There's plenty to distill from preseason football.
Granted, it's a stripped-down (occasionally sleepy) version of the game we love, but August is critical as teams piece together their final 53. These summertime affairs also bring our first look at the rookies.
With six contests on tap Thursday, here are five other first-year players we're excited to check out:
1. Christine Michael, Seahawks running back
"You're going to see Christine Michael right off the bat. I don't mind telling you that," coach Pete Carroll said this week, via KIRO-AM. "I'm kind of anxious to see that myself."
2. Matt Elam, Ravens safety
3. Barkevious Mingo, Browns outside linebacker
"It's going to be a good mix-up," Sheard told the Akron Beacon Journal. "We rotate. It's going to be exciting. We're going to stay with fresh legs, and it should be fun up front."
Chargers rookie offensive tackle D.J. Fluker called Mingo "the best speed rusher in college football" last season. His 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame has some concerned about a lack of bulk, but Browns coach Rob Chudzinski isn't sweating it. "He flashed," Chud said after Mingo's first practice. Now it's game time.
4. Montee Ball, Broncos running back
Ball was an every-down bell cow at Wisconsin, with 663 carries and 3,753 yards over the past two seasons. He has the tools to replace the departed Willis McGahee, and Ball is "already at the top tier of the rotation in the run game," per ESPN. Expect a committee approach in Denver, but Ball has a chance to earn the bulk of the work. His first carries will come against the San Francisco 49ers.
5. Vance McDonald, 49ers tight end
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman used Walker creatively last season, and McDonald is no stranger to versatility, confirming in April that he "played all over the field" at Rice. No team does funkier stuff with their tight ends than San Francisco, one reason we're keeping an eye on McDonald.