Another group of preseason games is in the books after five matchups on Friday night, including the debut of 2016 versions of five playoff teams from 2015.
But teams capable of making the postseason usually see little point in risking the health of their superstars in the preseason, and that meant players like Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers watched from the sideline.
It’s hard to have too many takeaways from preseason games that feature an undrafted rookie from a Division III school starting at quarterback, but why not take our best shot anyway?
Highlights of the night
1. The Arizona Cardinals found a gem last year when the team drafted David Johnson, and he’s an even easier player to root for if you’ve watched Amazon’s All or Nothing. On Friday night, he had only three carries, but Johnson certainly looked like a player ready for a big sophomore campaign.
Poor David Amerson of the Oakland Raiders squared Johnson up but managed to get all of three fingers on the Cardinals running back. Pick this man in your fantasy draft, everyone.
2. The Carolina Panthers were the team that almost finished undefeated, but the Cincinnati Bengals were probably the second-best regular season team in 2015. They didn’t show signs of slowing on Friday either, with the first-team offense and defense looking stellar against the Minnesota Vikings.
3. Getting Robert Griffin III back to his Rookie of the Year form is a tall task for Hue Jackson, but Browns fans can at least be really optimistic about their first glimpse at what’s to come. It wasn't a perfect day by any means, but on his first pass in a Browns uniform, Griffin went deep down the sideline for a perfect connection. That's more than enough to whet the appetite of Cleveland fans.
That’s Terrelle Pryor, as in former Ohio State and Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Switching from quarterback to wide receiver is no easy feat, especially for a player who waited so long to do it, but a diving catch from the first-team quarterback is certainly a positive sign that the transition is coming along well.
4. One of the most fun stories of the offseason was Eddie Lacy’s weight loss pursuit using P90X. He entered training camp with the Green Bay Packers looking way lighter and more sculpted than ever, but how would that translate to the field for a player who made his name as a bruising back between the tackles?
Lacy never broke off a huge run or a touchdown, but he pinballed his way to 24 yards on only four carries. All in all, he looked a whole lot like vintage Eddie Lacy, and that’s a really positive sign for the Packers.
No need to panic
5. Ben McAdoo emphasizes taking care of the football, so he wasn’t happy that the New York Giants offense struggled to hold on to much of anything.
"It was a sloppy performance. Anytime you have six balls on the ground and two INT’s, it was not what we were looking for," McAdoo said. "We had six balls on the ground and two turnovers (via interception). I’m not pleased about any of that."
That’s a whole lot of not taking care of the football. But it’s really going to matter if Eli Manning, Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen are the ones turning the ball over, and they weren’t the culprits on Friday.
Ryan Nassib threw both of the interceptions, and rookie running back Paul Perkins dropped a handoff from Logan Thomas. A cleaner performance would be nice, but panic? Not even close.
6. The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is a scary unit, but the defense hasn’t been as strong. They addressed the problem by looking to defense in each of the first three rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft, but the group still looked like a problem against the Detroit Lions.
Allowing 12 of the Lions’ 19 third-down attempts to be converted isn’t a good sign, but the Steelers defense is a young group and should improve as preseason goes on. It’ll also help when stars like Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown aren’t on the sideline and are keeping the Pittsburgh offense on the field.
That doesn’t bode well
7. Margus Hunt has been the hugely-talented, developmental prospect up the Bengals’ sleeve for years, but the development hasn’t resulted in any on-field results. Now in year four, Hunt looks flat-out bored with the idea of finally earning play time. It might be time to cut bait with the former second-round pick and use the roster spot on a player with a better chance at turning potential into production.
8. SB Nation’s Dolphins blog, The Phinsider, described the offensive line as an "ugly mess" against the Giants on Friday. The optimistic side is that Laremy Tunsil hasn’t yet joined the starting unit and has to be considered an upgrade over Dallas Thomas, who struggled at left guard.
Offensive line has been an issue for the Dolphins for a while, and Ryan Tannehill was hit or pressured three times last night — a staggering number, considering he threw only four passes. Tunsil’s not the magic fix for the whole group, but it’d be a start.