The first week of preseason play wrapped up on Saturday night with a triple-header that featured three reigning division champions — the Chiefs, Rams and Cowboys — and a trio of squads looking for turnarounds — the Bengals, Raiders and 49ers. Here’s what we learned as Week 1 preseason competition concluded.
1. There’s certainly no shortage of storylines as it relates to the Raiders, but ever since they shipped Khalil Mack to the Bears, improving a woefully ineffective pass rush has been a priority. No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell got the start in his debut Saturday and was relatively absent of any impact, making one tackle, though it was an important third-down stop of a scrambling Brandon Allen. Fellow rookie rusher Maxx Crosby had a pair of tackles and looked promising overall, but was seen with a cast on his right hand. For the game, the Raiders had one sack — delivered emphatically by returning starter Arden Key — and three QB hits. Solving their pass-rush problem is still something the Raiders are endeavoring to figure out.
2. A former No. 3 overall pick, Blake Bortles took snaps under center for the first time in the NFL playing for a team other than the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was certainly a different look as Bortles got the start for the Rams and he’s certainly still getting used to his new digs as he completed but three of his eight passes. Of course, it’s just a sampling. A sampling was all there was to be had for rookie running back Darrell Henderson. Henderson has drawn some buzz during the offseason that he could contribute mightily with Todd Gurley‘s touches getting reined in. However, Henderson was unimpressive with 2.2 yards per six carries. Again, just a sampling of what the Rams offense can and will be, but the reserves on Saturday were far removed from the entertaining L.A. offensive fans have grown accustomed to over the last two years.
3. The Peterman, the myth, the legend. Nathan Peterman got his first action as a Raider on Saturday and was very much the most exciting part of a rather ho-hum game. Peterman brought the home crowd to its feet with a 50-yard run and he threw a touchdown pass. Overall, Peterman ran three times for 56 yards, completed 9-of-12 passes for 66 yards and a score, grew his legend and, in all seriousness, made a good argument for a spot on the Raiders roster — especially considering second-stringer Mike Glennon threw a pair of picks.
4. Somewhat surprisingly, Andy Dalton got the start Saturday for his first action since his 2018 campaign concluded prematurely with a trip to IR due to a thumb injury. Despite a horribly underthrown deep ball to Josh Malone, Dalton looked solid and was productive. He orchestrated a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game and ended with a Trayveon Williams 1-yard TD run. His line saw him go 7-of-9 for 80 yards. It was nothing extraordinary, but it was a good sign for Dalton on his comeback trail and regarding him settling in with rookie head coach Zac Taylor’s offense.
5. Somewhat shockingly, Patrick Mahomes played in Week 1 of the preseason and in Mahomes fashion defied the Football Gods’ conventional wisdom, slinging it downfield and absolutely terrifying Chiefs and fantasy fans with a scramble to the 1-yard line. “Regular season I’d dive in there for the touchdown,” Mahomes said in a mid-game interview with Chiefs color analyst Trent Green. New addition Carlos Hyde ended the Chiefs‘ opening drive with a 1-yard touchdown and everyone breathed a sigh of relief as Mahomes returned to the sideline, his trademark ear-to-ear grin displayed prominently. With that ability to exhale also came the this-just-in revelation that Mahomes is still as outstanding as we remember. On the drive’s first play from scrimmage, he found Travis Kelce (yes, he too was playing) deep down the sideline for a 36-yard gain. Mahomes was perfect on the night, going 4-for-4, slinging, smiling and emerging healthy above all else.
6. Upon his very first touch, Mecole Hardman showed just why many believe he could prove to be a second-round steal and something special for the Chiefs. Hardman took a short Kyle Shurmur pass over the middle and hit pay dirt for a 17-yard score. Later on, he turned in a 44-yard kick return. He had another grab for 14 yards and had a run in which he lost 5 yards, but Hardman provided the glimpses of what could be and evidence that the Chiefs will do their due diligence when it comes to finding ways to get the rookie the ball in space.
7. Tony Pollard‘s time as the Cowboys‘ starting tailback, however brief or elongated it may prove to be, began Saturday and lasted but one drive. Pollard rushed four times, gained 16 yards, had a long of 6 yards and took snaps from Dak Prescott. Prescott meanwhile looked efficient in a drive’s worth of work, completing all four of his passes for 23 yards. With top threat Amari Cooper not playing, Prescott even caught one of his own passes, hauling in a deflection at the line for a loss of a yard. Arduous as it is to garner any indication of how the Cowboys running game would fare minus holdout Ezekiel Elliott, Pollard was fine but far from spectacular and the running game as a whole struggled the entire game.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, however, was plenty happy with his rookie after the game.
“I certainly thought he had a good account of himself,” Jones told reporters. “We know he’s capable of, if he needs to, carrying the whole load.”
8. One prevailing quandary for the 49ers is how their running back situation will shake up. Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman have created a good problem to have for the Niners and coach Kyle Shanahan, but none of them played on Saturday and running back Raheem Mostert suffered a first-quarter concussion. McKinnon was lost all of last season. Breida shined despite a seemingly permanent spot on the injury report. As much potential as this group has, any injury could be significant. With Mostert out Saturday, the only available backs were Austin Walter and Brandon Wilds, the latter having signed with the team earlier in the day (and not only suiting up but busting out a 15-yard gain in his first carry).
9. Jalen Hurd introduced himself well to 49ers fans and the NFL world on Saturday night. On just three catches, he had two touchdowns, pulling off quite a highlight on his second scoring grab when he contorted for six. There’s plenty of excitement surrounding a young receiving corps in San Fran, which includes Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel and Hurd. Hurd backed up some of the hype in his first showing and Samuel fared well, too, hauling in a pair of catches, including a 45-yard gain. The future is bright in the passing game for the Niners.