Mayfield and Barkley have strong debuts in preseason opener

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley lived up to early expectations as the top two picks in the NFL draft in their first action as the Cleveland Browns beat the New York Giants 20-10 on Thursday night.

Replacing starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor late in the first quarter, Mayfield hit 11 of 20 passes for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and converted two fourth-down plays with his feet. The Heisman Trophy winner who was the No. 1 overall pick found tight end David Njoku on a 10-yard TD pass to cap a 14-play, 72-yard drive on his second series. He finished his debut with a completion on a 54-yard slant and run to fellow rookie Antonio Callaway.

Taylor, expected to be coach Hue Jackson’s starter as Mayfield learns this season, hit all five of his passes in two series, including a 36-yard touchdown pass to Njoku, a New Jersey native.

Barkley, the No. 2 pick, electrified the fans at MetLife Stadium, taking a handoff from Eli Manning on the opening play from scrimmage and turning no apparent hole into a 39-yard run down the sideline in front of the Giants’ bench. It set up a 42-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas.

The Penn State running back finished with 43 yards on five carries.


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Landry Jones and Josh Dobbs each tossed touchdown passes and the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles rested several starters, including quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. Nate Sudfeld threw a pair of touchdown passes and two interceptions.

Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown sat for the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell still hasn’t signed his franchise tender.

Jones completed all four of his passes for 83 yards, including a 71-yard TD pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the first quarter. Smith-Schuster made a leaping catch over Rasul Douglas at the 33 and ran untouched to the end zone.

Fitzgerald Toussaint had a 3-yard TD run and a 2-point conversion, while Dobbs threw a 29-yard TD pass to Damoun Patterson.

Sudfeld threw a perfect strike for a 63-yard TD to Shelton Gibson and fired a 15-yard TD pass to rookie Dallas Goedert. He finished 10 of 14 for 140 yards.

Wentz still hasn’t been cleared for contact after having surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee last December. Foles, the Super Bowl MVP, has missed a few practices with muscle spasms in his neck and shoulder.

Mason Rudolph, a third-round pick competing with Jones and Dobbs for the backup job to Roethlisberger, was 7 of 12 for 101 yards.


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin’s feud with former teammate Panthers quarterback Cam Newton continued before and during Carolina’s preseason-opening win.

First, the two exchanged words on the field about 90 minutes before kickoff. Then they each played key roles in touchdowns drives in the first quarter.

Benjamin caught four passes for 59 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown reception from Nathan Peterman on Buffalo’s first possession. Newton responded on the next possession, completing 4 of 5 attempts for 67 yards as part of an 85-yard drive capped by Christian McCaffrey’s 2-yard run.

The bad blood between the two emerged last week when Benjamin criticized Newton’s accuracy and questioned why the Panthers used a first-round pick to draft Benjamin in 2014. It was the latest time Benjamin has voiced his frustrations since forcing his trade to Buffalo in October.

Before the game, a video posted by The Charlotte Observer showed Benjamin chatting with Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis when Newton approached the two and attempted to shake Benjamin’s hand. Newton waved away Davis, and then had a brief discussion with Benjamin before the receiver began walking away.

Newton followed and the two talked again. The discussion ended when Benjamin shrugged and turned to walk away, and Newton waved his hand at the receiver’s back.

Newton finished 6 of 9 for 84 yards in two series.


CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton made a solid debut in Cincinnati’s revamped offense, throwing for a pair of touchdowns.

The Bengals were last in the league on offense last season, the worst finish in franchise history. They overhauled their leaky offensive line, and coordinator Bill Lazor injected more diversity into the playbook. It showed the first time out.

Dalton went 6 of 8 for 103 yards, completing four passes of at least 20 yards. He also had an interception that wasn’t his fault — John Ross fell on his route and Kyle Fuller returned the pickoff 47 yards to the end zone.

The Bears (0-2) rested most of their starters during a 17-16 loss to the Ravens in the Hall of Fame game, including quarterback Mitchell Trubisky . His preseason debut didn’t go very well.

Trubisky was in for two series that netted minus-1 yard on eight plays. The Bears’ only first down on those series came on Carlos Dunlap’s penalty for roughing the quarterback, a late hit on Trubisky. He missed on a deep sideline pass to Kevin White on his opening throw and finished 2 of 4 for 4 yards.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles completed 6 of 9 passes for 53 yards and scored on a short bootleg. Bortles was poised in the pocket and nearly perfect in one series of work, a significant improvement from the way his preseason started a year ago. Bortles had a five-interception performance during a training camp practice in 2017 and continued to struggle during joint practices with New England. He was benched two weeks into the preseason and had to earn the starting job.

A year later, his starting spot is as solid as just about anyone’s on the team. It showed against the Saints.

Bortles led the Jaguars on a 15-play, 79-yard drive to open the game. He converted both third-down passes he faced and finished off the series by going untouched around the right side.

Saints star Drew Brees got the night off, allowing backup Tom Savage to play the first half. Savage completed 10 of 14 passes for 70 yards. Brees only played in one preseason game in 2017.

Mark Ingram, suspended the first four games of the regular season for violating NFL policy on performance enhancers, carried seven times for 23 yards and a touchdown. Ingram scored against Jacksonville’s backups and after a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty kept the drive alive.


MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Buccaneers kicker Chandler Catanzaro made a 26-yard field goal with 23 seconds left to cap a 67-yard drive and give them the win.

Ryan Tannehill completed passes on the first four plays in his return from two serious injuries to his left knee, sparking a 40-yard drive that ended with a missed field goal in his only series.

Tannehill, seeing his first action since December 2016, was off-target on his final two throws and finished 4 for 6 for 32 yards.

Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston played the second quarter against Miami’s second team and led a group of reserves to 10 points on drives of 32 and 40 yards. He went 11 for 13 for 102 yards in four series.

Winston is suspended for the first three games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

Dolphins receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson and defensive end Robert Quinn protested during the anthem. Stills and Wilson kneeled behind teammates lined up standing along the sideline. Quinn stood and raised his right fist. There were no apparent protests by the Buccaneers.


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3 Rookies Everyone Should Be Excited to See

Now that the OTAs are in full swing, teams are starting to get a look at how their rookies play. By no means does this compare to what an actual game will be like, but it does give them a taste of what they can expect from their long-term investments. There are several rookies in this year’s draft class that everyone who is in love with football, should be anxious to see.
Shane Ray, EDGE, Denver Broncos
Shane Ray made the headlines prior to the NFL Draft after being busted for possession of pot, plus there was some concern for a turf toe injury he suffered late last season which took longer than expected to heal. Ray was never really liked by most draft-niks because of his smaller build. When scouting Ray, I was never concerned with his size, because I felt he played bigger than what his measurements said. Ray is an extremely quick and powerful edge rusher; I was consistently impressed with his play game after game. If you need a sack on third down, he is going to be the one who you can expect a sack to come from. The only issue I have with Ray is his poor run defense; that is where the smaller size bites him in the butt. It is hard for him to penetrate through the inside of the O-Line and get to the ball carrier. I like the group that Ray is surrounded with at Denver. He will be trained and helped along by one of the best EDGE/D-Linemen to play the game, Demarcus Ware, and a talented pass rusher by the name of Von Miller. In Denver, Ray is set up for success and I can see him being the eventual replacement for the aging Ware.
Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers
Melvin Gordon is one of the most accomplished RBs to come out of Wisconsin University. Setting records last season, he was arguably one of the best backs to go in the Draft. I loved watching Gordon in my time scouting him. He was very quick and he had the home run potential on every single handoff. The main downgrade I gave him was I didn’t feel, in college, that he caught the ball enough. So that is something he will need to get used to in his transition to the pros. I feel Gordon will do very well in his rookie season. He is set up with some veteran help. Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown have both been in the league for some time now and can give him some help. He also has a decent O-Line blocking for him and some guy named Philip Rivers, a five time Pro-Bowler, leading the offense. I have to wonder with Gordon coming from a team known for using their running backs a great deal, if he is a short term answer to a problem in San Diego.
Phillip Dorsett, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Until the Combine, no one had really heard of a guy named Phillip Dorsett out of Miami (FL). Then, he ran the 40 yard dash and his Draft stock started rising. Dorsett was a very fast player at Miami who was known for out-running defenses on the deep ball and getting excellent yards after the catch, particularly on screen plays. There is some issue with his size, seeing as he is only 5”9” (5’10” if you round up) and 185 pounds, and there are problems with too many dropped passes. As of right now, it seems that Dorsett will not be a starting WR the first week. Instead, it looks as if his main role will be the number one punt return and kickoff return man. It is a smart move by the Colts to give him some time to develop until there is a spot for him as backup receiver. As of now, Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, and Donte Moncrief are the main receivers for the Colts and will be for several more seasons. In the meantime, Dorsett will have a chance to learn from veterans Johnson and Hilton (who is slowly turning into a top notch receiver himself). To me, nothing is more exciting than watching a game where an extremely fast return man is about to work his magic. Seeing guys like Devin Hester, Patrick Peterson, and Tavon Austin do their stuff is a thrill to watch and they bring excitement back into the usually boring and drab Special Teams. I expect to see a few returns by Dorsett to be on the highlight reels on Sunday and Monday nights.
Austin Morris is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached at