of last regular season and playing only 11 snaps in the AFC Championship Game last January.
The quarterback competition between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen moved onto the playing field Thursday, and Rosen in particular gave a solid accounting of himself. The 2018 first-round pick threw for 191 yards and added a six-yard rush in extended action. Fitzpatrick only played early and was 2-for-5 for 20 yards through the air while adding seven yards on the ground…In the equally tight running back battle, Kalen Ballage (6-23-1) gained a slight edge for the night over Kenyan Drake (4-12), with neither player showing up in the passing game. Like the QB competition, the lead-back role could be up for grabs until the last preseason game, although both players should see plenty of carries during the season.
Big things are expected in Year 2 from QB Sam Darnold, and he set a positive tone in the preseason opener. Darnold led a crisp opening drive, completing four of five passes for 68 yards and encouragingly connecting with offseason acquisition Jamison Crowder for a three-yard touchdown to cap it off. The connection between the two players figures to be pivotal to the Jets’ chances of success this coming season.
With many of New England’s front-line players sitting out Thursday, undrafted WR Jakobi Meyers took full advantage. Meyers finished with six receptions for 69 yards and two touchdowns to lead all pass catchers. With the defending champs’ receiver corps a bit thin this summer, Meyers should have plenty more opportunities to make a case for a roster spot in upcoming exhibitions…Another first-year wideout with a bit more college pedigree is Patriots’ first-round pick N’Keal Harry, who generated a 2-36 line in the first half.
QB Marcus Mariota got some game action right from the jump of the preseason Thursday, completing four of eight passes for 24 yards before exiting. However, his capable backups were the story, as Ryan Tannehill (12-for-16, 130 yards, two TDs) and former AAF signal-caller Logan Woodside (15-for-20, 138 yards, two TDs) both were very sharp while piling up some points…Offseason acquisition Adam Humphries showed good rapport with Mariota early, making four grabs and getting targeted on six occasions overall.
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Around the NFC
QB Kyler Murray‘s highly anticipated debut didn’t disappoint. The top overall pick completed six of seven passes for 44 yards while playing the first series of Arizona’s 17-13 win over the Chargers. Murray was thrust right into “Air Raid” offense, running plays out of multiple formations. The rookie looked comfortable in his first taste of game action and is likely slated for a nice bump in the 10 snaps he saw Thursday during next week’s game against the Raiders…Murray wasn’t the only star offensive player on the field for the Cards in the preseason opener, as RB David Johnson played the opening series and gained four yards on two carries while also catching a 14-yard pass.
There was no Carson Wentz under center for the Birds on Thursday, but experienced backup Nate Sudfeld created some fireworks in a 27-10 loss to the Titans. Sudfield connected with Sony Michel’s brother and former CFL star wideout Marken Michel for a 75-yard touchdown for Philadelphia’s only score of the game. Unfortunately, Sudfeld also suffered a broken left wrist in the fourth quarter and is slated for surgery Friday morning… RB Jordan Howard logged three carries for eight yards in his Eagles debut, while second-round pick Miles Sanders had a quiet first game with just three yards on three rushes…Besides Michel, promising second-year tight end Dallas Goedert (3-50) and rookie fourth-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (2-23) were reasonably productive on their combined nine targets.
QB Daniel Jones was overshadowed by both Murray and Dwayne Haskins during the draft process, but he’s essentially been drawing just as many positive reviews since earlier this spring. He delivered on some of that practice-field promise Thursday in the Giants’ preseason opener against the Jets, going 5-for-5 for 67 yards and a touchdown in a crisp possession that culminated in a 12-yard touchdown reception by WR Bennie Fowler… Jones’ play was the most notable headline of the 31-22 victory, as Sterling Shepard (finger) and Saquon Barkley (coach’s decision) sat and Golden Tate had just one reception for 11 yards in his official team debut.
Thursday’s preseason opener was a night that head coach Matt Patricia and the rest of his charges would likely just as soon forget. Not only was Detroit drubbed to the tune of a 31-3 score by the New England Patriots, they also lost WR Jermaine Kearse, who suffered a broken leg early in the game and had to be carted off the field in an air cast. Kearse was a key veteran offseason addition who posted a career-best 65-810-1 line with the Jets in 2018.
Haskins also took the field for the first time Thursday, but his results were slightly less impressive than Murray’s or Jones’. Haskins threw a pair of interceptions as part of a 117-yard passing night against the Browns, one of which qualified as a pick-six. The Ohio State product’s hiccups aren’t necessarily surprising, and he certainly had his share of positives as well, including 17 rushing yards on two carries. Haskins will look to continue building a case for a potential starting job to open the season in coming exhibitions.