Jul 31, 2018; Ashwaubenon, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver J’Mon Moore (82) during Green Bay Packers Training Camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Matthews/Green Bay Press-Gazette via USA TODAY Sports
The first full week of preseason football in the NFL is upon us. After a tantalizing taste of what’s to come this season in form of last week’s Hall of Fame game between the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens, the preseason’s first real slate of games kicks off with 12 contests on Thursday night, August 9. Two more games are set to kick off on both Friday and Saturday this week, and we at PFF have you covered on what to watch during the week of action.
From position battles taking shape to rookies lining up for the first time for their respective franchises, our PFF Press Pass takes you deep into what to be on the look out for during Week 1 of the preseason.
Mayfield & Barkley debut
Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley dominate the debuts we’re excited to see here. Mayfield finished as the nation’s highest-graded quarterback a year ago while Barkley was the draft class’ second-highest graded running back. Not surprisingly, Mayfield was picked No. 1 in the 2018 NFL Draft as he was our long-standing top prospect overall, however Barkley’s selection at No. 2 overall showcased just how sold the Giants are on Eli Manning this season. The debuts of the top two picks in the same game is something not to miss. – Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam)
Beckham Jr.’s health
Odell Beckham Jr. was limited to just 214 snaps across four contests last season before being lost to injury for the season. He didn’t grade out to spectacularly in his limited action however, finishing with a 69.1 overall grade, by far the lowest of his career. There’s a high likelihood that we don’t even see him in action on Thursday night, but nevertheless, will still be interesting to see his presence back on the sidelines and see how he rebounds when he suits up against another team for the first time since Week 5 of the 2017 regular season. – Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam)
Denzel Ward manning a new-look Browns secondary
The No. 4 overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft will also be on display, as the contest between the Browns and Giants will feature Picks 1, 2, and 4 making their debuts. Denzel Ward highlights that fourth overall pick, likely starting at outside cornerback opposite E.J. Gaines (80.0 overall grade in 2017), with T.J. Carrie (74.5) covering in the slot and Damarious Randall (62.7) and Jabrill Peppers (60.5) at safety. – Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam)
Benjamin plays against Carolina
Kelvin Benjamin gets to debut his 2018 season by playing against the team who traded him away midseason a year ago. Benjamin did little to prove the Panthers wrong for trading, finishing the year with a 69.0 overall grade. Who will be throwing Benjamin the ball is the next topic of discussion. – Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam)
Bills quarterback rotation
Josh Allen was selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and has headlined news from training camp for the past week with the Bills. Buffalo also signed A.J. McCarron from the Cincinnati Bengals to join Nathan Peterman in a three-way battle for the starting nod. Allen finished last season at Wyoming with the 28th-lowest turnover-worthy throw percentage while only ranking seventh in big-time throw percentage among draft class quarterbacks. His first action against an NFL defense may tell a lot more than anyone can anticipate. Whoever is at quarterback however, preseason better shed some better light on the situation as they find themselves ranked No. 32 in the league in our preseason quarterback rankings. – Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam)
Trubisky runs Matt Nagy’s offense
Recent reports suggest that Mitchell Trubisky will take the field versus the Bengals, giving fans their first look at the second-year signal-caller under Nagy’s new offensive system. Nagy’s system is expected to highlight Trubisky’s strengths, showcasing his ability to throw on the move while focusing on the short and intermediate game. Perhaps if the Bears lean more on the short pass, then Trubisky will not be strapped by so many third-and-long situations. Trubisky faced a third down with a distance to gain of seven yards or more on 58.6 percent of his third-down attempts a season ago, fourth-most among quarterbacks. – Charles Miller
Vying for McCarron’s vacated backup spot
A three-man race will ensue for the backup quarterback behind Andy Dalton. Rookie Logan Woodside will battle it out with Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel as Woodside may have the most upside in the room. Barkley hasn’t played enough snaps in a single season to qualify for a PFF grade ranking while Driskel has played 128 preseason snaps over the past two seasons, tossing just one touchdown compared to two interceptions in his time with the team. His best game of the preseason so far came in the Bengals opening contest a season ago when he fielded an 88.9 adjusted completion percentage and had a 155.7 passer rating from a clean pocket against the Bucs last year.
Woodside was not afraid to air it out last year at Toledo, launching a deep shot targeted at least 20 yards downfield on 19.6 percent of his passes. He held the draft class’ third-highest adjusted completion percentage on those attempts as well, proving he wasn’t just heaving them in the air. He connected on 35-of-81 passes and despite seven drops by his receivers, had 1,284 yards and 16 touchdowns on deep passes. Woodside has all the talent to compete and maybe push out the vets in the QB room in Cincinnati. – Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam)
Mason Rudolph to James Washington connection at it again
Just a little under a year ago, Mason Rudolph was getting ready to start his fourth and final season at the helm of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. At wide receiver, James Washington was doing the same thing. The duo played all four years together in Stillwater and by their final season had developed one of the more tantalizing QB-WR combinations in all of college football. Flash forward to today, and the duo is getting ready to make their professional debut with the Pittsburgh Steelers, together still. It’s only a matter of time until we see them together on the field and likely connecting on deep passes together as they did in college. A season ago, the duo led the nation as Rudolph hit Washington on deep passes (those targeted 20-plus yards downfield) for 19 receptions and 815 yards, both of which led the FBS. – Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam)
The defending Champs’ new-look defensive line
Gone is Vinny Curry. Gone is Beau Allen. Both of whom were key cogs in the Eagles defensive line rotation en route to the Super Bowl. However, in are edge Michael Bennett and interior defensive lineman Haloti Ngata who each bring with them a veteran presence along the defensive line. Even with the changeover, they find themselves ranked first in our preseason pass-rush rankings. – Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam)