Quick hits on the NFL, following several preseason openers Thursday.
Philip Rivers wore a “Nunce Coepi” cap and a sullen countenance last winter in Massachusetts, an hour after the Pats ended his Super Bowl bid.
There was some reason for the San Diegan to believe he’d run into Peak Pats that day, Jan. 13.
A bye week that month had freshened and sharpened the home team. Counterpart Tom Brady was 41. Great tight end Rob Gronkowski was headed to retirement.
But it was easy to overlook that Bill Belichick had redshirted most of his 2018 draft class and had extra picks in the coming draft.
Most of the young talent rolled out Thursday at Detroit, and a lot of it looked pretty good.
— N’Keal Henry. The rookie wide receiver from Arizona State made two difficult catches. Drafted with the final pick of the first round, Henry is the size of a small tight end at 6-foot-2 3/8 and 225 pounds. He made a contested catch, going high, and also had a diving grab. Trainers checked on him after he limped but the injury wasn’t believed serious.
— Braxton Berrios. A slot receiver, he redshirted on injured reserve last season as a rookie. He was drafted in the sixth round, following a 50-game career with the Miami Hurricanes. Thursday marked an unveiling, and if you squinted, Berrios’ lateral quickness, precision and catches brought to mind a young Welker/Edelman/Amendola. At 5-8 1/2 and 185 pounds, Berrios occupies a different spot on the target spectrum than Henry.
— Jarrett Stidham. A rookie quarterback who played for Auburn and Baylor, he looked comfortable after replacing veteran Brian Hoyer. He went in the fourth round.
— JoeJuan Williams. He made a dumb play, throwing a Lions ball-carrier to the ground while both were out of bounds, but seemed to work within the flow of a dominant defense. He’s a huge cornerback — 6-3 1/2 and 211 pounds — but moves pretty well. He’s a hybrid defender.
So, if Rivers and friends needed further incentive to win the West and perhaps get a first-round bye, the Pats are providing it from the jump.
They are relevant for the first time in several years.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield, playing because he’s only a second-year player, directed a touchdown drive in his only possession.
Redskins rushers were unable to get near Mayfield in large part because of play designs and quick passes.
A reason the Browns are top-10 in offensive-skill talent is the depth, which was evident when Mayfield and No. 3 receiver Rashard Higgins connected for a first-rate touchdown pass as veterans Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry spectated from the sideline.
Mayfield and Higgins have good chemistry. As backups they worked together last summer and carried the rapport into NFL games after Mayfield replaced injured veteran Tyrod Taylor.
The Browns had enough faith in undrafted running back Dontrell Hilliard to trade No. 3 running back Duke Johnson, a good player, to the Texans this week.
Hilliard, a Tulane alum who was on Cleveland’s practice squad last year, made a few impressive plays Thursday, showing good hands, quickness and play strength.
But a fumble and a holding foul marred the 24-year-old’s performance.
Lamar Jackson played more than is typical for a franchise quarterback in a preseason opener.
Jackson wasn’t the running threat he will be during the season.
The Ravens featured rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin, a third-round pick out of Notre Dame. He’s big (6-2 3/4, 220) and was clocked at 4.42 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine.
Boykin had an uneven showing. He used his size to make two good catches. He ran by a cornerback and caught a touchdown pass that was nixed by a holding penalty.
On the flip side, he dropped two passes and struggled to uncover.
They said it
“I’m starting to feel like an old stiff here.” — Broadcaster and former Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas, on the number of young Browns players who are new to him.
“Primarily, it’s gonna be the quarterback.” — Thomas, when asked who deserves most of the credit for the decline in Mayfield’s sack rate late in his rookie season.
“It’s a place with the best fans in the world.” — Bills safety Micah Hyde in a sideline interview at Buffalo, where citizens may face an NFL shakedown in the never-ending game of stadium politics.
— Bills coach Sean McDermott decided to ice the Colts’ backup kicker. With two seconds left in the first half. In the preseason. The kicker still converted. Take that, coach.
— The Jaguars, who have a suspect offense even when near full strength, sat quarterback Nick Foles and several other offensive starters and flopped around at Baltimore, never getting past midfield.
— The Ravens have won 14 consecutive preseason games, including the 29-0 rout of the Jags.
— A Bears broadcaster said the team is “10-deep” at wide receiver.
Thank you, Ray Lewis
When a Ravens broadcaster gushed over a Jackson pass, the former Ravens linebacker suggested Jackson was actually aiming for a different receiver and got lucky with the apparent overthrow, which a teammate snagged with a diving catch.
Replays supported his conclusion.
Lewis was asked about projections Jackson will amass 200 rushes this season.
“Some hits,” he replied, “he can’t take.”