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We know Patrick Mahomes can throw it deep. Mahomes letting one fly all the way downfield will be a carnival trick in the NFL this season.
Mahomes also seems to have a good grasp of everything else he’ll need to do to succeed.
The Kansas City Chiefs‘ second-year quarterback had a strong, efficient outing against the Chicago Bears on Saturday afternoon. Assuming he doesn’t play the fourth preseason game, because starters rarely see the field next week, Mahomes’ preseason was a positive.
He misfired on a few passes in the second quarter that he’ll need to make when the games count, and the Chiefs will want to see him finish more drives with touchdowns. However, his final line looked good: 18-of-24 for 196 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Over the first three preseason games Mahomes is 31-of-43 for 367 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a 27-20 loss to the Bears. That’s a tidy 103.5 passer rating. The Chiefs traded Alex Smith in the offseason to give Mahomes a shot, and so far he’s looking good.
Mahomes’ rocket arm is his calling card – he showed it off when he overthrew Sammy Watkins on a deep throw, and when he threw a dart to Tyreek Hill as he was falling down – but arm strength alone doesn’t make a quarterback. Being able to make all the throws certainly helps, but quarterback is the most complex position in sports. Mahomes has shown a good grasp of it this preseason.
One play from Saturday afternoon stood out. The Bears came with a blitz from Mahomes’ right. They tried to disguise it, but the linebacker showed blitz a split second before the snap. Mahomes recognized it instantly, knew he had Kareem Hunt flaring out and lofted a nice easy pass over the defense to him. Hunt did the rest, taking it 19 yards for a touchdown. It wasn’t the breathtaking heave to Hill, which traveled 68 yards in the air, from a week ago. But it was a good read and the right throw, leading to a score.
There were other plays in which Mahomes looked in control. When he got time against a zone coverage, he hit Travis Kelce in the void of the zone – with nice touch and pace – for 26 yards. He rolled to his right and threw a bullet to Hill for 16. He avoided the rush when he had to, showing off his athleticism. All of his tools were on display.
The Chiefs’ offense won’t be predicated on the deep pass; Andy Reid’s scheme uses the short game to set up the deep shots. But having a quarterback who can throw it over mountains is certainly a weapon. As Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor pointed out, the deep pass might be even more important given the NFL’s new rules that limit defensive players.
Mahomes will be one of the most exciting players in the NFL this season. He has a great supporting cast around him, a good coach and a ton of physical talent (and, if the Chiefs’ defense against the Bears is an indication, Mahomes might be in plenty of shootouts this season).
Everything changes once the regular season hits, the pressure increases and the defenses get more complicated. But to this point, it looks like Mahomes can handle it.
The Pittsburgh Steelers looked great in a 16-6 win against a Tennessee Titans team that a lot of people like coming into this season. It’s just the preseason, but the Steelers looked ready for the games to count. Everything clicked, even with a couple of superstars sitting out.
Ben Roethlisberger, who didn’t play the first two preseason games, got in some work. He looked sharp, even with Le’Veon Bell holding out and Antonio Brown held out. Roethlisberger’s highlight was a 32-yard touchdown to Justin Hunter on a fantastic deep throw down the right sideline that dropped right into Hunter’s hands. He finished 11-of-18 for 114 yards.
The defense held the Titans’ starters scoreless. Marcus Mariota had just 43 yards passing by the time he took a seat late in the second quarter. The Steelers swarmed against the run and didn’t give the Titans much in the passing game. Safety Terrell Edmunds, the team’s first-round pick, had a nice interception off Mariota in the second quarter, another good sign.
The Steelers will be even better with Brown and Bell back in the lineup. Their final tune-up before the regular season was impressive.
If you have watched the Miami Dolphins this preseason to see how Ryan Tannehill looks in his comeback from a torn ACL, you’re still waiting for an answer.
Through three games, the Dolphins’ offense has been startlingly conservative. For the third straight game, almost everything Tannehill threw was short. Tannehill had completed 18 of 23 passes through two preseason games but it was almost entirely short throws. Tannehill’s longest completion through two games was 15 yards. When he finally threw one downfield in the two-minute drill against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night, he connected with running back Kenyan Drake – who has looked great this preseason – for 36 yards. It would be nice to see more of that from the Dolphins.
Tannehill’s outing was fine. He threw a 16-yard touchdown to Danny Amendola on a shallow crossing route, when Amendola made a defender miss. That was the first touchdown this preseason for Miami’s starting offense. Tannehill was 11-of-16 for 115 yards against the Ravens. Other than the pass to Drake, almost everything was a short attempt. He executed that well, but there wasn’t a lot to take from his performance.
Tannehill is entering a big year. He hasn’t established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, though he is paid very well. The Dolphins don’t have any other options on the roster, though if Tannehill doesn’t play well this season then Miami could explore options next offseason. We can’t know what to expect yet, based on the preseason.
Los Angeles Rams 21, Houston Texans 20: One thing that stood out about Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was how easily he was moving around. One play, which was called back due to a penalty, Watson scrambled right, then all the way back across the field to his left. The play didn’t count in a meaningless game, but his mobility looked like it’s back at 100 percent after ACL surgery.
Watson played less than a quarter, threw an interception on a deep ball he shouldn’t have thrown (and got hit hard by Ndamukong Suh in the process), and finished 3-of-6 for 15 yards. Watson looked great last week against the 49ers and is ready to go for the regular season.
Indianapolis Colts 23, San Francisco 49ers 17: The Colts’ offensive line struggled against the 49ers, in the run game and protecting the quarterback. Part of that is due to injuries. But right tackle Austin Howard looked bad giving up a sack on the first drive and was immediately benched for veteran J’Marcus Webb, who wasn’t even in the league last season. The Colts are looking at multiple options at right tackle, and settling down that position is important with Andrew Luck returning from shoulder surgery. The Colts are using a lot of quick, short passes this preseason, partially because that seems to be new coach Frank Reich’s preference but perhaps also because they want to keep Luck out of harm’s way. On a positive note, the Colts’ starting offense finally scored a touchdown, with Luck hitting Eric Ebron in the end zone one play after he scrambled and ran for 15 yards. Luck was 8-of-10 for 90 yards and a touchdown, and made some nice throws.
Jacksonville Jaguars 17, Atlanta Falcons 6: The Jaguars suffered what looked to be a big blow, when receiver Marqise Lee caught a pass over the middle and safety Damontae Kazee tackled him low. Lee’s knee buckled, and it seemed like a serious, ugly injury. Lee was carted off, and Kazee was penalized for lowering his head to initiate contact. Lee led the Jaguars with 56 catches last season, for 702 yards. He signed a four-year, $34 million deal in the offseason.
New Orleans Saints 36, Los Angeles Chargers 7: The Chargers have been hesitant to declare safety Derwin James, their immensely talented first-round pick, a starter for some reason. But James got the start on Saturday and on the third play of the game he picked off future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. James should be starting Week 1 and for many years after. The Chargers got a steal with the 17th pick.
• Kevin White sighting! White scored his first NFL touchdown, preseason or regular season, in the first quarter against the Chiefs. He put a great stutter-and-go move on Chiefs cornerback Orlando Scandrick to get wide open for a 29-yard score. It’s amazing it took that long for White to log his first score, considering he was the seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft. But White, a forgotten man as the Bears acquired multiple receiving threats this offseason, has drawn good reviews in camp. Even if White doesn’t play much of a role for the Bears this season, putting something good on film this preseason might be important for him next offseason when he becomes a free agent. It’s also possible White hits the market or is part of a low-cost trade at the end of the preseason, because seventh-round pick Javon Wims looked excellent again on Saturday and could squeeze White off the roster.
• 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made some very nice throws again. He threw some nice passes off play-action fakes to Pierre Garcon, and made one great throw to Marquise Goodwin on the sideline in the second quarter. The 49ers bogged down in the red zone a couple times, though Garoppolo had a third-and-short pass to tight end Brent Celek that should have been caught and might have ended up with a touchdown. Garoppolo finished just 9-of-19, but for 135 yards, his receivers had many drops and his best throws reinforced that the 49ers should feel good about him going into the season.
• The Bears’ decision to rest starters was interesting. Conventional wisdom is that starters play in the third preseason game, especially when a team has a young quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky) and a first-year head coach (Matt Nagy). But the decision might show that young, progressive coaches value getting to the regular season healthy over a few more preseason reps.
Sean McVay took a similar approach with his Rams the past two preseasons. Rams stars Jared Goff and Todd Gurley didn’t play Saturday and likely will not take a snap in the preseason. The Rams played only one offensive starter, guard Jamon Brown, in the so-called dress rehearsal before the regular season. It’s a new way of thinking.
• Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota looked OK in brief outings over the first two preseason weeks, but Saturday wasn’t pretty. Mariota and the Titans’ offense rarely moved the ball. He and Corey Davis miscommunicated on a play in which Davis was wide open but Mariota threw it well short.
In the second quarter, Mariota was scrambling around and made a terrible decision that was picked off by Steelers rookie Terrell Edmunds, who ran over Mariota at the end of the play, though Mariota made the tackle.
Mariota finished 5-of-8 for 43 yards in a little less than a half of work and the Titans didn’t score.
The Titans, with a new coaching staff, aren’t showing everything this preseason. And Mariota had some nice moments the first two weeks. Still, the Titans presumably were hoping his last preseason outing went better, not just for Mariota but the entire starting offense.
• Alfred Morris was signed off the street by the 49ers when they needed some running backs, and he might carve out a role. Morris looked good getting a majority of the work as Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida sat out with injuries. Morris had 84 yards on 17 carries against the Colts. The Colts’ defense isn’t very good, but Morris found holes and has a history with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan going back to their days together in Washington.
• Keep an eye on Colts rookie linebacker Darius Leonard as the season starts. The second-round pick flies around against the run and in coverage. He almost picked off Garoppolo on one red-zone throw, and broke up another pass from him. The Colts might have hit it big with that pick.
• The Ravens sat Joe Flacco and some other starters on Saturday night, at it’s worth noting that Robert Griffin III got the start over rookie first-round pick Lamar Jackson.
Jackson has struggled this preseason and the Ravens have a decision to make if they’ll keep Griffin, perhaps as Flacco’s backup while Jackson serves as the No. 3 quarterback.
Griffin went 9-of-15 for 66 yards in a half of work.
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