Tar Heels in NFL: Trubisky plays well on 28th birthday despite poor blocking; Howell inconsistent; Smith, Surratt play well

By R.L. Bynum

While quarterback Mitch Trubisky was pretty effective on his 28th birthday Saturday despite playing behind a struggling offensive line, Sam Howell was more inconsistent after an impressive NFL exhibition debut.

In Pittsburgh’s 16–15 Saturday victory over Jacksonville, Trubisky completed 5 of 8 passes for 60 yards, including a 29-yard gain, and had a 10-yard run in his 15 snaps. Although he had no interceptions, he also had no touchdown passes and an 85.4 passer rating. His three drives only produced a field goal, and one drive was a three-and-out.

“I thought Mitch played well,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I thought he created and extended some things when there wasn’t much there. But we’ve got to do a better job of protecting him and having some semblance of a run game if you want a fair evaluation.”

Trubisky still is the projected starter but rookie Kenny Pickett, with another good game (6 of 7 for 76 yards, one touchdown and a 151.5 passer rating), is pressing Mason Rudolph for the backup spot.

Trubisky is getting comfortable with the Steelers’ system.

“Each stop, it was a little different,” Trubisky said. “Chicago, I was there for four years, high pick and then obviously last year being in Buffalo as a backup. They were all learning experiences, and I’ve taken everything I’ve learned with me up to where I am now. And I think we’re still trying to figure out what we are as an offense, but I think to move the pocket, just using my legs when plays break down.

“My mobility is a factor in the RPO game here that can be very beneficial to this offense,” he said. “And I think my overall experience and my leadership and the amount of ball I’ve seen can help the young guys on this offense, and we’re still going in the right direction, so we’re gonna keep going.”

Trubisky eluded tacklers most of the time but he was under duress during nearly every pass attempt, although he took only one sack.


In 30 snaps during Washington’s 24–13 loss Saturday at Kansas City, Howell completed 10 of 18 passes for 122 yards. He also ran twice for 13 yards, including an 11-yard run, but didn’t throw a touchdown pass and had a 53.5 passer rating. Only one of his five drives produced a touchdown.

Howell was again the third Commanders QB to get into the game after projected starter Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. Howell slightly underthrew a deep pass intended for former UNC teammate Dyami Brown on a third-and-13 play late in the third quarter. The second-year wide receiver ended up with two catches on six targets for nine yards on 24 snaps.

While Howell had some nice completions and looked good on play-action, he took two sacks, had a pass deflected at the line and threw a bad pass that Chris Lammons intercepted near the end of the game. That interception deep in Commanders territory came with Washington trailing by three with 2:15 left. Kansas City scored three plays later.

Through two exhibition games, Howell appears to have not changed his role as the third-string quarterback.

Linebacker Cole Holcomb collected two tackles and an assist in 31 defensive snaps for Washington.

“I feel like I’m going to take control of this defense and take charge of the Mike spot,” Holcomb said in an interview on the team’s YouTube page. “I’ve been wanting it for a while and I like that responsibility to take control and get everybody lined up, make the adjustments we need to make.”

Holcomb got married in the offseason and, as he told a sideline reporter, his wife had no problem with him keeping his mullet.


In 26 defensive snaps during Buffalo’s 42–15 Saturday win against Denver, linebacker Andre Smith had six tackles, one for a loss, and one assist. For the second consecutive Broncos exhibition game, second-year running back Javonte Williams didn’t play.


Chazz Surratt had his best game in an NFL uniform during Minnesota’s 17–7 home win over San Francisco. The second-year linebacker, who had no statistics in limited time over seven games last season, had six tackles, one assist, half of a sack and hurried the quarterback once over 38 defensive snaps while also playing 14 special-teams snaps.

In 11 offensive snaps, rookie running back Ty Chandler had five rushes for 19 yards and a touchdown and one catch for three yards.

“There’s still more work to be done. There’s always more work to be done,” Chandler said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to just getting better every day and continuing to produce.”

Safety Myles Dorn had three tackles in 57 snaps for the Vikings and forced a fumble.

On Tuesday, the Vikings released fullback Jake Bargas, who played five special-teams snaps in one game last season. The Chicago Bears then signed Bargas but has released him.


For San Francisco, rookie Jeremiah Gemmel got in for only six defense snaps and six special-teams snaps. He defended one pass and just missed an interception. The 49ers released Gemmell on Tuesday, though.


In Chicago’s 27–11 Thursday win at Seattle, Dazz Newsome had one catch for 14 yards and returned a punt for eight yards. On Tuesday, though, Chicago released Newsome. In his first exhibition game, defensive end Robert Quinn started and had no statistics after playing six snaps.


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After leaving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first exhibition game with an ankle injury, Giovani Bernard didn’t play in their 13–3 Saturday loss at Tennessee. Tight end Bug Howard, who had no catches on one target and notched one special-teams assist, was waived by the Bucs on Tuesday.


In the New York Giants’ 2522 Sunday win over Cincinnati, Antonio Williams started and had a good night. He carried five times for 26 yards, including an eight-yard gain, and caught all seven passes targeted to him for 46 yards, including a seven-yard reception.

Rookie linebacker Tomon Fox had a tackle, a QB hit and got plenty of attention for a nice hit to force a fumble at the end of the game.

Fox’s parents enjoyed watching the play:

Fox has been listed as fourth string behind Kayvon Thibodeau, Oshane Ximines and Quincy Roche. Thibodeaux is expected to be out for up to a month, though, after spraining his MCL in the game.

Rookie guard Joshua Ezeudu didn’t play because of an undisclosed reason.

On Wednesday, the Giants waived wide receiver Austin Proehl with an injury designation after signing with him to a futures deal. He spent part of last season, starting Nov. 4, on the Buffalo Bills practice squad. He didn’t play in the Giants’ first exhibition game because of a leg concern.


In Baltimore’s 2518 win Sunday night at Arizona, defensive tackle Aaron Crawford had a tackle and an assist.


Michael Carter sat out the New York Jets’ 2416 Monday win vs. Atlanta. For the Falcons, defensive lineman Jalen Dalton started and had one tackle, which was for a loss. Tuesday, though, Atlanta waived Dalton, who has an undisclosed injury.

Jake Bargas, Chicago Bears fullback
2021 statistics (Minnesota Vikings) —
1 game, no statistics
Chicago signed, then released Bargas.
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. San Francisco, Fox
———————————————
Giovani Bernard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back
Place on depth chart — Third string behind Leonard Fournette and Ke’Shawn Vaughn
2021 statistics —
12 games, 8 rushes, 58 yards (24 longest); 23 catches, 123 yards, 3 TDs, 1 fumble; 1 kickoff return for 18 yards; 2 punt returns, 7 yards
13–3 loss Saturday at Tennessee Didn’t play after leaving the Bucs’ first exhibition game with an ankle injury
Final exhibition — 7:30 Saturday at Indianapolis
Season opener — 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Dallas, NBC
———————————————
Dyami Brown, Washington Commanders wide receiver
Place on depth chart —
Backup to Terry McLaurin at one wide receiver spot
2021 statistics —15 games, 12 receptions on 25 targets, 165 yards (13.8 average; longest 48 yards); 1 rush for -4 yards; 16 snaps (23%)
24–13 loss Saturday at Kansas City
2 catches on 6 targets, 9 yards (longest 5); 24 offensive snaps (37%)
Final exhibition — 7 p.m. Saturday at Baltimore
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Jacksonville, Fox———————————————
Michael Carter, New York Jets running back
Place on depth chart — Projected starter
2021 statistics — 14 games, 147 carries, 639 yards (4.3 average, longest 55), 4 TDs; 36 receptions on 55 targets, 325 yards (9.0 average; longest 23)
24–16 win Monday vs. Atlanta
Didn’t play
Final exhibition 1 p.m. Sunday vs. New York Giants, NFL Network
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Baltimore, CBS
———————————————
Ty Chandler, Minnesota Vikings running back
Place on depth chart — Fourth string behind Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison and Kene Nwangwu
2021 statistics (UNC) — 13 games, 182 carries, 1,092 yards (6.0 average, longest 60), 13 TDs; 24 receptions, 216 yards (16.6 average; longest 75)
17–7 win Saturday vs. San Francisco
5 rushes, 19 yards (5 longest), 1 TD; 1 catch on 1 target, 3 yards; 11 offensive snaps (21%)
Final exhibition — 9 p.m. Saturday at Denver, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Green Bay, Fox
———————————————
Aaron Crawford, Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle
Place on depth chart — Third-string nose tackle behind Michael Pierce and Travis Jones
2021 season — Spent season on Ravens’ injured reserve list with an undisclosed injury
25–17 win Sunday at Arizona
 1 tackle, 1 assist; 35 defensive snaps (51%), 3 special-teams snaps (14%)
Final exhibition 7 p.m. Saturday vs. Washington
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at New York Jets, CBS
———————————————
Jalen Dalton, Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman
Place on depth chart — Second-string at one defensive-line spot behind Grady Jarrett
2021 season (New Orleans Saints) — Missed season with a triceps injury
24–16 loss Monday at New York Jets
Started; 1 tackle, which was for a loss; 16 defensive snaps (28%), 5 special-teams snaps (19%)
Atlanta waived Dalton on Tuesday.
———————————————
Myles Dorn, Minnesota Vikings safety
Place on depth chart —
Third string at one safety spot behind Camryn Bynum and Lewis Cine
2021 statistics —
2 games, 1 tackle, 1 assist, 1 special-teams tackle, 1 special-teams assist
17–7 win Saturday vs. San Francisco — 3 tackles; 45 defensive snaps (59%), 12 special-teams snaps (57%)
Final exhibition — 9 p.m. Saturday at Denver, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Green Bay, Fox
———————————————
Joshua Ezeudu, New York Giants guard
Place on depth chart — Second-string left guard behind Shane Lemieux
2021 statistics (UNC) —
Played 737 snaps in 12 games, starting 11 and was All-ACC Honorable Mention
25–22 win Sunday vs. Cincinnati
Did not play
Final exhibition — 1 p.m. Sunday at New York Jets, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Tennessee, Fox
———————————————
Tomon Fox, New York Giants linebacker
Place on depth chart — Fourth string at weakside linebacker behind Kayvon Thibodeau, Oshane Ximines and Quincy Roche
2021 statistics (UNC) — 13 games, 23 solo tackles, 10 assists, 33 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, 10 tackles for losses, hurried QB six times
25–22 win Sunday vs. Cincinnati
1 tackle, 1 QB hit, 1 forced fumble; 42 defensive snaps (63%), 9 special-teams snaps (35%)
Final exhibition — 1 p.m. Sunday at New York Jets, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Tennessee, Fox
———————————————
Jeremiah Gemmel, San Francisco 49ers linebacker
Place on depth chart — Fourth-string middle linebacker behind Fred Warner, Curtis Robinson and Marcelino McCrary-Ball
2021 statistics (UNC) — 13 games, 44 solo tackles, 31 assists, 75 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for losses, 15 sacks, 1 interception, hurried QB seven times
17–7 loss at Saturday at Minnesota
1 pass defended; 6 defensive snaps (12%), 6 special-teams snaps
San Francisco released Gemmel on Tuesday.
———————————————
Charlie Heck, Houston Texans tackle
Place on depth chart —
Backup right tackle behind Tytus Howard
2021 statistics — 15 games, 13 starts, 709 offensive snaps, 41 special-teams snaps
24–20 win Friday at L.A. Rams Started; 30 offensive snaps (47%), 2 special-teams snaps (7%)
Final exhibition — 8:15 Thursday vs. San Francisco
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Indianapolis, CBS
———————————————
Cole Holcomb, Washington Commanders linebacker
Place on depth chart —
Starting middle linebacker
2021 statistics — 16 games, 83 tackles, 55 assists, 2 tackles for losses, 2 interceptions, 1 TD, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovered fumble
24–13 loss Saturday at Kansas City
Started; 2 tackles, 1 assist; 31 defensive snaps (47%)
Final exhibition — 7 p.m. Saturday at Baltimore
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Jacksonville, Fox
———————————————
Mack Hollins, Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver
Place on depth chart —
Backup behind Davante Adams at one wide receiver spot
2021 statistics (Miami Dolphins) — 17 games, 14 catches, 223 yards (15.9 average, 65 longest), 4 TDs; 5 special-teams tackles; 1 tackle
15–13 win Saturday at Miami
Didn’t play
Final exhibition — 8:15 Friday vs. New England
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Los Angeles Chargers, CBS
———————————————
Bug Howard, Tampa Bay Bucs tight end
Place on depth chart — Fifth string behind Cameron Brate, Kyle Rudolph, Cade Otton and Ko Kieft
2022 USFL statistics with Philadelphia Stars — 10 games, 8 starts, 30 catches on 49 targets, 371 yards (41 longest), 115 yards after the catch, 12.4 average, four touchdowns (went to 2021 camp with Buffalo Bills but was waived on Aug. 24)
13–3 loss Saturday at Tennessee
0 catches on 1 target; 1 special-teams assist
The Bucs waived Howard on Tuesday.
———————————————
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders quarterback
Place on depth chart — Third string behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke
2021 statistics (UNC) — 12 games, 217–347, 9 interceptions, 24 TDs, 3,056 yards (76 longest); 183 rushes, 828 yards (62 longest), 11 TDs
24–13 loss Saturday at Kansas City
10 of 18 for 122 yards (34 longest), 2 sacks for 14 yards, 1 interception, 53.5 passer rating; 2 rushes, 13 yards (11 longest); 30 offensive snaps (46%)
Final exhibition — 7 p.m. Saturday at Baltimore
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Jacksonville, Fox
———————————————
James Hurst, New Orleans Saints tackle
Place on depth chart —
Starting left tackle
2021 statistics — 14 games; 12 starts; 724 offensive snaps, 52 special-teams snaps
Exhibition opener —
17–13 Saturday loss at Houston; Started, 10 offensive snaps (14%)
20–10 loss Friday at Green Bay Did not play
Final exhibition — 8 p.m. Friday vs. L.A. Chargers
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Atlanta, Fox
———————————————
Kyler McMichael, Tampa Bay Bucs cornerback
Place on depth chart — Fourth string at one cornerback spot behind Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dan and Dee Delaney
2021 statistics (UNC) — 12 games, 12 solo tackles, six assists, 18 total tackles, 1 interception
13–3 loss Saturday at Tennessee
1 tackle, 1 assist
Final exhibition — 7:30 Saturday at Indianapolis
Season opener — 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Dallas, NBC
———————————————
Dazz Newsome, Chicago Bears wide receiver
Place on depth chart —
Fourth string at one wide-receiver spot behind Darnell Mooney, Velus Jones Jr. and Dante Pettis
2021 statistics — 3 games, 2 catches, 23 yards; 4 punt returns, 47 yards; 1 special-teams tackle
27–11 win Thursday at Seattle
1 catch on 2 targets for 14 yards; 2 punt returns for 8 yards (8 longest); 1 special-teams tackle; 28 offensive snaps (39%), 12 special-teams snaps (35%)
Chicago released Newsome on Tuesday.
——————————————————————————————
Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears defensive end
Place on depth chart — Starting right defensive end
2021 statistics — 16 games, 38 tackles, 11 assists, 18½ sacks, 16 tackles for losses, 11 QB hits, 4 forced fumbles
27–11 win Thursday at Seattle
Started; no statistics; 6 defensive snaps (8%)
Final exhibition — 7 p.m. Saturday at Cleveland
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. San Francisco, Fox
———————————————
Andre Smith, Buffalo Bills weakside linebacker
Place on depth chart — Backup strong-side linebacker behind Matt Milano but suspended for first six games (performance-enhancing substance usage)
2021 statistics — 13 games, 4 tackles, 5 assists, 3 special-teams tackles, 5 special-teams assists
42–15 win Saturday vs. Denver
6 tackles, 1 assist, 1 tackle for a loss; 26 defensive snaps (39%); 7 special-teams snaps (29%)
Final exhibition — 7 p.m. Friday at Carolina
Smith’s first regular-season game — 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 vs. Green Bay, NBC
———————————————
M.J. Stewart Jr., Houston Texans safety
Place on depth chart —
Third string safety behind Jonathan Owens and Terrence Brooks
2021 statistics (Cleveland Browns) — 12 games, 30 tackles, 9 assists, 2 tackles for losses, 1 forced fumble, 4 special-teams tackles, 1 pass breakup; 1 kickoff return, 20 yards
24–20 win Friday at L.A. Rams 2 assists,1 forced fumble; 20 defensive snaps (31%); 16 special-teams snaps (53%)
Final exhibition — 8:15 Thursday vs. San Francisco
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Indianapolis, CBS
———————————————
Chazz Surratt, Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker
Place on depth chart —
Third-string behind Eric Kendricks and Troy Dye
2021 statistics — 7 games, no statistics
17–7 win Saturday vs. San Francisco 6 tackles, 1 assist, ½ sack, hurried QB once; 38 snaps (50%), 14 special-teams snaps (67%)
Final exhibition — 9 p.m. Saturday at Denver, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Green Bay, Fox
———————————————
Mitchell Trubisky, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback
Place on depth chart — Projected starter ahead of Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett
2021 statistics (Buffalo Bills) — 6 games; 6 of 8 passing for 43 yards (longest 15), 1 interception; 13 rushes for 24 yards (longest 22)
16–15 win Saturday at Jacksonville Started; 5 of 8, 60 yards (29 longest), 0 TDs, 0 interceptions, 1 sack for 8 yards, 85.4 passer rating; 1 rush, 10 yards; 15 offensive snaps (26%)
Final exhibition — 4:30 Sunday vs. Detroit, CBS
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Cincinnati, CBS
———————————————
Jordan Tucker, Pittsburgh Steelers tackle
Place on depth chart — Third-string right tackle behind Chukwuma Okorafor and Trent Scott
Season statistics (UNC) — 13 games, 709 snaps
16–15 win Saturday at Jacksonville
1 special-teams snap (4%)
Final exhibition — 4:30 Sunday vs. Detroit, CBS
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Cincinnati, CBS
———————————————
Antonio Williams, New York Giants running back
Place on depth chart — Fourth string behind Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell
2021 season (Buffalo Bills) — Spent season on practice squad
25–22 win Sunday vs. Cincinnati
Started; 5 carries, 26 yards (8 longest); 7 catches on 7 targets, 46 yards (12 longest); 33 offensive snaps (42%), 6 special-teams snaps (23%)
Final exhibition — 1 p.m. Sunday at New York Jets, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Tennessee, Fox
———————————————
Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos running back
Place on depth chart —
Starter ahead of Melvin Gordon III
2021 statistics — 17 games, 203 carries, 903 yards (4.4 average; longest 49 yards), 4 TDs; 43 catches on 53 targets, 316 yards (7.3 average, 42 longest), 1 TD
42–15 loss Saturday at Buffalo Didn’t play
Final exhibition — 9 p.m. Saturday vs. Minnesota, NFL Network
Season opener — 8:15 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12 at Seattle, ESPN, ABC
———————————————
Out for the season
Marcus McKethan, New York Giants guard — suffered torn right ACL in an Aug. 5 scrimmage

Photo via @steelers

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