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NFL preseason Week 2: 8 biggest winners and losers from Saturday’s action

Week 2 of the NFL preseason included a huge slate of games on Saturday. Action on the gridiron started early in the afternoon with the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos going up against one another in Western New York. The home team dominated in every imaginable way.

Saturday’s action then concluded late in the evening with the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams conducting business in Southern California. In all, eight games took place as teams prepared for the regular season.

Below, we look at the eight biggest winners and losers from Saturday’s Week 2 NFL preseason action.

Related: Sportsnaut’s NFL preseason power rankings

Winner: Buffalo Bills rushing attack gets going

nfl preseason: james cook, buffalo bills
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Josh Allen was on the money in limited action against the Denver Broncos in what will likely be his final appearance of the NFL preseason. Allen led Buffalo to a touchdown on its first possession before handing duties over to Case Keenum.

With that said, the story of Saturday’s blowout 42-15 win over Denver has to be the Bills’ rushing attack four different players went for north of 30 yards, including rookie second-round pick James Cook. He tallied 38 yards on four attempts. Firmly on the roster bubble, Zack Moss continued his stellar summer by scoring two touchdowns. Meanwhile, veteran Duke Johnson had 55 yards and two scores on nine attempts.

We’ve focused on this a lot in the past. Buffalo needs to find more balance on offense. Allen can’t be its top rushing threat if the team wants to come out of the AFC in 2022. Even with Devin Singletary seeing limited action, the Bills’ rushing attack was dominant against Denver (27 attempts, 208 yards, 4 TD). This bodes well moving forward.

Loser: Kellen Mond just isn’t it

nfl preseason: kellen mond
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

New Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell is giving Kellen Mond an opportunity to beat out Sean Mannion for the QB2 job behind Kirk Cousins during the preseason. After a pretty solid opener against the Las Vegas Raiders last week, this former third-round pick was a disaster against San Francisco Saturday evening.

As Mannion looked good (10-of-15 passing), Mond couldn’t get out of his own way. That included 71 net passing yards on 20 attempts with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Mond’s final pick of the game late in the fourth quarter was just brutal.

NFL-caliber quarterbacks simply can’t make mistakes like this. It’s been a continual issue for Mond since Minnesota’s previous brass selected him in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. And in reality, it will lead to major question marks behind Cousins leading up to Minnesota’s Week 1 game against the division-rival Green Bay Packers.

Related: Top 2022 NFL Rookie of the Year candidates

Winner: Malik Willis looks good after initial struggles

nfl preseason: malik willis
Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, this rookie third-round pick from Liberty got the start for Tennessee during its preseason outing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday. After some initial struggles (2-of-6, two sacks), Malik Willis picked it up.

The youngster ended his first half of action with a touchdown strike to tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo while adding 42 yards on five rush attempts. Still as raw as they come, Willis’ dual-threat ability paid off against the Buccaneers. Sure he’s ways away from being a capable starter in the NFL. But we’ve seen some major flashes thus far during the NFL preseason.

Related: NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

Loser: Antonio Gibson in Washington Commanders dog house

NFL: Washington Commanders at Kansas City Chiefs
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

This third-year back from Memphis has seen his stock drop big time in D.C. after losing a fumble in the Commanders’ preseason opener. Washington relegated him to special teams during practice heading into Saturday’s game against the Chiefs. Gibson didn’t start said game with rookie third-round pick Brian Robinson taking over. It’s darn clear that Gibson is now in the Commanders’ dog house without a clear role moving forward.

“That’s one of the first things that we talk about when we get together as an offense when training camp started is protect the football. We can’t waste possessions, and obviously, if you fumble the ball, that’s a waste of a possession. That’s a ball carrier’s first job, to protect the ball. We can’t have that.”

Commanders offensive coordinator scott turner on Antonio Gibson

When all was said and done in Washington’s 24-14 loss to Kansas City, Gibson had gained three yards on two attempts while Robinson ran the ball eight times. For a dude that went over 1,300 total yards and double-digit touchdowns as a sophomore last season, this is simply astonishing.

Related: Dallas Cowboys NFL preseason schedule and game-by-game predictions

Winner: KaVontae Turpin electrifies the Dallas Cowboys

nfl preseason:  kavontae turpin
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What a crazy ride it has been for this former TCU standout. The reigning USFL MVP (that’s a thing) started his professional career in the European League of Football (also a thing) before playing for the Fan Controlled Footballl League and joining the USFL’s New Jersey Generals.

This was enough for the speedy wide receiver to be given a chance by the Cowboys. Turpin, 26, did not disappoint Saturday evening against the Los Angeles Chargers. That included an electric 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

You just can’t teach that speed. Interestingly enough, this is what Turpin displayed in joint practices against the Chargers ahead of Saturday’s NFL preseason game.

“I’m a receiver. That’s what I do. Special teams – I can do that in my sleep. I’m trying to show the NFL that I can play receiver at this level, too.”

KaVontae Turpin on what he brings to the table

Indeed, KaVontae Turpin is now pretty much a lock for the 53. He could also create a role on offense with injury issues impacting the Cowboys right now.

Related: Winners and losers from Thursday’s NFL preseason game

Loser: Alex Leatherwood just isn’t it

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock received a ton of criticism for reaching for Leatherwood in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Fast forward 16 months, and it’s becoming clear that the former Alabama offensive lineman just doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in the NFL.

Leatherwood has found himself running with the second unit during training camp practice. He started Saturday against the Miami Dolphins with other Raiders backups. To say that it didn’t go swimmingly would be an understatement.

The Raiders have a major issue at right tackle in front of Derek Carr. Leatherwood is not the answer. His performance against backups Saturday in South Beach added another layer to this.

Related: Most impressive rookies of the NFL preseason

Winner: Kenny Pickett continues to do his thing

nfl preseason: kenny pickett
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

This first-round pick out of Pitt was the Steelers’ second quarterback under center Saturday evening against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Pickett followed Mitchell Trubisky into the game, surpassing Mason Rudolph on the depth chart for at least one game.

After a tremendous NFL preseason debut last week against the Seahawks, Pickett was back up to his old tricks. He saw action on two drives, leading Pittsburgh to a touchdown in the process. All said, the stud young signal caller completed 6-of-7 passes for 76 yards. That included an 11-yard score to running back Benny Snell Jr. and more goodness.

Through two preseason games, it’s starting to look like Pickett is ready to take over for Trubisky sooner rather than later.

It will be interesting to see how Mike Tomlin and Co. play this situation moving forward. We wouldn’t be surprised if Pickett saw a ton of action in Pittsburgh’s preseason finale against the Detroit Lions next week. For now, the rookie has certainly narrowed the gap between himself and Trubisky.

Related: Russell Wilson and NFL’s top QBs of 2022

Loser: Where was the Denver Broncos’ pride?

nfl preseason: nathaniel hackett
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo scored touchdowns on its first six possessions Saturday against Denver. The team tallied 32 first downs and 510 total yards of offense, including 208 on the ground. Bills quarterbacks completed 26-of-29 passes and weren’t hit a single time.

We know full well that it’s the preseason. Head coach Nathaniel Hackett and Co. didn’t play any starters in this one. That’s all fine and dandy. But we’re talking about a team with legit conference title aspirations. These reserves needed to show up as a way to prove that Denver’s roster is deep enough to compete with teams like the Bills. That obviously didn’t happen in Western New York.

“You give up six touchdowns on six drives. Obviously, no one did good,” Hackett said after the game. Denver’s plan not to play its starters during the NFL preseason had come under fire. It won’t matter too much if Russell Wilson and Co. come out and do their thing against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1. But a less-than-stellar showing will have the first-year head coach under a microscope. That’s for sure.