What We Learned About Every NFL Team This Preseason
As the NFL continues to weigh the preseason's importance, numerous developments occurred during this period with profound effects on the entire league.
Injuries, trades and shifting depth charts reshape the landscape during a stretch that isn't supposed to mean anything. But it most certainly does.
Those who don't perform well say the preseason doesn't matter. Those who do believe they're building something positive.
The preseason boils down to initial impressions of each team.
Franchises such as the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns can be excited about the early returns from their young quarterbacks. Others such as the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers can't have the preseason end soon enough due to the numerous injuries they've endured.
Every team prepares for the regular season while experiencing positives and negatives from the preseason. However, one story usually overrides everything else.
Bleacher Report highlighted the biggest preseason storyline from every franchise.
Arizona Cardinals: Robert Nkemdiche Is Poised to Replace Calais Campbell
Robert Nkemdiche's preseason ended on a down note after such a strong start. The Arizona Cardinals' defensive lineman is dealing with a calf strain, per Kyle Odegard of the team's official site.
But the signs of massive improvement after a disappointing rookie campaign already emerged.
Nkemdiche developed into a disruptive force if his preseason efforts were any indication. He consistently re-established the line of scrimmage and made plays in the backfield. Opponents will go into the regular season having to game-plan for him.
"It's everything we anticipated him to do, and what we expected of him," head coach Bruce Arians said.
Replacing Calais Campbell, who left in free agency, wasn't going to be easy. Campbell was an effective presence in the Cardinals defense for a long time. Nkemdiche appears capable of becoming a similar performer.
Atlanta Falcons: Pass Rush Blossoming Around Vic Beasley
Last year's league-leading sack artist, Vic Beasley, plays for the Atlanta Falcons, yet the defense still tied for 16th overall with 34 sacks during the regular season.
The Falcons front office knew it had to add more talent capable of terrorizing quarterbacks, and it did.
First, the team selected defensive end Takkarist McKinley in the draft's first round. McKinley fell to the Falcons because he required offseason shoulder surgery. Even though he missed plenty of reps during training camp and the start of the preseason, his impact has been profound during his first professional action. McKinley's burst off the edge makes him difficult to block, and he's made multiple plays in the backfield.
The team might have found a gem in free agency, too.
Jack Crawford impressed the coaching staff and provides an athletic presence along the defensive interior in sub-packages. Crawford can pair with Grady Jarrett or Dontari Poe to collapse the pocket with Beasley and McKinley screaming off the edges.
Baltimore Ravens: Depth Will Be Tested All Year Long at Too Many Positions
The Baltimore Ravens won't enter the 2017 season at their best. No team experienced more injuries as it prepared for the regular season.
Tavon Young (ACL), Alex Lewis (shoulder), Crockett Gillmore (MCL), Kenneth Dixon (meniscus) and Dennis Pitta (who was subsequently released due to a hip injury) suffered season-ending injuries. Center John Urschel abruptly retired, too.
Plus, quarterback Joe Flacco is still nursing a back injury.
"He'll be back for the [Week 1] Bengals game and he'll be ready to play," head coach John Harbaugh said of Flacco, per Ryan Mink of the Ravens' official site. "I promise you that."
A quarterback with a bad back behind a rickety offensive line is a worrisome scenario.
Buffalo Bills: Culture Change Is Well Underway at Orchard Park
The Buffalo Bills aren't messing around as they embrace a roster teardown.
Of course, the organization will never admit it's in the midst of a full-blown rebuild. But a team doesn't trade away its top wide receiver (Sammy Watkins), cornerback (Ronald Darby) and last year's second-round pick (Reggie Ragland) with the hopes of being competitive this season.
The preseason has been about finding a foundational core of talent. Highly paid malcontents—such as Marcell Dareus—better shape up or they could easily be shipped out like the previously mentioned individuals.
Every time a new regime is hired to run a franchise, the new head coach wants his type of players. Sean McDermott is trying to create a new identity, and there will be roster casualties along the way.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton Finally Has the Help He Needs
Christian McCaffrey hasn't carried a massive load during the preseason, yet every time he touched the ball something electric occurred. More importantly, McCaffrey creates a completely different dynamic within the offense.
Chunk plays are exciting, but it's the little ones that are the most important. A simple checkdown pass to McCaffrey can be the Panthers' most effective play type this season for multiple reasons.
First, McCaffrey is adept at creating after the catch. Second, quarterback Cam Newton will avoid pressure and extra hits, which is key to keeping him on the field. Third, the offense will become more efficient and sustainable.
Once Curtis Samuel is worked into the game plan—he made his debut during the third preseason contest—the Panthers offense will have multiple options to work underneath and intermediate routes, which is where it's struggled to create opportunities throughout Newton's career.
Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky Might Be the Real Deal After All
Mitchell Trubisky already looks like a franchise quarterback. It's only preseason, and it's easy to get overexcited about a young signal-caller who's facing basic defensive schemes and backup defenders, but he was viewed as a long-term project during the NFL draft process.
Nearly everyone outside of the organization crushed the Bears after they traded up one spot and selected Trubisky with the second overall pick.
Yet he's performed as well or better than any rookie quarterback this preseason. Trubisky completed 70.8 percent of his passes with three touchdown tosses through three contests before starting against the Cleveland Browns in the final game.
With his accuracy, athleticism and calm under pressure, the Bears will be forced to start him sooner rather than later, and they'll be better for making the move.
Cincinnati Bengals: Revamped Offensive Line Looks to Power Bounce-Back Season
The Cincinnati Bengals' offseason has been built around the idea that they need their young offensive tackles to perform well for the entire team to succeed.
Yes, replacing Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler is a difficult proposition, but one was a guard, and the Bengals made sure to have a contingency plan in place for this moment when they used first- and second-round picks in the 2015 draft to select offensive linemen.
Both Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher have experienced their share of career struggles, yet they've performed well this preseason. Bleacher Report's Chris Simms even named Ogbuehi to his Preseason NFL All-22 team.
With the offensive line settled, the Bengals have plenty of talent throughout the roster to be a competitive team after last year's disappointing 6-9-1 campaign.
Cleveland Browns: The Future Is Now with DeShone Kizer
The Cleveland Browns enter the second year of their rebuild under the direction of executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and head coach Hue Jackson. They'll do so with a rookie quarterback.
DeShone Kizer will be the 27th quarterback to start for the franchise since its return to the NFL in 1999. It's a staggering number, yet the organization can't stop looking for a legitimate starter.
Kizer's ascendancy from second-round pick to starter is the result of promising play, and Brock Osweiler's and Cody Kessler's failure to secure the role.
"When we drafted this young man, there was a purpose in drafting him," Jackson said after naming Kizer the starter, per the Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot. "We thought that he had exactly what we were looking for. I give the executive team a lot of credit. We all dove into this the right way to go find a guy who hopefully can solve our quarterback issue.''
Dallas Cowboys: Offensive Line Dominance Could Overshadow Off-Field Issues
Life goes on for the Dallas Cowboys with or without running back Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup. As Elliott and the organization await a resolution to his situation, the team discovered it'll be just fine on offense.
Dak Prescott continues to grow in his role as the Cowboys' starting quarterback. The second-year signal-caller completed 18 of 22 passes and led three scoring drives in two preseason appearances.
Even the quarterback's play couldn't overshadow the offensive line's continued dominance.
Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick are studs, of course. But the team needed to find replacements for Ronald Leary and Doug Free. La'el Collins appears to be an upgrade at right tackle, while Jonathan Cooper earned an opportunity to start at left guard.
Denver Broncos: Disappointment Reigns at the QB Position
Paxton Lynch is still not ready to start, is injured and may never be the franchise quarterback the Denver Broncos envisioned when they traded up in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft to acquire him.
In three preseason appearances, Lynch completed 16 of 24 passes with no touchdowns and had just 5.6 yards per completion.
As a result of Lynch's inability to flash the potential that made him a top pick, head coach Vance Joseph named Trevor Siemian the team's starting quarterback. Lynch subsequently suffered a sprained right shoulder during the following preseason contest, and he's expected to miss at least the first two weeks of the regular season, per ESPN.
Siemian can entrench himself as the starter without Lynch ever pushing him. Considering Siemian's play last season, Lynch's failure to earn the starting role prior to his injury should be viewed as a massive disappointment.
Detroit Lions: Protecting Matthew Stafford Could Be a Problem
After making Matthew Stafford the NFL's highest-paid player, the Detroit Lions must secure his blind side.
Left tackle is less of a concern today than when Taylor Decker suffered a torn shoulder labrum during minicamp. The organization scrambled to find a replacement and acquired both Greg Robinson and Cyrus Kouandjio. Robinson played well enough during the preseason to earn a starting role and quell some fears.
His growth allowed the Lions to release Kouandjio.
Robinson was a disappointment after the Los Angeles Rams organization drafted him with the second overall pick in the 2014 class. But he's only 24 years old and still developing. He may not be as polished as Decker, but he's a physical presence to improve the run game with the potential to improve as a pass-blocker.
Green Bay Packers: The Pack May Finally Be Able to Count on Tight Ends Again
The Green Bay Packers offense ranked eighth overall last season, but the unit is primed to be even better this fall because it has better tight end play.
Last season, the Packers offense relied almost exclusively on the wide receivers to produce in the passing game until Jared Cook became healthy. Cook left in free agency, and the Packers responded with the signings of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. These tight ends are expected to serve much bigger roles in the scheme.
The Packers already used more 12 personnel (two tight ends) this preseason than they have in previous seasons.
"I think one thing that we got back to that we had gotten away from over the past couple of years was being a normal offense and being able to rotate multiple personnel groups and then get in a game situation and go into a no-huddle set," wide receiver Randall Cobb said, per ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky. "I think being able to have more versatile packages is going to be great for our offense."
Houston Texans: J.J. Watt Is Back
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt made more news for his hurricane relief efforts than his on-field play. Yet his return to the gridiron shouldn't be overlooked. His recovery from two back surgeries is astounding, and the Texans are a much better team with him in the lineup.
The Texans coaching staff has limited his overall reps during the preseason, but he looked fully healthy and explosive when given the chance.
"It's just a couple plays here, a couple plays there, just getting the toes wet a little bit, just getting started," Watt said after Houston's second preseason contest against the New Orleans Saints, per the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson. "Just really showing glimpses here and there of what's possible. It's going to be a lot of fun. It's a great feeling. It's just a glimpse. There's a lot of things I've been working on for a very long time."
Of course, the Texans quarterback competition dominated the headlines throughout training camp and the preseason, but a healthy Watt will have a bigger impact on the team this season than whoever is behind center.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck's Health Clouds Entire Season
The Indianapolis Colts are in trouble if the team doesn't get healthy soon. It isn't just about Andrew Luck's mysterious shoulder recovery. The Colts have been beset by injuries, and their play throughout preseason can be described as erratic at best.
Beyond Luck, the team is dealing with injuries to Vontae Davis (groin), Ryan Kelly (foot), Jack Mewhort (knee), Chester Rogers (hamstring), T.J. Green (shoulder) and Clayton Geathers (neck).
At points, Indianapolis looked like the worst team to take the field during the preseason. If the aforementioned contributors miss a significant amount of time, the Colts will scramble to find replacements.
"You're trying to find the best 53 to fill your roster and 10 [on the] practice squad because every one of those that you carry, that's a spot. They count," head coach Chuck Pagano said, per ESPN.com's Mike Wells. "You don't get another body. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. ... We have a lot of discussions."
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Blake Bortles Era May Be Nearing Its End
What the Jacksonville Jaguars have learned this offseason is simple yet profound: A starting-caliber quarterback isn't on the team's roster. As other franchises continue their competitions to find starting signal-callers, the Jags may have already reached the point where they're looking toward the future to address the position.
After Blake Bortles' horrendous start to the preseason, head coach Doug Marrone allowed veteran Chad Henne to open the third contest under center. Henne completed 8 of 14 passes for 73 yards with no touchdowns, and the Carolina Panthers sacked him three times. After Henne's poor performance, Marrone named Bortles the team's starter going into the regular season.
Jags fans can start looking at the possibility of drafting USC's Sam Darnold or Wyoming's Josh Allen near the top of the 2018 NFL draft.
Kansas City Chiefs: Kareem Hunt Could Be Andy Reid's Next Big All-Purpose Back
The Kansas City Chiefs lost their starting running back to a major injury, yet the running game may be as potent without him in the lineup.
Spencer Ware suffered damage to his LCL and PCL, and his status for this season remains undetermined, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Ware was considered a potential breakout performer this year after rushing for 921 yards last season.
Instead, the Chiefs run game will lean on rookie third-round pick Kareem Hunt. According to Pro Football Focus, Hunt has been the league's second-most elusive back this preseason.
"He's had a tremendous camp," veteran running back C.J. Spiller said, per ESPN.com's Adam Teicher. "He's done a tremendous job. To be a young guy and to play the way he played against a great defense like Seattle this past week, I was very pleased with it."
Los Angeles Chargers: Defensive Front Is Going to Wreak Havoc on Opposing QBs
When the Los Angeles Chargers' Joey Bosa crushed Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff and teammate Melvin Ingram scooped up the ball and took it the other way for 76 yards and a score, one thing became glaringly obvious: The Chargers defense can be really good under new coordinator Gus Bradley.
"Our whole motto is getting after the ball, so I'm not really worried about hitting quarterbacks as much as just getting the ball out of their hands this year," Bosa said, per ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams. "I think that motto has kind of been showing as a defense these last few weeks."
The Chargers defense is loaded with Bosa, Ingram, Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane, Jatavis Brown, Denzel Perryman, Jahleel Addae, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward. This defensive front, in particular, can get after quarterbacks. If the offense is slowed by multiple injuries, Bradley's unit can pick up the slack.
Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff Doesn't Have Any Excuses with New Weapons Galore
The Jared Goff saga enters its second season, but any potential success the quarterback experiences will be derived from a symbiotic relationship between the young signal-caller and his weapons.
Goff shouldn't have any excuses this season after general manager Les Snead added multiple talented targets to the offense. In the draft, the team selected tight end Gerald Everett and wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds.
The Rams also signed Robert Woods as a free agent and traded for Sammy Watkins.
Instead of Kenny Britt and Brian Quick, Goff's options are now far more explosive. A healthy Watkins is still a vertical threat and a terrific runner after the catch. Kupp is a rookie, yet he appears to be a reliable option already. Everett has Jordan Reed-like qualities. Woods, meanwhile, is one of the league's better slot receivers.
Tavon Austin continues to nurse a hamstring injury, and his role could be reduced upon his return.
Miami Dolphins: Season Rides on the Jay Cutler Roller Coaster
The Miami Dolphins season will go as quarterback Jay Cutler goes. After coaxing Cutler out of retirement following Ryan Tannehill's season-ending injury, the Dolphins may be in a better place entering the regular season.
The team has already responded to the 11-year veteran.
"I think the good thing about these guys is they're really open," Cutler said, per the Palm Beach Post's Jason Lieser. "They're really receptive. They want to get better and they're smart football players—a high IQ football team. When I say something, they're right on the same page. They get it; they know what I'm talking about. So I think that's been really positive for us so far."
Cutler has always been an exceptionally talented quarterback, yet he's struggled on two fronts: being able to lead a team and overall decision-making. The first appears to be settled in Miami. The second will be on display during the regular season after he attempted only 14 passes during the preseason.
Minnesota Vikings: Rebooted Offensive Line Is Still a Work in Progress
The revamped Minnesota Vikings offensive line has yet to come together and function as a unit.
The organization invested heavily in offensive tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers as well as using a third-round pick to acquire center Pat Elflein.
What has the team received in return? Twelve first-team possessions through the first three preseason contests and only one field goal. Ten of those possessions ended in punts.
The group has yet to jell and needs more time together.
"Communication is always a concern, and everyone always has to be on the same page," Elflein said, per Viking Update's Tim Yotter. "We're just trying to get that down and get it communicated efficiently, all the calls so everyone is on the same page."
New England Patriots: Champs Can Be Even Better Than They Were Last Year
The New England Patriots preferred to trade for veterans instead of hold onto this year's draft picks. The potential is there for the team to be better this season compared to last, even with the season-ending injury to star receiver Julian Edelman.
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks was the team's biggest acquisition after the organization flipped a first-round pick for the two-time 1,100-yard receiver. Cooks only caught two passes for 15 yards in the preseason, yet his vertical presence in the offense was obvious.
"I feel amazing," Cooks said, per ESPN.com's Mike Reiss. "I'm 23 years old. I feel like I'm playing Pop Warner again, just running around, having fun."
While nobody will replace the trust Tom Brady had in Edelman, Cooks provides an entirely different element to this offense and should benefit from the potentially extra targets.
Running backs Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead both showed their importance. Gillislee managed 4.8 yards per carry during his limited opportunities, while Burkhead averaged 16.7 yards per catch as an option out of the backfield.
Defensive end Lawrence Guy developed into a potential starter, too.
Aside from Kony Ealy's release, the rest of the team's offseason additions appear to be transitioning well and ready to contribute.
New Orleans Saints: Sean Payton's Backfield Is an Embarrassment of Riches
The New Orleans Saints defense continues to be a concern area, but that's nothing new. How to utilize future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson alongside Mark Ingram is something entirely different.
The organization's handling of this year's running back rotation can have an effect on both the offense and defense. Peterson's presence adds another wrinkle to Sean Payton's system, and Drew Brees doesn't need to be relied upon as much. With more of a commitment to the ground game, the Saints can control the clock and help the defense.
Peterson even participated in the preseason for the first time in six years just to get a feel for the offense and his new situation.
"It seems normal to me," Peterson said, per ESPN.com's Mike Triplett. "Like year one. Seriously. I feel fresh."
New York Giants: Big Blue's Defense Picks Up Right Where It Left Off
Someone forgot to tell the New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul that established veterans are supposed to take it easy during the preseason.
Pierre-Paul has been dominant during his appearances. The defensive end feels he's ready to eclipse his career high of 16.5 sacks.
"I am just getting warmed up," Pierre-Paul told reporters. "I think I can. Why? Do you want me to?"
His play serves as a microcosm for the Giants defense. While questions persist regarding the offense's execution, New York's first-team defense has been stingy during the preseason. The unit looks like it can replicate last year's success when it ranked second in scoring defense at 17.8 points per game.
New York Jets: Gang Green Might Have the Worst QB Depth Chart Ever
The New York Jets preseason has been as disastrous as many expect the team's regular season to be.
Aside from an impressive defensive line, the roster is devoid of talent starting at quarterback. The game's most important position was already considered a weakness, but it's worse now than it was at the beginning of training camp.
The team already has its fallback plan in place with the 38-year-old Josh McCown ready to start.
But the organization wanted one of its younger options—Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty—to win the job. Hackenberg still doesn't look ready to lead an offense. Petty, meanwhile, flashed against the New York Giants and threw three touchdowns in an attempted comeback, yet he suffered a Grade 1 MCL sprain late in the contest, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, and didn't play in the team's fourth preseason game.
He's going to open the season as the No. 2 QB.
There's little hope for Jets fans after a disappointing preseason.
Oakland Raiders: D Needs More Than Khalil Mack to Support a Dominant Offense
The Oakland Raiders offense is talented. The defense isn't, aside from Khalil Mack. Mack is a superstar, but his presence overshadows the fact that the rest of the unit is quite poor overall.
Last season, Oakland finished 26th in total defense and 20th in scoring defense.
Middle linebacker remains a sore spot. Fifth-round pick Marquel Lee has the inside track to start, yet Tyrell Adams continues to push for playing time.
"We're very impressed with what we see so far," defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said, per Raiders.com. "It's still early in the process. It's a big process that is involved here, and we have to continue to fall in love with the process. There's a lot of practice out there, a lot of learning still."
As good as Mack is, he can't do it all. Without certainty in the middle, the Raiders' defensive struggles aren't going away.
Philadelphia Eagles: New-Look Squad Is Younger and Better
The Philadelphia Eagles needed to address two areas this offseason: wide receiver and cornerback. The organization signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, but the secondary still needed help.
Philadelphia's front office waited until the preseason to finally find its new cover men.
The franchise dealt wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick to acquire Ronald Darby. The third-year defensive back immediately became the team's top cover corner.
Sixteen days later, the Eagles addressed nickel corner by trading Terrence Brooks for Dexter McDougle.
"He's a young kid that we're excited about getting him in here and getting him going with the defense," head coach Doug Pederson said of McDougle, per ESPN.com's Tim McManus.
The Eagles cornerbacks are young, but they're far more talented than last year's group.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Improving the Secondary Is Still a Priority
The Pittsburgh Steelers desperately needed to upgrade their secondary. The organization did so by agreeing to terms with cornerback Joe Haden mere hours after the Cleveland Browns released the two-time Pro Bowler.
Haden is no longer the player he once was—he was the third- or fourth-best cornerback on the Browns roster before being released—but he can still help the Steelers on two levels.
First, his inclusion signals more man coverage this season after finishing 16th overall in pass defense last year before being shredded by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship Game. Second, pressure no longer falls on last year's first-round pick Artie Burns to cover every opponent's top receiver. Pittsburgh's overall depth improved with the acquisition.
The Steelers were proactive and aggressive to address a problem area.
San Francisco 49ers: O-Line Will Be Tested on a Regular Basis
The Seattle Seahawks are the NFC West team known for a troublesome offensive line. The San Francisco 49ers are now experiencing similar issues.
Former first-round pick Joshua Garnett is expected to miss the first month of the season due to a knee injury, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The 49ers' offensive interior already had question marks prior to Garnett's absence, but the team made a move to try to offset the loss.
San Francisco traded for another former first-round pick, Laken Tomlinson, to play guard.
Veterans Brandon Fusco and Zane Beadles will compete to start alongside center Daniel Kilgore. But playing in Kyle Shanahan's zone-stretch system is a difficult transition for many linemen. They're often required to be more athletic and agile. Not having a stable front five is enough to stunt the system's effectiveness.
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson Might Be Running for His Life Again This Season
The Seattle Seahawks' offensive line remains a major question mark. Even though the franchise knew it had to be addressed after last season, the unit is only marginally better today.
Aside from center Justin Britt's three-year, $27 million contract extension signed prior to Seattle's third preseason contest, other positions are in flux.
Left tackle, in particular, is a problem area due to George Fant's season-ending ACL injury. Rees Odhiambo has been given a chance to prove he's capable of protecting the blind side. If he struggles during the regular season, some shuffling may occur.
"We've got a really good group—explosive, fast, smart," Britt said, per the Seattle Times' Larry Stone. "I'm excited where the room's headed and how we're getting there, and how hard we're working, and how close we are as a group. It's up to us how far we want to go."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Pass Rush Still Needs to Find the Next Gear
The first thing a defensive lineman is taught is a proper stance, start and takeoff. He's then taught how to shed blocks. These fundamentals are important at every level, especially if individuals want to improve.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive linemen need to improve at rushing the passer.
"Any team that can get pressure with a four-man rush is ahead of the game," head coach Dirk Koetter said, per ESPN.com's Jenna Laine. "I wouldn't say that we've wowed anybody in that area in preseason."
The Buccaneers haven't been at full force during the preseason. Gerald McCoy and William Gholston missed time. But others such as Noah Spence and Robert Ayers will be relied upon to create pressure without defensive coordinator Mike Smith's blitz packages. They haven't done so on a consistent basis.
Tampa Bay is a popular pick to be a playoff team this season. Being able to pressure the quarterback is often a key component in accomplishing that feat.
Tennessee Titans: New Weapons Give Marcus Mariota, Offense Sky-High Expectations
The Tennessee Titans spent the fifth overall pick to acquire Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis. He's not going to be the only new weapon found in the team's offense, though.
Davis has yet to play a down for the Titans, but the organization should be excited about two other first-year options.
Taywan Taylor provided a reception of 20 or more yards in each of the first three preseason contests. The Titans coaching staff also likes to use him as a ball-carrier (four rushing attempts). Taylor's ability to create out of the slot and provide big plays after the catch make him a perfect option for quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Fellow third-round pick Jonnu Smith will be the Titans' second tight end. Based on the team's usage of multiple tight end sets, he's worked himself into a starting role.
With veteran Eric Decker added to the mix, Mariota's weapons are vastly improved. They're only going to get better as long as the quarterback stays healthy.
Washington Redskins: New-Look Offense Still Has to Find Its Stride
Quarterback Kirk Cousins may be back for another season, but the Washington Redskins offense still needs time to establish a rhythm. The transition from DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and offensive coordinator Sean McVay to Terrelle Pryor and Matt Cavanaugh hasn't been smooth.
Pryor has the unenviable task of trying to replace both of the team's top targets from a year ago. He managed two receptions for 28 yards during his first three preseason contests.
"We're getting started a little too slow, and maybe that's on account [of] me," Pryor said, per the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg. "I'll take the blame. Maybe I've got to do something better."
It's not Pryor's fault, though. Yes, he could play better, but it takes time to build a rapport with a quarterback. Cousins and the team's top target will need time to work together as the regular season progresses.
What Washington needs is the other targets like Jamison Crowder or Josh Doctson to take on bigger roles for the offense to flourish.