Aug. 10, 2019
Quick Takes on 2019 Preseason Opening Night
There's not a whole lot of "truth" to be found in the first pre-season game for any team or any player. But there are a few things that we can pick up on, based on whether trends from last season continued and, for rookies, how poised and settled guys look in their first NFL action.
And, sometimes, there are just things that jump out at you and demand to be snarkily dissected.
In all honesty, though, it's hard to tell much from any preseason game, let alone the first one. Of course, that's never stopped any journalist or blogger from taking a stab at it and trying to sell their opinions as gospel. So, without further preamble, here are some quick-hit thoughts on the first night of games.
We probably just saw the end of Davis Webb's career. His passes for the night went as follows: incomplete, incomplete (negated by penalty), 4-yard completion, incomplete, incomplete, interception, 7-yard completion, interception. On his seven throws, he earned 11 yards and zero points for the Jets, while giving up 57 yards and 6 points to the Giants. Ironically, after being drafted two years ago by the Giants, the biggest contribution he made to the team came while he played for the Jets.
The Ravens' 29-0 win was less about a good Baltimore team than it was about a terrible offensive showing by the Jaguars. This isn't to say the Ravens aren't, or won't be, good. I'm not sold on Lamar Jackson as a franchise QB because history has shown that passers who rely on athleticism first tend to get figured out quickly and have a relatively short NFL shelf-life. But, he had himself a decent night in very limited action. Still, Baltimore had exactly one drive that went more than 40 yards -- and it only went 47. They played on a short field much of the night due to Jacksonville astounding inability to move the ball. That's absolutely a testament to Baltimore's defensive, which looks like it may continue to be a juggernaut in 2019. But it's also due in very large part to Jacksonville's offense somehow looking even worse than they did throughout the Blake Bortles era.
The Browns will absolutely compete in 2019. That's not to say they didn't have some truly Brownsian moments Thursday night, like failing to punch it in from one yard out on four straight tries, including punctuating that failure with a fumble on fourth down. But thanks to the moxie (thanks, Dave) of Baker Mayfield, they have a new swagger. The biggest problem in Cleveland all these years was they had developed an expectation of failure, and so it came to pass. Now they have an expectation of winning because their quarterback has brought a serious attitude with him. Even as a Steelers fan, I have to say the Browns are going to be a ton of fun to watch this year. Surprisingly, their defense may be their weak spot in 2019.
If Tom Savage is your standout player, you have a problem. Sure, Matt Stafford didn't play, as would be expected. But this Lions team is scary-bad, if Thursday night is any indication. They made Brian Hoyer look like Tom Brady, and Jarrett Stidham look like at least Brian Hoyer. Head coach Matt Patricia probably should have just stayed in New England.
Qadree Ollison may be one of the NFL's best-kept rookie secrets. As someone who watches a lot of Pitt football, I knew Ollison has what it takes to be a strong runner in the NFL. Somehow, from a school that produced James Conner, Dion Lewis and LeSean McCoy in the last ten years, a runner like Ollison went largely unnoticed. That may change this year, assuming he gets a solid shot at some field time. He's a beast at 6'-2" and 225 pounds, and looks remarkably like Herschel Walker when he runs. Averaging 5.1 yards per carry is a pretty good night, even against backups. And he's probably carrying a chip on his shoulder after not being drafted until the fifth round. He's not overtaking Devonta Freeman without injuries, but there's little reason to not give him three to five carries per game, at least.