NFL Preseason Week 1: Three Takeaways

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With a full slate of games this past weekend at NFL stadiums, it truly feels like the regular season is right around the corner. While the preseason records don’t matter much, there are key observations to be made about players and teams that will translate to the games that count. 

The New York Giants Will Be Aggressive Defensively

For the most part, preseason games are devoid of much of the strategy that takes place in a regular season NFL game. Teams implement foundational concepts and hope to execute them well in a game situation, but coaches are not usually looking to introduce exotic formations or high-level plays. It is usually more about evaluating how your own players fare against live competition rather than exploiting a weakness.

However, the Giants took a bit of a different approach in their preseason opener against the New England Patriots. They revamped their coaching staff during the offseason, who are looking to remake the team in their own image. One of those new faces is Don “Wink” Martindale, who took over as the defensive coordinator after having served in the same capacity for the Baltimore Ravens. Under their new defensive leader, Martindale blitzed the Patriots offense early and often, hoping to pressure them into mistakes. The best Giants teams in history have had a stout front seven, and Martindale is hoping to establish that identity here in 2022 as well.

It Might Be A Long Year For Justin Fields

It seemed like Justin Fields’ sophomore year be a step up for the former Ohio State star. Under head coach Matt Nagy, the mobile threat under center was relegated to archetype pocket passer, which did not fully utilize Fields’ complement of skills. A new regime would offer him a chance to show why Chicago traded up to get him in the 2021 NFL Draft. 

However, the Bears’ performance around Fields was shaky at best over the weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs. Most fans would want Fields to use his athleticism to get out of the pocket and make plays, but it may take a different form than originally anticipated. He might be running for his life as a makeshift offensive line tries to hold down the oncoming pass rush. The Chiefs brought Fields down twice behind the line of scrimmage, and were consistently in the backfield right after the snap.

Malik Willis’ Legs Are A Legitimate Weapon

A couple of intriguing rookie quarterbacks made their debuts over the weekend, including Tennessee Titans rookie signal caller Malik Willis. While it was expected that he might take time to develop as a passer, Willis’ scrambling ability was on full display against the Baltimore Ravens. He scored Tennessee’s only touchdown of the game on a seven-yard run to the side of the endzone.

It doesn’t seem like the Titans are too interested in moving on from incumbent starter Ryan Tannehill this year, but Willis performance could open the door for some creative play-calling in Tennessee. The former Liberty star could be used creatively by the team around the goal line, and could give defenses more than one thing to worry about with Derrick Henry also in line for carries. 

NFL Preseason Week 1 Results

Thursday, Aug. 11

Giants 23 vs Patriots 21
Ravens 23 vs Titans 10

Friday, Aug. 12

Falcons 27 vs Lions 23
Browns 24 vs Jaguars 13
Cardinals 36 vs Bengals 23
Jets 24 vs Eagles 21
49ers 28 vs Packers 21

Saturday, Aug. 13

Panthers 23 vs Commanders 21
Bears 19 vs Chiefs 14
Bills 27 vs Colts 24
Steelers 32 vs Seahawks 25
Dolphins 26 vs Buccaneers 24
Texans 17 vs Saints 13
Broncos 17 vs Cowboys 7
Rams 29 vs Chargers 22

Sunday, Aug. 14

Raiders 26 vs Vikings 20