After Thursday’s preseason palooza of 12 games, Friday’s slate a games offered a more selective docket of contests. The early matchup featured the first chapter in the Jets‘ starting quarterback search and the late game featured Jon Gruden’s return to Oakland and Matt Patricia’s head coaching debut with the Detroit Lions.
Here’s what we learned from Friday’s Week 1 preseason games:
Nothing is official until the regular season starts, and Gruden and Patricia have to be glad about that.
Gruden’s Oakland homecoming and Patricia’s Lions debut was a rather sloppy, penalty-laden affair for both teams — the sort of preseason game that coaches can’t feel fantastic about but can take solace in knowing it’s ramifications are limited.
For the Lions, the three-way running back duel between Ameer Abdullah, LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson was on vivid display. Based on his performance against the Raiders, it appears Abdullah is acutely aware he needs to have a good preseason to increase his odds of staying in Detroit this season.
Abdullah rushed for 16 yards and a touchdown on four carries and also made a 7-yard catch. While the performance might have unearthed memories of his rookie season, it might be too late for anything but memories when it comes to Abdullah and the Lions. Both Blount (5-21) and Johnson (7-34) got more carries, and it’s very possible Abdullah is only being used to bolster his potential trade value.
Connor Cook more or less was the Raiders‘ star of the night. It’s clear that Gruden is giving Cook the opportunity to secure the backup quarterback role in his in-house duel with EJ Manuel, and Cook responded with a solid performance. He completed 11 of 19 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown.
Another standout? Kicker Eddy Pineiro. The rookie is the favorite out of camp to win the starting job, and the Raiders signaled their faith in him by cutting Giorgio Tavecchio last week. Pineiro was 3 for 3 on field-goal attempts, nailing distances of 21, 48 and 45 yards.
Marshawn Lynch could have been another player in the spotlight if his 60-yard touchdown carry at the beginning of the game wasn’t nullified by a holding call on first-round draft pick Kolton Miller, but that’s how it goes in the preseason.
Based on how he played in his New York Jets debut, it’d be a shame to see Teddy Bridgewater stuck on a sideline this season. Bridgewater efficiently managed the Jets‘ offense over the parts of two quarters he played, showing good pocket presence and mobility in solid showing that strengthened his credentials as a potential NFL starter in 2018.
Upon entering the game after Josh McCown went three-and-out in his only series, Bridgewater completed 7 of 8 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Most of his passes were of the so-called dink-and-dunk variety, but his pass over the middle to running back Isaiah Crowell, who worked hard to score a 16-yard TD, was exactly on target. A 21-yard completion to Neal Sterling toward the end of his stint was probably his best pass — a quick, surgical strike that went up the gut on the Falcons‘ secondary and helped set up a field goal a short time later.
"It was definitely a great feeling just being out there with the guys," Bridgewater said after the game. "The greatest feeling is coming away with a victory, seeing all of your hard work in training camp paying off. That’s the best feeling. But it was a great feeling for me personally, being back out there after a couple years off seeing live action. It felt good getting hit again even though you never want the quarterback to get hit. It wasn’t a sack or anything, but it felt good being out there and I’m excited."
The Jets‘ crowded QB room is a problem of the good variety for Jets coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, but it difficult to fathom the Jets not finding a juicy trade market for Bridgewater’s services as the regular season fast approaches. With third overall pick Sam Darnold living up to his promise, so far, there’s really no good reason to keep Bridgewater on the roster.
As for Darnold, he put in an effort that showcased his potential to win the starting job this season.