NFL Week 2 preseason winners and losers: Running backs, rookie QBs among top performers

NFL Week 2 preseason winners and losers: Running backs, rookie QBs among top performers

Week 2 of the NFL preseason is just about wrapped up, with only Monday night’s Falcons-Jets contest still on the docket. That means we’re well over halfway through the entire exhibition slate, and roughly a week away from final roster cut-downs. The real games are just around the corner. But which players and teams took clear steps in the right (or wrong) direction this week?

Here are our biggest winners and losers from the second week of 2022 preseason action:

KaVontae Turpin
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The Cowboys already had premium offensive weaponry in CeeDee Lamb, Dalton Schultz and Tony Pollard. But they might have to find a way to include Turpin as well, after the minor-league veteran and recent USFL star logged not one but two return touchdowns in Dallas’ win over the Chargers. Even if just as a kick or punt returner, he probably locked up a roster spot.

Speaking of offensive weapons in the NFC East, Gibson genuinely appears to be losing his grasp on the Commanders’ top running back job. The former rookie standout, now entering Year 3, rotated with the second- and third-team units at practice recently. Against the Chiefs, he stood on the sidelines while rookie Brian Robinson Jr. started in the backfield, then totaled just two carries while being relegated to kick-return duties.

Kenny Pickett
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The Pittsburgh product was always gonna be the fan favorite in the Steelers’ QB competition, but he was decisive and unfazed in limited action against the Jaguars, making the case with a seamless up-tempo scoring drive that he deserves genuine consideration as the Week 1 starter over Mitchell Trubisky, who’s more experienced but maybe no more talented.

Not all young AFC North QBs had a good weekend, and Rosen will be the first to admit it after completing just seven of 20 throws against the Eagles’ third-stringers. Flopping in each of his career stops, his shot at claiming No. 3 QB duties for the Browns behind Deshaun Watson and Jacoby Brissett is pretty much shot after Joshua Dobbs showcased both an efficient arm and play-extending mobility to keep Cleveland competitive.

Winner: The run game

James Cook
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If you played preseason fantasy football with second- and third-string running backs this week, congratulations. The Bills rolled all over the Broncos by deploying every member of their deep backfield: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, James Cook and Duke Johnson. The Eagles got steady burst from Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell with Miles Sanders absent. The Lions’ trio of Justin Jackson, Craig Reynolds and Godwin Igwebuike combined for over 100 yards against the Colts. Who says the ground game is dead?

Getting hurt isn’t necessarily his fault, but the star Saints receiver is trying to return to the field for the first time since 2020, and two days after sitting out his second straight preseason game, he missed practice with a hamstring issue. All while first-round rookie Chris Olave continues to rise up the ranks and approach 2022 as New Orleans’ most likely No. 1 target.

Malik Willis, right
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No one expects the third-round rookie to be a polished passer at this point in his career, so just witnessing his electricity as a scrambler and occasional side-armed thrower should be enough to entice Titans fans growing impatient with Ryan Tannehill under center. No, Willis isn’t about to take over at QB, but you can see, after his mobility and arm angles against the Buccaneers, why Tennessee stopped his draft-day fall.

Loser: Kliff Kingsbury

Just kidding. Or are we? The Cardinals coach has jokingly allowed his QB, Kyler Murray, to experiment with play-calling this summer ever since Murray gave him a hard time about running the offense. But once Murray took over the headset late in Arizona’s preseason loss to the Ravens, the Cards’ offense was decidedly more effective, even threatening a comeback after an option touchdown run by backup Trace McSorley. Now let’s see if Kliff surrenders responsibility when it matters.

Winner: Isaiah Likely

Isaiah Likely
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Looking for a sleeper who’s Likely to have a bigger impact on the Ravens’ offense this year than expected? A guy who’s Likely to warrant some red-zone targets from Lamar Jackson? And maybe even Likely to share snaps with Mark Andrews? We can’t get enough Likely after the rookie fourth-rounder went off with eight catches for 100 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals, consistently finding or creating space against Arizona’s defense.


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