There were 14 teams in action as seven preseason games took place around the league on Saturday.
Most teams played their starters plenty in these contests, though a few notably did not play them at all.
We watched some pretty big-time playmakers put their stamp on what will likely be their final games before the regular season. We also saw some younger players making the most of their opportunities heading into the final preseason games next week.
These were the players who impressed us the most during Saturday’s preseason games.
Austin Ekeler, running back, Los Angeles Chargers
Starting in place of Melvin Gordon Saturday against the New Orleans Saints, Ekeler reminded us all just how good he is. A breakout star last year, he had his way with the Saints for much of the first half until he got banged up and exited the game.
The former undrafted free agent out of Western State went for 63 yards on just nine touches, dicing up New Orleans defense to the tune of 8.3 yards per carry on the ground in the process. He’s the lightning to Gordon’s thunder, and the two of them will pose problems for opposing defenses all year long.
Tyreek Hill, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
Cheetah is fast. This is known. But he’s also becoming an incredible all-around weapon for Andy Reid and his young quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.
Last week Hill wowed by getting behind three defenders on a 69-yard touchdown. On Saturday, he was simply a consistent thorn in the side of the Chicago Bears, catching eight passes on eight targets for 88 yards.
Hill is clearly Mahomes’ top target right now, which is all the more notable because his teammate Sammy Watkins continues to struggle to get involved. Take note, fantasy owners, because right now it’s looking like Hill is going to be an elite WR1, both in standard and PPR leagues.
John Kelly, running back, Los Angeles Rams
With Todd Gurley and other Rams starters safely stowed away for the preseason, the team has a chance to take a closer look at some other players, such as sixth-round rookie John Kelly out of Tennessee.
For the third game in a row, Kelly shined on Saturday. Already with 133 yards and a touchdown on the ground, he rushed for another 64 yards and two scores against the Houston Texans.
At this point it’s hard to imagine he won’t make the team’s roster after final cuts, as he’s been phenomenal throughout the summer.
Andrew Luck, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
After a rough second game last weekend, Luck was phenomenal on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Razor sharp in the passing game, he completed 8-of-10 for 90 yards and threw his first touchdown since the 2016 season. Just as importantly, he showed no fear in the face of some pretty intense pressure, moving around beautifully in the pocket and also making some serious gains on the ground when there were no open receivers (27 yards on four carries).
This is the quarterback who led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. This is the player who was the unanimous top pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. If he can stay healthy, the Colts have a shot to do some damage this year.
Alfred Morris, running back, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers just recently signed Morris off of his couch, and on Saturday he made his first appearance with his new club. Let’s just say, he did not disappoint.
Looking like he took a few sips from the Fountain of Youth, Morris was pretty dominant on the ground. He went for 84 yards on 17 carries, oftentimes gaining big yardage after first contact. His vision was stellar, and he showcased the signature power that made him one of the most feared backs in the league for a couple seasons in Washington.
It would be a shock if the 49ers didn’t keep the savvy veteran as their third back this coming season. Which begs the question: Why was he still unsigned when the 49ers landed him while some teams are so needy at this position?
Chase Daniel, quarterback, Chicago Bears
I was tempted to highlight the impressive seventh-round rookie receiver, Javon Wims, here but instead chose to go with the man who distributed the ball for Chicago. Daniel, who started the game as head coach Matt Nagy rested all his starters, was practically flawless.
Completing 15-of-18 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, Daniel absolutely shredded Kansas City’s starting defense. He also added 47 yards on the ground as he evaded the rush beautifully throughout the game. It was just a tremendous performance by the career backup, who will be ready to go this season should Mitch Trubisky get injured.
James Conner, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have to feel great about the progress Conner has made this summer. Heading into the game he’d already shown the ability to pound the rock and punch it in for a touchdown. Then came an eye-opening performance Saturday.
Unlike the first two games this preseason, the second-year back didn’t find much running room against the Tennessee Titans. However, Conner did haul in six catches for 52 yards to lead the Steelers in both categories in this game.
No doubt, Pittsburgh feels good about its future if Le’Veon Bell is indeed going to move on after this coming season.
Sam Shields, cornerback, Los Angeles Rams
At one point last year, it was thought that Sam Shields might never play NFL football again. Multiple concussions derailed his career, and it was somewhat of a surprise when he was signed by the Rams this year.
On Saturday against the Houston Texans, not only did Shields play, but he came up with his first interception since the 2015 season, and he was appropriately mobbed by his new teammates after the big play.
Leonard Fournette, running back, Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s looking like Fournette is going to be the featured player on Jacksonville’s offense in 2018. Playing a bit into the third quarter on Saturday against Atlanta, Fournette was very active, both on the ground and through the air.
The second-year back out of LSU carried the ball 10 times for 57 yards and an impressive touchdown, adding 18 yards on three receptions.
Given what looked to be a potentially serious injury to receiver Marqise Lee, and given Blake Bortles’ continued turnover problem, Fournette is the man opposing defenses must focus on in the coming weeks.
Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Baltimore Ravens
The rookie out of Louisville had his best performance as a pro Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins. Heading into the game, Jackson’s first three games featured plenty of good, but he also showed plenty of rough edges.
Against Miami, Jackson really got into a groove passing the ball. Before being replaced by Josh Woodrum, he completed 7-of-10 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. And of course, as we’ve grown to expect, he also added plenty of excitement on the ground, including an electric 19-yard touchdown scamper.
It was a very solid performance that Jackson can build on as he gets prepared for his final preseason game on Thursday.