NFL Preseason is here. Each Week, I’ll be giving out a few awards to the stars of exhibition football.
Offensive MVP: Trace McSorley (19/28, 203 passing yards, 2 passing TD, 1 rushing TD)
For the first time in a long time, Trace McSorley is the third-string quarterback. The Penn State icon rose from regional to national stardom after losing the 2017 Rose Bowl in a shootout against Sam Darnold. His final two years of college would fail to match the level of excitement generated by that game with the Nittany Lions failing to take the final step in becoming a National Championship contender.
Without Joe Flacco, the Ravens are able to completely buy into an offense predicated on a dual-threat quarterback. Up and down the depth chart, there’s speed at the position. Two Heisman winners in Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III became first round-picks with their legs. Now enters the rookie Trace McSorley, an undersized runner with thirty rushing touchdowns in his collegiate career.
One touchdown run on the night showed a small flash of dual-threat ability. But McSorley’s most impactful performance came through the air. The late-round draft pick is still battling for a roster spot. Completing 19 of 28 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns will likely help. All without taking a single sack.
The “He’s Still In the League Award”: Nathan Peterman (210 passing yards, 2 passing TD)
You’ve heard all the jokes. You’ve seen all the interceptions. But Nathan Peterman is in his second act. Cast off and memed into NFL oblivion, Jon Gruden gave him a chance. HBO loves battles. Game of Thrones had “Battle of the Bastards.” And now Hard Knocks has “Battle of the Backups.” If there’s one that makes an HBO worth every penny, it’s a quarterback battle between Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman for the throne of being Derek Carr’s understudy.
Jon Gruden found his team dragging, in need of a spark as they failed to move the ball efficiently on the 80-yard field in Winnipeg. Enter Peterman. Nathan Peterman was asked to cut it loose and throw a whopping 37 passes in relief of Glennon. All he did was turn that into a 95.6 quarterback rating, 210 yards, and two touchdowns.
Peterman hasn’t played much meaningful football in his career. Since the disastrous handful of plays he was forced into against the Jaguars two years ago in the AFC Wildcard game, week three of the preseason against the Packers is the biggest game of his life. He managed to collect himself, and orchestrate a game-winning drive as he set up Daniel Carlson for a late field goal. Nathan Peterman is on national television, fighting to stay in the league.
Defensive MVP: Oshane Ximines (4 tackles, 2 sacks)
— Talkin’ Giants (@TalkinGiants) August 23, 2019
Third-round pick Oshane Ximines has put together a terrific preseason. He was a force for an unproven Giants defense yet again, tallying four tackles with two sacks. The big man executed stunts perfectly and gutted through the Bengals interior offensive line.
He’s made a huge impact early. Hopefully, the Old Dominion product can sustain this success. Ximines is a lock to make the 53-man roster, but the starting lineup is another story. Playing the Will linebacker spot puts him in a position to rush the passer while still stacking over the defensive linemen, playing a true standup linebacker position. Ximines may just play himself into the starting lineup.
Undrafted Of The Week: Deonte Harris (78-yard punt return)
Undersized, small school, undrafted. Deonte Harris is a triple threat of an underdog. Coming out of Assumption College at just 5’6, Deonte Harris wasn’t on many teams radars. Blazing speed and being a sure-handed return man has kept Harris relevant. Against the Jets, Harris proved to be more than just relevant.
He is… dare I say, essential? A 78-yard punt return ended with Harris burning the punter, racing down the sideline on his way to the end zone and the 53-man roster. He’s predicted to make the cut. We’ll see if a few splash plays are enough.
Moment: The Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders Play on an 80-Yard Field
NFL Canada did not work out. As the Raiders and Packers ventured up north to Winnipeg, there were already questions about the field. A Canadian Football League field is 130 yards long and 65 yards wide. The end zones are each 20 yards with the field of play stretching 110 yards. Most importantly, CFL fields have goal posts at the front of the end zones.
Here’s where the issue began. The goal posts had to be moved back to transform the field into the “NFL standard.” That gave birth to its own set of problems. Unearthing the goal posts left an unfillable divot in the Winnipeg turf. Thankfully, Hard Knocks was there to capture it all.
Jon Gruden was unhinged. The Packers and Raiders were both hesitant about letting their players on the field. The solution? An 80-yard field where the end zones started at the ten-yard line. I doubt either team will be jumping at the opportunity next time the NFL goes to Canada.
1st Rounder Of The Week: Dwayne Haskins (10/17, 1 passing TD)
It hasn’t always been pretty, but in week four, it finally was. With Daniel Jones’ playing time limited in the final week of preseason, all eyes were on Haskins. The Buckeye completed a pedestrian 10 of 17 passes. However, he made a few downfield passes look easy, showing off the arm the Redskins paid a first-round pick for. Haskins put in a touchdown, no interceptions, no sacks, and a 96.2 passer rating.
Case Keenum may be slotted as the week one starter, but Washington’s not very happy about it. This was Colt McCoy’s year to make it happen as a starter. But a broken leg sat him right on the training table next to Alex Smith. Dwayne Haskins will do everything in his power to challenge the journeyman. Keenum has only played a full season once. So at some point, Haskins will have a chance to unseat him. Week 4 is a step in the right direction.