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NFC preseason grades: Mitchell Trubisky rises through Week 2

Final scores might not matter in the preseason, but individual performances sure do. Careers can be made, opportunities can be seized and depth charts can be decided in the exhibition contests leading up to the first kickoff that counts. 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 2:


Chad Williams, WR: The Cardinals are counting on the rookie to make a solid contribution as a big, athletic playmaker on the outside. Though he finished the night with only one catch for 15 yards (on two targets), Williams is a polished route runner with the size and strength to carve out a role as a "chain mover" opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Grade: B


Takkarist McKinley, DE: The rookie pass rusher showed Falcons officials he could be an effective fastball pitcher off the edges, with his speed and quickness overwhelming blockers at the point of attack. Although McKinley didn't record a sack against the Steelers, he flashed the closing burst and acceleration to make quarterbacks uncomfortable at the top of their drops. With more reps in the Falcons' scheme, it's easy to envision the first-rounder making an impact as an edge rusher. Grade: B


Christian McCaffrey, RB: The explosive running back has been the "hype bunny" of the preseason, but it's hard to find enough adjectives to describe the spectacular skill he puts on display. Against the Titans, McCaffrey totaled 72 scrimmage yards on only five touches (three rushes and two receptions) out of the backfield while exhibiting the same stop-start quickness, burst and elusiveness that made him nearly impossible to stop as a collegian. Grade: A


Mitchell Trubisky, QB: The Bears' QB competition is reportedly closed, but it is going to be hard for John Fox to continue to ignore his rookie's strong play throughout the preseason. Trubisky connected on 6 of 8 passes for 60 yards and a score, exhibiting outstanding accuracy, anticipation and athleticism working inside and outside of the pocket. With the offense surging under his direction, it might be time for the rookie to get some reps with the "1s" to see if he is ready for the job. Grade: A+


Jaylon Smith, LB: After sitting out an entire year recovering from a gruesome knee injury, Smith had a solid debut performance against the Colts. The second-year pro started at Mike linebacker and exhibited some of the traits (speed, quickness, instincts and physicality) that made him a top-five prospect in the 2016 class. Although he is still knocking the rust off his game (see: missed tackles and poor angles), Smith's activity and athleticism are welcome on a defense in need of stars on the second level. Grade: B


Jarrad Davis, LB: It hasn't taken the rookie linebacker long to emerge as a defensive leader and big-time playmaker for the squad. Davis not only shows great instincts diagnosing plays at the point of attack, but he is a tackling machine with a nasty demeanor. He finished the night with two tackles. Grade: B+


Brett Hundley, QB: QB-needy teams looking for an intriguing QB1 prospect should check in with the Packers to see if they can snag the team's backup on the cheap. Hundley certainly looks the part, as a quick-rhythm passer with outstanding athletic ability. The third-year pro connected on 9 of 10 pass attempts for 107 yards and a score. Hundley's 38-yard strike to Jeff Janis down the boundary showcased his touch, timing and ball placement. Grade: A


Cooper Kupp, WR: The rookie pass catcher has already cemented his spot as the Rams' designated "chain mover" in the passing game. Kupp is a crafty route-runner capable of creating space through changing tempos and shifty movement at the top of his routes. In a six-catch, 70-yard performance that included a 23-yard touchdown, Kupp accounted for four first downs on a variety of slants and angle routes that are hard to cover. Grade: A-


Dalvin Cook, RB: The ultra-shifty runner looks like a potential star as the Vikings' RB1. Cook chewed up yards as a downhill runner, exhibiting spectacular wiggle and stop-start quickness between the tackles on the way to 40 rushing yards on only seven carries. With the Vikings also using him prominently in the passing game as a safety valve (one catch for 10 yards), Cook could tally 1,500 scrimmage yards as a rookie starter for the Vikings. Grade: B+


Alvin Kamara, RB: Despite the presence of two Pro Bowlers in the backfield, Sean Payton will have to carve out a role for Kamara to take advantage of his big-play potential as a versatile backfield weapon. The rookie delivered a pair of explosive plays (50-yard touchdown run and a 22-yard reception) against the Chargers while flashing outstanding speed, quickness, and acceleration with the ball in his hands. Grade: A


Wayne Gallman, RB: The fourth-round pick couldn't fully capitalize on his opportunity to seize the RB1 job against the Browns. Despite rushing for a team-high 22 yards on five carries and adding 20 receiving yards on a pair of grabs, Gallman's costly red-zone fumble will overshadow some of his good work. Grade: B-


Derek Barnett, DE: The rookie pass rusher has a knack for getting to the quarterback, as evidenced by his three sacks in the Eagles' first two preseason game. Against Buffalo, Barnett used a simple speed rush to race around the end to corral Nathan Peterman. With the rookie quickly earning a reputation for knocking down quarterbacks, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will need to find a way to get him snaps when the regular season starts. Grade: B+


Reuben Foster, LB: It won't be long before Foster cracks the starting lineup if he continues to show up like he did in Week 2. The rookie linebacker flew around the field with reckless abandon, exhibiting outstanding speed and quickness as a sideline-to-sideline defender. Although Foster only registered one tackle, he repeatedly showed up at the ball, which is exactly what coaches want from the designated playmaker in the middle. Grade: B+


Chris Carson, RB: The seventh-round pick is making a strong case to be the 'Hawks RB1/RB2 when the regular season starts. He rumbled for 27 yards on six carries and added another 17 receiving yards on a nifty catch-and-run out of the backfield. With Carson also adding a forced fumble on special teams (kickoff coverage), he is on the verge of forcing his way onto the field as a dark horse playmaker on the 53-man roster. Grade: B+


O.J. Howard, TE: The big, athletic tight end gave observers a glimpse at how he will be a factor over the middle and in the red zone during a two-catch, 28-yard performance. Howard is a matchup nightmare on the perimeter due to his size, athleticism and speed, which is why Jameis Winston is beginning to target him more near the end zone. Grade: B


Fabian Moreau, CB: The rookie corner was fairly impressive in his preseason debut, logging a pair of tackles, a forced fumble and a PBU against the Packers. Although Moreau gave up a big play down the boundary (38-yard completion to Jeff Janis), the long, rangy corner was in great position for most of the game and played with the kind of physicality that should help him match up well with the big-bodied receivers in the NFC East. Grade: B+

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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