Week 1 of the preseason is in the books, giving NFL fans a taste of football returning to a weekly spectacle on the calendar. Whether the NFL actually needs four weeks of preseason football is up for debate (and will be discussed in the latest round of collective bargaining negotiations), the first week of the preseason provides an opportunity for first-year players to make a mark in the NFL and there’s always feel-good stories of long shot players throughout the league.
The first week of NFL football provided some interesting storylines, giving teams an early start of the direction they’re going to go with assembling their 53-man rosters and which players could crack the starting lineup with the regular season being less than a month away.
The Daniel Jones hype train has left the station
The New York Giants probably could have selected Jones with their second first-round pick (No. 17 overall), instead taking him with the No. 6 overall pick and making him the heir apparent to Eli Manning. The pick was controversial at the time, as the Giants (and Jones) were criticized, ridiculed, and questioned for the selection.
For at least the first week of the preseason, the Giants can laugh at the doubters. Jones had an impressive first drive in a Giants uniform, going 5-for-5 for 67 yards and a touchdown, a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bennie Fowler in the first quarter, capping an eight-play, 73-yard drive that had Giants fans excited about the future.
All Jones’ performance did was increase the speculation of when he’ll supplant Eli Manning as the starting quarterback. There’s three more weeks of the preseason, but Week 1 appears more realistic after his debut.
The (other) rookie quarterbacks
While Daniel Jones’ debut was the highlight of the weekend, there were a few other first-round quarterbacks making their debuts … including the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Kyler Murray, who is the unquestioned starter for the Arizona Cardinals, used his legs to have an efficient night, going 6-for-7 for 44 yards. Murray spread the ball and got rid of it quickly, even through the Cardinals failed to get past midfield when he was in.
Dwayne Haskins also made his debut for the Redskins, showing he’s not ready to start Week 1. The Redskins have plenty of other problems, mostly on their offensive line, which also factors into a Haskins decision. Haskins finished 8 of 14 for 117 yards and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Haskins can sling the ball, but the Redskins aren’t rushing him to be the starter. Colt McCoy, who didn’t play in the preseason opener, and Case Keenum are likely the two to battle for the starting quarterback job.
Chiefs may have a new running back
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said the team is going to a running back-by-committee approach this season, one which may be influenced by the play of rookie running back Darwin Thompson. For those unfamiliar with Thompson, the 5-8, 185 pound running back was a sixth-round pick out of Utah State and showed the Chiefs the added dimension he brings to their offense.
Thompson had five carries for 22 yards and a 29-yard touchdown reception in which he showcased his speed to find the end zone. Thompson was the No. 3 running back Saturday night, entering the game earlier than expected since No. 1 running back Damien Williams sat out the opener with an injury.
Thompson is still behind Williams, Darrel Williams and Carlos Hyde on the depth chart, but more touches may be coming his way in the next few weeks. Reid certainly likes to get the ball to quick skill players in space.
The Dallas Cowboys may need Ezekiel Elliott
This isn’t an overreaction to one preseason game where the first team plays a few series, but the running backs that did play for the Cowboys weren’t impressive. Dallas had 18 carries for 55 yards in their preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, an average of 3.1 yards per carry.
The Cowboys first-team offense played the entire first series, giving rookie running back Tony Pollard the first crack at filling in for Elliott. Pollard, a fourth-round pick out of Memphis, had four carries for 16 yards (including a nice four-yard gain on 3rd-and-2), has had a nice camp for the Cowboys. Seventh-round pick Mike Weber (Ohio State) had six carries for 18 yards, entering the game on the second series.
Darius Jackson had six carries for 16 yards later in the game, but Pollard is the front runner to receiver regular carries if Elliott’s holdout continues into the season. Dallas also signed veteran running back Alfred Morris (who didn’t play in the opener), who will likely split carries with Pollard, earlier this month.
While Jerry Jones believes Pollard can carry the load at running back, Dallas is a Super Bowl contender with Elliott.
Jon Gruden was right about Nate Peterman?!
“This Nate Peterman is growing on me,” Gruden said. “He’s athletic. I know he’s got some nightmare performances in the NFL, but when you watch the film you can see why. It’s not all his fault, but he’s got some talent, he’s got some athleticism, he’s got some experience.”
Perhaps Gruden, who once coached an offense led by Ty Detmer to fourth in the league, does know a thing or two about quarterbacks. Peterman flashed that athleticism for the Raiders Saturday night with a 50-yard run that set him up for a touchdown pass later in the drive of Oakland’s 14-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Peterman led the Raiders with 56 yards rushing on three carries and finished 9 of 12 for 66 yards and a touchdown, entering the game in the third quarter.
Peterman is battling for the No. 2 quarterback job against Mike Glennon, who finished 17 of 25 for 200 yards with two interceptions. After Week 1, the Raiders may give Peterman the second-team snaps going forward.
Ron Rivera helps his former team (on purpose)
The Chicago Bears kicking saga has dragged on into the preseason as Eddy Pineiro and Elliott Fry are the final two contestants on “Last Kicker Standing” for Chicago’s kicker. Former Bears player and defensive coordinator Ron Rivera decided to help Matt Nagy out in making his decision.
During the Bears’ 23-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers in their preseason opener Thursday night, Rivera prior to Fry’s 43-yard field goal in an attempt to ice the kicker.
Fry made the kick, which was the same distance as Cody Parkey’s infamous double doink that knocked the Bears out of the playoffs. He also made an extra point in the game. As for Pineiro, he missed a 48-yard kick, but made a 23-yarder.
Rugby player makes most of his lone carry
This is the feel good story of Week 1 of the preseason. Christian Wade, a former English Rugby star signed by the Buffalo Bills this offseason, had just one carry for the Bills in their 24-16 preseason victory over the Indianapolis Colts. It was a 65-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that showed he could be a viable asset to the Buffalo backfield.
Wade earned an opportunity to compete in the NFL through the league’s international pathway program. He’s a long shot to make the Bills roster at running back, but he’s third in the NFL in rushing after the first week of preseason games 9and needed just one carry).
Let’s see what Wade does for his encore performance in Week 2.