Football is finally back. It may just be preseason action, but if you’re anything like us, it was refreshing to see National Football League game action for the first time since the final seconds ticked off the clock during Super Bowl 50 last February.
After a wild offseason, team’s are now in the phase of whittling down their rosters and fine-tuning their offensive, defensive, and special teams schemes. And in a league that is never short on action and storylines, the first week of preseason game action did not disappoint. With that being said, here are the top five takeaways from Week 1 of the 2016 NFL preseason.
1. The Chicago Bears could be in for a long season
The Bears could be in for an incredibly long and frustrating season if their opening preseason game against the Denver Broncos was any indication of how their 2016 season is going to play out. In fact, things were so bad for the Bears against the Broncos that we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Broncos emerge as one of the top contenders for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
For once, the Bears’ struggles on offense cannot be placed solely on the shoulders of quarterback Jay Cutler. Their biggest offensive issue was up front, where they gave up seven sacks and numerous quarterback pressures, paveing the way for their running backs to rush for a paltry 2.8 yards per carry. Defensively, the Bears made the Broncos’ offense, which struggled mightily to score points in 2015, look like a group that will be hard to slow down in 2016. Needless to say, the Bears have a lot to fix before the regular season opens in September.
2. The Dallas Cowboys may be fine at quarterback after all
History has proven that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo isn’t the most durable player in the league. And with Kellen Moore suffering a likely season-ending ankle injury early in training camp, there has been quite a bit of speculation as to whether or not the Cowboys will trade for or sign another established veteran quarterback before the regular season kicks off in September. That speculation ended in a hurry on Saturday night.
While it was only one game, rookie fourth-round pick Dak Prescott showed that he would be more than capable of filling in for Romo if he gets hurt. He proved that he could very well end up being the Cowboys’ future quarterback. In his first NFL action, Prescott completed 10 out of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns against a solid Los Angeles Rams defense. He will likely get extensive action in the team’s remaining three preseason games, and with similar performances he will lock down Dallas’ backup job for the foreseeable future.
3. The three quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft aren’t ready to play
The NFL careers of Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (No. 1 overall), Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (No. 2 overall), and Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch (No. 26 overall) all got off to rocky starts during the first week of the 2016 preseason. Goff went 4/9 for 38 yards and an interception, Wentz went 12/24 for 87 yards and an interception and also suffered a hairline rib fracture, and Lynch went 6/7 for 74 yards, but was sacked three times. It may not have been the debut each player was looking for, but fortunately for all three rookie quarterbacks, their teams aren’t going to force them into the starting lineup if they aren’t ready.
4. Braxton Miller may be the Houston Texans’ top offseason acquisition
This past offseason, the Texans went out and spent big money and used high draft picks on multiple players in an attempt to improve their offense. However, it may be Braxton Miller, a 2016 third round pick, who is a former college quarterback turned NFL wide receiver that’s the best of the bunch.
Former Ohio State standout Miller entered the Texans’ preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers buried on the team’s initial depth chart. But after his performance on Sunday night, we wouldn’t be surprised if the two-time Big Ten MVP isn’t Houston’s No. 2 wide receiver in 2016.
Running back Lamar Miller looked solid in his Houston debut, but Miller undoubtedly outperformed fellow rookie wide receiver Will Fuller, who was taken in the first round of the 2016 Draft, and quarterback Brock Osweiler, who signed a $72 million contract this offseason. While it’s still early, it looks like the Texans got a steal in Miller.
5. The AFC South could be one of the most competitive divisions in the league
There may be no legitimate Super Bowl contenders within the AFC South, but this could still be one of the most competitive and entertaining divisions in the league. The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts are the clear front-runners, but as we learned during Week 1 of the 2016 preseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans are both franchises on the rise.
The Jaguars, as we have been saying all offseason, have one of the most talented young rosters in the league, and the time has come for them to put up or shut up. The Titans, on the other hand, are still rebuilding, but they do have the pieces to sneak up and surprise a few teams in 2016. All said, this is one of the few divisions in the league where all four teams could conceivably contend for a playoff spot.