NFL preseason scores, schedule, updates, news: Watson strikes first in QB battle
Plus Christian McCaffrey flashes in debut, Devonta Freeman gets paid and more from around the league
Thirty teams get their preseasons started this week, with the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers kicking things off on Wednesday night. Get caught up on all the action, as well as the day's biggest NFL news, below.
Scores and schedule
Panthers 27, Texans 17 (GameTracker)
Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills , 7 p.m. Thu. (GameTracker)
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins , 7 p.m. Thu. (GameTracker)
Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens , 7:30 p.m. Thu. (GameTracker)
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots , 7:30 p.m. Thu. (GameTracker)
New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns , 8 p.m. Thu. (GameTracker)
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers , 8 p.m. Thu. (GameTracker)
Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears , 8 p.m. Thu. (GameTracker)
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants , 7 p.m. Fri. (GameTracker)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals , 7:30 p.m. Fri. (GameTracker)
San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs , 9 p.m. Fri. (GameTracker)
Tennessee Titans at New York Jets , 7:30 p.m. Sat. (GameTracker)
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams , 9 p.m. Sat. (GameTracker)
Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals , 10 p.m. Sat. (GameTracker)
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts , 1:30 p.m. Sun. (GameTracker)
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers , 8 p.m. Sun. (GameTracker)
Watson draws first blood in Texans QB battle
Two preseason games are in the books and, as is the case every year after 120 minutes of meaningless football, we are fully prepared to make sweeping generalizations.
Actually, the idea that Deshaun Watson deserves a legitimate shot at starting for the Houston Texans does not really qualify; Watson is a first-round pick for Houston, one who actually required two first-round selections in order for Houston to get him after a trade up in the first round of the draft. He is going to get a shot to beat out Tom Savage and he fired a strong salvo in the first game of the preseason.
Granted, Savage was forced to play against a dangerous Panthers first-team defense and Watson got to match up against backups, but it was clear who looked like the more comfortable quarterback. Savage held the ball too long and was sacked early -- the Texans' offensive line should be a major concern moving forward. Once the Panthers pulled their starters, the offense started to move and Savage would eventually lead the Texans to a touchdown.
Savagee was yanked after the first quarter and Watson came in to much fanfare in a location, Bank of America Stadium, where he's had plenty of success. The rookie was far from perfect, missing high on a slew of throws en route to completing 60 percent of his passes. But he made a lot of nice plays and noticeably checked out of plays in situations where the Panthers were bringing heat to provide more favorable open matchups.
The biggest buzz Watson got came late in the third quarter when he reminded folks of his ACC Championship style by sauntering into the end zone for a long touchdown run.
This is not intended to get the hype train rolling on Watson. Savage held his own after an initial surge from the Panthers. Bill O'Brien is not fond of rookie quarterbacks, although he has said Watson's further along than any other rookie quarterback he's coached, which is code for "I'm not opposed to starting this guy if I need to."
"Yeah he's a smart player, he's an instinctive player. First game out there, I thought he did some good things. It's a big jump, from college to the NFL and I thought he handled it pretty well," O'Brien said after the game. "Probably a couple things we could have done differently, he could have played better on a some of the plays, but I thought he handled himself pretty well for the first time out."
If you expected O'Brien to heap praise on Watson, you were kidding yourself. Watson gives the Texans a different level of athleticism, and he certainly has higher upside than a guy like Savage. Watson showed poise on the field, and while it's a little aggressive to anoint him right now, it is worth seeing what he can do against the Patriots as a starter in a preseason game in Week 2.
Worst-case scenario is it cools any hype. Best-case: you realize that Watson is the type of guy who can befuddle even the most brilliant of defensive minds. He already got Nick Saban once. Give him a shot at Bill Belichick.
McCaffrey can be great for Panthers ...
... if they use him right. There were flashes on Wednesday night, but all of the draws still gives me the a queasy feeling in my stomach. It's more than likely he will diversify the Panthers offense and that he's not going to be used in the regular season they way the Panthers have used him in the preseason, so it's way too early to get concerned..
Big Benjamin scores early
It has not been a very good 18 months or so for Kelvin Benjamin , who missed his second season with an ACL tear and then struggled through 2016 as the Panthers offense struggled to replicate an impressive 2015 season.
But Benjamin was back with a fury in the Panthers' preseason opener, skying high for a touchdown catch from Derek Anderson in the first quarter against the Texans to give Carolina a 7-0 lead:
Benjamin definitely looks a little, ahem, hefty. But if he can just be a dangerous deep threat who can high point balls like that all season, Carolina is going to have a dangerous offense.
Freeman gets paid
The Falcons made sure to lock up a big piece of their offense on Wednesday, inking running back Devonta Freeman to a new extension . That's great news for Freeman, who was concerned about getting paid as far back as last year's Super Bowl. It's also great news because he topped the current running back market, getting more than LeSean McCoy over the life of his contract.
But it's not great news for running backs as a whole:
The market for backs has just softened a ton in 2017, with the death of the feature back. Even Freeman has Tevin Coleman he's dealing with the backfield.
- The Cowboys could be without
for several weeks . He actually got lucky it wasn't worse, but that defense is thinning quickly.
- The Patriots are going to be terrifying this year on offense, and
injury situation continues to grow more and more ominous as it relates to his Week 1 status.
- The 49ers released veteran guard
's hamstring has been bothering him, hence his absence on the field for the Patriots.
- The Cowboys signed their punter to an $8.7 million extension.
- John Elway does not
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