Antonio Brown may have stolen the NFL spotlight on Friday by reportedly if he isn’t allowed to wear his favorite helmet (seriously), but that doesn’t mean other people weren’t playing football to start the weekend.
Brown’s former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, was up first on Friday night, kicking off the second round of Week 1 preseason action against another old friend in Bruce Arians, who made his head coaching debut atop the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ new staff. Jameis Winston got his first reps with Arians running the show, while Josh Dobbs and Mason Rudolph both did their best to lock down the Steelers’ No. 2 quarterback job behind Ben Roethlisberger.
Kirk Cousins also flashed efficiency in the Minnesota Vikings’ road matchup with the New Orleans Saints, which saw former Vikes starter Teddy Bridgewater take the majority of snaps in relief of a resting Drew Brees.
We’ve got you covered below with highlights and analysis from both games. Listed below is also a complete Week 1 schedule of the 2019 preseason. Be sure to check local listings for games not on a nationally televised schedule. The rest will be available for streaming on fuboTV (try for free) or NFL Game Pass (out of market).
Scores and schedule
Giants 31, Jets 22 (box score)
Bills 24, Colts 16 (box score)
Ravens 29, Jaguars 0 (box score)
Titans 27, Eagles 10 (box score)
Dolphins 34, Falcons 27 (box score)
Patriots 31, Lions 3 (box score)
Browns 30, Redskins 10 (box score)
Packers 28, Texans 26 (box score)
Panthers 23, Bears 13 (box score)
Seahawks 22, Broncos 14 (box score)
Cardinals 17, Chargers 13 (box score)
Rudolph making his case for Steelers’ No. 2 QB job
Josh Dobbs may have done his job and done it well on Friday, starting for Ben Roethlisberger to kick off the Steelers’ 2019 preseason and stake his claim on the backup quarterback job. But to suggest Dobbs wrapped up the No. 2 spot with his first-quarter showing would be to completely overlook the inspiring work of his competition, second-year man Mason Rudolph.
While Dobbs showed off his legs against the Buccaneers, picking up 44 yards on the ground, Rudolph dazzled through the air, making pinpoint throws and displaying perfect pocket presence on a pair of touchdowns to put the Steelers ahead 20-10.
With three preseason games still on tap, the battle for Big Ben’s backup spot is far from over. But if you’re the Steelers, just one year removed from moving up in the third round to take Rudolph (5 for 8, 91 yards, 2 TD), you’d probably be more than OK if the Oklahoma State product repeated his Friday night performance in the lead-up to the regular season and ran away with the job.
Couple Rudolph’s outing with a big night from James Washington out wide (84 yards, 1 TD), and the Steelers got a pretty picture of their long-term options on offense. Washington, of course, figures to have a prominent role this year with Antonio Brown long gone, but if he pans out even beyond 2019, he’ll be just more proof that Pittsburgh is a wide receiver factory.
Mike Boone outraces Saints for big TD run
Just four plays after the New Orleans Saints cut their deficit to two points midway through the fourth quarter, the Minnesota Vikings offense turned in a big score of their own to extend the lead back to nine, essentially sealing the victory for Minnesota. Second-year running back Mike Boone exploded for a 64-yard touchdown in what was one of the more exciting plays of the night.
Boone originally took the hand-off toward the right side of the field but cut back and hugged the left sideline all the way to the end zone. That one play made Boone the game’s leading rusher, as he finished the preseason opener with four rushes for 70 yards and that score.
Boone is currently listed as the fourth-string running back on the Vikings’ depth chart, but plays like this will help him avoid being a cut-day casualty. After going undrafted out of Cincinnati last year, the Vikings signed him as a free agent. He turned in an impressive preseason, rushing 49 times for 195 yards and one touchdown, which earned him a spot on the 53-man roster. He played in eight games and rushed 11 times for 47 yards. Boone will need another big preseason to keep his place on the roster, and it appears that he’s on the right track.
Cousins efficient out of the gate vs. Saints
It’s not going to silence any critics of his big-game performances, but Kirk Cousins’ hot start on Friday night vs. the New Orleans Saints offered a promising, efficient look at the quarterback, who’s entering his second season in Minnesota and first under full-time offensive coordinating by Kevin Stefanski. The big-money signal-caller went a perfect 4 for 4 on the Vikings’ opening series in New Orleans, putting nice touch on a 34-yard floater to Adam Thielen and finding rookie running back Alexander Mattison for a 1-yard touchdown pass to put Minnesota up 7-0.
Former Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t nearly as crisp out of the gate while starting for Drew Brees, absorbing a pair of sacks while appearing to hold the ball too long and settling for two field goal drives while Sean Mannion, Cousins’ relief, put the Vikings in the end zone for a 14-6 second-quarter lead. Bridgewater settled in as the game went on, however, finishing 14 of 19 for 134 yards and an 18-yard touchdown pass to Dan Arnold.
Kyle Sloter joined Cousins and Mannion in throwing a TD against the Saints during the Vikings’ 34-25 victory, finding Khari Blasingame in the third quarter. The running game might’ve been even more impressive, though, with Boone, Ameer Abdullah and D’Angelo Henderson Jr. combining for 175 yards on the ground.
Winston, Bucs start hot in Bruce Arians’ debut
He played for less than a quarter, but Jameis Winston looked as comfortable as could be in his first official action under the guidance of new coach Bruce Arians on Friday, leading Tampa Bay on a 12-play, 81-yard touchdown drive to kick off his make-or-break season under center. Winston’s performance obviously carries all the caveats of starring in the preseason, but if you’re a Bucs fan, you couldn’t have asked for a much better, calmer showing, with Jameis finishing 5 of 6 for 40 yards and a TD to Chris Godwin.
Winston’s new backup, Blaine Gabbert, nearly put Pittsburgh on the board upon taking over at quarterback, throwing what could’ve easily been a pick-six by Steelers rookie Devin Bush, but Tampa also flashed some promise on the ground. Out-gaining the hosts nine first downs to one with about a minute remaining in the first quarter, the Bucs got a handful of early, effective cuts from running backs Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones, who combined for 36 yards in the opening 15 minutes.
James Washington goes deep
Quarterback Josh Dobbs fought off Landry Jones for the right to back up Ben Roethlisberger last year, and he will have to do something similar this preseason. Mason Rudolph is ready to earn a spot on the active roster but is playing behind Dobbs vs. Tampa Bay. The former University of Tennessee star hooked up with second-year wideout James Washington for a huge 43-yard gain on his first throw, which got the Steelers out of the shadow of their own goalpost.
Washington is another player to watch this season for the Steelers, as he is sure to have a much larger role in the offense in 2019. He recorded just 16 receptions for 217 yards and one touchdown in his rookie season, but the Steelers are confident that he can break out now that he has some experience in this system. He sure looked like a starting wide receiver on this play.