The first week of the NFL preseason continued on Friday night, with several notable performances from Jalen Hurts, Aidan Hutchinson, Travis Etienne, Trey Lance, and others. On the flip side, we saw the likes of Deshaun Watson, Jordan Love, and the Lions’ defense struggle.
Preseason Week 1 winners and losers | Friday edition
Let’s start with the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions, with Hutchinson stealing the show for the Lions and Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder turning some heads.
Winner: Lions rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson
The second overall pick of the 2022 NFL draft and a former Michigan All-American playing for his hometown team, Hutchinson was as advertised during his NFL debut for the Lions.
The athletic rookie chased the football relentlessly and proved to be disruptive at the line of scrimmage. Hutchinson executed a crisp swim move to burst past Falcons veteran left offensive tackle Jake Matthews to slam running back Qadree Ollison in the backfield for a tackle for a loss.
Starting with an impressive “Billy Jean” rendition on Hard Knocks and now this, Hutchinson is energizing the Lions’ fan base.
Winner: Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder
A rookie from Cincinnati, Ridder showed off his mobility. A dual-threat quarterback still gaining polish as a passer, Ridder attacked the perimeter as a scrambler. He rushed for 59 yards on six carries.
He also passed for two touchdowns, but needs work on his accuracy, going 10 for 22 for 103 yards. Marcus Mariota is likely going to remain the starter for now until Ridder is ready for a starting job.
Loser: Lions’ defense
The Lions had trouble keeping containment and setting the edge as Ridder and Mariota both gave them trouble, including a touchdown run by Mariota around the left side.
A roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Jarrad Davis nullified an interception for corner Bobby Price. And rookie safety Kerby Joseph got beat on a Ridder touchdown pass to tight end Parker Hesse.
Loser: Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson
In the middle of a huge controversy and facing the prospect of potential banishment from the NFL, Watson was also shedding the rust accumulated from not playing in 2021 after requesting a trade from the Texans.
Watson overthrew wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, and he threw short on a misfire to Donovan People-Jones. He completed 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards and a 39.6 passer rating while being booed by the Jaguars’ fans and subjected to obscene chants.
While Schwartz dropped two passes in three series played by Watson, there were no first downs and a fumble by running back D’Ernest Johnson before he was replaced by Josh Dobbs.
In fairness, Watson wasn’t playing with wide receiver Amari Cooper or running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Even with them, though, it’s hard to say the results would have been much better. He hadn’t played in a game since Jan. 3, 2021 with the Texans, and the inactivity showed.
Before the game, the Browns released a video of Watson, who expressed remorse for his actions. More details on that can be found by clicking here to jump to the bottom of this article.
Winner: Browns’ young players
Rookie cornerback Martin Emerson, a 6-foot-2, long-armed defensive back, muscled the football away from Jeff Cotton to pick off C.J. Beathard and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.
Running back Jerome Ford rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass. He gained 47 yards on 10 carries.
Defensive end Isaiah Thomas proved to be a difficult blocking assignment, recording two sacks and three tackles.
Winner: Jaguars’ Travis Etienne
Etienne, a first-round draft pick from Clemson a year ago, missed his entire rookie season with a foot injury. Now, Etienne is back and showing that he has made a full recovery and regained trust in his surgically repaired foot.
Etienne looked quick and decisive. The statistics weren’t impressive — nine runs for 23 yards and one catch for 10 yards — but he looked good and healthy.
Loser: Packers quarterback Jordan Love
Love had an up-and-down night against the San Francisco 49ers. He was intercepted three times, twice by 49ers defensive back Samuel Womack.
Love had a pair of touchdowns, but Aaron Rodgers’ backup completed just 13 of 24 passes for 176 yards. Love needs to become more consistent to ever be counted on as an NFL starter and a potential replacement down the road for Rodgers.
Winner: Packers wide receiver Romeo Doubs
Doubs has been the talk of training camp, drawing plenty of praise from Rodgers and coach Matt LaFleur. He showed why Friday night, catching a touchdown pass against San Francisco. The rookie finished with three catches for 45 yards.
Winner: 49ers quarterback Trey Lance
The new starter with Jimmy Garoppolo on the trading block or a candidate to be released outright, Lance was sharp in limited action. He completed all but one of his five throws for 92 yards and one touchdown pass.
Winner: 49ers wide receiver Danny Gray
The speedster from SMU stretched the defense, catching a 76-yard touchdown pass from backup Nate Sudfeld. Gray, who has 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash, accelerated away from the secondary in his first NFL game. He finished with two catches for 99 yards, a 49.5-yard average per reception.
Winner: Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley
A reserve quarterback behind starter Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy, McSorley capitalized on an opportunity to start with Murray out with wrist soreness and McCoy dealing with an elbow injury that has prompted some concern on how long he’ll be out.
McSorley executed a crisp play-action fake to freeze the Cincinnati Bengals defense to hit wide receiver Andre Baccellia for a touchdown in the red zone. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 163 yards and a 97.3 passer rating, rushing for 32 yards on four carries.
More winners from Friday night’s preseason action
- Eagles QB Jalen Hurts: Hurts was extremely sharp. He completed all six of his throws for 80 yards, one touchdown, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Hurts appears to be poised for a big year.
- Eagles RB Jason Huntley: Huntley rushed for 48 yards on 16 carries, caught four passes for 39 yards on five targets, and he returned two kickoffs for 61 yards.
- Lions TE Devin Funchess: The converted wide receiver used his size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) for a back-shoulder fade touchdown catch. Funchess’ length and athleticism were a big factor.
- 49ers CB Samuel Womack III: Womack, a former Toledo standout drafted in the fifth round, showed off outstanding awareness and instincts. He intercepted two passes.
- Cardinals LB Victor Dimukeje: The second-year linebacker had a pair of sacks with one forced fumble. He was tough to stop because of his quickness and power.
- Bengals K Evan McPherson: One of the top kickers and special-teams contributors in the NFL, McPherson connected on all three of his field goals. That included boots from 58 and 56 yards.
Deshaun Watson expresses remorse for his actions
Cleveland Browns’ star quarterback Deshaun Watson began his night with an apology, expressing remorse publicly for the first time toward the women who have accused him of inappropriate behavior.
Suspended six games by the NFL for an alleged pattern of sexual misconduct toward female massage therapists and facing the possibility of a significant increase to that punishment on a pending appeal that could cost him his entire season, Watson conducted an interview with the Browns’ in-house media network at the team hotel before his preseason debut on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Look, I want to say that I’m truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation,” Watson said. “The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position I would definitely like to have back, but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep pushing forward.”
Watson had previously said he had no regrets, and a lack of stated public remorse was cited by NFL disciplinary officer Judge Sue L. Robinson in her decision to suspend the Georgia native. The NFL wants him suspended indefinitely and out for at least the entire season before he can file for reinstatement, fined millions of dollars, and mandated to continue the counseling he’s already participating in.
“I know I have a lot of work to put in, especially on the field to be able to make sure I’m ready to play whenever that time comes whenever I can step back on the field, but also, the biggest thing is I want to continue counseling and I want to make sure that I’m growing as a person, as an individual for my decision making on and off the field,” said Watson, who was not charged with a crime by two Texas grand juries and has settled 23 of 24 civil lawsuits. “I want to make sure that I’m just evolving in the community as much as possible, and that is for the Cleveland community, that is the NFL community and beyond.”
Watson acknowledged the possibility that he may not get to play a lot more football with his new teammates.
“I’m super excited,” Watson said before kickoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars. “I’m excited to get out there with my new teammates and go out there and compete. Each and every snap, I want to make sure I cherish that because I’m not sure when the next time I’ll be able to get out there with those guys. So, I’m super excited.”
The excitement of the three-time Pro Bowl selection ultimately gave way to a rusty reality during a shaky preseason debut in what marked Watson’s first football game since the end of the 2020 season with the Houston Texans, who traded him to the Browns this offseason in exchange for three first-round draft picks.