Top takeaways from the NFL preseason

Vincent Frank
Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL preseason wrapped up Thursday with all 32 teams concluding their summer slate. It’s now time to move forward with the regular season.

In a wide-open league that has no clear-cut favorites to hoist the Lombardi, there were a ton of storylines during the preseason that could have wide-ranging ramifications come September.

From a young quarterback in New Jersey balling out big time to another big-name quarterback shockingly retiring, here are the 10 biggest takeaways from the preseason that was.

Giants might have found themselves a quarterback

Rookie No. 6 pick Daniel Jones won’t start come Week 1, but it would be a surprise if he didn’t see the field early in the season. Jones vastly outplayed Eli Manning during the preseason, completing 85 percent of his passes for 416 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s legitimately the future face of the Giants’ organization with running back Saquon Barkley.

It will be interesting to see how the Giants navigate through what will likely be Manning’s final season in Jersey. If the team is not in contention midway through the season, it would not be a surprise if head coach Pat Shurmur and Co. switch to Jones under center.

New-look Jets could be a force on offense

Even with free-agent signing Le’Veon Bell sitting out throughout the preseason, the new-look Jets offense under first-year head coach Adam Gase dominated during the exhibition slate. Second-year quarterback Sam Darnold has proven to be an absolute stud after an up-and-down rookie season.

We’re highly intrigued to see how this unit looks once Bell takes to the field Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. This offense could potentially find itself within the top 10 when all is said and done in 2019.

Kirk Cousins brutal summer performance

Minnesota’s decision to give Cousins the first fully-guaranteed multi-year deal in NFL history prior to last season looks to be a major bust. Cousins struggled through his initial campaign with the Vikings and did not look any better during the preseason.

In limited action, the former Pro Bowler completed just 52% of his passes and threw for 168 yards on 25 attempts. Simply put, the Vikings need more from Cousins during the regular season if they want to have any chance in the competitive NFC North. Unfortunately, it’s not looking great.

Tony Pollard puts Ezekiel Elliott on notice

As Elliott remains a holdout with no end in sight, this rookie fourth-round pick from Memphis has taken Dallas’ starting running back duties and isn’t looking back. Pollard averaged a robust 5.6 yards per rush during the preseason, starting the first three games before sitting out Thursday night.

There’s a lot to this story. Pollard is set to count a combined $3.2 million against the cap over the next four seasons. Elliott is said to be demanding to be the highest-paid running back in the NFL at north of $14.4 million annually. Dallas has to think about locking up Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper long term. Could this lead to a potential blockbuster trade ahead of Week 1? Stranger things have happened.

Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement

Last weekend saw one of the most shocking retirements in modern sports history when Luck decided to call it quits on his NFL career after just seven seasons. Luck’s decision to move on from the Colts comes amid more injuries for a player that was once destined for Canton.

As the shock of his retirement wears off, the Colts now have to move forward with contract-year quarterback Jacoby Brissett. It has shook up not only the AFC South race, but the race for the conference title. Long-term, we’re not too sure where Indianapolis goes from here.

Redskins continue to exist in quarterback hell

Washington head coach Jay Gruden is battling to remain with the team. He’s clearly on the hot seat heading into his sixth season in the nation’s capital. That helps explain away Gruden’s decision to go with unimpressive veteran Case Keenum over rookie first-round pick Dwayne Haskins as the Redskins’ starting quarterback.

Gruden has earned all of one playoff appearance in his five seasons. He’s facing pressure to contend right now. Unfortunately, that’s going to lead to quarterback hell in D.C. once again this season. It’s also unlikely to yield a rare postseason appearance.

Zac Taylor is not in over his head

Some were worried about the 36-year-old Taylor and how he’d transition to a head-coaching role. The youngster had never called plays in parts of six seasons in the NFL, including the past two years as Sean McVay’s quarterbacks coach with the Los Angeles Rams.

It doesn’t look like this is going to be an issue. Taylor oversaw an elite performance from a normally pedestrian Andy Dalton during the preseason. Cincinnati’s offense looks much more fun than what we saw during defensive-minded head coach Marvin Lewis’ days. And it could lead to an entertaining product this season.

The Browns are for real

Baker Mayfield’s struggles in the third preseason game without his entire supporting cast on the field can be thrown out the window. When the young quarterback was in there with his first-team offense, he absolutely dominated opposing defenses. The Browns are loaded on offense.

However, it was the performance of this team’s defense that stood out. Its line could very well be in the best in the entire AFC. Dominating in the trenches is going to help the Browns during the harshest part of the regular season. They seem to be built for high-intensity matchups. That’s a good thing in a battle-tested AFC North. If the summer proved anything, it’s that this team is legit.

Colin Kaepernick’s NFL career is over

The Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to bring Josh McCown out of retirement underscores what has happened to Mr. Kaepernick since he started the national anthem protests back in 2016. Despite his willingness to return to the league, NFL teams simply have not shown interest.

Taking politics out of it, Kaepernick is better than over half of the league’s backup quarterbacks. The Eagles themselves are among the most progressive franchises in the NFL. If they are not willing to sign Kaepernick, what makes you think any other team will give the former Super Bowl quarterback a chance? His career is over. Put it to rest.

As the trade winds blow

Houston Texans star pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney has been a subject of major trade rumors as he remains away from the team. There’s a darn good chance that he’ll be moved ahead of Week 1. However, there’s other high-profile players that could potentially be had.

Miami Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy and A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals have been bandied about. Meanwhile, Redskins franchise left tackle Trent Williams wants out of D.C. How many of these high-profile veterans will be traded? Stay tuned.