NFL Preseason Winners and Losers, Week 3: Mitchell Trubisky, Baker Mayfield and rookie QBs make progress
The 2022 NFL preseason is officially in the books. That means the real football is just around the corner. However, which players and teams have made big strides forward (or back) in Week 3 of the exhibition schedule before rosters are finalized and preparations for Week 1 begin? Here’s a look at some of the key winners and losers from the preseason finals:
Winners: Veterans in QB competitions
Baker Mayfield was already involved in the Panthers’ top quarterback job, but he looked sharp on his 15 throws, got the ball moving and led a couple of hits. He also doesn’t have to worry about Sam Darnold lurking in the background, who sprained his high ankle on his own touchdown run. Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, Mitch Trubisky showed a stable touch behind a dodgy line at the start against the Lions, likely keeping him just ahead of rookie Kenny Pickett in the race for the QB1 duties. And Geno Smith’s solid if unspectacular performance for Seattle got him the job with the Seahawks.
Speaking of QB contests, the ex-Broncos gunslinger basically kicked himself out of his job during Seattle’s narrow loss to the Cowboys. His arm was active, of course, but at least two of his three picks were head scratches and Geno Smith again proved more reliable if unexciting, leading Pete Carroll to crown the former Jets starter his Week 1 man.
Winner: Mobile Rookie QBs
Who doesn’t love a young QB with legs? The Titans received more predictable but chain-moving juice from Malik Willis, who again overshadowed unpolished passes with big runs, including a 50-yard scramble for a near miss against the Cardinals. The Commanders let Sam Howell do all the QB work against the Ravens, and his courage made him the team’s leading rusher. Baltimore saw undrafted Anthony Brown Jr. fill the highlight role with his athleticism in the same game, perhaps earning a No. 3 spot behind dual threats Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley.
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Losers: The Patriots’ offense
They lost all of the offseason, to be honest, so their flop against the Raiders, losing 23-6, wasn’t exactly a surprise. On the other hand, Las Vegas has mostly provided backups, so that’s a real concern here. Mac Jones threw a bad pickaxe and the unit just couldn’t get into a rhythm. Maybe don’t let old defensive and special teams coaches develop your QB!
Winner: AFC South Rookies
Specifically, Dameon Pierce and Treylon Burks, who could have starting roles for the Texans and Titans respectively in Week 1. Pierce averaged over six yards per carry in Houston’s crowded backfield against the 49ers, while Burks came into the end zone after returning from an injury in the game against Arizona. The latter is probably more important for his team overall, but both youngsters could make or break their teams’ offenses.
Loser: The Saints’ offensive line
Not because they’re as porous as the Steelers’ transitional unit, but because rookie left tackle Trevor Penning, drafted specifically to replace veteran Terron Armstead, went down with a serious injury that required surgery and left him indefinitely keeps outside. Now there is even more pressure on Jameis Winston to stay upright as he recovers from his own injury.
If you request a trade days before the final cuts and enter your third season as an overlooked former second-rounder, you should at least show up in preseason. He did, rushing for 102 yards and a big score on seven catches against the Giants. Now it’s up to Jets Brass to determine if he actually belongs on the list, with a real role, way out there.