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What we learned from Friday's preseason games

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  • By Around The NFL staff NFL.com
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Friday's five-game preseason slate featured Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen on the same field showcasing their first-round talents and some strong performances from Christian McCaffrey and Patrick Mahomes. Here's what we learned:

Arizona Cardinals 20, New Orleans Saints 15


1. Sam Bradford started and completed 6 of 6 passes for 61 yards. He led the Cardinals on one scoring drive, which was capped off by a physical 9-yard touchdown run by running back David Johnson. Bradford played three series, posting a 109.0 passer rating, before giving way to rookie Josh Rosen in the second quarter.

Rosen promptly led the Cardinals on a seven-play, 87-yard drive, which ended when Rosen fired a 14-yard laser across the middle of the field to rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk for the touchdown. Rosen showed patience on the touchdown throw, going through his reads before stepping up in the pocket to find Kirk.

Playing to halftime, Rosen led the Cardinals on two scoring drives and completed an efficient 10 of 16 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown with a 102.9 passer rating. The performance marked a vast improvement from Rosen's preseason debut last week when he completed 6 of 13 passes for 41 yards (53.7 passer rating). Rookie quarterback Chad Kanoff started the third quarter.

On the other side of the football, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, the Cardinals first-round pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, left the game in the first half after suffering a foot injury.

2. The Saints have less than a month to figure out the pecking order at the running back position behind Alvin Kamara when considering Mark Ingram's four-game suspension to start the season. Ingram drew the start, and with Kamara not playing, Jonathan Williams was the first running back off the bench to relieve Ingram.

Williams, who totaled 26 yards rushing and a touchdown on four carries in the preseason opener, rushed for 30 yards on four carries. Shane Vereen came in before halftime, and shared backfield responsibilities with Williams, Terrance West and rookie Boston Scott in the second half.

-- Herbie Teope

New York Giants 30, Detroit Lions 17


3. With Eli Manning taking a veteran's night off, second-string quarterback Davis Webb had the "luxury" of playing behind New York's first-string offensive line on Friday night. Webb benefited at times from a clean pocket and flourished on those plays, notably a 27-yard third-down conversion to Sterling Shepard. But all too often, Webb was hurried by a Lions front seven that had little problem piercing the Giants' reconstructed offensive line. Touted rookie guard Will Hernandez missed easy blocks. The right side of the line -- Ereck Flowers and Patrick Omameh -- was mauled on a called-back strip sack. Holes didn't open up for backup running back Jonathan Stewart either (four carries for minus-1 yard) -- though Wayne Gallman had a nice night. New York invested heavily in the heavies this offseason, but it's yet to pay off.

4. No movement in Detroit's running back battle. Ameer Abdullah got the start, but fumbled on the second snap of the game and finished with 5 yards on three touches. Kerryon Johnson saw only four touches for 9 yards. Theo Riddick remains the Lions' go-to third-down option and froze Alec Ogletree on one 42-yard reception out of the slot. LeGarrette Blount got a ton of action in the second half, but couldn't do much against second- and third-teamers. With Abdullah flopping and no back averaging more than 4.0 YPA on the night, it appears, after last week's RB renaissance, the Lions' backfield has returned to midseason form.

-- Jeremy Bergman

Buffalo Bills 19, Cleveland Browns 17


5. Intent on establishing a ground attack, the Browns ripped through Buffalo's defense for 99 rushing yards in just over a quarter with the first-team offense. Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson handled all of the first-team snaps, giving way to Nick Chubb when rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield took the reins in the second quarter. While Mayfield's box score seems pedestrian, the draft's top overall pick impressed with fancy footwork to prevent a string of negative plays behind a shaky offensive line.

6. Even before AJ McCarron was diagnosed with an injury to his throwing shoulder, rookie Josh Allen was pushing his way to the front of the Bills' quarterback derby. For the second straight week, the raw but talented rookie squeezed a string of passes into tight windows and extended key third downs with his underrated scrambling ability. Next week's game versus the Bengals will be crucial in Allen's quest to overtake Nathan Peterman, but it's already evident that the draft's No. 7 overall pick is the best quarterback on the roster.

-- Chris Wesseling

Kansas City Chiefs 28, Atlanta Falcons 14


7. Benefiting from improved offensive line play and some spectacular efforts from his receivers, Patrick Mahomes showed flashes of the dynamic passer skill set that instigated his ascendancy to starting quarterback. The Chiefs signal-caller completed his first six attempts en route to 8 of 12 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown and an interception. His most spectacular pass came on a 69-yard touchdown catch by Tyreek Hill. Mahomes threw the ball at the Chiefs' 25-yard line and Hill caught it at the Falcons' 6-yard line -- the ball went through the air 69 yards before it landed in the third-year receiver's arms. Adding to the touchdown's charm was Hill's ability to beat three stunned defenders before corralling the pass and taking it to paydirt.

Hill finished with four catches for 87 yards and tight end Travis Kelce made two nice catches for 27 yards. If the Chiefs can manage to carry over their exciting, big-play passing game into the regular season, Mahomes and the budding K.C. Masterpiece offense will be difficult for AFC West D-coordinators to tame in 2018.

8. Calvin Ridley looks poised to create plenty of problems for opposing secondaries. The rookie wide receiver generated some matchup headaches for the Chiefs early on and finished with three catches for 49 yards. That included a well-placed, 7-yard TD pass from Matt Schaub. If Ridley can continue to live up to his first-round pick pedigree, he should play well alongside an offense that features a former NFL MVP in Matt Ryan and an All-Pro wide receiver in Julio Jones.

Ryan looked characteristically sharp in his '18 preseason debut, connecting on 5 of 7 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown -- a great, second-effort catch from tight end Austin Hooper. Tevin Coleman churned out 35 yards on five carries. Year 2 of the Steve Sarkisian experience will be under the microscope, and Atlanta's first-team offense was impressive against K.C.'s first-teamers.

-- Austin Knoblauch

Carolina Panthers 27, Miami Dolphins 20


9. Christian McCaffrey's 71-yard touchdown run on Carolina's second snap was a pleasant surprise for three reasons. First, McCaffrey ran assuredly between the tackles. The major rub on McCaffrey during his rookie season was his lack of physicality inside the hashes, but the tailback showed on the opening score and on other plays his strength and decisiveness up the middle, finishing with 120 total yards. McCaffrey also showed off his trademark acceleration on the scamper, burning past Miami's secondary, including center-fielder Reshad Jones. But maybe the most welcome sight on the play was left guard Greg Van Roten pulling and blocking two Dolphins to make way for McCaffrey. Van Roten, a 28-year-old journeyman who just two years ago was playing for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, stepped up into the left guard role vacated by All-Pro Andrew Norwell and the injured Amini Silatolu, who tore his meniscus earlier this month. With more blocks like that one, the All-Ivy lineman might start Week 1 opening lanes for Christian, Cam and Co.

10. The Dolphins are reaping early returns on their new additions. With DeVante Parker sidelined, Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola are scheming to keep him that way. Ryan Tannehill (14/17, 100 yards in five drives) already has great chemistry and timing with each diminutive pass-catcher, with Wilson his favorite target through two preseason games (seven catches for 70 yards). On the other side of the ball, Robert Quinn made mincemeat out of Matt Kalil during the first half, sacking Cam Newton twice. The Suh-less front seven nucleus of Quinn, Charles Harris, Davon Godchaux and Cameron Wake should not be overlooked.

-- Jeremy Bergman

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