With the NFL preseason nearly a done deal, players across the league have had enough opportunity to provide a sampling of performances to come once September arrives. During said opportunities, some players hit homers this summer, further distancing themselves ahead of their competition.
All the while, many players got stuck in the mud. Some even took several steps back, proving it really stinks to stink en route to competing for a more prominent role.
Among the touchdowns, broken tackles, sacks and interceptions, the following players have emerged as this preseason’s studs and duds.
Stud: Andy Dalton, quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton has been putting on quite the show, earning some high accolades the past few weeks. He closes the preseason in excellent standing, completing 71 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdowns. Even with an interception, Dalton earned a 130.9 quarterback rating, which fans can hang their hats on as September approaches. Let’s just hope the new leaf Dalton has turned is one he takes him into the regular season.
Dud: Nick Chubb, running back, Cleveland Browns
The highlight of Chubb’s preseason was the rushing touchdown he scored against the Bills in his second preseason game. Otherwise, Chubb has shown to be major work in progress. If he rests this week, Chubb will conclude his preseason with a total of 110 rushing yards managed at a painful 2.8 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the starting job seems to be Carlos Hyde’s to lose. He rushed at a stout pace of 6.4 yards per carry this preseason.
Stud: Christian McCaffrey, running back, Carolina Panthers
Showing up for the preseason more electric than ever, McCaffrey has looked sensational on the field. He has piled up a total of 224 yards, including an awesome 71-yard rushing touchdown that left his defenders in the dust. He looks every bit the real deal and his stock has skyrocketed when it comes to fantasy football projections. As such, look for McCaffrey to see a major uptick in his overall usage on the field this year.
Dud: Sean Mannion, quarterback, Los Angeles Rams
The Rams had better hope they do not need to call upon Mannion this fall. The 26-year-old backup to Jared Goff has been simply atrocious this preseason. He has completed only 24-of-46 of his attempts equating to a measly 3.7 yards on average per completion. On top of this, Mannion has scored only one touchdown compared to two interceptions and one fumble. The Rams would be wise to consider other options behind Goff moving forward.
Stud: Nate Sudfeld, quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
Here’s a guy nobody was talking about entering the preseason. The second-year quarterback has floated to the top quite nicely and currently leads the NFL with 524 passing yards during the preseason. Sudfeld also ties Chicago Bears quarterback Chase Daniel with five passing touchdowns. Along the way did come three interceptions, but Sudfeld has for the most part, looked to be capable under center. The Eagles should be in fine hands if they ever need to rely on Sudfeld at some point.
Dud: Blake Bortles, quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars
We thought Bortles was going to keep on his hot streak after helping lead Jacksonville to the postseason this past winter. But, Bortles has been rough around the edges to say the least. In 35 preseason completions, there has not been a touchdown in sight. Instead, Bortles has thrown three ugly interceptions that caused quite the negative buzz on social media. He will need to put everything together soon or it might be time to panic in Jacksonville.
Stud: Bradley Chubb, linebacker, Denver Broncos
In a limited preseason sampling, Chubb has performed quite amazingly. He has recorded a total of nine combined tackles, a half sack and a very cool safety to boot. This is exactly the production that the Broncos banked on when they selected Chubb fifth overall in this year’s draft. This young pass rusher looks to make life pretty brutal for his opposing offenses this fall if he keeps at his preseason pace.
Dud: Connor Cook/E.J. Manuel, quarterbacks, Oakland Raiders
Head coach Jon Gruden is in quite the dither over his dreaded backup quarterback situation. Both Cook and Manuel have simply looked horrible under center so far. This pair has managed only one passing touchdown in 80 passing attempts. They have also combined for a miserable five turnovers. Gruden said of his quarterbacks, that they have been “careless putting the ball on the floor” and that it has been “embarrassing.” The Raiders can only hope that Derek Carr stays healthy all year.
Stud: Chris Warren, running back, Oakland Raiders
In keeping with the Raiders here, Warren has fortunately been a breath of fresh air. As he fights for a roster spot, this undrafted rookie free agent has rushed at an average pace of 5.4 yards per carry. He also leads the NFL with 250 rushing yards and has scored two touchdowns thus far in the preseason. Warren has showcased excellent skills, while not turning the ball over once in his 46 carries. He will have one more opportunity in Week 4 to prove he should be employed by the Raiders or another team.
Dud: Ronald Jones, running back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jones has been literally stuck in neutral moving the ball downfield this preseason. The second-round draft pick is struggling immensely and has recorded 18 rushing yards on 18 attempts. He has also dropped two passes. Bucs running backs coach Tim Spencer hopes that Jones’ hand-eye coordination improves, which is imperative for him to make the impact that is expected. For now, Peyton Barber is the clear leader to open the regular season as the starter.
Stud: James White, running back, New England Patriots
It is becoming quite obvious that White will receive a lot of work from quarterback Tom Brady this year. With Dion Lewis gone, White looks to assume his role and has impressed with every touch of the ball this preseason. White has averaged 7.8 yards per carry, while turning eight receptions into 78 yards and one touchdown. The fifth-year running back is a jack of all trades and makes for a sneaky fantasy pick in leagues that reward points for receptions.
Dud: Nick Foles, quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
While the aforementioned Sudfeld has shined this preseason, Foles cannot seem to find the fuel to ignite his fire. Last season’s Super Bowl MVP is in a hangover state thus far, having committed four turnovers in limited snaps. It has been truly agonizing to watch Foles make mistakes that remind us why he is a backup in the league. Foles has also failed to throw a touchdown. A bumpy preseason has unfortunately tanked Foles’ stock.
Stud: Myles Garrett: defensive end, Cleveland Browns
Garrett has looked stunning as he wraps up his preseason. Along the way, Garrett racked up four combined tackles, two sacks and even recorded a safety. It looks like Garrett’s offseason conditioning program he participated in with the team’s receivers and running backs has paid off. Look for Garrett to get even better this season with double digit sacks coming naturally to the 272-pound freak nature.
Dud: Cooper Rush, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
So far, the Cowboys have lost all three of their preseason games and Rush has not done the team any favors. He tossed one passing touchdown in the preseason opener and has since racked up two interceptions on top of a fumble. He is also averaging just 5.6 yards per pass and sports a lowly 69.7 quarterback rating. The Cowboys’ preseason cannot be over fast enough at this rate.
Stud: Royce Freeman, running back, Denver Broncos
Already performing quite studly, this rookie running back will be looking to nudge ahead of Devontae Booker to receive the bell-cow duties this fall. Thus far in the preseason, Freeman has averaged 5.6 yards per carry as well as having found the end zone three times. He is crazy-fast considering two of his touchdowns were for more than 20 yards. Freeman is proving to be quite the bargain as a third-round pick, already standing out ahead of this year’s first-round rookie backs.
Dud: Rob Kelley, running back, Washington Redskins
When rookie running back Derrius Guice was lost for the season, it left the perfect opportunity for Kelley to prove worthy of holding down the fort in Washington. Though just like last year, Kelley is already disappointing in a big way. During the preseason, he has gained only 42 rushing yards on 19 carries. With the Redskins in panic mode, they signed Adrian Peterson, who shined in his debut. Needless to say, Kelley can kiss his shot as the team’s starter goodbye.
Stud: James Conner, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers
Conner has taken the opportunity this preseason to make a great name for himself. The second-year running back has helped the Steelers look as if they are already in mid-season form. To date, Conner has racked up 100 rushing yards, including a 26-yard touchdown. A talented pass catcher as well, Conner recorded seven receptions for 61 yards. He has been incredible to watch and looks to handily fill the role that will eventually be vacated by Le’Veon Bell.
Dud: Paxton Lynch, quarterback, Denver Broncos
Getting demoted from second-string quarterback to third-string really stinks. This is what it has come to in Denver for Lynch who head coach Vance Joseph says has “got to play better.” Throughout the preseason, Lynch has been an utter disaster, completing only 48.3 percent of his passes while averaging just 3.5 yards on his completions. He’s also thrown zero touchdowns compared to one interception while posting a 42.6 quarterbak rating. Gross.
Stud: Tyreek Hill, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
If anyone doubted Hill working with a new quarterback, then shame on them. This third-year wideout is a legit threat to any defense, having already racked up 182 receiving yards in his preseason time. This would include a 69-yard touchdown made in blazing speed. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ big arm deserves a shout-out here for this, too. It’s those huge plays Hill is capable of that opposing defenders will continue to grow exhausted attempting to thwart.
Dud: Hue Jackson, head coach, Cleveland Browns
Switching gears here, our last dud call goes to Jackson for his blatant negligence of allowing quarterback Tyrod Taylor to re-enter his last game injured. With Taylor’s MRI tests still pending, what was Jackson thinking risking further injury to a quarterback he has vowed will be the Browns starter this year? It was later discovered that Taylor had suffered a dislocated pinkie finger. Jackson’s decision was absolutely ridiculous considering this was a meaningless preseason game. He should have been fired on the spot.