Yay! I’m back from my summer break and the 2017 NFL preseason has kicked off to celebrate my return, right? Well, obviously it hasn’t but it has indeed kicked off and week 1 of the 2017 preseason is in the bag.

After a weekend of viewing, I thought I’d give my take on what I’ve seen from the 2017 NFL London-bound teams from this week. I’ll do this every week throughout the season as, after all, I’m all about the football on the field.

So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into what I noticed in this very early of weeks to start the 2017 NFL season.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The most obvious of observations for me as far as the Jags’ first game went was the fact that RB Leonard Fournette looked a handful. He looked good running to the outside with pace and spin moves but he looked very good indeed when running up the middle.

Leonard Fournette of the Jacksonville Jaguars

The defending Super Bowl champions appeared to be struggling to contain him and I can’t actually remember him getting tackled for a loss or no gain.

I’ve been looking forward to him coming out of college and into the NFL for a while now and this early showing has my enthusiasm for watching him play increase – exciting times ahead for Mr Fournette and the Jaguars if they can get the passing game going as well.One downside for the Jacksonville Jaguars with regards to Fournette is the fact that he came away from the game with an injured foot which has persuaded the team to declare that he won’t be playing in their preseason week 2 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

One downside for the Jacksonville Jaguars with regards to Fournette is the fact that he came away from the game with an injured foot which has persuaded the team to declare that he won’t be playing in their preseason week 2 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Unlike previous seasons where the Jags have struggled at the running back position, they could actually have a decision to make now that they have a crowded unit. With Fournette, Yeldon and Ivory in there, you’d think they would settle for that but after one week of preseason football, they have another player in there making a good bid for a top 3 spot on the depth chart. Corey Grant saw a lot of the action at the running back position and did a very good job by running for 120-yards on 8 carries for 1TD and a 15-yards per run average. If that doesn’t scream, “Look at me!” I don’t know what does. I know, I know it’s just preseason and he wasn’t playing against the 1’s but he can only play against what’s put in front of him and I think we’ll see a lot of him again against the Buccs in Fournettes absence.

I’m a big believer in that you should build a team from the trenches out. The O-line is a unit where they Jaguars have shown so much potential in the past only to not live up to it. This year they look to be showing well again with the big money re-signing of Brandon Linder at center and the drafting of Cam Robinson who looked good at the left tackle position. They also have other young talents on the line and it’s a unit I’ll be keeping an eye on going through preseason. In this first game, they looked good in both pass protection and opening lanes for the running game.

The last thing I’ll mention about the offensive side of things from this game is with regards to QB Blake Bortles. Throughout the offseason I’ve been hearing a lot about how they’ve been working on his throwing mechanics but, to be honest, he looks exactly the same to me. Is it just me or is his wind up still the same relatively long motion with the big loop at the bottom of it? Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely no expert on this but I can compare him to the other QB’s in the league and his throwing motion really doesn’t fill me with much confidence – it just isn’t “snappy” enough. Anyway, more viewing of him needs to be seen for me before I write him off completely as many others have.

On defense, I only noted a couple of things I thought worthwhile. The first note I made was that young LB Myles Jack looked very good in this game. He ended up with 3 tackles and 3 assists and always seemed to be around the ball. Could he be ready to shine as the experts thought he would in the NFL? The Jags could have got a steal by getting him in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL draft after many touted him as being a very high 1st round selection had it not been for his knee injury concerns. Again, it’s early days in the season but he looks like he could be ready to shine.

I also noted that another linebacker kept himself busy and seemed to be around the ball a lot and could be worth keeping an eye on. That player is LB Josh McNary who the Jaguars picked up after he’d spent 4 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He definitely wouldn’t be a starter for the team but is an interesting prospect for squad depth and I’ll be interested to see if he makes the final cut.

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Minnesota Vikings

The most obvious observation for me as far as the Minnesota Vikings’ game went was again in relation to their big rookie running back acquisition, Dalvin Cook. I still can’t believe this guy lasted until the 2nd round of the draft but he did and I think the Vikings struck gold when he fell to them at the #41 pick. With Adrian Peterson shipping out to New Orleans after a couple of non-starter seasons in 2014 and 2016, the Cook/Vikings combination was a perfectly timed matchup.

Cook was given a heavy workload early in their game in both the running and passing game. He didn’t achieve anything spectacular but he looked solid and productive. He only ran 5 times for 13-yards but he also caught 4 passes for 30-yards. Like I say, nothing spectacular but steady and productive. The one downside I noticed was on a play he was going out into the flat as a safety valve for his QB Sam Bradford. On this play, Cook could see that the left tackle had been beaten by the onrushing Bills DE but instead of giving him help and a little block he actively avoided the Bills player which led to a sack.

Sticking with the running back position, Bishop Sankey came in to replace Cook and was having a very good game until he suffered what looked like a knee injury. After the game, he had an MRI scan which confirmed a torn ACL meaning he’s done for the season. Such a shame for the former second round draft selection as he was looking good in his attempt to take the #3 RB roster spot.

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The Minnesota Vikings play the Cleveland Browns at Twickenham on October 29th, 2017 in a game that looks like they should win comfortably. As a Browns fan, I hope that they don’t and if there’s a glimpse of an area we can target I feel it could be an average Vikings offensive line. Again, I realise it’s very early, but that unit didn’t look anything special and appeared to be struggling early on in both aspects of the offensive game. If they can gel and get good together who knows how good Dalvin Cook can be – better than Leonard Fournette? Time will tell and it should be interesting to watch.

On defense, I would say that the 1’s seemed to struggle against the run game of the Buffalo Bills which is surprising considering many regard them as one of the best units in the league. Other than that, they were pretty solid as you’d want at this stage.

Dalvin Cook Minnesota Vikings

On a side note but still related to this game and the NFL London 2017 series of games, WR Sammy Watkins looked very good in the early stages of this game. I think the LA Rams have got themselves a great player in a position of need and who could help former #1 overall pick QB Jared Goff start to come good and live up to his draft selection. I’ll get to the LA Ram in a moment but thought it was worth noting here.

Arizona Cardinals

The recently under performing Arizona Cardinals will be entering the season with high hopes of success seeing as it could be the last chance for a couple of their most influential veterans to get that ring they’ve been touted as being close to for a few seasons now. With QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald close to retirement, it was good to see them out on the field and will be great to get to see them play (especially Larry Fitzgerald) in London this year.

One of the biggest takeaways from this game for me was to do with Larry Fitzgerald and his willingness to block in the running game even during the preseason. He didn’t play much but when he did he was fully committed which was good to see at this stage.

It was also good to see RB David Johnson out on the field and playing after he missed the Hall of Fame Game previously. He looked patient and good running both up the middle and to the outside. He also took a big hit with no ill-effects. Once he came out of the game he was replaced by the veteran Chris Johnson who, basically, looked crap. He was quickly replaced by Andre Ellington who looked good on his way to 20-yards off 7 runs and 31-yards off 4 receptions. He soon gave way to Elijhaa Penny who played out most of the game and went for 54-yards on 14 carries.

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With Carson Palmer not getting any younger, it’s that time when other QB’s get looked at hard and Drew Stanton did himself no ill with his good performance. He went 11/15 for 112-yards and a TD whilst looking composed, accurate and in control.

The defense looked good with some vital plays to hold the Raiders to plenty of 3-and-outs.

David Johnson Arizona Cardinals

LA Rams

Many people I see on social media are interested more in who said what and who’s wearing what this year (I’m really not interested in that stuff tbh) so I guess we should comment on the LA Rams’ new uniforms. Personally, I think they look pretty good and that amount of white looks good in the warm climate of LA but, now that I’ve seen them in-game, I’m thinking that I prefer the gold uniforms they wore in St. Louis.

On to the game: It was a typically boring, low-scoring affair with the only TD scored by the Rams coming off a fumble which happened to go into the endzone where rookie WR Cooper Kupp recovered it. I guess a win is a win but not a brilliant game really. There were far too many fumbles by the Rams and they’re lucky they didn’t get punished because of them.

We didn’t get to see much of QB Jared Goff in this one which is what we all want as we’re waiting to see if he’s going to live up to his first overall pick in last years draft. People are talking about WR Cooper Kupp as being a good player with good hands and could turn out to be one of the better WR’s taken in this year’s draft. Time will obviously tell on this but he did well with 2 receptions for 35-yards and was alert enough to recover the fumble for the TD. He could be worth taken later in fantasy drafts even with the addition of Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods to their receiving corps.

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As for the defense, they did ok and forced quite a few 3-and-outs and didn’t seem to miss hold-out DT Aaron Donald. Come regular season, though, they are going to want him back as he’s an absolute beast and I look forward to seeing him at Twickenham against the Arizona Cardinals this year.

RB Malcolm Todd looked better than supposed star Todd Gurley as he went for 25-yards on 5 carries compared to Gurley’s 2-yards on 4 carries of which his longest run was 4-yards. His stats say otherwise but every time I watch him play I can’t help but think he doesn’t actually look that good. Like I say though, his stats do look good so I guess I must be wrong about him.

The most exciting running back performance of the game came from undrafted rookie Justin Davis who looked very good indeed and deserves a shot against the 1’s and/or 2’s. He came in late but looked quick, agile and explosive as if he could break a big run at any moment. I look forward to seeing him more this preseason.

With Sammy Watkins recently traded in and added to a wide receivers unit consisting of the likes of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Tavon Austin as well as two good tight ends in rookie Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee, the LA Rams look like they could finally be getting things sorted after years of mediocre play. I’m still not sold on their offensive line but time will tell on that one.

Cleveland Browns

Right, here we go. So much to say about my Cleveland Browns but I’ll not bore you all (more than I already have) and try to keep it to a minimum.

A massive reason that the franchise is in the position of crappiness that it is right now clearly comes from the totally crap front offices and ownership that it’s had in too many recent years. One of the left over pieces from previous crap scouting and decision making comes in the shape of OL Cameron Erving. He was selected in the 1st round with the 19th overall pick by the Browns and has been crap ever since. He just looks lost in the NFL and is either false-starting, holding or getting knocked on his ass. The Browns have invested heavily in their offensive line for 2017 but still have a question mark over who’s going to be their right tackle. I personally think it should be Shon Coleman who put in a lot of dedicated work over the summer or even rookie Rod Johnson who was taken in the 5th round of the 2017 NFL draft. Please, for the love of God, stop trying to tell us that Cameron Erving has a shot at starting on the offensive line and just cut him! I couldn’t care less if you think he’s “versatile” because “he can play more than one position along the OL” – he can’t play ANY position along the OL. He ain’t an asset because he’s versatile, he’s just an outright liability! $10 million dollars for that, sheesh!

Cameron Erving Cleveland Browns

Right, now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s move on.

One of the biggest battles in Cleveland is definitely the QB battle between Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer. So, how did I see things from game 1? Well, Brock looked ok whilst passing short or dumping passes off but didn’t look very good throwing any further than that. Cody Kessler looked pretty solid and was definitely better going further downfield than Osweiler which is encouraging as that was a point that the naysayers kept coming back to last season whilst trying to bash Kessler. By far the best of the 3 QB’s in the race for the starting job is rookie DeShone Kizer. He went 11/18 for 184-yards and 1TD. His TD pass was a 45-yarder to Jordan Payton which showed off his arm strength and accuracy.

I can’t help thinking that we still haven’t given enough attention to the receiving unit so it was nice to see Ricardo Louis looking good as he continues to develop after his 4th round selection in the 2016 draft.

I’ll go back to the offensive line just for a moment and say that I liked the look of the much-improved unit after having so much effort put into it during the off season. The interior of it looks very solid with its starters as well as in its depth. With Joe Thomas back at left tackle during the regular season, I feel confident about it just so long as they make the correct decision at right tackle.

Another unit on the offense that I like the look of is the running backs. Isaiah Crowell will start with Duke Johnson splitting time with him and coming in on long yardage situations but I also really like the look of rookie 7th rounder Matt Dayes. His vision and cutting ability were great to watch and he could be the find of the draft. Again, I know I shouldn’t get too excited as it’s only one game but I look forward to seeing if he can keep performing well in games to come.

Another rookie that I liked the look of was kicker Zane Gonzalez. He has a big leg that he uses to kick the ball out the back of the endzone for touchbacks as well as giving us that extra option of field goals from further out. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod come regular season time between him and Cody Parkey.

Safety, Jabrill Peppers looks like he has the potential to be explosive as a kick returner but I’d prefer to see him spending more time playing at safety come game time. I’ve seen reports of him doing very well there in training camp. I’ll be proper pissed if he gets injured during special teams play as he’s a perfect strong safety for today’s game.

As for the defense, I liked the pressure they were putting on the Saints’ QB’s throughout the game despite having some run defense woes early on.

A big plus on the defense came in the forms of Brien Boddy-Calhoun and Nate Orchard at CB and LB respectively. They both look to be thriving under new coordinator Greg Williams – this aggressive style of defense is great to watch!

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New Orleans Saints

I might as well start off by apologising to Saints fans reading this as you were playing my Browns so I spent most of my time watching them I’m afraid, sorry.

What I did make note of, though, was that the Saints seem to have a solid backup QB to the great Dree Brees in Chase Daniels as he is a veteran with a solid skill-set and poise. Garrett Grayson also did himself no harm by putting up solid numbers of 11/16 for 126-yards with no TD’s or INT’s.

I did also see that rookie RB Alvin Kamara got a good run out and performed well with 4 attempts for 35-yards but no receptions.

I guess the best performer on the day for the Saints was WR Tommylee Lewis who had 10 receptions for 132-yards and 2 punt returns for a 4-yard average.

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Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens definitely missed Joe Flacco at QB as Ryan Mallett wasn’t great but looked ok against the 2’s. It was a good job RB Javorius “Buck” Allen played well with his 8 carries for 21-yards, which doesn’t seem like a lot but the Ravens used quite a few RB’s as they search for the answer and he looked good on the move whilst running and receiving. I imagine it will be Danny Woodhead and Terrence West splitting time as the starting RB’s this season so the other RB’s are going to be locked in an interesting battle for that 3rd spot on the depth chart.

Kicker Justin Tucker looked good as usual and booted a 59-yard field goal that he made look easy. I liked his little celebration after it as well.

In typical Baltimore Ravens fashion, their defense was very good and the Washington Redskins struggled to move the ball as they were forced to 3-and-out far too often. I’m not actually sure if this was because the Ravens D was very good or because the Redskins offense was very bad as both seem to be true from what I saw. Either way, the Ravens looked to dominate.

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2nd round draft pick LB Tyus Bowser looked decent and could be just what the Ravens are looking for in that unit to go along with fellow rookie Tim Williams (3rd round) and C.J. Mosley as Terrell Suggs is now in his mid-thirties. I see the Baltimore Ravens continue to have very good linebackers for years to come with these 3.

Tyus Bowser Baltimore Ravens

Miami Dolphins

We didn’t get to see much of the starters in this game and the OL was makeshift from the start. The defense looked like it was getting picked apart by the Atlanta Falcons starters but they improved as the game went on and the reserves came in. I’m not actually sure what I’m trying to say with that as it’s not exactly a positive is it.

The play of the game, for me, was when the Dolphins were forced to play from their half yard line and instead of playing it conservatively to try and get some room by doing a couple of runs up the middle they went all out and scored a 99.5-yard touchdown pass from QB David Fales to WR Damore’ea Stringfellow.

Stringfellow and fellow rookie WR Francis Owusu were the highlights of the game for me as they combined for 161-yards receiving (with that 99+ yarder in there) and looked decent.


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Final Thoughts

So, week 1 of the 2017 NFL preseason is in the bag and the ball has started rolling on the upcoming season. As I’ve said a few times in this article, I know it’s very early days but we can only analyse what we see and make comment on that. Maybe next week I’ll see things a little differently but that’s part of the fun – piecing stuff together from one week to the next and seeing how thing play out.

From this week I think we can see that teams, systems and players are still all a little rough around the edges and things need smoothing out somewhat. There were far too many dropped passes that were perfectly catchable and, as is the norm in preseason, far too many penalties. I also saw alot of running QB’s due to plays breaking down. Maybe this is due to more playbook studying or just down to lesser skilled players on the field. All-in-all, I hope the standard of play improves and I’m sure it will as usual.

What did you think of the first week of NFL football and how did your team/players perform? What did you like and dislike from this early stage? Let us know in the comments below.