Shannon Eastin and 5 Things You Must Watch on Thursday Night Preseason Football

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IAugust 9, 2012

Shannon Eastin and 5 Things You Must Watch on Thursday Night Preseason Football

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    This is the best time of the year for all NFL fans.

    Training camp has thankfully ended and the start of the preseason schedule has begun in earnest. This means a football game will be played each weekend from August until the beginning of February.

    For some players, the first preseason game represents the beginning of a four-week job interview to secure an NFL roster spot. It will be fun watching how certain players on the bubble compete when their NFL life is at stake.

    Here are players you absolutely must watch on Thursday night preseason football.

NFL Game Official Shannon Eastin

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    On Thursday evening, Shannon Eastin will become the first women to ever officiate an NFL game, as she will be a part of the referee crew to call the preseason game between the San Diego Chargers and the Green Bay Packers.

    A labor dispute (Chicago Tribune) between the NFL and their officials has given Eastin the opportunity to make history, but she doesn’t come without any experience. Eastin is a 16-year veteran official, including working the last four seasons in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference.

    She couldn’t do any worse of a job than the regular NFL officials—as some of their calls make the games unwatchable at times—but all that matters for Eastin is positioning herself on the field to make the correct call. 

QB Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

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    It won’t have the same anticipation of a regular-season opener, but all eyes will be on Robert Griffin III making his first appearance as a Washington Redskin on Thursday evening. 

    Rather than fully grasp Mike Shanahan's playbook, RG3 must have some success against the Buffalo Bills' first-team defense and show patience in the pocket.

    The Redskins offensive line has been plagued all training camp with injuries, as left guard Kory Lichtensteiger has been slowed with a left knee injury and right tackle Jammal Brown is out with a hip injury. This unit must come together and pass protect for Griffin III as he makes the adjustment to pro football. 

DE Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles

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    It’s now or never for Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, as he must play at a high level all preseason long or risk being cut from the team. Graham struggled all throughout his rookie season, as he sustained an injury and did very little on the field when called upon.

    It’s been encouraging for Eagle fans to see Graham outperforming everyone in training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be starting a rebuilt offensive line, so it’s imperative that Graham creates some havoc in the backfield. 

LB Curtis Lofton, New Orleans Saints

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    The healing process has begun for the New Orleans Saints in the aftermath of the Bountygate scandal.

    It’s no coincidence that the Saints signed linebacker Curtis Lofton, as their defense was ranked 24th last season. They needed to make changes to their roster even before Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the season.

    The Saints signed a productive starter, but they also love Lofton's motor. If Vilma's suspension is reduced to eight games, expect the Saints to have a contingency plan that inserts him back into the starting lineup.

    But for right now, Vilma isn’t missed on the football field. 

QB Jarret Lee, San Diego Chargers

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    Coming into the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers, Jarret Lee will be the backup quarterback behind Philip Rivers.

    The backup quarterback position has been an utter mess since Charlie Whitehurst went down in training camp with a sore MCL.

    The Chargers front office tried to sign former backup Billy Volek, but he was insulted with their contract offer. Finally, the team signed Kevin O’Connell, but his arm strength has been very disappointing in training camp.

    This is a golden opportunity for Lee to force head coach Norv Turner to put him on the active roster. He’s already impressed the coaches with the strength of his arm early in training camp.