With the preseason set to launch in earnest Thursday, let's take a look at some stories that have been flying below the national radar during training camps.
Ryan Broyles is all the way back
Broyles is recovering from his second ACL tear in as many years, but the receiver's far ahead of his pace from last year. The Detroit Lions' second-year pro just might be the key to the team's passing game. This offense is begging for a quality option behind Calvin Johnson, and Broyles showed serious skills last year before his injury. In a former life, I would be pumping up Broyles as a fantasy sleeper.
Patriots relying heavily on four rookie pass catchers
Perhaps this isn't an underrated storyline in the Northeast, but we don't think the average fan understands the youth uprising going on in New England. It's crazy to think that rookies Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce all could be playing significant snaps at wide receiver for the Patriots. Throw in undrafted rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld primarily taking starter snaps, and we can imagine at least three rookie pass catchers on the field with Tom Brady a great deal.
The random veterans who Bill Belichick signed -- like Donald Jones, Lavelle Hawkins or Michael Jenkins -- either have fallen by the wayside or failed to impress. Thompkins, an undrafted rookie, particularly has impressed. This might be Brady's greatest challenge of his career, and a unique chance to prove his greatness once again.
Andrew Hawkins' injury
The Cincinnati Bengals, already searching for pass catchers, now have to replace their slot receiver. It sounds like Hawkins, who caught 51 passes last year, will miss a chunk of the regular season with a high ankle sprain. If Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard are as good as the Bengals coaches think, the team should be fine.
Tyler Wilson fourth on Raiders' depth chart
Le'Veon Bell quietly a starter
While fellow rookies Montee Ball and Eddie Lacy compete for snaps with their respective teams, Bell quickly has emerged as the expected starting running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This isn't a shock, but it's nice to see coach Mike Tomlin on board so quickly. The Steelers often bring rookies along slowly.
"How he's run the ball speaks for itself," Tomlin said Thursday.
Bell would be my pick to lead all NFL rookies in carries.