Week 2 of the NFL preseason got under way on Thursday as arguably the two best quarterbacks in the league made their first appearance of the season.
Tom Brady led the New England Patriots in a 37-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in a rematch of February’s Super Bowl, while Aaron Rodgers looked like Aaron Rodgers in the Green Bay Packers’ 51-34 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Here are some takeaways from Thursday’s slate.
Tom still terrific
It doesn’t seem like turning 41 has made a bit of difference to Brady’s game as he looked in midseason form against the Eagles.
Somewhat surprisingly, he played the entire first half after sitting out the first week of preseason and led the Patriots on four scoring drives while on the field.
He completed 19-of-26 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns, with his only missteps coming on two incomplete deep throws which could have just as well been intercepted.
Otherwise, Brady was masterful as usual, taking what the defence gave him and showing good chemistry with familiar faces James White, Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan.
Though newcomer Eric Decker went catch-less and Philip Dorsett only had one reception, speedster Cordarrelle Patterson had a promising performance as he looked dangerous in space off screens.
Brady’s protection took a hit, however, as rookie tackle Isaiah Wynn suffered a torn left Achilles, which will keep him out the entire year. The Patriots were preparing to use Wynn as a regular at right tackle in the preseason, though starter Marcus Cannon – currently injured – is expected to return by the start of the regular season.
Still, losing Wynn hurts New England’s depth and puts more responsibility on veteran LaAdrian Waddle, who will now become the first back-up at both right and left tackle.
Birth of a new connection
It didn’t take long for Rodgers and Jimmy Graham to get on the same page as the duo connected for a touchdown to cap Rodgers’ only drive of the night.
The score came on a red zone play where Rodgers threw it up for Graham and let his big tight end make a play on the ball. If Rodgers continues to put his trust in Graham in the red zone, the connection has a chance to yield a lot of points for Green Bay this season.
Last year, no tight end had more targets (24), receptions (15) or touchdowns (10) than Graham in the red zone, while for Rodgers, he hardly threw to the position in that area of the field.
Graham is no longer a go-to receiver, but when the ball gets near the end zone, he remains an elite option thanks to his size and hands. That’s not something Rodgers has had from a tight end – at least consistently – in some time, and especially with Jordy Nelson now in Oakland, there should be more targets available in the offence.
Cross that Bridge
Darnold followed up his impressive debut in the preseason opener with a mediocre outing in Week 2 as his case to be the Jets’ starter was dented.
The rookie had moments where he looked every bit worthy of being a starter, but also had his hiccups, including a red zone interception. He finished 8-of-11 for 62 yards with no touchdowns and the one pick.
Teddy Bridgewater, meanwhile, continued to look like the best quarterback on the team as he completed 10-of-15 passes for 127 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Through two weeks of preseason, Bridgewater has thrown for 54 more yards than Darnold on six fewer attempts.
Teddy Bridgewater has been arguably the most effective @nyjets QB so far this preseason.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 17, 2018
Bridgewater has thrown for 54 more yards than Sam Darnold on six fewer attempts. He's also led the team to 20 of its 30 points. pic.twitter.com/K5zp1phlZG
Incumbent starter Josh McCown didn’t play against Washington and was on the field for just one series in the opener, so it’s unclear what the status of the starting spot is.
But in Bridgewater, the Jets have a quarterback who is still young (25) and full of potential. Whether or not he’s traded, Bridgewater has made a strong bid to at least get an opportunity, wherever he is.
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