25 Performances That Blew Us Away in Week 2 NFL Preseason Action

Matt SteinCorrespondent IIAugust 20, 2012

25 Performances That Blew Us Away in Week 2 NFL Preseason Action

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    While performances during the NFL preseason often need to be taken with a grain of salt, it's hard to not get excited about some superb play.

    Whether it was Melvin Ingram dominating on the defense side of the ball or Sam Bradford looking like his 2010 self, there were plenty of Week 2 performances that simply blew us away.

    Here are 25 of such performances that will have us talking for weeks.

25. Jordy Nelson, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers

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    Game Statistics: One Reception, 20 Yards, One Touchdown

    Jordy Nelson may have only had one reception during his game against the Cleveland Browns, but boy was it a beautiful reception. After seeing that pass-and-catch, it's easy to see why Nelson is quickly making a name for himself as one of the premier receivers in the league.

    After Aaron Rodgers missed Nelson on the previous play, Rodgers went back to Nelson with success this time. It was a 20-yard touchdown reception that showcased Nelson's great hands and ability to make adjustments on the ball.

    It wasn't a high-volume performance, but it was one the Green Bay Packers needed to prove their offense is still filled with playmakers.

24. Lawrence Tynes, Kicker, New York Giants

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    Game Statistics: Four Made Field Goals

    There isn't much to say about Lawrence Tynes other than that he looks ready for the season to start right now.

    Tynes had four field-goal opportunities and made every single one of them Saturday. It's hard to do much better than 100 percent.

23. Andy Dalton, Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Game Statistics: 8-of-14 for 125 Yards, One Touchdown

    The biggest issue surrounding Andy Dalton since he entered the league has always been his arm strength. Even though it didn't make a difference in getting his team to the playoffs last year, there are still those that say Dalton and his team's ceiling will always be limited due to his lack of a cannon arm.

    Well, against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, Dalton did a fantastic job of proving he has plenty to offer in the category. He consistently looked downfield against the Falcons and had a beautiful 50-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green early in the second quarter.

    If Dalton can continue to prove his doubters wrong, it won't be long before he'll be considered one of the better quarterbacks in the league.

22. DeAngelo Williams, Running Back, Carolina Panthers

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    Game Statistics: Four Rushes, 25 Yards; Two Receptions, 27 Yards, One Touchdown

    DeAngelo Williams will never put up statistics like Ray Rice or Arian Foster, but he is still an extremely talented running back. He has struggled with injuries the past few seasons and almost seems like a forgotten player for the Carolina Panthers.

    Against the Miami Dolphins, Williams briefly showed us why he is such a weapon in Carolina's offense. Not only can he pick up chunks of yards on the ground, but he also has the ability to make plays catching passes out of the backfield.

    With Williams looking like his old self in this game, the Panthers now possess the most dangerous backfield in the NFL.

21. D.J. Smith, Middle Linebacker, Green Bay Packers

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    Game Statistics: Six Tackles

    With Desmond Bishop sidelined with a torn hamstring, the Green Bay Packers desperately need one of their young linebackers to step up in the mean time. After D.J. Smith's performance against the Cleveland Browns, it looks like he is ready to fill in.

    Smith was all over the field versus Cleveland, making plays in both the run and pass game. Not only did he show the ability to be stout against the run and drop into coverage, but Smith also proved a capable pass-rusher after making a hit on quarterback Brandon Weeden and nearly recording a sack.

    While it won't be easy for Green Bay to replace a player like Bishop, Smith proved that he is certainly up for the task with his performance Thursday night.

20. Melvin Ingram, Outside Linebacker, San Diego Chargers

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    Game Statistics: Two Tackles, One Sack

    After an impressive game against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1 of the preseason, Melvin Ingram had another productive game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2.

    While his statistics don't jump off the page at you, there were few plays where Ingram wasn't around the football. His lone sack displayed his incredible speed, athleticism and unwillingness to give up on a play.

    Ingram's versatility to line up all over the field is going to be extremely valuable to the San Diego Chargers this year. He's already looking to be the class of the 2012 draft.

19. Ike Taylor, Cornerback, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Game Statistics: One Tackle, One Interception, One Defensive Touchdown

    Late in the first quarter, Ike Taylor intercepted Andrew Luck and ran the ball back 49 yards for a touchdown. Seemingly always the scapegoat of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, Taylor does have a knack for making big plays.

    He was physical all game long against the Indianapolis Colts receivers and even made a heads-up play by alerting his coaches of a dropped ball that was ruled a catch on the field.

    The Steelers are going to need Taylor to play top-notch football this year to continue to compete in the AFC North, and so far it appears Taylor can deliver.

18. Luke Kuechly, Outside Linebacker, Carolina Panthers

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    Game Statistics: Three Tackles, Two Passes Defended

    While Luke Kuechly's statistics aren't anything out of this world, his second-ever preseason game showed us just how intelligent of a player he already is.

    The BC product was all over the field, already displaying a great understanding of what the Carolina Panthers want to do on defense. He played well against the run and looked like very capable when dropped back into coverage.

    It may be too soon to call Kuechly the Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite, but he definitely looks like he'll be one of the better defensive rookies this year.

17. A.J. Green, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Game Statistics: Two Receptions, 59 Yards, One Touchdown

    While most of A.J. Green's 59 receiving yards came on a 50-yard TD, that one reception was extremely impressive.

    Green beat former Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel off the line of scrimmage and raced to the end zone. He used his elite speed and size to make Samuel look like a subpar corner.

    Green proved last year as a rookie that he is already one of the best receivers in the league, and his Week 2 preseason performance proved that he has no intention of slowing down.


16. Cam Newton, Quarterback, Carolina Panthers

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    Game Statistics: 8-of-11 for 119 Yards, One Touchdown

    Despite having one of the most successful rookie seasons in NFL history, Cam Newton still needed to improve as a passer heading into his sophomore campaign. His decision making was often poor last year, which resulted in 17 interceptions and a 84.5 quarterback rating.

    However, Newton proved against the Miami Dolphins that he has indeed taken strides as a signal-caller. He looked sharp throughout the game, finding all the right receivers and never making a terrible throw.

    Newton's confidence as a passer is certainly growing, and that should be a scary thought for the rest of the league.

15. Chris Johnson, Running Back, Tennessee Titans

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    Game Statistics: 10 Rushes, 46 Yards, Two Touchdowns

    After holding out for a bigger contract prior to the 2011 season, Chris Johnson struggled throughout the season to make much of an impact at all. His poor play made the Tennessee Titans wonder whether he'd ever be back to the explosive player that rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 2009.

    Johnson struggled in his first preseason game but came out explosive in Week 2. Both his touchdown runs were on 14-yard runs, once again illustrating Johnson's speed and open-field ability.

    If the Johnson we saw Friday night is the same Johnson we'll see over the course of the season, the Titans could be a definite contender in the AFC South this year.

14. Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Game Statistics: Four Receptions, 48 Yards, One Touchdown

    Four receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown isn't bad for a rookie who has had limited practice time with his quarterback.

    Justin Blackmon has been one of the most criticized rookies of the 2012 draft due to some off-field troubles, but he looked like a legitimate No. 1 receiver Friday night. He caught what came his way and consistently made men miss him in the open field.

    It appears as if he is already Blaine Gabbert's top target, and as long as he keeps his mind straight, he has the potential to live up to his high draft pick. 

13. Stephfon Green, Running Back, Detroit Lions

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    Game Statistics: Six Rushes, 92 Yards, One Touchdown; Two Receptions, 11 Yards

    While the majority of Stephfon Green's production came on one play against mostly third-string defenders, it was still an impressive play nonetheless.

    Green busted a 76-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens. With major questions revolving the Detroit Lions running back situation, a strong run like that could earn Green some more playing time the rest of the preseason.

    If Green can take advantage of that extra time on the field, he should move up the depth chart enough to be another offensive weapon for the Lions.

12. Christian Ponder, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

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    Game Statistics: 10-of-13 for 136 Yards, One Touchdown

    Like most rookie quarterbacks, Christian Ponder had an up-and-down season last year for the Minnesota Vikings. However, the Vikings felt confident enough in Ponder that they didn't look to bring in anyone to challenge him for the job.

    That decision looks very wise, as Ponder has looked every part of a franchise QB so far this preseason. His 136 yards and touchdown on just 13 passing attempts only further established just how far Ponder has come.

    While the Vikings may struggle to be competitive this year, one thing they can feel confident about is their security at the quarterback position. Ponder is the man right now, and he certainly looks like he'll be the man for years to come in Minnesota.

11. Cole Beasley, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys

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    Game Statistics: Seven Receptions, 104 Yards

    Cole Beasley still has a ways to go before making the final roster for the Dallas Cowboys, but his Week 2 performance definitely made his case on why the Cowboys need him.

    Beasley led all Dallas receivers with his seven receptions and 104 yards. Despite having to leave the game from sickness, he still showed enough toughness and physicality to be a successful receiver in the league.

    If Beasley can replicate another fine performance in Week 3, he should be a lock to for the 53-man roster heading into the regular season.

10. Matt Ryan, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons

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    Game Statistics: 18-of-21 for 174 yards, One Touchdown

    No quarterback has looked as good as Matt Ryan has the past couple weeks. In limited time, Ryan has shown that he is ready to throw his hat into the ring as one of the premier quarterbacks in the league.

    Of course, it helps to have weapons like Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez to throw to, but Ryan looks like a completely different player this year. He appears to have more confidence and is making better decisions with the ball, as was evident by his 86 percent pass completion rate.

    If Ryan builds on his already successful preseason during the regular season, there is no reason why the Atlanta Falcons shouldn't have one of the best offenses in the league.

9. Antonio Brown, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Game Statistics: Two Receptions, 75 Yards, One Touchdown

    Antonio Brown signed a five-year contract extension last month and proved why he was well worth the investment Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts.

    While his first reception was nothing too special, his second reception, which resulted in a touchdown, was simply incredible. He caught a short screen pass that he took 57 yards for the score. He made multiple Indianapolis Colts players miss in the open field and showed that he is a dangerous player with the ball in his hands.

    If I was the Pittsburgh Steelers, I'd be doing everything in my power to get the ball in Brown's hands.

8. Matthew Stafford, Quarterback, Detroit Lions

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    Game Statistics: 12-of-17 for 184 Yards, Two Touchdowns

    Matthew Stafford already looks like he is in midseason form after his two-touchdown performance against the Baltimore Ravens.

    Not only did Stafford have an incredible all-around game, but he made it look easy against one of the better defenses in the league. He had no difficulties finding his favorite receiver Calvin Johnson, but when the Ravens tried to take Johnson away, Stafford found his secondary options with ease.

    If this was only a warm-up game for Stafford, NFL defenses are going to be in a lot of trouble this year.

7. Sam Bradford, Quarterback, St. Louis Rams

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    Game Statistics: 6-of-9 for 102 Yards, Two Touchdowns

    As much as Sam Bradford struggled in 2011, we all knew that he was still an extremely talented quarterback. His Week 2 preseason performance only went to confirm such knowledge.

    Bradford looked sharp against the Kansas City Chiefs and had no difficulty finding the open man. Both his touchdown passes came within the first five minutes of the game, meaning that the St. Louis Rams may have a more potent offense than anyone expected this year.

    Hopefully Bradford can get back to form, because if he doesn't, it will be another long season in St. Louis.

6. Jamell Fleming, Cornerback, Arizona Cardinals

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    Game Statistics: Eight Tackles, One Pass Defended

    Usually when a cornerback has a high tackle total it is because he played poor defense. However, rookie Jamell Fleming had a fantastic game against the Oakland Raiders and looks like he could lock down a starting job opposite Patrick Peterson.

    Fleming was physical with the Raiders receivers and was also extremely stout against the run, making numerous plays.

    With Fleming continuing to make great strides, the Arizona Cardinals might have one of the better young cornerback duos in the league.

5. Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback, Jacksonville Jagaurs

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    Game Statistics: 13-of-16 for 112 Yards, Two Touchdowns

    This is something that I never thought I'd say, but Blaine Gabbert looked like an NFL quarterback Friday against the New Orleans Saints.

    He wasn't intimidated by the pressure like we've seen in the past, but played with poise and confidence. His throws were timely, and he displayed great rapport with his receivers.

    Gabbert still has a long ways to go, but his most recent performance at least showed he is moving in the right direction.

4. Brandon Carr, Cornerback, Dallas Cowboys

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    Game Statistics: One Tackle, Two Interceptions

    Considering the Dallas Cowboys had one of the worst secondaries last year, I'm sure they're thrilled by Brandon Carr's Week 2 performance.

    Carr intercepted Philip Rivers twice on Friday night, showing why the Cowboys were willing to shell out a five-year, $50.1 million contract for his services this offseason.

    He'll instantly improve the DB situation in Dallas and make the Cowboys legitimate title contenders.

3. Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks

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    Game Statistics: 10-of-17 for 155 Yards, Two Touchdowns, Five Rushes, 33 Yards

    If Russell Wilson continues to play like this, the Seattle Seahawks will have no choice but to start him in the regular-season opener.

    Wilson's ability to make plays with both his arms and his legs is proving to be extremely valuable right now. His height, which was his biggest issue coming out of college, has yet to even come close to slowing him down.

    Few starting quarterbacks have looked as good as Wilson through two preseason games, and it could only be a matter of time before he is starting in Seattle.

2. Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions

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    Game Statistics: Five Receptions, 111 Yards, One Touchdown

    Can we agree that Calvin Johnson should just be labeled unstoppable right now?

    Johnson had a monster 57-yard reception against Baltimore where he simply looked a man amongst boys on the field. His touchdown was a beautiful 18-yard reception that showed how great of a relationship he has with Stafford.

    What makes this performance all the more incredible is that it took place in only one half of a game. Just think what he'll do to NFL defenses with a full game to work with.

1. Kirk Cousins, Quarterback, Washington Redskins

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    Game Statistics: 18-of-23 for 264 Yards, Three Touchdowns

    While it is ridiculous to think that there might be a quarterback controversy with the Washington Redskins, you certainly can't discard Kirk Cousins' performance Saturday night.

    This was by far the most impressive performance of the second week of the preseason. In fact, if I was the Arizona Cardinals, I'd be picking up the phone right now looking to trade for Cousins.

    Even though he wasn't playing against the first-team defense against the Chicago Bears, and though though it may be a bit premature to make such declarations, he displayed everything you could want in a starting NFL quarterback.

    Drafting Cousins in the fourth round looks like a genius move by the Redskins front office after what he did against the Bears.