Top takeaways from Thursday’s preseason NFL action

Aug 15, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) scrambles against the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday’s preseason NFL action provided us with a lot more action from the starters than we saw last week. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ first-team offense did well in extended playing time.

Fellow second-year quarterback Sam Darnold continued his stellar preseason play en route to leading the Jets to a game-opening touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s first-team was all sorts of confused on both sides of the ball.

In Arizona, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and Co. looked to build off last week’s solid performance. It did not happen. Rather, Murray struggled as the Oakland Raiders took it to the Cardinals early in the desert. In the nation’s capital, fellow rookie signal caller Dwayne Haskins might have put up the best play of the preseason.

These are among the top takeaways from Thursday’s preseason NFL action.

Ravens first-team offense looks good in extended action

The opening week of preseason action saw Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman run a watered-down attack as he implements a new scheme for second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson. It did not go too swimmingly. That changed Thursday evening against the Green Bay Packers.

Baltimore went with a combination of a traditional scheme and the zone read that Roman ran with Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers earlier in his career. It showed Jackson in the best of light. The young quarterback completed 6-of-10 passes and led Baltimore on two scoring drives. He also put up one heck of a run that was ultimately negated by a penalty. More than that, Jackson seemed extremely capable of running this offense. That’s no small thing for the young quarterback.

Jets offense starts strong, again

First-year head coach Adam Gase might be building something special on offense with the Jets. In his preseason opener last week, Gase saw second-year quarterback Sam Darnold complete 4-of-5 passes for 68 yards en route to leading New York to a touchdown on its initial possession. Did we expect the same thing to happen Thursday night against the Falcons? The answer to that question is a resounding yes.

Darnold connected on 3-of-4 passes for 41 yards on the opening drive. Backup running back Ty Montgomery went for 25 yards on four attempts, including a one-yard touchdown to conclude the drive. Keep in mind that this came against a whole host of Falcons starting defenders. If the first two preseason games for the Jets No. 1 offense is any indication, it will take off big time once recent acquisition Le’Veon Bell actually takes to the field.

Father Time has nothing on Adrian Peterson

Coming off a surprising season in the nation’s capital that saw Peterson put up 1,250 total yards and eight touchdowns, most figured that the 34-year-old future Hall of Famer would finally take a step back in 2019. If his first carry of the preseason is any indication, it’s just not going to happen.

That was vintage 2012 AD right there. It sure doesn’t look like the Redskins’ veteran back has lost a step. Peterson ultimately went for 31 yards on four attempts while Case Keenum struggled big time under center. The veteran might not be quick to give his job up to second-year back Derrius Guice.

Raiders starters dominate in preseason debuts

Head coach Jon Gruden made sure to open up the offense for backup quarterback Mike Glennon in the preseason opener last week. We had no idea whether this was a harbinger of things to come. We now might have a good idea. With starters Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs and Tyrell Williams playing Thursday evening, Oakland’s first-team offense looked stellar.

Carr drove the Raiders down 75 yards on six plays to open the game, culminating in a 13-yard touchdown pass to free-agent signing Ryan Grant. Carr also connected with Tyrell Williams for 27 yards. The running back wasn’t too shabby, either. A first-round pick from Alabama, Jacobs went for 21 yards on four touches in his first NFL action. This was all in the opening drive of Thursday’s game. Not too shabby, Mr. Gruden.

Eagles might need to add a quarterback

Fresh off backup Nade Sudfeld suffering a broken wrist in the preseason opener last week, Cody Kessler went down early Thursday evening against the Jaguars with a concussion. This means that rookie Clayton Thorson was the only active quarterback available for the remainder of the game.

Given that Carson Wentz is coming off both a torn ACL and back injury over the past two years, the Eagles are definitely in panic mode at quarterback. Sure Thorson played well in Week 2, but Philadelphia simply needs to add a veteran with experience. There’s a certain Super Bowl signal caller waiting for a call. Who might that be?

Kyler Murray looked lost out there

After a dazzling debut last week, this rookie No. 1 pick was completely out of his element against the Oakland Raiders Thursday evening. Murray committed two false start penalties from the quarterback position in the first quarter alone. It didn’t get much better from there.

The talented youngster ultimately completed 3-of-8 passes for 12 yards. In fact, Murray put up two net passing yards on those attempts and took a sack for a safety. We knew struggles would come while transitioning to the pros. This shouldn’t be too alarming for Cardinals fans. But it was still an ugly performance from Murray.

Rest of the Cardinals didn’t help

The larger-scale issue for Arizona during its horrible outing against the Raiders Thursday evening was the performance of players not named Kyler Murray. At one point in the first half, Oakland had put up 224 yards compared to 16 for the Cardinals en route to taking a 26-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

Arizona’s defense couldn’t cover or tackle anyone. Its offensive failed miserably in pass protection. Meanwhile, former Pro Bowl running back David Johnson went for six yards on four carries. This was an utterly disgusting performance from the Cardinals under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Things must change in the two weeks leading up to the regular season. This squad didn’t look anywhere near competitive against a questionable Raiders team.

Falcons need to clean it up

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn isn’t one to play his starters a whole lot in the preseason. That changed to an extent Thursday night against the New York Jets. For the most part, Quinn left his guys on the field for a quarter-plus. Despite solid play from Matt Ryan, the rest of the team was a complete disaster.

Ryan himself was sacked three times. All four of his incomplete passes came on drops, as he completed 10-of-14 attempts. With Devonta Freeman out, lead backup running back Ito Smith went for 13 yards on five attempts. Meanwhile, a multitude of Falcons defenders couldn’t tackle Jets backup running back Ty Montgomery. It was an ugly display from a team that has legit NFC South title aspirations in 2019.

Dwayne Haskins with highlight-reel play

A lot was made of this rookie quarterback struggling in his NFL preseason debut last week. Sure he still has a long way to go, but Haskins at least showed Redskins fans what he will be able to offer moving forward.

It came in the second quarter. Haskins faced pressure from Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt. He stood tall in the pocket and delivered an absolute strike to Robert Davis for a 55-yard touchdown. This is the type of talent that made Haskins a Day 1 pick in the first place. Whether it’s good enough to earn the starting job come September remains to be seen.