It feels nice to watch live games again. This year, we have three full weeks of preseason action. The opening week is mainly give unheralded players a chance to make rosters, so take a measured approach in your response to the performances. Overreacting to one week of preseason play isn’t a good look!
RB Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots: The rookie rusher exploded with a pair of scores on 10 carries, finishing the game with 127 rushing yards. He capped it off with a winning TD jaunt of 91 yards. For perspective, he ran nine other times for 4.0 yards per tote. Did the big day increase his likelihood of cutting into the rotational share with Sony Michel (6-26-0) and Damien Harris (4-17-0)? It surely didn’t hurt. If anything, it put Michel’s roster spot closer to being in jeopardy. Stevenson could prove to be a worthwhile gamble as a late-round choice; if you’re drafting in the next week, recognize this situation is far from settled after one preseason contest.
QBs Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos: The two quarterbacks failed to separate themselves from one another after the first preseason outing. Both looked the part of what we expect from them, however. Lock completed five of his seven throws for 151 yards and a pair of scoring strikes, while Bridgewater missed only one of his eight attempts. He ended up with 74 yards and a TD toss of his own. This is exactly what the team wants to see … both QBs doing what they do best and pushing each other. Lock is the gunslinger type, which was reflected in his stat line, and the game-managing Bridgewater took the safe route to six points. This one may go down to the wire.
RB Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos: Fantasy gamers should be plenty pleased with what Williams delivered. He finished with 29 yards on five totes (5.8 YPC) and secured first downs on consecutive attempts to open his career. The stat line would have looked prettier had it not been for a TD-negating penalty after Williams displayed power and vision. The rookie is poised to be a weekly factor in fake football plans.
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins: It was a mixed bag for the 2020 first-rounder as Tagovailoa completed eight of his 11 attempts for 99 yards, showing his chemistry with tight end Mike Gesicki had carried over from last season. The interception is disconcerting, however, given it came in the end zone as he tried to throw late into double coverage. Those mistakes will happen for a quarterback with only 10 game appearances under his belt. Expect the coaching staff to hammer home ball security and not trying to do too much. Overall, it was a promising outing. Tua is an intriguing risk-reward QB2 decision late in drafts.
QB Justin Fields, Chicago Bears: The Bears made no secret of Fields’ extensive playing opportunity. He was given seven series, starting off on the shaky side of things, but it all came together in a 14-for-20 effort that resulted in 142 yards and a wide-open touchdown throw. He ran five times for 33 yards and scampered into the end zone. Andy Dalton looked like Andy Dalton: 2-for-4, 18 yards and no first downs. The Fields hype train is full steam ahead. His passing skills should be inconsistent, though the running ability will separate him some weeks, and it allows for more creative play-calling. While Dalton has been named the starter already, head coach Matt Nagy has to be second-guessing himself right about now.
QB Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars: From one rookie first-rounder to the first overall pick of this past spring’s draft, Lawrence looked about what was to be expected. He finished 6-for-9 for 71 yards. The highlight of his day was a brilliantly placed throw to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. after Lawrence surveyed the field behind excellent pass protection … a glimpse of what’s to come.
QBs Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints: A tale of two QBs trending in opposite directions … Hill (8/12, 81 yards, 1 INT) started hot but faded, whereas Winston did the exact opposite. The former Buccaneer ended with 96 yards, a touchdown and a pick (shocking, right?!?) on his 7-for-12 day. No separation just yet, but the evidence Winston will be more effective for fantasy receiving commodities continues to grow.
QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots: It was a respectable showing from Jones in his NFL debut. He connected on 13 of 19 passes for 87 yards without a score or turnover. He looked comfortable and was his natural self on the move. The Alabama product dropped a 50-yarder in a bucket that was a sure touchdown if Kristian Wilkerson hadn’t butterfingered one on an otherwise quality night for the receiver. Cam Newton was good for 49 yards from four completions on seven tries. His most memorable play was getting lit up by Washington DE Chase Young. Is the gap closing between Newton and Jones? It’s hard to think anything otherwise.
QB Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo started, as expected, and Lance’s first series was a three-and-out dud. He returned for the next drive to set the fantasy world abuzz with an 80-yard touchdown to WR Trent Sherfield on a classic Kyle Shanahan design (play-action rollout). Lance finished with mediocre stats otherwise, completing only five of 14 throws for 128 yards. He didn’t get intercepted, at least. … Not a first bad game back after missing all of 2020’s college season.
QB Zach Wilson, New York Jets: A brief appearance came with a rather frenetic pace for an offense had been anything but in recent memory. Wilson completed all but three of his nine attempts for 63 yards, lasering a first-down strike to Corey Davis in tight coverage. The Jets looked lively, and their prized rookie passer resembled every bit the part of a No. 2 overall pick. He was decisive and delivered after what has been a rocky training camp.
WR Quez Watkins, Philadelphia Eagles: Despite securing just one of two targets, Watkins gave the offense an explosive 79-yard play on a screen pass. He demonstrated vision and athleticism, traits the Eagles may desire to mix in with similar skill sets of Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith (knee). Reagor displayed quality route-running traits in the game, and Smith is nearing a return to practice any day now. Watkins belongs on your radar but isn’t quite draftable just yet.
RB DeeJay Dallas, Seattle Seahawks: Even with Rashaad Penny inactive, Dallas didn’t touch the ball on offense until the third quarter. He’d go on to finish with 69 total yards and a 43-yard scoring grab on fourth down. Current and prospective Chris Carson owners should keep close tabs on Dallas’ next two appearances.