Many of the NFL’s top stars were on top of their games during Week 2 of the preseason schedule.
While most teams kept their starters in for just a couple series or so, many of the big-name players around the league made their mark quickly. There were also many who will have to take a look at the tape to fix what went wrong, as always.
From a rookie who is playing like a seasoned vet to a veteran who returned to action for the first time in months, from an offense that improved by leaps and bounds to an offense that is discombobulated, these are the top takeaways from the NFL’s Week 2 action.
1. Dak Prescott, rising Dallas star
Poise? Check. Confidence? Check. Rocket arm? Check. Touch and accuracy? Check. Colin Kaepernick-esque athleticism? Check.
Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott sure looks like the real deal.
Yes, it’s only been two games — preseason games, at that — but the early returns on Dallas’ fourth-round investment on the Mississippi State product look promising.
Dak Prescott's preseason: 6 TDs, 5 incompletions.
— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) August 20, 2016
Through two games, Prescott has completed 22-of-27 passes (81.5 percent) for 338 yards with four touchdowns through the air and another two on the ground. He’s also shown excellent chemistry with Dez Bryant.
4 targets. 4 catches. 2 TDs. 74 YDs.
— NFL (@NFL) August 20, 2016
In particular, it’s been the way in which Prescott has gone about his business that has impressed the most. Stats are great, but they don’t tell the full story.
Prescott has looked like a 10-year veteran, rather than a bright-eyed rookie who is overwhelmed by the speed of the game.
He can sling it 60 yards down the field on a rope, but he has also put outstanding touch on passes into zone coverage. He’s been downright commanding thus far, putting on an entertaining show while playing better than any other quarterback in the NFL this preseason.
By no means are we assuming he’d be this good during the regular season if Romo were to miss time. But it seems safe to say the Cowboys would be in better shape this year with Prescott behind center than they were last season. And that’s something nobody thought would be the case heading into training camp.
2. The RG3 to Terrelle Pryor combo could really be special
Robert Griffin III had an outstanding game in Week 2, and the chemistry we’re seeing between him and receiver Terrelle Pryor could develop into something special.
For the second week in a row, the duo connected on a fade route down the right sideline. In Week 1 they combined on a 49-yard bomb to open the game. On Thursday night they one-upped themselves by going for 50 and scoring a gorgeous touchdowns (watch here).
The best part about the play was that Pryor — a converted quarterback — beat one of the NFL’s top cover corners in Desmond Trufant. And he says he knew he had him beat before the snap.
“I knew I had him when we called the play,” Pryor said via Cleveland.com. “I knew I was going to beat him.”
The Browns could be darn good through the air this year if Griffin III gets protection up front. That was a problem in Week 1 but the line did a better job this week.
Pryor, combined with tight end Gary Barnidge, rookie Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon (assuming he comes back in Week 5) present quite a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
3. Russell Wilson taking too many hits already
As he’s demonstrated countless times already, Wilson has eyes in the back of his head. The diminutive quarterback is among the best in the NFL at avoiding pressure and often makes huge plays after avoiding the rush.
Last year, despite his Houdini-esque abilities, Wilson was the third-most-sacked quarterback in the league (45).
While it’s still early, it appears Wilson will be in for another season full of bumps and bruises. Wilson was dropped four times for 41 yards lost and struggled to connect with his receivers during the first half in Week 2, finishing with 77 yards on five-of-11 passing.
But is it the fault of the offensive line, or does Wilson need to be smarter?
If you ask head coach Pete Carroll, it’s the latter.
“I know you’re looking at the sack numbers and you’re thinking, ‘Oh geez, what’s that mean?’ We got covered up a couple of times and we didn’t get the ball out,” Carroll said, per Sheil Kapadia of ESPN. “We need to throw the ball away and get rid of it so we don’t take the big plays. Russ can do a better job to help us there when we get stuck.
“It didn’t have anything to do with the offensive line. We all missed a blitz one time that we had a huge play on. Russ saw it, he pointed it out. He cleared it up for the guys, and we still didn’t execute it. That was one time we got in trouble. And then the two other times, he just held on to the football because they covered us up. He hung in there and just waited and tried to make it happen and then took off, and he got caught.”
Without Marshawn Lynch, Wilson’s value to the Seahawks cannot be understated. If he goes down, the playoffs might be unattainable. Needless to say, he needs to be smarter about taking so many hits, especially during preseason games.
4. Eddie Lacy is back
Last year was a wake-up call for Lacy, who was out of shape and overweight. After an outstanding first two seasons in the league, he carried the ball just 187 times for 758 yards and three touchdowns.
He was also the subject of many an Internet meme after displaying quite the prominent belly during the season and into the playoffs.
After working hard to shed weight and get his body ready for the upcoming season, Lacy is clearly ready to rebound in 2016. This was perfectly illustrated when the Packers rode him like a champion stallion on the opening drive Friday night.
Lacy rushed for 45 yards on nine carries — all of which came on the opening drive — and scored a touchdown. At one point, he received five straight hand-offs from backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who was efficient in his own right.
As good as Aaron Rodgers is, he needs balance in the offense to have great, sustained success. It sure looks like Lacy is ready to deliver that this upcoming season.
5. Ryan Tannehill shows signs of life
After suffering through an unproductive first outing in Week 1, Ryan Tannehill and the first-string offense finally showed promise against the Cowboys on Friday night.
Notably, Tannehill took just one sack while gaining 162 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-20 passing.
That throw from @ryantannehill1 ?
— NFL (@NFL) August 20, 2016
He looked comfortable in the pocket without pressure in his face — something that has been a rare occurrence during his first four years in the league.
Miami’s offensive line still has room to improve, however. Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi combined to rush for 14 yards on eight carries. Foster got two opportunities to run for the first time in a game since tearing his Achilles tendon last year, but there were no holes to be found. He had minus-five yards on those two carries.
6. Tyrod Taylor looks good
It sure looks like the Buffalo Bills made a smart move to lock up Taylor with a long-term deal this summer.
After barely playing in the first preseason game, “Hot Rod” Taylor played through the first quarter and into the second on Saturday. And he looked good for the most part.
Completing seven-of-10 attempts for 132 yards and a touchdown, he moved the chains and scored without the benefit of a running game. LeSean McCoy rushed for zero yards on five attempts, and the Bills couldn’t generate much else on the ground.
In particular, Taylor’s 59-yard bomb to tight end Charles Clay was gorgeous (watch here).
He also connected with McCoy in the end zone on a pass that showed pinpoint accuracy and a feel for what the defense was giving him.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) August 20, 2016
Despite the many defensive injuries and four-game suspension of Marcell Dareus, it appears the Bills have plenty to be excited about this fall.
7. Eli Manning and the Big Blue offensive blues
For the second week in a row, the New York Giants struggled to execute even the most basic offensive concepts.
Manning and his receivers couldn’t get on the same page, minus a gorgeous connection between the quarterback and Odell Beckham Jr. in the first quarter. He finished with 44 yards on four-of-nine passing, was sacked once and managed just one third-down conversion out of five attempts along with a failed fourth-down attempt.
While the passing game was stagnant, the running game was almost non-existent. Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings combined to rush for 25 yards on 10 carries. If you take away a 67-yard run by Bobby Rainey the Giants would have had just 35 yards on 18 carries.
While Manning did not play last week against the Miami Dolphins, the rest of the first-string offense did. And both weeks, the offense has been dead upon arrival.
Hopefully things change quickly. Expectations are extremely high in the Big Apple for this team, which broke the bank this offseason to acquire top-level defensive talent to pair with its potentially potent offense.
And heaven help them if backup Ryan Nassib is called into action. He’s been miserable this preseason.
8. Andrew Luck sharp in return to action for Colts
In his first action since being forced out of the 2015 season with a lacerated spleen, Luck was sharp.
Engineering two strong drives of eight plays or longer, Luck was perfect through the air, going eight-for-eight with 71 yards.
The Colts had to settle for a field goal on the first drive after penetrating the red zone of the Baltimore Ravens. Then a fumble by tight end Dwayne Allen stymied another drive that moved into scoring range.
But Luck was on point, in command of the offense and in sync with his receivers.
Better still, he avoided unnecessary hits and proved he does, indeed, know how to slide now.
We've got a slide by Andrew Luck, after a 9yard pick-up
— Jason Spells (@JasonSpells) August 20, 2016
It was a glorious sight for Colts fans everywhere.
9. Denver should seriously consider starting rookie Paxton Lynch
Trevor Siemian had a real chance to make his case as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos Saturday night against the San Francisco 49ers.
And early on, it sure looked like he would. Siemian drove the Broncos down the field on a 10-play, 86-yard drive that ended with a short touchdown run by veteran running back C.J. Anderson.
Then, after a short drive that ended in a punt, Siemian’s third drive ended in disaster when he was intercepted by 49ers safety Eric Reid, who took it to the house for six points (watch here).
One drive later, which ended in a punt following two straight incompletions, Siemian’s night was finished.
Then Mark Sanchez came in and also had early success before disaster struck.
Follow me. Sanchez goes 10 plays 75 yards, fumbles at 49ers 13. 49ers fumble. Sanchez gets it back. Fumbles. 49ers take a knee. Halftime
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) August 21, 2016
Sanchez was clearly rattled by his late first-half mishaps. He came into the game for a series to open the second half and was wildly inaccurate, nearly turning the ball over multiple times in a short period of time before giving way to the rookie, Paxton Lynch.
Lynch was brutalized early by wave after wave of pressure by San Francisco’s front seven. He did manage to get into a groove after some early hiccups.
After settling down, he led two long drives (14 and 13 plays) that both ended when he threw touchdown passes — the first two of his NFL career.
Lynch finished with 113 yards on 15-of-26 passing with the two touchdowns and one interceptions.
John Elway said during the offseason that Lynch would be ready to play sooner than people realized. Based on the turnover problems presented by the two veterans, one wonders if that time might actually be right now.
It would be nice to see Lynch with the starters in Preseason Game 3….
— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 21, 2016
10. Jared Goff is no threat to Case Keenum…yet
Before the Los Angeles Rams played Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs, head coach Jeff Fisher told reporters that Keenum was “still clearly ahead” of Jared Goff on the team’s depth chart.
After two games, this is clearly not just rhetoric from Fisher. Nor is it an attempt to get Goff to up his game to take the starting spot from Keenum.
Simply put, Goff has a ways to go before he’s going to be ready for the speed of the NFL game. After what was a frustrating first NFL game last Saturday, Goff’s second outing was no less humbling to start.
Coming in after Keenum engineered a touchdown-scoring drive in the first quarter, Goff’s first pass was dropped by receiver Brian Quick. Totally not his fault. But what happened next? Chalk it up to another tough learning lesson for the rookie out of Cal.
— NFL (@NFL) August 21, 2016
Just as we saw last week, Goff showed off the physical traits that made him the No. 1 overall pick. He has a live arm, utilizes excellent touch, isn’t afraid to push the ball downfield and isn’t afraid to make tough throws in tight windows.
And he did bounce back after his early mistake, which is another positive trait.
Goff finished with 82 yards on eight-of-12 passing with one touchdown on a connection with running back Malcolm Brown, who made the play on a poor throw.
The rookie plays an aggressive style of football that will serve him well when he’s ready to start. Goff’s not ready yet, but nobody should be surprised if he gets his chance in 2016 if Keenum struggles early.