Preseason doesn't matter? Eight players who helped themselves Thursday night

Yahoo Sports

Plenty of veterans sat out Thursday night, as the NFL preseason really got going with 11 games.

For the players who were in action, it was a chance to show the coaches why they belong on the team, or maybe move up the depth chart. Plenty of them took advantage.

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New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was probably the star of Thursday night, as the first-round pick made some great throws in his first NFL action. Since Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm covered his performance at length in the comprehensive Preseason Blitz, we’ll take a look at eight other players who stood out on Thursday night:

Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (32) scores a touchdown against the Panthers. (AP)
Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (32) scores a touchdown against the Panthers. (AP)

Chicago Bears RB David Montgomery

The Bears have options at running back. Tarik Cohen will catch a ton of passes, and Mike Davis had a bigger role (and did more with it) than you might remember for last season’s Seattle Seahawks.

But Montgomery, a third-round pick from Iowa State, will be tough to keep off the field. The burst he showed getting to the outside on a 7-yard touchdown run was eye-opening. Montgomery finished with 16 yards on three carries and three catches (on three targets) for 30 yards. It was a fine preseason debut.

Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill

This won’t quell any idea of a potential quarterback controversy in Tennessee. Marcus Mariota, who is entering a huge season in his career, completed 4-of-8 passes for 24 yards. Then Tannehill came on and completed 12-of-16 for 130 yards and two touchdowns.

One preseason game doesn’t matter much, but what if the former Dolphins starter outplays Mariota through all of August? It still probably wouldn’t change that Mariota will start Week 1, but the Titans might have a quicker hook for Mariota in the regular season if Tannehill is impressive through the preseason.

Carolina Panthers DE Brian Burns

The Panthers had to be thrilled when Burns fell to them with the 16th overall pick, and Burns showed right away he belongs on an NFL field. Burns had two sacks against the Bears in his preseason debut. He’ll be going up against tougher competition when the games count, but he’ll be a big part of a very talented front the Panthers have assembled.

New England Patriots WR Maurice Harris (and other Pats WRs)

The concern about the Patriots’ receivers might be fading. The buzz on Harris has been strong through training camp, and he carried that over with a nice 14-yard touchdown against the Lions. He also had a couple balls he had a chance to grab and couldn’t haul in, but overall the former Redskins receiver showed why he has been standing out in practice.

First-round pick N’Keal Harry is a physical presence, and he caught two balls for 36 yards. Undrafted Jakobi Myers continued to impress as well, with 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was a good night for that group.

Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler (and Justin Jackson, too)

It wasn’t all great for Ekeler. He did lose a fumble, and the Chargers don’t want that to become an issue. But overall, as Melvin Gordon holds out, his replacements looked just fine.

Ekeler had 40 yards on five carries and added 29 receiving yards on three catches. Jackson, a seventh-round pick last season, had 22 yards and a touchdown on five carries. It’s just a preseason debut, but these two backs have talent, and the Chargers shouldn’t be panicking if Gordon’s holdout is a long one.

Cleveland Browns CB Greedy Williams and LB Mack Wilson

The Browns might have some new defensive playmakers. Williams, the team’s top draft pick this year in the second round, picked off Washington rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. And Wilson, a fifth-round pick from Alabama, grabbed two interceptions. One came off Haskins (not a great night for the Redskins’ first-round pick trying to win a starting job) that he returned 40 yards for a score. Wilson had interceptions in three of the Browns’ four practices before Thursday’s game, according to

Broncos RB Royce Freeman

Phillip Lindsay came out of nowhere to make a Pro Bowl last season for the Broncos. But coming into this season, Denver wants to make sure Freeman, a third-round pick last season who dealt with injuries, is prominently involved in the offense. A 50-yard gain in the first quarter, in which Freeman showed a good initial burst through the line, will help his argument for more playing time.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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