Preseason Week 1 takeaways: QB Deshaun Watson returns to game action, QB Zach Wilson limps off

Watson was on the field for the first time since 2020, and Jets second-year quarterback Wilson suffered a knee injury. Here…

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The first full week of the 2022 NFL preseason commenced Thursday night, with the New England Patriots hosting the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens welcoming the Tennessee Titans to get the slate started.

Friday brought us a full five-game slate of games, beginning with a tilt between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions. The Falcons picked up a 27-23 win, as we got our first look at Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, who played three quarters. We also saw fantasy football darling D’Andre Swift score a touchdown for the Lions.

Deshaun Watson was on the field for the first time since the 2020 season, following an apology to the women who have accused him of inappropriate sexual misconduct during massage sessions, saying on the Cleveland Browns‘ pregame show that he was “truly sorry” to the women he had impacted.

The New York Jets will be holding their collective breath since second-year quarterback Zach Wilson exited the game after sustaining a non-contact knee injury.

We saw another pair of young quarterbacks in action, as the San Francisco 49ersTrey Lance made a brief appearance and the Green Bay PackersJordan Love was picked off three times but showed some promise.

Here are the biggest takeaways from Thursday’s and Friday’s games, along with the rest of the Week 1 preseason schedule.

Quick links:
Full schedule | Depth charts | PickCenter

NFL preseason games on Thursday, Aug. 11

Giants: This was exactly what the Giants’ offense needed after an up-and-down start to training camp. Quarterback Daniel Jones and the starting offense moved the ball well and probably should have reached the end zone, if not for a bad third-down drop by wide receiver Kenny Golladay near the goal line. Jones still finished 6-of-10 passing for 69 yards and ran for another first down. It should take any outside pressure off him even though backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor followed by going 13-of-21 passing for 129 yards with a touchdown toss to Richie James. Overall, the Giants’ offense and their quarterbacks showed signs that they’re headed in the right direction, and there is no need to make any rash moves or panic with another month to go before the regular-season opener in Tennessee. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: vs. Bengals (7 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)

Patriots: On a night when Mac Jones and most of the Patriots’ starters didn’t play, it was a chance to focus on the sideline and get a feel for the team’s unconventional coaching setup offensively. Senior football adviser/OL coach Matt Patricia called the plays for the first three series when Brian Hoyer was at quarterback, and then it appeared that offensive assistant/QBs coach Joe Judge was calling the plays when rookie Bailey Zappe entered at quarterback. Signs point to Patricia as the primary playcaller, but it was notable to see Judge also perform some of those duties in the preseason opener.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to do that,” Belichick said. “We’re going through a process.”

When asked who will call plays during the regular season, Belichick said: “Don’t worry about that. We’ll work it out.” — Mike Reiss

Next game: vs. Panthers (7 p.m. ET, Friday, Aug. 19)

Ravens: Tyler Huntley once again showed why he’s among the NFL’s top backup quarterbacks. Huntley was more accurate in the preseason opener than he has been all of training camp, completing 88.9% of his passes (16-of-18) and putting great touch on his 14-yard touchdown pass. He also converted a fourth down with a physical 14-yard run. The Ravens will always be at their best with Lamar Jackson (who didn’t play Thursday night), but they know they can remain competitive with Huntley. The Ravens extended their preseason winning streak to 21 games. “It means a lot to the culture, just to show that we’re a winning team,” Huntley said. “And we don’t care what kind of game it is, the Ravens are going to fight to get a win.” — Jamison Hensley

Next game: at Cardinals (8 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)

Titans: The Titans got a live look at Malik Willis with this surprise start against the Ravens. Willis played into the third quarter and completed 6 of his 11 pass attempts for 107 yards. His best throw was a 48-yard play-action pass to Racey McMath. The rookie’s 7-yard scramble for a touchdown showed that he can make big plays running with the ball as well. There were times when it was evident that Willis needed to speed up his process instead of holding on to the football too long. Even though he got the start, Willis is listed as the No. 3 quarterback behind Ryan Tannehill and Logan Woodside. He will get to build on his performance in joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the second preseason game next week. — Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Buccaneers (7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

NFL preseason games on Friday, Aug. 12

Falcons: The Atlanta Falcons wanted to get rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder significant snaps to start the evaluation process of their third-round pick. And while Ridder is not close to unseating Marcus Mariota as the starter, the Falcons got what they wanted. Ridder played three quarters, completing 10 of 22 passes for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns while also rushing six times for 59 yards. While the numbers won’t show it, Ridder looked more on-point early than most preseason practices — and his numbers were deflated a little bit by drops from receivers. There were a couple of bad passes — an overturned interception due to a penalty and another nearly picked off — but it’s a good first step for Ridder, who still has a ways to go offensively. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: at Jets (8 p.m. ET, Monday, Aug. 22)

Lions: Quarterback Jared Goff and the new-look offense played only the opening series but showed their potential with a touchdown on the opening drive capped by a nine-yard run up the middle by running back D’Andre Swift. Goff went 3-of-4 with 47 passing yards and appeared much more comfortable with his options, notably wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown — who made two catches for 29 yards on a pair of targets. Goff knows he has to prove himself this season to secure a long-term future in Detroit and got off to a strong individual start, even if it’s just the preseason behind an offensive line with high expectations this year. However, the Lions haven’t won a preseason game since Aug. 24, 2018 against the Tampa Bay Bucs in Week 3. — Eric Woodyard

Next game: at Colts (1 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

Browns: Quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s first appearance since the 2020 season was a rough one. Playing the entire first quarter, Watson completed just 1 of 5 passes for seven yards. With him at QB, the offense failed to generate a single first down. To make things worse, starting center Nick Harris had to be carted off the field after the second snap due to a knee injury. What happened before kickoff, however, overshadowed anything Watson did on the field. For the first time, he apologized to the women who have accused him of inappropriate sexual misconduct during massage sessions, saying on the Browns’ pregame show that he was “truly sorry” to the women he had impacted. Meanwhile, Watson and the Browns continue to wait on whether appeals officer Peter C. Harvey will extend Watson’s six-game suspension. — Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Eagles (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)

Jaguars: The Jaguars’ offense looked … functional. The first-team offense put 13 points on the board, scoring on all three of their possessions against Cleveland (one set up by a fumble recovery by Shaquill Griffin). Last year’s first-team offense didn’t find the end zone until the final preseason game, but Trevor Lawrence and tight end Evan Engram hooked up on a 9-yard TD pass on fourth down to cap the Jaguars’ third possession. Granted, the Browns were without five starters (including defensive end Myles Garrett), but the offense was efficient and committed no penalties. The personnel this season is markedly better, especially at receiver and tight end, and coach Doug Pederson is a major upgrade as a play-caller. It was an encouraging start. — Michael DiRocco

Next game: at Colts (1 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

Jets: The Jets’ entire season may have been altered in one horrible night, as QB Zach Wilson suffered a potentially serious knee injury in the first quarter. He left the game immediately. The team didn’t provide a diagnosis, except to confirm it’s a knee injury — the same knee he hurt last season. This would be a devastating blow for the Jets, who have built everything around him. Their backup quarterback options are Joe Flacco and Mike White. The coaching staff has ties to the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo, so he could be an option if the injury is season-ending. — Rich Cimini

Next game: vs. Falcons (8 p.m. ET, Monday, Aug. 22)

Eagles: One scary moment aside, Jalen Hurts‘ preseason debut couldn’t have gone much better. He went a perfect 6-of-6 for 80 yards in his one series of work, capping his night with a 22-yard touchdown strike to tight end Dallas Goedert. Fans held their collective breath — and coach Nick Sirianni lost his cool, screaming in the direction of the Jets’ sideline — when linebacker Quincy Williams decked Hurts out of bounds following a scramble. But Hurts popped up, dusted off his jersey and completed the scoring drive. Hurts generally took what the defense gave him underneath and mixed in some off-script plays, including a sprint to the right to extend the play before finding Quez Watkins for a 28-yard gain. If he can strike that balance between creator and distributor during the regular season, this Eagles team is going to be a handful. — Tim McManus

Next game: at Browns (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)

Cardinals: The Cardinals’ offense was able to score in the red zone, an issue last season, and the defensive line looked like it hasn’t missed a beat with new coach Matt Burke. But remember this name: Greg Dortch. The speedy wide receiver continued to make a name for himself with four catches for 53 yards. It was the type of catches that should land him on the 53-man roster. — Josh Weinfuss

Next game: vs. Ravens (8 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)

Bengals: The Cincinnati Bengals got another painful reminder about why good offensive line play is so important. Quarterback Brandon Allen, the team’s top backup, left the game after he was sacked on the first series. The offensive line had a shaky showing, particularly on the left side. That includes second-year player Jackson Carman, the lone projected offensive starter who played in the first half. Carman, who is still fighting to secure that spot, was whistled for a holding penalty. Cincinnati must be better, especially after allowing 19 sacks in four postseason games in 2021. — Ben Baby

Next game: at Giants (7 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)

Packers: The stat sheet won’t tell the full story on quarterback Jordan Love‘s performance. His three interceptions stick out, but upon closer inspection, it’s possible that none were entirely his fault. Packers coach Matt LaFleur called them “unfortunate interceptions” during a halftime interview on the Packers TV Network. “We had basically two drops, and then on the other one, we had two receivers run the wrong routes,” LaFleur said. “So I thought there was a lot of good. He moved the ball; he pushed the ball down the field.” Love, the third-year backup, played only the first half. He finished 13-of-24 for 176 yards with 2 touchdown passes to go along with his three picks. Tight end Tyler Davis let the ball bounce off his hands on the first interception, while rookie receiver Romeo Doubs allowed the ball to be wrestled away on the second. On the third, Love tried to hit receiver Amari Rodgers, but he was not open. Love did show improvement from last year in some areas. Both of his first-half touchdown passes — 33-yarders to Doubs and Danny Davis — were well-placed throws. Doubs, the star of training camp practices, caught three passes for 45 yards and the touchdown on seven targets but also had two drops. — Rob Demovsky

Next game: vs. Saints (8 p.m. ET, Friday, Aug. 19)

49ers: As coach Kyle Shanahan promised, quarterback Trey Lance did play in Friday’s preseason opener against the Packers. It was nothing more than an 11-snap cameo, but Lance offered a tiny glimpse into the potential the Niners believe he offers. He finished 4-of-5 for 92 yards with a touchdown and carried once for 7 yards. The highlight came on a 76-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Danny Gray down the left sideline. With neither team game planning or using many starters, there are no sweeping conclusions to make. But seeing Lance hit a deep touchdown outside the hashes is a good sign for an offense that has the fewest pass attempts outside the numbers traveling 20-plus air yards in the league since 2019 (77). — Nick Wagoner

Next game: at Vikings (7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

NFL preseason games on Saturday, Aug. 13

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Chicago Bears: 1 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Carolina Panthers vs. Washington Commanders: 1 p.m. ET
Indianapolis Colts vs. Buffalo Bills: 4 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Seattle Seahawks vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Miami Dolphins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7:30 p.m. ET
New Orleans Saints vs. Houston Texans: 8 p.m. ET
Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos: 9 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Los Angeles Rams vs. Los Angeles Chargers: 10 p.m. ET

NFL preseason games on Sunday, Aug. 14

Minnesota Vikings vs. Las Vegas Raiders: 4:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network


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