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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has plenty of hype heading into this season, and his performance Saturday night won’t slow down the momentum.
Garoppolo looked fantastic against the Houston Texans in a 16-13 49ers loss. He threw an interception and while that pass was a little high, his receiver should have caught it. That was one of the very few mistakes for Garoppolo, who finished 10-of-12 for 136 yards. That came in basically a quarter of work; Garoppolo’s only pass of the second quarter was the deflected interception.
Garoppolo’s most impressive throw came on San Francisco’s first drive.
Garoppolo dropped back and the pocket started to collapse on him. Without a lot of room to step into his throw, he still was able to fire deep to Marquise Goodwin, who has reportedly been Garoppolo’s favorite receiver in 49ers camp. The throw was right on the money for 40 yards.
Garoppoolo had other nice plays. He improvised well to sling a fourth-down completion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk. He was patient on a 2-yard touchdown pass to Trent Taylor in the back of the end zone. Garoppolo was exactly what we remember from late last season: posed, accurate and he knew exactly where to go with the ball in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
The 49ers might have to lean on Garoppolo even more than expected early in the season. They have had some injuries at running back, including top-two backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida. It’s possible neither one is at full speed by Week 1. Garoppolo can carry the 49ers offense if he needs to. While the excitement over him and the 49ers since a five-game winning streak to finish last season has gotten a little out of control, San Francisco has every reason to be optimistic about its future with Garoppolo leading the way. On Saturday night, it looked like he was ready for the regular season.
The Dallas Cowboys did remarkably little to put quality targets around quarterback Dak Prescott this offseason, but Prescott might still make it work.
The Cowboys offense will rely heavily on Ezekiel Elliott running the ball and Prescott making the most of the inferior talent around him in the passing game. Prescott’s No. 1 receiver looks like third-round pick Michael Gallup, perhaps former Jaguars No. 2 option Allen Hurns, perennially underwhelming Terrance Williams or … well, who knows. The tight end position has gone from future Hall-of-Famer Jason Witten to Blake Jarwin and Geoff Swaim. Gallup had a 30-yard touchdown last week, but the Cowboys’ broadcast team pointed out that it was a happy accident because Gallup ran the wrong route.
Prescott showed in a 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals that he can survive by spreading the ball around. The Cowboys’ starting offense moved the ball pretty well against the Bengals with Prescott hitting many different players. Williams caught a touchdown from him on a third down. Prescott finished 10-of-15 for 86 yards in about a quarter-and-a-half of work. Prescott is a good quarterback and he’ll make it work the best he can without a truly dangerous target on the roster. The Cowboys didn’t have Tavon Austin or Cole Beasley available for the second preseason game, but neither of them will change the math of the offense. The offense’s foundation will be the running game, and Prescott will have to carry the rest of the load on his shoulders.
Bad Blake Bortles showed up on Saturday afternoon. The Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback is one of the wild cards of the NFL this season. The Jaguars have the talent to win a Super Bowl. But they need the inconsistent Bortles to be a little more reliable.
Bortles was off against the Minnesota Vikings in Jacksonville’s 14-10 win. He threw a pass early on that hit Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander in the hands but was tipped in the air and fell incomplete. He was baited by safety Harrison Smith and threw an interception right into Smith’s chest. Bortles had receiver Marqise Lee open down the sideline but threw it too wide and out of bounds.
Bortles did complete some passes, but only led one touchdown drive in a half of work even though the Vikings pulled most defensive starters early in the second quarter. Bortles does have his good moments – something his critics won’t easily admit – but the problem is he also mixes in bad games too often. The Jaguars know that can become an issue in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Rams 19, Oakland Raiders 15: An interesting situation played out in the Rams-Raiders game. The two teams will meet in Week 1 of the regular season, about three weeks from now. Since neither coach wanted to show the other anything, hardly any starters from either side played. Connor Cook started at quarterback for the Raiders and Sean Mannion started for the Rams. While it makes sense from a strategic standpoint, it stinks for the Los Angeles fans (especially those Raiders fans seeing their team in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the first time since the end of the 1994 season) who paid to see the game in the mid-afternoon August heat.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30, Tennessee Titans 14: It’s still a bit strange seeing Jameis Winston work as the Buccaneers’ backup quarterback. However, any talk about him not getting his starting job back when his suspension ends is ridiculous. Ryan Fitzpatrick has gotten the first two preseason starts because Winston is suspended for the first three games of the regular season. Winston was very good on Saturday night. He completed 13-of-18 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Winston came in and made a play right away, hitting Mike Evans for a nice 38-yard gain down the sideline. Then he threw a touchdown pass on a nice play as he bought time in the pocket, though the play was called back due to a penalty. Later he spun out of trouble in the pocket and threw up a pass that coaches probably won’t be thrilled with, but it was grabbed in the end zone for a touchdown. His next touchdown was more conventional, a perfect strike to Justin Watson. It will be a while before we see Winston play in a game that counts, but he still could have a nice season.
Chicago Bears 24, Denver Broncos 23: The Bears had a blooper when Mitchell Trubisky dropped a snap in the end zone and Broncos first-round pick Bradley Chubb recorded a safety, but they had positive moments on offense too. Tight end Trey Burton, a free-agent addition from the Eagles in the offseason, was very good with four catches for 45 yards from Trubisky. Burton scored a touchdown on a nicely designed misdirection play that left him wide open in the flat. The biggest negative was that second-year tight end Adam Shaheen was carted off with an ankle injury.
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers: With first-round pick Rashaad Penny sidelined for a few weeks after breaking a finger, Chris Carson has a great chance to solidify his role in the Seahawks’ backfield. Carson looked good against the Chargers. His best run was a 23-yard touchdown that was called back due to an illegal block, but it was a tough run through multiple tackles. Carson also lost a fumble at the goal line when he was hit hard, and that won’t help him.
• Texans fans should feel very good about what they saw from Deshaun Watson. Watson, who is coming back off an ACL injury, only threw one pass last week, a quick out. On Saturday he played one drive but was allowed to run a normal offense. Every pass he attempted hit a receiver’s hands. He was very sharp, completing 5-of-8 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. On one play he moved very well in the pocket and hit tight end Ryan Griffin downfield, a great sign as he comes back off his second ACL tear. It was a positive performance as Watson gets tuned up for the regular season.
• The Cowboys had a scare when All-Pro guard Zack Martin limped off a with a knee injury. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Martin will get an MRI but the team didn’t think the injury was serious, according to David Helman of the team’s website.
• Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense struggled against the Jaguars. Cousins was just 3-of-8 for 12 yards after playing well in the preseason opener last week. Cousins was under pressure often, and part of that was Jacksonville’s stellar defense, but it’s a reminder that the Vikings’ offensive line could be problematic this season.
• One highlight of a truly awful Rams-Raiders preseason game was Oakland rookie Chris Warren III, the son of the former Seattle Seahawks back. Warren, a 246-pound undrafted rookie out of Texas, looked great with 110 rushing yards. The Raiders’ depth chart at running back is crowded, and teams who need running back depth will be sure to rewatch Warren’s film in case the Raiders can’t fit him on their 53-man roster.
• Taywan Taylor isn’t the Titans receiver that gets the most attention, but he could have a very nice second season. Taylor took a quick screen from Marcus Mariota and broke loose for a 47-yard touchdown. Taylor added another short touchdown and finished with 95 yards. Taylor is mostly a slot receiver and will be a nice asset in what should be an improved Tennessee offense.
• Denver Broncos cornerback Case Keenum didn’t play well in very limited action last week, but he was better in the second preseason game. Keenum was 8-of-13 yards for 78 yards and a deep throw to rookie Courtland Sutton drew a long pass interference call that led to a touchdown. Rookie running back Royce Freeman also had some nice moments, including a touchdown in his second straight preseason game.
• If you missed our run down of Friday’s preseason games, click here for the Preseason Blitz, leading off with a Browns team that looks a lot different so far this season.
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