What We've Learned So Far From the NFL Preseason
NFL teams have been tuning up in a series of intriguing preseason games over the past few weeks. Players are understandably keen to avoid injury, so they have often displayed low levels of intensity, while coaches have been hiding the majority of their playbooks. However, we have still gained a great deal of valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of various teams ahead of the new season:
Broncos Look Fired Up
The Denver Broncos swept aside the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks in their first two postseason games. The franchise’s top two draft picks looked impressive against the Vikings. Patrick Surtain II, the ninth overall pick, handed his team the initiative with a perfectly timed pick-six early in the second quarter, while he looked supremely composed throughout proceedings. Second-round pick Javonte Williams looked very dynamic in rushing for 29 yards off five carries, suggesting he could put pressure on Melvin Gordon for a starting berth. The Broncos were equally impressive against the Seahawks as they eased to a 30-3 victory at the weekend. Denver finished last season with a run of three straight defeats to finish bottom of the division, but it could challenge the Chargers and Raiders for second place behind the Chiefs this year.
The Packers Need Rodgers
The major summer soap opera has followed the deteriorating relationship between reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The legendary QB delivered the most stinging press conference in recent memory to open the team’s training camp, savaging the franchise’s executives and refusing to commit his future to the Packers. Speculation has raged as to whether he would start the season at Lambeau Field, but he is still in Green Bay and looks set to lead the team into battle once again. He has not featured in either of the team’s preseason games, and the offense has looked distinctly limp in his absence. The Packers lost 26-7 to the Texans and 23-14 to the Jets, and the backups have underwhelmed. Green Bay will be a different animal when the starters return, but the franchise really needs Rodgers firing on all cylinders if it is to mount a Super Bowl challenge this season.
Fields Outshines Fellow First-Round Rookie QBs
Trey Lance has been the most impressive first-round rookie QB so far during preseason. He lit up the 49ers’ 19-16 defeat to the Chiefs with an 80-yard opening quarter score. Lance struggled to impose himself upon the game after that, but he still had better game-ending numbers than Zach Wilson, Mac Jones and Trevor Lawrence in their debut games. Only Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears fared better on his debut, but Fields did not offer much in Chicago’s subsequent defeat to the Bills, whereas Lance 8 of 14 for 102 yards and 2 TDs to lead the Niners to victory over the Chargers at the weekend. He looks like a real talent.
Bills Fans Should be Excited
The Bills are now third in the betting to win the Super Bowl after a highly encouraging preseason. They edged the Lions in their opener, and then destroyed the Bears at the weekend. Sean McDermott totally outclassed Matt Nagy, and Brian Daboll also deserved credit for ruthlessly exposing weaknesses in the Bears’ defense. Josh Allen should have a strong receiving unit at his disposal, and the Bills could enjoy a very strong season.
Donovan Peoples-Jones Could Have a Breakout Year
The 187th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft showed flashes of his potential last season, but he has really dialed it up this summer. Peoples-Jones has been the star of the Browns’ training camp, and he was very impressive during the 23-13 win against the Jags in the opening preseason game. He made an incredible catch in that game, suggesting that the hype could be justified, and it will be exciting to see if he can become a key player for a Browns team that looks extremely dangerous.