What to watch in Friday's preseason games


The NFL preseason schedule launches this week. Here's what we're looking for in each of Friday night's games:

New Orleans Saints at St. Louis Rams (8 p.m. ET)

Explosive rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks is one of the primary reasons we expect the Saints to challenge for the league's most prolific offense this season. It will be interesting to see if Cooks is running exclusively with the starters while filling the mismatch vacancy left by the Darren Sproles trade. When the Rams have the ball -- during a game carried live on NFL Network, by the way -- it's worth monitoring Kenny Britt to see if the summer hype is for real.

Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons (7 p.m.)

Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace have struggled with their deep-ball chemistry in camp practices, as the latter battled through hamstring tightness. The offseason talk was all positive, though, with Wallace moving around formations in new coordinator Bill Lazor's Eagles-like offense. We want to see if Wallace and tailback Lamar Miller are prominently featured in the DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy roles respectively.

Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers (7:30 p.m.)

EJ Manuel's passing came under fire in the Hall of Fame Game. These "narratives" have a way of changing from week-to-week in the NFL. Manuel can flip the script by connecting with hotshot rookie Sammy Watkins for a few passes against the Panthers' dominant front seven. Keep an eye on second-year receiver Robert Woods to see if he plays with the starters after being relegated to the second team last week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars (7:30 p.m.)

Bucs coaches never made an official announcement declaring Josh McCown the Week 1 starter, but teammates have made it clear that the veteran quarterback is already the offensive leader. If McCown is going to replicate his 2013 success, he will need to click with massive rookie targets Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins early and often. Check to see if both rookies are working with the first-team offense in the preseason opener.

Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears (8 p.m.)

All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy is confident that Eagles second-round pick Jordan Matthews will be the best of a loaded rookie wide receiver class. The question we have is if he already looks like the best receiver in Chip Kelly's offense.

Oakland Raiders at Minnesota Vikings (8 p.m.)

Coach Mike Zimmer confirmed that rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will see action with the first-team offense in his preseason debut. NFL Media's Albert Breer reports, via a Vikings source, the plan is to insert Bridgewater late in the first quarter. Bridgewater is not the only early-round rookie quarterback worth checking out in this game. Although Matt Schaub is in no danger of tumbling down the depth chart, Derek Carr can ensure that the veteran's leash is shorter by making a positive impression over the next few weeks.

The latest Around The League Podcast debates which offense will be the NFL's most prolific and dives into the quarterback battles in Cleveland and Minnesota.