What to watch for in Thursday's NFL preseason games

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  • By Logan Reardon NFL.com
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Our first full week of preseason football is upon us! Sixteen games are set to be played this week, starting with 11 on Thursday night, two of which will be broadcast live on NFL Network. Thursday evening will be our first look at old faces in new jerseys (Le'Veon Bell) and rookies in their first NFL action (Kyler Murray!). Here's what we're looking forward to on Thursday (all times Eastern):

New York Jets at New York Giants (7 p.m. ET, NFL Network)


Jets: Sam Darnold's big 'ol arm

With Le'Veon Bell waiting at least one more week to make his Gang Green debut, Jets supporters can turn their eyes to their young signal-caller. Entering his second year as New York's franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold has reportedly demonstrated greater arm strength ahead of his sophomore campaign.

Giants: Daniel Jones

In the spring, coach Pat Shurmur made it seem like the rookie had a chance to supplant Eli Manning as the starter. Recently, despite Jones impressing at camp, Shurmur has backed off those claims. Perhaps a few good preseason drives could re-open the door.

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills (7 p.m.)


Colts: Jacoby Brissett

Brissett has gotten the first-team reps with Andrew Luck (calf) missing most of camp so far. He started 15 games in 2017 when Luck missed the entire season, so this isn't anything new for the former third-round pick. Luck doesn't seem concerned about missing regular-season games, but it will ease some minds in Indy if they see Brissett is a capable fill-in.

Bills: Running back competition

The Bills have a slew of running backs hoping to steal carries from LeSean McCoy, including rookie Devin Singletary, T.J. Yeldon and Frank Gore (yes, he's still playing). It'll be worth noting how many snaps each back gets and which unit they play with. Preseason is the perfect time to hash this out.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens (7:30 p.m.)


Jaguars: John DeFilippo-Nick Foles reunion

DeFilippo, the Jags' new offensive coordinator, was praised for his work as Foles' quarterbacks coach in Philly. Under Doug Marrone, the Jags have been committed to the run. But DeFilippo is known for being pass-happy, so keep a close eye on Jacksonville's offensive play-calls.

Ravens: Lamar Jackson's running

Last season, Jackson had a quarterback-record 147 rushing attempts despite not starting until Week 11. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said in May that Jackson wouldn't be running as much, but coach John Harbaugh said at training camp to "bet the over" on Jackson's rushing attempts. The first preseason game won't answer all of our questions, but it could give a glimpse into what we'll see come Week 1.

Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles (7:30 p.m.)


Titans: Left tackle play

Taylor Lewan is facing a four-game suspension, so Dennis Kelly could protect Marcus Mariota's blind side for the first quarter of the season. Kelly played 11 games as a backup last season and hasn't started more than six games in a season since 2012. How well he holds up could make or break the Titans' season, especially in a competitive division with two playoff teams (Colts, Texans) and another less than two years removed from the AFC Championship Game (Jaguars).

Eagles: Running back competition

At this point, it seems like rookie Miles Sanders will win the job. But the Eagles have multiple options behind him, including Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles, Josh Adams and Corey Clement. All will see reps, but just having this many options will be a welcome sight after Jay Ajayi and Clement finished last season on IR.

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins (7:30 p.m.)


Falcons: Offensive line play

The Falcons attempted to revamp their line in the draft, grabbing Chris Lindstrom at No. 14 and trading up for Kaleb McGary at No. 31. McGary had a heart procedure last Wednesday, so he likely won't be ready to start the season. The current group (outside of veterans Jake Matthews and Alex Mack) has had its struggles at camp, so how they fare in game action will be a big test.

Dolphins: Quarterback battle

Ryan Fitzpatrick is back to steal another job -- this time from Josh Rosen. Fitzmagic has shined at camp and is seen as the favorite to start the seaosn, but the competition is still open. The Dolphins should want Rosen, 22, to win the job, but it won't be handed to him.

New England Patriots at Detroit Lions (7:30 p.m.)


Patriots: Receivers and tight ends

It's no secret that New England needs some pass-catchers to step up. Gone are the days of Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan, and in step Matt LaCosse, Maurice Harris and N'Keal Harry. Who will earn Tom Brady's trust? Odds are we will know the answer after a few preseason games.

Lions: Darrell Bevell

The Lions' offense struggled last season, finishing 25th in scoring and 24th in yardage under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. Detroit replaced Cooter with Bevell, who coached the Seahawks offense to the Super Bowl in 2013 and 2014. The hope is that he can unlock Kerryon Johnson as he did Marshawn Lynch.

Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns (7:30 p.m.)


Redskins: Quarterback battle

This is the only three-man quarterback battle as of now. Alex Smith won't play this year, so it's down to Colt McCoy, Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins. Like with Miami, the Redskins should want the younger option in Haskins, 22, to win the job. As of now, he's the No. 3 behind McCoy and Keenum, but all three will see time in the preseason opener.

Browns: Defense

The Browns' high-powered offense has overshadowed the defense -- and with personalities like Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr., it makes sense. But Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon and Denzel Ward will do their talking on the field. Let's see how this unit meshes after being overlooked by many outsiders during the Browns' rebuild.

Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers (8 p.m.)


Texans: Receivers behind DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins is one of the top wideouts in the game, but the Texans' No. 2 spot has been a revolving door over the past few years. This season Will Fuller and Keke Coutee are vying for the job. Both have had flashes of being a viable option, but injuries and inconsistency have held them back. The goal for this preseason is to stay healthy and find a rhythm with quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Packers: Matt LaFleur

Matt Ryan and Jared Goff thrived under LaFleur while Marcus Mariota struggled. That could say more about the quality of player than the coach -- and Aaron Rodgers is obviously better than any of those three -- but I'm still intrigued to see Rodgers in LaFleur's offense. It's the first time Rodgers isn't playing for Mike McCarthy (outside of four games last year), so it's worth watching.

Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears (8 p.m.)


Panthers: Curtis Samuel

Christian McCaffrey will lead the team in catches again, but Samuel has a chance to emerge as Carolina's top wideout. Devin Funchess is now with the Colts, so Samuel will step in as a starter alongside D.J. Moore. The former second-rounder has been impressive at camp, but can he carry it into the preseason?

Bears: Kickers!

This one was too easy. It's been the story in Chicago for the last seven months, and there's still no clear answer on who wins the job. Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro were listed as co-starters on the first unofficial depth chart. The preseason should be fun (or not, maybe).

Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks (10 p.m.)


Broncos: Joe Flacco's debut

It might not be for long, but Flacco will start after skipping the Hall of Fame Game. Seeing Flacco in a different jersey after 11 years in Baltimore will take some getting used to. Also, keep an eye on his chemistry with a young group of Broncos receivers.

Seahawks: Rashaad Penny

Injuries in camp last year set Penny back for his entire rookie season. Now, he's healthy and competing with Chris Carson for snaps. The Seahawks need Penny to show something in these preseason games after using a valuable first-round pick on him in 2018 -- especially with running backs picked behind him starting to shine (Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson).

Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals (10 p.m., NFL Network)


Chargers: Offensive line

In July, the Chargers' offensive line was ranked 29th by Pro Football Focus -- and that was before knowing Russell Okung could miss six games with a pulmonary embolism. The Bolts will start young linemen in Trent Scott, Sam Tevi and Dan Feeney. These guys have to step up if the Chargers expect to make a deep playoff run, and it all starts in the preseason.

Cardinals: Kliff Kingsbury

Kyler Murray is the obvious answer here, but the new coach's offense will play the entire game and Murray won't, so I gave Kingsbury the edge. And by watching the offense, you'll be watching Murray. People are eager to see if the Air Raid offense will work at the pro level, and this is our first look at it.

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