1. Quarterbacks: Rookies and Returns
The first overall pick came into the season with a tonne of questions surrounding him. Would he be worthy of the first pick? Could he be the QB Cleveland has been searching for for decades? Will he be ready to start Week 1? Will he be another Johnny Manziel?
In his first showing in the pre-season he seemed to answer a few of those questions; at least, as much as he could in a pre-season game.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 10, 2020
Against the Giants Mayfield looked calm and collected, and like he had the ability to run a pro offence. In his first game, he finished 11/20 for 212 yards and 2 TD’s. His first pro touchdown came with him feeling out the pocket and delivering a bullet pass with precision.
Overall a great showing from the rookie QB.
Much like Mayfield, the third overall pick came into this season with questions following him. There were questions swirling around Darnold of his readiness to play at the pro level. After signing his first contract a little over a week prior to taking on the Falcons in Week 1, he too answered a few questions.
In camp Darnold was showing flashes of brilliance, enough for some coaches to suggest it would be possible for him start Week 1 of the regular season. Darnold showed some of that talent against Atlanta on Saturday night.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 11, 2020
He exhibited the ability to throw on the run and make plays against an NFL-level defence. He was very efficient, going 13/18 for 96 yards and 1 TD. That TD displayed his play-action rollout ability finding the receiver at the cone for the score.
Not only did rookies show their stuff in Week 1, but some quarterbacks who have been away from the game for some time put together some impressive performances in their returns.
One of them was Teddy Bridgewater who signed with the Jets as a free agent. Since missing the entire 2016 season with Minnesota from a torn ACL. He remained out for the 2017 season up until November.
First touchdown pass since 2014 ✅pic.twitter.com/dHDuoUxI6t
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) August 11, 2020
In his long-awaited return to the field Bridgewater looked impressive with the Jets, going 7/8 for 85 yards and leading the team down the field for the TD with a pass to Isaiah Crowell.
How much playing time Bridgewater will get remains a question with a bit of a crowded QB room in New York, but nonetheless it was nice to see he perform well in his comeback.
Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 season after off-season shoulder surgery. Colts’ fans waited patiently each week last year in anticipation that he would return to the line-up at some point.
Unfortunately, that never came, but he returned to the team for the 2018 training camp and in Week 1 against Seattle Luck looked impressive and efficient leading the Colts to a scoring drive.
He finished the game going 6/9 for 64 yards while knocking off a year’s worth of rust and delivering the Colts to field goal position.
Lamar Jackson/Robert Griffin III
In two games (HOF Game) in the preseason both rookie QB Lamar Jackson and long-time returnee RG3 showed immediate impact and talent.
Jackson threw for 152 yards in both games while rushing for 46 and a rushing TD. RG3 totalled 146 yards passing with 2TD’s in both games for the Ravens.
These performances could have Joe Flacco sweating with questions already surrounding his future in Baltimore for next season.
2. Minnesota Vikings
For a team that made off-season move after move to bulk up the talent on both sides of the ball, it’s no question they are the favourites to challenge the Eagles for the NFC crown. The acquisition of Kirk Cousins - the most notable move they made - has the offence poised for a massive year.
They showcased that on Saturday night against the Broncos. Cousins went 4/4 for 42 yards and 1 TD. He hit receivers with great precision including an amazing 28-yard bomb to Steffon Diggs before hitting him for the touchdown.
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) August 12, 2020
The Vikings were able to get it done on the ground, too, picking up 43 rushing yards from Latavius Murray. If this small sample of offensive firepower is any indication of what this offence is capable of, the rest of the NFC and league should look out!
3. Washington Injuries
Washington has had bad luck over the last week. First, they lost Derrius Guice to a torn ACL in the game against the Patriots. Guice was set for a potential break out as one of the best offensive rookies this year with his size and speed, which was something Washington was looking forward to adding as an explosive piece to their offence.
If that wasn’t enough, Washington also lost a receiver in practice on Saturday to a broken leg. Robert Davis got tangled up with corner Danny Johnson and suffered the injury.
While Davis wasn’t set to be as impactful as Guice, it’s a major blow for a receiver looking to make a roster and to the depth at the receiver position for the team. Horrible luck all around for the franchise so far in camp.
For a Washington team that was looking for some major offensive production with the acquisition of Alex Smith at quarterback, they cannot afford any more significant injuries on that side of the ball if they want to compete in the heavy NFC East.
4. Shaquem Griffin
The feel-good story of the 2018 draft continues to feel even better. The 5th round pick of the Seahawks, who had his hand amputated at age four due to amniotic band syndrome, got his first snaps of the pre-season in Week 1 and did not disappoint. Despite his handicap, he was both and can play football, and at a high level.
Checking in on Shaquem Griffin at Seahawks training camp…
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) July 30, 2020
In his first game as a pro he lead the Hawks in tackles with 9 total, while proving to be a force for creating pressure on the QB. He stood out the most out of any Seahawks player on defence and not just because of his disability.
In an early sample he looks like he could be the pass-rushing force Seattle has been missing since the days of Bruce Irvin and their Super Bowl runs.
5. New Helmet Rule
The new helmet contact rule being instituted by the NFL has a few people concerned. While I am all for player safety and the importance of keeping NFL players safe, it does seem like in early doses the new rule could be troublesome.
With any player lowering his head to make a tackle now being called a penalty we saw it called more times than it probably should have in the HOF game and even in some Week 1 pre-season games.
I counted four Use of Helmet/Unnecessary Roughness-type penalties from the HOF game between the Raves and Bears. I'll let you be the judge of them, but all I can say is that you should expect A LOT of penalties this season pic.twitter.com/lk93rNCyPT
— Jimmy Norkewicz (@ZOMGitzjimmy) August 3, 2020
Most penalties that were called did not show intent from the defensive player to use his head in a malicious way. While the number of penalties being called is alarming, it’s something that we may just be seeing in the pre-season and could be hashed out come regular season time.
I for one hope so.
Week 2 of the NFL pre-season is set to get underway Thursday night with three games slated, with the action continuing over Friday and Saturday. Are you ready for some football?
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