For the second night, a rookie quarterback buried on the depth chart made the most noise.
It was Patrick Mahomes‘ turn on Friday, entering just before halftime and airing it out on his first throw.
Unfortunately, this 41-yard completion to Aldrick Robinson was called back due to a holding penalty. But the hype train had already left the station and was full speed ahead.
Mahomes displayed the rifle arm that shot him up the draft board in the spring, squeezing a few passes in tight windows (some were dropped) and finding open receivers elsewhere. It’s also preseason, meaning there was plenty of subpar play in the second half, though most was not Mahomes’ fault. The quarterback finished 7-of-9 passing with 49 yards and a touchdown, which came as a result of a risky throw across his body into traffic. But hey, it worked.
As for the starters, Kansas City’s offense might be a little more vertical this year. It’ll definitely be just as efficient, if Friday night proved anything. Alex Smith swiftly moved the Chiefs down the field on KC’s first drive, culminating in a Spencer Ware rushing touchdown, and the unit looked about as good with Tyler Bray calling the shots until he threw an interception.
Bray mostly showed why he’s still above Mahomes on the depth chart, looking comfortable in the offense and making throws of varying distances before stalling out.
Kansas City is in the enviable position of being a playoff contender with a talented prospect on the bench behind a better-than-adequate starter. There should be absolutely no reason to rush Mahomes onto the field.
The guy most Chiefs fans should be eyeing with brimming optimism is new arrival Aldrick Robinson, who will give Kansas City a deep threat. His play Friday night brought more sense to the July release of Jeremy Maclin.
What else we learned from Friday night in preseason Week 1:
1. T.J. Watt recorded two sacks in his Steelers debut, but only one was contested. The second came because the tackle across from him ran into the flats, as if he were an eligble receiver, though it looked like he thought he was leading a screen that never happened. I don’t want to look like the sole Debbie Downer here, so I’ll allow Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to take the mic.
“I don’t want him to get disillusioned,” Tomlin told KDKA-TV at halftime, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “But I do like the things that I’ve seen so far.”
It was a nice start, indeed. Perhaps his opponent will attempt to block him next week.
2. The preseason’s hottest kicker battle shot the mercury skyward after Robert Aguayo drilled his first field goal attempt, then doinked a PAT off the right upright, then was replaced by Nick Folk, who nailed a 42-yarder, and then returned to miss another kick! Position battles are always fun. When they involve men who are paid to do a total of two things, they get even better.
3. Joe Mixon didn’t get a ton of carries, but he made his touches worthwhile. Mixon’s catch in the flat set him up against a bevy of defenders, but he made three of them miss while adding at least five more yards to his gain. That was how Mixon ran the ball, too, showing patience through the hole and finishing with six carries for 31 yards. Quarterback Jeff Driskel ended up leading the team in rushing. Don’t ask.
4. Preseason quarterbacking is such a crap shoot. As soon as I wanted to board tiny, shopping mall-sized hype trains for Geno Smith and Bray, I was thrown off by their interceptions. Smith looked enticingly effective within the offense for New York, executing play-action rollouts and avoiding rushers with his feet while keeping his eyes downfield, but the interception was reminiscent of Smith in green and white.
The worst of the young passers was Pittsburgh’s Josh Dobbs, who looked overmatched in his first few possessions against the Giants. The good news there is he ended up making a handful of nice throws, one of which resulting in a touchdown to Cobi Hamilton.
5. San Francisco’s quarterback situation is setting the bar pretty low. We know what we’ll get out of Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley was surprisingly effective behind him and C.J. Beathard looked like a rookie, though he had extended time to make a few more plays. That’s the beauty and pain of preseason: Many grains of salt are needed when judging third-string quarterbacks against fellow third-stringers.
6. It became clear pretty quickly that San Francisco has invested more in its defense than offense. Starting with Aaron Lynch, the unit played with tenacity and brought a punch to a team that was largely punchless in the last two seasons. That’s something to be excited about in the Bay Area.
7. Tampa Bay took a loss in a meaningless finish, but started strong. Jameis Winston looked sharp, the group of weapons the Bucs can deploy at once is tantalizing, and the offense moved quickly. The highlight of the night, though, was probably Vernon Hargreaves’ interception deep inside Tampa territory. The Bucs could use a big season out of the second-year corner, and his closing speed and body control displayed on the pick were encouraging.