2021 NFL preseason, Week 2: What we learned from Saturday's games

NFL.com breaks down what you need to know from Week 2 of the 2021 NFL preseason. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Mitchell Trubisky's revenge! The former Bears first-round quarterback continued a career-long trend of frustrating Chicago fans. However, this time Trubisky provided the Soldier Field crowd with exasperation by dicing up the home team's defense. Aided by Brian Daboll's stellar planning and play selection, Trubisky hit a cornucopia of slants, destroying Chicago's defense to the tune of 20-of-28 passing for 221 yards and one TD while putting up 34 points in just two quarters. Trubisky looked as calm as he ever has under center, finding targets quickly and escaping when needed. Often Trubisky's first read was open, and he showed good accuracy over the middle. He still doesn't have the deep sideline throw in his toolbox, but that was the only negative for him on Saturday. The Bills punted once in Trubisky's seven drives, scoring TDs on the first four possessions. Trubisky signed in Buffalo to work under Daboll's tutelage behind Josh Allen and revamp his NFL value. On Saturday, the QB showed his reclamation process is off to a great start.
  2. Khalil Herbert coming for backup reps? With David Montgomery sitting out, Damien Williams got the start and didn't stand out behind a patchwork offensive line. Williams missed at least one hole and didn't break tackles, taking five totes for eight yards (1.6 YPA) with a long of three yards. He also added one catch on two targets for two yards. Playing behind a backup line didn't help, but Williams hurt his own cause for reps with a fumble that killed a promising drive. Rookie Khalil Herbert entered and looked spry, owning the ability to make defenders miss in a phonebooth. His 13-yard TD displayed good vision and shiftiness in close quarters. It's questionable whether Herbert missed a blocking assignment on a play in which Justin Fields got blown up. Nevertheless, praise for the rookie has surged in recent weeks. Herbert could push Williams for reps as we head toward the season.

NFL Research: Trubisky's 221 passing yards Saturday were a preseason career high for the fifth-year quarterback.

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Corey Davis in line for massive target share. The big free-agent acquisition continues to build a rapport with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. Davis saw six of Wilson's 11 passes Saturday, compiling four catches for 70 yards. The wideout got open with ease versus Packers backups, picking up chunk gains, including receptions of 27, 24, and 14 yards. Davis will take advantage of being the alpha in Mike LaFleur's offense lining up all over the formation. Expect the former first-round pick to continue putting up those types of numbers into the regular season for an offense that will need to score to overcome a suspect defense this season.
  2. Kylin Hill states case for No. 3 RB role. With the bulk of Packers starters sitting, it was time for the backups to shine. Hill, a seventh-round rookie, displayed complementary speed to the hulking A.J. Dillon on Saturday. Hill got to the edge with ease and lowered his shoulder for a 12-yard TD run in the first quarter. The rookie averaged 4.1 yards per carry on seven totes. A week after catching a touchdown, Hill again displayed his ability in the passing game, showing soft hands and good vision after snagging the pigskin. He caught both of his targets for 11 yards. Hill also returned kicks for the Packers. The rookie's multi-threat potential puts him in line for snaps should Aaron Jones or Dillon suffer an injury this season. Patrick Taylor, competing with Hill for that third-RB role, led the Packers with 48 yards on eight rushes (one catch on three targets his way) but also lost a fumble to open the second half.

NFL Research: Wilson's 9-of-11 passing (81.8 comp pct), 128 pass yards, two pass TDs and 154.7 passer rating against Green Bay are all higher marks than anything Sam Darnold produced in a single preseason game with the Jets from 2018 to '19.

Baltimore Ravens 20, Carolina Panthers 3

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. The Ravens are still the Ravens. We won't know for certain whether they've improved through the air until Lamar Jackson and his key targets take the field, but Baltimore can still run the ball quite well, with every ballcarrier on the roster running hard Saturday night (42 carries, 167 yards, 2 TD). They can also still play very solid defense in the most important moments, even if faces have changed. Chuck Clark forced an early fumble, and the defensive front stonewalled Carolina on two goal-line attempts for a turnover on downs. It seems even as players come and go, Baltimore's culture remains. Next up: figuring out how they'll fare through the air.
  2. The Panthers might have the makings of something special on their defensive front. After registering 13 pressures in Week 1 against Indianapolis, Carolina recorded seven pressures in just the first half Saturday and finished with 11. One led to a tipped pass and interception, and even against Baltimore's top-notch rushing attack, Carolina was getting a positive push up front with a variety of defenders, namely new arrival Frankie Luvu. It's going to be about the little things for these Panthers, who have a lot to clean up offensively. Defensively, though, it appears they might excel in the trench battle, which could end up going a long way.

NFL Research: The Ravens extend their preseason winning streak to 19 games, the longest preseason winning streak for any NFL team since at least 1994 (as far back as we can track). Since 1994, the Ravens own the two longest preseason winning streaks in the NFL. The current winning streak started with their first preseason game of 2016.

Miami Dolphins 37, Atlanta Falcons 17

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Nickels, dimes, touchdowns. Among the steps forward that Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa was called to make entering his second NFL season was to hit bigger plays downfield and not settle too much for cheap completions underneath coverage. But it was the short stuff that led to TD drives in his first two series Saturday, and nobody could argue with the efficiency. He completed 11 of his first 12 passes for 14 quick points, with all but two of them traveling less than 10 yards downfield. He leaned more on RB Myles Gaskin, who looked very sharp both rushing and receiving, and methodically handled a questionable Falcons defense. The big plays will come -- WRs Will Fuller and DeVante Parker aren't yet in the playing mix -- but Tagovailoa, who played the entire first half, showed a confident command.
  2. Frankly speaking. With QB Matt Ryan sitting out and AJ McCarron exiting with an early injury, the Falcons got an extended look at rookie QB Feleipe Franks from Arkansas. The Falcons weren't playing starters Saturday, however, and pass protection for Franks was much too leaky to learn much about him. He was sacked a whopping four times by Miami LB Sam Eguavoen. But it's clear, at least, that he's no statue at 6-foot-6, 234 pounds. He deftly avoided several pressures and sprung a 20-yard scramble, and had two TD drives in the second half, albeit one of them without a pass attempt. A terrible interception thrown directly into coverage will be what keeps him awake Saturday night, but he's an intriguing project.

NFL Research: With his four sacks Saturday night, Eguavoen became just the fourth Dolphin (Nate Orchard in 2019, Ronald Flemons in 2004, Adewale Ogunleye in 2002) since at least 2000 with four-plus sacks in a single preseason.

Tennessee Titans 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3

Adam Maya's takeaways:

  1. O.J. Howard needs more time. The Buccaneers have been waiting on Howard to deliver on his first-round promise for more than four years. His performance Saturday embodied why that's been a tantalizing endeavor. Howard, still working his way back from the torn Achilles he suffered last October, dropped the first two passes thrown his way, including a downfield pass up the seam on third down that stalled the Bucs' opening drive. Howard would rebound with three receptions, repeatedly finding crevices in the Titans' defense. But a whiff in pass protection proved costly, as John Simon beat the fifth-year tight end off the edge before sacking and stripping Ryan Griffin. Arians warned that Howard is "not there yet" last week. Two preseason games later, that sentiment remains true.
  2. Elijah Molden is ready to play. Caleb Farley? TBD. The rookie cornerbacks made their preseason debuts Saturday, with Molden getting the start in the slot. The third-rounder made a notable impact throughout the game, including a pressure that helped free linebacker David Long for a sack and a fourth-and-1 stop on Giovani Bernard. Molden also handily took down the 6-foot-6 Howard twice to prevent big gains. He'd finish with eight solo tackles, two for loss, a pass defensed and QB hit. Farley was involved in just one notable play and it was entertaining, if not telling. Scotty Miller raced past the first-rounder but got just one foot down after making the catch near the sideline, with Farley recovering in time to push the speedy wideout out of bounds for a long, incomplete pass. He might be raw but his athleticism and effort are impressive.

NFL Research: The Titans have allowed three or fewer points in back-to-back preseason games for the first time since at least 2000.

Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Detroit Lions 20

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Ben Roethlisberger looks like old self in new offense. Big Ben flashed several vintage traits, spearheading two touchdown drives in his first preseason work in Matt Canada's new offense. The Steelers quarterback looked spry, avoiding sacks on the opening drive and throwing a pin-point pass on the move that Eric Ebron couldn't hang onto. Later, Big Ben arched a beautiful deep ball to Diontae Johnson -- given the QB's struggles on deep shots last year, it was good to see him hit that heave early. Then the Pittsburgh signal-caller pulled out his patented pump fake that fooled the camera. Somehow Ben didn't drop the ball, pulled it back up and hit rookie TE Pat Freiermuth for the TD. Freiermuth caught a second TD on the ensuing drive on another great red-zone pass from Roethlisberger. The QB finished 8-of-10 passing for 137 yards, 2 TDs, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Big Ben motored through a Lions defense sitting several starters. Preseason isn't about the stats. It was about Big Ben getting reps in Canada's offense and commanding it with ease. Test passed, with flying colors.
  2. Up-and-down night for Jeff Okudah. It was a wild evening for the former No. 3 overall pick. Okudah got torched deep early by Diontae Johnson, who easily ran by the corner for a 43-yard catch. It's the type of play Okudah gave up too often as a rookie. However, the CB bounced back later with a nice play to break up a pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the end zone. After sitting on the struggle bus his entire rookie campaign, the Lions are counting on Okudah becoming the lockdown corner they projected him as before the draft. Rebounding after getting beat is a positive sign for the young CB that new DC Aaron Glenn surely likes to see. The next step is Okudah negating the deep shot in the first place.

NFL Research: Saturday night was Roethlisberger's first preseason game with multiple passing TD since Week 3 of the 2016 preseason at the Saints. His is the only game a QB has had this preseason with a perfect passer rating.

Houston Texans 20, Dallas Cowboys 14

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. Is Cooper Rush going to take Garrett Gilbert's (backup) job? On Saturday, Gilbert looked much like he did in the Hall of Fame Game: slightly slow to process and react, and careless with the football. Gilbert was stripped on the opening drive and failed to make much of an impact before his night was finished. Rush, meanwhile, injected some life into Dallas' offense upon his arrival, leading a five-play touchdown drive that included a 25-yard completion to Blake Jarwin and an eight-yard pass to Tony Pollard for a score. While Gilbert has failed to separate himself in the battle for the backup gig, Rush has appeared more promising. He finished 10-of-12 passing for 97 yards, two touchdowns and a 139.9 passer rating. Should he outplay Gilbert a third time, a wide-open battle might end up seeing Rush take over the role of QB2.
  2. Charles Omenihu is here to assume Houston's edge-rushing throne. A role left vacant by J.J. Watt's departure might soon be filled by Omenihu, who made an immediate impact against Dallas with a fumble recovery on the opening drive of the game. Omenihu finished with two sacks and was a constant problem for the Cowboys -- who trotted out an offensive line filled with usual starters -- registering a team-high four QB pressures before exiting for the night. Year 3 might be the one in which Omenihu smashes his single-season high of four sacks. He got halfway there in two quarters Saturday.

NFL Research: Texans cornerback Lonnie Johnson recorded the first preseason pick-six for the Texans since Week 3, 2016 when John Simon took a Carson Palmer interception 58 yards for a TD.

Indianapolis Colts 12, Minnesota Vikings 10

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Missing in Minnesota. The Vikings have now failed to score an offensive touchdown through their first eight preseason quarters, but hold off on any panic with Kirk Cousins playing in just two of those and we've still yet to see the Vikings QB take the field with his full complement of weapons. On Saturday, the veteran operated in the first half with his starting O-line, but minus RB Dalvin Cook and WR Justin Jefferson. Adam Thielen played just four snaps before limping off the field (he's OK). LB Troy Dye scored on an interception return to account for Minnesota's lone visit to pay dirt. If coach Mike Zimmer wants to see his starting offense click for a preseason series or two, next week is his last chance.
  2. Indy run game needs help. The pending returns from injury of Colts offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly can't come quickly enough for Indianapolis. On a positive note, there weren't any sacks allowed to the Vikings, but the running game got little to no push as the Minnesota defense controlled the middle of the field. For the Colts, four field goals were enough for smiles on the flight home, but more offensive balance will be needed when the lights come on for real. RB Benny LeMay ran 11 times for just 13 yards, and that was with Minnesota sitting about half of its starting defense.

NFL Research: The Colts' four field goals were their most in a preseason game since Week 1, 2018 at Seattle.

Denver Broncos 30, Seattle Seahawks 3

Adam Maya's takeaways:

  1. Do the Broncos have a leader in their QB battle? Week 2 was Teddy Bridgewater's turn to start. He performed like that should be the case moving forward. The veteran was given just two drives and was nearly flawless, showing great rapport with second-year wideout Jerry Jeudy in the process. His finest moment was in his final throw, which he perfectly placed 21 yards downfield to Eric Saubert after avoiding a rush and stepping up in the pocket. It set up the Broncos' second TD and, perhaps, put him ahead in one of the league's tightest QB competitions. Drew Lock, flanked by reserve linemen, was under constant duress and often struggled to get the ball out in time. While the third-year signal-caller managed to avoid the turnovers that plagued him last season, he didn't exactly exude confidence during an extended run guiding the offense (his five drives produced just three field goals).
  2. The K.J. Wright question looks like it's answered. It wasn't a surprise when the Seahawks let the former Pro Bowler walk in free agency. That he's still on the market is unexpected. While the 12s might be wondering (and hoping) for a reunion, Pete Carroll's plan to fill Wright's spot is playing out nicely. Jordyn Brooks, selected 27th overall in the 2020 draft, was all over the place in leading Seattle with seven tackles. He played fast and free and accorded himself well in the open field. It's been years since the Seahawks have hit on a first-rounder. Their offseason gamble with Wright indicates internal belief that they finally have with Brooks. Saturday did too.

NFL Research: Bridgewater had his first preseason game with 100-plus passing yards and a passing TD since Week 1 of the 2019 preseason versus the Vikings.

Las Vegas Raiders 17, Los Angeles Rams 16

Adam Maya's takeaways:

  1. The NFL isn't too big for Atwell: From the moment the Rams drafted Tutu Atwell in the second round this past April, there have been doubts about his durability. That, in turn, has led to questions about his productivity. He did his best to dispel both concerns Saturday. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound wideout endured a number of hits from the Raiders, at times needing attention from trainers, while playing all four quarters. He helped move the chains, too. The rookie caught eight passes for 46 yards, effectually complimenting an effective Rams rushing attack with a host of short receptions. Las Vegas neutralized his explosiveness with extra attention. Future opponents won't have that luxury when the Rams' best weaponry takes the field.
  2. Draft-day steal? The Raiders have continually invested in the cornerback position since Jon Gruden returned in 2018. One of their lower-risk plays might pay off more than expected. Nate Hobbs, a 2021 fifth-round pick out of Illinois, continued his impressive preseason versus the Rams on Saturday. The 6-foot-1 corner tracked the speedy Atwell and jumped in front of him on a long throw from Bryce Perkins for an interception. Hobbs would add two passes defensed, a tackle for loss and four overall before his night was done, all of which garnered a shoutout from Gruden during his opening statements to the media after the game. Playing like that could soon earn the newcomer a starting job, too.

NFL Research: Perkins had 200-plus passing yards and two passing TDs on Saturday, something Jared Goff never did in seven preseason games played with the franchise.

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