NFL Preseason: 5 Biggest Takeaways from Week 2

Well, the soup arrived and it certainly didn’t come from a can. Week 2 of the preseason was a hearty soup, loaded with palate-pounding flavors, and though Kenny Golladay may have confirmed that strong decor doesn’t always lead to a great main course, it is much easier to set expectations on the quality of the sirloin based on the first course. (If none of this meal analogy is making sense to you, please go back to the link in the first sentence.)

So before our tantalizing Week 3 crab cake appetizer, let’s take some time to further reflect on that delightful soup and continue with the main-course (regular season) projections.

5 Biggest Takeaways from Week 2

1. Rookie RBs steal the spotlight

While the first RB selected in the 2017 NFL Draft (Leonard Fournette) watched the Jaguars’ Week 2 game from the stands, a laundry list of other rookie backs were busy grabbing headlines on the field. Here’s a quick-hitter for each:

Christian McCaffrey

The Panthers’ first-round pick only touched the ball five times, but made each one count, totaling 72 yards and a TD. McCaffrey continued to prove he can run between the tackles, while showcasing his extraordinary burst in space. Expect Carolina to keep the rookie heavily involved in the offense at all times when the lights come on.

Over/under total yards from scrimmage for McCaffrey in 2017: 1,250.5

Dalvin Cook

Latavius Murray’s injury-related absence has opened the door for rookie Dalvin Cook to handle the first-team work, and he’s certainly seizing his opportunity. The rookie totaled 50 yards on eight touches in Week 2, and has proven himself as a three-down back. Though he may still lose goal-line and short-yardage work to Murray, Minnesota would be foolish to have Cook spend much time on the sideline.

Over/under touches per game for Cook in 2017: 16.5

Over/under touches per game for Murray in 2017: 10.5

Alvin Kamara

As if the Saints’ backfield wasn’t already troublesome enough for fantasy footballers, Alvin Kamara’s Week 2 performance may have complicated things even further. The third-round pick took the Saints’ first play of the game 50 yards to the house, and added to the excitement with a 22-yard reception later in the game. Expect Sean Payton to find a way for Kamara, Adrian Peterson, and Mark Ingram to all have a role in the offense.

Over/under touches per game for Kamara in 2017: 4.5

Kareem Hunt

The third-round pick’s 63 yards on 11 touches isn’t the most important takeaway from the Chiefs’ Week 2 game against the Bengals; the fact that Hunt played 17 of KC’s first 19 offensive snaps is what’s really telling. The rookie appears to be Andy Reid’s preferred back, and could sit Spencer Ware down sooner than expected.

Odds Hunt starts at RB in Week 1: 1/1

Marlon Mack

In his preseason debut, Mack galloped for 23 yards on his first two carries, and added another 23-yard run in the third quarter of the Colts’ Week 2 matchup. Frank Gore may be one of the most reliable backs in the game, but Indianapolis drafted Mack to provide some burst to their backfield. Look for the rookie to get a few snaps with the first-team offense in Week 3 and be a real weapon out of the backfield when Andrew Luck finally returns to the field.

Over/under total plays of 20-plus yards for Mack in 2017: 4.5

Some other rookie RBs who made noise in Week 2 include: DeAngelo Henderson, D’Onta Foreman, Tarik Cohen, Taquan Mizzell, Chris Carson, and Samaje Perine. But outside of Henderson, the rest appear to be locked into a backup role.

2. Quarterback troubles

While many starting QBs around the league, like Dak Prescott, enjoyed successful stints in Week 2, others made their fan-bases cringe. Let’s start with the worst and work our way up.

Christian Hackenberg

Christian Hackenberg’s rookie season was a mess. Many sources suggested he needed to completely retool his throwing motion and he got zero playing time in what was basically a wasted season in New York. Now in his second year, Hackenberg needs to take major strides in order for the Jets to invest more time in him. But Week 2 was only more evidence that the Jets wasted a second-round pick on the Penn State product. Hackenberg was the surprise starter against the Lions and was just awful, completing 2/6 passes for just 14 yards. The offense generated no first downs and just three total yards in the first quarter.

It’s likely the Jets already know what they have in Hackenberg: a wasted second-round pick.

Over/under total starts for Hackenberg in 2017: 4.5

Over/under Hackenberg’s passer rating in 2017: 65.5

Blake Bortles

While Hackenberg’s struggles may not surprise any, some are still not ready to admit Blake Bortles is a bust. The tape doesn’t lie. After watching Bortles’ mechanics turn to trash last season, the Jaguars were hoping they could use the offseason to fix the 25-year-old. These two throws from Week 2 show how things are going for Bortles …

Odds Bortles starts in Week 1: 9/8

Over/under total starts for Bortles in 2017: 5.5

Odds Bortles is a Jaguar in 2018: 7/2

Tyrod Taylor

Tyrod Taylor’s struggles, on the other hand, do come as a surprise to many. In Week 2 against the Eagles, Taylor was 8/18 for 53 yards with two INTs. The Week 2 struggles shouldn’t fall directly on Taylor, though, as the Bills are setting Taylor up to fail. The 28-year-old has proven he can succeed in the right system — one that utilizes his athleticism to move the pocket — but Bills OC Rick Dennison has had Taylor operating mostly as a pocket-passer, and the results are clear.

In the last 11 days, Buffalo has traded its best WR, Sammy Watkins, and its best corner, Ronald Darby. To top it off, the team is going to run the best QB they’ve had since a washed-up Drew Bledsoe in 2002 out of town. At least the Jets know they’re bad.

Over/under Taylor’s passer rating in 2017: 85.5

3. Trevor Siemian wins Broncos starting job

In what was supposed to be Paxton Lynch’s coming out party, the former first-round pick was outplayed by Trevor Siemian for a second straight week, ultimately leading the Broncos to name Siemian their starting QB.

Against the 49ers in Week 2, Lynch was very timid and unwilling to stand in the pocket to push the ball down the field. The 23-year-old did complete 9/13 passes, but only for 39 yards. Even Sam Bradford thinks that’s a brutal yards-per-attempt. On the other hand, Siemian was calm and cool in the pocket, and not only felt when pressure was coming, but handled it very well. The Northwestern product completed 8/11 passes for 93 yards and one TD en route to winning the QB battle for a second straight season.

Over/under Siemian’s passer rating in 2017: 89.5

4. No timeshare in Cowboys’ backfield while Zeke is out

When the NFL announced Ezekiel Elliott would be suspended six games, it was uncertain how the Cowboy backfield would look in his absence. Would Darren McFadden serve as the lead-back? Or would he and Alfred Morris split time?

Well, the Cowboys have answered that question in the preseason. In Week 2, McFadden was on the field for 16 of Dak Prescott’s 18 snaps; Morris received the other two. It was the same story in Week 1, when McFadden received all 19 snaps with the first-team offense.

The 29-year-old has taken advantage of the opportunity, rumbling for 5.8 yards per carry over Dallas’ last two preseason games.

Over/under rushing yards per game for McFadden while Elliott is out: 110.5

5. Seahawks desperate for offensive line help

According to PFF, no offensive line graded worse than the Seahawks last season. Seattle started rookies at both tackle positions, and neither performed well. First-round pick Germain Ifedi was disappointing at right tackle, and undrafted free agent George Fant was even worse on the left side. Seattle’s addition of Luke Joeckel didn’t inspire much hope, yet there was optimism the young tackles would improve.

Unfortunately, Fant tore his ACL in Week 2 of the preseason. In response, Seattle acquired Matt Tobin from the Eagles. Though Tobin’s ability to line up at multiple positions will be helpful, his prowess at each is very uninspiring. It’s a classic “jack of all trades, master of none” scenario, and Seattle is in a lot of trouble up front.

Over/under yards per carry for the Seahawks in 2017: 3.8

Perry

Perry is a regular contributor to MTS and a die-hard Broncos fan. Yes, he does remember the five Super Bowl losses, but likely remembers all your teams shortcomings, too. Consider yourself warned. Though his love for the Broncos may seem unconditional, Mr. Port never mixes his emotions with gambling.