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Handing out Awards for NFL Preseason Week 2

Bryan FontaineFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2016

Handing out Awards for NFL Preseason Week 2

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    Who says preseason games don’t matter?

    Week 2 of the NFL preseason gave us everything from big plays to injuries to ongoing holdouts.

    With the preseason schedule hitting the halfway point with the conclusion of the Patriots and Eagles game on Monday Night Football, the regular season is that much closer to starting.

    The games may not matter in the standings, but there were plenty of awards to hand out this week.

    Read on for more.

Best Coaching Decision: Belichick resting Patriots’ starters

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    With three games in a 10-day period, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wisely rested his starters against the Eagles on Monday night.

    The Patriots travel to Tampa Bay this week for their third exhibition on Friday, with the preseason finale against the Giants on the following Wednesday.

    With such a grueling schedule, Belichick decided to get a long look at his younger players against the Eagles—including sophomore quarterback Ryan Mallett, who got the start at quarterback over Brian Hoyer.

    With preseason injuries piling up across the league, there was no need to subject Tom Brady and company to any unnecessary hits.

    The fans in attendance at Gillette Stadium may disagree, but I’m sure they would much rather see their star players play when it counts.

Worst Injury: OT Levi Brown, Cardinals

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    Things have not gone well in Arizona so far in the preseason. And it got even worse with the injury to starting left tackle Levi Brown.

    Brown left the game against Oakland with a torn right tricep that will require surgery, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. The injury could be season ending.

    It remains to be seen how much the Cardinals will miss Brown. Pro Football Focus (membership required) graded Brown as the 61st best tackle in the NFL last season, and the worst offensive lineman on the Cardinals overall.

    There are a few options to replace Brown on the roster—though none instills much confidence, and the free-agent options are limited.

    Left tackles do not grow on trees, and the Cardinals will miss Brown this season, for better or worse.

Best Comeback: RB Ryan Williams, Cardinals

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    Ryan Williams suffered a torn patellar tendon last August in a preseason game, causing him to miss his entire rookie season. His start in Week 2 of the preseason marked a comeback of sorts, at least on an NFL field after such a gruesome injury.

    Williams ran tough in the first quarter, running five times for 25 yards, including a three-yard touchdown run.

    Given the troubles of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton and the continued injury troubles of Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams could play a large role for the Arizona offense this year.

Offensive Play of the Week: WR Antonio Brown 57-Yard TD Reception

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    Who needs Mike Wallace?

    Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown had the best offensive play of the week with his 57-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against Indianapolis.

    Brown took a screen pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on 3rd-and-4 all the way for the score, showing his kick-return skills in the open field.

    He avoided at least three tackle attempts by Colt defenders with a caravan of blockers in front of him.

    Brown topped off the impressive catch and run with a somersault into the end zone.

Defensive Play(s) of the Week: LB Audie Cole Has Two Pick Sixes

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    Audie Cole, welcome to the NFL.

    The seventh-round pick out of North Carolina State returned interceptions for touchdowns on consecutive plays against the Buffalo Bills.

    I cannot ever remember this happening in recent memory. Or ever.

    The rookie LB first picked off Tyler Thigpen in the waning moments of the fourth quarter for a 20-yard return and score. On the next play from scrimmage for the Vikings D, Cole picked off new quarterback Brad Smith for a similar result—a 30-yard return for a touchdown.

    Cole is fighting for a reserve linebacker spot and a special teams role on the Vikings. With a performance like this, he may have locked up his place on the 53-man roster.

Rookie of the Week: QB Andrew Luck, Colts

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    Maybe this Andrew Luck kid can be special after all.

    Luck had an inauspicious start against the Steelers—throwing a pick-six to Ike Taylor and another interception to Cortez Allen that bounced in the air off the hands of fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton.

    Fortunately, he was able to turn it around from there, leading the Colts on two touchdown-scoring drives. And after running back Donald Brown scored a rushing touchdown earlier in the quarter, the rookie signal-caller closed off the second half with a one-yard touchdown run on an option play.

    Luck showed poise beyond his years, shaking off the early turnovers and bringing the Colts back for the temporary lead.

    After two starts, Luck is second in the league with 363 passing yards, third in yards per attempt with 8.9, and has the longest touchdown pass in the preseason—a 63-yard screen pass to Brown in Week 1.

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