While the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers opened the 2021 NFL preseason with their Hall of Fame game matchup last week, preseason really kicks off this week, as all 32 teams will be in action for Week 1.
It started Thursday night with two games, as first-round quarterback Mac Jones helped lead the New England Patriots past the Washington Football Team in his NFL debut while former first-rounder Dwayne Haskins was impressive as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles. Three more games take place Friday, with the Julio Jones bowl in Atlanta between the Tennessee Titans and Jones’ former team, the Atlanta Falcons, standing out. It’s highly unlikely Jones will play against his former teammates, but nevertheless.
Saturday is the big day this week, with 10 games. In the afternoon, the Denver Broncos will travel to play the Minnesota Vikings in a homecoming for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater, the Vikings’ first-round pick in 2014, played for the Vikings from 2014 to ’17 and is competing with Drew Lock to be the Broncos’ starting quarterback. The NFL’s two newest stadiums will also host their first games with fans, as the Las Vegas Raiders take on the Seattle Seahawks at Allegiant Stadium while the Los Angeles Chargers play the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.
The slate concludes Sunday in Indianapolis, as the Colts host the Carolina Panthers. We’ll get our first glimpses at how the Colts plan to replace injured quarterback Carson Wentz and what Sam Darnold looks like in a Panthers uniform.
NFL preseason Week 1 schedule
Standout performer: Steelers QB Dwayne Haskins: 16-of-22 passing, 161 yards, 1 TD
Dwayne Haskins won this battle of the preseason backup quarterback war with Mason Rudolph in the Steelers’ win against the Eagles. Haskins completed 16 of 22 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. He orchestrated two more touchdown drives and a field goal drive. Haskins had moments where he looked like the first-round quarterback drafted by the Washington Football team, like when he threaded the needle to Cody White for an 18-yard gain just before the two-minute warning, but there were other instances where he threw wobbly passes, sailed throws or appeared slow in his decision-making. Rudolph completed 8 of 9 attempts for 77 yards, but had promising drives stalled thanks to two holding penalties against Pat Freiermuth and Trai Turner and a 10-yard sack. The backup quarterback battle is still a long way from over, but on Thursday, Haskins did what Rudolph has not by getting the ball into the end zone. — Brooke Pryor
Next game: vs. Lions (7:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 21)
Jalen Hurts played two series and ended 3-of-7 for 54 yards (7.7 yards per attempt) with a 69.9 quarterback rating. The biggest thing coach Nick Sirianni wanted to see was an improvement in Hurts’ rhythm throws, and Hurts showed progress in that area, largely getting the ball out on time and with accuracy, particularly on the first series. He was the victim of a couple drops and missed on a deep throw to Quez Watkins that could have been a touchdown, but it was a decent preseason debut for Hurts, who will look to build on the performance when the Eagles host the Patriots next Thursday. Meanwhile, Watkins continues his push for a larger role in the offense. He showed off his jets on a 79-yard catch-and-run late in the first quarter on a pass from Joe Flacco. Watkins has been the Eagles’ offensive star this summer and might just end up in the starting lineup if he keeps it up. — Tim McManus
Next game: vs. Patriots (7:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 19)
Standout performer: Patriots K Quinn Nordin: 3-for-3 FG with a long of 50
Cam Newton started and played the first two series (leading one FG drive) before Mac Jones replaced him and played the next five series (two FG drives). Newton finished 4-of-7 for 47 yards and wasn’t helped on the opening drive when LT Isaiah Wynn whiffed on DE Chase Young on third down and put Newton in harm’s way. Meanwhile, Jones’ best throw might have been an incompletion, a beautiful deep ball to WR Kristian Wilkerson in the end zone that went off Wilkerson’s hands. Jones finished 13-of-19 for 87 yards, while mostly showing command at the line of scrimmage. Bill Belichick has said Newton is the starter, while leaving open the door for Jones to compete for the job when he shows he’s ready. The gap between them might be closing faster than Belichick anticipated. — Mike Reiss
Next game: at Eagles (7:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 19)
Defensive end Chase Young finished 2020 strong — and started this year the same way. He forced an incompletion when he turned the corner and pressured Cam Newton in what at first looked like a sack. Young also drew a holding penalty on a run and was in great position to defend a screen because he diagnosed it quickly. Young also made a nice stop using his speed on a second-and-20 run; on the play, he was blocked inside by the tight end but Young quickly got around him as the play went to the outside. The back cut up and Young dropped him for a 3-yard gain. He showed a lot of his skill: the ability to win off the edge; awareness on the screen and hustle for a short gain. He makes flash plays, but also a lot of little ones that make a big difference. — John Keim
Next game: vs. Bengals (8 p.m. ET, Friday)
Tennessee at Atlanta, 7 p.m. ET
Buffalo at Detroit, 7 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Dallas at Arizona, 10 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Miami at Chicago, 1 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Denver at Minnesota, 4 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Cleveland at Jacksonville, 7 p.m. ET, NFL Network
New Orleans at Baltimore, 7 p.m. ET
New York Jets at New York Giants, 7:30 p.m. ET
Cincinnati at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m. ET
Houston at Green Bay, 8 p.m. ET
Kansas City at San Francisco, 8:30 p.m. ET
Seattle at Las Vegas, 9 p.m. ET
Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams, 10 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Carolina at Indianapolis, 1 p.m. ET, NFL Network