NFL Preseason Week 1 Roundup: Trubisky Shines as Future of Bears' QB Position
Yes, the Dallas Cowboys played the Arizona Cardinals in last week's Hall of Fame Game, and the Carolina Panthers hosted the Houston Texans to kick off the first full week of preseason football Wednesday night, but the 2017 NFL preseason didn't really get underway in true pro football fashion until 14 teams took to the field in South Florida, Western New York, Foxborough, Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago and Green Bay on Thursday evening.
In case you didn't have time to take it all in or aren't quite sure what to make of it all, we've got you covered with several key takeaways from Thursday night's action.
But just keep in mind that it's a long preseason and an even longer regular season. These results and our reactions might be worth something more than a grain of salt, but nobody is condemning or crowning anyone in the second week of August.
Can the Bears Really Keep Mitchell Trubisky off the Field?
The Chicago Bears have spent so much time this offseason confirming and reconfirming that high-priced free-agent pickup Mike Glennon is their starting quarterback that it can only mean one thing: Glennon eventually will not be the starting quarterback.
That's often the case when you continually have to answer questions along those lines, because it suggests something is askew. And those questions will only increase in quantity and volume in the coming days after rookie No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky mopped the floor with Glennon in the first round of their unofficial quarterback competition Thursday night against the Denver Broncos.
After Glennon completed just two of eight passes for 20 yards and threw a pick-six in four scoreless series, Trubisky took over after a short appearance from Mark Sanchez and completed all but seven of 25 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown in a turnover- and sack-free performance.
Yes, it was just one stretch of one preseason game, but he moved around well in the pocket, showed off his arm strength and made a few veteran-level completions while making no major mistakes. That's what you want to see from a rookie in his first live action. And combined with Glennon's abysmal outing, it's enough to cause you to wonder if the Bears wasted a lot of money on the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback in March.
If these trends continue, it's only a matter of time before Trubisky takes over.
DeShone Kizer Has to Be Viewed as QB1 in Cleveland
But Trubisky wasn't the only rookie quarterback who shined in his NFL preseason debut, because Cleveland Browns second-rounder DeShone Kizer started his quest to become the team's 27th starting quarterback since 1999 by outplaying occasional 2016 starter Cody Kessler and offseason acquisition Brock Osweiler in Cleveland's home victory over the New Orleans Saints.
While Kessler and Osweiler completed just 11 of a combined 24 passes for 89 yards, the physically enticing Notre Dame product was 11-of-18 for 184 yards to go with a touchdown and no turnovers in two quarters.
Kizer showed off both his pocket presence and his arm strength on a nifty 52-yard completion to second-year undrafted free agent Richard Mullaney in the fourth quarter, and he later hit Mullaney again on a strong sideline pass in which he exhibited nice composure. That would have been enough to win over Cleveland for at least the next week, but then he put the cherry on top with a picturesque 45-yard touchdown throw to Jordan Payton.
That came in the face of a strong New Orleans blitz, on fourth down, in a one-point game, in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
It was all just a long breath of fresh air for a team that hasn't had stability at quarterback this century. And while it's too early to draw conclusions, a good start is better than nothing.
Do Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch Have Company?
In fact, rookies got the better of veterans in every quarterback battle that took place Thursday night, which says a lot about what the Denver Broncos are dealing with under center. After all, it's been widely assumed that the competition in Denver is between two non-rookies, third-year seventh-rounder and incumbent starter Trevor Siemian and second-year first-round pick Paxton Lynch.
The problem is that neither Siemian nor Lynch has stood out in camp and neither did much to pull away in Chicago. Siemian completed six of his seven pass attempts but didn't even attempt anything that might be considered a big-time throw, while Lynch was 6-of-9 for only 42 yards with misfires on both of his attempts beyond 15 yards.
It was just a "meh" and "meh."
But in came rookie UDFA Kyle Sloter, who completed five of six passes for 94 yards on back-to-back touchdown drives to lead the Broncos to a comeback victory. The Northern Colorado product also completed two of his three pass attempts beyond 15 yards, one of which went for a 47-yard touchdown to Isaiah McKenzie.
Sure, that came against scrubs. But he was also surrounded by scrubs. And while it feels as though Siemian is still leading this sad race by default, it's fair to wonder if a third horse is suddenly on the track.
It's a Shame Jimmy Garoppolo Isn't Starting Somewhere
Not saying Jimmy Garoppolo should be starting in New England (he shouldn't) or that the Patriots should have traded him for anything less than a king's ransom in the offseason (they shouldn't have), but watching Garoppolo work Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars had me wondering if teams were already going to start regretting not giving up the farm for him in the spring.
After staying put despite being a hot commodity throughout the offseason, the fourth-year former second-round pick completed all but six of 28 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns in two-and-a-half quarters, much of it coming against a first-team defense with plenty of talent.
He also eluded pressure like a boss before hitting Austin Carr for a smooth touchdown on third down with just seconds remaining in the first half and finished without a turnover. He did take a couple of sacks, but that 125.4 passer rating will only reinforce the notion that Garoppolo is better than projected starters in several other NFL camps.
On a night in which the Broncos, Browns and Bears failed to get much from the quarterbacks supposedly in line to start for them, Garoppolo's performance against Jacksonville drove that point home.
Ryan Mallett Isn't Good
Baltimore Ravens franchise quarterback Joe Flacco remains out with a back injury, and it doesn't look like the team is about to bring in Colin Kaepernick to attempt to save the day. So 2011 third-round pick and former Arkansas star Ryan Mallett had a big chance to prove something, anything, to the many naysayers Thursday night.
In fact, an extended run under center as Baltimore's interim starter against the Washington Redskins was seen by many as Mallett's last chance. He entered this preseason with a career completion rate of 55.0, touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7-to-10 and passer rating of 64.9 in 19 games with three different teams, and he wasn't exactly putting on a show in camp, per ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
And then he went out against the Redskins and completed only nine of 18 passes for 58 yards in two quarters.
For some reason, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh called that "winning football," per Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. But it's hard to find anyone not employed by the team who thought Mallett played well.
Regardless of what Harbaugh says, Mallett might nearly be out of time.
Zay Jones Is on a Milk Carton
Eleven players caught passes for the Buffalo Bills in their preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings, but highly touted rookie second-round pick Zay Jones didn't show up in the box score.
Considering that there was talk that Jones could play a huge role alongside returning top target Sammy Watkins and newly acquired veteran Anquan Boldin, that had plenty of Bills Mafia members wondering if Jones was hurt or inactive.
Apparently not. Jones just didn't see a lot of action and failed to stand out when he did.
Does that mean he's not going to factor in as much as many expected? Not necessarily, but Philly Brown caught three passes for 23 yards, and he, Andre Holmes, Rod Streater and Brandon Tate got more playing time than Jones.
All of this despite the fact Boldin didn't even play.
It's a crowded receiving corps in Buffalo, and it might take some time for Jones or somebody else to separate from the pack to join Watkins and Boldin atop the depth chart at that position.
Raekwon McMillan Likely Tears ACL, Putting Dolphins Defense in a Tough Spot
A team that's been on quite a roller-coaster ride already this summer suffered the first big injury blow of the 2017 preseason. Already down quarterback Ryan Tannehill (knee) indefinitely and without superstar back Jay Ajayi (concussion) for Thursday while also dealing with star receiver Jarvis Landry's potential legal issues, the Dolphins lost a projected defensive starter to a serious knee injury Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons.
The team believes rookie second-round linebacker Raekwon McMillan suffered a torn ACL in the first half of his first NFL game, according to Andy Slater of WINZ in Miami.
The tackle machine from Ohio State had a chance to play a large role on a defense that needs more talent after ranking 29th in yards allowed last season. Fortunately, the Dolphins also brought in veteran Lawrence Timmons in the offseason, and he can move inside to play middle linebacker. But this'll leave them quite thin there, especially considering that Timmons is probably beyond his prime at 31 and projected weak-side starter Kiko Alonso isn't exactly an ironman.
This'll put even more pressure on Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and rookie first-rounder Charles Harris up front.