The first full week of the 2017 preseason is history.
There were a pair of games Sunday that put a bow on Week 1 of the exhibition schedule. In Indianapolis, the Detroit Lions downed a listless, Luck-less Colts team, 24-10, while the Seattle Seahawks traveled to Los Angeles to face the Chargers in a La La Land debut that wound up a Seattle rout.
It’s been an eventful few days, given that the games didn’t even count. Rookie quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and DeShone Kizer inserted themselves into the conversation to start in Chicago and Cleveland, respectively, while Roberto Aguayo kicked himself right out of a job in Tampa Bay.
Hard Knocks, indeed.
Let’s run through the biggest happenings from Sunday’s action, beginning with the one thing no NFL team wants to see happen in a preseason game.
A potentially serious injury to a starter.
Denzel Perryman was more than just a starter for the Los Angeles Chargers. The third-year pro, who finished second on the team with 72 total tackles last year, was slated to wear the “green dot” helmet communicator and make the defensive play calls in 2017.
And now a Chargers team that’s already been hit hard by injuries to its top two rookies may be scrambling to fill a hole in the middle of the defense.
As Will Reeve Jr. of Chargers Wire reported, Perryman left the field on a cart in the first quarter with what the team is calling an ankle injury. Chargers beat writer Sam Kweon tweeted that the team has ruled out an ACL tear, but per Fernando Ramirez of NBC 7 in San Diego, Perryman indicated he felt something “pop.”
The injury spoiled what had otherwise been a great first quarter for the Chargers in their first game in their new home, with quarterback Philip Rivers leading the team down the field for a touchdown on the game’s first drive.
The Bolts have already lost 2017 second-round pick Forrest Lamp to a torn ACL, and first-round rookie wideout Mike Williams has two herniated disks in his back—an injury that leaves his status for not just Week 1 but also his entire first season very much in doubt.
Apparently, the Chargers’ lousy luck with injuries followed the team up the coast from San Diego, although Perryman was at least able to join his teammates on the sideline in the second half.
With his foot in a walking boot.
When it comes to the Chargers wide receivers, there’s been no shortage of storylines this offseason.
Can Keenan Allen return to form after tearing his ACL last year?
Will Mike Williams play at all as a rookie?
Can Tyrell Williams back up his breakout, 1,000-yard season from a year ago?
Travis Benjamin has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle after an injury-marred 2016. But the sixth-year speedster told Jack Wang of the Orange County Register that he intended to remind everyone why the Chargers signed him in free agency a year ago.
“Each and every time I touch the ball, it’s going to be a first down or touchdown,” Benjamin said. “That’s my mentality going into this season.”
As it turns out, that’s exactly what Benjamin did in the loss to Seattle. Benjamin caught a 15-yard pass on the Chargers’ first drive of the game that netted a first down.
On his second grab, Benjamin turned on the turbochargers, got behind the defense, hauled in a Kellen Clemens bomb and raced 74 yards for six points.
So far, so good.
Given that Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy combined to gain all of 15 yards on six carries running the ball for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, it might appear at first glance there’s not much to be gleaned from their limited action.
However, it was notable that when quarterback Russell Wilson and the first-team offense were on the field against the Chargers, it was Rawls (and not Lacy) who lined up behind him.
It’s a continuation of a pecking order we’ve seen in practice of late. According to Michael-Shawn Dugar of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, head coach Pete Carroll said that Rawls has earned those first-team reps.
“He’s really on his game. He’s been hitting everything right,” Carroll said. “He’s very confident, he’s playing fast, he looks like he’s raring to go and I’m really fired up for him because it was a really difficult start last year. … So to see him so clear and so prepared—so well-prepared and he’s applied himself beautifully. I feel like he’s got a really good chance to have a good start to the season.”
Rawls suffered through a down season in 2016, in part due to injuries. After averaging 5.6 yards per carry as a rookie, Rawls saw that average drop by almost 2.5 yards last year. It’s part of the reason the Seahawks signed Eddie Lacy to begin with.
Now, however, Rawls appears to have recaptured his rookie form, even if it wasn’t on display for long on Sunday night.
The depth chart at wide receiver in Seattle behind Doug Baldwin is unsettled. Youngsters like Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett have shown flashes, but the Seahawks have struggled to find a consistent complement to their top wideout.
Against the Chargers, third-year pro Kasen Williams did his best to prove why he is deserving of more playing time.
Sure, it came against reserves with backup Trevone Boykin at quarterback, but Williams had a huge night nonetheless. The 6’1″, 219-pounder from Washington had four catches for 119 yards in the game, including an acrobatic tightrope-walk along the sideline that netted the team 34 yards and set up a touchdown.
Williams is a player who is fighting for a roster spot as much as for extra snaps, but dating back to the beginning of camp the 24-year-old has been impressive, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.
Carrying that momentum over from practice to the preseason isn’t going to hurt his chances of making the 53-man roster one bit.
Kerry Hyder was a pleasant surprise for the Detroit Lions in 2016. While Ezekiel Ansah suffered through a miserable, injury-marred, two-sack season, Hyder picked up the slack as best he could.
Heading into his third NFL season, Hyder told Mike O’ Hara of the Lions website that he intended to build on last year’s team-leading eight sacks.
“This past offseason I focused on getting faster and stronger,” Hyder said. “I already had my body to the weight I felt was good enough. I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. When I get to camp, I don’t want to begin getting in shape. Camp is for practice and sharpening your tools and sharpening your technique. You’re not supposed to go to camp to get in shape. My goal is coming to camp ready to fly around and really focus on my technique instead of conditioning.”
Hyder won’t be doing any more flying around for a while.
On the second offensive series of the game for the Indianapolis Colts, Hyder went to the turf in a heap while trying to get around the edge. He was obviously in considerable pain, and after team doctors examined his left foot and ankle, the 26-year-old was carted off the field.
Per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, the Lions have said only that Hyder suffered a “lower leg” injury, but given where the doctors were looking, the non-contact nature of the injury and that Hyder was unable to put any weight on that leg, it looked suspiciously like Hyder tore his Achilles.
Per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, after the game head coach Jim Caldwell revealed that Hyder has a “significant” Achilles injury.
His season is likely over before it began.
It wasn’t all bad news for the Lions on Sunday.
Wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who was Detroit’s third-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, has been generating quite a bit of buzz in camp this summer. The former Northern Illinois standout told Justin Rogers of the Detroit News he hasn’t been paying much attention to the positive press.
“I don’t let that stuff get to me,” he said. “I know the very next day we could put a new play in and I could possibly mess it up. I can’t let little articles get in my head like that, especially if (reporters) aren’t in our meetings when coach is chewing me out for something I didn’t do right.”
There isn’t going to be any chewing after Golladay’s debut performance. There is, however, going to be a lot more complimentary stories.
Golladay was the offensive star for the Lions against the Colts, connecting with backup quarterback Jake Rudock for a pair of touchdown grabs.
The first of those scores was especially impressive—a 23-yarder in which Golladay fought through contact and hauled in the score with a defensive back draped all over him.
It was a continuation of a theme from Lions camp, where Golladay has made a habit of using his 6’4″, 213-pound frame to catch passes over defenders.
Week 1 is still a ways off, but Golladay is making a pretty compelling case to be Detroit’s No. 3 wideout when the Lions host the Arizona Cardinals on September 10.
Without question, the dominant preseason storyline for the Indianapolis Colts has been the status of quarterback Andrew Luck’s surgically repaired shoulder.
As ESPN.com’s Mike Wells reported, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano continues to insist that the team isn’t overly worried about Luck’s availability for the regular season, even though there’s no timetable for when the 2012 No. 1 overall pick might come off the PUP list.
“We are where we are with that,” he said. “There’s no timeline. When they say he’s healthy and ready to go, we’ll get him out there. He’s played a lot of football.”
After watching the Colts offense struggle mightily against the Lions on Sunday, Pagano should be worried.
Because if Luck misses substantial time in games that count, the Colts are toast.
Yes, the first-string offense barely played, and starting tailback Frank “Gramps” Gore didn’t play at all. But whether it was backup Scott Tolzien and the starters or third-stringer Phillip Walker and the reserves, there was one constant against Detroit.
The offense was awful.
Tolzien completed just two of five passes for 24 yards and took a sack. Walker was just as bad. Running back Robert Turbin averaged a whopping 1.2 yards a pop on his five carries.
The passing game was flat. The run game was anemic. And the Colts were pushed around at the point of attack all afternoon long.
Through three quarters, the Lions had out-gained the Colts by more than a two-to-one margin. After 45 minutes of game play, Indy had all of 142 total yards of offense. Never mind the litany of penalties that left the Colts in 3rd-and-long all game. Or the one third-down conversion through three quarters.
Get well soon, Mr. Luck. Because without you, the Colts are fresh out of it.