NFL.com breaks down what you need to know from Week 1 of the 2021 NFL preseason. Catch up on each game’s biggest takeaways using the links below:
1) Jared Goff’s debut was familiar to those who watched him in Los Angeles. Goff completed 7 of 9 passes for 56 yards, connecting with shallow targets consistently while also proving what we already knew about him: He’s not one to thrive when on the run. Rookie Gregory Rousseau took Goff down once, and the Lions failed to turn an 18-play, 70-yard drive into anything more than three points. It’ll be an uphill climb for Detroit this season, but so far, they’re getting what they expected out of their new No. 1 quarterback.
2) With Zack Moss out of the action, the first half belonged to Devin Singletary. The running back racked up 42 yards on just eight attempts and capped off the half with a receiving touchdown on a pass from Davis Webb, who had a stronger first two quarters than Mitchell Trubisky, completing 6 of 9 attempts for 51 yards and a score. Webb carried his positive momentum into the second half, and thanks to the contributions of Singletary, he was able to get comfortable within Buffalo’s offense. With Singletary and Matt Breida in the mix, Buffalo has an interesting committee backfield that won’t be expected to be relied upon a whole lot, but can pack a punch when the ball isn’t in Josh Allen’s hands.
— Nick Shook
1) After wading in the abyss of below-average defense in recent years, these Falcons could look quite different on that side of the ball in 2021. Dean Pees is in as defensive coordinator and his changes were evident early Friday night. Pees dialed up pressure in the first quarter on third down, sending an “A”-gap blitzer which resulted in a sack, one of two for Atlanta in the first half. Preseason isn’t the best place to make grand personnel-based conclusions, but scheme changes can be seen even with backups on the field, where lesser-known players can emerge in a new system. Marlon Davidson looked much more engaged in the first action in his second season and fits well into Pees’ scheme, consistently causing problems in the first half Friday. Defensive back Jaylinn Hawkins was frequently in on the action, making key tackles and pass break-ups, and capping it off with a timely sack on a blitz just before halftime. The Falcons’ defense didn’t keep the Titans off the scoreboard, but they were flying around and playing with purpose. If anything, Atlanta should be more aggressive with Pees calling the shots.
2) Preseason is so often about taking advantage of the few opportunities afforded. Mekhi Sargent and Cameron Batson capitalized on their few chances Friday. Sargent received 16 carries in the game after Darrynton Evans hobbled off, gaining 58 yards. That total doesn’t jump off a stat sheet, but looked better than described on tape. And Batson made an excellent grab in the end zone on a back-shoulder throw from Logan Woodside for the game’s first touchdown, adding a reception to two punt returns for 25 yards. Woodside was largely sharp Friday, completing 10 of 15 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown while also dealing with frequent pressure from Atlanta. Titans fans will hope they never have to see him in the regular season, but Woodside proved he’s adequate if needed.
— Nick Shook
1) With Kyler Murray in street clothes looking on from the sideline, veteran Colt McCoy saw his first action with the Cardinals and might well be the ideal backup for head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. The former Texas standout, who was a hero of Murray’s, was accurate and comfortable leading the Cards’ up-tempo offense in the early going, completing 6 of 7 passes over three drives for 69 yards and a 107.7 rating. He also helped rookie wideout Rondale Moore (three receptions for 23 yards, two rushes for 16 yards) showcase his potential. On the negative side, McCoy’s time at QB shined a light on the team’s lingering offensive line issues. When McCoy wasn’t firing off throws right off the snap, he had little time before pressure came through. Over those aforementioned three drives, McCoy only led Arizona to three points, with a fumble ending one drive and sacks halting the two subsequent marches. Still, the 34-year-old fits in well with his fifth NFL team.
2) The highlight of the night for the Cowboys and their fans likely came in warmups when Dak Prescott , who’s nursing a shoulder strain, lofted a nice ball to Ezekiel Elliott before the two watched the game from the sideline. But another major concern for the Cowboys is transforming a downtrodden defense of a season ago. Defensive end Dorance Armstrong started a pair of games last year and could potentially start more this season, or at least up his contributions. Entering his fourth campaign, Armstrong wreaked havoc in the first quarter, tallying a pair of sacks and five tackles. The impact he can make for the Cowboys could be magnified depending on the severity of DL Neville Gallimore’s hyper-extended elbow that he suffered Friday. Whether Armstrong’s performance portends to improvement to come or merely was a result of a struggling Cardinals offensive line should be a key for both squads moving forward.
— Grant Gordon
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