Top storylines for Week 1 of the NFL preseason

By Vincent Frank
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s finally here. The first full slate of NFL preseason action starts this week with a whole bunch of games on Thursday.

Rookie quarterbacks Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray will make their NFL debuts. All three have a chance to start or have already been listed No. 1 on their team’s respective depth charts.

Meanwhile, young running backs will be given a chance to shine and earn starting jobs. Among them, Philadelphia Eagles second-round pick Miles Sanders has been eye-opening this summer.

These are among the top storylines for Week 1 of the NFL preseason.

New York Jets at New York Giants: Daniel Jones’ NFL debut

This rookie No. 6 pick has looked absolutely amazing so far during training camp. Jones continues to make throws that Eli Manning couldn’t even imagine. Sure it’s just camp, but this tells us a story of a young signal caller who could be ready to start sooner rather than later.

With Manning likely to sit the opener out, Jones will get the start. We’re more than interested to see how he performs for a quarter or so against the Jets’ backup defense. It could lead to renewed questions about New York’s Week 1 starter.

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills: Buffalo’s running back competition

There’s absolutely no reason to believe veterans LeSean McCoy an Frank Gore will play Thursday night. That leaves primary running back duties up to rookie third-round pick Devin Singletary and potentially veteran T.J. Yeldon. One of these four will not break camp with the Bills.

Assuming Gore and Singletary are locks, it will be interesting to see how Yeldon performs during the preseason. There’s been talk about Buffalo moving on from McCoy. Yeldon’s summer performance could expedite his depature from Western New York.

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins: Quarterback competition in South Beach

First-year Dolphins head coach Brian Flores noted ahead of Thursday’s game that Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely start the preseason opener. The veteran has been heads and shoulders ahead of the recently acquired Josh Rosen.

It is surprising that a veteran of Fitzpatrick’s ilk would see action in the opener. But Flores has a plan here. He wants to see how each quarterback will perform against starters. Rosen will likely get the opportunity in Week 2. How it goes early this preseason could dictate the ultimate starter come September.

Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns: Say hello to Dwayne Haskins

Washington released its official preseason depth chart earlier in the week. Colt McCoy was listed as the starter with Case Keenum at No. 2 and rookie first-round pick Dwayne Haskins filling it out at the third spot. This is rather meaningless in the grand scheme of things. It’s highly unlikely this will be the Week 1 depth chart.

Haskins himself has a lot to prove during the preseason. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has noted that he deserves a chance to start. For his part, the Ohio State product has looked good during camp. Likely to play two quarters this week, we’re intrigued to see how Haskins looks in his NFL debut.

Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles: It’s all about Miles Sanders

Sanders could very well be RB1 in Philadelphia this season. That’s a crazy scenario given that the Eagles traded for Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard and re-signed veteran Darren Sproles. In a crowded backfield, it’s this rookie from Penn State who has stood out the most.

Sanders blends physicality with an ability to break out for the long run. He has tremendous vision and agility. These traits could make the second rounder a star as a rookie. It starts this weekend against what will likely be the Titans’ backup defense.

Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears: David Montgomery’s chance to shine

Much like Sanders, Montgomery will be given a real chance to start for the Bears this season. Matt Nagy’s offense expedited Jordan Howard’s departure from the Windy City. Meanwhile, All-Pro performer Tarik Cohen is better suited for third down and receiving duties.

Enter into the equation this third-round pick from Iowa State. Montgomery dominated college competition to the tune of over 2,800 total yards over his final two seasons. He’s been a standout thus far in camp. The youngster will have a chance to shine this week against a deep and talented Panthers defense.

Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray’s long-anticipated debut

It’s no surprise that this rookie No. 1 pick is already listed as Arizona’s starter. He’ll be under center come Week 1 against the Detroit Lions. And all indications during camp is that Murray has taken control of first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.

Needless to say, fans in the desert are excited to see the reigning Heisman winner make his NFL debut. Whether he plays 10 or 20 snaps, all eyes will be on Murray in Arizona this week. That’s for sure.

Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders: T-minus nine games

The first of a series of lasts for these Raiders in Northern California. Due to a scheduling conflict with MLB, the Raiders’ second home preseason game against the Green Bay Packers will be played in Canada. This makes Saturday’s game against Los Angeles the Raiders final home preseason outing in Oakland before they relocate to Las Vegas.

It’s now all too real for this team’s Northern California fan base. Nine games remain in Oakland before the dreaded relocation. For many fans, this preseason opener will be their final chance to enjoy the Raiders as we currently know them.

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs: Zac Taylor’s head-coaching debut

The good news? Expectations are not terribly high for Taylor in his first season as the Bengals’ head coach. The bad news? There’s a reason for this. With A.J. Green injured and a pedestrian starter in Andy Dalton, Taylor’s offense should struggle in his initial season.

Fortunately for Bengals fans, there’s a sense of optimism. Despite this being the first game he’s ever called in the NFL, Taylor comes from the Sean McVay coaching tree. He’s seen as a talented young offensive mind. It will be fun to see what Taylor has up his sleeve in his coaching debut against a questionable Chiefs defense.

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers: Running backs not named Ezekiel Elliott

Zeke will not be on hand in Santa Clara for his Cowboys preseason opener. The All-Pro running back remains a holdout with no end in sight. This will give the likes of Mike Weber an opportunity to prove himself. The rookie has been tremendous during camp and should see extensive action in this one.

As it relates to the 49ers, they boast one of the deepest backfields in the entire NFL. Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida are all capable of going for 1,000-plus total yards. It’s a nice problem to have. With Breida and McKinnon unlikely to go in this one, we’re interested to see how Coleman performs in his 49ers debut.