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What we learned in Wednesday's preseason games

Let's not get carried away: You can't learn that much from the fourth week of the preseason. This is the week that introduced the phrase "Brett Ratliff, starting quarterback." It also coined the phrase "resting your long snapper."

The most important development of the night was that no players appeared to be seriously injured. New York Giants starting receiver Hakeem Nicks returned for the first time since undergoing foot surgery and will be ready for Week 1.

That's the best part of preseason Week 4: Only one week left until the good stuff. Here's what else we learned Wednesday night:

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» Nicks caught one pass over the middle for six yards. He took some criticism from the New York broadcasters for bracing for contact rather early on the play, but the only thing that matters is if Nicks is healthy. His foot surgery was just over three months ago.

» The New England Patriots also had a key return. Starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer played for the first time since coming off the PUP list.

» Eli Manning and the Giants' starting offense actually played into the second quarter. They picked up one first down in four drives. Tom Coughlin wanted to get something positive going before taking out the starters, but it never happened despite facing the Patriots' backups.

» We're not sure what it means that the Patriots started Ryan Mallett over Brian Hoyer at quarterback. It's uncertain who New England's backup to Tom Brady will be in the season opener. Mallett has not looked very comfortable in the preseason and reportedly struggled in practices.

» New England rested almost all starters on both sides of the football. The Patriots used four different centers in the first half. We have no clue who the team's starting center will be in Week 1.

» Giants defensive lineman Marcus Thomas helped prevent overtime with a late fumble recovery and rumble. Maybe the "Madden" guys now will learn who he is.

» Running backs Evan Royster and Roy Helu are healthy again. Royster rushed for 44 yards and a score on 10 carries. He's a similar power back to Alfred Morris, who has taken most of the snaps throughout the preseason. Helu figures to be a third-down back. He had 90 yards and two scores on 15 carries. Mike Shanahan won the preseason: We have no idea who will start in Week 1. As Around the League's Marc Sessler mentioned, this is a clown car for fantasy owners.

» It's only the preseason, but Redskins rookie Kirk Cousins looks like a great long-term backup for Robert Griffin III. Cousins consistently plays like he belongs.

» Kicker Billy Cundiff rolled 35 miles southwest from Baltimore into our nation's capital in time to record three first-half field goals.

» The Buccaneers' offense -- led by third-stringer Brett Ratliff -- had 38 yards at halftime. Bucs coach Greg Schiano seriously rested his long snapper and punter in this game. That's a new one.

» Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas did his best to climb out of Dolphins coach Joe Philbin's doghouse. He ran hard, bouncing off tacklers for 31 yards on five carries.

» Ryan Tannehill went 6 of 8 for 41 yards in two series. The Dolphins had a three and out and a long drive capped by a short field goal against the Dallas Cowboys' backups. That's progress.

» Cowboys third-string quarterback Stephen McGee started the game and did nothing to make us think Dallas will keep him on the roster.

» We really wanted the Dolphins to win so the "Hard Knocks" finale wouldn't be so depressing.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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