There's so much football to talk about after four weeks of training camp and two preseason games that I'm going team by team with winners and losers this week. The NFC is up first:
David Johnson is running -- and tweeting -- like a man who wants to remind America that he was the best running back alive in 2016. ... Josh Rosen saw better protection in his second appearance and promptly threw a few dimes, including a third-and-long touchdown to fellow rookie Christian Kirk. Both Kirk and second-year pro Chad Williams stepped up against New Orleans and should be in line for plenty of snaps to open the season. ... Cornerback Jamar Taylor has unofficially won the role of "Guy targeted an ungodly amount playing opposite Patrick Peterson" this season. Players usually don't last in this job longer than one season. ... Fantasy sleeper Ricky Seals-Jones has locked up the every-down starting tight end job.
Sam Bradford hasn't had to do much this preseason, but he's looked like Sam Bradford. I'm very curious to see how he reacts to pressure and how his movement looks. ... Robert Nkemdiche was hurt against New Orleans after being blown off the ball in the running game. The 2016 first-round pick hasn't been able to get his career on track. ... The Cardinals' assumption that former Bengal Andre Smith would be an upgrade at right tackle could prove to cost them all season.
Calvin Ridley gives me life. From his quick feet on routes to his smooth kick-return ability to his obvious speed, the first-round pick will bring different dimensions to the Falcons. General manager Thomas Dimitroff was smart not to just run the same offensive personnel back. ... Second-year safety Damontae Kazee has stood out in the preseason, but the Falcons are so deep in the secondary it will be a struggle to get him on the field.
The Falcons are largely healthy and have few position battles, so it's hard to find many players whose arrow is pointing down. If there has to be one, second-round rookie cornerback Isaiah Oliver doesn't look likely to get many snaps early in his career.
There's a perception, at least in Carolina, that Cam Newton has better weapons than he's possessed in a long time. The pass-catching crew still looks below league average, but at least it's deeper. The team might have found something in fourth-round tight end Ian Thomas, who is getting first-team snaps alongside Greg Olsen. Second-year speedster Curtis Samuel is healthy and has 108 receiving yards in two preseason games, albeit against reserves. And Christian McCaffrey appears more decisive entering his second season.
The offensive line threatens to be a problem, though. Carolina continues to rotate in new starters because of injury, and one of the holdovers (Matt Kalil) almost got Newton killed against Miami. This part of the Panthers equation sounds too familiar.
Former top-10 pick Kevin White has stayed healthy throughout August and should have some role in Matt Nagy's new-look offense. There remains a big question about whether he can be a difference maker, but even getting quality role-player snaps would be a plus. Savvy rookie slot receiver Anthony Miller has already carved out a bigger role on the offense. ... Mitchell Trubisky's up-and-down month continued with some good drives against Denver, but it also included a fumble for a safety and an interception that might have been Tarik Cohen's fault. Tight end Trey Burton was Trubisky's favorite target on third down, a trend that could continue.
There are few players more integral to the Bears than outside linebacker Leonard Floyd because of their dearth of pass-rushing options, so his hand injury (fracture) Saturday night is a huge concern. Even with Floyd having surgery Sunday, Nagy thinks Floyd could still play Week 1. Aaron Lynch hasn't practiced all camp, and the team has to be looking elsewhere for edge options.
Randy Gregory's return to the field comes at a perfect time for a Cowboys team that can use another pass rusher. Gregory immediately appeared to pass last year's first-round pick, Taco Charlton, on the depth chart, which says a lot about Charlton's offseason. ... None of Dallas' wide receivers have particularly stuck out in camp, although rookie Michael Gallup has earned a significant role in the team's five-man rotation with Terrance Williams, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin and Cole Beasley.
The Football Gods must want Earl Thomas in Dallas. The Cowboyslost starter Xavier Woods to a hamstring injury Saturday, which could keep him out of Week 1. Backup Jameill Showers is believed to have a torn ACL. This was already a thin position for Dallas. ... I'm surprised there isn't more concern about the Cowboys' backup quarterback spot. 2017 undrafted free-agent signee Cooper Rush was overwhelmed in the second preseason game. Haven't the Cowboys learned from this mistake by now?
A strong debut by rookie runner Kerryon Johnson should help ensure he's in the mix for touches to open the season. The Lions have a promising backfield with Johnson, LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick all able to excel in different duties. ... Kenny Golladay, not Golden Tate, was the wideout opposite Marvin Jones when the Lions were in two-receiver sets during the second preseason game. Golladay's role should only expand.
Ameer Abdullah started the second game of the preseason, but he could wind up getting cut -- or traded, if any team wants to cough up a conditional late-round pick for his services. He hasn't helped himself with a poor effort in pass protection in the first preseason game and two fumbles in the second one. ... GM Bob Quinn's second ever pick in Detroit, '16 selection A'Shawn Robinson, appears to be buried on the depth chart under new coach Matt Patricia.
Green Bay Packers
Mike Pettine is the perfect coordinator to get the most out of the Packers' mostly-young secondary. Kevin King and Tramon Williams appear to have locked up starting cornerback jobs, with first-round pick Jaire Alexander in the slot and second-rounder Josh Jackson impressing in the second Packers preseason game. This unit could go from a team weakness to a strength quickly. ... The Packers drafted three receivers, but fourth-year undrafted pro Jake Kumerow might have passed them all on the depth chart with a huge month. Packers faithful haven't been this irrationally in love since Jeff Janis broke their hearts.
The Packers have to be concerned with their pass-rushing depth, especially with starter Nick Perry not coming off the PUP list until Sunday. ... With Aaron Jonessuspended for the first two games of the season, the Packers will be monitoring the injury to presumptive starting running back Jamaal Williams especially close. (Williams believes he could return from his ankle injury this week.)
Los Angeles Rams
Junior Galette's reported visit with the Rams is telling. The outside linebacker with a troubling track record off the field was called because the Rams, incredibly thin at the edge-rusher spot, have dealt with injuries at the position to Morgan Fox, Matt Longacre and rookie Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. It's not a great sign when second-year man Samson Ebukam is by far the No. 1 player at the position.
The Ramshaven't played their starters at all in two preseason games. It's a unique approach by coach Sean McVay, essentially adjusting the preseason schedule to one game for starters. ... Two injured players to watch: linebacker Mark Barron and second-year tight end Gerald Everett. It's worth wondering if Barron, who counts for $10 million against the cap, is a lock to make the team, because he just can't get on the practice field.
It sounds like Dalvin Cook will see his first work of the preseason this week. All reports from practice indicate that he's come back strong from his torn ACL and will be ready to start Week 1. ... Rookie kicker Daniel Carlson has officially beaten out veteran Kai Forbath for the kicker job. Forbath was released on Monday, two days after missing a 41-yard field-goal attempt. ... Rookie first-round cornerback Mike Hughes is pushing for playing time right away, which could make Mackensie Alexander's spot on the roster superfluous.
After a year where almost everything went right for Minnesota, it's hard not to be worried about the injury bug currently biting the Vikings, especially on the offensive line. ... 2016 first-rounder Laquon Treadwell isn't exactly putting his stamp on the No. 3 receiver job, even though he's expected to win it. He and Kendall Wright, his competition for the job, have combined for 20 yards in the preseason. The loser of this battle might not make the team because neither brings special teams value.
New Orleans Saints
Tre'Quan Smith is coming. The rookie third-round pick could wind up stealing a lot of the production that folks like me thought Cameron Meredith would eat up this season. Smith stole the show at training camp by fighting through contested catches and has translated that into two terrific preseason performances. Could he be the team's No. 2 receiver? ... The Saints' impressive offensive line is completely healthy again for the first time since early last season. ... Former Bills runner Jonathan Williams is the leader in the clubhouse for carries behind Alvin Kamara while Mark Ingram serves his four-game suspension to open the season.
The Saints traded an extra first-round pick for pass rusher Marcus Davenport, who has barely seen the field in his first training camp. Sean Payton is hopeful the UTSA product can make his preseason debut this week, but the practice reports before Davenport's groin injury weren't promising. ... The Saints gave Payton's pet quarterback project, Taysom Hill, a start on Friday, and he didn't play like he belonged with the first-team offense. Tom Savage should be the team's backup.
New York Giants
Second-year pro Davis Webb all but ended the backup quarterback competition against rookie Kyle Lauletta on Friday -- if it wasn't over already -- with a strong performance against the Lions. I'd suggest Webb could get a test drive late in the season if Eli Manning struggles, but the last coach to try something like that got fired. ... Odell Beckham Jr.'s quiet, healthy camp shouldn't be ignored. He's on track.
Wayne Gallman has outplayed Jonathan Stewart and could wind up being Saquon Barkley's primary backup. If not for the guaranteed money in Stewart's contract, it would be worth wondering if he would make the team. ... The Giants gave up two draft picks to acquire former Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree to end the team's revolving door at inside linebacker, but his struggles in coverage have stood out in the preseason. He's given up big plays in both games. ... Despite having two stars (Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins), the Giants threaten to have one of the thinnest secondaries in football. Eli Apple remains a starter, Curtis Riley is the favorite to start at free safety and journeymen like B.W. Webb and Leonard Johnson are up for the slot-corner spot.
Third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld was a revelation against the Patriots. He can hold the ball too long, but he delivered 5-7 gorgeous dimes that had The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia writing that Sudfeld boasts the best downfield touch of any quarterback on the roster. He could wind up starting the rest of the team's preseason games if Nick Foles and Carson Wentz are unavailable. If any of the first-round rookie quarterbacks made the assortment of throws Sudfeld did on Thursday, "NFL Total Access" would be talking about it all week. ... The Eagles' pass-catching group looks deeper this season. Shelton Gibson has earned a role with a strong camp and preseason. Mike Wallace is an upgrade on Torrey Smith. Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert keeps making big grabs and will offer coach Doug Pederson an array of plays to call out of two-tight end sets.
Then again, the Eagles might need that depth right away. Alshon Jeffery remains on the PUP list, and his availability for Week 1 is in doubt. ... Donnel Pumphrey appears to be the odd man out at running back. The NCAA all-time leading rusher is unlikely to find room at a deep position, with Darren Sproles having proven he's ready to go for a 14th season. ... 2017 second-rounder Sidney Jones is the favorite to be the team's slot cornerback after missing nearly his entire rookie season due to an Achilles injury suffered at his pro day, although Avonte Maddox is still competing for the role.
San Francisco 49ers
Slot receiver Trent Taylor has made great progress since returning from back surgery and started to dominate Jimmy Garoppolo's targets in practice last week before scoring a touchdown in the second preseason game. With Marquise Goodwin developing into a No. 1 receiver and rookie Dante Pettis making noise, Pierre Garcon might disappoint fantasy owners this year.
The team's top two running backs, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, are expected to miss the rest of the preseason. That makes the wide-open battle for the No. 3 job more important -- yet no one, including 2017 draft pick Joe Williams, has stepped up. ... The 49ers' biggest weakness entering camp was its pass rush, and nothing has changed on that front.
Brandon Marshall has apparently done enough to make the team, although he hasn't shown up in the preseason at all. Doug Baldwin's knee injury is a huge concern for a team that is counting on former Cardinals No. 4 wideout Jaron Brown to play a big role. Brown looked good on Saturday night. He and Tyler Lockett could be the keys to the group. ... Chris Carson was likely to be the Week 1 starting running back even before first-round pick Rashaad Penny got hurt. ... C.J. Prosise was playing with deep reserves Saturday as he fights to make the team. ... The Seahawks' starting secondary is all but set: cornerback Shaquill Griffin, rookie corner Tre Flowers, safety Tedric Thompson, safety Bradley McDougald and Justin Coleman at nickel corner. That group would look a lot more Legion of Boomy if Earl Thomas were to return.
Seattle's suddenly-shocking lack of defensive end depth means that third-round rookie Rasheem Green, expected to be a project, will be playing huge snaps for the team. He has responded with a terrific preseason. ... Squint hard enough, and the Seahawks' offensive line has looked positively mediocre in the preseason, which is a big improvement. Right tackle Germain Ifedi is the weak link, though, with no great options behind him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Second-year receiver Chris Godwin continues to lock up valuable playing time with a big offseason. It's safe to assume that Godwin, DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries will rotate snaps behind Mike Evans. ... Jameis Winston has looked exceptionally sharp in the preseason, especially on his deep balls. With Godwin's emergence and O.J. Howard's development, the Bucs' pass catchers rank with any group in the NFL.
Second-round rookie running back Ronald Jones has struggled in the preseason and is a liability on passing downs. It's safe to start believing coach Dirk Koetter when he calls veteran Peyton Barber the team's starter. ... First-round pick Vita Vea might miss the entire preseason because of a calf injury, but the remodeled Bucs defensive line looks good otherwise.
For years, the Redskins have lacked a defensive identity. They might finally have one, with ex-Alabama teammates Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen partnering up in the middle of their interior defensive line. Allen looks like a different player than he was in an abbreviated rookie year. Payne was dominant against the Jets and can play every down. ... It's a good thing (newly) "Fit Rob" Kelley looks sharp, with increased versatility in the passing game, because the rest of the position is shaky.
Derrius Guice's season-ending injury was only the beginning of Washington's running back issues. Injuries to Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall helped inspire a visit from Adrian Peterson as a potential early-down hammer. (UPDATE: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Monday that Peterson is signing with the Redskins.) Third-down wizard Chris Thompson has also yet to prove he's all the way back from a broken leg suffered last season.