Are you ready for some football? Hope so, because there is a lot of preseason action coming to your television on Saturday, starting with a scorcher of a Saturday matinee matchup that might very well be a Super Bowl preview. The Jaguars and Vikings — quite arguably the two best defenses in football — kick things off.
Thursday night gave us the return of Tom Brady, but Friday night was all about young quarterbacks, including a pair of rookies in Josh Allen of the Bills and Baker Mayfield of the Browns who squared off against each other. Both guys looked pretty darn good, with Mayfield flashing an ability to move around in the pocket with some nimbly-bimbly footwork in order to find throwing lanes. Ignoring Josh Rosen would be a mistake too: he also had a great moment where he stepped up in the pocket and threw a laser into the end zone for a score. The offensive line is going to be an issue for both Allen and Rosen. Patrick Mahomes also stepped up and threw a ball 69 yards in the air for a bomb to Tyreek Hill. You need to watch that play.
Saturday features a whopping seven games in total, the meatiest portion of the schedule to date this week.
Jacksonville 14, Minnesota 10 (box score)
Oakland at L.A. Rams (GameTracker)
Cincinnati at Dallas, 7 p.m. ET, NFL Network (GameTracker)
Tampa Bay at Tennessee, 7 p.m. ET (GameTracker)
San Francisco at Houston, 8 p.m. ET (GameTracker)
Chicago at Denver, 9:05 p.m. ET (GameTracker)
Seattle at L.A. Chargers, 10 p.m. ET (GameTracker)
Chris Warren, late-round Fantasy sleeper?
No one is talking about Chris Warren. Or, at least, no one was talking about Chris Warren until Saturday afternoon anyway. Now there’s plenty of buzz about the Raiders’ fifth-string running back, thanks to his performance against the Los Angeles Rams in the Raiders’ Week 2 preseason game.
Word of caution: Warren has plenty of competition with the Raiders and is hardly a lock to make the roster. Warren was undrafted, and the Raiders already have Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington on the depth chart.
But if the preseason is about trying to secure a spot on a roster, Warren did an excellent job giving Raiders coaches a good impression of what he can offer.
The former Texas running back, who was undrafted this year, cracked the century mark, piling up piling up 107 yards on just 17 carries to bring the Raiders within one point of the Rams after falling behind 16-0. Warren also caught his only target for seven yards. And he plunged in for a second-half touchdown:
Again, don’t go out there dropping a starting running back for this guy. But we know Jon Gruden is going to be committed to running the heck out of the ball, and Marshawn and Martin are not exactly a youthful duo at the top of the depth chart. With a good offensive line and some touches, Warren could end up being a very deep sleeper worth nabbing in your draft.
Should the Jaguars trade for Teddy Bridgewater?
That’s been one of the biggest questions people are asking through the early portion of the Jaguars’ offensive drives against the Vikings on Saturday. Granted, Minnesota’s a stout defense. And granted, it’s the preseason. But Blake Bortles hasn’t looked great in the early going. Bortles threw one pick deep in his own territory. There should have been an earlier pick as well, but Bortles got lucky and a Vikings defender dropped it.
Worth noting: Bortles bounced back from that near-pick nicely, helping the Jaguars rip off a 12-play, 85-yard drive that nearly ended with Bortles throwing a screen pass for a touchdown, then nearly ended with Bortles rushing in for a touchdown and finally ended in Leonard Fournette plunging in from the 1-yard line for a score. The issue for Bortles is the lack of consistency.
Maybe it’s a total kneejerk reaction to claim Jacksonville, who is coming off an AFC Championship Game appearance and nearly made the Super Bowl, should just blow up their plans. Bortles had a nice stretch during the 2017 season and made a few nice throws against Minnesota.
But Teddy Bridgewater looks like a starting NFL quarterback, and when you see Bortles make back-breaking mistakes, it’s a reminder the Jags have a great defense and potentially a small window with which to take advantage of their setup. They stood pat this offseason after doubling down on Bortles’ contract. There are a lot of people in that building heavily invested in the quarterback.
Objectively it would be worth considering a move to trade for Bortles and at least give the offense a second option if Bortles appears as if he’ll hold the team back significantly.
Roughing the passer is off the rails
The new Aaron Rodgers Rule, whereby defenders who “stuff” quarterbacks into the ground on a sack, or use all their body weight while falling onto the quarterback and get flagged for it, is going to cause serious issues. It popped up against the Vikings during the afternoon preseason game on Saturday and people were not happy about the call in question.
The Raiders are sitting everyone in protest (sort of)
Jon Gruden is not a fan of the NFL forcing the Raiders to play the Rams in a preseason game just a few weeks before the Raiders play the Rams in a regular season game. The two teams will match up in Week 1 on Monday night in Oakland, yet they met in Los Angeles on Saturday for a preseason game.
Gruden responded by basically benching everyone.
He’s got a point here in terms of the Rams being able to see what the Raiders want to do with their starters, but surely he wasn’t going to run the same gameplan against the Rams as he planned to run against them in a few weeks. He knows the Rams can still see his next preseason game (via the magic of television) next week, right? He would also get the advantage of seeing some of the Rams players in action, although Sean McVay also rested most of his starters.
Whatever, the point being is that there’s not a whole lot of action happening in the Raiders-Rams game.
If you would like two potentially interesting fantasy football takeaways from the first half, Rams rookie John Kelly looked pretty sharp while running as the third-string running back. He’s an interesting handcuff for Todd Gurley owners or just a deep sleeper for any team really.
And Jalen Richard was 2 for 2 for 31 yards early for the Raiders in terms of targets and receptions, flashing some athleticism in the open field. The Raiders might have too many bodies to give Richard a bunch of carries or even touches, but he warrants monitoring if only because of his explosion.
The Rams defense is going to be good, by the way. That’s a tough call considering they weren’t throwing all their starters out there and they were going against Connor Cook and EJ Manuel, but you can see how this unit will work out quite well when everyone is on the field and Wade Phillips is playing with the joystick.