To say it's a big season for Marcus Mariota is an understatement.
The Tennessee Titans quarterback is unsigned beyond this season, and the team added former Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill to push him. In three series Saturday night against the Patriots, Mariota went 6-of-9 for 63 yards and threw an 11-yard TD pass to Delanie Walker. Tannehill wasn't too shabby, either (7-for-11, 84 yards, 1 TD).
We have all of that and more in the biggest takeaways and fantasy football nuggets of the preseason's second week from NFL Nation:
The best news from the Cowboys after two preseason games? They are on their way home. After 24 days in Oxnard and Santa Clara, California, and Honolulu, the Cowboys return to Dallas knowing a little and still needing to find out a little. The good: Dak Prescott has not missed a pass in two preseason drives, including all five Saturday on the opening drive. The bad: The down-the-line depth of the roster has not been able to do much, and Mike White has not progressed as hoped in the backup-quarterback battle. But there might be good news on the way: DeMarcus Lawrence (shoulder), Byron Jones (hip) and Tyrone Crawford (hip) are closer to returning to practice for the first time this summer, and Sean Lee (knee) is closer to practicing in pads for just the second time this summer. -- Todd Archer
Rams coach Sean McVay left starters in L.A. and did not play several key backups -- including running back Malcolm Brown -- in Saturday's Week 2 preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii. Rookie running back Darrell Henderson made his first start and showed progress in his development. Last week, Henderson was eased into his NFL debut, and McVay noted that the third-round draft pick did some things well, but said there were subtle nuances that needed improvement. Against the Cowboys, Henderson rushed for 16 yards in six carries and showed his versatility out of the backfield as he caught six passes for 38 yards, including a dynamic, 26-yard reception on third down. -- Lindsey Thiry
Watson slings 4-yard TD to Hopkins
Deshaun Watson connects with DeAndre Hopkins for a 4-yard touchdown on the Texans' opening drive.
Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus has had a strong training camp and played well in his short stint on Saturday night with a strip sack of quarterback Josh Johnson. Mercilus had a down season in 2018, but defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said he plans to move the linebacker around a little more than he did a year ago in the hopes Mercilus can return to his form from 2015 and 2016, when he led the team with 19.5 sacks over those two seasons. The veteran's play could be even more important this season depending on the status of Jadeveon Clowney, who has still not reported to Texans training camp.-- Sarah Barshop
The Lions needed to see more from the offensive line than they did in the opener, when the group allowed nine sacks (mostly with their second and third units) and gave their quarterbacks no time to throw the ball or make any reads. Detroit got more against Houston, in part by playing at least some of their starting line into the second quarter. Joe Dahl, who appears to be leading the left guard competition, seemed particularly comfortable in run blocking. Houston's two sacks shouldn't be pinned on the offensive line, either. Josh Johnson (in the first half) and David Fales (in the second half) both held the ball for far too long on the sacks the line gave up. The improvement of the line is critical, considering Matthew Stafford is likely to play next week in the third preseason game against Buffalo after sitting out this week. With time, Detroit's backup quarterbacks looked much better. Fales completed 12 of 19 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown, potentially jumbling up the backup-quarterback competition between himself, Johnson and the injured Tom Savage. -- Mike Rothstein
Conner makes catch between his legs
James Conner bobbles Mason Rudolph's pass, but corrals it between his legs for the reception.
To hold Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense to a punt, a fumble and two first downs is a positive for any defense, in any setting. The Steelers should feel good about containing Mahomes -- who scorched this very defense for six touchdown passes inside Heinz Field last season -- in nine snaps of play, even if they were preseason snaps. Among the positives: Linebacker Mark Barron blanketed a running back in coverage, and safety Terrell Edmunds stripped running back Carlos Hyde for a fumble that safety Sean Davis recovered. The first-team defense had several impressive stops in the last week of training camp, and the momentum showed up in Week 2 of the preseason. Pass-rushers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree beat offensive tackles off the edge all game. -- Jeremy Fowler
Rookie running back Darwin Thompson deserves a better spot on the depth chart. Thompson was the third Chiefs back into the game against the Steelers, but he was the most productive. Thompson used his speed to rush for 30 yards on four carries to spark the Chiefs' only touchdown drive of the first half. He entered the game behind Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde, but Thompson adds another dimension because he's faster. Hyde didn't help his cause by losing a fumble. -- Adam Teicher
With Tom Brady and most of the starters on both sides of the ball held out, the most significant news for the Patriots was 2018 first-round draft choice Isaiah Wynn playing in a game for the first time since tearing his Achilles in August 2018. Wynn, who projects as the starting left tackle, played the first three series and had a notable block on Brandon Bolden's touchdown run. Wynn's Achilles has continued to respond well as the Patriots have gradually brought him along this preseason. -- Mike Reiss
The return of tight end Delanie Walker was a boost for quarterback Marcus Mariota, who targeted Walker two times. Both were completions, one of which was an 11-yard touchdown on a post route. Mariota also extended a play when he escaped pressure and threw a pass downfield to rookie wideout A.J. Brown. Brown drew a 27-yard pass interference penalty on the play to set up Mariota's 11-yard touchdown pass to Walker. Mariota ended the day completing 6 of 9 passes for 63 yards and the touchdown. -- Turron Davenport
Gilbert throws for 151 yards, 2 TDs
Former AAF quarterback Garrett Gilbert leads the Browns to a 21-18 win over the Colts with a 151-yard, 2-touchdown performance.
With Baker Mayfield sitting in Indy, Garrett Gilbert got the start at QB and delivered quite a statement in his attempt to win a spot on Cleveland's 53-man roster. Gilbert, who attended the same Austin, Texas, high school as Mayfield, completed 13 of 19 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns in only one half against the Colts. Gilbert was on his way to earning MVP in the Alliance of American Football before the league unexpectedly folded during its inaugural season earlier this year. He has carried a high level of play into the preseason in Cleveland, where he's looking primed to become one of Mayfield's backups alongside veteran Drew Stanton. -- Jake Trotter
Colts QB Jacoby Brissett had his best overall performance of the preseason on Saturday night, going 8-of-10 for 100 yards and a touchdown in three series against the Browns. He showed off his touch when he threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron in the corner of the end zone that only Ebron could catch. Brissett needed a game like this because he was inconsistent during training camp and didn't lead the Colts to a first down in three series against Buffalo in the preseason opener on Aug. 8. The Colts have said they have confidence in Brissett, who started 15 games for them in 2017, if starter Andrew Luck isn't ready for their Week 1 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Luck did some side-to-side drills in which he jumped over pads before the game Saturday. Colts general manager Chris Ballard said earlier this week that Luck, who has practiced only three times since April, was having a difficult time going side to side because of pain in his left ankle. -- Mike Wells
Allen accurate and sharp in Bills' win
Josh Allen goes 9-for-11 with more than 100 yards passing as the Bills handle the Panthers in their second preseason game.
Efficient offense and stifling defense defined preseason game No. 2 for the Bills, who built a 24-3 lead in the first half. Josh Allen fed Cole Beasley often, completing all five of his throws to the former Cowboy. Allen finished 9-for-11 for 102 yards and led a pair of scoring drives. Isaiah McKenzie (one catch, 37 yards) and Duke Williams (three catches, 38 yards, touchdown) seem to have surpassed Ray-Ray McCloud on the depth chart at wide receiver. Defensively, Buffalo's first unit dominated a Carolina offense missing Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey and Greg Olsen. Kevin Johnson's pick-six will stand out at the tail end of a week in which the Bills sent one cornerback to injured reserve (E.J. Gaines) and signed another (Captain Munnerlyn). -- Marcel Louis-Jacques
When recently asked what he's looking for in a backup to quarterback Cam Newton, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, "somebody who can win." Nothing Kyle Allen or Will Grier has shown through two preseason games indicates that either can consistently do that. Allen got the start Friday with the first team, minus running back Christian McCaffrey. He was a dreadful 4-for-11 for 32 yards, including two passes tipped at the line of scrimmage. Grier's second pass was intercepted and returned 70 yards for a touchdown. He almost threw another pick and finished 10-for-19 for 75 yards. It isn't unreasonable to think that Taylor Heinicke, who has been the forgotten man in this battle, might have earned a right to be considered after his fourth-quarter performance. As good as Newton has looked in practice at times and as much quality work as he got against Buffalo's first-team defense on Tuesday and Wednesday, he still hasn't faced live action as the Panthers remain cautious following his second shoulder surgery. Allen and Grier have gotten their chances, and as of now, the backup job has to be a toss-up. -- David Newton
Jones has up-and-down performance in second preseason game
Daniel Jones airs it out for 161 yards and a touchdown but loses two fumbles in the Giants' win against the Bears.
Preseason football has almost no real value to Bears coach Matt Nagy. Chicago announced about an hour before kickoff that 26 of its key players would not play a snap against the Giants, including quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and pass-rusher Khalil Mack. The Bears didn't even suit up rookie third-round running back David Montgomery, who probably won't play again until the regular-season opener versus the Packers on Sept. 5. Look for more NFL teams to follow Nagy's lead and hold controlled scrimmages during training camp, as opposed to risking injuries to important players in preseason contests. -- Jeff Dickerson
It was Eli Manning's turn to be perfect while rookie Daniel Jones had his ups and downs in his second game. Manning went 4-for-4 with a touchdown pass against the Chicago backups before giving way to Jones, who fumbled twice on his first three ineffective drives. But the rookie bounced back before he was done and feathered a perfectly placed fade to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown on his final possession. Overall, Jones finished 11-of-14 for 161 yards with a touchdown pass and two fumbles. It was enough to remind everyone that he still needs some work, but there is hope that he can be the star franchise quarterback the Giants envision. -- Jordan Raanan
Rosen throws for 102 yards in Dolphins' loss
Josh Rosen completes 10 of 18 pass attempts for 102 yards in the Dolphins' loss vs. the Buccaneers.
Josh Rosen got his first start with the Dolphins and another big opportunity to make his push for the starting quarterback job. He flashed his ability on a few throws while playing the whole first half and made a poor decision that should've been a pick-six. Ultimately, it was just an OK day for the young quarterback (10-of-18, 102 yards). Fortunately for Rosen, Ryan Fitzpatrick (3-of-9, 20 yards) did even less, other than running over a Buccaneers safety, in just over a quarter of action. Fitzpatrick has been the leader in the clubhouse all spring and summer, and nothing Rosen did Friday changes that, but this battle should still be up for grabs as we head into the all-important third preseason game. -- Cameron Wolfe
Offensive line depth is a concern right now, with the Bucs surrendering 11 quarterback hits and three sacks. Jameis Winston's sack on the opening drive was the result of a busted protection, which allowed Jerome Baker to rush completely unblocked (O.J. Howard ran to the flat). Bucs quarterbacks were under duress a lot Friday. No one has stepped up as a bona fide backup tackle -- Cole Boozer struggled mightily against Charles Harris and Tank Carradine, and Caleb Benenoch looked extremely inconsistent. On the other side of the ball, the defense made a nice stop after Andre Ellington's fumble (kudos to Deone Bucannon, Will Gholston and Beau Allen here). After dropping an easy interception in the first half, cornerback Jamel Dean got a pick in the end zone in the fourth quarter, and Shaquil Barrett, Kevin Minter, Jack Cichy, Devante Bond, Demone Harris and Patrick O'Connor all made key plays, so it was a much better night for Bucs backups on defense. -- Jenna Laine
Carson Wentz should not touch the field this preseason. The QB injuries are piling up for Philadelphia. Cody Kessler was knocked out of the game in the first quarter Thursday because of a concussion, one week after backup Nate Sudfeld went down because of a broken wrist. Coach Doug Pederson has been ratcheting up the intensity at practice to give the first team quality work in a controlled environment. He should continue on that path and keep Wentz out of harm's way until the regular-season opener against Washington. The Eagles will probably have to add another arm in the coming week with Kessler in concussion protocol. -- Tim McManus
QB Gardner Minshew needed a bounce-back performance after really struggling in the preseason opener, and he delivered: 19-for-29 for 202 yards in three quarters despite being under pressure from the edge pretty much the entire night. Minshew lost a fumble after getting hit (right tackle Leonard Wester got beaten badly) and saw a touchdown pass called back because of a block-in-the-back penalty by tight end Ben Koyack. Minshew also put together a solid two-minute drive at the end of the first half that resulted in a field goal, giving the Jaguars their first points of the preseason. Minshew was clearly much more comfortable than he was last week. He was decisive and got the ball out quickly, which are encouraging signs for the Jaguars --- who again sat the majority of their starters -- because they're counting on him to be the backup to Nick Foles. His performance Thursday pretty much cemented that. -- Mike DiRocco
Playing behind a makeshift offensive line, QB Sam Darnold opened with a TD drive for the second consecutive week. The tempo was fast, and Darnold was in command. It's early, but he seems to have a firm grasp of the new offense. Big concern: RT Brandon Shell injured his knee in warm-ups, becoming the third offensive lineman to go down because of an injury. Chemistry will be an issue in Week 1. -- Rich Cimini
There has to be concern about the offensive line during Matt Ryan's first appearance this preseason. Ryan was sacked three times and threw under duress too much while completing 10 of 14 passes for 118 yards. Ryan absorbed some good hits, something you never want to see in the preseason. Right tackle Ty Sambrailo didn't look like a starter, and backup center Wes Schweitzer, among others, had some issues. The Falcons are playing without two injured players who were thought to be on track to start: left guard James Carpenter (quadriceps) and rookie right tackle Kaleb McGary (heart procedure). Jamon Brown could start at left guard, and McGary, if healthy, should surpass the struggling Sambrailo at some point. -- Vaughn McClure
Rookie Ryan Finley made a strong case to be Cincinnati's No. 2 quarterback this season. The fourth-round pick out of NC State followed his preseason debut with another strong performance. Excluding a spike at the end of the first half, Finley was 20-of-25 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns. The rookie steadied the Bengals after a start riddled with miscues. He led Cincinnati's second unit on a 12-play, 93-yard drive that took 7 minutes, 36 seconds off the clock in the first half. From there, the team found its rhythm, as the visitors scored 23 of the final 30 points. Halfway through the preseason, the rookie has completed 75% of his passes for 259 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. -- Ben Baby
The Redskins hoped the preseason would identify their No. 1 quarterback, but after two preseason games, that hasn't happened. Colt McCoy can't yet play because of issues with his leg, and Case Keenum has been ordinary in two starts. He's still adapting to the offense and getting in sync with his receivers, but being in a competition makes it tougher to build that chemistry. Rookie Dwayne Haskins shows more big-play potential -- as evidenced by his 55-yard touchdown pass to Robert Davis. He isn't afraid to challenge down the field, but he also hasn't shown enough to seriously test more experienced players. But with what those players have shown, it's hard to believe Haskins won't be used at some point this season. -- John Keim
It might be too soon to say the Packers have a serious problem with their run game -- after all, neither Aaron Jones nor Jamaal Williams (both have hamstring issues) has played a snap in the preseason -- but the installation of new coach Matt LaFleur's outside-zone-oriented scheme has been rough. The Packers totaled just 7 yards rushing on seven attempts in the first half a week after they had only 38 yards in 13 carries in the first half against the Texans. That's 45 yards in 20 carries when the opponents were playing starters or key backups. Any hope that sixth-round rookie Dexter Williams could serve as a change-of-pace back looks bleak, given his inability to hang on to the ball (he dropped a pass and couldn't secure a handoff in which a fumble was charged to the quarterback). Tra Carson has been the starter in the absence of Jones and Jamaal Williams, but he's averaging just 1.7 yards per carry. As much as LaFleur's offense centers on the run game and what it can do for play-action, he needs to know if the lack of production is because he doesn't have his top backs or because the scheme hasn't taken hold. -- Rob Demovsky
Lamar Jackson continues to improve as a passer, but -- as the Ravens' starting quarterback showed and said Thursday -- he's still at his most dangerous when running with the ball. On third-and-10, Jackson saw his receivers covered and took off, faking out Tramon Williams in the open field before leaping over Jaire Alexander to reach the end zone. The spectacular 18-yard touchdown run was nullified by Willie Snead's illegal block, but that doesn't erase another highlight-reel moment that will keep defensive coordinators up at night. "The four-man rush gave me a lane," Jackson said, "and I just did what I do best." Jackson finished 6-of-10 passing for 58 yards, leading the Ravens to field goals on both of his drives. -- Jamison Hensley
Ryan: Cardinals' offense is boring to watch
Rex Ryan contends that Kyler Murray and the Cardinals' offense are going to get smoked in Week 1 of the season.
The Raiders' defense, with a cast of new characters headlined by middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, looks much improved -- or at least it did in this second preseason outing for both teams, with Oakland harassing No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray into a 3-for-8 passing night for 12 yards, and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner sacking the nimble Murray for a safety. In four series, the Raiders' starting defense let Murray run only once -- for 4 yards. In fact, Joyner's safety came on the third consecutive blitz dialed up by defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. At one point, the Raiders had outgained the Cardinals 231-12 in total yards. Also, rookie Josh Jacobs looks primed to be the Raiders' feature back, starting and carrying the ball four times for 21 yards on their opening touchdown drive with Derek Carr under center, as the Raiders' starting offense played only one series. -- Paul Gutierrez
Thursday night was one to forget for Kyler Murray. The rookie quarterback went 3-for-8 for 12 yards with a 4-yard run and looked out of sync in the four possessions he played, which went into the second quarter. He was flagged twice for false starts because of his clap snap and once for delay of game and went down in the end zone to avoid a sack for a safety. Although, yes, it's still the preseason, and the Cardinals are running a vanilla offensive scheme, there were some issues that Murray and the Cardinals need to clean up. -- Josh Weinfuss