Top takeaways from Saturday’s NFL preseason action

By Jesse Reed
© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With five games on the schedule Saturday, there was plenty of NFL preseason action for fans to get excited about.

For example, one of the league’s best backup quarterbacks had a strong showing that should give his team some comfort heading into Week 1. Another quarterback who is known for spectacular plays couldn’t seem to get out of his own way. One of the worst offensive lines in football last year seems to be making progress.

We’ll focus on those stories and more examining our top takeaways from Saturday’s NFL preseason action.

Colts will be just fine if Luck misses time

Andrew Luck is likely going to miss the entire preseason with a nagging calf injury that has also turned into an upper-ankle issue. The Indianapolis Colts are hoping he’ll be ready to play in Week 1, but that’s not a sure thing right now.

On Saturday against Cleveland, backup Jacoby Brissett started the game and looked darn good doing it. Completing 8-of-10 passes for 100 yards before giving way to Phillip Walker in the second quarter, Brissett also threw an incredibly precise touchdown pass to Eric Ebron in the back right corner of the end zone.

Brissett looked comfortable running the offense, and he didn’t get rattled after a slow start. If Luck is unable to play when the season opens up, the Colts will be in good hands.

Browns may have a gem in undrafted rookie D.J. Montgomery

Coming out of Austin Peay State this past spring, Montgomery went undrafted but was an intriguing talent who exhibited the potential to make it at the NFL level. Through two games, it’s safe to say the Browns will have a hard decision to make come cut day, because this rookie has been playing well.

Following up a two-reception performance that included a touchdown last week, Montgomery lit up Indianapolis’ secondary Saturday. He hauled in three passes for 77 yards, showing explosive play-making ability on every catch.

That’s how you make a preseason impression, ladies and gentlemen.

Pats’ rookie Damien Harris will be a dangerous weapon

New England Patriots rookie running back Damien Harris got his first taste of NFL action Saturday evening against the Tennessee Titans. And he liked it.

Harris showed some impressive wiggle and burst tallying 41 yards on seven carries, including a sweet 20-yard run.

With Sony Michel showing out as a dynamic receiver, Harris has a chance to develop into New England’s anvil in the run game. And based on this early action, he’s up to the task.

Delanie Walker is back, and that’s good news for Super Mario

Before giving way to Ryan Tannehill in the second quarter, Marcus Mariota played much better on Saturday than he did last week. Completing 6-of-9 passes for 63 yards, he connected with Corey Davis on a 20-yard pass and generally looked more comfortable in the pocket than he did in preseason Week 1.

A huge reason for that is that tight end Delanie Walker is back in action after suffering a gruesome season-ending injury in Week 1 last year. The two of them connected twice for 26 yards, including a really nice 11-yard touchdown in which Mariota showed deft touch over the middle of the field.

Walker is one of the NFL’s top tight ends. Mariota plays better when he has his top playmaker in the lineup. Provided Walker can stay healthy this season, Mariota should bounce back after a tough 2018 campaign.

Houston’s offensive line seems to be improving

Deshaun Watson was sacked a league-high 62 times last season, and there has been plenty of concern about Houston’s offensive line heading into the 2019 season. On Saturday night against Detroit, however, the starting offense got off to a fantastic start thanks to some stellar play from the big guys up front.

Watson had time to throw and drove Houston 75 yards down the field on an 11-play drive to open the game. The drive was capped off by a touchdown pass from Watson to DeAndre Hopkins, and the quarterback had all day to throw.

In total, Watson completed 5-of-7 passes for 60 yards and the score. If he can get the kind of protection we saw Saturday night throughout the season, Houston’s offense will be potent, indeed.

Mahomes and Co. looked out of sorts

Heading into Saturday night’s game against Pittsburgh, the Kansas City Chiefs had planned on letting the starters play a full half. However, after Patrick Mahomes and the starting offense looked patently atrocious early on, many starters were quickly pulled from the action midway through the first quarter.

Mahomes couldn’t find his accuracy at all. He missed badly trying to connect with Tyreek Hill down the field on the game’s opening drive, and then again on a short pass on the second drive. In total, Mahomes completed just 2-of-5 passes for 11 yards. On top of that, Carlos Hyde had a bad fumble after a good run.

In no way was this what head coach Andy Reid had been looking for from his high-powered starting offense.

James Washington set to break out in 2019

Last week, Pittsburgh Steelers second-year receiver James Washington wowed with a leaping 44-yard snag against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On Saturday against Kansas City, he was at it again with some phenomenal receptions in traffic.

Washington hauled in four passes for 78 yards against the Chiefs. He did it while playing with Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs. Imagine how good this young man is going to be in the regular season with Ben Roethlisberger dealing from the pocket.

Dallas’ starting offense in mid-season form

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently made headlines saying rookie running back Tony Pollard can handle the load. It’s a big statement because Ezekiel Elliott remains away from Dallas amid a contract dispute, and Stephen Jones has explicitly said Dallas isn’t going to set a new market on any long-term deal.

Pollard, along with the Cowboys’ first-string offense, certainly made Jones look good Saturday night. The rookie out of Memphis rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown on just five carries. Dak Prescott was a perfect 5-of-5 passing for 64 yards, including an impressive 31-yard connection to Michael Gallup, as Dallas marched 97 yards on 12 plays to open the game.

That’s great news for the ‘Boys. Not so great for Elliott as he attempts to sign a long-term deal with Dallas for as much money as possible.