The 2014 NFL Draft class was considered to be a good one, though as is always the case with these things, there were still red flags; some even reached all the way to the top pick. People wondered if Jadeveon Clowney, maybe the best defensive prospect to come along in a decade or longer, was as good as once advertised after a lackluster 2013 season at South Carolina.
Thank goodness for the NFL preseason. Because while you can’t put much faith in the scores and stats, you can believe your eyes: watch any game and you’ll notice some players jump off the television screen and put all doubt of their readiness to bed.
Clowney is ready.
He wasn’t the only rookie to put on a show in the second week of preseason action, with many first-year players looking more than ready for the pros. Others, like Johnny Manziel, just kind of looked like jackasses.
Bears 20, Jaguars 19
Sorry Jags fans (all 10 of you): This team’s not going to win the Super Bowl this season. So why not start QB Blake Bortles right away? Well, unless Luke Joeckel and the offensive line improve significantly, the Jaguars lack the ability to protect their franchise quarterback. Hence the reason they’ll end up starting Chad Henne.
Vikings 30, Cardinals 28
Teddy Bridgewater did everything that could have been asked of him, completing 16-of-20 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns and leading his team to a late win. That being said, tossing a bunch of short passes against Arizona’s third stringers isn’t quite as impressive as what the box score shows. Bridgewater looked fine, but the Vikings should put Matt Cassel in harm’s way for now. He was arguably better anyway, and against the Cardinals’ first team.
Redskins 24, Browns 23
Tired of “Johnny Football?” Why not start calling Johnny Manziel “Preseason Tebow” (“Pre-Bow” for short)? Actually, you can call him whatever you want, especially after Monday night’s effort. Manziel was often inaccurate, completing mostly short doinks and finishing 9-of-17 for 65 yards and one touchdown. Oh, and I’m pretty sure you heard: he flipped off the Redskins’ sideline, too. Of course, Brian Hoyer, the Browns other QB, was worse, thought at least he kept his fingers to himself.
Steelers 19, Bills 16
Get used to number 50 on the Steelers, because first-year linebacker Ryan Shazier might be the early favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Shazier was fierce and fast, finishing with nine tackles and an interception. Sure, all of that came against the Bills, but it still counts.
Dolphins 20, Buccaneers 14
It looked like Tampa Bay had just taken a 14-3 lead in the first quarter after rookie receiver Mike Evans took a pass from Mike Glennon (almost) all the way to the house. But Dolphins corner Brent Grimes punched the ball out on the one-yard line to give Miami possession. If it makes Evans feel any better, Ryan Tannehill and Glennon also lost fumbles, because footballs are the hardest things to hold in the entire world.
Texans 32, Falcons 7
The Texans and Falcons were the two most disappointing teams last season, but not only did Houston make it look easy on Saturday, Atlanta lost left tackle Sam Baker to a torn patella tendon for the second straight year. Houston fans are probably feeling a bit better about their team’s future, especially after Clowney’s efforts. The top pick wouldn’t be denied, popping Falcons RB Antone Smith then sacking Matt Ryan on the next play.
Seahawks 41, Chargers 14
Playing in front of the home crowd for the first time since winning Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seahawks proved to still be really, really good while the Chargers defense is still really, really bad. Russell Wilson completed 11 of 13 passes for 121 yards while scoring two rushing touchdowns. Backup quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor and B.J. Daniels added ground scores of their own, as Seattle continues to show that in an ocean of passing records, there’s plenty of rush in the sea.
Patriots 42, Eagles 35
Many NFL teams, including the Patriots, spent a lot of money on secondary players to try and catch up to the “Legion of Boom” in Seattle. That didn’t show in this one, as eight different players caught touchdown passes in this game. That doesn’t even include Eagles rookie Jordan Matthews, who had nine catches for 104 yards. It does include this circus catch from Arrelious Benn, however.
Saints 31, Titans 24
In a league where celebrations have been banned, one young player vows to fight for his right to dunk. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham scored twice and followed each one up with his verboten slammin’ celebrations, receiving a pair 15-yard penalties and drawing the ire of head coach Sean Payton. I thought this was a party. Let’s dunk!
Raiders 27, Lions 26
The Raiders were so desperate for a quarterback that they actually traded for Matt Schaub and didn’t reduce his salary after a disastrous 2013 season, but everyone knows it’s just a countdown until second round pick Derek Carr is named the starter. He was 9-of-16 for 109 yards and a touchdown in the win, but after he left with a concussion and a rib injury, it was clear that Oakland is in no position to protect their young QB and will be smart to throw Schaub into the fire this year.
Packers 21, Rams 7
Aaron Rodgers and Sam Bradford made their preseason debuts and both looked on point, tossing a TD each. More importantly for two players that missed a significant portion of last season with injuries, both stayed healthy. Michael Sam recorded the first sack of his NFL career, dropping Packers’ backup Matt Flynn in the fourth quarter.
Jets 25, Bengals 17
Last week, Cincy’s backup quarterback Matt Scott puked on the field during a scoring drive, but this time he let his play do the puking. Scott was 8-of-22 for 54 yards with an interception and a lost fumble. At least Andy Dalton is having a great preseason (he was 8-of-8 for 144 yards and a score in this game), but fans only care that he can start doing the same when it matters.
Ravens 37, Cowboys 30
Tony Romo hasn’t played in a game since back surgery last December, but he looked great (other than a botched exchange with RB DeMarco Murray fumble that was for a touchdown.) Romo came back on the next drive to hit Dez Bryant for a 31-yard touchdown, finishing with 4-of-5 passing for 80 yards. His back may be the most important body part in the NFL right now, because Brandon Weeden is the next in line to start…until they call Jon Kitna again. And you know they will.
Giants 27, Colts 26
Did Chuck Pagano let Andy Dwyer coach the Colts this week? No matter what month the calendar says it is, blowing a 26-point fourth quarter lead isn’t good for anybody in Indianapolis. The Giants couldn’t get anything going in the first three quarters, but then scored four unanswered touchdowns in the fourth, capped by a four-yard pass to Corey Washington from backup Ryan Nassib.
Broncos 34, 49ers 0
The christening of Levi’s Stadium – the 49ers new $1.2 billion home – was done by Peyton Manning, who was 12-of-14 for 102 yards and a touchdown on two possessions. San Francisco must do everything in their power to protect Colin Kaepernick, as their backups combined for three turnovers. It looks like Blaine Gabbert has gone from “Worst backup in the AFC” to “Worst backup in the NFC.”
Panthers 28, Chiefs 16
Cam Newton returned from ankle surgery to complete 4-of-9 passes for 65 yards, but the Panthers won on Sunday for the same reason they were so successful last season: Luke Kuechly and the defense contained the Kansas City offense in the first half (no Jamaal Charles), and the running game was strong with two rushing touchdowns by Jonathan Stewart.