The NFL regular season is still three weeks away, but there has been some big preseason Week 2 news the last few days such as the season-ending torn ACL for Kelvin Benjamin.
The NFL regular season does not begin until Thursday, September 10th and NFL odds for that Kickoff Weekend are already up at many sportsbooks. There are still many starting positions to be determined between now and then though and some recent injuries can affect some starting spots.
To try and make sense of all this, we will be here each week for the rest of the preseason with pertinent weekly team notes for all of the NFL teams. He is our Week 2 edition as of Friday, August 21st.
Baltimore Ravens: While Steve Smith, Sr. is firmly entrenched as one of the starting Baltimore wide receivers, the starting spot on the opposite side of him remains up in the air. It was assumed that the job was rookie Breshad Perriman’s to lose, but he has yet to see the field in an NFL uniform due to a knee injury that has just been diagnosed as a sprained PCL. Until the ultra-talented rookie can flash his talents on the field, it appears that Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown are the uninspiring candidates to start opposite of Smith. Also, with last year’s backup to Justin Forsett at running back Bernard Pearce now departed, it appears that Lorenzo Taliaferro is now the number two running back after a solid preseason opener.
Buffalo Bills: It was widely circulated before the Bills’ 11-10 win over the Cleveland Browns in the second preseason game Thursday that Tyrod Taylor could lock up the starting quarterback job with a solid performance. Now keep in mind that Buffalo unbelievably played that game with its top five running backs and top three wide receivers all out with injuries! And yet through it all, Taylor completed 7-of-10 throws for 65 yards and also rushed four times for an additional 41 yards. And yet the comment from new Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan after the game was “I'm not going to name quarterback until Week 1.” Well, alright then! Our guess is Taylor has the job and Ryan is just being coy.
Cincinnati Bengals: Just about the biggest news surrounding the Bengals in recent days is that wide receiver Marvin Jones has resumed working out with the first team offense on the outside with Mohamed Sanu playing the slot. That could be a precursor of many three-receiver sets for the Cincinnati offense this year with Jeremy Hill serving a the bell-cow running back, meaning a reduced role for Giovani Bernard after the latter averaged 16 touches per game last season.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns have taken the public stance that Josh McCown is “firmly” their starting quarterback and that there is no quarterback controversy in Cleveland. Well, hold that thought! McCown has not been impressive this preseason and he threw two interceptions in his three drives in an 11-10 snoozer of a loss to the Bills in his second game Thursday. To complicate matters, he also jammed his finger in that contest, although X-rays were negative and it is unsure whether or not he will undergo an MRI. Meanwhile, Johnny Manziel has outplayed McCown through two games as he has completed 17-of-29 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown, also adding 33 rushing yards on five carries including a 12-yard touchdown run. Could it be that “Johnny Football” really has matured and put his off-field issues behind him following rehab?
Denver Broncos: The good news surrounding the Broncos is that Peyton Manning is supposedly throwing the ball with better velocity than at any point since donning a Denver uniform, and also that wide receiver Demaryius Thomas had a solid week of practice and appears to have kept himself in good “football shape” even while holding out of the Denver offseason program before signing his new contract. Neither star played in the preseason opener. The news is not good for the other receiver Emmanuel Sanders as he has now remained sidelined for nearly two whole weeks with a hamstring injury that was originally described as just a “cramp”.
Houston Texans: While Arian Foster recovers form his groin surgery, it is good to see that the running game could still be in good hands (or is it feet?) after Alfred Blue rushed for 59 yards on nine carries in the preseason opener and now undisputedly tops the latest running back depth chart. Also, although no formal announcement had been made, it sure looks like Brian Hoyer has won the battle for the starting quarterback job over Ryan Mallett, as Hoyer took the start in the preseason opener and threw a 58-yard touchdown pass on the opening possession to Cecil Shorts, while Mallett entered the game at the same time the other second-stringers did.
Indianapolis Colts: There is really nothing new to report here after wide receiver T.Y. Hilton signed his five-year, $65 million contract extension last week. With Hilton locked up and with Coach Chuck Pagano publicly gushing about his veteran additions, running back Frank Gore and wide receiver Andre Johnson, as more ammunition at the disposal of Andre Luck, expect Indianapolis to once again have one of the best offenses in the NFL.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars may be improved offensively this season, but for that to happen, their big free agent signee tight end Julius Thomas and their potential franchise rookie running back T.J. Yeldon have to be on the field. Thomas recently suffered a fractured hand that has been described as “stable” and he has continued to work out with the team while wearing a non-contact jersey. Jacksonville is still holding out hope that Thomas can play the regular season opener. Meanwhile, Yeldon is a game-time decision for the second preseason game due to a sprained finger.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs just hope that they can have an offensive line in tact once the regular season starts. That is because Kansas City will be with two starting linemen in Jeff Allen (knee) and Eric Fisher (high ankle) for the second preseason game, although both should be fine in three weeks. And then there is the feel-good story of safety Eric Berry playing his first home game in the second preseason contest since coming back from beating cancer (lymphoma).
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have had both good news and bad news in recent days. The good news is that rookie wide receiver DeVante Parker has been activated after a foot injury postponed his NFL debut. He will still probably be held out the entire preseason though as Miami first wants to get him some work in team drills, and if all goes well he could play in Week 1 of the regular season. The bad news is that safety Louis Delmas suffered his second torn ACL in nine months during practice on Wednesday and is now out for the season.
New England Patriots: Aside from Tom Brady now taking his suspension to court, some other bit of news is that LeGarrette Blount has resumed practicing after missing tine with a sprained MCL, and has been described as the “best running back in camp”. Blount will still serve a one-game suspension to start the season. It appears that Jonas Gray will start that opener as he may have locked up the number-two running back job with his 55-yard touchdown run in Week 1 of this preseason.
New York Jets: The latest word on quarterback Geno Smith and his broken jaw is that he will not be placed on injured reserve, ensuring that he could come back whenever he can, which looks like it could be following the Week 5 bye. With that being said, it is no guarantee that he will come back as the starter as Ryan Fitzpatrick had his best years under current New York offensive coordinator Chan Gailey when both were in Buffalo. The Jets also signed Matt Flynn as insurance.
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders gained one wide receiver but lost another in recent days, first activating Rod Streater from the PUP list, as he instantly became the favorite to begin the season as the third receiver. Unfortunately, those odds were then made better when another competitor for that job Andre Holmes broke his hand, knocking him out for three to four weeks. In other news, one of the biggest running back busts of recent season Trent Richardson has been returning kickoffs during practice in an attempt to increase his worth.
Pittsburgh Steelers: It was announced in recent days that Markus Wheaton will be the starting outside receiver opposite of Antonio Brown despite Martavis Bryant having an impressive second half of the season last year. Do not expect much of a diminished role for Bryant though as the Steelers play three-receiver sets often in which Bryant will be in the slot. Speaking of Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh also announced it will not renegotiate his six-year, $43 million contract signed before the 2012 season.
San Diego Chargers: Rookie running back Melvin Gordon struggled in his first preseason game as he was tentative to hit holes, and he greatly needs to improve his pass protection blocking to have any hope of being a three-down back. Gordon ran for a mere 11 yards on six carries and was even vultured by Danny Woodhead when the latter ran in an eight-yard touchdown on a third down play. Elsewhere, the Chargers finally locked up quarterback Philip Rivers to a contact extension through the 2019 season.
Tennessee Titans: The professional debut of Marcus Mariota was a mixed bag as, after not throwing any interceptions during camp, he was intercepted on a screen pass that became a Pick Six. To his credit, Mariota was not rattled and at the end of the day, none of his passes hit the ground as he completed 7-of-8 for 84 yards and a touchdown to go along with the interception. Also, while Bishop Sankey still tops the depth chart at running back, he was clearly outplayed by rookie David Cobb, who should become the starter sooner rather than later. Cobb is expected to get reps with the first team in the second preseason game after Sankey rushed for just 15 yards on eight carries last week.
Arizona Cardinals: With Cardinals’ running backs Andre Ellington and David Johnson both nursing injuries, Arizona added some depth by signing veteran Chris Johnson. The general consensus is that Ellington should hold on to his starting job with the rookie David Johnson being the loser here with the elder Johnson eating away at his playing time. Coach Bruce Arians said publicly though that it will be an open running back competition and that even Chris Johnson will be given a chance to emerge as the feature back. Elsewhere, one of the blindside protectors for quarterback Carson Palmer, left guard Mike Iupati, tore his meniscus and will be out up to eight weeks.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons will have a running back competition between second year player Devonta Freeman and rookie Tevin Coleman for the starting job, but unfortunately neither was able to strut his stuff in the preseason opener as both missed the game with hamstring injuries. Both players returned to practice this week though and both are game-time decisions for the second game. Atlanta did add some depth just in case by signing former Washington Redskin Evan Royster out of Penn State.
Carolina Panthers: Perhaps the biggest news in the entire NFL this past week was the Panthers losing wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the season to a torn ACL. The 6-foot-5 Benjamin had a great rookie year as the favorite receiving target of Cam Newton, and Newton will now have limited options on the outside in the likes of Devin Funchess, Jerricho Cotchery, Philly Brown and Ted Ginn, Jr. With that rather motley crew, this could be a big season for tight end Greg Olsen, who may turn out to be the favorite target of all for Newton.
Chicago Bears: The Bears received bad news when it was learned that first round draft pick, wide receiver Kevin White, has a stress fracture in his shin and could miss the entire season. The speedy playmaker was supposed to take over the starting spot vacated by the departed Brandon Marshall on the opposite side of Alshon Jeffery, but this injury could open things up for veteran Eddie Royal to seize this opportunity. Remember that Royal has his best season when he built a rapport with current Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler when both were with the Broncos.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys may have an open competition for the starting running back position to replace the departed Demarco Murray after all. It was believed early in training camp that Joseph Randle had the inside track on the starting job and some were even speculating that Randle could be a good longshot bet to lead the NFL in rushing at 33/1 odds while running perhaps the best offensive line in football. But now, Darren McFadden was recently activated and started receiving reps with the first team, and then Randle aggravated an oblique injury and will now miss the second Dallas preseason game on Sunday.
Detroit Lions: In an interesting development, running back Zach Zenner said that Joique Bell will keep his starting job when he finally comes off of the PUP list as Bell is recovering from two separate injuries to his knee and Achilles. It was widely assumed that rookie Ameer Abdullah had snared the starting job while drawing raves for the entire training camp and then rushing for 74 yards on just nine carries in the first two preseason games. Speaking of Zenner, he may have made the roster with his 81 all-purpose yards vs. the Redskins in a 21-17 loss Thursday as well as his fine ability to pick up the blitz.
Green Bay Packers: Remember when the Packers finished second in the NFL in scoring last season behind only the Super Bowl Champion Patriots? Well, that offense returns basically unchanged personnel-wise this year, but they are playing at a faster pace, in fact getting off 33 plays with the starting unit playing the entire first quarter of the preseason opener. That just seems unfair! Green Bay could potentially set some records if the faster pace does not hurt the execution.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings are a popular Cinderella pick this season, but the offensive line took a hit in the preseason opener when tackle Phil Loadholt was lost for the season to a torn Achilles. Loadholt is a great run-blocker, but at least Minnesota could potentially overcome that with the great Adrian Peterson back running the football. Also, the Minnesota running backs from last year Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata both looked good in the opener, so the Vikings do now have great running back depth if the replacement for Loadholt, probably rookie T.J. Clemmings, can open up some holes.
New Orleans Saints: There has been quite a bit of personnel news regarding the Saints in recent days. First of all, quarterback Drew Brees himself proclaimed that Ben Watson is the starting tight end for New Orleans, and not Josh Hill as was originally assumed when Jimmy Graham was traded away to Seattle. Secondly, Coach Sean Payton confirmed that running back C.J. Spiller will be ready for Week 1 of the regular season after having his knee scoped last week, which is important as he is expected to fill the old Darren Sproles role as a receiver out of the backfield. And thirdly, Brandon Coleman has emerged as the Saints’ number three wide receiver, although it may not be confirmed until he sees extended time in the second preseason contest.
New York Giants: The great news in Giants camp is that Victor Cruz has retuned to camp and is practicing fully, proclaiming himself to be 100 percent after a devastating knee injury last year. Cruz will not play this week, but there is hope that he may see some action in one of the remaining two preseason games. Meanwhile, projected third receiver Rueben Randle has not yet returned to practice due to knee tendinitis, which may put his status in doubt if he does not return in the coming days.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles made a plethora of transactions this off-season, but it is a holdover that has dominated camp as Jordan Matthews has been the best player on the field and should be the primary focal point of Chip Kelly’s passing game, taking some luster away from rookie receiver Nelson Agholor out of USC, who many believed would challenge for the number one receiver duty. Philadelphia also announced that tight end Zach Ertz will be ready for Week 1 following his groin injury and Kelly himself sounded excited about Tim Tebow, increasing the likelihood that he will stick as the third string quarterback with Matt Barkley being the odd man out.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have done some shuffling on the offensive line and that unit was unimpressive in the preseason opener. Coach Pete Carroll got Russell Wilson out of the game after two series but his backup Tarvaris Jackson was not as lucky, suffering a high ankle sprain when unable to evade a rush, knocking him out for about four weeks. The news is not great regarding the usually devastating Seattle defense either, as Earl Thomas remains questionable to be ready for Week 1 as he recovers from a shoulder injury and Kam Chancellor is threatening to extend his contract holdout into the regular season.
San Francisco 49ers: This is expected to be the worst season for the 49ers in a long time and things did not get any better when it was announced that wide receiver Jerome Simpson was suspended for six weeks for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. This is the third time Simpson has been suspended and it could also be his third strike in the eyes of the 49ers, as they may not cut him loose despite his deep threat potential.
St. Louis Rams: There has not been too much good news for the Rams lately. First, it now appears that first round draft pick, running back Todd Gurley, will miss at least the “first couple of games” of the regular season as he continues to come back for the torn ACL he suffered with the Georgia Bulldogs last year. Then, it was learned that cornerback E.J. Gaines is out for the season after undergoing foot surgery on his Lisfranc injury, finally confirming what had been conflicting reports concerning the severity of the foot injury.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Number one overall draft pick Jameis Winston did not have the best of professional debuts in the preseason opener, completing 9-of-19 passes for 131 yards with an interception. To be fair though, he was under constant siege behind a terrible offensive line, and to make matters worse going forward, tackle Demar Dotson suffered an MCL injury and will be out up to 10 weeks. Perhaps we will see what Winston is made off when he makes his home debut for Tampa Bay in the second preseason game on Monday.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins received a scare in their 21-17 win over the Lions in their Week 2 game Thursday when Robert Griffin III was knocked out of the game with a concussion. The latest word sounds positive though with the injury described a “minor concussion” and he could even be back on the field and play next week in the Week 3 dress rehearsal for the regular season! Meanwhile the Redskins placed tight end Niles Paul on injured reserve, meaning that the job should belong to Jordan Reed except that Reed is injury prone himself and missed the win over the Lions with a hamstring injury.