The Schein Nine  

 

Dak Prescott shines, RGIII struggles in Week 1 of NFL preseason

Print

They say you shouldn't overreact to preseason football.

I say, who exactly are they, anyway?

No August hyperbole? That ruins all of the fun!

Preseason game results mean nothing. I don't care about final scores and have never once looked at the preseason standings. But there are particular developments -- breakout performances, trends and battles -- that can prove to be harbingers of what's to come in the regular season.

Here are the nine biggest takeaways from the first week of preseason action, Schein Nine style:

1) Dak Prescott turns heads!

The Dallas Cowboys' backup quarterback situation was beyond dreadful last year. In the absence of Tony Romo -- who won three of his four starts -- the motley crew of Matt Cassel, Kellen Moore and Brandon Weeden combined to go 1-11. These wounds were still so fresh that Moore's broken ankle earlier this month legitimately counted as major news. Given Romo's advanced age (36) -- and, more significantly, his fragile body -- the Cowboys' QB bullpen carries outsized importance. The loss of a QB2 anywhere is concerning, but in Dallas, it's especially so.

Nick Foles, released by the Rams in late July, seemed like the exact kind of veteran QB Dallas suddenly needed. But the 27-year-old signal caller signed with his old coach Andy Reid in Kansas City.

So it was rookie fourth-rounder Dak Prescott who got the start -- and ample playing time -- Saturday against Los Angeles. This is the same Dak Prescott whom Stephen Jones vouched for in the draft aftermath on my SiriusXM radio show, "Schein on Sports," while his father, Jerry, was making the rounds lamenting the fact that Dallas didn't trade into the back end of the first round for Paxton Lynch. Well, touché, Stephen: Prescott was awesome, and it matters greatly.

The Mississippi State product drafted 134 selections after top overall pick Jared Goff outplayed his QB classmate in the L.A. Coliseum. Prescott dropped in dimes. His arm was cooking. The athleticism was on display. It's the preseason, but this is a big deal when it comes to Dallas' QB insurance, should anything happen to Romo. Prescott looked like a grizzled vet, completing 10 of his 12 passes for 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including an opening-drive, back-shoulder strike to Dez Bryant.

With Romo and Bryant back in good health and Ezekiel Elliott joining the fold, the Cowboys' offense brings high expectations into the 2016 campaign. In a wide-open NFC East, many see Dallas as the team to beat. I still think the Cowboys could be well-served adding an experienced signal caller to the QB room, but Prescott's performance on Saturday was inspiring. That outing makes you think that, if Romo has to miss a play or a game, Dallas doesn't automatically have to throw away the season. That's kind of a big deal.

2) Titans show promise

I think these Titans are going to win some games that you don't expect them to win in 2016. Tennessee fans have to be energized by what they saw from Mike Mularkey's bunch against San Diego on Saturday. I loved the Titans' offseason backfield overhaul -- trading for DeMarco Murray and drafting Derrick Henry -- and both bruising backs were on full display in Mularkey's "exotic smashmouth" offense. While Murray electrified the Nashville crowd with a 71-yard touchdown run, Henry converted his 10 carries into 74 yards and a TD of his own.

And then there's second-year QB Marcus Mariota. I'm a firm believer in the 22-year-old's talent, command and growth. On Saturday, Mariota's first pass attempt was a 31-yard completion to Tajae Sharpe -- a fifth-round pick who looks like quite a find -- and the Titans QB went on to record a perfect 5-for-5 throwing outing. This guy can be special, especially now that he has some enticing pieces around him.

3) Eddie Lacy looks like the Eddie Lacy of old

And that's a good thing. The limited numbers don't exactly jump off the page (four rushes for 24 yards in one series of action), but the Pack back passed the eye test -- a big development in the wake of a 2015 campaign when Lacy got large and lazy. The power and burst were there, most strikingly on an 11-yard rumble up the gut.

If Eddie Lacy is the Eddie Lacy of 2013 and '14 -- a 1,000-yard power back who provides Aaron Rodgers with some offensive balance -- the Packers will win the NFC North and be right in the Super Bowl conversation.

4) RGIII looks like the RGIII of recent vintage

And that's not a good thing.

Last week, I praised Hue Jackson's handling of the faux QB controversy in Cleveland. I liked that the new head coach didn't mess around, going with his gut and officially naming Robert Griffin III the starter the week of the first preseason game. RGIII has displayed the necessary leadership since signing with the Browns -- he seems more mature after flaring out in Washington.

But can he play? Color me skeptical.

I know Jackson has a fine track record of maximizing quarterbacks, but does Griffin offer moldable tools? What kind of thrower and runner is he in Year 5?

On his first play of the preseason Friday night, RGIII actually completed a 49-yard pass to Terrelle Pryor. After that, though, it wasn't pretty. Immediately following the bomb to Pryor, Griffin botched a handoff to Isaiah Crowell, though the Browns recovered. Four plays later, Griffin threw a goal-line interception.

All in all, RGIII looked indecisive and had a number of inaccurate tosses. No, he didn't have Corey Coleman or Josh Gordon at his disposal in this game, but Griffin failed to inspire confidence in the Cleveland faithful.

Adding insult to insult at the QB position: Rookie Cody Kessler pulled an Orlovsky, accidentally running out the back of the endzone for a safety. Here's hoping the Cavs' championship softens the blow the Browns will dish out this year.

5) Carson Wentz excites ... then exits the stage

Carson Wentz could be out for the rest of the preseason after suffering a hairline fracture in his ribs during Thursday night's game against the Buccaneers. Rib injuries are tricky -- they tend to linger and get exacerbated -- and this is a huge bummer for Eagles fans.

I loved Wentz in the pre-draft process. In fact, I thought the Browns should've stayed put in the No. 2 draft slot and happily scooped up the North Dakota State product. But Cleveland's loss is Philly's gain. And Wentz really flashed on Thursday night, showing his athleticism, arm and poise. I loved when he chased down an errant snap, corralled the ball, ran outside of the numbers and wisely tossed the ball out of bounds. Yes he threw a red-zone pick, but I was very impressed with his overall performance.

Unfortunately, now Wentz will miss valuable preseason time. And if (when) Sam Bradford goes down, Chase Daniel -- who spent time with Eagles head coach Doug Pederson in K.C. -- will have a major leg up in claiming the reins. This injury really bums me out -- I was so excited about the draft pick and Wentz's debut showing Thursday night.

6) The 49ers have the worst QB situation in league

I suspected as much throughout the offseason. And then Colin Kaepernick came down with arm fatigue last week. I was already worried about where his head would be after a tumultuous offseason when his status in San Francisco was completely up in the air -- and now his surgically repaired shoulder is acting up?

Now, I've always argued that Kaepernick needs new head coach Chip Kelly -- and Chip needs Kap. Sunday night, I sat down to watch Blaine Gabbert. And I'm even more convinced of that initial notion.

Besides a 43-yard touchdown pass to Vance McDonald -- who was wide open after a defender stumbled, and who did most of the work after the catch -- Gabbert was all over the place with his throws. Rumors of this quarterback competition being over are greatly exaggerated.

7) Jags > Jets

Two AFC teams with playoff hopes faced off in MetLife Stadium on Thursday night -- and the road squad impressed me more. (Again, I don't want to hear about the final score -- that's not important in August.)

I think the Jaguars will enjoy a better season than the Jets in 2016. They have a more talented roster. I favor Blake Bortles over Ryan Fitzpatrick. (Two drives -- 6 for 7 for 105 yards. Yeah, that'll play.) The Jets have the overall receiver edge, but Allen Robinson again showed why he's a stud with an incredible high-point grab.

If Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler Jr. are healthy, it's go time on defense. It's time to shine for Gus Bradley.

8) Way to be, Jimmy G

Yes, Jimmy Garoppolo held onto the ball a little too long. I would, too, if I didn't have Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman in the lineup. Garoppolo was solid (11 for 18, 168 yards) and showed enough where you absolutely believe Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels will put him in position to be successful in the first quarter of the season.

I think the Patriots can start 3-1 with Jimmy G while Tom Brady completes his four-game suspension.

9) Still waiting for Ryan Tannehill to put it together

Adam Gase was adroitly plucked by Mike Tannenbaum to coach Miami. If there's anyone who can get Ryan Tannehill to reach his potential, it's Gase. While it's early, we are still waiting for this to happen.

Tannehill didn't look good at all in limited action against the Giants on Friday night. The 28-year-old QB has the pass catchers, with Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and tight end Jordan Cameron at his disposal. And now, with Gase at the helm, he has the coaching. So, if it doesn't click in 2016 ...

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop