Skip to main content

Week 2 preseason grades, NFC: Dak Prescott, P.J. Williams shine

Preseason football is here -- and while wins and losses mean nothing, individual performances can mean everything. As the preseason slate progresses, Bucky Brooks will be assessing the performances of notable players, handing out grades to provide context for the prior week's on-field action.

Below, find report cards for one key player from each NFC team following Week 2's preseason action.


DALLAS COWBOYS: Dak Prescott, quarterback. If they issued gold jackets for preseason Hall of Famers, Prescott -- 12 of 15 for 199 yards, two touchdowns, zero picks and a passer rating of 158.3 against the Dolphins on Friday -- would need to spend a few minutes in the equipment room getting sized for his award. The rookie has been the most impressive player on the Cowboys' roster this preseason, exhibiting exceptional poise and playmaking skills. Most notably, Prescott has shown explosive skills as a dual-threat playmaker (8.2 yards per carry) without looking like a "run-around guy" in the pocket. He has thrown the ball on time and on target to his receivers on the perimeter, particularly Dez Bryant on back-shoulder fades. With Prescott also showing the ability to change his game from long ball to small ball based on the coverage, it seems the Cowboys might've stumbled onto a future franchise quarterback. GRADE: A+

NEW YORK GIANTS: Ryan Nassib and Logan Thomas, quarterbacks. The Giants' QB1 (Eli Manning) is as solid as they come, but the backup situation is murky, with Nassib and Thomas both struggling to complete passes whenever they are on the field. Against the Bills on Saturday, Nassib was a huge disappointment for the second straight week. He missed his first seven attempts and finished the night 2 of 12 for 25 yards. Thomas wasn't much better when he took over. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 17 yards, but he also tossed a pair of interceptions and continued to display the questionable judgment that's plagued him since he entered the league. Overall, the Giants' backup quarterbacks must improve quickly, or general manager Jerry Reese will need to scour the waiver wire for a veteran to handle the QB2 spot. GRADE: F

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Isaac Seumalo, guard.Lane Johnson's impending 10-game suspension has forced the Eagles to reshuffle the deck on the offensive line. With Allen Barbrevacating his normal starting spot to replace Johnson at right tackle, Seumalo started at left guard against the Steelers on Thursday with an opportunity to win the job with a strong performance. The third-round pick didn't quite seal the deal on the gig, due to a costly holding penalty and a few failed finishes, but he did flash some strength and power moving defenders off the ball. GRADE: B-

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Rashad Ross, wide receiver. Despite facing long odds to make the team at a crowded position, Ross will make it hard on Washington to dismiss him, based on his explosive speed and natural receiving skills. He adjusts to the ball well (see: both of histouchdown grabsagainst the Jets on Friday) and flashes enough speed to blow past defenders down the boundary. In addition, Ross shows some savvy setting up defenders with hesitations and stutters throughout his routes. After making a handful of contributions as a vertical playmaker in 2015, Ross is continuing to show coaches that he might be too good to let go. GRADE: B+


CHICAGO BEARS: Jonathan Bullard, defensive end. The Bears might've found a "twitchy" interior rusher to add to the rotation, with Bullard showcasing outstanding skills as an inside pass rusher. The third-round pick flashes excellent first-step quickness and snap-count anticipation, but he also has some wiggle and slick hand skills to get away from blockers. Bullard used those skills to team with Leonard Floyd on a sack against the Patriots' reserves in Week 2. Although he will need to work on handling double-teams and two-gapping on early downs, Bullard's skills as an inside rusher could make him a valuable part of the rotation as a rookie. GRADE: B

DETROIT LIONS: Taylor Decker, left tackle. The rookie continues to learn hard lessons on the edge while acclimating to playing left tackle as a pro. Decker has a tough time with speed rushers off the edge, but he held up pretty well against the Bengals' long, athletic rushers on Thursday. As a run blocker, Decker didn't consistently lock on or finish his blocks on the second level. In addition, he hasn't adjusted to stunting (defensive line angles into gaps) and movement along the line, as evidenced by Michael Johnson's tackle for loss early in the game. The Lions' first-round pick has made strides over the first two weeks of the preseason, but he needs to continue to hone his technique to effectively handle the dynamic rushers who reside in the NFC North. GRADE: B-

GREEN BAY PACKERS: Brett Hundley, quarterback. The second-year pro is penciled in as Aaron Rodgers' backup, but injuries have prevented him from honing his skills in game action. Hundley finally got an opportunity to play against the Raiders on Thursday -- but he only made it through three series before leaving the game with an ankle injury. Although he completed 5 of 7 passes for 67 yards, including a 31-yard toss to Davante Adams, Hundley remains an unknown at this point, due to his relative lack of experience. I like the flashes in limited action (Hundley shows excellent movement skills, leadership ability and command of the offense), but he has to show Packers' officials that he can shake the injury bug to be a dependable option as a QB2. GRADE: B

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Blair Walsh, kicker. The temperamental nature of kickers forces scouts to take a long, hard look after monumental misses, to see if they have the necessary grit to bounce back from their failures. That's why all eyes will be on Walsh through the preseason; people want to see if the veteran kicker can regain his form after a point-blank miss against the Seahawkson Wild Card Weekend abruptly ended the Vikings' 2015 campaign. Against the same Seahawks this past Thursday, Walsh nailed a 27-yarder early in the game but missed a potential game-winner from 47 yards to the left. While the miss certainly comes at the edge of Walsh's range, the failed kick will lead to more questions about his clutch factor going into the season. GRADE: B-


ATLANTA FALCONS: De'Vondre Campbell, linebacker. The Falcons could enter the season featuring a pair of rookie starters at linebacker, with second-round pick Deion Jones and fourth-round pick Campbell playing like mad men on the second level. While most observers assumed Jones would crack the starting lineup, the rapid ascension of Campbell has been a bit of a surprise. The ultra-explosive athlete has all of the physical tools to be an exceptional weak-side defender, but his instincts, awareness and diagnostic skills are what have earned rave reviews from Falcons officials. Campbell put those traits on display against the Browns on Thursday in a two-tackle effort that also featured a pass break-up and a lot of activity near the line of scrimmage. If he continues to fly around and put big hits on runners in the hole, Campbell will team with Jones to give the Falcons a nice 1-2 punch on the second level. GRADE: B

CAROLINA PANTHERS: Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver. The return of the Panthers' WR1 after a season lost to an ACL tear should help the passing game become more explosive in 2016. Benjamin, who made one catch for 5 yards in the preseason opener, continued to show no ill effects from his knee injury on the way to snagging two receptions for 29 yards against the Titans on Saturday. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound pass catcher used his superior size-strength combination to pull in a pair of Bang-8s from Cam Newton. Benjamin plucked the balls in a crowd and didn't show any hesitation venturing between the hashes with multiple defenders around. He still needs a little more time to work through the rust of a lengthy layoff, but Benjamin will make the Panthers a scarier offense to face this season. GRADE: B

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: P.J. Williams, cornerback. There weren't many bright spots in the Saints' loss to the Texans on Saturday, but the impressive play of Williams on the island should encourage team officials that the former third-round pick is ready to fill the CB1 role in the back end after missing 2015 with a hamstring injury. Williams challenged Texans receivers at every turn, exhibiting terrific feet, hips and hands in press and zone coverage. Although he gave up a touchdown to Will Fuller on a fade, the second-year pro got his hands on a couple of balls, including an end-zone pick of Brock Osweiler in the second quarter. If Williams can continue to make strides under the tutelage of former Pro Bowl CB and current Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn, he could be one of the league's biggest surprises as a first-year starter. GRADE: A-

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Roberto Aguayo, kicker. The Buccaneers' second-round pick was supposed to be money from inside the 40, based on his nearly flawless college résumé, but Aguayo is having a tough time putting the ball through the uprights as a pro. After missing a PATa week ago, the rookie misfired on a pair of field-goal tries from reasonable distances (32 yardsand 49 yards) against the Jaguars on Saturday. Given how much the team invested in Aguayo's services (the high pick, plus a four-year contract guaranteeing $1.5 million), the Buccaneers need their rookie kicker to find his confidence and rhythm before the regular season starts. GRADE: F


ARIZONA CARDINALS: Brandon Williams, cornerback. The feisty rookie corner is starting to settle into his role as the CB2 opposite Patrick Peterson. Williams not only played with better eye discipline and footwork in coverage against the Chargers in Week 2 than he did against the Raiders in Week 1, but he was more aggressive to the ball when quarterbacks attacked his side. The third-round pick finished the night with a pair of break-ups and registered a tackle for loss on a Travis Benjamin wide receiver run. As he continues to get more comfortable playing on the island without safety help or underneath cutter, Williams is showing scouts that he definitely has the tools to be an effective first-year starter. GRADE: B

LOS ANGELES RAMS: Jared Goff, quarterback. The No. 1 overall pick is still in the mix for the starting job, but it is apparent that he might be better served to begin the season on the bench as an apprentice to Case Keenum. Despite having more physical ability and arm talent than the veteran, Goff's indecision prevents the offense from rolling under his direction. He also remains careless with the football in the pocket (two fumbles, including one lost, against the Chiefs on Saturday), which is problematic for a team that wants to rely on a conservative approach (running game and defense) to win in the rugged NFC West. Now, Goff did make a couple of nice throws off play action that showcased his talents, but he needs to be more consistent and accurate to unseat Keenum as the starter. GRADE: C+

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Marcus Rush, linebacker. Whenever a defender registers a hat trick during the preseason, coaches will stand up and take notice. That's why Rush is probably making a move up the charts after notching three sacks against the Broncos on Saturday, one of which led to a turnover on a fumble. The blue-collar rusher outworked blockers at the point of attack to repeatedly knock down Denver quarterbacks in the backfield. After spending 2015 working on his skills on the practice squad, the second-year pro could carve out a role as a situational player off the edge. GRADE: A

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Jarran Reed, defensive tackle. The Seahawks' defense could get even better with an athletic big body wreaking having on the interior. That is, if Reed's performance against the Vikings on Thursday is an accurate gauge of his talent and potential as a bulldozer at the point of attack. The 6-3, 311-pound defensive tackle showed outstanding strength and power holding the point, but he also flashed some lateral quickness pursuing down the line. Although the second-round pick finished the night with three tackles, it was his ability to eat up blockers and allow the Seahawks' linebackers to flow freely to the ball that could make him a key contributor as a rookie. GRADE: B

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content