Week 2 of the NFL Preseason begins Thursday, and there are plenty of storylines and players to keep tabs on. Here’s a look at 10 players to put on your watch list for this week’s slate of games.
10 Players to Watch in NFL Preseason Week 2
Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks
With fellow signal caller Drew Lock already ruled out for Thursday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears with COVID-19, Smith will start for the second consecutive week.
Smith connected on 10 of 15 pass attempts for 101 yards and rushed twice for nine yards and a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, and he remains No. 1 on the depth chart. He also started three games for Seattle in 2021.
The general consensus among beat writers is Lock has had the better offseason to date, but Smith could strengthen his grasp on the Week 1 starting gig against the Denver Broncos with another tidy showing Thursday.
Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans
While Houston running back Marlon Mack started against the New Orleans Saints last week, Pierce was next in line and was the more explosive rusher with 49 yards on just five carries.
In fact, the rookie cruised for at least six yards on all five totes.
With Mack having played just seven games over the past two seasons, and veteran back Rex Burkhead best suited for a secondary role, Pierce should quickly establish himself as the best option for the Texans out of the backfield.
Isiah Pacheco, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
There was little to glean from how the Chiefs deployed their running backs last week against the Chicago Bears. However, during training camp, Pacheco has been heavily praised.
With the pecking order below expected Week 1 starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire presumably fluid, Pacheco has an opportunity to carve out a role in the explosive Kansas City offense.
Fellow running back Jerick MacKinnon is nursing a hamstring strain, and first-year Chief Ronald Jones is reportedly on the roster bubble, so the door appears to be wide open for Pacheco to stake a claim against the Washington Commanders on Saturday.
Brian Robinson, RB, Washington Commanders
The third-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft had a strong showing against the Carolina Panthers last week. Robinson handled six carries for 26 yards and a touchdown.
Equally encouraging for the rookie: incumbent starting running back Antonio Gibson fumbled on his own 28-yard line in the first quarter, and the Panthers scored a touchdown three plays later.
After Gibson fumbled six times – and lost four – last season, there appears to be some added competition in the Washington backfield. Of course, it’s important to note the 29-year-old receiving specialist J.D. McKissic should see the majority of work in passing-down situations.
Mike Davis, RB, Baltimore Ravens
With J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards both iffy for Week 1 as they recover from their respective ACL tears from last summer, Davis could be positioned to open the 2022 season as the go-to rusher for the Ravens.
Davis started against the Tennessee Titans in last Thursday’s preseason opener and rushed for 22 yards and a touchdown on five carries.
While Davis is probably set to be nothing more than a placeholder until Dobbins and/or Edwards are ready to return, the 29-year-old veteran has been productive for stretches throughout his career as an interim No. 1 back.
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Treylon Burks, WR, Tennessee Titans
It’s been an offseason filled with peaks and valleys for the rookie receiver out of Arkansas, and the drama continued when Burks exited Wednesday’s practice alongside a trainer with an undisclosed injury.
Still, Burks is 6-foot-2, 225 pounds and ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine en route to being the 18th overall selection in April.
Consistently missing meaningful practice reps is going to take a toll on Burks’ ability to develop chemistry with starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but even so, the rookie is at worst the second most talented wide receiver on the Titans. If he misses Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it would be another hit to his early-season outlook.
Jahan Dotson, WR, Washington Commanders
Despite failing to garner a single target last week against the Carolina Panthers, Dotson started the game and played every snap alongside No. 1 quarterback Carson Wentz.
The first-round selection out of Penn State impressed throughout the offseason, which positions him to battle for secondary targets with veteran wideout Curtis Samuel behind entrenched top receiver Terry McLaurin.
Considering how many rookie wide receivers are battling for playing time in their respective first-team offenses, Docston appears to be a step ahead of a lot of his peers.
Simi Fehoko, WR, Dallas Cowboys
A raw prospect coming out of Stanford last season, Fehoko caught a touchdown pass and tied for the most snaps among wide receivers last week against the Denver Broncos.
Fehoko is listed well down the Dallas wide receiver depth chart, so there is still a long road to meaningful regular-season playing time ahead. Additionally, after sitting out against Denver, Noah Brown appears set to open the season as a prominent receiver along with clear-cut No. 1 CeeDee Lamb and rookie Jalen Tolbert.
Still, Fehoko should have another opportunity to show off against the Los Angeles Chargers Saturday, and there are plenty of snaps and targets available in the Dallas offense to open the season.
Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Denver Broncos
A popular breakout candidate among pundits, Okwuegbunam was the lone projected starter to play against the Dallas Cowboys last week. Additionally, the third-year tight end has seen next to no challenge for work during the offseason, as rookie tight end Greg Dulcich has missed considerable time with a hamstring injury.
Okwuegbunam caught 33 of 40 targets for 330 yards, two touchdowns and 8.3 yards per target last season in a secondary role, and the quarterback upgrade to nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson should prove to be a significant boost to the entire Denver offense.
The third-year tight end just needs to prove he’s ready to take the next step and establish himself as a reliable pass-catcher for Wilson to turn to.
Daniel Bellinger, TE, New York Giants
Already atop the New York tight end depth chart, Bellinger received the majority of snaps with the first-team offense against the New England Patriots last week, and caught his only target from second-string quarterback Tyrod Taylor on the Giants' fourth drive.
Bellinger’s collegiate numbers won’t jump off the page, but considering how quickly he’s earned starting reps, it’s clear the New York brass are bullish about the rookie.
Additionally, there isn’t a lot of positional competition. Journeyman Ricky Seal-Jones has missed a lot of practice time during training camp with an undisclosed injury, and Jordan Akins isn’t a threat to be the go-to receiving tight end, either.