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Week 1 preseason grades: Paxton Lynch among top AFC rookies

Preseason football is here -- and while wins and losses mean nothing, individual performances can mean everything. As the preseason slate progresses, Bucky Brooks will be assessing the performances of notable players, handing out grades to provide context for the prior week's on-field action.

This week, we examine a key rookie from each team in the NFL, including the AFC below.


BUFFALO BILLS: Kevon Seymour, cornerback. The Bills might've landed legitimate CB1s in back-to-back years, with Seymour potentially following Ronald Darby's blueprint for cracking the starting lineup. The sixth-round pick continues to impress with suffocating coverage on the perimeter. Seymour locks receivers up with perfect hip-pocket positioning, but he also flashes the short-area quickness and ball skills to bat away passes at the moment of truth. He recorded a pair of pass breakups in the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt and a potential touchdown toss on consecutive possessions in Saturday's preseason matchup with the Colts. With the rookie stepping in and looking comfortable with the first unit, Seymour could emerge as the Bills' nickel corner by the end of camp. GRADE: A

MIAMI DOLPHINS: Jakeem Grant, wide receiver. The undersized (5-foot-7, 172 pounds) but slippery pass catcher is a jitterbug on the perimeter, with his stunning combination of stop-start quickness and burst making him nearly impossible to contain with the ball in his hands. Against the New York Giants on Friday, Grant flashed his potential as a "catch and run" specialist with his four receptions for 68 yards (check out his 24-yard gain on a quick screen) and 113 combined return yards. The sixth-rounder delivered a pair of explosive plays (that is, gains of 20-plus yards) and displayed the kind of big-play potential the Dolphins' offense has lacked in the past. If he can avoid the drops and muffs that've plagued his training camp performance, Grant could carve out a role as a specialty playmaker for the Dolphins. GRADE: B+

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Cyrus Jones, cornerback. The Patriots' top pick (Round 2, No. 60 overall) is already making a strong case for cracking the starting lineup as the CB2 or CB3 opposite Malcolm Butler. The 5-10, 200-pounder looks like a seasoned vet on the island, exhibiting solid footwork, fundamentals and instincts in coverage. In addition, Jones is a talented returner with the kind of wiggle and burst to create big plays in the kicking game. He was held to a 2-yard gain on his lone punt return against the Saints on Thursday, but with a college resume full of dynamic returns, he could be an immediate "two-phase" contributor for the Patriots. GRADE: B

NEW YORK JETS: Darron Lee, linebacker.Jets coach Todd Bowles unleashed Lee against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, and the football world should take notice. Lee was a Tasmanian devil on the field, exhibiting outstanding speed and explosiveness as a "run and chase" player. In addition, he displayed natural rush skills (one sack) and disruptive potential as a designated hunter from the second level. Yes, he did most of his work against the Jags' second team -- still, the first-rounder from Ohio State could be a big-time playmaker as part of the Jets' sub-packages. GRADE: A


BALTIMORE RAVENS: Matt Judon, defensive end. The small-school standout quickly showed Ravens officials that the impressive college resume he compiled at Grand Valley State could translate to major pro production as a disruptive player along the line. The fifth-round pick racked up seven tackles and a sack against the Panthers on Thursday while displaying a relentless motor and natural rush skills. With Baltimore desperately looking to upgrade the pass rush as Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil near the end of their respective careers, Judon's flashes could force the coaches to carve out a role for the energetic rookie. GRADE: B+

CINCINNATI BENGALS: Tyler Boyd, wide receiver. The mass exodus of Bengals receiver talent during the offseason (with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu both leaving for greener pastures) makes it imperative for Boyd to become an impact player this season. Based on his debut performance against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday, the second-round pick could become a key contributor to the offense as a vertical threat. The ex-Pitt standout finished the night with only one reception, but it was a beautiful over-the-shoulder grab that showcased his spectacular ball skills and tracking ability. With A.J. Green attracting double coverage on most passing downs, Boyd could feast on one-on-one coverage on the backside as the Bengals' WR2. GRADE: B

CLEVELAND BROWNS: Emmanuel Ogbah, defensive end/outside linebacker. I know we must keep preseason performances in perspective, but the Browns might've discovered their DPR (designated pass rusher) for the season in Ogbah. The ex-Oklahoma State star was like a bull in a china shop rushing off the edge on the way to six tackles, two quarterback hits and a sack against the Green Bay Packers on Friday. Ogbah also displayed the "juice" (energy) that Hue Jackson desires in his top defenders -- a trait that could help the second-round pick wreak havoc as a potential first-year starter. GRADE: A

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Sean Davis, cornerback/safety. The versatile defender from Maryland could play a variety of roles for the Steelers as a nickel corner/safety. Davis had an up-and-down performance against Detroit on Friday, with a missed tackle and penalty on a horse-collar tackle overshadowing the solid cover skills he displayed throughout the game. As Davis gets more playing time at both positions, the second-round pick should settle into his role and help the Steelers shore up a secondary that's been viewed as the team's biggest weakness heading into the season. GRADE: B


HOUSTON TEXANS: Braxton Miller, wide receiver. There's plenty of intrigue surrounding the Texans' plans for Miller, based on the third-round pick's unique skill set as a quarterback-turned-wide-receiver at Ohio State. The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year didn't disappoint against the 49ers on Sunday, posting four catches for 34 yards, including a spectacular 24-yard diving reception that showcased his athleticism and ball skills. Miller still needs to clean up his route running, but he is an intriguing playmaker with the potential to help lift some of the coverage on DeAndre Hopkins. GRADE: B

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Josh Ferguson, running back. Ferguson emerged as one of the stars of the Colts' offseason practices, but he did little to build on that momentum with his performance and production against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday. The undrafted free agent mustered only 3 yards on eight carries. Most disappointingly, Ferguson didn't have enough room to run or show the explosiveness that team officials have been raving about since OTAs. He's currently the penciled-in option at RB2, but Ferguson needs to have better production in the team's next outing to cement his place behind Frank Gore. GRADE: D

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Myles Jack, linebacker. The Jaguars' second-round pick has been a forgotten man on the national scene, but he remains a viable candidate to contend for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, based on his rare combination of skills (speed, athleticism, versatility and explosiveness) as an MLB. He flashed those skills in two quarters of work against the Jets on Thursday while directing the Jaguars' second-team defense. Jack finished the night with two tackles, but he made his big impact on the defense by serving as the traffic cop for the unit. As he gets more comfortable with his knee and the Jaguars' defense, Jack will begin to deliver the splash plays that made him a force at UCLA. GRADE: B

TENNESSEE TITANS: Derrick Henry, running back.The Titans' exotic smashmouth attack lived up to the hype Saturday, with the team rushing for 288 yards against the San Diego Chargers. Henry played a key role in the impressive outing by rumbling for 74 yards on 10 carries as the designated hammer for the offense. The 6-4, 247-pounder displayed outstanding strength and power running through tackles, but it was his nimble footwork and agility that impressed me the most when I watched the game. Henry made a few jump cuts at the point of attack that silenced concerns about his lateral quickness and body control. If the second-round pick continues to display dazzling skills behind veteran back DeMarco Murray, the Titans' renewed commitment to the run could make them a force in the AFC South. GRADE: A


DENVER BRONCOS: Paxton Lynch, quarterback. Hats off to coach Gary Kubiak and his staff for crafting game plans that allow quarterbacks to play to their strengths as passers. Lynch is an athletic playmaker with a big arm and nimble feet, but the first-round pick spent his collegiate career at Memphis playing in a spread offense that featured a number of "catch-and-fire" routes or RPO (run-pass option) concepts. Despite his inexperience running a traditional offense, the 6-7, 244-pound gunslinger looked comfortable against the Bears on Thursday executing the Broncos' movement-based offense, which blended a number of play-action and traditional dropback passes. Lynch not only showed outstanding footwork working through his drops, but he flashed the athleticism and movement skills that few expect from an XXL passer. Whether he was picking up first downs on impromptu scrambles or getting to the corner on designed rollouts, Lynch showed the kind of athleticism that could enhance the Broncos' running game down the road. With Lynch also flashing his arm delivering dimes from the pocket and on the move, the Broncos' future QB1 is playing with supreme confidence at this time. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to perform well against better competition. GRADE: A-

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Chris Jones, defensive end. The Chiefs' second-round pick certainly looks like a dominant defender based on his spectacular debut performance against the Seahawks on Saturday. Jones overwhelmed blockers with his combination of size and strength on the way to notching two tackles and a couple of QB hurries. In addition, he played a part in stopping a fourth-down running play that ended a Seattle drive. Considering Jones' impact against the Seahawks' reserves, it's only a matter of time before the rookie works his way into the starting rotation. GRADE: B+

OAKLAND RAIDERS: Karl Joseph, safety. The Raiders' top pick (No. 14 overall) made a surprise cameo against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, and the work likely helped Joseph knock off the rust after a lengthy rehab from a knee injury suffered during his senior season. In nine snaps, Joseph recorded a tackle and moved around well in the back end. Although he didn't get much action in his direction, he took another step on the journey toward becoming the starter beside Reggie Nelson when the season opens in a few weeks. GRADE: B

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Hunter Henry, tight end. The Chargers' rookie tight end served notice to future opponents that he could be a major contributor to the offense as the TE2 behind Antonio Gates. The second-round pick is a crafty route runner with strong hands and superb ball skills, which makes him an ideal complement to Gates down in the red zone. He finished Saturday's matchup against the Titans with three catches for 43 yards, showing coach Mike McCoy that he is more than capable of assuming a bigger role in the game plan with receiver Stevie Johnson sidelined for the year. GRADE: B

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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