After teasing us with the Hall of Fame game, the first full week of preseason football officially kicks off on Thursday with a total of 24 teams in action.
For Week 1 of the preseason, the NFL‘s spotlight is going to be on the quarterback position, and that’s because nearly a dozen teams will be going into their first preseason game with some major intrigue at the position.
Not only will we see multiple rookies making their debut this week, including Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, but we’re also going to find out if there’s any rust on Andrew Luck or Ryan Tannehill. It’s been more than 500 days since either quarterback has played in a game, and both are in action on Thursday.
Keep reading for all the scores, highlights and takeaways from the first week of the preseason (If you click on the GameTracker links below, you can see all the stats from each game).
Scores and schedule
Panthers at Bills, in-progress (GameTracker)
Bears at Bengals , in-progress (GameTracker)
Buccaneers at Dolphins, in-progress (GameTracker)
Browns at Giants, in-progress, NFL Network (GameTracker)
Steelers at Eagles, in-progress (GameTracker)
Saints at Jaguars, in-progress (GameTracker)
Redskins at Patriots, in-progress (GameTracker)
Rams at Ravens, in-progress (GameTracker)
Titans at Packers, in-progress (GameTracker)
Texans at Chiefs, in-progress (GameTracker)
Cowboys at 49ers, 10 p.m. ET, NFL Network (GameTracker)
Colts at Seahawks, 10 p.m. ET (GameTracker)
Tyrod Taylor show us why he’s the Browns’ starter
Most viewers probably tuned in to watch No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield make his preseason debut with the Browns, but before Mayfield could take the field near the end of the first quarter, Tyrod Taylor provided a brief but loud reminder that the Browns’ starting quarterback job belongs to him.
Taylor,, was brought to Cleveland to be the team’s bridge starter until Mayfield is ready to take over. By the look of it, Taylor isn’t going to relinquish his grip on the starting job before the start of the regular season. Against an awful-looking Giants defense, Taylor helmed two series, the first of which ended in a punt, the second of which ended in the end zone.
In all, Taylor went a perfect 5 of 5 for 99 yards. His night ended with a 36-yard touchdown to tight end David Njoku.
It was a beauty. As you can see below, Taylor recognized that a linebacker in the middle of the field was assigned to cover Njoku in the slot. Due to the positioning of the slower linebacker, Taylor knew Njoku had the advantage as he sprinted up the seam. The linebacker tried to cover the distance between them, but with Njoku running vertical, he couldn’t stop the downfield route. That’s an easy read, one you’d expect a veteran like Taylor to make. And the throw was perfect.
Earlier in the game, on the Browns’ first series, Taylor connected with Jarvis Landry deep down the sideline for a 32-yard strike.
It’s only the preseason, but that might be the best quarterback play Cleveland has seen in, well, forever. And that’s why the Browns are happy to start Taylor before giving the job to Mayfield.
Mayfield impressive in debut, throws two touchdowns
After Taylor demonstrated why he’s going to be the Browns’ opening day starter, Mayfield reminded everyone why he went first overall in this year’s draft. Mayfield might not be the Browns’ starter yet, but he definitely doesn’t look like he needs to spend a significant portion of his rookie season on the bench.
In his preseason debut on Thursday, Mayfield took over for Taylor on the Browns’ third series of the game. He stayed in until midway through the fourth quarter. His final numbers were impressive: 11 of 20 for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and a 125.4 passer rating. He added 13 yards on the ground.
His first touchdown, which came in the second quarter, was impressive because you could see Mayfield work his way through his reads — from right to left and back to the right again — until he settled on Njoku in the back of the end zone.
His second touchdown was a dart on a slant that rookie Antonio Callaway turned into a 54-yard touchdown.
Mayfield wasn’t perfect, but he looked composed throughout the night, flashing the traits that made him the first pick. Here he is stepping up in the pocket in the face of pressure, maneuvering within the pocket, and eventually escaping to pick up a third-down conversion.
Here he is going back shoulder for a 26-yard completion.
And here is making something out of nothing.
To put it simply, Mayfield looks NFL ready. That doesn’t mean he won’t experience growing pains when he does see the field during a meaningful football game. That doesn’t mean we should make too big of a deal out of a Week 1 preseason game against the Giants. It just means that Mayfield looks like he belongs in the NFL. And that alone should be encouraging for Cleveland considering its history with quarterbacks.
Not every rookie can step in and immediately look like an NFL-caliber player. Mayfield did.
And now, it’s worth wondering: After spending eternity without one, do the Browns suddenly have two good quarterbacks?
Saquon Barkley gets off to big start against Browns
The game between the Giants and Browns marked the first time in NFL history that the top two picks from a draft made their preseason debuts against each other, and fittingly, the two rookies met up on the field before the game.
Of course, the biggest cheer of the night in New York went to Barkley, who started off the game and his NFL career with an impressive 39-yard run. On the Giants’ first play from scrimmage, Barkley showed why the team made him the second overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, when you get off to a start like that, things usually only get worse, and that’s what happened with Barkley. The running back only totaled four more yards on his next four carries before exiting the game after two offensive possessions. Barkley ended his night with five carries for 43 yards.
One player who didn’t help himself on Thursday was Giants backup quarterback Davis Webb. In the first half against Cleveland, Webb finished 8 of 20 for 70 yards as the Giants went three-and-out on three of his first four possessions. Webb took over for Eli Manning, who finished the game 4 of 7 for 26 yards.
Watson’s return short and sweet; Mahomes gets rolling
The one thing we learned from Deshaun Watson’s return to the field on Thursday is that his surgically-repaired knee definitely looks healthy. However, that’s about all we learned, as Watson was only on the field for one offensive possession against the Chiefs. On that one series, Watson handed the ball of to Lamar Miller four times and completed one pass for four yards on a drive that ended with a Shane Lechler punt. Watson will likely see a lot more playing time when the Texans host the 49ers next week.
As for Thursday’s game, Brandon Weeden did his best to try and start a quarterback controversy after Watson went out. Of course, Weeden’s never going to start over Watson, but he did look impressive against Kansas City. During his time on the field, Weeden went 9 of 11 for 97 yards and two touchdowns, a total that includes a six-yard TD pass to Jordan Akins that you can see below.
The Texans-Chiefs game also featured Patrick Mahomes’ first action since Andy Reid gave him the keys to the starting offense by trading Alex Smith. Although Mahomes put up decent numbers (5 of 7, 33 yards), he wasn’t able to move the Chiefs offense. During the two possessions that Mahomes was on the field, the Chiefs only tallied two first downs and they were forced to punt on both drives.
Kelvin Benjamin gets the last laugh on Cam Newton
The pregame situation in Buffaloon Thursday when Cam Newton decided to confront Kelvin Benjamin that the wide receiver made over the weekend. Basically, Benjamin said that he wished the Panthers hadn’t drafted him in 2014 and that he would have been successful over the past few years if he had been playing with any other quarterback.
Those comments led to this pregame meeting between Benjamin and Newton.
As it turns out though, Benjamin might have actually had a point, because he lit up his former team during a brief appearance on the field for the Bills.
On Buffalo’s first possession of the game, Benjamin spearheaded an 85-yard touchdown drive by catching four passes for 59 yards. Benjamin’s biggest catch of the drive came on a third-and-4 play when he caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Peterman.
He then celebrated the touchdown by doing a Lambeau-like leap at New Era Stadium.
Benjamin wasn’t the only Bills player who impressed on Thursday. In one quarter of action, Peterman went 9 of 10 for 119 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback’s only mistake in the game came near the end of the first quarter when he was picked off by Carolina’s Shaq Thompson.