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What we learned from Saturday's preseason games

Week 3 of the NFL preseason continued with seven games on Saturday. Here's what we've learned from each of the contests:

  1. Patrick Mahomes didn't connect on a deep bomb this week, but the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback came out of the gate looking good, connecting on his first seven passes for 111 yards and a TD. The second-year signal-caller displayed growth on his touchdown pass, recognizing a Bears' blitz and finding his hot read, Kareem Hunt, in the flat for a 19-yard touchdown. Mahomes got all his weapons in play, hitting Sammy Watkins on a 15-yard dart on the opening drive, and completing each of his 10 targets to Tyreek Hill (8) and Travis Kelce (2). Under siege behind a struggling offensive line, Mahomes utilized his athleticism to avoid negative plays versus Bears' blitzes. After the quick start, the Chiefs offense sputtered against Bears backups, going three-and-out on their final three possessions of the first half. Mahomes returned to play the first series of the third quarter, leading an impressive drive that stalled in the red zone. He finished 18-of-24 for 196 yards and 1 TD for a 112.5 passer rating. Playing against Chicago's second-unit doesn't provide much information on Mahomes or the Chiefs first-string offense. However, Saturday's tilt once again displayed that the QB is a playmaker who is growing each start.
  1. The Chiefs will need Mahomes and the offense to carry the team this season because the first-team defense did not look good Saturday. K.C.'s D allowed former Chief QB Chase Daniel to pick them apart (REVENGE GAME!). The Bears second-string offense scored on four of its five possessions (not including an end-of-half kneel) in the first half for 24 points. Kansas City's secondary particularly struggled, allowing Daniel, a career backup, to pick them apart for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 15 completions (149.5 QB rating). Corners David Amerson and Orlando Scandrick, newly signed, each got burned. With several starters sitting, Kendall Fuller was the only DB who stood out Saturday. The Chiefs defensive front barely sniffed the quarterback early, generating zero sacks and zero QB hits in the first half (one sack was nullified by a questionable penalty call). The reworked defense could be an issue all season for Andy Reid in 2018.
  1. Kevin White finally put one on the board. The former first-round pick scored his first career NFL touchdown, preseason or regular season. White burned Scandrick on a nice stutter-and-go move for a 29-yard TD in the first quarter. Matt Nagy sat most of his starters on Saturday, utilizing the third preseason game to evaluate position battles. White needed a good week to push for playing time and keep his roster spot. The TD will help. However, seventh-round rookie Javon Wims looked more impressive hauling in a 54-yard catch, a 44-yard grab and a beautiful toe-tapping TD. White and Wims are battling for snaps behind starters Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and rookie Anthony Miller.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. The Steelers saw enough out of Ben Roethlisberger before shutting him down early in the second quarter. Roethlisberger played three series and completed an efficient 11 of 18 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, all without wide receiver Antonio Brown (quad) and running back Le'Veon Bell, who hasn't signed his $14.5 million franchise tag. On the scoring play, Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Justin Hunter on a gorgeous 32-yard pass over the top of the Titans' cornerback and safety. Roethlisberger isn't likely to see action in the final preseason game, but he looked more than prepared for the season opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 9.
  1. Steelers rookie running back Jaylen Samuels, the team's fifth-round pick, made the most of his opportunities in the second half with 77 total yards (41 rushing). Samuels had a touchdown catch negated by a holding penalty, but he showcased versatility out of the backfield as a receiver, hauling in four catches for 36 yards on five targets. Given his skill set, Samuels provides depth at running back position and could eventually carve out a niche in the offense.
  1. While Roethlisberger had a good outing, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was on the opposite end of the judgment scale. Mariota struggled in four series, completing 5 of 8 passes for 43 yards with an interception, which was snared by rookie Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers' first-round pick. Mariota also was sacked twice and saw his first-team offense get shut out in the first half. With most teams around the league resting starters next week in the final preseason contest, it wouldn't surprise if the Titans took the same approach, which would prevent Mariota from entering the regular season with momentum.

-- Herbie Teope

  1. Coach Sean McVay elected to bench his offensive starters again, likely meaning we won't see Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, etc. before Week 1. Of the backups, sixth-round running back John Kelly looked like a baller yet again. Kelly put his stamp on the L.A. roster. It would be a surprise at this point if the Rams risked trying to sneak him through waivers.

While the offense sat, the Rams' defense did play its starters briefly. Wade Phillips' group looked like one of the best units in the NFL on two short drives. The Rams badgered Deshaun Watson, forcing a 3-and-out and an interception by safety Lamarcus Joyner. Ndamukong Suh made his debut in a Rams jersey and destroyed Watson on the INT. Two Rams defenders coming back from long injury-related absences stood out. Dominique Easley played for the first time since 2016. Phillips is trying out Easley as an edge rusher/OLB, a place L.A. is thin. On early snaps, the pass-rusher looked good, getting pressure on Watson and forcing a hold. Veteran corner Sam Shields also returned after missing almost all the past two seasons. Shields looked great jumping a route to pick off Brandon Weeden. The 30-year-old looks spry, seemingly running the route for the wideout. With Shields providing depth behind Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, the Rams could boast a shut-down corner group to rival any in the NFL.

  1. Speaking of defensive players getting back on the field, the Houston Texans were happy to see J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney earn preseason work. Watt, coming off a devastating knee injury, recorded a tackle on the opening drive. Clowney, who underwent a knee scope this offseason, swatted one pass that should have been intercepted. The duo lined up all over the formation, something we expect to see more of when the regular season starts. It was just a brief outing, but it was good to see the difference-making pocket-pushers on the field. If each stays healthy, the Texans could boast the best defensive front in the NFL.
  1. Keeping with the theme of players coming back from season-ending injuries, quarterback Deshaun Watson played three series, two against Rams first-stringers. Constantly under pressure, Watson didn't have much time to make plays. He finished with 3-of-6 passing for 15 yards and a deep interception, which worked as an arm-punt. It was a far cry from the efficient performance we saw last week, but the stats aren't the takeaway here. The second-year quarterback, playing without a brace on his surgically repaired knee, looked mobile and popped up from each shot taken. Saturday's game was a reminder that Watson could be running for his life on a weekly basis behind an offensive line that might be one of the worst in the NFL. Watson proved he was healthy this preseason, which was the main goal for coach Bill O'Brien. Now it's on Houston to find the QB some protection.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. It's been a long and arduous journey, but the pilgrimage to discover Andrew Luck's readiness for the upcoming season has yielded encouraging results. Assuming coach Frank Reich doesn't need further reassurances in the durability of his starting quarterback's surgically-repaired shoulder, Luck is poised to end the preseason completing 20 of 32 passes for 204 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and a 83.1 passer rating over three games. Against the 49ers, Luck completed 8 of 10 passes for 90 yards -- he also had four rushes for 27 yards. Those number sets don't set the NFL world on fire, but they should leave the Colts thoroughly convinced that the quarterback position is the least of their offensive worries. Luck looked sharper Saturday than he did against the Ravens in Week 2. His 15-yard, lobbing TD strike to a stretched out Eric Ebron showcased Luck's rejuvenated arm strength and his ability to immediately cut through defenses when coverage gaps emerge.
  1. The biggest concern for Reich and the Colts has to be the one-dimension nature of the team's offense. The offensive line hasn't played well and the running game is virtually non-existent. Until Jordan Wilkins got a bunch of late-game carries against the 49ers' reserve and roster-spot hunter squadrons, Luck was the team's leading rusher. The offensive line's struggles have been the catalyst for the stillborn running game that has giving Indy a very one-dimensional look. Denzelle Good's early exit becuase a knee injury certainly didn't help the cause against San Francisco. No one has stood out among the running backs so far. Too bad Alfred Morris is no longer a free agent.
  1. Speaking of Morris, the veteran running back flashed signs of his ol' workhorse ball-carrier self, churning out 84 yards on 17 carries. The performance should help 49ers fans feel a little bit better about what a mostly green -- and a little black and blue -- running back corps. Jimmy Garoppolo didn't have the greatest performance in his two-plus quarters of work. He completed 9 of 19 passes for 135 yards and seemed to be a tentative, at times, with his decision-making. Still, his receivers dropped five passes and the 49ers' offensive line -- like other O-line units this preseason -- struggled to consistently stay in front of Indy's pass rush. But let's not get too Jaylen Ramsey here about Jimmy G's play. Richard Sherman had a relatively quiet 49ers debut, but he successfully broke up a pass from Luck to Ryan Grant the first time he was targeted. Second-year linebacker Reuben Foster suffered a concussion in the second half and cornerback Jimmie Ward left in the first half with an ankle injury.

-- Austin Knoblauch

  1. Blake Bortles had another inconsistent performance in what has turned out to be a very shaky preseason for the fifth-year signal caller. Bucking the growing trend of not using the third game of the preseason as a Week 1 dress rehearsal, coach Doug Marrone gave Bortles two-plus quarters of work under center. Bortles responded with a two-faced performance, completing 17 of 23 passes for 204 yards and two interceptions. The picks were concerning, but the missed throws also weren't good. It was, for the most part, what Jaguars fans are probably used to at this point with Bortles: a couple wow moments mixed in with some head-scratching ones. Leonard Fournette had a strong game, slicing and dicing his way to 57 yards and a TD on 10 carries. Cody Kessler looked good in backup duty, completing 7 of 7 passes for 79 yards. In a much more serious development, wide receiver Marqise Lee was carted off the field in the first quarter after suffering a knee injury. Lee went down after taking an illegal low helmet hit from Falcons safety Damontae Kazee. If Lee misses significant playing time, it'll be a blow to the Jaguars' offense in 2018.
  1. Matt Ryan and the Falcons had difficulty taming the Jaguars' prolific Sacksonville pass rush. Ryan was held scoreless in his stint, completing just 5 of 12 passes for 57 yards as Atlanta's offensive line struggled to keep pressure off him. Again, the Falcons didn't have all of their offensive weapons deployed in this one, with Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones set to sit out until Week 1. Mohamed Sanu's spectacular one-handed catch was probably the highlight of the night for the offense, which also benefited from Tevin Coleman's 38 yards on seven carries. Atlanta's defense was inconsistent at times -- especially when it came to corralling Leonard Fournette. Rookie Isaiah Oliver's trial by fire continued when he got torched by Donte Moncrief for 37 yards. Damontae Kazee had another strong game despite his illegal hit on Lee.

-- Austin Knoblauch

  1. As he did in 2017 when he played five series in the third preseason game, Saints quarterback Drew Brees' time in Saturday night's third exhibition matchup against the Chargers proved relatively short. Brees saw action in three series, completing 7 of 9 passes for 59 yards with an interception, which he threw on the Saints' first offensive possession. If coach Sean Payton sticks with the pattern of recent years, Brees isn't likely to touch the field in the final preseason game next week. The Saints' signal-caller didn't play in the exhibition finale in 2017, saw action on one series in 2016, and did not play in 2015 and 2014. But if there's a veteran quarterback who doesn't need extended preseason action, it's definitely Brees, whose 70,445 career passing yards ranks third all-time in NFL history.
  1. The Saints' defense had a good glimpse into the future with first-round pick Marcus Davenport, the 14th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Davenport missed a chunk of training camp with an undisclosed injury and did not play in the first two preseason games. He more than made up for lost time, however, by being a disruptive force in the Chargers' backfield. Davenport's box score reads three total tackles (two solo) and half sack, but his impact went beyond statistics. The rookie defensive end consistently applied pressure or helped cave the pocket from his spot on the right side of the defensive line. With defensive end Cameron Jordan anchoring the left side, the Saints' ability to affect the opposing quarterback in 2018 is ready for takeoff with Davenport in the rotation.
  1. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers saw limited action, completing 7 of 9 passes in two series before putting on a baseball cap. Rivers will be fine for the regular season despite the lack of snaps Saturday night, of course. As for a starting running back, the Chargers were without Melvin Gordon, who was absent for a family matter, and turned to backup Austin Ekeler. The second-year pro quickly made an impact and gashed the Saints' starting defense on the Chargers' first offensive possession, accounting for 54 of the team's 59 total yards on the drive, including runs of 21 and 12 yards. He finished the game with 50 yards rushing on six carries and 13 yards receiving on three catches. The Chargers are in a good place with Eckler should Gordon ever miss time during the regular season.

-- Herbie Teope

  1. The Ravens got a small preseason growth spurt from Lamar Jackson, who put up the strongest performance of his budding NFL career. Jackson, a Florida native, looked comfortable at The Rock, completing 7 of 10 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown in addition to rushing for 39 yards -- most of which came on a goal-line diving, 19-yard TD run. He effectively showcased his speedy, hybrid skill set that makes him a challenge for defenses. It wasn't a perfect game, but it's the kind of game that should definitely lock in his Joe Flacco backup status. Robert Griffin III also had a decent game, connecting on 9 of 15 passes for 66 yards. Griffin likely will see plenty of playing time next week against the Redskins, but it remains to be seen if he'll make the 53-man roster. At the very least, Griffin's performances could pique interest among coaches not happy with their current backup options.
  1. The Dolphins showed flashes of the dynamic offense that might just be waiting to break the surface and leap through the flaming ring that is the AFC East. Ryan Tannehill and the first-team offense finally found the end zone and looked decisive doing it. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown -- a 16-yard strike to Danny Amendola. It was encouraging performance that showcased what Miami might accomplish through its passing game, even it did come against a reserve-laden Ravens defense. Running back Kenyan Drake also performed well, tallying 32 yards on four carries -- most of which came on a 30-yard sideline scamper. He also caught a 36-yard pass. With the talent the Dolphins have in their receiving corps and Drake poised to springboard off the impressive numbers he posted last season, there's reason for optimism in South Beach.

-- Austin Knoblauch

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