SportsPulse: Trysta Krick overreacts to the top stories from this Week 2 of NFL preseason action. The high-profile rookie QB class is looking good.
With Monday night’s 20-19 Ravens victory over the Colts, the second week of the preseason is through. That means each squad’s most important game is yet to come. Week 3 of the preseason is widely known as the dress rehearsal game, where starters get a good chunk of playing time, and much of what fans will see then is the result of what happened over the weekend.
Here’s a look at winners and losers from Week 2 of the preseason.
Josh Allen: Though many considered him to be the least pro-ready of the elite quarterbacks in the draft, Allen might be the one making the strongest case to start. In Friday’s 19-17 victory against the Browns, Allen led the Bills on scoring drives on each of the three series he played, going nine of 13 for 60 yards and one score. Most impressive was that Allen showed pocket awareness and poise, and kept his eyes shifting through his progressions when defenders charged toward him.
The latest sign of momentum? In Monday’s practice, the Bills worked Allen with the first-string. By the afternoon, the team announced he’d start Sunday against the Bengals.
The Jets: An organization that has spent years searching for a franchise quarterback, New York — suddenly — might have multiple options. Rookie Sam Darnold has impressed thus far in his first training camp. Teddy Bridgewater has flashed in his comeback from a major knee injury two years ago — completing 10 of 15 passes for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception — and might actually be the best option to play right now. And veteran Josh McCown is steady and an excellent leader in the locker room, though he’s not a long-term option. The Jets can go either way, but one appealing route might be to appoint McCown or Darnold as the QB1 and ship Bridgewater in a trade to recoup more assets.
James Conner: With Le’Veon Bell’s continued absence from the Steelers, the slimmed-down Conner is taking advantage. Though he’s only carried the ball nine times this preseason — including five for 57 and one touchdown in Thursday’s loss against the Packers — Conner has proven he can elude defenders and can be a contributor in the regular season. Just take a peek at this 26-yard scamper to see how.
Joe Flacco: He has struggled in recent years as his supporting cast lacked star talent, but Flacco looked poised and comfortable against the Colts. He completed seven of nine passes for 72 yards and one touchdown. But more importantly, he looked to build some rapport with new receivers Michael Crabtree (nice, zone-beating, 29-yard catch down the left sideline), John Brown (7-yard touchdown grab in traffic), and tight end Hayden Hurst (15-yard reception in between defenders).
Tyreek Hill: The Chiefs receiver broke out last season, catching 75 passes for 1,183 yards and seven touchdowns. All that, despite having a passer in Alex Smith who was measured and avoided mistakes, while sometimes sacrificing deep throws. With the strong-armed Pat Mahomes taking over the starting quarterback job, Friday’s 28-14 Kansas City victory flashed a glimpse of what Mahomes can do with Hill — one of the fastest players in the NFL — at his disposal on this 69-yard touchdown.
Dez Bryant: Long maintaining that he needed to get his mind right before returning to football, the unsigned Bryant might have missed his best chance to latch on to an ascending roster. Bryant live-tweeted the preseason opening game for the Browns on Aug. 9 and announced that he would be making a visit to the franchise. He did on Thursday, but it was in the wake of star receiver Josh Gordon announcing his return to the team after an extended hiatus as he worked on his mental health. Now, Cleveland apparently does not need Bryant, which means he’ll likely have to keep waiting to find a suitor.
Kirk Cousins: Granted, it’s just one preseason game, so no need to overreact, and, as last year proved, that Jaguars first-string defense is legit. But Cousins had a rocky night in a 14-10 loss, going three of eight for 12 yards. Out of four drives Cousins played, the offense sputtered to three-and-outs on two of them. Cousins is clearly the franchise quarterback in Minnesota, but Saturday’s game might be an indication that there will be some growing pains against top-tier defenses.
AJ McCarron: It’s bad enough that McCarron was the weakest of the three Bills quarterbacks in Friday’s game, completing just three of six passes for 12 yards, but he suffered a shoulder injury that all but ends his shot at becoming Buffalo’s Week 1 starter. The Bills said McCarron is still undergoing further tests to determine the severity. But with the regular-season opener fewer than three weeks away, and with Allen making strides and Nathan Peterman keeping steady in the competition, it’s a near certainty McCarron will — again — be relegated to the bench.
Dolphins rush defense: They were middle of the pack last season, allowing 110.5 rushing yards a game (14th), and after Friday’s 27-20 loss to the Panthers, Miami might still have more work to do to stop the ground game. On 31 carries, the Panthers earned 226 yards (7.3 yards per attempt) and three touchdowns. Seventy-one came on one rush.
It even prompted Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, whom Miami released in March, to respond “Right up the Gut lol” to the above video on Instagram.
The Patriots: Yes, it looked like Trent Brown was going to take over the starting left tackle spot, anyway, but anytime a team loses a first-round pick to a torn Achilles, it’s never good. Tackle Isaiah Wynn, who was taken with the No. 23 overall selection, was expected to at least rotate in and out of the lineup, and might have been poised to take the right tackle gig from Marcus Cannon. New England should recover from the loss, but it’s a blow to a team that was already dealing with the departure of left tackle Nate Solder in free agency.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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