The second week of preseason has come to a close which means we’ve reached the midway point of the NFL’s exhibition games and are two weeks out from the start of the regular season.
Roster spots still aren’t on lock and there’s definitely still more to see from every NFL team before Sept 6, but more players are starting to stand out one way or another.
Here are some of the winners and losers from week two of the 2018 NFL preseason.
Patriots pass rush
It might be too little too late, but the Patriots were finally able to do what they couldn’t back in Super Bowl LII…. Get a consistent pass rush on Nick Foles.
The Patriots’ inability to get to the quarterback was one of the reasons a Nick Foles lead offense was able to hang 41 points on the New England defense in February.
This was not the case in Thursday’s preseason affair as the Philadelphia quarterbacks were running for their lives after almost every play. Patriots pass rushers were constantly in their faces all night long.
New England’s defense combined for a total of eight sacks on the night as they completely overpowered both the Eagles starting and secondary offensive lines.
An Adrian Clayborn sack fumble in the first half was even returned for a touchdown.
Danny Shelton (who the Patriots acquired from the Browns for a third round pick) and the finally healthy Derek Rivers both got involved in the action and hope to provide the much needed spark for the New England front 7. Rivers recorded a sack in the second quarter.
Bill Belichick and the New England front office made it their mission to improve the pass rush in the off season and things seem to be to a solid start.
Last week I gave the Steelers entire wide receiver core some love, but it’s James Washington who really deserves a shoutout.
The former Oklahoma State wide receiver was taken in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers in hopes of replacing Martavis Bryant, who Pittsburgh traded to the Oakland Raider for a third round pick.
Pittsburgh got a good one in Washington, but he’s much more than just another deep threat to replace Martavis Bryant.
He isn’t the fastest guy around but he has managed to make every combative catch that he’s been forced to attempt. He sent the internet into a frenzy with his Randy Moss like touchdown in the second half against the Green Bay Packers Thursday night.
In the exhibition contest against the Packers alone, he caught five passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
Washington wasn’t the only James who had a very productive games against the Packers. Steelers running back James Connor looks to have a much more productive sophomore season and he got off to a great start in week 2 of the preseason.
Despite his limited playing time he was the games leading rusher with 57 yards and a touchdown on only five carries.
Connor was also very productive as a pass blocker on several key plays in the first half.
The former Pitt running back had a very quiet rookie season despite a lot of hype from the Pittsburgh media.
Sure he had to play behind Le’Veon Bell, but he still only managed 144 yards without a touchdown over the course of 14 games.
His rookie campaign was cut short after he suffered a week 15 new injury against the New England Patriots that forced him to receive season ending knee surgery.
Teddy Bridgewater’s Trade Value
Sam Darnold has the makings to be a star, but as of right now, Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback on the New York Jets roster.
After completing seven of his eight passes with a touchdown against the Falcons, Bridgewater followed up with another strong performance.
Against the Redskins he completed ten of fifteen passes for 127 yards and a touchdown pass to Charone Peake.
There is much speculation about how the Jets will handle their current quarterback situation so it will be curious to see how they proceed before the season begins.
Bridgewater would make the better starter right now, but New York seems ready to go ahead and hand the reigns over to Darnold and let him learn via experience.
If this is the case then the Jets have been rumored to be looking for a potential trade suitor for Teddy Bridewater. Should this be the case, he is bound to have some kind of market after two strong pre season outings.
He made only one catch, but it was a beautiful Randy Moss like touchdown reception that you absolutely must see.
Williams couldn’t manage to get on the field in 2017, but this pre season he has shown many flashes as to why the Chargers took him in the first round of the 2017 draft. He’s fast and can make some seriously combative catches in traffic.
He is going to need to build more consistency and catch some more footballs more often, but Mike Williams might finally be finding his mojo.
Josh Rosen was rather quiet in his preseason debut, but he made some serious noise in his second outing against the New Orleans Saints.
He completed 10 of his 16 passes en route to throwing 107 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 102.9 on the night.
The rookie quarterback from UCLA has been one of the less talked about players thus far in the pre season but he certainly deserves a shoutout after a strong performance.
It will be interesting to see if he will be able to take the starting job which currently seems like Sam Bradford’s to lose.
Bradford completed all six of his passes against the Saints and looked quite sharp himself, so it will be an uphill battle for the former UCLA star, but he is well on his way.
Nick Foles’ performance in the preseason Super Bowl rematch against the New England Patriots wasn’t exactly a re run of what happened in February.
The Philadelphia quarterback struggled against the Patriots’ starting defense who were in his face all night long.
His three sacks weren’t entirely his fault, but he only completed three of his nine passes in the first half of play.
This shouldn’t be treated as a huge red flag for Eagles fans, but if Carson Wentz can’t start the season, then they’ll have to once again rely on the arm of Nick Foles.
The Steelers inside linebacker situation is ….. pretty bad. After losing Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier to a horrific back injury in the middle of the 2017 season, the Steelers have been scrambling to find someone to fill the void.
They signed Jon Bostic in free agency who spent time with the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, but he isn’t off to a great start in Pittsburgh.
He recorded three tackles against the Packers but has been guilty of a few missed tackles through two preseason games as well.
Bostic did a pretty solid job against the run game and helped hold Green Bay to just 77 yards on the ground.
However, he looked lost when asked to drop into coverage and struggled to get any pressure on Packer’s quarternacks.
In a both shocking and brutal turn of events, the Patriots announced that rookie tackle Isiah Wynn tore his Achilles in the team’s preseason game against the Eagles and he will miss his entire rookie year.
Wynn was drafted by the Patriots out of Georgia with the 23rd overall pick in the 2018 draft in hopes that he could help mend the loss of Nate Solder who signed a long term deal with the New York Giants in the off season.
Pro football focus graded Wynn with a 91.2 overall rating during his final year at Georgia (98.9 pass blocking efficiency and 90.9 run blocking efficiency).
Tom Brady will have to go through the 2018 campaign without the potential star rookie in front of him.
Buffalo Bills quarterback AJ McCarron joined to injury party after a pre season win over the Cleveland Browns.
He exited the game early with what was initially rumored to be a hairline fracture of some sort. McCarron left the game with a line of 9-13 for 60 yards and a touchdown pass.
It now sounds as though the injury isn’t as severe as initially thought and that he might only miss a limited amount of time.
This still doesn’t bode well for McCarron however, as he was in the middle of a battle with rookie Josh Allen for the starting job in Buffalo.
The former Bengals quarterback never got another chance in Cincinnati despite a solid performance while filling in for an injured Andy Dalton in 2015 (854 yards, six touchdowns over seven games) so he hopes to hurry back to the practice field and fight for the starting job in Buffalo.
Bortles did not look sharp in a preseason matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. He completed 12 of his 20 passes for 156 yards, but that line doesn’t do his performance justice.
He through a really bad interception to Harrison Smith and should have been picked off on at least two other throws. He ended his night with a passer rating of only 64.4 and di not inspire confidence in Jaguars fans.
Jacksonville is hoping that Bortles can display the high quality play he showed in December of 2017 because when he is playing at a competent level, the Jaguars may just be the best team in the NFL.
With Bortles they were able to make it all the way to the AFC Championship game where they were just barley ousted by the then defending champion New England Patriots.
The Jaguars hope to make that extra step to the Super Bowl this season, but Bortles will have to be better.
After a strong Vikings debut against the talented Denver Broncos defense, Kirk Cousins struggled against Jacksonville Jaguars.
He completed only three of his eight passes for a total of 12 yards which yields only a 45.8 passer rating.
The first team offense went three and out on two of their four series’ in the first half of play.
The Jacksonville defense is one of the best in the league so his struggles should be taken with a grain of salt, but he did not look sharp in his home debut in Minnesota.