Rookie quarterbacks playing for rebuilding teams have dominated recent headlines. The second week of the preseason was just as noteworthy for the established pros coming back from major injuries.
Tony Romo is a 34-year-old veteran coming off multiple back surgeries. His steady progress throughout August showed up in Dallas' second preseason game with a few nice deep throws. For all the disaster scenarios surrounding the Cowboys' defense, Dallas still has a top-10 quarterback, a top-five wide receiver and a top-five left tackle. Romo just needs to stay healthy.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: What more does a rookie have to do to win a starting job? Bortles likely won't be behind center in Week 1, but his sterling play has sped up the team's process. He's taken first-team snaps at practice this week and will do so in the third preseason game. Bortles throws well on the move, which we expected. His calm and accuracy in the pocket thus far has been impressive. The Jaguars are watchable again!
Minnesota Vikings: The entire offense wins after Minnesota's best-case-scenario second preseason game. Matt Cassel looked very sharp for the second straight week and remains the likely starter. But Teddy Bridgewater's strong second half and game-winning drive is a great sign after a rough week of practice. Assuming Cassel starts in Week 1, the Vikings can feel more confident when they inevitably turn to the rookie. One note of caution: Norv Turner made Brandon Weeden look heroic last August.
I objected to putting Kyle Rudolph on this list, but Chris Wesseling convinced me Rudolph looks faster than he's ever seen the tight end.
Around The League's Making the Leap list: Friday night felt like the "Making the Leap" show around the NFL. Titans receiver Justin Hunterscored twice, made two terrific grabs and topped 100 yards. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz continued a big week in Foxborough, Massachusetts, with a scoreagainst the Patriots.
Atlanta Falcons offensive line: No. 6 overall pick Jake Matthews will move to the left side after Sam Baker's season-ending knee injury. This could be spun as a positive for Matthews' development, but the Falcons spent the entire offseason trying to build up their bulk up front. There is no way to spin losing a highly paid starting left tackle as a positive.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: Perhaps we underestimated the difficulty of Manning learning a new system after so long under offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. It's also worth wondering if Manning is a great fit for an offense that relies on quick throws and decision-making. Manning has excelled most when he's stretching the field and taking some chances.
EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills: Coach Doug Marrone admitted that he didn't plan to play Manuel for the entire first halfagainst Pittsburgh, but it looked like he wanted to see his young quarterback finish a drive. It didn't happen. The Bills keep moving the ball, but the first team offense hasn't scored a touchdown in three games.
Matt Schaub, Oakland Raiders: Defenders continue to sit on Schaub's routes because they know he can't push the ball down the field. Even the team seems to be coaching around Schaub's limitations. He hasn't completed a single pass that has traveled over 10 yards in the air, according to Pro Football Focus. Matt McGloin has completed 10. Chris Wesseling believes McGloin is a better quarterback than Schaub is right now.