Jets coach Rex Ryan managed to make the fourth preseason game meaningful for Michael Vick, and for an Eagles fan base that turned out to show their appreciation for their former quarterback.
On a night when most teams didn’t play their starters, or even their second-string players, Vick surprisingly was in the game for the Jets’ first offensive play against the Eagles. He was announced as the starting quarterback, and the fans gave a nice cheer. Vick handed the ball off, then Ryan called a time-out.
Backup quarterback Matt Simms ran out Vick’s visor to him – humorously presenting it like it was on a platter to him – and the fans got to cheer again as Vick waved to the crowd as he left the field. Vick’s five-year Eagles stint wasn’t perfect, but he rehabilitated his image and revitalized his career there. He came very close to winning the 2010 NFL MVP award with what was probably his best all-around season as a pro. He also became a leader of that team, which was a surprising development after his rocky Atlanta career, which ended with his conviction for his role in a dog-fighting operation.
It was a cool moment orchestrated by Ryan, which is one reason players consistently say they like playing for him. Ryan understood the moment perfectly, and also was willing to waste a time-out in an obviously useless fourth preseason game to provide a Philadelphia ovation for a player he has coached for less than six months.
The fourth preseason game is almost always entirely forgettable, but that was a pretty neat moment for Vick and the Eagles fans.
“Very classy,” Vick said during a sideline interview with the Eagles broadcast. “You never know what to expect when you’re the opposition, but it was very warm. I appreciate it.”
Most teams don’t play their starters at all in the preseason finale. The Giants figured their starters could use the work.
Coach Tom Coughlin has played starters in the fourth preseason game before, so it wasn’t just because the Giants’ offense has been rusty in August. But if the goal was to get the offense some confidence before the season starts, it didn’t happen.
Eli Manning was 1-of-4 for zero yards in New York's 16-13 win over New England. One of his passes was dropped by Rueben Randle. Manning finishes the preseason 14-of-34 for 145 yards. In preseason games one, two and four, he combined to go 2-for-13 for 6 yards. Not good.
The Giants have a first-year offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, who is putting in an offense with many West Coast principles. So far it isn't clicking. Rashad Jennings, who had 20 yards on three carries, has been a bright spot. But the passing game is still stuck in neutral. The Giants just need to hope that preseason results don’t matter.
A couple years ago, Matt Barkley seemed like a slam-dunk first-round pick. Not much has gone right since then, and it’s possible he was auditioning for his job on Thursday.
The Eagles’ quarterback couldn’t have felt too comfortable after the team acquired Mark Sanchez to back up Nick Foles this offseason. Barkley didn’t play great when given the chance as a rookie. The Eagles seem like they will probably keep three quarterbacks, with G.J. Kinne providing some competition for that spot. While it seems hard to believe Barkley might not even survive his second professional preseason, having a big game on Thursday night couldn’t hurt. And he played well in Philadelphia’s 37-7 win over the Jets.
Barkley completed 21-of-33 passes for 253 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also showed good awareness when the right side of the field opened up for him and he ran for a 7-yard score. He wasn't afraid to push the ball downfield, either. The former USC star still has a ways to go to establish himself as a future starter in the NFL, but Thursday was good for his job security.
Falcons 24, Jaguars 14: The big story was Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles looking good yet again, but another rookie in the game got a long look. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman got extended playing time, and did fairly well. He had 42 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, and five receptions for 45 yards. The Falcons will need him to be a big contributor if Steven Jackson misses any time.
Lions 23, Bills 0: Seriously, why was rookie Bills receiver Sammy Watkins playing? He aggravated his rib injury on a normal hit and it now seems like his status for the opener is in jeopardy. Bad. Just bad.
Bengals 35, Colts 7: Rookie Jeremy Hill is expected to be a big part of the Bengals’ running game. In the fourth preseason game, when most key players sit, Hill had 24 (!!!) touches before the third quarter was halfway done. He banged up his elbow in the first half … then the Bengals put him back in to ride him some more. What in the world was Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis thinking? The good news is Hill played well, with 73 rushing yards and 70 receiving yards.
Packers 34, Chiefs 14: The Packers might have uncovered a gem with receiver Jeff Janis in the seventh round of May's draft. Janis, who caught a touchdown in the second preseason game, had a 33-yard touchdown catch against the Chiefs, and also drew a long defensive pass interference penalty. He also returned punts and had a 61-yard kickoff return. The Packers just seem to always hit on receivers, don’t they?
Dolphins 14, Rams 13: Dolphins end Dion Jordan, the third pick of last year’s draft who didn’t do much as a rookie, had one very nice play that shows his potential. He strung out a running play, then when the back tried cutting it inside he got free and stopped the play cold. Jordan will miss the first four games due to a PED violation, but Miami have to be hoping it will be adding a productive end for its last 12 games.
Panthers 10, Steelers 0: Carolina rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin played, and played well yet again. He had four catches for 56 yards and all preseason has looked like he is ready to have a nice season for the Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton.
Redskins 24, Buccaneers 10: What will Washington do at running back when it makes cuts? Alfred Morris and Roy Helu are a solid 1-2. Evan Royster has established that he can play in the NFL. On Thursday, rookie Lache Seastrunk had an 80-yard touchdown on a screen pass, Silas Redd and Chris Thompson also had their moments. Redd rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown and Thompson had 18 ushing yards and 41 receiving yards. Running back-needy teams will be paying attention to the Redskins’ cuts.
Browns 33, Bears 13: Rookie Browns back Terrance West was expected to have a decent role behind starter Ben Tate, who needs to prove he can stay healthy. But West, who played his college ball at Towson, hasn’t looked good in his NFL transition. He had 13 yards on six carries and lost a fumble Thursday night. He finishes the preseason with a 2.7-yard average per carry. Even worse for West, fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell looked great. Crowell showed tremendous burst on a 48-yard touchdown, taking an inside zone run and blowing past the defense. Crowell finished with 102 yards on 13 carries.
Broncos 27, Cowboys 3: Denver’s fourth preseason game was once against the Brock Osweiler show. The presumed replacement for Peyton Manning played well against Dallas, completing 9-of-13 passes for 190 yards. The former second-round pick has been up and down this preseason, but it’s good for him to finish on a high note.
49ers 40, Texans 13: The competition to fill in for 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is important for San Francisco, and has been tight between Michael Wilhoite and rookie Chris Borland. While there have been signs Wilhoite leads the race, but Borland couldn’t have hurt himself with a 34-yard touchdown on an interception return on Thursday. The decision is big for the 49ers as they try to replace an All-Pro player as he recovers from a bad knee injury.
Ravens 22, Saints 13: Saints rookie receiver Brandin Cooks finished the preseason by adding another three catches for 30 yards. He caught five balls for 55 yards and a touchdown in the opener, and it was nice to see Cooks finish the preseason well. He’ll get a lot of targets this season.
Vikings 19, Titans 3: Tennessee can’t be upset with what it has seen out of rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger so far. He has put up good numbers every time he has played. He completed 35-of-51 passes for 505 yards in Tennessee’s first three preseason games. In Thursday’s finale he went 12-of-17 for 154 yards. Mettenberger lost three fumbles and had two interceptions in the preseason, and isn’t a polished product. But for a sixth-round pick (who played well last season at LSU before tearing his ACL) he has looked great so far.
Raiders 41, Seahawks 31: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson played four plays, completed 3-of-3 attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown. For the preseason he completed 33-of-42 passes. He’s ready for next Thursday’s opener.
Chargers 12, Cardinals 9: The Cardinals started rookie quarterback Logan Thomas, an intriguing athlete from Virginia Tech. But, like most of his college career, his ability didn't translate to results. Thomas was just 9-of-21 for 73 yards and the Cardinals did not score a touchdown.
• The biggest news of the entire night in the NFL was Oakland Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr putting on a show and perhaps winning the job as the team's starting quarterback for Week 1. But the Raiders as a whole looked good, not just Carr.
Behind Carr, the Raiders put together a touchdown drive on their first drive, against a Seahawks defense that played more than a few starters. Second-year running back Latavius Murray ran very hard on that first drive, getting 26 yards on four carries and he bulled into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. Keep in mind with Murray, Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden have had their share of health issues the last few years.
• The good news is Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater finished preseason with five touchdowns and no interceptions. But often, he didn’t make much happen. He had just 17 yards on nine attempts in Thursday’s finale. He had a very low yards-per-attempt in three of his four games, though in the second preseason game he was 16-of-20 for 177 yards.
• The Eagles might be giving the boot to their kicker. Eagles kicker Alex Henery, a 2011 fourth-round pick, missed two kicks this preseason. On Thursday, he didn’t get to attempt any. Rookie Cody Parkey got all three attempts and nailed them all, including a 53- and 54-yarder. When it was Henery’s turn to kick in the third quarter, special teams coach Dave Fipp told Parkey to take it because it was a longer attempt, according to the Philadelphia Daily News’ Les Bowen. Henery has just two field goals of 50-plus yards in three seasons, a mark Parkey matched on Thursday.
• Another quarterback who was drafted in the fourth round of last year's draft, Pittsburgh's Landry Jones, didn't do much in an extended audition. He was 14-of-18 for 97 yards, and the Steelers were shut out. While it likely that Jones stays on as the third quarterback, he'll have a couple nervous days.
• Teams have to cut down to 53 players by Saturday, and one of the biggest stories will be what the Rams do with seventh-round pick Michael Sam. Sam, a defensive end who is trying to be the first openly gay player to play in a NFL regular-season game, led the Rams with six tackles against Miami. He has made plays this preseason, showing why he was the SEC's defensive player of the year last year. But Sam still has a lot of competition to make the Rams roster, although he said after Thursday's game that he feels good about his chances.
"I'm very confident," Sam said, according to the Associated Press. "I'm going to sleep really well tonight and I'm very confident I'm going to be on a team, the Rams or any other team in the NFL."
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