Preseason football is here -- and while wins and losses mean nothing, individual performances can mean everything. As the preseason slate progresses, Bucky Brooks will be assessing the performances of notable players, handing out grades to provide context for the prior week's on-field action.
This week, we examine a key rookie from each team in the NFL, including the AFC West below.
DENVER BRONCOS: Paxton Lynch, quarterback. Hats off to coach Gary Kubiak and his staff for crafting game plans that allow quarterbacks to play to their strengths as passers. Lynch is an athletic playmaker with a big arm and nimble feet, but the first-round pick spent his collegiate career at Memphis playing in a spread offense that featured a number of "catch-and-fire" routes or RPO (run-pass option) concepts. Despite his inexperience running a traditional offense, the 6-7, 244-pound gunslinger looked comfortable against the Bears on Thursday executing the Broncos' movement-based offense, which blended a number of play-action and traditional dropback passes. Lynch not only showed outstanding footwork working through his drops, but he flashed the athleticism and movement skills that few expect from an XXL passer. Whether he was picking up first downs on impromptu scrambles or getting to the corner on designed rollouts, Lynch showed the kind of athleticism that could enhance the Broncos' running game down the road. With Lynch also flashing his arm delivering dimes from the pocket and on the move, the Broncos' future QB1 is playing with supreme confidence at this time. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to perform well against better competition. GRADE: A-
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Chris Jones, defensive end. The Chiefs' second-round pick certainly looks like a dominant defender based on his spectacular debut performance against the Seahawks on Saturday. Jones overwhelmed blockers with his combination of size and strength on the way to notching two tackles and a couple of QB hurries. In addition, he played a part in stopping a fourth-down running play that ended a Seattle drive. Considering Jones' impact against the Seahawks' reserves, it's only a matter of time before the rookie works his way into the starting rotation. GRADE: B+
OAKLAND RAIDERS: Karl Joseph, safety. The Raiders' top pick (No. 14 overall) made a surprise cameo against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, and the work likely helped Joseph knock off the rust after a lengthy rehab from a knee injury suffered during his senior season. In nine snaps, Joseph recorded a tackle and moved around well in the back end. Although he didn't get much action in his direction, he took another step on the journey toward becoming the starter beside Reggie Nelson when the season opens in a few weeks. GRADE: B
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Hunter Henry, tight end. The Chargers' rookie tight end served notice to future opponents that he could be a major contributor to the offense as the TE2 behind Antonio Gates. The second-round pick is a crafty route runner with strong hands and superb ball skills, which makes him an ideal complement to Gates down in the red zone. He finished Saturday's matchup against the Titans with three catches for 43 yards, showing coach Mike McCoy that he is more than capable of assuming a bigger role in the game plan with receiver Stevie Johnson sidelined for the year. GRADE: B