NFL preseason Week 3 takeaways: Browns might have the defensive muscle to match their offense ESPN logo
Saturday, August 24, 2019

It's Week 3 of theNFL preseason, when we're supposed to get the most serious look at teams before the regular season begins. Unless, of course, you're playing on an 80-yard field in Winnipeg -- as the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers did Thursday -- and you sit the majority of your starters. Elsewhere, the Cleveland Browns' first-team defense had five sacks and pitched a first-half shutout,Daniel Jones continues to impress for the New York Giants, Tom Brady showed off his "speed" for the New England Patriots and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers was sidelined after an injury to his left foot.

We have all of that and more in the biggest takeaways and fantasy football nuggets of the preseason's third week from NFL Nation:

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Friday's games

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13, Cleveland Browns 12

Despite a team that features Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland coach Freddie Kitchens maintains that the strength of his squad is actually along the defensive line. That was on full display in Tampa, as the Browns starting front sacked Bucs quarterbackJameis Winston five times while pitching a shutout in the first half before giving way to the reserves. With Mayfield and OBJ, among others, Cleveland figures to have the offensive firepower to score with anyone in the league. If its defensive front dominates the way it did Friday, too, look out. -- Jake Trotter

The Bucs had protection issues in Week 2, but this was a nightmare, with the first-team offensive line surrendering five sacks of Jameis Winston in the first half. Last week's issues were more a function of busted protections and failing to account for extra rushers, but this week, the group was physically overpowered. "They got their asses kicked, one-on-one. Simple," head coach Bruce Arians said. "We haven't been like that all year so hopefully it's correctable." This was one of the worst games in recent memory for both starting tackles Demar Dotson and Donovan Smith, and Alex Cappa did not live up to the praise the coaching staff and front office bestowed on him in camp. Last week, it looked as if the issue was depth. Now it's clear this whole group, with the exception of Ali Marpet, is struggling. Granted, they might not face a front seven as good as this one in the regular season, but it's becoming more and more clear this will be their Achilles' heel. -- Jenna Laine

Buffalo Bills 24, Detroit Lions 20

Let's start with the positives. The Bills gave LeSean McCoy (six carries, 37 yards) and Frank Gore (eight carries, 57 yards) plenty of run in the first preseason game in which both backs were active. Isaiah McKenzie and Duke Williams each scored and have separated themselves as the final two receivers worth 53-man roster consideration. But you can't ignore the negatives. Tre'Davious White and Quinton Spain both left the game because of quad and ankle injuries, respectively, the Bills' defense allowed the first starting quarterback it has faced this season to complete 12-of-19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, and Josh Allen turned in his worst game of the preseason -- highlighted by an across-his-body interception graciously negated by a defensive penalty. The final roster is all but set, with difficult decisions coming at offensive line, linebacker, defensive end and wide receiver. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Matthew Stafford looked sharp in what probably will be his lone appearance this preseason (12-19-0-137, 1 TD), but any relief over how he played is overshadowed by what the Lions might have lost. Middle linebacker Jarrad Davis was carted off the field with what appeared to be a right foot/ankle injury and will have an MRI on Saturday, according to a source. Center Frank Ragnow appeared to injure his right knee and went straight to the locker room. The pair of former first-round picks were the anchors of the team's linebacking corps and offensive line -- two of the shakier groups Detroit has. If either one misses significant time, it could cause problems for the entire unit because of their individual roles. Detroit will have to adjust -- and fast -- if either injury ends up being one that keep the players out to start the regular season. -- Michael Rothstein

Thursday's games

New York Giants 25, Cincinnati Bengals 23

Daniel Jones keeps checking boxes. The rookie showed physical toughness and moxie in his first road preseason game. He lost a fumble on a sack, but followed it up by making some tough throws on a touchdown drive. The rookie took over the offense after one Eli Manning series. Manning went 4-of-8 passing for 41 yards, which resulted in a field goal. Jones one-upped him. He was 9-of-11 passing for 141 yards. He has completed an impressive 25 of 30 passes for 369 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions through three preseason games. -- Dianna Russini

It was a strong night for a few notable members of the Bengals' draft class. QuarterbackRyan Finley (fourth round) completed 14 of 20 passes for 155 yards. Rodney Anderson (sixth round) starred in his Bengals debut. He caught all four of his targets for 51 yards. And Michael Jordan (fourth round) started at left guard and appears to be the front-runner to hold that spot when the regular season starts. Even though first-round pick Jonah Williams will likely be out for the season because of a shoulder injury, Thursday showed reasons to be optimistic about this year's draft class. -- Ben Baby

Washington Redskins 19, Atlanta Falcons 7

The Redskins' offense received a boost from second-year back Derrius Guiceand the defense looked strong again. But the first three preseason games have not engendered a lot of confidence in the quarterback position. The Redskins just don't feel rookie Dwayne Haskins is close; he looks sharp on some throws -- and the long-range potential is obvious -- but they want him to master more of the offense and the nuances of the position. That's fine. The problem is, Case Keenum hasn't looked sharp. At times he moves the offense, but he sometimes forces plays that lead to mistakes. If Colt McCoy returns to full health, he'd likely get the job. But nobody knows when that will happen. Keenum needs to prove he's a worthy starter.-- John Keim

The Falcons appear to have a kicking problem. Giorgio Tavecchio, whom the team turned the kicking duties over to after saying goodbye to reliable Matt Bryant, missed a 39-yarder on his first attempt against the Redskins on Thursday night. It might not have been a concern had Tavecchio not missed two from 52 yards against the New York Jets last week, one of which was blocked and the other which sailed wide left. Tavecchio, who also missed a 54-yarder short in the Hall of Fame game against Denver, took ownership for the misses against the Jets and vowed to correct the problem. It's fair to wonder if it's worth bringing the 44-year-old Bryant back for one last run after he made 20 of 21 field goals last season, including a season-long 57-yarder. Tavecchio is due to make $645,000 this season. Bryant made $3.5 million total last season with a base salary of $1.1 million. Folks around the league expect Bryant to be on some team's roster after Week 1, since the veteran's salary in Week 1 would be fully guaranteed. Maybe the Falcons will revisit after the season opener at Minnesota, if it's not addressed now. -- Vaughn McClure

New England Patriots 10, Carolina Panthers 3

This starts and ends with quarterbackCam Newton's left foot. Yes, a lot went wrong for the Panthers in Thursday's loss to New England. The line gave up three first-half sacks, generated two first downs and 29 yards in the first half and 63 yards after three quarters. Rookie tackle Greg Little left in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. Some things went right too, namely first-round pick Brian Burns picking up his third and fourth sacks of the exhibition season. But Newton leaving after a sack at the end of the first quarter of his preseason debut with a foot injury is the headline. Backup quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Will Grier are inexperienced. The success of the Panthers depends on Newton, only now add a foot injury to the concern over whether his surgically repaired right shoulder will hold up. The injury didn't appear serious, but the 2015 NFL MVP didn't return to the field after leaving under his own power. He has a history with his left ankle, which he had surgically repaired in 2014. Is Newton becoming fragile at 30? Are the 1,221 hits he has taken since 2011, more than any quarterback during that span, starting to take their toll? Coach Ron Rivera said earlier in the week he'd be holding his breath if Newton got hit. He has to be holding his breath hoping that Newton is all right. -- David Newton

Tom Brady made his preseason debut, and though he finished 8-of-12 for 75 yards in three series of work, the highlight actually came with his legs. Brady joked this offseason about his slow speed rating in the Madden video game, and how he was faster than he has been in the past, then showed it (kind of) by lumbering to convert a third-and-3 with a 3-yard rush to move the sticks. That was a big play to extend what turned into a 15-play touchdown drive, culminating in fullback James Develin's 1-yard TD dive. Brady wasn't throwing to his full arsenal of receivers, as Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas and Josh Gordon (non-football injury list) didn't play, but he was efficient, as usual, leading the attack. The next time Brady takes the field will likely be the regular-season opener Sept. 8 against the visiting Steelers. -- Mike Reiss

Baltimore Ravens 26, Philadelphia Eagles 15

Thursday night made it clear -- the Ravens will rely on rookie receivers this season. First-round pick Marquise "Hollywood" Brown caught three passes for 17 yards, but this performance went beyond the numbers. Brown, who was making his debut after being brought back slowly from offseason foot surgery, showed the ability to get consistently open and great quickness in getting in and out of cuts. Miles Boykin, a third-round selection, continued a strong summer with a 44-yard catch. He used his size to break a tackle and his speed to burst up the sideline for extra yards. Starting quarterback Lamar Jackson was held out the third preseason game, but he got an up-close look at his playmaking targets. The Ravens' top three wide receivers on the roster are Boykin, Brown and Willie Snead.-- Jamison Hensley

Five days out of retirement, 40-year-old quarterback Josh McCown got the bulk of the snaps against Baltimore in a weather-shortened game and lit it up. He finished 17-of-24 for 192 yards with two touchdowns, including a beauty of a pass down the right sideline for rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside that resulted in a 20-yard score. Injuries to Nate Sudfeld and Cody Kessler this preseason prompted the Eagles to lure McCown out of retirement to, at least temporarily, back up Carson Wentz. Thursday's performance suggests he's up to the task.-- Tim McManus

Oakland Raiders 22, Green Bay Packers 21

First-year coach Matt LaFleur called an audible and yanked his starters over field conditions in Winnipeg, where the game was played on an adjusted 80-yard field because of bad spots in the end zones where the CFL goalposts are normally anchored. So any hope of seeing Aaron Rodgers in action went by the wayside. There's a good chance Rodgers will go into the Sept. 5 regular-season opener without any preseason action. On the plus side, he should be healthy as long as the back tightness that kept him out of last week's game doesn't flare up. The star of the night was WR/KR Trevor Davis, who made his preseason debut and did it all with five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, an 18-yard run on an end-around and a 17-yard punt return. Also, Tim Boyle made a solid bid for the No. 2 quarterback job with a pair of touchdown passes.-- Rob Demovsky

Good luck to Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock & Co. in getting something useful out of this tape. Besides leaving 24 players back in Oakland, the Raiders who did play did so on a short field. Yeah, divots in the middle of each end zone, where the CFL goalposts are positioned, made the field unsafe. The playing surface was limited to 80 yards, with each 10-yard line serving as the reconfigured goal lines. Maybe it's good tape for the Arena League, but the Raiders have some hard decisions to make with their final cuts. At least Keith Smith, who missed most of camp recovering from a torn meniscus in his knee, scored a touchdown on a 15-yard catch and run, serving notice to undrafted rookie Alec Ingold to slow his roll. And for what it's worth, Nathan Peterman got the majority of work at quarterback after Mike Glennon started and played the first quarter.-- Paul Gutierrez

Miami Dolphins 22, Jacksonville Jaguars 7

Rookie defensive end Josh Allen overshadowed QB Nick Foles' first game snaps in a Jaguars uniform with a dominating performance. He led the Jaguars with four tackles (two for loss) and also had two QB hits. During the first half he pressured Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick into a bad throw, beat veteran tight end Dwayne Allen for a tackle for loss, hammered Fitzpatrick as he threw the ball to force an incompletion, forced Fitzpatrick out of the pocket into a sack by Dawuane Smoot and dropped into coverage in the flat and tackled running back Kalen Ballage for a loss. He was the main reason the Dolphins' offense managed less than 50 yards in the first half. Though Allen played at the same time as defensive ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue early in the game, he didn't have those guys on the field with him in the second quarter and still made plays. If he's able to play close to this level in the regular season the Jaguars' defensive front could be as good or better than it was in 2017, when Campbell, Ngakoue, Malik Jackson andDante Fowler Jr.combined for 26.5 sacks. -- Mike DiRocco

Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the leader in the clubhouse for the Dolphins' quarterback battle all offseason, but Josh Rosen gave fans some reason for hope. He piloted a 99-yard touchdown drive in the second half in which he showed off his pocket presence, mobility, arm talent and decision-making. The biggest thing for Rosen is he's continuing to improve. Fitzpatrick had some struggles early but led a touchdown drive of his own. Fitzpatrick might end up the Week 1 starter, but Rosen looks like he will be ready sooner than later. That's good news for Dolphins fans. -- Cameron Wolfe

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