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Hall of Fame Game: Tantalizing debuts by Najee Harris and Micah Parsons; Chase Claypool gets one snap too many

In the 2021 Hall of Fame Game, Najee Harris and Micah Parsons shined while Chase Claypool played one too many snaps.

CANTON, Ohio — Credit the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. They gave us plenty to discuss on Thursday [August 5], despite playing just 18 of a possible 44 starters. In this year’s edition of the Hall of Fame Game, two NFL rookies — Najee Harris and Micah Parsons — went head to head. And a gamble nearly bit Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in the backside.

Micah Parsons and Najee Harris flashed in limited action

Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons and Steelers running back Najee Harris became the first 2021 Day 1 picks to appear in an NFL game. Both went a couple of series and had a few impactful plays. But it seemed that Parsons had the better night of the two NFL rookies.

Parsons, the 12th overall pick, can absolutely fly and showed no rust in his first live action since 2019. He had a fumble recovery, and his pursuit blew up an end-around. But Parsons’ most impressive play came downfield when he tracked Diontae Johnson on what could have been a big play.

Harris — who went 25th overall in the NFL Draft and was the first running back off the board in April — was no slouch either. He showed his speed and power in his two series. Harris rushed 7 times for 22 yards, and on one of those carries, lowered his shoulder and knocked Parsons back.

Chase Claypool may have played longer than he should’ve

Tomlin gave Ben Roethlisberger the night off. But some of Big Ben’s top targets played, with nearly disastrous results.

Wide receiver Chase Claypool got shaken up while laying out for a spectacular catch and needed medical attention before walking off under his own power. Tomlin stated that Claypool was “OK” after the game.

Still, it was a scary few moments for both Steelers fans and anyone who drafted him in fantasy football. Claypool, who had 62 catches for 873 yards and 9 touchdowns last year, got banged up during Pittsburgh’s third series of the game. He comes in at WR30 in Pro Football Network’s fantasy rankings.

Yet, Claypool, who had 3 catches for 62 yards, wasn’t the only key Steelers receiver to play significant snaps. Diontae Johnson did too, catching both of his targets for 19 yards.

2021 Hall of Fame Game fantasy football tidbits

Here’s the pecking order at quarterback for the Cowboys — at least as of August 5. Dak Prescott, who is nursing a shoulder injury and didn’t make the trip, is of course atop the depth chart.

With Prescott out, Garrett Gilbert got the start and was sharp (9-of-13 for 104 yards). None of that was a surprise. This was, at least a little — Cooper Rush was QB3 ahead of Ben DiNucci. And that decision by Mike McCarthy seemed pretty smart based on their performances.

Rush wasn’t great, but he didn’t make any bad mistakes. DiNucci did, tossing an ugly pick to Donovan Stiner on a pass that was late across the middle. DiNucci finished the contest with a 33.7 passer rating.

Cowboys deep at receiver and Kalen Ballage scores a touchdown

The Cowboys are unfairly deep at wide receiver. Their No. 4 option, Cedrick Wilson, would start for a bunch of teams. He caught 2 passes for 29 yards but always seemed to get open.

Wait, that is Kalen Ballage? He sure looked like a different player than the back in Miami, rumbling downhill for the Steelers’ first touchdown of 2021. He’s the last running back listed on Pittsburgh’s depth chart, but a few more outings like this and that will change. Tomlin told reporters that Ballage did suffer a lower-body injury later in the game.

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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