By Nick Shook
Around The NFL Writer
Read full post on NFL.com
Saturday brought us another small plate of NFL preseason action, with three new quarterbacks to watch, including Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins, Denver’s Case Keenum and Arizona’s Josh Rosen (and Sam Bradford, too, we guess).
Here’s what we learned from Saturday’s Week 1 preseason games:
The fate of the Broncos, like many teams, will begin and end with the performance of their offensive line.
That much was evident in a short preseason debut for quarterback Case Keenum, a star for a very successful 2017 Minnesota Vikings team who saw a bunch of familiar faces lining up against him on Saturday. His new teammates didn’t do the greatest job of giving him time to throw.
Lulls in between plays not included, you could watch Keenum’s entire performance in the same amount of time it would take you to heat up that low-calorie frozen dinner (don’t forget to cut a vent in the plastic and stir the contents!). Keenum opened the drive with a quick out to Demaryius Thomas, who made Vikings linebacker Ben Gedeon miss before picking up the majority of his 5-yard gain. A false start on the next play erased that gain and forced Keenum into a third-and-7, which resulted in an incomplete pass intended for Courtland Sutton and a punt.
The next drive showed how Keenum will have to adjust to not having as reliable a front five as he did in his career year with the Vikings. The quarterback twice felt pressure from his front-side rusher and was forced to adjust his release angle, dropping his arm slightly to sling passes around the pressure into the flat. Both attempts ended up on the ground as incompletions.
That was it for Keenum, who was replaced by Paxton Lynch (who was abysmal and could slide to QB3 after Chad Kelly‘s impressive night) as planned. The new guy in town probably could have used another drive.
“I definitely did,” Keenum said when asked if he wanted another crack at the Vikings. “I’ll be honest, I wanted one series with a [few] more plays and score a touchdown.”
The Broncos‘ faithful will chalk it up to being preseason action and an excellent Vikings defense (neither of which are untrue). But the same issues that plagued Denver last season seemed to crop up, albeit in a much, much smaller sample size.
“This is great test,” Keenum said. “[Minnesota was] one of the top defenses in the league last year so we knew we had our work cut out for us.”
Minnesota, on the other hand, cruised against a defense that was missing Von Miller and Todd Davis. Latavius Murray twice gashed Denver on the side where Shane Ray replaced Miller, Kirk Cousins was sharp and Stefon Diggs was in mid-season form. And in a weird twist, former Broncos starter/backup Trevor Siemian played rather well, completing 11 of 17 passes for 165 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Perhaps the problem wasn’t the quarterback, but those around him? Then again, it is just the preseason.
This one was very much about effort.
Chase Edmonds seized the crown early with this run in which he may or may not have been down but was given a touchdown anyway because hey, it’s Aug. 11.
Sam Bradford was as good as a 1-for-1 outing could be, leading a drive that started with consecutive 14-yard runs by David Johnson and ended in the aforementioned Edmonds touchdown. Rosen entered and did his best while almost constantly under pressure, avoiding rushers and resetting his feet to complete multiple passes and end the night with a line of 6 for 13 and 41 yards.
Sure, it was a little underthrown. But the Chargers, trailing for the entirety of the game until the early fourth quarter, needed something, anything to get the sans-Philip Rivers offense going. And they got it in the form of Smith to Geremy Davis, who, as the above tweet said, Mossed Cardinals corner Chris Campbell (alliteration!) for a touchdown.
An example of the fleeting nature of the game, no matter how much effort is given, arrived in the form of linebacker Jeremy Cash, who was all over the field and returned a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter. He didn’t make it to the fourth, though, after suffering a knee injury that required a cart to help him off the field and forced him out of the remainder of the game.
All in all, not much can be gleaned from Saturday night’s game. The Cardinals need help along the offensive line once they get to the two-deep, but they’re better off at quarterback than they’ve been in a while when it comes to contingency plans. Defensively, they were more than adequate, though they didn’t face Rivers.
Los Angeles still has to figure out who’s going to be QB2 between Jones and Smith, which is especially important considering the team traditionally only carries two quarterbacks. Jones got the start Saturday, but Smith came on late. That will be one to watch (with Jones expected to still have the slight edge). Austin Ekeler looked predictably tough, and Davis might have worked his way toward a fringe roster spot. Corey Liuget was also playing into the early third quarter, which was peculiar.
It’s still Week 1 of the preseason, though. There’s plenty to be learned.