Week 2 of the NFL preseason kicked off with a trio of interesting games that provided more developments in the three-way Jets quarterback race, Tom Brady’s debut and an injury to the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Thursday’s games also featured the second chapter in the Packers’ backup QB duel, Mason Rudolph’s first start and more injuries to the Redskins’ running back corps.
Here’s what we learned from Thursday’s games:
New England Patriots 37, Philadelphia Eagles 20
1. Tom Brady showed midseason form, leading the offense to 20 points in the first half while completing 19 of 26 passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns and a 116.2 passer rating. James White garnered the majority of the playing time at running back, with Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson and Eric Decker mixing in as complements to Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan at wide receiver. If there’s a problem area on the offensive line, it’s right tackle. Filling in for injured veteran Marcus Cannon, first-round rookie Isaiah Wynn was forced out of the game with a left ankle injury of his own.
On the other side of the ball, rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley stood out for the second consecutive week. The fifth-round pick has a chance to enter the season as a starter next to Dont’a Hightower.
2. Nick Foles’ 2018 preseason debut didn’t exactly go as scripted. The reigning Super Bowl MVP was knocked out of the game with a strained shoulder, sustained on a strip sack that went for a Patriots touchdown early in the second quarter. A rusty Foles took three sacks and showed scattershot accuracy in his 18 minutes of action. He’s expected to undergo further testing Friday on the shoulder. It will be interesting to see which quarterback is under center for next week’s regular-season audition versus the Browns.
– Chris Wesseling
Washington Redskins 15, New York Jets 13
3. The Jets not only have the league’s most captivating quarterback battle, but also quite the conundrum for Week 1. Sam Darnold entered Thursday night’s game with a tailwind of momentum, the future of the franchise riding a wave of optimism after a promising preseason debut. By the start of the fourth quarter, however, it had become harder and harder to ignore the fact that Teddy Bridgewater has outplayed him for two straight weeks. Meanwhile, incumbent starter Josh McCown has played just one series this preseason, leaving his role a mystery. There might not be a more impactful preseason bout than next week’s crosstown showdown between the Jets and Giants.
4. Slimmed-down running back Rob Kelley has a new lease on life after entering training camp in a fight for a roster spot. After losing rookie Derrius Guice to an ACL tear last week, the Redskins saw power back Samaje Perine go down with an ankle injury Thursday night. Meanwhile, Kelley has started both preseason games and was the focal point of the first-team offense versus the Jets, touching the ball eight times before exiting.
Don’t sleep on undrafted wide receiver Cam Sims, who led the team with 75 receiving yards in the preseason opener. Sims had an up-and-down performance Thursday night, but showed tantalizing playmaking ability at 6-foot-5.
– Chris Wesseling
Green Bay Packers 51, Pittsburgh Steelers 34
5. Mason Rudolph didn’t have to wait long for his welcome to the NFL moment against the Packers. The rookie quarterback threw a pick-six on his first passing attempt of the game — a pass Packers cornerback Tramon Williams probably saw coming even before it left Rudolph’s hand. Rudolph’s only response was a rueful grin as he helplessly watched Williams zip 25 yards to the end zone.
After a solid debut last week, reality hit hard for the former Oklahoma State standout. Rudolph struggled to find rhythm and was hampered by inconsistent offensive line play. Outside of a 19-yard pass to Justin Hunter, Rudolph’s 5 of 12 passing for 47 yards was mostly of the dink-and-dunk variety. He’s still a contender for the Steelers backup QB spot (Mike Tomlin gave Landry Jones the night off), but Pittsburgh probably wants to see a lot more from its third-round pick next week.
Joshua Dobbs had a better overall game than Rudolph against the Packers’ second- and third-level defense. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 192 yards, 2 TDs and an interception.
6. Packers linebacker Reggie Gilbert put in quite a performance in his bid for more playing time in 2018. The third-year linebacker, who spent most of last season on Green Bay’s practice squad before a late-season promotion, tried to do his best one-man wrecking crew impersonation. Gilbert terrorized Rudolph for 2.5 sacks and recorded three tackles. He’ll need similar stat lines in order to challenge for regular-season snaps, but he’s looking very good to retain his roster spot.
7. How about those Packers tight ends? We got a demitasse-sized taste of what the Aaron Rodgers-Jimmy Graham combination will look like on a 8-yard TD pass, but there were a slew of other encouraging performances. Lance Kendricks caught a pair of passes for 28 yards, Robert Tonyan had two catches for 15 yards and a TD and Marcedes Lewis made a 23-yard catch. NFC North defensive coordinators, you’ve been warned.
– Austin Knoblauch