The first week of the 2021 NFL preseason is now completed, with plenty of players getting their first chance of the year to prove themselves on the field. We saw countless rookies make their preseason debuts as most of the attention was on guys like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones. Some would say that Lawrence had a rough showing in his preseason opener after taking two sacks, but he bounced back with some impressive throws to finish with 71 yards on six completions.
During the preseason, guys are fighting for roster spots and the opportunity to make their dreams come true of playing in the NFL. For veteran players, they are attempting to show that they still belong in the league. After getting football back in our lives this past weekend, here are five of the biggest losers from Week 1 of the 2021 NFL preseason.
It is assumed that this is Ben Roethlisberger’s final year in the NFL as he enters his 18th season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Throughout the preseason, while Roethlisberger won’t get much action — if any — the Steelers are holding a competition for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart at the quarterback position. The competition is between Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, who have both seen playing time in Pittsburgh’s first two preseason games.
In the second exhibition game for the Steelers, it was Haskins who outplayed Rudolph to the tune of 161 passing yards and a touchdown while completing 16 of his 22 attempts. Haskins led Pittsburgh’s offense to three scoring drives while Rudolph was watching from the sideline. Following the team’s first two games of the preseason, Haskins appears to have the upper hand on Rudolph, who has looked shaky thus far.
Sean Payton was eager to see both Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston in action against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1 of the preseason. The New Orleans Saints have yet to name their starting quarterback, and a stellar performance in the preseason opener from either guy could have given them an edge over the other. However, both Hill and Winston would struggle versus the Ravens, giving Payton little to nothing to work with.
Hill concluded the game with 81 passing yards and an interception, completing eight of his 12 attempts. As for Winston, he also threw an interception, but he at least tossed a touchdown, which is something that Hill can’t say. With the Saints anxious to see positive plays from both of their potential starters at quarterback, neither of them had an outing that should instill confidence in the direction of the offense.
Bruce Arians elected to play his starters for a brief stint in Week 1 of the NFL preseason. Tom Brady attempted only two passes, completing one of them for nine yards before exiting the game. Following Brady’s appearance, fans were curious to see how rookie Kyle Trask would perform in his debut. The first-year quarterback out of Florida would mightily struggle, completing just four of his 15 passes for 35 yards.
Of course, with Brady leading the offense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t need Trask to be prepared to start in Week 1 of the regular season. But at the very least, they would like to see growth from Trask as the preseason progresses. To be fair, Trask’s stat line could have looked slightly different if some of the pass-catchers of the Buccaneers didn’t drop passes from him. Still, Tampa Bay would love to see a better showing from the rookie signal-caller in Week 2 of the NFL preseason against the Tennessee Titans.
The backfield of the New England Patriots is a crowded group entering the 2021 season. The buzz coming out of New England is that Damien Harris is the definitive starter after a strong performance last season. During the 2021 NFL Draft, the Patriots added Rhamondre Stevenson out of Oklahoma, who is competing for a role in the offense. James White figures to have his usual role in the passing game and J.J. Taylor is vying for a roster spot.
So where does that leave former first-round pick, Sony Michel? In New England’s preseason opener, it was Stevenson who impressed at the running back position, scampering for 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns — including a 91-yard score — on just 10 carries. While Michel was second on the team with 26 rushing yards, his role on the team could be in jeopardy with Stevenson showing flashes of potential in his debut.
The Atlanta Falcons elected not to take a quarterback in this year’s draft, meaning that Matt Ryan will remain the starter as long as he’s healthy. Arthur Smith, the new head coach of the Falcons, didn’t play Ryan or most of the starters in Week 1 of the NFL preseason. With Ryan on the sideline, it was time for A.J. McCarron or Feleipe Franks to show that they deserve the backup job behind Ryan.
For McCarron, he should have the edge over Franks due to his experience in the NFL, but he didn’t do much to separate himself in the competition. While Franks completed only two of his nine pass attempts for 16 yards, he showed off his mobility with 76 rushing yards on four carries. As for McCarron, he went 5-12 for 36 yards and he threw an interception. If McCarron wants to ensure his career in the league continues, he can’t have outings like he did in Week 1 of the preseason.