WARNING! THIS IS PRESEASON WEEK 1, SO BE PREPARED FOR LATE-ROUND PICKS AND PRACTICE SQUAD MEMBERS TO BE OVERHYPED SO MUCH THAT YOU THINK THAT THEY MIGHT BECOM LEGENDS.
Seriously though, I really don’t like Preseason Week 1 as it usually has zero to no impact on a player’s actual performance during the season.
Quarterback: Cardale Jones – Bills – (11/21 – 162 Yards – 1 TD)(4 Rushes – 34 Yards)
The Bills just gave Tyrod Taylor a huge extension and they have E.J. Manuel right behind him, so there isn’t much chance that Cardale Jones will be able to become the starter anytime soon. Despite that, he is making a push to jump ahead of E.J. Manuel. Cardale Jones could’ve been drafted last year, but he decided to stay at Ohio State for one more year. Even though the 6’5” 250 lb dual-threat quarterback lost his job to J.T. Barrett, more on him in about a year, he looked more polished than I’ve ever seen him against the Colts. Jones is known for his arm strength and he sure showed it. On the times that he ran, he wasn’t the slow, bowling-ball type of runner that he was at Ohio State. He was more fluid and seemed more agile. Perhaps the part that I was most impressed with was his accuracy. He consistently took risks by trying to fit balls in between two defenders and they usually worked out. He was accurate as well when throwing to the sidelines.
Running Back 1: Derrick Henry – Titans – (10 Rushes – 74 Yards – 1 TD)
I wanted to put every Titans running back here, but, sadly, I only had two spots for running backs. Some may want DeMarco Murray here, but I value consistency here. Murray had a 71-yard touchdown run and then not much else, but his stat sheet would look like he tore it up the entire day. Derrick Henry rushed for 74 yards on only 10 attempts. Henry’s height and lack of lateral speed were his weak points, and while he didn’t take many outside handoffs, he showed that being 6’3” is no problem for a running back. It looked like the Derrick Henry at Alabama, how he was able to torch defenses through the middle of the field consistently.
Running Back 2: George Atkinson III – Raiders – (5 Rushes – 97 Yards – 2 TDs)
George Atkinson isn’t a name that you hear very often after preseason is finished, but he’s looking to make the Raiders team this season after a huge performance that featured two touchdowns by him. Atkinson broke off on two huge runs that both ended in touchdowns. He showed off his straight line speed and his ability to turn the corner on both plays. It looks like we could have a new backup to Latavius Murray in Oakland if Atkinson keeps up these performances.
Wide Receiver: Aldrick Robinson – Falcons – (3 REC – 118 YDS)
Aldrick Robinson caught two huge passes for the Falcons, but none went for touchdowns. He burned Quinton Dunbar twice and showed off his big-play ability in a huge way against the Redskins. Robinson was the only receiver to go above 100 yards during Preseason Week 1.
Wide Receiver 2: Cody Latimer – Broncos – (7 REC – 82 YDS)
I’ve expected big things from the former Indiana Hoosier since he was drafted by the Broncos a couple of years back. Latimer showed his ability to be the third wideout in the Broncos rotation by snapping seven receptions for 82 yards. It’s been a little bit of a wait, but it looks like Latimer if finally coming into his own and finding his niche in the Broncos system.
Tight End: Vance McDonald – 49ers – (2 REC – 53 YDS – 1 TD)
Vance McDonald is a name that usually comes up when you’re talking about breakout candidates at the tight end position. One play showed us that. I know that I said that I value consistency, but preseason tight ends usually aren’t too consistent. The former second-round pick had the best performance of all tight ends though, as he broke loose of the Texans cornerback and showed off his speed and elusiveness while taking it all the way to the house. Guys who are 6’4” and 267 lbs. are not supposed to be as elusive as he was on that play, and since it’s preseason, it’ only right of us to overthink this play and say that Vance McDonald is going to catch for over 1,000 yards.
Defensive Lineman: Trey Flowers – Patriots – (6 tackles, 1 Sack, FF, TD)
It’s a little harder to find big performers on the defensive side of the ball for preseason, as the rotate in and out more often than do wide receivers/running backs and such. Trey Flowers made his impact on the game before he was replaced though. Six tackles, one sack, a forced fumble, and a touchdown is certainly not an easy feat to accomplish. Flowers just put his name into the hat of Patriots starting Defensive Lineman by returning a strip sack for a touchdown. That’s pretty much as good of a play as you can get as a defensive player.
Defensive Lineman 2: Julius Warmsley – Dolphins – (3 tackles, 2 Sacks, FF)
The Dolphins lineman also made a name for himself with his 2 sacks and forced fumble against the Giants. The Dolphins already have a lot of depth at defensive line, but Warmsley could make a push to become one of the top backups. I don’t see him ever really seeing the field, but this performance should go a long way for his hopes of making the team.
Defensive Lineman 3: Owamagbe Odighizuwa – Giants – (3 tackles, 2 Sacks)
I remember having to learn Owa’s name when I was writing draft articles a couple years ago and I still only made it halfway through before I had to look up the exact spelling. Back in the draft, he was expected be at least a second-round pick, but he fell all the way into the third round. Odighizuwa posted 3 tackles and 2 sacks against the Dolphins, showing that despite all of the Giants acquisitions on the defensive line, he can still make an impact.
Linebacker 1: Darron Lee – Jets – (4 tackles, 1 Sack, 2 TFL)
Lee didn’t get much playing time, but when he was on the field, the first-round pick was all over the place. He posted 4 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 TFL. Lee wasn’t thought of as much of a pass-rusher coming out of Ohio State, but he showed a different aspect of his game than we’ve seen in Week 1 of the Preseason. I expect big things for Lee this year, and this game only solidified my confidence in him.
Linebacker 2: James Harrison – Steelers – (2 tackles, 1 Sack, FF)
James Harrison is 38 years old. 38! Harrison is coming off a season in which he posted five sacks for the Steelers. Coming into preseason, everyone thought that his numbers were going to take a sharp decline this season, but if getting a strip-sack on Matthew Stafford means anything, than he should be putting up a good fight against Father Time this year.
Linebacker 3: Emmanuel Ogbah – Browns – (6 tackles, 1 Sack, 2 TFL)
Ogbah was drafted to improve the Browns pass rush immediately, and he sure looks like he can do that. Posting six tackles, one sack, and two tackles for loss is a good way to impress your coaches. With that kind of performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ogbah is given the starting role in Week 1.
Linebacker 4: Vontarrious Dora – Broncos – (2 tackles, 2 Sacks, FF)
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Vontarrious Dora before Week 1 of the preseason. Now put your hand down, because we both know that you’re lying. Coming out Louisiana Tech, Dora wasn’t drafted and didn’t get an invite to the NFL Combine. That didn’t stop him though. Dora could’ve joined a weak pass-rush and might have made that team, but instead, he decided to join the best pass-rushing team and it actually looks like he has a shot at making the roster. Posting 2 sacks and a forced fumble will do that for you.
Cornerback 1: Cre’van LeBlanc – Patriots – (5 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PDs)
LeBlanc could challenge for a backup spot on the Patriots roster after having a great showing versus the Saints. Five tackles is pretty good for a corner, and it shows that he can be valuable in run support. In addition, LeBlanc also snagged a crazy one-handed interception in the endzone, which might have been the play of Week 1 of the Preseason.
Cornerback 2: Doran Grant – Steelers – (8 tackles, 1 INT, 1 TD)
If five tackles is great, then what is eight tackles? Doran Grant posted eight tackles to go along with a pick six. The Steelers have an extremely weak secondary, so his chances of making the roster are greatly improved after having a great showing against the Lions. His interception wasn’t really his own doing, as the ball was thrown as the quarterback was being hit and was lame-ducked into Doran Grant’s hands. Still, I’m Grant had a fantastic performance.
Safety 1: Nate Allen – Raiders – (4 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PDs)
The Raiders completely restocked their secondary, and with Reggie Nelson and first-round pick Karl Joseph in front of him, I doubt that Nate Allen will see the field barring injury one of the two aforementioned safeties. Allen posted 4 tackles, 1 interception, and 2 PDs to secure his place as the backup safety for the Raiders.
Safety 2: Ed Reynolds – Eagles – (7 tackles, 1 TFL)
Reynolds provided excellent run-support for the Eagles, and while he won’t ever see the field, he showed that he could be a solid backup or play in the box if they needed him too.