What we learned: Cardinals not worried about offense

Carson Palmer played three drives on Sunday in Houston and two of them ended with interceptions. The team’s starting offense has looked disjointed throughout the preseason. And it will all be completely forgotten in two weeks.

Here’s what we did manage to learn during three games Sunday as Preseason Week 3 wrapped up:

1. Arians might be more worried about his defense. After two sluggish preseason outings, Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler looked terrific against Arizona against little pressure. He had only two incompletions in 13 attempts while pushing the ball down the field, especially in three beautiful throws to rookie Will Fuller.

2. While Fuller dropped one of those deep throws, the first-round pick has quickly looked the part of a No. 2 wide receiver across from DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller and fellow rookie Braxton Miller combined for six catches and 96 yards, including Fuller’s 26-yard score. Miller has seamlessly jumped right into the Texans offense as the starting slot receiver. Offseason hype candidate Jaelen Strong is stuck at No. 4 in a suddenly deep receiver group.

3. It was also telling that Texans rookie running back Tyler Ervin got so many snaps with the first team. He’s going to be the primary backup and third down back behind Lamar Miller. He’s shown impressive niftiness and burst in the preseason.

4. Cardinals cornerback Mike Jenkins was carted off the field after a non-contact knee injury. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said last week Jenkins had a chance to start opposite Patrick Peterson. It’s a thin position for the Cardinals, who will rely on rookie Brandon Williams and veteran Justin Bethel, who had a rough night in his return from foot surgery.

5. The most notable part of Sunday night’s Bengals-Jaguars game could prove to be a non-story. Bengals receiver A.J. Green left the game in the first quarter with a right knee injury after limping off the field. He stayed on the sideline standing throughout the game and the team said it was not serious. (Then again, that’s what the Cowboys said about Tony Romo’s injury.)

6. The Bengals’ starters look regular-season ready, especially Andy Dalton. Cincinnati out-gained Jacksonville 122-14 in the first quarter while Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard continued to look exceedingly sharp heading into the regular season.

Kamar Aiken, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Steve Smith Sr. is the greatest player in the history of the NFL. I am in no way disrespecting him here. But Aiken was really good down the stretch last season. Aiken had 75-944-5 at the end of last year, and I don’t see him ceding this gig to any of the veteran options (looking at you, too, Mike Wallace and/or Breshad Perriman) and he’s going to end up as the top receiving option for this team.

Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants
I’m not sure how the Giants were able to land the Odell Beckham Jr. of this year’s draft. Here’s what teams should do; find out who the Giants like at receiver and then draft him. The Giants are like the kid on your block who had both Xbox and PlayStation. We all hated that kid. But don’t hate these Giants. I know some of you might be scared about him not getting enough targets and such. But Rueben Randle had like 797 yards and eight touchdowns. Dude (or ladies), Shepard > Randle. By a lot. So I could see both Giants receivers have great years. OBJ steps into another stratosphere. Shepard tags along as a 1,000-yard 8 touchdown guy.

Martellus Bennett, TE, New England Patriots
The Patriots have longed to reemploy the two-tight end strategy they had a few years ago. Now they have the guy who can get it done. I don’t see Bennett taking away anything from Gronk. He plays a different game. Bennett stretches the field. Both can work in tandem to be effective. And the trend says anytime the Bears trade away a tight end, he does pretty well. (I know I’ve bashed Mike Martz for this previously, but it warrants mentioning again for anybody who missed it. Nice move, guy.)

Bonus nugget for Bennett is the early reports have him working really well with Jimmy Garoppolo. So he could be in store for a monster opening to the season. His ADP is ridiculously low, too. Which makes no sense to me. I get Coby Fleener, yeah. He’s going to be great. But don’t sleep on Bennett.

Ezekiel Elliott shows all-around game in Cowboys debut

SEATTLE — Aside from the unfortunate video of the running back at a marijuana dispensary hours before kickoff, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones could not have asked for more of Ezekiel Elliott’s debut.

“You saw everything,” Jones said. “You saw his change of direction. You saw his speed and you saw the way he finishes runs. And you saw his power. You saw everything he had there. And then of course we started the game off with him split out and saw him as a receiver and of course his play without having the ball is what has made him special. No, there’s nothing we didn’t see.”

“The NFL game is a little more different,” Elliott said. “There’s a lot more talking in it. Normally I don’t talk, but they were being chippy, man, and I’m not soft.”

Jones’ favorite moment might have been on the play that caused him the most stress. The Seahawks brought a blitz in which Elliott had to go across the formation to pick up a linebacker, whom he flattened.

“I take a lot of pride in blocking, so I pride myself in being a great blocking running back as much as I am running the ball, as much as I am catching the ball,” Elliott said. “So it’s always good to get a good block in.”

Elliott did not play in the first two preseason games because of a sore hamstring that forced him from practice on Aug. 2 while the Cowboys were in Oxnard, California, for training camp. He practiced the final two days in Oxnard and then had three full workouts at the Cowboys’ new practice home, The Star, in Frisco, Texas.

“He finished runs well and he ran with authority,” coach Jason Garrett said.

The Cowboys generally don’t play their regulars in the preseason finale, so Elliott could be under wraps for the next two-plus weeks before the Sept. 11 season opener against the New York Giants.

“I wish I was going to play next week. I don’t think I will,” Elliott said. “But I think I’ll be ready for Game 1.”

Tom Brady hasn’t mapped out details for work during 4-game suspension

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – One lingering question for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is what he plans to do during a four-game suspension to open the season, which he was asked about on Tuesday.

“That comparison to me, that’s ridiculous,” Carr said. “That doesn’t even make sense. You can’t fathom it. You can’t really say, ‘Oh yeah, that makes sense.’ That doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t make sense.

“I’ve seen Julio run on a field … in person and to think that Usain Bolt can run a lot faster than him, blows my mind. So Usain, if you want to run a go-route, we’re all good with it.”

In fact, that’s how Del Rio said he would use the 6-feet-5, 207-pound Bolt, who just turned 30 years old two days ago, were he to get his hands on him.

“Send him on a go-route,” Del Rio laughed. “Certainly not going to ask him to come in and block anybody. He can fly. Something like playing football, maybe that would interest him.

Lewis, 30, will have to show the Steelers he is close to returning from a lingering hip injury that became a source of contention between him and the Saints.

Lewis said recently that he expects to be close to 100 percent by Week 1. But he only practiced once during training camp and made it clear he didn’t want to rush back and risk a setback. Coach Sean Payton expressed frustration while saying Lewis’ release came down to “availability.”

ESPN Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler said the Steelers could use an established third cornerback to complement William Gay and Ross Cockrell. With rookie cornerback Artie Burns nursing a quad injury and rookie safety Sean Davis playing nickel cornerback out of necessity, Lewis’ playmaking skills would be welcome. And he certainly knows Pittsburgh’s system.

Lewis’ medical history will be the issue, though. Fowler said the Steelers will be skeptical unless Lewis passes the team’s medical evaluation. If he does, the Steelers will evaluate cost-effective measures to sign him.

Lewis first suffered the hip/sports hernia injury during the 2015 preseason. He then required three surgeries between September and January while playing in only six games with zero starts last season. He said recently that he suffered another setback while working out in June.

Why the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to stand behind Landry Jones

This isn’t to excuse Jones’ play — his decision-making must improve — but the context is important.

Jones wasn’t bad in training camp: Jones will miss throws that Roethlisberger makes. That’s just how it is. He won’t see the field like the veteran. But Thursday night wasn’t an extension of camp, where Jones was generally pretty good. He didn’t have those nightmarish turnover-prone practices like from 2015. He looks more in command.

That’s why the Steelers likely won’t overreact to the performance. To be sure, though, Jones’ stat line of 166-1-4 over six quarters must improve.

The free-agent QB market is brutal: The Steelers can dip their feet in the Tarvaris Jackson-Mike Vick-Charlie Whitehurst pool, but those guys don’t have much left.

The Steelers would likely prefer to develop Dustin Vaughan over adding a Matt Flynn or T.J. Yates for faux competition.

CLEVELAND — Hue Jackson’s breakdown of the two touchdown passes thrown by Robert Griffin III Thursday night illustrated the growth that the Browns coach said he sees in the team’s quarterback.

The most encouraging part of Jackson’s analysis? Griffin threw from the pocket and made the right decisions.

“The reads were exactly what they needed to be,” Jackson said the day after Griffin’s good night in a preseason loss to Atlanta. “I think the quality of the throws were excellent.”

The first touchdown was down the right sideline for 50 yards to Terrelle Pryor. The second was a 29-yard touch-and-distance pass to Gary Barnidge.

“Obviously it was a heck of a catch by Barnidge and it was a heck of a play by Terrelle Pryor,” Jackson said. “[Griffin] threw both balls where they needed to be and [the throws] went to the right people.”

Was one throw better than another?

“No, I love them both,” Jackson said. “When they end up in touchdowns, I like both of them.”

None of this certifies Griffin as “back” from a season when he did not play a down in Washington. Sometimes a quarterback looks his best in preseason, and the regular-season defenses Griffin will see will be exponentially more complex than they defenses he’s seeing in preseason games.

Ladarius Green’s absence gets a little more concerning for Steelers

All the Steelers can do is wait and hope they get Green back on the field soon.

Texas A&M and the Seattle Seahawks have reached a new agreement on the usage of TAMU’s trademarked “12th Man” phrase.

The two sides have a five-year deal that has a few new provisions, the school announced Thursday. Seattle will no longer be able to use “12th Man” on the “Ring of Honor” at CenturyLink Field or reference it on Seahawks social media accounts. A&M and Seattle initially reached an agreement in 2006 when A&M took legal action against the NFL franchise for unauthorized use of the phrase. A&M first issued a federal trademark in 1990.

Like A&M, Seattle uses the phrase to describe its fan base as the symbolic 12th man on the field. But for A&M, the phrase dates back nearly 100 years.

From A&M’s press release:

The “12th Man” use by Texas A&M dates back almost a century and directly relates to the legendary actions of the late E. King Gill, a Texas A&M student who came out of the stands at an Aggie football game on Jan 2, 1922 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas—ready to enter the game if needed because of injuries to the team’s regular players. Gill was the original 12th Man.
“We appreciate the Seahawks’ management working with us on a mutual agreement for the licensed use of the mark,” A&M president Michael Young said in a statement. “The 12th Man is a cherished tradition. Keeping it alive is important because it reflects the willingness and readiness of Aggies to fearlessly step in whenever and wherever needed.”

In November, A&M filed suit against another NFL team — the Indianapolis Colts — for using the phrase. The Colts used “12th Man” in team promotions asking season ticket holders to “join the 12th Man” via email. Per ESPN, the Colts agreed to stop using it and the suit was settled “with no money changing hands.”

Wentz had some moments when it was clear why the Eagles gave up so much in a trade to move up and draft him, but he also looked like a rookie. He seemed a bit amped up — he fired a third-down pass over Ertz, throwing his fastball when a changeup would have gotten the completion. He also had a terrible throw in the third quarter. On third-and-10, with a clean pocket and receiver Cayleb Jones running wide open downfield. Wentz didn’t come close, throwing it way over Jones’ head and incomplete.