NFL News & Analysis

Preseason Week 1 wrap-up: Strong debut for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, more

the Dallas Cowboys the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum during preseason on August 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

PFF is providing recaps, grades and analysis for every preseason game. Check back each morning for updates from the previous night's games.

Sunday, Aug. 14

Texans 24, 49ers 13

With a quarterback battle underway for the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick sat out the game with Blaine Gabbert continuing to be the starter. Gabbert had a couple of nice throws, including one that ended up as a touchdown due to some nice after-the-catch work by Vance McDonald, but ultimately did little to help secure the starting job. He missed on a handful of easy throws, once again bringing his accuracy into question.

Brock Osweiler got his first game action with his new team on Sunday, but with just 15 snaps played, we weren’t given too much of a look yet. He completed four of seven passes, but all four came on throws less than 10 yards in the air, and he didn’t attempt a pass under pressure, as he was sacked on the lone pressured dropback.

[More: Get the full HOU-SF game recap here.]

Saturday, Aug. 13

The first week of preseason continued Saturday with four games taking place, featuring three results that came down to a single point to separate the winner and loser. Below follows a recap of each game, including the biggest takeaway.

Seahawks 17, Chiefs 16

Quarterback Alex Smith and the Chiefs opened the scoring with a touchdown pass to No. 1 wide receiver Jeremy Maclin early, and it looked like this game could feature some scoring. QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawks looked set to answer that score before Chiefs second-year cornerback Marcus Peters undercut a late pass to notch an interception, and when the backups entered the game, things slowed down when it came to scoring.

The Chiefs held the lead in the final seconds before Seahawks rookie QB Trevone Boykin heaved a pass in the direction of former Wisconsin safety/wide receiver Tanner McEvoy, who was able to elevate and bring it in for the score. A two-point conversion with time expired gave the team the comeback win.

Second-round Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones is a player who ended up at No. 12 on PFF’s pre-draft big board, and he showed in this game why that was, grading well and showing a freakish blend of size and speed. He could end up proving a great value draft pick and an impact player early.

Colts 19, Bills 18

A blocked punt by Bills tight end Chris Gragg that resulted in a safety opened the scoring in this game, putting the Bills up 2-0 in the first quarter. Buffalo QB EJ Manuel then added to it by tossing a pretty touchdown pass on a corner route to Gragg.

Some lousy defending and missed tackles allowed the Colts to not just come back but take the lead against the backups, which left Bills rookie QB Cardale Jones to attempt a game winning drive late in the fourth quarter.

After some very ugly throws earlier in the game, Jones looked composed and assured in this situation, and made a couple of nice passes to end with a touchdown as time expired. This being preseason, the Bills went for two to get the win, but Jones couldn’t find an open receiver before pressure forced him to throw an incompletion.

Bills third-round defensive lineman Adolphus Washington looked very good, earning a solid grade and notching a pair of pressures, which is particularly important for the Bills given the absence of their first two rookie picks — first-round DE Shaq Lawson will miss some time due to injury, while second-round LB Reggie Ragland is out for the season.

Rams 29, Cowboys 28

The first game of the Rams' return to Los Angeles had a nightmare start, with the Cowboys returning the opening kickoff more than 100 yards for a touchdown, but they did manage to complete the comeback by the final whistle.

Dallas rookie QB Dak Prescott looked excellent, and may have already answered the backup QB questions for the Cowboys. Although his first touchdown pass was more about star wideout Dez Bryant making an excellent catch than it was the throw, the same can’t be said of his second to WR Terrance Williams, which was an excellent ball.

Rams rookie QB Jared Goff was hit hard as he threw on one pass attempt, resulting in an interception and, more importantly, his being banged up for the remainder of the game. He only saw 13 snaps before being replaced, but he was on the field long enough to show a flash of the ability the Rams know he has. (For a complete recap of Goff's debut, check out this article from PFF's Jordan Plocher.)

Titans 27, Chargers 10

The Titans pounded their way to victory on the ground, with the running game proving too much for the San Diego Chargers throughout the depth chart. DeMarco Murray proved that there is life in his legs yet, ripping off a 71-yard score before rookie backup Derrick Henry began to deliver the goods in his stead.

The Titans were aided by the fact they kept their starters in for a long time against San Diego’s backups, so the running display has that caveat attached to it, but they were consistently too powerful and bruising for the Chargers to cope with.  Henry gained 42 of his 74 yards after contact and broke four tackles in 10 carries.

Bishop Sankey kept going where Murray and Henry left off, adding 52 yards and a score of his own, and the Tennessee runners combined to rush for 288 yards in the game.

As good as Henry and the run game looked, first-round OT Jack Conklin did not have the same kind of debut, grading negatively in both run and pass blocking. He didn’t allow a sack, but surrendered three pressures and looks like he has a significant learning curve to overcome.

Friday, Aug. 12

The first week of preseason action rolled on Friday night, with 10 teams getting their 2016 campaigns underway, including Mike Zimmer taking his Vikings to Cincinnati to take on his former team, the Bengals. Below is a recap of all five games, highlighting the biggest takeaways from each encounter.

Dolphins 27, Giants 10

With the starting quarterbacks for these two teams playing a combined seven snaps in this game, and Ryan Nassib producing the worst performance of his four-year preseason career in Eli Manning’s excused absence, the intrigue lay elsewhere in this game.

In the battle for playing time at cornerback in Miami, Bobby McCain got off to a strong start, allowing only one catch for five yards while also notching a pass defense and an interception.

Meanwhile, for the Giants defense, it was Owamagbe Odighizuwa who made the best first impression in this game, snagging a pair of sacks, hinting at his potential to add production to the starting pair of Jason Pierre-Paul and former Dolphin Olivier Vernon (two hits in his Giants debut) at defensive end.

Lions 30, Steelers 17

One of the storylines of the preseason for the Steelers is how they will replace suspended WR Martavis Bryant. Second-year receiver Sammie Coates had a shaky night from a ball-handling perspective, fumbling twice on his four touches and bobbling a screen pass. Overall, no one receiver took an early chance to stake their claim for playing time and a share of the targets from Ben Roethlisberger.

For the Lions, first-round pick Taylor Decker debuted at left tackle and registered 20 snaps. On back-to-back first-quarter snaps in pass protection, he surrendered a holding penalty to Cameron Heyward and a strip sack to James Harrison, but a cut block on Ryan Shazier to open the Lions’ next drive helped spring a 12-yard gain for running back Zach Zenner — hinting at Decker's potential impact for the Detroit ground attack.

Vikings 17, Bengals 16

The depth of the Vikings defense is one of the keys to their success, and in linebacker Eric Kendricks’ absence, Audie Cole was able to once again turn up the heat on veteran Chad Greenway for playing time. Cole and former Bengal Emmanuel Lamur (four stops) led the way for the Vikings’ defense Friday night, and as a whole the unit missed only two tackles all game.

For the Bengals, meanwhile, a solid display from fifth-round guard Christian Westerman highlighted Cincinnati’s considerable, and quality, depth on the offensive line. He was impressive as a run-blocker for the second-team offense, backing up a strong start by starting right guard Kevin Zeitler with the first-team offense.

Packers 17, Browns 11

That the Browns’ standout performer was nose tackle Jamie Meder is both a credit to Meder, looking to build upon the role he earned with strong play last summer, and a slight disappointment that none of the Browns rookie class really excited in their preseason debuts.

For new quarterback Robert Griffin III, an interception over the middle of the field blotted his copybook, but a deep ball down the right sideline to Terrelle Pryor on his only completion more than 10 yards down the field offers some hope of good things to come this season.

The Packers got their preseason underway five days later than anticipated, with rookie left tackle Jason Spriggs tying for a team-high 45 snaps. Though he was beaten a couple of times in pass protection, Spriggs did show his power on the backside of zone runs a couple of times in a solid preseason debut.

Raiders 31, Cardinals 10

The Raiders came out with the intent to test their offense and particularly quarterback Derek Carr last night — this was not your standard dink-and-dunk preseason opener for Oakland. Carr threw six of his seven passes 10-plus yards down the field, hitting on two of them, with a third dropped by Amari Cooper. After dropping 18 passes as a rookie, the Raiders will hope that Cooper can improve this area of his game and see his production and performance level grow in his second year.

For the Cardinals’ defense, edge defender Alex Okafor had a strong first half, racking up three pressures and adding three stops in the run game, including a tackle for a loss to finish off a play disrupted by Xavier Williams at nose tackle. Okafor will slide to the bench with Chandler Jones’ arrival this season, but a defense’s strength is about more than its starting 11, and performances like this in rotation with Jones and Markus Golden will only add to the Cardinals’ defense this fall.

Thursday, Aug. 11

Week 1 of the NFL preseason got under way Thursday night, with 12 teams taking the field for the first time. Below is a recap of all six games, highlighting the biggest takeaways from each contest.

Patriots 34, Saints 22

QB Jimmy Garoppolo finished the game with an average overall grade, but he also had an adjusted completion percentage of just 61.1 percent, third-lowest among QBs with at least five pass attempts. Still, he found Malcolm Mitchell (Georgia) on a well-thrown deep pass and went 9-for-13 when not under pressure. The big story, though, should be defensive end Trey Flowers’ outstanding performance. In total, he finished with three hurries, a hit, and a sack that turned into a fumble that he also recovered and returned for a touchdown. Jabaal Sheard also forced a fumble, and easily handled the Saints’ offensive line for most of the time he was on the field.

[More: See Steve Palazzolo's interview with Patriots DE Trey Flowers at training camp.]

It was a good start to the year for the Saints’ top two draft picks. First-round pick DT Sheldon Rankins (Louisville) beat Shaq Mason for a hit and a hurry, and also chased down a screen pass for a tackle for short gain. WR Michael Thomas (Ohio State) did have a dropped pass, although that was his only bad play of the game. Thomas still caught four passes for 67 yards, and was quite impressive making plays.

Jets 17, Jaguars 13

The Jets’ fourth-round rookie, CB Juston Burris (N.C. State) put on an impressive debut in coverage. On 28 snaps in coverage, he allowed two catches for 25 yards on five targets and had two pass defenses. Fellow rookie LB Darron Lee (Ohio State) had two defensive stops, including a clean-up sack, but also struggled to get off a few blocks at times in run defense.

The Jaguars’ running back duo of T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory will be a tough one to bring down if they play like they did on Thursday. Both were among the highest-graded backs, despite combining for just 10 carries. On those 10 runs, they gained 52 yards with 39 coming after contact and forced three missed tackles. After more than a year of waiting, Dante Fowler finally saw his first game action, but didn’t have much impact on his nine plays (outside of a missed tackle). Rookie LB Myles Jack (UCLA) earned positive marks in both run-defense and coverage, but an unnecessary roughness penalty brought down his overall grade some.

Falcons 23, Redskins 17

For Atlanta, WR Aldrick Robinson was arguably their top performer on offense, with 118 receiving yards on three catches to earn the second-highest overall grade out of all wide receivers from Thursday’s games. On defense, second-round pick Deion Jones (LSU) had a solid outing in run defense, with three run-stops on 10 plays and another defensive stop in coverage.

Washington’s fifth-round pick, NT Matt Ioannidis (Temple), played 23 snaps and graded above-average in both run-defense and pass-rushing. He earned the fourth-highest overall grade among interior defenders out of the six games.

Ravens 22, Panthers 19

Baltimore rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (Louisiana Tech) was quite impressive on a handful of touches. He forced two missed tackles on eight rushes that went for 44 yards to finish the game, and tied as the second-highest-graded runner out of the six games.

[More: Kenneth Dixon highlights list of three NFL OROY candidates not named Ezekiel Elliott.]

In the Panthers’ secondary, Marcus Ball, Colin Jones, and Trenton Robinson were three of the four lowest-graded safeties on Thursday. Carolina’s first-round draft pick, DL Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech), did look good, though, picking up a run-stop and a QB pressure in limited time.

Broncos 22, Bears 0

With all eyes on the quarterback battle to replace Peyton Manning, none of the competitors did much to separate from one another. Mark Sanchez picked up a few first downs through the air and threw for a touchdown, but he also had a misread that led to an interception. First-round pick Paxton Lynch (Memphis) was perfect on his five passes, but only one traveled further than 10 yards in the air, and he was responsible for a sack. Trevor Siemian took care of the ball, but his 58.3 adjusted completion percentage was the second-lowest among all quarterbacks with at least five pass attempts on Thursday.

Not much went right on offense for the Bears, but on the other side of the ball, rookie Leonard Floyd (Georgia) was pretty productive as a pass-rusher in his first outing. He had two pressures, one of which was nullified by a penalty elsewhere, and beat LT Cameron Jefferson to cause a holding penalty in the third quarter.

Eagles 17, Buccaneers 9

Eagles’ top draft pick, Carson Wentz (North Dakota State), went just 5-for-11 passing, but two passes were thrown away and another was dropped. Still, Wentz’s, worst pass came on his last throw, an overthrown ball that was intercepted by Isaiah Johnson, helping him to a slightly below-average grade for the night. Struggles for Philadelphia’s offensive line continued into this season, particularly in pass protection, as nine of the 11 players that saw the field posted below-average performances.

Buccaneers’ rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida) was targeted just once on 16 snaps in coverage, coming up with a pass defense that should have been an interception of Eagles QB Chase Daniel’s throw. Free-agent signee Robert Ayers got a quick start to the preseason, tallying three hits and a hurry on just 12 pass rushes.

[More: Get the full TB-PHI game recap here from Senior Analyst Mike Renner here.]

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