By now, you might be ready for the real games to begin, but that doesn’t mean Week 2 of the 2019 NFL preseason wasn’t without some important and intriguing developments.
With 15 games in the books ahead of Monday night’s Week 2 finale, we’ve gotten more looks at bright, young quarterbacks, stumbled upon some underrated defenses and much more. As we reflect on the second week of exhibition action, here are some of the biggest takeaways from the latest slate of matchups, with a particular focus on some QBs with big shoes to fill:
Daniel Jones keeps silencing the skeptics
“Danny Dimes” was the laughingstock of this year’s draft as the sixth overall pick, but all of a sudden he’s taken the preseason by storm. We’ve got to be careful, of course, not too over-hype these games, but it’s hard not to like what Jones is doing under center.
Eli Manning has been sharp, too, which bodes well for Giants fans longing to move past 2018, but it’s the “Dime” dropper who stole the show in Week 2, going 11 of 14 for 161 yards and a score — which easily overshadowed his two fumbles — in New York’s 32-12 rout of the Chicago Bears. Like it or not, this guy is starting to look the part, and that probably means way more than how Eli’s doing in advance of what figures to be a farewell tour.
Jacoby Brissett looks ready to fill in for Andrew Luck
After throwing just five passes in the Colts‘ preseason opener, Brissett had a bigger role on Saturday against the Browns, and his efforts should have at least some Indy fans more at ease entering the regular season. With Luck’s status still uncertain and memories of 2017, when Brissett was forced into 15 starts, quickly resurfacing among Colts Nation, the veteran backup went 8-for-10 with 100 yards and a touchdown through the air vs. Cleveland, leading the Colts on a 10-play scoring drive and appearing sharp enough to continue filling in for Luck, if needed.
One TD drive in preseason hardly suggests Brissett would be capable of approaching, let alone replicating, Luck’s production from Indy’s 2018 playoff run, but it should give Frank Reich and Co. some added comfort about the starter’s insurance policy.
Josh Allen looks more comfortable
While we’re talking about good-looking quarterbacks, Allen deserves just as much, if not more, credit than both Jones and Brissett. The second-year signal-caller didn’t throw a touchdown against Carolina and was unusually quiet on the ground, rushing just once for 11 yards, but for a guy whose rookie statistics were torched by his own inaccuracy, he looked remarkably comfortable — and on target — against the Panthers, completing all but two of his Friday night passes for 102 yards. Not just that, but he showed both zip and touch on his throws — an encouraging sign that the Bills‘ franchise QB just might be able to rein in his own arm.
As with every preseason performance, Allen has to go do this kind of thing when the games count to prove he’s actually taken a step forward. But if we’re talking Week 2 studs, he belongs at the top of the list, showcasing a skill that was all too often nonexistent in 2018.
Steelers defense looks like the real deal
Is it just us, or are people sleeping a little bit on the Steelers defense? Lost amid all the talk about how Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster are going to perform in a world without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell has been justified hype for Pittsburgh’s “D.”
The unit isn’t just stocked with premier talent, from T.J. Watt around the edge and Javon Hargrave up front to Joe Haden on the outside. It also flashed some of its resilience against the high-flying Chiefs on Saturday night, keeping the Patrick Mahomes-led starters off the scoreboard to ignite the Heinz Field crowd. Big Ben remains the big name, but defense is what might win the Steelers the most crunch-time situations in 2019. If Saturday’s showing against Andy Reid’s first-teamers was any indication, the group is in for a dominant season.
Buy stock in the Patriots‘ rookies
Jarrett Stidham might not take a single snap in 2019, but if his preseason performance as a Tom Brady backup is any indication, he’s got a bright future ahead. The fourth-round draft pick out-shined veteran No. 2 Brian Hoyer for the second consecutive week on Saturday night vs. the Titans, dropping nearly 200 yards on Tennessee while guiding an 11-play, 99-yard scoring drive with poise. Hoyer’s got the obvious edge in experience, and we’ve seen hopeful Brady reserves flounder before, but Stidham’s had about as good of a start as you could hope for.
Rookie running back Damien Harris has been just as promising, especially after he averaged almost six yards per carry vs. the Titans, racking up more than 100 yards from scrimmage in extended action Saturday. Although he’s far more likely to see the field than Stidham, he also plays for the Patriots, which means he’s all but guaranteed to fall victim to Bill Belichick’s committee approach in the backfield. And yet it’d be foolish to ignore his promise. He’s got the stuff to steal a role early in his career.
Taysom Hill is more than a gadget in the Saints offense
Believe it or not, Taysom Hill can play quarterback. Sure the New Orleans Saints No. 3 quarterback was playing against the Los Angeles Chargers second and third team, but New Orleans doesn’t win their Week 2 preseason game if it wasn’t for Hill.
Hill played the entire second half against the Chargers and made this preseason game worth watching. Down 17-3 to the Chargers when Hill entered,Hill finished 11 of 15 for 136 yards and two touchdowns for a 140.6 passer rating and led New Orleans with 55 yards on four carries.
The Saints scored 16 unanswered points in the second half for the win, orchestrated by Hill. He led New Orleans on a nine-play, 50-yard scoring drive to give the Saints the lead for good with 1:08 left in a 19-17 victory. New Orleans trailed 17-16 before Hill went 2 for 2 for 24 yards on the winning drive that led to Wil Lutz’s 28-yard field goal to give the Saints the win.
Hill can do more than just run around and make a play with his legs. He can also throw the ball, an invaluable weapon for the Saints.
Eagles needed Josh McCown more than Josh McCown needed the Eagles
Philadelphia had no choice but to sign McCown in the wake of Cody Kessler’s concussion on the team’s opening drive in Week 2 of the preseason. Kessler was in line to be the No. 2 quarterback until Nate Sudfeld returned from a broken wrist in late September/early October, but suffered an injury himself.
Clayton Thorson wasn’t bad in just his second preseason game, going 16 of 26 for 175 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Eagles just couldn’t have a fifth-round rookie who they were going to use this year to develop as the No. 2 quarterback behind Carson Wentz.
They decided to lure McCown out of retirement, giving him $2 million guaranteed to play a 17th NFL season. Philadelphia needed an experienced backup behind Wentz, which made the contract to McCown worth it.
McCown completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 539 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions last season with the New York Jets. He has completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 17,707 yards, 98 touchdowns and 82 interceptions and a 79.7 rating, compiling a 23-53 record as a starter. That resume is light years ahead of Sudfeld’s at this time and makes the Eagles quarterback roster stronger.
For a team that’s “all in” on making the Super bowl for the second time in three years, the price was worth it to bring McCown to the Eagles. Even if he doesn’t play a snap, it’s money well spent.