Week 3 of the NFL preseason gives teams an opportunity to mock what a regular season game might look like. For the most part, starters find themselves playing well into the third quarter. It’s a great tool for assessing where a roster is heading into the regular year.
Outside of one team in New York potentially deciding to sit its starters, we’re in store for what promises to be a tremendous week of preseason football. What are the top storylines to be had here? Are there any quarterback jobs still open heading into the late summer?
Take a gander in the blurbs to follow for the top storyline for each Week 3 NFL preseason game.
Miami Dolphins at Philadelphia Eagles: LeGarrette Blount’s status
There are rumors circulating from Philadelphia that Blount is not a lock to make the team’s final 53-man roster. He’s shown up to the tune of 17 rushing yards on nine attempts in two preseason games. The issue here is that Philadelphia as a team struggled running the ball during this span. It’s averaging just 2.5 yards per attempt.
Blount will be given an opportunity to see the ball a whole heck of a lot on Thursday. He could very well play two-plus quarters. And going up against a weak Dolphins run defense, this could be the veteran’s last opportunity to prove his worth to the Eagles.
Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars: Unusual quarterback controversy
Following his disastrous performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past week, Blake Bortles is no longer guaranteed to be under center when the regular season gets going. In fact, he’s regressed to the point where Jacksonville itself might be smart to move on from Bortles completely.
In the aforementioned game against Tampa, Bortles completed 8-of-13 passes for 65 yards. But in this case, the stats lied. His passes were about as inaccurate as they could get. Jacksonville also racked up 70 total yards in his four drives. Likely given an opportunity to start over Chad Henne here, Thursday’s game will be huge for Bortles’ future with the Jags. Another bad performance, and we could be talking about him getting the RGIII treatment this season.
New England Patriots at Detroit Lions: Can the Lions replace Kerry Hyder?
Detroit will be given a strong test this week against Tom Brady and the defending champ’s No. 1 offense. While Brady will likely play less than most starters in the third week of the preseason, he should still see substantial action. It’s in this that the Lions have to figure out if they have an internal replacement for 2016 sack leader Kerry Hyder, who is lost for the season to injury.
At first glance, it seems former top-five pick and Pro Bowler Ziggy Ansah might be that guy. But he recorded just two sacks in 13 games while dealing with an ankle injury throughout the 2016 campaign. Ansah is also currently on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list due to said injury. He won’t play this week. Preseason stats might not matter a whole lot, but Detroit has racked up eight sacks in two games. Will the likes of Cornelius Washington, Jeremiah Valoaga and Alex Barrett step up here? This week will definitely be telling.
Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks: Seahawks offensive line woes
George Fant isn’t considered one of the best left tackles in the game. The second-year player started a grand total of 10 games as a rookie last season and was among the worst pass-protecting tackles in the game. But he did provide a certain sense of continuity. Now, with Fant out for the season, Seattle finds itself between a rock and a hard place.
An already weak offensive line will likely have to rely on former Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick Luke Joeckel to hold down the fort as Russell Wilson’s blindside protector. That’s not an ideal scenario in any way. Rees Odhiambo and potentially even rookie Ethan Pocic will now be given a chance at a starting gig as well. It will most definitely be interesting to see what happens against an elite Chiefs defensive front this week.
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons: Protecting Carson Palmer
Over the course of the first two preseason games, Cardinals quarterbacks were sacked a grand total of eight games. To say that left tackle D.J. Humphries has struggled would be an understatement. His performance last week was a prime example of this. Not only is tackle a concern, the interior of Arizona’s offensive line is questionable. Evan Boehm at guard and A.Q. Shipley at center both leave a lot to be desired.
With an immobile Palmer under center, Arizona somehow needs to find a way to protect better in the passing game. That’s only magnified with the defensive fronts of San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles looking darn good in the NFC West. They will surely be tested against a solid Falcons front in preseason game No. 3.
New York Jets at New York Giants: How do the Giants play this one?
Normally, the third presason game is when teams play their starters for as much as three quarters. It’s the last real tune-up for the regular season. This could very well change in New Jersey, where the Giants are dealing with a worrisome injury to Odell Beckham Jr’s ankle. The star receiver went down Monday against the Cleveland Browns and could potentially miss the regular season opener against the division-rival Dallas Cowboys.
We’re going to want to see if Ben McAdoo and Co. play the cards close to their vest with the likes of Eli Manning, Evan Engram, Jason Pierre-Paul and Landon Collins. And if the Giants decide not to play their starters substantial minutes, how might it impact their performance against Dallas in Week 1?
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens: Figuring out the Tyrod Taylor situation
Despite his poor play this preseason, it looks like Taylor will be the Bills’ opening week starter. It’s not necessarily Buffalo’s new staff giving the embattled quarterback a vote of confidence. Instead, it’s all about the team not necessarily having any other options on the roster. Taylor has completed 13-of-26 passes for 99 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s also averaging an absurdly low 3.8 yards per attempt in two preseason games. Remember, this came after the Bills’ previous front office looked to move on from Taylor following an uneven 2016 performance.
Now that the Bills might very well be in full-scale rebuild mode following the trade of Sammy Watkins and Anquan Boldin’s decision to retire, maybe the team hands over the quarterback job to youngster Nathan Peterman. It might not come early in the season, but this week’s game could very well tell us what the team is thinking on the quarterback front. Taking on an elite Ravens defense, that’s magnified even further.
Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Should be DeShone Kizer’s team
It seems to be pretty obvious at this point that the Brock Osweiler will continue to be given opportunities with the Browns starters once the regular season opens. That would be a major mistake for Hue Jackson and Co. Simply put, Osweiler has been absolutely brutal thus far in the preseason.
On the other hand, Kizer has impressed to the tune of a 61.3 percent completion mark with two total touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first two NFL preseason games. The second-round pick is already a better option for Cleveland. This really isn’t up for debate. It will be interesting to see how the Browns handle this situation in Week 3 of the preseason.
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers: Preparing for a horrible season in Indy
If the first two preseason games told us anything about the Colts, it’s that they have one of the least-talented rosters in the NFL. Their offensive line has shown itself to be an utter disaster, yielding six sacks in two games and leading a rushing attack with a No. 30 preseason ranking. It’s really bad.
On the other side, last week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys was video evidence of just how poorly the Colts’ reconstructed front seven has come together. Just look at this one run by backup Cowboys running back Darren McFadden (watch here). Adding more insult injury — quite literally — Andrew Luck is not guaranteed to start the regular season under center. We’re not sure how any of this might change during Week 3 of the preseason. But the dumpster fire that is Indy’s roster could lead to a catastrophic season
Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff’s progression
It might be just the preseason, but Goff has looked better in his first two games this summer than the former No. 1 overall pick looked during his entire rookie season. It started with a solid two-possession tune-up against the Dallas Cowboys in Los Angeles’ preseason opener and continued big time last week against the Oakland Raiders. Goff completed 16-of-20 passes for 160 yards, including this 23-yard touchdown strike to rookie Cooper Kupp.
While Goff did play extensive action last week, we’re fully expecting to see him for nearly three quarters against the cross-town rival Chargers. How he performs against what should be a solid defense will tell us a lot about the youngster heading into the regular season.
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys: Raiders must make defensive adjustments
The Raiders’ pass defense has been absolutely atrocious through the first two weeks of the preseason. They are yielding a 69 percent completion mark to go with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. This has come against the likes of Jared Goff, Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert.
Even more so than the Raiders’ defense stepping up here, coordinator Ken Norton Jr. must start making adjustments. In the team’s third preseason game, that will likely take hold. And it should be a tremendous test with the Cowboys expected to play their starters, running back Ezekiel Elliott included.
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints: Tom Savage’s firm hold on starting job
It seems like there’s now a reason that star receiver DeAndre Hopkins has endorsed Savage over rookie Deshaun Watson to be the Texans’ starter. Savage has looked tremendous in the team’s first two preseason games, completing 17-of-20 passes for 167 yards with a touchdown. Meanwhile, Watson struggled big time against New England last week after a strong NFL preseason debut.
For the Texans, it’s been all about finding someone that can play the role of game manager. That is to say, limit turnovers and put the team in good position to come away with points. With a dominant defense, that’s really all this team needs. Now that he’s firmly entrenched in as the Texans’ starter, it will be interesting to see how Savage performs in extended action against a dreadful Saints defense this week.
Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos: Is Paxton Lynch already a bust?
By not earning the starting job this summer, Lynch joins a group of former first-round picks in this dubious category. It also tells us a story of a Broncos general manager in John Elway that completely dropped the ball by moving up for Lynch in the 2016 NFL Draft.
For the Broncos, it’s not about Trevor Siemian lighting the world on fire. Instead, Lynch — entering his second NFL season — proved he’s nowhere near ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Now, with a full off-season program under his belt, we have to ask if Lynch himself is a bust. While that won’t be answered during Week 3 of the preseason, his performance against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL could tell us a lot about Lynch’s trajectory moving forward.
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans: More Mitch Trubisky, please
Mike Glennon might have been much better this past week than he was in his Bears preseason debut. The free agent signing completed 13-of-18 passes for 89 yards with a touchdowns and interception. In a vacuum, those aren’t horrible numbers. That’s until we realize Glennon averaged 4.9 yards per attempt and threw an absolutely brutal red-zone interception. Remember, he tossed a pick-six in his preseason debut against Denver the previous week. He’s just not the answer, period.
On the other hand, Trubisky has continued to impress in his limited action. The rookie No. 2 overall pick completed 6-of-8 passes for 60 yards and this touchdown against Arizona last week. He simply looks vastly superior to Glennon at this point. And while Bears head coach John Fox still seems to believe in Glennon, time is running out. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens between the two this weekend.
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins: Can anyone run the ball in D.C.?
Can anyone? We ask that question twice, because the answer isn’t something fans in the nation’s capital want to hear. Through two preseason games, the Redskins’ rushing attack has put up 103 yards and is averaging all of 2.6 yards per attempt. Likely starter Rob Kelley has tallied 11 yards on 12 attempts. Former fantasy football crush Matt Jones has put up three yards on five attempts. Ouch.
At the very least, rookie Samaje Perine has looked decent. He’s averaging 4.3 yards on 14 attempts. And that right there is the crux of the issue. Will Washington decide to hand the starting gig to a rookie over two players that have performed well at an NFL level in the past? We’re definitely going to acquire an understanding of where the team stands on this during its third preseason game against a solid Bengals defensive front. But for now, it looks like Kirk Cousins has no real help on offense. That can’t be seen as a good thing, especially after top receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon bolted in free agency.
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings: Big test for 49ers offense
It was ugly in Santa Clara last week. Four lost fumbles and an interception. A total of 11 penalties for the home team compared to 12 first downs. Yeah, this looked much different than when Kyle Shanahan’s old Atlanta Falcons offense was dominating the NFL last season. It’s something we somewhat expected in his first season with the 49ers. But that doesn’t make the performance of San Francisco’s offense any more bearable.
After laying flat against a dominant-level Broncos defense, San Francisco heads to Minnesota to take on a Vikings defense that also ranks among the top in the NFL heading into the 2017 season. It does so in a game where both teams will play their starters for more than two quarters. Can Brian Hoyer break out of his preseason funk? Can Carlos Hyde show anything on the ground? These are the two big questions we’re asking heading into Sunday night’s nationally televised game.