Preseason Week 2 Takeaways: Daniel Jones Pushing for Eli Manning's Job
Pressure builds each week of the NFL preseason.
Quarterback competitions always draw the most interest. The Miami Dolphins made a smart choice Friday to start Josh Rosen, whereas the New York Giants have more of a battle on their hands than they originally expected.
Friday's off-field storylines overshadowed on-field action since the league made its latest decision regarding New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James suffered a significant injury and Jay-Z is reportedly going to be the next NFL owner.
Daniel Jones Excitement Shouldn't Subside Even with QB's Mistakes
Daniel Jones wasn't perfect in his second preseason action after a near-flawless performance last week against the New York Jets. Yet this year's sixth overall pick continued to flash and show why the Giants should be excited about his potential after years of watching Eli Manning's mediocre play.
Head coach Pat Shurmur told reporters after Jones' initial performance to "slow your roll." It's hard not to see the obvious difference in the first-year quarterback's play compared to the 38-year-old Manning.
Manning's performance shouldn't be overlooked. The Giants' starter completed all four of his passes, started the game with a 20-yard strike and led the team to an opening-drive touchdown.
Jones offset ball security issues against the Bears with outstanding throws.
Jones dropped a snap on his first drive and later had the ball stripped. The second turnover was more concerning because he can improve by carrying the ball higher during his drop.
Jones clearly adds two different elements to the offense, though.
First, he's a gifted deep passer. During his first drive, he completed a beautiful 40-yard pass to Cody Latimer over the shoulder of a trailing defensive back. On his final play of the contest, Jones threw a picture-perfect pylon ball to TJ Jones for a 15-yard touchdown. The placement of both passes was exceptional.
Second, Jones is far more mobile than Manning in the pocket. The first-team offensive line played well Friday, but Manning's statuesque movement should factor into the coaching staff's evaluation. As long as Jones protects the ball—which he didn't do Friday—his natural athleticism will be an added benefit.
The organization must decide in the coming days whether it should seriously consider giving the ball to Jones sooner rather than later.
"I hope Eli has a great year and Daniel never sees the field," owner John Mara told reporters Tuesday. "That would be an ideal world where you would like to see that. Again, at the end of the day it's going to be the decision by the head coach as to when or if Daniel ends up playing this year."
Of course, Manning's starting this season remains the optimal situation, because that means the veteran signal-caller is playing well. The odds of that happening aren't great. Jones' eventual ascent to the top of the depth chart is inevitable.
Josh Rosen as QB1 Is the Right Move for Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins are giving Josh Rosen every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job.
After last week's performance against the Atlanta Falcons, Rosen received first-team reps during joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I feel substantially better now than I did two weeks ago [when training camp began], but like I said, I've got a long ways to go," Rosen said after the team's first preseason action, per the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Safid Deen.
Then, the second-year signal-caller got the nod as the starter in the second preseason contest.
The 22-year-old didn't ignite the offense by any means. He completed 10 of 18 passes and led the squad to six points. But his receivers also had a pair of drops, and he was pressured by the Buccaneers defense. Rosen wasn't exactly on point with all his throws, either.
Head coach Brian Flores isn't necessarily looking at the end product, though; he's more interested in the process.
"Quarterbacking and decision-making—I think you can get a good evaluation of decision-making regardless of who's on the field," Flores said, per Deen.
Right now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the better quarterback, but Flores has yet to make a final decision. The Dolphins would be best-served by starting the youngster, who can grow and develop into a long-term starter. Fitzpatrick's role is clear.
"[Fitzpatrick]'s been unbelievably helpful," Rosen said, per Kyle Crabbs of Dolphins Wire. "He's probably one of the best mentors I've had in the sport. He's been an unbelievable teammate and very selfless in helping me so much."
Cole Beasley Emerges as Josh Allen's Favorite Target
The Buffalo Bills had to improve Josh Allen's weapons this offseason. They did with the free-agent additions of Cole Beasley and John Brown.
Of the two, Beasley already looks like Allen's security blanket. In two drives Friday against the Carolina Panthers, the 30-year-old slot receiver caught five passes for 44 yards.
"Once we're doing it consistently and all the time, there's no limits to what we can do out there," Beasley said Sunday, per Syracuse.com's Matt Parrino. "It's just building that chemistry out there and having my body language right so he can read it. That's all it comes down to."
Well, the duo certainly seems to be on the same page.
Beasley's presence is absolutely crucial to Allen's development. The second-year signal-caller often relied on an all-or-nothing approach dating back to his Wyoming days. His natural athleticism and big arm allowed him to extend plays and push the ball down the field. His mentality needed to change.
Brown and Robert Foster are vertical threats who can help make the most of Allen's arm strength. The 23-year-old's biggest key in year two will be to work the intermediate passing zones with a willingness to check down when nothing is available. Beasley is an experienced route-runner who easily creates separation on underneath routes.
"He's doing a great job," Beasley said of Allen, per Parrino. "He's got all the tools, and he's a great quarterback. We just gotta do our best to help him. By helping him, that's just getting open, being quarterback-friendly and not messing around in our routes."
Bears Still Don't Have a Reliable Kicker
The Chicago Bears' Eddy Pineiro called the team's kicking competition "a little exhausting," per Larry Mayer of the team's official site. The pressure isn't going to let up anytime soon, especially after the presumed leader for the job, Elliott Fry, missed a field-goal attempt in the team's second preseason contest Friday.
Pineiro explained: "Just every day you feel like: 'Oh damn, if I miss this kick am I going to get cut? Are they going to trade for somebody else?' It does get annoying, but I can't control any of that. What I can control is showing what I can do on the field, and hopefully we get some more opportunities this next week."
The second-year kicker may have seized his moment with a strong Friday showing. Pineiro converted both of his field-goal attempts after missing one last week.
"We're evaluating them," head coach Matt Nagy said, per Mayer. "Looking at what they do in these preseason games is going to be the true test really. We're looking for that production."
After their latest performances, Pineiro should have a slight lead. However, the Bears are still searching for their kicker, and signing another isn't out of the realm of possibility.
General manager Ryan Pace reportedly indicated the front office will "monitor around the league for every position, including kicker," during a pregame interview with FOX 32 Chicago, according to 670 The Score's Chris Emma.
Patriots Receive Boost with Josh Gordon's Return
Josh Gordon is back again.
The serially suspended wideout received yet another chance to prove himself when the league announced his conditional reinstatement Friday.
"We are all rooting for Josh to succeed, both personally and professionally," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. "Everyone shares in that hope and will continue to support him to every extent possible. But as Josh acknowledged, ultimately his success is up to him."
Gordon's return provided a significant boost to a suspect Patriots wide receiver corps. The team lacked an outside threat and planned to rely on rookies N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers with Julian Edelman working the slot.
But Gordon changes the dynamic.
The 28-year-old is one of the NFL's most gifted players. In 11 games with New England last season before his latest suspension, Gordon managed 720 receiving yards and averaged 18 yards per reception. According to ESPN's Field Yates, Gordon's active eight-game streak with a 20-plus-yard reception is the NFL's second-longest.
The Patriots' continued development of Harry and Meyers is crucial because the organization can't rely on Gordon since he's missed 60 of 112 possible games in his seven-year career.
The Patriots offense is more explosive with the 6'3", 225-pounder on the field, as the NFL Network's Michael Giardi noted.
Cautious optimism is necessary any time Gordon is involved, because his talent is far too tantalizing to dismiss, even if he doesn't play an entire season.
Derwin James' Injury Adds to an Already Problematic Chargers Offseason
The Chargers offseason couldn't get much worse until it did.
The latest blow came Friday when the team revealed All-Pro safety Derwin James suffered a stress fracture in his right foot. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, James will miss "a significant amount of time," but a timetable hasn't been established.
"We're going to miss him a lot," head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters. "But we're a team. We have a good team, and we have guys that will step up, and we'll be fine."
How good is Los Angeles? The roster has taken a beating in recent weeks.
The Chargers finished second in the AFC West with the same 12-4 record as the division-winning Kansas City Chiefs. As Kansas City deals with changes, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, L.A. looked like it had an opportunity to leapfrog its rival.
However, the team's two-time Pro Bowl running back, Melvin Gordon III, is holding out in a contract dispute. Veteran left tackle Russell Okung hasn't returned to the field after suffering a pulmonary embolism in June. Plus, the Chargers' leading receiver, Keenan Allen, has an ankle injury that should keep him out of the preseason.
James' absence will be a gigantic blow to the defense because of his versatility. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley used him in numerous roles, including free and strong safety, nickel linebacker, in slot coverage and as a blitzer. A single replacement can't create the same impact.
Instead, the Chargers will rely on a combination of Adrian Phillips, Rayshawn Jenkins and rookie Nasir Adderley.
"I would like for him to play in 2019," Lynn said, per the Orange County Register's Gilbert Manzano, "but I don't know that for sure."
Jay-Z Is Coming to an NFL City Near You
Jay-Z is close to achieving what Bobby Axelrod of Billions couldn't: The media mogul is about to become a part-owner of an NFL team, according to TMZ.
The organization wasn't revealed, but the site reported, "It is going to happen in the near future."
Roc Nation's newfound alignment with the league makes far more sense now.
On Wednesday, the league announced a multiyear partnership with Roc Nation "to enhance the NFL's live game experiences and to amplify the league's social justice efforts."
"Roc Nation is one of the most globally influential and impactful organizations in entertainment," Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "The NFL and Roc Nation share a vision of inspiring meaningful social change across our country. We are thrilled to partner with Roc Nation and look forward to making a difference in our communities together."
The alliance between the NFL and Roc Nation has since been widely criticized. Jay-Z defended the decision.
"For me it's like action, [an] actionable item, what are we gonna do with it?" the 22-time Grammy Award winner said, per The Undefeated's Jason Reid. "Everyone heard, we hear what you're saying, and everybody knows I agree with what you're saying [in Colin Kaepernick's underlying message]. So what are we gonna do? You know what I'm saying? [Help] millions and millions of people, or we get stuck on Colin not having a job."
Kaepernick has not played in a regular-season game since 2016. He and safety Eric Reid settled grievances against the league for reportedly less than $10 million after alleging teams colluded to keep them off the field following their protests of social injustice and police brutality during the national anthem.