Top storylines for Week 3 of the NFL preseason

By Vincent Frank
Aug 15, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) scrambles against the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 of the NFL preseason gives us the ability to gauge where teams are heading into the regular year. Typically, this is the week that starters play a majority of the game.

It’s going to be interesting to see who gets the bulk of the action between Eli Manning and rookie Daniel Jones for the New York Giants. In Canada, an impressive and new-look Oakland Raiders offense will be taking on an equally talented Packers defense. What might that game tell us moving forward?

These are among the top-10 storylines for the all-important third week of the NFL preseason.

Sam Darnold and the Jets face difficult task

This second-year quarterback has looked absolutely tremendous in two preseason games this summer. Darnold has completed 9-of-12 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown with zero picks. He’s led the Jets up and down the field in his limited action.

We’re now going to see Darnold play at least two quarters against a potentially dominant New Orleans Saints defense at home Saturday evening. Without Le’Veon Bell in the mix, we’re highly intrigued to see if the former first-round pick can continue his brilliant preseason play. It could be a boon for first-year head coach Adam Gase and Co. heading into Week 1.

Initial run for Steelers first-team offense

James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster might have played last week against Kansas City, but this is the first time we’re going to see Pittsburgh’s newly-minted triplets on the field together this summer. After moving on from both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown during the offseason, this week’s game against the Tennessee Titans will be telling.

Ben Roethlisberger returns under center after tying for the NFL lead in interceptions last season. It’s going to be his first full season without Brown or Bell in the mix in nearly a decade. Sure there’s a ton of talent here. We just want to see it all come together ahead of the regular season opener against the defending champion New England Patriots.

Lamar Jackson and Co. on the road in Philly

The Ravens followed up a ho-hum preseason opener with a solid performance against the Green Bay Packers last week. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman unleashed his new playbook on second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson. It went well. Jackson completed 6-of-10 passes for 58 yards and had a long touchdown run called back due to a penalty. He ultimately led Baltimore on two scoring drives in limited action.

What better test for a preseason tune up than going into Philadelphia and taking on a playoff team Thursday evening? Roman did not use his entire playbook last week. He won’t in the third preseason game. But it will be the closest thing we see this summer to regular season action. It should be fun.

Jimmy Garoppolo returns to the scene of the crime

Garoppolo made his preseason debut Monday night against the Denver Broncos. He was downright horrible. That’s to be expected given that he had not seen live-game action since suffering a torn ACL during a Week 3 game against the Kansas City Chiefs last season.

The high-priced quarterback now returns to the scene of the crime in a game that will act as his only real preseason tune up for Week 1. It will certainly be a weird feeling. That last time Garoppolo took a step on the turf at Arrowhead, his knee buckled. It ended a promising season for the quarterback and his 49ers. He also must show rapid improvement from what we saw in Week 2. It’s as simple as that.

What if Case Keenum’s struggles continue?

By default, it looks like Case Keenum has the upper-hand to be Washington’s Week 1 starter. There’s absolutely no telling when Colt McCoy will return from injury. In fact, head coach Jay Gruden noted this past weekend that it could be a few weeks into the season.

Enter into the equation rookie first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, who has outplayed Keenum through two preseason games. Haskins is completing 54 percent of his passes and might have thrown the best touchdown of the preseason last week. Unfortunately, Keenum has struggled to do anything of substance after starting the first two preseason games. Could Haskins earn a surprise Week 1 start with a good performance against the Falcons Thursday evening? What if Keenum is horrible once again? There’s a lot potentially riding on this one game.

Bills offense looks to continue preseason run

There’s a chance that Buffalo’s offense, led by impressive young quarterback Josh Allen, could surprise a whole bunch of folks this season. Allen has seemingly taken the next step from wide-eyed rookie to being a starter-caliber quarterback. Given he was seen as a major project heading into his rookie season, that’s no small thing.

This week will take Buffalo to the Motor City in a game against a defensive-minded Lions team. It’s going to be a tremendous test for Allen, who should see substantial action. How will the Bills utilize the skill positions around him? Veterans John Brown and Cole Beasley look like godsends. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s deep running back group should help the young signal caller.

Does Daniel Jones have a real shot of unseating Eli Manning?

On the surface, this rookie first-round pick has been awesome through two preseason games. Jones has completed 16-of-19 passes for 228 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s had little problem moving New York’s offense down the field in his action thus far.

Unfortunately, Jones did commit two bad turnovers last week. One came on a botched snap and another on a strip-sack. While Eli Manning has not done a whole lot this summer, Jones must fix these mental mistakes to have an outside shot to start Week 1. His next test will be Thursday against a questionable Bengals defense in Cincinnati.

New-look Raiders offense heads to Canada

To say it’s shocking how good Oakland’s offense has looked through the first two preseason games would be an understatement. Last week saw the Raiders take a 26-0 lead over Arizona midway through the second quarter. Derek Carr and the first-team offense marched down the field for a touchdown on its only drive of the series. Meanwhile, Mike Glennon has been the best quarterback in the NFL this preseason.

Could the Raiders be in for a rude awakening against Green Bay in Winnipeg this week? The Packers will likely be playing their starting defense for at least two quarters. It gives John Gruden and Co. a real opportunity to prove that the first two preseason games were not flukes.

Cowboys moving forward without Zeke

Dallas’ first-team offense has had zero problems moving the ball up and down the field in the two possessions it has played thus far this preseason. Despite going against the Rams’ backup defense last week, Dallas’ 97-yard game-opening touchdown drive was incredible.

Dak Prescott is a perfect 9-of-9 passing. Rookie fourth-round pick Tony Pollard is filling in nice for holdout Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. And even without Amari Cooper in the mix, the Cowboys’ wide receiver group has looked great. Will that continue in extensive playing time this week against a good Texans defense? It’s a major story heading into Week 3 of the preseason.

Cam Newton’s preseason debut

This former MVP will make his summer debut against the New England Patriots. In fact, the entire Panthers’ starting offense is slated to play the defending champs. Flush with a new throwing motion after multiple shoulder surgeries, it’s going to be interesting to see how Newton performs in what might be extended action.

Carolina upgraded its defense in a big way this past offseason. If Newton proves to be 100 percent healthy, this team will have a shot to win the ultra-competitive NFC South. The journey begins against one of the best teams in the NFL. Newton couldn’t ask for a better test in what will likely be his only preseason tune up.