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What we learned from Sunday's preseason games

Week 3 of the NFL preseason concluded with two games on Sunday. Here's what we've learned from each of the contests:

  1. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had the offense humming in five offensive series. Dalton completed 11 of 16 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns for a 145.8 passer rating, and led the Bengals on three scoring drives before giving way to Matt Barkley midway through the second quarter. Dalton connected with his favorite receiver, A.J. Green, four times for 50 yards and a touchdown on five targets, and went deep with John Ross on a 57-yard pass down the right sideline. With the first-team units on both sides of the ball likely to rest in the preseason finale, Dalton looked more than ready for the start of the regular season.
  1. Cincinnati is probably hoping John Ross' deep touchdown catch carries into the regular season. The team's first-round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft had a rookie campaign to forget after not recording a single catch and finishing the season on injured reserve. But the speedy Ross showed on the 57-yard catch early in the first quarter why he was the ninth overall pick of last year's draft. At the snap of the ball and with cornerback Vontae Davis in coverage, Ross came off the line of scrimmage about 10 yards before doing a stutter step and sprinting by Davis down the field. The pass was slightly underthrown, which caused Ross to adjust his stride at the 11-yard line and haul in the ball. Safety Jordan Poyer and Davis caught up, but Ross danced around the two defenders inside the 10-yard line before scampering in the end zone. The Bengals need a consistent deep threat to take away some of the defensive pressure A.J. Green faces on a weekly basis, and Ross' showing on the scoring play provided a glimpse of what could be in 2018.
  1. Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen endured a rough Sunday afternoon at the office. The team's first-round pick left the game late in the second quarter to be evaluated for a head injury and was cleared to return to action, but the Bills kept Allen on the sidelines after halftime. The decision was a smart move when considering the signal-caller's first two quarters, where he completed 6 of 12 passes for 34 yards and was sacked five times. Nathan Peterman finished the game and completed 16 of 21 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. AJ McCarron (shoulder) did not play. The Bills, of course, have a decision to make for a starter and have two weeks to go before the regular season.
  1. Remember the good old days when starters would play the entire first half or even into the early part of the third quarter during a team's third preseason game? Those cherished times appear to be over for some teams around the league. On offense, the Cardinals were without running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and quarterback Sam Bradford played just two series before giving way to Mike Glennon. The absence of key offensive players placed the spotlight on the Cardinals defense and special teams, and both units put on a show with eight turnovers, which included three-time All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson's pick-6. The Cardinals have a head-turning 16 total takeaways through three preseason games, the most in the league. Yes, this is preseason and the Cardinals did most of the damage Sunday night against backups. But some aspects of the four-game preseason slate, such as defensive momentum, can carry over into the regular season and first-year head coach Steve Wilks has to like what he sees.
  1. The Cowboys took the same approach of resting key starters on both sides of the ball Sunday night, so no quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, tackle Tyron Smith or linebacker Sean Lee, among others. Nevertheless, defensive end Randy Gregory was one player who saw a lot of action in the first half and he certainly made the most of his playing time. Gregory, who was reinstated in July after missing the 2017 season while serving a suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, flashed the athletic ability and playmaking skills that made him a second-round pick for the Cowboys in 2015. On the night, Gregory totaled three tackles (two solo), a sack, two quarterback hits and a tackle for a loss. The Cowboys appear on track to have a good problem to figure out on how to rotate Gregory and second-year pro Taco Charlton opposite of DeMarcus Lawrence.
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