The NFL had a great first day of preseason action, with teams gaining clarity in several aspects of their squads. As the playoffs continue Friday, ten more teams get the first in-game looks at their players.
Miami at Giants
Miami: The Dolphins open up under new head coach Adam Gase, and ownership hopes that he can utilize his talents to coach up Ryan Tannehill, and by extension, the Miami offense. Gase has previously served as Peyton Manning’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator and the Chicago Bears’ offensive coordinator. Granted, he can’t get a ton of credit for Peyton Manning going supernova on his watch, but he rebuilt Jay Cutler and turned him into a confident, credible quarterback last season. The Dolphins poached Gase on the heels of this turnaround and placed him firmly in front of Ryan Tannehill, their phenom-turned-questionable quarterback. We get the first look at Gase’s handiwork as they take on the Giants’ suddenly formidable defense.
With Victor Cruz unsurprisingly shelved with a lower body injury yet again, and Rueben Randle currently a Philadelphia Eagle, the Giants are hoping they can get some production out of second-round pick Sterling Shepard. If he can produce, he will make the inconsistent Eli Manning better by proxy, since Manning will not need to lock in on a double or triple covered Odell Beckham. The Giants will get their first in-game look at Shepard Friday, and they hope that he and OBJ can be the cornerstones of their receiving corps for years to come.
Detroit at Pittsburgh
Detroit: The Lions have a whole mess of wide receivers who could be the number one on their team, with Golden Tate suddenly taking a backseat to Marvin Jones by new reports, and Anquan Boldin still in the mix to get a high target volume despite just joining the team. The receiving corps will be the basis of the Detroit offense in the first full year under Jim Bob Cooter. Roles and target breakdowns can start to be defined in the first week of the preseason.
Pittsburgh: The biggest question facing the Steelers as week one of the preseason starts has nothing to do with the team that will be on the field. New developments are that tight end Ladarius Green has been, and continues to be, sidelined with headaches that many fear are post-concussive and may lead to his retirement. As for on the field action, the Steelers are likely to work in a big dose of rotating running backs led by Fitz Toussaint as worst case scenario options if DeAngelo Williams goes down during Le’Veon Bell’s four game suspension.
Minnesota at Cincinnati
Minnesota: The Vikings quietly had the NFC’s second best defense by points scored, only 0.8 points per game behind Seattle’s. They have everything they need on that side of the ball to be one of the best teams in the NFL, but Minnesota needs to drastically improve offensively to truly be considered among contenders for the crown. With first round pick Laquon Treadwell in tow and big hopes for former first rounder Teddy Bridgewater, the league will get its first look at the 2016 iteration of the Vikings offense. With Treadwell supposedly coming along slowly, the Vikings hope real game action can get his act in gear.
Cincinnati: Much like the Vikings, there are no questions surrounding the Cincinnati defense, and the offense has plenty of questions. A.J. Green is permanently solid, and Brandon LaFell is supposedly having a good camp, but the WR3 role is up for grabs. Tyler Boyd is coming along well by all reports and may even overtake LaFell for the second wide receiver role.
Cleveland at Green Bay
Cleveland: From RG3-and-out to RGIII? The former Washington quarterback has been named the starter in Believeland and Josh McCown truthers are already on his heels. He has a lot to prove this year after being relegated to the backup role for a franchise that he formally saved from irrelevance and being handed the reigns to a Browns franchise that is trying to bring “moneyball” to the NFL. He’ll need a strong effort not only Friday, but for the rest of the playoffs to keep McCown from gaining on him. The final leg of RG’s redemption trail starts Friday.
Green Bay: The number three wide receiver role is up for grabs in Green Bay, but nobody seems to want to grab it. The third wide receiver is extremely important for a team that slings it as much as Green Bay, but nobody is really taking the role. Jared Abbrederis is listed above Jeff Janis on the depth chart. Jeff Janis has been called “still a work in progress” by the Packers’ offensive coordinator. Davante Adams has been inconsistent at best and is the favorite, but the most glowing praise offered was that he is improving. It’s anyone’s game in Green Bay, and it’s game on on Friday.
Oakland at Arizona
Oakland: The Raiders went out and got a whole slew of free agent upgrades on the defensive side of the ball. Bruce Irvin, Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith were three of the most coveted back-seven free agents this year, and the Raiders snagged them all. For the first time the new Raiders defense, with those three and two top-45 picks on the defensive side of the ball, Khalil Mack is getting a whole boatload of help. The defense is going to be scary, and we get the first look at them on Friday.
Arizona: Incredibly, there is very little to see of value for the Cardinals. They return basically every single player of value from 2015, and added Evan Mathis and Tyvon Branch, for good measure. The Cardinals were one of the best teams in the entire NFL last season, and everything rides on health to repeat this year. Cardinals fans can likely skip this one, unless they need to get the taste of the NFC Championship Game out of their mouths.
NFL preseason day two, much like day one, will provide fans with plenty of answers, and even more questions. Tomorrow we will take a look at the final set of preseason week one games, as ten teams kick off this weekend.