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NFC preseason grades: Adrian Peterson's rebirth, Nick Foles' rot

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The preseason is a time for jobs to be won, opportunities to be seized and depth charts to be determined. So, while wins and losses might not matter, there's plenty at stake for many players in these exhibition games. To help put these moments into context, Bucky Brooks will provide a grade for one player of interest from every NFL team after each of the first three full weeks of preseason action.

Below, see the NFC player grades following Week 3.

Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB. Dominating a preseason game should be a walk in the park for a seven-time Pro Bowl defender, but few can do it as spectacularly as Peterson. P2 was a takeaway machine against the Cowboys, as evidenced by his pick-six and forced fumble. In addition, Peterson provided blanket coverage on receivers in his area, exhibiting a fluid backpedal and smooth transitions working down the field. With Peterson heeding Steve Wilks' advice to spend more time playing off to increase his odds of making plays on the ball, the Cardinals could see their CB1 compete for Defensive Player of the Year honors this season. Grade: A+

Atlanta Falcons: Calvin Ridley, WR. The rookie struggled in the team's dress rehearsal, with a few dropped passes clouding his performance. Although Ridley has been spectacular in training camp practices, he's had issues with drops in the past and the Falcons certainly hope butterfingers don't become an issue for No. 18 in the regular season. Grade: C-

Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB. The second-year pro looks like a nice fit as the Panthers' RB1 in Norv Turner's offense. McCaffrey tallied 64 scrimmage yards on 14 touches (12 rushes for 48 yards, two receptions for 16 yards) against the Patriots, displaying a nice combination of balance, body control and vision. He slips through cracks and creases at the point of attack on inside runs, but also flashes enough wiggle to make defenders miss in space. In an offense that's built for backs with dynamic talents as runner/receivers, McCaffrey's versatility could make him a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. Grade: B

Chicago Bears: Kevin White, WR. It's been a long time coming for Bears' former first-round pick, but fans should rejoice over White's positive outing against the Chiefs. White caught a pair of passes for 33 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown on a go-route down the boundary. Although injuries have prevented White from playing up to expectations as a top-10 pick, he still flashes enough talent to be a viable option as a WR2 on a team that could be more explosive under Matt Nagy's direction. Grade: B

Dallas Cowboys: Randy Gregory, DE. The Cowboys could be rewarded for their patience with Gregory, based on his sensational play against the Cardinals. The long, rangy pass rusher flashed disruptive potential off the edge in a three-tackle effort that included a sack. Gregory's speed, quickness and burst are problematic for offensive tackles, particularly when he uses an upfield speed rush to set up a spin-move counter to the inside. If he can stay the course and avoid the off-field problems that have derailed his career at times, Gregory could be another difference maker on a defensive line that features a few young, athletic playmakers at the point of attack. Grade: A-

Detroit Lions: Da'Shawn Hand, DE. The Lions' fourth-round pick has steadily climbed up the depth chart due to his strength, physicality and toughness in the trenches. He put in a solid effort during his second run with the 1s, exhibiting nice hand skills and leverage at the point of attack. Although the Lions' defense as a whole has struggled to stop the run or create a pass rush in the preseason, Hand has played well enough to earn significant minutes with the starters going forward. Grade: B

Green Bay Packers: Jaire Alexander, CB. The Packers' young corners have shown impressive playmaking skills throughout the preseason. Alexander joined the party with a nice interception against the Raiders that showed his ball skills, instincts and awareness. The ultra-confident corner kept good positioning on his assigned receivers throughout the night and made a play on the ball when he got his chance. That's exactly what the Packers expected when they drafted him 18th overall in April. Grade: B+

Los Angeles Rams: Sam Shields, CB. It's uncommon for a former Pro Bowler to have to earn a spot on a 53-man roster the hard way, but a two-year absence has forced Shields to scratch and claw his way up the depth chart. The veteran took a huge step towards making the squad with an interception on a square-in vs. the Texans. Shields' instincts and route recognition stood out on the first-quarter play, as he flew to the spot ahead of the intended receiver. With the instinctive cover corner beginning to get his hands on the ball, the Rams might've found a perfect CB3 to play behind Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Grade: B

Minnesota Vikings: Mike Boone, RB. The Vikings have discovered a nice combo back behind Dalvin Cook. Boone only tallied 39 scrimmage yards on 13 touches (nine rushes for 26 yards, four receptions for 13 yards), but he continued to exhibit the short-area explosiveness and wiggle that has made him a preseason MVP candidate. As the Vikings put together their depth chart and game plans with their best players in mind, they might want to script out some plays for No. 44, to take advantage of his versatility on the perimeter. Grade: B

New Orleans Saints: Taysom Hill, QB. The ex-BYU star continues to cement his spot on the team as a utility playmaker with QB2 potential. Hill hit for the cycle against the Chargers with a passing and rushing touchdown and a two-point conversion. In addition, he picked up a first down on a fake punt and flew around on the Saints' kick-coverage teams. With the second-year pro completing 7 of 8 passes for 66 yards in the game, the Saints have a valuable asset in No. 7. Grade: A+

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard, WR. The third-year pro had a strong showing against the Jets: seven catches for 78 yards. He flashed outstanding speed and quickness catching underneath routes, but also displayed a burst tracking down a deep ball down the seam. With Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley certain to command attention, No. 87 could snag a lot of balls for the Giants this season. Grade: B

Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Foles, QB. Did the clock strike midnight on Cinderella? That's the questions Eagles officials have to ask themselves after seeing the Super Bowl MVP struggle -- again -- while directing the No. 1 offense. Foles connected on 13 of 17 passes for 127 yards, but had a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble. Considering his four turnovers and six sacks over the last two games, it seems like Foles' carriage has already turned into a pumpkin in Philadelphia. Grade: F

San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. Don't be fooled by Jimmy GQ's pedestrian numbers. The fifth-year pro was on point with his accuracy and ball placement for most of the game against the Colts. Sure, he finished the night completing just 9 of 19 passes for 135 yards and zero touchdowns, but he had a number of balls bounce off the hands of open receivers on seams and in-breaking routes between the hashes. Niners coaches could nitpick about ball placement on some of those throws, but NFL pass catchers are expected to come down with tough grabs in traffic. Garoppolo will need to be more careful tipping off his throws over the middle, based on a couple of narrowly missed interceptions from Colts defenders on in-breaking routes. Grade: B

Seattle Seahawks: Chris Carson, RB. Yes, Seattle scooped up a running back in the first round back in April, but the team might have already had its RB1 in house. Carson has been solid throughout camp and his workmanlike effort against the Vikings further cement his hold on the starting job. Grade: B

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chris Godwin, WR. Fantasy fanatics looking for a draft sleeper should keep an eye on Godwin following his strong preseason. No. 12 has been one of the most impressive players in Buccaneers camp. Against Detroit, he hauled in three catches for 27 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown against Darius Slay. The second-year pro outmuscled the first-team All-Pro corner for the snag on a perfectly thrown back-shoulder fade. Grade: B+

Washington Redskins: Adrian Peterson, RB. Hold off on the retirement talk for "All Day." The 12th-year pro flashed some of his vintage playmaking ability with the ball in his hands against Denver. Peterson rushed for 56 yards on 11 rushing attempts, exhibiting surprising quickness and stop-start ability on inside runs. In addition, Peterson flashed explosive strength and power running through arm tackles at the point of attack. With the three-time NFL rushing champ also showing enough speed to turn the corner on outside runs, the Redskins might've found their RB1 in a veteran runner who appeared to be on his way out of the league. Grade: A+

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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