Preseason Week 2 takeaways: Cousins struggles; Winston excels

It’s Week 2 of the NFL’s preseason as we inch ever closer to the games that count. But there’s plenty to glean: How did the rookies look? Who’s making a push to be a starter? Who’s carving out a spot on the final 53? Here’s the biggest takeaway for each team.


Seattle Seahawks

If you were concerned about right tackle Germain Ifedi as a potential issue along Seattle’s offensive line, nothing in Saturday night’s 24-14 loss to the Chargers would make you feel any better. The 2016 first-round pick got bulled over on one play and was beaten badly off the edge several times. He also might have gotten away with at least one false start by jumping the snap a split second early, something he did often last year when he led the NFL in penalties. In fairness to Ifedi, he was matched up a few times with Melvin Ingram, who will make many tackles look bad. But it’s not as though it’ll get much easier when the games start to count. The Seahawks open the regular season at Denver against Von Miller and No. 5 overall pick Bradley Chubb, and they don’t have a viable alternative at right tackle to Ifedi. It’s a good thing Russell Wilson can get out of trouble better than any NFL quarterback. — Brady Henderson

Los Angeles Chargers

After struggling to defend the run against the Arizona Cardinals last week, the Los Angeles Chargers‘ starting defense played stout up front in facing the Seattle Seahawks, holding them to 3.7 yards per carry in the first half. The Chargers also had a goal line stand and held Seattle’s starting offense to only six points, sacking Russell Wilson twice. J.J. Jones, an undrafted rookie out West Georgia, had the highlight of the game for the Chargers, breaking loose for a 72-yard punt return for a score. Jones could challenge Travis Benjamin for the starting return job. — Eric Williams


Chicago Bears

Matt Nagy’s offense showed its Kansas City flavor, especially as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky worked the ball to tight end Trey Burton when the starters were in the game. Four of Trubisky’s first five completions went to Burton, and six of Trubisky’s first nine completions went to tight ends and running backs. It is exactly what worked best in the two days of joint practices with the Broncos this past week. It was also a hallmark of Nagy’s work with Andy Reid in his time with the Chiefs, including the bunch formation with the tight end tucked in with two wide receivers. It all serves as a preview of just how many targets Burton figures to get in the regular season. — Jeff Legwold

Denver Broncos

The Broncos’ offensive starters got far more work Saturday night than the group did in the seven-play cameo in the preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings. The Broncos’ first team put two scoring drives together in three possessions as quarterback Case Keenum was 8-of-13 for 78 yards without a touchdown or interception. The Broncos flashed plenty of two-tight end and two-back sets when the starters were in the game, including on Royce Freeman‘s touchdown run early in the second quarter. The Broncos, who did not play wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, played with far more balance and tempo than they did against the Vikings, and looked far better prepared to play from the opening kickoff. — Jeff Legwold


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No touchdowns for the Bucs’ offense with Ryan Fitzpatrick in the first quarter, but Jameis Winston did just about everything you could ask of him in the second, throwing for 226 yards and connecting with Chris Godwin and Justin Watson for touchdowns. He escaped pressure and threw completely off-balance on the pass to Goodwin. He also found DeSean Jackson on a 54-yard pass downfield — something that was missing last year and both vowed to correct heading into 2018. We’ve seen that a few times in practice. This is shaping up to be a very strong camp for Winston, even as he has had to give up a lot of first-team reps. — Jenna Laine

Tennessee Titans

Titans WR Taywan Taylor showed how he can be a playmaker in this offense. He has tremendous YAC ability, which will be showcased in Matt LaFleur’s scheme. Expect to see more wide receiver screens and other quick throws to get the ball in his hands. Someone needs to step up in Rishard Matthews‘ absence. Taylor wants to be that guy. — Turron Davenport

TEXANS 16, 49ERS 13

San Francisco 49ers

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played two full series Saturday night, and were it not for two penalties on center Weston Richburg that led to a Garoppolo interception (which bounced off receiver Dante Pettis‘ outstretched hands), it would have been a nearly perfect preseason performance. Garoppolo finished 10-of-12 for 136 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 107.0. The sour taste of that play shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Niners’ offense had a strong showing in its second exhibition game, even if Houston wasn’t deploying some of its top defenders. Garoppolo has been sharp in training camp, and seeing that carry over to a game situation is a positive sign that everything is on track for the regular-season opener against Minnesota on Sept. 9. Just as important: The Niners didn’t have any apparent serious injuries to key players the way they did last week against Dallas. — Nick Wagoner

Houston Texans

It was a small sample size, but the Texans have to be encouraged by Deshaun Watson‘s night. The starting quarterback played only one series for the second preseason game in a row but looked sharp on his 11-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Bruce Ellington. Watson was 5-of-8 for 73 yards without starting receivers DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller V — a reminder that if this Texans offense can stay healthy, it will be a fun unit to watch this season. — Sarah Barshop


Cincinnati Bengals

If you’re in need of a bright spot from the Bengals, you’re probably not going to find it from the first-team offense. Andy Dalton went 5-of-7 for 41 yards, the Bengals didn’t get an early running game going, and their first-half possessions went: punt, punt, punt, fumble, punt, interception. They are struggling to find suitable starters on the right side of the offensive line. However, there are certainly some positives from the young defensive line players, including Carl Lawson, Andrew Billings, Sam Hubbard and Jordan Willis, who combined for four sacks. — Katherine Terrell

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ first-team offense has had four drives in two preseason games and scored 17 points. Dak Prescott completed 10 of 15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown Saturday. Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin injured his knee on the touchdown drive. The extent of the injury is not yet known. He’ll have an MRI on Sunday. Head coach Jason Garrett said after the game that doctors were somewhat optimistic. The Cowboys kept Ezekiel Elliott on the bench for the second straight preseason game, but he should see at least a series on Aug. 26 against the Arizona Cardinals if history is any guide. He has played the third preseason game in each of his first two seasons. — Todd Archer


Oakland Raiders

Chris Warren III is giving Raiders coach Jon Gruden a “good” problem to have, perhaps forcing Oakland’s hand in awarding the undrafted rookie running back a roster spot. Because a week after rushing for 86 yards on 13 carries, Warren went for 110 yards on 18 carries, including a 3-yard TD run, and caught a pass for seven yards in the Raiders’ 19-15 loss at the Rams. He looked like a bell-cow back in a game in which Gruden sat most of his offensive starters, and, dare we say, he even resembled a certain No. 34 who played his home games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from 1987 through 1990. CDub3 knows as much as Bo Jackson? Nah, not yet, but you get the drift. — Paul Gutierrez

Los Angeles Rams

Sean McVay sat most of his starters for a second consecutive preseason game in an effort to prevent injuries and withhold competitive information, given the teams meet again in their season opener on Sept. 10. After losing to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17 last season and a poor performance last week against the Ravens, quarterback Sean Mannion needed to prove he could bounce back and serve as a capable backup if called upon this season. Mannion demonstrated improvement, completing 10 of 16 passes for 84 yards, including a 47-yard strike to KhaDarel Hodge. He also completed a 17-yard pass to Michael Thomas, but the remainder of his throws went for eight yards or fewer. It remains uncertain if Mannion will be serviceable if inserted for Jared Goff. — Lindsey Thiry


Jacksonville Jaguars

DE Yannick Ngakoue appears headed for a monster year. The third-year player had one sack and four tackles, and was essentially unblockable at times during the first half of Saturday’s game. Ngakoue did negate his sack with a celebration penalty, so that’s something he’ll have to be careful of going forward, but other than that, it was a dominating performance for a player who practices and plays with a massive chip on his shoulder because he wasn’t a first-round pick. Ngakoue has 20 career sacks and 10 forced fumbles in two seasons. He had 12 sacks and six forced fumbles last year but was overshadowed a bit by teammate Calais Campbell. That might not be the case in 2018. — Mike DiRocco

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota takes the loss on a day when injuries, sloppy play and penalties marred the Vikings throughout. Kirk Cousins, who was sharp in his preseason debut, was just 3-of-8 for 12 yards. “I think he can play a lot better, yeah,” coach Mike Zimmer said. That statement could have applied to the entire starting offense. One of the few bright spots on offense centered on the competition for No. 3 running back. Mike Boone took a step toward leveling the position battle with 13 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown. Boone emerged as an early favorite in spring in the competition with Roc Thomas and Mack Brown, and helped his case with a handful of explosive runs. Thomas had a nice gain on a screen pass and ripped off a 15-yard run. This competition will be one to focus on during the final two preseason games as the Vikings look to find the running back who will help them replace what they lost from Jerick McKinnon‘s departure. — Courtney Cronin


Friday’s games


Kansas City Chiefs

Late in the first half, Patrick Mahomes showed why the Chiefs are so excited about his potential. He uncorked a throw not many NFL quarterbacks could make with an over-the-top pass to Tyreek Hill that traveled about 70 yards in the air. The 69-yard TD was Mahomes’ first of the preseason. But Mahomes also showed some growing pains. He threw an interception into double coverage on the previous possession. — Adam Teicher

Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan has more than enough weapons to help the Falcons overcome last season’s shaky offensive output if his line holds up. In Friday’s second preseason game vs. the Chiefs, Ryan found maturing TE Austin Hooper for a 4-yard TD and hooked up with electrifying rookie Calvin Ridley on a 36-yard deep ball, all with Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman sitting out. Ridley also caught a TD pass from backup Matt Schaub. Once Ryan has his full arsenal, it could be a 30-point explosion any given game day. — Vaughn McClure


Buffalo Bills

The Bills’ three-way competition at quarterback could quickly become a two-man race after AJ McCarron reportedly suffered a hairline fracture to his right collarbone Friday. McCarron started and failed to gain a first down in four offensive possessions, taking one first-quarter sack behind a problematic offensive line. Coach Sean McDermott could have a looming decision to make between Josh Allen (18-of-32 for 176 yards and two touchdowns this preseason) and Nathan Peterman (17-of-20 for 231 yards, two touchdowns and one interception). — Mike Rodak

Cleveland Browns

The Browns’ early success in the running game, gaining 73 yards in the first quarter, overshadowed what was an unspectacular night from quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield. Taylor played four possessions, completing 4 of 7 passes for 22 yards, while Mayfield played from late in the second quarter until early in the fourth quarter, completing 7 of 13 passes for 75 yards. — Mike Rodak


Miami Dolphins

Dolphins coaches will be upset for the second consecutive week. The biggest concern? A defense that gave up 226 rushing yards, including a 71-yard Christian McCaffrey TD run against the starters. It’s worth wondering if they need to add talent at linebacker and along the defensive line. On offense, Miami continues to look undisciplined, with penalties halting drives and forcing field goals instead of touchdowns. — Cameron Wolfe

Carolina Panthers

The first-team offense still has some work to do, particularly in pass protection after giving up two sacks against Miami. But Cam Newton, with a 58.5 career completion percentage, is showing he can be more efficient in Norv Turner’s offense, and Christian McCaffrey is showing he can run between the tackles (see 71-yard touchdown run). Newton completed 75 percent of his attempts (9-of-12 for 89 yards and a touchdown) in five series Friday night, and has completed 71.4 percent in two preseason games. That’s a win. Now if he can be efficient without making mistakes, as he did with his one pick. — David Newton


New York Giants

It was an evening of redemption for Davis Webb. After a shaky outing last week, he bounced back in a big way Friday. Webb completed 14 of 20 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown and played the entire first half. He showed a strong command of the offense and an ability to fit throws into tight windows. He had a QB rating of 106.3 after a 49.4 last week. This was much needed. Webb didn’t play last season and likely won’t play much in preseason game No. 3 next week, when Eli Manning will get his opportunity to get ready for the season. Manning didn’t play against the Lions. Webb gave the Giants hope that they have a trustworthy backup in 2018 and the potential for more in the future. — Jordan Raanan

Detroit Lions

More of the same issues that plagued the Lions last season. Detroit, for the second straight game, got no real pass rush despite the Giants sitting top playmakers Eli Manning, Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. The offensive line (minus right guard T.J. Lang) was also 2017-level bad. Matthew Stafford was sacked twice in three series and almost every starting lineman appeared to struggle with the Giants’ front. Yes, it is only preseason, but considering the Lions knew these were problem areas and they still look like problems, it should be concerning. The third preseason game against Tampa Bay will be very telling. — Michael Rothstein


Arizona Cardinals

It won’t ignite a bona fide starting quarterback competition, but Josh Rosen looked much more polished than he did in the preseason opener. Rosen entered the game early in the second quarter with the No. 1 offensive line still in the game, and the better protection enabled the rookie to engineer a seven-play, 87-yard drive that ended in his first NFL touchdown pass. Along the way, Rosen got help from a roughing-the-passer call and also benefited from a 40-yard pass-interference penalty. In the red zone, flags for a false start and delay of game didn’t faze Rosen, who on third-and-goal from the Saints’ 13 zipped a pass to fellow rookie Christian Kirk for the score. Then Rosen, this time with the No. 2 offensive line, went on to lead a drive for a field goal, and he might have run a successful two-minute drill if not for a missed 46-yard field goal try as time ran out in the first half. In his only quarter of action, Rosen completed 10 of 16 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, along with a nifty 102.9 rating. It was a big improvement over his performance last week, when the No. 2 line struggled to protect him and had issues snapping him the ball. — Jose Romero

New Orleans Saints

Veteran Tom Savage surged ahead of second-year pro Taysom Hill in the Saints’ backup QB battle — but mostly by default after Hill had an extremely rough night. Hill threw two interceptions and fumbled three times (losing two of them) while playing the entire first half. The dual-threat QB did show off his legs with a 43-yard scramble — and the Saints likely will keep him on the roster because of his potential and his special-teams ability. But it’s hard to imagine the Saints can trust Hill enough to have him be Drew Brees‘ backup just yet. Meanwhile, Savage also fumbled (and recovered) on his opening drive in the second half. And he has been more solid than spectacular this summer. But he had the much better night, completing 6 of 7 passes for 53 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Undrafted rookie QB J.T. Barrett scored the Saints’ only TD of the night on a 12-yard run with 20 seconds left. But he’s campaigning more for a developmental role than the primary backup job this season. — Mike Triplett


Thursday’s games


Philadelphia Eagles

The health of quarterback Nick Foles is the No. 1 issue for the Eagles coming off their preseason game against the Patriots. He left in the second quarter with what the team described as a shoulder strain. He grabbed his throwing arm after defensive end Adrian Clayborn hit him midthrow from his blind side. With Carson Wentz‘s status still up in the air for Week 1, the Eagles need Foles to be available. — Tim McManus

New England Patriots

Tom Brady, at 41, looks like he picked up where he left off. Playing six drives in the first half, he led an opening touchdown drive and finished 19-of-26 for 172 yards, with two TDs and no interceptions. Meanwhile, perhaps more promising for the Patriots was the way they won one-on-one matchups in the pass rush, specifically with Adrian Clayborn (free-agent signing) and Derek Rivers (2017 third-round pick) picking up sacks. Rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (fifth round, Purdue) continues to make a charge for more playing time. — Mike Reiss


Pittsburgh Steelers

James Conner and James Washington look like the playmakers the Steelers need. Conner, who entered his second training camp in much better shape, showed off his conditioning with runs of 24 and 26 yards on back-to-back carries through the teeth of the Packers’ defense and into the end zone. He has solidified his role as Le’Veon Bell‘s backup. Washington has a knack for the contested catches, winning twice over the top of Packers defenders for scores and finishing with 114 yards. He’ll get game passes from Ben Roethlisberger soon enough. — Jeremy Fowler

Green Bay Packers

On a night when a couple of veterans made big plays — Tramon Williams‘ pick-six and Jimmy Graham‘s touchdown catch — just as encouraging was the emergence of a couple of young playmakers. Outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert, who spent most of his first two NFL seasons on the Packers’ practice squad, recorded 2.5 sacks — an indication that his late-season promotion to the roster was the start of something big. Rookie second-round pick Josh Jackson flashed his athleticism on a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown. For a defense in need of playmakers, Thursday’s win was a move in that direction. — Rob Demovsky


New York Jets

Their quarterback situation is as unsettled as ever. Did someone say controversy? It was a mixed bag from Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater, setting up a fascinating decision for coach Todd Bowles at the end of the preseason. Frankly, Bridgewater looks like the best QB on the roster, but you can bet Darnold will get another chance to win the starting job. The rookie threw a red zone interception in an otherwise solid performance, but his inexperience jumped out on a few plays. Could the Jets trade Bridgewater? Anything is possible. — Rich Cimini

Washington Redskins

The Redskins have focused hard on the defensive line the past two years and it should pay off this season. Rookie nose tackle Daron Payne, who has drawn rave reviews in training camp, showed his power in taking on double-teams and an ability to win a one-on-one matchup for a sack. Second-year lineman Jonathan Allen also made his presence felt with inside rushes. If these two stay healthy, they will make a big difference with the Redskins’ defense. — John Keim


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