By Marc Sessler, Kevin Patra, Nick Shook
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Eighteen teams were in action Saturday for Week 3 of the preseason. Here are the five big takeaways:
Here’s what else we learned Saturday:
1. DeShone Kizer was obviously the focal point of Cleveland’s performance, but eyes should really be trained on Corey Coleman. The second-year wideout quickly established a rapport with Kizer, making a diving catch to grab a well-placed pass from the quarterback and move the chains. He made a leaping grab, again on third down in the second quarter, to extend another possession. All three of his completions from Kizer went for 11 or more yards, especially impressive on a sloppy night. While Cleveland’s new addition at the position, Kenny Britt, dropped a ball to allow a drive to stall (it was pouring rain, so we give him somewhat of a break), Coleman shined. Kizer will need a reliable target as he continues to develop, and for the first time, Coleman looked like that target.
2. It was a rough night offensively for Tampa Bay. In a steady downpour, the Buccaneers had every drive but their last of the first half stall out at one point. The opening possession, a promising march down the field, ended abruptly when Winston’s errant throw (perhaps caused by the wet conditions) was intercepted in the end zone by Jabrill Peppers. A good amount of credit is due to Gregg Williams’ Browns defense, but the blame also is split by the Buccaneers missing Mike Evans and Desean Jackson. At halftime, head coach Dirk Koetter lamented his unit’s inability to make progress on early downs, often resulting in third-and-a-mile situations. His displeasure was evident when Jameis Winstonremained on the field for the first possession of the third quarter. On the bright side, Winston did execute an efficient two-minute drill at the end of the first half, resulting in a 31-yard Nick Folk field goal to knot things up at halftime.
— Nick Shook
1. Eli Manning looked like he had the Giants ready to finally break the touchdown drought on the opening possession, but New York’s offensive line was lurking, again waiting to ruin a good thing. The culprit this time was John Jerry, who was “manhandled” — Bob Papa’s word, not mine — by Sheldon Richardson, who hit Manning as he threw, resulting in an underthrown pass to an open Roger Lewisand a Jets interception at the 3. Close, but no cigar yet again.
Orleans Darkwa ended up quenching New York’s thirst for a score, but only after the Giants had to go for it on fourth down deep in Jets territory. Things trended upward from there for the Giants, who are very obviously much better than the Jets.
The most important takeaway was the performance of the Giants‘ defense. Landon Collins jumped a telegraphed pass into the flats from Christian Hackenberg, returning it for a score. Jason Pierre-Paul blew through the line to tackle Matt Forte in the end zone for a safety. And defensive back Donte Deayon grabbed a pick of his own — Hackenberg’s second of the night — and housed it. Much like last season, the strength of Big Blue is on the defensive side.
2. Christian Hackenberg seemed destined for another season of games spent wearing an earpiece and a ballcap after his first-half performance. The second-year passer threw an ugly pick-six early (the aforementioned one to Collins) and was consistently bad for much of his time with the first team. Bryce Petty took over in the second half and practically lit the city on fire with his arm, completing 15 of 18 passes for 250 yards and three scores as the Jets‘ reserves stormed back into contention. To cap off the hilarious oddity that has been the Jets‘ quarterback competition, when Petty was sidelined with a knee injury, it was Hackenberg who returned to throw his own touchdown pass to bring the Jets within one of a tie with less than two minutes to play. The two-point conversion wasn’t good, sending the Jetshome with a loss, and providing less clarity than ever for the quarterback position. Petty had the strongest showing this week, but is headed for an MRI on Sunday. Hackenberg was quite bad early, then rebounded late against lesser opponents. Josh McCown didn’t see the field. Where this is headed, no one knows.
— Nick Shook
1. The biggest thing I learned from this night was about Trevor Siemian’s ability to move. On second down and with the rush bearing down on him, Siemian exited a collapsing pocket, juked one defender and sidestepped another before rushing for 16 yards and a first down. Most everything else we learned about Denver’s offense, we already knew. Paxton Lynch also left the game after taking a low hit in the third quarter, giving extended reps to Kyle Sloter, who threw a touchdown pass to Hunter Sharp.
Defensively, Denver did a good job of bottling up the Packers‘ offense after Rodgers took a seat. There was an interesting dust-up between some Broncos and Packers that resulted in teammates Aqib Talib and Todd Davis exchanging spirited words while walking off the field. At one point the two had to be separated, but afterward, Talib told a local sideline reporter “I was just calming him down, man. No smoke.”
2. Aaron Rodgers got exactly one series, which is all he should get, even in Week 3 of the preseason. Against Denver’s starting defense, Brett Hundleywas more like the Hundley we’ve come to know than the tantalizing propsect of the last two weeks. He entered with the ball inside Denver’s 10, thanks to an interception from Kentrell Brice, and Ty Montgomery pounded a carry between the tackles into the end zone. Speaking of Montgomery, the running game wasn’t all that exciting, though Montgomery and Aaron Jones each ripped off runs of 25-plus yards.
“We need to run the ball more, we have to run it better here,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at halftime. “Really, offensively, we have way too many long down and distances, obviously too many negative plays.
Hundley did do a nice job of escaping a crumbling pocket deep in Broncos‘ territory early in the fourth, avoiding his freshly de-cleated center before galloping toward the pylon and into the end zone for six.
3. BONUS POINT! We learned on Saturday night that the preseason is chill enough for your starting offensive tackle to propose to his girlfriend, seated in the stands, during a break in the action.