Second-year quarterback Justin Fields looked sharp for the Bears in his lone drive to begin the game, while Seahawks starter Geno Smith and the offensive unit struggled to pick up first downs in their first couple of drives.
In the early game Friday night, New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones overcame a shaky start and two three-and-outs to lead the offense on a second-quarter scoring drive against the Carolina Panthers before his night was over.
The Green Bay Packers topped the New Orleans Saints behind a roller-coaster night from rookie receiver Romeo Doubs, who had a touchdown catch but also a couple of drops. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, undrafted Rams wide receiver Lance McCutcheon had a standout performance for the second straight week.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the week’s games so far, along with the rest of the Week 2 preseason schedule:
NFL preseason game on Thursday, Aug. 18
Bears: The Bears’ starting offense saw limited action on a short week and was done after 10 plays in Seattle. Fields strung together an opening drive that culminated in a field goal — the first-team unit’s first scoring drive of the preseason — after he went 5-for-7 for 39 yards. Fields didn’t have more than three completions on any of his first offensive possessions in 2021 and threw for 39 (or more) yards on an opening drive only once (Week 6 against the Green Bay Packers), a sign that his execution and operation of the offense are coming along.
Trevor Siemian connects with Jake Tonges, who lunges past the goal line to score the 2-yard touchdown.
Fields is being pressured at one of the highest rates in the NFL (44% of his dropbacks) while Chicago is still trying to sort out its offensive line, notably with Teven Jenkins now in the mix to start at right guard. But we can already see the tendencies of this new-look Bears scheme take shape. The expectation of a heavy dose of play-action and bootlegs showed up Thursday with two of Field’s pass attempts coming on designed rollouts, including his 19-yard completion to tight end Cole Kmet. Last season, Fields had only 18 attempts on designed rollouts, and he completed 78% of those with two touchdowns. — Courtney Cronin
Next game: at Cleveland, 7 p.m. ET, Aug. 27
Seahawks: The Seahawks’ quarterback competition seems no closer to being decided after their ugly loss to the Bears. With COVID-19 sidelining Drew Lock for what would have been his first start of the summer, Smith had a chance to widen his lead but he didn’t do anything with it.
Seattle’s six full possessions (excluding the final one in the closing seconds of the first half) with Smith under center ended with five punts (three of them after three-and-outs) and a missed 47-yard field goal. Not that it was all Smith’s fault. He was victimized by three drops and several penalties. He also had Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf on the field for just one possession, then lost starting left guard Damien Lewis to an ankle injury.
Smith then watched the second half with an ice wrap over his right knee. Lock’s bout with COVID was a significant setback in his quest to overtake Smith, but Smith’s underwhelming night keeps the door open. Lock will need a strong showing in next week’s preseason finale at Dallas to convince coach Pete Carroll that he’s the guy — and he probably needs Smith to struggle again as well. — Brady Henderson
Next game: at Dallas, 8 p.m. ET, Aug. 26
NFL preseason games on Friday, Aug. 19
Patriots: After a shaky start with two three-and-out drives, quarterback Mac Jones (4-of-8 for 61 yards) ended on a high note as he led an 81-yard touchdown drive. It was the type of confidence boost — albeit against the Panthers’ backups — that Jones & Co. needed after a training camp filled with “growing pains” as they adjust to a “new offense.” Jones looked uncomfortable early (his accuracy was off) before settling down on his third and final drive. A 7-yard completion to Nelson Agholor was critical to convert the first third down of the night, and then Jones hit Agholor with a 45-yard bomb down the left sideline. That deep ball is what players say should show up more in the revamped offense. Last season, 41% of Jones’ pass attempts thrown at least 20 yards downfield were overthrown or underthrown, an off-target mark that ranked 21st in the NFL (league average 36%). Also, Patriots receivers ranked 25th with only 1.6 yards of separation on deep balls, per NFL Next Gen Stats. So the Jones-to-Agholor long hookup sparks promise for the team. — Mike Reiss
Next game: at Las Vegas, 8:15 p.m. ET, Aug. 26
Carolina’s Tae Hayes intercepts Bailey Zappe’s pass and returns it 50 yards for the touchdown.
Panthers: Left tackle Ikem Ekwonu was in the spotlight with the Panthers resting quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. Carolina saw both the good and the bad it can expect out of the sixth overall pick from the 2022 draft. He gave up two sacks on the second possession, magnifying the concerns over his readiness in pass protection. He also had several key run blocks, reinforcing why offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said Ekwonu can “block out the sun.” The inconsistency is why the Panthers would be better off keeping Darnold if they name Mayfield the starter, as expected. They are one hit from being down to the their second quarterback, and Darnold is more consistent than PJ Walker or Matt Corral, who took all the quarterback snaps on Friday. Corral did show improvement over his 1-for-9 performance last week, but left in the fourth quarter with a foot injury and is undergoing X-rays. — David Newton
Next game: vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m. ET, Aug. 26
Packers: Aaron Rodgers might just have to live with Romeo Doubs and his drops. The rookie receiver makes too many other plays. He did so again Friday night against the Saints with three catches for 24 yards and a touchdown. His other two targets, however, were drops — including a deep ball on the opening drive in which he appeared to get turned out or misplayed.
Rodgers expressed his frustration with the young receivers, although he lumped them into a group and didn’t mention anyone by name. But Doubs, a fourth-round pick, also had two drops and a touchdown in last week’s preseason opener at the 49ers.
In all, the Packers had four drops by first- or second-year receivers (the two by Doubs, one by Samori Toure on a well-placed deep ball and one by Amari Rodgers down the seam). Several drops would have been explosive plays, hurting Jordan Love‘s numbers (12-of-24 for 113 yards and one touchdown), but at least they didn’t turn into interceptions like they did last week.
“It’s not going to be perfect,” coach Matt LaFleur said about Doubs. “There’s going to be some lessons along the way. He’s a guy that is pretty resilient. He doesn’t get fazed by a negative play. He just keeps on playing. That’s what excites you about him. You see a guy with really good feet. He’s gotten really good in his transition. He’s got a burst. He’s been able to separate, which is something that’s tough to coach. Guys can either do it or they can’t. There’s stuff to clean up, for certain, but he’s a guy that we are excited about it.”
Doubs makes plays that not every receiver on the Packers’ roster can make. He perfectly timed a 4-yard fade for a touchdown catch, outjumping Saints safety Brian Allen. He caught a 17-yard deep out and had another 17-yarder wiped out by a penalty. At this point, Doubs is probably the Packers’ fourth receiver behind Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins — none of whom have played in preseason games. — Rob Demovsky
Next game: at Kansas City, 8 p.m. ET, Aug. 25
Saints: With most of the Saints starters sitting on the sideline for the evening, the specialists ended up being the stars of the show. Punter Blake Gillikin boomed an 81-yard punt and kicker Wil Lutz showed he was back from the injury that kept him out during the 2021 season, easily nailing a 59-yard field goal.
Nothing else came so easily to the Saints, with coach Dennis Allen pointing out they spent a lot of time shooting themselves in the foot, with the Packers scoring 10 points after a key Saints penalty and a fumbled snap.
It was also an up-and-down night for third-string quarterback Ian Book, who played the entire game with both Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton sitting out. Book had a fumbled exchange and was picked off when targeting tight end Taysom Hill, who slipped on his route. He threw one touchdown to rookie first-round pick Chris Olave and finished 16-of-28 for 113 yards. — Katherine Terrell
Next game: vs. L.A. Chargers, 8 p.m. ET, Aug. 26
Texans: It wasn’t a good showing for the Texans’ first-team offense, which struggled throughout the first half. The offense had six possessions and only scored seven points. The run game was nearly nonexistent as they ran for 34 yards on 10 carries. Quarterback Davis Mills went 10-for-17 for 96 yards with one touchdown, but 60 of those yards came on the only scoring drive before the end of the first half. None of the Rams’ impact defensive players were on the field either, so the Texans’ offensive struggles came against the Rams’ backups. The Texans’ two best offensive players in wideout Brandin Cooks and left tackle Laremy Tunsil didn’t play, but that’s no excuse to struggle how they did against the Rams. — DJ Bien-Aime
Next game: vs. San Francisco, 8:15 p.m. ET, Aug. 25
Rams: For the second week in a row, it’s wide receiver Lance McCutcheon who is the Rams’ top playmaker. Now, Los Angeles doesn’t play its starters in preseason games, but on Friday night, McCutcheon impressed anyway. The undrafted free agent finished with five catches for 96 yards. After McCutcheon’s performance in the Rams’ preseason opener (five catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns), head coach Sean McVay said there’s “certainly” a chance that McCutcheon makes the Rams’ 53-man roster to start the season. McVay said after that first game that McCutcheon “shined in a really big way.” It’s unlikely McVay’s view of McCutcheon goes anywhere but up after his Week 2 performance. — Sarah Barshop
Next game: at Cincinnati, 6 p.m. ET, Aug. 27
NFL preseason games Saturday
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills: 1 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts: 1 p.m. ET
Washington Commanders at Kansas City Chiefs: 4 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans: 7 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Las Vegas Raiders at Miami Dolphins: 7 p.m. ET
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings: 7 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 7 p.m. ET
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers: 10 p.m. ET, NFL Network
NFL preseason games Sunday