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Week 3 preseason grades, AFC: Trevor Siemian, Will Fuller solid

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.

Below, find report cards for one key player from each AFC team following Week 3's preseason action.


BUFFALO BILLS: Jonathan Williams, running back.LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush are in line to carry the load as the team's top backfield weapons, but Williams is making a push for playing time as a rugged change-of-pace back. The rookie likely sealed his spot in the rotation with a 37-yard touchdownagainst the Redskins on Friday that showcased his balance, body control and vision. Although he finished the contest with just 42 yards on 11 carries, Williams' long run should be enough to encourage Bills' coaches about a long-term role as the RB3. GRADE: B-

MIAMI DOLPHINS: Jay Ajayi, running back. The second-year pro was at one point penciled in to be the Dolphins' workhorse back, but it'd be hard to justify his standing as the team's RB1 based on his preseason play. Ajayi is averaging only 2.4 yards per carry through three preseason games (15 attempts for 36 yards), including a seven-carry, 11-yard performance against the Falcons on Thursday that highlighted concerns about his effectiveness as a lead back. With an established runner like Arian Foster in the stable in Miami, Ajayi's measly production could open the door for the veteran to star in the lead role. GRADE: C-

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Jacoby Brissett, quarterback. Despite most of the preseason attention centering on backup Jimmy Garoppolo's development, the steady improvement of Brissett is something that should put Bill Belichick at ease heading into the regular season. The rookie has completed 71.4 percent of his passes and compiled a 99.1 passer rating in extensive action against second- and third-stringers (at Carolina on Friday, he completed all nine of his pass attempts for 85 yards and a score). Most impressively, he has shown the arm talent, poise and confidence to step in and lead an offense as a smart playmaker at the position. Considering the lack of quality backup quarterbacks on the open market, the Patriots could feel comfortable entrusting the QB2 job to Brissett while Tom Brady serves his four-game suspension to start the season. GRADE: A-

NEW YORK JETS: Christian Hackenberg, quarterback. The rookie's long-awaited debut in the fourth quarter against the Giants on Saturday showcased his immense talent and potential, but he also showed how much work he needs to do before he is ready to step onto the field as an NFL starter. Hackenberg settled down after a slow start to engineer a scoring drive that featured a handful of pinpoint throws, including a 10-yard dime to Robby Anderson on a corner route to finish it off. The QB couldn't sustain his momentum -- he later tossed an interception due to a poor decision -- but Hackenberg can build on the positives from this performance. GRADE: C+


BALTIMORE RAVENS: Terrance West, running back. The third-year pro continued to solidify his grasp on the Ravens' RB2 job with another strong performance Saturday against the Detroit Lions. West rushed for 43 yards on seven carries while displaying strength, power, balance and body control as an effective "grinder" between the tackles. Despite his failures in previous spots (Cleveland and Tennessee), West is looking like a solid option for the team to turn to behind Justin Forsett. GRADE: B

CINCINNATI BENGALS: Alex Erickson, wide receiver. The loss of several pass catchers during the offseason has created an opportunity for UDFAs (undrafted free agents). Erickson has fully seized his chance, contributing two touchdowns in three preseason games, including a 21-yard scoring grab from AJ McCarronagainst Jacksonville on Sunday. As a crafty route runner with superb timing and instincts, Erickson has a knack for getting open between the numbers -- and that's a skill that could make him an effective WR4 in the Bengals' spread sets. GRADE: B

CLEVELAND BROWNS: Josh Gordon, wide receiver. The former All-Pro receiver showed no signs of rust in his first game action since being suspended in February 2015. He snagged a pair of deep balls from Robert Griffin III (Gordon finished with two receptions for 87 yards, including a 43-yard score) against the Buccaneers on Friday, exhibiting outstanding ball skills and tracking ability. Most importantly, Gordon flashed the acceleration and burst to run away from defenders on vertical routes. With RGIII intent on pushing the ball down the field, the return of Gordon (he is suspended for the first four games of 2016) and the emergence of Terrelle Pryor could allow the Browns to thrive with a "bombs away" approach. GRADE: A

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Landry Jones, quarterback. A week after struggling mightily against the Philadelphia Eagles, Jones bounced back with a strong performance Friday against the New Orleans Saints. He completed 19 of 22 passes for 206 yards and a score, displaying nice touch and ball placement on his throws. Jones dropped a beauty to Sammie Coates on a corner for an 8-yard touchdown; the duo also connected on a 58-yard play that set up a field goal. Considering how badly Jones played earlier in the preseason, the strong showing in the official dress rehearsal could alleviate the concerns the team might have about the QB2 position. GRADE: B+


HOUSTON TEXANS: Will Fuller, wide receiver. The Texans' passing game is showing explosive potential, with Fuller and fellow rookie Braxton Miller carving out roles as complementary playmakers opposite Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller in particular has started to deliver splash plays as a vertical threat on the outside. He finished Sunday against the Cardinals with three receptions for 67 yards, including a pair of home runs (a 35-yard catch and a 26-yard touchdown) on fade routes along the boundary. Fuller's speed and burst were considered his biggest strengths as a prospect, but concerns about his hands threatened his draft status. After coming up with big plays in back to back games on outstanding over-the-shoulder grabs, the first-rounder's ball skills aren't a question mark heading into the season. GRADE: A

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Robert Turbin, running back. The Colts need to find an effective runner behind Frank Gore to ignite the team's sagging running game. Turbin could be the guy after solidifying his status as the team's RB2 with an effective performance in a limited role against the Eagles on Saturday (in addition to picking up 24 yards on four carries, Turbin had an 81-yard touchdown run called back by a holding penalty). The 5-foot-10, 225-pounder runs with power and a tenacity that could bolster an offense that's looking to be more physical in 2016. Although the Colts' offensive line is currently a mess due to injuries and inexperience -- as evidenced by their disappointing showing against the Eagles (Andrew Luck was sacked three times and the ground game was limited to 39 yards) -- Turbin's hard-nosed running style could mask their inefficiencies at the point of attack. GRADE: B-

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Yannick Ngakoue, defensive end. The rookie pass rusher was expected to play a limited role, but Ngakoue has flashed enough during the preseason to merit consideration as a base-package defender. The third-round pick started in front of Dante Fowler Jr. on Sunday and handled his business against the Bengals without fanfare. He finished the night with a pair of tackles and displayed a nice blend of energy and athleticism off the edge. Considering his solid play to this point, Ngakoue should see plenty of time as a situational defender in Year 1. GRADE: B

TENNESSEE TITANS: Derrick Henry, running back. The big-bodied runner will be a major factor for the Titans as a hammer between the tackles. The second-round pick continues to bully opponents with his rugged running style, as evidenced by his 12-carry, 49-yard effort against the Raiders on Saturday. He runs through tacklers in the hole but flashes better-than-anticipated footwork and lateral quickness. Henry uses a nifty jump-cut to skip into creases, showing remarkable agility for a 6-3, 247-pound runner. With Henry looking like an effective complement to veteran DeMarco Murray, the Titans' running game will be a problem for defensive coordinators around the league. GRADE: B+


DENVER BRONCOS: Trevor Siemian, quarterback.Poised to claim the Broncos' QB1 role, the Northwestern product delivered a solid performance against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday, completing 10 of 17 passes for 122 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and he was subsequently named the starter on Monday. Although the second-year pro was far from perfect with his ball placement and decision making, Siemian effectively steered the offense while looking like a competent game manager for the Broncos. Considering the strength of the defending champs (defense and running game), it's little wonder he'll be under center when the regular season kicks off Sept. 8. GRADE: B-

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Tyreek Hill, wide receiver. The rookie speedster is beginning to make his mark on the offense with his big-play ability on the perimeter. Against the Bears on Saturday, Hill snagged a 58-yard reception on an underthrown post pattern that showcased his acceleration, burst and ball skills. In addition, the fifth-round pick added an 11-yard run and capably handled return duties (an 18-yard kick return and a pair of punt returns totaling 16 yards). If the Chiefs are looking for more juice on offense and in the return game, Hill has to get more chances to touch the ball when the regular season opens in a few weeks. GRADE: B

OAKLAND RAIDERS: DeAndre Washington, running back. The undersized dynamo is making a strong push for playing time following a strong effort that should cement his status as the team's RB2. Washington shows explosive speed, quickness and burst as a change-of-pace back, as evidenced by his 31-yard run in the second quarter against the Titans on Saturday. The fifth-round pick out of Texas Tech also showed solid receiving skills on a 6-yard touchdown reception on an angle route against man coverage. (Yes, Washington coughed up a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, but quarterback Matt McGloin's decision making was mostly to blame for that.) As the Raiders put more on the shoulders of Derek Carr in his third season, the presence of a multi-purpose back with hands and speed could add another dimension to an already-explosive attack. GRADE: B+

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Melvin Gordon, running back. After enduring an onslaught of criticism following a disappointing rookie season in which he failed to score a touchdown, Gordon has hushed his critics with a solid preseason that's featured a couple of splash plays on the perimeter. Against the Vikings on Sunday, Gordon rushed for 51 yards on four carries, including a 39-yard score that showcased his speed and quickness. For a running back looking to regain his confidence after dismal debut season, the solid effort against a stingy defense could help him get a jump-start on his sophomore year. GRADE: A-

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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