As we turn the chapter from NFL preseason Week 1 to Week 2, we thought it would be fun to look back on the most surprising players from football’s opening slate of action.
This includes good performances and bad ones. Generally, just performances we didn’t expect to see in Week 1 of the preseason. Here are the few players that surprised the most.
Deshaun Watson’s flop
I don’t think anyone expected Deshaun Watson to suddenly light it up after nearly two years away from football. To the surprise of no one, he was rusty. Extremely rusty.
Watson completed just 1-of-5 passes, totaling seven yards on the day. But he also didn’t get much help from his teammates, who dropped at least one of his passes. Yet, Watson just flat-out wasn’t with it, and it showed, even from his first pass. And it likely didn’t help that he was constantly being booed by the fans, but that could become the norm throughout his career from now on.
We’ll see if Watson gets another chance to be sharper next week, when the Browns face the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The NFL is currently appealing Watson’s suspension, and if they get what they want (a full year), the QB won’t be eligible for preseason play anymore. If this is all we see from Watson in 2022, Browns fans hoping for something special will be left with yet another foul memory.
Josh Johnson’s resurrection
If you had Josh Johnson on your preseason bingo card, you nailed it. But that’s just it. No one anticipated the 36-year-old journeyman QB to suddenly light it up against the NFL hopefuls. Yet, maybe this should have been expected from the player who’s used to playing and practicing against others dreaming to stick around long-term in the NFL. It’s what he’s been doing since 2008.
In a competition to be the backup to Russell Wilson in 2022, even if the Broncos didn’t love what they saw from Johnson, several other teams took notice. He’s still a capable backup, and he provided everyone with a reminder as to how he’s managed to bounce around the NFL, in addition to other football leagues, and still come back and land a gig in 2022. If a team wants a competent arm who also has the mobility to move around and escape the pocket, Johnson can still get the job done.
Jordan Love needs a little more seasoning
There’s no way the Green Bay Packers envisioned Jordan Love finishing a preseason contest in 2022 where he went 13-of-24, with two touchdowns and three interceptions when they selected him 26th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Love has had the past two seasons to sit, watch, and learn behind one of the greatest quarterbacks of our era, in Aaron Rodgers, and he still doesn’t look ready.
On one hand, this is what the preseason is all about. Letting it air out, seeing what works and what doesn’t. We can’t really criticize a player too much for taking chances and essentially learning by example. It’s what you’re supposed to do in the preseason.
Plus, Love actually did make some great throws, such as this one.
While the box score wasn’t pretty, for those who watched Love work, the picks weren’t his fault. In fact, his head coach Matt LaFleur defended his QB’s play and even said none of the interceptions were Love’s mistakes.
In all, Love had an up-and-down day. As a former first-round pick entering his third season, we expect excellence, even if he hasn’t had much time on the field. Love has only ever attempted 62 passes in his NFL career. He just needs time to grow, on the field, instead of from the sidelines.
Samuel Womack III’s big day in NFL debut
Have you ever heard of San Francisco 49ers fifth-round rookie cornerback Samuel Womack III? Yeah, many football fans haven’t either. This is why it was such a surprise for the former Toledo defensive back to come up with not one, but two interceptions in his first NFL preseason game.
Not only did Womack come up with two turnovers, he snatched them off Jordan Love, a former first-round QB. Now Love’s not a star either, you don’t have to scroll far to find him on this list too, but that doesn’t make what Womack did any less impressive.
Matt Corral not so pro-ready
Leading into the 2022 NFL Draft process, Ole Miss QB Matt Corral was frequently touted as one of the top prospects in the class. We didn’t see much of that potential on display in his first NFL preseason action.
Instead Corral often looked out of place and out of sync. Corral completed just 1-of-9 passes for 11 yards. He did add six yards on the ground, but he negated that by also taking a sack when his helmet slipped off.
The Panthers selected Corral with the 94th pick in April, and for now he’s the third-string quarterback. Which, also might be the reason why he looked so rough. They have a full-blown QB competition going on in Carolina, and I’m guessing determining whether Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold will be the starter has been this team’s top priority, not developing the new kid on the block.
Basically, I wouldn’t fault Corral too much for his first day on the job. This one might fall on coach Matt Rhule and the rest of the staff for not having their young signal-caller more prepared. Still, Corral falls under the most surprising players category based on what he’s capable of. We just didn’t see it this week.