Griffin, Akins and Smith Highlight UCF In NFL's First Preseason Games

Photo: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Hall of Fame game technically kicked off the preseason a week ago, Thursday night's full slate of preseason games was the first time football felt like it was truly back.

With all those game on at once, it felt like a Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST and we were about to flip on the Red Zone channel. We're not quite there yet, but that didn't mean Thursday night's games weren't a blast to watch, especially when it came to seeing some of the 2018 draft class' rookie players in their NFL team's uniforms on the field for the first time.

Here are some of the recaps, notes and highlights for six of the 12 games that went on Thursday night.

Seahawks vs. Colts

For the Seahawks, UCF LB Shaquem Griffin had four tackles in his first four snaps, which is very impressive. He finished the game with a team-high eight tackles and a tackle for loss.

On offense, running back Rashaad Penny's night was a quiet one with just seven yards on two carries.

For the Colts, quarterback Andrew Luck actually played, and even though he's not a rookie we wanted to note that. As for his protection, first round pick Quenton Nelson was smothering during his playing time, so all seems par for the course there.

On defense, second round linebacker Darius Leonard finished the game with four tackles.

Bucs vs. Dolphins

It was a mostly quiet night for Buccaneers' rookie running back Ronald Jones, finishing the game with just nine yards on eight carries, but he did charge in his first NFL touchdown.

Jones certainly wasn't the only rookie making things happen on Thursday night for the Buccaneers. Secondary players Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead all played big roles in the Bucs' 26-24 win. Davis got the start at outside corner and Stewart and Whitehead weren't far behind at their positions. It seems like early playing time is in reach for a lot of the Buccaneers' rookies.

For the Dolphins, rookie running back Kalen Ballage saw a lot of work early in the game, finishing with a team-high 37 yards on 10 carries. But a slippery fumble put a damper on his debut. Dolphins DB Minkah Fitzpatrick also showed out in the limited series he played, delivering a big hit to Bucs' RB Jones on one of them.

Saints vs. Jaguars

The play of the game for the young guns in the Saints and Jaguars game didn't come from a rookie, but he's a second-year player, so we'll cheat a bit and show it anyways because it was awesome.

Quarterback Taysom Hill was known as a guy who could do some damage outside the pocket at BYU, but, man, did he put the moves on that defender in the clip above. Hill actually led the Saints in passing (72) and rushing (52).

Saints' rookie wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith was New Orleans' most outstanding rookie with 48 yards on four receptions.

On the flip side, for the Jaguars, rookie wide receivers D.J. Chark and Allen Lazard both had just one catch in their debuts. On defense, Quenton Meek got a pass defended and Ronnie Harrison recorded one tackle.

Nothing from either team's first round picks, Marcus Davenport or Taven Bryan, in this one. Both sat out due to injury.

Texans vs. Chiefs

The top rookie performer from the Texans/Chiefs game was certainly rookie tight end Jordan Akins, who grabbed not one but two touchdowns in his NFL debut -- both off the arm of Brandon Weeden.

Texans' rookie linebacker Kennan Gilchrist out of Appalachian State led Houston in tackles with nine.

For the Chiefs, second-year quarertback Patric Mahomes went just 5-for-7 for 33 yards in the limited snaps he played, and rookie quarterback Chase Litton went 7-for-13 with 66 yards.

On defense for the Chiefs, their second round pick Breeland Speaks recorded one tackle, and wide receiver Byron Pringle not only recorded one catch for 16 yards but also had one tackle.

Bengals vs. Bears

Who had money on Oregon State rookie running back Ryan Nall having the longest run of the night? Anyone? No? Okay, money goes back in the pool.

Nall’s 69-yard run was certainly the offensive highlight of the night in this one, and that paved the way for his stat line of 95 yards on nine carries to really stand out. For the younger wide receivers, however, their night wasn't as nice. Wide receiver Anthony Miller had one catch for negative one yards, and fellow receiver Javon Wims had just six yards on two catches after a great performance last week in the Hall of Fame game.

On the Cincinnati side of things, Florida State rookie wide receiver Auden Tate got his first touchdown on his first NFL pass -- a 33-yarder. Turns out big, physical receivers can still do big, physical receiver things at the next level.

Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard recorded two tackles, one of which was a tackle for loss, and Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson recorded three tackles. However, it was actually Illinois State DB, the fifth round East-West Shrine Game standout Davontae Harris who stole the spotlight on defense with six tackles, on tackle for loss and a QB hit.

Rams vs. Ravens

We start this game's highlight with the moment we've all been waiting for: the first Lamar Jackson rushing touchdown. Jackson scampered into the end zone in the play shown above, which was most of his 21 rushing yards on five carries. He also recorded 119 passing yards on 7-for-18 passing attempts.

Rutgers rookie running back Gus Edwards led the Ravens in carries and rushing yards with 12 and 58. Former UF running back Mark Thompson actually recorded 43 receiving yards on two catches while tight end Hayden Hurst ended his night on 12 yards with one catch.

On Baltimore's defensive side, second-year pass rusher Tim Williams had five tackles, a sack and QB hit, while UCLA linebacker Kenny Young had four tackles.

For the Rams, their top young gun was rookie running back John Kelly, who finished his first game with 77 rushing yards on 13 carries, both team highs. Prairie View rookie wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge caught the only touchdown for the Rams off the arm of Brandon Allen.

On the defensive side, rookie linebackers Micah Kiser and Tegray Scales topped the stat sheet for the Rams with six and five tackles respectively.

Written By:

Trevor Sikkema

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-Host of the Locked On NFL Draft Podcast.