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What to watch for in Week 2 of the NFL preseason

Week 2 of the NFL preseason is here, giving us the opportunity to reaffirm some of the standout performances we saw from high-profile rookies and unheralded grinders last week. Preseason kickoff week saw some impressive debuts from a slew of first-round picks, including Baker Mayfield, Saquon Barkley, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen (how we wish you were there, Roquan).

This week should offer more morsels of playing time from those who've already secured their starting credentials and other players in line for plenty of 2018 reps. We'll see brief outings from Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, and maybe Case Keenum will get more chances to show he can lead the Broncos' offense. Still, the bulk of preseason action will be dedicated to taming the deluge of roster questions suspended in the ether like a Rodgers Hail Mary.

As with all August NFL games, don't take it too seriously. Remember: Keep Calm, It's Only The Preseason.

This week features three games on Thursday (including a Super Bowl LII rematch!), five games Friday, seven games Saturday (including an NFL Network quadruple decker) and our first Monday nighter. Get the latest preseason news, updates and highlights with NFL Mobile. All times below are Eastern.

Here's what to watch for in Week 2 of the 2018 NFL preseason:


Chiefs (0-1): Kansas City is counting on its offensive line to ease the transition into the post-Alex Smith era, and it struggled last week. Patrick Mahomes was hit on four of his nine snaps playing with the veteran-laden first-team O-line against a tough Texans front. Sammy Watkins could make his debut after a hip issue sidelined him for the opener. Charcandrick West (concussion) returned to practice last week and might see playing time as he looks to begin his battle against Spencer Ware and Damien Williams for the No. 2 running back spot. Dee Ford figures to see scant, if any, playing time, allowing Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon another opportunity to show if they're capable of usurping the veteran at outside linebacker.

Falcons (0-1): Perhaps we'll see Matt Ryan make his preseason debut, but what we really want to see is Damontae Kazee make an encore. He was the shining, crazy diamond in otherwise steel breeze of a shutout loss to the Jets last week, tallying 11 tackles in a bid to see more playing time in the Falcons' secondary. We also might have a backup QB duel brewing. Rookie signal-caller Kurt Benkert showed flashes of Matt Schaub-beating potential last week even if he couldn't punch it into the end zone. Hopefully, coordinator Steve Sarkisian will find a way to incorporate first-round pick Calvin Ridley more into the attack this week, too.

Giants (0-1): A mild leg strain will prevent No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley from reprising his strong debut against the Browns last week. What might be more concerning to Pat Shurmur is the Giants' lack of QB depth. The Giants need Davis Webb and Kyle Lauletta to show some comfort in running an offense that is being led by a 37-year-old quarterback. Another player to watch is Robert Martin. The former Rutgers standout could put pressure on veteran Jonathan Stewart if the rest of his preseason doesn't hit any speed bumps. All the Big Blue running backs seem to be benefiting from a revitalized running game that's being bludgeoned into existence, in part, by sturdy O-line play.

Lions (0-1): Matt Patricia's defense up front got pushed around by the Raiders' starting O-line last week, so look for a stronger effort from the front seven. One player who did make an impact was Anthony Zettel, who showed off his strength and versatility at edge and defensive tackle. He's out to prove he deserves starting snaps even after Ezekiel Ansah comes off the physically unable to perform list. Detroit's running back battle will once again be in the spotlight, especially after all three protagonists showed off their skills in Week 1. Second-round pick Kerryon Johnson could be a budding star. We'll see plenty of reps for backup QBs Jake Rudock and Matt Cassel again even though Matthew Stafford will probably pop in for the starting series.

Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns, 7:30 p.m. (NFL Network)

Bills (0-1): First-round rookie quarterback Josh Allen showed flashes of his potential during his debut last week, but will he take a step forward in pressuring Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron for the starting job? The excitement around Allen's big-throw talent is only surpassed by the necessities of a Buffalo offense that needs a signal-caller to operate the offense effectively. If Allen shows signs of that evolution in Game 2, it'll increase his chances of being the Day 1 starter. Ray-Ray McCloud jumped into the chase for the Bills' No. 2 wide receiving job with a solid effort against the Panthers. He'll need to sustain the effort to surpass Zay Jones and Corey Coleman on the depth chart.

Browns (1-0): All eyes will be transfixed again on Baker Mayfield after his impressive debut. Along with a strong performance by Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland is less than a month away from entering the season with stability at the game's most important position. Not to downplay the importance of the preseason, but we'll probably have to wait until September to clearly gauge the effectiveness of the revamped offense. A more intriguing study might involve the Browns' other high-profile rookies even if fourth-overall pick Denzel Ward sits this one out after dealing with a sore ankle in practice. Look for running back Nick Chubb to get more carries this week.

Dolphins (0-1):Minkah Fitzpatrick flashed some of the skill that made him a first-round pick in April, and Miami needs him to develop quickly if it wants to solidify its secondary. Fitzpatrick showed off some of his immense speed and playmaking ability during what was a relatively ho-hum showing from the rest of the secondary against the Buccaneers in Week 1. Speaking of speed, the Dolphins might have just as much as Sonny Crockett's Ferrari Daytona Spyder. Newcomer Albert Wilson, training camp standout Isaiah Ford and Kenny Stills each present coverage-breaking targets for Ryan Tannehill. Speaking of Tannehill, he'll likely see a little bit of playing time before Brock Osweiler and David Fales resume their backup QB clash.

Panthers (1-0): Week 1 performances from Shaq Thompson and Jermaine Carter Jr. showcased the strength and depth of Carolina's linebacker corps. The Panthers are expecting Thompson to make an impact from the get-go with Thomas Davis' four-game suspension looming. Carter could climb the depth chart if he continues to impress coach Ron Rivera. Carolina's backup secondary struggled to ground the Bills' air show last week as the team keeps searching for more cornerback depth. First-round pick DJ Moore's relatively hushed camp exploded into a boisterous percussion of athleticism that paraded a knack for obliterating yards after the catch in Week 1. Keep an eye on him and Curtis Samuel, who also looked strong in his return from a foot injury.

Cardinals (1-0):Josh Rosen's relatively insipid debut last week had much to do with a porous second-unit offensive line he was playing behind. Coach Steve Wilks has made it clear Sam Bradford is the starter, but with his injury history and Rosen's 10th-overall selection more or less a mandate for his eventual ascension, he deserves to play with the O-line ones, and he will against the Saints. Jeremy Cash's season-ending knee injury in conjunction with other injuries is causing a depth problem at linebacker that could open roster spots for Scooby Wright or Edmond Robinson depending on how well they perform in the weeks ahead.

Saints (1-0): Training camp and the preseason has created some intriguing possibilities for the Saints' defensive line. Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata are teeter-tottering in their competition for a starting tackle job. Meanwhile, tackle Devaroe Lawrence had a very strong game against the Jaguars and, along with Jayrone Elliott, could move up the depth chart if the trend continues. Unfortunately, Week 1 didn't provide clarity on who will fill in for Mark Ingram during his four-game suspension. Jonathan Williams showed some promise on his late-game carries against the Jaguars, but free-agent additions Terrance West, Shane Vereen and Trey Edmunds will need to show more.


Jaguars (0-1): Jacksonville's pass catchers continue to claw away at assumptions the offense will be hampered by the losses of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Second-round pick D.J. Chark, who impressed in camp, made a couple of nice catches and Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Donte Moncrief had good rhythm with Blake Bortles in the opener. Cody Kessler took the lead in the backup QB race with a strong performance against the Saints and it'll be interesting to see how well he'll end up doing considering it's an even year (we kid; Bortles will be fine this season playing under his $54 million deal). Several starters sat out the opener, so we should get some brief looks from some of Jacksonville's stars except for Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler, who are serving team-issued suspensions.

Vikings (1-0): It's time to add Roc Thomas to your list of cool NFL player names. The undrafted rookie might have entered training camp as a dark-horse roster candidate, but his performance against the Broncos went a long way toward enhancing his 53-man roster worthiness. Running backs Mack Brown and Mike Boone had solid performances last week, but they'll need to throw it into sixth gear if Roc keeps rolling. Trevor Siemian looks entrenched as Kirk Cousins' backup, but Kyle Sloter did put in a decent performance. Siemian and Slotter likely will see plenty of playing time again. Keep an eye on the kicking duel between rookie Daniel Carlson and veteran Kai Forbath. Carlson's 57-yard field goal at Mile High might have given him the lead in the race.

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Rams, 4 p.m. (NFL Network)

Raiders (1-0): Rookie defensive tackles Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall made quite an impact in Week 1 in their bids to win starting jobs. Hurst, Oakland's fifth-round pick, particularly looked dominant while going up against Detroit's second unit. If he can pull off an encore Saturday, Jon Gruden might just elevate his latest budding grand grinder to the top of the depth chart. Keep an eye on running back Chris Warren. The undrafted rookie running back churned out 86 yards last week and has emerged as a threat to Doug Martin's roster spot. Connor Cook, who got plenty of time hurling The Duke last week, will commence his face off with EJ Manuel for the backup QB job.

Rams (0-1): We'll actually see some starters this week after the B squad got hosed by Baltimore's quarterbacks. It'll be interesting to see how John Kelly and Justin Davis perform after both running backs officially declared their candidacy for the No. 3 RB job. Both figure to see plenty of carries, and they could possibly challenge Malcolm Brown for the backup spot if they keep up the good work. What about the Rams' backup QB job? Sean Mannion will be looking to bounce back after he failed to Ram It past the Ravens' defense. Brandon Allen, who played the second half, performed better and drew praise from coach Sean McVay. Was JoJo Natson's superlative punt-returning performance last week more G thang than preseason fluke? Pharoh Cooper should hope so.

Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys, 7 p.m. (NFL Network)

Bengals (1-0): It's clear that Year 2 of the John Ross Experience will include an actual experience. Sure, he made only one catch against the Bears last week and he did slip on that interception, but coach Marvin Lewis has his speedy wide receiver locked into the starter's block ready to go. Josh Malone also could be in line for plenty of targets. The evolution of the offensive line will continue to warrant attention in the games ahead, as will the backup QB battle developing behind it. Jeff Driskel looked pretty sharp last week and deserves to be penciled in as Andy Dalton's backup unless Matt Barkley can defy his reputation. The soft middle of the Bengals' defense -- especially in the passing game -- needs a hero to emerge.

Cowboys (0-1): Perhaps all these Texas-sized worries about who will catch passes for the Cowboys are being blown out of proportion. Michael Gallup and Lance Lenoir each had solid games last week in their bids to move up the depth chart. They'll warrant plenty of attention in Week 2. Keep an eye on Jaylon Smith as he looks to fend off Leighton Vander Esch from taking his starting middle linebacker job. Smith showed his speed and lateral movement against San Francisco last week in an overall strong effort. Cooper Rush likely will see plenty of playing time to further cement his Dak backup credentials and be prepared for an Ezekiel Elliott cameo.

Buccaneers (1-0): It'll be interesting to see how second-round pick Ronald Jones responds after a somewhat bland debut coupled with coach Dirk Koetter reiterating Peyton Barber's starting running back status. Jones will be eager to reassert himself a vital cog in the Bucs' committee approach. With Vernon Hargreaves expected to miss the rest of the preseason, someone will need to stand up in the secondary. Brent Grimes' pending return will help bolster the ranks, but look for rookies Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart to put in their claim for a roster spot. And it wouldn't be a new Bucs season without a kicker quandary. Chandler Catanzaro will look to make amends after a couple of missed kicks in the opener.

Titans (0-1): Tennessee's starting defensive line is strong, but the team lacks depth at the position. Outside of free-agent acquisition Bennie Logan, the team needs someone to Titan Up or just pray for no injuries. The running game looks stronger over last year with the addition of Dion Lewis to accentuate Derrick Henry's pacemaking talent, but more evidence to support this claim is always appreciated. Kenny Vaccaro's addition to the secondary should work out pretty well once he gets up to speed. He flashed a little of what he's capable of against the Packers despite only a handful of practices. Speaking of upgrades, Blaine Gabbert is better than Matt Cassel, but he'll be hoping to showcase more this week.

Niners (1-0): Injuries to Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida present an opportunity for other running backs to prove themselves. Expect plenty of carries for Raheem Mostert and Joe Williams as the 49ers try to sort things out. Speaking of injuries, Richard Sherman could see some playing time, but the 49ers should consider giving plenty of reps to his backup, Jimmie Ward, who struggled in pass coverage against the Cowboys. As for golden boy quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, he'll likely see more playing time this week after giving us mixed results in a limited showing. We'll probably have to settle for small glimpses into the cornucopia of potential riches Year 2 of the Garoppolo-Kyle Shanahan collaboration will yield until the regular season begins.

Texans (1-0):Deshaun Watson looked like his ol' self in his very abbreviated preseason debut as Bill O'Brien smartly ensured not to subject his budding franchise quarterback to much potential danger. The football world likely will see a bit more from Watson and get the chance to more accurately assess his recovery from a torn ACL. What about the tight end competition? Rookie Jordan Akins will be one to watch after he caught a pair of touchdown passes. He's looking very good for a roster spot alongside Ryan Griffin. Rookie Jordan Thomas and Stephen Anderson will do their best to keep it a close competition until September. Brandon Weeden and Joe Webb will renew their backup QB duel after they both put in decent performances during Week 1.

Bears (0-2): Chicago's revamped offense has been one of the biggest storylines of training camp, but what about the defense? Vic Fangio's charges didn't fare particularly well against the Bengals' first-team unit. Outside of Kyle Fuller's interception, there weren't a ton of positives. Marcus Cooper struggled at corner against top competition and there were some tackling problems. One positive for the Bears was Adam Shaheen. The tight end could be poised for big things this season, and he utilized his skill set effectively against the Bengals. Mitch Trubisky wasn't pleased with the effort the first-team offense gave in its second preseason game, calling it "sloppy." Trubisky's short sample sizes of playing time haven't revealed much about his development under head coach Matt Nagy.

Broncos (0-1):Case Keenum seemed a little annoyed he couldn't get the Broncos out of neutral last week in his two brief stints at quarterback. Perhaps Vance Joseph will give him more of a chance to show how he's adapting to his new team. He's not the only QB worth watching: Chad Kelly has jumped over Paxton Lynch on the depth chart after putting in an encouraging performance in his first action with the team. Lynch struggled mightily and he'll need to do a lot more than he did last week to reclaim the No. 2 role. Keep an eye on Phillip Lindsay. The undrafted rookie is trying to carve out a roster spot, and his strong overall performance last week could help him see more carries in the games ahead.

Seahawks (0-1): A Legion of Boom revival? Let's not go that far (refer to paragraph three of this preview article), but perhaps we should trust the process going on in Seattle. Rookies Shaquem Griffin, Jacob Martin and Rasheem Green all made promising preseason debuts and will be worth monitoring in the games ahead. Still, it's not all highlighter green roses in Seattle. The Seahawks' depth on the offensive line remains a question mark, especially with Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Battle dealing with injuries. Seattle needs someone to prove they can be an effective backup when called upon. The running back competition between Chris Carson and first-round pick Rashaad Penny has cooled significantly with Penny undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his finger.

Chargers (0-1): Zero friends? Man, Geno Smith has lots of friends. The quarterback put in an exciting effort last week in his bid to best Cardale Jones for the backup job in L.A. He completed 14 passes for 218 yards. Sure, it didn't come against the greatest of competition, so maybe it'll just go down as one those memorable NFL moments from early August. But if he can do the same thing again over the next few weeks, perhaps he'll earn the honor to backup Philip Rivers. Still, here's a message to Rivers on behalf of Chargers fans everywhere: please, please stay healthy. As for other offensive playmakers, be sure to keep an eye on Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler. This wam-bam offensive duo has the power to give the Chargers another layer of yard-devouring punch behind Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon.


Ravens (2-0):Lamar Jackson hasn't done anything so far to suggest he's a threat to Joe Flacco's starting job. Still, the first-round pick did show improvement in his second NFL game, executing more smoothly on offense en route to passing for more than 100 yards. Outside of the Ravens' QB room, veteran wide receiver John Brown has impressed coach John Harbaugh in camp. The veteran wide receiver is looking to reboot his career in Baltimore and is quickly turning into a pass catcher who might ultimately surpass Michael Crabtree as the team's top offseason pickup. Look for tight end Hayden Hurst to see more targets after a quiet night against the Rams.

Colts (1-0):Colts general manager Chris Ballard said "we are about to" see the best from Andrew Luck, but if we do it'll likely be in another small quantity. The now-mustachioed Luck performed well in his first NFL game since New Year's Day 2017 and, hopefully, we'll see some deeper throws from the quarterback against the Ravens. Hassan Ridgeway is another player worth watching. The third-year defensive tackle terrorized the Seahawks last week in his crusade to grind out a starting job. The team's transition to a 4-3 defense under head coach Frank Reich and coordinator Matt Eberflus suits his style. Colts coaches have raved about first-round pick Quenton Nelson since training camp opened and they were mightily impressed with his pull blocking skill in the run game during last week's win.


Eagles (0-1): Let's stop baiting trolls by calling this a Super Bowl rematch. Important roster evaluation work continues for Philly, and there were positives from the team's opener. Running back Josh Adams and wide receiver Shelton Gibson each put in solid performances against the Steelers, and Kamu Grugier-Hill was a tackling machine in his quest to earn a starting linebacker job. It's not a budding twin towers situation quite yet, but NFC East defensive coordinators need to be wary of tight end Dallas Goedert if he continues his Week 1 precedent. Who will start at quarterback? There's a chance Nick Foles will see brief action before Nate Sudfeld and the clipboard army take over.

Patriots (1-0):Jeremy Hill's career reboot got off to a positive start last week, and he'll be looking for another steady performance in his race with Mike Gillislee for the team's No. 2 running back job. As a whole, the starting defensive unit looked a little rusty against the Redskins, but linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley had a strong game, registering a QB hit and a couple of hurries in conjunction with tight pass coverage on running backs in his bid for more playing time. Dont'a Hightower will be one to watch after he performed well in his first game back from a pectoral muscle injury. Tom Brady is set to make his age 41 debut and Brian Hoyer will look to make amends for his shaky Week 1 performance.

Steelers (1-0): The retooled secondary didn't make the greatest first impression against the Eagles last week, and it'll be looking for a steadier performance combating the Packers' backup QB duel. First-round pick Terrell Edmunds is expected to make an immediate impact for the Steelers at safety, and it'll be interesting to see how he and the rest of the Steelers' pass-defending unit fares. Mason Rudolph will be under the microscope again after a robust debut that signaled his ability to wrestle away the backup job from Landry Jones. Ben Roethlisberger, who took a hit at Tuesday's practice and entered concussion protocol, will not play. Antonio Brown, among others, will enjoy Lambeau's ambiance from the sideline.

Packers (1-0): Did Aaron Rodgers scare the bejesus out of his young wide receiver corps? Perhaps that partially explains why Equanimeous St. Brown, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and J'Mon Moore all had strong debuts last week. The trio figures to see plenty of targets again in order to make their case for roster spots. The Packers' lack of depth at offensive tackle bubbled up like bad Limburger at times last week, exposing their need for depth or perhaps a reliable swing lineman (at least David Bakhtiari will return soon). First-round pick Jaire Alexander might make his debut after returning to practice. Round 2 of Brett Hundley vs. DeShone Kizer commences after Hundley took a slight edge in the first round. Rodgers' brief start will be the undercard.

Jets (1-0):Josh McCown, Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater have been urged to come and knock on the door of the team's starting QB job by a faithful fan base waiting years to fill a lovable MetLife space that needs a franchise face. Will Darnold take a step that is new and assert himself as the lead candidate for the starting job or will Bridgewater make Todd Bowles see life is a ball again in his attempt to win the job? The reps figure to be his and his and his against the Redskins in a battle that feels more like three's company in the Jets' QB room than an intense, three-sided competition. Be sure to reserve a nice seat at The Regal Beagle for this one and remember the lesson learned in paragraph three.

Redskins (0-1): The torn ACL that shuttered Derrius Guice's rookie season must have stirred the hippocampus, neocortex and amygdala of all Redskins fans who witnessed the jaw-dropping plague of injuries that decimated the team's 2017 season. With Guice out, the running back battle becomes a little less complicated as Samaje Perine looks to solidify his chances of earning a roster spot ahead of hard-charging Byron Marshall. Washington's defense will be looking to rebound after a somewhat toothless performance in the preseason opener outside commendable efforts from defensive tackles Shaun Dion Hamilton and Tim Settle.

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