What we learned: Preseason Week 1 takeaways


Sixteen preseason games spread over four days are in the books. This is always the part of the preseason where a grateful nation is just happy to see any professional football.

Every game, all season

Before that honeymoon period wears off and we just become irritable waiting for the regular season, let's sort out some winners and losers from Preseason Week 1.

Moving up

Rookie quarterback hot takes: It's bad enough we overreact to Week 1. Now we do it to Week 1 of the preseason. This isn't the ACC anymore, Jameis! How's your interception streak look now, Mariota?! The uneven starts by the top two picks of the draft were not "Welcome to the NFL" moments for either player. That can only happen when the games count.

In the meantime, these are learning tools for players and not particularly predictive of the regular season. (And Winston wasn't as bad as you think.) In other words: Don't start crowing about how your genius personal draft rankings were right for a while.

Raiders optimism: You know things are turning around in Oakland when Chris Wesseling sounds excited about the Raiders' offense. Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Latavius Murray give them some skill position juice.

Shifty rookie receivers: Tyler Lockett, Phillip Dorsett and Nelson Agholor average about 177 pounds between them, which used to be a bad thing in the NFL. They are built just right for today's game in which speed and space matter more than ever. Lockett, the third-round rookie for the Seahawks, looked like the rare player who can make other professionals look slow as a returner. Andrew Luck was locked into Dorsett early and often for the Colts. And Agholor's after-catch ability turned an ugly Mark Sanchez throw into a long touchdown. Early returns are positive for all three players being factors this season.

Cardinals health: Two things matter in the preseason. Winning jobs and staying healthy. Arizona has to feel great about how key players Carson Palmer, Tyrann Mathieu and Andre Ellington all looked in their preseason returns. Palmer and Mathieu looked 100 percent coming off their serious injuries from a year ago. Ellington shook off early training camp hamstring issues to explode for a long catch Saturday. Perhaps the Cardinals don't need Chris Johnson after all.

Joseph Randle: Darren McFadden didn't get off the PUP list until over the weekend. The Cowboys started undrafted rookie Gus Johnson in the preseason, and then he hurt his shoulder. Yet Jerry Jones refuses to sign another veteran running back as true competition for Randle, instead picking up guys like Michael Hill and Ben Malena off "the street." Consider that a vote of confidence in Randle.

Rugby League enthusiasts: Jarryd Hayne's 53-yard run for the 49ers was notable because the Rugby League star looked like he belonged, aside from the upright running style. It's also worth noting Hayne was getting time with San Francisco's starters, an indication he has a real chance to make the roster. Just don't call Hayne a "rugby star." There is a difference between Rugby League and Rugby Union and you can debate with the Australians and British folks in my timeline who disagree about it all.

Ameer Abdullah: Preseason results don't matter that much, but any player who moves like this is worth noting.

Tyrod Taylor: Announced as the Bills starting quarterback for the second week of the preseason, Taylor's tasty outing against Carolina certainly got coach Rex Ryan's attention. EJ Manuel appears to be all but out of this quarterback race, with Taylor and Matt Cassel still battling to start.

Moving down

Texans quarterback clarity: When Brian Hoyer was removed after throwing a touchdown pass on his first drive, I thought the Houston quarterback battle might be over. But Ryan Mallett's excellent relief job and the news that he's starting the second week of the preseason only clouds matters. Hoyer should be the guy eventually; it's just going to take time.

At least we can confirm that Tom Savage exists.

C.J. Anderson's fantasy value: Leaving Friday's game with a minor ankle injury was not a big deal. But it's a reminder that Anderson is far from a known quantity and the Broncos have other fine options. Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball both played well off the bench.

Adrian Peterson: It's never a good thing when you lose your best run-blocking offensive lineman in the first week of the preseason.

The Giants' defense: It's also not good to lose four defensive backs to injury for a secondary that already looked shaky. New York's safety depth chart is among the worst looking position groups at any position in the league.

49ers' defense: One week after Aldon Smith's departure, this probably isn't a great sign for the 49ers' defense:

Bears optimism: While the shifty rookie wideouts above shined, Chicago was dealt with the roughest blow of the weekend when they announced the No. 7 overall pick Kevin White will undergo surgery for a shin stress fracture. He will miss at least the first six games of the season, and quite possibly be out the whole year. Chicago is lacking plenty on defense, but there was a chance that their skill position talent (White, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte and Eddie Royal) could make up for it. It's worth wondering if White will only be fully up to speed by the time Jay Cutler is playing elsewhere.

Julius Thomas: The Jaguars are hopeful their tight end will be ready for Week 1 after he fractured his hand over the weekend, but the injury slows down the hype train after a great start to camp for Thomas.

Andy Levitre and the Tennessee offensive line: Marcus Mariota was protected poorly in his preseason debut, and the Titans struggled to open up holes in the running game. Coach Ken Whisenhunt responded in practice by shuffling his line, which could possibly leave guard Andy Levitre without a starting position. One of the most expensive free agents in the league two years ago, it wouldn't be stunning at this point if Levitre was cut in a few weeks.

C.J. Spiller: While Spiller has been more durable as a pro than he's given credit for, his knee surgery Friday is a rough way to start his New Orleans tenure. There is optimism he'll be ready for the regular season, but that's what every team says about every player this time of year.

At least the Saints are deep at the position; Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson can certainly get the job done until Spiller is healthy. It was a rough weekend for New Orleans. Cornerback Brandon Browner, cornerback Delvin Breaux and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe all left the team's preseason opener with injuries. Safety Jairus Byrd remains missing in action. If Rob Ryan was capable of losing hair, now would be the time to start.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast features the gang breaking down Jimmy Garoppolo's preseason debut and Ameer Abdullah's breakout game.