Just like that, Week 1 of the preseason is in the books. However, the attempts to analyze players based on 12 snaps has only just begun! (But that’s certainly not what this is…)
With all 32 teams in action over the weekend, we received our first look at several big story lines that we have been monitoring all offseason. We have to remember that Week 1 was just a glimpse, and no concrete convictions can be derived just yet – which benefits a couple teams. (Cough, Chicago.) However, that doesn’t mean we can’t begin forming our stances on select players or teams, even the ones who provided us with very little to discuss.
One truism that dominated the Week 1 slate is that what we just witnessed was preseason football. We were “treated” to six games in which neither team reached 20 points; we also got the pleasure of watching three safeties in the same contest (Cleveland at Green Bay). At this stage, the majority of the offenses in the league have more holes than a salt shaker – as is always the case. Fortunately, there is still about a month to patch them up.
With that in mind, here are some of the biggest holes, as well as the most encouraging performances, in what I deem the five biggest takeaways from Week 1 of the preseason.
The Broncos’ defense looks fine
After losing Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan to free agency in the offseason, many pundits believed the Broncos’ defense would take a major step back from their legendary 2015 status.
However, after only allowing 130 net yards, recording seven sacks, a safety, and a shutout in their preseason debut, Wade Phillips’ unit appears to be picking up right where it left off. Were they matched up against an offensive juggernaut in the Bears? No, but the Broncos certainly displayed their dominance.
Both Jared Crick and rookie Adam Gotsis made their case to fill the void left by Malik Jackson, while rookie safeties Will Parks and Justin Simmons made inspiring NFL debuts.
After that performance, the Bronco defense ensured that Denver isn’t going to spend the year mourning the loss of a couple big names.
Side note, Trevor Siemian proved that he actually is 1b on the QB depth chart.
Be mindful of who the Titans were playing
Tennessee’s first preseason game went extremely well. The Titans pounded the ball all night, racking up a whopping 288 yards on an incredible 8.7 yards per carry, and their performance has lead to a lot of hype.
The AFC South was absolutely horrible last season, but the return of Andrew Luck and the Jaguars’ big moves have a lot of pundits projecting it to be a competitive division in 2016. After a 27-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers, some have the Titans entering the division race as well.
I don’t want to take away from what DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry did on the ground (167 combined yards on just 16 carries, plus a touchdown apiece), but I would have had a big day carrying the rock with the holes they had the luxury of running through.
Murray and Henry did show great vision and made some impressive cuts, but the offensive line made their day pretty easy. This could be a sign of a much-improved Titan o-line, or it could be the product of the defense they were facing: the Chargers, who gave up 125.3 yards per game on the ground in 2015 (27th).
I’m not saying this won’t be a promising rushing attack, but we’ll know more after next week’s game against Carolina.
Maybe John Elway knew exactly what Brock Osweiler was worth
After riding the bench for all but eight games during his four years as a member of the Denver Broncos, 2016 was supposed to be Brock Osweiler’s time to take the throne from Peyton Manning.
However, as we all know, Osweiler opted to sign with the Houston Texans in the offseason after Denver would not offer him anything close to the four-year, $72 million contract that was put on the table by Houston.
Osweiler is supposed to bring the Houston offense back to legitimacy, but his first game wasn’t encouraging. He went 4 of 7 for 27 yards, missing open receivers on a couple of those incompletions, and also throwing well short of the first-down mark on a couple of third down plays. It’s safe to say his Texans debut was underwhelming.
For now, Elway looks like a genius for letting Osweiler walk. However, there is lots of time for the fifth-year signal caller to make up for his poor preseason performance.
The Cowboys don’t need to sign another quarterback
After Kellen Moore broke his ankle in training camp, there was plenty of talk about the Cowboys looking for a veteran to backup Tony Romo. But the rookie they selected in the fourth round, Dak Prescott, did his best to assure Jerry Jones that he already has a reliable option behind Romo.
Prescott got the start for the Cowboys on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams (Romo was inactive) and he certainly grabbed the attention of his team. The Mississippi State product went 10 of 12 for 139 yards and two touchdowns through the air. As if those numbers weren’t impressive enough on their own, the degree of difficulty on some of his throws – specifically his second touchdown pass – should have the Cowboys thrilled with their rookie quarterback.
The main criticism of Prescott coming out of college was that he didn’t have the arm for the NFL. He’s silenced a lot of doubters already.
The 49ers’ quarterback competition is far from over
Word out of 49ers camp had suggested that Blaine Gabbert was far ahead of Colin Kaepernick, but Gabbert didn’t take advantage of his opportunity against the Houston Texans, who were without J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing.
Kaepernick sat out of the preseason opener with shoulder tightness, which gave Gabbert a prime opportunity to expand his lead in the quarterback battle; instead, Gabbert went 4 of 10 for 63 yards and a touchdown. Those stats don’t look good as is, but get even worse when you consider that his day was saved by the late 43-yard touchdown pass to Vance McDonald.
Although Kaepernick may not have improved his stock, Gabbert certainly damaged his own with a rough night.
With the running game looking strong (236 yards on 34 carries, averaging 6.9 yards per rush) under new head coach Chip Kelly, the 49ers’ offense has a chance to get back on track in 2016. More subpar QB play would kill that chance – especially in a very tough NFC West.
Week 2 will see the 49ers head to Denver, where it won’t get any easier for Gabbert. Another underwhelming performance could mean a shuffle on the quarterback leader board in San Francisco before Kaepernick ever takes the field.