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What we learned from Thursday's preseason games

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The first full week of preseason games is underway and while it's hard to make any concrete evaluations in games that heavily feature reserve and fringe players, there are still some things worth noting. Here are a few observations from Thursday night's contests:

Colts at Jets


On his first couple of carries it looked like Trent Richardson really had turned over a new leaf, gaining 12 yards. Then the old (read: bad) Richardson returned. He once again looked hesitant and earned just one yard on his remaining three carries ... One worrisome issue for the Colts is the mounting injuries along the offensive line. Donald Thomas is out for the year with a torn quadriceps and Khaled Holmes left Thursday's game with an ankle injury. It's not considered serious, but he will be forced to miss some time ... Hakeem Nicks (who might or might not be in the best shape of his career) had a catch on two targets, but it was T.Y. Hilton who particularly stood out. Hilton caught all three passes thrown his way and looked particularly nifty after the catch. The third-year wideout has a chance to be Indy's top fantasy receiver this season.

On their first preseason depth chart, the Jets listed three No. 1 running backs -- Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell (who sat out with a hamstring injury). Ivory got the start Thursday night and looked fairly mediocre before leaving with a rib injury. Johnson posted two yards on four attempts, but he did score on a one-yard TD run. Those could be rare since Ivory is expected to be the short-yardage back ... The more interesting note on Johnson would be his three targets Thursday night. There had been talk that the Jets would find different ways to get him the ball and that seemed to be the case. Perhaps Gang Green will put multiple backs on the field simultaneously at times this season ... The quarterback job is reportedly Geno Smith's to lose, but after his mediocre performance compared with Michael Vick's much more dynamic one, the worm could be turning in the Big Apple.

49ers at Ravens


On a night when little else went right for the Niners, rookie Carlos Hyde was a shining light. The Ohio State product was quite effective, running the ball five times for 39 yards. Hyde was a nice combination of speed, quickness and power and looks to have the inside track to being Frank Gore's understudy for 2014 ... Not much is to be said about San Francisco's passing game on a night where Colin Kaepernick threw just one pass without targeting Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis (Michael Crabtree sat with an injury) ... OK, scratch that. Blaine Gabbert's horrific outing was noteworthy for all the wrong reasons. The new Niners backup was 3-of-11 for 20 yards and an interception. With Gabbert potentially one play away from getting on the field, you have to wonder if it will change San Francisco's approach with Kaepernick running the football ... San Francisco's defense is depleted due to injuries and free-agent losses and it showed. The 49ers front was pushed around all night by Baltimore's revamped offensive line.

Gary Kubiak's new offensive attack in Baltimore featured a heavy dose of the running game to a very positive effect. Bernard Pierce lived up to his recent billing as the best back in Ravens camp with 37 yards and a touchdown. Ray Rice wasn't bad either, with 17 yards on three carries. Pierce is still the bigger story. If he excels in the first two games of the season, it could be hard for Rice to automatically resume his role as Baltimore's lead back ... Even though it came in mop up duty, Lorenzo Taliaferro ran hard and ran well. The rookie from Coastal Carolina could challenge Justin Forsett for Baltimore's No. 3 running back job.

Patriots at Redskins


A couple of days ago, Ryan Mallett was being heralded by the likes of Mike Mayock but on Thursday it was Jimmy Garoppolo who looked like the better quarterback. Mallett was erratic starting in place of Tom Brady, completing just 5-of-12 passes for 55 yards. By contrast, Garoppolo looked much sharper in an outing that saw him got 9-of-13 for 157 yards and a touchdown ... Fantasy's most confusing backfield didn't get any clearer. Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and James White combined for 18 yards on seven carries with neither of the three backs standing out ... Brian Tyms had a big night with five catches, 119 yards and a 26-yard touchdown. The second-year wideout has a quite a few obstacles standing between him and a significant role in the offense, although with Aaron Dobson still battling an injury there could be chance for Tyms to see more snaps.

Like many of his quarterback counterparts, Robert Griffin III saw light work Thursday night, attempting just four passes in his one and only series ... Washington's running game was on display with Alfred Morris and Roy Helu taking turns at making plays. Helu continues to look like the running back of choice for third down, catching two of the three passes thrown his way. Rookies Silas Redd and Lache Seastrunk also perfomed well in reserve action ... Neither Pierre Garcon nor DeSean Jackson saw any playing time, allowing Aldrick Robinson and Andre Roberts to start. Roberts didn't get a target, but Robinson caught three balls for 45 yards and a score. This could be the start of a battle for Washington's No. 3 receiver job.

Bengals at Chiefs


The Bengals have a new offensive coordinator, but the Andy Dalton-to-A.J. Green connection is still a big part of the attack. The duo connected twice, including once on a 53-yard gain ... America had a collective "Jason Campbell plays for the Bengals?!?" moment when the journeyman threw the first of his two pick-sixes. There's no fear of Campbell pushing Dalton for snaps this year ... Gio Bernard was fairly underwhelming in his short stint, but Jeremy Hill continued his push to be Cincinnati's No. 2 running back. After Hill's performance on Thursday, the possibility of him earning 10-15 carries per game looks quite appealing ... It's not likely that Matt Scott will see many snaps this season, but the rookie from Arizona showed off his skills as a passer with two touchdown passes and as a runner with a team-high 68 yards on six rushes ... Vontaze Burfict only had one tackle, but the IDP stud was all over the field and looks ready for another monster season.

The biggest "wow" play from Kansas City had to be De'Anthony Thomas' breathtaking 80-yard punt return touchdown in the first quarter. Thomas, aka The Black Mamba, isn't likely to push for a lot of carries as a running back, but for leagues that tally return yards and scores for individual players, the rookie from Oregon has Dante Hall-like potential ... Travis Kelce is listed behind Anthony Fasano as the second tight end, but more nights like Thursday could flip the script. The second-year player showed off his speed on a 69-yard catch and run for a score late in the second quarter.

Seahawks at Broncos


Russell Wilson's 2014 preseason debut was a lot like most of his other starts -- efficient without being spectacular. The Seahawks quarterback led a scoring drive on his second and final series, finishing the game 4-of-6 with 37 yards. He is what he is ... Likewise, there were no real standouts among Seattle's pass-catchers. Percy Harvin started but didn't see any targets. Doug Baldwin caught the only pass thrown his way for an 18-yard gain ... With Marshawn Lynch sidelined, Christine Michael and Robert Turbin took their turns in the backfield. Michael was the better of the two, going for 16 yards and a score. That battle will only get more intense as training camp continues.

Peyton Manning is still going to be Peyton Manning. The veteran looked sharp, driving the Broncos to a touchdown on their second possession. The same goes for Demaryius Thomas who caught five passes for 52 yards. All is well ... With Montee Ball out, Ronnie Hillman could be staking a claim to more carries in 2014. Hillman's numbers from Thursday night weren't eye-popping (six rush, 15 yards; one rec., five yards) but with C.J. Anderson being forced out of the game with concussion symptoms, Hillman is fairly unopposed for first-team snaps in the short term ... After an injury-plagued and disappointing 2013, DeMarcus Ware is looking for a bounce back. He started that comeback attempt nicely with a first quarter sack of Russell Wilson. In Denver's rebuilt defense, Ware could return to being a double-digit sack man.

Cowboys at Chargers


There's certainly no quarterback controversy in Dallas, but the Cowboys should feel good about what they saw from Brandon Weeden. Tony Romo's understudy made a few nice throws, including his four-yard TD strike to James Hanna in the back of the end zone ... Most of Dallas' stars sat this one out and it gave Joseph Randle the chance to perform. Dallas' No. 2 running back carried the ball 13 times for 50 yards and could be a nice handcuff for DeMarco Murray ... Terrance Williams continues to be a nice sleeper after catching both of his targets for 19 yards. With plenty of attention going to Dez Bryant on the other side, Williams could be a nice late round pick up.

Ladarius Green won't completely take over for Antonio Gates yet, but the dynamic tight end made a couple of nice catches Thursday night for a total of 26 yards. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Chargers use two tight ends at times this year. Green is a low-end TE2 with upside ... Hopefully Ryan Mathews' goal-line fumble isn't a shadow of things to come. If so, Donald Brown ran well and could be waiting in the wings to take some carries ... Philip Rivers continued to look efficient, completing all four of his throws for 61 yards. His backup, Kellen Clemens was even better going 5-of-5 for 134 yards and a touchdown ... Branden Oliver is likely auditioning for another team in the league, but he put some good things on tape with 64 yards and a touchdown. San Diego's backfield appears far too crowded for Oliver to get a true opportunity this season.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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