The 2022 NFL preseason is officially on the books. That means real football is right around the corner. But before the rosters are finalized and preparations begin for Week 1, which players and teams have made big strides forward (or backwards) in Week 3 of the exhibition schedule? Here’s a rundown of some of the key winners and losers from the preseason finals:
Winner: Veterans in QB competitions
Baker Mayfield was already stuck in the top quarterback lane for the Panthers, but he looked sharp on his 15 throws, zipping the ball and leading a few scoring drives. He also doesn’t have to worry about Sam Darnold looming in the background for now, after the latter suffered a high ankle sprain during his own touchdown run. Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Mitch Trubisky showed a steady touch behind a questionable line as he started against the Lions, likely keeping him just ahead of rookie Kenny Pickett in the race for QB1 duties. And Geno Smith’s solid, if unspectacular, show for Seattle landed him the Seahawks job.
Speaking of QB leagues, the ex-Broncos shooter basically threw himself out of a job during Seattle’s tight loss to the Cowboys. His arm was certainly active, but at least two of his three picks were head-scratchers, and Geno Smith once again proved more reliable, albeit unexciting, which is why Pete Carroll crowned the former Jets starter his man for Week 1.
Winner: Mobile rookie QBs
Who doesn’t love a young QB with legs? The Titans got more predictable but chain-moving juice from Malik Willis, who again overshadowed unpolished passes with big runs, including a 50-yard scramble for a near-score against the Cardinals. The commanders had Sam Howell handle all the QB work against the Ravens, and his guts made him the lead rusher of the team. Baltimore saw the unwritten Anthony Brown Jr. filling the pinnacle role with his athleticism, perhaps securing a spot as the No. 3 behind other double threats Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley.
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Loser: The Attack of the Patriots
They’ve lost all season, to be honest, so their flop against the Raiders in a 23-6 loss was not necessarily a surprise. On the other hand, Las Vegas mainly deployed backups, so there is cause for concern here. Mac Jones threw a bad pick, and the unit just couldn’t get into a rhythm. Maybe don’t let old defensive and special teams coaches develop your QB!
Winner: AFC South rookies
In particular, Dameon Pierce and Treylon Burks, who could have a starting role for the Texans and Titans in Week 1, respectively. Pierce averaged over six yards per carry as the most consistently explosive man in a crowded Houston backfield against the 49ers, while Burks came into the end zone after returning from an in-game injury against Arizona. The latter is probably more important to his team in general, but both youngsters can make or break their teams’ fouls.
Loser: The Saints’ Attacking Line
Not because they’re porous like the Steelers’ transitional unit, but because rookie Trevor left Penning, drafted specifically to replace veteran Terron Armstead, with a serious injury that requires surgery and puts him out indefinitely. Now there is even more pressure on Jameis Winston to stay on his feet as he recovers from his own injury.
If you want to request a trading day for the final cuts, and go into your third season as an overlooked former second-rounder, you’d better at least show up in the preseason. He did, getting 102 yards and a big score on seven catches against the Giants. Now it’s up to Jets Brass to determine if he really belongs on the roster, with a real role, wide.