What we learned from Thursday's preseason finales

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  • By Around The NFL staff NFL.com
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Welcome to the final week of the preseason, where everything is made up and the points don't matter. Well, not exactly. All 32 teams played on Thursday night, though there were few starters to go around. Here is what we learned from the final weekend of inconsequential football of the summer:

Buffalo Bills 27, Minnesota Vikings 23


1. Did Kaare Vedvik do enough to ensure his place on Minnesota's 53-man roster? The Norwegian punter-kicker extraordinaire continued his ordinary preseason by pushing a 37-yard field goal wide right in the Vikings' loss to the Bills, but also made a 27-yarder and hit an extra point. Since the Vikes traded a fifth-round pick for Vedvik, who hit four field goals in Baltimore's preseason opener, the kicker has missed three of four field-goal attempts. Meanwhile, veteran Dan Bailey hit two field goals, from 43 and 57 yards, and an extra point with his job on the line. Thursday's events mean it's more and more unlikely that Vedvik will be Minnesota's starting kicker or even on the roster after this weekend.

-- Jeremy Bergman

Atlanta Falcons 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 12


2. No doubt was left by the Falcons on Thursday night as they emphatically ended their preseason woes. Buoyed by monster games from running back Tony Brooks-James and quarterback Danny Etling, Atlanta bested the Jaguars, 31-12, in the teams' preseason finales and snapped a 12-game preseason losing streak. It was the Falcons' first preseason triumph since Sept. 1, 2016 against -- wait for it -- the Jaguars. Brooks-James, the rookie out of Oregon, had 15 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a game that might have solidified a roster spot, while fellow rookie Etling completed 15-of-25 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown with 67 yards on 10 carries. Participants in the Hall of Fame Game, the Falcons needed five games to do it, but the preseason skid has ended.

3. Though expected, Kaleb McGary making his preseason debut on Thursday was still an impressive turn of events considering the hurdle he's overcome in a short time to get back out there. The Falcons first-round pick had been gone all of August after undergoing a heart ablation procedure. But McGary not only returned to action, he looked stellar starting at right tackle. He was quick off the ball, looked strong and was aggressive in the run game. Though running back Qadree Ollison's nine-yard touchdown run was off left tackle, McGary dominated his man on the opposite side in a one-on-one. Sure this was McGary's only preseason showing, but it was impressive enough that he could possibly garner the starting job to begin the season with Ty Sambrailo (shoulder) injured.

-- Grant Gordon

Carolina Panthers 25, Pittsburgh Steelers 19


4. There are a number of kickers fighting for their professional lives right now. Panthers kicker Joey Slye has managed to evade those talks all preseason and Thursday night was no different. With the news coming out earlier in the day that Carolina could be without Graham Gano to start 2019, Slye, the only other kicker on the roster, turned in another solid showing against the Steelers.

A blocked 48-yard attempt on the game's opening drive gave Slye his first miss of the preseason, but he would bounce back on the Panthers' third drive, obliterating his previous career-high (55) with a 59-yarder that comfortably sailed through the uprights. Given his impressive numbers -- 7-for-8 on FGs and 4-for-4 on extra points -- and the need for a live body at his position, expect Slye to slide his way onto the 53-man roster.

5. The play of the night leaguewide came courtesy of Steelers linebacker Jayrone Elliott, who is one of many players still looking to make an impression ahead of cutdown day. On second-and-goal with 4:35 remaining in the first quarter, Elliott bull-rushed his way to rookie quarterback Will Grier and knocked the ball loose mid-throw. Elliott quickly scooped the ball up and turned on the jets, rendering the Panthers helpless en route to a 88-yard touchdown return punctuated with a track-and-field-esque head dip. The score not only gave the Steelers the early lead but it was also the first defensive TD of their four tune-up games.

-- Jelani Scott

Indianapolis Colts 13, Cincinnati Bengals 6


6. Following Andrew Luck's stunning retirement announcement on Saturday, the Colts have been searching for depth at the quarterback spot to back up all-of-a-sudden starter Jacoby Brissett. Indy has worked out and hosted Brock Osweiler, Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel. What currently remains in the QB room -- sort of -- was on display in Thursday's preseason finale. Chad Kelly looked alright with a 13-of-16 showing for 138 yards and an interception, but he's suspended for the first two games due to a violation of the league's personal conduct policy. The other QB to see the field was Phillip Walker, who went 8-of-16 for 90 yards and likely didn't fend off the parade of currently unemployed signal-callers. There was one very big -- and fast -- positive for the passing game, though, as second-round rookie receiver Parris Campbell made his debut and hauled in three grabs for 42 yards on four targets.

-- Grant Gordon

New York Jets 6, Philadelphia Eagles 0


7. More kicker updates! Taylor Bertolet, who took over the Jets' starting job when Chandler Catanzaro retired out of the blue, capped off an up-and-down preseason by hitting just two of five field-goal attempts Thursday. Bertolet missed from 56, 53 and 49 yards and hit from 39 and 23 yards. Despite the uneven performance, Jets coach Adam Gase gave Bertolet a vote of confidence in his postgame presser, telling reporters he would feel comfortable if Bertolet was his Week 1 kicker. We'll see how comfortable Gase and general manager-slash-waiver wire fiend Joe Douglas are with that reality on cutdown day.

-- Jeremy Bergman

New York Giants 31, New England Patriots 29


8. Danny Dimes done did it again. Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones capped off a near-perfect preseason with a lone perfect series on Thursday night, a 4-for-4, 47-yard showing that ended without a score. How quickly perceptions have changed around the sixth overall pick. From ridiculed selection in late April to heir apparent in late August, Jones finished the preseason having gone 29-for-34 for 416 yards, two touchdowns, three fumbles and no picks. Eli Manning is the quarterback of Big Blue past, present and near-future, but Jones' surprising summer staked a claim for an earlier entry than expected into the starting lineup.

-- Jeremy Bergman

Green Bay Packers 27, Kansas City Chiefs 20


9. Judging just by the fact that Carlos Hyde was even playing in the Chiefs' Week 4 preseason outing against the Packers, it's a safe wager he was running for his job. Likely in need of a big night, Hyde really didn't find daylight. With the likes of starter Damien Williams, Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson all safely on the bench, Hyde started the game and ended it with 29 yards on eight carries, averaging 3.6 yards a tote with a long of nine and no catches on one target. Hyde, who split last season with the Browns and Jaguars following four years for the 49ers, might well have seen his last carries for K.C.

-- Grant Gordon

Tennessee Titans 19, Chicago Bears 15


10. Moments after quarterback Tyler Bray tossed a touchdown to Jesper Horsted on Thursday night, Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro promptly hooked his extra-point attempt left. It was a shank of the highest order, Bears fans booed heavily and the Chicago kicking conundrum continued. Pineiro rebounded by way of converting his next three kicks -- all of them field goals from 39 yards or shorter. Bears head coach Matt Nagy weighed in postgame, offering an atta boy for Pineiro while simultaneously continuing the confusion surrounding the position that has carried along since a pair of doinks ended Chicago's season in the winter.

"We're gonna continue to work through it," Nagy said. "We have a couple of days here. Part of that answer right now from what I've seen is I like what I've seen. So he comes out and he misses that extra point and right away, we all ... one of those deals where here we go again. What I thought was pretty powerful was that he came back and made the next kick and then made two more after that. We talk about it's not how you start, it's how you finish. I like the fact that he came back and made those."

So when the Bears face the archrival Packers to begin the NFL's 100th season a week from now, will Pineiro be Chicago's kicker? "So, for me, if he ends up being our kicker Week 1, I will definitely have some patience," Nagy said. "If I don't have patience at that position, I really think we're chasing the cat's tail and that's not what I'm all about and I know our coaches aren't about that. So there's gonna be a little bit of patience." And the questionable kicking and kicking questions continue.

-- Grant Gordon

Seattle Seahawks 17, Oakland Raiders 15


11. Against all odds, Jon Gruden has maintained his belief in quarterback Nathan Peterman. Against the Seahawks in the final preseason contest, Peterman played all but one quarter and, much like his still evolving career, produced a mixed bag of results. He continued to display an ability to extend plays with his legs but couldn't really get anything going in the passing game. He completed 20 of his 27 attempts for 158 yards and took two sacks for a total loss of 13 yards, one of which was a brutal strip-sack by Seahawks cornerback Akeem King in the third quarter. Mike Glennon, who's still competing with Peterman for QB2 behind Derek Carr, got the start and finished preseason play with a 9-of-13 performance for 78 yards.

On the other hand, the Seahawks appear to be safe with their backup option after Week 4. Geno Smith completed four of his seven attempts for 107 yards and two touchdowns; he displayed his arm strength on the first of those scores with a 39-yard dime to receiver Terry Wright. After Smith left with a knee injury after getting sacked late in the second quarter, Paxton Lynch filled in and put up a dismal stat-line: 1-of-7 for four yards. Yeah, no QB battle to speak of in Seattle. Still can't say the same about Oakland, though, as the 53-man rosters take shape in the coming days.

-- Jelani Scott

Los Angeles Chargers 27, San Francisco 49ers 24


12. Derwin James' absence is expected to hamper the Chargers well into the season, but the debut of a rookie defensive back on Thursday night could quell worries of a South Bay setback. In his first NFL game, second-round pick Nasir Adderley snagged an interception off 49ers backup Wilton Speight and recorded a team-high three passes defensed against the 49ers. It was the culmination of a long road back for Adderley, who suffered a hamstring injury at his pro day in March and had missed all of Los Angeles' preseason game action. If the 22-year-old out of Delaware can step right in and take James' place as an instant impact rookie, perhaps the Bolts won't experience so sizable a dropoff as expected in the season's early months.

-- Jeremy Bergman

Other results:

Cleveland Browns 20, Detroit Lions 16
Miami Dolphins 16, New Orleans Saints 13
Los Angeles Rams 22, Houston Texans 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys 15
Baltimore Ravens 20, Washington Redskins 7
Denver Broncos 20, Arizona Cardinals 7

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