2022 NFL preseason, Week 1: What We Learned from Friday's games

NFL.com breaks down what you need to know from Week 1 of the 2022 NFL preseason. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:

  1. Etienne a welcome sight. The 2021 campaign was a forgettable one for the Jaguars, but first-round pick running back Travis Etienne didn't even get to the regular season, as a Lisfranc injury ended his rookie year before it began. He was back on the field Friday and his quickness, speed and agility looked to be in prime form. He finished the game with nine carries for 23 yards and one catch for 10, but stat line, schmat line. This was a positive showing for Etienne, who's no doubt looking to make up for lost time. Etienne's fellow first-rounder, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, also looked solid after a slow start with his accuracy and clearly still has great chemistry with his former Clemson teammate, who he targeted three times. If James Robinson returns healthy and Etienne continues to look like he did Friday, fortunes bode well for the Duval backfield.
  2. Rookie breathes life into Browns. Cleveland was mired in a sluggish start Friday night, having allowed the Jaguars to score the game's initial 13 points and looking completely listless in the process. Rookie running back Jerome Ford, a fifth-rounder who had more than 100 total yards and two total scores, cut the deficit to 13-7 in the first half with a 3-yard touchdown run, but it was rookie third-round cornerback Martin Emerson Jr who truly woke up the Browns. Emerson wrestled away a C.J. Beathard pass from Jeff Cotton for an interception, made a move through traffic and turned on the afterburners to pull away for an electrifying 74-yard touchdown. The Browns are stacked in the defensive backfield, but you can never have too many playmakers and, preseason or not, Emerson grabbed some notice in his first opportunity to do so.

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Coral Smith's takeaways:

  1. Hutchinson makes his presence felt. It didn't take long for spectators to get a glimpse of exactly why Detroit was so happy to draft edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft. The hometown kid made his presence known on the second snap he took as a Lion. Hutchinson made one Falcons lineman whiff on a block, broke through into the backfield and stopped Falcons running back Qadree Ollison in his tracks, taking him to the ground for a 2-yard loss. Though Hutchinson only participated in the first series, he finished with two tackles, one of them for loss, and got after the quarterback multiple times. If this is any indication of what we can expect from the rookie this season, that's great news for the Lions as they look to improve on their 31st-ranked defense from 2021.
  2. Falcons QBs both look good: With Matt Ryan moving on with the Colts, the Falcons need a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2008, and while Marcus Mariota is the established starter as of now, rookie Desmond Ridder showed off his dual-threat skills in Friday's contest. Mariota started the game but played only one series, and made his limited reps count. Mariota was 2 for 2 for 36 yards, highlighted by a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Drake London. The veteran also contributed 23 yards on the ground, finishing the drive by leaping for the pylon for a 6-yard touchdown run. After that, Ridder took over, and made his case for why he shouldn't stay on the bench long. Ridder had a solid 10-for-22 night, passing for 77 yards and two touchdowns, including a 21-yard throw to Jared Bernhardt which gave the Falcons the lead for good. He also recorded six carries for 59 yards. The Falcons seem to be ready to go with Mariota under center Week 1, but based on Friday, they'll have two good options at QB should they wish to change things up.
  1. Jalen Hurts has perfect showing. Jalen Hurts really could not have had a better start in his 2022 preseason debut. The quarterback impressed in his limited reps, opening the game with a 28-yard pass to Quez Watkins that immediately set the tone for his performance. Hurts only played in the first series, but went a perfect 6-for-6 passing for 80 yards and a touchdown -- a 22-yarder to tight end Dallas Goedert. Hurts spent the rest of the game on the sidelines, but in his one series of work he was impressive, and though it was a small sample size, he gave an indication of what can be expected from the third-year QB in 2022.
  2. Jets defense shows promise. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the same could be said for the Jets' rebuild. Though the offense struggled for a good portion of the game, with quarterback Zach Wilson going down early with a knee injury, the defense was a bright spot, and could be an indication of good things to come for Gang Green. Head coach Robert Saleh is known as a defensive mind, and that translated on Friday as the Jets defense racked up five sacks -- a big positive for a team which had 33 sacks in 2021 and finished dead-last in defense. In addition, after giving up two touchdowns in the first quarter, the defense settled down and gave up only one more score for the rest of the game. If Wilson's injury proves to be serious, the Jets may need to rely on the defense more than anticipated in 2022, and while there's definitely more work to be done, so far the baby steps appear promising.

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Grant Gordon's takeaways:

  1. Dimukeje, Dortch make their arguments. Depth in the receiving corps and the pass rush are areas of need for the Cardinals heading into the season. With starters on the sidelines Friday, Arizona had a couple of youngsters who commanded some notice that they could be contributors. Second-year pass rusher Victor Dimukeje, 22, racked up three tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. The 23-year-old Greg Dortch was making plays all night as a receiver and kick returner, tallying four catches (on eight targets) for 53 yards and averaging 17.8 yards per his five punt returns, highlighted by a 55-yard return. The Cardinals could desperately use some young players to step up and Dimukeje and Dortch did so in Arizona's first dress rehearsal.
  2. Shooter shines in all seasons. Many of the Bengals starters didn't see the playing field on Friday, but second-year kicking phenom Evan McPherson surely made his presence known. As a rookie booter, McPherson played a crucial role in Cincinnati's run to an AFC championship. It doesn't appear he's let any of the fanfare and esteem go to his leg. McPherson, who was perfect on all 20 of his kicks in the postseason, was 3 for 3 in the first half on field goals of 23, 58 and 56 yards. The kicking game is crucial in the AFC North (aka Justin Tucker Country) and, if there was any doubt, the Bengals hit big time on their 2021 fifth-round pick.
  1. Trey Lance calm under pressure. The Trey Lance era in San Francisco has begun. Lance only played in two series Friday, but used his time to help back up the 49ers' assertion that he's the best man for the starting job. He started slow in the opening drive, scrambling for seven yards and completing 2-of-3 passes on the way to a field goal, but found his footing on the next series. Lance was sacked to open the 49ers' second drive but didn't let it rattle him, unleashing a huge 76-yard pass to rookie Danny Gray for a touchdown two plays later. It was a throw that gave San Francisco an early lead and quieted the doubts about his ability to throw from the pocket. While I'm sure we'll see more of Lance in the preseason as he continues to adjust to being the everyday starter, the touchdown throw under pressure is a big indication of his growth as a passer.
  2. Rookie WRs make big plays. Even without some of the top names in the wide receiver room playing on Friday, the Packers still excelled in the pass game with the help of some rookies. Fourth-round pick Romeo Doubs has been making a name for himself in training camp and continued to shine, catching a long pass over his shoulder for a 33-yard touchdown. Seventh-round pick Samori Toure also made a splash play, grabbing a 23-yard pass from quarterback Jordan Love in the second quarter. The Packers also saw contributions from some rookies they picked up as UDFAs this spring, as Danny Davis collected two receptions for 45 yards and a TD, and B.J. Baylor recorded two catches for 75 yards. All together, Green Bay finished the game with 299 yards receiving, not bad considering the top receivers in the locker room were sitting out. With the overarching storyline of this offseason concerning how the Packers would replace the production of Davante Adams, contributions from new players on the roster is a great sign for the passing game.

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