Week 3 of the NFL preseason gives us a great idea about where teams stand around the league. Starters play more this week than at any other point during the summer slate. It’s a great way for teams to gauge where they are at.
Unfortunately, it leaves star players more vulnerable to injury. This has been a major contention around the NFL in recent years. And this week’s action was no different. Two top-end receivers went down with season-ending injuries — one of them impacting the defending champs as they look to repeat.
On the other hand, some quarterback situations were settled in a big way with less than two weeks to go before the regular season. These are among the top takeaways from Week 3 of the NFL preseason.
Miami Dolphins at Philadelphia Eagles: DeVante Parker shows himself
When healthy, DeVante Parker has proven himself to be a dynamic receiving threat. This is what made him a top-15 pick back in the 2015 NFL Draft. The issue here is that Parker has yet to show himself to be 100 percent healthy in the NFL.
If Thursday’s performance is any indication, that might change heading into the 2017 season. In the first quarter against Philadelphia, Parker went up and caught a long pass from Jay Cutler down the right sideline, turning it into a 72-yard catch and run (watch here).
As you can see, Cutler’s pass was way off the mark. Parker had to stop on a dime and adjust to the ball. That’s where he made the play over new Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby. Considering Cutler’s strong arm, this could be an absolute boon for the Dolphins in 2017. It’s now all about Parker actually staying healthy.
Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars: Cam Newton doesn’t miss a beat
After missing the entire off-season program and sitting out Carolina’s first two preseason games, Newton did not show any rust Thursday against Jacksonville. In his only possession of the game, the former MVP completed both of his pass attempts, including this easy nine-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin. It capped off a splendid 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive.
It’s all about small things in the preseason. Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey combined for 66 total yards on the drive, creating the balance Carolina needs on offense to overcome last season’s struggles. Sure it was a small sample size, but the Panthers will take it.
New England Patriots at Detroit Lions: Julian Edelman’s injury
It goes without saying that the defending champs suffered a major blow in their hopes of repeating this season. Edelman went down with a torn ACL Friday and will miss the entire 2017 campaign. Not only does Tom Brady lose a receiver that caught 98 passes last season, he loses his safety valve in the slot. That’s a huge deal.
It’s now up to the likes of Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and youngster Malcolm Mitchell to step up at receiver. Having a healthy Rob Gronkowski helps too. But none of that mitigates the severity of the hit New England took.
Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson and Co. already in form
Wilson himself has looked tremendous thus far this preseason, Including Friday’s performance against the Chiefs, Wilson has completed 71 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in three games.
More importantly for Seattle, its offensive line held up big time against a solid Kansas City front seven. That’s absolutely huge for this team moving forward. If Wilson gets the protection he needs to eat defenses apart, the Seahawks’ offense might be unstoppable. That was magnified Friday when he led this unit on four scoring drives in five possessions.
Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff’s disastrous outing
After performing well in the Rams’ first two preseason games, Goff absolutely stunk the joint up in front of the team’s home crowd on Saturday night. In addition to losing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Chargers’ Melvin Ingram, Goff threw an absolutely brutal interception.
Considering the Chargers’ first-team defense was worked over by the Seahawks and Saints in its first two preseason games, this most definitely isn’t a good sign for Goff. He was erratic in the pocket, struggled recognizing pressure and showed himself to be inaccurate more often than not. That’s not a good sign for the Rams heading into the regular season.
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints: Deshaun Watson struggles
It was bound to happen. We just didn’t think Watson’s initial NFL struggles would come against a bad Saints defense. But that’s exactly what happened on Saturday. The rookie first-round pick completed 11-of-21 passes for 116 yards and an interception. He also threw a couple ill-advised passes that were thankfully not intercepted.
With Tom Savage firmly entrenched in as the Texans’ starting quarterback, it’s not really a big deal that Watson struggled this weekend. It just goes to show us that he might very well not yet be ready for prime time. As a rookie quarterback, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys: First-team offenses dominate
Among potential Super Bowl contenders, the Raiders and Cowboys have two of the worst defenses in the NFL. They also boast two of the top-five offenses. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that these offenses dominated early on Saturday.
For the Raiders, it was all about Derek Carr finding that connection with star receiver Amari Cooper. Carr finished his day completing 13-of-17 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns, including this beautiful 48-yard strike to Cooper. For his part, Cooper caught 4-of-6 targets for 78 yards and a score. Oakland ultimately put up two touchdown scoring drives in the first half.
With Ezekiel Elliott seeing his first action of the preseason, the Cowboys’ offense wasn’t to be out-shined. Dak Prescott completed 11-of-14 passes for 114 yards and a score, including this easy touchdown strike to Jason Witten. All said, Dallas netted 130 yards and two scores on its first two possessions of the game. Yeah, these two offenses promise to be absolutely dynamic in 2017.
Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos: Brett Hundley continues to impress
At this point, the Packers could probably land a Day 2 pick in next year’s draft for the former UCLA standout. It’s definitely been a long maturation process for Hundley, but it now seems that he’s taken that next step behind Aaron Rodgers. Sure the young quarterback was sacked four times against Denver on Saturday, but he also completed 20-of-30 passes for 186 yards without an interception.
Hundley is now completing 68 percent of his passes with three total touchdowns and just one interception thus far in the preseason. And now likely to play a majority of the snaps in Thursday’s preseason finale, the Packers can continue to showcase what he brings to the table. This is a story to watch heading into Week 1.
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills: Time for the Bills to tank?
Tyrod Taylor exited Saturday’s game with a concussion after banging his head against the turf. And thus ends a preseason that saw him complete less than 50 percent of his passes in what was a disastrous overall performance. In reality, Taylor is the latest example of the Bills simply needing to go into full-scale tank mode.
The team traded No. 1 receiver Sammy Watkins during the summer. It also lost Anquan Boldin to retirement and sent star defensive tackle Marcell Dareus home from Saturday’s game after he violated team rules. It’s simply a dumpster fire in Western New York. Maybe the Bills will now serious consider trading LeSean McCoy and other veterans worth a hill of beans. With six picks in the first three rounds of next year’s draft, tanking in 2017 seems to make the most sense. This is just a bad football team.
New York Jets at New York Giants: Hackenberg is terrible, Petty is injured
There’s legitimately no reason to believe that Hackenberg is an NFL-caliber quarterback. New York gave him opportunity after opportunity to prove himself in the preseason and he just stunk it up. Saturday’s performance was pretty much the final nail in the coffin here. Hack threw two pick six’s in the first half a lone, both showing him to be way over his head in the NFL. He’s just a bad quarterback.
On the other hand, Petty led three third quarter touchdown drives after replacing Hackenberg. He then had to exit with a knee injury that was later confirmed to be a sprained MCL. It remains to be seen how long Petty will be out, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see veteran Josh McCown under center in Week 1. Considering McCown didn’t even suit up for the team’s third preseason game, that just tells us how bad this quarterback situation really is.
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons: Cards first-team defense impresses
Heading into Atlanta for the all-important third preseason game Saturday, Arizona showed why it boasted the second-best defense in the NFL last season. The team held Matt Ryan to 4-of-11 passes for 36 yards. Pro Bowl defensive back Tyrann Matthieu also picked Ryan off, as the Falcons first-team offense put up 72 yards and zero points on five possessions.
This was definitely a great preseason test for the Cardinals’ starting defense. And it passed with flying colors. That has to be considered good news for a team that still has major questions on offense, especially at wide receiver.
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers: Lost without any Luck
Scott Tolzien is the epitome of bad quarterback play in the NFL. It also makes us wonder why this one man remains unsigned. For the Colts, it’s been really bad. In Saturday’s win over Pittsburgh, Tolzien completed 7-of-10 passes for 123 yards. Not too bad, right? That’s until we realize he continues to make rookie-level mistakes. This interception by Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier is a prime example. You can’t telegraph a pass like that and forget about underneath coverage in today’s NFL.
Unfortunately for the Colts, it’s looking more and more like Andrew Luck will miss the first two games of the regular season. If so, Indy will have to go to battle with Tolzien under center against tough defenses in that of the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams. We smell a 0-2 start to the season.
Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: For better or worse, Kizer is the starter
Even after he completed just 6-of-18 passes for 93 yards and an interception on Saturday, the Browns have officially named DeShone Kizer their starting quarterback. Considering Brock Osweiler was the only other real option, this is a move the team had to make.
About as raw and talented as rookie quarterbacks get, Kizer will surely have his ups-and-downs for the Browns this season. He’ll make an elite-level throw like this one play and look the part of a complete rookie the following play. Such is the nature of the beast when we’re talking about a quarterback that played just two seasons of college ball.
For the Browns, it’s all about seeing what they have in the Notre Dame product. Flush with a ton of picks in next year’s draft, it makes sense for them to want to know where they stand here. It will likely lead to another last-place finish, but it’s also part of the longer-term rebuilding project in Cleveland. At the very least, Kizer brings a lot of excitement to the table.
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans: Disastrous injury for Bears’ Cameron Meredith
Just as Mike Glennon was looking the part of an actually starting quarterback for the Bears, the team was dealt a major blow Sunday against Tennessee. No. 1 receiver Cameron Meredith went down with a cringe-worthy knee injury, ultimately finding himself diagnosed with a torn ACL.
As bad as this is for the Bears, we have to feel for Meredith. The third-year former undrafted free agent was coming off a 2016 campaign that saw him break out to the tune of 66 receptions for 888 yards. He was also looking the part of a true go-to guy in the preseason.
With Meredith now lost for the season, Chicago is left relying on two injury-plagued receivers in Kevin White and Victor Cruz. Talk about a potentially disastrous situation for whoever is under center for the duration of the season. Just a bad deal in all.
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins: Home team’s offense all out of sorts
It’s becoming readily apparent that Kirk Cousins misses both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson. He simply doesn’t have the same comfort level with Washington’s receivers right now. It also didn’t help that Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor both dropped easy passes, as the Redskins’ offense stalled early on Sunday.
But for Cousins, it looks like he’s pressing a bit. This horrible interception, which was returned for a touchdown by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, is a prime example of that (watch here). You simply can’t throw late and to the outside in that manner in today’s NFL. And it’s a problem Cousins hasn’t had over the past two seasons. Add in a struggling running game, and the Redskins’ offense is a mess heading into the regular season.
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings: 49ers dominate early
The team we didn’t expect to dominate on Sunday Night Football did just that early on. San Francisco was clicking on all cylinders in the first half of its game against the Vikings. After just two possessions, the 49ers had 167 total yards of offense and two scores. Veteran Brian Hoyer completed 9-of-9 passes for 152 yards and two scores, including this beautiful strike to Marquise Goodwin (watch here).
Defensively, the 49ers got to Sam Bradford for three sacks in Minnesota’s first two drives. Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster laid some awesome wood throughout the first half. And in reality, the Vikings just looked overmatched.
It’s one half of one preseason game. But for a team that won two games last year, the 49ers will definitely take it. First-year head coach Kyle Shanahan had his team ready to go on national television, and it showed big time early.