Players Who Impressed in the NFL's Preseason Opener
Good news: Football is back!
In the preseason opener, the annual Hall of Fame Game, the New York Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills 17-13.
Although it was just the first game of the preseason, there were a lot of solid performances all over the field. Here are a few thoughts on players who really stood out on Sunday.
Seantrel Henderson, OT, Buffalo Bills
There has been a lot of talk about Seantrel Henderson from his time in college to his move to the NFL.
A former 247Sports.com 5-star recruit, Henderson has had a slew of question marks arise about his character.
Before the 2012 season, the Miami tackle was suspended for a violation of team rules.
At his pro day, Henderson was unable to finish his workout in front of various NFL scouts and coaches.
To top things off, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Henderson tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine.
So, as a seventh-round pick, it was clear that Henderson was going to have one chance to prove that he belongs in the NFL.
He took a solid step in the right direction on Sunday, dominating in the NFL’s preseason opener against the Giants.
Starting at left tackle in place of injured starter Cordy Glenn, Henderson was put to the test against Jason Pierre-Paul, who is widely believed to be one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL.
Henderson displayed nearly flawless technique, exhibiting good bending at the knees, constantly replacing his hands as Pierre-Paul attempted to rip through and displaying solid footwork.
Also, he was working well in the run game, always making an attempt to throw a block and reach the second level.
Henderson didn’t look like a rookie, passing his first big test as an NFL player.
Although it’s early, Henderson could make a push to earn playing time early—especially with the struggles of second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio.
Andre Williams, RB, New York Giants
Andre Williams, the rookie fourth-round selection out of Boston College who torched Football Bowl Subdivision defenses on his way to more than 2,000 rushing yards last season, also looked impressive in the Hall of Fame Game.
He wasn’t really utilized much in the passing game, but is already making a strong push to take carries away from current starter Rashad Jennings.
On designed runs inside, Williams ran at defenders fearlessly with a full head of steam, fighting through multiple tacklers and carrying the pile at times on his way to a game-high 48 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Williams also showed good vision, making cuts and turning on the jets to make plays on the outside.
Williams is already looking to be a big piece of the Giants' running game, but his lack of impact as a receiver could keep him off the field in favor of Jennings moving forward.
Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills
Robert Woods is heading into his second season out of USC, but he is already looking like he can make a veteran-like impact this season.
Although he will be lined up all over the field, playing alongside Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams will likely put him in the slot a majority of the time.
Lining up as the go-to receiver with the second unit Sunday, Woods saw a majority of his snaps as the "X" receiver.
He excelled, hauling in four receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown on the night.
Possibly the most impressive part of his night was how physical Woods was after the catch.
Showing a running-back-like mentality, Woods had no problem taking on defenders head on and fighting through multiple guys to gain the extra yard.
Also, he did a fantastic job of breaking through the press coverage of Zack Bowman.
Look for him to be a big piece of the Bills' passing game moving forward.
Marcus Harris, WR, New York Giants
Every year, there seems to be a lowly touted wide receiver who gradually makes a push from a fringe roster guy to a solid role player during the regular season.
This year, second-year Giants wideout Marcus Harris could be that guy.
Harris, who went undrafted last season out of Murray State, did all of the things that will draw praise from the coaching staff during film study this week.
On a big gain from Andre Williams in the first half, Harris threw a big block on the outside that allowed Williams to pick up an extra couple of yards before he received a jarring hit from Bills safety Duke Williams.
That wasn’t the only time Harris made an impact as a blocker, as he was constantly looking to throw an extra block every time he had the opportunity.
In the passing game, Harris hauled in four passes on six targets for 49 yards.
Just before the two-minute warning, Harris made an impressive move fighting to the inside for a short reception.
There is still a long way to go, but look for Harris to make a push up to the last week of the preseason for a roster spot.
Weston Richburg, OL, New York Giants
It is impossible to talk about players who were impressive in this game without throwing Weston Richburg’s name into the mix.
Coming in at guard in the second quarter—he is listed at center and played center in the fourth quarter—Richburg looked extremely impressive in both pass protection and the running game.
He displayed solid technique in pass protection, having good footwork and constantly working to get under his assignment’s pads.
There were a few plays where he struggled with the bull rush, but for the most part he was solid in that aspect.
In the running game, Richburg was constantly looking to throw blocks and worked effortlessly to the second level on various occasions.
He might not be listed as a starter yet, but he is bound to be in the lineup—whether at guard or center—by time the regular season rolls around.
- Eli Manning played most of the first quarter and looked really comfortable in the new West Coast-based offensive system. It took him a drive to get into rhythm, but Manning could be in for a very good year in Ben McAdoo’s newly implemented scheme.
- To go along with the previous point, it looks like there will be a lot of designed pass plays to the Giants' running backs. To start the game, New York drew up multiple designed running back screens that Rashad Jennings executed nicely.
- It was a rough night for two of the Bills’ 2014 NFL draft selections. Second-rounder Cyrus Kouandjio struggled frequently, especially against Damontre Moore, displaying poor technique and allowing Moore to beat him both inside and outside. Inside linebacker Preston Brown really struggled to get off of blocks and make an impact as a run-stuffer. He did have an interception in the third quarter that was taken away because of a roughing-the-passer penalty.
- Second-year tight end Chris Gragg could be a player to watch moving forward for Buffalo. He hauled in four receptions for 25 yards and proved to be a reliable checkdown option for the Bills’ backup quarterbacks.
- Despite struggles by the second unit early, fifth-year pro Landon Cohen looks to have a solid shot at making the roster as a backup defensive tackle. He found his way into the backfield frequently.
- The Bills found a decent amount of success with Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers dropping into coverage, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise given their reputations as two-down, run-stuffing linebackers.
- Giants rookie linebacker Devon Kennard got the start as the strong-side linebacker, but he struggled against the run when he was on the field.
- Giants receiver Corey Washington could be another receiver to watch for regarding competition for a roster spot. His only reception on the night was an impressive 73-yard touchdown grab.
- Bills cornerback Zack Bowman looks like he could stick on the roster as the fourth corner. He had a deflection following pass interference that led to an interception in the end zone and also had an interception at the beginning of third quarter.