2022 NFL preseason Week 2, one thing we learned about each team: Cowboys find special teams star

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We are now through two weeks of the 2022 NFL preseason, and I’m sure by this point we are all ready for meaningful football. Congrats to the Baltimore Ravens, as their exhibition dynasty has been established. But now, I’m just ready to see Lamar Jackson take the field for a potential bounce-back season. 

There’s no doubt we learned from Week 2. The Buffalo Bills look incredibly deep, a couple veteran players may be on the verge of losing their jobs to rookies and we also unfortunately saw a couple of season-ending injuries. It’s fair to wonder how much we can actually gather from exhibition football, and more preseason takes fare poorly rather than age gracefully. I’ve had to self-report to Old Takes Exposed before, and I’m not afraid to do it again. With that being said, here is one thing I learned about each NFL team in Week 2 of the preseason. 

For our Week 1 preseason takeaways for each NFL team, click here.

Down 24-3 to the Ravens and nearing the end of the third quarter, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury realized he needed to make a change … at play-caller. Star quarterback Kyler Murray took over the headset and immediately engineered a 16-play, 74-yard touchdown drive from the sideline. After Arizona picked off a pass on Baltimore’s very next play from scrimmage, the Cardinals scored another touchdown thanks to great field position. All of a sudden, the Cardinals were down just a touchdown to the preseason kings.

While Jarrett Guarantano was unable to pull off the comeback for the Cards, it was a pretty exciting ending to a preseason game. 

“He was fired up,” Kingsbury said of Murray the play-caller. “He was way more excited than he gets when he throws one. Don’t know what that’s about.”

Marcus Mariota is the new starting quarterback in Atlanta, and I think he’s an underrated storyline this season. The former No. 2 overall pick showed potential during his time in Tennessee, but injuries and inconsistencies opened the door for Ryan Tannehill to take over. After spending time as Derek Carr’s backup in Vegas, he’s back for another shot as a starter.

The Heisman trophy winner helped the Falcons score 10 points on the first two drives of Atlanta’s second preseason game, and the quarterback connected on a few deep passes as well. Mariota is in a favorable situation with his former offensive coordinator as head coach, and several former Titans teammates on the roster. Check out this touchdown toss from Monday night:

Baltimore Ravens: Impressive quarterback play

We would like to talk about rookie tight end Isaiah Likely again this week, but we already used him as our main takeaway last week. Apologies for accurately predicting the future. This week, let’s talk about the quarterback play of the Ravens. I’m sure general managers around the league are intrigued by Tyler Huntley, and maybe it’s just a matter of time before he ends up a starter somewhere else. 

Huntley completed 13 of 14 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown in Week 2, while his backup, Anthony Brown, completed 10 of 13 passes for 91 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. So collectively, the Ravens completed 23 of 27 passes for 217 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. That’s impressive, and a big reason why Baltimore hasn’t lost a preseason game since 2015(!)

When the Bills selected former Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Chris Trapasso gave the pick an “A” grade. Trapasso said he’s special after the catch and can make tough grabs. Two preseason games in, and he certainly looks like an “A” pick. 

This weekend, Shakir caught all three of his targets for 59 yards — leading both teams in receiving. Last week, he caught all five of his targets for 92 yards — again leading his team and the opponent in receiving yards. Literally every target sent his way has worked out, and his process as a receiver feels natural.

Upgrading the offensive line was the main priority for the Panthers this offseason. On paper they were successful, as Carolina signed offensive guard Austin Corbett, center Bradley Bozeman and selected prospective left tackle Ikem Ekwonu with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

It’s too early to hit the panic button yet, as Corbett and Bozeman didn’t suit up this week and Ekwonu is a rookie still figuring it out, but at the very least, Carolina’s offensive line depth doesn’t look good. Against the New England Patriots, P.J. Walker was sacked four times and rookie Matt Corral was sacked once. Those statistics don’t really do it justice, however, as both quarterbacks were under pressure all night. Corral even ended up suffering what is expected to be a season-ending injury. Hopefully when the Panthers’ starters are out there Week 1, the line looks much better. But if one or two of those guys suffers an injury, it could derail the offense entirely. 

Chicago Bears: Special teams lookin’ special

The Bears had a borderline perfect outing during their 27-11 victory over the Seattle Seahawks — winning in all three facets of the game. The special teams certainly stood out, however, as the Bears gashed the Seahawks returning kicks and punts.

Rookie Velus JOnes Jr. returned a punt for 48 yards and a kick for 31 yards, Nsimba Webster returned a kick for 58 yards, Cairo Santos converted on both of his field goal attempts and all three extra point attempts, punter Trenton Gill landed four of his eight punts inside the 20 and the punt coverage team even scored a touchdown. The Bears did give up an onside kick late in the fourth quarter, but overall, it was a special performance from this unit. 

Clay Johnston has bounced around a bit ever since being selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft, but he played seven games for the Bengals last year and even made a tackle in the Super Bowl. He led Cincy with six total tackles last week against the Cardinals, but exploded Sunday night. 

Against the New York Giants, Johnston recorded a whopping 20 total tackles and one sack. He was around the ball all night, and is clearly a competitor.

The Browns’ prospective slot wideout shined in his first NFL action. Bell missed time due to a foot injury, but he’s back, and led Cleveland with 46 receiving yards on three catches. Even with Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, I think Bell can play a role in Year 1. It’s not like he set the world on fire this weekend, but he looks like a player where YAC comes natural to him. Bell also seems like a guy who can work the short middle of the field — running the quick slats or drag routes that make life easier on a backup quarterback. 

I mean, this one is easy. The Cowboys took a shot on the USFL MVP formerly of the New Jersey Generals, and it has paid dividends. Saturday night, Kavontae Turpin recorded a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown, and then an 86-yard punt return touchdown — all before halftime. 

Something I didn’t know about Turpin is that this is actually his first chance at the NFL. He wasn’t some undrafted guy that got a chance in training camp once or twice or thrice like so many of the USFL players. Truly, a potential diamond in the rough. 

“He’s so dynamic,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “You go back to his college days and clearly, in my opinion, he was the best player I saw in the USFL coming out. I’ve been so impressed with him since Day 1. He got here the first day, picked the offense up and jumped right in there. He’s very dynamic on special teams.”

Denver Broncos: Interesting tight end rotation

The Broncos’ 42-15 loss to the Bills is probably something we should forget about immediately, as not much went right for Denver. We could discuss how the ground game was absolutely pitiful (32 yards on 17 carries), but what stood out to me — and seemingly everybody — is that Albert Okwuegbunam was taking snaps into the fourth quarter. 

After the Noah Fant trade, many fans saw this as Albert O’s opportunity, but then the Broncos drafted Greg Dulcich out of UCLA in the third round. Albert O is the pass-catching tight end, but what if Dulcich thrives in that role once the regular season starts? Could they coexist? I’m also interested to see how Eric Saubert and Eric Tomlinson are used moving forward as well.

Tom Kennedy may be the star of the preseason. He caught eight passes for 104 yards in Week 1, and followed it up with five catches for 24 yards and two touchdowns this past week. The undrafted wideout out of Bryant even earned a shoutout from a legendary wide receiver.

Kennedy has been with the Lions organization since 2019, and he actually suited up for 12 games last year. What he’s accomplished so far this preseason has definitely caught the eye of Dan Campbell and the rest of the coaching staff. We need more coverage of him on “Hard Knocks” this week.

Rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs was the early headliner out of Packers camp, and he’s flashed in both of Green Bay’s preseason games. He caught three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown last week, and recorded three receptions for 24 yards and another touchdown on Friday night. 

He hasn’t been perfect by any means and has dropped a couple of passes, but check out this touchdown in one-on-one coverage in the red zone. This is the kind of play that builds confidence in quarterbacks. 

Christian Watson is the wide receiver the Packers hope can evolve into a legitimate starter, but Doubs is going to have a spot on that depth chart. 

“It’s not going to be perfect,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said. “There’s going to be some lessons along the way. He’s a guy that is pretty resilient. He doesn’t get fazed by a negative play. He just keeps on playing. That’s what excites you about him.

“He’s been able to separate, which is something that’s tough to coach. Guys can either do it or they can’t. There’s stuff to clean up, for certain, but he’s a guy that we are excited about it. We’ll see where we are Week 1.”

If you were tuning in to the Texans-Rams preseason game Friday and weren’t a Texans or Rams fan, I can guarantee you it was because of Dameon Pierce. Much to our chagrin, however, the rookie running back did not play. Why? Head coach Lovie Smith said they held him out because they saw a lot of him in the first preseason game, per Pro Football Network. Hopefully I don’t have to translate what that means.

Pierce was our main takeaway from the Texans last week, but he’s going back-to-back on our list since he apparently has been so impressive that he’s earning starting perks despite being with the organization for just three months.

Cross plays the position of safety the way it’s meant to be played. He’s tough, he’s aggressive, he flies to the ball whether he’s blowing up a halfback check-down or stopping a receiver from scoring a touchdown. He’s actually done the latter twice now. 

Cross also isn’t afraid to stick his nose in run support. The rookie seems like an instinctive player who could be fun to watch. 

The Jaguars have some athletes on the edge, and throwing Travon Walker into the mix is just going to enhance the front seven. This Jaguars defense straight up bullied the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. Defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell should be able to line up several of these players in different positions to really put quarterbacks on edge, and I don’t want to overstate it, but this unit is certainly building confidence as a collective.

Part of its success this past weekend had to do with the Steelers’ offensive line struggling, but if this unit can get after the quarterback like it did Saturday, then the Jaguars are going to be much better in 2022. Is “Sacksonville” back?! 

I know it’s the preseason, but man, Patrick Mahomes and Co. look good. On Kansas City’s first possession against Washington, the offense went 87 yards down the field on 12 plays, and Jody Fortson caught the first of his two touchdown passes. The next possession, the Chiefs went 82 yards down the field again on 12 plays, and Fortson caught his second touchdown pass. 

Overall, Mahomes completed 12 of 19 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. People are wondering if the offense will take a hit without Tyreek Hill in the fold, but I’m sure Andy Reid will be just fine. I’m still interested to see what the running back rotation will look like, though. 

After watching Jesper Horsted catch three touchdowns in one preseason game last year, I wondered if the 6-foot-3, 237-pound target could not only secure a roster spot, but play a role as a TE2 or TE3. He played seven games for the Bears last year, catching two passes — both for touchdowns. In fact, he actually caught Justin Fields’ first career passing touchdown. Saturday night for the Raiders, Horsted caught all three of his targets and led the team with 53 receiving yards. 

It’s going to be very tough for Horsted to make the final roster with the tight end room Vegas has, but he’s just 25 years old and someone I can’t help but be intrigued by. 

The Chargers have everything needed to be one of the best offenses in the NFL this season, and they did a great job upgrading the defense in the offseason as well. Special teams are important, however, and L.A. lost its preseason game this weekend because of it. 

KaVontae Turpin recorded an 86-yard touchdown on a punt return, a 98-yard kick return touchdown and Malik Davis returned a kick 32 yards as well. As for the Chargers’ returners, they mustered just 35 total yards on four returns.

Los Angeles Rams: Cobie Durant dunking for Rams

With a name like Decobie Durant, you basically have to be an athlete. Durant has been dunking on the football field as opposed to the hardwood, however. He forced a fumble early in this week’s contest, and recorded a sack just minutes later. CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco said Durant was the Rams’ best draft pick this offseason, and he may be right. Kevin Durant even claimed him as family this weekend.

For the second preseason game in a row, it was the Dolphins’ seventh-round pick at quarterback who shined. Skylar Thompson was the only quarterback who threw a touchdown pass for the Dolphins last week, completing 20 of 28 passes for 218 yards and one touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Tua Tagovailoa started Miami’s second preseason game against the Raiders and Teddy Bridgewater threw the most passes, it was still Thompson who stood out, as he completed 9 of 10 passes for 129 yards. 

Thompson is an older rookie, and it’s showing in a way. He’s confident throwing the ball through tight windows, and is helping fourth-round pick wide receiver Erik Ezukanma stand out as well. He caught six passes for 114 yards on Saturday evening. 

Miami brought in Bridgewater to back up Tagovailoa, but this Thompson kid is standing out. 

“The 53 is for the 53 best players,” Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said when discussing the possibility of adding three quarterbacks, per the Miami Herald. “So you’re open to whatever. Sometimes that leaves you short or heavy in certain positions, but what I’ve found in my career, is that you don’t pigeonhole yourself and make absolutes.”

Not many starters played in this game, and Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion were so disappointing that the first thing the Vikings did Monday morning was trade for another quarterback.  Something that stood out to me was T.Y. McGill. He had five total tackles and 1.5 sacks this weekend after recording two sacks last week. 

McGill looks like he has a high motor. If he doesn’t win on his initial move, he will just keep pushing until he breaks through. 

Shoutout to CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan for this take. With White off to retirement, it could be Ty Montgomery who takes over as the receiving back in Bill Belichick’s offense. Yes, Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson will handle the bulk of carries, but the versatile running back/wide receiver could play a role as Mac Jones’ check-down guy. Against the Panthers this weekend, Montgomery caught one pass for 5 yards and rushed four times for 13 yards and a touchdown.

Montgomery has long been viewed as an intriguing weapon, but it doesn’t feel as though he’s been truly “unlocked.” The former Packer had his best season in 2016, when he recorded 805 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns while operating primarily as a running back. 

It’s been known for months now that the quarterback/special teams star/wide receiver will be focusing on tight end for the Saints moving forward. We got our first taste of that on Friday night, as Taysom Hill took a screen pass from Ian Book for 10 yards. 

Getting a quick, shifty player the ball in space is something every coach focuses on, and this is a nice example of what Hill can do for this offense. He won’t be the focal point with Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave in the fold, but this secret weapon operating at tight end will make some highlight-reel plays. 

New York Giants: Rock ’em sock ’em Bachman

Usually preseason games get worse as they drag on, but we saw a 24-point fourth quarter between the Giants and Bengals. Kayvon Thibodeaux avoided serious injury and Davis Webb engineered a comeback, but the star of the game was Alex Bachman. 

The Wake Forest product caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns — including the game-winner. I understand that we see these random preseason heroes every year, but Brian Daboll has to be intrigued by this weapon. He finds ways to get open, he doesn’t go down easy and he appears to have a nose for the end zone. I’m not saying I’d put Bachman in the starting lineup, but I’m going to be watching him more closely. 

The Jets backups pulled off a nice comeback win over the Falcons in rainy New York on Monday night, but the way the game began was tough to watch. Atlanta’s weapons were getting behind the New York secondary due to both miscommunication, and then just defenders struggling with their assignments.  

Cornerback Bryce Hall, who is competing for snaps, had a tough night. He gave up a touchdown, and a 52-yard gain to Kyle Pitts on the first drive of the game. Pitts later said Hall was “scared-pedaling” on the play.

Anthony Firkser also broke loose a couple of times, catching a 39-yard pass on the second drive of the game, and then a 17-yard completion early in the second quarter. In all, three different Falcons receivers recorded receptions that went for at least 34 yards. Sauce Gardner wasn’t picked on and D.J. Reed didn’t play, but overall it was a rough night for the Jets secondary, as Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder both looked good.

It appears the Eagles fan base has been pushing for a trade for Kareem Hunt, but I think Sunday showed us the Eagles aren’t dying for another running back. Kenneth Gainwell rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and Boston Scott rushed for 33 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Perhaps more importantly, both sparked the offense on each of their touchdown drives. 

I think Miles Sanders is underrated, Gainwell could make a jump in Year 2 and Scott has proven himself worthy of a roster spot over the past few years. Obviously adding someone like Hunt would improve any offense, but the Eagles don’t have to do that.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive line disappoints

The Steelers attempted to improve the offensive line this offseason, signing offensive guard James Daniels and center Mason Cole. But this line looked very rough against the Jaguars this past weekend. 

Here’s how CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo explained it:

“While they only allowed two sacks, Pittsburgh’s offensive struggled to hold its own against Jacksonville’s defensive front. Starter Mitchell Trubisky was sacked once and was forced to run for his life on two other passes. A holding call on James Daniels wiped out a 19-yard completion from Kenny Pickett to Chase Claypool on Pickett’s first drive after replacing Trubisky. Mason Rudolph, who played the entire second half, was called for intentional grounding in the end zone (resulting in a safety) after the Jaguars’ pass rush victimized the Steelers’ line once again.

“It was a particularly rough night for Daniels, left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and left guard Kendrick Green. Green described his performance on Saturday night as “not good” upon speaking to the media.”

After that outing, the Steelers signed offensive tackle Adrian Ealy and waived fellow tackle Jordan Tucker. If this line can’t get it together, the quarterback won’t be able to find a rhythm, and Najee Harris won’t be as effective. Keep an eye on this issue moving forward.

Javon Kinlaw played in just four games last year due to a knee injury, but he has now recovered from surgery and is back in action. He looks faster and just as powerful as he ever was. The South Carolina product recorded several highlights against the poor Vikings guards who were assigned to stop him. Kinlaw recorded one sack, and had a couple of pressures.

If Kinlaw can stay healthy, it will be huge for the 49ers’ defense. He looked great this past weekend, and told reporters afterward that he’s having fun again, per Fangirl Sports

Seattle Seahawks: Charles Cross struggles with penalties

We could talk about how Geno Smith was unable to run away with the quarterback competition or how Seattle looks terrible fielding punts, but let’s look at the Seahawks’ first-round pick for a second. Seattle committed five offensive penalties in the first half during its loss to Chicago. Cross was responsible for four of them with three false starts, and one holding penalty. He wasn’t done yet, however, as he picked up another false start penalty in the third quarter for his fifth and final flag. 

Playing left tackle — especially as a rookie — is tough. Cross has all of the intangibles to be a franchise player, but he won’t do that if he’s drawing flags all the time.  

“This is not going to be something that bothers him forever,” Carroll said after Seattle’s loss to Chicago, via ESPN. “We’ve just got to get him cleaned up and settled in and make sure each situation, he makes the right assessment and does a nice job.”

The Buccaneers saw another offensive lineman go down with a serious injury this weekend, and while that is an issue Todd Bowles will have to address, let’s discuss something positive.

Start working on pronouncing his name, because Olakunle Fatukasi may be here to stay. There’s a logjam at inside linebacker for the Bucs, but if this guy is waived, he will have some suitors. The undrafted linebacker out of Rutgers led the Bucs on Saturday night with 10 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. Containing Malik Willis is a tough task, but Fatukasi was solid. He appears to be fairly well-rounded, and plays the game aggressively. 

“He’s smart and he’s tough,” said Bowles. “He’s a guy that we’re looking at. Got to see what he did on [special] teams. That’s another battle spot that we are looking at between him and J.J. [Russell], obviously, and Grant [Stuart] and K.J. [Britt]. He’s made his presence known, he’s made his presence felt and we’ve just got to look at the tape.”

Tennessee Titans: Open right tackle battle

There were two positions open on the Titans’ offensive line entering training camp: left guard and right tackle. Aaron Brewer looks like he’s in control of the left guard spot, but the right tackle position now appears to be wide open. 

Dillon Radunz, a second-round pick out of North Dakota State in 2021, played in just 12 games with one start in his rookie season. As a relatively high draft pick, many envisioned him as a player who could hold down a starting spot on the offensive line for years to come, but he’s struggled, and is now in a position battle with rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere. 

Both players have had good and bad moments throughout the preseason, but Saturday night brought some lowlights for Radunz. He was flagged twice in the first half and gave up several pressures. It’s worth noting that Radunz is a solid run-blocker, but he has work to do in pass-blocking. 

If Radunz can’t secure the job, is the rookie Petit-Frere absolutely ready to bring something to one of the best rushing offenses in the league? Mike Vrabel has a decision to make.

When Washington drafted Robinson, I know I wasn’t alone in thinking this spelled danger for Antonio Gibson. The versatile weapon was benched at times last year due to fumbling issues, and what that does is open the door for another player. Gibson actually fumbled in the first preseason game against the Panthers, and in came Robinson, who scored a touchdown the next possession. Robinson started against the Chiefs on Saturday, and rushed for a team-leading 31 yards on eight carries. Gibson rushed just twice for 3 yards. 

When Washington drafted Gibson, I envisioned him as the new slot receiver. Whatever happens at running back, Gibson can still play a role in this offense. With that being said, whether fair or not, his fantasy stock dropped this past weekend.


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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