Week 2 of the NFL’s preseason schedule begins tonight, and here are five things you need to watch for in the latest round of exhibition games.
Look, preseason NFL games are the equivalent of non-alcoholic beer. It looks like real football, but it isn’t as good as the real thing. That being said, there’s plenty we can take away out of this week’s preseason slate, including these five big headlines.
1. What will Daniel Jones, Kyler Murray do for encores?
The most interesting players to watch in preseason play are rookie quarterbacks, who are getting their first chance to show what they can do against NFL-caliber talent. The two most buzz-worthy signal callers are Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones, who each dazzled in their preseason debuts.
Murray started for the Cardinals against the Los Angeles Chargers and looked crisp in his first NFL action, completing 6-of-7 passes for 44 yards. Arizona didn’t let Murray run in his first game, perhaps not wanting to give away too many secrets of head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense.
Jones was actually perfect in his debut, going 5-of-5 for 67 yards and a touchdown in his lone drive in relief of Eli Manning. A lightning delay ended Jones’ debut after one series, so it will be curious to see how both rookie passers do with more reps in Week 2.
2. How much will the big names play?
A consistent theme throughout the first week of preseason action was a severe lack of playing time for the NFL’s big names. Most of the biggest stars barely got on the field, with a lot of teams sitting out their notable offensive contributors to avoid injury risks in a meaningless game.
Saquon Barkley, Le’Veon Bell, Matt Ryan, and Odell Beckham Jr. were among the many notable healthy scratches last week. While Beckham has since been diagnosed with a hip injury, Ryan is slated to make his 2019 debut tonight against the Jets and it is unclear how much guys like Barkley and Bell will end up playing.
For season ticket holders who are paying regular season prices for these games, they are surely hoping to get more bang for their buck than they got in Week 1. Stars should also be getting more work to knock some rust off ahead of the all important dress rehearsal game in Week 3.
3. How will Jacoby Brissett look running the Colts’ offense?
The Indianapolis Colts were a trendy pick to win the AFC South entering training camp, but some of that optimism has been muted due to injury concerns for star quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck isn’t close to playing yet due to a lingering right calf injury, and the Colts recently revealed their signal caller is also dealing with a high-ankle sprain.
Colts’ coach Frank Reich indicated that he wants to make a decision on Luck’s Week 1 status by next week, so this will be a big game for backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Brissett didn’t look good in his limited action against the Buffalo Bills last week, completing just 2 of 5 attempts for 21 yards, averaging just 4.2 yards per pass.
The Colts figure to get Brissett more work with the one’s against the Browns this week, and he needs to get into a groove to make the team feel good about their situation in case Luck isn’t ready for the start of the season. Expect Brissett to get a huge workload as he tries to bounce back from a rough outing last week.
4. Will David Montgomery continue stealing spotlight in Bears’ backfield?
Aside from the young quarterbacks, the biggest spotlight-stealer from last week’s preseason action was Bears’ running back David Montgomery. Montgomery, a third round pick out of Iowa State in April, has opened eyes in training camp for the Bears and has a real opportunity to become the team’s starting running back.
After trading Jordan Howard to the Eagles in the offseason, the Bears’ depth chart currently features Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis ahead of Montgomery. Cohen worked with the starters in the preseason, but Montgomery has demonstrated both impressive speed and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, similar skill sets to the ones that Cohen posses.
The Bears will head to MetLife Stadium to take on the Giants’ questionable defense on Friday, and Montgomery should get plenty of work with the reserves in that contest. If Montgomery can make a few highlight reel plays he could force his way into the offense going forward.
5. Will any Hard Knocks’ headlines emerge from the Raiders?
The stars of Hard Knocks, the Oakland Raiders, have been easily the most fascinating team to watch in the preseason. Between all of the drama surrounding Antonio Brown to an exciting roster filled with explosive personalities, Oakland has become the story of the preseason.
The Raiders head to Arizona this week to take on Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, and it will be interesting to see if any storylines emerge from this contest that make into next week’s episode of Hard Knocks. Brown himself won’t be playing as he continues to recover from a foot injury, but the show did spotlight a few other youngsters at the wide receiver position this week, including former Clemson star Hunter Renfrow and Keelan Doss.
There is so much content for HBO to choose from that it is hard to predict where they will go to fill out an episode of Hard Knocks in a given week, but the one sure thing is that key moments from the preseason make the show. Checking out Oakland’s latest game and trying to predict what key plays will be featured on Tuesday is definitely something to track as the weekend progresses.