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What the heck is going on here? The Cleveland Browns won? Baltimore hammered the Rams? The New York Jets blanked the Falcons? Did we accidentally step into a time machine and get whisked back to 1986? Are we in an alternate universe? No. We are just wrapping up the first week of the NFL’s preseason which explains it all.
It’s difficult to give much weight to the preseason, but these games sometimes give us a bit of information that will be useful heading into the regular season. Let’s take a look at some of the scores and highlights from this first week of preseason action.
Cleveland Browns 20, New York Giants 10
The Cleveland Browns got a win over the Giants and have now won and covered their last five straight preseason games. If only there were some kind of prize for that. Tyrod Taylor got the start for the Browns, and he hung in there long enough to collect 99 passing yards and a touchdown on five passes. But Cleveland fans weren’t waiting to see the ex-Bill throw the ball, they wanted to see their future quarterback Baker Mayfield, and they got their wish.
Mayfield came off the bench and acquitted himself well, completing 11 of 20 passes for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While it’s a long shot that the rookie will be starting heading into the regular season, if he has a strong preseason then he’ll get there soon enough.
The Browns also got to size up their running backs. Newly-acquired Carlos Hyde lost 2 yards on his only carry while Duke Johnson Jr gained three on his only tote. Rookie Nick Chubb got the bulk of the carries but only managed to pick up 11 yards on 15 carries while also catching a 12-yard pass.
There were also a lot of eyes on New York’s first-round pick Saquon Barkley, and he got off to a great start. He bounced around a wall of defenders on his first carry and scampered for 39 yards. He had just four more carries and finished his debut with a total of 43 yards.
What We Learned About Cleveland: The quarterback position has vastly improved.
What We Learned About The Giants: Their offensive line needs to create some room for their running backs.
Los Angeles Rams 7, Baltimore Ravens 33
The Baltimore Ravens started quickly, and they finished strong in their first preseason game of 2018. Joe Flacco can probably feel a little pressure after the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson and took a low-risk gamble picking up RGIII. Flacco completed 5 of his 7 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Robert Griffin III also connected on 5 of his 7 throws and tossed a 32-yard TD pass to Breshad Perriman in the final minutes of the game.
Those who wanted to get a look at Lamar Jackson might not have been overly impressed, but he wasn’t terrible. He was a disappointing 7 of 18 for 119 yards. However, he did hit the score sheet with a 9-yard touchdown run and added another 12 rushing yards on four other carries.
It doesn’t appear that Jared Goff should have the least bit of concern about anyone challenging him for the starting job although third-stringer Brandon Allen might have made a case for moving up in the depth chart with his performance. He connected on 10 of his passes including an 8-yard TD throw to KhaDarel Hodge for the Rams’ only score. It’s hard to take much away from this game as the Rams pretty much went with their bench players.
What We Learned About The Rams: 6th-round draft pick John Kelly looks like he could be a reliable option at running back if anything happens to Todd Gurley. He finished the day with 77 yards on 13 carries.
What We Learned About Baltimore: It might be a while before we see Lamar Jackson as a starter.
Tennessee Titans 17, Green Bay Packers 31
DeShone Kizer, Brett Hundley, and rookie Tim Boyle combined for 356 passing yards and three touchdown passes in Green Bay’s win over the Titans. Boyle might have been the biggest surprise going 7 for 15 including a pair of TD passes for 130 yards. Hundley threw a touchdown pass too, but he also fumbled once and got picked off by Jayon Brown.
The Packers ran 32 running plays which only netted 89 yards. Depth running back Joel Bouagnon led the way with 11 carries for 25 yards and added a 3-yard reception on two targets. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota saw very limited action but made his plays count. He connected on 2 of his 3 passes including a TD pass to Darius Jennings to open the scoring.
What We Learned About The Titans: Tennessee’s had one of the most penalized defenses in 2018. They’re back on track to repeat.
What We Learned About The Packers: The Packers will have more time of possession than last year.
Los Angeles Chargers 17, Arizona Cardinals 24
Arizona’s fourth-round draft pick Chase Edmonds opened up the scoring on a 2-yard run. He finished the day with just 5 carries for 11 yards. However, Arizona fans caught their first glimpses of David Johnson after returning from injury, and they should be excited about his return. The stud running back had just two carries, but both were 14-yard runs.
Josh Rosen made his much-anticipated debut, and it’s evident that he needs a little time to adjust. He completed 6 of his 13 passes for just 41 yards. Sam Bradford’s only pass of the game netted him 6 yards while Mike Glennon still looks like...Mike Glennon, as he completed just 2 of his 7 passes for a not-so-whopping 11 yards. He also threw an interception. Defensive lineman Nordly Capi might have moved up in Arizona’s depth chart with his 3 sacks.
San Diego running back Melvin Gordon, who will likely be a popular fantasy draft pick, got just 5 carries for 16 yards although 12 of those yards were gained in a single play. Quarterbacks Geno Smith and Cardale Jones didn’t do their team any favors with their turnovers.
What We Learned About The Chargers: Second-string offensive line needs tightening up.
What We Learned About The Cardinals: This team’s defense might be a surprise this year.
Other Preseason Week 1 Highlights
Roc Thomas: Minnesota rookie Roc Thomas had an excellent debut. It wasn’t so much that the running back gained 29 yards on 8 carries as much as his reeling in all 3 passes that came his way for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Chris Warren: Oakland appears to set at the running back position but rookie Chris Warren got a 13-carry audition in which he ran for 86 yards. Will we see more of him?
JuJu Smith-Shuster: Just to remind Steeler fans that Antonio Brown isn’t the only receiver on the squad, JuJu turned his only target of the day into a 71-yard score.
Miami’s Red Zone Efficiency: Miami’s red zone efficiency wasn’t great in 2017 and was terrible over the last quarter of the season. Going 2 for 5 against Tampa isn’t encouraging.
“Sacked”sonville: The Jags racked up the sacks in 2017 but their first preseason game showed that their offensive line needs to get their act together after giving up six sacks.
...but yeah, it’s only Week 1 of the 2018 preseason.