5 takeaways from Thursday night in preseason Week Two
Preseason Week 2 kicked off Thursday night with three games — Washington 15, Jets 13; Packers 51, Steelers 34; and Patriots 37, Eagles 20 —so here are five takeaways from the action.
1. More injuries
What could be worse for Nick Foles than going from Super Bowl LII MVP to potential bench warmer in the Eagles’ very next game that matters? How about suffering a right shoulder strain only two series into the preseason? Indeed, Philadelphia’s special backup is undergoing tests Friday to determine the severity of the injury, which he suffered while throwing a pick-six early in the second quarter.
Suffice to say, any Eagles fans (or executives) who were holding out hope that Foles might command a Sam Bradford-esque trade bounty this summer can probably forget about it. More pressing now, the Eagles must hope Foles is OK because he’s their ultra-valuable insurance policy early in 2018, when Carson Wentz continues working his way back from major knee surgery in December.
The carnage was worse for the Patriots, who lost the first of two first-rounders, OL Isaiah Wynn, to a ruptured left Achilles that will end his rookie season before it even began. Wynn had played all along the offensive line in his first offseason, most recently at right tackle, where starter Marcus Cannon remains sidelined. Although he didn’t appear ticketed for a starting job (barring injury), Wynn’s versatility was supposed to be a big asset as a rookie. Now that hope is gone.
Remember, New England’s other first-rounder, Wynn’s former Bulldog teammate RB Sony Michel, hasn’t practiced since having his knee drained nearly two weeks ago.
In semi-related injured rookie RB news, Washington decided to stand pat after losing Derrius Guice to a torn ACL last week in part because of the presence of second-year back Samaje Perine. Well, Perine left Thursday’s game after only one carry, a 30-yarder through a massive hole off the right side, that ended with him suffering an ankle injury.
It feels like Washington is stuck in last year’s injury nightmare. Perine struggled as a rookie but has a huge opportunity in Guice’s absence to change the early narrative. We’ll see what effect his injury has now.
2. QB situation a good problem for Jets for a change
With last week’s starter, Josh McCown, getting the night off, it was all Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater vs. Washington, with Darnold getting the start. The No. 3 overall pick failed to impress as much as in his debut, going 0-for-2 in the red zone, including throwing an interception and taking a coverage sack. But he was playing with backup OL against a dangerous Washington front, unlike Bridgewater, who drew rave reviews while battling mostly backups.
Bridgewater had a great two-play sequence early in the fourth quarter, when he showed his pocket savvy and improvisational skills on second down, then drilled a 16-yard scoring strike to Charone Peake seconds later. Impressive stuff. But Bridgewater, like Darnold, on the next series tossed an interception.
Our take: If the Jets think Darnold is ready, they should start him. Bridgewater is a great story who’s shaping up to be a decent trade chip, unlike McCown, whose salary is probably cost-prohibitive unless a team finds itself in a pinch and needs a starter. All the people pining for the Jets to “play their best quarterback” in Bridgewater can’t possibly be the same one who lambasted Gang Green for not getting a look at Christian Hackenberg, can they?
Remember, Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan earned contract extensions this offseason. This isn’t the same as Jeff Fisher and John Fox each of the past two seasons. And although the Jets don’t have an ideal rookie QB incubator, it’s not the worst ever (that might be in Buffalo — sorry, Josh Allen).
After getting crunched by a free rusher on his first snap as Washington’s new franchise QB, Alex Smith settled in nicely, converting 4-of-6 for 80 yards on his lone series, ending in a field goal. He found Josh Doctson on a third-and-9 chain-mover over the middle that showed his accuracy and ability to get through his progression and narrowly missed Mr. Irrelevant Trey Quinn on his only other third-down attempt. Smith looked solid after the scary first snap, which drew a roughing flag after Jordan Jenkins drove Smith into the turf in a tackle not unlike the one Anthony Barr broke Aaron Rodgers’ tailbone on last year.
Speaking of Rodgers, his preseason debut also lasted one series, in which he converted 2-of-4 passes for 35 yards and an 8-yard TD to new red-zone monster Jimmy Graham. It was a gorgeous route from Graham and classic Rodgers avoiding initial pressure up the gut before firing a dart. This looked like stealing and something we could see with great regularity this year.
4. Kevin Colbert did it again?
It’s almost like the Steelers GM knows how to find draft value at wide receiver better than everyone else. Antonio Brown. Emmanuel Sanders. Martavis Bryant. JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Enter James Washington, the Biletnikoff Award winner whom Colbert nabbed in Round 2 and looks like a Day 1 starter. Washington made several highlight grabs among his monstrous 5-114-2 receiving line Thursday night, demonstrating his sticky hands and competitiveness to win in flight.
He’s another lethal playmaker on the NFL’s most lethal passing attack. And his style as a vertical threat with RB skills after the catch should mesh tremendously well with Brown and Smith-Schuster in a passing game that epitomizes pick your poison.
5. Patriots redshirt rookie pass rush
They needed it in Super Bowl LII, but the Patriots found a pass rush this time against the Eagles, dropping Philly passers a combined 11 times, including 8 sacks. Seemingly everyone got in on the action, but perhaps the most notable was a pair of redshirt rookies — Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis.
Davis was signed as an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee Chatanooga last year and spent his rookie season on the non-football injury list with a bulging disc in his back. But he was a draftable talent and — stop us if you’ve heard this — Belichick sees value where others don’t (check out Cordarrelle Patterson’s highlight TD after you read this).
Earning the start at left end, Davis secured 1.5 sacks and 2 QB hits, looking like a difference maker with some significant juice at a yoked-up 280 pounds. Ditto for Rivers, who tore his ACL last preseason after the Youngstown State product was selected 83rd overall, the highest among New England’s five-man draft class.
New England has an ascending star in Trey Flowers and coaxed great mileage from rookie Deatrich Wise last year. In an EDGE group that has received plenty of scrutiny following the trades of Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins and inability to re-sign Akiem Hicks in recent seasons, it appears Belichick and Brian Flores have some up-and-comers.
In light of the injury issues to their incoming rookie crop, it sure would be nice if they had a couple “extra” draft picks in the form of Davis and Rivers to contribute in a front seven badly in need of a rebound.