Preseason, fact checks from preseason NFL Week 2: Do the Steelers have a top 10 offense? Bucs settling on QB1?

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Thanks to the NFL dropping the preseason to three weeks, Week 2 of the exhibition schedule became a uniform rehearsal for the regular season (for some teams at least). Chiefs coach Andy Reid played Patrick Mahomes for a quarter and Mike Tomlin held the Pittsburgh Steelers offense in for a few stretches.

Bryce Young and CJ Stroud played longer than in their preseason openers, while Anthony Richardson didn’t play at all. The Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns did not play most of the starters as most of the work was accomplished in their joint practice.

Twenty teams had practices together in Week 2, which affected the work the starters got in the game itself. Even so, there was enough to explain a few developments from the show’s slate. Which one of these are overstatements and which ones are true?

Marcus Mariota should be replaced as the Eagles’ No. 2 QB

Pre-response or reality: Pre-response

Mariota has not been great in his two preseason games, showing sacks of receivers and questionable footwork that has led to poor quarterback play. A sandwich between Tanner McKee’s strong rookie preseason and Mariota’s inconsistency during training camp — adding to the conversation about whether the Eagles should trade Mariota for McKee as the No. 2 quarterback in the draft Eagles.

Philadelphia has five million reasons (Mariota’s salary for 2023) why that isn’t happening. The Eagles signed Mariota as the No. 2 quarterback so they wouldn’t have to change the offense if Jalen Hurts has to miss time. Mariota should also be preferred by the Eagles’ first team players (especially the offensive line) compared to the second team.

Mariota needs to be better, but his job is not in jeopardy.

The Steelers will have a top 10 offense in the NFL this season

Pre-response or reality: Truth

The Steelers offense has been very impressive in two preseason games, especially Kenny Pickett (9 of 11, 113 yards, 2 TD, 149.0 rating). This unit has plenty of talent to complement Pickett, starting with George Pickens and Diotae Johnson at wide receiver (backed up by Allen Robinson and Calvin Austin III). Pat Freiermuth is starting tight end and Najee Harris is starting running back with a very productive No. 2 in Jaylen Warren.

The offensive line is much better with the additions of Isaac Seumalo and Broderick Jones (not yet a starter). If Pickett continues to show his steady improvement, this offense is going to be a big contributor to the defense.

Of course it’s the preseason, but the Steelers’ first-team offense has the potential to be very good.

Pre-response or reality: Pre-response

Even though Taylor and the Colts are deadlocked on his contract situation (and his trade request is reportedly still there), there is still hope that he will play for Indianapolis this year. Taylor is still continuing his rehab from offseason ankle surgery and doesn’t appear ready to take the field, adding even more drama to the contract soap opera.

The Colts aren’t going to recoup Taylor for the highest salary in football and don’t seem ready to give him an extension right now. Maybe if Taylor gets on the field, he’ll get the contract he wants or he can present himself to teams hoping for a trade before the deadline.

Whether Taylor wants to or not, his best bet is to take the field and start for the Colts in 2023. There’s a chance he could be traded before the start of the season, but Taylor needs to show up and verify that it is healthy first.

Pre-response or reality: Truth

Although Todd Bowles will not name a starting quarterback yet, Trask may have worked his way out of the starting quarterback job in Week 2 of the preseason. Trask’s numbers were good (20 of 28, 218 yards, TD, 109.0 rating), but most of those stats were folded late when John Wolford had to leave the game with a neck injury.

Baker Mayfield didn’t enter the game to take snaps, Trask did. Mayfield didn’t play at all, along with some of the Buccaneers’ prominent starters on both sides of the ball.

Trask could have made the case that he deserved the starting job with better play in the first half, but Saturday’s preseason game seemed to reveal who the starting quarterback really is. the Buccaneers.

Pre-response or reality: Truth

Willis played the entire preseason game for the Titans this weekend, but didn’t do much to “earn” the No. 2 quarterback job. He finished 10 of 17 for 85 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a 67.0 passer rating. He missed a third down pass in the end zone while the yards per attempt was just 5.0.

Willis still has trouble throwing the ball, but he adds size to the running game (11 carries, 91 yards). Even with a year of experience, Willis hasn’t shown why he should be the No. 2 quarterback over Levis.

The Titans don’t have an option right now with Levis nursing a lower body injury, so Willis is the No. 2 quarterback. Levis needs to get more than 30 snaps and just throw the football consistently to put Willis from The Titans drafted him early in the second round for a reason.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba will win Offensive Rookie of the Year

Pre-response or reality: Pre-response

There’s no denying how impressive Smith-Njigba has been in the preseason, especially what he’s going to contribute to the Seahawks offense. Smith-Njigba had a 48-yard catch-and-run celebration that was a yard away from a touchdown (Seattle scored on the next play), with little separation from Eric Scott on the reception.

Smith-Njigba will be dangerous in the NFL in Year 1, but it will be difficult to put up consistent numbers with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf alongside him at wide receiver. This rookie class also includes Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, CJ Stroud, and Bijan Robinson – all of whom are expected to play big snaps and put up numbers for their teams. Jordan Addison and Zay Flowers are also in this class.

Is Smith-Njigba a dark horse for the award? Absolutely, but it will be hard for him to win.

Daniel Jones will throw for 4,000 yards this season

Pre-response or reality: Pre-response

Jones certainly has a better collection of weapons on the New York Giants this season, as evidenced in this past week’s preseason game. He completed 8 of 9 for 89 yards and a touchdown (a 4-yard pass to Daniel Bellinger), but what he could do with his passes showed that Jones could be more aggressive in 2023 .

Darren Waller is a big upgrade at tight end, while Jalin Hyatt showed the threat down the stretch that the wide receiver corps lacked last year. Parris Campbell is reliable in the slot and Isaiah Hodgins remains consistent. Darius Slayton remains a strong receiver while Jamison Crowder and Sterling Shepard provide excellent depth. Wan’Dale Robinson is also a promising extension from last season returning from injury.

Why can’t Jones throw for 4,000 yards? Last year was arguably his best season and Jones only averaged 200.3 passing yards per game on a career-high 6.8 yards per attempt. Unless Brian Daboll makes major changes to his offense to favor Jones, the quarterback likely won’t put up those numbers.

Jones would also need to play all 17 games and average 235.3 passing yards per game to accomplish the feat, the latter of which he never accomplished (Jones would have played all 17 games if the Giants have clinched a playoff spot by the last week). This all depends on how Daboll uses Saquon Barkley, but 4,000 yards passing is a stretch for Jones until his head coach proves otherwise.

It is more important not to turn football over and win games anyway.

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