The New York Giants won’t play their second preseason game until tonight, but the weekend was full of action across the league. In case you missed some or all of it, here’s a few takeaways from around the league for preseason Week 2.
Quarterback Troubles Could Derail Defenses
As viewers of the 2016 New York Giants, it’s evident what a poor offense can do to counteract a great defense. While the Giants still made the playoffs last year, there could be two teams taking that to an extreme in 2017.
The first, clearly, is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Blake Bortles again struggled in his second start of the preseason, which led head coach Doug Marrone to claim the quarterback job was up for grabs after the game. Bortles’s competition is veteran Chad Henne, who when we last saw him was so bad it forced the Jaguars to give up on their plan to sit Bortles for a full year during his rookie season in 2014.
Jacksonville had all offseason to figure out the quarterback situation. Bortles is bad, but he’s not any worse than he was in March when free agency started or in April during the draft. The Jaguars are in a winnable division and ranked 12th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA last season. Then they went out and spent a ton of money on Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye in free agency. For those moves to pay off, the Jaguars might have to win some 10-7 score games.
However there might not be a more wasted defense than the Denver Broncos’. Last year might have been the best chance at taking advantage of a defense that ranked first in defensive DVOA for the second year in a row -- something that just rarely happens. Now the defense will be missing defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is now in Los Angeles. The Broncos are going with a redo of last year’s quarterback competition between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Denver desperately wants the first-round pick (Lynch) to beat out the seventh-round pick (Siemian), but Lynch has squandered that opportunity. As the starter in Week 2, he threw for 3.0 yards per attempt and somehow completed 69 percent of his passes (9-of-13).
The Broncos appear to be ready to give Siemian the job, which limits the upside and could keep the Broncos on pace for another 9-7 season.
Christian McCaffrey Is Already Running Wild
One of the pros for selecting Christian McCaffrey early in the draft was the versatility he can bring to an offense. Within the same drive and in the same personnel package he can line up in the backfield, in the slot, and out wide. He’s a matchup nightmare for opposing defenders and defensive coordinators.
While the Carolina Panthers are expected to expand the playbook a bit with McCaffrey in the regular season, the running back has already shown what he can do with just a vanilla preseason playbook. Against the Tennessee Titans, McCaffrey had a 17-yard touchdown run between the tackles, then later had a screen pass that went for 38 yards.
McCaffrey has shown his ability to make big plays when the ball is in his hands and nothing he’s done so far has come with Cam Newton at quarterback.
Oakland’s Defense Could Still Be An Issue … Except for Khalil Mack
For many, the Oakland Raiders are a popular pick as the team best suited to challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC. But a glaring weakness on the team last year was the defense. Against the Los Angeles Rams Saturday night, there didn’t appear to be reason for optimism.
Oakland’s defense made the Rams look like one of the NFL’s best units. Todd Gurley was able to able to run for 4.8 yards per carry on his eight attempts and there was a defensive breakdown that left Cooper Kupp wide open for a 28-yard touchdown.
The one bright spot was Khalil Mack, who probably should never be blocked by a tight end, no matter how many there are.
The Buffalo Bills Don’t Care For Tyrod Taylor
During the offseason, there were reports the Bills were debating on what to do with quarterback Tyrod Taylor before ultimately reworking his contract. Since that time, they’ve drafted another quarterback and traded away Taylor’s best and favorite wide receiver, Sammy Watkins.
Buffalo now looks to be running a quick passing offense that doesn’t highlight the strengths of Taylor’s arm or legs. He’s also behind an offensive line that was one of the worst in pass blocking last season, 30th in offensive pressure rate, per Football Outsiders.
A brief collection of pockets from some of Tyrod Taylor's first quarter passes last night pic.twitter.com/OilyfhJ9Ku— Dan Pizzuta (@DanPizzuta) August 18, 2017
This looked to be a bad fit for the quarterback even before Anquan Boldin announced his retirement Sunday night. Now Taylor’s top two pass catching options will be Jordan Matthews, who was hurt in his first pratice with Buffalo after his trade from the Eagles, and rookie Zay Jones.
If Buffalo really wants to build towards the future, Taylor could be an interesting trade piece for a quarterback needy team, like one of the two discussed above.