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Preseason standouts in the AFC Division

Photo credit: CBS Sports

With the regular season kicking off soon, lets take a look at who stood out during the preseason and some names you can expect to see on the field for your favorite AFC teams.

AFC East 

Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen is clearly the Bills starting quarterback, only throwing three passes throughout the preseason. Backups Matt Barkley and Case Keenum received plenty of playing time in the Bills three preseason games. Barkley had more success during the preseason than Keenum did. Barkley threw only one interception, while Keenum had three interceptions and one fumble during the preseason.

Rookie running back Raheem Blackshear stood out on the offense, having two touchdowns while contributing in the run and pass game. Rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir also had a couple good receiving games.

On the defensive side, rookie linebacker Baylon Spector has looked real good. Spector had over 5 tackles in every Bills preseason game. The Buffalo Bills start their season on September 8th against the Los Angeles Rams. 

Miami Dolphins 

The Dolphins starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa only threw 8 passes during the Dolphins two preseason games. Rookie quarterback Skyler Thompson has looked good, while veteran Teddy Bridgewater struggled a bit. Thompson has completed 29 of his 38 passes and thrown two touchdowns.

Rookie wide receiver Erik Ezukanma and three year veteran wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr each had one really good game during the preseason. None of the Dolphins running backs did much or impressed during the preseason thus far. Rookie linebacker Cameron Goode has totaled 10 tackles over the Dolphins two preseason games.

The Dolphins start their season on September 11th against the New England Patriots. 

New England Patriots 

Starting Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has only seen limited action during their three preseason games. Backup quarterbacks veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie Bailey Zappe have gotten plenty of snaps. Zappe has completed 45 of his 71  throws with one touchdown and three interceptions. Hoyer has completed 13 of his 18  throws with one touchdown. Wide receivers Lil’Jordan Humprhey and Tre Nixon each have over 10 catches and 100 receiving yards during the preseason.

On the defensive side, the Patriots linebacker group has looked great throughout their two preseason games. Linebackers Ja’Wuan Bentley, Harvey Langi, Cameron McGrone, Raekwon McMillan, and Mack Wilson have combined for over 50 tackles during the Patriots preseason games. Safety Jalen Elliot also looked good, having 10 tackles in New England’s first preseason game.

The Patriots start their regular season facing the Miami Dolphins on September 11th. 

New York Jets

Starting quarterback Zach Wilson went down with a knee injury in the Jets first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Wilson’s injury seems not to be serious but he hasn’t played in the preseason since that game.

The Jets backup quarterbacks Chris Streveler and Mike White have been playing throughout the preseason in Wilson’s absence/rest from injury. Streveler has completed 14 of his 20 passes with three touchdowns and one interceptions through two preseason games. Streveler also has over 60 rushing yards. Lawrence Cager has been the lone standout on the offensive side as of now.

Through two preseason games, Cager has five catches and is averaging 21 yards per catch. Cager also has a touchdown. On defense, linebackers Del’Shawn Phillips and Jamien Sherwood, along with cornerback Rachad Wildgoose have combined for over 35 tackles through the Jets two preseason games. The Jets first regular season game will be on September 11th against the Baltimore Ravens. 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens 

Ravens starting quarterback Lamar Jackson did not play during preseason. The Ravens backup quarterbacks have been playing well. Anthony Brown has looked good completing 20 of 28 passes, for over 200 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But with that said, Tyler Huntley has looked even better. Huntley has completed 29 of his 32 passes for over 200 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Rookie wide receiver Shemar Bridges had a good first preseason game with four catches, 62 yards, and one touchdown. Rookie linebacker Josh Ross has nine tackles through two preseason games. Rookie linebacker Chuck Wiley has five tackles and one sack. Veteran cornerback Daryl Worley also has added 7 tackles and half a sack during the preseason.

The Ravens first regular season game is September 11th against the New York Jets. 

Cincinnati Bengals

Star quarterback Joe Burrow has not played in the preseason yet. Backups Brandon Allen and Jake Browning have been getting all the playing time at quarterback in his absence. Browning has completed 23 of 40 passes for over 270 yards during the Bengals two preseason games. Running back Jacques Patrick has carried the ball 13 times for over 60 yards and two touchdowns.

On defense, linebacker Clay Johnston has over 26 total tackles. Johnston had 20 tackles in the Bengals second preseason game against the New York Giants.

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns made major headlines by trading for star quarterback DeShaun Watson. After trading disgruntled quarterback Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers, they now have a clearer team identity. The Browns will be without Watson while he serves an 11 game suspension. Watson did play in the Browns first preseason game but struggled. Watson only completed one pass out of his five attempts.

Backups Josh Dobbs and Josh Rosen have been getting most of the playing time during preseason. Dobbs has played well, completing 24 of his 33 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown. Rosen hasn’t played as well, completing only 13 of his 27 passes for 130 yards. Rookie running back Jerome Ford has over 150 total yards and two touchdowns through two preseason games.

The Browns linebackers of Dakota Allen, Tony Fields II, and Jordan Kunaszyk have combined for 37 tackles during the Browns two preseason games. The Browns play their last preseason game against the Chicago Bears on August 27th. The Browns first regular season game is against the Carolina Panthers on September 11th. 

Pittsburgh Steelers 

The Steelers confirmed that Mitchell Trubisky will be their starting quarterback which wasn’t much of a secret due to his lack of playing time during the preseason. Trubisky has only thrown a total of 15 passes while backups rookie Kenny Pickett and veteran Mason Rudolph throwing over 20 passes each.

Pickett has been the more successful of the two. Pickett has completed 19 of his 22 passes for over 160 yards and three touchdowns. Rudolph completed 26 of 36 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns and two fumbles. No Pittsburgh running back has shined yet but wide receiver Tyler Vaughns has six catches for over 90 yards and one touchdown.

Also worth noting on the offense, wide receiver Steven who is used for both pass and run plays. Linebacker Robert Spillane has 11 tackles through two preseason games. Safety Damontae Kazee also has 11 tackles so far in the preseason. The Steelers first regular season game is against the Cincinnati Bengals on September 11th. 

AFC South 

Houston Texans

The Texans starting quarterback Davis Mills played in all three of their preseason games. Backup quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Jeff Driskel also saw some playing time but the majority went to Mills. Mills completed 19 of his 30 passes for over 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception throughout the preseason.

Other notable preseason performers were rookie running back Dameon Pierce who had 11 carries for over 80 yards and one touchdown and veteran wide receiver Chris Moore who had 5 catches, over 65 yards and a touchdown. Linebackers Blake Cashman, Jake Hansen, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin combined for over 40 tackles. Safety Grayland Arnold also had 14 total tackles.

The Texans face the Indianapolis Colts in their first regular season game on September 11th. 

Indianapolis Colts

Starting quarterback Matt Ryan only played in the first preseason and not the second. He should see some more time in their third and final preseason game. The backup quarterbacks of Jack Coan, Sam Ehlinger, and Nick Foles have all seen significant playing time during the preseason. Ehlinger has looked the best out of the three backups. Ehlinger has completed 19 of 22 passes so far during the preseason, which is an outstanding 86%.

Dezmon Patmon has caught six passes for 121 yards and one touchdown. Patmon is averaging over 20 yards a catch throughout the Colts two preseason games. Rookie safety Trevor Denbow, rookie linebacker Sterling Weatherford, and Chris Wilcox have been some standouts on the defense. Together they have combined for 37 tackles.

Defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo also has two sacks through two preseason games. Linebacker Forrest Rhyne had nine tackles in the Colts second preseason game against the Detroit Lions. The Colts start their season on September 11th against the Houston Texans. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence did not play in the first preseason game or the last preseason game. The team went 0-4 during the preseason. Backup quarterbacks C.J. Beathard, Jake Luton, E.J. Perry, and Kyle Sloter all saw playing time during the Jaguars preseason. E.J. Perry saw the most time. Perry threw 48 passes, completing 25 of those passes. Perry threw for a total of 290 yards but only had one touchdown while throwing three interceptions.

None of the Jaguars running backs stood out during the preseason. Wide receiver Tim Jones had 14 catches and 219 yards throughout the preseason. Rookie linebacker Chad Muma and lineback Chappelle Russell have played consistently and well, combining for over 25 tackles. Safety Daniel Thomas also had a total of 12 tackles during the preseason.

The Jaguars face the Washington Commanders in their first regular season game on September 11th. 

Tennessee Titans 

Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill did not play during the preseason. Instead rookie quarterback Malik Willis and three year veteran Logan Woodside played. Malik Willis completed 13 of 28 with 187 yards, zero passing touchdowns and zero interceptions. Willis has also added 80 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown through two preseason games.

Woodside has completed 21 of 35 passes for 158 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. Rookie running back Julius Chestnut has had 17 carries for 79, which averages to be 4.6 yards per carry. Chestnut did have one fumble but other than that he played well.

Rookie linebacker Jack Gibbens and veteran linebacker Joe Jones have combined for 24 tackles. Safety Joshua Kalu also has had 11 tackles after the first two preseason games.

AFC West 

Denver Broncos

New star quarterback Russell Wilson did not play during the preseason. Veterans Josh Johnson and Brett Rypien have taken the reins while Wilson rests. Both have played major minutes. Johnson has thrown 39 passes with 24 of those being completions. Johnson has had over 240 yards and 2 touchdowns through two preseason games. Rypien has thrown 44 passes with 30 being completions. Rypien has over 300 yards and one touchdown through the Broncos two preseason games.

Rookie wide receiver Jalen Virgil has looked good. Virgil has had 5 catches and 122 yards so far during the preseason. Virgil is averaging 24 yards per catch. Linebackers Alex Singleton and Barrington Wade have been consistent. Together they have combined for 18 tackles. Safety Caden Sterns and rookie safety Delarrin Turner-Yell have combined for a total of 21 tackles this preseason.

The Broncos will face the Seattle Seahawks in their season opener on September 12th. 

Kansas City Chiefs 

Star quarterback Patrick Mahomes played in the first two preseason games but sat out for the Chiefs final preseason game. Quarterbacks Shane Buechele, Dustin Crum, and Chad Henne each got some playing time as well. Buechele got the bulk of the load. Buechele completed 31 of his 51 passes attempted. Buechele finished with over 330 yards, three touchdowns and one interception during the preseason.

Wide receiver Justin Watson had a great preseason. Watson had eight catches for 107 yards and one touchdown. Also worth noting is that second year tight end Matt Bushman had a great preseason finale. Bushman had three catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns during the Chiefs final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

The Chiefs start their regular season on September 11th against the Arizona Cardinals. 

Las Vegas Raiders 

The Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr didn’t play at all during the preseason but the team still finished 4-0. Backups Nick Mullens and Jarrett Stidham have played the most snaps during the Raiders preseason. Jarrett Stidham completed 29 of his 46 passes for over 300 yards.

Rookie running back Brittain Brown made the most of his preseason opportunities by playing well. Brown had over 150 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per carry during the preseason.  Wide receiver Tyron Johnson had eight catches for 123 yards and one touchdown throughout the preseason.

Linebackers Darien Butler and Luke Masterson both played consistently well on the defensive side. They combined for 44 tackles in the Raiders four preseason games. Cornerbacks Darius Phillips and Amik Robertson also combined for over 20 tackles.

The Raiders have their first regular season game against the Los Angeles Chargers on September 11th. 

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers star quarterback Justin Herbert did not play at all during the preseason. The team went 0-3 in the preseason. Backup quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Easton Stick were only two quarterbacks that played for the Chargers during the preseason. Daniel completed 34 of his 49 passes attempted while throwing for over 300 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Stick completed 36 of his 60 attempted passes while throwing for over 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

None of the Chargers running backs had a good or noticeable preseason. Wide receiver Michael Bandy had a great preseason. Bandy had a total of 18 catches, 172 yards, and two touchdowns. Bandy also had the most targets by a Chargers wide receiver during the preseason with 25 targets. The Chargers face the Las Vegas Raiders during week one of the NFL regular season on September 11th. 

The preseason has been a great opportunity to see where teams stand before the regular season begins. Many of the AFC teams look improved from last season. Now it’s time to look towards the regular season.