As we enter week two of preseason play, our focus will shift slightly from week one. During the first round of preseason games, the focus was watching individual battles. Who was winning one-on-one battles? Who was making big plays? While that will continue as a theme this week, we’ll be adding another observation into account.
What units are playing well together? That question will begin to be answered this week, and the answer will become even clearer next week, especially when considering position battles.
One of the big questions after two preseason games for the Miami Dolphins continues to revolve around their pass protection. Although they handled the Jaguars easily in their second preseason game, the Jaguars were able to apply consistent pressure to the Dolphins’ quarterbacks, which is a serious cause for concern considering the Jaguars’ pass rushing woes over the past few seasons.
The Jaguars are still in the middle of their own unit battle. Blaine Gabbert was pretty terrible against the Dolphins, Chad Henne wasn’t much better and Matt Scott actually looked like a potential candidate to eventually take over the starting QB job. The Jaguars are going up against a tough Jets defense this week, and it provides a platform for one of their quarterbacks to take control of the position.
In New York, the Jets are still trying to determine who will start under center week one of the regular season. Geno Smith is still fighting an ankle injury, so he may not play, but Mark Sanchez will have an opportunity to work against a mediocre defense. If the Jaguars shut him down, look for the Jets to turn to Smith as their quarterback.
Elsewhere, the Lions are trying to establish some offensive production and continuity while the Browns are trying to determine if Brandon Weeden is their future or soon-to-be past.
Finally, we should all be keeping a close eye on the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys. The two teams have much to prove, and their matchup should be a great preseason game for the casual observer. The Cardinals looked solid last week, and if they can continue to grow both on offense and defense, they have a lot of potential to turn the NFC West on its head.
The Cowboys, by contrast, have all the expectations in the world, yet they’ve been unable to prove themselves over the past few seasons. They’re working with largely the same group of players and coaches as last year, meaning more mediocrity will result in new coaches and players next year. Their offense has to be the driving force behind their success, and that all hinges on Tony Romo. The Cardinals are a great defense, and if Romo can operate smoothly and effectively, Cowboys fans will have something tangible to hope for moving forward.
There are plenty more story lines to occupy your time as you watch this week’s preseason games, but these are the biggies. Some players will be fading and others will continue to rise. In addition, we may get a chance to see this season’s big preseason stars emerging. It should make for a fun week of exhibition football, or at least as fun as it gets.