What to watch for in Week 2 preseason games

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  • By Logan Reardon NFL.com
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The second week of preseason football is here and every team is taking the field! Here's what to watch out for on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (all times Eastern):

San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos (Monday, 8 p.m.)


49ers: Deebo Samuel

Samuel dazzled in his debut, hauling in a 45-yard catch and breaking out a 14-yard rush. He could be a dangerous weapon on a team in desperate need for a wideout to step up. Tight end George Kittle emerged last season, but no receiver had more than 45 receptions or 500 yards.

Broncos: Royce Freeman

Fellow rookie Phillip Lindsay snatched the RB1 spot from Freeman last season. Last week, though, it was Freeman busting a 50-yard run while Lindsay had just 10 total yards. A few more strong performances could force Vic Fangio to delegate some extra carries to the former third-rounder.

Games Played



Philadelphia Eagles at Jacksonville Jaguars (Thursday, 7 p.m.)


Eagles: Miles Sanders

Sanders, the Eagles' second-rounder this season, was -- and still is -- expected to start at running back. But if he looks like he did in his debut (three carries for three yards), he could be forced to share the workload more evenly. He needs a strong performance to reassert himself as the top dog.

Jaguars: Points

This is a simple request -- I just want to see something out of the offense. Last week, the Jags' offense compiled 112 total yards in a 29-0 loss to Baltimore. Not exactly the performance that new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo wanted in his debut.

New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.)


Jets: Who plays cornerback?

Cornerback always looked like the weakest link in the Jets' defense, but injuries have made that abundantly clear. Starter Trumaine Johnson suffered a hamstring injury Sunday and his replacement Kyron Brown left Monday with another hamstring problem. Star safety Jamal Adams is even offering to play corner, so keep an eye on how this group plays vs. Atlanta.

Falcons: Who wants to back up Devonta Freeman?

Tevin Coleman, the Falcons' four-year backup and spot starter, is now a 49er, but no one has stepped up in his absence yet. Four backs got carries in the opener, but Ito Smith -- who was No. 2 on the initial depth chart -- had just seven yards on four carries. Between Smith, Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison, someone needs to emerge behind Freeman, who played only two games last season.

Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.)


Bengals: Jordan Ellis

I know what you're thinking. Who is Jordan Ellis? Well, with Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard out last week, the undrafted rookie made a statement, leading Cincy in rushing (three carries, 11 yards) and receiving (five catches, 44 yards and a touchdown). Ellis still isn't a guarantee to make the roster, but he was one of the few bright spots in the Bengals' 21-point loss to the Chiefs.

Redskins: How does Dwayne Haskins respond?

Haskins had some bright spots in his debut, but was remembered for his two interceptions. He's behind in the battle with Colt McCoy and Case Keenum, but the first step to catching up is a good performance Thursday. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday that McCoy won't play vs. Cincinnati and Keenum will start. After Keenum, it's all Haskins. He doesn't need to be spectacular -- just put together a solid, turnover-free night.

Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.)


Packers: Aaron Rodgers' debut

This is our first taste of Rodgers in Matt LaFleur's offense. The rookie head coach announced Tuesday that his quarterback would play "a quarter or so" versus the Ravens. Rodgers only played one preseason series last year and hasn't played more than three total drives in a preseason since 2015, so this will be a big change.

Ravens: More throws from Lamar Jackson

Jackson was sharp (4 of 6, 59 yards and a touchdown) in his three drives last week, as he exited with a 10-0 lead. This is another step in his progression as an NFL quarterback. Preseason is the time to work on his passing, and there should be more of that this week.

Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals (Thursday, 8 p.m.)


Raiders: Nathan Peterman?

Peterman's interception records are well-known, but he might be finding a new life with Jon Gruden. He didn't throw any picks versus the Rams last week, and he completed 9 of 12 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. The most impressive part of the game was his 50-yard scramble. Let's see if he can do it again and snag the Raiders' backup job from Mike Glennon.

Cardinals: Kyler Murray!

That one drive last week was fun, but I want more. He didn't have any rushing attempts and his longest completion was 14 yards. Murray understandably won't play a ton of preseason snaps, but two or three drives and some different looks at the top pick would be ideal.

Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers (Friday, 7 p.m.)


Bills: Quarterback-receiver chemistry

Two of Josh Allen's top targets this season -- Cole Beasley and John Brown -- are new. They are upgrades over what Allen had in his rookie season, but seeing him connect with these receivers will be key. He targeted each of them twice in the preseason opener (2 of 4, 23 yards).

Panthers: D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel

The hype surrounding the Panthers' young wideout duo this summer has been heavy. Moore and Samuel were held out of Carolina's preseason opener, so it'll be interesting to see if the hype carries over to their preseason debuts, should those happen Friday.

Chicago Bears at New York Giants (Friday, 7:30 p.m., NFL Network)


Bears: David Montgomery

Unlike fellow rookie Miles Sanders, Montgomery impressed in his debut (rushing touchdown, three receptions). Tarik Cohen is guaranteed to have a role in the offense, but Montgomery is pushing for snaps with his strong training camp and preseason. Keep an eye on the rookie in his second showing.

Giants: Daniel Jones' encore

Speaking of rookies looking for a repeat performance, look no further than the other side of MetLife Stadium on Friday night. Jones' debut was cut short due to lightning, but he flashed his potential on the field in his lone drive (perfect passer rating and a touchdown). Can he do it again? And can he change his coach and owner's mind about the starting job?

Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Friday, 7:30 p.m.)


Dolphins: Kalen Ballage

The easy answer is Josh Rosen versus Ryan Fitzpatrick, but this backfield competition is just as juicy. Ballage and Kenyan Drake were listed as co-starters on the initial depth chart, but Ballage has been favored at most practices so far. Ballage got six carries to Drake's four in the opener, and Drake was seen in a walking boot at practice Wednesday, so his status is unclear. Ballage could separate himself with a big game.

Buccaneers: Peyton Barber vs. Ronald Jones

Basically, just pay close attention to the running backs in this game. Barber and Jones are different backs and both will likely have a role, with the former bringing power and the latter bringing speed. How the Bucs integrate these two into Bruce Arians' offense could determine Tampa Bay's fate in 2019.

Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts (Saturday, 4 p.m., NFL Network)


Browns: Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi

Everyone's favorite story from Week 1 is still fighting for a roster spot, so there's no telling what we'll see on Saturday. In addition to his 86-yard punt return for a touchdown last week, Sheehy-Guiseppi added two catches for 12 yards. Another strong week will go a long way in securing a spot on the Browns' final roster.

Colts: Jacoby Brissett

As concerns about Andrew Luck's injuries (plural) continue to mount, Brissett is becoming more and more valuable. He didn't ease any worries on his two drives last week (2 of 5, 21 yards), which ended in a pair of punts. Brissett needs to be sharper as potential regular season action inches closer.

New England Patriots vs. Tennessee Titans (Saturday, 7 p.m.)


Patriots: Jarrett Stidham and Jakobi Meyers

Here are two Patriots players that casual fans didn't know about before last week. Stidham (14 of 24, 179 yards, one touchdown) and Meyers (six catches, 69 yards, two touchdowns) torched the Lions' second unit in the 31-3 victory. Both are sure to see plenty of action again as the Pats face another old friend in Mike Vrabel.

Titans: Mike Vrabel

Speaking of Vrabel, all eyes will be on him as he faces his former employer. The Titans defeated the Patriots in the regular season last year, but a preseason matchup will allow him to have more fun. Joint practices between the teams this week produced plenty of trash-talking stories, so let's see if it carries over into the game.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., NFL Network)


Chiefs: Mecole Hardman

Hardman has been compared to teammate Tyreek Hill as a player since the Chiefs drafted him in April, and he showed why in Week 1. He only had two catches, but one was a shovel pass that went 17 yards for a touchdown. His speed makes a scary offense even more terrifying.

Steelers: Devin Bush

Pittsburgh traded up to No. 10 to grab Bush, and so far it's looking like a good call. He had 10 total tackles and a near-interception in his preseason debut vs. Tampa Bay, leading both teams in tackles. The Steelers haven't been able to fill Ryan Shazier's role since his spine injury in 2017 -- have they found that guy with Bush?

Detroit Lions vs. Houston Texans (Saturday, 8 p.m.)


Lions: Backup quarterbacks and offensive line

Breaking news! Last week didn't go as planned for Detroit. You probably already knew that. The main reason for the 31-3 loss was poor quarterback and offensive line play, as David Fales and Tom Savage combined to go 7 of 17 for 102 yards and an interception. The duo was sacked nine times for a loss of 81 yards. Safe to say both of these areas need to improve vs. Houston.

Texans: Wide receiver depth

Last week, I wrote about how Will Fuller and Keke Coutee needed to stay healthy this preseason. Then, Coutee proceeded to roll his ankle in Week 1 and miss this entire week of practice. DeAndre Hopkins will always get his numbers, but the Texans really need someone to step up behind him.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams (Saturday, 10 p.m., NFL Network)


Cowboys: Running backs...

Cowboys fans: I have good news and bad news. The bad news is Ezekiel Elliott still hasn't shown up at practice. But the good news is that rookie Tony Pollard has impressed in his absence. Pollard, Alfred Morris and Darius Jackson will all get a shot to fill in for Zeke, so pay attention to who stands out among the group.

Rams: ... More running backs!

I guess this is the game of the running backs. Todd Gurley won't play in this one, but the Rams still have intriguing options to watch. Nobody really knows how many snaps Gurley will play per game once the regular season arrives, so the preseason is extremely important for Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson.

New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday, 4 p.m.)


Saints: Erik McCoy

McCoy was the Saints' second-round pick this year and he appears to have the starting center job locked up. Max Unger retired in the offseason after four steady years in New Orleans. McCoy needs to continue developing chemistry with the Saints' quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill) as the preseason progresses.

Chargers: Jerry Tillery

We'll stick with another top pick here. Tillery went late in the first round after undergoing shoulder surgery before the draft, and he made it seem like he would make his professional debut Sunday. He could add another viable option to an already-strong defensive line (Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, Brandon Mebane).

Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, 8 p.m.)


Seahawks: Brian Schottenheimer

The Seahawks were criticized for being too run-heavy in Year 1 under Schottenheimer, but that could change this season. Schottenheimer said Tuesday that running back Chris Carson should get around 50 targets in 2019, which would be more than double the amount he had last year. If the Seahawks want to start getting their backs more involved in the passing game, it'll start in the preseason.

Vikings: Irv Smith Jr.

The rookie tight end was targeted a team-high seven times in Week 1, but only had three catches for 21 yards. If the Vikings can figure out how to utilize Smith and Kyle Rudolph, they could form a dangerous pass-catching duo. Teams like the Eagles and Patriots have unlocked this two-tight end offense in the past, and I believe they've had some recent success?

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