NFL - National Football League

08/17/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 08/17/2019 20:57

What we learned from Saturday preseason tilts

Saturday brought us a quintet of Week 2 preseason games that began in the Indianapolis afternoon and carried into the Honolulu night. Here's what we learned:

1. The Indianapolis Colts can sleep well knowing Jacoby Brissett can perform if Andrew Luck isn't ready for Week 1. Brissett looked stellar leading Indy's first-team offense Saturday versus most of the Browns' starting defense. The signal-caller did a marvelous job navigating a muddy pocket to find his targets. Brissett showed great accuracy, especially over the middle, going 8-of-10 for 100 yards and a touchdown for a 141.7 rating on three drives. He also added an 11-yard scramble for a first down. The QB's best two passes went to Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron. The first came on a fourth down when Brissett evaded a free rusher and slung a dart to Ebron for a first down for 16 yards. Brissett then threaded the needle with perfect ball-placement to Ebron in the corner of the end zone. Luck looked good warming up before the preseason tilt, providing some optimism he could be ready for the regular season. If he's not good to go, Brissett, a starting-caliber QB, showed once again he can hold down the fort.

2. The Browns offense once again flashed its depth in the preseason. Backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert looked good dicing up the Colts secondary in the first half, completing 13 of 19 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns for a 127.3 rating. The 28-year-old displayed plus accuracy and spread the ball around well to his targets. If Gilbert continues to perform as he did Saturday, he could force his way onto the roster as the No. 3 QB. Elsewhere, Cleveland's depth at the skill positions was on display. Rashard Higgins continued to lock down the No. 3 WR role. Undrafted rookie D.J. Montgomery flashed good hands, and great sideline-catch acumen, going for three receptions for 77 yards, with a long of 32 yards that set up a short TD. Reserve running back D'Ernest Johnson also displayed dual-threat ability, rushing 10 times for 53 yards (long of 15) and catching three passes for 26 yards and a TD. Johnson flashed wiggle out of the backfield and the ability to find open grass in the passing game. The preseason is about young players stating their case for roster spots. The Browns' brigade of green guys spoke loudly on Saturday.

-- Kevin Patra

3. Welcome back Delanie Walker. In his first game action since suffering a gruesome season-ending ankle injury in Week 1 of the 2018 campaign, the veteran tight end displayed his importance to Marcus Mariota. After a shaky first two drives for the Titans, Walker got open over the middle for Tennessee's first first down of the game for a 15-yard snag. Later in the drive, Walker beat coverage down the seam and grabbed a pin-point pass from Mariota for an 11-yard TD. It's easy to forget how much Mariota missed his security blanket last season. The duo looked like it hadn't missed a beat, which portends positively for the Titans in 2019.

4. It wasn't a crisp performance from the Patriots who played Saturday, but several youngsters stood out. On defense, rookie Byron Cowart got off to a raging start, bulldozing veteran guard Roger Saffold for a monstrous sack of Mariota on the game's first series. Later, third-rounder Chase Winovich played with his hair on fire, destroying Tennessee's backup tackle with a bevy of rush moves. A man with an endless motor, Winovich picked up five tackles, a sack, two QB hits, two tackle for loss, forced a hold, and added a bevy of other pressures. In the secondary, second-rounder JoeJuan Williams was stellar in coverage early.

On offense, left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who missed all of last season, played three series and looked solid. The LT anchored well in pass pro. He can improve in run blocking, but for his first appearance, it was positive. Receiver Jacobi Meyers continued to eat up corners off the line of scrimmage (6/82). Rookie running back Damien Harris got the bulk of the workload in the backfield and responded well in both the run and pass game, earning 14 rushes for 80 yards and four catches for 28 yards. Harris displayed great vision on a 20-yard scamper, toughness to power through arm tackles, and good route running to find free space. Backup QB Jason Stidham also continued his stalwart preseason, completing 74 percent of his passes for 193 yards and a beautiful arching back-shoulder TD.

-- Kevin Patra