The Ezekiel Elliott holdout shows no-sign of coming to an end. However the Cowboys still managed a win in week 2 of the NFL pre-season. Clara Lilley breaks down the best of the action from the NFC East below.
Keeping up with the Joneses
Amid the whispers following rookie Daniel Jones’ near-perfect week 1 performance, Eli Manning set out to remind everyone that he is still the starter in New York. Manning went 4-for-4 with a 20 yard touchdown pass to receiver Cody Latimer.
Jones struggled with ball security in the game against the Chicago back ups. He dropped a snap on his first drive and had the ball stripped later on in the game. However, he recovered quickly and showed us that he’s a gifted deep passer. After his dropped snap, he completed a beautiful 40-yard pass to Latimer over the shoulder of a defensive back. On his final play, Jones threw a pylon ball to WR TJ Jones for a 15-yard touchdown. Both of these touchdowns were targeted perfectly, with enviable accuracy.
For Jones, this was an important game for him to show himself as more than just a flash in the pan. “Danny Dimes” was the laughingstock of this year’s draft as the sixth overall pick. His latest critique came from Cleveland QB, Baker Mayfield, in an interview with GQ. Mayfield cited Jones’ record at Duke: “Either you have a history of winning and being that guy for your team,” he says, “or you don’t.”.
If Jones continues to play as he has in preseason so far, it’s likely he’ll ascend the depth chart. There’s a chance he could get some regular season reps. If he does, Mayfield might regret being vocal about the 22 year old.
The Cowboys’ performance on the field is being eclipsed by another Cowboys’ performance off the field.
Running Back superstar Ezekial Elliott enters another week of his holdout. Elliott has taken issue with owner Jerry Jones, claiming Jones’ ‘Zeke Who?’ quip was disrespectful. In the context of the comment, he made this joke and moved on to say how much Elliott and rookie running back Tony Pollard are likely to complement each other during the regular season. Zeke’s feelings aside, this serves as a testament to the success of the rookie running back.
Pollard shone alongside his Cowboys’ starters, amassing 42 rushing yards on 5 touches. The rookie concluded the team’s 97-yard scoring drive with a 14 yard touchdown run. His ability to handle the workload eases the anxiety of an extended Elliott holdout. However, he’s not out of the woods yet. Pollard’s pass protection was poor, leading to a Dak Prescott sack. In situations where a defense forces him to stay in the backfield on passing plays, he could be a liability.
Still, the Pollard bandwagon is getting busier and busier each week, while Zeke’s empties out.
Hail to the Haskins
The quarterback situation plaguing Washington didn’t get any simpler in week 2.
Head Coach Jay Gruden announced in a press conference that it would be unlikely for starter Colt McCoy to be ready for week 1. McCoy continues to rehab a leg injury that ended his 2018 season in December.
That leaves veteran Case Keenum and first-round pick Dwayne Haskins splitting reps in competition for the week 1 starting job. Haskins has captured attention around the league, throwing a perfect 55-yard toss under pressure for a touchdown to receiver Robert Davies. However, he doesn’t seem quite ready to step up just yet. His next six possessions included five punts and a lost fumble, leaving Keenum with the starting job.
The ability to evaluate these quarterbacks is hindered significantly by the weak left tackle position caused by the hold out of cornerstone Trent Williams. Gruden admitted he was still no clearer on the situation, and has chosen to focus on getting Geron Christianson and Donald Penn ready instead. Even longtime friend and teammate Adrian Peterson doesn’t know what Williams’ plans are, telling reporters that he just left him alone.
On the other side of the ball, safety Montae Nicholson showing promise of returning to his 2017 stud-status after last season’s legal troubles and injuries. He returned a 96-yard interception for a touchdown, demonstrating his playmaking ability and speed, a culmination of a strong offseason and training camp.
The Clayton Thorson Experience
Despite the Eagles’ win against Jacksonville, this game was anything but that for Philly fans.
QB Cody Kessler was immediately hit after rookie left tackle, Andre Dillard, missed a block. He exited the game to be evaluated under the concussion protocol, where he remains at the time of writing. It was fourth stringer Clayton Thorson’s game for the taking. Thurson took sack after sack and ended the game with 16/26 for 175 yards, a touchdown and an interception. This situation prompted Doug Pederson to coax veteran Josh McCown out of retirement to give Carson Wentz a reliable back-up heading into the regular season.
Thurson’s presence also meant a reliance on the run game, giving rookie Miles Sanders reps to show what he can do. One of the questions the Eagles needed to answer during the preseason was how much of a role rookie running back Miles Sanders would play heading into the regular season. In this game, he showed that he can be a critical and effective part of that unit with how he ran.
Sanders got five carries for 31 yards, showcasing his vision, athletic burst and the potential to run down yardage when he has the ball in his hands.
This guest piece on the NFC East was written by Clara Lilley. Clara is an avid NFL fan, with a passion for the off the field stories that inform the plays on the field. She used to host a former comedy podcast ‘Ice Up Sun’ combining her love of the game with astrology, and currently contributes to NFL Girl UK. A long suffering Tennessee Titans fan since 2010, she’s hoping this will finally be their year. Twitter: @yellilaralc Instagram: @yellilaralc
Photo Credit: Kyle Terada (USA TODAY)