Preseason Week 2 Friday Winners and Losers: Packers WR Romeo Doubs balls out again while Panthers OT Ikem Ekwonu shows growing pains

    Preseason Week 2 featured solid performances from the Packers' tandem of Jordan Love and Romeo Doubs, but Panthers rookie LT Ikem Ekwonu struggled.

    Friday’s night preseason Week 2 action featured the Panthers traveling to face the Patriots in Foxborough and the Saints and Packers squaring off in Green Bay. Who were the winners and losers from tonight’s exhibition games?

    Preseason Week 2 winners and losers, Friday edition

    The Packers’ offense shined, the Panthers’ quarterbacks nosedived, and Ian Book was, well, Ian Book. Let’s take a look at whose stock is up and whose is down after Friday evening’s action.

    Winner: Packers WR Romeo Doubs

    It’s officially #DoubsSZN. Doubs has been the star of Packers training camp, making plays nearly every day while earning praise from Aaron Rodgers. Fellow rookie receiver Christian Watson is still working his way back from injury, and given that the only competition in front of Doubs includes Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, and Randall Cobb, there’s no reason the Nevada product can’t find his way into the starting lineup.

    Doubs finished with three receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown, but the box score doesn’t do him justice. On his touchdown reception, he high-pointed the ball over Saints safety Brian Allen, showing strong hands while bringing down the score. Doubs also had a 17-yard catch that was called back due to offensive holding. It was a superb night for a first-year player that should have a real role when the regular season begins.

    Loser: Panthers QB P.J. Walker

    The Panthers were likely trying to showcase Walker — who started the game and was supposed to play the first and third quarters — for a potential trade. Walker also ended up playing in the fourth quarter after Matt Corral left the field limping, and tonight’s performance won’t help attract interest. He completed 8 of 15 passes for 65 yards, threw two interceptions, and fumbled in his own end zone, leading to a Patriots defensive touchdown.

    Corral wasn’t much better, but he at least showed some escapability and had a pretty third-down conversion to running back Spencer Brown. Walker won’t appeal to many teams after his lackluster night, and he’s probably not long for Carolina’s roster.

    Winner: Packers QB Jordan Love

    Love played into the fourth quarter and showed a lot of what made him a first-round pick in 2020. It was undoubtedly the best outing he’s had in a Packers uniform. He completed 12 of 24 attempts for 113 yards and one touchdown, but Green Bay’s receivers dropped five passes.

    For the most part, Love looked comfortable navigating the pocket and didn’t try to force anything. On the game’s first play, he realized no one was open and scampered up the middle for 11 yards. Love was exceptional on roll-outs, play action, and bootlegs, and he was able to use his mobility to make something out of nothing, even when it might have been risky to do so near his own goal line.

    He showed a lot of touch on his passes and hit a 21-yard hole shot to Juwan Winfree in the second quarter. Love sometimes left some meat on the bone, but this was an outstanding effort for a young quarterback who’s been maligned through two seasons.

    Loser: Saints QB Ian Book

    Book posted an ignominious 2.2 QBR in his only start a season ago and got sacked five times in the Saints’ first preseason game. His statistics were better tonight, but in reality, he didn’t play all that much better.

    For the second consecutive week, Book fumbled a snap that his opponent recovered. He threw an interception to safety Micah Abernathy, who only joined the Packers last week. In stark contrast to Love, Book never looked comfortable in the pocket. He did throw a touchdown to Chris Olave, but he had all the time in the world, and Olave was wide open. Book does not look game-ready.

    Winner: Patriots WR Nelson Agholor

    Agholor has been the most consistent receiver at Patriots camp, and he was involved again against the Panthers. While he recorded only two receptions, both went for first downs, and the second was a beautiful catch down the left sideline for 45 yards. Agholor will never be an alpha No. 1 WR, but he’s a perfectly competent WR3 or WR4, and his ability as a deep threat will get him targets.

    Loser: Panthers OT Ikem Ekwonu

    There were some growing pains for Ekwonu, just as there were for fellow top-10 rookie offensive tackle Charles Cross on Thursday night. Ickey got beaten by Deatrich Wise Jr. and Josh Uche for consecutive sacks, and he got rocked in the run game by safety Kyle Dugger, who gives up two inches and 100 pounds to the Panthers tackle. Ekwonu showed some excellent movement and power skills while blocking on a toss play to Chuba Hubbard, but overall, it was a poor showing from the No. 6 overall pick.

    Winner: Patriots CB Jonathan Jones

    Jones has been a mainstay in New England’s secondary for the past six seasons, and he’s looking to rebound after a shoulder injury limited him to just six games in 2021. The 28-year-old has spent the majority of his career in the slot, but with Myles Bryant now playing inside, Jones is seeing most of his action outside.

    Jones played well in his new role on Friday night. While he allowed one third-down reception, he also prevented two other third-down attempts. Based on tonight’s performance, Jones looks like a favorite to start for the Patriots at outside corner, and his versatility will buoy New England’s defensive backfield depth.

    Winner: Saints special teams

    Saints kicker Wil Lutz missed the entire 2021 campaign with a core injury, so it was good to see him boom a long field goal against the Packers. Head coach Dennis Allen called timeout with two seconds remaining in the first quarter to ensure Lutz had the wind behind him as he converted a 59-yard attempt with ease.

    Elsewhere on special teams, Blake Gillikin destroyed an 81-yard punt (with the wind at his back), while Kirk Merritt returned a kickoff for 59 yards. The Saints have enough receiver depth that Merritt, a 2020 undrafted free agent out of Arkansas State, might not make the team. But he’s putting enough on tape to land with another club.

    Loser: Packers TE Tyler Davis

    Davis is trying to make Green Bay’s roster as a backup tight end, but he’s reportedly struggled in camp, and things went from bad to worse against the Saints. He lost a fumble after catching a short pass over the middle, and his holding penalty wiped out one of Doubs’ 17-yard catches. In last week’s preseason game, a pass bounced off Davis and right into the hands of a 49ers defender. It hasn’t been a great few weeks for the 25-year-old.

    Winner: Saints RB Tony Jones Jr.

    Battling to become the Saint’s third running back behind Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, Jones hauled in a 20-yard reception and rushed four times for 19 yards. He opened the second half by taking the kickoff 39 yards, but his return was called back due to a holding penalty. Jones, who also played well in pass protection, may have a leg up over fellow RBs Dwayne Washington, Devine Ozigbo, and Abram Smith.

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