Analysis  

 

AFC preseason grades: Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson ace Week 2

Print

The preseason is a time for jobs to be won, opportunities to be seized and depth charts to be determined. So, while wins and losses might not matter, there's plenty at stake for many players in these exhibition games. To help put these moments into context, Bucky Brooks will provide a grade for one player of interest from every NFL team after each of the first three full weeks of preseason action.

Below, see the AFC player grades following Week 2.

Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson, QB. The Ravens' young quarterback had a tough time finding his rhythm as a passer against the Colts. Jackson missed his first handful of throws and never really found the strike zone as a pitcher. Although he flashed some athleticism running around and tossed a touchdown pass in the third quarter on a roll-out, Jackson's general aerial struggles stood out in the game. If he is unable to thrive from the pocket in a traditional passing game, the Ravens will have to experiment with some college concepts to help him find his footing as a thrower. Grade: C

Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB. The Bills' QB1 of the future showed promise against the Browns. The strong-armed gunslinger was effective playing small ball in the team's quick-rhythm offense. Allen connected on a handful of Y-stick routes, hitches and quick outs that helped him get the ball out of his hands quickly. In addition, No. 17 continued to display some "wow" ability as a playmaker, using his athleticism to avoid defenders in the pocket before delivering darts to receivers down the field. Although he finished the night with just 60 yards on 9 of 13 passing (one touchdown), Allen looked like he could handle the pressure of being the team's QB1 as a rookie. Grade: A

Cincinnati Bengals: Sam Hubbard, DE. The Bengals have quietly assembled a young defensive line loaded with quality pass rushers. Hubbard could become the most productive sack artist in the group with more playing time and experience. Against the Cowboys, Hubbard had a strip-sack off the edge and added an assist as part of a strong performance from the Bengals' defensive line. Grade: B

Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB. The No. 1 overall pick was solid in his second appearance of the preseason. Mayfield repeatedly hit receivers in the numbers on a variety of short and intermediate routes (curls, digs and comebacks) while completing 7 of 13 passes for 75 yards. Although the Browns' offense sputtered for most of the night, Mayfield made some impressive moves, eluding pass rushers while buying time inside the pocket. The rookie's mobility and passing skills on the move give him a chance to be effective when the O-line struggles at the point of attack. Grade: B+

Denver Broncos: Case Keenum, QB. The Broncos' marquee free-agent signee directed a pair of scoring drives and completed 8 of 13 passes for 75 yards in a solid performance. Keenum quickly distributed the ball to his playmakers on the perimeter on an assortment of quick-rhythm passes at short and intermediate range. Although the workmanlike performance won't earn kudos from outsiders, it was the kind of efficient outing that could lead to more wins for the Broncos in the regular season. Grade: B

Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB. The second-year pro looks like he is on track to regain his MVP-caliber form as a pinpoint passer from the pocket. Watson completed 5 of 8 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. He displayed excellent anticipation, awareness and touch as a quick-rhythm passer. From his ability to make strike-zone tosses to wide receivers on quick outs, hitches and seam routes to dropping a dime to TE Ryan Griffin on a corner route, Watson was on his game against the 49ers. If he continues to pick apart defenses to this degree in the regular season, No. 4 will definitely be in the conversation as an MVP candidate at the end of the year. Grade: A-

Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB. The three-time Pro Bowler continues to shake off the rust during the preseason after an extended layoff due to an injury to his throwing shoulder. Against the Ravens, Luck spent most of the night on the run, with the pocket repeatedly collapsing around him. The constant harassment forced him to make a few errant throws, but he didn't flinch or wilt under the pressure. As a passer, Luck got the ball out of his hands quickly on designed quick-rhythm throws and routinely hit the mark when targeting receivers on the run. He also flashed some mobility and athleticism evading rushers in the pocket before tossing accurate strikes on the move. Overall, Luck's stat line (completed 6 of 13 passes for 50 yards with an interception) wasn't up to his usual standard, but he bounced back from a few hits and showed signs of getting back on track as a QB1. Grade: C+

Jacksonville Jaguars: T.J. Yeldon, RB. The Jaguars have a hard-hitting RB1 in place with Leonard Fournette, but Yeldon could become a more prominent player in the game plan after a dazzling performance that saw him post 112 yards from scrimmage (73 receiving, 39 rushing) on 15 touches (10 rushes, 5 receptions) against the Vikings. Yeldon's impressive skills as a playmaker in the passing game, in particular, could make him one of Blake Bortles' favorite targets in critical moments this season. Grade: A-

Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, QB. The second-year gunslinger is a "wow" playmaker, but he's still a work in progress when it comes to efficiency. Despite a pretty impressive stat line (completed 8 of 12 passes for 138 yards with a touchdown and an interception), Mahomes got away with a few questionable throws that should have been picked off by sticky-handed defenders. Now, he did fire off a 69-yard touchdown throw to Tyreek Hill that was absolutely ridiculous, but the splash play isn't enough to ignore some of the rough patches in his game. Grade: B-

Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR. Despite being listed as a backup on the depth chart, Williams is beginning to show signs of being a dynamic playmaker on the perimeter with WR2 potential. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound pass catcher snagged a 25-yard touchdown on an acrobatic catch in the back of the end zone that reminded evaluators of the exceptional jump-ball ability he flashed during his time at Clemson. Although the highlight-reel catch was his only reception of the night, Williams has been making these kinds of plays throughout training camp. Grade: B

Miami Dolphins: Kenyan Drake, RB. The third-year pro looks like he could be the Dolphins' RB1 after flashing some wiggle and burst with the ball in his hands against the Panthers. Drake gained 54 yards on eight rush attempts, including a 34-yard scamper that featured a dizzying spin move in the backfield to escape a potential TFL. With the slippery runner already established as a dynamic pass catcher, the Dolphins have a hybrid playmaker to build around in 2018. Grade: B+

New England Patriots: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR. The former first-round pick was sent, along with a sixth-round selection, from the Oakland Raiders to the Patriots for a fifth-round pick in the spring, but few observers knew how New England would take advantage of his skills as a dynamic kick returner. Based on his usage against the Eagles in preseason Week 2, Tom Brady will look to exploit Patterson's running skills by making him the team's designated playmaker on "flash" screens on the perimeter. Patterson finished with four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown against Philly, and he nearly popped off a 65-yard touchdown on a WR screen down the left sideline. The play showcased Patterson's elusiveness and explosiveness as a runner and gives Patriots fans a sneak peek at how he could be used this fall. With the former Pro Bowl kick returner also scoring an 11-yard touchdown on a similar play, it looks like the Patriots might have added another legit weapon to the arsenal. Grade: A+

New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB. The rookie quarterback continues to solidify his grip on the Jets' QB1 job with solid performances from the pocket. Darnold completed 8 of 11 passes for 62 yards with one interception while directing the first team to one scoring drive. Although he racked up his yardage on an assortment of quick-rhythm throws within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, No. 14 impressed with his decisiveness, accuracy and overall awareness. In addition, Darnold flashed outstanding mobility and athleticism making plays on the move on scripted and impromptu movement passes. Grade: B

Oakland Raiders: Chris Warren III, RB. The Raiders have found their RB1 of the future in Warren. As a big-bodied runner with exceptional size, strength and a violent running style, the undrafted rookie posted a rare 100-yard game (18 rushes for 110 yards and a score) in the preseason. Warren gives the Raiders a workhorse runner with some "Beastmode"-like qualities to groom for a bigger role down the road. Grade: A+

Pittsburgh Steelers: James Washington, WR. It looks like the Steelers have found another gem at wide receiver, with Washington quickly emerging as a dependable playmaker on the perimeter. The rookie notched a 100-yard game (five catches for 114 yards and two scores) against the Packers while exhibiting outstanding hands, ball skills and separation ability. Washington can take the top off the defense as a "vertical stretch" playmaker, but he is also an effective intermediate pass catcher between the numbers. With Washington also showing superb running skills, the Steelers have another triple threat to feature on the perimeter. Grade: A

Tennessee Titans: Taywan Taylor, WR. The second-year pro could emerge as a primary playmaker in coordinator Matt LaFleur's scheme, based on his performance against the Buccaneers. Taylor finished the night with four catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns on an assortment of catch-and-run plays, including a 47-yard touchdown on a WR screen that showcased his skills as a runner. With the crafty route runner also shining on a couple of deep crossers over the middle, the Titans might have unlocked another weapon to feature on the perimeter. Grade: A+

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop